How to Start a Movement, A Three Minute Lesson from Derek Sivers on TED

This three minute lesson on how to start a movement shows what happens when one “weird” person is willing to stand out from the crowd and stick to his (or her) guns despite potential ridicule. It also demonstrates the importance of embracing and encouraging your first followers. I have seen it happen many, many times. Haven’t you?

Consequences of a Music-Less Life

I’m still curious and confused about the seeming lack of availability and interest in new, emerging, underground music. Maybe I’m a rare case. Maybe music means more to me than most but here’s my story of how a lack of music almost killed me.

In the 80’s I was a teen and a punk rocker. I was basically on my own after the age of 16 so I went to every gig I could, some times going to live shows 2-3 times in one week. Little did I know, this constant barrage of punk and alternative music was shaping my opinions, passions and politics on a deep level. Punk rock actually gave me wings. I admired the dedication and bravery of the musicians I went to see. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who noticed that some things are not right in the world.

I don’t have to tell you, no one wanted to hear what the punkers had to say in the 80’s. Most of the shows I went to had less than 100 people in attendance. When things got too big or too crazy, the cops were always there to break it up and take people off to jail. In some cases the riot squad greeted you as you entered the concert hall, just to let you know who’s in charge. Now, here we are, 25-30 years later seeing the teens of today listening to the music of the 80’s as if its something new and revolutionary.

May I interject here that the punk artists kids are listening to today aren’t just entertainers, some aren’t even technically musicians. Many punkers had no idea how to play their instruments when they first started. Many of them created hand-made fliers and had them photocopied free of charge on someone else’s photocopy machine. Most punks didn’t have contracts or agents. It was sheer grit, determination and persistence that kept the bands that you know about today alive. There are many, many other punk bands, some just as good or better than the ones you know about. The main difference is that some gave up and some didn’t. Punk legends like Mike Ness of Social Distortion exist solely due to determination.

Heres my beef: if the kids of today are listening to the music of 20 years ago, where are they getting the lesson of sheer grit, determination and persistence? Who is going to carry the torch and speak about today’s issues, most of which are the same as the issues of the 80’s, only worse. Why are the youth of today listening to anti-Reagan songs and not anti-Bush songs?

But I digress. I still haven’t explained how lack of music almost killed me. You see, when I was about 18 it was clear that my drug addiction was serious and I needed to do something about it. By the age of 21, I had been in several recovery programs and was beginning a process of wanting to change my life. For me, that meant I had to stay away from the old people and the old places. Gradually I began to slip away from my punk past and tried to be more “socially acceptable.”

The compelling need to “fit in” accelerated drastically when I entered college and eventually University. I found myself completely forgetting all about punk rock and gradually went to fewer and fewer live shows and even stopped listening to most of my records and tapes. I was proud of myself for a while, maybe too proud. I was reaching my goals and moving up in the world. I got a degree, then another degree, then another. In the process, I completely disconnected with my punk past.

I tried to fit in, get the jobs and connections I wanted. I was not connected with punk in anyway. I never had the opportunity to talk to anyone about seeing GBH at the Olympic Auditorium two times in one week or seeing the Ramones every year at the Paladium. I couldn’t listen to punk rock on the job and frankly, I found punk rock to be distracting to me and my goals.

Eventually music even began to annoy me. I was mad at the neighbors when they played it too loud. I saw myself turning into the cranky old drag that I encountered in most adults I met. I began running on auto-pilot. I listened to rap and hip-hop, maybe just because it was there and everyone else was listening. I was becoming noticeably depressed. I was training to be a therapist and sitting in meetings talking about “clients” who have “problems”. All the clients and problems were familiar to me, a part of my past.

I believed that each client I saw had potential to overcome whatever they wanted. I believed they could be whoever they wanted to be. Yet none of the ‘professionals’ agreed. I was shunned, not taken seriously and basically told “you’re just an intern, what do you know?”

On the one hand I was offended by the callous and careless way professionals talked about the people we were supposed to be helping but often I kept my mouth shut. When I did open my mouth, there was always a consequence. I was dismissed from more than one position for having an opinion. I tried to keep my mouth shut. I became more and more depressed. I chastised myself and thought to myself “why cant you just be like everyone else? Why can’t you just fit in and shut up?”

So, there I was, training to be a therapist and for the first time in my life, I found it completely necessary to take anti-depressants. I literally felt like I was going crazy and that was especially disturbing in light of the fact that I was supposed to be helping people!

Ironically, it was when I was “cleansing” my negative past that I found my soul mate and reconnected with music in a new and positive way. My husband, former owner of Zed Records in Long Beach was in the store when I brought in a stack of vinyl to sell. In the process of sorting, scanning and observing my records for their suitable re-sale potential, I sparked up a conversation with the man who would become my husband within about a year. He liked hockey, I liked hockey. He liked punk, I liked punk. We enjoyed each others company. But it would be almost 10 years before I began to realize the significance of our match and the importance of music in drawing us together.

In 1998 I experienced small reminders and nudges of who I was and who I could be but I wrote most of them off as the “idealistic, unrealistic, drug-induced fantasies” of the past. I would hear the nudging call to action in songs by Black Eyed Peas and A Tribe Called Quest but I mostly hid my love of hip-hop because fears like “what will people think, I should grow out of this, I’m just some old person trying to be cool.” Hip Hop and Punk were like guilty indulgences I hid from the ‘professional’ people in my life.

Once I got an iPod, things really began to change. Once I was able to easily carry the soundtrack of my life in my purse, able to listen to the Buzzcocks followed by Snoop Dogg and chased by Social Distortion anytime, anywhere; I began to transform. My dreams re-awakened. Lyrics of power, being yourself and letting go of concern for what others think lifted my soul.

I began to tell people, “I used to be a punk rocker.” I described my spiky blue hair and my shaved head. Some people laughed, some people said “cool”, others were entirely speechless, still others said “no way” as they stood there with their eyes bugged out.

The familiar lyrics and sounds of the underground began to stir something within my soul. I began to remember who I really was. I stopped caring about what everyone thought. I started to think about what I want for my life rather than what society wants for my life. I began to realize the traps I build around myself and how the mainstream society reinforced the validity and ‘rightness’ of those traps. Sometimes I was pissed off. Other times I was shocked. Sometimes I was sad but mostly I was determined. I was determined to revive the 16-year-old punker in me. I was determined to take her out of the closet and say look world, here I am so $*& you!

I could go on and on but mainly I have a deep, nagging fear and this is why I’m writing this long post. If the youth of today have no role models to show them how to be independent, to start their own businesses, to live free of corporate oppression, what on earth does the future hold in store for us? Will it be a rehash and reinforcement of the same old, same old? Will George Orwell’s 1984 be a reality?

Remember, most of the popular anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications on the market didn’t even exist in the 1980’s and now they are being passed out like candy to many people as a cure-all for the ‘problem of depression’. Rates of depression increase in society and pharmecuetical companies become more powerful. What if the depression is from oppression? If so, all the pills in the world aren’t gonna help.

Listening to music that’s 10, 20 or 30 years old makes about as much sense as reading newspaper articles from 30 years ago and claiming that you are informed and educated. The time is now, with the advent of instant information for all of us to step out of our boxes a bit and look at what’s new while continuing to enjoy what’s old. I think we need to listen to the message under the message.

Punk is more than just a bunch of rebellious, belligerent youth with a lack of classical music training. Punk is a movement and a statement about deciding to be who YOU are not what society determines you should be. Right this moment new music is being created by new people. Some of them will be huge one day, others will fade away but if you’re sitting at home listening to the same stuff your parents listened to, you’re missing out on the real-time experience of history in the making.

(Me and the Black Eyed Peas in 1998. They played at a record store inside Universal Studio Walk, about 30 people were there to see them….if that. Truthfully, most people were there to see Kobe, a well-known soccer player, BEP just happened to be the “opening act.” If you were paying attention to alternative radio (KCRW.com/Chocolate City) you could have been there. I will tell you this: NOBODY except me asked for their autograph and to take a picture with them. I have the Behind the Front album signed by the entire band.)

I’m so grateful that I had all the experiences I had in life and Im grateful for the opportunity to experience first-hand how plain, ordinary (and sometimes downright untalented) people say “I don’t care” and go for it anyway. And guess what, it ends up that it doesn’t matter if someone is good or not. As long as you are clear about who you are and don’t give up, you will make it. That’s the message under the message. Do you hear it?

(This article was originally written in 2006)

On Hosting the Agape TM Live Show

sheri-is-mcLast Saturday, December 12 was a fun and exciting day for me. I already wrote about how I won Toastmaster of the Year last week, and it’s taken me this long to re-group and reflect on another aspect of the morning which was being the host of the Agape TM Live Show.

While planning for our year-end party, we had brainstorming meetings and came up with the idea of a Red Carpet theme so we could dress up like stars and have some fun. I recommended an awards-style twist on Table Topics.

Table Topics is the impromptu portion of a Toastmaster’s meeting where you call up a speaker and ask him or her to talk about a topic for 1-2 minutes.

How I set it up is that prior to the meeting, I contacted all the members and asked them to tell me two interesting bits of information about themselves that most of us probably wouldn’t know.

I took those bits of information and used them in two ways, one as the basis of a treasure hunt game. We passed out a sheet with some these bits of information written on it then people had to guess which bit of information went with which person. Some of the match-ups were pretty hard to guess.

The second way I used the information was to generate a Table Topics intro. I would introduce each guest by telling a little bit about what they were going to talk about, then they would come on stage and tell the story in their own words. Below are some pictures of the Table Topics speakers and what they spoke about.

joanramirez

Joan Ramirez tells us about the time when Jim Morrison of The Doors pulled her up on stage and planted a huge kiss on her lips! She had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

susanlowe

Susan Lowe tells the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration about the days when her children were regulars on Sesame Street.

brucegordon

Bruce Gordon entertains the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration as he showcases his live comedy act.

dianemosberry

Diane Moseberry tells the audience at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration how she used her speeches to educate her child regarding practical life skills.

After the interview-style Table Topics we handed out awards.

johnmclaughlin

John McLaughlin shows off his “Best Film Editing” award at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration. Club President Cynthia Lamb shows her enthusiasm and support.

shirelynasonmitchell

Shirley Nason Mitchell is awarded “Best Original Screenplay” at Agape Toastmasters Red Carpet Awards celebration.

food

Before, during and after the Red Carpet awards, we had good food to eat thanks to Linda Lloyd.

On Becoming Toastmaster of the Year

trophyYesterday at Agape Toastmasters we celebrated by holding a Red Carpet Awards event. It was a great opportunity to converse and get to know each other a little bit better. The room was festive, we had delicious and nutritious food catered by Linda Lloyd and many of us dressed up in evening wear even though the event started at 8:30 a.m.

One of the highlights of the morning is to hand out awards. There were many fun awards like Best Actress and Most Likely to Succeed and then there is the Toastmaster of the Year award that is won by popular vote. I really hadn’t been thinking much about awards that day. I was in charge of the entertainment for the party so I was busy setting up my iPod and my microphone and making sure the program was as enjoyable as possible.

When club president and Toastmaster for the day Cynthia Lamb was describing the winner she talked about someone who was dedicated, always of service to the board and someone who participated in events outside the club, at the District level. I thought to myself, “oh my goodness, Cynthia is the winner, why is she awarding herself the award? Why didn’t someone else give Cynthia the award?” But then Cynthia announced the winner’s name, Sheri Zampelli. That’s me. I was honored, surprised and shocked. I was also excited.

Winning the award was symbolic for me because it was an outward validation of an inner feeling that’s been growing in the past 6 months. I have literally felt myself break free from my shell each time I speak at Agape Toastmasters but I wasn’t always sure that others could see what I was feeling. Now I know they can and this encourages me to continue the journey of facing my fears and breaking out of the box completely. Several members of the club pulled me aside and told me how much I’ve changed in the year they’ve known me. It felt good to have witnesses because in someways, nothing has changed about me and yet everything is different. The trophy to me is simply a reminder that that “something” is real and I plan to continue on this journey and embrace the next adventure.

It is so appropriate that Cynthia Lamb is the one who handed me this award. It was after listening to her speech where she recounted her family’s dysfunctional behavior with a humorous twist that I opened my eyes and my heart to a way I could share my message and help others while also maintaining my dignity and integrity. I asked Cynthia for help, guidance and support and she gave me that and more. Agape Toastmasters gave me wings and made me feel like a star and for that, they deserve the award.

For more about Agapge Toastmasters, visit their website.

White House Concert Showcases Diverse Musical Talent

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a workshop and concert with classical musicians, young and old, as part of the White House Music Series on November 4, 2009.

The audience consisted of what First Lady Michelle Obama referred to as “classical music superstars of tomorrow” in her opening speech. She spoke about how “The White House is the people’s house. It’s a place that’s steeped in history but also a place where we like to start new traditions and to bring people together in different ways because nothing mixes old and new quite like classical music.”

She commended the musicians on their dedication to achieve musical excellence and said, “It’s through that struggle that you find what you truly have to offer to your instrument or to anything in life”.

“You’ll learn that if you believe in yourself and put in your best effort, that there’s nothing that you can’t achieve. And those aren’t just lessons about music. These are really lessons about life” she said.

The concert featured Sharon Isbin on guitar, Awadagin Pratt on piano, Alisa Weilerstein on cello and Joshua Bell on violin. These musicians are considered the best in the world and have been playing their instruments since childhood.

This hour-long concert featured an eclectic mix of musicians and music lovers. The attendees were young and old, male and femail and ranged a wide spectrum of ethnic diversity yet they were united by a common love: music.

Each of the musicians is clearly passionate about and connected to their music and their enthusiasm shines through during their performances. You simply don’t want to miss Alisa Weilerstein on cello at 40:55. She truly embodies what it means to be in the moment of creativity.

Female Rapper Roxanne Shanté Gets Stiffed on Royalties – Warner Music Pays for Her PhD

New York Daily news published an article titled Rapper behind ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ gets Warner Music to pay for Ph.D on August 23, 2009.

Watch Roxanne’s Revenge on YouTube.

It’s a great story of how persistence and determination paid off for Shanté. Despite the fact that the record company tried to stiff her out of all her royalties, they couldn’t find a way to deny the clause in her contract that stated they would pay for her education for life.

The result, Shanté got a PhD in Psychology at Cornell to the price tag of $217,000 and now she’s using her education and rapping/hip hop skills to help urban African-American’s express their angst through non-traditional counseling methods. She helps clients to “unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what’s on their mind”.

Read the entire article at NewYorkDailyNews.com.


Long Beach Roller Derby Holds First Meeting

Estro Jen and Diesel lead the first Long Beach Roller Derby meeting at Moxi Skate Shop
Estro Jen and Diesel lead the first Long Beach Roller Derby meeting at Moxi Skate Shop

Long Beach Roller Derby had their first official meeting tonight at Moxi Skate Shop in Long Beach. Organizers Estro Jen (Michelle Steilen, owner of Moxi Roller Skate Shop) and Diesel (Z. Karnopp) are both long-time derby enthusiasts and Angel City Derby Girls who want to bring the joy and excitement of full-contact, REAL women’s roller derby to Long Beach.

If you’re interested in Long Beach Roller Derby there are many opportunities to get involved either as a skater, ref or sponsor. Training and recruitment begins immediately.

A group of derby enthusiasts gather for the first Long Beach Roller Derby meeting at Moxi Skate Shop
A group of derby enthusiasts gather for the first Long Beach Roller Derby meeting at Moxi Skate Shop

The next league meeting and recruitment party will be held on August 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the Moxi Skate Shop at 2218 E. 4th Street in Long Beach.

The league plans to have their first public bout in November, 2009. They are currently looking for sponsors and a warehouse space of 9000 square feet or larger to hold the event.

For any and all information about this new league, contact:

Estro Jen/Michelle Steilin at moxiskates {at} gmail.com
Diesel/Z. Karnopp at zkarnopp {at} yahoo.com