Archive for September, 2012

Hot in Vegas, Part 2

September 27th, 2012
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What would you do if you hit the big jackpot for Megabucks or the Wheel of Fortune slots? The question is purely rhetorical since neither my wife or I were quite that lucky on our trip to Vegas earlier this month. But we did come back with more cash than we started out with, which is a win in itself. Yet I wonder if most people who go there really give that question serious thought. After you've used some of your winnings to pay off bills, the mortgage, buy a new car... then what?

For my wife, the answer would come quickly: take an early retirement. She's earned it, but the reality is my career choice to try and make it as a screenwriter made her the primary bread winner. Selling a screenplay in Hollywood is the equivalent of winning the lottery for a writer. It happens, but the odds are not very good. When the economy cratered four years ago, about half of her retirement IRA account was lost. I seriously thought that if Wall Street bounced back, we should consider cashing in her IRA and moving the funds into something safer because I had no confidence in the financial markets -- everything "liberals" warned about Bush's house of cards, built on tax cuts and deregulation, had come to pass.

The brokers were dumping stocks, essentially betting against Obama and any hope of recovery. Then a funny thing happened. Cooler heads prevailed. Despite all the political bickering and blatant attempts by Republicans to kill stimulus bills and block proposals to bail out our automobile industry or create jobs, the economy slowly stabilized and started showing signs of healing. Confidence was restored somewhat. And Wall Street did bounce back, essentially betting that things were getting better. Just check your latest IRA statement, and you'll most likely see that's true.

I bring this up because I think the bookmakers and corporate execs who call the shots in Las Vegas have something in common with Wall Street brokers: they make their decisions based on human behavior. Trends are tricky things to predict or analyze, but it's like what I was saying in my last post about hot streaks. Luck and confidence are largely a state of mind. When we were in Vegas, it was hot as heck outside, averaging in the mid-90s during the day. Still, there were throngs of people crowding the sidewalks or flocking to swimming pools inside the mega-resorts. We saw even more huge shopping complexes on the Strip than were there just two years ago when we last visited. Inside the casinos, there were a lot more blackjack tables with minimum bets of $25 per hand than $10 minimum tables (the only $5 tables on the Strip were at New York-New York).  At Caesar's Palace, the new upscale shops were busy -- even though they were far from the gaming action.

Does that sound like an economy on the skids? What's interesting too is the mix of people we saw. Lots of younger adults, many Europeans, fewer families. To be honest, it still bothers me when I see young parents pushing strollers through the casinos. If this is their way of making money for their kids' future college funds, the odds aren't looking good for those children. Which is probably one reason I get mixed reactions when I talk to people about Vegas or gambling in general. I totally understand why some folks have no interest in going there. Some simply say they hate losing money -- me too.

But I love winning more. Doesn't matter what the game is or who is playing. I think that is inherent in most humans. We are driven to compete, to build and achieve things. We're constantly trying to improve our standing in society... if not for ourselves, for our children or the causes we embrace. Las Vegas is a place that reminds me anything is possible. When I see a Cirque du Soleil show, stroll through a Monet exhibit at the Bellagio, take in a DaVinci exhibit at the Venetian, I marvel at the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that spark the ever-changing, ever-adapting scene in this surreal fantasy world. It is an American excrescence, awesomely grotesque and inspirational at the same time.

Anyhow, what I really wanted to write about was our gaming experience on this last trip -- and how the real jackpot for me had nothing to do with gambling or Vegas. Hopefully, I'll get to that in my next post. Hint: I was contacted by a major Hollywood producer out of the blue about an old script I wrote that is based on the Menehunes myths and legends.

And that brings me full circle to my original rhetorical question: If I won a million bucks, I'd still be doing what I do now -- writing screenplays, producing TV shows, and publishing the occasional blog post to share my thoughts and dreams. Money is nice, but having a worthwhile goal that brings you personal satisfaction is even better.

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For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, please visit our website. We'll be posting new videos from our upcoming Halloween episode next week, but you can watch segments from current and past shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

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Vegas Hot Streak

September 20th, 2012
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I'm back, baby! And I've been on a hot streak of sorts, which partly explains my absence from the blogosphere. Just as some sports teams or athletes seem to get all the breaks when they're winning, I think the same thing can happen with individuals at times. But I believe it's largely a case of people making their own luck, and using their intuition to recognize opportunities when they arise. It's about having confidence in the abilities you've developed, and trusting your instincts.

My current string of fortunate events began a couple of weeks before my wife and I left for Las Vegas earlier this month. I was at the annual OC16 Producers Luncheon held at the Hawaii Okinawa Center (click here for video we did on the center) where the execs informed us of some exciting new things they'll be offering, and handed out awards for the most popular shows. Da Braddahs received a lifetime comedy award, Hawaii Goes Fishing got top honors for biggest ratings again, and my former Career Changers TV co-producer -- Ron Darby -- got the Producer's Choice award from his peers for The Pet Hui show. Unexpectedly, I was given the Mahalo Award for going above and beyond in meeting OC16's production deadlines, providing promo material when requested and responding to other requests promptly. Stuff that's just normal business for me, but greatly appreciated by the staff and executives at OC16.

That bit of recognition made me -- and my team -- feel really good. I also received a hundred dollars worth of gift cards for Callaway golf merchandise, an added bonus. But wait, there's more! They played a 30-sec promo for that month's CCTV episode, which featured a segment we did on human trafficking about a mother and her teenage daughter. Later that night, I got a call from a local music celeb who produces an OC16 show. He told me he was really moved by the piece ("A Mother's Story" link here) because he grew up on the streets of Waikiki and Chinatown, and personally knew kids and adults who were exploited by pimps. He felt what we're doing with the 808HALT.com project was important work, and said he was proud we were airing this on a channel that was originally known mostly for high school sports and surfer shows. His call meant so much to me. But it came about because I put in the work -- making time to do the promos for OC16 and sending them in on deadline, which resulted in the extra attention my show got at the luncheon.

When we got to Vegas, we lucked out on our accommodations. Years ago, we bought a timeshare week at the Kona Coast Resort, and have been using it ever since for exchanges in other places around the world. Many times we've gotten our top choice because we plan ahead and put in reservations well in advance. Still, you never know for sure what you'll get until you arrive and see the unit in person. I was a little worried that the Jockey Club might be rundown because it's an older property situated between the high end Bellagio and the trendy Cosmopolitan, which targets a younger crowd. It turned out that being tucked towards the back in a building with no casino was a good thing. We had a quiet, spacious one-bedroom condo with full kitchen, and a view of the famous Bellagio dancing fountains from our bedroom window. It put us in a good frame of mind as we ventured out to the casinos and shows we saw. And when you start out feeling positive, it often carries over into whatever you're doing. "Luck" is mostly a state of mind.

In my next post, I'll tell you about how we fared at gambling -- and why I think what I saw in Vegas is further indication that the economic recovery is not only real... it's bigger than the pundits on cable news are telling you based on statistics, instead of what's really happening on the streets of America.

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The current Career Changers TV episode is being preempted for high school sports this weekend, but you still have another week to catch it at different times during the day. Our viewing times are listed at www.CareerChangers.TV or you can watch segments from the program on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

Wither Twitter, Social Media?

September 4th, 2012
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Somewhat related to my last post on Good PR/Bad PR, is the idea of using social media for public relations and marketing. Two years ago, when I first started producing the Career Changers TV show for OC16, it was the hot new thing -- you just had to try Twitter and get on the Facebook bandwagon! Seminars were springing up all over the place to guide old fogies like me through the Brave New World of social media, with consultants showing how your business could Tweet its way to success. Blogging was so yesterday.

At first, I was interested in Twitter's potential. I could see how people and businesses might use it to build audiences or reward followers with special offers without having to spend a lot of money on traditional advertising. Facebook was more of a place to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances I had lost touch with long ago. It was almost surreal hearing from people I vaguely knew in high school or college, who now wanted to be "friends" even though we had little in common. Yet I was curious to read what others were up to, and would check my FB page throughout the day... at first, that is.

Eventually, I stopped checking Facebook and my Twitter feed. Some Tweeters would suddenly fill the page with a torrent of Tweets, usually about nothing much, before disappearing back into the void. Many just re-Tweeted postings from wittier people or shared oddball stuff. There were some useful links to blogs and articles that I did want to read, but it was getting to be a chore sifting through the twaddle. Ironically, the more people I "connected" with via social media, the less I cared about their daily doings and thoughts. The world became smaller, less mysterious. Instant access = instant distance from the "real" physical place we live and work in, paradoxically making me feel more disconnected as I scroll through Tweets and Facebook status updates.

Apparently, I'm not alone in that sentiment. Surveys show "Facebook fatigue" is spreading, with one in three saying they've gotten bored with social media. Here's the link to that article, which doesn't really say much... in fact, it's the sort of thing bloggers would have had a field day with back when blogging was in vogue. Have you noticed a lot of your old bookmarked blogs are defunct now, or posts have become more infrequent? The truth is very few who blog actually make any money from their efforts, so it becomes a slog after awhile to keep providing fresh content for readers who don't want to pay for content. Me, I do it primarily to promote my TV show. It's free advertising, in other words.

As for following me on Twitter or Facebook, eh, not really worth it. I rarely feel I have anything to add that is going to change anyone's mind about the Big Issues of the day. If anything, social media merely enforces what one already believes by connecting you to like-minded people, who "unfriend" those who don't think the same way... heck, I do it too rather than get in pointless online arguments with people I haven't seen in 20-30 years.

Perhaps, the best thing about Facebook is it makes me appreciate my life here more. The grass really is greener on this side of the ocean, and affirms what we all know: lucky you live Hawaii.

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The new September episode premiere last Saturday night got bumped due to high school football, but you can still see it on other days and nights! Viewing times are listed on www.CareerChangers.TV and segments from past episodes are posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel. If you ask me, YouTube has been the biggest game changer for new marketing/advertising strategies.