Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aiken Fans Boon to Vegas Economy

WINNING COMBO -- The entertaining duo of David Foster and Clay Aiken will perform together again in Las Vegas on May 9. Graphic from 2006 performance by Clayquebec1.

Clay, David Foster To Perform

Concert News Boosts Economy

In one fell swoop, the announcement of Clay Aiken's May 9 performance with David Foster and Friends in Las Vegas guaranteed the travel industry a gigantic economic boost as CA fans from both coasts scrambled to secure airline and hotel reservations.

When one considers all the cameras, videos, computer-related equipment, and various aspects of traveling to concerts by their favorite singer, the Clay Nation has for years been a boon to the economy.

Mandalay Bay Event Center in Vegas.

According to the Mandalay Bay Event Center website, May 9 should be a very special evening:

David Foster and Friends
Location: Mandalay Bay Events Center
Date: May 9th, 2009
Price: $134.25, $81.75, $55.50

Back by popular demand, a concert celebration featuring music’s premier songwriter and producer David Foster will take place Saturday, May 9 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

The event will pay tribute to the 15-time Grammy winner and will feature Clay Aiken, Philip Bailey from the chart-topping band Earth, Wind & Fire, Brian McKnight, Peter Cincotti and Oprah Winfrey’s protégé, Charice.

Foster also will perform some of the hits he has written or produced during his 40-year musical career. The event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

At the David Foster Foundation Benefit Concert in 2006, David and Clay proved they really can put on an entertaining show. Thanks to Scarlett, who videoed the charity gala performance, here is their rendition of "Unchained Melody":

Clay sings 'Unchained Melody' at David Foster Gala.
Video by Scarlett.

With backup musicians, the duo presented several songs from Clay's then soon-to-be-released album, A Thousand Different Ways. After UM, David asked Clay to repeat what he called "the moment," i.e., the "glory note" or something he as a producer looks for when recording a song.

These are links to more gala videos by Scarlett:

Repeat of UM Moment

Without You

Right Here Waiting

Clay singing at David Foster's charity gala.
Photo by Dee Lippingwell.

Preceding RHW, David provided some background about Clay for the attendees:

He put an album out about three years ago. The first week it sold 600,000 copies. [For the gala] we were selling the pianos for $200,000; I came out and said I'd go with the piano for life, and it went up to $205,000.

He walks out and says he'll sing three songs, and it goes to $500,000. There is only one -- what an amazing singer ... what an amazing story ... he'll tell you some of it ... he used to be a schoolteacher, this kid. Please welcome the fantastic Clay Aiken!

If May 9 fits your schedule and budget, you'd better secure those reservations.

Below are clickables of two graphics from the 2006 weekend and the current May calendar. They include the lead design by Clayquebec1, 1; Amazing_CA, photo by Galrow, from Clay's stint as a Star Search adjudicator prior to the concert, 2; and cindilu2, the May 2009 calendar, 3. The widescreen version of the latter is available here.

Students Discover Whole New World

Thursday marked the first combined rehearsal of my sister's woodwind students and my strings. Both pieces -- "Ashokan Farewell" and "Star Wars" -- went very well. Afterwards, we separated so her students could prepare for a Sunday church service and mine could perform their solos.

Did I happen to mention we were in one of the best equipped band rooms I have ever seen? As a former band director, I have been around the block on this aspect. I actually don't know how the violinists and violist lasted as long as they did; but the minute we were alone, they began contemplating how they were going to sample some of the very intriguing percussion instruments.

We are talking bongos of various sizes, a complete set of timpani, a huge bass drum, cymbals, chimes, you name it. I was trying keep their minds on dynamics, controlled tempi, even correct notes; and they were looking around like kids in a candy store. We finally agreed that once we completed their solo segment, they would each be allowed to play the gong.

'Gong Show' Ends Rehearsal

Sure enough, when we finished their solos, everyone took a turn striking the gigantic gong with its mallet. One of the mothers who had driven the group to the rehearsal said we sounded like "the gong show" as she came down the hall.

Our final joint rehearsal will be the Thursday before the May 17 recital. Same percussion-filled room with the extraordinary addition of a harpist. Heaven help us -- but I fully expect another noteworthy day in music education, LOL!

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aiken's Q&A Session Thrills Fans

DOUBLE THE PLEASURE -- Graphic by Amazing_CA, photo by lisajluvsclaya.

On Wide Range of Topics

Clay Aiken Talks with His Fans

This weekend Clay Aiken instigated a line of communication with his fans in a question-answer thread on his official message board that has already proved very popular, informative, and a leading reason for supporters to keep their membership up to date.

After a few ground rules and a promise to drop by from time to time to continue answering queries, the place to be for the next several hours was the "Ask Clay a Question" Thread. Topics ranged from the very serious (bullying, autism, the Miss USA controversy) to important information about how he harmonizes a song and the secret behind his Jukebox Tour piano technique.

There was even an "orange crocs" moment!

By no means does this blog cover all that was discussed, but it does provide an overview for fans who are not yet OFC members. As always, Clay was articulate, personable, and candid. The accompanying images are clickable.

Clay in Los Angeles
Graphic by Amazing_CA

Like the OFC thread, I hope this is a fun and informative read ...

I've gotten bullied my whole life even at times as a adult. I try to ignore people such as co workers and such but its not easy at all. How were you able to develop such a thick skin? Any advice?

As unbelievably hard as it is to do, I just learned to ignore. I don't think that the term "thick-skin" really applies to me. If I pay attention to negativity, it still hurts my feelings. I don't think anyone is impervious to that type of pain. Therefore, I found the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

There has NEVER been a case that I have EVER seen where bullying is not a DIRECT result of the insecurities of the bully themselves.

People who are happy with themselves don't have any reason to spend their time cutting down other people. In almost EVERY situation, I have found that when someone is mean to someone else because of a trait they don't care for it is because they have insecurities about themselves and want to make other feel bad for the rush of superiority it gives them.

Clay on Dr. Phil Show
Topic: Bullying

When you let that person affect your attitude in anyway, it gives them dominion over you, which is exactly what they want. Ignoring is hard, really hard; but one of three things will happen as a result of ignoring those who are nasty to you.

1) They will see that they no longer affect you and they will stop.

2) Others will see that the bully no longer affects you, and they will stop encouraging the bullying or ... and most powerfully ...

3) Your ignoring will allow you to spend your time focusing on things that make you happy and make you feel good about yourself, and you honestly won't even notice the haters anymore.

Trust me ... it works.

Just for the record, Clay, do you own a pair of orange crocs??!!


Spamalot graphic by Amazing_CA

You seriously NEVER got excited seeing your face go by on the side of a bus? Not even the first time? What about your huge billboard in Times Square?

No, not really. But I did get tickled when I was in NYC last week and there was STILL an ad on the side of a bus saying I was in Spamalot. LAST WEEK!!!

Clay, what's your favorite TV show lately? Any new favorites?
I have started liking '30 Rock' a lot. Not just because I did it, but because it is funny, Spamalot-type funny; and I think Tina Fey is a genius.

And I LOVE LOVE LOVE 'The Closer'! Best show on TV!

Where did you learn to harmonize? Did it come naturally, or did you really have to work at it?

I was just blessed. I could always hear one harmony (usually just a third). As I got older I started to be able to pick out a third part and sometimes a fourth. I can usually pull out a fourth part if i try really hard.

Angela, is AMAZING. If there is a fifth part to be heard, she hears it automatically. She recorded and laid the tracks for all he harmony parts on "All Is Well" while Quiana and I were still stuck in traffic on the way to the studio. We just sang what she instructed when we got there. She's unreal.

BOTW graphic by cindilu2

What is a song that sticks out in your head as one you remember learning growing up in music class?

The arrangement of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that I did on Idol was an arrangement that Alison Lawrence had us sing in ninth grade.. so I would say that one is pretty significant.

As was "Merry Christmas With Love," also a song Alison taught us in ninth grade.

Do you miss doing Spamalot? Do you still remember all your lines and choreography?
I do miss it. I barely remembered them then. God knows If I could do it now!

What is your favorite song from each of your Cd's?

MOAM: I hardly remember it, probably "Run To Me."

MCWL: "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day."

ATDW: Too many to name one ..."Broken Wings," "Every Time You Go Away," "Here You Come Again," "A Thousand Days."

OMWH: "As Long As We're Here"

AIW: "All Is Well" and "Emmanuel"

PHOTO INTERLUDE -- This clickable interlude features graphics by Amazing_CA from 2009 events, as well as one from the very popular Jukebox Tour discussed in the OFC's "Ask Clay" thread. Photographers include dc4clay, 2, and Katy4Clay, 3.

Clay, do you ever come to the OFC and read while in invisible mode?

No, but I would have if I had known how to! Good Lord! You're keeping this very valuable piece of information from me!?!? Someone message me and tell me how!

Did you ever find your passport, the one you lost in Calgary?
I had left it in Vancouver. I got it back after I had to get a temporary one. Which works out in the end, because now I get to keep the passport that has my Afghanistan and Uganda stamps in it!

You auction off so many of your mementos at your Galas. Is there anything that is so special that you've saved it for yourself?

I still have the outfit I auditioned in Atlanta in, and my mom has the red leather jacket from the "Grease" performance which I don't think she will ever part with.

Was your amazing duet with Quiana of "Listen" on the 2007 tour totally impromptu, or had you played around with it with her, like on the tour bus, before that night?

We had NEVER sung it at all. At intermission, Angie mentioned that she was going hoarse. I told Quiana to be ready that she might have to sing it.

That's all the notice she got. Angela literally signaled me RIGHT BEFORE she was supposed to sing it and said she couldn't do it. You saw the rest in real time.

Kids say the funniest things. What is a really funny thing a child has said to you?

When I was working at the YMCA, we used to have the campers say the Pledge Of Allegiance to the flag every morning. One morning I was standing near one camper and he was reciting it, but something sounded a bit off.

So, afterwards, I asked him to stay back and talk to me. When all the other campers had left, I asked him to say the pledge for me. He did: "I led the pigeons to the flag of the United States of America" ...

You did a great job as a judge and mentor on ANTM. Would you consider being a guest judge on another reality type show?

I've always loved America's Got Talent. I'd love to be on that.

'Playing piano' at Wolf Trap
Photo by Invisible926

Clay Reveals LMT Piano Secret

Conceivably, the accompaniment for "Love Me Tender" was simple enough for a non-pianist to learn. Even for this piano teacher, the next answer was quite a revelation. However, the plan makes sense for a live show in which anything can happen; and apparently, it did one night in Ohio, LOL!

How long did it take you to learn to play "Love Me Tender" on the piano for the Jukebox Tour?

It amazes me that you all think I played that on the piano! I know hundreds of you will say you knew all along.. but I've yet to meet ONE person who wasn't floored when I told them that I was "lip-syncing" that.

S'von recorded it before we hit the road, and I pretended to play it while I was slipping the blue shoes on for the next song. What's funniest is that, on one stop in Ohio, the sound guy accidentally pressed play on the tape before I even came close to the piano, and the song played before I got there. He had to stop it and reset it for me and play it again.

I was SURE that the jig was up then and everyone knew, but I have been asked this very same question over and over for years since that show. So DO NOT tell me that you weren't fooled. We did a lot better than I thought we did.

My daughter started with the Greenspan Method in school. The new teacher is starting to use ABA with her. What do you think about this method? Have you ever used it before when you taught?

Yeah, I learned it. It's got a lot of positive aspects to it. BUT, my LIMITED experience is that it's so one-on-one intensive that often the student has great success with the facilitator, yet does not have the same level of success with others who they don't work with regularly.

Other methods focus a bit more on group instruction and help students interact with various individuals. The progress is often slower, but I always found that the student was able to transfer what they learned and use it in a larger variety of situations and settings.

That said, trust the experts your daughter works with. Definitely don't make any decisions based on my limited experience.

When you sang the "Amen" in Spamalot, did you decide how it would be sung at that moment, or did you know ahead of time how you were going to sing it?

I usually decided right there on stage in the moment.

Clay, do you have any good luck charms that you carry with you at all times?
I have worn the exact same underwear for six years straight! It's worked, don't you think? (ha ha)

What is your take on the controversy surrounding Miss California's answer regarding gay marriage in the Miss USA contest? And do you think Perez Hilton is using it to prolong his 15 minutes or should he just shut up?

I don't think Perez was wrong for asking the question at all. Pageant contestants ALWAYS get politically controversial questions. ALWAYS. I think it was a good question. I think it was an especially appropriate question for the contestant from California.

While I obviously don't agree with her answer, she's entitled to her opinion. And I don't think Perez should be chastised for asking the question.

That said, I don't think we'll ever get anywhere as long as folks have closed-minded views on EITHER side of the argument.

In my opinion, Miss California is shortsighted and closed-minded; but I also think that crucifying her and lambasting her because she doesn't agree with him definitely doesn't make Perez look that great and doesn't help to advance his cause much. Neither one of them should be demonized.

If the label had not chosen "On My Way Here" to be the lead single, what song would you and Jaymes have chosen?

"Where I Draw The Line" was always our preference.

'Just You' Revisited - Montage by Yollie950

Surprise Song Ends First Session

Late Friday night Clay encouraged fans to hang around because he had a surprise and, in his words, planned to end the evening "with a bang." Among the afternoon's questions was whether he would ever record "Just You."

Subsequently, the singer explained in his blog that the "Just You" was one of the first songs recorded for the 2006 album A Thousand Different Ways. The track was laid down prior to the label's decision to go with a love song cover concept, and "Just You" was temporarily shelved.

So, here I have had this song all along that, to my knowledge, I own the only copy of. What to do with it? Well, this evening, with some encouragement from Jaymes, I decided let's just give it to the fans.

We do have plans (which we will tell you about eventually) to be back in the studio and record in the near future, but until then, you might as well get a bit of something you haven't been able to hear in a while. "New" music!

Since Clay didn't write or produce the song, he can't sell it; so he gifted his fans with a link to the Just You recording and encouraged all who download it to make a donation to The Bubel/Aiken Foundation.

I want to give it to you because you deserve it. You've stuck by me and been patient for a long time. We are gonna do this on the "honor system." Download the song. It's yours. Share it with your friends. It's free.

But I want to make it count for someone, so let's make it count for tens of thousands of children in the US with developmental disabilities If you can't afford anything for it, then don't pay; but if you can, I encourage you to make a donation to the Bubel/Aiken Foundation for however much you feel the song is worth.

If you want to give $1 ... great. If you want to give $1,000 ... GREAT. If you can only give $.05 ... that's fine too. It's a tough time we're living through nowadays, and non-profits are hurting more than ever as well.

TBAF (which will soon be known by a different name) has had amazing success in fulfilling it's mission, and is embarking on a long term plan to continue including kids in every aspect of life. But, it will continue to need help from all of us in order to make that possible.

Clay has continued answering questions throughoutout the week at his Official Fan Club. To become a member of the OFC, sign up at Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA's opening graphic:

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clay Aiken Presented Family Award

ALL SMILES -- There's nothing like a Clay Aiken smile. Graphic by Amazing_CA.

April Schedule Amps Up

Recaps Amplify Aiken's Honor

With a bulging "real life" calendar, the normal three-day blog routine hit a misstep this week. Three weeks into April, I finally remembered I had not even posted the monthly calendar, so you know my schedule is in overdrive.

This blog will make amends for the calendar slip up and try to catch up on the latest happenings.

Tuesday platinum recording artist Clay Aiken and Terry Boggis, director of Center Kids in New York City, were honored with Family Equality Council Awards at the fourth annual Night at the Tavern in NYC. The event was well-covered by several CA bloggers [see sidebar], as well as the FEC site.

Honoring Clay Aiken
Double clickable

In the FEC blog are video clips by Tavern attendees plus articles about the event. Below are a couple of reports from CA fans that you won't find in official news articles. The first is from the recap of claynov30:

[Clay] was so warm and friendly mingling with everyone. We never thought we would have such close proximity to him last night but we did. It was great to see him in a totally different setting and be so relaxed.

And the people on the Family Equality Council did a fantastic job. They were warm and inviting, and I had some great conversation with a few of them.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and last night I learned what it means to people in the LGBT community to have the support of ALL people, not just their own gay community. A truly memorable and enlightening evening!

Photo of Clay with special performer Linda Eder
links to slide show.
(Bruce Glikas)

Winner Donates Prize Poster

Big winner of the silent auction's life-size Spamalot poster of Sir Robin, the Lady of the Lake, and the king was CA fan crazyglue91152. Clay, who had signed the poster with the words "Find Your Grail," planned to personalize it with the name of the winner. Here is a paraphrase of her recap:

After the auction, she congratulated Clay on his award, and he hugged her. Laughing, he jokingly asked her twice what she planned to do with that huge poster.

She told him she planned to donate it to The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. Clay replied, "Wow, that's wonderful! Thank you very much!" It was decided that instead of inscribing the poster to her, he and crazyglue91152 would have their picture taken with her prize.

With his assistant positioned behind the poster so it wouldn't fall over, Clay stooped down next to the winner for her photo memento. She thanked him, and he promised to see her again soon.

The singer, TBAF, and fans throughout Clay Cyberspace are celebrating this thoughtful gesture that will eventually raise lots of funds for Foundation. CA fans are also hoping "soon" really means SOON!

PHOTE INTERLUDE: This clickable interlude features graphics by cindilu2, 1 (April calendar) and 5, and Amazing_CA, 3, as well as photos by robyn428, 2 and 4. For widescreen versions of the calendar and its matching graphic, see the artist's Yuku page.

Boyle Recalls 'Clay Aiken Era'

You'd almost have to be a hermit on a desert island not to have come across Britain's Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle. Not a few have compared the Scottish singer to diamond-in-the-rough emergence of Clay Aiken during American Idol's Season 2.

Somewhere along the way AI, now in its 8th season, moved away from its innocent appeal and original premise to find the best "undiscovered talent" in America. One of the latest to examine the phenomenon is Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Amy S. Rosenberg.

In her Thursday (4/23) column Has a Brit Knocked 'Idol' off its pedestal? column, she quotes Jason Mittell, associate professor of American Studies and Film & Media Culture at Middlebury College.

Television critics are calling for a return to the simple pleasures of the undiscovered gems in the rough of the earlier Clay Aiken era. Feminists are charmed. Priests are seeing God's work. As for age, Barack Obama already made 47 sexy and powerful; now Susan Boyle is standing up for the unlucky-at-love set.

"It plays into a narrative that seems authentic," says Mittell. "The idea that she is just a real person, following her dreams. There's a sense of discovery of something authentic. It tweaks that pleasure. It plays especially well in the U.S. because our frame for the genre is American Idol. American Idol is about young people who look the part, act the way in which we expect a pop star to act."

In case you have been on the proverbial desert island, here is Boyle's April 11 performance of I Dreamed a Dream from "Les Miserables," which is about to hit 13 million views on YouTube.

Recital Calendar Marches On

Recently I mentioned that due to double booking, my sister and I had to rearrange the location for our Spring Recital of woodwind, string, and piano students. Symphony harpist Helen Rikas will accompany the woodwind solos, as well as the joint selections in the middle of the two recitals.

We spent the better part of Easter Week searching for an alternate locale. Because of our harpist's schedule, the date was not movable. After checking with area churches and trying a grand with a troubling rebound action in a nearby chapel, we decided to go with the academy's bandroom and a really fine upright ebony piano.

Our first joint string-woodwind rehearsal is next Thursday; and, hopefully, there will be no major surprises. The students range in age from Grades 4 - 12, so you never know.

The May 17 main event will be followed by another the next day when grandson Kai welcomes a baby sister -- or "Sissy" as he already calls her. Between the two happenings many miles away, their maternal grandmother will no doubt be off the wall all weekend long!

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA 's opening graphic:

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Piano-Rock Artist Records Legacy

Image links to Clay Aiken's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'
MDA performance. -
Montage by Aspiegirl, graphic by cindilu2.

While Battling ALS

Ace Noface Sets Musical Mark

One of the first times I conversed with Ace Noface, a 38-year-old musician with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of muscular dystrophy known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, he felt obliged to tweet back the fact that he resides in "enemy territory," i.e., East Lansing, MI.

That was April 5, the day before the Michigan State Spartans and the Carolina Tar Heels played in the NCAA Final Four championship game. The next night my team won; but, after meeting him on Twitter, reading his story, and listening to his music, there was no rivalry. I was already a card-carrying member of the AceNoface fan club and following him at Twitter.

For most readers of this blog, muscular dystrophy and Clay Aiken's performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the 2003 Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon are synonymous and the reason for the opening montage:

We are thrilled to have him joining us today because when it was made known that he would appear on this telethon, the emails and the fan clubs that this young man has have sent us $30,000 just for the fact that he was here. -- Jerry Lewis

Appropriately, cindilu2's linking graphic for Aspiegirl's montage bears the quotation: The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Ace Noface signed on to this philosophy a while back.

ALS Diagnosis Determines Goals

In Feb. 2005, Ace Noface was diagnosed with the muscular dystrophy strain ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal column.

Once the initial shock wore off, he withdrew from his active life as a graduate student, stopped volunteering at a crisis center, and spent the next six months feeling sorry for himself and playing Euchre on his computer.

The moniker "Ace NoFace" comes from his card game and describes the occasion in which a player who draws a single ace and nothing else except nines and tens can throw in his cards.

Or, in this man's case, it describes the terminally ill, alternative piano-rock artist working to leave behind a significant musical legacy. Following the revelation that he had time to make his mark, almost every ounce of energy that doesn't go into fighting the disease goes into his music.

I'm not the Iron Horse,
I'm not the luckiest alive.
But I won't sit and wait,
For the Black Angel to arrive

Prior to his illness, Ace was bassist for a touring indie-rock band. Now he writes songs on his computer touch pad and adaptive equipment. Down to the forefinger of his right hand, Ace presses on.

In a Jan. 4 blog on the AceNoface website, he stated his 2009 goals and provided an overview of the journey that has determined his life since the diagnosis four years ago.

From learning to read the treble clef (after all, he was a bassist!), he progressed through advanced music theory, first by reading books and later through lessons and online classes. Songwriting, composition, marketing, and using music notation software have headlined Ace's annual lists of goals.

In the final two weeks of 2008, Ace completed that year's plan to write 20 songs. Twelve were recorded in his home studio. Ten tracks of his new CD Toxic Charm, also a 2008 goal, can be sampled on the player at his website. There are links for lyrics, bio, press, interaction.

Toxic Charm is for sale through CD BABY for $11.99 (CD) or $9.90 (mp3 downloads). Appropriately, the tag line is "Ace Noface: Pure Piano Rock for the Brave!"

His piano-driven melodies are reminiscent of songwriting heroes from both the past (The Beatles, Steely Dan) and the present (Something Corporate, Semicsonic, Josh Groban, Five for Fighting,The Fray). The lyrics are at once honest, introspective, optimistic, and defiant.


Mercy I need a reply
Just answer my plea
Ain't got the patience of Job
I ask for the key

To help make it possible
To face this damn disease
God will take His time
to have some Mercy on me

This optimism in the face of adversity has caught the attention of many in the media, from the Chicago Tribune to college radio. "Ace Noface creates music ... that confronts the grit of life ... not soon to be forgotten," said DJ Petros of WUMD radio.

Recently, Ace was one of 31 Americans with ALS selected nationwide to be featured in an online national awareness campaign by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Efforts to eradicate, treat, and ease the progression of dystrophy are year-round. MDA donations can be made here all year round.


Put your house in order my friend
Soon your life will come to an end
With this task you will ask
Have you done more harm than good

Self-reflection wasn't your style
Now you put your conduct on trial
Will it sting wondering
Have you done more harm than good

This is what you get
Living with regret

WLNS-TV interview about Ace's music, living with ALS.

Affirmations, Goals Guide Life

Visiting Ace's Artist YouTube page is informative and inspiring. In addition to the song montages in the right column, there are three interviews by WLNS-TV, the first of which is linked here. You can also listen to his music at the Ace Noface and the Misdeals page on MySpace.

Ace's coping mechanism is a tool chest filled with daily affirmations and designated goals. At day's end, he recites four times the affirmation "I will not give up." Just one of many. He assigns himself 4-6 daily tasks and sets weekly and monthly goals.

I'm not the Iron Horse,
I'm not the luckiest alive.
But I won't sit and wait,
For the Black Angel to arrive

Rather than throwing in his cards, Ace Noface is inspiration of the rarest persuasion.


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clay Aiken's Amazing AI2 Journey

Fountaindawg graphic links to 'AI2 Journey' montage by Gerwhisp.

Looking Back at AI2

Montage Recaps Clay's Season

Since Clay Aiken's successful run on the American Idol stage six years ago, I have followed his career instead of viewing subsequent seasons of the show. Occasionally I tune into the quick summary that closes Tuesday performances so I will know what aficionados of the current contestants are talking about.

Like many Clay Aiken fans, my philosophy epitomizes the fandom slogan "Idol Found, Game Over."

Monday night I came across Gerwhisp's montage of Clay's AI2 Journey, and I have been lost in a reminiscent tour ever since. The first thing that strikes you is THE VOX week after week, show after show.

The montage opens with Clay singing "Dont Let the Sun Go Down on Me," the Wildcard song that punched his ticket to continue in the competition. Here is a Sendspace download for the montage.

With the assistance of Fountaindawg of the Clay Aiken Kids site, I assembled some graphics to accompany compliments by guest judges that are featured in the video. I also located What Not To Sing, an uber-comprehensive AI database that includes note for note every episode of every season, ratings of performances, you name it.

Neil Sedaka/60s Week
Clickable graphic by Fountaindawg

Here are a few notes from WNTS's AI Season 2 pages:

During 1960s / Neil Sedaka Week, he [Clay] busted out with two showstoppers: an uncharacteristically energetic "Build Me Up Buttercup," and a dramatic, near-flawless "Solitaire." Coming in at 94 and 92 respectively, Aiken remains the only contestant to break 90 twice in the same week.

Season Two owns the highest average approval rating of the first seven years. Aiken's 68.5 average rating led the way, with Locke, Studdard, and Trenyce also coming in with 4-star averages.

Each of the Final 12 turned in at least one above-average rated performance. You might think at first that's nothing special, but it didn't happen again until Season Seven.

For what it's worth, we consider it a tossup between Studdard's "A Whole New World" and Locke's "New York State Of Mind" as the best of the season.

Aiken earns a special achievement award for his twin triumphs in the Final 5; we have a feeling that his 93 average in a multi-song week will stand as the record for a very, very long time.

Whether you are interested in Season 2 or 8, check out the site and see how your favorite Idol compares.

Movie Week
Clickable by Fountaindawg

During Season 2's Movie Week, Clay sang "Somewhere Out There" from "An American Tail." Three judges gave him a standing ovation, and guest adjudicator Gladys Knight said he was "magical." The date was 3/18/03:

You're a mystery. You have your own look. There is something very magical about your look, and your voice is so pure. I don't know in the contemporary world what is going to happen with you, but something exceptional is going to happen for you somewhere along the way because you are pure.

Billboard #1 Hits
Clickable by Fountaindawg

During his Billboard #1 Hits performance of 4/8/03, Clay sang "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters. Guest judge Lionel Ritchie was very impressed with THE VOX:

I'm in awe that all of that is coming out of that body. Unbelievable! Who is that guy?

Clickable by Fountaindawg

For Neil Sedaka/60s Week (4/29/03), Singer Man performed "Build Me Up, Buttercup" and "Solitaire." Most CA fans can quote word for word Sedaka's kudos:
Clay, you sing like Andre Agassi plays tennis -- PERFECTION, PERFECTION! -- and I would kill to write and produce your first CD!

(After "Solitaire,"): Bravo, Clay! I have lost my song forever to you. It will always be a Clay Aiken song.

BeeGees Night
Fountaindawg Clickable

Clay chose "Grease" and "To Love Somebody" for the 5/6/03 BeeGees/Top 4 Night. After TLS, guest judge Robin Gibb was very complimentary:

You've got an absolutely fantastic voice. This is the way the song should be sung, and it's just brilliant.

Hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Many thnx to my accomplices, Gerwhisp and Fountaindawg!

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Aiken Fans Honor Easter, Spring

NEW BIRTH -- This beautiful tiger lily graphic by Sally commemorates Easter and the rebirth of Spring.

Rebirth and Renewal

Easter Celebrates Resurrection

Sunday Christians all over the world celebrate Easter, an occasion commemorating the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The day also honors the rebirth of Spring and, for many, the renewal of faith, hope, and new life.

Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second century AD, Easter has had its non-religious side and, like most Christian holidays, was originally a pagan festival.

The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating Eastre, their goddess of offspring and of springtime. When second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity, but in a clandestine manner.

To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.

Pagan Eastre Becomes Easter

The pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense to alter the festival itself and make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

Both the rabbit, Eastre's earthly symbol, and the exchange of eggs, a celebration of springtime's rebirth, were centuries old customs of the pagan festival that eventually merged with the religious Easter season.

More about the history of Easter and the parallel pagan festivities can be read at Wilstar.

Photos Extol Spring Blessings

This blog's pictorial celebration takes place on three stages -- the glorious landscape photographs by my friend Sally; clickable blends of Clay Aiken photos by his talented fans; and Sally's beautiful floral graphics signifying the rebirth of the spring season.

Many may remember the featured artist as Sally888, who in the past featured many of her stunning photos and graphics in an Official Fan Club blog.

Even though I have played for countless Easter sunrise services, I have never been to Canada. Sally's beautiful photo of a sunrise along the Ice fields Parkway transports us to the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Lake Louise near Banff, Alberta, reported to be the most photographed lake in the world, was once recorded by Sally.

In this photo, Sally captured springtime one morning in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, a state I called home for 17 years.

Fans Applaud Voice, Heart

On a much larger stage than he ever imagined, Clay Aiken has for the past six years shared with the planet his magnificent voice, caring heart, and unbending faith in word, deed, and song.

Through the The Bubel/Aiken Foundation's inclusive programs and his projects as an ambassador for UNICEF, he has endeavored to make the world a better place for children.

In recognition of the singer's commitment to loving families, sharing his journey to parenthood, and the work he does on behalf of children the world over, Clay will be presented the Equality Circle Award at the Family Equality Council's Night at the Tavern in New York City on Tuesday, April 21.

Dancing Event To Benefit TBAF

In a benefit for TBAF, the Foundation and A Step to Gold International Ballroom will co-host "Dancing Like the Stars" at Raleigh's Southern Women's Show April 26. Local celebrities will participate in the popular dance competition at the NC State Fairgrounds.

Fans first followed the exceptional voice from Carolina. During the past six years, they have also become enthusiastic supporters and participants in his charitable causes, inspiring the motto: "We came for the voice but stayed for the man."

A treasured spin off for countless fans who have come together in Clay Cyberspace are the close personal friendships that have evolved. No national boundaries, not an unusual progression on the Internet, but still very special!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Looking back, these handsome clickables feature Invisible926's 2006 Easter design (1); Clayquebec1, photo by Invisible926, (2); cindilu2, photo and screencap by Galrow and Spotlightlover, (3); Amazing_CA's JNT05 blend, photos by Renee4Clay, (4); and ABeautifulMind's Easter graphic, photo by Scrpkym, (5).

Flowers a Canvas for Nature

Nature's splendor resonates throughout Sally's floral photos and graphics. My special affinity for the first is the annual
North Carolina Azalea Festival celebrated in my hometown of Wilmington. The 62nd "best party in the South" occurred last week, April 1-5.

Joining the pink azalea in this springtime gala are sweet-fragranced freesia and a lovely apple blossom.

Bravo to Sally, whose photos, graphics, and friendship helped this blog commemorate Easter in such a special way!

Did the Monkey Mail Come?

Did the Monkey Mail come? Well, whose it from? ... Twinkle and Wayne from Higglytown Heroes up next! ... Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse!!!

During my grandson's month-long visit last summer, he and I greeted each morning singing along with several familiar cartoon characters on TV. Much to Kai's delight, one morning we actually received some real "monkey mail" ourselves -- three snugly toys from my friend and his "fairy godmother" Sally.

A squeeze of the correct button and Kai's favorite, a pastel-colored chicken, wobbled into his open arms to strains of "The Easter Parade" followed by a barnyard cacophony. The Easter chick now sits on a shelf awaiting grandson's next visit.

Meanwhile, I hear the little guy in question has been very active. Blessed with amazing balance, unquenchable curiosity, and a penchant for heights, his latest "trick" is to climb onto the closed toilet seat, maneuver over to the sink on which he stands to investigate the contents of the mysterious medicine cabinet. Locks don't work, so lessons are hopefully being learned!

Below are three clickables celebrating Kai's two Easters and the fun we shared with that shimmying little chick last June. Graphics are by Sally (2008) and Ashes (2009):

Happy Easter ~ Blessed Passover ~ Joyous Spring, Clay Nation!


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