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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

7/14/09 – A few days after I wrote this, I happened to read an editorial by Museums President David Hillenbrand (written one month ago) about the fight to keep arts funding. Though Mr. Hillenbrand easily trumps me with his years of experience and know-how, we’re not so far apart in our thinking.

Often, I think back to a time when my parents had a dream of restoring the Levoy Theatre, an old, decaying vaudeville house in my hometown of Millville, New Jersey, to its former glory. I was young and didn’t understand why. I’d roll my eyes whenever they passed by it saying, “There’s our place,” and talked about maybe passing it along to me one day.

My parents, try as they might, never saw their dream become a reality – at least for them. Perhaps they would be leading the charge today if they had known more about fundraising and grantwriting. Perhaps I could have done something if I were older at that time armed with the knowledge that I have now. In any case, as I’ve grown older and personally invested in the arts, I’ve realized now that what my parents wanted to do was not just for their own or our family’s benefit, but to bring something back to a community that was in decline as the glass factories disappeared.

Fortunately, though my parent’s dream for the community didn’t come true (for them), it has not died as a group of individuals came together 14 years ago to make preserving and restoring the venue a reality. What’s even more important is that my hometown’s main “drag” has now been transformed into an arts district – one that made this once non-believer from afar a believer.

Millville’s story reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh, the city I now call home. Once a thriving city, thanks to the steel industry, it too saw its decline as the work dried up and the factories closed. It was the arts, in my opinion, that have helped to transform the face of Pittsburgh from the place once known as “hell with the lid off” to “America’s Most Livable City.” Many organizations have contributed to this transformation, but the two most prominent cultural institutions that stick out in my mind are The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Carnegie Museums.

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This weekend, just hours before the Super Bowl, I got to witness a musical that has been bringing the house down where e’er it goes – “Jersey Boys.”

Mounted on Broadway in 2005, the Tony Award-winning production (Best Musical, Best Actor [John Lloyd Young], Best Featured Actor [Christian Hoff], and Best Lighting Design, 2006) has since expanded to companies across not only the United States, but also the world. The premise is simple: it tells the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, one of the best-known rock bands of the 1960s, came to be.

In addition to its standing engagements, “Jersey Boys” is now on tour, recently wrapping up a month-long engagement in Pittsburgh. Geared mostly toward an older audience (at least in my humble opinion), it incorporates a phenomenal score, cheeky humor (and colorful language!), colorful costumes and set design, and of course, an insanely talented cast.

As a born-and-bred Jersey girl, this musical reminded me a little of home. Though I’m from the (South) Jersey Shore area and I don’t have the accent and know all of the colloquialisms relative to North Jersey, home is home, right? Even at the age of 25, I knew almost every. single. song featured in the production thanks to growing up in a house that played a lot more of the old school stuff than giving in to the MTV generation.

What made seeing this performance even more special was to watch Graham Fenton transform into Frankie Valli right before my eyes. See, Graham and I went to high school together, sang in Choir and all that jazz. While we weren’t very good friends and I haven’t seen him since we graduated, I always knew that his voice – his talent could take him somewhere.

Every so often, I try to follow his career as we get older and I can truly say that I am not surprised he’s made it to this point, but I am just so thrilled for him all the same. I’m sad that I couldn’t get backstage after the performance to say “hello,” but I’m sure the opportunity to re-connect will come some day. Graham, you are truly amazing, and you have nowhere to go, but up. I tip my glass to you, Jersey Boy.

In addition, I would live to give many thanks to the people who made bringing this production to Pittsburgh possible. As I stated before, we’re very fortunate to have the arts programming that we do. Finally, thanks to the two folks who afforded me the opportunity to go. You know who you are. =)

If you have a chance to check out “Jersey Boys,” I strongly recommend you do so. It will just blow you away.

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I might be in want of new ankles for Christmas (see: wearing heeled boots and standing about five hours), but I can say that I was glad to be at the Kids Holiday Crawl hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust today in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

I had the pleasure of helping with crafts for Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater, an awesome subsidiary of the Cultural Trust that presents a family series in the city and suburbs and an international children’s festival in May. (OK, so I used to intern/work there, so I might be biased. It really is a great organization, though)! Chief among our activities were a magnifying glass-making activity in advance of “Nate the Great,” coming in January 2009, and temporary tattoos. Oh, David Newell aka Mr. McFeely of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was also on hand late in the afternoon to sign autographs.*I didn’t snap any photographs so I wouldn’t have to worry about waiver implications or anything.*

It was an opportunity for me to prove to myself once again that while I have two college degrees, I seriously lack in craft-making abilities. I mostly stuck to greeting, cleaning and assisting where I could instead. It was a steady stream all day as we welcomed more than 400 children and their family members to our little outfit on Penn Avenue. The holiday crawl was free and, although geared toward kids, had something for everyone. None of us were able to check out the other locations on the crawl, but it was fun to look at the crafts the families brought with them from their other stops, like homemade musical instruments from Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and spin art from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

As I watched the children make their magnifying glasses, I commented that we’re very fortunate to have the arts scene that we do here in Pittsburgh. It’s true that we have some great sports teams here (save the Pirates, apologies to the dozen of you who are still fans), but I’d like to think the arts scene is going to help shape the Pittsburgh of tomorrow.

We’re fortunate to have banner organizations like the Trust that can unite the arts community into a thriving movement, helping to revitalize the downtown area. I’m not a native Burgher, but to my understanding, the downtown area before the Trust’s formation wasn’t the most savory of places. It still has a way to go, as half of the area still packs up with the end of the work day, but if you talk a walk these days you can see that the Trust’s belief and investment in the city is paving the way for other organizations to also make a commitment to a better Pittsburgh.

I’m so proud to have shared in this goal through my own experiences and I hope to continue doing so for years to come.

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I set out on Nov. 1 with a mission – to find out if I could write a blog post a day and churn out a 50,000-word novel by Nov. 30. This was all in the name of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Here I am 30 days later and the results are in: I made NaBloPoMo, but NaNoWriMo was a total failure. I thought it would be fun to break things down by the numbers, in a sense, to see how I fared. Making it hard on myself, I decided to go through each blog post and check my word count. I’m sure there was probably an easier way, but eh, I like to be difficult sometimes.

NaBloPoMo – 30 posts, 9,685 words/average of 322.83 words per day

NaNoWriMo – 598 words/average of 19.93 words per day

I think it’s pretty evident, when you look at it that way, just how poorly I fared with NaNoWriMo. I told myself I’d be happy if I got past 10 pages. I didn’t even hit two. I have a story, however, and I think I could make something of it if I come back to it from time to time. I’m more determined to write something well, rather than just get to x number of words, as was the goal of NaNoWriMo. Perhaps the effort’s not a failure after all.

NaBloPoMo was hard. If you look back at my November posts, you can see that some of them are completely lacking in content. Those were the days that I struggled with motivating myself to write. There are so many things out there to write about and it’s hard to juggle thoughts when they’re racing a mile a minute. I believe I even still have a post or two in draft form.

My intention with doing NaBloPoMo was to become more consistent with blogging. I think the real challenge, however, is going to be whether I stick with it. What does tomorrow or the next day hold? I’m sure many of you are facing that same dilemma. How do you keep yourself motivated?

Funny thing is, those 9,685 words rack up to about 19% of a 50,000-word novel. It’s interesting when you look at things from that angle, but it’s important to realize that blogging and novel writing are two totally different bears.

I would like to extend my congratulations to all who took on one or both projects. Even if you couldn’t see things all the way through, at least you gave it a shot. Beginning is sometimes the hardest part. 🙂

Cool tidbit: More than 1.5 billion words written for 2008’s NaNoWriMo (so far).

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Do you have the answer?

Adam Zand (@NoOneYouKnow) commented on a previous post I made and suggested that we co-present a panel at PodCamp Pittsburgh 3 about how SM is a lot like high school. It didn’t happen due to Adam not being able to make it down from Boston and well, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump into my first PodCamp with a presentation.

I’ve been revisiting that ever since, when I see all of the tweets in my Twitter stream about “Top 50 Tweeters,” “Help me get to 5,000 followers!,” or “Who’s the hottest blogger?” – junk like that. Sadly, it really does seem that social media sites are progressing into popularity contests.

Why? I thought the purpose was to create relationships and share ideas, not make it about who has the most followers, comments, linkbacks, whathaveyou. True enough, there’s some vanity involved when we check out our Twitteranks, Twitter Grades, and utilize other web sites that tell us just how we measure up against our fellow social media users. It kind of reminds me of Snow White’s wicked stepmother who consulted that magic mirror to know she was still the fairest in the land. Is that really what we need to keep ourselves going?

There are incredibly smart people out there who are utilizing social media for great things, but why are only a few people called rockstars? Why can’t we all be rockstars?

What you’re doing is just as cool as what I’m doing. We might want different outcomes, but I’d like to think we could all be on the same social level, without trying to one-up each other. I don’t think, however, we can truly be social as a whole until we get rid of the labels and all of these self-serving motives (and yes, I know we all have self-serving interests in a sense) that do little more than try to inflate online social status.

I’d like to take a line that those High School Musical kids so cheesily, yet happily sing: “We’re all in this together.”

They have a point.

Do you agree? What are your thoughts on social media and popularity?

You can also feel free to email me your thoughts and I will post them in comments under anonymous or any way you’d like.

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This recent Dilbert comic made me laugh, but also made me wonder if many people believe that it’s true. We know that we’re spending more time online now than ever before, especially with the growth of social networking sites. In fact, it has been suggested that internet searches for porn have been overtaken by social networking.

We’re a plugged in society, ordering the internet-to-go with us now on laptops, PDAs, Blackberrys, iPhones (iPod Touches as well), and any other device that can catch a signal. Do you find it hard nowadays to go an hour without checking your email or Twitter stream. Admittedly, I know I do, as one who has been fully connected since the age of 12.

Still, my thoughts are trekking back to this comic strip. Do we value the internet more now than we do the outside world, and well, real people? Perhaps, but I’m going to make a case for those of us who have been interested in the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

Social networking, social media, web 2.0 – whatever you want to call it, is about creating community. It doesn’t come easy, however, as you have to be willing to invest a lot of time. (It can cost money, too, depending on your intentions). If you really dig deep you can meet many interesting people from all walks of life. But, the thing about the internet is you can be whoever you want to be, right? True, but I’ve found that for every person who isn’t always truthful, there’s dozens more who are as real as possible.

We all have different reasons behind our interest in social media. For some, it’s to make money. Others are communications or tech professionals who want to understand more about how SM can help grow their organizations. Still, some people just want a conversation – to find a group of people who have similar interests and share experiences.

We can have all of that with a click of a button and a few strokes on the keyboard.  What we’re seeing now, however, are things like tweet-ups, PodCamp and so many other meet-ups because people want to take these relationships offline. They’re not interested in hiding behind a computer screen. It’s a suggestion that relationships are very much real and meaningful to people offline as they are online.

So, here’s my answer: There are aspects of the internet that are interesting, but I think that what it ultimately does, in this day and age, is lead you to far more interesting people.

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Hope y’all had a great holiday. Surprisingly, I made it to the airport by 4:20 p.m. today for a 5:10 p.m. flight with virtually no wait to check in my bag or go through security. It was amazing. If you’ve ever flown through Philadelphia International, you know it’s never cake. Perhaps I got lucky because of the holiday. Oh well, moving on …

I’ve been thinking about it and I’d like to revive the “Can We Talk?” Yahoo! Group. It’s not directly affiliated with this blog, though it’s a shared name. It was intended to be a branched-off group from YoungPRPros, as a forum for students and young professionals. Admittedly, it kind of fell to the wayside after I graduated college the first time in 2006.

Now that there are many more students and young professionals participating in social media, I think that a very valuable exchange of ideas can go down with this listserv. I’m hoping to start things off slow and welcome back those of you who were previous members and those who were interested in joining when it went defunct.

Let’s talk!

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