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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How To Write An Effective Business Email - Email Mistakes

How to write an effective email. Keep it short.
For almost 20 years, email has been part of our lives at work. We can communicate with a single person or a group of staff members. However, many people make basic mistakes when they compose an email. What they are trying to communicate can be lost or misunderstood. A long time ago, I learned How To Write An Effective Business Email and some Email Mistakes.

When I owned an advertising agency in Las Vegas, I had several clients that communicated with me multiple times a day via email. Often the emails contained information I needed, but a lot of the emails asked questions. Emails I sent often had questions, too. What I found is that a lot of my questions were never answered, so I'd resend the email - still no satisfactory answers.

Then, I read an article in a business magazine that cleared up my problem and I made the suggested changes, which were minor, and my communication improved dramatically.

My problem centered around not understanding how most people view email. We live in a fast-paced world. No one has time to read lengthy responses or inquiries. So keeping the email short and to the point was critical.

Most people scan the first line or two and if they feel it is something they need to act on immediately, they will; if not, it gets saved or filed in a folder for future action.

So, I cut to the chase and got right to the point in my emails. Suddenly, there were better responses and quicker responses to my emails.

Another thing I learned is that I had to look at the content of the email. If I was sending an agenda, then it was best to use bullet points or numbers to segregate the items. This also works for a To Do List. However, the one thing I did that created more missed communication and non-responses was to write an email with paragraphs of unrelated content. An example would be:
John,
I need the logos for the new restaurant. Could you send me the files ASAP? We're on deadline. Everything has to be to the printer in two days.
Do you want me to change the border and the color of the background in the ad that goes in the magazine for next week?
Have you had a chance to review the copy for the article we're sending to the public relations firm? I don't think I like the third paragraph. Please review or have another staff member check it. If there are any facts I missed, please send them to me right away.
 Is the special still good until the end of the month? We're going to run the radio commercials again, starting on Friday. We have three days to change the script, if you have a new offer. See if Mike wants to keep the part in about the dinner parties.

What I learned from experience was that from this email I would get the logo, which was asked for in the first paragraph. Everything else in the email was ignored.

That is because busy people tend to scan the first paragraph and assume that the rest of the email has something to do with the logo.

Point number two might get handled, but rarely did this turn into a list of things that were all accomplished.

If you read that email again, you'll see that two of the paragraphs refer to other people, who won't care about the logo or any of the other content.

The solution - one idea per email.

What this does is it puts a laser focus on what you are requesting. If the person you requested the info from cannot fulfill your request, they can easily forward it to someone who can - without sending them a laundry list of other unrelated To Do items.

Another tip is to make sure the subject is short and specific. The recipient should almost know what is needed before they read the body of the email.

Another trick I used to do was to start my subject with the name of my company: Blazic Design

My subject line would look like this:
Blazic Design: Need logo for new restaurant
Immediately, John would know who it was from. If he forwarded this to a designer, they would know who needed the logo.

These are simple tips, but they really changed the effectiveness of my communications with my clients. Less content was passed over and I received quicker responses to my requests.

Try it. We live in a world that has gotten even shorter with text messaging. Write your emails like text messages and you'll find you get more done, quicker. Plus, who wants to sit and write for a long time - unless you're a caffeine driven blogger like me.

Short and to the point. One idea per email. Descriptive subject line. That is how to write an effective business email and avoid email mistakes.

Related articles:
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How To Build Your Brand On The Internet And Social Networks
Why It Is Important To Craft And Build Your Personal Brand

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America's Got Talent - Semi-Finals #2 - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anna Graceman gets standing O on AGT.
Only twelve remaining acts had a shot at getting into the Top 10 on America's Got Talent. No more second chances. No room for mistakes. Perfection and performing at a higher level than all of their previous performances would be required to move on. Some rose to the occasion on America's Got Talent Semi-Finals #2 on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

Tonight's line-up featured singing, dancing, magic, danger and extreme danger. Here is how the AGT hopefuls did:
  1. The Kinetic King - Novelty Act - St. Paul, MN - After rebounding from a complete disaster with his last performance where he won the hearts of everyone in the crowd, The Kinetic King seemed to be building a little momentum. As usual, his setup was elaborate and complex. It fired off perfectly, shooting balls and sticks into the audience. He's a crowd favorite. People just love this guy. But is he a headlining act? (I don't think so.) Piers commented, "Another spectacular performance." Sharon smiled, "That was sensational. Really exciting." Howie was in awe, "That was so explosive."
  2. Fatally Unique - Dance Team - Rockford, IL - They've struggled at times, but they have persisted. Featuring an insane asylum theme with the dancers bound in straight jackets, wearing ghoulish make-up, they put on a very tight, high-energy performance. Sharon, "It's really breathtaking to watch you perform. Howie was concerned, "You were amazing. But were you fatally unique enough?" Piers, "I look at he determination in your faces. Who wants to win this? And with that performance, you're a step closer."
  3. Landon Swank - Magician - Wasilla, AK - Landon described his act as a real life version of Russian Roulette. Four boxes suspended from the ceiling had Landon in one of them. Each was wired with explosives. The judges selected a detonator for each box, except one. All of the boxes exploded, except one, and Landon dropped out of it. His presentation was the best of any he's done so far. Howie, "WOW. Just absolute WOW. My heart is pounding." Piers, "Brilliant illusion, brilliant magic, superbly executed." Sharon, "Your whole presentation was A+."
  4. GYMKANA - Acrobats - College Park, MD - With an exciting and dynamic debut with their last performance, they raised the bar and added fire to their act. Timing is everything with an act like this and a split second error burned up their chances to advance. One of the performers hit the fire ring and actually caught fire. He was quickly extinguished and suffered no injuries, but I think it toasted their hopes. Piers buzzed them halfway through their act, "It gets repetitive. It becomes a gym routine." Sharon, "You were like lemmings tonight. I was looking for performance value and I didn't get that." And we all know what happened to the lemmings. 
  5. Summerwind Skippers - Jump Rope Team - Boise, ID - They introduced a new trick, but had two errors. Piers buzzed them, just as they concluded. Sharon, "It's so great to see the progression you have made." Howie,"You've brought an edge to skipping." Piers, "You made two mistakes. To be fair to the other contestants, you made two big mistakes. I had to buzz you."
  6. Snap Boogie - Street Dancer - Boston, MA - He put an an athletic and energetic performance, but started slow, which none of the judges liked. Howie, "I liked it when you were more yourself." Piers, "I didn't like it. I didn't like any of it." Sharon, "You don't need anyone [back-up dancers], just you."
  7. Anna Graceman - Singer/Pianist - Juneau, AK - The 11 year-old sensation did not disappoint. She did her own rendition of Motley Crue's Home Sweet Home and blew away the audience and the judges. Everyone was on their feet. Piers, "That was, so far, the best performance of the night." Sharon, "I have to agree with Piers, the best performance of the night, so far." Howie, "I'm going to keep this simple - WOW!"
  8. Steven Retchless - Pole Dancer - New York, NY - His last performance was mystical and ethereal. This time, performing with two other female pole dancers on three poles, he didn't have the magic, and this did not go unnoticed by the judges. Piers buzzed him halfway through his act. Sharon, "The three of you was an amazing thing to watch. Piers was brutal, "Could I see this being a million dollar act in Vegas? And the answer is an unequivocal - NO! There are men in Las Vegas sliding down poles and they're called firemen." Howie, "The girl on the right was fantastic. I want to see her in Vegas." 
  9. Smage Bros. Riding Show - Motorcycle Stunts - Elkhorn, WI - Adding family members to the act, including Joy their Rad Grandmother, they did the most amazing stunts - especially considering the confined space they have to work in. Their daredevil antics brought the entire room to their feet. Piers, "I thought it was incredible." Howie, "It's amazing. I love you. I really do." Sharon, "I love that the whole family is involved." They are amazing and should be a sure thing to get into the Top 10 on America's Got Talent. 
  10. Professor Splash - Daredevil Diver - Denver, CO - Perched 70 feet above an 8 foot deep flaming tank of water, Professor Splash hit the water at 60 mph - and survived. Howie, "It was more exciting at half the height and with less water." Piers, "I kinda feel we've seen the best of the splash man." Sharon, "It's quite fantastic." I think he's taken his last dive on AGT.
  11. Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.  - Singer - Logan, WV - The real test of Landau's talent came when I went into the kitchen for a second while he was singing. I honestly thought I was listening to a Sinatra CD. He's so smooth. And the book completely belies the cover. Sharon, "It makes me feel so good every time you perform." Howie, "You deserve, with that performance, to be in the finals." Piers, "I don't think that was your best performance." 
  12. Silhouettes - Performance Art/Shadow Dancing - Denver, CO - A troupe that includes the youngest performer ever on America's Got Talent, 4 years-old, they were not as compelling as in previous performances. It was still good, but it didn't have the WOW factor. Piers, "It was good, but not great." Sharon, "Your act is endless. Your concepts can go on and on." And she's right. I hope America judges them on their body of work and not necessarily their last performance. 
As the show progresses and I'm making my notes, I put a star next to the acts that I think will move on. I came up with six and there are only five that can make it to the finals on America's Got Talent. In order of performance, here are my picks:
  • Fatally Unique - They have improved with every show. Their choreography has gotten more complex, faster and more aggressive. Their toughest competition in the dance category are the Miami All-Stars, who have incredible range. I don't see the West Springfield Dance Team holding up against these two.
  • Landon Swank - A magician has never won America's Got Talent. But Landon is one of the most unique magicians to come along in a while. His tricks have a style that is truly his own, which sets him apart from all of the others doing metamorphosis acts and disappearances. He'll wind up with a show somewhere, regardless if he wins this competition. 
  • Anna Graceman - This year's breakout star. She keeps turning it up a notch. Crowds love her and I think America does, too. She could come very close to going all the way. 
  • Smage Bros. Riding Show - Initially, I didn't think they could turn this into a full show. Could a crowd sit through an hour of roaring motorcycles? Maybe. Maybe not. They are phenomenal at what they do, however.
  • Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. - What can you say? To me, he's the most unique act on AGT. Would you ever imagine a black guy with dreadlocks who was working at a car wash in West Virginia to get up on stage and croon like Frank Sinatra - and nearly nail it perfectly every time? There is a slight phrasing style that Sinatra had that Landau has not picked up on yet. But his velvet voice gets the job done. His story and his talent could make him a favorite to win.
  • Silhouettes  - Their last performance was not WOW. Everything they have done so far has been WOW WOW. For the fans who tuned in for this last show, will they look at the body of work or will the last performance be the deciding factor? I'd hate to see them go because they have the potential to put on a full hour show and have it be very fascinating. To me, they're on the cusp of making the Top 10 on AGT. 
Tune in Wednesday night to see how the Top 10 on America's Got Talent rounds out.

All of the performers gave their all. Some failed, but some soared on America's Got Talent Semi-Finals #2 - Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

Photo by NBC-AGT

Related links:
AGT Website
AGT on Twitter
Nick Cannon on Twitter
Piers Morgan on Twitter
Howie Mandel on Twitter
Sharon Osbourne on Twitter

Related articles:
America's Got Talent - Semi-Finals #1 Results - August 24, 2011
America's Got Talent - Semi-Finals #1 - Tuesday, August 23, 2011
America's Got Talent - Wild Card Results - Weds, August 17, 2011
America's Got Talent - Wild Card Auditions - Tuesday, August 16, 2011
America's Got Talent - YouTube Results - Wednesday, August 10, 2011
America's Got Talent - YouTube Auditions - Tuesday, August 9, 2011
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America's Got Talent - Hollywood #4 - August 2, 2011
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America's Got Talent Season 6 - Hollywood #1 Results - Wednesday, July 13, 2011
America's Got Talent Live - Hollywood #1 -Tuesday, July 12, 2011
America's Got Talent - Las Vegas - Wednesday, July 6, 2011
America's Got Talent Season 6 - Las Vegas -Tuesday, July 5, 2011
America's Got Talent Season 6 2011 - AGT Vegas Week Tuesday and Wednesday - July 5 and 6
America's Got Talent 2011 Season 6 - June 29, 2011 - Houston
America's Got Talent Launches Season 6 | AGT Season Guide

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Mental Illness | Fighting Depression Without Medication

Is your depression chemical or due to circumstances?
Almost 15 million Americans will experience some form of depression this year. Women will have depressive symptoms almost three times more than men. Many people go untreated. A portion of those who seek medial attention wind up on medications that don't seem to help. Others, however, find medications are the answer to living a more normal life. I've been analyzing my own depression and right now I'm looking into fighting depression without medication. 

I have to start off by saying I'm not a medical or psychiatric professional. I am a consumer - which means I am under a treatment plan.

My diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and I'm ADD/ADHD. My moods are like a roller coaster. It is hard to tell if my hyper moods are part of my Bipolar condition or the ADD/ADHD - which can produce periods of hyper-focus, where time is no longer important and sleep is avoided - because I have something I MUST DO.

Since about 2004, I have been on and off various anti-depressants and medication cocktails for Bipolar Disorder. Some of the drugs made me very tired and useless, others made me pass out. Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a general practitioner prescribed a powerful anti-depressant. This turned out to be a very bad move, since she was only treating my depression. It took my manic episodes to new heights and I nearly destroyed my life. It cost me a fortune in runaway spending, bad investments and excesses - which all seemed perfectly normal to me at the time. I was so far out in the sky, I thought I was invincible. A very bad state of mind to achieve.

Recently, I had a period of about six weeks where I ran out of my Bipolar medications and my anti-depressant because I couldn't afford them. I didn't notice any change. Even on the medication, I still have very deep depressive moods, bouts of crying, feelings of hopelessness, periods of excessive sleeping and/or complete lethargy.

In 2010, I was institutionalized for three weeks. I came out of the hospital worse off than when I went in. But I supposedly had the "right" combination of medications to take me forward.

After leaving the hospital, I spent five months sitting in a chair, watching TV. I did nothing. I went nowhere. I ate. I slept a lot. I took my meds every day.

I didn't start to get out of the emotional basement until I started regularly attending Recovery International meetings. There, I began learning techniques to help me get through my anxiety and tools to help me break free of some of the depression.

What really became a life saver for me was this blog. Writing is a passion of mine. When I sat at my laptop and wrote, I was at peace. I felt like I was being productive. I was doing something that mattered.

I've kept a log of my depressive episodes and they are all related to situational circumstances. Some event, encounter, frustration, or feelings triggered by things on television or in the news would bring me down. After I had spent hours in a deep hole, I'd force myself to get out to a place with FREE WiFi and start writing. Within minutes, I was fine.

Now, there are people who have wonderful lives; they have a good job, wonderful kids, a nice home, money in the bank and many of the creature comforts of success. On the surface there seems to be no reason for them to have depression, but they do. In cases like this, I'd suggest seeking professional advice and potentially a medication treatment plan. If no cause can be seen for the depression, it may be a chemical imbalance and this is where pharmaceutical alternatives work the best.

Although, before you run off to the psychiatrists office, let me suggest a few things to try.
  • Examine your diet. What are you eating? Are you eating a healthy diet or are you loading up on junk, sugar, chemicals, etc.? These can have an adverse effect on your mood. 
  • Do you drink or do drugs? These are temporary fixes and fall under the category of "self-medication." The downside is that they tend to make depression worse, after the effects of the self-help "medication" wears off. 
  • Exercise. Are you getting any? And are you getting enough? Exercise releases endorphins into the brain and they have a very positive effect on the body. Walking every day is enough to make a difference - relieving stress, getting oxygen into your lungs, and releasing those endorphins.
  • Social activities. People who suffer from depression tend to isolate themselves, which can actually take you farther down. Get out. Meet people. Join a club. Join a group. Get involved in a sport. Having people to talk to, joke with, and engage in great conversation can pull you out of a depressed mood very quickly. 
  • Hobbies. What are you doing with your time? Do you like to read? Hit the library and get a few books. Music? Start working on your collection or organizing your songs on your computer. Creative? Paint, draw, sculpt, make movies, arrange photo albums, write. Being engaged can turn away your blues. 
  • Social networks. When I feel isolated, I can't wait to get on Facebook and chat with people who I barely know, but just the casual banter is enough to get me out of the doldrums. 
  • Help someone else. Doing good deeds for others takes the focus off of yourself. It can be very rewarding. Volunteer. Help an elderly person in your neighborhood. Today, I helped a guy in AA with no car move some furniture. He was a mess. It took my mind off of me and I worked on getting him calmed down. He was so grateful by the end of the day, we both felt better. 
I suggest trying a lot of these things before you see a professional, unless you are severely suicidal. Then you need to seek immediate attention.

In the medical community, you always hear, "Get a second opinion." Then the new doctor has a different strategy. Which one is right? My question is, "Do you really need the medications in the first place?"

By trying some of my suggestions above, you may be able to pull yourself out of depression and not feel the need to seek medications - which all have side effects. None of my suggestions have negative side effects. If they don't work, seek help.

Also, know that it is normal to feel depressed when major life changes come your way - death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, ending of a relationship, embarrassment, ridicule, getting bad news, moving. Feeling down is common and should not be construed as a reason to break the glass and get into a psychiatrists office.

If you have tried all of the things above and still have no relief, then you need to seek help. If your symptoms last for long periods of time and start to interfere with your work, your life, your family, your relationships, then you should seek professional help.

For my personal situation, I'm getting to believe more and more that the medications are useless and that the depression I have is based on external events that come in and disrupt my life. Once I have figured out how to deal with the event, cope with its effects and change my thinking about the event, I'm usually fine. If that doesn't work, I head to a place with FREE WiFi and write. I'm always at peace when I do that.

My goal is to be fighting depression without medication. I'm going to have a long talk with my psychiatrist about doing an experiment for a month or two because I honestly don't see what the medications do. I still have depressive moods, but I've learned ways that I can work my way out of the hole. If I have the power to realize I'm experiencing lowered feelings and then do something about it, why do I need the medications? Maybe you'll come to the same conclusion.

Related link:
Complete Depression Statistics on DepressionSymptoms101.com
Panic Attacks - Wikipedia
Panic Disorder - PubMed Health
Generalized Anxiety Disorder - PubMed Health
Recovery International

Related articles on this site:
We Need To Change The Dialogue On Mental Illness
Five Steps To Recovery From Mental Illness
Recovery From Mental Illness Should Include Groups
Mental Illness | My Psychiatrist Says My Mental Health Is Improving

The Stigma Of Mental Illness
Mental Illness | Mentally Ill Live Lives Of Quiet Shame, Anger Or Pain
Mental Illness | Catherine Zeta-Jones Treated For Bipolar II Disorder
How To Sleep Better By Using A Relaxation Technique
Mental Illness | Dealing With Symptoms of Panic Attacks And Anxiety Disorder
Guide To Using Phenobarbital To Commit Suicide | Prevention

On my other site:
Mental Illness | My Psychatrist Is Retiring. He's Tired Of Listening.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

School Is Starting And I Feel Sorry For Kids With Dumb Parents

Dad didn't know any of these last night.
Yellow buses are appearing early in the morning, school grounds are clean and landscaped, classrooms await nervous, anxious and excited students. New ideas, new thoughts, new knowledge all lie ahead. With the work done by teachers and active participation and support from parents, the children of this school year should thrive. But, I have to pause for a moment and look at reality. School is starting and I feel sorry for kids with dumb parents. 

Most kids don't mind school. Some absolutely hate it. Then, there are those that really dive in and make something out of their time in the classroom. Most of the kids who do well in school are supported and encouraged by their parents.

Students who excel have designated areas to do homework at home. They may have a specific time when they are supposed to do their homework. Their parents check the homework. All kids have moments of laziness and their homework output turns into scribbles, poor or incomplete answers - even their names are missing from their assignments - which means they probably won't get credit for the work. It takes another set of responsible eyes to check a child's work, even if it just a review. The parent doesn't have to correct all the wrong answers, but that sure helps. These are excellent teaching moments.

What I've described is an ideal model. If you have six kids, a big accomplishment might be getting them all to school with clothes on. Lunches? OH CRAP! Homework review can be a challenge in a large family.

But there are lots of families where there are only one or two children in the family and the child could really use some help with their homework. Or the child should be required to DO the homework. I feel sorry for kids with dumb parents.

Dumb parents are the product of dumb parents. It gets passed along. Stupidity is the result of bad choices and bad habits. Even if we had no schools or school system, we have public libraries. Books on every subject imaginable are available for those who seek more knowledge. We have the Internet. You can Google anything you dream up and learn about it. There are free courses online. You could find a smart kid and tag along with him and have him teach you. But if you have dumb parents, you really have an uphill climb.

What are dumb parents? Parents who never completed high school or earned a GED. Whatever schooling they had was enough, and they probably haven't done much to increase their knowledge in any subject matter since they left school.

Dumb parents put themselves first. They watch TV and shoo away their children when they need help with their homework. Dumb parents spend their evenings at the bar or hanging out with friends, leaving their child or children with relatives, the other partner/spouse, friends, etc., so they can have fun. Meanwhile, the poor kid is looking for old Tivo'd Seasame Street episodes to find out what letter comes after "S".

Dumb parents don't teach their children the value of an education because it didn't matter to them. Dumb parents don't exercise discipline in the home and make sure that books are brought home, homework is done and grades are kept up or are improving.

Dumb parents teach their kids poor social skills. They speak inarticulately, have weak or limited vocabularies, can't write, can't spell, mumble when they speak or use some other dialect of their area that no one except other dummies can understand.

Dumb parents don't know how to manage their money, either. They take their kids to the gas station to buy lottery tickets, not to the bank to show them the value of saving. When it comes time to put a new battery in the car, the dumb parent has to sell something on craigslist to get the money together - but wouldn't think to stop buying beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets.

Dumb parents do really dumb things, too. They use drugs and alcohol openly around their children. I knew one guy whose 3 year-old daughter heard a knock at the door and she said, "Daddy, flush the roaches."

Dumb parents cuss and swear freely with their children. No wonder first graders will tell their teachers, "Who the F you talking too?" "Teacher, I need to leave to take a shit." Nice.

If you're a dumb parent, you're probably not reading this, because reading is too much effort.

Although, you could be a dumb parent. You just didn't get the education you probably should have. But you can change. You can make steps forward to help your children because your deficiencies will only be passed on to them, unless they are very strong-willed and full of desire and ambition.

Work with your children. Read with them. Kids are so non-judgmental - unless you taught that to them at an early age. But if Daddy can't read too well, make a game out of learning to read with your kids. The time you spend with them will have more value and importance in their lives than you can ever imagine.

You can learn anything. But the most important thing you need to learn is that time with your children is number one. Helping them is number two. And being an example and role model to them is number three.

We owe it to our children to give them the best chance they can have to compete in today's world. Education sets apart the winners from the losers.

Allow a child to pursue their passions. If they love math, let them run with it. Do all you can to help that flourish and grow.

Keep a dictionary at the dinner table. Learn a new word every day. There are so many simple things you can do to help your children. Don't settle for being a dumb parent. Don't let your friends settle for being dumb parents. Speak up when you see something you think is not right for the children. Silence does nothing except keep the cycle of dumbness going.

As the yellow buses hum by in the morning, I know that school is starting and I feel sorry for kids with dumb parents.

Related article:
Tips For Parenting | A FREE Parenting Class

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Have Black People Forgotten Their Music Heritage?

Painting "Blues Legends"
African-Americans have brought many great things to this land. Borne of pain and strife, they survived, fought for their rights and won. Music was a big part of that struggle. We owed a debt of gratitude to the African-American community for bringing us the Blues, Jazz and later Motown. But today, with the incessant thumping of Hip-Hop blasting from every car in black neighborhoods, I wonder, "Have black people forgotten their music heritage?"

During a hot summer on plantations across the deep south during the late 1800's Negro slaves took old gospel songs and put a twist on them. In 1903, W. C. Handy toured the plantations and heard this music that the slaves played with simple instruments - guitars, harmonicas and banjos. He made note of it all. A few years later, this great music finally was presented on a stage and the Blues were born. W. C. Handy was memorialized as being the Father of the Blues.

During the late 1800's African musicians began blending African and European traditional music. New sounds, new rhythms, new beats formed and became a completely unique sound. In 1915 it was given a name - Jazz.

Blues and Jazz became the foundations for what eventually became Rock-n-Roll. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones wanted to sing like the colored singers. Elvis took his style from negro singers.

As much as I like Rock-n-Roll, I can't imagine a music collection without the Blues or Jazz. Country music has evolved from twangy backwoods sounds to be more like Blues and Rock.

As the disco era ushered in, in 1978, Saturday Night Live legends, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi formed a group called The Blues Brothers. Their albums played tribute to the great music of the Blues. At the end of one song, John Belushi implores the live audience to, "Buy as many Blues records as you can."

Today, Blues and Jazz CD's make up small sections in music stores and library bins.

Blues is often criticized for being too depressing. But that comes from someone who has no idea what the Blues are about and why the Negro slaves sang those songs. Life was miserable for Negro slaves. They were at the mercy of their white masters. Most slaves were treated cruelly and led very hard, short lives. The Blues sang about those hardships, but in the end of the song there was always a line of hope. There would be a brighter day. There would be a tomorrow where all this hatred and torture would end.

We all go through hard times in life. But without hope, there is no reason to get up the next day. The Blues gave those slaves a reason to face another day. That is a lesson that I hope is never lost in our society - through great hardship, courage and hope still prevailed.

Jazz, on the other hand, was the "thinking man's music" - with its complex beats and rhythms. Jazz songs were more traditional in the beginning, but over time, improvisation took them to new heights.

What would music be without Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Buddy Guy, Albert Lee, Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Billy Cobham, and Miles Davis?

But sadly, I see signs that these legends are being forgotten, especially by African-Americans.

Last night, I went out on my deck and I heard something I hadn't heard in a long time in my neighborhood which is predominantly black. I heard jazz. I thought it was coming from a house down the next street. And it was coming from a really good sound system. I stopped and listened to a few songs. It was great.

Then, I ran up to Burger King for a couple value menu items and I heard the Blues playing. I looked and there is a small park where two streets converge to form a point. On a stage was an all black Blues band, tearing it up. After I spent my $3 at the drive-thru window, I parked my truck and listened for a bit.

It was a free concert put on by the city. It wasn't well publicized, but anyone within earshot could have stopped and enjoyed the music.

I started checking out the seventy or so people who had gathered on the other side of the pond that separated the band from a grassy slope. There were families with kids, single people mingling and a few old folks on lawn chairs. And they were all WHITE. There was ONE black guy wandering around on the perimeter of the small crowd. He looked like one of those guys that starts his conversation with, "You got a smoke I can borrow? Or can you lend me a dollar for the bus?" He looked lost.

In a community that is mostly lower middle class blacks, where were the black people? The band was black. I'm sure the jazz band was probably black, too. Not sure, but there are some great black jazz bands in the area.

I used to go to a lot of Blues and Jazz concerts years ago. The crowds were mostly white. I never understood that.

Nowadays, if there is a rap concert, there is a massive crush of young black kids fighting to get in and it usually winds up in violence. At a rap concert a month or so ago, an 18-year old black man was shot in the head and killed at Luke Easter Park. Some idiot just started firing into the crowd. They obviously don't remember or were not taught the lessons of being in the mess together and working together to get out of it, with that tinge of hope.

Gospel music and the Blues carried the Civil Rights Movement. While they were beaten and spit on by uncivilized whites, the marchers sang. When they were dragged off of buses, beaten and hospitalized, they sang. When dogs were turned loose on them, they sang. Fire hoses, they sang. And when they died, the grieving gathered and sang. They sang of hope. They sang of salvation. They sang of Jesus. They sang of a brighter day. They sang, even when "The Great Dreamer" lay dead on a balcony in Memphis.

Through all of the horrors of slavery and the fight for Civil Rights, African-Americans sang - Blues, Gospel and Jazz. Their music gave them courage to face an unspeakable evil - hatred based on the color of one's skin. Those that marched and sat where they were not allowed had character and conviction. And their music carried them through it.

It was so nice to listen to that music last night. It was a refreshing change from standing on the corner of the busiest intersection in the city and seeing vehicles that look a little too upscale for the income level of the neighborhood with the windows down and "music" blasting out...
...Those motherf**cking bitches can suck my d**k...
Or another classic...
...All you motherf**ckers come out. All you motherf**ckers come out...
I like the love songs...
...Dem girls are my hoes, they suck it from my toes...
I don't know if those were the exact lyrics of the uplifting ballads I heard bump-bumping out the expensive cars, but I'm not too far off. Let's put it this way, if you have small kids, you need to put ear muffs on them, even in the summer; otherwise, you have ugly vocabulary lessons to go through later.

I rarely see a rap artist who appears on television that isn't bleeped at some point. Cee Lo Green cleaned up his raw hit song that was all over the Internet. He came up with a palatable public version and he's made a hit out of that too.

Sometimes, I think Snoop Dog is the only one that gets where he is, and performs within FCC guidelines - an amazing feat, considering how much weed is in his blood.

But I digress. My point is that African-Americans gave the music world gold - Blues and Jazz - and today they don't seem to care about it. They treat it like vinyl records left in the sun.

I'm in awe when I talk with young black kids and how little they know about the struggle and the music. Their grandparents know. Actually, their great-grandparents would know even better.

For all the pain, all the bloodshed, all the fight, all the marches, all the lives, you'd think that would be a cornerstone of black heritage and history - and the music that went along with it. To me, AFRICAN-American is kind of a farce. Most black people are so far removed from Africa that is seems ludicrous to include it in a title of nationality. But the music. That was not that long ago. Have black people forgotten their music heritage? I hope not. There was something magical about its origins and how it carried a people to the Promised Land - and finally, to the White House. Don't let it slip away.

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You Just Have To Watch It. Absolutely Incredible !!!!!