Detroit Youth Choir vs. Ndlovu Youth Choir – America’s Got Talent

I may just be a crotchety old man but something about Ndlovu Youth Choir irritates me. It’s actually not about the performances per se, or even the talent. They’re incredible and entertaining. I think it’s in the content and presentation. They’re all about Africa. That’s all fine and good but this is not Africa’s Got Talent! Know what I mean?

I think it’s important to play to your audience, and they don’t seem to do that. Sure, they performed Higher Love, but it was smothered in Africa this, Africa that.

Imagine your favorite college band going into their rivals football stadium and playing their own school fight song. Bold, sure. But then hoping or expecting the rival fans in the stands to give you a standing ovation and love you so, so much… well, that’s just disrespectful, right?

Or you show up to an art show featuring paintings by your best friend. Another pedestrian is also walking around in the venue and all they talk about is this other artist who’s got work in a studio down the street.

Or an even more accurate comparison… a choir from America auditions on Africa’s Got Talent and they are super pro-America all the time. It just doesn’t suit the environment.

Ya dig it?

Then you have the Detroit Youth Choir. I have no weird feelings with them. The strongest feeling I do have is this… They’re the home team who is simply super grateful to be where they are. Sure Detroit is in their choir name, but I don’t get the outsider, oblivious visiting team, our city is better than yours, vibe I get from the Ndlovu choir.

Is any of this making sense? Bottom line: they’re both good choirs, even great, and I only bring in the Detroit Youth Choir as a comparison to the Ndlovu Youth Choir. One is part of the fabric of America, while the othr seems to just want us to fall in love with Africa.

-Out of the Wilderness

Independence Day for the rebels

I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate July 4th for 38 years and watch fireworks shows all over the country. In fact, tonight I’ll be watching one in Missouri of all places. I’ve been to a show or two in Nashville, a couple in Ohio, quite a few in Florida, and up and down the east coast as I was growing up. I’m hoping today is a day that everyone around the country can set their political differences aside and simply celebrate. Firworks. Grilled burgers. Sparklers. Red, white, and blue.
Without the rebellious lovers of freedom hundreds of years ago, our country wouldn’t be as amazing as it is today. Before we are Democrats or Republicans, before we are Americans or immigrants, we are people. We are people who love freedom. We are people who believe in love and equality. It’s why the rest of the world wants to move here, and why some of the rest of the world hates us. But by golly, what an amazing country! One man can grow up to become a professional baseball player. One woman can grow up to run for president. There are teachers, and maintenance people, taxi drivers and Uber drivers, pastors, lawn mowing professionals, inventors and entrepeneurs, horse caretakers and zoo keepers. There are so many possibilities for everyone that calls themself an American and it’s all thanks to Independence Day.

So as you hoist your flags this morning, as you watch the fireworks explode in the night sky, be thankful for the rebels. The dreamers. The fighters. God bless America and I pray that our country unites again under God for the purpose of pursuing happiness with loving our neighbor as ourselves as our montra.

-Out of the Wilderness

Little Big Town sings the National Anthem

I wasn’t able to catch the college playoff championship on TV, so I listened to some of it on the radio. I happened to catch the national anthem performed by Little Big Town and wow, did they sound good. If you missed it, here it is:

Since my days of working at CMT, I’ve been a big fan of the group and I continue to be. Their harmony is just crazy. Go on with your bad selves LBT!

-Out of the Wilderness

Apathy in America: To respect our flag or not?

Disrespecting the American flag is a relatively new phenomenon. It was only in the late 60s/early 70s that burning the American flag became popular among Vietnam War protesters. This practice was illegal, but since then has been covered under the rights of the 1st Amendment. Even in 2011, the question remains whether it’s the people’s right to burn the flag. Do laws against flag desecration violate free speech? That’s the crucial issue at the heart of the battle which continues today. For the last few decades, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that flag desecration is covered under the 1st Amendment; free speech.

While I admire the passion, I cannot agree that burning the flag is, in any way, right or acceptable. What concerns me more, though, is that a lot of Americans are apathetic towards the flag. They don’t burn it, but they don’t fly it either. This has become more and more apparent to me in the mundane task of driving to and from work. It began one day when I saw a flag laying in the middle of a 4 lane road. It was trampled, run over, broken and torn. I wondered how it got there and why it was still there. Who was the lazy or disrespectful person careless enough to leave it laying there? Then I realized I was miles down the road, and had done nothing about it. I was careless and lazy. I blamed someone else for the very same character I showed. Since then, my life hasn’t dramatically changed. I didn’t have an awakening and join the military like a lot of people did after September 11, 2001. There was no big epiphany about how I should run for office or vote more. But I did make a heartfelt commitment to revolt against apathy and lazy disrespect. I won’t contribute to the decline of America, because it’s not the government’s fault. We can blame politicians, we can complain about the President, taxes, or war but change won’t happen until our apathy does. And I can tell you this, it won’t be the big things that change the country- a new President, going to war or not going to war, the Senate, the House, running for office, joining the military, protesting or burning a flag- it’ll be the little chances we have to reject our 1st Amendment rights and spend our energy on something bigger than ourselves. For me, it’s picking up an American flag whenever I see one on the ground. It’s my own way to respect the flag, honor those that fight under it, and perhaps contribute to a new American phenomenon.

click here for my post featuring highlights of Nashville, including the Tennessee state flag.

The Bachelor Brad Womack, Episode 1: He Meets the Girls.

Season 15 kicked off with a remorseful Brad Womack who lead us down Lonesome Road, which is a left off Sad Boulevard and a right on Solitaire Street (if you hit Rejection Lane you’ve gone too far). Brad’s life was at a dead end. In 2007, he finished season 11 of the Bachelor and had no marriage proposal to show for it. That’s because, with the two girls left on that season, he gave neither a rose. They took the off ramp down to Dejection Depot while Brad signed up for three years of therapy. Here is where we see a montage of Brad sitting in the rain. Then walking in the sun.

Therapy. Analyzation. Trust issues. Blame father. Standing by lake with no shirt.

Green v-neck shirt.

Not to be outdone, purple v-neck shirt.

Fast forward to 2011 and Brad’s back in business, claiming to be a changed man. Global warming? War? Rising gas prices? No, no. Tell me who killed Michael Jackson then tell me Brad’s a changed man. We’ll courier that news to Bin Laden and bing bang, problem solved. In my best George W. Bush voice: America, you’re a beacon of freedom and change and giving people second chances at… freedom and change… and being on The Bachelor. End quote.

Par for the course next when Chris Harrison brings Brad to the front of the mansion where each girl steps out of a limousine to introduce themselves. This season there are 30 potential Womackettes (instead of the standard 25) so that’ll make for more drama and a few extra episodes of awesomeness.

Each girl has their own ideas of making good first impressions, some standouts include the girl who got him to propose, the vampire teeth girl, the hand mysteriously appearing out of the limousine window girl, and the slap heard round the world. Between promo packages and commericals, it was tough to squeeze in any real documention of relationships being formed (hey, they only had two hours to do this) so without much storyline, Brad narrowed it down to 20 girls (listed below). I’ll be honest, I had a couple guy friends over to my house to watch the premiere. We’re totally secure men so we never had a problem watching the show together, though they weren’t happy about my idea to light a fire, but I thought it would be warm.

Amongst the topics we talked about during the episode: why all the girls are white, the average bachelorette age this season is 27 years old (Brad is 38), Emily and who of us three should get to marry her when Brad lets her go, are fangs hot, Ashley S. grabbing Brad’s butt, Alli talking to Brad about her butt when he was probably thinking about something else of hers (more specifically her two something else’s that she made very obvious), Raichel’s wrist waxing, and how we can set up a bracket challenge for this season. I’ll work on setting up a bracket tomorrow, but that’s ok, at my job I have Microsoft Word and they encourage us to be creative. So I’ll design a sweet bracket, save it as a pdf and email to the guys. Copies available upon request.

Ashley S. gets the first impression rose. The next 19 went to Michelle, Kimberly, Madison Vampire, Emily, Raichel Wax, Keltie, Ashley H., Meghan, Lisa M., Lindsay, Alli, Sarah P. (your name rhymes with therapy), Marissa, Britt, Stacey, Shawntel, Jackie, Melissa, Chantal O.

No rose: Britnee, Cristy, J, Jill, Lacey, Lauren, Lisa P., Rebecca, Renee, and Sarah L.

My predictions for the final 3 are: Emily, Chantal O., Michelle. My two favorites after the first episode are Emily and Shawntel.

Click here for a recap of episode 2.

Remembering 9/11

I was in the last semester of college at Florida State University, standing in the University Center (offices inside Doak Campbell Stadium) getting my parking pass for the Fall semester. It was a room like you’d find at the DMV, where there’s a long row of attendants ready to help with whoever was next in line. I was the only one in line. Four of the attendant windows were operational, yet no one was asking me to approach them. In fact, the employees behind the long counter were not even at their windows. They were all looking at the television mounted on the wall behind them. Me, being a passive 4th child, assumed they simply didn’t know I was there. Wondering what in the world was more important than their job, I became slightly frustrated. Then I noticed the content of what they were watching. I got my parking pass that day, but classes were cancelled so I went home and turned on the news. Where were you on that day?September 11 has become somewhat of a National holiday, a day of remembrance. Do you think we feel the same way Americans did when Memorial Day was officially recognized as a holiday? Because on Memorial Day, we take time to remember those who fought for America’s freedom and who fought wars in the 20th century, but it’s ancient history we read about in books. September 11 is a new memorial day that everyone over the age of nine is connected to directly. Instead of reading about stories, we can tell stories. From government, society, military, race relations, religion, music, television, movies, travel, so much of what America is about today is an extension of that day. The day the United States showed vulnerability. A strong and proud nation whose residents never thought we’d be attacked here inside our own borders. In countries we only hear about on the news, terrorism like that happens every day and after 2001, we became their equal. An ally engaging in the fight that’s been long going, but we never had the need or the reason to join in. I hate to think about losing, but on September 11, 2001 we lost. I think it was hard for us as a country to accept that, because we value winning. Whether it’s sports, the lottery, or speeding through a light before it turns red, we place a lot of importance on being ahead, being the best, finishing first, not slowing down. Bang! Two towers are hit, both fall down, and all of the sudden someone else has the upper hand. For a short time, we were not the best. We were vulnerable and the innocence of our young country was exposed. But we are no longer innocent. We are no longer naive. And unfortunately for our enemies, we are no longer uninvolved.

My dad served for 27 years and for that, I couldn’t be more proud. I’m not a soldier. I’m just a normal citizen with a house and a dog. But I love this country and will forever hold my hand over my heart during the pledge of allegiance, while thinking of the soldiers like my dad who defended, are defending, or will defend this country.

I Know More Now Than I Will Ten Years From Now

I’m 31-years-old and the world is mostly at my fingertips. I’ve made plenty of mistakes but mostly I’m over that. I know what’s right and I choose to do that almost every single time I have the chance. I can sort of see, though, that there’s a lot of evil in the world. It’s seems to be spreading quickly so when I think about starting a family and bringing more children into the world, part of me wonders why I would do that to them? Do I want them to see the things they will see? Do I want to pass down to them a society that’s defined not by churches on every street corner, but by how well we all accept each other and believe everything is right? Where wrong is only wrong to those who think it’s wrong? If you believe in God, great. If you don’t, great. Jesus was cool, but so was Muhammad and Gandhi and Joseph Smith. Everyone can be right, it’s the great thing about acceptance and tolerance and it’s the future of America! Hooray. That’s not what I will be teaching my kids, if I ever have kids. Probably won’t have to worry about that, because this video hasn’t gotten me nowhere! And neither has this one!

Even with our society promoting an inclusionist behavior, and my sarcastic view on it all, I have hope still. Not sure why, perhaps it’s the faith passed down to me from my parents. Faith passed down to them from my grandparents who bore the weight of such harrowing opposition and became known as “the great generation.” Is that faith what keeps me hanging on to something, some thing that exclaims there is good in the world? There is a reason to have joy. Bring kids into the world and teach them about puppies, and rollercoasters, Coke floats, and football, freeze tag, flip flops and the beach, faith and love. Forget what our economy is doing, forget who our President is or isn’t, but teach about a deep and rooted faith in a bigger and higher and smarter and wiser and more loving Being, then there’s joy.

But I’m only thirty-one and I know less now than I did ten years ago. Wink.