Monday, July 26

Yeah Des Moines, Now Go Eat Some Corn on the Cob

Forget fields of corn. Start thinking field of dreams. Take a closer look, America! Des Moines, Iowa has been named the Best Place to Live in two categories.

After floating in and around the top ten in recent years, Des Moines finally took the top spot. The capital city actually grabbed two number one rankings for Best Place for Business and Careers and the Best Place to Raise a Family. For the business and careers title, Des Moines emerged from a field of the top 200 most populous cities in the U.S. The majority of the top 10 cities are located in the mid-section of the country.

According to Forbes, Des Moines' educated workforce, employment growth and low cost of living/doing business marks the city as a great place for industries that pay well. Over 92% of Des Moines residents graduate from high school while about 33% ear a college diploma.


Forbes cited factors favoring a positive business environment as a reason for companies to relocate to Iowa's largest metro area. Business costs in the city of 560,000 rate about 15% below the national average.

In addition to Forbes' assessment of Des Moines, other sources such as Market Watch Magazine and Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine have placed Des Moines in their top ten lists for the best business environment. Considering that Des Moines is home to several financial, insurance and publishing giants, the city would be hard to overlook. A few of the big boys who call Des Moines home are, Wells Fargo Financial, Nationwide Insurance (Allied), Principal Life Insurance Company, and Meredith Corporation.


Adding the Best Place to Raise a Family to Des Moines' award list, Forbes cited Des Moines recreation facilities as an asset. Boasting 40 miles of biking and hiking trails weaving in and around the city a sophisticated trail system extends to destinations like Saylorville leading to more recreational fun. Downtown amenities like Gray's Lake and Water Works Park, accommodate nature lovers while Iowa Events Center or Hoyt Sherman Place extend sports, music and theater fans the opportunity to enjoy top notch entertainment and cultural events.


Another Des Moines asset, the art scene is gaining national recognition. Des Moines Art Center, the Arts Festival and the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park attract visitors from around the globe. The Pappajohn collection, with an estimated value of over 40 million dollars, is set in Western Gateway Park in the center of the downtown area. The concept for the rolling design was originally planned about 20 years ago by New York architects Mario Gandelsonas and Diana Agrest.

Entertainment venues

Entertainment, recreation and culture blend to offer a diverse collection of activities in Des Moines. In addition to big ticket musicians like the Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, or Justin Beiber and the sold out theatrical productions of Wicked, Rent or the Lion King, visitors can find a one-of-a-kind entertainment event. The Iowa State Fair. Fans from all over the nation attend the largest state fair in the country. The Iowa State Fair is a top ten destination on its own.

Education and highly ranked colleges

Another highlight helping Des Moines in the ratings was education. With the solid reputation of Drake University located in the city as well as a medical school, Des Moines University and several other colleges, education is a main attraction. The relative short distance of the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Iowa State University in Ames reinforces diverse educational choices. In addition, some Des Moines suburbs offer some of the top secondary schools in the state.


For the business/careers category, Forbes rated 200 cities including the smallest metro area of Merced, CA with just under 250,000 people to the ultra-urban setting of New York City's 11+ million residents. A research firm analyzed data in 12 measurable areas. Cost of living and cost of business, job growth, educational attainment, project growth of the economy and income growth were considered. Other factors influencing quality of life such as crime rates, recreational opportunities, cultural events, highly ranked four-year colleges in the area and net migration patterns were considered for both rankings. An analysis of the past three years regarding the percentage of subprime mortgages given was another element studied.

For readers interested in more information on the Best and Worst Places to Live, check on line. is a good starting point; then type in the name of a city of interest

another post about gaga from Gaga PJ

If you think Lady Gaga was an overnight sensation, think again. She wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, either. She climbed through the ranks the old fashioned way with hard work and creative talent. “I did this the way you are supposed to. I played every club in New York City and I bombed in every club . . . I found myself as an artist,” the diva said on her official website.

Growing up in Manhattan as part of a solid middle class family, Lady Gaga’s father was a telecom entrepreneur and her mother also worked in the technical field. Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Gaga’s talent was obvious at an early age. When she was only four years old she played piano by ear. She and sister Natalie attended private religious schools where Stefani’s talent became apparent to professionals in the field of music. As an eighth grader she landed competitive lead roles in school musicals. At age 13 she penned and played her own piano ballad. During her Sweet 16 party her parents handed out music CDs to guests of the birthday girl singing love ballads.

Lady Gaga was recognized as prodigy status when the elite New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts gave her early admission, a rarity at the exclusive academy. After experiencing what the school had to offer, she dropped out during her second year. She felt she could gain more on her own by teaching herself about music, style and performance through her own experiences. Her father agreed to pay rent on a New York apartment for one year if she would agree to return to school is she didn’t make it in the music industry. Later, during her experimental stage with music and drugs, she gave up drugs because she did not want to lose her father’s respect.

Gifted with musical talent as a writer and performer, Gaga’s journey on her rise to fame included open mike nights and bookings as a go go dancer in a strip club and a bikini clad pianist. While she fronted her own rock band and did a burlesque show with Wendy Starland, she wrote songs for Britney Spears, Pussy Cat Dolls and the Black Eyed Peas and worked on changing her image.

Influenced by Michael Jackson, David Bowie and the music of Queen, the young artist’s style showed glimmers of all three. With help from collaborator Rob Fasari, the soon-to-be Lady Gaga continued to reinvent herself evolving from brunette to blonde, eventually resulting in an unmatched, glammed-out, high fashion look. Fasari was instrumental in coming up with the performer's name. In a text, he referred to the Queen song, Radio Gaga. She settled on Lady Gaga that same day.

When she turned 19 she signed a short lived deal with Def Jam Records. Continuing to perform at diverse music venues drew more fans aided by contract with Stream Line part of Interscope Records. During that stint rap artist Akon recognized her potential and signed Lady Gaga to his label, Kon Live Distribution. With the help of producer RedOne, her debut album, The Fame, with its first top ten single, “Just Dance” debuted Aug. 19, 2008 and Lady Gaga’s diva status went as wild as some of her costumes. Gaga evolved from the girl who once spent a waitress check on a $600 designer purse having her own creative team she calls Haus of Gaga.

Last year Lady Gaga made $62 million and was ranked 4th on the Forbes Most Powerful Celebrities List. In addition to setting new records in sales, Lady Gaga has more Twitter and Facebook followers than any person in the world. The social networks list over 5 million and 10 million followers, respectively. In addition, Gaga is the very first artist in history to top the 5 billion video viewing mark.

Such a high level of star status at the age of 24 might make her success look quick and easy. But, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta’s transformation into Lady Gaga took a lifetime of practice.

gogo over gaga

Imagine you are a Jeopardy! contestant and the answer is: “This 24-year-old pop superstar spent one of her first waitress checks on a $600 Gucci purse.” You buzz in with the question: “Who is Lady Gaga?” The bell dings. You win the prize!

That $600 Gucci purse gave a glimpse into the future. Lady Gaga now has her own hand-picked creative fashion team she calls Haus of Gaga. She likes to design some of her over-the-top costumes and spent a big chunk of the $62 million she raked in last year on her outfits. When it comes to stage costumes, Lady Gaga wants her style of outfit to go with her performance. She’s all about the whole package and the overall impact, not just singing the song or interpreting the song lyrics. That’s part of her unique style.

When thinking of style and Lady Gaga, many adjectives come to mind. Outrageous, offensive, expensive, bizarre and creative are just a few. Have you seen anyone else wear an outfit made up of large clear soap bubbles? That is outrageous. How about a designer jacket or a high-end top combined with no pants? That might be offensive. What about the Jean Paul Gaultier futuristic body suit with sparkle boots? Gaultier could be very, very expensive. Then there was that headgear thing that was a huge stalagmite headpiece that looked like it was about to crash to the floor. That was too bizarre. Remember the red lace one-piece body suit from bottom to top, over the face and formed into a crown on her head? That was all about creative. She definitely has the market on strange attention-grabbing outfits.

Getting attention is another aspect of Lady Gaga’s unique sense of style she could probably teach to others. She knows how to get attention. Attention is a very good thing for those wanting to be in the spotlight. The more controversial the style, the more time in the spotlight. Lady Gaga certainly has a unique sense of style which includes her business sense and her style of branding. The more drama she adds to her costumes, the bigger the number of photos showing up on line, the more clicks that get clicked on her pages, the more interview requests she receives and . . . keep going with the ripple effect.

Her sense of style transfers to her business dealings as she insists in calling the shots. Whether it is a photographer, a director or an actor, Lady Gaga typically shares her vision for all scenes. She is intricately involved in most of the decisions related to her performances. She even convinces sponsors to give free concert tickets to her Little Monsters (her fans) in exchange for hours of community service.

Going back to her early days playing at clubs and doing open mike night, Lady Gaga’s unique sense of style kept her in the spotlight. At one point she regularly dressed in a bikini for a gig and played piano; she was a go go dancer. Her “less is more” attitude for fashion seemed to make a memorable impression. Then skirts got trimmed shorter and shorter and shorter until they seemed to disappear. In contrast with her dark hair from, leg warmer, punk style from her school days, Gaga’s style evolved from a punky school girl look to high-end exclusive designer fashion.

An intelligent student in school and business, Lady Gaga studied a biography of another innovative artist, Prince. She read advice and looked at potential images until she decided to take the advice of producer Rob Fusari and explore the glam style of Freddy Mercury or David Bowie. She went from brunette to blond and let her creative style go crazy thinking of costumes for different moods or for a certain theme. Her decision involving her style brand enhanced her natural talent and helped her career climb to record-breaking heights.

Style is about more than just fashion and accessories. No one else in the business has Lady Gaga’s unique sense of style regarding many aspects of her career. She is definitely successful in branding as she has the most followers of anyone in the world on Facebook with over 10 million. The same record holds true for Twitter where her followers number over 5 million. Sit back and see what records are next.

U know U Can't Get Enough Bowersox

So I realized all of you were waited with fingers crossed for my latest Bowersox ramblings. Who am I to disappoint? I gave up on Idol temporarily when she didn't win. But, I pose I git over it. No worries. I gotta figure out a way to have the ultimate EJ experience by seeing Adam Sept 3 and Crystal Aug 26-both in des Moines freaking IOWA where I live. But, what's a poor old lady to do?!?!?!? In other words, when I knock at your door collecting extra soda cans-give me a few! Before you know it I'll collect enough five cent cans to equal the price of tickets . . . maybe . . .

Once upon a time, a little girl from Ohio did not get to live in a fairy tale world. Yet, her life could end up as a happily-ever-after story. It’s the elusive American Dream. The Crystal Bowersox fairy tale is a version of that dream.
Crystal’s American Idol success story transformed a little girl without much magic in her childhood into a pop princess who spins music into gold. She remembers knowing she was destined to be a musician since the time she was 6 or 7 years old. By the time she was 10, she had some paying gigs. At age 12 she was organizing business cards and playing venues chauffeured by her dad. By 17 she considered dropping out of high school to focus on a music career. She stayed in small town Ohio long enough to get a diploma before setting out for the streets of Chicago where she eventually auditioned for American Idol.

Her story epitomizes the ideal of the American success story. She went from having nothing to signing a music contract in less than a year without selling out. She stayed true to her music and to herself, never pretending to be something she was not. She stayed classy but did not conform or bow down to the judges; instead she spoke as a confident young woman. Along the way she defeated huge obstacles to reach her goal. By reaching that goal she solidified a solid financial future for herself and her family. Call it the American Dream or a Fairy Tale but it’s a refreshing story of never giving up on your dream.

A glance at her childhood makes her happy ending seem even more remarkable. After her parents divorced when she was two years old, Crystal was shuffled back and forth between mom and dad. She was sick throughout her childhood due to Type I diabetes. She remembers sitting outside a pharmacy begging for money to buy insulin. She witnessed physical fights between her parents and her dad, who was the one she turned to for advice, ended up in jail after an argument with Crystal’s stepbrother. When her mother got frustrated she’d get angry. But, Crystal holds no grudges.

In spite of all the chaos growing up, she doesn’t hold anything against her parents. She said they did the best they could with what they had. Her tough times as a child help remind her that her son, Tony, won’t have to go through the same hardships. Being able to provide a better life for her son was the main reason she tried out for the show. Providing for her family financially was the motivation that got her through difficult times on American Idol. With the help of host Ryan Seacrest, Crystal realized she had the opportunity to change the lives of her family if she kept working hard.
In addition to overcoming an unplanned pregnancy and caring for her son, Crystal faced the consequences of her disease during the American Idol season. Due to diabetes’ related problems she was hospitalized and almost lost her spot on the show. She said it was the one time she had a fit and refused to be sent home. She told executives she didn’t have a problem going home if she was voted off the show but she wasn’t going home because she was sick. And she didn’t.

When Crystal went to Chicago after high school, she worked for a real estate firm and felt out of place. She ended up working as a waitress at a bar and pizza restaurant in Toledo called The Village Idiot where she felt more at home. When she wasn’t busy she took the opportunity to sing with different bands and graced the stage often. Co-worker and friend Nathan Woodward attributes part of Crystal’s appeal to her genuine nature. He said she has a great voice and people can see she’s giving her very best effort.

At age 24 she seems to have what many people live all their lives to figure out. “To me, the definition of success is happiness,” Crystal said in a recent interview with Redbook magazine. “And, as cheesy as this is, home to me is where the heart is. I’m very at home in my skin. I’m at home when my son is with me,” she added.

Her thoughts on marriage are also a contrast to the diva image. As told in Redbook, “If I ever do get married, I want my husband to be someone who’s honest, kind, generous, with a sense of spirituality. I’m not so worried about looks; I’m more attracted to someone’s mind than anything else.”

After her little Tony said the word ‘happy’ one morning, it almost made her cry. “. . . I’m doing something right and it feels so good, ” she commented. It does sound like the Crystal Bowersox saga has evolved into fairy tale status. She seems to be on the road to ‘happily ever after’.

Featured Post

Holding on to photographs and fairy tales

Grandma Marge shows off her modern coffee percolator while Deb (left) and I hold the dolls we got for Christmas. When it’s time ...