Arizona Storytellers celebrates people of Arizona and their stories

Can you believe Arizona is about to turn 100?! In honor of the state’s centennial celebration, my former employer The Arizona Republic¬†hosts a monthly event called Arizona Storytellers.

The event is held at a different venue every month with a different theme, and I participated in it this past Friday when it was at Narcisse Champange Lounge in Scottsdale. Around 10 Arizona residents get up in front of the audience and tell stories that took place in Arizona¬†relating to the theme. Friday’s theme was scares in the Grand Canyon State, and stories ranged from tales of ghosts and Ouija boards to burglaries and spooky living spirits. I told the story of the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life, a rollover car accident that resulted in a helicopter trip to the hospital and a totaled car.

I was extremely nervous, but it was really cool to be a part of a really amazing event that celebrates our state and the people in it. The next Arizona Storytellers event goes down Friday, November 11 at The Clayton on the Park in Scottsdale. Admission is $10 and benefits Republic Charities. For more information, and to watch videos of past speakers, log on to www.azcentral.com/storytellers.

TEDx Tempe strives to inspire people to love their work

I’m a pretty big fan of Ignite Phoenix, so it was cool to go check out TEDx Tempe, a similar lecture-based event that’s all about inspiring Valley people through interesting stories and ideas.

The one I attended this past Thursday at the Tempe Historical Museum was fully focused on work and why it’s important to people and how to make it more meaningful. The event featured short talks by four people, plus two videos from the national TED website. The event was free to attend, and it also featured music by Black Carl and free Mexican food.

I stayed for the first half of the event. I saw three different live local speakers, plus one video by Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe. Each of the live speakers’ talks seemed to be under 5 minutes long, while the video was 20 minutes long. The live speakers touched on leaving a legacy through your work and finding your passion and making it your job. Interestingly, right after a talk about why doing something passionate for work is important, Rowe’s video followed, where he talked about how not doing the most passionate thing in your life for work may make you happier. The organization of the line-up seemed odd to me because of that.

The final live speaker of the first half presented his talk in poem form, which I thought was neat to listen to, though I didn’t really take away anything meaningful. After all the talks, the host told us to take a 20-minute intermission to mingle before coming back to one video and one speaker. The first part of the program barely lasted an hour, and after a long Thursday workday, the last thing I wanted to do was mingle. I just wanted to sit back and listen to meaningful speakers, and so instead of sticking around, the first part of the presentation wasn’t compelling enough to make my friend and I stay for the rest.

I loved that TEDx Tempe was free and had free food–those were definite pluses. But I think compared to Ignite Phoenix, it just wasn’t as powerful. I like that Ignite Phoenix uses a slideshow presentation so that you’re visually stimulated while speakers are talking–at TEDx Tempe, sometimes it’s only the speaker talking. And I don’t like unnecessary intermissions for mingling. I’m guessing all the attendees are busy people, and if you’d like to mingle before or after the presentation, I’d prefer to have that since I have no problem sitting through an hour-and-a-half or so of speakers.

Ignite Phoenix #9 touches on girls and beer, stray dogs and Assyrian culture

A bunch of motivated, intelligent and creative people came together last night at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for Ignite Phoenix #9.

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18 local people got on the big stage to talk about things they’re passionate about–Arizona wine, 3-D printers, educating people about multiple scelrosis…you can see there are a lot of Phoenicians with a wide variety of interests, and they each got 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about their loves.

Ignite Phoenix actually oversold this event, that’s how popular it is. It sold out within a day, meaning almost 1,000 people crammed into the theater to hear what their peers had to say. I think it’s so popular it could be moved into much larger venues and even be seen at arenas some day, although that’s probably never likely. Before and after presentations, audience members are able to mingle with presenters, and that’s something that is much more difficult in an arena setting. So as long as it stays in this intimate venue, plan on getting your ticket as soon as it’s available.

There were several presentations that stood out to me last night. A woman named Diana Benjamin gave a talk about being Assyrian and how there is an ethnic cleansing of Assyrian Christians in Iraq right now. Her talk was powerful and made me inspired to support the cause.

I also learned from Maureen Basenberg about women’s history with craft beer. There are several local clubs for ladies who love brewskies, and they sound like a really fun time. Hopefully her talk served as an inspiration for women who are interested in becoming brewers themselves.

And I really, really enjoyed hearing from Robert Hoekman, Jr. about the proper way to go about saving a stray dog. I think a lot of people might see stray dogs and not do anything for fear of disease or aggression, but he gave really helpful tips on how to keep stray dogs safe, even if you drop one off at a shelter. He also brought one of his rescue dogs on-stage, which was really cute.

My friends and I agreed that a couple of the presentations seemed more like advertisements for people’s businesses or products rather than their passion. It’s totally understandable that someone may be so incredibly passionate about something that it inspires them to build a business or write a book about it, but mentioning the product or business throughout the presentation makes the passion seem a little less genuine. Maybe including it in the final slide would be better.

Besides the fun talks, I loved listening to local singer-songwriter Tobie Milford, who performed before the show and during intermission. He’s such an amazing violinist, and his music is so beautiful. Seriously, check him out.

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People who attended Ignite went home with CD’s featuring 10 local artists. If you weren’t able to attend the show, you can still get the music for free on www.ignitephoenix.com in the next coming week.

The next Ignite event is on Friday, May 20 at the same location. Submissions are open now, so if you have something you want to share with the local community, you should submit!

Ignite Phoenix After Hours eye-opening, entertaining and educational

Last night, I headed to Myst in Old Town Scottsdale, not to dance the night away, but rather to hear locals talk about stuff they’re passionate about. You know, Kegel exercises, getting high and fisting.

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The event was Ignite Phoenix After Hours, a night dedicated to giving 14 diverse Valley residents a chance to give a 5-minute slideshow presentation on anything they’d like to talk to other people about it. It’s a sister event to Ignite Phoenix, but this was the first “Rated R” presentation by Ignite, so there was a whole lot of sex talk and plenty of F-bombs throughout the night.

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Because of the unique venue (it was held in the Ballroom part of Myst), the audience crammed together and stood during the presentations. The presenters were within an arm’s length for some audience members, so the event was super-intimate. I liked the cabaret vibe the venue offered, and everyone seemed to have a good time even if it was a bit cramped–there was a big bar serving drinks, so that probably helped, too.

Unlike other Ignite events, this one wasn’t filmed, but the presenters’ contact information is on the Ignite website here, so you can contact them if you’d like to learn more about their topics but didn’t make the show.

Some stand-outs to me included Nina Miller’s “C*nt,” which talked about what a derogatory word “cunt” is, even though it also refers to a female body part. She suggested reclaiming the word and putting a positive spin on it, and I totally agree.

I also laughed a lot at Terry Simpson’s “Rectum–Nearly Killed Them”. The doctor detailed several things he’s pulled out of people’s rear ends, from a remote control to Coke bottles. It was hysterical–and made me squirm a lot.

And Michael Cady’s “Do Drink and Drive!” had a pretty amazing message about Arizona’s DUI laws. He suggested having people go to a “DMV Bar,” get drunk, and then take a simulated driving test to see how high of a blood alcohol content they can have and still drive safely. Brilliant!

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If you haven’t been to an Ignite Phoenix event yet, I suggest marking your calendars now for February 11, when the next Ignite Phoenix goes down. You get to hear so many amazing stories, meet really cool people and learn a lot about interesting topics. I really hope they become more frequent, but for now I’m counting down the days until the next one.

Ignite Phoenix sets off a spark in the community

Last Friday night, I attended something I’ve been wanting to check out for a long time: Ignite Phoenix. While I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, I had a lot of friends who had been telling me how cool it was and some who have presented before.

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Basically, about 20 people get 5 minutes each to present 20 slides on whatever topic they’re passionate about. Friday night, the event was at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and a nearly sold-out audience heard about everything from donuts to autism to child prostitution. It’s a way to educate people about issues or hobbies that you think are important, and it’s also a great networking event to make new connections and friends in the Valley.

The event is also very social media-minded, which I think is so much fun. Each presenter’s Twitter handle is presented on the screen as they are talking, so there is an easy way to stay in touch with the people who inspired you after the show.

Ignite also had live music during the show (shout-out to my friend Erika Delemarre, who coordinated the music and invited me to this event), and all the attendees even got a really cool local music compilation to take home.

The idea of Ignite is so simple, yet it’s so powerful. So often, people complain about not feeling connected with their fellow Arizonans and how they feel limited to their own social circles. This is a great event to build up community in the Valley, and it’s also super-educational and might make you want to pursue a new interest or cause.

The next Ignite event is Friday, December 3. It’s called Ignite Phoenix After Hours, and unlike the PG-13 regular Ignite Phoenix, this is for racier, R-rated subjects. Tickets go on-sale November 5.