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American Idol: The End is Here

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With eleven contestants down, conspiracy theories flying, and “shocking” eliminations all done, we have finally arrived at the end of American Idol. The final two, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, performed for the title last night. Leading up to the finale, hate spewed across the Internet from Haley Reinhart fans, and Vote for the Worst has chosen the obvious front-runner as the “worst:” Scotty McCreery. One word for Vote for the Worst: copout. Situations such as these are what ruin what could be a good show. I say “could” because the Idol producers have the ability to end these situations by creating a better, more fair, and more accurate voting system. Until they do, the show will be plagued by this type of negativity. Top that off with the drama the producers love, and the show begins to more and more resemble other bad reality shows on television today.

Last night, Scotty and Lauren “battled” it out for the title. I quote “battle” because it was so slow that it wasn’t much of a battle. I had hoped it would be, and after Scotty’s opening number, I was ready to at least be entertained. Scotty started the night by reprising his version of “Gone” from week nine. Scotty does this song well, and he really engaged the audience this time around. I found myself thinking back to when Scotty held the microphone like a flute and made strange faces at the audience, and this performance showed his growth. While he slowed it down with George Strait’s “Check Yes or No,” this was still the type of playful tune with which Scotty tends to do well. He’s a classic country crooner and should do well; however, the final choice of “I Love You This Big” wasn’t very good. It’s hard to believe the writer of Tim McGraw’s hit “Live Like You Were Dying” (one of the very few country songs I’ve actually purchased) wrote this song. Personally, I think this will be a bad choice for an initial release for Scotty. Something more upbeat would better serve Scotty, but what do I know? I do know that this single likely won’t drive me to purchase his album, but hey, that’s just me. Maybe hardcore country fans will like it as a lullaby to their babies.

Lauren’s repeat song choice was Carrie Underwood’s “On the Floor.” Lauren did this song well in week nine, and she didn’t disappoint with her second performance of the song. Perhaps because Lauren chose a Carrie song, her idol Carrie chose “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis (daughter of country great Mel Tillis) for Lauren. I didn’t like this choice for Lauren as much as her own choice, and someone needs to tell her that cowboy boots don’t go with tutus. To finish off the night, Jimmy chose likely the smarmiest song I’ve ever heard in my life, “Like My Mother Does.” Sorry folks, but this one didn’t do it for me. Lauren has a great voice, but she has a lot of work to do. Her stage presence is virtually non-existent, and she has got to learn to control her nerves. If she is successful, she will be playing to much larger live audiences, and she cannot allow nerves to get in the way. Perhaps that will come with a bit more practice and performances, but I have to disagree with the judges that Lauren will win tonight. She “cracked” on the biggest note of the song, and her nerves were raw. If, however, we were watching the sideshow with the doctor, we would forgive her any flaws—at least that’s what the Powers That Be hoped.

To top off the producers’ games, the judges on Idol have become basically useless, especially Steven. His declaration that Lauren won rounds one and two “because she’s prettier than Scotty” is the epitome of uselessness. Tell me that she’s a better singer, that she better engages the audience or that her stage presence is superior, and I will listen. Telling me she’s pretty doesn’t help me. Thanks for nothing, Steven. To be true judges of a real competition, the judges must remain neutral and at least appear to be objective. Above all, they need to give constructive criticism; none of that was forthcoming last night, as neither performer was perfect, but all they got was praise. The judges had one final opportunity to help these two kids, and they blew it. These judges just don’t appear to have the ability to be objective or give helpful advice. Giving a contestant a standing ovation while others remain to perform should never happen. It’s detrimental to the other(s). Last night, Randy, Jennifer, and Steven made clear to the viewing audience where their votes should go. Good thing no one listens to them.

The show last night began with them making excuses for Lauren before she even performed. That’s the wrong message to send to a young singer just before she takes the stage in front of millions of people. No wonder she was nervous. Because Ryan couldn’t get the answer he wanted from Lauren, he called the doctor out onto the stage. Of course, the whole thing was likely staged—including Lauren declining to discuss it—and I failed to get the point of the entire scene, other than creating drama that likely went over most viewers’ heads and instead onto their nerves. Then, the judges’ subliminal messages to the voting audience that Lauren is the better of the two put the proverbial icing on the cake. If Idol wants to be a real talent competition, they have to allow the talent to shine without all the drama.

Reality shows can be quite entertaining, but when you’re trying to find “the next big thing,” you are going to have to do more than entertain potential music buyers with drama. Most detrimental to the reason for even existing, when a competition allows the viewing audience to vote uncontrollably, you’re not going to end up with an accurate reflection of what the music buying public will purchase. Dial Idol enables voters to plug in a laptop and vote for hours, and I suspect many of the show’s younger views actually have an attention span that allows them to sit and dial their phones for hours. In the end, we must ask: are those viewers going to buy multiple copies of their idol’s album? Don’t count on it. That’s why so many of Idol’s winners flop in the real world. Out of nine seasons, the show has had two successful winners: Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Obviously, “success” can be measured by many things, but from a sales perspective, these two are it for Idol. All of the power votes that got Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, and Kris Allen to the top did not reflect in their album sales. Ruben, at least, went platinum with his initial release, but what’s he doing now?

What, then, is the purpose of the show other than to entertain? My personal hope is that, if Idol returns after this season, the producers revamp the voting system, stop the game-playing, and move forward with truly trying to find a raw talent. Otherwise, we all might as well tune into Jersey Shore to see how real people can act stupid in front of a camera and become well-paid celebrities.

 

 

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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