Category Archives: entertainment
I Need Your Help With The Cancer Diaries
When I was told that I had cancer, I wondered if I might turn it into a moment. When you watch programs like American Idol, you hear of the hardship people went through, which motivated them to enter the competition.
One such ‘moment’ was that with my promotion of Relay For Life, I told my story about catching PROSTATE CANCER early, which motivated more than 20 men got themselves tested, which is awesome.
I started writing songs about my journey and decided to create an EP called THE CANCER Diaries and combine that with a music video, which would tell my stories of tough times and of hope. The final song, which is half-finished will culminate in a song called Dare to Dream, which needs the backing of a gospel choir for the emotionally inspiring (I hope) finale.
The intention was, and is, to donate the finished product to the cancer society. I am hopeful that it will help other people on their journeys with cancer or in support of people with cancer, as it did me in writing and playing the songs.
Anway, life got in the way.
Since COVID19, the good people at Boosted have set up a program for artists, especially musicians and songwriters to raise funds and koha because they are unable to perform live during the lockdown period. I told them about my idea and they said that it sounded like a great project for a Boosted campaign.
So I have set one up, which you can find here. I will be performing live on Sunday evening at 5 PM right there on that page. Hopefully, it will go well. It took me most of yesterday to get my sound gear working for streaming. It’s probably been a year since I was last on Twitch or YouTube live.
So the plan is to finish the songs, record them in a studio together with a few volunteer musos and create The Cancer Diaries EP and video. I’m also hoping for support from other people who can help with video and especially with a gospel choir. Do you have one hanging around somewhere?
I also need your help to spread the word about the campaign which runs for 30 days from today, in any way or form that you can.
I’m in Remission, New Song for Cancer Album and Relay For Life
What a week I had last week, back to work blues, PSA blood tests for my prostate cancer and the usual agonising wait for yesterday’s meeting with my oncologist after my blood tests on Wednesday and more.
So the visit was short and sweet, my PSA levels have gone down a little, without the help of any more drugs and after prodding my stomach (not quite sure why and I didn’t ask) I don’t have to go back for another 3 months.
That’s a weight off my mind and I can refocus on getting on with life and I have so much I want to do.
First, there’s Relay For Life on 10-11 March. Team Early Birds is back for another year and I need your help. Our team is a little smaller than in previous years and if you would like to join us, we would love your company. You can get all the detail here.
If you can’t join us, it would be great if you could leave a little donation. Even $5 is tax deductible and it is an awesome cause. With one in three Kiwis getting cancer, anything we can do to aid research and the awesome work of the Auckland Cancer Society who have been a huge help to me, is welcome. Last year I raised $1,500. So far this year I haven’t got to $50. So either way, can you lend a hand?
My Big Project A Cancer Video EP, the Last Song
As you may recall, dear reader, I am working on a HAG project which is huge, creating an EP and video series for people with cancer and those who are supporting friends and family with cancer in some way to help them on their journey. If you missed that story, details are here and again I need help.
The last song is called Dare to Dream and after the good news again on Saturday, it seems the right time to share the story and lyrics with you. This song is intimidating to me because it has tracks that I can’t play including a sax and a gospel choir. I have no idea where to find either of these, but I am confident that with some help from my friends, I will.
The song is about being told I’m in remission and trying to process what that means. I used to think that being in remission means that you are cancer free, but when I asked Benji, my oncologist about that he said “You will never be cancer free. Once you have cancer, you have cancer. Remission means it is in control and you don’t need any treatment, for now.”
So for the foreseeable future I will be stressed out on the last week of each 3 month period and hopefully like yesterday, will be told the good news that I continue to be doing fine. Benji thought I was looking very well and looking back at photos of my pasty pale face of a couple of years ago when I was undergoing radiation treatment and dealing with chronic fatigue, I look great!
So if you’re still with me, here are the song lyrics. Super Better is an awesome book by Jane McGonigal which now has a game and a Facebook page. There is also a great TED Talk by her for those who don’t want to wade through the book.
I’m in remission, it’s a reprieve from my condition
In 3 months I’ll know more, for sure
Pinch me am I dreaming? Please explain the meaning
Before I close the door, does this mean I’m cancer free?
The winter sun is crisp and clear,
I’ll write a list for 10 more years
Of things I want to do and see,
Things that mean the world and
Dare to dream, dare to dream
So much more for you and me
So much more that we can be
I’m in remission and I give myself permission
To embrace each new day as if the cancer has gone away
I’m going to grab a power up a SuperBetter lift up
Cause there are many on our team
Who need to dear to dream.
Chorus 2 (gospel choir for alternate lines)
Dear to dream
Watch me lift my hands up high
Dear to dream
Reaching out to touch the sky
Dare to dream
Take off like a bird and fly
Can’t believe this feeling
Repeats after break with lead guitar and horn section
So there you have it. I’m currently working on the demo for my second song called Who Stole My Words, which is about an incident where the chronic fatigue brain fog meant I couldn’t come up with simple words like current and channel to explain how I found myself upside down in an ocean kayak, without any fight or flight instinct because I wasn’t producing cortisol or adrenaline. I was upside down, underwater harnessed in thinking ‘this is interesting’. Anyway, I’m having a bit of a struggle going from fingerpicking to strumming and staying in perfect time with the clicktrack so I can add a walking bassline. But that’s another story.
So, can you help with Relay For Life, either with a small donation, or joining the team for 10-11 March in Mairangi Bay at the Millenium Institute? I’ll be there all night relaying with family and friends to raise money for the Cancer Society and in honor of the friends, family and colleagues who are fighting or who have lost their battle with cancer.
Do you know an Auckland based Gospel choir or a small horn section, or at least a sax player who could help with this song? The album will be Not For Profit by the way. I know I will have to pay for some of the work, which I will crowd source, but the end product will be free.
Want more info on my cancer journey? You’ll find it here. If you know anyone else who might find this interesting, please share it with them with my thanks.
Life List #2 Record an EP and Video of my Songs about my Cancer Journey
I know you are a caring person wanting to make a difference like me, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. I’m looking for advice and assistance on this project and I want to gift the results to the Cancer Society so that many people can benefit from it.
Music is a great healer and I used it as one of the tools that helped me and continues to help me through my journey. When I first was told “You Have Cancer” and got past the initial shock, I watched shows like The Voice and saw the stories of people who had turned horrific times in their lives to good purpose, wondering what did it take for me to do something positive and values driven.
I decided I wanted to do something too, which started with setting up the Facebook page Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies, I also wanted to try to do something really positive for other cancer patients and their families and friends.
So my Life List goal #2 is to complete an EP and music videos to help tell the story of my journey in terms of a cancer patient that may help other people relate to this horrible illness.
It’s 24/7, it’s scary and in many cases results in anguish, fear, depression, pain and death. The story isn’t unique, it applies to other conditions too like dementia.
Last night I watched the movie ‘Glen Campbell I’ll Be Me’ on TV and had tears in my eyes throughout the whole movie and my heart goes out to people suffering from dementia, which our family is also dealing with.
One of my songs for the EP is called “Who Stole My Words” which was about an experience I wrote about recently about falling out of an ocean kayak and due to my condition wasn’t able to come up with simple words like current and tide after I swam it to shore, not having the strength to get back in because I am not producing cortisol (i.e. no adrenalin). For a wordsmith, not being able to recall simple words is pretty scary.
So my challenge is that I need to fund this work and then make it available at no cost to people who are going through the same experience, because even with insurance, having cancer is very expensive and many people have to sell their homes or spend their life saving to help pay for their treatment or even to travel for treatment if they don’t live in a town where it is available. We had to spend a 5 figure sum to top up the gap for my treatment to date, so I know what it’s like. So I’d like to gift the album / video to the Cancer Society when it is complete.
I’m going to need additional musicians, possibly a backing choir for one of the songs, a videographer, editor and more people to help me. I’m going to need a studio, a sound engineer, a cast of several people and then there’s production and distribution. It’s pretty scary.
I’m keen for advice and help. First of all, where do I go for money? I’m thinking about whether to use New Zealand’s ‘Give a Little’ service. To raise funds because this is a charitable exercise. The finished product will be gifted to the Cancer Society and anyone who can benefit from it for free. There won’t be any profits.
Then I need a bit of a team to help me make this happen. Can you help with advice, or would you like to join the team? I can write the songs and I want to perform them with various artists, but that’s about the limit of my expertise.
So will you help? I need people and I need advice. You can contact me via Twitter Facebook by joining the group Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies, LinkedIn or Email.
Meresha – A Rising Star Enters the Dreamland
Have you heard of Meresha yet? Let me introduce you. It seems like many years since I first heard Meresha sing, but given her age it can’t be that long ago. I feel like I’ve watched her grow up from a young bubbly teenager (with a mature musical spirit) to a powerful multifaceted musician, singer/songwriting woman, and that we are friends even though we’ve never met in person.
I knew instantly, seeing her perform (online) that she was going to be a superstar. She has a voice to die for, passion and personality that you can’t help but get swept up in, energy to burn that seems endless, a vision for what she wants and humility that keeps her grounded despite amazing successes on Billboard, MTV and many other platforms.
On June 12th she is launching her latest EP called ‘Enter The Dreamland’ and I’ve had the privilege of listening to it pre-release. The title song opens the door to the rest of the EP with a wonderful hook and reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, except that she takes us with her. Listening without the great video it is the sort of song where you can put your own journey or story into it and think “this is about me” and then with the video, you have another adventure to enjoy.
I’ve been saying for a while that it’s time for the comeback of concept albums. When I saw Carlos Santana perform again a few weeks ago and he went from Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va as people remembered off the Abraxas album, the crowd roared with approval. They collectively remembered and appreciated the sequence of songs, where today so often we listen to one artist, one track, and move on to the next artist, especially with services like Spotify, where a search will find some of Meresha’s songs. I’m personally completing the third song of a concept album I am writing about my cancer journey, with my target audience being people with cancer and those close to them, but I digress other than welcoming the approach Meresha has taken with this EP.
Enter The Dreamland really feels like a concept album and that we are being taken on a journey. My favorite song at the moment is Jungle Potion. It shows off her range and has a rich fusion of Soul and Pop. I really like the brass, the bass and other instrumentals that support her vocals.
Violet Night starts and ends of with that vinyl sound many of us grew up with or are discovering with its re-emergence and is a track that has great rhythm and joy as a dance track superbly presented as a climax but isn’t the end of the album, which comes with Lights Out, a great way way to close, telling you to step outside your mind. The album may be over, but it still resonates.
I’m confident there are hit singles in this album and what is really cool is that it will have wide appeal to different audiences. I can’t wait to see the final cut of the video and perhaps more videos which really illustrates how much Meresha loves what she does.
So watch this space and sign up for updates and get a free download of Lemonade City and get ready for the latest EP from this great performer and recording artiste. I don’t normally right reviews of music, but I am really excited about this talent. I love to see the sort of commitment that she puts into her craft. Music is hard work and making it in this industry to a point where you don’t have to wait tables or do something else so that you can do what you love is not something many people get to enjoy.
Just as a footnote, while you are on her website, check out her videos and you will see what I saw, joy, passion and youth, combined with vocal control and skill. If you like what you see, please support her and buy the album.
Musicians with Cancer and Other Maladies is NOT about money or donations, or benefits, it’s about Friends reaching out for each other.
Google Glasses Separation Syndrome
How would you feel tomorrow if you lost access to your mobile, the Internet, TV and other technologies that you take for granted. How would you feel?
Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside. People can’t bear to be without them.
Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.
Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends…
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Don’t go on a Road Trip without Foursquare
I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my recent road trip in the USA and the applications that helped and didn’t help me along the way. The last couple of blogs were about TripAdvisor which was a big help when it came to accommodation, but not great for much else.
I’ve been a big fan of Foursquare for a long time. You’ll find it mentioned in many of my blogs. One of the common threads is that people all over the world are ‘checking-in’ using the GPS on their mobile phones to all sorts of businesses, leaving tips and comments. There are recommendations of favourite food, or great service through to comments about lack of hygiene in the bathrooms.
The really frustrating thing is that the vast majority of businesses that get a mention on Foursquare have no idea what it is, or that they are involved. Foursquare is of course well-known by people in marketing roles, especially those involved in social media. Most of my friends in the information and communication technology industries use it. I’ve written a number of blogs trying to promote it to businesses in the hospitality and tourism industries because it is free and because tourists and travelers are using it. I suspect it mostly falls on deaf ears.
Many of the hotels I stayed at on my trip were on the outskirts of towns and somehow we managed to pretty much always arrive around 5-6PM tired and hungry. Where to find somewhere good to eat? Initially we went for walks or drives, but we really just wanted to relax. I quickly found that Foursquare was the best way to not only find out what was nearby, but also to find what places people recommend, or don’t.
You can search from a range of items based on proximity including Specials, Food, Coffee, Sights, Arts, Trending and more. You don’t just have the option of searching in proximity to where you are, but effectively you can pan the map for the bigger picture, or search by place-name for your next destination.
Using this we found some great restaurants and bars and also managed to confirm the location of an alligator hatchery in Louisiana that the navigation unit placed about a mile wrong in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty disconcerting when we were driving on the wrong side of the road (for us) of some very narrow country roads.
I do have to say that I only found a few specials using Foursquare, which reinforced my experience that hundreds of thousands of businesses are missing out on opportunities to pro-actively win more business.
I also kicked myself after spending 45 minutes waiting for a quesadilla at The Iron Kettle restaurant in Lynchburg, because if I had used Foursquare I would have read a comment left by a previous visitor saying: “Avoid. Slow service. You could walk to New York and get a three course meal in the time it takes for a simple burger here.” They were right too. To her credit, the waitress refused to charge us for our lunch, much to the disgust of the manageress.
That brings me to another very cool feature of Foursquare and that is the ‘History’ function. If you log on to your Foursquare account and select history, you will find a chronological record of every location you checked into including the time, date and any photos or comments you made at the time. I had originally planned to start a travel diary using My Vacation on my iPad. I have to say that lasted about 3 days. We were just so busy doing and planning that we just didn’t feel like keeping a diary. Turns out we didn’t need to. That alone is a great reason to use Foursquare next time you are going on a trip. Check in, take photos, make comments and you have your travel diary.
Pay it forward and leave tips, good and bad about the locations you check in to so that others can benefit from your experience and learn from mine as well, that even if it is right there in front of you and looks OK, check for tips and comments other people have left. As I’ve said in previous blogs about TripAdvisor, if one person leaves a bad comment, take it with a big grain of salt, but when there are several, where there’s smoke, there could well be fire.
I love Foursquare and feel it is perhaps seen by many, such as those who still mock twitter, saying “I don’t care if you had a coffee!” as a waste of time. I say that it is a wonderful marketing tool, a great site and app for exploring new places that you may not otherwise have found and definitely ranks as my favourite global Points of Interest database.
Give it a go, whether you are travelling on holiday or just looking to try a new place to eat, have a coffee or be entertained. If you find it useful, share your own tips and comments, pay it forward.
I also welcome comments on my blog. What do you like or not like about Foursquare. What have I missed? There is of course much more including game mechanics, leaving comments on other people’s check-ins, mayorships, badges, friends and lists and the ability to add new locations on the fly and share them with the rest of the world. There are also many 3rd party apps usng the Foursquare API’s. What are your favourite features?
What we can Learn from TripAdvisor
I recently wrote a blog about TripAdvisor and how to make the most of it on your FIT (Free Independent Traveler) trip.
What can you learn as a developer or someone who wants to own their own app to win loyalty and business in the hospitality and tourist industry?
The first thing is content. Most applications are city focused. That’s understandable, but based on my experience in the Southern States was that there were loads of tourists looking for cool things to do and see, but they were so hard to find. If I hadn’t found the Blues Trail Guide at the Natchez Trace Information Centre, I would not have visited Crystal Springs because according to TripAdvisor there was nothing there but a single restaurant. In fact I had the most wonderful day there, meeting the Mayor at City Hall and spending a couple of hours with Theresa, the Granddaughter of legendary blues giant of Crossroads fame Robert Johnson at his museum.
Now you may not have heard of Robert Johnson, or watched the movie Crossroads, inspired by his legendary story, but if you are a blues fan, then this is a must do pilgrimage and to actually meet and talk with his granddaughter is something you won’t likely do at music museums or historic places of interest anywhere in the world. My point is that outside of the cities is where the real people live and the world is full of exciting and interesting places outside of Disney, Alcatraz or the Empire State Building.
While I make that criticism, I do have to say that TripAdvisor was by far the best for the apps I used on my trip. I was able to find the properties I wanted to stay in, I was able to filter things to do, types of accommodation and more, I guess the key thing was lack of information outside of cities.
As a future step, I’d like it to have the ability to learn about me, profile me based on my interests and make suggestions to me. Given the wealth of information they do have, this would not be too difficult.
When it comes to accomodation, maybe they could also help me with search functionality that would allow me to eliminate properties with keywords, for example ‘show me all properties in Xville excluding keywords ‘bed bugs’ and ‘bad internet’. I understand the problem for properties who may be unfairly targeted by competitors trying to put people off their properties, but that is a security issue and there are always opportunities for redress. The fact is, wherever I saw comments about bedbugs etc, I avoided those properties like the plague. So all it did was make it take longer for me to find those comments, but I still didn’t stay at those properties. What frustrated me the most was that I spent up to 2 hours some nights, instead of relaxing, trying to work out where we would go next and where we would stay, which took a bit of the gloss off an awesome trip.
I’d like an app, and I know people are building them, which allow you to list your interests and then it will generate a tour or recommendations to meet your interests. Issue for me is most of them are based around specific advertisers who are often self rated, or very generic interests. That doesn’t work for me, I want apps that have all places, business and non business.
Probably the biggest one for me is I want live events. This was the hardest thing of all and TripAdvisor didn’t support this. If you ask a tourist what some of the best things they did were, it was about real life events, fairs, the bath-tub river race, Civil War reenactments (there were plenty but other than driving past one by accident we wouldn’t have had a clue where to find them), concerts, shows, the rodeo in Hattiesburg MS which we only found out about because we were in a hotel restaurant having breakfast and met a family who were competing in it.
Tourism is hurting around the world. Lots of people are traveling their own countries rather than going overseas. Lots of treasures are being missed in towns that have a lot to offer and many of those businesses need our tourism dollars more than the big cities.
A footnote to state and regional tourism organisations, particularly USA, Australia and New Zealand. It is frustrating and short sighted in my humble opinion to stop your tourism efforts at the border. I loved the Tennessee tourism book, but it was too hard to use and it stopped at the border. I also understand that your tax dollars stop at the border, but tourists don’t. Same to Louisiana who obviously had their book made by the same publisher. If you are using the same company, then that company could perhaps look at making quality location based applications that make it easy and attractive for people to enjoy holidays and spend their money.
Perhaps the key is to ask the tourists what they want rather than just continue to focus on traditional print business as usual.
Tough times for New Zealand Restaurants
There was a story in NBR today called Tough Winter for Restaurants. I left a comment, but it appears to have been moderated, perhaps someone thought it was self serving, just a guess.
I’m actually in the middle of a series of blogs, as you may be aware about location based services, but am going to take a quick break from this to share a few simple reminders about the basics of running a business in the hospitality sector.
What gives me the credentials to make comments on this, you may ask? Here’s a few:
- I completed a Hotel Motel Management course many years ago and assisted and lived in a busy Auckland motel for 18 months.
- I have attended hospitality conferences and exhibitions around the world.
- I started playing guitar and assisting in cafes and restaurants from the age of 14.
- I ran the Casio distributorship for cash registers in New Zealand and assisted with Australia and held around 70% market share in the industry segment for around 7 years and during that time keynoted for conferences including HANZ, Retail Merchants Association and others.
- I was technology editor for a retail magazine.
- I was involved in the development of the first electronic waiter pad systems in NZ, which were subsequently sold through Casio dealers in other parts of the world.
I could go on but I think that will do. So here are a few elements of Restaurants 101 for 2012.
There is an oversupply of restaurants and fast food outlets for the population of the country in most parts of New Zealand. Very few of the people running the restaurants have business training, many do it because they love food and they love people and entertaining and have passion for their business. Once that was probably enough. Having said that, even 30 years ago, a large percentage of these businesses changed hands every 18 months and having gone broke, trained the people who took over from them.
Table turn. The more times your tables are occupied within a dining session, the more profitable, subject within reason to what they are buying. Entrees and desserts are more profitable than mains. Make the mains too big and people won’t buy dessert. Dessert’s tend to generate around 80% gross profit margin.
If people are in for a night, keep coming to see them, ask if they are happy, offer them drinks. Alcohol offers large profit margins. Develop a relationship with them. A restaurant with a maitre d’ or person who remains in the dining area all the time, separate from the people who bring food in from the kitchen and take away the plates and cutlery, will make more profitable sales.
Ask guests what their expectations are, do they need to be served quickly because they are going to a movie or a show, or would they prefer to relax with drinks before and between courses. Show them that you care about their business and experience. People don’t mind paying if they are enjoying themselves. Be sincere, don’t give fake smiles and say enjoy and have people see your smile turn into something else before you have even turned away.
When a restaurant is empty or quiet, people walk past and wonder what everyone else knows that you don’t. If it is busy, more people will want to come in, but that doesn’t mean keep people hanging, waiting for service, because it will empty pretty quickly.
Have a business plan and understand what your model is, understand who your target market is and what they are looking for. There are lots of smart things you can do using social media and location based technologies and you will find plenty of them if you search through my blog, BUT if you don’t have the basics right, they won’t help you.
Many people still haven’t figured out that daily deal sites won’t bring you good business. Very few people who come to you through those sites will be back. They will cherry pick your profits and then do the same to the next business.
If you have the basics right and you know what your KPI’s are then I recommend you start with something like a combination of Foursquare and other social media. Have a really good look through Foursquare and the types of deals you can do with them for free.
Location based services and proximity based marketing are really good tools for distressed inventory. Fill empty tables when you need to fill them, not by discounting before you even know if you will. Get creative, remember Death by Chocolate? If you have desserts left, its getting late, look for people who might come in for coffee, Irish coffee and dessert, you’ll make as much profit from them as some of the people who stayed for an hour or more and just had a main and wine.
If you have any questions, please leave them here or if you disagree, I’m open to that too.