From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-virginia-with-love-a-documentary/x/260537

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at http://aris.fm

and on social media at -

http://twitter.com/arisziagos

http://youtube.com/arisziagos

http://instagram.com/arisziagos

http://facebook.com/arismusic

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.

Aris Ziagos: CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT: MUSIC!

WISH WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT IT: TRUMP!

Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Michelle Katz has Music with a Message for You

I met Michelle Katz last year while working at a FRIEND Movement photo shoot. We immediately hit it off and I had so  much fun those few days working with her while we also discussed everything from LA to film to TV and everything in between. As soon as I found out she was a fan of Fleetwood Mac AND a fellow native New Yorker, I knew we’d be friends for sure! She is someone who has worked in the entertainment world but hasn’t been jaded by it. I was so impressed with everyone I met during that phase of FRIEND Movement because it was the beginnings and we all knew we were part of something so much bigger than ourselves and something that would change lives.

In talking with Michelle, I realized she was no stranger to helping others through her art. She has worked in television, film, and is also a musician who makes music that speaks of the things going on in our lives and the situations we face each day. No matter which area she is working in, she simply has a story to tell. Recently, she let me know that her new song “Can’t Go Back Now” is out, which led me to ask her to do a little interview with me so I could introduce her and her music to all of you.

I hope you enjoy the interview and that you head over to her website to check out her music. Be sure to follow her on Twitter as well!

Q: Can you tell me a little about your new song, “Can’t Go Back Now”?

Michelle Katz: My most recent song “Can’t Go Back Now”, was inspired initially by my sadness over Hurricane Sandy. As a native New Yorker, it was tough to be so far away during that tragedy and the visuals on the news really made an impact on me. Then not long after I began crafting the lyrics, the Newtown shootings happened, and a little bit of that tragedy then seeped into the song.  Also, the constant hum of conflict that was happening in the Middle East was nagging at me, so I layered some of my lyrics with that observation as well.  While all this was going on and I was crafting the song, I was in a relationship that was starting to crumble and that’s in there too. My loneliness, fear, and isolation was coming through, in ways I didn’t even get until the song was complete.  “Can’t Go Back Now” was kind of my meditation on the theme that everyone has that one moment in their past that maybe they wish they could take back, or redo but the bottom line is, we can’t go back so we need to make peace with it.  Although it has the bittersweet tone that I really wanted to capture, it also has an optimistic hook in the chorus. That chorus was almost meant to be a lullaby to anyone who is trying to make it through a really long night, or one singular terrifying moment in their lives. The confirmation that they will pull through is what I wanted to send out through those lyrics and the music is meant for them (and myself) to rejoice, knowing it’s all going to be ok, and we can’t go back..

Q: What does music mean to you and who are some of your favorite artists?

MK: To me, music is healing. On every level. Emotionally, spiritually, romantically….it all begins and ends with beautiful melodies, something to dance to, and to express joy to…I also think that music is peace. It’s the one thing that bonds all cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc…I think it’s an amazing tool for bridging and reconciling differences. We forget so many moments and facts about our lives as we go along, but we never forget the song we first fell in love to, or what might have been playing on the radio the day we left for college. It’s kind of amazing..

So many artists have influenced me throughout the years, I guess my go to inspirations would be: Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, and Van Morrison as well as more recently Ryan Adams, Michael Kiwanuka, and Rodriguez. I grew up listening to a lot of Carole King (Tapestry is still one of my favorite albums), and I think those 70’s folk artists I listened to growing up, really made me want to be a songwriter. Piano is the instrument I played since I was very young, and once I heard Ryan Adams, I decided i needed to learn how to write on the guitar. He’s been such a huge inspiration of mine.

Q: I know you also work in film and television. How is that work different from Music? How is it similar?

MK: The times when film and TV producing can be similar to creating music, is when I have the ability to be part of telling a great story. That is when my passion for the craft of storytelling really comes alive, because that’s what it’s all about — telling a story that can ultimately leave people feeling changed, even just for a moment.  Unfortunately, most of my producing work has been as a line producer, which is very logistical and nuts and bolts. It’s been a really valuable skill to have as an artist, because when I put my songwriting hat on to go into the studio, I have a good handle on actually getting the project done and working well with the producer. It’s always so nice to leave the producing in someone else’s hands and just be an artist for a while. Sometimes when I’m working as a producer — I feel like I’m playing pretend a little bit. Because underneath the veneer, I am really just a quirky songwriter.

Q: You and I met working with FRIEND Movement. What attracts you to that Movement and what other causes are you passionate about?

MK: I love the Friend Movement, because the concept is so simple. Having that one friend to turn to can take a crappy moment into a funny one. I always had a lot of fun with my friends growing up on Staten Island, and I think life has gotten more complicated since I was a kid, especially with friendship becoming intertwined with social media. Sometimes, I wish we could dumb it down a little, and just be more carefree..and most recently I’ve been going through a really difficult time personally, and as soon as I reached out to a few people I met on the Friend Movement, I immediately was bathed in a lot of loving support. So, it’s not just talk…it’s really true.

I am very passionate about human rights, especially anything involving violence against women. As the child of Holocaust survivors, I think crimes against humanity happen too frequently, and iso often, just simply go unnoticed. My heart goes out to anyone/everyone who can’t go to sleep at night without fear.

Q: Where can we find you, your work, and your music online?

MK: I am currently playing in a folk duo in Los Angeles called Katz and David, with guitarist and singer/songwriter David Baldwin. We are currently prepping for our full-length album “Can’t Go Back Now”, which we will be recorded in January. It’s a really exciting project because many of those songs we’re about to record, are songs I wrote a while ago that have been laying around collecting dust for too long.

You can purchase my music at   www.cdbaby.com/cd/michellekatz and please visit my site at:  www.katzsongwriter.com . Also, tweet me, @katzfriend.

NASA’s Beautiful Animation of Hurricane Sandy’s Winds

NASA’s Beautiful Animation of Hurricane Sandy’s Winds (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma NASA never fails to capture dazzling images of our home planet, and on Thursday it released an animation of 2012′s Hurricane Sandy that almost — almost — makes you forget how devastating that storm actually was. It’s a stunningly beautiful 43-second video, replete…


Continue reading “NASA’s Beautiful Animation of Hurricane Sandy’s Winds” »

Adam Barta and Angelina Pivarnick’s Serendipity

I love to be able to share new music and this song is definitely one you can dance to! Check it out for yourself, and as an added bonus, a portion of the proceeds will go to help victims of hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. If you like party and dance music, I think you will really like  Adam Barta and Angelina Pivarnick’s Serendipity!

Earlier this Fall, Jersey Shore (MTV) and Couples Therapy (VH1) alum Angelina Pivarnick and Billboard Top 20 recording artist and Feedback (HBO) star Adam Barta engaged in a heated debate on the topic of gay marriage. As OK! Magazine reported, fellow Jersey Shore star JWOWW came to Adam’s side and “blasted” Angelina for the comments, as Angelina came under harsh criticism from the gay community. After a public apology and a heart-to-heart with Adam on how hurtful the comments were, the two have paired up to release a single called “Serendipity”, which Adam says was prompted by Angelina’s “desire to show support for equality with the gay community”. They both plan to perform the single in both gay AND straight venues, while separately volunteering on marriage equality events with GLAAD and ICNY.

Angelina had this to say about the song:
“I’m very excited about this song. I’ve been waiting for my chance to bring out something positive to my fans and this is it. I’m really happy that I have the fans that stuck by me for so long. I really made this for them. They wanted to hear music, and basically I really feel like I put my all into this song, and it means a lot to me. The words mean a lot. My favorite lyric is “they think they got me figured out from every side”. This is my chance to show the real Angelina. I’m going through a lot in my life right now. I’m upset about the way I was portrayed. This song is really how I truly am. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You might not know what’s really inside.

I’m really excited to be performing with Adam who has had Billboard success and #1 music videos on the LOGO network. I’m excited about it for my gay fans. I think they will find it catchy and sing along in the club. What you see in the media is not the real me. Gay people should be married. I should be allowed to change my mind on this. I hope they can give me the chance to change their minds with this. I’m going to have an opportunity to perform this song at the gay clubs and meet everyone and I can show how much in love with them I am. It will make me feel really good to bring something positive and fun to their lives without having negativity around it. I can show the side to me that I’m fun Angelina – not the villain Angelina. This is my chance to rise from all the turmoil in the past few years. This is my rebirth and showing the world a different side to just be me.”

While Adam added, “It’s a song about following your dreams and not letting anyone stop you from achieving them. And being in the right place at the right time. I wanted to write something that shows that life really is Serendipity. Chance can dictate what opportunities you may have at any given time, but it’s up to us to  take those opportunities and make our dreams a reality.

Adam, who had a song out earlier this year with Nadya Suleman (aka Octomom) called “Sexy Party”, is represented by top management firm GR Media. He approached Angelina about recording a song that he thought would be an actual physical way to show her solidarity for the gay community. Getting top Billboard producers the Majik Boys on board to produce it, it is an infectious pop hit that the two hope will top the Billboard charts.

Angelina starred in the first two seasons of MTV’s smash Jersey Shore, and one season of VH1’s Couples Therapy. She had a Billboard Top 30 hit last year under the name “Miss AP”, is outspoken and never one to stay out of the spotlight. She is working on a book, making more music, and plans a music video for the new song.

Adam can currently be seen on HBO’s hit music show “Feedback” in his music video for “VIP”. No stranger to partnering with popular media figures, his last single, with Nadya Suleman (aka Octomom), was released earlier this year, called “Sexy Party”. He’s landed the #1 “Ultimate Sexiest Video” of all time on LOGO’s “Click List” to scoring a Top 20 Billboard hit with Kathy Sledge (of Sister Sledge) for their song “Give Yourself Up”. His song “VIP” was featured on multiple seasons of Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club”. His most notable connection to Angelina however, was having his song “Standing in the Rain” picked as one of the official “fist pumping beats” of Jersey Shore during her season.

The song was produced by the group Majik Boys, made up of DJ/Producers Mike Zaplatosch & Andy Garcia and Billboard reporting DJ, Jeremy Martorano. Collectively they’ve worked with big dance artists such as Jessica Folcker, Girlicious, and Lauren Hildebrandt, and even remixed Kathy Griffin! Jeremy is also well known for his extensive Mixshow career (SIRIUS) and his involvement in the dance scene.

For bookings and info, contact GR Media firm, www.grmediafirm.com or email Aquetramedia@aol.com.

Download Serendipity on iTunes.