Wednesday, 30 March 2011

American Idol 2011 ~ the best season yet and a few of my faves!

This season's panel of three has brought together the most talented group of contestants yet, making this show exciting viewing two nights a week. 

The new combination of Randy Jackson with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler is lighter and more amusing than previous ones without distracting attention from the efforts of the contestants.  Their combined musical backgrounds and expertise is considerable and this comes across both in their critiquing as well as in their empathy with the young people.  Footage of Jimmy Iovine working with contestants to prepare for their performances adds an interesting work and business dimension to the show.

Steven Tyler is very much his own man whose sincerity and good humour make him immensely likeable.  He could single-handedly re-write the handbook on male attire: every week I'm fascinated to see what he's wearing, jewellery included!  Way to go, Steven!

I love to see the young people working things out and giving of their best.  In considering which are my favourites from this staggeringly talented group I find that I have chosen those who are not only first rate singers, but also decidedly emotional.  Most people I come in contact with seem emotionally repressed or disconnected so I find this wonderfully refreshing.  Importantly, these very public displays of emotion are not belittled, but respected and given their rightful place as a bridge to their audience.  Hooray!

Jacob Lusk has to be a hot contender for the title and a great artist, but James Durbin and Casey Abrams are the two who really move me.  I also like Naima Adedapo.  All these clearly have a substantial future in the music world if they choose to continue in it. 

James Durbin singing the Judas Priest song, "You got another think coming" has to be my top favourite performance of all time.  His energy is elemental, and his pure talent enables him to soar through the highest notes effortlessly.  Those of us who have sung at all will recognise this immediately!

Casey Abrams rendition of "I put a spell on you" always make me laugh:

This compilation shows the range of his astonishing musical abilities:

Adrienne Beasley deserves a special mention here: she didn't make it past Hollywood Week, and although I can understand why, it is disappointing not to have seen more of her on the show.  Her rendition of her audition song was pure and compelling.  I have seldom seen other musicians who show such complete naturalness and lack of artifice.  She doesn't need any, other than for her own protection.  Here is a great artist in the wings, needing only the right opportunity to bring her forward to the audience who will love her music as she so richly deserves.

Lauren Turner is another one to watch: although she didn't make it through to America's choice of the top ten, she certainly is in mine. It seems that America has yet to embrace this style of femininity.  I think she's sassy and wonderfully talented, and pick her as an artist to rise in years to come.  What a great voice and a gusty rendition of 'Seven Day Fool'.  Go Lauren!

Last year's winner Lee DeWyze recently performed on the show as a guest artist.  He sang "Beautiful like you".  Gorgeous man!  It's great to see how far he has come from the nearly crippling self-doubt of a year ago.  What we see now is considerable self-assurance and accomplishment - and great music, thank you Lee!

What I like best about this show is that it's creative and positive, two factors sadly lacking in much of what passes for entertainment these days.   This is good clean fun and a very pleasant way to spend an evening.  Pull up your chairs, everyone!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Peter Owen Jones ~ extreme pilgrim and vicar

If you warm to any of the more thoughtful articles I've written, you'll very likely enjoy documentaries featuring this man.  He's thoughtful, unusual, and determined in all sorts of ways. Somehow he manages to incorporate his own quest and convictions within the Anglican church and his ministry in it.

Here is a recording of him reading his Letter to God, which I gather is published in his book Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim: Reflections on life, love and the soul

The documentaries of which I have seen all or parts are: 
Information given on these websites is slight, but they do provide episode lists.  These series have screened on the BBC Knowledge, a channel not yet available in New Zealand, but I have heard it may become part of the Sky selection later this year.

For those want to see more in the meantime I provide the following links:
The episode of Extreme Pilgrim set in China was the one which spoke to me most directly:

Here is a link to the episode on Ascetic Christianity.

Having endured significant spiritual rigours myself I can see that he must be more than usually tough to have got through the filming of this string of documentaries as intact as he appears to be!  Such exploration is not for the faint hearted!

Other points of reference can be found in:
It's always a relief to find that there are other people in the world who take the journey of life and soul seriously and actually live out their convictions, rather than just dabbing at it and mouthing word balloons of old platitudes.  I don't always understand where he's coming from or what he does; my views differs on some points, but these differences bring richness and an expansion of my own perspectives which I welcome.  I find his unusual candour heart-warming.  This is surely a friend as yet unmet.  Hi Pete, I'm over here!

Kia kaha Peter, I wish you strength to continue being the man you are.  You  have chosen a path which requires significant rigour.  I thank you for the gift of your work, which gives me hope and encouragement with my own.