Category Archives: Reflections

Memorial Day Musings on Strength & Honor

MemorialEagle

What began just after the Civil War as a day of remembrance for our country’s war dead sure has morphed and changed since the time of Lincoln. 

Today, Memorial Day seems forever tied to backyard barbecues, swimming pools, and appliance sales.  Ironically, here in metro New Orleans, at stores on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
 
MemorialCookoutYes, the last Monday of every May has now become the unofficial start to America’s summer. As the true meaning becomes lost along with the ashes of yesterday’s cookout.
 
What needs to be remembered – and indeed commemorated on this day – is the Strength & Honor that drove America’s war dead down the path to becoming America’s war dead.
 
Thumbing through the pages of history it becomes very apparent. People come and go. Causes come and go. What is perceived as Right & Wrong comes and goes.
Strength & Honor are universal constants that do not.
 
Ya know, when Abe Lincoln was a little boy, you or I could have gone down to the French Market here in New Orleans… and purchased Shaquille O’Neal!
And, no, not to play on our basketball team.
 
What is Right and what is Wrong, indeed all man’s laws are founded and based on man’s myopia, his nearsightedness  … on the ever-shifting sands of human perspective.
 
20120531-bbqday1Universal Law, some would call Divine Law, works from another level altogether. And this is the level where Strength & Honor LIVE!
 
Strength & Honor do not recognize skin color, nationality, culture, time or space … or even a uniform.
 
From ancient Greece through the Roman Empire … from Britain’s mastery of the world’s oceans to America (England, Junior) and her not-so-civil war … the dead have piled-up in the countless billions! 
 
Causes, Empires, Cultures, Countries and what is perceived as Right & Wrong have shifted with the winds of change down through all the centuries.
 
Strength & Honor have not.
 
America’s heralded General Patton once remarked that “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor bastard die for his country.”
 
On this Memorial Day weekend 2019 let’s you & I send up a prayer.  A prayer to the Father – to what Napoleon Hill termed ‘Infinite Intelligence’ – to remove ‘bastard’, ‘war’, ‘death’ and ‘country’ from this equation. 
 
And let me raise a glass,  possibly a leftover beer from your backyard barbecue, and propose a toast.
A toast – To Strength & Honor!
 
~ With respect & prayers from the new Jer-USA-lem, New Orleans,
     
    Micheal G. Ziants
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Airlift Productions ~ a Catalyst for Positive Change since 1984
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“Mike, thank you for 25 years of successfully teaching Algebra to children of color and students who were living in poverty. They aren’t living in poverty anymore thanks to you and the mathematical skills you gave them. They are doctors, engineers and scientists today.” ~ the late John R. Lee, Founder of the I CAN Learn Mathematics E-Learning System

Things I’ve Learned About Life From Deepak Chopra

BFFs Wayne Dyer & Deepak Chopra, and a program that changed my life, “Beyond Miracles”

I first “met” Deepak Chopra through the writings, teachings, and lectures of Wayne Dyer.

As fellow mystics & metaphysicians, these two were BFFs (best friends forever) until Wayne’s untimely passing  three and a half years ago in Maui.

Together, through my now decades of study, these two have helped to unravel many of the mysteries of life – as well as death – for me.

But chief among them is the thought process that is the subject of this blog.

As astonishing as it seems upon first inspection… it is now a scientifically proven fact that there is not a single atom in the human body today that was there seven years ago!

That is YOUR body and mine.

While at first blush this sounds absolutely mad, pause to consider but a few facts from our everyday lives…

Every time you clip your fingernails, or get your hair cut, or exfoliate in the bathroom daily… where was that fingernail, or hair follicle, or skin cell last week or last month, to say nothing of last year?!?

That’s right. It was latent, born, and growing inside of you.

Just as the spring flowers in the garden return every year, or the apple that ‘magically’ appears on the tree, as humans, we are constantly reinventing ourselves from the inside out every day, 24-7-365 from every single thing that we eat, drink, and breathe.

As they say in New Orleans, ‘for true’!

As further proof of this scientific fact, the drug testing world now routinely clips hair from a suspect to determine marijuana use.

For the hair follicle will show conclusive proof of its use – and where was that hair months ago, but being fed by and grown from the inhalation of marijuana smoke.

Good buddies (and ‘Buddhas’?) L-R. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra

Furthermore, as Deepak so eloquently instructed me, especially here in the West, we mistakenly equate the human brain with the MIND, when they are, indeed, separate things!

While the brain is roughly three and a a half pounds of grey matter, driven by chemicals and electricity at the top of the spine… the mind exists in and, in fact, drives every cell of the human body.

And this ‘mind’ is constantly eavesdropping on every thought and emotion entertained by the brain.

Metaphorically, our bodies would then be the hi-tech, latest, state of the art airplane, while the ‘mind’ would act 24-7 as the air traffic controller!

So, we all need to control and be ever vigilant regarding the thoughts we allow ourselves from moment to moment.

Too much?

Well, the rishis, yogis, and spiritual masters who populate the ashrams of the far East would beg to differ.

Pause to consider, what the Carpenter from Galilee was really trying to get through to his 1st century posse on that ill-fated last supper in the upper room was that when He drank the wine – it would literally become His blood. And when He ate the bread, likewise, it would become His flesh!

We must all either view food as our medicine… or we will have to view medicine (Big Pharma) as our food.

New stomach, new skeletal structure, new organs, new skin, new heart, new brain.

Every seven years.

In fact, the very words you are reading right now are being written by the new 2019 version of Micheal Ziants’ brain!

What a marvelous revelation and epiphany this is for an otherwise clueless 21st century man – driving through the Wendy’s pickup window and scarfing down Tombstone frozen pizzas from the Rouse’s.

To the point?

Perhaps it indeed is true! We are what we eat… literally!

So, let’s all give more thought to EVERY thing that we eat, drink, and, yes, breathe on a daily basis.

For if you – the reader of these words – is not ultimately and totally responsible for every morsel of food and every drink that passes your lips, as well as every thought that you carry in your mind, I’d like to respectfully ask you… who is?

(Come on, guys, I can’t write only about VoiceOver and recording all the time. Especially when physical shape and excellent health certainly contribute to great on-mic performance, right?…mgz)

~ Micheal Ziants – Airlift Mike, NEW Orleans, LA, USA

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Airlift Productions – Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Size Counts! Or Does It? Get A Grip … On This.

Chichen Itza Pyramid

Long before the days of the white man, in fact when all of Europe was still a wilderness – to say nothing of what we today call ‘America’ –  the Maya in the Yucatan had a thriving commerce based on silver & gold … and charted the heavens with a stunning accuracy that still stands today.

From their observatories on the temple mount high atop the jungle, in a society that revered nothing if not time – they were the very first to witness the sunrise ….  and the last to admire and pray upon the sunset. 

My studies with the Maya have taught me many things, but chief among them is this thought process that I share with you here:

With talk of the recent ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’ still fresh, travel with me on a meditation of the mind as I walk you through some ‘Spiritual Aerobics’ – a stretching exercise as it were – and yet use science, facts & logic all along the way…

AirliftProductionsTheBlueMarble

Our Moon in the night sky is roughly 240,000 miles from Earth, while our sun is 93 million miles away. The Speed of Light clocks-in at 186,000 miles/second! Really. So, it takes our sun’s rays a little over 8-and-a-half minutes to make the journey from their origin until they reach our Earth.

Now, if light travels that FAR that FAST, can you even begin to get your mind around the distance light would travel in an hour? A day?  A week?

How about a year?!?

This is what the scientist ~ in the days before Columbus, before Galileo ~  the Mayan astronomer would call a ‘Light Year’.

Now, picture yourself camping on a star-filled night under the stars’ heavenly canopy. Pick out a star. Among the billions of possibilities, for the sake of example, let’s choose Betelgeuse, which sits in the middle of the Belt of Orion.

This ‘star’ – this SUN – is 642.5 LIGHT YEARS from Earth!  So, in the same way as our sun’s rays take just over 8 minutes to make their journey, here’s the punchline — 

That ‘starlight’ touching your eye left Betelgeuse BEFORE your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents … were BORN!

 

AirliftProductionsBetelgeuseToSun
Earth, the 3rd rock from the sun, is but a very small grain of sand on a rather immense & intense beach.  And it is not our final home.  Even the Carpenter from Nazareth would talk of the fact that His Father’s House had many rooms.  H-m-mm….

So, past all the science, numbers & math … ‘at the end of the day’ as the white man is often wont to say, what’s the take-away message?

It is simply this:  let’s you & I let the ego go. E-G-O … Earth Guide Only, Edging God Out, Eliminating Golden Opportunities … Forget the silly turf wars, dial-down all the drama & conflict,   and at least TRY to Increase The Peace.

Pause to consider, it’s called the ‘Universe’… break it down – ‘Uni’ {One} …. ‘Verse’ {Song} .

We all need to learn to sing the same song.

After all, in the ‘Big Picture’, from the ‘Slippery Slope, at the  ‘End of the Day’ (dare I say ‘literally’?) ….

You and I are but germs on a rock ball spinning around a ball of fire!

~ Micheal Ziants

Putting in time here on the 3rd rock, from the New Jer-USA-lem

AirliftProductionsMilkyWay

          To Communicate is the Beginning of Understanding.

Airlift Productions Communicates.

It’s An Audio Christmas Card From Airlift Mike

From Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting…” to Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming…” to Karen Carpenter’s “Greeting cards have all been sent…” the Christmas holidays every year have always been about all things audio to me.

And since I long ago left the snow-covered northeast for warmer climes in New Orleans, I’ve also replaced the crunch of snow and the sound of snow shovels scraping across concrete sidewalks with holiday sounds of my own making.

Conveniently enough, my Airlift Productions Studios have long provided me the platform and vehicle for making those holiday sounds.

Funny. Sarcastic. Profound. Inspirational.

So, on this Christmas 2018, let’s queue up a few for this audio Christmas greeting from NOLA…

Archie Manning records with Airlift Productions

While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Peyton or Eli Manning, I sure have met and worked with their pop Archie.

In the early days of the Airlift Studios down on the Crescent City’s Iberville Street, acting as writer and producer for Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym, it was my job to work with Archie on his various different radio campaigns.

Among my fave creative efforts for Archie was this one, wherein I was Santa Claus and he was the kid on Santa’s knee at the mall telling me what he wanted for Christmas.

** Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym ** from 1992 **

And with our Saints making a Super Bowl run here in late 2018, how much fun was that?

Another 1990s Christmas effort of mine has resurfaced here this Christmas season, as old pal Sue Bonano resurrected a couple spots of mine to air on Entercom radio stations here in 2018!

Yeah, it all sounds a bit crazy but, with a little editing, a radio ad that is now 23 years old, was brushed-off and aired all over NOLA this holiday season to lovers who weren’t even born when it first aired.

** Sue’s Jewelry “Because…” Radio Campaign, again in 2018 **

As the Christmas audio memories continue…

Hired by a Chicago-based ad agency called Right Hat in late 2015, I was tasked with lining-up the talent and recording a web-based “politically correct” Holiday greeting card for a Washington, D.C. law firm.

Wait a tick, a what?

That’s right.  A politically correct greeting card! So I tracked down a trio of very talented professors at our Loyola University to come to Airlift Productions to record a classic that would have old Ebeneezer himself doing a double take.

** Right Hat’s take on Christmas 2015, with Airlift Mike **

Whew! Let’s decompress after that one, OK?

And at the same time shift gears totally.

Shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific school shooting at Newtown, CT just before Christmas in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was inspired to hit the Airlift Studios.

Taking an anonymous internet writing and adding Danny Elfman’s mystical score to my voice, I came up with an answer from the “other side” as to what happened to those beautiful young souls that fatefully painful December morning…

** Christmas Eve in Newtown  by Micheal Ziants**

Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the Reason for the Season!

But given the fissures & cracks in our 21st century society, is it any wonder why the season can be so paradoxically wonderfully troubling and problematic for so many?

Meanwhile, the prayers and reflections continue to this day…

Like I said, for this Christmas audio greeting card – Funny, Sarcastic, Profound, Inspirational.

Which pretty much sums up my feelings, my take here on my 66th Christmas here on the 3rd rock.

From yours truly and the Airlift krewe here on Pomona, here’s to a Merry Christmas!

And for 2019 – a wish for everyone across the planet to Increase the Peace.

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans…since 1984

Questions For The Angels from Brother Paul & Airlift Mike

It’s been awhile since I last posted a full-on, space-cowboy, metaphysical musings blog, so on this fall Sunday morning in 2018, let’s have at it.

 

As a cradle Catholic & life-long Truth Seeker, I have many questions for the angels, but for the sake of brevity let’s focus on but a couple.

From ” the Gospel of Paul” – Paul Simon that is – he opines…

“If every human on the planet, and all the buildings on it should disappear… Would a zebra grazing in the African savanna care enough to shed one zebra tear?”

If you’ve never experienced this song before, do yourself a revealing, enlightening treat here….

** Paul Simon’s “Questions for the Angels”

And, Paul, as you walk away this year from your fantastic odyssey, many thanks for your inestimable contributions to the American/World Song Book. Much love and respect, my brother.

Now, a few questions from yours truly, Airlift Mike.

Why is that when man talks to God, we call it prayer… but why, should God ever decide to talk back to man, do we have to call it schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?

The psychiatric community, as it is practiced today – from the local “shrink’s office” to Big Pharma’s billion dollar yearly take – is but a scant hundred years old!

Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung

These very same issues of the ID versus Spirit were argued about back and forth last century by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. (These two actually rode a steam ship from Europe to the US in the early 1900s and analyzed each other’s dreams along the way.)

EGO vs. Spirit.

OK, then, if you’ve run with me so far, let’s take it a bit further.

What if the young maid from Domremy had been sitting, somewhat agitated, in a psychiatrist’s office five hundred years ago? I picture the conversation going something like this:

“Well, gee, doc, I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but lately, I haven’t been sleeping well. And last night, Archangel Mike was talking to me. He was! And he told me that Charles the Dauphin should be the King of France! Really. And he also told me that one day I would lead my country in revolt!”

Whoa! Wait a minute. When women here in America couldn’t even vote in an election a hundred years ago… this is a 13 year old peasant girl from the farms of Europe over five hundred years ago.

Well, there’s little doubt that the psych community would have intervened – and that’s putting it mildly.

Straight jackets. Haldol. Lithium. Leather restraints. Padded cells. Perhaps even some electro-shock therapy…

And the revelations & accomplishments of young Joan of Arc – now romanticized, mythologized, and marbleized (as in statues) –  as the church took the Maid of Orleans down to the stake, would simply have never happened.

Also for your consideration…

While Jesus of Nazareth’s exploits, shrouded in the mists and myths of time, continue to be speculated over by scholars, the story of young Franceso is historically well documented.

Francis, as a late Italian teen, returned from war, committed to never again make that mistake. And as the son of a wealthy clothier, was expected to follow in pop’s footsteps. But, did it happen?

Uh-no.

What Francis did do – after angelic intervention – was to deny his mother and father’s wishes, walk away from the family business – and in front of the town’s people, the church elders, as well as mom and dad… strip himself stark naked and walk into the woods to seek enlightenment!

Now, what would the psychiatric community today have done to young Francis… seven hundred years ago?

Same deal. Same results.

Only this time, the results would have been considerably more dramatic.

We would not, here in 2018, have a worldwide order of monks known as the Franciscans. The AA meetings would not have their famous 12-step recovery prayer.

Oh, and that quaint city on our west coast would never have been known as… San Francisco!

Too much? 

Perhaps, but certainly grist for thought.

So, the next time you encounter someone on the streets of America, perhaps homeless… lost, talking seemingly to themselves (and they’re not on a cell phone) ….

give them your understanding, and a wide berth, because you never know – do you – who…

or to Whom they may be speaking.

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~ writing with humility, love and respect from the new Jer-USA-lem,  New Orleans, LA, USA,

Micheal Ziants

 

Mike Pintek, Airlift Mike, WKBO, KDKA & The Keystone State

Mike Pintek at WKBO, cranking-out a news story – on a typewriter! (remember those?)

I first met Mike Pintek in 1975 at a quaint 1,000 watt radio station in a far off land known as Pennsylvania.

It was WKBO radio in Harrisburg, PA  and, as fellow same-year (1952) baby-boomers, we were both relatively new to the radio game, 24 years old, and, as the tacky, crude expression goes, “young, dumb, and full of ____!”

And I say ‘far off land’ because, as a ‘damn Yankee’, I’ve called New Orleans home for 35 years now and seldom return to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and the land of my birth.

Yeah, that’s Pintek seated on the car hood, yours truly is the ‘hood’ lower left, with the rest of the posse

Pintek served as the afternoon news dude for John Saint John (he said, using the 3rd person) every afternoon as, daily 2-6 pm, we entertained our “fighting troops in the commuter combat zones” of the state capital.

Night times were different stories.

As 24 year old guys, away from home, single, hormonal, it was bars, night clubs, and the like – and, of course, Monday Night Football watching with the rest of the boyz, especially when the Steelers were on.

** John Saint John & Mike Pintek on WKBO Harrisburg in 1976 **

Give a listen to afternoon drive in the Bicentennial year of 1976! Just don’t judge us too harshly.  Shucks, we were only 24 and still wet behind the headphones.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, last week up in PA brother Mike decided to drop his body and move to “the other side”  – dead at 65 from pancreatic cancer complications.

And I just came here to unpack a few things.

Through many of my now-over-30 years of self employment with Airlift Productions, Mike stuck to his radio guns and went on to entertain Pittsburgh, PA  with a highly-rated talk show at legendary 50,000 watt behemoth KDKA for 30 years!

Earlier, in ’79, Mike even went on to break one of America’s biggest stories of the 20th century – the nearly catastrophic core meltdown at Three Mile Island! (wait, let’s make that a triple exclamation mark !!!)

Mike Pintek seriously serious about bein’ serious OnAir at KDKA Pittsburgh

What a testament to his awesome powers of communication, longevity, innate talents, and skill. Mike Pintek was born to the radio.

Yet, here in 2018, many  folks just don’t get it.

Radio, just like wartime, bonds its warriors – like crazy glue.

And as Garth Brooks once opined, those who live ‘outside the fire’ will never fully understand those living within… and consumed by it.

Mike and I were crazy glue bonded warriors living inside the fire, living lives never fully understood by the overwhelming majority who never felt the pressure, the joys, the daily combat of on-mic performance.

 

** My YouTube tribute to my Keystone State Media Titans **

And my warrior buds continue to fall by the wayside, gone, but not forgotten….

Joe Wambach, Fred Honsberger, Marvin ‘Goose’ Goslin, ‘Big Jim’ Roberts, Gary Magill, Jeff Kauffman, Charlie Adams, Rick ‘Chris’ Andree, J. Al Dame – every single name here, fellow WKBO warriors in the broadcast trenches with Mike & I, now … gone.

Now, like so many of our comrades, Mike Pintek has fought his last fight.

KDKA’s Mike Pintek, putting in “another day at the office”

But you wanna know something?

Everyone has to die. But not everyone truly lives!

While way too many folks today live half-realized lives, commuting to jobs they really don’t like, at hours they don’t care to work, and working for people they don’t respect – Mike and I, like crazy glue bonded warriors, never spent even a day of our lives like that.

Ever.

Mike’s final Twitter Profile Pic – how catty, huh?

Besides, like those righteous dudes Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield once gave voice to – “If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand; if there’s a rock ‘n roll heaven, then they’ve gotta have a hell of a band!”

Oh, and one hell of a news room.

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic – from New Orleans since 1984 

 

Airlift Mike Runs Off To Join The Circus & The Greatest Show On Earth

Airlift Mike (as John Saint John) personal certificate proclaiming him an "Elephant Equestrian Extraordinaire" in the Greatest Show on Earth
Airlift Mike (as John Saint John) personal certificate proclaiming him an “Elephant Equestrian Extraordinaire” in the Greatest Show on Earth

While here in 2018 Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus has given way to changing times, dwindling ticket sales & digital distractions, as well as a growing respect for the dignity of all animals – and taken down the tent poles for the FINAL time …

Allow me to sidestep the front-page politics and animal rights issues for some rather remarkable personal reflection.

“Mr. Peabody, set the Way-back machine for 1978!”

It was May that year, shortly before my WKBO/Harrisburg exit for St. Louis that yours truly – as John Saint John – felt the calling.

“The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Roar of the Crowd!” OMG!

As afternoon drive air personality for five years at WKBO, I was invited by the PR Team at Ringling Brothers to ‘run off to join the circus’ to help promote the circus coming to town.

Gunther Gebel-Williams showing-off! Hey, it's his JOB.
Gunther Gebel-Williams showing-off! Hey, it’s his JOB.

That May day in 1978 I showed up in Hershey, PA to help out with the circus parade, as all the animals made their way from the nearest train tracks on to the Hershey Park Arena for the show.

Gunther Gebel-Williams himself (long-famous at this point for his appearances with Johnny Carson & Ed Sullivan), the heroic, blonde, Germanic ‘Caesar of the Sawdust’ & Head Animal Trainer said to me “John, let me help you UP”

John Saint John high atop the largest elephant in the Greatest Show on Earth
John Saint John high atop the largest elephant in the Greatest Show on Earth

He then cupped his hands at knee-height, I stepped in, and he proceeded to catapult me to the top of the largest African bull elephant in the show for my circus parade ride to the arena.

Wow-ee-wow! There I was riding this humongous animal bareback, no saddle – his skin felt like corrugated cardboard – and there I was, steering him as I held him BY THE EARS!

As if this experience wasn’t already enough, after reaching the arena I was escorted past the maze of entertainers from all over the world, listening to a symphony of foreign tongues from all around the earth, to a makeup trailer.

Lou Jacobs, Dean of Clowns for over 60 years with Ringling Brothers
Lou Jacobs, Dean of Clowns for over 60 years with Ringling Brothers

Inside this trailer I was introduced to Lou Jacobs. Now at this point Lou was the Dean of Clowns. Imagine, he performed with Ringling Brothers for over 60 years, and is the guy credited with inventing the “Clown Car”.

So, Lou proceeds to personally make me up for the show… red-nosed, white-faced, arched eyebrows, a shockingly-orange wig and some crazy duds, so I can join them IN PERFORMANCE!

MichealZiantsAsRinglingBrosClownHersheyPa1978
Micheal Ziants all ‘tricked-out’ as a Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey ‘Clown for a Day’, Hershey Park Arena, May 1978

Now I’m IN the “Clown Car” – a wild customized VW Beetle with all the seats taken out and the windows painted so no one could see in, and they pile a dozen of us into this one little car.

We tear into the arena on-cue and are stopped to a screeching halt on the sawdust by a fellow clown cop who then proceeds to knock us all out as we exit the car!

All to the shrieks and howls of the delighted packed crowd.

What seemed so remarkable at this moment to me was that this was the first time I’d ever made people laugh – WITHOUT EVEN OPENING MY MOUTH!

MichealZiantsRinglingBrosCircusParadeHersheyPaMay1978Heading back to my humble apartment later that May night I couldn’t help but feel a bit small, you know?

Backstage at the circus I listened to every voice and tongue you can imagine, from entertainers who’d traveled from all over the planet to Hershey, PA – the high wire act was from Rio de Janeiro, Gunther & Lou were from Germany, the dog act crowd was Parisian, etc. – and I was just this over-hyped, fast-talking, ego-filled American disc jockey, born just north of Pittsburgh in New Castle.

But I certainly learned a lot about life that day. About community. About teamwork. And a love & appreciation for the most majestic creature on the face of the earth – the elephant.

Oh, and one other thing.

LIFE really IS a Circus!

And we’re not talking metaphor here.

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mike church“When I need BIG ‘I-know-that-guy’s-voice!’ sound for any production I am working on, the first call I make is to Airlift Mike.  Micheal’s penetrating vocals and second-to-none production quality give my movie & audio feature projects the instant respectability they need.   If you want to sound like a pro, meaning no one gives a second thought to your audio because it is so well executed, you want to call Airlift!” ~
MIKE CHURCH, Former World-Famous Sirius/XM Talk Show Host, Founding Father Film Maker, Writer & Producer of ‘The Spirit of ’76’ and ‘The Road to Independence’ & Creator of the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” ~ at Essence Fest 2018!

Airlift Mike Essence Fest Tweet July 2018

With all due respect to Jada, Tiffany, Regina, and the Queen, a “Girls’ Trip” this wasn’t! Not as crazy, foul or funky, but what a trip it was.

When the early June call came into my Airlift Productions Studios from a “Sam” at NYC’s Team Epiphany, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the proposed job.

Samantha Whidby, project manager, had found my website via a Google search, and was looking for some help at Essence Festival 2018.

Team Epiphany, as it turns out, handles some pretty hefty clients, like HBO, Nike… and Coca-Cola; and they had their sights set on making some “noise” for Coke within the Convention Center for this annual epic summer extravaganza.

The job?

Put together a team of audio engineers to man two recording studio booths at Essence Fest to engage and embrace the consumer by helping her to record unique beats on drum pads using Coca-Cola sound effects!

Yours truly, in specially designed Coke recording booth, Essence Fest 2018

What?

The beats would be then recorded to computer, saved as mp3s, and then sent to the consumer’s email address, allowing her to then save it to her phone, and even use it as her unique Coke-Essence-Fest ring tone.

Like I said, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the gig.

But make it, we did. And how!

Let the “Boys’ Trip” begin….

Kind of like Tom Sawyer’s summertime tale of talking his comrades into helping him paint the fence, within a few phone calls I’d lined-up my summer vacation posse.

“Special Ed” Pepper and “DJ-HB” Harold Bonner hard at work, Essence Fest 2018

Accomplished full-time civil engineer (and audio savant/all-around tech-head) Ed Pepper, along with college student (and aspiring DJ) Harold Bonner agreed to saddle-up for the ride.

So, how did it all come out?

Well, across the entire Essence Festival weekend – July 6th, 7th & 8th – we recorded over 300 unique beats!

And gave the consumer more than a “Coke and a smile”.

We gave them customized, unique ringtones like this…

** Coke SFX Beat with R&B groove mp3 ~ Essence Fest 2018 **

** Coke SFX  Beat with Hip-Hop groove mp3 **

Gee, we sure have come a long way from the days of Mad Men, Don Draper, and those “I’d like to buy the world a Coke…and live in perfect harmony” jingles of the 20th century, huh?

But throughout history and on into the future, “youth will be served” – Coca-Cola, that is.

And beats.

Airlift Mike Essence Fest 2018 posse – (L-R) Harold Bonner, Edmond Pepper, Micheal Z

 

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” I’ve had the privilege of working with professionals all over the world. Micheal Ziants is among the best of them. His professional integrity is only surpassed by his love for humanity. It is perhaps his boundless humanity that drives his passion for his work and his compassion.. to say nothing of his appreciation and understanding of the human spirit, at it’s most creative level.” — NORMAN ROBINSON, former CBS News White House correspondent & Longtime New Orleans Television News Anchor

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984.  

Let’s Discuss Mike Ziants & That “Discus Thing”

DiscobolusBefore John Saint John, before Mike McCann and even before New Orleans… decades before Airlift Productions, there was the discus.

The Discus Throw Event in Track & Field marks the first time that I ever proved to myself beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could do ANYTHING I wanted in life – IF I wanted it badly enough, applied myself, and focused ALL my talents and efforts.

Some lesson.

I’ve often been asked through all these years and all these homes and all these recording studios – about the ever-present discus thrower, Myron’s classic Greek statue – The Discobolus.

Some homophobes have actually implied – or even come right out and said – that I must be “gay” to have some statue of a naked dude so prominently displayed in my Airlift Productions Studios.

Really?

Here’s the REAL story ….

The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969
The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969

Growing up as the middle child of five, with brothers Tommy & John, who were the true athletes of the family (basketball stars both, brother Steve’s star would rise later), my acting & musical talents often took the “backseat” in the eyes of my father and, at age 15, I was committed to proving that I could “measure-up” and “man-up”!

So, it was the discus that caught my eye.  And all my attention.

I built a gym in the basement and went after it. Dumbbells and barbells rang and clanged late into the night. 

Discus Boy Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970
“Discus Boy” Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970

I studied film (yes, 8mm film) of the great ones – Al Oerter, Jay Silvester, Ludvik Danek  (look these guys up) – and perfected my throwing form and style.

Heck, I even almost ended up in the hospital, or maybe even dead, when at one track meet in the spring of 1970, some dude actually threw one INTO MY HEAD!

ZiantsDiscusAccident-1970My mother Phyllis would later laughingly joke, “Oh, maybe that’s what’s wrong with Mike!”

But … I just kept at it. With. Dogged. Persistence. Day. After. Day. Week. After. Week.

I even poured the concrete in a vacant lot by the family home and built my own practice circle.

You know, real ‘Home Work’.

Like I said,  I wanted it badly. I applied myself. I focused all my talents and efforts.

So, how did it all come out?

DiscusHighSchoolWell, the regulation high school discus weighs-in at 3 pounds-9 ounces, and competition models are made of wood and steel.

I placed 3rd-out-of-18 High Schools in the W.P.I.A.L. (Western PA Interscholastic Athletic League).  And went on to set the Northwestern High School Discus Record in 1970 with a toss of 149 feet & 11 inches – that’s half a regulation football field!

My record stood unmatched, untouched and unbroken for 10 years.

No, I never got the cheers and accolades that accompanied my brothers’ pulse-pounding,  jam-packed Shadyside & Northwestern High School basketball games; and Papa Charlie never did get a chance to make it out to catch me in action. 

But I sure got something else.

MIchealZiantsHighSchoolGradPic1970
Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA

The self-satisfied smile as week-after-week I won the discus event. And the knowledge that my mind & spirit had showed my flesh who was the boss.

You see, in  metaphysical circles today much is made of the fact that the human mind – sort of like a rubber band – once stretched to a new idea … never quite returns to its original shape.

Mine never has.

 

And after graduation that year, another crazy passion entered my life – RADIO!

As yours truly, Airlift Mike Ziants, went from hurling discs … to spinning them … on turntables.

And New Orleans, Louisiana wasn’t even on the kid’s radar. Yet.

AirliftProductionsRecordingStudioNewOrleans2014PromoPic
Airlift Productions Recording Studio, New Orleans, 2017

But that “discus dude”, Myron’s Discobolus, remains to this day in the Airlift Studios as an ever-present reminder that I can accomplish anything in the world that I want to  – if I just put my mind to it.

Some lesson indeed.

For a teenage boy. In the summer of ’69.

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SidNoelRideauMorgusRecordsVoiceOverForNewOrleansAtAirliftProductions
E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

“No recording studio I have worked with has given such personal attention toward perfecting the ‘science of sound’ than Airlift Productions in the hands of Micheal Ziants.  I thank him for the many voice-overs and sound effects he produced for my syndicated television shows “MORGUS PRESENTS”!

 
– – –  DR. MOMUS ALEXANDER MORGUS, www.morgus.com

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Han Solo Records VoiceOver At Airlift Productions

AldenEhrenreichRecordsAtAirliftProductionsNOLA
The New Han Solo recorded “Beautiful Creatures” movie V-O at Airlift Productions NOLA

Little did  Alden Ehrenreich or I realize when we first met that he was destined to become Han Solo!

Contracted to record some last-minute Hollywood South VoiceOver for Alden’s latest movie “Beautiful Creatures”, I certainly didn’t know what to expect that June morning of 2012.

In this teen-goth, supernatural, romantic thriller with a southern twist, Alden had been cast as the star-crossed lead lover Ethan Wate. And as the fates would have it, there were a few key monologue voice tracks left un-recorded when they got to post-production.

Enter Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions.

AldenEhrenreichHanSoloRecordsVoiceOverAtAirliftProductionsNOLA
Alden Ehrenreich at the Big Star Wars Han Solo Announcement Party

When I answered the door that morning there was Alden, boyishly handsome, with a cheery “Good Morning”…. and a pint bottle of Jamaican Red Stripe lager in his hand.

When I questioned this rather novel approach to a recording session, he said simply that “This is for after we’re done!”

So, after it we went.  Together with veteran movie sound pro Jeffrey Haupt, screen play writer & director Richard LaGravenese, a dialect coach from London, and their entourage, we laid down VoiceOver tracks for this moody suspense thriller.

Witness a taste of Alden’s acting chops here; don’t you love the faux southern accent? I mean, he was born and raised in Los Angeles, with roots further back (like yours truly) in Austria & Hungary —

 

And more recently, Alden stole the show – and even upstaged George Clooney himself –  in the 2016 Hollywood-Golden-Era homage Coen Brothers flick “Hail, Caesar!” as celluloid cowboy hero Hobie Doyle. Check him out here….

 

 

Fast-forward just a tick, then, and imagine our collective surprise when out of the thousands who auditioned for the part, the Lucas-Disney machine that IS the STAR WARS franchise just cast this dude for the Star Wars prequel – as the NEW HAN SOLO!

 

 

You go, Alden!

So, let me see, if Alden is 27 today, back when we met and recorded together he was all of 22. So, back to that day ….

 

AldenEhrenreichRecordsMovieVoiceoverAtAirliftProductionsNOLA
Alden (dead center) holding his own at the “Hail, Caesar” Party – with Josh, George, Jonah, and Channing …. hey, there goes the neighborhood, huh?

After the session, he popped the top on his Jamaican Red Stripe and began to share it with me! We went slug-for-slug like Catholics at a communion rail, laughed, and talked of his past, present and future.

But little did either of us realize that day that the future would include his casting in the biggest movie juggernaut of the 21st century!

And today, that empty bottle of Jamaican Red Stripe is still sitting up on the Airlift commissary shelves, beside other noteworthy bottles of wine, scotch & Wild Turkey emptied after sessions past to celebrate & commemorate memorable Airlift Studio recording sessions.

Happy and thrilled for you the Airlift Productions krewe is,  Alden!

Thanks again for the laughs, brotherhood… and Jamaican lager.

Oh, and may the Force Be With You, my brother!

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SidNoelRideauMorgusRecordsVoiceOverForNewOrleansAtAirliftProductions
E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

“Dr. Ziants:

My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in your digital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus

** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.  Check the good doctor out anytime at www.morgus.com ***

MichealZiantsWithMorgusNOLA
Airlift Mike On-Camera performing with Sid in “Morgus Presents” 1988, re-broadcast on Fox-8

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984