<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - NBC10 Questions With]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/feature/nbc10-questions-with http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.comen-usSat, 22 Jul 2017 20:47:32 -0400Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:47:32 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[10 Questions with NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt ]]> Thu, 09 Mar 2017 20:43:39 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/JQ.jpg

Jim Rosenfield (JR): You were in Philly recently doing a story on Strawberry Mansion, about a program that is helping young people get engaged, and get excited about learning. Why did you want to do that story?

Lester Holt (LH): You know I’m always looking for stories that inspire people. People were are tackling the big issues of the day in a micro way. And in this case it was a Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, a guy who grew up there, and still lives there, he had the ability, he had this former bar that his mother left him. She said do something great, and he did something great. He started an after school program not only getting kids off of the street at a critical time of the day, but also a place where they can get help with their homework and be enriched. Those are the kinds of stories that our viewers time and time again tell us they’re craving. People stop me and say Holt thank you, thank you for showing us something other than divisiveness. Thank you for showing something that makes me smile at the end of the newscast. And I’m with them, sometimes I can’t I hide my emotions, we’ll run one of those stories where you see my eyes glisten up, or a big grin on my face, I love it too. You know the news is very heavy.

The great thing about Philadelphia for me, is that we have access, its close by, I can come to a place like this and do a story and still get back to NYC in time for the Nightly News. This is in many ways is a part of my wider community, but there are stories like these happening all over the country, we get people who are seeing an issue and thinking you know what I have the resources, I have the ability to organize people and do something, and that’s why this is such a great story. We walked the streets of Strawberry Mansion, he helped me understand the issues there what the kids face and what I love is after we did that story, I started getting emails and calls from people hey I want to volunteer, I want to help you know we put them in contact, you stand back and you smile you know what, we did something really good today we told a great story, and we call the segment “Inspiring America” and dog-on-it if it didn’t inspire people.

Jacqueline London (JL): You have seen too much flooding, tornadoes, police involved shootings, and you’ve been there. How does that make you feel?

LH: When at a scene of a calamity I always go through this process. I guess it’s a personal process of thinking, ok what if this was me? What if this was family how would I deal with this? How would I want to be treated? Part of our job as reporters is to bring compassion to stories, I think that’s a necessary element of journalism and its very life affirming to me. Its strikes me, sometimes I go do these horrible stories, people have been through hell and yet they are able to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Its very life affirming. I think if it were me I would be curled up in a ball somewhere, but time and time again people show their resilience that’s part of our storytelling, is to look at how people are able to deal with it.

JL: How do you see yourself as an anchor?

LH: I feel like I’m the viewer’s representative. Sometimes I hear that voice in my ear, people yelling, “Come on Lester ask him this” and I ask it because I want to be the representative I’m the guy that has the ability to bring people to the table and get answers. I try to look at the questions that people want answered, I think about the questions I would want answered, it’s not always the high flouting question but the something that really gets to the heart of the matter. I definitely sit there when I’m anchoring and am trying to picture people at home, saying what right are they television at the TV about saying no, ask him that. I think what’s really important is to remember it’s about the viewers. The issues that they want to know about, and the questions they what answered. We have the access, we have the technology so let’s get the answers for them

JL: We know how important listening is but how important is understanding?

LH: It’s important that we understand so we can appreciate the differences. If I don’t understand where you’re coming from or the issue then were are never going to find any ground. Our job is not to make everyone hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya but it is to help them process information.

JL: Why is going to the story so important?

LH: I always tell people the most satisfying moments of my career have been not sitting behind a desk but it’s out there. So when something huge happens, I get off the set and I have to be there. Even if it’s not on camera, just talking to people in a given situations is such an enrichment and helps to frame the story. We do a lot of talking in this business, but listening is as important because we’ve got to see the story and where people are coming from. 

JR: What makes this city so unique?

LH: Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, when you have a city neighborhoods you have of great organic stories of people who were changing those broader issues of the day, they’re changing their blocks or within a two mile radius, this is a place that is rich in those kinds of stories I would except we will be down here a lot.

JR: Do you guys still have a dog?

LH: We were without dogs for a while, but we have a puppy now. A labradoodle back in the fall, 8 months old now, so fun. Because she's a red head we named her Lucy. She’s the best dog I’ve ever had. She's a lover, very affectionate.

JL: One day after your birthday, Happy Birthday! You have big news to announce!

LH: Yeah, I going to be a grandad. My oldest son Stefan and his wife Morgan are expecting their first child in September, I’m more excited than them. I happen to love babies, I really love babies and especially when they are other people’s babies, we are thrilled. I have a lot to teach this kid.

JR: Do we have any names you want to be called?

LH: Yes I want to be known as grand-dude, I think that could stick. But it might be a mouthful for the little one. It’s a boy, so I’ve been getting ultrasound pictures saying to myself, ‘Yes it looks like me!’

JL: Everyone knows your son is an anchor in New York as well, all of your family is right there in NY. You can spoil that baby as frequently as you want

LH: Yeah, Stefan works in the same building as me. All I know is when he was a little boy he used to love to go to the TV station and hang around. Of course he became a TV anchor, so I look forward to bringing my grandson to work… I am proud to be a journalist and I would be thrilled if my grandchild became a journalist.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Clive Standen of NBC's 'Taken']]> Wed, 01 Mar 2017 15:13:53 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/clive_standen_taken.PNG

Clive Standen takes on the role of Bryan Mills -- a former Green Beret who faces and works through personal tragedy -- in NBC's new series, Taken that premiered Monday night. NBC10 sat down with the actor to talk about the new show and how he hopes to make this twist on a classic film story connect with a new generation. 

Tell me a little bit about the show. Is it like a prequel to the ‘Taken’ films?

CS: Well, it’s not a prequel -- it’s a modern day origin story. We’ve rebooted the character from the Taken films and made him 35 years old, so he has a skill set but it is not particular yet. We’re taking the Bryan Mills character and trying to relaunch him for a younger audience. The original film is 10 years old now. I definitely find him fascinating. This man is a grizzled veteran in his 60s and the film was just a father looking for his daughter. But, when you take a character like that you think, 'How does he become that man?' So, we’re starting right at the beginning of his journey where he joins the CIA and starts refining that skill set. [[238904721, C]]

You’re stepping into some big shoes, but how are you hoping to mold the character into your own?

CS: Well you say I’m stepping into big shoes -- I’ve got big feet. It’s easy to make it my own because he is right in the beginning of his journey. So, all I really have to look at is Liam Neeson’s performance in the film, and think ‘This is the man in his 60s, this is what he becomes’ but it gives you free reign to actually go on this roller coaster journey of how he gets there.

How will this series differ from the film franchise?

CS: On the TV show, we don’t want the finished product -- it would get very boring very quickly if every episode the guy has an answer to everything. So, we have a Bryan Mills who’s going to trip and stumble and get back up again and hopefully the audience will be in the action with him and be rooting for him to get back up and learn from his mistakes.

You spoke to Liam Neeson about playing the role. What kind of advice did he give you?

CS: It was great, he was a big fan of Vikings, the show I was on before, so we talked a little about that. But, he just said ‘make it your own and not to forget about the heart of this character.'

When you did your research, you mentioned you watched the entire 'Taken' franchise. Are there things that you look for in the series that would help your character or do you just block it out and plan to start new?

CS: You have to play some of the character to a certain extent, but you also get this relentless intensity that Bryan Mills has. He’s always got this forward momentum going through the thick of it.

You have background in martial arts -- did any of this help you fit into the role? Did you do your own stunts?

CS: I do -- I’m an actor who does stunts. I used to do a lot of stunts when I was younger and I learned how to horse ride and sword fight and tumble and things like that way before I was into acting. In Taken, I do nearly every stunt apart from the car chases -- I’ll leave that to the stuntmen to make sure I don’t hurt anyone. When it comes to someone else’s safety comes, then I don’t like taking control because I don’t want to have something go wrong with a car and then injure lots of civilians. But, all the fighting, the parkour, the running-jumping-climbing trees kind of stunts, I do.

Do you think there is a big difference between action in film and action on television?

CS: On a TV show I think it’s very easy for action to just become explosions and car chases and you don’t connect with the character. With a character like Bryan you need to be in there with him and be there on his journey. I feel like if the director puts a camera on your face and you start to tell the story through the action. Sometimes the audience will see me get hit by cars or fighting bad guys or jumping from building to building, and I think it just helps because you’ll start to see Bryan’s emotions -- his anger, his frustration, and him thinking outside the box. Sometimes in the whites of the eyes you see the fear and then you’re in there, you see his emotions mirror back.

How is this role different from your previous roles?

CS: When I was in Vikings I played a character that was a historical figure, he was the great-great-great grandfather of William the Conquer, but that’s where he ended up in history. There is nothing to say what he was like in the beginning of his dream. The script in Vikings made him a very questionable -- he was sort of living on the margins, a very base character. But, it gives you such an amazing character arc to kind of think, 'How is he going to end up there?' Bryan is at the beginning of this journey so we will get to see where this character began.

Have you always wanted to play this fast-action sort of character?

CS: I always just look for a character who has fire in his belly. That’s what really turns me on when I read a script -- someone that will stand up for something, someone that burns brightly and Bryan Mills is that guy. He’s unstoppable, but he has to go through the ringer to get what he wants and that’s when you start to think about the flip side of the coin. I don’t believe anyone’s a hero or anyone’s a villain and what’s interesting when you watch Taken is that you realize everyone is a bad guy to somebody. You know, Brian in the first episode -- the man he is hunting down -- has his own reasons to hate Bryan. That’s what drama is built on for me. Drama is built on conflict and when you’ve got two characters who believe they’re right in a scene then you’ve got a good scene. I just look for characters that are multi-faceted.

What can fans expect from the show?

CS: I think the show is relentless, I think you can expect some really big twists and turns in the story line. The show-runner of Taken wrote some, and is responsible for, many of the episodes on the five seasons of Homeland. If you take the sort of real-world scenario in Homeland with the espionage, and the covert action that the characters are going through, but you take it with that relentless pace of the Taken franchise, then you end up with something that has far more action and intrigue and adventure.

Tune into Taken, Monday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions Larry Kane]]> Thu, 15 Sep 2016 21:02:34 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/LARRY+KANE+BEATLES+SPECIAL+.jpg

It was 1964 and Beatlemania was at its peak. A 21-year-old news director, Larry Kane, writes a single letter asking for an interview with The Beatles as they make their first visit to the United States. What he got back was a full itinerary and a check so he could travel with the band to document the historic event.

Now 73, Kane is looking back at his time spent with the band in a new documentary titled ‘Eight Days a Week’ highlighting the ‘English Invasion’. The film, directed by Ron Howard, contains never-before-seen footage and is a glimpse at 21-year-old Kane’s reports from over 50 years ago. 

Take us back to the 21-year old news director—What was it like?

I really was a news director. I had 5 people in my department. It was at a station called WFUN, which stands for Fun. In February of 1964, the Beatles came through Miami on a quick trip. I interviewed them at a sparsely attended news conference at the Deauville Hotel in Miami and that was that.

A couple of months later I had a big adventure—I watched Muhammad Ali defeat Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Auditorium and the year was an incredible year.

Thousands of Cuban refugees were coming into Miami from Cuba, the war in Vietnam was escalating, the aftermath of the president—I can’t tell you what it was like for Americans being so stunned and shocked by the president being killed and a new president was in power—civil rights was just on the surface of really developing as a major issue nationwide, there had been some tragedies earlier in Birmingham with 3 kids being killed in a church.. It was incredible—Ford Mustang was introduced, which I know sounds funny now when I say that but it was a major cultural event.

How did you get started covering The Beatles?

When I wrote to the Beatles, I wrote to Brian Epstein, their manager, and I asked for one interview in Jacksonville where we were going to take a plane load of kids. He wrote back with a long itinerary of 25 cities in 35 days and a bill for three thousand, one hundred dollars which would cover limousines, cars, airplane, meals, hotels to travel with them in their official party. I picked it up and said, “This is big,” and I went to the station and they said, “Well, we’ll syndicate it and you’ll go with them.”

I said, “Why would I, as a newsman, want to travel with a band? Especially a band that would be here in September and gone in November?” Eventually they sort of forced me and coerced me into going. My mother had seen them on television and she was just crazy about them. My father put his arm around me and said “now, listen Larry, watch your back. Those guys with the long hair, they are a menace to society.” In some ways, they were—they were a menace to me. So, I went on the tour and joined them on Aug 18th 1964 in San Francisco.

For some, that invite would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. What did you think of the offer originally?

I liked their songs, but it was just another hula hoop! They’ll be around for five years and that’ll be it. Then, Ron Howard, this amazing director and his staff, found tapes of me that are in the movie on tour. In one of the tapes, and I can’t believe I said this because I forgot it, I say ‘I think I’m in the midst of a multi-generational culture change that may not be seen for another hundred years, maybe not for another many centuries’—this is truly a change and it really was.[[393640321, C]

You bonded with The Beatles for many reasons, but you mentioned previously your mother passed away. John and Paul also had mothers who passed—were you able to bond?

First of all, I didn’t know that. Nobody really knew about their past while they were in the present. It was a very difficult time for me. My mother was sick for years and any loss is very difficult and I was calling home every day making sure my brothers were okay, my father was okay. Someone on the plane told them. They came to me and talked about how to cope with that.

They talked about how to deal with loss and how to deal with the times of thinking about her and how it never ends. They put their arms around me and it was very touching.

What was it like meeting the group for the first time?

It was very unusual. I came down to the hotel room, George Harrison was in the corner and he was lovely and just very pleasant. I asked him questions about the world’s situation, about immigration, controversies in England. So, I interviewed George, he was very pleasant. I interviewed Ringo, who I found to be very intellectually curious and very strong about human rights and war. Then I met Paul—let me tell you something about Paul McCartney—he has never met a microphone on stage or an audience he didn’t like and he was just charming, very warm. He was very special. I went to John Lennon, he looked at my feet, he looked straight up to my hair and he said, “Who are you? You look like a round peg in a square hole. You, my friend, look like a nerd from the 1950s.” I laughed and I said, “Well, you look like a slob.” We had a conversation about stuff and I walked out in the hall when all of a sudden I feel two arms around me and it was John. He apologized, which he very rarely did. You know, John said in public what he thought in private, and he said, “I’m looking forward to traveling with you.” 

How was your time with the band different than other reporters at the time?

One of the reasons I got along with them so well is because all of the adult reporters asked them questions like, “What did you eat for breakfast? Or “What’s your favorite hemline?” These guys just despised them, these other reporters. I asked them questions about what happened the night before, about music, about the concert, would they-if they had teenage daughters- send them to the concerts and they said ‘absolutely not, no way, unsafe’!

Did you expect that any of your experiences with the band ended up being some inspiration to them to write a future hit?

No, but they did ask me—They had a little tape recorder and they had me listen to 8 Days a Week and I told them to make the opening a little faster… So, it should be Lennon, McCartney and Kane on that song. It was the only time I ever saw them writing and doing things.

You’ve written books about the Beatles, you have been with them physically on that first maiden tour, you’ve been on radio and television—you’ve seen a lot in terms of media. What is it like to be part of the process of making a film?

I had no idea what was going to happen. I was approached in late 2014 to become a consultant since I was one of the few people left who was on the tour. In addition to that, it gave them an opportunity to interview me. I was then flown to Los Angeles and I was interviewed for hours and hours. I outlined, what I thought, were the moments and episodes of the tour. [Throughout the year] they continued to ask for information.

After, they asked me to come to New York, to a small viewing studio to see the movie. I didn’t quite understand why because a lot of people were involved. I watched the movie and I was just tickled by it.

First, I couldn’t believe how much I was in the movie… I was astounded. The second thing was, and the most important, was I got chills watching the movie. I said, “It's taking me back… I’m reliving it again.” I can imagine the people that the people today who are 10, 20, 30 or 40, anyone who has no idea how this began would look at this and say, “oh my goodness! Did that really happen?”

Rock stars get a reputation for partying a lot. What was it like being on the road with the band?

They weren’t crazy wild, they were just like people their age. We did have parties and there was one in particular, in the home of Reginald Owens and Burt Lancaster. Paul McCartney is on the piano with Peggy Lipton next to him, John Lennon is entertaining some people in the corner with stories, Ringo is chatting with a few people playing a little drums, George is reading a comic book and having fun with people, they’re all smoking cigarettes, and all the people there were guests of Capitol Records- many of them were young, Hollywood actresses. They call me up at the hotel, tell me to come over to the house and Jane Mansfield was there, Sandra Dee, all these stars, and this woman came up to me and she was kind of perky. She says, “What are you doing here?” I told her I was a reporter, she told me she was an actress and I asked what kind. At that point she let out a guttural scream, so loud, it lasted a minute. Everyone looked at me and she whispered in my ear she was in horror movies. Nobody else heard that and Paul McCartney said, “I told you Larry, you’re a bad boy.”

How you do you feel about your grandkids going to see the movie and seeing their grandfather with The Beatles?

I think it will be exciting for them when they get older… Back in 1990, my daughter came back from the mall and she was 12 and she said, “Dad, I got this wonderful cassette and you’re going to love it! It’s a group called The Beatles, you’ve got to listen to them. ” I said to her, “We have to have a talk.”


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<![CDATA[Marty Zied Talks Philly and 'Voice Messages’]]> Mon, 11 Jul 2016 11:59:11 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Martin+Zied.PNG

From producing and directing six Emmy award-winning documentaries to teaching at Drexel University, Martin Zied is well seasoned when it comes to the television industry. For most of his life, Zied has been tuned into the power and beauty of the human voice, provoked initially by a mesmerizing voice he heard in the third grade. That obsession inspired Zied's latest project, "Voice Messages," that focuses on all aspects of the human voice. The documentary includes interviews with Grammy Award-winning artists, medical experts, and unforgettable voices such as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s to build the story of a powerful instrument we all have, but many overlook.  

Q: Marty, tell us more about the mesmerizing experience that got you so interested in the human voice?

I was in the auditorium with my mom and a sixth grader sang and it brought me to tears. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why I cried. It was because his voice was so tender and emotional that it really moved me. That was the first time I became aware of the power of the voice.

Q: You produced work on Dateline and 20/20, what made this project so important to you?

I worked in television my whole career including my 15 years in network television. I came across people with great voices and I LOVE vocal harmony.  So, working around people with awesome voices inspired me to make the film.

Q: You've devoted five years to "Voice Messages." Has the angle for the documentary changed at all over that span of time?

I’ve become a lot more interested in the science and the sociology of the voice. Initially, I was interested in the vocal harmony, vocal impression, and voice actors like Billy West and Michael Winslow. The more I learned about how many ways we use our actual voice in our everyday lives, the more interested I became in just how powerful the voice is. I got interested in what happens when you lose your voice. Individuals like Linda Ronstadt, who lost her voice to Parkinson’s disease, spoke about the impact of losing something that has been her identity for most of her adult life. Speaking with surgeons and medical experts got me more interested in how the voice ages and how to keep it healthy.[[386311001,C]]

Q: Living in Philadelphia, you've said, was a major inspiration for making "Voice Messages." Are you incorporating elements of Philadelphia into your film?

Growing up in Philadelphia was the inspiration and impetus for making the film. The culture I was raised in had great singers like Teddy Pendergrass who inspired me. But also, the Chief medical expert in the film is Robert Sadtoloff, who is a Philadelphia voice surgeon and Chairman of the Voice Foundation.

Q: When creating a timeline of voices, how far back in history do you take us in the film?

I go as far back as 140 and 150 years when the first telephone was invented.  One of the great stories from that era is that people could not comprehend how they could hear someone else’s voice and not be in the same room. The telephone was a remarkable and frightening invention.

Q: How did you choose who to interview and why?

I knew I wanted to work with the vocal group Take 6! because I admired their work and I was thrilled when they said yes. Then I just started to research. I read everything I could get my hands on and I started to pursue the people that are interesting to me. I know some people will wonder why I didn’t cover accents but I cannot be that broad I am focusing on the things that have meaning to me.

Q: Money. That's often a big hurdle for documentarians. How are you funding the "Voice Messages" campaign?

I decided to do crowd funding because in this day and age it is one of the only ways to make an independent film and must rely on the crowds to support your vision. So far, we have raised about 40 percent of the necessary funds.

Q: What's the ultimate mission for "Voice Messages?"

I want people to support the growing knowledge of our voices and to let your voice be heard.

Q: And personally, what do you hope viewers take away from this documentary?

I’d like them to pay more attention to this incredible instrument and respect the ways in which we use it, abuse it, and can keep it healthy.

Q: What’s next for Marty Zied?

I will continue teaching at Drexel and the future is unknown with the next inspiration.


Click here, to donate or learn more about 'Voice Messages.'



Photo Credit: Martin Zied
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<![CDATA[Misanthrope or Misunderstood? 10 Qs With GPSAR Chief Mark Hopkins]]> Sun, 15 May 2016 15:41:39 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Mark-Hopkins.jpg

If you hear about the search for a missing person in the Philadelphia area, chances are Mark Hopkins is involved somehow. The 52-year-old Mount Airy native has been the chief of Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue (GPSAR), an organization that aids in the search for lost and missing people, for over a decade and has been involved in the group for 20 years. Throughout his career Hopkins has investigated some of the most high-profile missing persons cases in our region, including Shane Montgomery, Cayman Naib and Christopher Tully.

During his time as the GPSAR chief, Hopkins has developed a reputation of someone extremely good at his job but not particularly fond of the attention that brings, particularly from the media. Yet his image as a grumpy misanthrope with little patience or time for anything outside of finding missing people, is just that, an image. NBC10 spoke with Hopkins about the misconceptions people have about him, the most memorable cases of his career and what he believes the media, police and the general public can do to improve the way we search for missing people.

1. What were you doing before you joined Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue?

I was involved in the Red Cross, firefighting and EMS. Different aspects of emergency services. I still do Fire and EMS on top of this but this[GPSAR] is my main thing.

2. How did you first get involved with Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue?

I didn’t find it, it found me. I was at another organization and I found out about [GPSAR]. It seemed interesting but I didn’t realize it would be this interesting. It kind of became more of a calling. The more I did it the more I got addicted to doing it. It was a way to give something back and not just sit back and complain about the world without trying to affect some kind of change.

3. How did you eventually become the chief of GPSAR?

I worked my way up and down. I got promoted and demoted. Originally I was just a member and I got assigned responsibilities over time. As I moved my way up I became known as reliable and I got additional responsibilities. I developed some expertise and after some time that turned into experience and I could reproduce results and at that point I was elected to chief. Then I got re-elected then after I was at term limit and couldn’t be re-elected anymore I got appointed by the board to keep the job. I guess I'm there as long as I do the job and continue to deliver results. The instant I start slurring my words or staring at the sun too much I’m sure I'm done.

4. Do you think your reputation as a misanthrope is a misrepresentation of who you really are?

I don’t think it’s a misrepresentation on anybody’s part. I think sometimes you take snapshots of people. You can come up and see me at the point where I’m just exhausted with the way the process is being handled and I’m going at it with somebody about a case that we’re trying to get traction on and it’s been building up for weeks. In general I think we overcompensate with political correctness and niceness to the point where it’s become debilitating. We need to have some social sensitivity but you shouldn’t have to weigh every word you say because you may lose your job at the cost of performance.

5. What are some of the most memorable missing persons cases you’ve been assigned to?

It’s tough. There’s one guy that says the most interesting case is the current case. And there’s some truth to that. Because it is the current case. It’s the one that’s on your mind.

There was a Bucks County man who was interesting to me because you have all the data but you don’t have the end result. Last year we did so much more with so much less data. I don’t know if the data, and we’ve gone back over to look at it, is distracting or if it’s too much of a shiny thing. We have a lot of people that try to conceal themselves. He wasn't one of those people.

There was a local teacher that was interesting. Never met the guy but he really seemed like a likeable guy. You look at how the people around him responded to his loss. If that response is so sincere and authentic you can almost feel like this person must’ve been a really good human being.

There was a local college student that was interesting because of the amount of community outpouring and the amount of support. If you live in Philadelphia, you have a love hate relationship, the only relationship you can have with it. But to see that amount of outpouring gives you a little bit of hope that it’s not all bad. And when you’re doing this for so long you grasp for anything that helps you believe it’s not all bad.

6. How has your job affected you?

It affects you but you can't let it debilitate you. As far as do you drink or do you do this or that? I don’t do any of that stuff. I don’t sleep so good. I didn’t sleep good before this but this certainly doesn’t help you sleep better. It’s not conducive to a normal sleep cycle.

[The job] makes you become cynical. You see so many people wasting opportunities. You see so many missed chances. But I think that cynics are actually the ones that have the most hope. I think the people who are always cheerful live in an unrealistic fantasy land. They’re disappointed if things aren’t perfect whereas we’re happy if things get better. And we want them to get better. I want to be proved wrong. They don’t.

One thing I have to say is that I continue to be impressed by the dedication of friends and family to the missing.  There have been more than a few cases that were driven by a strong family presence.

7. What are your biggest issues with the way police handle missing persons cases?

I’d like to see [police] do a little more of a background check into the person. We have an urgency scale. I’d like to see a realistic urgency assigned to the person. It’s based on factors that would have to be modernized and adapted and I’ve worked on that for a while. It’s based on how long you were missing.  Calling us sooner even for a consult can impact the outcome of many incidents. 

8. What are things that the public can do better to aid in the search for missing people?

Pay attention. Engage people directly, eye to eye. If there’s a question, don’t resolve it over anything digital. Eye to eye, face to face. Or at least get on the phone. If you’re worried, talk to somebody else and then both of you talk to the person.

If somebody does go missing, treat it like a crime scene because you could be contaminating valuable evidence. Get all the facts down. Go to law enforcement with a clear timeline of what happened.

It would be nice to see people be accountable. I see this ongoing in the 20-something age group where they do not take responsibility for another person in their party when they’re out. And it’s this thing where you just leave somebody. We have cases where people are found deceased that I felt would’ve been impacted had their friends initially said, “David’s not here. Where’s he at? Oh, he’ll get back home. No, it’s not like him. We need to look around or something.” Do something. Don’t come back hours later because he still didn’t show up at home. I’m not saying you have to be responsible for the world. Start out by being responsible for the people close to you, the people you love.

It would be nice if there was a way to put the information out there without soliciting comments from people. This malicious, verbal diarrhea and mindless empathy that doesn’t do anything. It makes people feel better about themselves. [People say] “Prayers, prayers, so sad.” But they won’t get off their butts and do anything. They won’t pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road but they want people to think they’re a good person. Those are the two extremes that are out there. I would like less conversation, more action.

9. Do you believe there’s a bias in regards to race, economic background or gender when it comes to the kinds of missing persons cases that get more attention?

I used to feel strongly it was race. To a degree I still do. But overall I have to say it’s popularity. Social media has turned it into high school. Popularity turns it to the pretty girl or the pretty guy. In reality it’s no less a tragedy, one person versus the other. It’s still a life. I think everybody deserves their fair share.

I would like to see people judged by the severity of their situation and not the color of their skin, their beauty on their face or their age. Think about the statement we often hear. "Missing, beautiful 18-year-old." Why is the word “beautiful” even in play?  Do the most where we can help the most.

Sometimes you make choices, like a surgeon. You help this person more than this person. But I don’t see a fair balance. And the media doesn’t control it. The media is riding a wave. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. While I think the media wants to be better than they are they can’t because the populace is still eating the chum. By the time you retool the machine and you acquire a taste for better foods we will be overtaken and put out of business. So keep throwing them chum. And I really think that the media would like to do better stories but if you put up a story, A, B, and C, and nobody’s going after C and they’re all on A, you’re focusing on A more. I’d say that A is kind of self-sustaining. Try and channel a little bit of A to C somehow you know? With a hashtag or something. Find some way to link that non popular person with that popular person to raise them up.

10. Looking at your career with GPSAR, what do you believe your legacy is?

I don’t know. I know that there are people that were on the team when they were younger and went on to become police, firemen and emergency services people and that always makes me happy. Nothing will make me happier than you calling and saying my buddy is having a problem, I talked to him, found out he was going to do something, and it never happened. That will make me happy. The call I don’t get, that you had some impact in directing.

I think you help more by teaching people. Education is always the key whether you’re fighting poverty, bigotry or whatever. I don’t think you have the right to come down on people unless you tried to talk to them and show them the way. I don’t know about legacy. I don’t know if I’m a legacy kind of guy. I would hope that when I’m gone, more people smile than cry. Some will smile for the wrong reasons, but they’ll be smiling.

I just pick the one thing and I do the one thing. I think if everybody does that, if you want to restore violins, and that’s your passion, then do it. I think the most worthless thing that you can produce or make in this world is money. What does that say? You make money. You use money to buy stuff that other more talented people make. But if you just make money, what does that leave? I think you have to do more than just produce. That’s why the world is the way it is. You’ve got to do more. I would hope that there’s somebody after me that continues what I’m doing and they carry it forward.


To donate to GPSAR or learn more about the organization, CLICK HERE.



Photo Credit: Mark Hopkins]]>
<![CDATA[Penn Grad Building 'Google of Marijuana' ]]> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 19:44:21 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Chris+Beals+WeedMaps+10Q.jpg

It’s 4/20...the unofficial holiday celebrating the biggest illegal (yet legal) drug known to man: marijuana.

This year’s high holiday is even more timely since Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize the plant for medical use just this week. The Keystone State now joins New Jersey and Delaware who have been in the process of getting their own medical exchanges up and running.

There are an estimated 1.4 million medical marijuana users in the United States, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. And lots of them need help navigating the patchwork of cannabis types and offerings near them.

That's where WeedMaps comes in. The online service is billed as the oldest and largest technology company focused on marijuana. It’s like Yelp for weed -- offering menus for weed dispensaries, video tours and user reviews of products.

Launched in 2008, the site now boasts 4.5 million unique visitors a month and 1 million registered users on its platform. It’s also expanded into sales register systems and software for doctors offices.

Helping drive the company’s expansion as its president and general counsel is Lansdale, Pennsylvania native Chris Beals. The 36-year-old North Penn and University of Pennsylvania grad joined the company eight months ago and already has his sights set on turning it into the 'Google of marijuana.'

We talked to Beals about how technology is being used to help people better find the marijuana they need, why bud names like Sour Diesel and Yoda OG are old-hat, how they’re educating lawmakers on the issue and how lab testing and data is key to the industry’s future.

Our conversation was lightly edited for length and clarity.

NBC10: What’s a marijuana technology company?

CB: The thing most people know about us is the website WeedMaps that’s essentially a site where you can find doctors, dispensaries, delivery services, deals in states where marijuana been legalized.

Later this month, we’re launching brand pages which will enable people to start shopping by specific products which is a newer concept in the marijuana space. As mature people start to gravitate [to marijuana], they don’t want XYZ product, they want the product made by this brand which they know and love.

In addition to that we own Marijuana.com which is a news and information portal. We also have the largest point-of-sale system in Spain and one of the largest point-of-sale systems in the United States. We have a doctor management software suite and we’re working on a whole portfolio of additional software products so it’s not just the web advertising/marketing side.

We’re expanding internationally as well and we’re trying to be the Google or Oracle of marijuana.

NBC10: Why would a person use a site like WeedMaps?

CB: A good analogy is wine. Right now if you go into a liquor store, you expect to see a fairly wide selection of reds, whites, rosés, champagnes and other stuff.

With the way the marijuana market works, especially in states where there’s not a completely open market, you can walk into a store and they don’t have what you’re looking for.

It would be as if you walked into the liquor store and they had no red wine. And on top of that, if there’s only 150 stores in your state, you might have just driven 30 or 40 minutes to get there.

We’re doing integration with point-of-sale systems and allowing the dispensaries to update their menus. In addition, we do integrations with labs so you can see the actual lab testing data for that product, pictures of those products, a video tour of the dispensary so you know what the atmosphere is like, how knowledgeable the budtenders are to tell you about the products they have for sale.

So when you go there you know they have the products you are looking for and that work for you, and separately, that it’s lab tested.

NBC10: Why is lab testing important? Is it just for safety?

CB: We know that dispensaries will change the names on products that come in to something that they know is selling really well. Or if something doesn’t look just the way it should for that strain [of marijuana], they’ll change it to another name so that it matches better. Or they’ll just completely come up with a new name as part of their branding efforts.

There was an origin to the strain names at one time, but we’re getting to a point now where growers will accidentally cross two different strains and wind up with something completely different and why try and go through the brain damage of trying to put a descriptive name on it.

That’s why I think this lab-tested data is important, even getting to the genetics, to help people understand what they’re consuming.

NBC10: Pennsylvania is now the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana, but each state’s law is different. Are there things you feel need to change in these states?

CB: I think it’s important to expand the list of medical conditions to more accurately reflect what people use marijuana for. Pennsylvania did a decent job on its list of conditions, but it could go slightly broader.

Separately, people would find it unacceptable if there were 150 CVS’s in a state, I think increasing access to more points of sale, potentially having delivery services for people in hospice care and people who have mobility issues. These are all things that we think are incredibly important before you move to the recreational side.

NBC10: What about recreational use? Will it ever happen nationally? Or will it be a state-by-state issue?

CB: It’s going to be piecemeal. We may see federal legalization of medical marijuana use, but I think the federal government is going to adopt a wait and see stance on this.

We generally do support the move to recreational use, but we’re pretty big advocates of a lot of safety measures. We’re incredibly passionate of advocating for better lab testing, more lab testing, broader lab testing panels to include terpenes (the oils in the cannabis plant that produce particular smells, color and tastes) which impacts what effects you feel when consuming marijuana.

A number of the senior execs at the company have children and we’re big advocates on the recreational side of having a consumption age of 21. Ensuring that advertising isn’t geared toward minors. Things like that.

On the flip side, we don’t want onerous regulations like setting high prices for the drug or only allowing a small number of dispensaries. This can sort of encourage the black market to flourish.

I think it’s in the state’s best interest, it’s in law enforcement’s best interest and ultimately, it’s in WeedMaps and the industry’s best interest for the black market to be extinguished. And I think so far, legislation in some states has been a main reason we haven’t quite gotten there.

NBC10: Do you think your websites are helping change public opinion about marijuana?

CB: I’ve been with the company for under a year and even in that short period of time I’ve seen a large shift in how people view the issue.

On the content side, I think content where people are just consuming marijuana is passé. People want to read stories or hear stories related to the industry or people in it. They don’t necessarily want to see people consuming marijuana because that’s just something that has kind of become normal at this point. It’s not the sort of taboo, curious thing that it once was.

On the political front, we’re very active in trying to reach out to state and local governments to educate them about what we’re seeing that works and doesn’t work. We’re coming at it with somewhat of a neutral viewpoint because we’re never going to own dispensaries and we’re never going to run growing operations. We’re a technology and advertising company to our core.

Even in engaging with those state and local legislators, I’ve seen a shift in the questions that they’re asking. The conversation doesn't start with them being reserved and closed off. They’ll start the conversation with 'I know that intelligent marijuana legislation is the right way forward and I just need help understanding marijuana and understanding that right now is the time I’m going to take a stand on it.'

NBC10: Have you talked to our local lawmakers?

CB: We haven't had a ton of conversations in Pennsylvania. We’re starting to reach out right now.

In Pennsylvania, I think the biggest thing there is to make sure the legislation ensures safety, but on the flip side that it doesn’t produce costs that are so high that it’s not possible to run a profitable business in the state.

In New Jersey, a lot of folks are really interested in how marijuana legalization impacts things like reducing law enforcement costs or alleviating what’s traditionally been the really disparate impacts that marijuana prohibition has had on the incarceration of minorities. Even though the consumption rates are pretty much the same among African-Americans and Caucasian communities, you tend to see the African-American community get arrested at four times the rate.

They’re also trying to get medical up and running when you’ve potentially got Massachusetts going recreational this November.

NBC10: With a new state like Pennsylvania opening up to medical marijuana, what do you usually hear from new users?

CB: In new states, you’ll see people asking about 'What’s concentrate? What’s oil? How do I consume it?'

There’s so many new people who come in and say I’m eating edibles for the first time, there’s a milligram amount on the side of the package, what does that mean for me?

We’re launching a new platform about educating consumers about the products. So explaining what terpenes and cannabinoids are. Why I have to know what they are so that I understand how the marijuana is going to affect me. Will it make me feel full of energy? Will it make me sleepy? Will it relieve my pain?

NBC10: How did your friends and family react when you told them you joined WeedMaps?

CB: My mom specifically was not a big fan of it when I first told her.

I think overall, even now, my family has warmed up to it. I get a ton of questions now from my family asking 'Do you think marijuana would treat this?' or 'Do you think it would work for this?'

I was just at a marijuana conference up at Harvard Medical School and after that I got calls from my mom asking 'What were the studies? What did you hear?' So I don’t think she’s a fan of total recreational consumption, but I think she’s pretty open and I think she’s sort of a proud mom telling a lot of her friends 'Oh my son works for this large marijuana tech company.'

I have a few friends who actually work in law enforcement and I think even they have been sort of pleasantly receptive to this position.

Separately, a lot of my friends now always have questions about the latest things we're doing or what’s the latest state to legalized. For the most part, I think people surprisingly been receptive to it and I think that reflects a lot.

I knew people got the marijuana issue when my mom and grandmother were both asking me questions and were excited about the latest developments at work.

NBC10: How do you see your business growing over the next few years?

CB: Even if legalization stays where it’s at right now, I think there’s still a lot of room to grow.

The big areas of growth are going to be adding on new software products and servicing new states as they come online. Then I also think it’s going to be the development of a much broader data platform and data tools and sort of data analytics.

That’s one niche that we can fill because working on point-of-sale, having the core site and interfacing with consumers online and seeing what their browsing habits are eventually we want to glue that together and sort of provide data that’s useful to businesses.

But separately sort of help guide consumers as they do discovery through brands and learn about new products and that sort of thing.


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<![CDATA[10 Qs With Grammy-Winning Philly Producers]]> Sun, 13 Dec 2015 17:06:01 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Darren-and-Keith-Lead.jpg

From Will Smith, to Patti LaBelle to Jill Scott(with whom they won a Grammy), Philly producers Keith Pelzer and Darren “Limitless” Henson have worked with some of the biggest names in music. The duo was recently nominated for a Grammy again, this time for Traditional R&B Performance for their work on the Faith Evans’ song “He Is.” Fresh off their latest nomination, the duo spoke with NBC10 about their career, their creative process and their thoughts on the current state of R&B. Check out what they had to say in our latest installment of 10 Questions:

1.   Who were some of your early musical influences growing up?

Keith: I had quite a few from Quincy Jones to Herbie Hancock to Teddy Riley, especially Teddy because he was that bridge to me with the New Jack Swing. It was “churchy and clubby” at the same time. Gospel music in general and Michael Jackson.

Darren: Rick Rubin, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Larry Smith, Quincy Jones, The Bomb Squad, Pete Rock and Burt Bacharach.

2. How did you guys get into the music business?

Keith: I was a preacher’s kid who played in church every Sunday from the age of about 9.  I got some equipment in my late teens and started making dance records and produced and released my first recording with a Reggae artist named Amazhan. I ended up running into DJ Jazzy Jeff at the 8th Street Music Store in Philly in my early 20s and got with him and his company A Touch of Jazz. From there it’s History!

Darren: I was an aspiring artist in Hip-Hop's nascent form. I pulled double duty as a producer within my group's self-contained unit, so I became familiar with working in a professional studio environment. We used to look at album liner notes and covers to see where our favorite artists recorded. We'd pool our money from our day jobs and book studio time there. Places like Sigma Sound in Philly, Chung King and Calliope in New York were some of the spots we'd frequent. We used to do shows with some of the luminaries back then like Heavy D, Public Enemy, and BDP. At one of those shows I met a childhood friend of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince named Joe Rhoden who liked what we were doing and asked for a demo of our music. He played it for Jeff who liked it and wanted to meet us. Jeff and I connected on both a musical and friendship level which would eventually lead to me joining him in Philly at A Touch of Jazz after my group disbanded.

3.    How did you guys end up working together?

Keith: A Touch of Jazz had many producers and finally narrowed down to what I call the Chosen 6: Ivan Barias, Vidal Davis, Carvin Haggins, Andre Harris, Darren Henson and myself.  Space was limited and some talents clashed so we all ended up in groups of two’s.  We all had an area of weakness and we ended up pairing with the one who could bring out the best in the other, hence the partnering of Darren and Keith, Vidal and Dre, Carvin and Ivan.  Although we were great independently, together we were better.  I’m more of a Keys and Melody guy and Darren is more of a Beats and Lyricist guy. 

Darren: We clicked almost immediately. Back then, there were more aspiring songwriters, artists and producers than rooms to work in and since available studio time was at a premium, we decided to try and collaborate. We both had different musical influences and approaches to creating so we didn't get in each other's way. It was a seamless process from the jump. Our first collaboration, "He Loves Me", ended up getting placed on Tatyana Ali's "Kiss The Sky" album. We were off and running from there.

4. Both of you previously worked with Jill Scott and Floetry. What was that like and what impact have they had on modern R&B?

Keith: Amazing, Real, Fun and Priceless.  We never had to change for them and they never had to change for us.  The songs were never work, they were all an experience.  The songs were Life in Lyrics, Moments in Melody, Trials to Tracks, Reality in Rhythm.  We were working with artists from the major labels when we met Jill Scott and Floetry,  that felt like Work, but when we started with Jill and Floetry we didn't have to be what the labels thought we had to be, we felt accepted for who we are and we allowed each other to be authentic and the World felt it!  “Floetic” told you who the girls are, the intro to Words and Sounds by Darren Henson told you who Jill Scott is. Here’s the impact, give the World- you and you’ll never be duplicated or replaced. 

Darren: Working with Jill was special because it made the industry take notice and showed what we could do with an entire project in our hands creatively. It put us on the map as producers and in the process introduced the world to an amazing artist in Jill that defied industry stereotypes. The music mattered the most and that really resonated with people. Over 2 million to be exact. Prior to that we were fighting to get on the big projects that were out, but having little success. It felt like people weren't taking us seriously at times. An occasional remix here and there was it. We didn't know that album would perform as well as it did. We had no expectations really so the success of it caught us off guard. We went from relative obscurity to having people like Puff and Babyface coming to Philly to check us out and see what all the fuss was about. We didn't stop there. Our production on Jill's second album earned her her first Grammy for the single "Cross My Mind.”

Floetry was unique in that there was no template of any kind for a group like that. Creatively we just did whatever felt right to us. And like Jill's situation, the album was finished before there was even a record deal in place so we were very free in that sense to create without outside input to change the hue or texture of the project. Keith and I were the first in our unit to record with Floetry and set the tone for their sound since they didn't have one at the time. Our very first time working with them, we recorded their first single Floetic in about three hours. Both acts have had an incredible impact on modern R&B. You only need to attend one of their shows to realize that fact. The fans really connect with both artists. Floetry haven't had an album out since 2005, but played to sold-out, packed houses all summer long in 2015 since reuniting to tour. You can't do that without having an impact on the consciousness of a fanbase or without music that stands up against time. Keith and I have produced on every Floetry project so it feels great to know that we played a part launching the careers of two gifted artists in their own right.

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5. How did you end up working with Faith Evans?

Keith: We worked with Faith years before this song was recorded.  We had a room in Sigma Sound in Philly.  We cut a few amazing songs which didn't make the cut for her album at that time.  Darren ran into her some years later and found out that she was working on another album and submitted this song we did with Jazmine Sullivan.

Darren: For the record, since her debut album I've always had Faith on my dream list of artists to work with. Her songwriting and vocals are beyond crazy, still to this day. We actually worked with Faith some years before on one of her earlier albums, but the song never made the cut.  My cousin Brandon had a friend who was promoting a show in Baltimore that featured Faith. He went to soundcheck and mentioned me to Faith and we reconnected from there. I began sending her music and sent her a demo version of the song we recorded with Philly vocal powerhouse Jazmine Sullivan. Faith hit me back and said: "Yooooo, I love this song! I wanna cut it!" It was on from there.

6. What was the creative process of making the song “He Is?” 

Keith: This song was created at our studio above the Electric Factory on 7th street.  We originally did this for Jazmine Sullivan and of course with vocals like hers we wanted to do something Soulful but we wanted to keep it raw. Piano, bass, drums and somebody who can really sing, good combination.  After not making the cut for Jazmine we revisited the piano performance, let Faith cut it, added some brass, strings, went through a few mixes and the song was done.  We were picky, because every singer can’t capture and bless what Jasmine does on a record, but Faith, oh yeah perfect!

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Darren: We sketched the basic skeleton of it out in the studio with Jazmine Sullivan for her project at the time. However, her label said they thought it was "too churchy". Somewhere, Aretha Franklin just sucked her teeth. No matter. We still believed in it and to us, if we record a song it doesn't die. It just awaits the right vessel to bring it to its full potential. Faith was perfect for the song because not everyone can do what Jazmine does in a vocal booth and Jazmine killed the vocals on the demo. But Faith went in and took the groundwork Jazmine laid to new heights. It was a thing of beauty to experience and be a part of. After her vocals were done, we beefed up the track. We added some live strings with Nyke Van Wyk. Keith got in his 5th and Venango bag and layered organs over the original piano parts he played. I made the drums bang. We added horns courtesy of our long time brass collaborator Mr. Trombone a.k.a Jeff Bradshaw and trumpet player Christopher Stevens.

7. What was your reaction when you found out about the Grammy nomination?

Keith: A little shocked but I called it.  Let me explain.  We've been here before.  “Cross My Mind” a song that Darren and I produced and wrote with Jill Scott, received a Grammy in 2005 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.  We’ve been nominated quite a few times, you kind of get used to it.  We have a reputation for not “Compressing” the Artist.  We make the sacrifice and take the risk of doing “the song” that the labels don't want the artist to do.  “He Is” didn't get picked for Jazmine’s album because the label said the song was too “Churchy” as another way of saying it wasn't commercial enough.

Darren: I was completely taken by surprise and I honestly can't say I saw it coming. But I'm extremely grateful for the recognition and attention the song is getting. I felt like it was a special record from day one. I just didn't know how special.

8. How do you feel about the current state of R&B?

Keith: Not sure what to call it now.  It’s confusing but promising. Amazing when Billboard has to create a chart called “Adult” R&B, kinda feels like the regular R&B gets the tag “Children” R&B??? Compared to the Etymology of the term R&B or RnB, I believe we, the 6 from A Touch of Jazz along with the debut Albums of Jill Scott, Floetry, and Musiq, and many others have kept close to what R&B stood for in these days of current.  The outlook is promising but its still gonna take some time. 

Darren: There's a lot of love missing from a lot of the mainstream music on the radio today. But there are still artists making good music, you may have to search in different places to find it though.

9. Tell us about some upcoming projects that you’re both working on.

Keith: Hopefully the Floetry return/reunion (laughs). 

Darren: TOP SECRET. BUT, I heard there may be a new Floetry album in the works. I'm always looking for new writers to build great relationships and songs with.

10. What advice would you give to young, up and coming writers, producers and musicians?

Keith: Avoid being a copycat. Influence is a great thing but copycats are dangerous.  When there are a bunch of copies on the table, it’s hard to find “The Original” or the “Unique.”  Research the successful Philly musicians, writers  and producers, check their grind, their hard work.  Always remember not to compare the inside of you to the outside of others.

Darren: Educate yourself because it is a business and very easy to get taken advantage of if you're not up on things. Be open to adapting because the business of music, how it's created and consumed is constantly changing. Be respectful of all you meet. Today's intern may be tomorrow's CEO. People remember who treat them bad. Network, network, network. Fill voids creatively. But above all, be true to yourself. Be the first YOU, not the second somebody else.
 



Photo Credit: Keith Pelzer
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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Teen Bra Entrepreneur]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:17:33 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Megan+Grasell+Headshot.jpg

Teens get worked up about a lot of things. But for Megan Grassell, the frustration she experienced during a bra-shopping trip to the mall with her younger sister sparked an idea she then grew into a company that makes age-appropriate bras for teens. In three short years Megan caught the attention of Forbes Magazine for her success, Time called her one of the country's most influential teens in 2014 and this year she's among the youngest speakers featured at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. where QVC is giving her the opportunity to present her product to their buyers at the QVC Sprouts Inventors and Entrepreneurs Forum.

Why bras?

Grassell: So I started the company after a trip to the mall with my younger sister. I was 17 and she was 13 years old. We were shopping for bras and I was appalled at everything in the stores because it was oversexualized. There wasn't just a normal, comfortable bra for this age group. After doing quite a bit of market research, I found there wasn't really anything out there and so I launched a website when I was 18 with just two products and a Kickstarter campaign to raise money. I mean all I had was the money I'd saved from busing tables during high school, but we raised $25,000 overnight and then doubled that. It was amazing to hear how many people had experienced the same thing I did, so we had from the beginning, a lot of people really supporting the brand.

And why the name YellowBerry?

YellowBerry? If you think about a fruit before it's ripened, it's sort of synonymous with this stage in a girl's life.

How are you growing the company?

I started with 2 styles and 2 colors each. I was testing the market to see if people identified with my products and if they resonated in the market. Then I decided to add more products and be more like a teen apparel line. So that's definitely a focus for us as a company.

At 18, you were written up in Fortune Magazine. That's pretty impressive. When did you start to see yourself as an entrepreneur?

I think that's an interesting question for me. I guess that's what I am, but I never really thought of myself like that. I definitely think of myself more as a founder. And right now I feel like I founded something that's definitely headed in the direction I want to be going.

When you were young, did you love or hate the question, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and how did you answer it?

I don't think I every really had an answer. I mean my schooling even up until now is through high school. I always wanted to go to college and get my undergrad as a history major and maybe go to grad school. But when I started YellowBerry I was really motivated and this is what I love right now.

Part of your success must be about that emotional connection you've made, so there are probably a lot of girls out there who feel like you really get what it's like growing up. What do you think is the toughest part of moving through those teen years for girls?

As a boy or a girl, I think it’s really hard. Whether you're on your computer of phone you’re saturated with information all the time. And when you’re growing up as a man or a woman or whatever, you’re trying to figure out who you are and it’s just a difficult balance to understand that everything out there is not real. It's hard.

Megan, how do you measure success?

I think for me, I don’t know. I don’t’ think it's something that’s right or wrong, there’s a lot of different ways people can see it and I just really want YellowBerry and our team (of 6) to grow. We are very collaborative and working really hard and having just a lot of fun every day.

A lot of people in your generation are really drawn to brands with a social component. Is that something you think about with YellowBerry?

I think part of my challenge right now is really just understanding that I’m not on a typical path for someone my age. I’m working with people who are older than me right now and I spend the majority of my time working on YellowBerry. That's where my head is now.

What are you usually thinking about at the end of the day, when your head hits the pillow?

Mostly it’s YellowBerry I guess. I wake up and get to the officer really early. You know we’re a startup and we’re doing a lot of different things. We’re constantly thinking about how we can make our product better and celebrate the girls and their stories. It’s definitely an open sort of approach every day, not a handbook. We are figuring it out as we go. Definitely fun.

Tell us what you're planning to talk about at this year's Pennsylvania Conference for Women. What's your message?

I’m a little bit nervous but what I kind of go back to — my go-to advice — is that no one really took me seriously. So I like to tell people if the worst answer is NO, then you should always ask the question!



Photo Credit: YellowBerryCompany.com]]>
<![CDATA[10 Qs With Rowan's Virtual 3-D Pope Map Programmer]]> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 15:05:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Rowan+Pope+Virtual+Reality+Pope+Map+George+Lecakes.jpg

In a modern office building in South Jersey, a group of college students and staff are working in three-dimensional mapping that is doing everything from studying drone traffic to giving a new perspective on the human body to helping prepare for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia at the end of the month.

Rowan University’s Virtual Reality Center’s $5-million lab features a large wraparound screen that displays information in a 3-D setting that opened just this past summer.

Rowan – which already worked with NASA, NAVSEA, Cooper Ferry Partnerships, Elekta, the Department of Commerce, United Technologies Research Center and others – teamed up with NBC10 to develop an approximate view of what it will look like to be on the Ben Franklin Parkway during the pontiff’s Sept. 27 Mass.

George Lecakes, director of the Rowan Virtual Reality Center, was at the controls (an Xbox controller) as Rowan showed off “Pope Vision” on a curved, room-sized screen (the largest of its kind at any American university) at the Glassboro, New Jersey lab. The 32-year-old revealed how he got to this point in his career, what it takes to virtually map a scenario and how a common Xbox controller is helping his team do it.

How did you create a virtual look at the Pope’s visit?

"What we did was visualize Philadelphia, that was a start, to create all the difference visual assets you see on (the map). The next phase was to actually create different scenarios, different concept pieces, what if questions: What if you were the Pope? What would that look like? So we created a portion of the stage, the Jumbotrons. We then started doing actual math, the square-footage of the area: How many people can you fit in (the ticketed area) comfortably? Or, not so comfortably? So we looked at scenarios where instead of 150,000 people in that space, you could actually cram a million, although that’s just a hair short of riot conditions at that point, but it can be done. We also started amassing information, all the security information that we could find publicly available, placing all the different routes. Making, basically, a visualization that will allow anyone to understand what the Pope’s impact is going to be to the region and how, as maybe a guest of seeing this event, how you can manage in this location."

What Does It take to Make the Pope program happen?

"This program is a canvass but you have to know how to paint on it. And that’s where a vast variety of different skills come in. The people, textures as they’re called, maybe from Photoshop or … 3-D models, assets made in 3-D modeling programs, the program itself you have to know how to code in several different languages.

"So you have to combine multiple fields together to be able to create any of this content. So if you’re a diverse person and you like both the art and the programming and mixing it all together, this would actually be a great field for you."

What is your role at the VR Center?

"My role as director, basically, is to assist and manage projects – this being one of them – for students of the university…. We train students through the entire pipeline, as it’s called. Pre-graphics, we can create a design, a concept or an idea we translate that to visuals... We can then reprint them for actual design use for individuals. We are a full pipeline for content.

"We are also a service center so we proved these services to anyone who is interested. We have numerous sponsors from government, private, public and so forth – we also have students here who use our service themselves – we also rent out our space for use."

What other projects has the Rowan VR Center worked on?

"We’ve worked with NASA to visualize rocket test engines. We’re working currently with the FAA to visualize unmanned aerial vehicles – drones basically... We’ve worked with Elekta to visualize the human body. We have a program you can run that can take any of your X-ray data, CT and/or MRI and completely recreate you in 3-D – not just portions of you – literally the entire insides of you. We peel it back and see what everything looks like. You use that as a diagnostic tool.

"We do STEM (Science, technology Engineering and Mathematics). We create Monarch butterfly life cycles where kindergartners come in here and see the entire life cycles. We’ve done simulations of flooding for Camden and Vineland where we can actually change from a one-year storm… to a 100-year storm and see the impacts to our region.

"We like to take visualization simulation and apply it to any area that finds use for it. So if you have a problem we would use this to solve it."

Is it awesome playing a video game on this huge screen?

Yes, you can hook them up to the systems. Yes, we’ve had a lot of fun as well. Although, sometimes it’s a double-edged sword because you end up learning how all these things work… you gain an appreciation but also it loses some of the magic.

How did you wind up using an Xbox controller to operate the VR system?

So there’s a number of different controllers we actually use (Xbox, PlayStation, Wii controllers, Nintendo, Logitech). Why do we use this? Why is this here? Because it’s $50, if I break it I can walk down to the local store and buy a new one… But the idea is to make this easy, actually. The real intent behind this is I can hand this to anyone who walks in here and have a pretty good certainty that they would be able to take this controller and start flying around and do what they do naturally when they play games. Granted, they won’t know all the button configurations, but I’ve handed this to second-graders, third-graders and they’ve taken it over… it’s easy, its simple and everybody is familiar with it.

How did you get to your role of director of the Rowan VR Center?

"My path is not one anyone should follow because it’s a lot of happenstance and chance. I happened to make video games with my friends before I came here. I came to Rowan because it’s a smaller college… I was just going to do all the CG, the animation, the Hollywood, movie industry type of thing. There was a virtual reality lab with a single, small screen and I knew a little bit more than everyone else. And basically, you know a little bit more for a lot of years and slowly you just build up your entire skill set."

Do you still take classes as well?

"I just started a PhD program actually. I had labs for about four years while I could finish my masters, now I’m a PhD student. I’ve been here way to long," he said with a smile. "I’ve been here for 14 years."

What would you suggest to someone who wants to code VR?

Go online, to tell you the truth, I have no official training in this area. Everything I’ve learned has been self-motivated through a series of websites that just tons of videos, tutorials and content. But now that I’m here, we also have free internships for anyone here – so any student, any major, can come into the lab and actually work... I teach courses on this now as well. If you want to try it out and can’t get the self-motivation you need, you can (try it out).

So do you stress the open door policy?

We’re not under any one department here at Rowan, we take in everyone – we have marketing interns, we have engineering, computer science interns – it doesn’t matter. If you’re interested in this and want to at least get a feel for this, you can be a volunteer intern.

Before the Pope arrives, George and the VR Center will be loading their virtual papal Mass map online for access for NBC10 users. And, click here for more information on how you can partner (including internships) with the Rowan VR Center in the future.



Photo Credit: NBC10 - Dan Stamm
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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Philly's Top FBI Agent]]> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 11:06:30 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Ed-Hanko.jpg

We sat down with the FBI's top agent in Philadelphia, Ed Hanko, for his first interview since declaring he would retire from the bureau on July 31.

The Wilkes-Barre native has been with the FBI for 29 years, most recently leading the Philadelphia division — the bureau's eighth-largest office — since 2013.

Over the years, Hanko has overseen an investigative force with a focus on counterterrorism, cyber crime and public corruption probes.

Why did you decide to retire?
It’s very difficult for an agent who has spent their entire life serving their country to leave this position. Congress edicts we have to leave at 57 years-old, so as we get to that age we look at what can we do next and how can I still contribute while going to the private sector. Those were factors that led up to me making the decision it was time to leave. I received an excellent offer from private sector company and I took the offer knowing I will still be able to help out the United States and its’ citizens.

How will you continue to serve your country while taking your next step?
I am going to be Vice President of Global Security for Aramark Corporation. They are in 22 countries, 275,000 people and they provide all kinds of services internationally. While we have our law enforcement and military to keep citizens safe, the economic engine that drives this country is business. The economic engine of all our businesses combined make us one of the strongest nations in the world. Our economy is larger than the entire combined economy of Europe. I will be able to assist in keeping our economy strong.

What do you think is your legacy as you leave this office?
I believe my legacy of being here is that I was able to get things accomplished as a team. I was able to bridge those gaps that needed help, build partners, and give employees a pat on the back because we don’t get that a lot. It’s a part of my job to make sure the atmosphere in our office is upbeat and moving forward in a positive direction.

How many corrupt politicians do you think you’ve uncovered in your career?
I’ve dealt with around 15 or 20 corruption cases. Although looking at my whole career of 29 years, I have been blessed to be able to work on an array of organized crime cases, kidnap cases, and drug cases. During this job, we see the good that can be done, but we also see the darker side that most citizens don’t see. It’s a tough business.

Is there any baggage you are going to take with you as you move on from the FBI?
Losing two of my agents in the line of duty and losing another to cancer were definitely tough. But one of the things that bothers me the most will be the cases you can’t solved. You know who did it, but you can’t prove it. While we believe we know who committed the crime, there wasn’t enough evidence to take it to court. Those types of things bother you and they’ll continue to bother you. You can only hope someone will turn up one day and say “I saw it.”

What kind of terrorist threats have you faced in Philadelphia?
We are a big target because Philadelphia is where America started and most terrorist organizations would love to do another dramatic attack. New York and Washington D.C. are big targets, but people want to get Philly because they think we might be less prepared than the other cities. But we are just as prepared because we talk to all our partners so we can get all our intel together to prevent attacks. Right now, for me, is one of the scariest times because we are no longer able to see some of their communications. What’s really disturbing is that some of those terrorists’ organizations are using encryptions to communicate and those companies that create the codes can’t event crack them.

Have you prevented attack during your tenure?
I have, right after 911 there was a secondary plot we had heard of and this was to use trucks with explosive material to attack unknown sites. In Pa. we had two subjects that were attending a trucking school, both of their home addresses were in New Jersey where a terrorist leader resided. Those two people came to light when the trucking school told us they had two middle eastern students who were about to graduate and all they were interested in was driving trucks carrying hazardous material. We intervened and during the interview process they were able to give us where they lived, but it was so scripted. Just by talking to them we were able to stop them from committing a terrorist attack and had them deported out of the country.

What keeps you up at night?
The biggest thing I worry about is that we are going to miss something and there’s going to be an attack or explosion. We might miss something that is totally off our radar. We second guess ourselves all the time because for terrorists to succeed, they only have to be lucky once, but we have to be perfect every single time. It’s actually impossible, but it doesn’t deter us because we will continue to work the cases to the best of our abilities.

Philadelphia has a reputation for being a politically corrupt place, is it as bad as its’ reputation?
There are really good people here, politicians and citizens. I think any town or city that has a few arrests people assume “oh it’s a corrupt town”, but it’s our job to weed out those individuals before they corrupt entire systems like the Philadelphia traffic court case. That was an important case to do and it caused legislation to be reformulated as to where less corruption can exist, which is the big win there.

As you talk about your accomplishments, how did you almost not become an FBI agent?
As a Baltimore city police officer, I was finishing my degree at the University of Baltimore. I always had a friendly competition with one of my classmates, Ed Goetz, so when I went to take the test for the FBI, I sat next to him. Three weeks later, I got a letter saying I didn’t score high enough, and that was the end of it. Ed got in and eventually went to the applicant coordinator, asking about my test. When they bought up the sheet, I had scored an 89, but then they looked at the actual test, I had really scored a 98. So you could imagine receiving a phone call from the FBI saying they made a mistake. They asked me if they could have my background check done and start in thirty days, so that’s where my career started. Ed Goetz and I are still pretty good friends.

]]>
<![CDATA[Philly Guy Gets Paid to Watch Porn]]> Fri, 01 May 2015 15:56:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Jason+Fredric+Gilbert.jpg

Millions of people watch porn worldwide, but one man is getting paid for it. Philadelphia-expat and and Temple University alumnus Jason Fredric Gilbert is a full-time movie translator -- and some of his work involves subtitling films saved for adult, after-hour occasions. 

The 37-year-old Lower Merion native moved to Israel with his family when he was 10 years old, only to return to the City of Brotherly Love nearly a decade later to study film at Temple. Upon earning his degree, he used his movie-making skills to produce and direct independent feature films. 

Shortly after, Gilbert got his start in the porn industry by reviewing films for the Philadelphia-based adult movie company Hot Movies and coincidentally found himself translating X-rated films following his big move to the Holy Land.  

The Times of Israel blogger explained his journey in the porn industry in a post published on the site almost a year-and-a-half ago. Here's our conversation with Gilbert.

There are many different opinions about the adult movie industry. How and why did you first get involved in translating pornographic films?

I didn’t begin subtitling pornography voluntarily. I served in the Israeli army as a Lone Soldier for one year and I made educational films while in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). After I was released from the army I went to interview at an advertising agency and the company Trans Titles, which provides translations to thousands of movies and TV shows, was actually located in the same building so I stopped by and have had a job there ever since. Before that I was mainly freelancing but it can be very difficult financially to live in Israel.

Note: The company Trans Titles translates foreign movies and television shows in addition to translating a smaller portion of X-rated films.

Watching porn for a living may be a dream job for some people, but what is the reality of your work?

When I’m working I don’t really focus so much on the context. I definitely zone out on the story line. For viewers it’s a completed different experience. You know viewers are watching what’s happening and the acting. They’re focusing on the sex-ing so I think it’s even kind of ridiculous that there are even subtitles sometimes. But for those few hours when I’m subtitling, I oversee the quality control and focus that the subtitles are synchronized and that everything’s in place.

Utilizing your language skills are a big component of your job. As a bilingual translator, what is the most challenging part about translating the films?

English is my stronger language so I translate from Hebrew to English. I would say the most challenging part is translating American slang. You know, there are just certain words in English that just don’t exist in Hebrew – like motor boating for example, it just doesn’t exist. So that can sometimes be a bit challenging. But after working in Hot Movies, I’ve really seen it all. Everything from straight, gay, transgender, bisexual so nothing comes as a surprise anymore.

What are some challenges that come with the job?

About a year ago my wife and I moved in with my mother-in-law so I’m working outside of the office in my home. It’s like a regular job. Basically I just sit in my office, put on my headphones, keep my pants on, close the door and subtitle. At age 37, it’s not exactly where I envisioned I would be after film school.

What are your family’s thoughts on your translation services of the adult material?

Well they knew that I was translating adult films when I first started out reviewing films for Hot Movies in 2004. I would write blurbs about the films on the website. Afterwards I was promoted to marketing and started making films for them. Back then I would travel a lot of more too, like I’d take trips to Amsterdam for work. Now I’m just working from home so I can do my job anywhere. So they were really just kind of proud that I was working. I wasn’t involved in any crimes or doing anything illegal so they were happy that I had a job out of college.

As a translator, you also subtitle reality television shows like "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and "Swamp People." But has translating the adult movies affected your home life?

No, not really actually. I am not a full-time porn translator. It’s about 20% of my job. I get to spend more time with my four-year-old son, which if I was working outside of the home I wouldn’t get to do. I am kind of a stay home dad in the sense too. I get to take my son to judo and watch him grow up, which is great. So I guess you can say translating porn from my house is kind of a benefit in some weird way.

Have you experienced any awkward moments while translating?

No, I haven’t but I love awkward moments. I’m just waiting for them to happen. My mother-in-law isn’t super religious or anything and I’m not religious at all so if she walked in I think it would be more awkward for her more than it would be for me. It could be kind of funny actually.

Besides porn, you also directed The Coat Room in addition to other feature films in the past. What are some highlights of your past work?

For the past year I’ve actually been working on documentaries but my plan right now is to start making featured films again. The Coat Room was a film I directed and produced that was set in Philly and was about a bunch of kids working in a coat room. It went on to premiere at film festivals and eventually won the Portland Underground Film Festival in 2006. I directed the film Identity Burglars back I 2007 and it actually premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival.

Since you’re planning on leaving Israel next year, do you plan on translating X-rated films after your move? 

I hope not, I want to get back into directing films. I graduated with a film degree so it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I still have some extended family back in Philly so I’d love to go there and show my wife where I grew up and went to college. My parents actually met at Temple while they were in college in 68 so there’s a lot of family history there. I’d also like to go out West and go to Los Angeles but my wife has her eyes set on Portland, Oregon.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I plan on directing a follow up to The Coat Room in Portland in 2016.

Note: The full-time dad and part-time porn translator also wrote a collection of humorous stories and essays titled “Slower Than Your Average Bear.” The comical compilation is expected to hit book stores next year.



Photo Credit: Jason Fredric Gilbert Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Candidate in Mars One Mission]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 18:13:08 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/160*120/Sara+Director.jpg

Sara Director has a bright future ahead of her here on earth, but the 26-year-old — originally from the Philadelphia suburbs — is competing for an opportunity to leave that all behind for a one-way ticket to Mars. Upon discovering she made it to the third round of candidates in the Mars One mission, there’s a 25% percent chance that Director will spend the rest of her life on the Red Planet, leaving family and friends behind.

The Netherlands-based nonprofit wants to establish a human settlement on Mars in the next ten years by picking 24 candidates from a highly-selective pool of people. The quest initially garnered the interest of more than 200,000 applicants. But the experts behind Mars One are not only searching for people ready to live and die on Mars, but also for reality stars whose lives would be televised as they unfold on the planet.

Director made the cut of 100 finalists, with only one round left before potential astronauts are selected to begin a decadelong training session to prepare for takeoff.

In your Mars One application video you mentioned that traveling to Mars is something you always wanted to do. What made you decide you wanted to participate in the Mars One mission?

So I actually saw a website detailing this mission, and I read the application and what they were looking for in applicants and I realized that this actually applies to me, and that if I didn’t apply and give it my best shot I would regret it for the rest of my life. I knew that I had to give it my best go, and so far it’s been working out perfectly.

Right now you're the project manager for a computer software company and you also have a degree in Biology. Is there a particular trait or talent you possess that you think would be valuable to the mission?

I have always had a sort of wide variety of interests and skills, so my versatility in that sense has always kind of been hard for me here, because I can’t use that variety of skills here. Most things require specializations, so that is something I’d like to take advantage of about myself. Another thing is my adaptability in terms of how personable I am, and that probably would be the best thing I could contribute. I have really great communication skills, and I know how to use to those communication skills to have really healthy interpersonal relationships. I think that’s one of the key things to finding people who can spend the rest of their lives together in a tin can.

Since you won't be able to ever return to Earth, how are you preparing for the idea that you could possibly spend the rest of your life on Mars?

Well, that’s something that will be hard, definitely. We know we’d be able to send messages and receive messages too from our friends and loved ones. My understanding of this mission is that you are in teams of four, and those teams need to be family, basically. They need to be so tight to depend on each other to survive. So my hope is that over the next ten years of training, these groups will be a new kind of family. You know people come into your life and they leave — there are people who you choose and those you’re stuck with.

Besides family and friends, what would you miss the most about home?

Probably food actually. So much of what we have here like books, movies and art we can transmit those things there digitally. I know that basically we will be eating a vegetarian diet. So bacon, we aren’t going to have that on Mars. That’s a food I’m definitely going to miss.

How did your parents react to the idea of you leaving, never to return?

Everyone has been very, very supportive. My dad actually found that Mars One website and emailed it to me. He is actually very jealous, you know he could not be happier because I think if he were younger he would be the one to apply. My mom is less enthusiastic, but she’s open about the fact that she would be very, very sad to goodbye to me. Even then though, she is very supportive.

You seem to have a good life here, but are you bored with life on Earth?

I’m definitely not bored in any sense or way, I actually have a wonderful life here and I would definitely be sad to leave it if I found out I had to leave tomorrow. That being said, since my life here is so I amazing there has to be even something more amazing for me to want to give that up. So really what it is, is that I feel that opportunity is just so … so unbelievably amazing. It’s such a meaningful contribution to the entire progression of the human race. It’s not just an opportunity that most people get.

Since the mission will be televised, do you like the idea that there is a televised program attached to the mission?

I think it’s great. I mean I think it’s a wonderful way to really unite humanity around the single goal basically. Let’s be honest, that’s just very, very difficult. And I think that, well I do hope that my friends and family will watch how things unfold on Mars. One thing I don’t want to do while I’m here and going through this process is sort of be living with one foot out that door, and I also don’t want the people who would be left behind to do the same. But it’s important that our lives be televised — and it’s not like we’re leaving Earth because we hate Earth. We’re leaving for the new experience. 

According to an MIT study, there is a possibility that the first crews traveling to Mars will suffocate in 68 days. Does that hinder your desire to participate?

I think it’s great what the students were trying to do because we absolutely need to have those detailed calculations. But I believe they made some assumptions about the initial calculations which were not correct. I mean it’s an interesting exercise, but it’s not accurate enough that we need to call off the mission.

What will you be doing on your seven-month-long trip — the time you're expecting it will take to get from Earth to Mars ten years from now?

Mostly my understanding of is that we will be exercising. In transit, the biggest injury will be muscle atrophy and bone density loss. We’re going to need to keep our bodies in shape, which is something that NASA already struggles with. So we’re going to be exercising, and I expect a lot of it over the seven months.

The goal of the mission is to establish human settlements. How will the crews be working toward creating a human community on Mars?

It’s going to be a lot of work to set up the habitat, but once that’s done is the idea that to basically live our lives. There’s going to be a lot work, because we’re not just going to set up our own habitat but we’re also going to be expanding because there’s going to be the teams of four coming every two years. So we’re going to make to more space for more people and really start using native materials to replace materials we’ve brought us. So the idea is to make the settlement bigger over time and independent over time. But other than that, we’re going to create our own society. We’ll be doing research and finding data, and then have group dinners of Sunday night. Maybe I’ll paint and read books, and sort of live out our lives.



Photo Credit: Sara Director]]>
<![CDATA[10Qs: Philly's 'Comedic Rock Star' Kevin Hart]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 18:54:56 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/201*120/Kevin+Hart+Eagles+Hat.jpg

Philadelphia’s own funny guy Kevin Hart once only dreamed of winding up on the Philadelphia Eagles field. Now the George Washington High School graduate will become the first stand-up comic to ever headline an NFL stadium when he takes the Linc stage in August.

The 35-year-old comic actor returned home Wednesday to tour the football stadium before his historic event. Hart  took a few minutes to sit down with NBC10 in the Eagles locker room that will be his for one night this summer to talk about his love for his hometown, caring for Philadelphia students, his secret desire to be a hand model, and his status as a “comic rock star.”

You grew up here. Did you ever think this would be your locker room for one night?

"Yes! When I was six! (he laughs) No, of course not. There is no way you ever see this day coming, which is why you need to soak it all in — which is why you need to really access the moment and go, 'Wow, I can't believe that I'm actually in the position I'm in.' As a comedian I'm about to perform at the Lincoln Financial Field. This is the first time a comedian has done anything like this.

"With that being said, do you poke your chest out about it or does it humble you and make your really realize how amazing an loyal your fans are and how lucky you are to have these people in your support corner."

Having grown up here, are you upset you won't be performing at the Vet since it isn't around anymore?

"No, the Linc is new. (he laughs) I want the Linc! I want the Linc all day every day. It's a different venue but it's the same history. At the end of the day this is our football stadium, this is where the pride of Philadelphia lies."

What is it about Eagles fans?

"The fact that we have die-hard Eagles fans despite the fact that our Eagles continue to struggle shows how amazing this city is. I look at myself, not as an Eagle, but something like it because I have die-hard fans that refuse to let me die or go down. You don't take that for granted. You gotta understand how powerful that is and take the time to thank God and constantly thank your fans — constantly do things to make them aware that you don't take advantage of that — that's why I do so much in return."

As a public school product yourself, what does it mean to you to give back (computers, donations, etc.) to Philly schools?

"You want to be a certain level of inspiration and motivation for your city — for the youth in your city.

"I want kids to look at me and go, 'Wow, Kevin made it out of here and he comes back and look at what he's doing — people care.' Sometimes a lot of these kids are put into situations where they feel like no one cares. To see me make the efforts that I make to try and do so much for the city, it just shows that I care, I do want to be involved.

"I'm not just a guy who says things for the moment, I'm a guy that's going to do things long-term — I'm going to be around for quite sometime — and I want to see my city get better and hopefully continuously grow."

Did you ever think you would be at this point in your career after starting out in small venues like the old Laff House?

"I never saw it getting to this point, which is why it's so surreal. You're talking about a guy who started out at restaurants ... Warmdaddy's. You're talking about a guy who performed at the New Market Cabaret, amateur night at the Laff House, and now it's gone from the Tower Theater to Well's Fargo to Lincoln Financial Field — the trajectory is through the roof.

"The hard work and dedication to get me here is not something that I want to be unmentioned or unseen."

You'll be performing on the Eagles field just like our own Vai Sikahema once did. What's your message for Vai?

"I would tell you to take this one to the house but I think I'm going to be able to do it all by myself — I'm not going to need you to run this one back. I want to do it here, on my lonesome Aug. 30, it's going down. If you do not have your tickets you are going to miss history ... Lincoln Financial Field, first comedian to even perform at the stadium ... don't miss this, you don't want to, trust me!"

What tricks do you have for the bigger venue?

"I'm gonna make myself disappear and come back — that's my closer. And in the middle I might set myself on fire. The production for this show is going to be epic."

So can you give us some hints about what to expect as you wrap up your "What Now Tour" in Philly?

"This show will be an event — there's no repeat activity of what you've seen from me in the past ... This is real deal production. I will make people understand what I meant when I said 'comedic rock star' -- I'm going to give you a rock star-like environment in a comedy situation."

NBC10 Twitter follower @DanielleSacco asked about what you spoke to Jay-Z and Beyoncé about after the Oscars?

"Those are close friends of mine, there is always silliness. Probably talking about each other, busting on each other ... it's just silliness, you're talking about a bunch of big kids."

You're playing a football stadium, growing up did you think you would be a football player, a basketball player, a baseball player — was it always a comic?

"No! I was going to be a hand model for quite sometime. I said, 'I'm about to go hand modeling.' Because, at one point, I had beautiful hands. The secret is you have to put Crisco on your hands."


Tickets to Hart’s Aug. 30 homecoming show at Lincoln Financial Field start at $20 and are available now.



Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[10Qs: Matt From 'The Voice' ]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 11:36:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/The+Voice+Matt+McAndrew+Philly+Snarl.jpg

Matt McAndrew has gone from working at Trader Joe’s in Center City Philadelphia by day and playing small gigs or open mics at night to becoming one of the stars on Season 7 of NBC’s The Voice.

Matt used his tattooed charm and impressive vocals on songs like Coldplay’s "Fix You" and Damien Rice’s "Blower’s Daughter" to wow both music fans and superstar coaches, including his own coach Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Now he's in the Top 5 of the singing competition.

A native of Barnegat Light, New Jersey, Matt launched his music career while studying music at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. He sat down with NBC10.com during a short visit back to the City of Brotherly Love that includes a free concert on Thursday night at XFINITY Live! in South Philly. He talked about the artists who inspire him (from Radiohead to Britney Spears) as well as how much his fans mean to him.

Did you ever think you would be here?

Just with music in general, I always have been a big dreamer and I always hoped things would work out but you never know. With The Voice I had no idea. My ultimate dream with the show — when I first got involved with it — was to be on one or two episodes and I thought that would be amazing. I had no idea I’d be this far.

How did you first get into singing?

I just started out just messing around with a guitar ... I started trying to write songs when I was around 15. Then I was just sort of privately writing songs and signing whatever I would write. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I started doing little house shows with my band and I also got the chance to sing at my high school Christmas assembly. That was the first time that anybody found out I could sing at all.

When I was a senior I didn’t know what I was going to do as far as college goes. I knew I wanted to be a musician but I was like, ‘man I really blew it by not taking any music classes, ever!’ But luckily I got hooked up with a Voice edition and I got in.

How did you wind up going from Barnegat Light to Philly?

I think everybody in South Jersey is aware of Philly — (NBC10) was always my news station growing up and would go on field trips or family trips growing up. UArts had come up, my guidance counselor told me to check it out. It was the only school I had applied to and I got in. It’s great, they have a really solid vocal program — shoutout to them. I didn’t know anything so I had to have learned a lot.

How would you describe your voice?

I’m in this category now where I like to do sort of a juxtaposition of more of a growly, high-end, more like rock thing, but then I also like to do the softer-, sweeter-type of stuff too. So, it’s sort of like a mix of both.

Why did you choose #TeamAdam?

I got three chairs (to turn around) — it was Adam, Pharrell (Williams) and Blake (Shelton). Blake was really kind of more mellow, but Adam and Pharrell, it was a long fight. What some people don’t know is that I was probably up there for 20 to 30 minutes just talking to them — that goes for all the contestants — and it gets edited down.

Adam really just put up a good fight and he just would not let Pharrell have the last word. I truly believe that he is the one that wanted me the most ... and I got a sense of his personality, which I think really kind of meshed well with mine. He’s a very Type-A kind of person, he’s like, ‘come on, come on, come on’ and that’s the way I would have been.

Even outside of the four choices — if we’re looking at anybody involved in music today — now that I really know him, (Adam)’s the perfect man for the job. Especially in (live shows) when we’re really working closely together as far as the song selection — that’s huge for this part of the competition — he puts so much effort into that part of the process and he’s just really picky. It’s a really cool collaborative thing at this point.

Which artist (outside of Adam) inspires you?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how I first got into music. I’ve been going back and watching a lot of old Radiohead live videos. They were one of the first bands that I would watch that stuff and be like, ‘man, this is what I want to do with my life.’ It feels good to reconnect with the reasons why I got into it now that I’m kind of being able to do it myself.

Onto your ink, Which of your 11 tattoos has the most meaning to you?

I think the empty square, the little checkbox tattoo, probably has the most meaning. But my favorite is this wolf tattoo that I have from Thomas Hooper — he’s my favorite tattoo artist in the world. He’s really, really exclusive — he doesn’t accept new clients a lot of the time — so It was a two-year process just getting seen by him.

I kind of consider myself a collector. I’m a fan of particular artists and I know their work so well. And I’m just trying to add on. I don’t actually have as many as you might think — my torso is still bare and I don’t have any on my legs. I went straight for the jugular, I got the checkbox and then I got my hand done next.

What song might your fans not expect you to be into?

Dude, I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’ve had days before where I only listen to ‘Oops, I Did It Again’ by Britney Spears on loop, like the whole day! And I just think, ‘this is an amazing hit record, this is awesome.’ I appreciate all the moving parts that went into making such a success.

I remember growing up idolizing people who do it all themselves and I still do. That’s still what I aspire for as an artist myself. But you can still give a lot of credit to — when everybody has a job and it’s just a very planned sort of success story with an artist. I’m very fascinated with that in this point in my career.

If you could duet with one singer — living or dead — who would it be and what would you sing?

Paul McCartney. ‘She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain’ (Matt laughs) No, anything, a Beatles song or one his songs or whatever. I’m a huge Beatles fan so I think that’s why it would be cool.

If you have one message for your fans what would it be?

Just one of extreme gratitude, it’s so cool. I think every good artist knows and appreciates their fans. But, the particular format that I’m in right now, it’s so obvious that the fan support is the only thing that is keeping me here ... that has me here.

These people work their butts off when it’s time to vote on the show. I put in my work during the week and I sit back and watch my song climb up the charts. They’re all on the app, they’re on email, they’re on everything. I just really appreciate all the seriously hard work (the fans) put in.

A bonus question! Is there a song that’s sitting out there still that you are just dying to sing?

Yeah. Not that I can give anything away but this coming week I have some really cool ones.



Photo Credit: NBC10.com - Dan Stamm]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Capital Teas CEO Peter Martino]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 08:10:05 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/Sniffing+Wall+1.JPG

While you may think you know your tea, Peter Marino has you beat. He's a walking encyclopedia of just about everything there is to know about the beverage that we enjoy both hot and cold. No wonder he and his wife Manelle, a fifth-generation tea merchant, opened Capital Teas in 2007, a high end tea shop/bar that may have you rethinking supermarket tea bags. With a new location in Center City, the Philly native discusses tea, sniffing bars, and his diverse resume.


You've been a former nuclear submarine officer, attorney, consultant, real estate developer among other things. Is the tea business just as exciting?

Yes, it's exciting in its own way. The tea industry is growing very fast in the United States right now, and it's really fun to be part of a revolution in taste. You may not know this, but tea is the second most-consumed beverage in the world behind water. And we, in the United States, are now catching up with the rest of the world and experiencing the wonderful taste of tea. Capital Teas is really proud to offer something at the forefront of that taste revolution. I think that in any business, to be successful you need to have extreme product knowledge, a passion  for what you do, the ability to think quickly on your feet, and to innovate. We innovate every single day here, we think on our feet, I'm totally passionate and I learn every day.  I learned a lesson a long time ago in the navy which I apply to everything I do and I certainly do at Capital Teas. That's 'Don't expect what you don't inspect.'

Right now, Capital Teas is mostly in the DC area. What was the reasoning behind opening a Philly location? 

Well, I grew up in the Philly area. I went to St. Joe's Prep here in Philly. My parents and one of my younger brothers still live in the area. And I ran a business called XRT here in the 1990s. I was very proud to run that business, a very successful software company, and it was great to be based in the Philadelphia area. Subsequent to that, I moved to the D.C. area and lived in Annapolis for over ten years so when we started Capital Teas in 2007, it was there. Finally, now that we're back in Philly, I consider this a homecoming. I'm proud to add Philadelphia as our second major city focus after Washington, D.C. and to reacquaint all of my old friends and acquaintances with Capital Teas.

Your wife's family has spent a long time in the tea trade. Is your own family into any certain business?

I always enjoyed tea. I grew up appreciating tea. My grandfather was in Toronto and my father grew up there so they certainly had a strong tea tradition there, but I didn't know then what I know now about tea, I continue to learn every day, and my passion grows for tea every day. My family has a long background in the tech sector. My father's been a computer pioneer since the 1950s and we're all pretty entrepreneurially oriented. In fact, my youngest brother also runs and operates his own company. Overall, I think I like doing things that improve or enhance the human experience while giving us the flexibility to create new experiences and I'm very happy to do that with tea right now.

How is Capital Teas different from other businesses you've started?

This is the first consumer business that I've run. All the others were B2B businesses so it's a lot more fun now because we have a much broader demographic of customer and we meet the public, educate them, enjoy their presence. It gives us the flexibility to create new experiences for everybody that comes in. It's something to greet somebody, to take them through one our sniffing walls in our stores, to show them the different tastes, nuances, and smells of tea. And when they leave, they shake your hand and you say 'Wow, they really learned something.' Whether or not they buy something, they've had a great educational experience and we aim to do that inspiration; our mission is to educate people and inspire lives through the wonders of tea, one cup at a time.

What inspired you to go into business/entrepreneurship?

I've always had a strong and fervent desire to create new things, to forge my own path, to build upon past experiences, to venture into new arenas. I'm not afraid to take some pretty significant risks when I believe there's a reasonable chance to succeed. I credit much of that to the family in which I was raised and, an example, my dad who's now 85 recently purchased a new business with one of my younger brothers and he's working daily to make that business better. So, I come from this line of entrepreneurs. I suspect I'll be doing the same 35 and maybe even 50 years from now and I think that sort of entrepreneurship keeps us alive and fresh, and I must say it's a lot of fun.

What do you think best sets you apart from other tea shops?

There are many great tea shops in America, but very few of them have gone beyond a couple stores. So, we are now in a unique spot with our size. We can maintain the intimacy of a small tea business, but with our multiple stores, we have the ability to source some amazing teas, great teaware, superb packaging to help all of our clients, and to build a team that is knowledgeable and educational to serve the public. We've also established a bit of a unique spot by wholesaling to some amazing restaurants. We sell tea to quite a few top restaurants on the East Coast; we hope to extend that presence pretty dramatically into the Philadelphia scene which I know is full of amazing and great restaurants. We pride ourselves on continual innovation. We're always trying to be at the forefront: we are the first to embrace a multisensory experience in the store with a sniffing wall, we are the first to come up with brewing tea in beer and wine. We have several innovations coming in the near term. Within a month we will be the first specialty tea company of our type to release K-Cups with a high-end, organic specialty tea. We try to be at the forefront and innovate every day.

Do you have a bitter rivalry with coffee sellers?

No, not at all. We respect all beverage purveyors and I'm not ashamed to say that I like french-pressed coffee. I also like craft beer and fine wine. All of these things are about cultivating an amazing taste and having the cultural experience behind the beverage and I think that coffee is great too, but tea has a big advantage. I tease my coffee industry friends that they sell one flavor in varying intensities. We sell over 200 flavors in teas and infusions which have totally unique taste profiles. As we take customers in to explore the tea world, we have an awful lot to offer them.

What has been your favorite memory with Capital Teas?

My favorite memory with Capital Teas is that for the past few years, I've been asked to be the kickoff speaker at the business boot camps of the World Tea Expo, the biggest international tea conference in North America; it's typically in Las Vegas or Long Beach. I've been able to educate and inspire hundreds of people from dozens of countries on what it takes to start and to succeed in a tea-related business. These are entrepreneurs and smart people who love tea and I've been able to be their lead speaker. There's nothing more memorable than watching the graduates come back the following year and to tell me the successes that they've had. Imparting this lesson and helping them succeed really is memorable for me. And one would say, 'Why would you wanna help a competitor grow?' I don't consider any of them competitors, I consider them all colleagues in the same business of advancing the tea sector so I enjoy doing that and I'm proud to be able to participate in that way.

What's the most exotic country you import tea from?

I think that the definition of exotic depends on your own life experiences. Certainly, if you live in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka's not necessarily exotic  to you, but we import teas from 18 countries, many of which I've yet to visit. I truly hope to visit all of them in the coming years. I think the most significant for us is Sri Lanka because it goes to the heritage of Capital Teas. My wife's family has been in the tea business for five consecutive generations and we actually import tea from the estates that her great-great grandfather started planting in the 1870s. Today, Sri Lanka is the world's second-largest exporter of tea and we've forged a strong relationship the Sri Lankan tea industry. We even had a chance to tour the Sri Lankan Tea Board through one of our stores in Bethesda, Maryland. In fact, they were fascinated by the way we put tea in beer. Since Sri Lanka's civil war ended, they've seen amazing growth in the past decade and their climate growing conditions allow for some really wonderful teas that we're happy to import.

In your opinion, what is the best way to enjoy tea?

I think the best way to enjoy tea is to make it part of your daily ritual. It's not something just to have on a special occasion or when you're sick or with your grandparents or when you're going to high tea. I personally can't imagine a day without tea. I drink many, many cups of tea every day. It's more than just the health benefits attributed to tea. The way I look at tea is it infuses well-being so I want to be infused with that well-being myself and encourage others to do the same. As tea becomes part of your daily ritual, you begin to not only love it, but to be passionate about it. So, wether it's in a formal setting, in your car, at your breakfast table, or even sipping it as you run, I think making it part of your daily life is a life-enhancing experience.


The Philly branch of Capital Teas is located at 1804 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103



Photo Credit: Believe Images by Kash]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Taney's Zion Spearman ]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:31:16 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Zion+Spearman+Taney+Dragons+credit+Cheryl+Mobley-Stimpson.jpg

Thirteen-year-old Zion Spearman has been a baseball star in the making since age 6 when he started watching games. An outfielder for Philadelphia's Taney Dragons, he proved to be a crucial member of the team during the Little League World Series over the summer in South Williamsport, Pa. Despite the best Series performance on the team and all the fame back home, Zion is just a humble sports fanatic who loves to talk Ryan Howard and football (pending parental approval).


How did it feel to play in the Little League World Series?

It felt awesome because that's a once in a lifetime experience and not a lot of people experience that. 

What was the atmosphere like during the games? 

The atmoshpere was always up. You would never hear the fans 'boo.' They would just applaud you for your hard work.   

What was your favorite part of the entire event?

Meeting new teams and experiencing what it's like to be in front of 40,000 people ... and meeting Ryan Howard, my favorite player. We talked about baseball. 

Why is he your favorite player?

He hits a lot of home runs and does nice things. He came out to the Little Leage World Series and showed that he cares about us instead of just saying something on the phone. He came out and did it on his own time. 

Do you think you and your teammates became closer as a result of the experience? 

It felt like we became brothers and sisters, but even though we fought sometimes, we're still family. 

Were you aware of all the fame the team was getting back home?

I was not aware at all. All we were doing was just focusing on baseball to achieve the task. [I was only wondering] how friends and family were going to react. 

When you saw all the coverage you were getting what was your initial reaction?

"This is crazy." 

Do you own a lot of sports paraphernalia? 

I have a lot of baseballs in my room, but I mainly have posters of Ryan Howard and Hank Aaron. 

What other hobbies do you have? 

Football, finally my mom let me! And probably basketball.

How does your family support your passion for playing baseball? 

My family supports it everywhere I go. They take me [to games] and they have no complaints about it. They just tell me to keep on trying.



Photo Credit: Cheryl Mobley-Stimpson]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Phillies Legend Greg Luzinski]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:03:09 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/phillies-AP090807035051.jpg

Do you know your number? Phillies slugging legend Greg Luzinski went from home-run hero to World Series champ to Phillies Wall of Famer to ballpark barbecuer.

That journey has kept Luzinski, a Chicago-area native nicknamed “The Bull” during his playing days, in Philly for most of his adult life. Now at 63, he is playing a new role for Philly sports fans: cholesterol awareness spokesman. A strange turn for the namesake of Bull’s BBQ.

The Bull spoke to NBC10 about his food, his playing days and his health as he prepared to join drugmaker AstraZeneca in free screenings along Ashburn Alley for National Cholesterol Education Month Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

What has drawn you to (and kept you in) Philly?

I was always really received very well by Phillies fans and I had a great time in my 11 years in Philadelphia – the Phillies were my team. When the new ballpark came about (in 2004) the whole theme of the ballpark was being fan friendly. Being close to the fans, it seemed kind of natural to be able to be continually surrounded by them with the barbecue out in the outfield. I’ve spent most of my life here in Philadelphia. My kids were born and raised here and still continue to live in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. I do go to Florida in the wintertime, but you know, it’s just to get away from the harsh winter.

How did Bull’s BBQ come about?

The whole theme of food (at CBP) was local foods from around Philly and if you walk through Ashburn Alley you can see that that’s there. I think they wanted to create a closer relationship with fans -- the way the ballpark was built and the nearness of the players to the field. And Philly has always liked that.

What’s your favorite dish at Bull’s BBQ?

Well turkey legs, roast turkey to ribs, obviously, pulled pork meat. It’s hard to pick a favorite, that’s why we have platters with two or three different items.

BBQ and low cholesterol don’t always go hand in hand, how did you come about being a spokesman for cholesterol awareness?

I’ve had some problems with (cholesterol) and, obviously, I’m under doctor’s care for it. When the cholesterol education people came to the Phillies I was a fine candidate to participate in the screening from 5 to 8 in left field. It’s something that is silent -- no signs, no symptoms of high cholesterol -- you simply need to get it checked and know your number. Hopefully, if we can get people screened through the screening, they will be aware of their cholesterol number and if it’s high do something about it.

What are some things you’ve changed in your life since you’ve become aware of your cholesterol situation?

Trust me it’s not easy. I’ve battled weight problems basically all through my life so trying to change the diet is probably the hardest thing to do and that’s a continual process… By going and being screened and going to a doctor definitely helped – being in a physician’s care.

What can you share with others about cholesterol?

It think the whole key is the awareness factor. Most people aren’t ware that their cholesterol is high and they don’t go to these screenings -- a simple screening that doesn’t take more than a couple minutes. Obviously high cholesterol is a major factor for heart disease -- that’s our ticker. We are just trying to get the baseball fan and all Americans to take a simple test and know their number so they can take care of it.

To baseball, which young Phillies players stand out to you?

I think the bullpen has probably been the best of the youngsters you might say. Maikel Franco just came up so we get to see what he has. Cody Asche has been up and done pretty well for his first year. Like I said, the bullpen has been tremendous -- (Ken) Giles has filled in that 8th inning spot. Hopefully they can build on that for the future with a blend of veteran players and some younger players they can put something together for next year.

So a guy known as a slugger, pitching is what catches your eye with the current team?

Well, that’s the name of the game as far as I’m concerned. That’s where it starts, it starts there on the mound with pitchers -- pitching and defense… most teams that seem to be successful aren’t just teams that hammer the ball -- it’s fine pitching with good defense.

Do you have a favorite player currently?

Not really one. I respect these guys on a day to day basis -- their highs and lows -- it’s not an easy game. It’s not as easy, trust me, as sitting there as a fan asking, ‘why did he make that play? Why did he through that strike or make that pitch?’ It’s a little more difficult than that. I respect all those guys that are out there.

What was it like playing on the successful Phillies teams of the late 1970s?

It was, obviously, a great feeling. I was fortunate enough to play with future Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton) that was a lot of fun -- we had success as a ball team. I think a lot of times that when you’re surrounded by great players they bring out the best. I was fortunate enough to put some years together – I was second a couple times in MVP voting and thought that I should have won the one. I was just happy to be there with my teammates.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Abandoned Churches Photographer ]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 22:32:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Abandoned-Churches-Lead.jpg

The majority of photographs featuring the City of Brotherly Love depict iconic landmarks like City Hall and Liberty Place. For one Lebanon County photographer, he looks to forgotten gems of Philly architecture for inspiration.

Matthew Christopher Murray is the artist behind “Abandoned America”, a photography series focusing on derelict buildings across the country. The centerpiece of this collection of crumbling houses and rusting factories is his images of abandoned churches.

Murray speaks to NBC10.com about how he became a photographer, his haunting church photos, and his work with saving forgotten structures.

What made you want to become a photographer?

Well I actually started out in the mental health field. I was interested in the history of mental health, asylum care, and institutional care. In 2002, I had been reading about Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, which was a psychiatric hospital in Northeast Philly. The hospital had been abandoned for about a decade, and after reading more about the facility, I decided I wanted to go there. See that place was a transformative experience for me. I was trying to explain what so significant about it, why it was important to see and document that place. I realized that while words were great, pictures were better at explaining the special interest in that building. That’s when I got started on photography.

Was that experience what sparked your interest in abandoned buildings and churches?

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures of Philadelphia State Hospital. I was a terrible photographer back then, and now I regret not having any. After that day, I found out about other hospitals out there, as well as abandoned schools, power plants, and other derelict buildings. The obsession really started from there… I was overwhelmed by it, awed by it. Being so close to Philadelphia, I became inspired by all of the churches that had been consolidated and closed in and around the city. The architecture and history is so compelling and significant. These churches are repositories for immigrant culture, the people who came to these communities, and are full of distinctive features from those points in time. Now they’re falling into disrepair and are torn down. We’re losing a cultural legacy and works of art. Churches are the only buildings that are built as works of art…factories and schools are built on function, but churches are built to be works of art, grander than our own mortal existence.

Now on your website you feature a whole selection of Philadelphia abandoned churches. Could you tell me a bit about photographing St. Bonaventure?

St. Bonaventure was a difficult one. I had wanted to photograph the building for years! I tried to contact the owner to let me come on the property, but they never responded to any of my messages. They were hands off with regards to care and let the building fall apart. Luckily I was able to go in because it was already partially demolished before being torn down in 2013. The destruction of this church and the lack of the ability to document it when it was whole, it’s heartbreaking. It was one of last architecturally significant buildings in that neighborhood.

And on your Facebook page you have some photos of the Church of the Transfiguration?

That one is near and dear to me…of all of the places people contact me about, I get the most contacts from families that were a part of that church. A sad byproduct of the demolition of that church is that people are heartbroken. It wasn’t just a church building, Transfiguration. A brief background on this building: Raffaello Follieri, Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend, was a con man. He ran this big scam, said he was going to buy churches from the Vatican and convert them into places for the elderly, uninsured, and students. He got a few high profile investors and then lived the high life on the money. He purchased Transfiguration right before his house of cards collapsed and he went to prison. The church was sold to a Latin school, who bought it to be a school building and then hastily tore it down. There was no time to say goodbye, they just tore it down as quickly as possible so there wouldn’t be any opposition. As of about 3 months ago it was still a vacant lot. It would have been a tragedy to build a fast food place on that corner, but leaving it as a litter-packed parcel of land is so much worse.

Do you have any new abandoned buildings you are planning to photograph?

I hesitate on telling you that because it can be damaging to let people know where abandoned buildings are. People will strip out the buildings, so I keep that list close to the chest so they face a better fate. I try to get into buildings while they are still functional, that way I can preserve that building in at least one way.

What kinds of people have you met through photographing churches?

Oh, the American Catholic Historical Society, The Catholic Sun…organizations full of people who want to document these places. People look back at these great cathedrals and churches and know that 500 years of history are gone when one is torn down. I also work with preservation groups and people trying to salvage these buildings. Outside of my regular business, I hold photography workshops in some abandoned buildings and so far have raised $45,000 for properties I’ve partnered with.

And I hear you’re coming out with a new book of your photography?

Yes, it’s called “Abandoned America: The Age of Consequence.” It’s a collection of places I’ve photographer over 7 or 8 years. It includes sanatoriums, churches, power plants, and more. The book focuses on the phenomenon of widespread urban blight in historically significant and architecturally significant buildings that have been stripped, torn down, and lost in our culture.

What goes through your head when you’re photographing these churches?

Honestly, I’m just focused on the work I’m doing, playing out what next photograph take it, looking at what going to best represent building, space, contents, et cetera. I’m trying to find ways to make the place significant, showing people why a particular building is something they should care about.

Why Philadelphia for many of your photographs?

My family is from Philadelphia, I’ve spent most of my life in Philly. The city is in a transitional state where we still have some remaining historically significant buildings. These buildings are a part of my home, so I view them as a personal loss.

Do you still connect with the mental health field?

That’s an interesting question…I’m not as active photographing state hospitals because they’re almost all gone. In 10 years I think we’ll be able to say state hospitals are thing of past, all remnants will be gone. The opportunities to photograph those places just do not exist anymore.



Photo Credit: (C) Matthew Christopher Murray]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Chester County’s Michelangelo]]> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 12:27:48 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Neil+Carlin+WMOF+Painter.jpg

On the verge of unveiling his masterpiece, Chester County artist Neilson Carlin sat down to discuss his faith, his art and what it means to have his latest painting -- commissioned for the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia that Pope Francis is expected to attend -- displayed in Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Carlin, 44, talked to NBC10.com from his Kennett Square, Pennsylvania studio.

The married father of three, who recently became a Kung Fu black belt, became interested in art thanks to the work of a fellow Chester County native. And, born a Protestant, Carlin became drawn to the Catholic Church because of the religious iconography and art on display.

The next few weeks will be hectic as Carlin works around the clock to put the finishing touches on his masterpiece before it’s unveiling on Sept. 1. But for Carlin, a higher power is helping drive his technical hand to complete the months-long project.

What does it mean to have the great honor of painting the Holy Family for World Meeting of Families?

As a professional it’s an honor to be chosen and to be recognized for my technical skills but, more so, as a Catholic, it’s very humbling to have the opportunity to serve the Church at large. We’re all called as Catholics to bring our gifts to the altar and that usually turns out to be someone doing something at the parish level. But, I’m being asked to bring my gifts to bear for something that will certainly be visible to the entire Catholic community.

Certainly professionally it’s a high mark. To be specially sought out and chosen, clearly I’ve been doing this long enough and to such a degree that I’m recognized as having the ability to pull this off.

On your website you reference the great artists like Michelangelo and Caravaggio, are they inspiring on this project?

From a technical standpoint, yes. For the first two months of putting the thumbnail sketches together, trying to get the idea off the ground, I was looking at the image of how the Holy Family has been represented by other artists… Really it’s more moments of quiet prayer and contemplation to take it beyond that. So, it’s not a matter of just figuring how I’m going to organize the models but how am I going to hopefully organize everything that evokes the feeling I’m trying to create with this piece.

As an icon piece it’s meant to be something for prayer and contemplation. Hopefully, if designed properly, it’s going to bring someone to a state where the piece will draw them in ... it’s a lens to the beyond. It’s a lens of someone sitting in front of it to feel a closer sense of reverence. It’s through which someone feels closer to God.

How much has the WMOF painting changed and evolved?

Quite a bit. From sketch to the finished painting it takes me a long time to get all the elements out on the canvas -- to a point where it's approaching the vision I had in my head -- and then it's a matter of finishing. Almost like dominoes falling, once this is finished then everything gets finished and polished from there.

With a piece of this type of visibility... I wanted to make sure that I was not experimenting that I was very sure of the process going into it. That I made sure I could meet the deadline and come out with a piece that I felt like I left everything out on the field.

Do you feel like there is a higher calling behind your work?

Absolutely! I had a 10-year illustration career, which was perfectly successful, I was doing work in galleries, I teach, I was doing portrait commissions but in 2007 when I got my first big commission for the Church it became a conscious decision to devote the entirety of my career to doing work for the Church. It’s something that as a Catholic, it excites me to be able to serve Church but also the imagery obviously resonates with me or I would have no interest in doing it.

With this piece and with everything else, everything done for the Church, in one way or another, it has to point back to (Jesus) Christ as being the source of our life as Catholics.

It’s a prayer in meditation for me. Obviously I’m getting a commission to do work for someone else -- to do something that they (want) -- but each piece takes up a certain amount of time of my life and it has to be something that I’m invested in because I’m going to be thinking about it in the quiet of the studio day after day, hour after hour. I’m enthusiastic for doing work for the church because they are images that I believe in.

You grew up Protestant but wound up a Catholic painter, how did that transformation happen?

There are three transcendentals: the good, the beautiful and the true. I think it was the beautiful that actually drew me to the Church before I ever became a Catholic. Because all the work that inspired me post-college when I made that shift from thinking about doing comic books to doing more fine art, it was the work that has been done for the Church that inspired me the most. The calling certainly came because I was attending mass with my wife over a 10-year period before I became a Catholic but I think there were a number of factors including the beauty of the liturgy and the artwork that really started to draw me before I made the conscious decision to join the Church.

How did you get your start in art?

It was just something I was always enthusiastic about doing. When I went to college I had every intention of being a comic book illustrator. As a younger man I wasn’t really looking at art in the fine art aspect, I wanted to be drawing for comic books. The story lines as a child certainly excited me -- the art certainly excited me.

Do you recall where you first saw a piece of art that resonated with you?

It wasn’t at a church or a museum, the first piece that moved me as a child was (Chester County’s) Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” I remember, as being either 6 or 7, seeing it and I remember asking my mother to get it, to get something -- a reproduction -- just get something that I could put in my room because it emotionally moved me to see the image.

I just happened to see it, it could have been someone else, but it just happened to be by the most famous, celebrated local artist.

How did growing up in Chester County impact your art?

Artistically having access to something like the Brandywine River Museum as a younger man was important. It’s one thing to be able to get into Philadelphia but that’s not as easy as going to the River Museum. Looking at another Wyeth, N.C. Wyeth -- the illustrator of illustrators -- that was very inspirational because the paintings were accessible in the sense that it wasn’t like going to the Philadelphia Art Museum and seeing these huge paintings, they were things that were done for books and they had a certain energy and life to them that were very exciting and reminded me of comic books.

How does your background and love of comics carry over to religious art?

It took me a long time to figure that out... I was working on a commission for seminary out in Minnesota and I was trying to get some costuming together because I doing a painting of Mother Teresa and I had one of the Spider-Man movies playing behind me... and it just kind of crossed me my mind that 'Hah! Spider-Man has nothing on Mother Teresa.' That’s what clicked though, I recognized that I set out to do costumed heroes and I ended up doing costumed heroes -- just a different type of hero.

I’ve been drawing and painting almost every single day since I can remember. The fact that it ended up that I became a Catholic and working for the Church I would still be painting regardless of what I was doing... It’s exciting to be doing paintings that I am both emotionally and spiritually invested in.

What advice would you give an inspiring artist?

The first you have to do is love it and then everything else is gravy. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, it doesn’t mean that the finances are going to be easy, ever, but if you love it -- and those who know what I’m talking about know what I’m talking about -- it makes you feel a certain bliss. Just keep doing it and eventually the world will turn.

Carlin’s World Meeting of Families masterpiece will be displayed at next year’s event. Other examples of his work hang in the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Buckingham, Pa.; Saint Rocco’s in Avondale, Pa.; and an upcoming piece for Sacred Heart Church in Royersford, Pa.



Photo Credit: NBC10.com - Dan Stamm]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: 89-Year-Old Optimist Edward Goodrich]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:57:18 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/edwin_olin_goodrich_rowing.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

Dr. Edward Olin Goodrich, 89, of Ardmore has overcome stroke, a heart attack and cancer. He's participating in the Bayada Regatta, an adaptive rowing competition for disabled persons on the Schuylkill River on Aug. 16. He says optimism has carried him through all these years and kept him laughing at life. He describes himself as 5'7'', 118 pounds and shrinking every year. 


How do you sum up your life?

I was born premature on May 7, 1925 in New Mexico. I founded a prep school in Sante Fe in 1950. I’m a surgeon and specialized in liver transplants. While working in Albany, I conducted liver transplant research and completed the first successful transplant on a dog. That research was used to develop transplants in humans. I moved to Ardmore 30 years ago. I've been a widower since 1990. I’ve had a pretty intense health history. I’m an optimist. My life is just about over. I’ve been pretty busy here and there.

What do you like about being a doctor?

The patients are very grateful.

Describe your early career path?

I was in the Navy college program. I attended Yale and wrestled. I also attended medical school. At the end of medical school, I wanted to get into surgery but the Navy would not support an internship in surgery so I had to switch over to the Army. I kept the GI Bill to get through medical school. I retired from the Army.

What was your military service like?

I served in World War II. (Goodrich’s son Alfred recalls his service in Korea: My dad was in North Korea and their unit's position was overran. My dad helped save the soldiers. He received a Silver Star for managing the evacuation of the wounded soldiers in his unit. This happened on Thanksgiving Day in 1950).

How do you stay in shape?

I row about 2,000 meters on the erg machine.

You’re a doctor, but you’ve been a patient. How did you overcome such serious health problems?

Staying optimistic. I had testicular cancer in 1965, a massive stroke in 1980, prostate cancer in 2002, heart attack in 2004, small strokes since 2009, lung cancer in 2013 and hernia surgery earlier this year. The stoke left me unable to continue to perform surgery. It took years for me to regain motor skills. Despite all that, I like to row and I have been training to keep rowing. I try to appreciate things wherever I can. I thinks it’s kind of ridiculous that I’ve been through so much and am still around and kicking.

Besides rowing, how do you spend your time in your golden years?

I volunteer at the Community Volunteers medicine clinic in West Chester. I take medical histories, do physicals and consulting. I stay active and volunteer.

One word to describe yourself.

Unstoppable.

What's your best advice for young people?

Keep your head down and keep pumping. If you are not limping by the time you are 50-years-old, you are going to miss something.

How do you maintain a good attitude?

I’m optimistic. That’s pretty important. I figure you are going to laugh or cry, and you’re better off laughing. Actor Robin Williams could have laughed at his situation, and wouldn't have been worrying about his depression. I think that’s important.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Veteran Supporter David Silver]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:05:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/194*120/operation_yellow_ribbon_1.JPG

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

David Silver is the main man behind Operation Yellow Ribbon in Marlton. He galvanizes dozens of veteran supporters to be sure South Jersey troops are welcomed home with love and fanfare. The group conducts welcome home celebrations just about every weekend. The next one is August 15 and will begin at the Philadelphia International Airport. 


What is Operation Yellow Ribbon?

The group organizes and collects donated U.S. Troop supplies and goodies to send to the brave heroes deployed in harm's way in Afghanistan and supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. In addition, the group works to promote, coordinate, and facilitate welcoming home events for local veterans in the South Jersey area by partnering with the Warriors Watch Riders and other like-minded organizations.

When did you get involved?

I had been volunteering since 2009 in a group led by a husband and wife team. In 2012, they decided it was time to retire their efforts. But, some volunteers wanted to continue to suppor the troops. We don't want to stop and keep the mission going. They wished us good luck. They gave us what they had left -- financially and care package supplies. We reorganized and spunoff and rebranded ourselves into the Operation Yellow Ribbon. 

Why do you do it? 

The fact that we get to be here in the United States and be free -- that's why I got involved and love what I do. The only ties I have to the military is through family members that are older or not alive anymore. I don't have a personal deep connection to the military personally (as I have never served). But, I'm a grateful America. A generation ago, the vets weren't welcomed home in an appropriate way. It's my generation's job to be sure they are.

What's in a care package?

There's somewhere between 25-35 pounds of hygiene products and treats. The troops love getting Girl Scout cookies -- that's their favorite. There's numerous items in the package, like something as simple as baby wipes. A lot of men don't have running water and don't get to shower for weeks so the baby wipes come in handy as well as deodorant, tooth paste and tooth brushes. 

A lof the bases don't have the same stock of stuff. We are getting emails saying there's nothing left here. We try to match every request. Sunscreen is a big hit during the summer.

What does a welcome home celebration consist of?

Operation Yellow Ribbon partners with Warrior Watch Riders, a U.S. support group and motorcycle club. We coordinate with them and the returning veteran's local town police and fire and provide an escort that provides a big welcome home greeting. We decorate the yard and the entire street with yellow ribbons and American flags and invite hundreds of people out to line the parade route. 

What can people expect who get involved? 

Wow, this feels really great -- that's how you will feel. Volunteering becomes a vicious cycle of really feeling good about things when you do them. The selfish part of me is that I feel good seeing the moms and dads' happiness and joy seeing their loved ones come home. Besides the birth of my son, there' s no better thing that I've experienced than a welcome home. We have regular volunteers 30 to 40 constant and consistent volunteers. 

Besides Girl Scout cookes what other local flavor do you include in the care packages? 

Tastykakes, of course. 

How much does it cost to send the care packages? 

We spend $2,000 to $3,000 per month at the post office. We ship priority mail in full freight at the United States Post Office and it usually takes two weeks for the packages to reach the troops. Each box is about 12 inches by 14 inches by 24 inches. We rely on fundraising constantly to meet the demand. 

What goals have you set for the organization?

We did 33,000 pounds in 2013. It's hard to quantify what that is. It's a lot of trips to the post office. We would like to hit 40,000 pounds this year. I think we hit 20,000 at the end of June. It's summer time and hard to get donations. Long term, I'd love to stop sending care packages. Another hope is that no one is in the MIddle East anymore and they are all safe home. So we can focus on people getting welcomed home properly.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: MIC Founder Dorothy Johnson-Speight ]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:55:28 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Dorothy+Johnson+Speight.jpg

Dorothy Johnson-Speight is the Founder and Executive Director of Mothers In Charge, Inc (MIC). She founded the organization following the tragic murder of her son Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson in 2001.He was killed in a dispute over a parking space. The mission of Mothers In Charge is violence prevention, education and intervention for youth, young adults, families and community organizations. Johnson-Speight has been nationally recognized and has won numerous awards throughout the Philadelphia community.

When did you decide to begin Mothers in Charge and what does it mean to you?
When I decided I was going to live. I had lost my son almost 15 years to the day that I had lost my two-year-old daughter to bacterial meningitis. I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive, but then I decided that I was not going to let the man who killed my son to claim my life too. Mothers in Charge is my lifeline and it has allowed me to have purpose. I didn’t know what direction my life was going to take after the tragedy of my son’s murder. I needed something to do with my anger and pain. Starting the organization allowed me to take the pain and put it towards something meaningful.

What are some accomplishments of Mothers in Charge?
Two years ago we released a book called ‘Faces of Courage.’ In the book, 25 members share their story of the grief and pain of survival after tragedy. The women have all lost loved ones to acts of violence. We have also been featured in several documentaries; some of them were featured in festivals. ‘Milgrim of Pain’ was produced by 15 Villanova criminal justice students and was centered on five mothers living their lives after losing a child to violence. Outlets like books and documentaries are important because on the news you only get a sixty-second snippet of a murder, but you don’t get to understand how that murder affects a family afterwards. We share our stories with people in the hopes that they will learn to understand what it feels like so they to get involved even if they haven’t gone through the actual experience.

Have you seen a change in senseless violence in Philadelphia since your son’s death in 2001?
Absolutely! Mothers in Charge has been a catalyst for getting people to look at the issue of violence in a way that they didn’t before. We have bought attention to the issue through our rallies, workshops, teaching, etc. We have educated a community to think that violence is not a norm and you must get involved to make a change. There was a 29% reduction of homicides in Philadelphia last year that I believe our work played a part of, along with other Philadelphia workers.

Did you ever think Mothers in Charge would become as big as it is today?
I envisioned that it would but I honestly never knew how it was going to happen. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was an organization that I looked up to because of what they were accomplishing nationally. I guess it was my passion and the other women in the organization that continued to get up every day and work towards our goal of awareness that made the difference. Today we have half a dozen chapters across the nation.

What do you think contributes to its success?
A group of courageous women could have laid down to die but decided to get out and make a difference due to a trauma and give a voice to the sons and daughters they lost. Our women networked and reach out continuously to other organizations, schools, and leaders in the community. We would speak out about alternatives to violence to anybody and everybody.

Where do you see Philadelphia’s crime scene in a few years?
One of my concerns is that the crime is changing. Criminals are leaving children without mothers and communities without men to take care of their families. The crime is causing grief and trauma to people that should not have to suffer. The increased rate of incarnation and death is not going to turn around if communities don’t do something about it. I’m afraid of what we’re going to see in 50 years and how our people are going to be affected.

As a leader and role model for so many others, who has influenced you the most in your life?
The two that come to mind are leaders like Marian Wright Edelman [an activist for the rights of children] and Maya Angelo. These women are my biggest role models because they have worked to make a change in families, justice systems, communities, ec. Also, Oprah Winfrey because she is about changing lives and is committed to positive transformations; which is what I love doing.

What was it like having your own start up foundation featured on the Own Network “Our American” hosted by Lisa Ling?
It was an awesome experience. The crew came stayed in Philly and got to spend time with us for an entire week. Although the show was only forty-two minutes long and featured a variety of other organizations they did a great job showcasing Mothers in Change. I wish we could have said more about our plans but I was extremely pleased and grateful for what they were able to put together in such a short amount of time. I was also pleased with Stephanie Mobley [who was featured] and the eloquent way she talked about our organization.

Has anybody reached out to Mothers in Charge after “Our American” aired?
Yes, people are calling us from all over the country with inquires. I just spoke to a lady from Fort Lauderdale, Florida because she wants to start a chapter in her community. The exposure will help us spread the word about senseless violence all over the county. Hopefully, our national growth will lead to an understanding that this type of violence is not just in big cities like New York and Philadelphia. When I visited a small city in Indiana the same environment of crime existed just like in our own Philadelphia neighborhoods.

How can someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the organization still make a change?
Any amount of time can make a difference. People can do little things like volunteer to tutor at a school or help someone learn to read. Aiding in someone’s academic success will decrease their chances in becoming involved in violence. They can still join an organization because even if you only have two hours a week you can be a listening ear. Being a comfort to someone going through a loss is a huge help within itself. If everyone did something small we would see a difference in our communities.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Philly Comic Monroe Martin]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 17:24:21 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/201*120/monroe_Martin_comic1.JPG

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

Monroe Martin, 28, is a funny man from Philly. He now lives in Brooklyn and is a semi-finalist on "Last Comic Standing" on NBC. The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m.


When did you know you were going to be a comic?

I was in Philly near Germantown with a friend and saw a trash truck go by. My favorite comedian from BET was on the back of the truck. At that moment, I realized I could have a job and be a comedian. I want to be a comedic reporter like Richard Pryor and David Chappelle. People wanted to know what they had to think about things. I want to be one of those people -- the news and comedy.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Philly in foster care. I lived in 14 different homes in 15 years. I lived in Mt. Airy, South Philly and North Philly. Living in foster care made me a well-rounded person. I saw both sides of the fence growing up. I lived with pastors who were God-fearing. (They have their own little issues). And I got to see people who were struggling and poor and those who didn’t have good morals.

I looked at life like -- Let me basically be a fly on the wall for those 15 years. I can see everybody is the same and what makes you different is what you're going through.

How do you describe your comedy? 

My comedy is the truth with the cherry on top. I'm giving you the truth and what you think you know or are afraid to say and I’m putting a goofy spin on it. People are like wow, I didn’t know he would say that. Oh that’s funny. I'm giving people the truth. Here you go... it’s funny. I want a long and great career. If I can release 10 albums, I’ll be good.

What's it like being on "Last Comic Standing?"

It's my first television experience and debut. I loved it. I saw an introduction to the industry. It was a crash course. I was on set for 18 hours. You're meeting different personalities and have to interact with those personalities. I got to perform multiple times. I’m happy about it. It was like a late night talk show set.

Do you keep in touch with your family and Philly? 

Me and my two sisters stayed close but lived in different places when we grew up. We kept in contact even though we were apart. I got to see my mom on the weekends. I would see my mom six times out of the month. We have a friendship moreso now. I made a conscious decision to drop out out college. I had one year to go at Community College of Philadelphia studying social work. But, I wanted to pursue comedy full-time. My life experience shapes my work ethic. I have been working hard and it has helped me shape my career.

What advice do you have for young comics? 

Most young comics are not looking for advice but short cuts. Listen. If you’ve lived a crappy life, that’s gold. Don’t be afraid to talk about that. Don’t worry about talking about things that chased you where you are today. You also have to read. You don’t know anything. It’s up to you to research.

What do you like about Philly? 

I like how everybody is mean. They make you love it. If somebody bumps you, you have to turn around and have a discussion about it. It’s not even a mean thing. It’s like everybody is aggressive. It’s an assertive city. It’s also a super talented city. You have to really prove yourself. I love hanging out at all places. You can be as ratchet as you want and party. And the whole city is in church on Sunday or going to where the culture is. I like the Art Museum.

What kind of music do you like? 

As long as music sounds good, I like it. I like all kinds of music except blue grass. I don’t know why, I just don’t like it. 

What do you want people to know about you? 

Three words to describe me -- charismatic, goofy and too self aware. I'm 6'5'' and 250 pounds. No matter how old I get, comedy keeps me youthful. I think like a man and make mature decisions but I will still pick up a video game and play it. I’m very patient and I feel like I say a lot and show a lot in my comedy. I want people to know I’m a nice person.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions With WMOF's Content Director]]> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 12:27:35 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/marybethyountfamily.jpg

Renowned Theologian and Assistant Professor of Pastoral and Theological Studies at Neumann University Mary Beth Yount has been named the director of content and programming for the 2015 World Meeting of Families (WMOF). The World Meeting, which was last held in Milan, Italy in 2012 is expected to draw a global audience to the U.S. when Philadelphia hosts the international event of prayer, celebration, and Catholic church teachings on family in Sept., 2015.

We talked to Yount about her recent appointment, and she shared what she is most looking forward to in her new role, and why she thinks Philadelphia will be a great host for the event.

What will some of your responsibilities be in your new role as director of content and programming for the World Meeting of Families?

I’ll be responsible for overseeing the development of fun, educational programs and activities during the event. I have a lot of support in all of this, since I work in conjunction with Donna Farrell, the Executive Director of the WMOF, and under the guidance of John J. McIntyre, the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. Everyone on my team is working together to make sure that the experience of the WMOF will be unforgettable for everyone who participates—both because it will be so fun and because their hearts and minds will be fed.

How did you feel when you learned you’d been chosen for this position?

I was elated. Prior to me being offered this position, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had asked me and nine other people across the nation to co-write a document called the Preparatory Catechesis, an important collection of Catholic Church teaching on the family. Then I was offered the WMOF position. In this role I get to help plan the historic event itself, making sure that the important topics from the Catechesis are included in the fun daily activities.

What do you like most about living in Pennsylvania? What's your favorite thing about your hometown?

I just moved to my Media parish in August of this year. My family and I have been welcomed into all of our various communities with a wonderful enthusiasm, but of course the move is still an adjustment. We miss the dynamic, joyful church to which we belonged in Pittsburgh, the place from which we most recently moved. Before that, we lived in Texas—Houston and San Antonio. My favorite thing about Houston is that my parents and twin brother are still there. My favorite thing about San Antonio is the culture of the people who live there. It is very close to Mexico and has its own kind of style.

What are you most looking forward to at the World Meeting of Families?

My kids are going to love the activities, and I can’t wait for them to get to experience it all. Particularly the “Ask a Saint” game (people that look like their heroes will be walking around), playing in the family game shows, and the food-related activities like making your own cookbook (and yes, I admit it, anything involving eating will be a highlight for my family too). Also, the speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders will be top-notch.

What makes this opportunity so special for you?

I know the joys and challenges both of being single and of raising a family. I also know the ups and downs of faith struggles. I am honored to be able to work with people worldwide and their families who, like all of us, are trying to learn and grow. Additionally, since I moved to Philly in August, I have seen the struggles of Catholics here. There have been painful closings of parishes and schools, leaving some feeling like they may not have a spiritual home or are lacking a faith community.  Hopefully the WMOF can help bring people together in faith and give comfort and encouragement to those who are wounded locally and internationally.

Why do you think Philadelphia is the right place for the World Meeting?

Very few cities have the support that we have in Philly. Faith leaders of all denominations along with city and state leaders and the rest of the community have rallied to make this happen—it cannot be anything but amazing with all of this support!

What do you hope families in Philly will take from this event?

I want to be sure that we have programming for everyone so that every person leaves feeling inspired and with some new ideas to incorporate into his/her life. The content of the World Meeting of Families highlights what is joyful and hopeful about human beings, families, and societies and also strengthens families in their very real struggles with things like addictions, disabilities, financial crises, divorce and separation, and more. All are welcome at the WMOF 2015 –all faiths, ages, and walks of life, and everyone will grow.

What will you miss most about your job at Neumann University while working on the World Meeting of Families?

Actually, I do not have to leave Neumann at all. I was worried about that, but Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, the president of Neumann University and a WMOF board member, worked with Bishop McIntyre so that I will work out of my Neumann office much of the time and still teach two classes at Neumann as well. I get to combine everything I love this coming year—program management, theology, teaching, and ministering to families!

What is your favorite thing to do with your family?

Having a cookout in the sunshine! This involves me playing with the four kids in the backyard and chatting with my husband while he cooks. My children are still little (ages 9, 7, 4, and 2), and so we play tag, cuddle, blow bubbles, draw with chalk, and generally chase each other around. My husband is really good at cooking on the grill, so by the time we eat, the anticipation has everyone starving.

What is one unique thing that you've done that most people don't know about?

During graduate school I started a free preschool in a low-income neighborhood at a Presbyterian church. I loved working with the families and children.

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<![CDATA[Local Woman Offers Weight Loss Support Worldwide]]> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:48:00 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/peg_bradford_steps_to_good_health.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

Peg Bradford, 48, of Sewell, started Steps to Good Health, a closed Facebook support group to help others.


Why did you start Steps to Good Health?

About five years ago, I started menopause and gained a lot of weight. One day, I was in the store trying on clothes, and a pair of pants didn’t fit me. I started crying. I decided to get healthy. I was 220 pounds. I had never been that in my entire life. I decided I have to do something about this. No one is going to help me. I have to do something on my own. I got to a breaking point. I had to be at that point, breaking point. It was a game changer. In a year, I lost 75 pounds. I did not use diet pills. That’s the way to do it. Slow and steady and it will stay off. When going through it, I felt alone. I am a firm believer of helping others. I love to help people to support people. So, I started a support group on Facebook.

Where did you come up with the name for your group?

Part of my weight loss was using a pedometer and that’s how I came up with “Steps of Good Health.” There are so many success stories. Walking is a large part of it.

What is it about this group that makes it special?

People on the page say it’s because of the positive support. Nobody bashes anybody, it’s all positive support. It’s unbelievable. I’m so thankful to be a part of an amazing group. I have one member that lost 300 pounds. People say to me all the time. You don’t charge anything. I am doing it because I want to help people. When I read emails and member posts, it’s rewarding. There are no words for all these amazing people in my group. There are so many people in this country with weight issues and a lot of people can’t afford to go to a gym. If you are having a good day we cheer you on. If you are having a bad day, we lift you up. There are men and women members from all over the world, including Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. It is a closed group. It’s not secret. But we want people to feel comfortable so they don’t feel like they are being judged.

Some posts from the Steps to Good Health Facebook page demonstrate the sense of community:

  • Well I am still here although I haven't been posting much. I have slacked on tracking, walking, etc. since I lost Mom, but you know what? I braved the scale this morning and I have lost another 1.4 pounds for a total loss of 15.4 pounds! Slowly, I am doing this! It's time to get back at it and take care of me. Hope everyone has a great day!
  • So excited to report that the 18 pounds I came home with from the hospital has gone down to 2, I can live with that. Thanks for all the advice when I was flipping out. Happy Saturday everyone.
  • April 24 - 6,130 steps - was able to get outside to walk, took baby for stroll, watched her last night
    April 25 -6,740 steps - work out on Gazelle, a very stormy day. Just need to do better on eating habits. Getting there.

What is the one thing you’d say to someone who wants to lose weight?

Get a pedometer. Get moving. Get the word “diet” out of your vocabulary. It’s a lifestyle change. You have to be realistic. Set small realistic goals.

How do you manage your weight now?

I watch portions. I don’t cut food groups out. I like ice cream, but I don’t go crazy like I used to. Use the pedometer tracking device, portion control and drink lots of water. If you cut out foods, as soon as you introduce it back in the food plan, you gain again. Don’t cut out food groups. It’s all about portion control, drinking more water and moving.

What exercise regiment do you do?

I step (go up and down steps), do weights, 15 lbs weights. Jog in place. Walk outside. My goal every day is 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day. I walk the neighborhood, few loops around is a couple miles. I want to start jogging 5 miles again and mix it up. I play some tennis. I like softball. I play with a women’s league. I was never involved in sports. I was never an athlete. This process has changed my life. It has changed me physically, emotionally and my life.

What do you eat?

Breakfast: healthy cereal and peanut butter
Lunch: chicken and yogurt with protein
Dinner: chicken breast and vegetables,
Snack: I eat one later in the evening, never cut that out and it’s usually ice cream.

If I get hungry, grab a protein bar. I do cheat. You have to be realistic. If I were to cut out everything it wouldn’t be realistic. I try to drink a couple glasses of 8 oz a day. I drink a lot seltzer water. I used to drink soda, now I drink flavored seltzer. That is one thing I did cut out -- soda. All I was doing was drinking sugar.

Any other tips for people trying to lose weight?

When you reach a goal, put money into a jar and treat yourself to something. Make a food journal. When you see what you eat. When you write it down on paper and you look at it, you will be amazed.

Looking back on, what has Steps of Good Health taught you?

You don’t have to do this alone. It’s possible. You can absolutely do this. The main thing is that if you look at the big picture it is very depressing. I look at getting healthy as losing 5 pounds at a time. I will do this for the rest of your life. I learned this on my own how to be healthy and have done a lot of reading. The one thing that has come out of this is that I have a huge interest in fitness. I read all the time. I never try to act like a dietician, nutritionist or doctor. I tell people to consult their doctor for medical advice. I’m an every day woman sharing her story. That’s all I am. America is full of people who are struggling. I know I’m not alone. I’m just going to keep going.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions With Grammy Winner Carvin Haggins]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:59:25 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/202*120/Carvin.jpg

Carvin "Ransum" Haggins is a two-time Grammy Award-winning writer and producer who's collaborated with artists ranging from Will Smith, Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild, to Justin Timberlake, Patti LaBelle, and Chris Brown. The multi-platinum songwriter has received 21 Grammy award nominations and 10 ASCAP writer awards.

In 2011, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) named Haggins and his musical partner Ivan “Orthodox” Barias as Creative Ambassadors for the city's Philly 360° campaign.

Most importantly, Haggins is a proud native of Philadelphia.

We talked with Haggins about his fondest Philly memories and about how he plans to change the negative messages being propelled by the music industry, through activism and philanthropy.

What part of Philadelphia did you grow up in?

Sort of all over, really. I lived in North Philly, "the badlands," and on the east side of Somerville in East Oak Lane; and I graduated from Martin Luther King High School as an honors student.

So you're a kid growing up in North Philly. Did you know that you would one day become a producer to the stars?

Growing up, I thought I was gonna be the greatest rapper that ever lived on the planet. But then the music industry started changing and rap music started talking about a life I didn't live and didn't want to live. I think it was maybe when I was around 19 or 20 that I decided that I wanted to do something different and started thinking of other ways to use my talent.

What is your fondest childhood memory in Philly?

There is a place downtown; it was the first Ben Franklin Museum. As a kid, I went there on a school trip. And I just remember we went to this place, and it was great. It showed all of the inventions of Benjamin Franklin. I remember I went back there on my own and got a chance to watch the Ben Franklin movie. I think that was one of my fondest moments. And I remember thinking I wanted to go down in history just like that; like he did.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing and creating music?

Everything that you've heard is from life experience. It's all true. When I work with an artists I will look to see how their life is and talk to them about their life. Everything you're hearing is a true emotion and that is usually an emotion that a lot of people can relate to, regardless of their situation.

You were nominated for a lot of Grammy awards before you actually scored a win. How did it feel to finally win a Grammy?

What's amazing is that you kind of feel the same way. I guess my reward and my excitement is not even about the trophy, it's about being able to bump into someone on the street and they say the song that you wrote changed my life. That’s the biggest trophy you could ever receive. A statue means nothing. If I coud save a life with my music, you can keep the statue.

What is the next big goal you hope to accomplish?

I want my name to transform from songwriter/producer to philanthropist. I'm working with activist and philanthropists Detra and David Clark, and LeSean McCoy to start a school called Creative Minds. So, we are working on putting a school together and hopefully, in 2015, we should have it all up and running. The school will be in Harrisburg. We want to have it in every major city, but Harrisburg was the first to receive us. That’s kind of what I'm most excited about but the main focus now is just to give back and find a way to make things better. On June 7th, I've also put together a protest against radio for the obscenities in the music because the music now is just so full of debochery. So I'm putting together a protest called Rage Against the Rachet. So, we’re asking the community to come out and support the protest because the music is so bad that it's corrupting the minds of our children.

Do you have any new music projects on the horizon?

The great thing is that we have a record company now called Ethical Music Entertainment and an artist named BriaMarie who is an R&B artist, but she is a Christian. So, she makes good, clean family music and that’s the mantra of our company. This is family music, like back in the day. We’re looking for artists, we have a video division, a promotion division, and of course a songwriting and production division, and the goal is to create a hub for all people who feel like they don’t want to compromise their beliefs in order to do what they love to do and make music.

One of the things you’re known for is recognizing and fostering local talent. Is this something you plan to continue to do in the future?

Philly, this is home. So, whenever I can help anyone from home, I'm all for helping. But we've also worked with artists from all over the world as well. So, I'm open to work with anyone who’s talented and that chooses to have morals and integrity in their music.

Who are your role models?

Jesus, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Kenny Gamble & Huff, and Barry Gordy. And it's not even about an emulation of what they’ve done, it’s a perspective. It's looking at how they saw the world and how they chose a different perspective from the norm, and because of the perspective it gave them a whole different outcome for what they chose to do. In all of those great minds is a perspective that thinks so far from the box that there wasn't even a box to see anymore. That's the type of perspective I want to have.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming musicians in Philadelphia?

One thing I was taught is to create music because you love it and money will come after. Don’t pursue it to get rich. It might be a long time before you get rich. Love what you do and do what you love, and you’ll find success.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions With Local 'Voice' Contestant]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:28:00 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NUP_158676_4093.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

With her rendition of "Angel From Montgomery," Delaware County native Audra McLaughlin secured a spot in the 6th season of NBC's "The Voice" vocal competition, capturing the attention of all four of the show's judges during the blind audition process.

Now the Delaware County Community College student is hoping to push through the battle rounds, the knockouts, and avoid elimination to make it to the final live performance round.

As a member of Team Blake, we talked to McLaughlin about her journey to becoming a Voice contestant, and her hopes for making it all the way to the winner's circle.

When did you first get a passion for singing?

I started singing when I was like seven and I would always walk around my house and I would always be singing Mariah Carey, or just to the radio, or in the car, or everywhere I went. When I was nine, I started taking vocal lessons in my area and then I started getting involved in local competitions. I started getting involved in the choir at my high school and then I really started getting into song writing and playing my guitar and that was really what I loved doing.

How did you first learn about The Voice auditions?

I started going to the DelCo Let There Be Rock School about a year ago, and in April they sent my videos in to The Voice. It was an industry referral, actually, and they got back to them within two weeks and asked if I wanted to come in for a private, industry audition in New York, and it all stemmed from there.

During the blind auditions, did you already know which judge you were going to pick?

Definitely before, when I was being asked, my decision was Blake Shelton, always, going into it. I mean, there was always that moment that, depending on whatever they said, I was willing to change who I would go with but I just think that what he said to me really stuck with me and so I decided to go with him.

What would you say has been your favorite moment in the competition so far?

There's so many, but to pick one, I guess would definitely be working with Blake Shelton. It's like so priceless to have the chance to work with someone that is so well respected in the music industry; someone that I look up to so much. And I think he's just such a great person and he really just makes you feel so confident about yourself. It's just been amazing to get to work with someone like him.

Have you gotten a lot of support from your classmates at Delaware County Community College?

Definitely online, and on my Twitter, and on my Facebook and all of my social networks, it's been such an incredible network of support from everybody. I actually took a year off from school, so I haven't been there in a couple of months, but the support has been just amazing.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced since you've been on the show?

I think, you know, the battle rounds definitely were very, very tough, because you're battling against your friends. These are people that you've really been spending so much time with, and you both want this so bad and you're just hoping, you know that the best thing will come out of it. So, I think just working together--I love working with other people--but just knowing that they're your friends is difficult.

What has been your strategy for giving yourself an edge over the competition?

I've been working with my vocal coach Melissa Daley for almost a year now, and she just worked with me, day-in and day-out, helping me really just make my songs my own. We work over the phone when we're out there and she gives me different advice and tips on everything that goes into it. We're a good team.

I'm sure it's been sort of a whirlwind going from regular life to being on television every week. What do you miss most about life before The Voice?

I've always been very family-oriented. My family and I, we go on a lot of vacations and we spend a lot of time together. So, lately, my time has been just focusing on this competition. So, I miss spending time with my family but I know that their always gonna be there for me and they've always been my biggest fans, so it's nice to know that I'll always have them.

Do you still get nervous on stage?

Growing up I had stage fright a little bit, but by doing it so much I've gotten so much more comfortable doing it. I mean, I always get nervous. I think that, as a singer, getting up on that stage is so different than anything else that you do in your normal day life but it's what I love to do. So, I think that it just comes so natural in a way, but I do still get nervous.

At this point in the competition, how optimistic do you feel about winning?

There's just so many incredibly talented people in this competition. I mean, they're all so amazing. So, I'm really just going to work really hard and, you know, just do my best  and hope that the best comes out of it.



Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions With Eagles' Connor Barwin]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:44:12 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/209*120/Connor+Barwin1.JPG

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

He's lean (actually, he's pretty buff), he's mean (on the field) and he's green all over. Not only is Eagles' linebacker Connor Barwin proud to wear his green for the city of Philadelphia, he's also proud to live green. Aside from riding SEPTA when he can, Barwin is partnering with NRG -- the company that brought solar panels to the Linc -- to bring residents new plans to bring solar power into their homes.

New partners, new team, we asked Barwin how his first season -- and winter -- in Philadelphia shook out.

What was the hardest thing about moving to Philadelphia?
The hardest thing initially was finding a place to live. Deciding what neighborhood I wanted to live in. But I’m very happy where I settled. I’m over a couple blocks from Rittenhouse and I really like the neighborhood I’m livin’ in.

You’ve know some of your teammates for a while. Did any of them help you in deciding where to live?
Brent Celek and Jason Kelce did. Brent’s been here for I think 7 years and Kelce’s been here 2 or 3 years. I knew them prior from playing with them both at University of Cincinnati and they were both very helpful and knew I was a city-type guy and wanted to live in Philly. They gave me pretty sound advice on where to live.

And did they help with the transition onto the Eagles?
Oh yeah, right away. You know it's hard going to a team out of college or any time you join a new team and don’t know anybody, but it was much easier for me knowing Brent, Jason and Trent Cole, who also went to Cincinatti, it really made the transition a lot smoother.

Is it intimating as a player coming into Philadelphia knowing how passionate the fans are and the city is?
I wouldn’t say it’s intimidating. Honestly, it’s exciting. I remember the first time I walked into the Nova care facility -- you walk through the hallways and you see all the great players who played here, how long the team has been around -- you know it’s very exciting to be a part of that.

Speaking of exciting, you guys had a pretty great run for the first season under Chip Kelly. What's been the best part?
The best part of it for me was that it was a group effort, a team effort. We had great leadership from Chip and his staff and also just the guys on the team. It hasn’t been just one or two guys. I think the season resonates with the kind of work hard, blue-collar mentality of the city and that’s kind of the mentality that we’ve taken as a team. WE’ve continued to just work keep our heads down and try to improve every week.

So you guys work hard, but what about play? Which of your teammates makes you laugh the most?
I wouldn’t say we have a team clown, but I would say for me, I’m most entertained by Trent Cole. He’s just like a big old kid. You know he eats candy all day long and just says fantastic things every day that entertain everybody.

What’s the difference between Texans and Philly fans?
I would say they’re both very passionate. I’m very fortunate to have played for Houston and for Philly now. In Houston we sold out every game. In Philly, you know it’s going to be a sell out every game. They love their football in both cities. As far as the differences, Philly might have a little more honest fans. They’ve been following football a little bit longer than the fans in Houston and I think you have to like that about the Philly fans.

You’re known for being environmentally conscious, how did that start? Well, my dad was (and still) is a city manager and I can just remember him talking about sustainability and recycling and energy when I was a kid and just having an appreciation for where you live and taking care of the community that you live in. It’s something that I’m passionate about and I just try to help out when I can.

I try to do as many green things as I can, so I partnered with NRG, who powers the link with their solar panels and they’re now bringing power to the homes in Philadelphia. There are two great plans – the Eagles fan plan. If you sign up online, you get an authentic Eagles helmet. The other plan is the learn and conserve plan. It’s a smart thermostat and it’s really pretty cool. It gets to know your habits and when you’re not there, it conserves energy.

And instead of driving, you take SEPTA, right?
I ride SEPTA, yes. My dad was a big public transit advocate. He tried for years and years to push public transit in Detroit. We grew up taking the bus and stuff like that so I try and do that when I can.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on SEPTA? Well, (laughs) I haven’t seen anything too crazy, but we lost a couple of games in a row early on in the season and I had some fans telling me how they felt (laughs).  It’s awkward, but I said I was sorry and we're going to work on it!

Barwin's got that right, there's always next season to work on it. And with free agency underway, it feels like it's right around the corner.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions With Dr. Ken Sadanaga]]> Sat, 04 Jan 2014 11:27:18 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/230*120/dr+ken+sadanaga+lead+image.jpg

Dr. Ken Sadanaga gets to bring Benny, his Shih Tzu, to work every day. That’s just one of the perks of being an animal lover who runs his own high-end cancer care facility for dogs and cats. At the age of 57, Sadanaga has created the job of his dreams. He’s the Head Surgeon and Chief Medical Officer of Mid-Atlantic Veterinary Specialists in Malvern, Pa. The technology he's invested in rivals what you’d find in some of the best cancer hospitals for humans. The care is provided by his dream team of cancer doctors. And the pet owners who pay for this level of treatment? They come from all walks of life.

When you were a little boy, is this what you wanted to do, treat cancer in animals?
When I was a little boy, I think what I wanted to do was race around in cars, fix up my bike, you know, put on extra accessories. I started throwing newspapers when I was 12, knowing that in three years I wanted to be able to buy my own car. When I bought my first car,  I redid the motor, and I redid the transmission, I souped it up. I was a motor head as a high school student. I was always into stuff, you know, gadgets, building things, disassembling things and trying to figure out how they worked. So I was always intrigued by working with my hands and creating something from nothing.

What propelled you in this direction?
I’ve always been interested in pushing the envelope in whatever I do. Probably what started it, though was as a resident at the University of Pennsylvania, I was the first Bob Brodey Surgical Resident. Bob Brodey was considered the father of veterinary surgical oncology. His influence preceded my studies. He unfortunately passed away right after I started my veterinary education, but his legacy never left . So as a result, through my training, I did emphasize surgery toward cancer. And that’s something that I did over the past 25 years. What I found is in the private sector, the approach is very fragmented. And it was time to try to bring under one roof, all of the major disciplines toward approaching cancer because it’s not a unilateral approach, it’s a multi-modality approach. And when the opportunity came to expand from the Veterinary Referral Center, which is where we started, to creating a new place that’s geared toward a comprehensive approach, this was a dream.

Your parents moved from Japan and settled in California. In terms of your career, when you look back, how do you think you were influenced by your mother and father?
My mom was a seamstress and my dad was a mechanic. Maybe that’s where I had a lot of hand-on sort of things. My mom would make our shirts when we were kids. She worked in a factory and evolved into eventually working in Beverly Hills helping develop beautiful lingerie for movie stars and dignitaries. She was so proud of being able to do that. My dad was a military mechanic in the army early on and then transitioned into auto body work. His specialty was straightening frames that were twisted and bent and as a kid I would go to work with him, tool around if you will. So it was that, along with working at a fish and poultry market.

After delivering newspapers and once I had my car, I got a job at high school working at a fish and poultry market where we would filet fish and quarter chickens. I would get a chicken wing and I could just dissect out the meat in such a way that you would have a ball of meat on one end... all these sorts of things, working with knives, I often look back and say, you know, working in that market was probably the foundation of my skill sets for being a surgeon.

What do you think we can all learn from what you see in the relationships between people and their pets?
You know, our pets are a reflection of us in many ways. I’ve always grown up with pets and I wouldn’t know how to be without one. My pet is my sounding board in many ways. It’s crazy, I talk to my dog Benny. Is it truly a one-way conversation? No. I think he knows my intonations. He really knows me. He knows if I’m being challenged that day and he’ll come up to me, and it’s just so mystical this thing called human-animal bond, and it’s different for everybody.

Are you a cat or a dog person?
I was always a dog person in my youth and then as I went to college it was too difficult to have a dog. So I ended up having cats and in the beginning I really didn’t have an affinity toward cats, but, it was the best thing I did. Cats are so easy to take care of and if you’re out all day studying in the library, they’re self-sufficient in many ways. So it’s cats for 12 years and I was so excited, I said, “I’m ready for a dog!” and that happened once the kids came along. That was something I wanted them to experience, to have a dog in their life. There’s nothing quite like it, you know, as a kid, growing up with a pet. I think it adds another dimension to growing up, to be able to take care of something. And I think it gives them a sense of responsibility and companionship at the same time.

What have you come to know or understand about people who bring in their pets for this level of care?
Pet cancers are typically a mid- to older-age disease. So owners who experience cancer in their own pets, by the time this happens, there's a very good chance that pet has lived with the owner for many years. So emotionally,  a pet owner has many things to think about – what they would do for their pet by virtue of what that pet means to them. I mean, this pet may have been there for this person, this owner, during a very difficult time of their life, you know, whether it’s through a divorce or the loss of a loved one, these pets tend to be there, unconditionally for them. That’s the nature of the relationship. 

Is there a typical type of client?
Oh my goodness. We’ll have celebrities come in, and just people from every walk of life and there is no boundary to their commitment. We see all kinds of pet owners – blue-collar workers to executives and everything in between. No, they’re not typical. The only common denominator is that they really love their pet and they want to do something that’s going to help them.

You have some amazing technology -- an MRI machine, a CT Scanner and diagnostic tools that rival hospitals for humans -- and your own dream team of doctors. What excites you most about the future of where cancer treatment for animals is headed?
You know, it’s different, I think, for each specialist. I have a particular vision for surgery, but all of our specialists, our radiation oncologist, our medical oncologist, for instance, are very active on the research and learning side. We all bring back what we learn from meetings and conferences and disseminatel the knowledge not just among our staff, but to other veterinarians so they can help us catch cancers earlier. The exciting thing too is the collaboration. I feel that within the speciality itself, in our country and even internationally, it is a small, very collaborative group and it’s this energy that I like to bring back into our facilities so that we can better treat and hopefully, eventually cure.

A generation ago, people didn’t seek out this level of care for their pets. If your pet got really sick, your choice in the matter was most likely to accept the fact that your pet was going to die. We didn't have the options for care that we have today. What changed that allowed you to be able to open up a facility like this?
I think people and their relationship with pets has changed. When I grew up, a family pet was not in the house. It was in the backyard, and we’re talking, you know in the 60s. As that pet went from the yard into the living room or the bedroom, things changed. Our lives changed. People are busier now than ever. And the one common denominator is, I think, is that pet being available to them, whenever they need it. So that relationship, this human-animal bond, has gone from the country farm to the backyard and now to the household. Once pets were integrated in the household, then people’s relationship with that pet, during times of illness, increased and with that, the demand and the need for specialty care.

What’s the number one thing you want people to know about your operation?
I would like to say that cancer is a treatable disease. Differing prognosis. And I like people to be aware that not every cancer needs a surgery, not every cancer needs radiation, I think there are other modalities that we can offer and it’s important that we provide them with the total spectrum. So what I like people to be aware of is, if your pet has cancer, there’s hope.



Photo Credit: Karen Araiza]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Seinfeld Actor John O'Hurley]]> Mon, 18 Nov 2013 12:33:17 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/221*120/John_O%27HULREY_actor_dog_show_ohurley.JPG

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us

Actor John O'Hurley is probably best know for his role on Seinfeld. He's also the beloved host of the National Dog Show in Philadelphia held each November. The show takes place this year at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks from November 16-17. The National Dog Show is hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and airs on NBC10 on Thanksgiving Day following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


How does an actor get involved with canines? When did you start hosting the National Dog Show? 

I started in 2002 in almost a practical joke way. I had no idea about a dog show, didn't know anything about them. NBC asked, do you want to host a national dog show? My career has never been waiting for the phone to ring. The phone rings and all of a sudden it takes you for a left turn. Hosting the dog show has been a strange turn in my eclectic career. Actually, it’s just bizarre when I think of all the different things I’ve done as an actor and entertainer. It’s tough to hit a moving target like me.

Do you have a dog?

I have had a dog since I remember, my entire life. Our first family dog was named Taffy. I felt the dog was mine. It was my little companion. Now I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Havanese. I always have a great time with my dogs.

Share a lesson from your third book, "The Perfect Dog."

It's my first children's book. Dogs live in the present moment. They have no sense of past or future. They give you their full attention. I think that’s an extraordinary lesson. They are not trying to look for more engaging conversation in the room. Living in the present moment is the most important thing they teach us. When someone stops petting you, move on to the next.

When did you begin acting?  

I set foot in New York City in 1981 after taking a five year break out of college. I went into public relations and advertising. I resigned after five years. All I wanted to be was a working actor. I would have been happy to be at any theater as an actor. Low and behold a lot of stuff started to happen.

Forty-eight hours after I arrived in New York City, I got cast in a Broadway show called “Eternal Love.” It was about as bad as it got, but it got me everything I wanted. I got everything out of it, an agent and into the union. It was such an Epiphany moment. Then, I went from Broadway to daytime television. In 1983, I was cast in my first soap opera, "The Edge of Night." Then, I went over to "Loving."

Did your family support your acting career?

They were very nervous for me. My dad is a doctor and my mom is in love with one. Gradually, they became supportive. When my mother would go into the grocery store and see my name on the cover on the soap magazines. Then they knew I'd be alright.

How has life imitated art for you?

Well, I thought playing the character J. Peterman on "Seinfeld" was just so much fun. J. Peterman is resurrected in other characters I've played like King Arthur in Spamalot, both are raving lunatics and legends in their minds. The irony is that I'm now a co-owner of the J. Peterman clothing company. It's one of the greatest acts of identify theft ever. I'm also a private venture capitalist. I own an energy company that takes waste and turns it into large amounts of energy with zero omissions. Energy Inc., there's nothing in the world like it. It's the cleanest of green tech. 

When did you know acting was going to be your career?

I knew from the age of three what I wanted to do with my life. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would put my hands on my hips and point at the television and say, "I am an actor and that’s what I’m going to be."

Do you have any insecurities? 

I grew up with an incredible sense of stage fright. I always battled that early on, even through the early part of my career. I had an anxiety about getting on stage. It disappeared one night. I gave myself an ultimatum and said to myself -- If you are going to continue being an actor, you are going to walk on stage and you are going to have fun.

I tell myself that I’m going to surprise myself ever time I go on stage. I really do think sometime each night I'm going to be surprised. This keeps me fresh. I say the same little prayer.

What show are you in now?

"Chicago" the musical on tour. I play the lead in my 8th year on tour. The role got so much deeper and complicated over the years. I’ve done over 1,000 performances and four stints on Broadway. I keep it fresh with the "surprise" mindset. I have no sense of predestination and know that something is going to hit me. 

What's on your bucket list?

Reviving the play "Man of La Mancha" and playing in "Equus." 


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Marathoner Christian Thompson]]> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:30:37 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/marathoner+christian+thompson.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us

The New York City Marathon came storming back last week after a year’s hiatus following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Among those first across the finish line was Christian Thompson, of Wyncote, Pa. Christian placed 20th overall and was the 3rd American to finish the race. It’s not easy to see from his placement, but this was Christian’s marathon debut. NBC10 got a chance to catch up with Christian to talk about his life, training, performance, and future.


You graduated from The University of Colorado in Boulder. Why there?

Well the summer between my junior and senior year of high school my family and I went out west and we flew into Denver and drove through the CU boulder campus. We were really going to visit the University of Montana, but we went up through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and things just kind of worked out and I ended up out there in Boulder.

What did you study at school?

I did international affairs and Spanish for the professions, which was a double major.

You are originally from upstate New York. You went to college in Colorado. Now you live in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. How did that move come about?

My fiancé goes to optometry school in Elkins Park. She did her fifth year of college out in Colorado and then we both moved back here. But we are both from Binghamton area, and we knew of each other before college and we ended up meeting and I guess the rest is history.

You mentioned that even with your high placement, you would have liked to run a little faster.
Yeah, I mean, there’s hills all over the course. The first mile is all up-hill. Going through Brooklyn isn’t too bad. The thing is you cross at least 4 or 5 bridges and you’ve got decent hills there that you don’t notice in a car when you’re driving, but you certainly notice them when you’re running. And then you’re on first Ave for quite a long time, six miles, I think. And that felt like it was continuously uphill. And again, you really don’t notice these things when you’re in a car but when you are, you know, 16, 20, 25 miles into a race and you get a little bit of an incline you really start to notice.

So was that something you anticipated in your training? Or did it catch you by surprise?
Well, I’ve heard that New York City is not really a very “fast” course compared to the other big marathons in terms of flat courses. But I had never seen the whole course in person. I mean, I’ve driven across the Verrazano Bridge a few times but obviously this was one of the only times you could actually run across it. I watched the video they had of the course but you really can’t see the inclines that well and you really don’t know until you do it yourself. I kind of knew what I was getting myself into but again you really don’t know until you go do it.

You finished in 2:22:48. Did you have a target time or was the plan to just finish as fast as possible?

The big goal was 2:15 which is the A standard for the 2016 Olympic Marathon trials. So I was hoping to hit that time and qualify for those. A lot of people ran slower than they had in the past and that’s kind of the way it goes but I’ve still got a couple more years so hopefully I’ll be able to run a few more flatter marathons and get it down to 2:15:00.

So when you trained for the marathon did you ever run the full 26.2 miles?

No, the first time I ran the full 26.2 was the actual race. Time-wise, I’ve done runs longer but never gone the full 26.2. I think time-wise my longest run was 2 hours and 36 minutes. And distance wise I’ve gotten up to 24 miles, but I’ve done some really long workouts and stuff. Yeah, I kind of got to 24 miles and was like, well, I’ve never gone this far before. A lot of people say a marathon is a 20-mile run and a 10k race. So by the end of it I was a little sore and my left calf started cramping a little bit but it ended up behaving and I was glad to get one under the belt.

People run for all different reasons. What motivates you?

Distance runners have a huge passion because nobody is getting that 10 million dollar contract that top athletes are getting. So for me, it’s always been a dream of mine to run professionally because, who wouldn’t love to get paid for what they do? So it’s kind of a mix of a passion and a profession and it is kind of a lifestyle. I’m just used to the running and when I take my breaks it’s like something’s missing. I enjoy not running for about 3 or 4 days and then I start getting that urge back. And the thing with the marathon, you know, I got into the elite field but I felt like any other person running the marathon. It was my first one and I just felt the excitement of running a marathon. It’s different than any other distance I’ve done because it kind of just levels the playing field.

What’s ahead for Christian Thompson?

I would love to do the Broad Street Run this year. I love the idea of being able to roll out of bed and do a local race. Also, I’d love to do another marathon, probably one that’s flatter. Hopefully I can do the Eugene marathon out in Oregon.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself outside of running.

I love to travel and I competitively snow shoed in high school. They weigh about a pound each and they’re about 15 inches long and half a foot wide. I would do 10k’s in the snow and stuff. I did a race in Italy and that was definitely one of my favorite places I’ve been too it was really fun.
 

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Journalist Steve Ercolani ]]> Sun, 17 Nov 2013 10:55:27 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/steve_erconali_journalist.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us

Steve Patrick Ercolani’s documentary called “Pyne Poynt” focuses on a little league baseball team during a period of transition in Camden’s underserved population. With the help of videographer Gabe Dinsmoor – whose work has been featured in the National Geographic Travel guide and the LAtimes.com – “Pyne Poynt” will follow the Reyes family through one year and two seasons of baseball. With the help of Kickstarter.com, 225 supports and a pledged goal of $15,000, Steve’s passion for telling the story of Camden will finally be told.


What are some personal challenges and risks of being a journalist?

North Camden is a village. The whole of it is maybe ten blocks by six blocks, and nearly every block has a crew working at least one corner, or “spot.” We we’re lucky enough to have a respected member of the community who used to deal drugs himself before heading to prison for the better part of the decade, who is friendly with most of the corner boys, he took us around block by block and introduced us to the guys running the corners, so that when we are filming, we don’t tend to see any trouble. It’s easier to get access and gain trust this way because, precisely because North Camden is so small, everyone knows you, which is both a blessing and a curse because well, everyone knows you, and naturally not everyone is going to like what we are trying to accomplish.

Another challenge is that you have to go in with the understanding that there’s a lot of history there, racial tensions and exploitation, and I think that it’s incumbent upon us as journalists to steer clear of coming off as the voyeur, the slum tourist, the parachute journalist dropping in for the byline and leaving. These communities see that all the time. We want to stay away from telling the same sob story that every journalist somehow winds up telling when they talk about Camden, or similarly impoverished areas, and to get at what is really going on.

Why did you choose Camden, NJ as a place to film/document?

I was doing a piece for Al Jazeera on the Metro force. I met Brian Morton and I thought his story was a very representative story, that it communicated the ills of a lot of American cities suffering through post-industrialization. Chris Hedges said it best when he wrote that Camden is the poster child of post industrialization, and is an example of what a lot of cities can become as we continue to live through this recession and slash benefits. The social contract we have with impoverished communities in this country is changing, and it’s not for the better.

How is making this documentary a personal endeavor for you?
I grew up in the wealthy suburbs of Camden, in Haddonfield. And while I by no means came from the sort of money that most do in Haddonfield, I didn’t grow up on food stamps amid the constant threat of violence either. Camden is maybe five miles down Haddon Avenue from Haddonfield. Its amazing how much the topography shifts in maybe ten minutes. I was always curious about this. Its been something I’ve wanted to explore since I was growing up, and this is the first time in my career I’ve had the chance.

Describe your experiences traveling globally and working with news organizations.

NPR was interesting, because when I called the Northeastern bureau chief, she told me that she really felt that the story, which was really a smaller rendering of the documentary, that it wasn't a national story, but that she’d be happy to put me in touch with the local bureau. I’ve learned over time though that that’s really just editor speak for “convince me it’s a national story.” So I did, and the piece I cut went to All Things Considered and generated a lot of buzz for us. I did some freelance work for Al Jazeera during my time in Central America and gained a lot of insight into how a larger media organization functions. While it was wonderful writing for them it also made me understand that a project like this was something I had to do on my own terms, which is why I turned to Kickstarter for funding, and to a good friend of mine, cinematographer and co-director Gabe Dinsmoor. I wanted to do this my way and that is really the only way to accomplish that, with your own money and people you trust.

What inspired you to be a journalist?

I think that my mother would tell you I was a born tinkerer. I always liked messing about with anything I could get my hands on, not to build, as a future inventor might, but to observe, to find a way to tell a story with it. I think my earliest memory of storytelling is in my grandmother’s attic. She was Parisian, and she had all of these old trunks of chiffon, old shoes, jewelry. After dinner my sister and I would clear the table and head up to the attic and dig around in the trunks and make costumes, and then we’d write a script, and before dessert the lot of them would come upstairs and watch us perform. Strange as it may be, I think it was that.

Explain how observing Camden from the perspective of a resident of Haddonfield – a town with more affluence – changed you as a young man.

In high school it was the place that everyone went to buy drugs and alcohol. Sometimes people would come back with horror stories, as if it was some far off land that they’d gone exploring, tales of close calls about how they’d almost been mugged, or some such thing. That’s how people saw the city, understood the city. A third world you went to acquire vices. I always had the feeling something was missing in that narrative, and wanted to fill it. That’s partly what this documentary is.

Do you have any writers or storytellers that inspire you when you are writing a journal?

Joan Didion for me is the end all and be all. Sometimes I get very happy with something I’ve written. When that happens I normally go read some Didion, and then I remember what great writing really looks like.

If you could pursue any career besides journalism, what would it be?

I genuinely can’t imagine doing anything else. If I were smarter with numbers, I’d probably be a doctor.

What do you envision journalism to be like within the next few years?

The model is changing, obviously, and I have a very serious fear about a lot of it. Fear of “native advertising,” mainly, which is essentially when companies pay to have stories about their industry plugged into a magazine. Sometimes magazines are less than forthcoming about this relationship, and that is worrisome to me. Aside from this concern though, I think that as tablets continue to drop in price and become more accessible, I think that will open up a lot of avenues as far as advertising is concerned. Right now some very smart people concerned with the business side of journalism are talking a lot about falling advertising rates as more print readers move completely to digital. Right now CPM’s are quite high for advertisers in some places online, but as more move to digital, rates will inevitably fall, and how to fill that gap and still pay journalists is a question that needs answering.

Did you always have an interest in traveling globally?

Yes. The first time I traveled abroad I was fifteen. I was having a lot of trouble at school, I was getting into a lot of fights and not doing very well academically, and although I consider myself an atheist, I played in the church bell choir because it made my mother happy. We practiced on Wednesday nights, and as I was leaving the church I saw a sign on the wall that was asking for volunteers to help build homes and assist doctors in Guatemala. When I got there I found that I had a facility with language, spent the following summer in Spain studying Spanish and went back three more times to serve as a translator. That was all during high school. Since then I’ve lived and worked in Beijing, London, and Costa Rica. 

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<![CDATA[10 Questions With Bob McCoy]]> Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:41:16 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Bob+McCoy+Band+Director+10+Questions.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekly feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.


89-year old Bob McCoy is founder and former band director of the Moorestown Community Band in Southern New Jersey. He has dedicated over twenty years of his life to the band. Several of the band’s members were once McCoy’s former students, and eventually, became music teachers as well. Last year, McCoy officially announced that he was retiring from conducting, but he did not stop playing music or becoming an honorary conductor for one or two songs in a concert.

McCoy’s age and stamina never cease to amaze friends, family, band members and concert goers. Approaching 90, McCoy is still as jovial and passionate about music as he was in his teen years.

When did you begin to study music?
My dad used to take me to concerts when I was younger. I played in the high school band. When I was a senior I was working in a supermarket and I couldn’t play in the marching band anymore so I dropped out. When I came back from the war (World War II) I was a mechanic…my minister came to me and said, "Did you realize that there’s a G.I. bill and you can go to college?" So I went to Lebanon Valley College and I chose to major in Music and minor in History.

As you approach your 10th decade, can you describe how music has changed over the years? It’s changed from big band music and gradually growing into rock music and now rap music. I’ve always enjoyed gospel and country. As a kid I would laugh at country music but I started to like it, especially some of the older songs that tell stories. But I’ve learned to enjoy all types of music.

Can you describe how the Moorestown Community Band was created?
It was first formed back in 1991. I used to play in a local concert band, and I played every Wednesday and Saturday. I was already retired and did not want to be committed to that. So I started a band to help people who might just like to play for fun, especially for people who used to play an instrument. We started with twelve people and gradually we’ve grown to fifty or more.

What job were you previously doing before you started the band?
I was retired from teaching and I was working at a local bike shop for a few days a week. I had been an airplane mechanic in World War II and I was always doing mechanical things here at home. I started getting into the bike business. I had previously taken one of my bikes apart and regressed and repainted it, and my son watched me do it. He started to fix other peoples bikes and got a job in a bicycle shop. People were also giving me their bikes so I started fixing them in my basement. I did that from 1972 to ‘87.

What learning experiences do people get out of the Moorestown Community Band?
To just enjoy music and learn the expressions and feeling of it. Not just the notes. We raise our own spirits and we feel better after rehearsals, and the reason why we play the concerts is to lift the spirits of everyone there.

As a band conductor, what is it about your character that makes your musicians trust your guidance?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I like them and they like me back. At any job that’s the way it should be if you’re dealing with people. It’s a blessing to me that twelve people in the band were my students when they were growing up.

At age 89, what’s the interaction like between your members? What’s the diversity like?
The interaction has been very, very nice. They always make suggestions if there is something that they would like to play. I’m always opened to other ideas. We try to play a variety of music from folk, concert, symphonic, marches -- almost any kind of thing. We have members from middle school up to 89 years old. I’m the oldest member in the band now. Forth teen of the members became music teachers and they’re all over the world. One of the girls played oboe in the Spanish Symphony in Madrid for twenty years and now she’s teaching at Dickinson College. I still get letters from other different students.

What has motivated you to teach music throughout the last few decades?
I love my work, and when you love your work, I think your students will like you back.

What should be done to keep music education in schools and why?
It should be kept in schools because music helps people’s minds in other ways. After I came here to Moorestown, I started teaching not just bands in grades 5-8 but also strings. We built the program to the point that we hired a string teacher. Then it grew to the point that we had so many children in the program that we had to hire more band teachers. When we moved into the middle school had five music teachers, and people asked me how did you get that many music teachers in one school? We had them because 58% of the students were in the volunteer music program. Eventually our school ended up getting budget cuts, too. After a couple years I ended up doing all four grades again. You have to do the best that you can with the parents and let the board of education realize just how important music is.

Did you ever see yourself at age 89 being the director of a band and then playing clarinet and percussion?
No. I’m just glad that I am. I’m glad that I’m still on this earth. I’ve always enjoyed music and I’ve had an interesting and blessed life.



Photo Credit: D.J. Haney]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Fashion Designer Dom Streater]]> Sat, 02 Nov 2013 15:43:30 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/dom_streater_wins1.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

Philadelphia native Dom Streater, 24, won Project Runway Season 12. She's the second Philadelphian to win the show.


Where does your artistic influence come from and when did you start making clothing?

I grew up in West Philly at 58th and Chestnut Streets. I was very much an artist since I was a child. As long as I can remember, I was always painting and drawing. My mom was very supportive of it. I grew up in a good atmosphere that nurtured my interests. When I was younger, I remember we didn’t have a ton of money. My mom was a single mom. If I wanted new clothes or if I didn’t have something, I would make them. 

When we were kids, my brother and I were allowed to pick one thing from the huge JCPenney catalogue every Christmas. When I was 8 or 9 years old, that Christmas, I picked a sewing machine. It was a tiny pink sewing machine. I would make clothes for my Barbie doll. That’s the first thing I remember designing as a young person. I kept every sewing machine I ever owned. 

Everyone has to start somewhere. What was your first job?

While I was in college, I was looking for a job. It was really, really hard to find a job. It was impossible. I literally could not find anything in the design industry. I got a job doing animal care at the University of Pennsylvania. I had some animal care experience. It was a strange part of my career.

How did you get on the television show Project Runway?

There were times I was ready to give up. I didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I had already applied to Project Runway Seasons 10 and 11 and was not cast. Maybe I would stick with animal care and that would be my career, I thought. Last year, I was an alternate finalist. No one dropped out before they started filming. This year, they asked me to apply again and I got lucky. I made it. It was a tedious application process. It was so long and a lot of work. We started filming this season in June of this year and we got done mid-July. It started airing in July and ended a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough when I got back that I had so many requests for commissions that I didn’t have to do that (animal care) anymore, which is awesome. With the added bonus of winning, I don’t have to do the animal job anymore.

What was the best advice you got from the judges and what did you win? 

The judges were a lot of fun. Heidi Klum shared with us to just have fun with fashion and make fashions that are fun to wear. I always kept that in mind when I was designing. (Dom won a prize package worth a half a million dollars, including $150,000 to begin her fashion collection and a 2014 Lexus, not bad). It was very hard to keep my win a secret. I would get asked all the time. I can’t tell you, I'd say, you have to watch to find out. At the same time, it was nice to keep people guessing. I could not talk to anybody. We didn’t have cell phones. The show was filmed in Manhattan at Parsons. It could have been in China. 

What was the most memorable challenge?

The challenge we all remember (or stood out) the most was the first. We were so doe-eyed. We were in a van blindfolded and we were hours away. We didn’t know where we were and where we were going. We had no idea what was happening. It was really nerve-racking. We are standing out there in the middle of the airfield. We expected something big but you really never know what to expect going into challenges. Skydivers came down and delivered parachutes and we had to make clothing out of the parachutes. I made a white t-shirt, pink ribbon shirt and a black jacket.

I won two challenges, one was the Belk challenge. We had to design a dress for a Southern woman. They sent the bottom three people back to the workroom to make another dress. That was really insane. Somehow in the 60 minutes I was able to make a dress. I was in the bottom. I thought I was going to go home and I actually won that challenge. It was a huge polar opposite. It was a really, really crazy challenge. The first dress was blue and green charmeuse. They were disappointed that I didn’t use prints. I started from scratch and made a new one. It was a black and white stripped dress. Belk is going to make the dress next year; it will be out in March. 

Expound the Project Runway show experience.

It’s incredibly stressful. It’s so hard to explain it. Your life is in front of a camera -- your entire life and personality. It’s so strange. It’s really fast. It’s a lot faster than I personally thought it would be. It’s hard --  emotionally and physically it takes a toll. In the moments of the chaos and as crazy as it was, there were a lot of fun moments. I don’t know how they managed to find 16 people who liked each other. There were light moments to balance out the stressful moments we had.

As hard as it was, I think it was totally worth it. I really had an amazing time. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I was so grateful to be a part of it. I would do it again as hard as it was. That’s because the experience was so great with 15 other awesome designers.

How do you describe your fashions and style?

My aesthetic is a happy mix of exuberant and joyful clothing. It’s a city girl chic. There’s an edginess in the way that I dress, but I make it feminine at the same time. I use prints and a lot of my silhouettes are retro.

How did you develop your interest in fashion design?

I went to Bodine High Scool for International Affairs at 4th and Girard Streets. I actually got very much involved in art. I was always in the art room. I remember my art teacher actually recommended that I take a fashion course for high school students at Moore College of Art. I loved it. It jumped started my idea to go to college for fashion design.

I did a ton of college visitations. I went to lots of different campuses, Pratt and Parsons and MIT. Moore was the only school I really liked. I was in love with New York, but really liked Moore.

I remember getting to college and studying for a bachelor's in fashion design. I was so detached from the art world. My family wasn’t involved in the art community. When I got to college, I was able to do art every day. It was really strange. My school was an all-women’s art college. I didn’t have the distraction of boys being there. Everyone was very focused on their work. It was a serious school. I got a very good college education because I didn’t have to worry about distractions. I graduated in 2010.

What is it like working for yourself now and who is your dream client?

I love working for myself. I prefer to be my own boss. I don’t mind working on teams. I do like being able to have the say in the design direction and things that I create. That was my ultimate goal always. I wouldn’t mind working for someone else but do prefer working for myself.

I’m already working on my own collection. I started designing my fall/winter collection for next year. It will show at Philly Fashion Week, and hopefully it will get picked up by new stores. I hope to have a brick and mortar location soon.

My ideal client is the singer Cassie, or even hip hop and pop music singer Rihanna. I would like to make clothes for them.

What advice do you have other aspiring fashion designers? 

I think it’s very important that young designers don’t give up on your dreams. It’s very easy to get discouraged from where your goals and passion lie. The moment you do, you will miss out on the opportunity where you will actually make it happen.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: Matthew Schuler of "The Voice"]]> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 23:11:31 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/matthew_Schuler_the_voice.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.

Matthew Schuler, 20, is a singer from Yardley and a contestant on NBC's "The Voice" Season 5.

*Note* Matt was voted off "The Voice" on December 3.


How did you become a contestant on "The Voice?"

I was in the middle of my school year back in February at West Chester University. It was a risk, but I know I love music. It’s better to go after these types of things and make risks when we are young. To not give up on your dreams and go for your dreams first. Then, have your back up plan. Tomorrow is not promised. It’s really important to take advantage of these opportunities you have. (So, Matthew went for it).

What is it like watching your dream playing out on "The Voice?"

It’s such an honor and blessing. This was my first time auditioning for the show. They only invite the best of the best and I’m so blessed to be numbered among them. The talent is absolutely amazing. To get it on my first try to get all four chairs on my first try. It’s such an amazing experience to be a part of. The best case scenario is someone watches the show. People will see it and I can get some contacts. I’m never going to give up on my music. I love song writing and singing. Music really impacts people. It’s a weapon we can use for good.

How hard was it to pick your team coach?

It was crazy to have all four coaches to turn so fast and to be so passionately fighting for me. It was absolutely insane. It was really tough because they had all really good things to say. Blake talked about me helping his wife Miranda. Cee-Lo talked about me owning myself and my art. Adam is so passionate and he’s more like a rock guy too. But, Christina. There’s something about her. I still can’t put my finger on it today. She’s an underdog that really got me. She could be the first female to win "The Voice." The thing is I can bring it home for her. I think it was a wise decision. It’s crazy. It makes me stand out a little more (on Christina’s team than Adam’s team). I had to go with my heart. I think she’s got it.

What are the "Battle Rounds" like? 
The "battle rounds" are insane. It’s definitely the most nerve-wracking experience to go through. Really there’s a little bit of pressure. Jacob is the man, the guy I went against… we hung out and became really good friends. We went out to eat together. I feel like for a song like that you have to give it your all and be in sync. At the same time, you want to win. We’re in it to win in. We become friends but you have to be enemies at that the same time.

Where does your passion for singing come from?

I feel like music has been such an important part of my life. My mother has an amazing voice. She’s definitely where I get my chops from. I had a very musical upbringing. Worship is a big deal in our household, which makes singing even more expressive for me. We put our hearts into everything we do. My family worships right in our basement, the Genesis Community Church in Yardley. We’ve been doing it for a few years. We moved into my basement during my freshmen year of high school. I couldn’t have friends over as much. I had to give up a few things. We’ve been holding strong. We don’t have a huge ministry, nor a huge amount of members. We do want to get a building. We are non-denominational. Sometimes denominations can get in the way of Christianity. We are just a bible preaching, teaching church.

When did you start taking singing seriously? 

I started a band in my sophomore year and got into a lot of rock stuff. The band's name was Threshold. The biggest show we did was the 2010 the Best Buy Battle of the Bands in Bensalem. It was also our last show. I had to focus more on school instead of all the music stuff. I've been teaching myself the guitar for the past year and a half. I’m not that amazing yet. I can do it on the show. I want to use this opportunity to get better and better at that.

How do you describe your sound?

I really like to focus on the dynamics of singing. I like soft sounds. I can make certain soft sounds and I can still give some powerhouse crazy high notes. I definitely got it from my mom. Her range is ridiculous. I like to change it up a lot. My song choices and how I sing the songs. I really approach them in a youthful, have fun, joyous way. So whenever I’m singing I like to bring high energy. My style and the music I listen to is a lot of Indie Rock. I didn’t want to do the traditional path of gospel or R&B on my blind audition. I wanted to put my own spin on it and pay homage to the artists who sang "Cough Syrup." 

What are your fondest memories living in the Philly area? 
Yardley is a beautiful, quaint little town. IT’s been really cool for me. There’s nothing like home. Me and a few friends did a benefit concert for Lake Bucks County Community College for a year. My senior year I was voted prom king. Growing up here was such a blessing. There’s a lot here that inspires me. There’s a lot of awesome times I’ve had and friends made. My mom is from South Philadelphia and my father’s from North Philly. Hanging out with friends on South Street. Philly is such a beautiful city, a gritty city, a hard-working mentality. I get the best of both worlds.

What lessons have you learned on the show?

I think the show has really taught me a lot about staying positive. Even when you feel like you are under pressure and times are tough and you don’t feel like you are doing the best you can, just stay positive. Stay excited. Embrace the moment. You have to take everything in stride. All the encouragement people have given me, it’s really intense. I definitely want to say thank you to all of them. Go after your dreams.

Do you have other aspirations beyond music?

I want to get into charity work and missions, whether its promoting an album or helping build a village. I want to give back to people who are less fortunate than me. I have a lot of friends who do missions trips. I definitely see that in my future as well. I definitely want to give back to Philadelphia too. I want to encourage the next generation. I have done anti-drug programs. I’m really passionate about that as well. Just trying to help people out. Human beings are so important. 


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[10 Questions: "The Voice" Singer Matt Cermanski]]> Sat, 12 Oct 2013 10:31:58 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/matt_Cermanski_voice4.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.   

Matt Cermanski, 20, is a singer from Phoenixville who's a contestant on NBC's "The Voice" Season 5.


What's the experience like participating on "The Voice?"

As a performer, I’m pretty confident and calm on the stage. I’ve been playing since I was 16, 17 years-old. I've been able to hone my craft for the last 5-6 years. On "The Voice" stage, I’ve seen both sides of making it and not making it. When you are on "The Voice" stage, all you think about is that you want to deliver the song and sing perfectly. The coaches are judging every note that comes out. I turned no chairs the first time (Season 4), and now this time I turned three. 

Why did you select the song “Have a Little Faith in Me” for your blind audition on Season 5?

I think mainly because the way the song is put together. It’s a soulful rock song. It’s so similar to something I would write. It has a lot symbolic meaning for me coming back on the show.

Why did you pick Adam Levine as your coach?

(Cee-Lo, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine turned their chairs while Matt sang in season 5). Going out there I kept an open mind, but the way Adam was fighting for me. Adam turned his chair so quickly and was so adamant that I would be on his team. It was very quick, a weight off my soldiers. Watch here:

What was it like seeing you had made iTunes top 5 on the rock charts?

I couldn’t even explain it. I couldn’t believe it. In the first 10 minutes, my phone was blowing up. Friends were texting and calling me.  I was ranked right after Journey, "Don’t Stop by Believing." That was incredible to see my name up there with these all times great rock artists. It was insane.

Flashback: Describe what is was like the first time you were on "The Voice" Season 4.

I sang "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry. It’s a pop song. It’s not really my style. I think overall you learn with everything you do. It was a learning experience and prepared me for season 5. (Matt didn't turn a chair on Season 4 and came back and turned three on Season 5).

When did you first become interested in singing?

I think I just have always been around music, and always have had a passion for music. My father was in a band, and my uncle was in The Tramps. Being raised on music and I love it too, it just inspired me to want to sing. I listened to rock music in 6th and 7tth grade and wanted to play to the guitar and began then. Guitar was my first instrument and love. I also play the piano and bass. I have two guys that I work with, a pianist and a drummer.

How do you describe your singing style and what's your favorite kind of music?

My singing is soulful rock. Being a song writer, anything from acoustic guitars to electric guitars fits. I like any genre of music really. Anything I listen to me can inspire me to write a song. There’s great music in every genre. You can learn from everything, from a dance pop song to a blues track, and incorporate that into everything.

Describe your family support and living at home. 

My family is so supportive -- dad, mom, brother and sister. My dad was a musician and he does everything he can to help me out. My family and friends around me are extremely supportive. I still live in Phoenixville, still gigging three or four times a week at clubs in the area. I attended Phoenixville HS and graduated in 2011. The best part of Philly is cheesesteaks. In high school, I like hanging out with friends and going to King of Prussia mall all the time, our hangout spot. Just the people… the people here are very supportive. It’s a small town. 

Who’s your musical inspiration?

For me, songwriting-wise, I love Rob Thomas. I’m a huge fan of his and Gavin DeGraw and Jon Mayer. They are my three favorites.

What do you want to do if singing doesn’t work out?

Music is my main goal. I’d love to make a career out of music. I'd also like to get a degree in college, as a backup plan, including getting good grades.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.



Photo Credit: NBC]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Maestra Jeri Lynne Johnson]]> Tue, 08 Oct 2013 16:40:27 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Jeri_conductor.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us

Jeri Lynne Johnson is the founding music director and conductor of the Black Pearl Orchestra, which is based in Philadelphia. 


What is the Black Pearl Orchestra? 

We think of Black Pearl as the 21st Century orchestra. It embraces collaborations with various other art forms, like dance. We are dedicated to diversity, the nation’s most diverse orchestra. We truly reflect a major metro area like Philadelphia. We do a lot of hands on engagement. Classical music is really for everyone. The orchestra started in 2008 as a non-profit. It’s a business because arts organizations have to think of themselves as businesses. We were established in 2007, started operating in 2008, and had first major orchestra in 2009.

When did you first become interested in music?

Friends of my family took me to see my first orchestra when I was seven. “I was hooked.” When I heard the orchestra playing I wanted to make that music myself. I realized as I child I had to make whole group of people my instrument and that’s what conductor did. Most people think the baton is the conductor’s instrument. The baton does not make any music. I use the baton to get people to make music. I grew up all over. Music has been a part of my life and traveled with me everywhere. I lived in the Midwest, Southwest and west coast and London. I’ve been in Philly since 2007.

Do you play an instrument? 

I’ve been studying piano since I was four years-old. I to practice as often as I can. I don’t nearly get enough time to keep it up. I always love music. I grew up in a household that appreciated all kinds of music. I appreciate all different kinds. For me, I just love seeing all those people up there. 

Talk a little about what it’s like to be a (female) conductor or a maestra?

It’s funny that you ask about that. My mentor Marian Alsop was the first woman to lead a major music festival in London. The perceived reason why women don’t make good conductors is because women don’t have enough authority to lead an orchestra. The reflects the image of leadership, that woman can't be leaders. There’s more women conductors now that have ever been in the past. They are very, very few African American women conductors. There’s a stereotype in people’s head. It’s about changing the image of what a leader should look like. It’s still shocking to see a woman conducting an orchestra. It’s becoming more common though. My role is to be a role model. You can achieve anything if you work hard. No opportunity is off limits to you.

Do children have enough exposure to music these days?

Many school districts are experiencing cuts and downsizing programs, including the arts. I think part of the problem is that we don’t have a national policy on the arts that says this is how we believe the arts are important. One of those things needs to address the importance of arts and the role of arts in education. I think ;people’s view on education need to be much wider than reading, writing and arithmetic. It isn’t just enough to know how to read and write. Now that I know how to do these things now what do I do creatively to problem solve. That’s what creative things like arts, music and dance can do for people. Futher down the line, we will have a whole generation of kids lacking critical, creative thinking skills and problem solve. It’s not an extra add-on feature.

What's your educational background? 

For me, I t hought it was important to have a well rounded education. I need to know about history and other art forms and culture. A lot of people don’t realize that music and mathmetics have gone hand and hand. I did my undergraduate at Wesley and graduate work at University of Chicago. I guest conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra for Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this year. 

What role does music and the arts play in the Philadelphia?

Arts, culure and the humanities is the fourth largest economic driver in our region. It draws other cities here from the tourism standpoint. The Philadelphia Orchestra is a world class orchestra. The arts in the region is an important part of the economy. Music itself plays a critical role as does the history of jazz and R&B. Black Pearl is fairly new to the scene but we have a great role to play in the community. We are able to reach a whole new audience through classical music. We bridge the gap, bringing people people together.

Where can the public hear the Black Pearl Orchestra?

We are the only organization to win three Knight Challenge Grants. Our most recent project contains a new type of community engagement. We are inviting community musicians to perform alongside the orchestra's professional musicians. The piece we will perform is Beethevon Symphony No. 9. There will be auditions to partake in this special event. More details to be posted here

What’s your favorite musical piece to conduct? And why?

I love whatever piece I’m working on at the moment. When you think about the analysis, you fall in love with what’s right in front of you. But, I have a lifelong love with Beethoven. This season is Beethoven No. 9. People know Beethoven No. 5. It’s iconic. What it is about Beethoven is that he grabs you viscerally. You know there’s a story being told in the music. You may think you don’t know something about classic music, but there’s something gripping about it. He’s trying to say something and he’s something directly to you.

What life lesson can you pass along to inspire others?

Part of the reason why I started the Black Pearl was because I was auditioning for jobs and was turned away. What’s amazing is that even in this day and age people’s stereotypes of other people can block opportunity. I could have got mad but I wanted to change something for the positive. For a lot of people, no doesn’t mean no. You control your own destiny. That was the initial motivation to start Black Pearl. It’s about saying yes to your own possibility and the power to create the life you want create for yourself. 


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.



Photo Credit: Ed Savaria]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne]]> Sun, 29 Sep 2013 07:37:37 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/201*120/richard-hayne-courtesy-urban-outfitters.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.


Richard Hayne is the founder and CEO of Urban Outfitters, a Philadelphia-based apparel company that began in 1970 on Penn's campus. The retail chain now includes Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie and Terrain.

To what do you attribute your success?

Well, an awful lot of it is perseverance. One of the things we have to work is to keep at it, not to be defeated by mistakes. As you make mistakes and you fail, you get back up and do it again and try to learn from what happened and keep at it. That’s a lot of it, and to be able to successfully work with teams. Our company is not a top down. This is a collaborative effort where many people participate. It’s necessary to have a lot of input.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I demand a lot of people, expect a lot from people. I like to set goals for people and then allow them to do it. Talk to them about it but try not to micromanage. I do it cooperatively I hope. I’ve learned over the years to never do anything in anger. I try to never bring personalities into it. It really is about business. It’s not about something personal. I don’t think at the Navy Yard, I can’t recall times when people raise their voice and yell and scream. I don’t think its productive. As women enter the workforce more and more, they’ve become dominate. Seventy-five percent of our workforce is female, we have to be much more collaborative not a strict hierarchy. I think it’s great. Once you have the experience, you have the knowledge the power and the self-confidence.

How would you describe the culture at Urban Outfitters?

We try to make it very friendly for them (workers). We rely on them. They are the future. We try to make it as casual, open as pleasant as possible a working environment. For Urban to succeed, we need to have a place that is highly creative and innovative, where creative people feel comfortable. It’s been demonstrated people can be much more creative if they are in a happy environment. We go to pretty great lengths to try and supply that. We hear all the time—“I’d like to work here.” That’s exactly what we want.

What did you major in at Lehigh University?

I majored in anthropology. My professors would say: “And he did what? That guy?  I can’t remember… he was that inconsequential.”

What did you do after college?

After going to Alaska and working with Eskimos for a year, I applied for two jobs—they didn’t like me and I didn’t like them. I decided I should probably do something on my own. There are a lot more choices for us today. Somebody graduating from college has many more choices.

What we are really trying to do I liken it to Outward Bound for business. Outward Bound is a program that is meant to remove a lot of myths and fears. It’s a fantastic program that helps kids overcome their fears. I see that’s what a CEO does.

How did you know entrepreneurship was the direction to go?

You forget I spend almost every day dealing with a lot of people in their early and late 20s. So I’m not too far removed from the college-aged kids. It’s pretty clear to me that entrepreneur ism is something that resonates with the younger generation. Their heroes are Zuckerberg, Jobs and people like that… I want to do that. I want to be like that. I want to start something that is unique. I can empathize with that because I did the exact same thing 40-some years ago.

What would you like to impart on young people?

I don‘t know that you can teach entrepreneurship. You can allow people to be entrepreneurs. Imagine all the things that kids do like lemonade stands and car washes. You can learn everything you need to know about business from something as basic as a car wash or a lemonade stand.

Why did you start a CEO training program?

This goes way back. I have been involved with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for the better part of 15 years. And it’s because my children, 1 girl and 1 boy, attended these schools. When I got involved with the school, I came to really admire and respect Dr. Sands. She’s a very, very strong leader and innovator. I love innovation and creativity.

To me it’s exciting and it’s all for a good cause. They are the next generation.

What hobbies do you have?

I’m one of those strange guys that watches a lot of these nature programs. In the natural world... you see over and over in the natural world with animals it’s all play when they are young but they learn all the skills they need later in life.

What's your influence on the fashion at Urban Outfitters?

Look at me for God’s sake I’m 66 years old. If I had to call what a 22-year-old girl is going to wear, it would be pathetic. I’ve made so many business mistakes I can warn them of traditional traps of the kinds of things they will do. No, I can’t call the fashion.


Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions: Helen Gym, Advocate for Public Education]]> Tue, 27 Aug 2013 10:00:12 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/helen-gym-rally1.jpg

Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a weekend feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.


Helen Gym is the founder of Parents United for Public Education, an organization advocating for a strong Philadelphia public school system.

What is Parents United?
Parents United for Public Education came about to engage parents citywide to stand up around a strong public school system. With all the events that have transpired in the last year or so there’s nothing more important than the quality of our schools. It’s tied to our population, our future and tied to children —getting people engaged and active and passionate about our public schools.

Tell us a little more about yourself.
I’m a transplant from the Midwest. I came here for college and stayed here more permanently since the 90s. I’m a former public school teacher in the district. I was the first editor of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. I’m a parent of three children. I helped found a charter school in Chinatown. I’m a daughter of immigrants.

What was life like growing up in the Midwest?
My parents did not have that much. Everything I ever got in my life, including sports, art activities and community functions, learning to ride my bike at the park in Columbus, Ohio, learning to swim at the public pool, alll came from public spaces. They have had an incredible impact on my life and what I understand a society's purpose to be. That's a belief I carry with me. No matter what background you come from, these public goods help give us all the quality and access to opportunity that many people would not have otherwise.

How do you summarize the current situation with the Philadelphia public schools?
We’ve been at this for a very long time. I was a teacher in the 90s, active around the state takeover in 2001. What makes this crisis very different is, it has created a perfect storm. The governor has made it his mission to under-fund public schools all over the Commonwealth. You've got a massive and rapid expansion of the school system with the creation of charter schools. Philadelphia's charter schools alone comprise the second largest district in the Commonwealth and they largely came up over the last decade. And we have a local leadership that has really lost its way around understanding, much less believing in, the mission of public education. But t