Way to represent, dude. As a person of faith, I state loudly and clearly that you do NOT speak for me and you are an embarrassment to other good and kind people of faith in this country. You sir, are an ignorant menace to society. Why can't you learn to SHUT! THE! $%^&*$#@! UP???!!!
What Haiti has gone through - for years and years now - is just so heartbreaking. It has reminded me that I must - MUST - stop worrying myself into a frenzy about things as stupid as my cable bill. Things are tight for Americans right now as compared to other decades, but there's no doubt that even the hardest up amongst us STILL has more than just about anyone in Haiti right now. Let us all quit our sniveling, step up and a) give whatever we can afford to our fellow human beings because we are ALL in this together, b) pray, pray, pray and c) appreciate, appreciate, APPRECIATE the roof over your head, the bed you're going to sleep in tonight and the screen you're reading this off of, even if you're borrowing it at the library. And if you're living outside your means...CHANGE IT. Social plumage is worthless. I'm not saying to take a vow of poverty (unless you feel called, of course), but I am encouraging us all to re-examine our "stuff."
Whitehouse.gov has information on what you can do to help.
Now, let's move along to the fluff. Because I am also grateful that I was born in a country where fluff even exists. For better or for worse.
I went to see Avatar in 3-D a couple weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it ever since. Time has gotten away from me this month. People, I'm not just "L.A. busy" (the practice of claiming you're busy in order to impress others) - I've been ACTUALLY busy! Praisaluiah! However, when trying to organize my thoughts about what I wanted to say about the film since seeing it, I found I couldn't come up with much other than, "WOW!!!" Truly, it is the single most beautiful spectacle I've EVER seen on screen. And in 3-D it's absolutely out. of. control!
That said, my gripes are:
1) The same gripe I have with most of Cameron's work: he's a good story teller, but he is not the best dialogue writer on the planet. Sure, he has created some iconic catch-phrases over the years:
"Get away from her, you B***H!"
"I'm the King of the Woooooorrrrrrrrld!"
"I'll be bock."
And many fine others. However, at some points it's still as if he comes up with a catch phrase and then writes a scene AROUND it. And at moments it comes off goofy.
2) Because of his love of grand spectacle, his characters tend to be rather one-dimensional. Or two. But never three. And this film is no exception.
3) And specifically here, the point that the "bad guys" are MERCENARIES is easily missed by many, especially my conservative friends. And this is Cameron's fault for glossing over it too quickly during lead dude's narration when he first arrives on Pandora. There is not a "military = bad" agenda being pushed here, but there is a "people-who-do-crappy-stuff-to-others-out-of-greed = bad" agenda being pushed for sure. The difference between these two statements should have been made considerably more clear so that people aren't walking out of there feeling like they just rooted against our military.
Otherwise, LOVED it. Escapism at its supreme best. And whomever wants to complain that Cameron merely ripped off the story of Pocahontas...or Dances with Wolves...or The Last Samurai...well...in my opinion he did a WAY better job of it than they did. Especially Disney. Talk about a missed opportunity for education...
But that's another Oprah show.
Turns out Avatar just won Best Picture and Cameron Best Director at the Golden Globes tonight. I have a lot of catching up to do on my movies before the Oscars, but still I'm not sure how I feel about that based on my gripes about the movie. However, considering the amount of time put into it and the whole "I invented this technology" thing alone, I also can't imagine that any other film would've stood a chance. It will be interesting to see how the Oscars turn out.
Two more Golden Globe notes...HOORAY FOR MO'NIQUE AND SANDRA BULLOCK!!!! Two well-deserved wins in my opinion. I've always felt Sandy was completely underrated as an actress, so I now feel vindicated for singing her praises all these years while people snickered at me. Take THAT, poopy-heads! And Mo'Nique...well, that was just a flat out act of bravery, there. Run, do not walk, to see Precious.
Best dressed? Helen Mirren, who is a stone cold fox, and Sophia Loren. Ladies, we should all be so lucky when we reach their ages.
So some have asked about that whole "Hollywood Idol" thing I did on the 10th.
I wish I could say, "What a GREAT learning experience." I really, REALLY wish I could say that. But sadly, I cannot (yet). It merely ended up being a supreme embarrassment and waste of not only my time and money, but definitely that of the few that showed up to support me.
Now, I have to say that I think the folks that put this show on did everything they could to put on a professional and classy show. I really think they meant kick butt with this. Unfortunately - for starters - I think their timing blew. Expecting people to drop a $20 cover and then vote with their money for a singing contest that has built itself zero buzz immediately after a recession-ridden holiday season? I think it was a lost cause right out of the gate.
The band was woefully under par. The players were also all of 12 years old. Perhaps I am spoiled, having played with really great musicians both in Nashville and Los Angeles (holla! to In the Red and Debby Holiday's band), but I expected a band of hired guns playing 16 well-known covers with charts in front of their faces to be pretty good. I was sorely disappointed. During "sound check" (which happened to be my only rehearsal), I stopped the band to politely request they come in with the bridge sooner. The bass player, who was apparently the musical director also, insisted that there were 8 more bars before the bridge. Even the rest of the band agreed with me, "Yeah, I think it comes in sooner," but she was insistent and actually got a little persnickety. I smiled the whole time this debate went on amongst them, but finally sweetly said, "My love, I've been singing this song for longer than you've been alive. Your chart is wrong. But even on the off chance that it's not, I still would like you to come in 8 bars sooner. Cool?"
The guitar player was actually very good. SHE was very good. And SHE was the only member of the band who had memorized every song in the keys we asked for. I remember her name was Liv, but I wish I'd gotten her info. And her brother, who also played guitar but was not there to play but was just there to support his sister, was an absolute sweetheart. But man...a more lifeless bunch onstage I've never experienced. So disheartening.
I was chosen to open the show. With freakin' "Barracuda!" Who OPENS a show with that? The hostess, who shall remain nameless and who was really not good at hostessing (ouch!), created the set list. No rhyme or reason to it, the whole night long. Set lists are often difficult to prepare and I'm sure it was a general nightmare to figure this one out with 16 songs in 16 different styles. But opening with "Barracuda"...? Just...why?
The cord fell out of my mic twice while I was performing. No, I did not step on it and accidentally pull it out. It fell out. It took four more singers and the hostess complaining onstage on mic that we needed a new cord before they fixed it.
There was nary a monitor to be found. For those of you who've never sung with a band, a monitor is the speaker(s) that should be on the stage for the singer and band to be able to hear themselves. Monitors are a MUST for a singer, otherwise we just scream into the mic to try and hear ourselves and not only do we sound like poo doo but we trash our vocal cords. Campers, even the worst karaoke bar you've ever been to has at least one monitor for the singer.
Thank the Maker I grew up singing in churches with no monitors. I had no idea back then how handy that would come in over the years.
We started an hour late because barely anyone showed up. They kept holding off waiting for people to rush the door or something, constantly coming into the green room asking, "Didn't any of you invite your friends? No one's here. Any of you have friends coming? You were supposed to invite people."
There's nothing I love more than the attitude that I, the talent, was solely responsible for making the entire event a success. Ummmmmm...anyone producing the show bother to do any of their own PR, either? And let's not forget you're raping peoples' wallets right after Christmas. There's only so many mountains a woman can move on her own, people.
I actually remained relatively bubbly throughout all these bumps in the road. By this point I thought, "Well, I'm here. Might as well have a good time and try to enjoy my fellow contestants."
*sigh* Back in the green room I make the mistake of mentioning that I'm a vocal coach and the first thing someone says is, "Oh God, you're gonna be judging us."
Mmmmmmm...not really. I'm off duty for the night; it's all about me right now. (But here's my card.)
"Do you teach Broadway, musical theater?"
Yes, I explain, but I'm not an accompanist (I know what's coming).
"How can you possibly teach that style of music without playing piano?" (bingo)
I say it's worked out just fine with other students using tracks.
"WHHHAAAAAATTT??? Like KARAOKE tracks???"
You'd think I'd sprouted an extra head or something. And then it's like you can visibly see a door slamming shut in their eyes as I explain that it's not ever been an issue yet and that it doesn't matter if I play for them in a lesson cuz I wouldn't be playing for them at their auditions so it would be senseless to get too comfortable with my style of playing anyway. At the end of the day, it's your responsibility to lead your instrumentalists and rely on your own internal sense of musicality, cuz you just might have an audition with a weak piano player and then what do you do? How do you keep from getting thrown off? You gonna blame it on the accompanist? Better not, Spanky. Lastly, I am a voice coach - if you want a piano lesson then find a piano teacher.
I'm getting to a point where I am seriously considering not taking on musical theater students anymore. I can't bear the snooty. Especially because if they were really serious about musical theater, they'd be in New York. Or at least Chicago. L.A. is not a theater town. So don't gimme no 'tude, Nancy!
Dude couldn't have followed an elephant with that thing! Having been up first, I was able to sit through the rest of the show. I'd watch singer after singer get up there, move stage right or left, only for the spot to stay right where it was in the first place, then make a bee line over to the singer a full second or two later after the singer started moving the other way. Once or twice the spot just fell straight down, leaving the singer (or the hostess) in total darkness. By the last few singers in the show my friends Gary and Regan and I were almost crying with laughter over it. It was like a Muppet Show skit - or what it might be like to have Jerry Lewis running the spotlight. My lighting designer neighbor Matt would have had a freakin' meltdown about it. I'm glad I didn't make him come!
So we finally get to the point where the "votes" (the money in each ballot box left by the poor, long-suffering audience members) are counted. Now...I admittedly sent up a little cash with one of my friends to put in my box, cuz a) no one said we couldn't contribute to our own ballot box and b) since they were counting the ballots in front of the audience I was NOT gonna have nothing in that box and c) I had made peace with myself that whomever would receive my money at the end of the contest probably needed it more than me anyway (all money in the ballot boxes is given to the eventual overall winner). BUT...one of the other girls in the show who only had two people there to see her put in her own $100 bill (and possibly more, if her two friends didn't dump in $30-40 apiece for her themselves)! She nearly won because of it which honestly would have been a travesty cuz she was definitely outshined by a number of other contestants. But thankfully, a very very sweet guy who had a very good voice ended up winning the night. And he was sooooo excited to have won. I like it when the deserving win.
So...obviously that wasn't me! I didn't expect to win, cuz I knew it would be nearly impossible to talk my friends into spending that kind of money to hear me sing one song. I really did the contest for myself, for the chance to sing for some new people, to sing "Barracuda" with a live band in Los Angeles, which crazy as it may seem had yet to happen till that night (in Nashville, I closed all my shows with that song). I was so so so disheartened that it wasn't the experience I had anticipated. So I am actually relieved that not too many of my friends came out, because it was not at all the level of professionalism that was sold to me when I auditioned, nor the level that I am used to performing in.
The venue, however, was gorgeous! Really swanky place with a nice big stage. Here's a pic my friend/student Debbie caught on her phone during my performance:
And here are some of the other contestants in the green room. The boy on the left won (argh, can't remember his name!). Most of them were really sweet, fun folks and I did enjoy myself in the green room at least! But there's always the ones who separate themselves from everyone else, "focusing" or being all competey or whatever. I see no point in such nonsense myself.
The pretty girl in the hat had never heard of Heart. After I dug my nails out of my palm, I politely gave her some education and then I gave her some homework. Betcha she knows who they are now.
And so those are the gory details of Hollywood Idol. And I sincerely hope that this contest improves over the course of time, because again, I do believe the folks running it truly wanted to make it as professional and upscale as possible - I simply think they were in over their heads. You live, you learn. What I learned from that experience, I'm not sure, but I'm sure it'll come to me eventually.
And now, my little duckies, it's time to rest. Tomorrow I have to take Angelica Accent into the shop early in the morning (to fix a boo boo some big, obnoxious gas-guzzlin-Bush-mobile gave her) and then I have a lot of emailing to do in order to launch my plan of dance music world dominance.