Monday, December 10, 2007

TV-Fox's "Great American Band" Sings Queen, Baba Walters' 07 Fascinating People; Guest Writer and Writers' Retreats

We continue on reviewing Fox's "The Next Great American Band". It's down to four and we've got an entire original song by one of the contenders that, to quote one of the judges, is better than anything heard currently on the radio. Plus a remix of the final four's rendition of Queen.

Also, the lowdown on Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating People of 2007. Plus, as expected by the two to three people a day who read my Blog, a list of mine own most fascinating people of this past year.

Guest writer Michelle intrigues us with what writers must do for their craft. There's bunkbeds with no ladders and bathrooms far away in the Writers' Retreat of Michelle's story.

Pic of the Day

 Posted by Hello

The Top 4 in “The Next Great American Band” Sing QUEEN

By me there are two top contenders to duke it out for the winning slot in Fox’s “The Next Great American Band” 2007.

The Clark Brothers are a trio of genuine brothers who effectively combine a little bluegrass with a little country to create a type of music that has a broad appeal. This group has enormous talent but they are not my favorite.

My favorite of all the contenders is Sixwire. This group has country-western roots but they transform handily to a pop-ballad genre that is quite pleasant to the ears.

In fact, during the viewing reviewed here of Friday, 12/7/07, the final four bands were charged with singing both a Queen song plus each band performed a tune of their own. Sixwire’s tune was positively beautiful. Below is a video of the entire tune, titled “Go On”. I totally concur with one judge’s assessment that this song was way better than anything currently on the radio.

Below this narrative is a remixed compilation of all the Queen songs as performed by the final four bands.

The punk-rock band Dot,Dot,Dot was sent home on this night and I was pleased. Not that this wasn’t a fine band but their music and dress are definitely not my type.

The Clark Brothers began the evening by singing Queen’s “These Are the Days of Our Lives”. As always this group performed professionally and the listening was pleasurable.

Oh dear Lord please forgive me cause they are just children, but it is seriously time for “Light of Doom” to leave this competition. These kids sang Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and this is normally one of my favorite songs.

All three judges lambasted this group’s singing but they had to be polite and couldn’t use the adjectives that came to my creative mind. Terrible, awful, screeching, off-key, childish, immature, not-ready-for-prime-time, not cute at all, hold your ears horrific…get the picture?

Hey…this group is composed of kids with the youngest around twelve years or so. Considering their youth, they deserve congratulations for making it through to the top four in this contest. They also deserve encouragement because obviously they have something to offer.

But this reality show will lose all believability if this group is not sent home handily at the next showing…which is scheduled for Friday night, 9 pm, 12/14/07 on Fox.

Sixwire sang “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and did a magnificent job as always. The Sixwire band is composed of fellows in their late-twenties to mid-thirties by my guess. They all have families, wives, children. They are dedicated to their talent and I wish them well in this competition. I say to this band to keep doing what you love and the money will follow.

The Denver Mile High Orchestra, which the leader likes to shorten to “DMHO”, performed Queen’s “Sleeping on a Sidewalk”.

I’ll not be upset should this band win this contest but I caution that there are few huge bands that went on to a commercial success. Brooklyn Bridge is the one that comes immediately to mind.

By me, Sixwire is the most-talented, versatile and perfect-sized band in this contest. But I’ll not cry should The Clark Brothers, “DMHO” or Sixwire win this contest. If “Light of Doom” wins I’ll never watch this reality series again.

Top Ten Bands in Fox's "The Next Great American Band" Fall 2007
Six Wire
Tres Bien!-sent home 11/30/07
Franklin Bridge-sent home 11/16/07
The Clark Brothers
Light of Doom
Dot, Dot, Dot-sent home 12/7/07
Cliff Wagner and the old number 7-sent home 11/23/07
The Muggs-sent home 11/9/07
Rocket-sent home-11/9/07
Denver and the Mile high orchestra

Prior Links to Posts for "The Next Great American Band" Fall 2007
The Top Ten Announced
Two sent home
Franklin Bridge Sent Home
Cliff Wagoner and the Old Number 7 Sent Home
Top 5, Tres Bien Sent Home
QUEEN! Down to Four

Barbara Walters’ “Most Fascinating People” of 2007

The Most Fascinating People for 2007, according to Barbara Walters, are, in no particular order:
  • Bill Clinton
  • Jennifer Hudson-star of the musical “Dream Girls”
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Chris DeWolfe/Tom Anderson…Myspace founders
  • Katharine Heigl-star of “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • Don Imus
  • Victoria and David Beckham
  • Hugo Chavez
  • J.K. Rowling

    I added an explanation of the claim-to-fame of the above for those I assumed the average reader may not know. We all know Bill Clinton, right?

    As best I can figure, the requirements to make Barbara Walters’ fascinating people list include some sort of celebrity, obviously, some notoriety occurring in the year of the reward (ie Bill Clinton is the husband this year of a major presidential candidate as opposed to most other stuff he did) and fit in to the list of a particular year so as to avoid a list of all women, all men…that kind of thing.

    Montage of Baba Wawa's Most Fascinating Men

    Montage of Baba Wawa's Most Fascinating

    Montage of Baba Wawa's most Fascinating Women 2007

    I didn’t quite follow the same standards as Baba in the compilation of my own fine list below of the ten most fascinating people of 2007. My list assumed a fascinating person would be someone of some celebrity (no one wants a list that includes my father even if he deserves to be on it) and who would be someone I’d like to talk to for an hour and who would, during said hour, well…fascinate me.

    Pat Fish’s List of the Most Fascinating People of 2007
  • Mike Castle-Delaware’s one and only representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. There are more senators in Delaware than there are Representatives, something that is very rare. Even more rare is a Representative who was a two-time Governor of the state they serve.
  • Rush Limbaugh-come on…an hour for me to talk to Rush all to myself…
    I’d love it.
  • Kelly Pickler-I’d love to sit and talk to her about her mother, how she plans to resolve her abandonment. I too grew up without a mother. I know what it’s like. I feel Kelly’s pain.
  • Dick Cheney-for one hour I’d love to talk to this man who had led this country way more than he’ll ever get credit for.
  • Drew Peterson-so the man killed a couple of his wives…you don’t think this is fascinating? I’d love to talk to him for an hour just so I could get a genuine feel for narcissism in real life.
  • French President Sarkozy-he’s hot, he loves America, he’s around my age and I can, yes I can, say the full pledge of allegiance in French. I just know that would impress Sarkozy all to hell.
  • Larry Craig-besides Bill Clinton, alleged homosexual senator Larry Craig, and his “wife”, are the absolute best liars on the planet. I’d love to sit for an hour and watch one lie so effortlessly.
  • Dana Perrino-Tony Snow’s replacement as White House Press secretary represents the best in womanhood that this country has to offer. She’s very attractive, speaks well, is calm and firm but can be tough when required.
  • Laura Bush-the best first lady this country has ever had. I’m sure Laura Bush would love my Blog.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad-President of Iran…I really want him to know that I saw him with my own eyes back when Jimmah Carter was President and he was part of that group that captured our citizens hostage from the Iranian embassy and held them for over a year, such a fine, fine president that Jimmy Carter.

    Focus on TV Posts of Fame

    Those Wacky TV Chefs. Includes Rachel Ray and the sexiest chef of them all.

    TV News Pundits including Russert, spitting Matthews and the one I adore.

    "Dancing with the Stars" of 2007, reviews, pics and videos.

    American Idol 2007 and The Bachelor. One night's review with links to all the others.

     Posted by Hello

    Writer's Retreat

    It wasn't at all what I expected, and in some ways it was ever so much more. This past summer, Chas and I went on a two-day writer's retreat in the Sierras, close to Donner Lake. It ran for part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday. The ad had said something about nature, but I had no clue what I was getting into.

    The retreat leader held our gathering in a lodge just off Donner Pass Road. City-born and -bred that I am, I had some difficulty with various parts of the lodge. First, we parked the car just "off the road." There is no parking lot for this lodge the way I'm used to them. There are, instead, wide spots of dirt to either side of the road. At just after 3pm, the spots on the lodge side were already full, so we used the ones a bit further down on the opposite side. After we'd parked, for a moment we stared back up the road, looking at the lodge sign partway up a steep mountainside and wondering where the way to the lodge was. A woman in a small pickup nearby saw our lost looks and came over. It was the retreat leader!

    She introduced herself and helped us get our bearings. We took some of our stuff and started across the dirt. Crossing the road was a nervous-making thing. The visibility to the left wasn't very good, so we trusted to sound more than sight for when we could cross. Once across, we rounded the side of the hill and saw the trail up to the lodge.

    About four feet wide, it was well-pounded dirt and rock, with railroad ties set crossways into the dirt at about ten foot intervals. These kept the path from washing away during storms, I guess, because the pathway was steep. Along the right side, a rope followed the pathway. I think the rope is meant as an assist during winter when the path could be full of snow or ice.

    We trudged uphill, stopping three or four times to try to catch our breaths. Try, I say, because my lungs did not like the altitude and began to hurt in a very short amount of time. I felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen, and worked at calming my breathing. This became a common occurrence during the whole retreat, especially during our nature walks.

    Finally, we crested the top of the path to behold a rustic, huge lodge. Rough-hewn timber graced its outside walls, and a sign proclaimed that we'd arrived. We crossed the grate at the entrance and opened the door...

    ... to find stairs.

    Guest...writers retreat 2007

    Up the stairs we went, following the signs that said "Office." Up two flights, and no more sign. We wandered around on that floor but found no place that looked like an office or said ‘Office' on it. We found the chore sign-up and the accommodation listing. We found a huge room dedicated to Lewis & Clark, and more stairs. We found the Dining Room and the Kitchen. But no Office.

    The leader came to our rescue once again and pointed us in the right direction. We'd passed the "Office" several times, but the wooden half-door had been closed so we hadn't seen it as the office. As I recall we wondered about it but there were no door knobs so we couldn't open it and look.

    The office person, who was apparently in charge of the entire lodge, checked us in and explained where we were to go. We had cubicle 7A and 7B, and briefly I thought how much those sounded like airplane seats.

    We dragged our stuff up more stairs. We found the Men's Dorm and the bathrooms, and then the Cubicles. When I saw the "room," I understood why I'd thought of airplane seats. The room was 5 x 8, and the beds took up about half of that. Bunk beds, and a small bench, were all the contents. (Not that anything else would fit.)

    I took the top bunk, Chas took the bottom, and we tried to fit our stuff in as best we could. Since the cubicle doors don't lock, lockers were available for things we wanted to secure, so we figured out what we could leave and went back to the car for the rest of our stuff. On the way, we found some lockers we could use, after abandoning the idea of using the ones in the men's area.

    My lungs hurt and I was tired, hot, and felt cramped after we'd gotten everything settled. I'd left my computer at home after much internal debate and was glad I had. The only outlets in the place (for guests) were in the Library, down the hall from the Lewis & Clark room. Plus I couldn't leave the computer in my cubicle when we were traipsing across the country, so it worked out well not to have brought it. But oh, how I missed it! My hand doesn't like writing the old way anymore. Every guest is asked to sign up for one chore per day, so we signed up for after-dinner dishes as our daily chore and relaxed and wrote and
    puttered until dinner.

    The call bell rang at 6pm and we went to the Dining Room. Mess hall-style service, but the food was excellent. Vegetarian lasagna, garden salad, garlic bread, bread pudding and cheesecake. The only thing missing was something to drink besides water. Hot tea and coffee were available for a 50-cent donation, but no sodas or anything of the sort that I could see. Several people brought their own wine. Our writing group sat together, except for Garth, who was running late because of a big accident on the freeway. We saved him some food.

    Afterward Chas and I helped with dishes. The lodge has no garbage disposal, so the guests were asked to scrape all excess food off their plates and then slide them into the kitchen. There was a large opening into it from the Dining Room and the surface was stainless steel. We slid our dishes across the steel into the kitchen area. The main dishwasher person put the scraped dishes into the sink and sprayed them off with a commercial-type sink sprayer. If you've seen one, you know what I mean, but if you haven't think of a kitchen sink with an elephant-trunk spray nozzle and you'd be close. Then the dishes were put into a round plastic thing that you'd think went into a round dishwasher, except it went into the Sanitizer. This stainless steel monster was hissing and gurgling when I entered the kitchen for my part of the chores.

    I was quickly taught to empty the Sanitizer by sliding out the plastic tray of dishes, drag it aside to drip-dry a minute, and put another full one in. Close the very hot steel doors, flip the switch, and I was done with it until the Sanitizer quit hissing and the light went out. Then I was to do it again, and if I was nimble I'd have emptied the drip-dried tray in the meantime.

    After everything was done, the kitchen closed up by dropping a roll-down shutter across that large opening. We had a little bit of time and then the writing group met in the dining room at 7:30pm. We were quite a mix. Chas and I, Suzanne the leader, Forrest the medical guy, and Garth the gardener. Our ages ranged from 23 to at least 61, but we were linked by the passion and drive of our writing. We began our adventure, learned a little about each other, made some tentative plans for the next day, and did two exercises' worth of writing and sharing. We worked until about 10pm and headed off to bed.

    There I found the cubicle did have a light switch, but not much else in the way of convenience. The top bunk was incredibly high to my 45-year-old body which never did like trees much. (For the bottom bunk resident it wasn't high enough; you couldn't sit up in the bottom bunk.) No ladder greeted my eyes when I tried to figure out how to get up there. A handle offered promise of assistance, but I found when I tried to use it that the top screw was halfway out and the handle itself was in the wrong place. When I was halfway up, my hand on the handle was close to my right ear. Not at all a good place for support or leverage. With a grunt and a heave and a prayer, I threw myself into the bunk. Once there, I realized it had no shelf for stuff. I ended up sleeping with my book (what little sleep I got) and hanging my glasses on a nail.

    I lay there for awhile in the dark, trying to get comfortable in a strange place, wondering how in the world I'd managed to sign up for the monkey bars in place of a bed. Then, out of the dark, a thin cry.


    The cubicle next to ours had a child in it, and she wasn't at all happy. She moaned and wailed, called for a mommy that never seemed to show up, begged for water, and cried for quite a while. I went from feeling sorry for her to being willing to commit murder. And just as I was thinking this, someone finally gave the kid the water she wanted and suddenly I heard the most awful gurgling choking noises.

    Oh, my God, I thought. Someone *has* killed her.

    An anxious silence, then a gurgle, a sput, a cough, and someone vomiting. Several times. Then tortured crying as the child regained her breath.

    And so it went throughout the night. The poor kid was sick, so none of us within earshot (and I heard later that even downstairs her misery could be witnessed) got much sleep. For awhile there'd be silence and then it would start all over again. Two or three times, someone took the kid out for a bit, but it wasn't ever for long and the child came back crying and wailing the same as she'd been doing when they left.

    Somewhere in there I realized I had to go to the bathroom, and immediately also realized there was absolutely no way I could do that without breaking my neck in the dark. I was never so grateful for anything as I was for the first peek of the sun's rays illuminating our cubicle so I could see to get down.

    The second day was much better than the first. More writing, more good food, no hauling of bags up the slope, and some quiet, slow walking up the nature trail in back of the lodge. The area abounds with Stellar jays and chipmunks, and I enjoyed watching both whenever I had the opportunity. Pine trees contrasted well with the deep blue of a clear sky, wildflowers added fireworks of color, and the freshness of the air made up for the low volume of oxygen in it. I also noticed the "hostel-style" description on the lodge sign, and think maybe if I'd known that up front I wouldn't have been so surprised. The first time I ever heard of elder hostels, I thought it was "hostiles." Now that I've stayed in something similar, I'm not so sure I was wrong.

    The writing sessions were incredible, and I was happy to have all talented writers in my group. You never know what you're going to get, and I think the five of us complemented each other well. Our leader gave us enough time to ourselves in the afternoon, which I spent napping in the bottom bunk of the cubicle I moved into; I couldn't face another night trapped near the ceiling. She kept us busy and thinking when we were all together. She gave us some techniques we can use on our own, and showed consideration for everyone in her
    flexibility. Day Two offered five writing exercises, and the chance to share the writing for each.

    The second night I slept better in the other room, since at least on the bottom bunk I could get up if I needed to and had somewhere to put my book and glasses. I helped with morning food chores since we wouldn't be around for dinner. Chas and I had to be out of there around noon.

    The group met for three hours on Day Three. We stayed around the lodge rather than hiking, and managed to squeeze in three writing exercises and the sharing of them, as well as watch a Stellar jay try to peck its way into Garth's lunch bag.

    Was it worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again? Probably not, if it was held in the same place. Somewhere else, certainly. Would I recommend it to you? Well, that depends on how athletic you are.

    The Desk Drawer writer's exercise list

    More Guest Writer HERE

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