Obama on Hip Hop in Education

Tonight I’m reading a special pull-out section of the Los Angeles Times about Obama. It’s a powerful statement about a turning point in American history. There’s also a beautiful Obama photo essay on-line at www.latimes.com.
itunes logo All links in article go to the Music Store on iTunes.
I was reminded of a video I found with Obama talking about his iPod playlist and his views about Hip Hop and it’s potential role in education. When asked if he likes Hip Hop, Obama says, “Of Course.” He’s currently listening to JayZ, American Gangster and Kanye. He likes them both because “it tells a story”.

Here are a few quotes from the interview. Scroll down and click the ‘play’ button below to see the entire video on YouTube.

“I have to admit, I still am an old-school guy. I’m still StevieMarvin. If you look at my iPod, it’s Earth, Wind and Fire, Isley Brothers, Temptations. I’ve got a lot of that old school stuff”, Obama said.

Obama loves the art of hip hop but not always the message of hip hop. “There are times where..there is a message that is not only sometimes degrading to women. Not only uses the “N” word a little too frequently, but also, something I’m really concerned about, is it’s always talking about material things and always talking about how I can get something”, he said.

When asked if there was a place in his White House to find an effective way to use Hip Hop in education, Obama answered “absolutely, I don’t think there’s any doubt that it (Hip Hop) can be (effective).”

Other things Obama had to say about Hip Hop:

“The potential for them to deliver a message of extraordinary power that gets people thinking…The way that they can communicate a complex message in a very short amount of space is remarkable. A lot of these kids aren’t going to be reading the New York Times, that’s not how they’re getting their information so the question then is what it is the content, what’s the message?”

“Hip hop is not just a mirror of what is, it should also be a reflection of what can be”, Obama said.

He encouraged people to
“Imagine something different
Imagine communites that aren’t torn up by violence
Imagine communities where we’re respecting our women
Imagine communities where knowledge and reading and academic exellence are valued
Imagine communities where fathers are doing right by their kids
That’s also something that has to be reflected.

Art can’t just be a rear view, it should have a headlight out there, according to where we need to go”, Obama concluded.

The interviewer ends the conversation with a quote of his own: “Hip Hop needs to have the audacity of hope.” Obama agrees.

Long Beach Tortoise Inspires Table Topics at Toastmasters

Russian Tortoise Really Gets AroundI was the table topics master at my Agape Toastmasters meeting this week. Which means it was my responsibility to come up with a series of short topics to present to members. Each member that I presented a topic to then came up and gave an impromtu speech on the subject matter I provided.

Once I volunteered to be table topics master, it didn’t take long for me to think of a theme I wanted to cover. You see, I have been interested in the power of the media and grass roots marketing for most of my life. My step-dad was a sound editor, my grandpa was a producer and I was a part of the punk movement in the 80’s and 90’s. I studied the media in college along with psychology, hypnosis and counseling. I am intrigued by what influences people and why.

The “Missing tortoise” signs plastered all over Long Beach by New-Agers from Morningland Urban Monastery gave me a perfect opportunity to talk about this topic and present it in a way that is somewhat entertaining.

I started my table topics presentation with a little “show and tell” of the missing tortoise signs I heisted off local telephone poles. I explained how signs like these are plastered on poles all over Long Beach, spanning a 5-mile radius. I told everyone about how I dreamed of finding the tortoise, how I saw my hand delivering the lost tortoise to its grateful owner for a reward. Then, I showed them the front page of The District; a local paper that’s distributed free to coffee houses, restaurants and retail outlets all across Long Beach, California. The missing tortoise signs caught the attention of publishers and resulted in a full cover picture and an article spanning 4 pages complete with informative and entertaining sidebars and a full-page inset photo.

A quote from Al Stone, ex-Morninglander, subsumes that the missing tortoise signs are a way for Morningland to get publicity. And it worked. But, that’s not exactly what we talked about in Toastmasters. We talked about the power of repetitive words and images we’re exposed to and how they influence behavior.

Here are the questions I posed to my fellow Toastmasters. I invite you to answer one or more of the questions down in the comments section.

1. Some people believe that he who controls the words/media controls the world. Do you agree or disagree and why?

2. If you could control the media for one day and choose the programming what would you choose and why?

3. Tell us about a song or TV show that had a major impact on you.

4. What is your all-time favorite commercial?

5. Tell us about one item you own that you purchased solely because of advertising.

6. Tell us about a conversation that influenced your life.

7. As you think about every item attached to your body right now (clothes, accessories, wallet) tell us about one item that you own because of someone else’s influence.

8. Name one rule that you learned early in life that has made you the person you are today.

9. Talk about a time when you had a song stuck in your head and couldn’t get it out.

To find out more about joining Agape Toastmasters in Culver City, visit them on the web at: http://www.agapetoastmasters.org/. Toastmasters meetings are open to the public and you can visit for free. Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to helping members improve their communication and public speaking skills.

Roller Derby – Now THAT’s an Attitude

Sheri Zampelli Punk Rock GirlI grew up on punk rock and as such, I’m simply not the type of person who can sit still quietly for any length of time. When the “punk movement” was surging through Southern California in the 80’s and 90’s I attended many shows and engaged in many conversations about “what punk REALLY is.” A good number of people had the “punk is an attitude” philosophy but somehow I sensed this was mostly rhetoric and pontification versus the way people acted in real life.

Punk Rock BoyThe truth is, there were unwritten rules about what was “punk” and what was not “punk” and though they may have changed from person to person, they were there nonetheless. There was a dress code and a set of acceptable behaviors. Never once did I see a man in a three-piece suit at a gig, long hair and tans were definitely not “cool” and black was the color of conformity. Oh, and by the way, in many circles if you did anything that might make you money or cause you to be successful (even if it was having a punk band) you were a “sellout.” UGH.

It seems that most groups of people eventually fall into these traps with rigid roles, rules and restrictions, even when their starting premise is freedom of expression. I got disenchanted by the whole punk thing over time, it just didn’t seem vital anymore and I missed the “good old days” where it seemed fun and raw and fresh and creative.
(Open The Wreck’s MySpace page in a new window and listen to Punk is an Attitude off of Not So Quiet on the Western Front while you read the rest of this blog. If you listen while you read it will really enhance the experience. If you like it, buy the single on iTunes.)

Well, all my good feelings about punk and DIY culture and self-expression and hell, even the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, came back when I stepped foot into my first Derby Doll bout at Little Tokyo in April ’07. I fell in love instantly and began skating with Fresh Meat and doing volunteer work almost immediately.

There is so much I could tell you about this DIY operation. SOOO many behind-the-scenes stories just begging to be told but I think I’ll start it all off with a pictorial that captures a tiny bit of the Roller Derby Attitude.

It seems to me that the only people who are not welcome at a Derby Doll bout are those who are under the age of 21 (and I’m sure many of them WISH they could come). Other than that, this is truly an ecclectic, diverse, creative, energetic group of amazing people with almost unanimously great attitudes. I’ll let the pictures tell the story. And when you finish looking at the pictures and start reaching for your wallet to buy tickets for the next bout, go to this link and do it now. It is a life-changing event, trust me. (By the way, you can click on any of the photos below and see a larger version).

Crowd shot at the LA Derby Doll Bout, 5-31-08

Mila Minute fan displays support as crowd looks on. Man with camera documenting roller derby history. It’ll only go up from here.

Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and the Cookie Monster at LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

Part of the reason it will grow is because of Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut of the movie Whip It! starring Ellen Page. The publicity machine is already on the scene and pictures of Drew at the Doll Factory have popped up in People Magazine and on People.com at least twice.

The cookie monster served as the Tough Cookie mascot for the evening. Look closely and you’ll see Drew Barrymore on the right, she is taking research photos and appears to be talking to Ellen Page. Whip it! is a movie about a young girl coming of age in roller derby world.

Los Angeles City Council Member Eric Garcetti sings the national anthem at the LA Derby Dolls 5-31-08

13th District Los Angeles City Councilmember, Eric Garcetti gets the party started by singing the national anthem to a sold out crowd at the Doll Factory.

Krissy Krash and family.  LA Derby Dolls.

Tough Cookie, Krissy Krash poses for a photo with Daddy and Gramma Krash. They come to every game and sit in the VIP section cheering Krissy on.

Girls get out for some LA Derby Doll action

And these women? They’re cheering everyone on. It’s girls night out and time for some roller derby fun.

Haute Wheels is heated

Here’s the type of energy and dedication the skaters have. Everyone in the building is pumped up.

Automatic Music Explosion singer, Jodie makes a sign at LA Derby Dolls

This beautiful young lady is Jodie. She’s the lead singer for the automatic music explosion. Even though she’s getting ready to play a gig, she still finds time to make a sign for her Derby Doll friend, Laura Palm-Her. If you listen to some of the songs on their MySpace page, you’ll get a feel for what it’s like the entire night at a derby bout. They even have a song titled Roller Derby.

Racy DC and Krissy Krash of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls

There is no size, weight or height requirement in roller derby. If you wanna kick ass on wheels and you’re over 21, come on down. You literally don’t even have to know how to skate to get started.

Varsity Brawlers of the LA Derby Dolls

Here’s a glimpse of the newest Derby Doll team, the Varsity Brawlers. They’ll compete in their first bout in October, 2008. If you’re smart, you’ll get tickets now, before it’s impossible to do so. Heck, the place only holds 1,700 spectators and it sells out quicker and quicker everytime.

the automatic music explosion

Max - Drummer from The Automatic Music ExplosionThis face demonstrates the excitement and carefree spirit of the automatic music explosion. I was working the guest list at last night’s Derby Doll bout so I met the drummer, Max earlier in the night. He and his wife were so kind and patient. Eventually, I suited him and his entire band/guest list with purple arm bands so they could use the “staff” bathroom behind the stage.

These guys travel in a pack and even have their own dancers who danced in the front of the group and later passed out buttons, stickers and tiny fliers listing upcoming gigs. Their flier also says: “We want to play at your high school.” I would highly recommend that you hire this band if you need someone for a high school event. They are high energy and seem to pull on the best aspects of rock and roll from the 70’s to current.

I think this is a band parents and kids alike can enjoy. In fact, I just realized, they have a Ramones feel. Look at how many parents and kids love The Ramones equally today. But there is something about seeing bands like this when they are young, fresh and full of vinegar that is unparalleled. I saw The Ramones in the 80’s and 90’s which is quite different from what you’d see if they were all alive and together today.

the automatic music explosion at the Doll Factory in Los AngelesGreat as they are, these pictures can’t even begin to convey the excitement this musical group extracted from the crowd. The audience for this band was by far the largest, most energetic and enthusiastic I’ve ever seen at an LA Derby Doll bout. The group commanded attention and the intesity eminating from the stage captivated the audience. The singer, Jodie thrusted large, poster-sized signs above her head and engaged the crowd in activities such as bobbing ballons to each other overhead and screaming the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the words, “fight, fight, fight” at the top of our lungs.

The show ended with the singer smashing her tamborine on the concrete floor. Anita Kill leaned over and yelled in my ear, “at least its cheaper than destroying a guitar.” “Yeah”, I screamed back. I was dancing the entire time. Laura Palm-her, who is evidently a friend of the band (and who I owe a kiss and a hug for hooking them up) was dancing on her skates with the singer. Several other Tough Cookies joined in the festivities.

Here’s a video of The Automatic Music Explosion at the Kiss or Kill show at Safari Sam’s in Hollywood.

Here are some of their song titles:
Law of Attraction
Roller Derby
A Girl Like U

Highlights from the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade

Gay Pride Parade 2008Here I am, rarin’ to go to the Gay Pride parade. I’ve got on my roller skates and my gear and a stack of hypnosis business cards in my hand to pass out to parade spectators. Yes, I am a hypnotist and I can help you change habits or reach goals that are important to you. I want to work with fun, open-minded and creative people so why not go where fun, open-minded and creative people are? Hmmmm? Isn’t that what the Law of Attraction or “The Secret” is really about?

Anyway, you don’t want to hear all about me, you want to see some of the fun pictures my husband took (yes, I am married to a man AND I went to the Gay Pride Parade.) I know it is shocking, but there are many straight people there and yes of course, kids and dogs. So here’s some of um.

Justin Rudd and his dogs at the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade 2008 Let’s start with Justin Rudd. I may have to do a whole separate blog about him because he’s quite the fashizzle of Long Beach. He might just become as well known as Snoop Dogg as a famous Long Beachian. Earlier this week, he spoke at a business networking event that I attend through the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association. Can you believe this guy is in charge of 38 public events in the City of Long Beach? Thanks to him, Long Beach has the one and only dog beach in Los Angeles County. But like I said, it requires a separate blog entry. For now, just look at his cute mug and go to his website if you want.

Moving along. Does anybody really have a problem with this guy? Come on.

What a cutie.

Move over Barbie.And this guy. Move over Barbie, Ms. Pride has stolen your thunder.

Orange County Roller GirlsOf course, the post would not be complete without a picture of some derby girls. Here are the O.C. Roller Girls. They play on a flat track, whereas the L.A. Derby Dolls play on a banked track. There will probably be more banked track teams in the future but for now there are only a few places in the entire country that have a banked track. I feel so fortunate to say I am one of a fairly small crowd of people who gets to experience the “ride” on that track. You can really glide on it and use the momentum of the track to pick up some serious speed.

Below is a picture of a girl who reminds me somewhat of myself. I don’t mean to be corny and nostalgic but it’s true. I was always wearing lots of bracelets and doing something crazy with my hair. Most of my fashion came from the Goodwill. I really loved to be creative like that. Then when I started going to college and getting older and taking on “professional” roles like business owner and college instructor, it’s like I forgot all about that stuff because I felt I needed to fit into some imaginary “role.” Well screw that, I’m tired of it. From now on, I make the rules about me. Heck, according to Ekhart Tolle, that’s what we’re doin’ anyway, right?

Pink Punker Girl

Okay, did I mention that my husband (aka rinkrat) took all the photos in this blog? Let’s face it, none of this would be nearly as interesting without the images to create the story around. There are a BUNCH more photos over on his flickr page if you want something fun to look at.

Ciao for now. I’ll be back later with more about The Ray and that picture I promised you.

There’s So Much to Love about Roller Derby

This Saturday night, May 3 I went to the Doll Factory to see the LA Derby Doll All-Stars play the San Diego Derby Dolls.  The game was exciting to be sure, lots of energy, lots of screaming and the fact that LA won by 115 points, well…that just leaves me speechless.

I’ll be honest, its not just the game or the rules or the uniforms that keep me going to roller derby, it’s the people. Never will you find an assemblage of more cool people per square foot than you do when you enter the Doll Factory. 

If your only exposure to LADD is that you heard about it from a friend, saw a video or read an article about them in the paper, I’m sure you could make all kinds of snap judgments and analyses of what you think roller derby is and what you think the people are like but until you set foot in the building and feel the energy first hand, you really don’t know anything about what makes roller derby so cool.

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from the evening here.  I have more favorites on my Facebook page and you can see even more action by visiting the photo gallery at letsgokings.com.

Aunt Flo throws free tampons to the excited audience

Aunt Flo throws free tampons to the excited audience


While the rest of the Dolls hold out their hands to “five” the crowd, P.I.T.A. keeps her hands on her hips and gives her ass for “fives” maintaining true form to her derby name.

Myna Threat supporters (mom and grandma?) wait to see if they won the raffle

Myna Threat supporters (mom and grandma?) wait in silent anticipation to see if they won the raffle. They just might be eligible for a skateboard without wheels or an oversized VANS (off the wall) tennis shoe.

LA Derby Dolls Fearleader

LA Derby Dolls Fear Leader. Pink flower in her flowing blond hair, scowl on her face and skull belt buckle on her waist.

Dr. Rick celebrates his birthday with the LA Derby Dolls

Dr. Rick celebrates his birthday with the LA Derby Dolls

Mila Minute jams backwards

With an 80 point lead on the scoreboard, Mila decides to finish off the jam skating backwards. The crowd went wild, the screams were deafening.

Dolls jumpin' over Dolls, all in the name of Derby

Dolls jumpin’ over Dolls, all in the name of Derby

This is how happy I am at the end of a bout.

Even though I arrived at 5:30 to work the guest list and stood on my feet for five or more hours, this is what I feel like after a Derby Doll bout: Charged.

Hoopin’ in the Hood w/ Comic Roy Anthony

Roy Anthony does great work for the community including bringing comedy right to the neighborhood that needs a good laugh. On this evening, the comic line-up included Roy Anthony, “The Funny Lady of Comedy” and “Woody” the ventriloquist.

Sheri Zampelli hoops at a church fundraiser in Los Angeles and all participants enjoy the comedy of Roy Anthony and his fine selection of comics.