Sunday, June 28, 2009

Clay Aiken Personifies 'Life Lessons'

ROLE MODEL -- Clay Aiken "walks the walk" as a successful entertainer committed to a myriad of charitable projects for children. Graphic by Amazing_CA, photo by toni7babe.

Philosophy 101: Life Lessons

Column Recalls Axioms of Clay

Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger ... Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does ... The best is yet to come.

How many times Clay Aiken fans have heard the singer or those close to him reiterate these axioms? "The best is yet to come," attributed to Jaymes Foster, producer, friend, and mother of their son Parker, has become a rallying slogan for fans anxious to hear the next career move.

With a host of food allergies, Clay has no connection to #10 and the worldwide majority's futile resistance to chocolate.

Sunday's sidestep into Philosophy 101 was jump started by my reading the September 2007 Life Lessons column by Regina Brett of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, OH.

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update.

After almost two years, this popular column is still making email rounds and this weekend traveled through Clay Cyberspace via the message board route. As I read the list, I thought of Clay Aiken's commitment to children in need through projects with The Bubel/Aiken Foundation and, since 2004, as a UNICEF Ambassador.

I notice that some readers of the September listing suggested several more "lessons" in their comments. Hopefully, you will, too. Meanwhile, here is the starting point:

Life Lessons and 5 To Grow On

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Regina Brett's column appears in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. In April 2010, her "lessons" column will be released in book form: "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours."

A breast cancer survivor, Regina can be heard on WCPN 90.3 FM, Cleveland's NPR radio affiliate. Click on
Regina Brett to read her latest columns.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Below are clickables of recent graphics by Amazing_CA (1, 2, 3, 4) and Ashes, 5. Featured photographers are Scrpkym, 2, and Kareneh, 4.

As a CA fan, I recognize many more "life lessons" that have found their way into the singer's writings, interviews, and even his spontaneous remarks at live concerts. Some parallel my own road map and, no doubt, yours, too.

Below is a clickable of the opening graphic:

If you have "lessons" to add, please share them in your comments below. Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Friday, June 26, 2009

Clay Aiken Virtual Tour Rewinds JNaT

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS -- Clay Aiken celebrating the finale of the Joyful Not a Tour with a performance in Greensboro two days before Christmas 2006. Photo by Shine in NC.

Christmas in June

Music, Fun, Culture Define JNaT

With recent news that Clay Aiken will pen a Christmas book, the Carolina blog's "virtual tour" bus hit the road for a look back at the musical, comedic, and educational highlights of the December 2006 Joyful Not a Tour.

IN REMEMBRANCE -- With grateful acknowledgement for the music and life of Michael Jackson (1958 -2009), thoughts and prayers are with family, friends, and fans of the King of Pop.

Memorable vocals are a given when Clay & Company are on stage. The singer's genuine gift for bantering with audiences assures spontaneity, humor, and grins. The educational segments of the holiday symphony tour were Clay's nightly lessons of "fancy Eye-talian" musical terms.

To relive the three-week tour, start with the first of Chardonnay's "Best of NACT Banter" montages. After viewing the opener, link to all 12 NACT videos at her YouTube Channel. The initial montage merges videos by Scarlett and jojoct from the Waukegan and Merrilville concerts.

Best of NACT Banter, Part 1 - Montage by Chardonnay

Snow Greets Tour Opener

Winter storms arrived in the Midwest for the opening curtain; but Clay, musical director Jesse Vargas, and the touring crew were soon treated to more pleasant weather as the entourage made their way up and down the eastern seaboard Dec. 1 - 23, entertaining audiences on many levels.

Cousin Jamie Displays Word
Clickable by Cotton

Throughout the 2006 holiday tour, Clay returned to the classroom and taught fans a new musical term at each concert. The performances were beamed throughout Cyberspace, so the nightly lessons benefited fans in the theater as well as those listening at home.

The 18 musical terms introduced to JNaT audiences are listed below. With few exceptions, Clay's cousin Jamie walked across the stage holding up a sign bearing the name of the evening's "Eye-talian" term.

CAROLINA CROONER -- Clay dazzled the Greensboro audience and symphony musicians during the final JNaT concert. Photo by xxx4clay.

Violinist Shares Backstage Scenes

Since Greensboro is home base for me, I have played gigs with several of the symphony members performing in the final concert. The morning after the concert I talked with Jean, a violinist, about the orchestra's interaction with my favorite singer.

According to my friend, the Greensboro musicians really enjoyed working with Clay, who was "personable, professional, and lots of fun" during their rehearsal and dinner.

He arrived in last half hour of the rehearsal and started singing where they were, checking sound and warming up. "He was very involved with the orchestra and sang to us during the rehearsal," she said.

My friend was surprised to learn the concert was beamed via cellcert throughout the US and Canada. As with most orchestras, Greensboro's JNaT audience was definitely out of the norm for symphony musicians.

Orchestra Players Pick Term

During dinner, Clay explained about the "musical term of the night" and asked for the orchestra's assistance in choosing an unusual definition. Every word they suggested had been used. Jean even knew about the "made up" term at the West Point Concert. When concertgoers began bringing music dictionaries to look up correct answers, Clay and crew "created" a term.

Talking amongst themselves, the Greensboro string section came up with flagioleto or flagioletto, which means "playing overtones with a slide touch of the string in the points where it is divided in two, three, and four equal parts." In the music, this is indicated with an "o" over the note.

A more recognizable description might be "playing harmonics." Basically, this happens by barely pressing the string while bowing versus firmly pressing the string on the fingerboard and bowing. The violin section demonstrated both sounds very effectively.

As with all concerts, Clay plugged the Greensboro Symphony's next performance, which was slated for Dec. 31. "What are you doing New Year's Eve?" he hinted to the local audience. "I'm not singing, just asking," he quipped, referencing the popular track on his 2004 Christmas CD, Merry Christmas With Love.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: The JNaT's final leg escorted Clay home for the holidays. Clickables from the tour's closing concerts are by photographers xxx4clay (1), All4Clay (2), Simonncharge (3), and ClaysCharlotteGirl (4), Greensboro; PinkCocoa/Ztilb (5, 6), Charlotte; and Clayzthe1, Norfolk, when Clay danced with his mother while singing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" (7).

JNaT Terms Educate Audiences

Musical terms for the nightly pedagogical segments of the 2006 tour are listed below. How many do you remember?

1. CRESCENDO (Merrillville) - Soft to loud.

2. DECRESCENDO (Merrillville) - Loud to soft.

3. FERMATA (Verona) - Held note.

4. SFORZANDO (Engelwood) - A sudden burst of sound on a chord.

5. TREMOLO (Baltimore) - Tremble; a string player shakes his bow reeeeaaal fast on the string for effect such as in scary music. Another set of definitions: (a) A tremulous effect produced by rapid repetition of a single tone. ( b) A similar effect produced by rapid alternation of two tones. A tremolo performed on a piano would be two notes one octave apart played in rapid succession, i.e., low E high E low E high E.

6. PIZZICATO (Norfolk) - I-talian (™CHA) term meaning "pinching." It is used for string instruments to indicate that the strings must be pinched instead of playing with the bow.

7. COL LEGNO (Williamsport) - "Playing with wood"!!! Bwah!!!

8. PONTICELLO (Wilkes Barre) - Playing close to the bridge of a stringed instrument

9. GLISSANDO (Easton) - Rapid scale passage produced by sliding over keys or strings, e.g. piano, harp, violin, trombone.

10. BISBIGLIANDO (Hartford) – Whispering, i.e., a special tremolo effect on the harp where a chord or note is rapidly repeated at a low volume. A fluttering of the strings of the harp.

11. FLUTTER TONE (Greenvale/Long Island) -- Jaimie's sign showed 'flutter-tone,' but the terms dictionary had 'flutter-tongue.' In wind instruments, a "coloristic" effect produced by the performer rolling "R" sound while playing.

12. MALLANCAZZIO (West Point) - Playing with the mouthpiece only. (The night of the MADE UP term!)

13. RALLENTANDO (RAL-lin-TAHN-doe) (Red Bank) - A directive to perform a certain passage of a composition with a gradual slowing of the tempo

14. SCORDATURA (skor-dah-TOOR-rah) (Detroit) - The practice of tuning the strings of a stringed instrument differently than the standard tuning. Scordatura is generally used to extend an instrument's range, or to make certain passages easier or more possible to perform; it is also used to achieve certain special effects. Scordatura was popular between 1600 and 1750, and is used rarely now.

15. MARCATO (Grand Rapids) - With strong accentuation, strongly accented.

16. SALTANDO (Jacksonville) - Proceeding in leaps or skips. In bowed string playing, a saltando is a technique of bouncing the bow across the strings, producing a rapid, staccato arpeggio.

17. TACET (Charlotte) - Don’t Play. An indication in the music that a performer is to be silent for some time. Typically, for an entire section or movement of a composition.

18. FLAGIOLETO (Greensboro) - Playing overtones with a slide touch of the string in the points where it is divided in two, three, and four equal parts. In the music, this is indicated with an "o" over the note. A more recognizable description might be "playing harmonics." Basically, this happens by barely pressing the string while bowing versus firmly pressing the string on the fingerboard and bowing. The violin section demonstrated both sounds very effectively

Hope you enjoyed the JNaT rewind. No doubt, we will hit the virtual tour trail again; so keep your bags packed.

Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Monday, June 22, 2009

Mama Mac in Tune with Clay Aiken

'I Want To Know What Love Is' from SRHP Tour Finale

Celebrating Mama Mac

Exquisite SRHP Finale Replayed

Today, June 22, would have been my mother's 97th birthday; and I can't think of a more appropriate lead-in than the magnificent Soft Rock Hard Place Orlando rendition of "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Clay Aiken and backup singers Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher.

The song embraces Mama Mac's special talent for singing beautiful harmony. The lady also knew a lot about love and laughter.

Throughout the Summer 2007 Tour, Quiana and Angela had cleverly teased Clay as to which would be his singing partner on the nightly IWTKWLI duet. At each concert, Clay sang the opening phrase but had to guess which backup vocalist to face for the reply.

During the Orlando finale, they both answered. As soon as Clay committed to singing with one partner, the other vocalised the next phrase. In the process, the trio spun gold, ending with Clay improvising low register riffs with Quiana and soaring into high altitudes scats with Angela.

In the memorable version of I Want To Know What Love Is, posted at YouTube by kb0326, Singerman renamed his backup singers "Heartache" and "Pain."

My mother would have loved it!

Sail On, Silver Girl, Sail On

Our family celebrates a joyful life that almost spanned a century. We have fond memories, full hearts, and the knowledge that this very special woman is still singing glorious harmony through her offspring and the many students she touched.

Mama Mac died on July 12, 2005, sailing peacefully to her next portal where no doubt she is alto section leader in the choir or maybe even directing it.

Many readers have "met" Mama Mac though this journal. In fact, I started the OFC version that parallels the Carolina blog during the week of her death. Snapshots from her colorful life have been shared almost every Mother's Day [i.e., A Very Special Clay Aiken Fan on 5/11/08] since.

Neighborhood 'Beach Lady'

As a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, musician, gardener extraordinaire, Alleen McDonald worked hard and lived a full life. An alto in the First Baptist Church-Wilmington Chancel Choir for 42 years, she appreciated good music and was a very enthusiastic fan of Clay Aiken. She particularly loved to hear him sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Besides her three children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, our spirited matriarch was special to a large extended family of friends, former students and coworkers, caregivers of the nursing home where she lived after breaking a hip.

Even with 35 years in the public schools, all the successful operettas and other musical productions, Mother is best remembered in our Wilmington neighborhood as "the beach lady." On any given summer day, we would load up her old 1939 Chevy, which she kept way past its prime just for these beach outings.

Bursting with neighborhood children in bathing suits, inner tubes, fishing/crabbing gear, and picnic lunches, the old jalopy bopped the 10 miles between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach several times a week during the summers.

A Blue Ribbon Finale

One of my favorite Mama Mac stories happened during National Caregivers Week in May 2005. A month shy of her 93rd birthday, Mother was relatively cognizant 99% of the time, although she occasionally had "moments," such as contending she needed to get ready for choir practice or pack for "our trip" to Wilmington.

Awakened from a mid morning nap with a visit from her granddaughter and toddler twin great-grandchildren, Mother immediately insisted she needed to get dressed for a rehearsal with her physical therapist.

No one in the family knew the two had been rehearsing a duet for the nursing home's talent show that afternoon; so it was assumed our matriarch was groggy and still getting her bearings.

When my sister dropped by after choir practice later that evening, proudly displayed on Mother's door was a shiny lst Place Blue Ribbon. Mama Mac could sing harmony at the drop of a hat, a talent she shared with Clay and one of the many reasons she admired him so much.

My sister and I grew up singing three-part harmony with our mother at church functions. However, Mama Mac was the only one to win a blue ribbon for it!

Photo by Irishbookgal from Orlando IWTKWLI.

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clay Aiken Marks First Father's Day

BABY OF MINE -- In this graphic design, Cindilu2 included the words to a lullaby Clay sang to his son Parker on "Good Morning, America."

Cyber Celebrations for Clay, Parker

Fans Fete First Father's Day

Clay Aiken will celebrate his first Father's Day with son Parker on Sunday, but his fans are already waxing poetic in posts throughout Cyberspace and commemorating the occasion with creative graphic designs and video montages.

A moving tribute by Jan Dillberg -- Father's Day - The first for Clay Aiken -- is featured at The Ideal Idol:

On August 8th, 2008, at 8:08AM, celebrity Clay Aiken and his dear friend and noted record producer Jaymes Foster became parents. On June 21st, 2009, Clay -along with other fathers around the country- will celebrate his own first Father's Day.

Clay has said many times in the past that he wanted children. After the birth of his son, he stated publicly that "coming out" was the first real decision he made as a father. He also said that he "could not raise a child to lie or hide things", and added that he wants his son to always be free to be who he is and to know that he is accepted.

Fans of 'Clay Aiken the Performer' know that he brings them joy when he sings - and laughter as he banters hilariously with the audience during his concerts. But just as importantly, 'Clay Aiken the Father' will bring joy, laughter and integrity to the very important job of parenting his own precious child.

Happy Father's Day, Clay!

Happy First Father's Day, Clay - Montage by Luluasst

The montage Happy First Father's Day, Clay combines photos and videos from Parker's first 10 months with the Brahms Lullaby sung in English and French by Celine Dion. The montage by Luluasst can be viewed at YouTube and downloaded with this Sendspace link.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Below are five Father's Day graphics from Parker's first year, featuring Fountaindawg, 1 and 5; Amazing_CA, photo by PermaSwooned, 2; Amazing_CA, 3; and Laura08, 4.

With permission, this is the Father's Day poem written for Clay by ymarie, a Clayveristy member:

For Your First Father's Day

by ymarie

He looks down at his son with pride
His heart is so full of love inside
For this precious, precious gift of love
Bestowed on him by God above.

I’m sure there’ll be times, as he dries his son’s tears,
When he’s suddenly plagued by doubts and fears.
Will he be able to teach him right from wrong?
Will he be able to help him grow up strong?

Will he always do what’s best for his child?
Will he grow up meek, will he grow up wild?
How will he know if he’s doing what’s right?
Will he know when to run, will he know when to fight?

Well, Clay, you’ll do what you’ve always done,
You’ll teach by example, and your small son
Will learn what it means to be a man
Of character and integrity, who will take a stand.

He’ll make mistakes, as we all do,
But you’ll be right there to help him through.
He’s already got the foundation he needs.
His father’s love will help him succeed.

So, Clay, on your very first Father’s Day,
I wish you such joy, more than I can say.
Enjoy your day with your sweet little son,
In the game of life, you’ve already won.

Below are clickables of new Father's Day graphics by Fountaindawg, 1 and 3, and the opening "Baby of Mine" design by cindilu2. Thnx to Gerwhisp and Ashes, a download of Clay singing Baby of Mine is also included:

As in seasons past, this blog pays homage to our family's Three Father Lions, whose narratives were shared here in 2007 and 2008.

This June I am delighted to include Father's Day greetings for a very special Singer Man. I wonder if Parker whipped out a credit card and purchased his Dad a new iPhone. *g*

Clickable by Sally

Wishing the Father Lions of your life a very memorable celebration. Have an awesome weekend, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Aiken Concerts Celebrate Smiles

'When I See You Smile' with Flat Clay at Pala SRHP
Montage by Goldarngirl and Luckiest1

Twitter Spreads Weekend News

Fans Rewind Concert Videos

On a weekend when the world witnessed unbelievable fallout following the Iranian elections, I kept in touch via Twitter and alternated between viewing Clay Aiken concert videos and working my way through this spring's ever-expanding movie stash.

With much of mainstream media in "time out" Saturday, the major news of the day, the Iranian elections and aftermath, were covered brilliantly on The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan, Twitter (see #Iranelection and other trending topics), and Huffington Post.

Like many Americans, I also pushed the pause button to reflect on the first anniversary of the death of beloved TV journalist Tim Russert, described by NBC's Keith Olbermann as "the light" of the network.

Spontaneity Shines in Performances

The opening WISYS video from the 8/3/07 Pala Concert of the Soft Rock Hard Place Summer Tour is a favorite among Clay fans everywhere. An excellent example of the singer's ability to incorporate spontaneity and humor into his performances, the montage by Goldarngirl and Luckiest1 features the ensemble's serenade to Flat Clay, a life-sized cardboard version of Singerman.

If you have the time, here are some YouTube links that will provide hours of entertainment:

Clay Aiken AND Goldarngirl/Luckiest1

Clay Aiken AND Dreamlarge

Clay Aiken AND Banter

Clay Aiken AND Chardonnay

The latter includes the "Best of NACT Banter 2006" montages by Chardonnay. Featured in this player is 50's Banter/Unchained Melody, a Jukebox Tour compilation by Dreamlarge.

50's Banter/Unchained Melody - Montage by Dreamlarge
Atlantic City, Jukebox Tour, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2005

One Step Forward, Two Back

One of my summer goals is to view the gold mine of recorded movies on my DIRECTV receiver and make room for more. The only problem is that for every film I watch, I seem to program two or three more. Sometimes I pick a loser, but I've learned to be cold-hearted and quickly hit the DELETE button.

This weekend's winners have run the gamut from August Rush and Antwone Fisher to Deja Vu and 7 Things To Do Before I'm 30. I have even enjoyed some oldies I missed the first time around like The First Wives Club and Last Holiday.

In watching the opening credits for Choosing Mathias, I thought I recognized a name and promptly rewound to double-check. Sure enough, Gordon Hookailo, son of CA fan Marian, was in charge of sound for this 2001 movie.

As I type, my receiver is at 85% capacity. Reckon I'd better plan on a movie marathon tonight!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Below is a clickable interlude featuring graphics from the present, as well as the Jukebox and SRHP Tours. They include Amazing_CA, photos by Invisible926, 1, and toni7babe, 2; cindilu2, photo by Tasapio, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by Tasapio, 4; and Amazing_CA, 5.

Time Takes Toll on A/C Unit

It should be no surprise that the parts and parcels of my dwelling are winding down in a fashion similar to the human body. Friday I wrote a check for $233 to revive my home's cooling system.

The repairman informed me the A/C unit has been around for approximately 30 years and is so ancient that the company no longer manufactures replacement parts for the model.

His worksheet summary brought to mind parallels between machinery and humans: "It's still cooling, just not at new capacity."

Ain't it so!?!?!

In this final funny bone tickle, a tractor accompanies three guitars playing Sweet Georgia Brown. The very popular YouTube video was uploaded by janakeragnar.

Tractor Drums for 'Sweet Georgia Brown'

For more, see Train Goes Through Market and a whole play list of chuckles at Howl TV.

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Where in the World Is Clay Aiken?

FATHER AND SON -- Clay Aiken and his son Parker are featured in the above graphic by Amazing_CA.

D-Day Changes Course of History

Fans Ponder Location of Clay

"Where in the world is Clay Aiken?" message board posts by CA fans are currently matching the periodic "Where in the world is Matt Lauer?" Today Show feature buzz for buzz.

Speculations run the gamut -- North Carolina, New York City, Los Angeles, a UNICEF trip to a region in need. Since his 2004 appointment as a UNICEF Ambassador, Clay has traveled to Indonesia, northern Uganda, Afghanistan, Mexico, Somalia, and Kenya. Fans generally learn about his UNICEF trips after he returns home.

As the "drought" continues, artists fill the interim with new montages and graphics, some of which are shared here. Fans like lynnie171 inject a little humor in the many variations of the Internet lament:

So another day has passed and still we have no idea where Clay is. Is there a lost and found we can contact?

Will he show up today? Will he answer some questions? Does he still love us or has he hooked up with someone else's fans and is cheating on us behind our backs? Is he answering their questions? So many worries, so little time.

Ain't No Sunshine - Montage by LovesClaysVoice
Performed by Eva Cassidy

Computer Problems Delay Blog

After viewing Saturday's D-Day events at the National American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville sur Mer, France, I planned a brief blog entry commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion that broke Nazi Germany's grip on France and turned the tide of history during World War II.

A simple process of updating and linking to America Honors Military Heroes, my Memorial Day blog about Pvt. John M. Steele, the 82nd Airborne Division parachutist who landed on the church steeple in Ste.-Mere-Eglise in the wee hours of June 6, 1944. As a reporter for the Star-News Newspapers, I interviewed Private Steele in 1963.

My laptop had other ideas, however; and I spent hours searching for a solution to get online. Ironically, neither Internet Explorer nor Mozilla would make the connection; but Tweet Deck was chirping away normally.

After many trial-by-error maneuvers, I finally linked to the Carolina blog from the deck. Once an IE window opened via that route, both browsers miraculously began started working. Three cheers and props for Twitter!

President Barack Obama speaks at D-Day ceremony
in France Saturday.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Moving Tributes Mark D-Day

The tributes by the leaders of four countries were very moving as they recalled the trials and sacrifices along the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. President Barack Obama spoke eloquently of the against all odds invasion by the American, British, and Canadian soldiers.

"Friends and veterans, what we cannot forget _ what we must not forget _ is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century," he said.

Obama noted that his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, arrived at Normandy six weeks after D-Day and marched across France in Lt. Gen. George S. Patton's army.

Attending with Obama was his great uncle, Charles Payne, who was part of the first American division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp that Obama and his great uncle visited in Germany on Friday.

Charles Payne, President Obama's great uncle, waves from his seat
before the start of Saturday's ceremony.
(AP Photo by Monsivais)

Kudos to Trumpeter Playing 'Taps'

The trumpeter who played "Taps" presented one of the most musical performances I can remember of the famous four-note song. Funny how the mind works, but this excellent rendition recalled for me the time Mr. Caro, a percussionist in the 82nd Airborne Division Band during the 1960's, performed the final post for a funeral at Fort Bragg.

Except for Mr. C, who was on CQ (charge of quarters), and the bugler on funeral call, the entire band was enjoying a weekend pass. All had been quiet throughout the day with no services scheduled.

By late afternoon, the two decided it would be safe for the bugler to catch up with his buddies in town. Not long after the brass player departed, a call came in for a late afternoon funeral. This was in a BCP [Before Cell Phones] era, and the only option was for Mr. Caro to do the best he could.

Drummer Subs on 'Taps'

As a future band director, he had taken brass methods and could play the trumpet respectably. However, the bugle with no valves is much more difficult to control, and pitches are changed entirely by the player's embouchure and air stream.

During the van ride to the funeral site, the drummer practiced the four notes continuously, so much so that his escorts finally asked, "Do you have to do that?" The answer was a sincere "more than you know!"

Fortunately, the drummer didn't blow out his lip beforehand; and even though he sweated through the familiar strains, he provided the departed soldier a reverent military farewell.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable collection includes graphics by Ashes, 1; Amazing_CA, 2, photos by PermaSwooned, 2; cindilu2, 3; Amazing_CA, 4, and 5, photos by KatyforClay.

A Walking, Talking TV Guide

With the decline of daily newspaper extras, the weekly TV guide for this area hit the cutting room floor a while back. For years, I have read the news online. My friend Terri, who may yet purchase her own computer, not only calls me for news updates but also for TV programming.

One of my goals this summer is to view the huge DIRECTV movie cache I recorded during the three-month free introductory period of 28 premium channels. With a light schedule of summer music lessons, you would think this would be a snap.

In the past week, I diligently watched movies off and on around the clock; but everyday I seem to come across interesting choices on the basic channels. Right now my free space stands at 7% with four more tapings slated through noon Monday.

On-Screen Programming Shared

In addition to my daily programming routine, I have literally become Terri's TV guide. This weekend she marched through a list of military movies that would have made the top brass proud. I misread the date for "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and she is now eagerly awaiting the corrected target time of 9:30 a.m. Monday.

I need to make tracks and clear some space. DIRECTV is offering free access to the premier package June 18-21. Off to watch movies ... and set up a computer ... and encourage my friend to try DIRECTV. The latter would net a "Benjamin" for both of us!

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA's opening graphic:

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Clay Aiken's Singles Sales Still #1

VEGAS PERFORMANCE -- Clay Aiken was among the featured performers at the May 9 David Foster & Friends Concert in Las Vegas. Graphic by Amazing_CA.

Grandson Enjoys New Adventures

AI2 Sets Sales, Viewer Records

Whether comparing debut week singles sales or finale show viewers for the eight editions of American Idol, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard of Season 2 still hold the crown.

Singles tabulations have been published for the winners and runner-ups at several sites, two being mjsbigidolblog: Kris and Adam: First Week Sales Comparison Chart and IDOL LIVE: Kris' and Adams' first week sales in comparison.

Ruben's "Flying Without Wings / Superstar" single tops the winners' column with 286,000 singles sold the first week; and Clay's "This Is the Night" / "Bridge Over Troubled Water" leads everyone -- winners and runners up -- with a 393,000-unit debut.

In a message board post, Fountaindawg combined both groups -- winners and runners up -- to complete the chart below. The first number on the right is the highest ranking the single achieved, and the second marks its Top 100 opening slot. There was no single by Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini.

Idol First Week Singles Sales Comparisons
Winners/Runners-Up Combined

1) Clay Aiken, "This Is The Night / Bridge over Troubled Water" - 393,000 - #1 (#1)
2) Ruben Studdard, "Flying Without Wings / Superstar" - 286,000 - #2 (#2)
3) David Cook, "The Time of My Life" - 236,024 - #3 (#3)
4) Kelly Clarkson, "A Moment Like This / Before Your Love" - 236,000 - #1 (#52)
5) Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud / Takin' It to the Streets" - 190,147 - #1 (#1)
6) Fantasia, "I Believe / Chain of Fools / Summertime" - 142,141 - #1 (#1)
7) Kris Allen, "No Boundaries" - 134,458 - #11 (#11)
8) Carrie Underwood, "Inside Your Heaven / Independence Day" - 131,504 - #1 (#1)
9) Adam Lambert, "Mad World" - 114,763 - #19 (#19)
10) Bo Bice, "Inside Your Heaven / Vehicle" - 108,158 - #2 (#2)
11) Jordin Sparks, "This Is My Now" -74,303 - #15 (#15)
12) David Archuleta, "Imagine" - 71,178 - #36 (#36)
13) Blake Lewis, "You Give Love a Bad Name" - 70,133 - #18 (#18)
14) Diana DeGarmo, "Dreams / Don't Cry Out Loud / I Believe" - 65,000 - #14 (#14)
15) Katharine McPhee, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow / My Destiny" - 47,394 - #12 (#12)

Season 2 Finale Most Viewed

The two-hour finale rankings are also led by the Season 2 showdown of Clay and Ruben. This spring's Season 8 final show tied with the Fantasia Barrino-Diana DeGarma episode of Season 3. According to Ace Show Biz, the viewing numbers for each season finale stack up like this:

(1) Season 2 (Studdard-Aiken): 38 million
(2) Season 5 (Hicks-McPhee): 36.4 million
(3) Season 7 (Cook-Archuleta): 31.7 million
(4) Season 6 (Sparks-Lewis): 30.7 million
(5) Season 4 (Underwood-Bice): 30.3 million
(6) Season 8 (Allen-Lambert): 28.84 million (tie)
(6) Season 3 (Barrino-DeGarmo): 28.84 million (tie)
(7) Season 1 (Clarkson-Guarrini): 22.8 million
Despite the numbers, ask any Clay Aiken fan and it's still all about pipes, heart, and personality. We came for the voice and stayed for the man. Idol found, game over!

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Graphics by Amazing_CA, 1 and 3, and Fountaindawg, 2, are featured in this clickable collection.

'Summer of Kai' Recalled

Last June my grandson Kai and I were just getting to know each other, routinely watching kiddie programs like Mickey Mouse on TV and penning the Carolina blog together.
During his month-long visit, Kai learned to crawl, pull himself up to a standing position, and was beginning to talk before flying home with his mother.

Some of Kai's favorite times were spent playing with twin cousins five years his elder. He loved swinging, going to the their t-ball games, and splashing in the pool while the they took swimming lessons. The lush, green grass and tall trees of this state fascinated him.

On 5/25/08, Kai "blogged" about meeting the Carolina clan in Kai Joins Clay Aiken Fan Club, sharing some of his daily rituals -- pulling out a few books from the bottom shelf of a music cabinet as he crawled by every morning; beating out a rhythm on the washing machine and dryer before entering the den; and watching a full lineup of kiddie shows with his Grandma Caro. Not a day went by that we didn't check to see if the "Monkey Mail" had come.

The grand piano was another favorite in his daily routine. At all times, Kai schemed for access to the keys and buttons on the laptop, telephone, and remote control. Included below are clickable photos by his mother with graphics by Sally, 1, and Amazing_CA, 5.

With the 5/13 birth of his baby sister, Kai now spends his days hanging with his grandfather, whom he calls Poppy. He is walking, talking, experimenting and interacting with everything and everyone in sight.

Some of his favorite haunts include the park, the hardware store where he enjoys spinning wheels incessantly, his great-grandmother's home where he makes a beeline for the piano.

While he still has a propensity for buttons, snaps, openings and closures of all varieties, Kai also likes to "help" his mother in the kitchen. She created a cabinet shelf for him to routinely rearrange and eventually turned over the dishwasher to him, too.

Kai Bypasses Climbing Obstacles

Our grandson loves to climb, and he is constantly seeking paths to the pinnacle of tables, cabinets, sinks, you name it. After the adults leaned the dining room chairs in a manner meant to discourage his "hobby," Kai determined a solution, got down on his hands and knees, and pushed an uprighted chair to the desired location.

Very early one May morning the target was the dividing shelf between the kitchen and dining room. Poppy was still asleep, but Kai knew the phone locator button would blast him wide awake. It did, and another adventurous day was soon underway.

Since then, the dining room chairs are flipped upside down when not in use. I wonder how long it will take this clever little guy to overcome this latest hurdle!

As far as Kai is concerned, the jury is still out on baby sister Lia. A future reading assignment for him will be the above double-clickable "Why God Made Little Girls" graphic created by Ashes.

Out west, the computer that supplies Carolina relatives pictures of Lia and Kai is supposed to be home from the shop and back in action this weekend.

Below is a clickable of the opening graphic by Amazing_CA:

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


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