Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This year's Voice on NBC will drive you to drink

Every year or each season, I post on NBC's The Voice because I think it is the best vocal competition on television (Sorry, American Idol).  This year the singers are exceptional and are giving each other one of the best runs for the effort yet.  However, I'm just getting around to posting about this season because I've been preoccupied with a few brick and mortar projects.

Seriously, it's harder than ever to decide who to vote for after performances, which is why I've said this season could drive people to drink.

Last night Rob Taylor of Team Christina and Deana Johnson of Team Adam Levine were voted off, so it's down to the the final eight, and here they are:

If it were up to me, the competition would boil down to Kimberly and Megan, but I think Sawyer or Corey have a good chance given the strength of the young girl vote with these shows.

This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy watching performances by all of these performers. I do have two, however, who are the least likely to move me emotionally, and that's Corey and Joshua. I give Joshua the edge. I'm a fan of people like James Taylor and Paul Simon, though, so if he puts out a recorded a memorable song of his own, I may buy it.

Below this paragraph, I've posted some of the performances that I've really enjoyed so far.

Kimberly Nichole killed it as usual on Monday night, but I'm posting her song from the previous week because it's one of my favorite songs, "House of the Rising Sun," partly because it's about New Orleans. Has anyone else noticed how often New Orleans or Louisiana's popped up this season? (The contestant from New Orleans, Tonya Boyd Cannon, went home during the last of the battle rounds, but Rob and Megan also have Louisiana roots.)

For Meghan, I'm posting two videos and another by Little Big Town. First, here's Martin Linsey's performance from last night, a cover of Marc Broussard's "Home."

Here's Megan Linsey's cover of "Girl Crush." While I do like some country music, I had not heard this song before, which was originally recorded by Little Big Town. I enjoyed it not only because of Megan's outstanding performance, but also because of the song's lyrics. They struck me as far above average in depth and complexity.

After the show, I listened to Little Big Town's version, and I preferred Megan's cover, so I bought it. All I can say is that Megan must have grown up listening to a lot of soul/R&B music.

Litte Big Town: "Girl Crush"

Finally, I would remiss if I did not post Koryn Hawthorne's moving, soulful cover of Ed Sheeran's "Make it Rain." She threw her whole existence into that performance and sounded like she was channeling Mahalia Jackson and a few other gospel greats.

And one more thing, Reba McEntire's new song, "Going Out like That," is one for the playlists. She sang it on last night's show. I like it when I first heard it a few weeks back.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Toni Morrison's Amusing Interview with Stephen Colbert

I don't know what I was doing in November 2014 that caused me to miss Stephen Colbert's laugh-out-loud interview with great American novelist Toni Morrison. She is just as funny as he is when discussing her work. But they also discussed race as a social construct and her work's influence on President Obama before he was POTUS.

What intrigued me most is her admission that she had only recently read Beloved from beginning to end. Of course, she read it when she was working on it, but when she read it last year, she read it not as its author but as a relaxed reader. She saw nothing she'd change, she said, but she would make a change to the Bluest Eye if she wrote it again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stop don't talk to me from Orange is the New Black's Twitter trending (Video)

This video of the Orange is the New Black song "Stop Don't Talk to Me" is trending at the moment of this post on Twitter. I can see the humor even though I have not watched the Netflix hit since season one, but I guessed the cast song must have been based on a scene from the show. Well, yes it is, this one here.

I tried the second season, but I opted not to continue because I had too many other things to do. Actually, I was a scaredy cat. I sensed it would be darker than season one and didn't want to experience the heart-pounding state of suspense the show puts me in sometimes.

Fast Company has the details on how this song came about with a push from "Vine stars," such as the one below, Lycia Faith, who has more than a million followers on Vine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yes, Pharrell, subconscious plagiarism is a thing (Video)

My better post the "Blurred Lines" case is this one: "Borrowed Grooves: Electric Guest, the Clash, Katrina & the Waves all did what Robin Thicke over-did," but Google keeps sending folks to my old post about Pharrell Williams's hit "Happy." That post answers whether "Happy" sounds like another song, but I also mention "Blurred Lines" in it.

I realized my blog had a bump in hits this morning and figured the rise in visits was due to yesterday's ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. The judge decided that the duo's big hit of last summer copies from Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give it Up," and awarded Gaye's family nearly $7.4 million. The judge was right, but anyone who's read my old posts knows that I've said that since I first heard "Blurred Lines."

In my post on "Happy," I said that mega hit from the movie Despicable Me 2 sounds familiar because Pharrell captured one of the sounds of an era, the 1960s. I applaud him for that because he did it well. However, he and Thicke continue to claim that "Blurred Lines" merely captures the sound of the late 1970s. They claim among other things that it's a tribute to Marvin Gaye, but they are wrong, wrong, wrong there. Perhaps they are even lying to themselves.

Unlike some people who think Pharrell knowingly copied Marvin (meaning he didn't change the main groove of "Blurred Lines" enough from "Got to Give It Up"), I allow for the possibility that Pharrell fell to subconscious plagiarism. In other words, he didn't realize how much "Blurred Lines" sounded like "Got to Give It Up."

Pharrell actually wrote "Blurred Lines" (Thicke gets a courtesy credit that pays him cash). But I'm annoyed that Pharrell seems not to even consider the possibility that he plagiarized subconsciously or at least that he borrowed too much of Marvin's hit. I guess his ego is much larger than he'd like to think it is with his namasté  bowing and the talk of humility he affects on The Voice

However, the judge ruled against Pharell and Thicke not only because of the similarities between the two songs but also because of the various stories the duo's told about how the song came about. Thicke probably did the most harm there.

In my old post, I wrote:

Thicke admitted that he wanted "that [specific] groove" from that specific song. Anyone who's old enough to remember Marvin Gaye's musical evolution knows that the Motown singer later veered away from the standard Motown beat to do his own thing. As one of his later releases, "Got to Give It Up" was very different from other songs we listened to on the radio in the late 1970s, and even though it was the disco era, "Got to Give It Up" didn't feel like common disco.

All Thicke had to do was pay the copyright holders of "Got to Give It Up" for sampling Marvin's "groove" before he released the song, and he would have been legally covered, but he didn't.

They didn't just pay up; they did a preemptive strike against Marvin's family and sued them in advance. How tacky can you get? And Karma really wasn't having that tackiness. So, as someone punned on my Facebook page, now they have to "give it up." (Sam Smith settled with Tom Petty, and Smith really probably never heard Petty's "Won't Back Down." It's unbelievable that Pharrell would keep claiming "Blurred Lines" is 100 percent his genius when we all know he's probably listened to "Got to Give It Up" a lot.)

All the so-called professional songwriters and producers up in arms over this ruling, declaring it sets a bad precedent, need to give it up, too, give it up and have their ears checked.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Head Games"--Yes, I did do an anti-abuse art project

This video features the art piece "Head Games." It documents a project I did for a required course in the MFA program at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana. The course is Form and Idea. Creative Writing Workshop students have had to take the course through the Film, Theater, and Communications department; however, this is the last year the course will be required for students in the creative writing MFA program.

The course has been replaced by craft courses in the students' specific disciplines, such as poetry and fiction.

My instructor was Henry Griffin, a screenwriter and film professor. He's a passionate and enthusiastic educator, consuming vast amounts of literature, film, and music. While I see the need for craft courses, even applaud their addition, I also think the program may lose something by not exposing its students to this interdisciplinary course.

For the final assignment, Griffin required us to take a piece of art from one genre--a song, a movie, a book, a painting, etc.--and adapt it to a different art form. I chose to turn Joni Mitchell's classic 1975 song "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" into the papier-mâché piece you see in the video.

The idea came to me when I saw local artist and fellow poet Valentine Pierce on Facebook showing off a wig head she'd covered with newspaper via papier-mâché. She did it for practical reasons--to show off hats at the French Market that she's created , but her photo caused me to recall seeing wig heads covered that way when I was a child. And then I remembered making a paper mache duck with my mother when I was bout 8 years old. She was an elementary school teacher.

One of the restrictions for the project was to not do anything you've mastered. We had to do something that we've never done before or had not done in a long time. Paper mache fit the bill for me. Previously I had thought about turning the song into a movie poster, but my drawing's rusty, and the 3-dimensional aspect of the head appealed to me.

Mitchell's song is about a woman enduring psychological abuse and control-freak tactics, so I curated tweets from the #WhyIStayed Twitter campaign launched by Beverly Gooden last year and typed them up, printing them on the laser printer. Later I pasted then on the top of the head. Throughout the piece I also used Joni's lyrics handwritten on different types of paper (newsprint, construction, printer, tissue) and some of the psychologically crippling words I've heard or read before.

The head represents a woman trapped by mental abuse, one who doubts herself, and fears leaving her abuser for whatever reason. That could be financial fears, fear of losing social status, fear for children, or fear for her own life. Sometimes it's all of the above.

Instead of using Joni's actual song, I used the karaoke back-up because I don't want her people to get on me. :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is Justin Guarini supposed to be like Prince figure in this Dr. Pepper commercial? (Video)

Okay, so you may recall Justin Guarini as the runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in the first season of American Idol, and then, unfortunately for him, that horrid movie called, From Kelly to Justin. But did you recognize him in this Dr. Pepper commercial featuring him as "Li'l Sweet"?

I'll tell you who I thought of when I saw it, especially when you throw in the falsetto singing Li'l Sweet uses; I thought of His Royal Purpleness, Prince, and I wondered if this was Dr. Pepper's way to leverage Prince's appeal without having to pay the mega-star. Of course, Prince would never do anything as silly as the Li'l Sweet commercial. Silly, but cute, too, I add.

I'm happy Justin has some work.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Woman found with heart missing in time for Valentine's Day (Video)

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a not-so-happy love poem for all those who are a little sad this day because they know how love can take a bite out of a person's heart. No, that does not feel very good, does it?

From the Lost Love News: Woman found, heart missing

New Orleans, Louisiana - On Wednesday night NOPD officers entered a home in the 900 block of Love Struck Lane and discovered a ghastly scene. A woman, now identified as the poet Nordette Writes, lay in a pool of blood. Her heart was missing.

It's incredible, but when paramedics arrived, they discovered the poet still alive. "It's impossible!" said Dr. Harland Cousteau of Wilde Maladjustments Hospital, "This woman should be dead. No one has ever survived without a heart."

Police spokesperson Roderick Joseph said officers were called to the scene after a neighbor reported loud wailing coming from the woman's little shotgun home. Writes came to, according to officers, swearing that a lion in man's clothing had disrupted her entire life.

"She says he'd been coming to spend times with her for weeks," Joseph reported. "He romanced her and promised to protect her, but without warning he gobbled her heart whole right out of her chest."

The refused to speak directly with Lost Love News, but a nurse at the hospital who prefers to remain anonymous said she overheard Writes tell a priest that the man was not only a lion but also another poet.

A neighbor, Miss Hester Prynne, said she has not seen any lions in the neighborhood, however, "Ms. Nordette has been entertaining a tall, dark gentlemen. He has a deep, sexy voice and is very polite. But I never caught his name."

"Saints preserve us!" Sister Mary Francis Benedictine told us. She ministers to the hopeless at the hospital. "We've never seen anything like it. It's a miracle," she said.

Dr. Cousteau said he'd hardly call it that, and he refuses to believe the patient's lion story. "Somehow we are being fooled. It's some kind of illusion, and I will get to the bottom of it, I assure you. There are so many ways to trick us now with technology."

His colleague, Dr. Jung said he believes Writes is suffering from shock and is confused, "She's in what we call a fugue state. With proper treatment, we may bring her back to sanity, and she may even grow a new heart."

Writes remains in her room, resting comfortably but is emotionless, according to the anonymous nurse.

"It's all very puzzling," said Joseph. "Very puzzling indeed."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus Parade: Crazy fun in New Orleans plus the raunchy satire of Krewe du Vieux (Video)

The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled Saturday night, February 7, in New Orleans. It is one of city's many Mardi Gras clubs.
Relatively young, Chewbacchus is unique for its focus on science fiction icons and tropes. This year's parade's theme was “The Cult of the Sacred Drunken Wookiee,” and so billed itself as a "satirical space cult."

Lots of fun! The Krewe has more than 1000 members and the parade felt like it, too.

My daughter was one of the parade escorts, so the first time I went and found a viewing spot with friends on the corner of Frenchmen and Dauphine Streets in Faubourg Marigny adjacent to the French the Quarter.

Anybody can join and march. This year the fee was only $42, and both people of all ages paraded. It was wild and family friendly. I think next year, if I'm still alive, in decent health, and have a few extra dollars, I'll get a tricycle and ride in it myself as sort of a bucket list item.

I think that I prefer some of the looser, more home-spun parades, to the fancier ones that have been rolling for decades. A few weeks ago I also attended the raunchy, political satire Krewe du Vieux for the first time. As its name suggests it's a French Quarter parade. While much older than Chewbacchus, it's also a homespun spectacle of fun-loving rabble-rousers.

I probably would not have gone but I was invited to watch from a French Quarter balcony. Despite having grown up here, that was a first for me, too. Here's the video I took of Krew du Vieux.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mophie's Black God in Superbowl Ad (Video)

At least one Twitter commenter noted, "Twitter is making a really big deal about God being black in the Mophie commercial, as if Bruce Almighty didn't happen over a decade ago."

Actually, I didn't see anyone on Twitter really upset about God being represented as a black man, but I'll take the tweeters word for it. Twitter is a digital sea of humanity, so whatever stupidity you hear of in the brick and mortar world, you'll see it on Twitter.

I remember when Bruce Almighty came out. News and talk shows discussed God's representation in it a bit, but only the dumbest people back then were alarmed that God (Morgan Freeman) was black in that movie. The same thing goes for Dogma, which came out four years before Bruce Almighty. In Dogma, God was a woman (Alanis Morisette).

Mophie, a company I knew nothing about until tonight, may have "the best Super Bowl ad," writes The Verge, and  Fast Company's talking about the ad, too, encouraging the Twitter crowd to flock to its site and see the mobile charger company's ad in widescreen. The company could definitely use the publicity because when I bought my adult children mobile chargers this Christmas, Mophie mobile chargers did not come up in my search or in reviews. I guess they will now.

Back to God being black, I do not think of God as a physical being, but anyone who is troubled by the notion that God may be anything other than a white male needs to do a lot more soul searching. Perhaps the same people who are troubled that God may be black are also the ones who think every man with flowing, dark blond hair, a beard, and blue eyes looks just like Jesus, who was unlikely to have blonde hair or blue eyes.

For me, the ad caught my attention just for its stunning special effects. The final reveal of what was causing all the commotion on Earth made me laugh. Yeah, great ad.