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Well, gang, I have returned!

For those of you who are familiar with hard drive crashes, it takes a LOT more time than you anticipate to recover lost information, even if you do have it backed up.  The “reader’s digest” version of my problem is that any info written in the bad sector of my HD may have been backed up but it was corrupted and thus unrecoverable.

In plain English, I saved 85% of my files but I lost most of my work folder, 400 mp3s that I need for work and an entire presentation that I have to give in 3 weeks for a national gathering of my profession.

One could say that I’m a little stressed out right now.  Oh heck, I’m downright FREAKING OUT!!  But it could have been worse and I am thankful that it wasn’t.

Anyway, this little setback has kept me from attending to you all here on the blog and for that, I apologize.  But, I have been thinking about how to “kick it up a notch” around here until the beginning of Season 7 and I just might have the answer.  Now, hear me out…this could work…maybe…

On September 29, American Idol Rewind will begin showing Season 2 and I thought that this would be a great time to begin the podcast portion of the blog.  You see, those of us who have been with the show since the first show have our definite opinions on who was the real winner of this season and maybe seeing the shows with fresh eyes might generate some great discussions.  Also, it gives me some time to experiment with segments  and get experience in front of and behind the camera in anticipation for the upcoming new season.  I think it’s worth a shot and unless I jump into the deep end of the podcast pool I might never feel that it’s the “right” time to launch the show.

Now, be forewarned — I’m sure my first attempts will be rough but I will try to concentrate on good content first and then ramp up the visual/technical stuff as I get a better handle on it.  I would hope that you will tell me what you like and what you don’t like so that I might get better at it.  Together, I think we can come up with something enjoyable, entertaining and exciting.  I’m willing to risk it — are you?

I’ll try and be more regular with my entries here until I get my first podcast up after the 9/29 episode.  Any input or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Carry on!

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This is the kind of press Clay Aiken should be getting instead of, you know, that other stuff…

Caregiving: Clay Aiken to expand camps

By ALEX CUKAN

ALBANY, N.Y., July 31 (UPI) — Long before appearing on Fox’s “American Idol” in 2003, Clay Aiken had a dream that did not involve being a pop star.

As a YMCA camp counselor, it saddened him that children with developmental disabilities had to be turned away from not only the fun of camp, but from the experience of being with other children, and he promised himself that this was something he would try to change.

“American Idol,” several hit tours and 4.3 million album sales later, the pop star announced earlier this month that his dream is becoming a reality with the goal of raising $1 million to expand the Bubel/Aiken Foundation’s “Let ALL Play” initiative so that 100 camps in 2008 would become inclusive to children with special needs.

It’s simple concept really, but all too often, special needs children are excluded from everyday activities like swimming, arts and crafts, games, community service and physical fitness programs.

“It’s an ambitious goal and it will be a challenge — 100 camps and $1 million dollars in less than one year — but we are about 20 percent of the way to that goal,” Jerry Aiken, executive director of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, told UPI’s Caregiving. “But we also have a fan base with a tremendous amount of experience and strong passion for this issue — we have close to 1,000 volunteers — working with the foundation and we have been listening to them and they have some great ideas.”

Jerry Aiken, Clay Aiken’s uncle on his mother’s side, held senior level positions at Nortel Networks, TRW and Fujitsu Network Communications, before coming to the foundation in May.

“I was told of a parent with a child with special needs and on the first day of camp the parent is coaxing the child to get out of the car and give camp a try, but a couple of days later the child can’t wait to get to camp and is running inside — when you hear these stories you see the value — the self-worth element — of inclusion,” said Jerry Aiken.

“There was a 8-year-old child with autism, who was diagnosed at age 2 and he attended a YMCA camp this summer — his vocabulary before the camp was about two words and after attending camp it jumped to 11 words — that’s huge.”

There are several things currently in the works to raise funds, including working with a number of companies to gain sponsorship and there will be a celebrity version of the TV show on Fox’s “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader” that may offer us some opportunities as well, according to Jerry Aiken.

In addition, Jerry Aiken, a golfer, is working toward a golf tournament tentatively scheduled in Florida this year or in early 2008.

“I play golf and I’ve encouraged Clay to take it up, but golf takes a commitment and at the moment he doesn’t have the time for golf, but he would be at the golf tournament,” Jerry Aiken said.

The foundation is working with established camp programs such as the YMCA or other qualified American Camp Association members by providing financial support plus a detailed camp manual, training and ongoing assistance — most of the funds that we raise cover training, additional counselors, equipment/supplies as well as a camp scholarships if required, according to Jerry Aiken.

“We stress to the camps they should not significantly change their program; the ‘Let’s ALL Play’ manual and the training is about developing the camp team to provide a typical camp experience.”

There is tug of war in pedagogy and psychological circles on how to best challenge the special needs child and the typical child so both experience optional challenges, according to Dr. Larry Lachman, a licensed clinical psychologist at Chapman University in Monterey, Calif.

“If either the special needs child, or the typical child does not get enough stimulation, it won’t work,” Lachman told UPI’s Caregiving.

“Assuming the staff/counselors are trained in special needs, that the design of the program is appropriate and the typical children have the emotional maturity so they do not tease, this can be a highly beneficial experience and broaden the skill sets of both sets of children — it sets the bar higher for all the children and opens everyone’s eye to seeing something from a different point of view.”

I saw things from a different point of view after I heard Clay Aiken in an interview several years ago with Diane Sawyer of ABC News. He said what made him passionate about being a special education teacher was the challenge — the puzzle — and how to figure out ways to help unlock the world so that a special needs child could connect and function better.

At the time, I was experiencing the “distancing” of friends of mine and friends of my father who treated the news of my father’s Alzheimer’s disease as if it was leprosy. I never heard from them again.

But thinking about dementia as a challenge, as a puzzle that can be solved, bit by bit, instead of giving up, made a big difference for me. It’s certainly not the message I got from traditional healthcare.

So I understand why Clay Aiken’s fan base is more than just the usual pop star fan base of teens — many of his fans are caregivers — who appreciate the message of inclusion.

In an era when many men in their 20s are only passionate about video games or have nothing else on their minds than perfecting their backhand, Clay Aiken talking about inclusion of those with special needs is enormously attractive to women of all ages, so I can understand why his fans are so devoted and why the foundation has such ambitious plans.

Alex Cukan is an award-winning journalist, but she has also been a caregiver since she was a teenager. UPI welcomes comments and questions about this column.)

(e-mail: parentcaregiving@gmail.com)

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

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There once was an entertainer who took himself seriously when others did not. He was a professed Christian, didn’t have a great sense of style, appeared often on a late night talk show and was thought to be gay. He sang songs that were considered “old fashioned” and came to fame as the result of being on a popular television show. Most folks thought he was a joke and subsequently became the butt of many of them.

 

His name? Herbert Khaury, aka Tiny Tim.

 

Sound familiar?

 

In every generation a performer comes along and, through no fault of his or her own, seems to rub the majority of the people the wrong way. As I write this, it appears to be Clay Aiken’s turn as America’s whipping boy. On Conan O’Brien’s Late Night Show a mere mention of his name sends the audience howling. Even Dan Abrams from MSNBC couldn’t resist making him the “Loser of the Day” recently.

 

My question is – what exactly has Clay done to deserve all of this negative attention?

 

Or, more exactly, whose ego did he encroach on to warrant a bull’s eye on both his career and personal life?

 

The obvious difference between Clay and Mr. Tim is that Clay HAS legitimate musical talent, when he is using his voice properly. That alone, coupled with his great run on American Idol 2 should have given him a big boost on the way to a music career. In actuality, it did – until January of 2006 when all hell broke loose (that date is significant and I will revisit it in the next installment). Since then the hits to both his private life and performing career just keep on coming, with extremely damaging results. This kid can’t seem catch a break right now and something needs to be done to turn this Titanic around or his professional credentials will be worthless.

 

The general public, knowing no better, seems to have latched on to the premise that it is “hip” to hate Clay. They dismiss any good that he is trying to achieve while not stopping their relentless pursuit to drive him into obscurity. So much hatred turned on to one young man who simply entered a reality TV contest at the urging of others and was able to capture the musical hearts of many. Like that was a crime or something.

 

Maybe it was.

 

Maybe he just seemed too good to be true. No one could be that wholesome and self effacing. There had to be a big flaw lurking somewhere.

 

Whether there really is or not is irrelevant now – the damage is done and his reputation has taken more major blows than it needed to. The question remains – can Clay’s professional and private lives be repaired so that he can have a credible and successful career in music or television? Moreover, can the general public accept a “new and improved” Clay Aiken?

 

Before we can answer those questions, we need to examine the forces in Clay’s life that have helped to create this quicksand that he seems to be sunk into. In my next installment, I will put forth my own observations and “conspiracy theories” on the subject while in a third and final installment, make some suggestions on how Clay could rise from the ashes and reinvent himself. He may be down at the present moment, but he is in no way out of this game yet.

 

BTW, each one of my titles is a take off on a popular song of the past. See if you can figure it out and post your guess. I may not have fabulous prizes for the correct guesser but it should still be fun!

 

Carry on!

J

 

 

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Oops, I did it again! 😉 I used a song title to accurately describe the goal our four songbirds were shooting for tonight. Unfortunately, they would get no help whatsoever from the Barry Gibb/Bee Gees Songbook on what was toted as “boogie night.” Actually, it was more like “bogey night” at the local golf course — with more balls landing in the beach (sand trap) rather than on the green and no hole-in-ones in sight. These kids showed what little they knew of the Gibbs’ musical legend and had multiple problems with song selection, key choices and overall musical interpretation.

 

I’m beginning to believe that this IS the worst season of Idol, even surpassing Season 3 for that dubious title. Whatever happened to the great amateur talent search I came to know, love and obsess over these last 5 years? It’s showing its true colors as just another reality series and God knows we have quite enough of them.

 

So, was there anything left for me to critique this week from my vantage point on the red leather couch? You betcha! With the added bonus of TWO song performances (it’s that time again, folks!) let’s see what I managed to come up with, shall we?

 

Melinda Doolittle

Love You Inside and Out

I was a little nervous about how she would do with the Bee Gees songbook but she managed to apply her usual brand of great vocal technique and killer performing instincts for yet another slam dunk. Perhaps her slow and steady nature can win this race. I wouldn’t be sad if she did just that.

 

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

I can’t take it anymore — give her the title and be DONE with it! She is just too good.

SAFE is the only word I can think of for her at this moment.

 

 

Blake Lewis

You Should Be Dancin’

Well, he came out of the gate with a bit of a pitch problem and had a tough time recovering mentally after that. I’m not sure the beatboxing worked for this song but I thought he had a decent falsetto and pulled off staying on it for the entire song. He’s gets props from me for that. I would have rather heard him put his unique spin on Jive Talkin’ instead. Just MHO.

 

This is Where I Came In

“Contemporary rebel” — Paula, that is a perfect label for him. He certainly marches (or dances) to his own beatbox band and that’s why I like him a lot. Do I want him to win? Not really, but he DOES have a bright future in the music biz. I have a feeling the other two talking heads were gunning for his departure but I hope the voters see his musical worth and keep him on that stage to sing another week.

On the bubble but his fans should keep him alive for one more week.

 

LaKisha Jones

Stayin’ Alive

Uh, her chances of doing that are not so hot after this number. Why does she continue to throw away the advice of her mentors?! That was the third time she didn’t listen and the third time she got panned for it. I can certainly understand singing a song “my way” but sometimes others DO know better and are more objective. She has a lot to learn about dying to her own interests if she plans on advancing in the music business.

 

Run to Me

My main comment about this song? KiKi don’t do “soft” well at all. I’m not just knocking the ending either. I felt she was weaker in the bottom register any time she was there and then resorted to screaming at the end, which made her go hoarse at the very end. Simon was correct about her being vulnerable and unless Blake’s fans are asleep at the phone, she will be the one hearing Daughtry’s song tomorrow night.

On the bubble BIG TIME and it just might POP!

 

Jordin Sparks

To Love Somebody

She’s BAAAACCCCKKK and I’m lovin’ it! I’m just like Randy when I keep harping on the fact that she is ONLY 17 but that’s what makes her so amazingly good. Her composure, control and overall confidence is way beyond her years, allowing her to wrap her vocals around a melody and sell it convincingly. She would benefit the most from winning this competition and I believe she won’t really have a career without doing so. Guess you all know where my votes are continuing to go, eh?

 

Woman in Love

OK, were the judges smoking crack before her performance because neither my husband nor I heard what the three of them where hearing. That child sang the freaking heck out of a very difficult song and while I might have heard a bit of pushing once or twice it was NOTHING like the critique that the judging troika was spewing in her direction. And we’re not watching this on some 20 inch no-name brand TV — we’re talking a 42 inch Sony Bravia HDTV with a Yamaha 7.1 surround sound (and the bass was truly a tad LOUD tonight – the band needs to watch that!). I’ve been impressed and happy that she’s taken more risks than any other woman contestant, providing us with some of the more memorable performances in the year of vocal drought. As I’ve said before, she is the prime example of what this competition started out to be. Let’s keep her in this so that she can have a decent shot at winning.

Should be safe but I trust no one so I will vote like heck for her!

 

 

Where does that leave us? Well, my prediction for bottom two has to be Lakisha and Blake but this is traditionally the week of the upset so don’t be surprised if Melinda lands there instead of Blake. Who will get “das boot?” It should be Lakisha but may I remind everyone that both Tamyra and LaToya never made it passed the final 4, while Clay…well, I’m not gonna get into that fiasco again…

 

‘Nuf said.

 

Now let me go vote and then chew my nails until the results show…

 

Carry on!

J

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I about lost my hot chocolate over this GREAT video by Grey Blackwell found on the Raleigh News and Observer website. I just HAD to share this with y’all so ENJOY!

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