Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The AWESOME Foundation

No, I'm not kidding. There is indeed an Awesome Foundation that gives out a monthly grant to someone, anyone, who can come up something awesome to do. Here is an idea of what they look for:

Submit an awesome idea. If we pick it, we'll give you $1,000 in cash. Yup, $1,000. Cash. Maybe even in a brown paper bag. You'll also get access to coworking space at BetaHouse for the month of your grant. The only condition is that you be willing to tell us (and some of our friends) about what you did a month later. If we don't pick it, don't stress. We'll pick a new awesome idea next month.

So put your thinking caps on and be as awesome as you know how to be. And support this and so many other charities that are doing their best to give back.

Website for the Federal Stimulus is Relaunched

The U.S. Government launched Recovery.gov back in February to give supporters and critics of the stimulus a way to monitor how the money was being spent, etc. Now, after both the USA Today, and conservative The Wall Street Journal recently admitted that the stimulus has worked, Recovery.gov was relaunched yesterday with a better design and even more info.

This new site provides user-friendly tools, such as a ZIP Code search that shows stimulus projects in that area. Also included is a toll-free hot line (1-877-FWA-DESK) for reporting waste, abuse, and fraud. Indeed, this is awesome. Very efficient and resourceful.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interview: Visionary Entertainer Josh Charles

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that you can tell the measure and character of a man through what he does with power. Throughout 2009, musician, philanthropist, and Brooklyn resident Josh Charles has proven this to be true. Whether on Tavis Smiley's Show, CNN, USA Today, or Good Morning America, it's clear that Charles is a man on a mission.

A popular figure in entertainment circles, Charles has donated his time and money, and used the equity of his celebrity, to help the City of New Orleans return to its former glory, and, to make sure it carves out new roads of cultural significance for future generations.

His inspiring breakthrough song, Healing Time, is making waves: 100% of the profits have been going to the rebuilding of New Orleans, and, it's also eligible for a Grammy Award in 3 categories: Best New Artist, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Indeed, his passion is as inspiring as his path to success.


How did you get started as a musician?

I began playing piano when I was 8 years old and grew up with the sounds of Motown in my house. My folks grew up in Detroit and besides those records, my mom used to play a hefty dose of James Taylor and The Band. I got into U2 and Sting at an early age and wanted to play piano and guitar. I started guitar at 13. I was classically trained and spent my summers at band camp. The way I play piano now can be traced to the fusion of New Orleans and gospel styles from a popular radio station I listened to. I heard James Booker, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Professor Longhair and everything changed for me. I met Dr. John as a teenager and he became my mentor over the years. It was a real blessing. My first professional gigs besides school recitals started when I was 16 at blues and jazz clubs in Kansas City. I moved to New York City at 19 and began playing everywhere they had pianos. I studied with Barry Harris who really taught me so much about music. I've played all kinds of music but always come back to my love for soul and funk.


You've received lots of praise for creating the song Healing Time to raise money for the rebuilding of New Orleans. At last check, your efforts are really making a difference.

With Healing Time, I'm trying to do my part to give back to the City of New Orleans which has given me so much as an artist. Everywhere I go, people seemed to be moved by the song itself. Our goal is to raise $1 million for New Orleans which has taken a backseat as far as recovery efforts are concerned. There is so much work that needs to be done, and there are still tremendous challenges. For instance, there are over 2000 FEMA trailers still in the city of New Orleans. That's just unacceptable to me. I'm trying to do what I can - with Healing Time - to raise money and bring awareness back to New Orleans. I'm so touched by the amazing world of social media, especially Twitter where I consistently get traffic on my profile @joshcharles. There are so many amazing people, too many to name, who have gone out of their way to help me raise awareness and money for Healing Time. As of now, we are working on a campaign to encourage artists from different genres to cover the song and make it their own. We will also have a Youtube channel where people can upload videos talking about what Healing Time means to them.

As I've been on tour this past Summer, people have come up to me and expressed what Healing Time means to them and it's taken on a much broader definition than the way it was written. The images I saw were so vivid and the damage was so vast that I thought "it's going to take so much healing time to fix this". Neighborhoods destroyed, and lives shattered. It was overwhelming. When you write a song, you never know how it will evolve or how people will react to it. I've been approached by people who are recovering from cancer and they have shared stories with me of how Healing Time has helped them. I'm so moved by people's reactions. Currently, we are in talks with sponsors to match donations to what we raise for New Orleans, and then donate to different charities that help soldiers who have just come back from war and also patients recovering from cancer. We are working to create a movement for Healing Time as this is the right time, and the right place to make a difference as a country.


What does New Orleans mean to the American imagination?

People think of partying in New Orleans and they think of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. They also think of the visual aspects such as the St. Charles streetcars, and the mansions along side Tulane. The music and the food stand out among people who've ever been to New Orleans. Generally speaking, I've never met anyone who has not had a great time after visiting the city. New Orleans is the cultural birthplace of jazz, blues, gospel, funk, zydeco, dixieland, R&B, and rock & roll. From the earliest pioneers like Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong leading all the way up to the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Wynton Marsalis, and now Lil' Wayne. The music is unique to New Orleans and the people of the city are incredible. The architecture is so amazing and there is a real spirit to the city that's exciting, mysterious and mesmerizing. Let's not forget the delicious food, I mean that's taking it to another level!


2009 has been quite a breakthrough year for you. Lots of critical praise, and a loyal and dedicated fan base. What's next for you?

I just came off the road from touring with Buckwheat Zydeco, Cyril Neville and The Neville Brothers. I'm currently working on finishing up my new CD which is going to be very rootsy, bluesy, and feature a whole lot of my piano playing. The album is being mixed by Gregg Rubin (multi-grammy award winning mixer for Harry Connick Jr). I have a live solo EP that will also be coming out very soon which features my solo performances from this year. Currently, we're in talks to go to New Orleans to shoot a music video for Healing Time which will be set against the backdrop of the city and feature real human life stories of people going through the healing process. Just recently, I started the process for forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit titled The Healing Time Foundation which will focus on raising money to help rebuild New Orleans. The fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just passed and I want to say to your readers that we need them to download Healing Time. You can buy it on Amazon and itunes. You can gift it to everyone you know through itunes and you can donate in $10 increments to our Facebook cause. New Orleans is not receiving enough federal monies at this time. The Preservation Resource Center, where I'm donating the proceeds from Healing Time, is doing amazing work to help rebuild the city. To date, they have rebuilt over 200 green homes and businesses. Don't you think that that's worth a $.99 download? I do. Together, we can all make a difference in this world.

To get involved with Josh Charles' efforts to renew this quintessential American city, New Orleans, go to JoshCharlesMusic.com. You can also fan him on his Facebook Page, and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The President Barack-ed The House on Letterman Last Night

President Obama was absolutely masterful in his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. He used humor to answer a question about race. The crowd loved it. But he also touched on the economy, Afghanistan, partisanship, and family life in The White House. Lawrence O'Donnell of The Huffington Post is right: "President Obama is the greatest president of the television age." Here is a 4 minute snippet of Obama's groundbreaking visit to Letterman's show:


Watch CBS Videos Online

Monday, September 21, 2009

MUSIC MONDAY

RAPPER'S DELIGHT (1979)

While this was not the first rap tune, it was the first record that made rap music a serious commodity. I still remember when this record came out in Spring of 1979.


EVERYBODY HAVE FUN TONIGHT (1986)

This is Wang Chung's biggest hit ever. The video can be nauseating to look at repeatedly, but the song rocks!


EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING (1998)

There is no doubt that this song has powerful political overtones to it. It reminds me of Stevie Wonder's You Ain't Done Nothin'. It is one of the best and most creative videos ever made."


GET ME BODIED (2007)

Not my favorite Beyonce video, but it's still hot. The name Beyonce has to mean "visually stunning".

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why 2010 Will NOT be a Replay of 1994


You sort of knew it was coming, right? The media talking heads are dusting off the 1994 playbook. You remember the story quite well: a young president and his party are soundly defeated in the midterm elections. It sounds really good, but it ain't gonna happen this time.

It's hard for many people to believe this when many pundits are just salivating over the remote possibility that the wheels can come off President Obama's ambitious agenda. Yes, some of the talking heads are hoping for an Obama implosion and for the Republicans to take back control of congress to create the drama and intrigue of divided government. But I just don't believe it's in the cards.

And no, this is not wishful thinking on my part. This is not supposition and conjecture, or simply a baseless assertion from an Obama supporter trying to rally the troops. Trust me: 2010 will not be a repeat of 1994. Here are 4 reasons why:

Demographics - President Obama won African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, and Native-Americans. He also trounced John McCain by roughly 40% with young voters. This is stunning. But what is even more jaw-dropping is how well President Obama did with young white voters, particularly young white women. Think about it: Hillary Clinton had her daughter Chelsea and John McCain had his daughter Meagan, but they didn't make a big dent. So it's easy to see why some conservative white parents didn't want their children to see President Obama's back to school speech. He remains uber popular with most white youth, and, according to a major poll this Summer, with younger Americans in general. This can only be a positive development for 2010 and 2012.

The Economy - President Obama inherited a huge mess. The economy was tanking badly upon his arrival. But it would have been worse without the $787 billion stimulus bill. Period. The proof is in the pudding: it helped reduce GDP shrinkage in the third quarter and boosted consumer spending (great signs for the overall economy). The USA TODAY examined data that shows how stimulus cash has lifted Blue & Red States alike, and has offset a major drop in tax collections. And if that's not enough, the ultra conservative Wall Street Journal recently admitted that the stimulus (which they campaigned against) is helping the U.S. climb out of the current recession. And don't look now, but when Obama signs the impending climate bill into law, hundreds of thousands of Green jobs will be created. Around this time next year, Obama and the Democrats will be staring at a much stronger economy.

The Tea Party - Ideological disagreements are one thing, but the ugliness and hysteria at Tea Party gatherings are something else all together. These birthers, deathers, and anti-immigration zealots desperately need to reclaim their Shpadoinkle. I don't have to give a list of examples about their vitriol because we've all witnessed the outrageous posters and criminally irresponsible rhetoric from Tea Party organizers and participants. Is it any wonder why President Obama has seen a 400% surge in death threats, and that Speaker Pelosi is warning of potentially serious political violence? Tell me how any of this helps Republicans? It doesn't.

And...President Barack Obama himself - He ran the most efficient presidential campaign anyone had ever seen. Remember his TV channel? Remember his advertisements in video games? Remember his under radar outreach to young white evangelicals in '07 that was laughed off? Yes, he rocked it. What man could deliver the most electric concession speech I've ever heard that was later turned into a runaway viral hit? The same man who delivered a riveting speech to 80,000 in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. You think all of that ingenuity, energy, and out of the box thinking has disappeared? President Obama is just getting warmed up. Remember his groundbreaking appearances on The Tonight Show, ESPN's' "March Madness/Bracketology" segment, and Univision's popular music show Premio Lo Nuestro back in the Spring? He rocked it. This Sunday, he is going to appear on five talk shows. And he will visit David Letterman - the King of Late Night - on Monday to reach slices of the American public that are not presently tuned into the cable news noise of lies and distortion. Oh, and about what he's done in office...as of today, he's signed 13 bills into law, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, and the National Service Bill. Yes, Obama is still the best asset the Democratic Party has.

Taken together, this 2010 scenario is very feasible. But the factors I outlined must be married to the voter education/registration, traveling, e-mailing, phone-banking, and retail politicking that made it all happen in the first place. With so much at stake, we must remember that "Yes We Can" is not just a feel good slogan, or even a destination. In fact, it's an ongoing journey for something better than what we presently have: affordable health care, common sense education reform, stronger environmental protections, etc. So don't let your enthusiasm and resolve about the 2010 elections be sidelined by the ridiculous utterances of the usual suspects of punditry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

President Obama's Interview on 60 Minutes Tonight

This was classic Obama. He was respectful, thoughtful, and he was more than willing to remind the reporter what he was handed by his predecessor, what the situation was like on his first day, and how his programs have saved the economy from falling off a cliff. Great interview.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Interview: The Inspiring Story of 9/11 Survivor, Michelle Rosado

I first heard about Michelle Rosado through her Twitter feed this past Spring. The more I read her bio, the more and more arresting and absorbing her story became. She's a 9/11 survivor with a riveting tale: seated at her desk on the 95th floor of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center, a loud crash shattered the windows in her office. She made it out, escaping the crush of the falling towers.

Though her life didn't start with September 11th, that horrific experience dramatically affected her life's direction. Like anyone's story, she can tell you about what she has lost, and the pain she's experienced. However, she can also explain, quite movingly, what she fought hard to overcome, and what she's achieved.

Our history is filled with inspiring women: Jeanette Rankin, Dolores Huerta, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Women who believed in turning negatives into positives, and whose lives were animated by the very best of humanity. Add Michelle Rosado to that list. So prepare to be impressed with this 9/11 survivor, visionary, life coach, motivational speaker, and peace activist.



How did the 9/11 attacks impact your life - personally & professionally? What person were you before the attacks?

Although the experiences through the years have ultimately shaped my destiny, I wasn't fully aware that my true "destiny" ever existed until September 11th. The shock and awe of the tragedy left me wondering if life would ever be the same again. After my offices were destroyed, I didn't have a job to report to for a few weeks. So while many of my co-workers were working temporarily out of a location in Short Hills, NJ, my small department was temporarily displaced. That was until I got the call to handle the disaster recovery effort in Fort Lauderdale, FL, working with a branch of my department. Upon my first day on the job I met my husband, Randy. So, I guess you can see that my personal and professional life did a complete turn around within a matter of just a few weeks.

Prior to the attacks I was living in New York City and still recovering from the emotional scars of a long-term abusive relationship. To be given the alone time I needed opened my eyes to various ways of self-growth and improvement, such as yoga and meditation. I was enjoying my independence and newly-found freedom, despite at times feeling as if I didn't have a purpose.


How long have you been a peace activist? What's your philosophy?

I probably officially became an activist of peace in 2005 when becoming a vegan, which was mainly after learning of the horrific cruelty that has been waged onto animals. However, my voice of advocacy for peace came about in 2006 after becoming aware of how greatly our negative thoughts impact our actions, thus impacting our lives, and how these actions stem from our egos and insecurities. In retrospect, after recovering from the years of domestic abuse, my philosophy is this - the overall solution is to find peace within oneself; for then one can find peace in all of humanity.

There are so many disputes which derive from prejudice, countries of origin, the clash of various religious beliefs, and it's our inability to respect those beliefs and differences in others that continue to lead to this constant conflict. Everyone has a unique voice which has the right to be heard, but in the end there is more understanding when one lets go of the ego and let listening be the ultimate practice. When we unite, we raise the flag of humanity, instead of the ones that tend to separate us.


How long have you had a newsletter?

Because of our businesses we were sending inspirational newsletters to our organizations since 2003, but I've been sending my "Empowerment Strategies" newsletter, which elaborates on daily quotes from various inspirational leaders, since January of 2009. Although there's a bit of work in preparing an inspirational quote every single day, I receive incredible joy and satisfaction when my subscribers give me such positive feedback and tell me that they look forward to my message every morning.


You're a popular speaker. What topics do you talk about?

I speak on a number of different topics that range from survival and overcoming adversity, to leadership, inspiration, and business ownership. Obviously being a 9/11 survivor often has my story incorporated into my overall message, but my intention is not to ever reflect on that day in a negative light, due to the fact that it keeps us living in the past and not developing an understanding of living the present. It may seem that I'm somewhat pigeon-holed as an inspirational or motivational speaker because of my September 11th story, but I pride myself on the presentations that I have delivered on the business front as well as other types of venues. The success we had obtained in our mortgage business, real estate investments, and multi-level marketing businesses is what enabled me to leave corporate America at age 30 to pursue my true passions. I encourage everyone to pursue their own destiny, even if they are not aware of what that is just yet.


What is it like being a life coach? Do you work with clients and individuals?

I don't think there's a better feeling than being able to empower someone and to help them see their own potential. Sometimes I can actually see the transformation occur in someone's eyes, as if a mental awakening has occurred during our discussion. It's so important to live in the present and to focus on the accomplishments we can make today. I notice that many people create their current reality based on the experiences of the past, wallow in the disappointments about yesterday's decisions or worry about what lies ahead in the future - none of which can be controlled. We have the innate ability to empower ourselves with what is known as the here and now, and it is our actions today that will manifest the gifts we receive in our future.

I work primarily with individuals and provide customized coaching focused on their specific needs. We are in the process of recording an audio coaching program that will consist of ten training modules, each session being approximately 1 hour and delivered online weekly until the course completion. Students can review the audios as often as they'd like, and even join an affiliate program to earn income if they wish to share this coaching program with others. This is intended to make extensive life coaching more affordable than ever, while giving me the opportunity to spread my message to a greater audience through the use of online media and word-of-mouth affiliate marketing.


What is your upcoming book about?

"Pursuing Your Destiny" is about people coming into their own and finding the true purpose for their existence. Although the first chapter gives very descriptive details about my experiences on September 11th and my journey home after escaping the towers that day, it is not a book about 9/11. Randy and I use our own life experiences and the journey that has taken us to this point to relate with the average reader. We are very open and honest, sharing some of our darkest and most troubling moments, and showing how these experiences changed our focus and led us to our true purpose or destiny. I believe that every experience in our life is meant to happen, whether it positive or negative. It's our perception and reaction to these events that will ultimately determine our growth process and future life results. We can gain insight and grow from them in order to create the life that we want, or we can focus on what's wrong, rather than how to make things right. Our destiny is truly in our hands.


Tell me some things about yourself that people may not know, and that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Despite both of my parents migrating to the United States from other countries in 1969, my father became a fan of the popular music in the states at the time and named me after the Beatles' song, "Michelle". I was an artist and wrote poetry as a young woman, and aspired to have a career in art before being urged by my father to study business in college because he felt I would have more career options.

Most people don't know that I'm an avid football fan and enjoy watching the NFL games every Sunday in the fall, which is quite the change from the many Sundays of my childhood spent teaching bible class to kindergarteners.

To read more about Michelle Rosado's inspiring journey, log on to her official sites: Michellerosado.com and Rosadocompanies.com. For information on the release of her eagerly-ancicipated book Pursuing Your Destiny, click here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

MUSIC MONDAY

WOULD I LIE TO YOU (1985)

This is from the British pop duo Eurythmics. Lead singer Annie Lennox has one of the most powerful and recognizable voices in music.


THE FINER THINGS (1987)

This was one of Steve Winwood's best tunes. It's from his bestselling, 1986 come back album Back in the High Life.


ANYTHING (1994)

SWV was one of my favorite music groups back in the early '90s. They helped popularize the new hip hop inspired R&B Mary J. Blige pioneered several years earlier.


MY WAY (1997)

This is classic Usher. I love the look of the video. It's almost like Mad Max meets West Side Story.

Obama's Speech to Kids is about Encouragement NOT Indoctrination



The controversy over President Obama's speech this week to the nation's kids is absolutely silly. Big time. Conservative parents and critics have claimed he is trying to indoctrinate their kids, but this is completely false. The speech is about personal responsibility, and taking your education seriously. And what is so wrong about a president making this kind of speech?

So let me get this straight: some conservative parents don't want their kids to see a speech from President who strongly values and embraces education? Wow. Just look at President Obama's biography. He admittedly did "ok" in high school and in his two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles. But he was, by all accounts, an academic and intellectual star during his subsequent 3 years at Columbia University, and, later during his years at Harvard University Law.

In his 2nd year at Occidental College, he stopped playing around and took his education seriously. His mom and sister stayed on him and told him that he was in danger of squandering a lot of great opportunities. He took their advice to heart, and buckled down. I love that story. It's about the power of (1) strong "family values", and (2) personal responsibility - the kinds of things that apply to ALL Americans regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.

It's really a shame that some conservative parents and pundits are allowing lies and fear (and even ideology) prevent their kids from watching a webcast from a committed family man who love this country and values education.

Get the full text of his speech right here.

Welcome Back Shania!


It's great to see Shania Twain back on the scene. I've always appreciated her candor about the changes and shifts in Country music. I remember her confronting the criticism about her more mainstream sound from Country music "purists". Her sultry image was also attacked. But it was just folly. Country music crooners Rascal Flatts have faced the same baseless attacks because their music is also supported and embraced by mainstream audiences.

On VH1 several years ago, Shania addressed her detractors by invoking Country music's central and powerful metaphor: the farm. She artfully said that the farm has gone through changes. And she's right. Maybe a widow is living alone raising her kids alone on the farm, and maybe the female owner of the farm wants to go shopping in Beverly Hills for a day. Country music shouldn't have one sound, but many sounds, because, as Shania proves, its comprised of so many different realities beyond the narratives that many fans are used to.

So happy Shania has re-emerged in a strong way. Her road to stardom and success reveals a great story. Indeed, her great musical perspective has been sorely missing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Stephen Colbert to Play The Riddler? The Momentum Builds!

Picture Courtesy of Comedy Central

Since Tuesday September 1st, I have received a steady stream of emails about my Huffington Post piece on why Stephen Colbert should play the Riddler in the upcoming Batman movie. It's pretty clear that my recommendation resonated with Colbert Nation.

But that's not even the best part of the story.

Stephen Colbert, yes, the man, the myth, the legend, linked my post to the front page of his Colbert Nation site. Wow. I literally fell out of my chair. And apparently, the notion of Colbert as the Riddler made such a strong impression with some bloggers and journalists that it was also linked to entertainment sites like The Internet Movie Database (IMB), Showhype, Daylife, Mahalo, WhoRepresents, Newsrunner, and, even quite a few Twitter feeds.

Yes, I am dead serious! A man of tremendous intellect should play The Riddler. Tell me that's not Stephen Colbert. You can't, because deep in your heart, you know Colbert's got the complete package of comic timing, creativity, audacity, and that indefinable "it" to pull off a portrayal of such a multi-layed villain.

We know Stephen Colbert as a brilliant comic, using his expansive reservoir of humor to slash through the endless political spin. But, he's also done some truly riveting dramatic work on shows like Law & Order. Colbert's powerfully versatile resume is proof he can play The Riddler. Such a character is best suited for Colbert because he can give dimension to the Riddler's almost Shakespearean existence and high-octane brilliance.

Can't you see Cobert's Riddler getting hot & bothered with The Catwoman, or battling Batman in duel after duel all over Gotham City? Yes, you can. So join me in urging Warner Brothers to select Stephen Colbert as The Riddler! Ticket sales would go through the roof!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dancing with the Stars: The Two Favorites

The new season of Dancing With The Stars promises to be even more thrilling and awe-inspiring than in the past. Some of the notables include Ultimate Fighting Champion Chuck Liddell, football legend Michael Irvin, bubblegum pop's Aaron Carter, platinum singer Macy Gray, and, model and actress Kathy Ireland.

But let me make a big time prediction: singer (and certified eye candy) Mya, and Iron Chef America's Mark Dacascos will be the last two standing. They come with serious strengths that make them the favorites. Seeing them battle each week will be exciting. I sum it up below:




Mark Dacascos
Strength: A world-renowned Martial Arts background! Potential Weakness: He could be so focused (due to his martial arts training) that he doesn't let loose on dances like The Fox Trot.



Mya
Strength: Extensive dance training. Potential Weakness: She comes in with skills that the judges are certainly aware of, and if she doesn't perform at a high level, she could be judged more harshly.