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American Idol: This Season’s (Second) “Shocking” Elimination

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American Idol is into its tenth season as the talent-search powerhouse for which it has become known. The show this year ushered in the end of the Simon Cowell Era and welcomed Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the judges’ table. So far, both new judges have breathed life into a show that appeared to be reaching the end of its reign over primetime television. Add to that the fact that they found some of the best talent the show has displayed to date, and American Idol appears to be on its way to returning to the lofty position it held in previous years—or is it?

One thing that has not changed about the show is the voting process and the “shocking” eliminations. I put “shocking” in quotes because is any elimination ever really that shocking? A show that allows people to vote as many times as they want sets up for these types of eliminations. When you couple that with the fact that the vast majority of voting viewers are young females, it is little wonder that the women are being knocked down like metal ducks at the fair.  Even the guys who aren’t that good (Paul McDonald comes to mind) last longer than women who exhibit talent (Pia Toscano). Don’t get me wrong: I’m no fan of Pia. She has a nice voice, but that’s about it. She has no stage presence, and all of her songs end up sounding alike. Major labels don’t care about that, however, as they will make her into whom they want her to be. I understand they’re already courting her. Good for Pia. At least she has a future, even though she didn’t “connect” with the Idol viewing audience. As the manager of an indie band, I’m no stranger to that. Everyone isn’t going to like everything. We’re all different in more ways than one, and our taste in music is but one of those differences. Therein lies the problem with the voting procedure on American Idol. Is it right for a few people to make the decision for many?

Think about it: American Idol operates on the premise that the contestant who receives the most votes will sell the most records. After all, this entire contest is about money in the end—money for the record label that signs the winner, money for the promoters who will spearhead the winner’s tours, and ultimately, money for the winner. Money, money, money. It makes the world go ‘round, oh yes it does. If you think about it, though, you must ask yourself whether a few power voters can really predict who will be a star in real life. Let’s look back at Season 5 of American Idol, when Taylor Hicks won and third runner-up Chris Daughtry became the star. The idea behind allowing people to vote as much as they desire is flawed. If 20,000 people are power-voting for Paul McDonald, are they are going to be able or willing to buy his CD enough to make it a hit? I doubt it. Poor Taylor couldn’t even make platinum after winning this show while Chris Daughtry went multiple-platinum. If The Powers That Be on Idol want this show to really reflect who will take off in the real world, they would allow a more realistic amount of votes like Dancing With the Stars, where viewers are allowed as many votes as there are contestants—period—though you can get three times that by voting online, on your cell, and on a land line. Either way you look it at, viewers are still getting only a maximum of 36 votes each at the beginning of the show, and that number dwindles as contestants are eliminated.

While I don’t have a problem with contestants being popular for various reasons (though I will never get the popularity of Paul McDonald), power voting is no indicator of just what that “popularity” means in the real world. Do all the 15-year-old girls have a crush on Scotty McCreery, or is he really that good? Okay, Scotty’s not a good example—he really is just that good. But, hopefully, you get my point. Adding to the problem of the unlimited voting is the “save.” This season, the save was used early on to save Casey Abrams. Casey is good. He’s eclectic, he’s a musician, and he has good stage presence, all of which make him extremely entertaining. However, was it really fair to save Casey only to see two other contestants (Thia Megia and Naima Adedapo) eliminated the following week? I don’t think so, and I’ll tell you why. When the judges endorse a contestant as they do with the save, much of the lemming-like voting public jumps off the cliff with them. The show is supposed to be based on votes, and the votes should let the contestants fall where they may. To make matters worse, the judges’ display of shock, anger, and heartbreak was so very inappropriate last week. Poor Stefano. Watching the elimination, it was quite obvious that Stefano thought he was leaving (as did I). The shock on his face was also obvious. Then, when the judges begin berating America’s vote, singing the praises of Pia, and displaying their anger, I’m sure Stefano thought, “Damn. What about me? Do I suck that badly?” What a nice thought to leave with a contestant who has to perform again tonight, in front of the very judges who disregarded him the week before. Will they be out for blood and unfairly rate his next performance because he took out their favorite? But, did Stefano really take her out? It is my understanding that the one left with the eliminated contestant is not always the second lowest vote getter. For all we know, Jacob might have had the second lowest number of votes, but leaving Pia with Stefano was more dramatic. The American Idol producers are into drama, and that is another negative thing about the show that will likely never change.

Looking at who’s left in the competition, was Pia really “unfairly” eliminated? This entire group is one of the best I’ve ever seen on Idol as a group. Sure, there have been contestants who were better than some of these, but as an overall group, this year’s contestants take top honors. Of course, there are a couple of contestants whose popularity I don’t get—Paul McDonald and Haley Reinhart—but no one can say they’re completely untalented. It will be interesting to see who makes it to the end. My money is certainly on James Durbin and Scotty McCreery, but we know my money isn’t worth a whole lot when it comes to American Idol. It is rare indeed that the choice of the masses is also my choice. You’re talking about a woman who refuses to listen to Top 40 radio and abhors what is called “popular music” these days, but I digress. I do think there’s room in the industry for each of these contestants, so in end, each of them wins. Who wins this show, however, remains to be seen. I’m so sure there will be plenty of other “shocking eliminations” along the way, but that had better not involve Scotty McCreery. An artist who can make ME like country music must have something special to offer indeed.

We’ll all see how this thing plays out soon enough. Tonight is another competition. Remember to vote for your favorite, and be on the lookout for my normal recap.

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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