Merchandise Matrix, By Jody Yaniv

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Do we really buy a product for the product itself, or do we buy into the notion that we will become a different person after acquiring that product?  Is that item some kind of magical amulet that will transform you into a more desirable individual with a charisma quotient that goes through the roof?  If you really believe that to be the case, then the price of those brand new boots, sunglasses, watch, smartphone or fill-in-the-blank is a definite bargain. 

Regretfully, I have spent thousands of dollars on material items that have given me a few hours of gratification at best, but have not changed me in any way.  A good portion of my youth has been spent trying to discover my best, most incredible self in malls or store catalogues.  By some random fluke, I was able to receive several fashion magazine subscriptions for free.  After a few months of sifting through endless ads on facial serums, clutches and bangles, I had the startling realization that I have been living in a Merchandise Matrix all my life.  Everywhere I go, whether it is in my car, online or watching television, there was some billboard, ad or commercial telling me I needed this one special product to make my life complete.

Not everyone goes through this aha-I’m-living-in-a-web-of-lies moment in the same manner, if at all.  For Sapphire, a singer with pop rock group Millennium, it was living out of the country for a while that allowed her to get some space from the materialistic clutter.

‘I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to live abroad for a couple of years in a beautiful, quiet seaside town.  Instead of driving cars, people took pleasant strolls around town.  In place of malls filled with mass produced items, there were bazaars filled with one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted pieces.  In place of Starbucks, there were quaint cafes where people spent hours in deep conversation.  And in place of Whole Foods, there were farmer’s markets filled with the biggest, most brightly colored fruits and vegetables I have ever seen.  When I returned to the US, I must say I was impressed by all of the abundance in this country.  But I soon realized that it was mainly an abundance of stuff and a significant lack of the things that really matter, like quality time with loved ones, children, parents and good friends.’

Put another way, Sapphire was unplugged from the matrix and once you have been unplugged, you see the material world in a whole new light.  Now I am not promoting an ascetic lifestyle or asking you to ban the purchase of all material goods for the rest of your life.  But before you whip out that credit card to buy the next new, shiny thingamabob, ask yourself if you are purchasing this particular item because of its actual benefit to you, or because you want to look like the model on the magazine (who just so happens to be heavily airbrushed by the way).


Can This Los Angeles Group Redefine Pop Music? By Karin Francisca

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Darkness appears to have descended upon the world of pop music. Following the embarrassing debacle of the 2013 MTV Music Awards and other staged attempts to shock audiences employed by major artists in recent months, the music industry once again appears to be teetering on the verge of collapse. As the increasingly desperate antics of pop artists and their record labels further alienate audiences, it is no longer clear what direction mainstream music will take. But if history proves anything, it is at that exact point of emptiness and uncertainty when the seed of the next big era is planted. By most indications, this seed will not come from any of the emerging experimental pop artists whose commendable risk-taking is too much of a moving target and fails to yield anything accessible to broader audiences.

It’s even less likely to come from any of the emerging teen pop artists whose out-sourced lyrics and music represent the most tiresome aspects of the status quo. This seed must embody qualities that have long been missing from pop music, such as honesty, creativity and integrity. However, it must also appeal to modern sensibilities, adhere to the highest production standards and produce music that is both familiar and new- an enduring staple of any successful pop act. Enter Millennium. If any seed could possess these qualities, it would certainly be pop music’s newest anti-hero, an emerging group out of Los Angeles, California with a big future.

Exactly what ideas come to mind when you hear the word Millennium?  Futuristic? Trend-setting? Cutting-edge?  Perhaps the word invokes images of the ancient world and its timeless ideals passed down through the ages. In the case of this group, you would be correct on all counts.  There is an intriguing tension between the old and new worlds in Millennium making them hard to discern and, at the same time, hard to dismiss. Their image alone is a striking combination of Cleopatra meets Riddick. Their music runs the gamut from hard-hitting electronic dance to pop rock, funk and reggae. Yet all of their songs have a timeless melodic quality with the potential to win over mainstream audiences. Who is Millennium and what makes them so different?

Millennium consists of singer/songwriters Stryker and Sapphire, both classically trained musicians with a lifelong love of music. Stryker and Sapphire are not teenage rubber people singing about things they couldn’t possibly understand nor have any connection to. Both possess some life experience and have something to say about it through their music. As a result, their songs convey unmistakable integrity, going against the grain of today’s pop music in a major way. The duo is also backed by Brad Dawson on drums, Gaku Murata on guitar, Nathan York on bass, and Fred Smith on keys.

There is nothing superficial about the look and sound of this group. Stryker is as sensitive, complicated and temperamental as his image conveys, and Sapphire is as sweet, sassy and unpredictable as her image would lead you to believe. However, beyond their distinctive style is their equally distinctive sound. According to one music industry executive, ‘Millennium is pop culture at its best’ – a group that can create great songs in almost any genre, whether it’s rock, dance, reggae, funk or acoustic.  However, what actually sets Millennium apart in a crowded industry is their soul.  No, I’m not referring to the American Idol version of soul, where a singer passionately belts out someone else’s song.  Millennium’s definition of soul lies at the heart of how they create music- by writing, composing, recording and producing all of their own songs in their own home.  This purist approach opens up a direct, uninterrupted channel between the life of the artist and the life of the audience. The difference between this approach and the production-chain approach currently used by most pop artists cannot be overstated.  While this may sound like a harsh indictment of music industry practices of the past decade, it certainly explains the current crisis in pop music. It also explains why a group like Millennium may be uniquely qualified to bridge the chasm between old and new and usher in a new wave of music.

Change is an inevitable part of life and nowhere is this more evident than in pop music, where the shelf life of a typical song has shrunk to about one month. This is the natural consequence of continuing to manufacture music with no artistic soul. In the current system, whatever beauty and inspiration that was initially captured in the mind of the songwriter gets diluted and lost through the chain of other songwriters, singers, composers, producers, mixers and mastering engineers. It’s a small wonder why music today has become little more than background to people’s lives. Beneath the precision-manufactured, shrink-wrapped pop puppets, there is nothing human for audiences to connect with. Worse, there is nothing to fall in love with. Anyone skeptical of this need only visit YouTube to check out who attends concerts by great artists of the 70’s and 80’s (who, incidentally, haven’t had a song played on radio in over 30 years). The answer: Stadiums full of loving fans who share a real, lifelong bond with the artist. Now, fast-forward 30 years and consider who do you think is going to attend the Stephan Moccio/Sacha Skarbek /Maureen Anne McDonald/Dr. Luke/Circuit/Larry Rudolph/Miley Cyrus production team concert?  Yes, it’s okay to laugh. We both know such a fiasco would never even materialize. But the point is clear. Change is inevitable, but the qualities of artistic honesty, creativity and integrity hold their value well through decades, centuries and even millennia.

Millennium has already released a couple of provocative singles from their upcoming debut album entitled ‘Fusion’, which is due to be released next year. The album is definitely worth the early attention it’s garnering. Anyone wishing to hear what pop music of the future sounds like could easily start here, where artistic integrity and great songwriting meet cutting-edge acoustic and electronic production.  The radical, yet timeless, image and sound of this group make them one to watch in 2014. To learn more about Millennium and its members, visit


Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings, Part II, By Margo Zimmerman

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A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all.  To those of you who hosted the highly anticipated event this year, I sincerely hope you were able to enjoy the holiday amidst the hustle and bustle.  Now that the last of your guests have left and you have time to muse upon the madness, please share with us your stories. We would love to hear them.

‘Thanksgiving evening. These past two days, I spent several hours immersing myself in the Internet perusing Thanksgiving recipes, techniques and blogs on brining, aromatics and gravy. By the way, preparing gravy could easily be a college course given the depth of information that I found on the web. By the end of my information gathering, I was half expecting to receive my online degree as a turkey connoisseur.

I purchased a 20 pound frozen turkey two days ago. To the wise chefs out there, that entire statement raises a red flag: 20 pound, frozen and two days ago. Last night, as I finally had some mental space to focus on Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to check on the bird which was thawing in the refrigerator. To my horror, it was as frozen as the day I bought it and a quick forward calculation told me that it would not be ready in time for guests the next day. Back to my trusty Google. A few minutes later, I hurriedly filled the kitchen sink with cold water and ice and placed the wrapped turkey in the water for several hours. Before bed, I placed the turkey back in the refrigerator with an earnest prayer to the Thanksgiving gods that it would be thawed by morning. It was a night of restless sleep, muttering gibberish, probably something about the dreaded gravy process.

Morning came and hallelujah the turkey was thawed. It was time to get busy. The classical music was playing and I was in the zone. Once the turkey was cleaned, stuffed and in the oven, everything moved like clockwork. I even had time to make a bonus appetizer: Butternut squash and carrot soup with sage and nutmeg (which later proved to be a big hit). By the time my family filed in through the door, all the dishes were more or less ready and surprisingly, there had been no disasters. The turkey was golden and roasted to moist perfection. My sisters ooh’d and ahh’d at the fresh cranberry sauce, which included pomegranate seeds from my father’s garden. I had forgotten to add the requisite two sticks of butter to the stuffing but no one seemed to mind and, in fact, they complimented the healthy twist. Oh and I am very pleased to say that the gravy was outstanding, rich and savory with fresh rosemary, sage and thyme. To complete the meal, there was an Urth Caffe pumpkin pie and all those who have had the pleasure of trying it understand that this is truly the lord of all pumpkin pies. A few hours ago, it was the only dish that I had confidence in and even if disasters had abounded and we were forced to order in pizza for Thanksgiving, at least we would have some yummy pie.

My family each brought their own special dish as well. My sisters made a cheese and green bean casserole and mushroom scalloped potatoes that were delicious. Roasted pig graced the table as well to the delight of my turkey-phobic mother. My father eschewed his dietary restrictions for a glass of red wine. My ‘no-sugar-please’ sister delighted in a slice of pumpkin pie, her diet kryptonite, with whip cream. My baby niece was happily slurping on the soup. Throughout the evening there was good wine, good music and good conversation- the stuff that the best memories are made of. As everyone finished their meal feeling satisfied, I breathed a contented sigh and looked around the room at my wonderful family. The true meaning of Thanksgiving slowly sank in. I had prepared the food with love for the people that I love and it turned out well. But most importantly, we were all together and everyone was safe and healthy. For that, I am truly thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.’

– Sapphire, singer for pop rock music group Millennium

Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings, By Margo Zimmerman

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It is that time of the year again when the Thanksgiving holiday can either have you feeling blessed, as the name thanksgiving would suggest, or stressed. If you are in the category of those feeling stressed, chances are you are hosting for family or friends this year. In appreciation for all the brave and wonderful hosts throughout the country and their endeavors to create the perfect holiday banquet, we have asked you all to share your experiences. You are not alone.

‘Thanksgiving is only two days away. This year, I have taken it upon myself to host this event promising a glorious feast with all the fixings. I knew this serious task would fall to me this year seeing as that my sister just had a baby and my mother has a strange phobia to consuming this beloved holiday staple. In fact, Thanksgiving has become increasingly complicated over the years as extended family and the list of each member’s dietary agenda have grown. We have my mother with her turkey phobia, my sister requiring a strictly balanced diet (translation: an absolute precise ratio of protein to vegetables and little or no sugar), her husband who is the lumberjack meat and potatoes man, and my father who needs to stay away from red meat and alcohol. Of course you have those who are watching their weight (this is LA) and those who can have a Thanksgiving meal for three days straight, just like the pilgrims, and not gain an ounce. It is no wonder why I am facing a sense of paralysis as I force myself to sit down and write out the dreaded shopping list. I doubt anyone thirty years ago ever faced such a dilemma. In this day and age, one needs to consult a dietician in order to prepare a meal. What ever happened to a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal with a golden roasted 20-lb. turkey, cornbread stuffing, savory gravy, luscious cranberry sauce and a decadent pumpkin pie?’

– Sapphire, singer for pop rock music group Millennium

Stay tuned for Part II of Thanksgiving- A Time To Count Your Stressings