Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TV Gripes: Be Still My Beating Heart!

I’m not usually captivated by trailers and promo clips but when, during The Voice finale, NBC previewed the clip for SMASH— which seems to be based around the production of a musical about Marilyn Monroe and the team’s search for a star to play the lead role— there was no doubt that I would be watching. I love musicals and the idea that I will be able to see one every week for weeks at a time gives me the tingles. And, the potential leads (Katherine McPhee of American Idol fame and Megan Hilty of Wicked fame) both have actual talent so I anticipate that there will be some great musical numbers coming out of that show. With such a cast of esteemed actors and Steven Spielberg at the helm, SMASH can only be a hit. January can’t get here fast enough!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TV Gripes: Yes, I'm Still Watching The Voice

Since it premiered back in April, I have been faithfully tuning into NBC’s The Voice week after week, not because I was so enamored with the hodgepodge concept but because it’s taken me this long to decide whether or not I want to continue watching. Convoluted, I know. With American Idol, I knew that things would become dull after the auditions round but with all it’s gimmicks, The Voice manages to keep things fresh and interesting. Still, while they are the very things that I previously used to recommend The Voice, I’ve been finding myself less than impressed with the “talent” displayed by the contestants as the competition wears on. The performances didn’t suck entirely but neither did they prompt me to run to YouTube for a replay the next day. They were simply okay, not great. The judges continue to be an interesting factor and I enjoy the bromance and flirty banter whizzing back and forth but frankly, they give effusive praise where none is warranted. Without fail. This is becoming annoying. And, they don’t always make the right (read: my) choices when selecting who they want on their teams. But what I find most puzzling is that after the chair-turning gimmick and elaborate staging with the boxing ring, producers of The Voice could not manage to pull out another of their tricks and fit 8 performances into an hour-long show instead of stretching it out over two long hours. I understand why they would do this but it doesn’t make me any more appreciative. Still, after last night, I have decided to fully embrace the crazy that is The Voice. Last night I bore witness to true talent and am eager to see how far my picks for the final showdown will progress over the course of the competition.

I’ve always felt that Adam Levine had the strongest team and after listening to their group rendition of “A Little Help From My Friends” that opinion has not changed, although the backing gospel choir probably did more for that than Adam and the actual competitors. However, strong as Team Adam is one of Cee Lo’s charge, Vicci Martinez, clearly stole the show with her performance of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. Talk about raw! This girl clearly knows her talent and how to use it to engage the audience. Each team has at least one person with an interesting voice (Beverly from Christina’s team; Xenia from Blake’s team, Casey from Adam’s team, and Vicci from Cee Lo’s team) and if that was enough to win competitions, they would be the last four standing near the end of the competition. Since it isn’t, we cannot discount Javier Colon who, as Adam puts it, has amazing range (and is one of my picks for the final round) nor Jeff Jenkins and Nakia, both of whom have powerful, if not entirely unique, voices. Everyone has something to recommend them and that makes for good competition.

At this point in the competition, Both Team Christina and Team Blake have the two competitors I expected in Beverly and Frenchie and Dia and Xenia respectively so no surprise there. Cee Lo and Adam and have a tendency to go left when you expect them to go the other way so it is harder to predict who they’ll have at the end but I’ll go with the obvious in suspecting that Vicci and Nakia will represent Cee Lo while Javier and Jeff (with Casey Weston as a dark horse to win America’s votes) will stand for Adam. I’m not sure what the next gimmick will be after this round but I will be tuning in next week to see if my predictions bear fruit. However it shakes down, I expect to see Vicci and Javier battling it out to be crowned The Voice. IMO, the other competitors just aren’t as ready to take a singing career to the next level.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

News Gripes: Saying No To Smoking, "Sexy" Girls, and Racism

The recent adjustment to the smoking ban is just another of the many reasons people can cite for why they love New York. In addition to being prohibited indoors, smoking is now also prohibited in pedestrian areas, parks, and public beaches and I can’t help but rejoice. As a non-smoker, there is nothing I hate more than having to walk through a cloud of smoke or the blowback from a smoker walking in front of me. I chose to say ‘No’ to cigarettes so there is no reason why I should have to inhale someone else’s poison. New York has been making strides with its battle against cigarettes for years and I distinctly remember a time, about a decade ago, when I was unable to leave an establishment without the stench of smoke clinging to my hair and permeating my clothing. Sweet relief was the result the first time I entered a nightclub and noticed the absence of smoke and I have since come to base my enjoyment of places on whether or not they allow smoking indoors. Now, with the new ban, I no longer have to fear the press of smoke clogging up my lungs while I picnic in the park, take in an outdoor concert or take advantage of the myriad of activities that the city sponsors year after year. So, bravo New York! My lungs thank you.

Here are a couple other interesting articles I came across recently but haven’t had time to share:

1.) While listening to The Breakfast Club this morning, I heard this story about a Canadian man who filed a false report claiming that two men, one Black and one Hispanic, robbed him of his tickets to Oprah’s farewell show. Apparently, he did not want to disappoint his wife but felt comfortable with the old standby of using "minorities" as scapegoats (remember this woman’s acid hoax?). It’s obvious that we still have a long way to go with race relations.

2.) Someone sent this opinion piece by CNN’s LZ Granderson to me over a month ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. Fact is, as disturbing as it was to hear him describing an eight-year-old girl in such a manner, I don’t find fault with Granderson's opinion that some of the clothes made for young girls are way too provocative or that parents bear some of the responsibility in the way that they choose to spend their dollars. I have young girls in my family and have often wondered why certain skintight, midriff-baring, cut-outs outfits were designed for children. Cute as it may look on a grown woman, the last thing I want to do is send out the young girls in my family in anything that would attract unsavory attention. In the world that we live in, a healthy dose of paranoia is often necessary.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Political Gripes: On the Death of Bin Laden

Understandably, the topic on most everyone’s mind is the death of Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is the purported leader of Al Qaeda and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and certain parts of Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. Thousands were killed in New York especially and today, almost ten years later, the impact of the attacks is still felt. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing in the hours surrounding that terrible morning and I do not expect that I will forget the anxiety that I felt when I was trying to contact my family and could not get through right away. But what I felt does not begin to compare to the pain and agony that many felt (and still feel) when they received the news that their loved ones would never come home again. Osama Bin Laden made his mark but if he was trying to create a hole and to rip us apart by grief he failed because he could not have counted on the way that the city banded together and how the tragedy turned ordinary people into heroes for their willingness to do what needed to be done and help their fellow men.

No doubt, being able to share news of Bin Laden’s death was a great moment for President Obama who had quite a busy weekend (check out his speech from the White House Correspondent's Dinner on April 30th- hilarious!). While sharing news of Bin Laden's death, President Obama was able to provide some relief on a war that he inherited and beat back some of his critics and I would not deign to try to detract from that. Though somber, the President’s speech sparked hope that an end to war was in sight and that the removal of Bin Laden was a great step towards that goal. Making strides on ending the war on terror is certainly something to celebrate but while I have no sympathy for Bin Laden, neither will I express any jubilation at his death. I wholeheartedly believe that he deserved to be punished and to suffer for what he did but I cannot condone anyone taking another person’s life, even if he is a mass murderer. Maybe I will feel differently once the news really sinks in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TV Gripes: The Voice

In general, CBS is my most-watched TV network and aside from Law & Order: SVU, I usually give shows on NBC a pass. I made an exception for The Voice which premiered on NBC on Tuesday night in the 9 pm time slot. Carson Daly serves as host (similar to Ryan Seacrest on American Idol) while Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton are judges, of a sort. So, The Voice is a singing competition with a panel of judges and a host who greets contestants before and after their performances. From this little bit it sounds a lot like Idol doesn’t it? However, what sets The Voice apart is the fact that judges cannot see contestants as they perform and they select talent for their teams based solely on what they hear, not based on an image (what a concept!). Also, once each judge chooses their teams of eight, they will provide invaluable coaching and pit contestants against each other until they whittle their number down to four. The final four from each team will then go head to head until a single contestant is crowned The Voice. From there things get a bit convoluted… but I’m sure the producers will work it out in due time.

The premise of The Voice captured my interest, even if it didn’t blow me completely away, and from what I saw during the premiere I’ll definitely be tuning in to take a second and third look. After years of watching Idol (with the original set of judges), I know how tiring it is to watch people with marginal talent perform week after week. Still, there are things to recommend The Voice and here’re four reasons why I’ll be watching:

1.) I love the chemistry between the judges. Carson is a bit of a nonentity for me but all four judges are interesting and mesh well together; as the only female judge, Christina holds her own and especially during her banters with Adam, lets her spicy personality shine through. Adam is much more selective in exercising his options but when he does, his sales pitches are so well crafted that he could sell his own mother. Cee Lo is a colorful character and although I was surprised at some of his selections, there’s always some fun to be had when he’s around. Since I’m not much of a country fan, I didn’t know who Blake Shelton was until he came on Chelsea Lately to promote the show (somewhat) but he seems to be a funny and entertaining guy.

2.) Some of these people can actually sing. Aside from the mediocre selections who slip through the cracks with seeming regularity, a few contestants display genuine talent and throughout the two-hour premiere I felt a bit like a talent scout who matches artists with the right management company. I was invested enough that I felt bad for those who were not chosen (and rightly so). If producers would allow judges to throw some back or switch out their selections for more talented contestants in a pool of leftovers, all would be right with the show.

3.) Frenchie is back! Of American Idol notoriety (she was kicked off the show when it came to light that she posed topless to pay her way through college), Frenchie Davis did not give the best performance but I’m glad that Christina decided to take a chance on her. I’ve heard this girl blow on Idol and in the musical, Rent, and know that she is capable of much more. Hopefully she won’t disappoint.

4.) I just plain love music. Musicals, concerts, even karaoke! If singing is involved I’m there and with the entire premise of the show built around singing, The Voice is a must-watch. For now.

*Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

Friday, April 22, 2011

Random Gripes: On Friendship, Lost and Found

I have a small circle of friends. I like to take time to build my friendships and I like to think that most will last forever. Of course, I am aware that there are different levels of friendship and that some were only meant to last a season but it really warms my heart when one of those forever kinds— the kind of friendship that lasts through space and time— is rekindled after a long separation. Over the past month, I have been reveling in the joy of one such phenomenon when my childhood friend S., contacted me through a social networking site.

S. and I met as children and were best friends all the way from kindergarten through sixth grade (that's the way I remember it at least). Along with V. we made a venerable trio and as the three girls who consistently scored the highest marks in our classes, we were bound to be friends (or enemies). But as we left primary school behind us and as our circles expanded to include new friends, I could sense that our trio-friendship was changing. Still, as V. ventured off and formed new friendships S. and I remained as close as ever. I took it for granted that our friendship would remain the same… until my family moved away and we promptly lost touch. For over fifteen years!

The recent advances in technology have made staying in touch fairly easy. From smart phones to emails to webcams and social networking sites, there are many ways for us to stay in touch with those closest to us. But back then, staying in touch meant making long distance calls or writing letters. For the obvious reason, calls were out— I was not paying any bills and my mother would not have me running up a huge phone bill to call S. or any of my other friends. And as much as I like to write, letters were never my favorite form of communication. Besides, my life changed completely with that move and for a long time, I could not form the words to express how I felt in that new life. To anyone. So we lost touch and I adapted to my new life and made new friends. But I never forgot the friends who I left behind.

I am not a fan of social networking sites like Facebook and while I have thought of deactivating my account on many occasions, I have resisted for one reason. Through Facebook, I am constantly reconnecting with family and childhood and high school friends. In many instances, the friendships I remember are not the same, far from it, but with S. and two of my high school friends, K1 and K2, the years seem to have fallen away. It is going on two and three years since I reconnected with both Ks and I occasionally meet either of them for brunch, happy hours, dinners and other social events. S. is a bit further away which makes these types of meetings impossible but for now it’s enough to be able to maintain regular contact and to know that I have one of my oldest friendships back. I will take care not to lose it again.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Random Gripes: Sweet Dreams?

I had a dream about (rapper) Drake. I don’t remember specific details about the dream but I do remember it being along the lines of one of those Disney movies where a “celebrity” slips into a small town to hide out under the cover of dark and encounters the female lead (me, of course) and leaves a lasting impression. I also remember that I was competing for his attention with the town hoochie and trying not to be too obvious about it. And, the other woman seemed to be winning although, like those Disney movies, I’m sure that I would have persevered in the end (if only I had gotten to the end of my dream). Of course, it wasn’t all cookie-cutter. There were some unsavory bits but I’ll leave those where they belong. Moving on…

I’m not above having dreams but more often than not my feet are firmly planted in reality. Therefore, I’m having a somewhat difficult time trying to wrap my head around why I’m even thinking about Drake and about what it might say about me. I won’t necessarily hit the mute button when his songs play on the radio but I’m not much of a fan of his music either (too one-note for me). And, I don’t find him particularly attractive and have never thought much of him. So why was he in my dreams? It’s entirely possible that I was in a semi-conscious state and fabricated a story in my head (too bad I can never hold onto them long enough to write them down) but how this one came to be…I may never know.
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