Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Without Hope, We Have Nothing

While researching this post, I encountered so many excellent, usable quotes that I had to stop for a second and further ponder why I desired to write a post about a topic that has already been written about extensively. I mean, the current president of these United States of America, Barrack Obama, practically based his entire candidacy on hope, or better put: on the premise, and promise, of believing in and rediscovering a lost hope. He even penned a best-selling book called “The Audacity of Hope.” One of his heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr., constantly orated about hope:

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Men and women throughout history talk of hope, the opposite of despair, which is also a highly quoted subject matter. Hope and despair are forever linked; you can’t think about one without thinking about the other. The great writer, George Bernard Shaw, may have put it best:

“He who has never hoped can never despair.”

And for those who like their hope quotes a bit darker, there’s always that cheery, optimistic philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche:

“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.”

Although I prefer a softer, kinder hope, as I mentioned earlier, “Ya can’t talk hope without talking about the bad stuff too.” (One of my quotes. Don’t think it will be enshrined into the quote hall of fame anytime soon). To hear me talk more about hope, and why I feel this is a worthwhile topic, I produced this video:


One of the things that continually amazes me is the hope I witness in others who have no business believing in anything, much less hope. It makes little difference what specific hardship or malady, act of violence or bad luck I am referring to, only that these brave, resilient souls somehow find it within themselves to persevere, to go on and rise above whatever tragedy that has befallen them and do something with their lives. Which, as always, brings me to what I’m all about—what is all about: living life every day in every way and not letting anyone or anything stand in your way.

Which also brings me to this amazing email I received from a loyal follower of livelife365. His name is Pierre and he is a lot like you, me, and millions of other people in this world. He is a human being and he’s made mistakes, embraced vices like smoking (cigarettes and marijuana), overeating, and practicing bad nutritional habits, which means he is not perfect, just like you and me. But like those aforementioned folks who refuse to give up even while facing great odds, Pierre wanted to change his life for the better. He began by researching green tea, because he had heard that drinking green tea was a good way to lose weight. He found my green tea video on YouTube, and then, like many others, stumbled upon my site, and began watching my videos on weight loss, diet and nutrition, and motivation. And, according the Pierre, livelife365 helped him lose 18 pounds in three months and changed his life. I was so thrilled by Pierre’s story that I produced a video about it:


Like I said on the above video, and as I say countless times, there are hundreds of thousands of Pierre’s out there that need to change their lives for the better. All they need is a push in the right direction and some common sense advice on how to do it. I strongly feel livelife365, both this blog and my video site, can offer that push and advice.

At the end of my video about hope, I play a short version of my theme song, called “livelife365.”

Gee, Mike, how did you come up with that name?

Ahem, no one likes a wise guy…

Anyway, that song, along with letters like Pierre’s, epitomizes what livelife365 is all about. The lyrics say it all.

Visit the Feedback section of to read Pierre's complete letter.

And click the below widget to listen to the complete version of the song, “livelife365.”

In closing, I leave you with a quote from one of the most quoted political figures of the last century, Winston Churchill:

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Until next time…

peace (and hope),


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Consider The Artichoke

While cruising the produce aisle of your favorite grocery store, have you ever passed by a display of artichokes and spontaneously reached out and grabbed one? Do you remember what happened? Yikes, right? One of the little thorns at the tips of this odd-looking vegetable may (or may not—maybe it only wanted to attack me!) have pricked you. This more than likely caused you to toss the little bugger back onto the pile of like little buggers and search out a safer, friendlier veggie, like, say, a serene tomato or mundane carrot. And it’s not just the fact that fondling (yes, I said fondle) this strange veggie may cause you harm, but look at the thing! It looks prehistoric! What with its fronds and thistle, its military green armor covering it. If you cross your eyes and look at it from afar, it could pass for a hand grenade. Eat it? I’m taking cover and running away from it!

But don’t judge this book by its cover, or, this veggie by its thorny thistle. Once you get past the look, the pain, and the labor of preparing this guy, it is well worth it. And let’s clear something up right now: This tasty treat is actually a flower. And the part of the artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud.

Being a Californian, this time of year I start to see fresh, California-grown artichokes displayed in the produce aisle. Peak picking times are from March through May. And speaking of California, here are some:


* Nearly 100% of all artichokes are commercially grown in the Golden State
* Approximately 75% of these are grown in Monterey County
* Artichoke is considered the “Official vegetable of Monterey”
* The heart of the industry is located in Castroville, who proclaim that they are the “artichoke center of the world!”
(it says so right on the sign when you enter downtown)
* Every year the artichoke is celebrated with a huge festival in Castroville
* Cooler summers and frost-free winters of the California central coast, with the occasional fog keeping the air moist, are ideal growing conditions for artichokes

But how does one penetrate that armor-plated defense to get to all that goodness inside? I have produced this video to help those willing to venture forth and attack, ahem, I mean, enjoy an artichoke:



* a member of the thistle group of the sunflower family
* if left to flower, the bud (the part that we see in the grocery) will blossom up to 7 inches and produce a pretty violet flower
* picked by hand and very labor-intensive using a special artichoke knife, a full basket carried by a field worker can weigh 80 pounds
* mentioned in literature as far back as 77 AD
* Spanish settlers brought artichokes to California in the 1600’s
* Marilyn Monroe was once named Artichoke Queen in Castroville, back in 1948

Besides tasting great, artichokes are high in fiber (6g) and have a decent amount of protein (4g). They are also low in calories (hold the butter!) and are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. And speaking of butter…what is the best way to prepare them?

The most common way to eat an artichoke is to pull off the leaves and dip them into either butter or mayonnaise. I like to stay away from those fatty dairy dips and whipped up a tasty sauce made from spicy brown mustard, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Try it, it may surprise you and it is vegan-friendly.

I absolutely love marinated artichoke hearts, would eat them all day if I could, but don’t because of the sodium. But I do add them to salads and sandwiches. In fact, my latest Veg Out With Mike Video has artichoke hearts in it. Take a look:

For some excellent artichoke recipes and for more information about artichokes, I suggest visiting these websites that I used for research for this post:

Castroville Artichoke Festival Recipes
Gourmet Sleuth

I love artichokes. I try to incorporate them into my diet as often as I can. They are loaded with healthy fiber and vegetable protein, and they taste amazing. Okay, you may get pricked and have to put aside some time to prepare them, but they are well worth the effort.

The next time you're cruising your produce aisle, I hope you consider the artichoke. I know I'm going to.



Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're Doing What, Mom?

I just got off the phone with my mom. She lives Back East. She is a recent widow. This past December, my stepfather passed away, and my mom now occupies their large home by herself. While still grieving, she is determined to move on with her life, to persevere, to live life 365, like the website says. Little did I know how determined she is!

Like I said, I just hung up the phone (or, in this age of flip-open cell phones: I snapped it closed and slipped it back into my pocket) after experiencing a rather odd conversation with my mother. Now, more often than not, a conversation with my mom borders on oddness, meanders around the strange, and all too frequently is laced with nonsensical utterances. This one was no exception, except she also added that, a mere three months since the passing of my stepfather, she is “seeing” someone. Not “dating” someone. According to those seventy-something romantics, “seeing” is strictly dining and watching a movie together. While “dating” is something that my fifty-something brain cannot, will not, and refuses to wrap itself around. The bizarre conversation went something like this:

MIKE: Hi, Ma, how are you holding up?

MOM: Oh, fine, just fine…doing better.

MIKE: That’s great. So, what’s new?

MOM: Oh, you know, nothing much. (sounds of fork and knife against dishes and food being masticated)

MIKE: Same here. What are you doing, eating? Want me to call back?

MOM: Oh, no, it’s okay. (whispering sounds away from the phone)

MIKE: Is someone there?

MOM: Huh? (giggle)


MOM: I’m here…(away from the phone): No, let me get that, Dave (not his real name)

MIKE: Dave?

MOM: Oh, he’s trying to put the dishes away.

MIKE: Huh?

MOM: Huh? (giggle, sounds of dishes clattering, more chewing sounds, and something that may or may not have been a belch)

MIKE: Huh?

MOM: Michael?

MIKE: Ma? What’s going on?

MOM: Oh, you remember Dave? From the neighborhood?

MIKE: Dave? What’s he doing there?

MOM: (away from the phone): Michael says “hi.”


On and on it went like that, only it got worse, took stranger and weirder turns until my head was spinning like a gyro. Through my dizziness, I finally found the fortitude to say goodbye and hang up. After several minutes of mental Ping-Pong, I debated having my first drink of alcohol since 1993, then opted instead to create this video:

You see, besides my shock at discovering my mom was “seeing” someone less than three months after my stepfather went off to meet his Maker, I was taken aback by her choice of gentleman callers. Not that there is anything wrong with Dave (not his real name); actually, Dave is a great guy. Now. But back in the day, when I was a wild child, a hyperactive menace, an energy-driven sports junkie, I kicked, tossed, hurled, belted, flipped, flew, flung, booted, upchucked, and projectile-vomited every known object of recreational activity—baseball, bat, glove, Frisbee, tennis ball, football, badminton racket, golf club, shuttlecock, and kickball—into our neighbor’s fenced-in backyard…into our neighbor Dave’s (not his real name) yard. And do you know what Dave did? Hmmm?


Today, as a moderately mature adult, I can certainly understand where Dave (still not his real name) was coming from. Who would want some snot-nosed brat shucking and shoveling every ball or sports equipment known to man into his backyard? Not me, now! And certainly not Dave, then!

But as a kid, an athletic kid who adored sports and wanted nothing more than to run wild in his yard playing make-believe Red Sox games in which he was at bat in the bottom of the ninth with the winning runs on base, I was devastated. And out a lot of balls. But I got better, got over it, moved on, actually forgot about it as the decades came and went and the balls of my youthful dreams evolved into balls that, in the name of good taste, shall remain nameless.

And don’t even get me started on the differences between “seeing” someone and actually “dating” them. To quote my mother:

“Oh, no, Michael, we’re just friends, it will never come to that, and he understands that.”

Me: “Ma, come on, he’s a man, even if he’s in his seventies, he is a man and men would much rather ‘date’ someone that merely ‘see’ them.”

Leading me to this conclusion: what can ya do? I mean, she’s a grown woman who knows, for the most part, what she’s doing. If she wants to “see” the guy who used to steal my balls, then God bless her. It’s better than “dating” the guy who used to steal my balls, I guess.

But do me one favor, huh, Ma? As this “seeing” eventually evolves into “dating,” and that morphs into something I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO IMAGINE!...can you do me one big favor? Huh?

Can you ask Dave (okay, really, not his real name…not even close) if he still has my balls? And if he does, can I have them back?

Until next time…



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Social Networking Blues

We all do it, even without realizing we do it. Some of us do it more than others, while others do it a lot more than some. We do it in the morning, sipping our caffeinated beverage of choice (you know what mine is), midday, while munching our lunch, sometimes while preparing meatless meatloaf (or any other healthy fare) for dinner, and often deep into the wee hours. In fact, most of us, or dare I say, all of us, do it throughout the day and night, as often as we can, whenever we can steal a minute here or a half-second there. Admit it, you’re doing it now! Heck, so am I! Yikes! I can’t stop doing it!

What are we all doing? You guessed it, social networking. Or more to the point: electronic, online, surfing-the-net, cyber-social networking. It’s the new sitting-around-the-coffee-shop-chatting-with-your-pals interaction, replacing face-to-face meet-and-greets with “tweets,” “shouts,” “subscribers,” and “Facebook friends.” (go ahead, add me as your friend, I dare ya!). It’s the phenomenon that is and has been sweeping the world for years, only now it appears to be multiplying faster than the national deficit.

You want to know what the ironic, funny thing of all this is? I never in a million years ever thought that I would be heavily involved in social networking, let alone writing a blog post about it. LET ALONE CREATING A MUSIC VIDEO ABOUT IT! But I am and have. More on the vid in a minute.

How did I get involved in all this electronic-interaction of the cyber kind? You’re looking at it, or, more to the point, reading it. Yup, blogging. It all started with my video website, I created that site as a venue to help people improve their lives and to share that information with as many people as possible, probably one of the many reasons you created your site, right? One of the first things I did was create this blog. Blogging, I discovered, was an excellent way to reach hundreds of people, with the ultimate goal: hoping as many interested people as possible would eventually visit my vid site. Blogging is, after all, a form of social networking, as I soon found out, with commenting being a major electronic interaction between like-minded souls.

And it just kind of snowballed from there. As I visited and read more blogs, I discovered more social networking sites like Digg, Stumbleupon, and Entrecard. And tremendous sites for bloggers like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog. As a videographer, I naturally migrated to video-sharing sites like YouTube and FunnyorDie. I went social networking crazy, and if it weren’t for healthy sites like Iowa Avenue, I might have gone nuts, or at least more nutty than I already am.

What eventually evolved from all this social networking, which so often does for me, was a seed of creativity. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I have kind of a love/hate thing going with social networking. I love visiting cool and interesting blogs and websites, learning new things and meeting a diverse group of bloggers and SoNets (my new word, just invented, for “social networkers”). But, quite frankly, it can get exhausting, overwhelming, tedious (at times), and time-consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy visiting dozens of blogs and sites every day, but there are times when I wish I could hop aboard a time machine and travel back to a place where there were no computers, or even televisions, for that matter. And then I stumble upon a new site that catches my eye and I thank god that I live in this amazing technological time period. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

So, one night, I was doing my social networking thing, and my brain, while fighting fatigue and getting punchy, came up with the following song. I then got out my trusty video camera and began shooting. As always, I had help. Mostly, my good buddy and the other half of the Hungry and Poor Band, Dale from Electric Canyon Studios. Dale is the guy who makes my voice sound better than average, while adding so much to my mediocre guitar playing it is beyond words. He is also a master video editor. His magical touch and relentless patience makes our collaborative efforts effortless. You may recognize him from my I Miss My Hair video; he’s the one with hair! Thanks, Dale.

Please take a few minutes and enjoy my latest music video:


Sure, social networking can seem like an endless chore, at times, but more often than not it is an effort of joy, a linking between souls connected, perhaps tens of thousands of miles away, through the touch of a mouse, the flicker of a finger across a keyboard, or the click of a link, like this one, which will take you to Mike‘s Lyrics, if you would like to read along while you watch:


And remember, please drop me a comment at my video site letting me know what you think about my latest, or any other, video.

Until next time…