Archive for September, 2010

Local Inventor Wins 'Aviation Week' Award

September 30th, 2010
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At CCTV, we're always looking for newsworthy stuff that might get overlooked by the mainstream local media. Sometimes we even come up with scoops like this one: Dr. Rob Yonover, a Hawaii Kai inventor, just learned his Mini Rescue Pocket/Float won  the Aviation Week multimedia company's Innovation Award in the Communications category. Our segment on Rob's life-saving rescue devices starts airing on OC16 next Thurs., Oct. 7.

Basically, Rob works out of his house -- and yet he was competing with giant international corporations. "I was honored and humbled to win an award that included aerospace companies Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed, " he said. "I got an extra kick out of being in the small company category for companies with gross sales under $50 million -- if they only knew I was hardcore inventing technologies on my lanai floor!"

His reference to "hardcore inventing" is by design. Rob co-authored a book called Hardcore Inventing, which includes a wealth of information and practical how-to advice for entrepreneurs. (You'll find a link to his site at the end of this post.) His Mini Rescue Pocket/Float idea was inspired by a story he heard about a guy who kept himself afloat in the ocean by blowing up a condom. Rob's version is a bit more sophisticated, but still very compact.

On a related note, Robert Olague, another local entrepreneur (who introduced me to Rob Yonover) was contacted by the Shark Tank television show about his video name tag invention, which we featured on our current episode. That video is posted on our website. When I first spoke to him about doing a segment for CCTV, I mentioned that I really liked Shark Tank but ABC kept yanking it from their prime time schedule. Robert doesn't watch much TV though, so he hadn't seen it until he went to their website and viewed past episodes online.

Long story short, Robert pitched his video name tag to the producers through their site -- and got a call back from them! The producers have asked him to provide a more detailed video "audition" of himself for consideration to be on the program. For those of you who haven't seen it, Shark Tank is a group of wealthy businessmen who listen to pitches for new products or services, and then decide if they want to invest in that person's venture. The "Sharks" can be pretty cold and cruel when giving feedback or negotiating deals with budding entrepreneurs, who are sometimes in dire straits as a result of pursuing their dreams.

We'll keep you posted on Robert's progress, as well as other local success stories like Rob Yonover.  One thing I've noticed about people like them is that you rarely hear them get negative. When they encounter problems, they shrug them off and figure out ways to get around obstacles. If you ask me, the main thing holding back our government and economy -- locally and nationally -- is the constant stream of negativity we keep hearing day in, day out. No wonder people are angry and frustrated. They've forgotten that change starts with themselves and thinking in positive terms when presented with challenges. Griping and complaining seldom accomplishes anything.

Anyhow, check out the links and look for Rob Yonover on next month's Career Changers TV, beginning Oct. 7. Be there, aloha!

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Here's the Aviation Week link to the Innovation Awards page. Scroll down to the communications category and click to see Rob's Mini Rescue Pocket/Float device.

For more invention-related stories and advice, visit www.HardcoreInventing.com. I've read his book and highly recommend it to any aspiring inventor or entrepreneur.

Shark Tank television show (with instructions on how you to can pitch your product to them).

And of course, please visit CareerChangers.TV for show times and video links, including the aforementioned segment about Robert's video name tag invention and Mark Bell's MP3 TP dispenser music player (stay tuned for news on that product "rolling out" soon!).

Kids Books Are Serious Business

September 27th, 2010
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"Plenty Saimin" author Feng Hutchins next to saimin stand outside Native Books at Ward Warehouse.

"Plenty Saimin" author Feng Hutchins next to saimin stand outside Native Books at Ward Warehouse.

It's tough to make a living as a writer -- just ask all the unemployed journalists or "freelance" copywriters, who have also been working on book projects or screenplays that may never see the light of day. Yet good writers find a way to get published or have their scripts produced. But then the real challenge starts: selling it.

These days, writers have to do more than write. They must promote and market their own stuff. Websites, blogs, morning TV talk shows, book signings, speaking and reading appearances. Reclusive J.D. Salinger types are a rarity now. But for authors who like meeting the public, it can be a fun part of the job. For instance, this weekend I attended a book signing at Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii in the Ward Warehouse to promote "Plenty Saimin," a kids book by my friend, Feng Hutchins.

The premise of this charming little story is simple: In the 1950s plantation era, a local boy invites everyone he encounters to have some of his mom's home-made long life noodles on his birthday. Mom worries they won't have enough, but everyone brings a little something to add to the pot. Simple, yeah? Many aspiring writers think more is better. In my experience, the biggest difference between professionals and amateurs is the pro knows what to cut or leave out. They focus on the meat of the story -- or in this case, the saimin.

Kerry Germain, the publisher, is a book author herself. She wrote the popular "Surf's Up for Kimo" children's book and two Kimo sequels, which she published through her Island Paradise Publishing company. To date, she's sold over 30,000 of the Kimo books. However, Feng's manuscript was the first submission by an outside author that she wanted to publish and promote. Part of her job was putting Feng's words together with an illustrator (Adriano Abatayo, pictured with Feng and Kerry).

Feng, Kerry, and Adriano at "Plenty Saimin" book signing.

Feng, Kerry, and Adriano at "Plenty Saimin" book signing.

Adriano was born and raised in Nanakuli, but now lives in California. So it was a treat for him to come back home to be a part of the book signings here. What I loved about it was how Kerry actually had people dishing out saimin outside the Native Books entrance and also had this custom made cake from Ted's Bakery inside with the book cover replicated in icing. Nice, huh? Meanwhile, she had a wonderful local lady strumming a uke and singing next to the book signing table.

Custom cake from Ted's Bakery.

Custom cake from Ted's Bakery.

While my wife and I were mingling with Feng, Adriano and Kerry, we also got to say aloha to other familiar faces, such as Maile Meyer -- the owner of Native Books. I had met her about three years ago in Kailua when I became involved in the public beach access controversy caused by a gate that went up on L'Orange Place. Maile and members of the extended Aluli family spoke out against the gates, not just in Kailua but on outer islands too where her ohana live. As an aside, memorial services for Bob Moncrief -- the L'Orange Place resident who opposed the gate on his private lane -- will be held this Saturday in Lanikai, beginning at noon. The public is welcome. To RSVP, please visit www.BobMoncrief.com or click here.

Getting back to Feng's book, I met her through a playwriting workshop I took a couple of years ago. As I said up front, it's tough out there for writers. You have to be creative and make your own opportunities. Since my movie scripts weren't being produced, I thought I should try writing theater plays. Also, I figured it might be a good way to meet local actors and talent in case I wanted to produce a low budget film in Hawaii. The first time I heard Feng read a scene from a work in progress about a Chinese wedding broker who arranges a "ghost" bride for a dead son, I recognized her talent. It didn't surprise me that she had lined up a book deal for "Plenty Saimin."

Still, it took awhile to come to fruition. She said the original idea took shape about five years ago while feeding saimin to her own young children. Then after Kerry agreed to publish it, the illustrations, design and first printing took two years in total. Now you can find it in bookstores, online at Kerry's website or through Amazon.com.

Oh, and if you happen to buy it at one of Feng's book signings, come early and you'll also get a free package of saimin!

Today's relevant links:

Island Paradise Publishing

Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii

Bob Moncrief Memorial Service details

For Career Changers TV viewing times on OC16, please visit our website. I've also posted a segment about local inventors on the home page, which features a video name tag and MP3 toilet paper dispenser music player!

Hawaii in TV and Movies

September 22nd, 2010
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Television and movies play a big role in Hawaii's economy. Projects shot here create many behind-the-scenes jobs that range from casting and catering to make-up and wardrobe. What appears on screen often helps sell the islands as an exotic location and boosts tourism. Growing up in New Jersey, I think the original Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, P.I. series created a subconscious desire to move here -- in part, because I was half-Japanese and a lot of the people I saw on those shows looked like me. For the only hapa-Asian kid in a 20-mile radius, that was no small thing.

But in addition to producing a no-budget OC16 show, I'm also a screenwriter who has won awards for my scripts and have optioned stuff to legit producers in Hollywood. So it pains me to say I think the new Five-O is more like the short-lived Hawaii cop series that flopped than Lost, which hooked me from the start. If not for the name and the iconic theme song, I doubt Five-O would have scored the ratings it did. Meanwhile, overlooked in the hype was the fact that Hawaii also was used as a locations backdrop in another new series -- The Event, which aired Monday night on NBC. (In a confusing flashback-within-flashbacks structure, Oahu doubled for Antigua when a young couple goes on a cruise and comes ashore.)

Before I tell you why I think the rebooted Five-O falls short, I just want to mention what is possibly the worst ever original episode. Recently, a Five-O mini-marathon ran on the Spike channel, and I happened to catch the "Samurai" episode in which Ricardo Montalban plays a Japanese character named Tokura. BTW, it wasn't the first time either that Ricardo had to speak with a fake accent or have his eyes made up to appear more Asian -- he did the same for the movie, Sayonara.

The new Five-O doesn't have any Mexicans playing Hawaiian or Japanese characters. But it also doesn't have many Hawaiians or locals playing significant parts either. Sure, you can say that about Lost, Magnum, or nearly any other Hollywood production filmed here. Casting is a business decision. Still, one of the charms of the old series was catching glimpses of real local people in minor speaking roles or background shots. I'll never forget seeing a Magnum rerun in which a shady character appears on screen wearing an absurd Star Trek aloha shirt -- the very same shirt I had bought from a shop on Kapahula that sold "vintage" aloha wear! It was so kitschy, I couldn't resist (plus I thought I could resell it to some Trekkie fan for a profit).

The biggest complaint I had though was the pilot seemed over-produced. For some reason, the opening credits have some weird line pattern or filter that makes the images appear grainy instead of sharp and colorful. Is it supposed to be a "high tech" look? Beats me. Then we're subjected to constant close-up shots that cut off the characters' heads! I know this is the trend, but I don't get it. Instead of seeing Diamond Head crater, we get to see craters on actors' faces. Thanks to high definition widescreen TVs, we can also count the lines in the crow's feet around Jean Smart's eyes.

By contrast, watch on old Five-O show with the sound off. What you'll notice is there are very few close-ups of a single character, and virtually no EXTREME CLOSE-UPS (Wayne's World nailed it years ago). In older TV programs and movies, those were reserved for key moments. Now it seems virtually every other shot is an extreme close up. The actors' faces are literally in our faces. Which is a bad thing for acting in general. I forget which movie critic pointed this out, but he wrote that in classic film comedies and TV sitcoms, the best actors used their entire bodies. And that's how they were shot. You could see not only most of the actor's body, but often the person they were interacting with was in the same frame. In the new Five-O, even when McGarrett and Danno are in the same car, the director keeps cross-cutting as if they were in two separate locations. Why?

Another thing my wife noticed was that many of the exterior shots had a strange yellowish tint. No, it's not my television. This is another trend among younger directors and film editors that I dislike. Instead of taking advantage of natural light and colors, they start tinkering with color saturation to give scenes a more "artsy" feel. Hey, even on the shoestring budget my little TV show is shot on, we know enough to take advantage of Hawaii's natural beauty whenever we get a chance to shoot outdoors! I mean, I've taken random photos and Flip video shots that were better than some of the background stuff I saw in the pilot.

Story-wise, I'll give the writers credit for trying to give the characters some plausible backstory. However, they did it through a lot of exposition. Eg., lines like: "I see from your file that you used to live in New Jersey and got divorced," or "Gee, how long has it been since we went to school together? Fifteen years? What have you been up to, my old friend?" Okay, it wasn't THAT bad... and granted, it's a challenge to work backstory into a pilot. However, look at the premier episode of Lost, and you see examples of hinting at backstory without revealing everything upfront. The opposite of an effective opening can be seen in The Event premier episode. The constant shifting from what you think is the present to three days ago or three weeks ago, back to three days ago or now -- I lost track --  just becomes annoying. As my wife blurted out, "Just tell the damn story!"

Anyway, I'm hoping the new Five-O finds its legs and starts coming up with fresher story ideas that really are organic to Hawaii. Lord knows (pun intended) there are plenty of local angles that could make it stand out from all the other cop shows set in LA or New York.

*****

Due to high interest, we're going to leave the Miracle Hawaii weight management program on our home page for at least another week. You can view it here at www.CareerChangers.tv or tune into this month's show, which airs daily on OC16 at different times (viewing times listed on our site, along with a link to the CCTV YouTube Channel for other videos).

CCTV News & Notes

September 16th, 2010
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In the latest MidWeek, there's an interesting article about local entertainer Amy Hanaialii losing 40 pounds in less than two months. Her publicist, Adrian Kamalii, dropped 56 pounds in 56 days. How'd they do it? You can read the piece (link at end of post) or tune into our latest Career Changers TV show and watch the segment about Gabrielle Butchart, creator of "Gabrielle’s Miracle Weight Loss."

When co-producer Robert "Aukai" Reynolds came to me with the story last month, I was more than a little skeptical. Frankly, I was concerned about airing a segment on anything associated with the word "miracle" in its packaging or marketing. Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing, but I don't think miracles should be advertised. Then again, it seems a lot of people want to believe in faith-based solutions these days, so I could be wrong.

Anyhow, after I saw the rough cut that Aukai did, I came away with a completely different view of Gabrielle. To begin with, she once weighed over 400 pounds herself. She now weighs under 190. But she lost most of that the old fashioned way: exercise and diet. In fact, her main business is exercise physiology. While she does use a natural hormone protein formula as part of her weight management program (read the MidWeek piece for details or go to her website), it's really no miracle why it works: clients must greatly cut down their calories. The formula, she explains, helps make that possible without feeling like you're starving.

BTW, the good-looking guy working out under Gabrielle's supervision in our CCTV segment is Aukai! He also builds and maintains custom websites for his Zeyar company, which is how he came to meet Gabrielle. We plan on doing a follow-up with some of her clients in a future show.

*****

In this month's program, Charley Memminger also did a fun bit about his inventions. Some were sort of real (the Lawn Shark guard sign and fin is actually being produced) but his patent-pending papaya picker -- a toilet plunger taped to a stick -- was clearly tongue-in-cheek. Or so we thought. Charley got an email from a viewer who said her parents wanted to purchase one. The viewer asked how long it was with and without his "extension" (another stick that was taped to the first handle) and where she could pick it up. Maybe Charley's on to something!

*****

Thanks again to everyone who visited the Recovery Walk home page and made a contribution in advance of the 5k walk and dry run this Sat., Sept. 18 at Kapiolani Park. Last week, we were at $550 when I posted my request for your help. On Weds., we broke the $2K mark! If you can't do the walk this weekend, you can still make a donation to help a very important cause. Treatment for addicts works... I know, because I'm a recovering alcoholic, who is grateful for the second chance I got to change my life.

Today's relevant links:

MidWeek article about Gabrielle's Miracle Weight Loss program. Here's her website link.

CCTV video segment about Gabrielle and viewing times for this month's program.

Charley's Wacky Inventions video on our CCTV YouTube Channel.

"Whatever Happened to..." and other updates

September 14th, 2010
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About a year ago, we started shooting segments for our first Career Changers TV show. One of the people we interviewed was Robert Maynard, the man who was launching Kandoo! Island, which was a converted 148-foot catamaran that was going to provide a base for ocean activities by day, and be transformed into a night club after dark. It was an ambitious plan that had skeptics asking, "Kandoo... or Kan-don't?"

It didn't. In fact, the day we were given a tour by Maynard, he received the bad news that the modified boat hadn't passed the Coast Guard inspection and couldn't take out paying customers. Then he ran into cash flow problems and was unable to pay insurance or payroll. His initial personal investment had ballooned from $6 million to a reported $9 million debt, and the catamaran with its splashy exclamation point logo, disappeared from sight. On top of that, Maynard had built up a fleet of over a dozen other sea craft that were going to be part of the operations, and he was being sued for money owed on those boats as well.

So whatever happened to Kandoo and Maynard? I heard one rumor that the big cat was spotted off Maui. Another source tells me Maynard is still around and making plans to relaunch the venture. But if he does, will he be able to draw enough locals and tourists to turn his original vision into a profitable enterprise? I admit I was pulling for the guy, largely because of his personal backstory. He was a hustler out of necessity from an early age, made and lost millions, survived bankruptcy three times and was later diagnosed with a bipolar disorder -- which he believes accounted for some of his erratic behavior in the past.

On paper, his concept sounded good. The entire family could take a boat out to Kandoo! Island for the morning or afternoon, where they'd have plenty of individual options to choose from. Mom could relax on the deck, while Dad went parasailing, or the kids played in the ocean on big inflatable bouncey mattresses or used underwater devices to go exploring. When the sun went down, the bar would open and the deck became a dance floor where people could party off the shores of Waikiki. Could have been very cool.

So if you've had any Kandoo sightings or inside scoops, drop me a line or post a comment below!

*****

What's Cooking: Rebecca Woodland, author of The Blonde Vegetarian, will be doing a free cooking demo at the Kokua Market natural foods co-op on Sat., Sept. 18 at 3 PM. She is a Wellness Cuisine Instructor at Castle Medical Center, a certified raw vegan chef, and a cancer survivor (I notice more and more people are making a connection between diet and cancer). Due to limited space, RSVPs are required. Call Leslie Ashburn at 941-1922 ext. 110, and tell her Career Changers sent you!

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Recovery Walk update: You still have time to register for the 5k walk and dry run on Sat., Sept. 18 at Kapiolani Park to help raise funds and awareness for addition treatment. Hey, do the walk in the morning, then head over to the free cooking demo later! Again, a big mahalo to all those who have made contributions for this important cause. Since my original post a week ago, donations have gone from $550 to $1,415. Help us reach $2k by this weekend if you can't make the walk on Saturday! Here's the link to the Recovery Walk home page.

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Reminder: All Academy Night is Thurs., Sept. 16., Castle High School, 6 PM - 8:30 PM. Students in the top third of their classes may be qualified to apply to any of the military academies that will be represented that night. Parents can find out more details here in my prior post on this event.

And don't forget to check out our latest Career Changers TV show, which features segments on local inventors, Sports Yoga Hawaii, and a new weight management program that some are calling a "miracle." For viewing times and YouTube video links, please visit www.CareerChangers.tv!