December 8, 2011No Comments

Six Simple Words to Change a Life

Words are powerful. A friend and mentor of mine is a smart, strategic communications pro who was one of the first in his family to go to college. He grew up poor, with parents who didn't speak English well. When I asked him once about how he got from East LA to become an advisor to CEOs and Board Chairs of large organizations, he had a surprisingly simple answer. He traces his path back to a simple conversation from a Head Start mentor who met him when he was five years old. She gave him a Pechy folder and told him that this was the kind of folder he would have when he went to college. It was the first time someone ever said that to him--that he could go to college. It had an impact on his entire life. He did go on to college. He credits that Head Start mentor for giving him the confidence to do it.

Imagine that. Simply saying "I know you can do it" could change someone's day. Or their life.

There are certainly occasions when you should tell someone they cannot do something. Novice skiers should not attempt black diamond ski runs. College students don't need encouragement to drink too much and have sport sex. People with empty bank accounts should not invest in pyramid schemes.

But it seems like in most circumstances there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to do something, anything. Even if it seems silly, beyond reach or sure to fail. If all that is at stake is pride, then why not encourage someone to chase a dream? The likelihood of good outcomes is higher than that of bad outcomes.

On the flipside, there is little good that can come of statements like "you don't want to be one of those people who say they are trying to write a novel." Or "there's something wrong with women who want to be attorneys." Both of those statements were said directly to me, albeit in the 1980s and 90s. But even with more than two decades in between, they still sit like little poisonous mushrooms growing in a dark corner of my mind.

Negative statements are sticky. Let's give them a rest and try the positive approach. Tell someone who needs encouragement that you know they can do it. That you have faith in them. You could change someone's life.

 

 

November 25, 20112 Comments

Quit Begging Me to Shop Already, You Look Desperate

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I love shopping. Plenty of family members and friends can attest to my love for the mall. Neiman Marcus to Wal-Mart, I love it all. But after four housebound days watching hundreds of commercials touting Black Friday sales using crazy-eyed, emotionally over-stimulated women, I've been trying to figure out how to anti-shop, even if for just one day.

I want to anti-shop just to protest the sheer amount of mindshare the Black Friday shopping day is trying to take from me. It's not just the commercials. It's the lead stories about shopping on the news for days leading up to Thanksgiving. It's the websites dedicated amassing store ads and deals. Its the articles on "how to survive" shopping on Black Friday. All of it seems to elevate Black Friday to a national holiday for a country in need of economic stimulus. As though if we just buy more GPS devices, more sweaters, and more DVDs, we'll get the economy back on track. It's a noble calling -- be a savings ninja! 

A little Internet research turned up Buy Nothing Day, a low key 14-year-old movement created by Canadian Adbusters Media Foundation. Its goal is to get us to take a break from the cash register and reflect on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption. And this year it is being picked up by the Occupy Movement as its December campaign. Planned activities include mall sit-ins, credit card cut-up sessions, zombie marches and shopaholic clinics. There's an interesting juxtaposition that the Occupy protestors are tearing down their tents this week, while a whole different crowd sets up camp outside big box stores to get bargains on flat screen TVs and laptops.

If nothing else, I hope that the Buy Nothing Day at least tempers the breathless media coverage of Black Friday sales. The sales can be fun to go to, if you have the money to spend on the mostly non-essential items that are bought. But in the current economy, fewer people do. Let's hear from them.

 

 

November 9, 2011No Comments

The nearly weightless side of nature.

Enough tornados, earthquakes, freak snowstorms and bad news. This video of thousands of starlings, flying in the most beautiful unison, was taken in Ireland and is now sweeping the Internet. Who among us doesn't need a little beauty today?

<p>Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.</p>

November 8, 20112 Comments

Impressions of Dakar, Senegal

My first trip to Africa was my October visit to Senegal, on the west coast. I spent most of the time working at a conference held at the Le Meridien, but was able to get out a few times to see little bits of the city. My lasting impressions are of friendly, funny people; tall, slender women in colorful robes and headcloths; cold showers; hot, sticky weather; goats being led on leashes thru city streets; tents sheltering gigantic sheep in advance of the Muslim Tabaski holiday; goats and children sifting through trash heaps.

 

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A market in the heart of downtown Dakar. Pictured here is the fruit and vegetable section. As you went deeper into the center of the market, we found stacks of whole fish, lamb carcasses and large cuts of meat.

 

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The African Renaissance Monument, 160-feet high and the most dominant feature of the Dakar skyline. Controversial among the Senegalese because of its $27 million price tag and the decidedly unmodest attire of the woman. 

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Senghor Airport

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Senegalese government building; fairly typical looking in terms of maintenance.

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Beach near Le Meridien.

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View of Dakar from the base of the African Renaissance monument. A local told me that much of the land is under state control. The current President is widely viewed as refusing to step down when he should. Senegal has for years been held up as an example of a stable, African democracy, but that image will be put to a test when the current President runs for his third term using a loophole to get around two-term limits.

It may sound trite but visiting Senegal gave me a greater appreciation for the amenities we enjoy in the United States, like reliable power supplies, sanitary water supplies, clean streets. 

 

August 24, 2011No Comments

El Nido Family Centers Needs Your Help

They are one of the oldest social service agencies in Los Angeles, helping a nearly invisible impoverished population as they try to transform their lives. The problems they address include child abuse and neglect, school dropouts, adolescent pregnancy, youth crime and gang prevention.

El Nido Family Centers is losing millions of dollars in public money, as local and state governments unavoidably slash their funding. Fewer dollars means less servce to the more than 15,000 disadvantaged and at-risk children and families that El Nido serves annually.

Their results are impressive.

  • 93% of children enrolled in the child abuse prevention and treatment program showed improvement in academic performance.
  • 95% showed reduction in symptoms related to trauma, child-parent conflict or family dysfunction.
  • 65% of pregnant or parenting teens were enrolled in school or graduated with a diploma or GED. Compare that to the 75% and up dropout rate in some schools and communities that El Nido serves.

Private donations to El Nido are more important than ever, and can help their 15 successful programs alive. Please make an online donation today, or consider buying tickets or sponsoring the Champions for Families dinner on Sept. 15, 2011 at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles.

http://elnidofamilycenters.org/

 

 

 

February 28, 2011No Comments

Oklahoma clay takes beautiful form in Frankoma Pottery

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There's nothing particularly fancy about a piece of satin-finished Frankoma pottery, made of creamy beige clay from the Arbuckle Mountains or reddish clay from Sugar Loaf Hill. But something about its blend of Western inspired lines and practicality appeal to me, and I'm proud to have more than a few pieces around my home. And its humble beauty is now in demand by collectors, heavily traded on eBay and other auction websites, was featured on television as part of Martha Stewart's personal pottery collection and in a promotion with Paula Dean.

John Frank opened his pottery studio in 1933 in Norman, where he was a ceramics professor at the University of Oklahoma. Frank's inspiration came from the images of Native American and Western life and some of the most sought-after items included teapots, pitchers and dinner plates shaped like wagon wheels, slouchy cowboy boot vases and sculptures of deer and colts. 

The muted, earthy glazes like Prairie Green and Desert Gold were chosen to reflect the beauty in nature and the world around us. Frank took a spiritual view of the pottery he made -- he is quoted as saying that "the clay carries a piece of each person who touches it" and legend has it he refused to hire anyone who did not love their job. An old Frankoma Pottery leaflet said its products were "inspired by its unique Oklahoma background, created by Oklahoma artists and produced in Oklahoma clay."

The pottery plant was moved and built in the hills of northwest Sapulpa in 1938, where it became a regular stop for tourists and travelers along the newly completed Route 66. Over the years, Frankoma Pottery created many custom and collectible objects, including ashtrays for the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado, election day mugs for Democrats and Republicans, and items commemorating Oklahoma institutions such as the Cherokee Nation and Oral Roberts University. Frankoma Pottery has changed hands twice since the Frank family initially sold it to a Maryland investor in 1991. The current owner is Joe Ragosta, a longtime Frankoma collector and fan, who bought the company in 2008. The best way to acquire pieces today is probably through the collectibles market. As of this writing, Frankoma Pottery is not currently in full production, its website states that it is on hiatus, and the phone number has been disconnected.

Want to glimpse the breadth of Frankoma pottery created over the past 78 years? Check out this gorgeous Flickr gallery of Frankoma collections:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/eleamckee/galleries/72157622285836783/#photo_183...

January 26, 2011No Comments

Even the ghosts have left this Oklahoma town

It was the opposite of an Oklahoma land rush in Picher this week, as giant yellow CATs started knocking down abandoned homes and businesses in this town scarred by eight decades of mineral mining.

 

Most of the town, including its multiple piles of discarded rock, zinc and lead the size of office buildings and its poisoned ground water, is the federal government’s now, due to a $50 million buyout after years headlining the EPA’s Superfund list. The killing blow for Picher was a study released in 2007 that found the entire town to be at imminent risk of collapse without warning due to the abandoned mines. A sobering reminder that some environmental damage cannot be undone.

 

Learn more about six-month demolition process that started in late January 2011 through this Tulsa World article; and see the impact firsthand in Matt Myer’s stirring and sad film TAR CREEK.

 

 

 

December 5, 2010No Comments

Hallelujah flash mob video

Came across the video of a flash mob choir at a New York mall food court giving an impromptu performance of Handel's Hallelujah chorus. The singing is beautiful, the enjoyment on the faces of the listeners and the performers is sweet, and the debate on the comments among atheists and Christians alike in favor of the video is spirited. YouTube puts the viewer count at nearly 10 million.

October 31, 2010No Comments

Happy birthday, Johnny Marr!

He created the haunting, swampy guitar sound that made the Smiths' How Soon Is Now? the perfect anthem for all my teenage angst. Happy 47th birthday to our generation's signature guitarist.

 

October 15, 2010No Comments

First Post

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Join the conversation. I hear the phrase a lot now when talking with other PR professionals about the social media explosion. Listen. Respond. Create. Blog and vlog. Tweet. So I signed up for a class at UCLA Extension about social media best practices for communications pros. Start blogging, said Erik Deutsch, class creator, instructor and social media/PR guy. So I am starting a blog. It is going to be about things I find interesting, obviously, which are in no particular order -- writing, social media, Los Angeles, Tulsa (that’s Oklahoma, OK?) and whatever else seems interesting.   

 

My first post, then, is about the importance of showing up. Someone famous somewhere said that just showing up was a very large part of being successful. I don’t take that to mean that just by having a blog I will be a successful blogger. But I will post twice a month, and join the conversation, hopefully with something interesting to say.