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SEED Restaurant Gets National Publicity, Then Closes...

March 4th, 2015
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PROGRAM ALERT: The spankin' new March episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., March 5 at 7:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012, and includes an interesting profile of Judy Bishop, who recounts how she lost everything, then went off the grid in Fiji before building one of the biggest recruiting firms in Honolulu. Plus, we'll take you to PC Gamerz in Aiea, where they've tapped into the multi-billion dollar video gaming industry by focusing on social gamers. Fascinating look at a world I didn't know existed in the islands! For daily viewing times, visit www.CareerChangers.TV.

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First, the good news: Seed, a "justice restaurant" in Kaimuki that we've featured on my show, got much deserved national attention when Huffington Post published an article on March 1 about a former prostitute who we interviewed last year. In fact, they used a photo from that video segment posted on the CCTV YouTube Channel (and credited us), along with the actual video at the bottom of their nice piece. All good, since we were properly credited -- unlike some recent articles and blog posts that plagiarized our CabaRAE pieces in the Feb. episode. One literally took the lines out of our host's mouth, which I scripted, and used that as the lead paragraph on his blog site! Sheesh.

Anyhow, within two days, the Huff Post article had over 20,000 Facebook "Likes" and 17,000 views of my YouTube video. As it happens, just prior to that post going national, the couple behind Seed and Bluewater Mission, had invited me to their One Year Anniversary dinner event on Monday night to thank me for "introducing Seed to the world." At the time, I didn't know Huffington Post had interviewed them and would be using my video. When I saw the link on Facebook and read the article, down towards the end I saw it mentioned they would be closing for renovations soon.

So when my wife and I met Jordan and Sonya Seng for dinner, that was my first question: when were they closing, and for how long? Turns out that night was their last dinner service for the time being. When -- or if -- they reopen depends on a couple of things. Jordan said there are a number of structural problems with the space that must be fixed, and the kitchen needs new equipment to carry on their mission of helping people like Mary, the former prostitute written about in the Huff Post story, and the ex-con we interviewed for my CCTV piece. Here's the link to the article, where you can also watch my video.

The closing seems like unfortunate timing. Ever the optimists though, Sonya and Jordan see a potential upside: they're launching a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise funds to fix the restaurant and get kitchen equipment that actually works (one of the stoves doesn't function and the refrigerator is on the fritz too). He figures it will take at least $50,000 to take care of the problems, but might look into finding another location. They're hoping the national attention will help them with donations and contributions. Seed will continue to offer catering services during the interim, Sonya said.

If you ask me, the landlord should do their part to help Seed because they've brought a lot of new business and customers into that old building. I'd venture the other small businesses and restaurants in that little complex have benefited too from the attention Seed has gotten.

Coincidentally, before I got the invitation to dinner or saw the Huff Post article, I had just finished editing the long-delayed Part 2 of my profile of the Sengs. They both have amazing life stories -- Jordan coming from a background in academia (worked for think tanks at Stanford and Harvard), Sonya being a triple threat in the entertainment field (model, singer, actor). I was able to include a little footage of her special guest appearance in the Early Edition TV series with George Takai and the star of the show, Kyle Chandler in the late 90's before Kyle went to another level as the coach in Friday Night Lights, one of the best television series ever IMHO.

Here's Part 2 of the Sengs story, and if you missed it back in November, this was Part 1. They are both a bit long (over 7 minutes) but if you take the time to listen, you'll see what motivated them to put words and Christian ideals into action. Although I have my problems with organized religion, they made me see the positive side of ministries like theirs that offer help to people who need it most.

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Friend of the show, Lopaka Kapanui is also going the crowd-sourcing route for a book his wife has been encouraging him to write for a long time. The premise is there's a group of men who will cast a curse on your behalf, provided it's for a good reason that they condone. Sounds intriguing -- maybe a TV series idea? Click here for Lopaka's Kickstarter page. When I last saw Lopaka and his wife, they were at Paradise Park... which is where his halau meets and practices now. He mentioned that the owners were talking about plans to emphasize Hawaiian culture, which interested me since one of my show sponsors (Waimea Valley) has turned around their fortunes by going in that direction. I tried contacting one of the Paradise Park family owners, but never got a response. Now they're in the news because of negative blowback over their plans. Another example of poor PR. Had they gotten things right with the community first and listened to the public's concerns before announcing what they intended to do, they might have gotten some support. Sigh.

Some business owners never learn, while people like the Sengs and Judy Bishop have shown the value of community service, which also translates into good business in the long run. When I told Judy about Seed closing, she was sorry to hear it because she's hosted a couple of events there for orgs that help empower business women. We need more people like them.

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Speaking of book and TV show ideas, one reason I haven't posted anything recently was my Menehune movie project was one of eight chosen for the Global Virtual Studio Transmedia Boardroom Pitch in Kona on Friday. They flew me over to present my concept, which is based on a screenplay I wrote awhile back. I had to tell some heavy hitters how it would be monetized as a franchise (movie, TV spin-offs, books for kids, educational products related to the Menehune myths, Hawaiian culture, etc).

It was a great experience that started out as a near-disaster for me! In my next post, I'll tell you more about the GVS accelerator program and some of the influential folks I met. In the meantime, here's the GVS website link to find out more. It's essentially a startup incubator for movie/TV franchises. Cool, huh?

Hawaii on TV: Overexposed?

February 12th, 2015
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A couple of nights ago, local TV newscasts showed clips from the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition shoot on Kauai, and trumpeted the great publicity it would bring the Garden Isle. Gee, I thought those clips were meant to promote the magazine and "making of" TV special that will follow, which no doubt millions of men will watch because they're interested in the background scenery. Uh-huh.

As it happens, I have a family connection to the SI Swimsuit franchise. My cousin, MJ Day, is the Senior Editor of the magazine. She worked her way up from assistant, and lives in New Jersey, where I'm from. That's right -- MJ is a she as in nee Mary Jean Figel, the daughter of my father's brother. When she first began working for SI, her folks seemed proud and excited. But my dad's side of the family is fairly conservative, and let's be honest... the Swimsuit issue is basically soft porn for boys and guys who won't buy hardcore mags. I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily, since they do lavish money on the production values and shoot in exotic locations, including Hawaii.

However, let's not pretend the chief intent of the magazine is to highlight the swimsuits or destinations. It's about showing off beautiful women in outfits that are more "off" than "on" the models. Sometimes they dispense with actual attire altogether and use paint to create the illusion of swimsuits on nude models. It's art! Not that I'm prudish or going to turn the channel when the "making of" special comes on. I'll be watching for the interviews with my cousin (at least that's what I'll tell my wife when she sees it in our DVR queue of saved programs).

While I'm sure MJ earned the position through hard work, the cynic in me suspects SI chooses women as the top editors to diffuse criticism from feminists that contend they are exploiting females. The other day on Facebook, I saw comments to that effect from a young woman who wrote that the cover shot for the 2015 issue was "disgusting" because the model was peeling down her bikini bottom as if to display her most private female part (the FB comment put it much more bluntly in words I can't print here).

I haven't talked to my cousin in several years. Last time she visited us in Kailua, we chatted about what a wonderful job she had. MJ was traveling all over the world to help set up the SI shoots, going to glamorous fashion-related events, hanging out with superstar models. She was living the Dream. Yet if she was a male, we'd probably be snickering about how hard it must be to be surrounded by so many gorgeous, sexy ladies in so little clothing. Double standard, anyone?

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What I really meant to write about though was the proliferation of Hawaii-related TV content that makes me feel like we're being overexposed. On the Food Network, Guy Fieri has done multiple episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (a.k.a. "Triple D") here, which included chefs we've featured on my Career Changers TV show. More recently, the Mystery Diners "sting" operation show set up their hidden cameras at Cha-Cha-Cha Salsaria in Hawaii Kai, Rock Island Cafe in Waikiki, the Hawaii Yacht Club, and Chef Chai's new restaurant. I'm surprised those episodes didn't get much notice from the local media, since the premise of the series is these are establishments that are being unknowingly ripped off by their employees or customers.

When I first began watching Mystery Diners, I thought it was real. The more I watched, it became apparent these were staged "re-creations" being acted out by actors and the actual owners, who I surmise do it for the "free" publicity of being on a nationally-broadcast TV show. If you Google around, you'll find numerous links to claims that much of the show is fake and that the producers encourage the restaurant owners to embellish or make up stories of misconduct. The stuff in the Oahu episodes was so bad it was funny! Sadly though, my family went to Cha-Cha-Cha and the service was so slow and inattentive, I wish that had been filmed for the management to see instead of the alleged unauthorized boat food delivery scheme they portrayed.

Over on HGTV and the Travel Channel, there are currently a plethora of shows and specials that have been filmed in Hawaii too. In fact, a fabulous $100,000 Dream Vacation in Hawaii package is the big prize in "The Trip 2015" giveaway by the Travel Channel, and they sent a gaggle of various show hosts to film an island-hopping hour-long promo for the islands. Which I prefer to what HGTV has been doing: using TV shows to literally sell Hawaii property to Mainland and international buyers.

First, there were occasional House Hunters episodes that followed couples as they shopped around for new homes in Hawaii. Then, the Hawaii Life real estate company begat their own series, which starts off with the promise that anyone can own a home in Paradise -- you just gotta want it! Right. There's also Building Hawaii, which is about a transplanted couple that has a home remodeling/construction company on the Big Island... which is not to be confused with Buying Hawaii (Travel Channel, I think) in which people seek out properties in remote island places off the grid.

I do have to say that seeing the relatively "low" prices for Neighbor Island homes, has made my wife and me consider selling our comfy little Kailua townhouse and moving to the Big Island or Kauai some day. It worries me though that as more affluent people from the Mainland and Asia are lured here by these type of TV shows, the harder it will be for locals to hang on to what little remains available for those who can't afford million-dollar mortgages. Sigh.

For daily viewing times of my Career Changers TV show, visit our website. You can also view segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel, which now includes a Hawaii Food category at the bottom of the page.

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Game Theory: 'Stupid' Calls

February 6th, 2015
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It's first and goal inside the opponent's five yard line, and your running back has been virtually unstoppable in short yardage situations. The game is on the line. I turn to my wife and predict: "Iosefa jump pass." UH fullback Joey Iosefa takes the hand-off, stops and lobs a perfect TD pass that the UNLV defense wasn't anticipating. The only reason I saw it coming was Coach Chow had called it in the last game of the prior season in their win against Army. I'm not a coach, but I did play defensive back in high school and still tend to think like a DB or coach, whose brains have to process a bunch of scenarios in seconds before each snap.

Yet I'm also a sports fan who reacts on a gut level when I watch a game, regardless of which team I'm rooting for. My wife, Isabel, is from Tacoma, went to UW and has been a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan (more so when they are winning). Me, I'm not a New England fan, but I was hoping for a good game and told Isabel to watch out for their giant receiver Rob Gronkowski (perfect name for the huge lug!) and big-time playmaker Julian Edelman. Most of all though, I respected their QB, Tom Brady.

So after the "miracle" catch by Jermaine Kearse while lying on his back, I was feeling a bit deflated -- pun intended -- about the Patriots' prospects of holding on to win the Super Bowl. Lost in all the talk about the subsequent play call on second and goal from the one-yard line to pass instead of run, was the fact that Seattle was lucky Kearse even caught the ball. It should have been kicked or batted away by the second Patriot defensive back when the ball popped up. Instead, the DB hopped over Kearse as if to avoid "unnecessary" contact that might result in a penalty. When I played years ago, DBs were taught to "finish off" by laying a hit on a ball carrier who was being held up by another defensive player, or putting a lick on any receiver in the vicinity of a live ball once it had been tipped.

That's one reason former pro football DBs had nicknames like "The Assasin" (Jack Tatum) and Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. Due to serious career-ending injuries and concussions from blind side hits, the NFL now flags those type of finishing-off plays... which is by and large a good thing. Still, the New England defensive back should have gone for the deflected ball.

Anyhow, my first reaction was Seattle would hand off the ball to Marshawn Lynch two or three times and pound it in for a game-winning TD. When he's in "Beast Mode" as they call it -- he's trademarked that phrase, apparently -- he does seem unstoppable. Everyone who follows pro football expected Lynch to get the ball. Except defensive backs and defensive coaches maybe. As a DB, I was taught my number one priority was ALWAYS to play for the pass first. Let the linemen and linebackers do their jobs. Cornerbacks and safeties have to look for the QB pulling a bootleg or play action pass.

With Russell Wilson at quarterback for the Seahawks, I have to think New England was half-expecting to see that on at least one of the four downs they had to work with. What shocked me though was New England Coach Bill Belichick didn't call any timeouts to preserve precious seconds in case Seattle did score a go-ahead TD. I also considered he might tell his defense to let Seattle score on second and one, which would give Tom Brady one more chance to win or tie the game with about 50 seconds left on the clock. It's been done before and worked.

Mind you, all these options and strategies, counter-strategies, gut feelings are going through the minds of two head coaches that have decades of real time game experience. Of course, we fans know better than they, right? I'll tell you this -- when Wilson threw on second down, my jaw dropped. I blurted out, "I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY DIDN'T GIVE IT TO LYNCH! WHAT A STUPID CALL!" I mean, I was sort of happy for Brady and New England. Still, the thing that dumbfounded me was not calling a pass play -- it was the specific pass pattern. A quick slant into the middle of the defense, which is already in a tight formation to stop the expected running play?

Had it been a fake hand-off to Lynch with Wilson having an option to bootleg or pass to a receiver on the outside, I would have said, good call. At worst, if the play isn't there, Wilson is smart enough and skilled enough to throw the ball out of bounds or eat it and call time out. Yeah, I know, I know... there are still people who will say no matter what, the smarter move would have been just to give Marshawn Lynch the ball and not overthink things.

Yet the reason Lynch and Seattle -- and New England -- had such great seasons, is precisely because their head coaches do a lot of  creative thinking and play-calling. Some of the loopholes Belichick exploited in past games with tricky offensive formations were considered "cheating" by some. Heck, when Coach Chow called Iosefa's trick jump pass play, did anyone in Aloha Stadium feel like it was a cheat? Fans want results, and how many times did UH fans grumble about our offense being too predictable (myself included) or giving it to Iosefa too many times.

Speaking of UH offensive play calls, I wish they would steal this one from New England: down inside the five-yard line, Edelman ran a pattern that is a nightmare for defensive backs to cover -- he made it look like a slant to the inside, then pivoted and broke outside. When I played in high school, we called it a button hook. Would love to see UH employ it with the QB rolling out to the same side. Tough to stop.

Getting back to Game Theory, the Star-Advertiser ran a New York Times article about the Seattle play call and how it made sense when you compare it to a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper or Jan Ken Po as locals refer to it. Here's a link to that piece. The Economist followed up with an interesting take on that piece, pointing out that it gets more complicated when you factor in how many "rounds" are being played -- or downs in this case -- and the time remaining in the game. It points out that in multiple rounds or downs, one play can be "signaling" what you may intend to do next -- or could be meant to deceive the opponent. You can read that article by clicking here.

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Due to high school sports, the weekend schedule for my Career Changers TV show is a bit out of whack. However,  you can watch the special segments we did on the CabaRAE show and cast by visiting the CCTV YouTube Channel. To get the optimum viewing experience, click on the icon that looks like a gear and make sure it's set to 720 -- it's not quite as good as high def TV, but better than the lower settings YouTube automatically uses.

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Circus Life

February 4th, 2015
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CabaRAE_05(Photo courtesy of CabaRAE images by Ric Noyle)

PROGRAM ALERT: The new February episode of Career Changers TV premieres Thurs., Feb. 5 at 4:30 PM on Oceanic Cable channel 12/high def 1012 due to a live OC16 high school sportscast during our regular 7:30 PM time slot for that night. You can find daily viewing times (subject to change for live sports) at www.CareerChangers.TV.

This month's show is about the people and back stories behind the CabaRAE show, which moved into their multimillion dollar theater-in-the-round back in November. The intimate setting allows you to feel like you're not just watching these breath-taking performances -- you're experiencing them. What's more, the comedians and musical performers really draw the audience into their acts (in more ways than one!).

We've featured professional entertainers before, but circus folk are a unique breed. Most of the CabaRAE cast have been traveling around the world for years as part of large shows in Europe. Many of them went to "circus school" too, which I would love to know more about. However, my show is only 30-minutes long, so after interviewing 14 people in about two hours, we had to condense everything into two segments that run 21 fast-moving minutes. Still, we were able to cover a lot of their personal journeys that brought them together here in Hawaii.

It's great stuff, and you should watch it on widescreen high def TV if possible since the venue and acts are spectacular -- actually, you MUST see it live to truly appreciate it, but I think my show will whet your appetite if you have any hesitations about going into Waikiki for a special evening out on the town.

Consider these YouTube links a mere taste of what you'll be talking about long after you've left the showroom: Part 1 focuses on Creative Producer Alan Goldberg; his wife, Wanda, who is Artistic Director and performs as an acrobatic skater; and her skating partner/ex-husband, Jean-Pierre... yep, you read that right! Part 2 introduces you to other performers, including Wanda's nieces, and married couples that contribute to the "family" feeling in this tight-knit troupe.

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BTW, we're looking for new sponsors to feature in upcoming episodes. If you or someone you know wants to highlight their commitment to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed in Hawaii, please contact me (email: richfigel@gmail.com). We've got great stories we'd love to share, but need some community-centered companies to underwrite the cost to produce these pieces. It's great publicity for the advertiser/sponsors -- plus, it's good karma to promote struggling businesses or non-profits who are doing terrific work!

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McKinley Books and Music Sale This Weekend

January 16th, 2015
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Friends of the Library of Hawaii is holding a three-day sale of more than 40,000 records/CDs and over 10,000 gently-used books to help support literary and public libraries throughout the islands. It will be in the McKinley High School cafeteria at 1039 S. King Street, from 9 AM until 3 PM on Sat., Jan. 17 and Sun., Jan. 18. On Martin Luther King Day, Mon., Jan. 19, they'll wrap up sales between 9 AM and 1 PM. Collectors are already planning to line up early to get first crack at possibly finding rare albums and books. Kudos to all the Friends volunteers and the Hawaii State Federal Credit Union for putting together this event!

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Haven't been posting lately because my 27-inch iMac, which I love, was in the shop for a week. Mac Made Easy in Kailua diagnosed the problem and had to order a video graphics card from Texas because it's a 2009 model. Not sure if the Apple Store at Ala Moana could have fixed it sooner, but I didn't want to drive to the other side and have to lug my large screen iMac through the mall crowds. I could imagine some shopper with their eyes fixated on a cell phone walking right into me and sending my machine crashing to the ground. In Kailua, I just have to watch out for Japanese tourists on bikes crossing my path.

When I got my "old" iMac back, it was like seeing my wife after she had been gone for awhile... well, maybe not quite that emotional. But I really did miss my computer and couldn't get into writing on my tiny back-up laptop or iPad. At first, the repaired iMac seemed fine. Then a little later I noticed the right half of the screen was darker, as if covered by a shadow. I fiddled with the brightness control, moved it around, and it remained dimmer on one side. I Googled the problem, and it turns out many iMac owners reported the same glitch. They complained that Apple would not admit it was a known issue related to the 27-inch screens and was charging about $500 to repair it if not covered by warranty... which always seem to expire just before your computer goes on the fritz. In the future, I'll have to get the extended Apple Care plan I think. Sigh.

Anyhow, after shutting down the computer and rebooting, the dimming has lessened and is barely detectable. Yet it makes me wonder if Apple's famed quality control has been slipping the past couple of years. Anyone have thoughts on that?

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This month's Career Changers TV episode happens to be related to computers and business education programs. We've partnered with DevLeague, a coding bootcamp, to promote what I believe is a great alternative to 4-year college computer science programs. I'm a proponent of getting a well-rounded liberal arts education -- if you can afford it, and aren't sure what you want to do for a career, that is.

But if you're interested in website design, building apps for smart devices, or becoming a startup entrepreneur in the high tech field, what you really need to know is computer coding. Nothing beats hands-on experience and small classes with guidance from professionals who know what companies are looking for in programmers and website developers. DevLeague does exactly that, and to date, they say all of their graduates have succeeded in finding employment after completing the bootcamp or their longer 24-week "part-time" program (still pretty intensive though!).

You can see that video segment on the CCTV YouTube Channel or by clicking here.

Also, we've got a sponsored story about Remington College's new Business Administration program. They consulted with local companies, big and small, who are part of their Program Advisory Committees, and revamped the biz courses into three tracks that address the needs of potential employers in Hawaii.  Their instructors have MBAs and solid real world work experience themselves -- stuff you can't learn just from text books. Here's the link to that piece.

For daily viewing times of my show, visit www.CareerChangers.TV. Have a great weekend -- and check out the McKinley Book & Music Sale if you're out and about!