Culture

patriotic

Voicemail Greetings for the Troops

Over the past several months, I’ve been honored to assist entrepreneur Frank Catalano with product development and marketing for CanaryVoice. One way we are building awareness for this unique way of using voice greetings to celebrate special occasions, is to create public celebrations like the one we announced today. Since Veterans Day, we have been inviting the public to phone in messages to honor the U.S. armed services, and today we launched the first-of-its-kind audio greeting card for the troops, giving them the ability to hear firsthand how much their service is appreciated this holiday season.

Our “Voices of Gratitude” holiday album for the troops is still accepting messages. Anyone can listen, add a message and easily share the album via email, Facebook and the web, all free of charge. To contribute a message, simply call this number: (847) 598-3466 (Mailbox: 2710 and Pin: 9801).

Even if you decide not to leave a message, we would appreciate if you would share the album to your Facebook wall, so others may have the option to listen, contribute or share. The completed “Voices of Gratitude” album will be available on the CanaryVoice site and CDs will be mailed to the public information officers of each branch of the military and to select military support groups, publications, media outlets and blogs. For complete details about the “Voices of Gratitude” campaign, or to create your own voice album, visit www.canaryvoice.com.

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Bocce Gets Hip in West LA

bocceblitz1Who knew Beach Bocce was so cool? Apparently it’s the new thing to do in Los Angeles these days, and will catch a big wave on October 2 as Bocce Blitzkrieg comes to the Santa Monica Pier for a great cause. I’ve been volunteering with communication efforts for the Room to Read chapter in LA. If you’re interested, this will be a fun way to learn more about RTR and meet a diverse group of individuals who support its global mission to support literacy and equality in education in the developing world. I’ve posted the press release below for LA chapter members (or anyone else) to help spread the word.  

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Allison Wilson 213-925-9633

Event Contact: Dominic Bernacchi, 310-664-4530

BOCCE BLITZKRIEG STORMS SANTA MONICA PIER WITH LOS ANGELES’ FIRST BEACH BOCCE BALL TOURNAMENT TO BENEFIT ROOM TO READ

Registration is now open, with all ages and skill levels invited to experience bocce while making a direct impact on literacy in the developing world.

Santa Monica, Calif. (September 16, 2010) – Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament will hit the sand on Saturday, October 2, with all proceeds to benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.

 when Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament comes to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, October 2. All proceeds will benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.  The all-day event is open to the public and will begin at 9 a.m. in the sand near the northern corner of Santa Monica Pier parking lot. Registration is now open, with entry categories for men, women and couples teams. Registration is $70 for teams of two.  The tournament will feature early round robin play funneling into brackets that will result in one team reigning as Beach Bocce Champions in each division. Trophies and prizes will be awarded to each and every bocce master.

Beach Bocce has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and can be enjoyed by competitors of all ages and all walks of life. The game is an adapted form of the traditional Italian ball game, played on the sand.

There will be just as much action off the sand, with games of skill open to everyone including Blindfolded Bocce, The Awesomely Accurate and the infamous Ball Handling competition. The Beach Bocce Blitzkrieg will also include special appearances by KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox and The Bocce King, “Giuseppe Napoli” as well as some of LA’s finest food trucks and an oasis from the heat of the competition provided in the Bud Light Beer Garden.

To register or make a donation to Room to Read in the name of Bocce Blitzkrieg, please visit http://www.bocceblitzkrieg.com.

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About Room to Read

Room to Read is an innovative nonprofit leader dedicated to promoting and enabling global education. Founded in 2000, the organization is based on the belief that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty in the developing world. Since then, the organization has supported over three million children by providing better access to higher-quality educational opportunities. Room to Read has catalyzed the construction of more than 700 schools, established 7,000 bilingual libraries with 5 million books, and continues to support the education of nearly 7,000 girls. Room to Read is providing opportunities that change children’s lives and communities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia. By 2010, Room to Read hopes to improve literacy for 5 million children by establishing over 10,000 libraries and distributing close to 9 million children’s books. For more information visit our website at www.roomtoread.org.

About Room to Read Los Angeles Chapter

Room to Read chapters are comprised of dedicated individuals who have made a long-term volunteer commitment to promoting Room to Read within their networks and communities. Since 2006, the chapters have collectively helped source over one third of Room to Read’s operating budget and they have an equally ambitious goal for 2009. Currently Room to Read has 39 chapters in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia. Room to Read’s Los Angeles Chapter was launched in 2008 and to date has raised more than $250,000 toward Room to Read’s goal of reaching 5 million children by 2010.

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Bill Clinton’s Win-Win Philosophy

clintonI attended a talk by the 42nd President of the U.S., William Jefferson Clinton last night at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. Packing a wealth of stories, stats and a good sense of humor, he promised and then delivered a framework we can all use to make sense of today’s complex world in which we live. Wondering about what caused the financial meltdown of September 15, 2008? How about our education crisis (according to Clinton we slipped from first to tenth in the past decade)? Or how we’re to “win” in Afghanistan?  For most of us, it takes every bit of our energy to deal with life’s immediate challenges, let alone trying to sort fact from fiction from all the information we’re bombarded with in today’s fragmented and often biased media ecosystem. His talk gave a fresh perspective on how to interpret the world today and some guidance on what we can do to affect change.

The number one definining characteristic of the 21st century is our global interdependence.  The result of our diversity and new technologies like the Internet carry with it both good and bad consequences. Posit for a moment that we know the good things, namely technology. Most of the bad consequences of our interconnectedness are defined by inequality and instability.

Inequalityis presented primarily in education and income. One billion people live on less than $1 per day, one billion people will go hungry tonight and one billion don’t have access to clean water. One quarter of everyone who dies on the planet this year will be due to tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS or dirty water. And of the dirty water victims 80 perent will be under five years old. In the U.S., 90 percent of our growth in recent years has gone to 10 percent of the population.

Instabilityis created by how quickly thing can spread, from terrorism (easy access to information) to Swine Flue (permeability and uprootedness) to the world financial crisis (inter-connectedness of financial systems). Even with $3 trillion in cash, a whopping 2 million factory workers in China are unemployed because the rest of the world is not buying as much of their exports.

In light of the complexities in our interconnected world, we need a framework from which to act. How do we respond to these many challenges? Not more liberally, but in a more “communitarian” fashion — more succinctly put, by focusing on creating win-win situations. For every situation or decision, he asks “will this  bring us closer together or tear us further apart?” 

Prime examples where “win-win” has worked are in Iraq where the people ultimately declared a common enemy in Al Qaeda. In Tanzania where our continued efforts to finance AIDS and Malaria relief have demonstrated our commitment their children. And in Rwanda, where the Tutsi leader insisted his post-genocide successor be a Hutu, and engraining in his people the need for win-win by granting land to those who would live next door to someone from the rival tribe.

Another timely example of searching for win-win was through a clear explanation of health carereform, including the back-story on “death panels,” and distinctions between terms like “public option” and “socialized medicine.”  Every year we spend 17 percent of our income on health care– money consumers aren’t investing in other things, which gives other countries that much more of an advantage over us on the world economic stage.  The bottom line: if you’re not for some kind of change in health care, you are a proponent of win-lose, not win-win.

One of the things that stood out for me most was Clinton’s commentary on the differences between being a sitting president and a former president. “The good news is, you can say anything you like,” he said. “The bad news is that nobody cares about what you have to say…that is, unless your wife happens to be Secretary of Sate.”

While this was met with laughter, it was obvious everyone should care about what this former president has to say. He is using his clout and connections through the William J. Clinton Foundation to make a difference in the lives of millions through several thoughtful initiatives. And while he has raised hundreds of millions from the wealthiest people in the world, he stressed the importance of each individual being called into service in some way. He spoke of the secret of the U.S. economy having always been the strength of our middle class, and how this group must now stand and help the U.S. regain its footing in our inter-connected world. “It’s not enough to work and pay taxes, raise a good family and show up to vote.” There are one million public service groups to which we can donate our time and expertise, over half of which were started in the last year.

While it’s of course possible to donate to the Clinton Foundation, he did not make a direct pitch but rather spoke about Kiva.org, where for $25 you can make the difference in the life of someone anywhere in the world whom the group has already vetted as qualified for needing assistance.

Something else that resonated with me personally, and I don’t think he would have said as president, is how we treat others is dependent upon our own identity and what we think about ourselves. Identity is highly complex, but we need to realize how much we are all alike. In fact, the argument in genomic circles is whether we are genetically 99.5 or 99.9 percent alike. By continually forcing ourselves to communicate with the other side we become more comfortable with one another. When we see how alike we are, we eventually decide that it’s less costly to work with together than to keep killing each other and we collaborate in the interest of finding win-win situations. It is imperative in the modern world that we leave the door open.

While everything President Clinton had to say was in line with my own opinions, I hope his thoughtful presentation gave those of every political persuasion a new perspective on tolerance and possibility. It was awe-inspiring for me to hear this brilliant mind, speaking in his familiar and reassuring tone of so many examples of hope and of what is possible if we work together and apply ourselves to overcoming our collective challenges, be they local or global.

Think win-win and dedicate yourself to some form of public service. And when you do, I hope you’ll let me know about it.

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My Private Burning Man

bm09While it wasn’t to be for me to attend Burning Man this year (thanks Christian for creating that possibility and keeping the dream alive!), I did get to experience, in a very small and personal way, what the event stands for this long Labor Day weekend. Not familiar with Burning Man? Or perhaps, like some I know, you hold a negative perception of it being some hedonistic subculture with little purpose beyond an excuse to party? No worries…maybe it’s just not for you!  I’m not here to defend the festival, which is now in its 23rd year attracted around 50,000 participants. I’ll leave that to more hard core “burners.”

But what you should know, is that underlying all of the fine people, art and music that comprise the festival, there is at the end of the weeklong event a ritual of burning “the man.” I suppose the burn, and the entire event for that matter, is symbolic of whatever you want it to be. But certainly one dominant theme associated with fire and burning is renewal and the idea of shedding, both literally and figuratively, those things you are ready to leave behind.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks I’ve been cleaning my garage, part of which has included finally going through the last remnants of a company I once owned, called iAgency. Known non-affectionately around my house as “the iAgency boxes,” they contained a few hundred three ring binders that were the results of our work for clients and literally  represented the “early days” of online marketing and public relations. They were the physical representation of years of hard work and dedication by a team of young professionals in the mid-nineties too many to name, but to whom I remain endlessly grateful.

While I could not part with a few of the books for some of my favorite campaigns, like our early PR efforts for Zappos.com, creative online community programs for Symantec,  my favorite film and television projects for Fox, Paramount, NBC and Imagine Television, the extensive online marketing and PR work we did to launch Warner Bros. Online or the binder for our first clients, Hollywood Online and The Palace — I did undertake a purge that for me was of Burning Man proportions. As I let go of these heavy books representative of a past life, in my heart there was a bitter-sweet feeling of finally moving on combined with pride for all we accomplished from 1995 to 2002 and knowing that all of that experience was invaluable and led me to where I am today.

The whole Burning Man thought came as I carted off my last load of notebooks to a neighbor’s dumpster late Sunday night. As the squeaking of my antique dolly filled the quiet street, I found myself wondering what other people ready to move on and clean house may have carted out to the Playa to burn this year — or even what percentage of the people who attend even think of the event in such terms. 

While I would have of course enjoyed being there for the second time in eight years, I was equally delighted to have in a small way privately shared the experience, knowing that you don’t have to be on the Playa to have Burning Man in your heart.

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A Living Master

 

dscn2657I was delighted to see my old friend Master Charles tonight at a talk he gave in Los Angeles entitled “One Source – Honoring the Sacredness of Life.” I wouldn’t otherwise wax philosophical here, except for being reminded again what an impact he had on becoming the person I am today. We met 19 years ago when I was a recent college graduate working for Paladino & Associates Public Relations in Hollywood. Master Charles (then Brother Charles) Cannon, is founder of The Synchronicity Foundation and creator of high-tech meditation, audio technology that induces the same brain waves created naturally in meditation.

I was a 22-year-old recent college grad from Missouri when Phil Paladino took me to meet my new client for the first time. That particular evening the program also featured a channeler, which I admit was a bit freaky, but set the tone for an unforgettable job that would provide a colorful start to my career – welcome to LA!

Paladino had a profound effect on my life in his own way as mentor and father figure, but unfortunately became ill and died in 1993, only a short few years after I met him. It is our shared connection with Phil that ceratinly binds my relationship with Master Charles. But he too had a lot to do with both shaping my belief system and eventually my discovery and passion for the Internet.

His talk tonight was consistent with the message of oneness and the celebration of life he spoke of nearly 20 years ago. Our idea for a “one world network” preceded commercialization of the Web, but the idea and execution fell flat at the time, largely because his focus was on his successful meditation foundation and retreat in Faber, Virginia. Mine was on establishing a foundation for my career.

What then was a message about our universal connectedness and a Buddhist philosophy that we are all one, tonight he expressed as a call to spread the conversation about “life’s sacredness and beauty.” He quoted Confucious and Buddah, and spoke of how the mind so often gets in the way of our hearts. He spoke about finding balance by accentuating the positive and living in the “essential now” and reminded the group of  approximately 100 attendees how that life is in fact supposed to be pleasurable. Naturally participation in his meditation retreats and buying his CDs are another way followers can find bliss!

Imagine my excitement when I first learned of the Web in 1993. I was instantly swept away by the possibilities. Here, plainly written in the pages of the Wall St. Journal, was was promise of everything Master Charles had been talking about! The Mosaic Browser being developed at the  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, it said, would connect the world’s computer networks via the Internet with a new world of pictures, video and sound. Wow! The connectedness of humanity brought to life on a global computer network! In that powerful moment, I decided to shift all of my professional energy toward a career on the Internet, whatever that meant. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.

That experience led me to follow a mantra of “making a positive impact on the world through media.” Whatever that means, it has become a personal mission statement for my life, and tonight Master Charles helped me remember that everything I do is leading me toward that end.

His parting words to the group tonight were “we can transform the world, and now is the time.” An inspiring conclusion to an enlightening evening.

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