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Monday, February 27, 2012

Introducing My New Website – Entertaining & Informative

My new website, like many others, is an evolutionary process. However, unlike many other Professional MC/DJ's sites it breaks from tradition on so many fronts. I must give most of the design and concept credit to Stacie Tamaki who created a site with my main objective of making my site both entertaining and informative. As much as I love to surf the web I admit that I seldom get much further into a website than the home page. Even nice looking sites can lack useful information or easy navigation to keep my visit from just being more than just a quick glance. Too often DJ/MC sites all resemble each other with dark imaging of partying guests or just stock photos of model brides and grooms. I asked Stacie for bright images and practical information that visitors can take away. In the creative process she even developed a brand new logo for me.

I am certainly not discounting the impact of a great home page and this lead photo taken by photographer, Marla Christina, from a 2011 wedding at Ralston Hall Mansion got first billing on my site. In fact it even inspired a brand new feature on my site that I call the Gallery where I will showcase the wide range of venues I work, my clients' celebrations and their photographers' images. Photographers use galleries frequently to feature their work so I feel it makes perfect sense for a DJ/MC to do the same.

My brand new Home Page!

When I say "entertaining" my hope is that people who visit my site will enjoy reading about not just my services but my personal side as well. Anytime you can make using a resource enjoyable it makes  learning more fun. For instance one of my favorite new additions is the Wedding DJ Neck Tie Color Picker. It is a practical picker meaning brides can easily view my tie colors right from their screens and it makes matching their color boards a lot of fun too.

The blue section of my Tie Color Picker

And when I say "informative" I really mean it. On the website you will find helpful tips for your event and answers to the most commonly asked questions about my services. For instance, I understand that budget is often a consideration when hiring anyone for any service. Many of us, myself included, will contact a company and want to make certain that their rate is in the ballpark of what we can afford which is why I decided to simply include my minimum and average pricing rates right on my website. Other questions are answered in more detail on the FAQ and on the Event MC pages.

My page called "Why Hire a Professional MC and DJ"

My website is hardly finished. It is a never ending work-in-progress and I look forward to tapping Stacie's never ending creative outflow. To see some of her other fantastic web development projects go to Girl Goes Geek. Also look for more posts as we intend to launch new features that will surely make my website entertaining and informative to clients and industry as well.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February Adventure: Silicon Valley's History and Tech Tourist Stops

This month my touring partner, Stacie, suggested we stay close to home and visit some of the places where Silicon Valley originated as one of the high technology centers of the world. Also on our list of stops were several of today's hottest companies whose headquarters' fronts have become as popular of tourist attractions as the Golden Gate Bridge. To see Stacie's recap of our tour click here
The number of visitors here for a photo at Apple headquarters is infinite.

Conveniently located adjacent to the front door of Apple is their Company Store boasting the hottest consumer technology devices which just so happens to be open to the public as well as employees. It's like a gift shop where you can pick up a memento of your visit after the photo in front of this iconic company. I am at Apple often and have yet to be there without seeing a steady stream of tourists.

Directly across the street from Apple's headquarters is a favorite geek hang out called The Bagel Café. This little restaurant serves basic sandwiches and drinks but still thrives in spite of the incredible in-house cafeteria and food service provided for Apple employees. Stacie tried a cranberry bagel that was just outstanding.

A favorite place of Geeks to grab a bite.

It was only appropriate that our next stop was the garage at a Los Altos home where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak collaborated to build the first Apple computer. It was a nicely renovated neighborhood but also unassuming with no indication that this one house was so rich in history.

2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California where Apple began.

The actual garage where the Steve's performed their magic.

On to Mountain View where we photographed the outside of the Computer History Museum. This building is also rich in technology history as it was once home to the legendary Silicon Graphics Corporation. The exhibits here are vast and you need more than one day to take it all in.

The CHM is at 1401 North Shoreline Blvd. at Highway 101 in Mountain View.

Currently showing is an exhibit called "Evolution."

Computer History Museum is a very popular spot for holding private events.

Right around the corner from the Computer History Museum is the world headquarters for another Mountain View company making history, Google. One thing that really struck me was how visitor friendly Google has become. They really get it. They understand the value of making their brand and headquarters a welcome place for visitors.

We found plenty of visitor parking at this very busy campus complex.

The very first thing Stacie wanted to show me was the famous "Google Gate Bridge." Although it does not exactly have the architectural grandeur of its more famous namesake, the employees love it for reducing their walk between buildings. Crossing over this creek used to be more exhilarating on a zip line but practicality dictated that a foot bridge made much more sense.

Google Gate Bridge connects several key buildings on campus.

One of the most entertaining spots at Google to shoot is their famous Icon Garden. Everytime they launch a new operating system they add another one of these whimsical statues to the collection.

In the heart of the campus the icon garden shows Google's sense of humor.

Visitors welcome is definitely the mantra here in Mountain View where photos are playfully encouraged.

As you can see it did not take me very long to get into the spirit.

Dessert anyone?

Nothing like a sundae in the middle of the week!

Beware of the Android Attack!

Google's main entrance is impressive yet welcoming like the rest of the campus.

Our next stop was my most anticipated because I am such a long time fan of Hewlett Packard. My father's company worked very closely with HP in the sixties and seventies. The story of Bill Hewlett and David Packard's humble beginnings in a Palo Alto garage are not only legendary but "The Garage" itself has become a historic landmark.

The birthplace of Hewlett Packard

I was just content to see this place and be able to photograph the famous garage. It is detached from the house like so many homes that were built in the early 1900's. This humble little structure has a huge aura about it when you stand there and think about the level of innovation that took place inside.

As we continued to photograph the outside we had no indication of the surprise that was upon us. As you can see the house at 367 Addison Avenue is quite nicely restored and the flowers were blooming from our unseasonal early spring weather.

367 Addison Avenue near Waverly in Palo Alto

Suddenly we were greeted by an HP employee who just happened to be inside the house and watching us photograph. We were invited inside for a quick tour. I was stunned because sometimes when we photograph we get the opposite reaction and people are suspect of our intentions. If my images seem shaky or rushed it is because I was just so excited to be inside. I had no idea that in 2003 HP had launched a project to restore and renovate this property to replicate it as it was in 1938. What a great project to bring back this important time in technology history!

The Packard's living room.

Original and functional appliances fill the kitchen.

1938 table setting complete with vintage toaster.

Completing the trip back to 1938 is a real functioning rotary phone on the wall.

The employee was kind enough to actually encourage me to try the phone and call my cell phone. It was a real kick to dial my number. I had forgotten just how much patience it takes to move that dial around. :-) Stacie snapped this funny photo of me calling myself.

From 1938 rotary to 2012 iPhone 4S..."Can you hear me now"?

The real thrill came from seeing The Garage and The Shed where Bill Hewlett lived behind the main house. These humble beginnings are a reminder of how the HP house was built long before the days of corporate jets and Peninsula mansions. Bill's bunkhouse was just that and not much bigger than the garage where they worked.

The bed where Bill slept was really just a cot.

Bill's bunkhouse had a simple sink.

Bill's desk complete with the engineer's most used tool of the time, a slide rule.

Bill Hewlett's actual flannel shirt hangs in tribute.

The Garage workbench where it all began.

The renovation project displays many great artifacts from the original collection.

This photo of the founders in The Garage brings the aura of the era completely home.

On a parting note from our incredible HP tour I shot this plaque in the garden. This important renovation project was inspired by the late Greg Winter who worked for HP. In the garden rests this dedication plaque to his efforts in bringing The Garage restoration to fruition.

Stacie and I were blown away and could have wrapped up our tour at that point because we got way more than we expected in Palo Alto. However, one more stop beckoned at the new headquarters of Facebook. They recently moved into the former Menlo Park campus built by Sun Microsystems in the 90's. This final stop was a fitting conclusion to our tour of Silicon Valley landmarks because Facebook is the hottest new company in the industry and on the verge of going public. Our parting shot is where everyone stops for a photo in front of their iconic thumb up "Like" logo sign.

Two thumbs up for a great day touring Silicon Valley's most famous places!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

ArtCar Vehicles Make Really Unique Wedding Departures

Daisy Singer

Last summer I had the privilege of being the DJ and MC for Matt and Virginia Isble's wedding at Ralston Hall Mansion in Belmont, California. It was a stunning summer day on the Peninsula and the entire celebration was beautifully captured by professional photographer, Marla Christina. I feature Matt and Virginia's wedding in my website gallery and you can see their story by just clicking here.

However, I must admit that at first glance I was a bit taken back by Matt and Virgina's getaway car when I saw it parked under the entrance to Ralston Hall Mansion. The sun was very bright and in the shadow of the overhang it looked to me like an off road vehicle covered with mud. :-) I figured Matt's buddies must have decorated it in jest for their departure. But a closer look had my jaw dropping at its incredible detail. It was literally a work of art.

It turns out that this vehicle was created by one of Matt's groomsmen, Philo Northrup, whose passion is turning vehicles into moving works of art called ArtCars. The ArtCar Fest is a mobile event featuring these unique vehicles that travels all over but most often it takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area.

These vehicles are not merely custom cars but more like sculptures you would find in a gallery. However, they are completely drivable and street legal. There is no way to describe them in words so I will just let my photos tell the story of Daisy Singer.

Don't Tailgate Daisy!

A roof rack like no other!

Horns-a-Plenty on top!

No detail is overlooked as even the dashboard has character.

As you can imagine Daisy Singer generates a huge amount of stares, gawkers and curiosity. Philo places this list of FAQ's right in the window for the constant barrage of onlookers.

If you are seeking the unique for a grand departure at your wedding or other special ride, contact Harrod Blank or go to artcaragency.com for rental information.

Art Cars: Not your typical ride.

My parting shot is of the shiny happy newlyweds, Matt and Virginia, smiling at their guests as they depart in Daisy Singer. Their exit was a grand conclusion to a great event not to be forgotten.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Venue Spotlight: Preservation Park in Oakland

In Downtown Oakland there is a really unique event facility available you would not expect to find called Preservation Park. It is really more like an intersection of two blocks than it is a park but they close off the streets during events which makes for one spectacular outdoor space.

Preservation Park is rich in history dating back to the 1870's when it was built as an upscale residential neighborhood of Victorian homes. However, it was basically forgotten by future redevelopment, nearly ruined by freeway construction and almost left for ruin in the 1970's. The City of Oakland teamed with private investors to rescue and renovate this historic site and today it flourishes as a center for nonprofit and small businesses with community and environmental concerns.

The Shafter Freeway (I-980) construction created a challenge but also an opportunity when they had to create a dead end on 13th Street. A new street within the complex was made called Preservation Park Way. This site map details the two blocks that converge at the fountain circle.

Preservation Park is by Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 12th St. Oakland

The park's focal point where the two blocks intersect is the historic Latham-Ducel Fountain. This cast iron fountain was forged in Paris and features the moon goddess, Diana. Most of the outdoor weddings and events take place right on the circle that surrounds this fountain.

Fountain and Federal Building in the background

Turning 180 degrees from this viewpoint of the fountain is the grandstand where their outdoor wedding ceremonies take place.

Grandstand with lawn seating for the guests at wedding ceremonies

For full outdoor weddings it is just a few steps from the ceremony grandstand to the circle around the fountain for the reception. Huge palm trees and beautifully manicured gardens really give this space a welcome feel.

There are sixteen historic buildings in the park with five of them standing in their original positions. The remaining eleven were moved from other locations in Oakland to avoid demolition. Details of each building can be found by clicking here. I visited Preservation Park on a Thursday so several cars lined the streets of the open businesses but I did manage to snap a couple of shots of the Victorian fronts. When all of these businesses are closed during a private event such as a wedding the choices of photo settings would be seemingly endless.

Another real plus to the Preservation Park venue is indoor space that is specifically designed for events. You get the vintage feel of Victorian mansions but with space that is logistically suited for large gatherings. One such craftsman style building is Nile Hall complete with a stage for the entertainment or the head table at a wedding.

Adjacent to and connected with the Nile Hall is the Ginn House. The combination of these two spaces create great flexibility in banquet space. Both large and small events can benefit from the many options these two spaces have to offer.

Ginn House front entrance

Needless to say my site inspection left me quite impressed with this unique setting. One of the best kept secrets in Oakland is the way many people describe it. To have your event on two whole blocks of classic Victorian homes is really special. It reminds me of Main Street in Disneyland but without all of the crowds. They also have a great arrangement with the City Center Garage so parking is no problem. For event information contact Barbara Ackerman at 510-874-7531 or on-line at events@preservationpark.com.