Tuesday, December 25, 2012

May God Hold You in the Palm of His Hand

What is it about tragedy that makes us relive tragedies that already took place? Why do we reopen wounds and force ourselves to relive what seemed impossible to overcome at the time? Is there a reason in the first place for tragedy? Is it because we don't value enough? Do we take for granted too much? Is nothing sacred to society? More important than how we react is why do people actually do these things?

A couple of weeks ago, on December 14th, 28 people (20 of them children) died in a school shooting in Connecticut. The motive still remains and the wounds have not diminished. Included among the dead victims was the killer himself, 20 year old Adam Lanza. Lanza was said to be a recluse who had social problems. With him, he carried three guns into the Sandy Hook Elementary School that day and enough ammunition to kill everyone inside the school.

What did the victims do wrong? Nothing. They did everything right. He shot his way into the school violating privacy, innocence, and life. Every victim was shot three to eleven times, and what made the crime most heinous was the fact that 20 of the 27 victims were children. Whether or not you're an Obama fan, I could not help but feel moved by some of his words at the vigil held for the victims--- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. We won't watch them grow up, graduate, get married, or have children of their own. Sandy Hook made me think of Aurora Colorado and the movie theater shooting which made me think of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks which made me think of Columbine High School shooting. What is the common thread you ask? Innocent people died and they were mass killings.

Each tragedy was proof that we can come together as a society. Each tragedy is also proof of the pure evil that exists out there among those of us who are good.

We are reminded of how much things have changed over the years and we are reminded constantly of the evil among us in so many different ways. My mother and father speak of a time when people did not have to lock their car doors or the doors in their home. People did not have to walk around paranoid and cautious of who was around them or behind them in daylight or dark. There's a part of me that feels violated as a result of society's demands as a result of this "evil among us" that I speak of. And while I feel this way; I understand. I understand the precautions, the quest for all of us to stay safe, to continue living our lives, and pursuing successes and dreams. We're reminded each day of imminent evil--- TV shows, current events, new government laws and sometimes what seems to us to be extremes, and societal changes.

I often watch the TV show Criminal Minds because it's about a group of people (The BAU--- Behavioral Analysis Unit) who's job it is to get inside the mind of the unsub and to be able to pick this person out of a crowd and describe the suspect. So many of the episodes have been disturbing and striking of what those who experience tragedy undergo. I think of the victims and I think of the law enforcement and I wonder exactly how it is that they're able to deal with and process all this tragedy and sometimes on a regular basis. There is a monologue from Season 4 of the show, and every time that episode roles around, I am reminded of each and every tragedy that's taken place during my lifetime, they all come to the forefront of my mind, and my emotions are once again drawn to the surface. I hear Thomas Gibson's character Aaron Hotchner deliver this speech and it feels so real that I am able to draw parallels to actual events that I have heard about, read about, and because I feel this sense of compassion, I feel indirectly impacted by them---

“Sometimes there are no words, no clever quotes to neatly sum up what’s happened that day. Sometimes you do everything right, everything exactly right, and still you feel like you’ve failed. Did it need to end that way? Could something have been done to prevent the tragedy in the first place? 89 murders at the pig farm. The deaths of Mason and Lucas Turner make 91 lives snuffed out. Kelly Shane will go home and try to recover, to reconnect with her family again, but she’ll never be a child again. William Hightower, who gave his leg for his country, gave the rest of himself to avenge his sister’s murder. That makes 93 lives forever altered, not counting family and friends in a small town in Sarnia, Ontario, who thought monsters didn’t exist until they learned they spent their lives with one. And what about my team? How many more times will they be able to look into the abyss? How many more times before they won’t ever recover the pieces of themselves that this job takes? Like I said, sometimes there are no words, no clever quotes to neatly sum up what’s happened that day. Sometimes the day just…… ends.”

In many ways, we don't value people and things as we should. We don't realize what we have until what we have is gone and part of it is that society as a whole (as a majority) teaches us to be selfish. We grow up wanting more and more rather than being grateful for the things that we have. It's okay to want more, but it's not okay to hurt others to get it or to become greedy. I grew up in a town where most of my peers had everything that they wanted, especially in the form of material goods. I wonder what life lessons they learned along the way. I wonder what was important to them, I mean really important. Usually and unfortunately, greedy children grow up to be greedy adults. I dislike being cynical, but maybe the truth is that we can't fix or make things better if we're not willing to admit our wrongs. I thank God that there are still good people in the world. The Lord works in mysterious ways and we must never give up on Him because He doesn't give up on any of us. Whenever I am ready to give up or be discouraged, I am reminded of my support system, the wonderful people around me who believe in me more than I believe in myself. And in the end, maybe that's what it's all about--- maybe we all want to be loved and acknowledged and believed in. If we have no positive purpose, than what exactly are we here for?

I will close these thoughts with a speech from the TV Show Blue Bloods in which Tom Selleck's character Frank Reagan talks about losing a friend during 9/11

"Where were you on 9/11? That question has become part of the fabric of our lives as Americans. On 9/11, I was with a hero; I was with John McKenna. On that beautiful cloudless morning that seemed to promise nothing but goodness, John and his dear wife Molly were about to pull out of the driveway for a much needed and long overdue vacation, but when news of the attack came over the radio they both knew that Montauk would have to wait.

Molly kissed him goodbye, urged him to be careful, as she had done every day for the almost 30 years that he served and protected this city, and then John headed for ground zero.

Where were you on 9/11? On September 11th, 2001, John McKenna saved more than 100 lives. You see this, it's worn by the first responders that day. John could wear it as proudly as anyone who was there.

Why them and not me? As a cop, I've asked myself that question many times, but I have come to realize that just about any New Yorker could ask themselves the same question, and some questions have no answers.

All that is left for we the living to do is honor them, take care of them, and rededicate ourselves to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.


May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand."

Rest in peace to all the victims of crime and mass murder. May your deaths not be in vain. And may God watch over all of us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reality Recaps: The Finale of The Voice and The Last Night of Competition on The X Factor

I loved how both The Voice and The X Factor chose to open their final performances shows with tributes to the Sandy Hook School Victims and their families. Both performances were extremely touching and seriously brought tears to my eyes. On The Voice the mentors and the top 20 sang Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah.

On The X Factor, Simon Cowell gave a brief message before the top 12 performed You Are Not Alone by Michael Jackson.

Let's discuss The Voice.......

I do not agree with Cassadee Pope winning; I like her and nothing against her but her voice was not as strong and consistent throughout this season as Nicholas and Terry's voices were. Nick, to me, grew leaps and bounds from the beginning. I am a fan now; he's Marvin Gaye and Barry White, his voice is soul music. He's committed to every performance, and his passion is so evident. Terry is someone that, the moment I heard him sing Baba O' Riley by The Who on The Blind Auditions, I knew we had found our winner. He's my winner, and not just because of his voice, but because of his spirit. Terry knows he's good, but he is humble, and let's face it, authentic rock voices don't come around all the time. Terry is a diamond in the rough, I didn't vote for the wrong person in him. The public chose the wrong member of Team Blake.

Back to The X Factor:

A song they sang before:

Carly Rose Sonenclar sang Feeling Good by Nina Simone (Michael Buble)-- She sang this on her first audition. Simon felt she sang it better the second time around. Britney seemed pretty confident that Carly has this competition in the bag. I liked this performance, but it was a bit too stylized for me.

Tate Stevens sang Everything Goes by  Randy Houser-- Demi felt that he turned it into a stadium performance, and that's what made it different this time than last time. Simon agreed with Demi and talked about how authentic Tate is and how he's maintained his integrity throughout. He congratulated L.A., and said this was an unlikely pairing, but you've done a really good job with him. I couldn't agree more; Tate deserves this, he deserves to be a star.

Fifth Harmony sang Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding-- L.A. said you were the underdogs and you are the ones to beat. Brit thought it was the right song choice. Demi feels they've worked hard and deserve to have people call for them. Simon likes the fact that they are the underdogs; I like it too. You know what I like even more? I like when the underdog wins.


Carly Rose Sonenclar sang How Do I Live with Leann Rimes-- Out of the three duets, this was the weakest unfortunately.

Tate Stevens sang Pontoon with Little Big Town-- Tate looked and sounded like a natural.

Fifth Harmony sang Give Your Heart a Break with Demi Lovato-- Simon called it pop perfection.

New Song:

Carly Rose Sonenclar sang Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley-- L.A. questioned whether or not this was a $5 million performance. Simon said she looked great and sounded beautiful. Britney said that song alone was worth $5 million, get out your check book Simon. Sorry Brit, but for me, I was bored at the beginning and middle, it did liven up at the end, and I will give her that.

Tate Stevens sang Tomorrow by Chris Young-- Demi said she is sad that this is the last time she is going to hear him and that he's so talented. Simon said Tate has represented this category so well and that he has a feeling that a year from now, we'll be hearing about Tate's record sales. L.A. said he's always proud of him. I thought this was a great performance, he's definitely in this to the end.

Fifth Harmony sang Let it Be by The Beatles-- L.A. called it a beautiful performance, and said they did the song justice. Brit felt they've come a long way. Demi is proud of how they've evolved and grown. Simon said they deserve to be here, and I completely agree. That final performance blew me away.

Who is your pick to win The X Factor?  Mine is Tate or Fifth Harmony

Do you agree with Cassadee Pope winning The Voice? Will you miss Christina and Cee Lo? Or not given it any thought yet?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reality Recap: The X Factor and The Voice

Contestant's Choice

Tate Stevens sang Bonfire by Craig Morgan-- He performed it well, but I didn't care for the song. Britney didn't think it was his best, Demi disagreed. I kind of agree with both of them because I did not think it was the right song for him, but he did a good job with it. L.A. said it was the most fun he has had since doing the show.

Carly Rose Sonenclar sang Your Song by Elton John-- L.A. thought she did things with the song that have never been done before. Demi thought it was predictable, but loved the R&B side of her voice. Simon said it was a beautiful version of a fantastic song, but not her best performance. I agree with all the judges, but again, didn't think it was necessarily the best song for her.

Emblem3 sang Baby I Love Your Way by Peter Frampton-- L.A. loved the song and saw them as recording artist for the first time. Britney thinks they've grown so much throughout the show. Demi praised it as well and compared it to their first audition and Simon agreed with Demi. I like how their personality showed in the song, but again, didn't like the song choice.

Fifth Harmony sang Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding-- Their performance of Anytime You Need A Friend was one of my favorite performances of this season, top three for sure. I love them. L.A. called it their best vocal performance, inventive, and he said he was proud of them. Britney loved everything about it, and called it magical and full of girl power. Demi said that they pulled out that sparkle that they needed. Simon agreed that "anything could happen," and I do too.

 The Song I Need to get into the Finals

Tate Stevens sang Fall by Clay Walker-- Demi said he deserves all these good things and he is so talented. Simon liked the song choice, and said he has as much likelihood of going back to his old job as he does of flying to the moon tomorrow night. L.A. loves Tate for his consistency, and wished him the best of luck. This was a great song choice as Simon said, I remembered a woman singing this song, and was reminded that Kimberley Locke from American Idol had a number one on the American Dance Charts with this song.

Carly Rose Sonenclar sang Imagine by John Lennon-- L.A. liked her artistic capability and the fact that she played the piano. Demi thought it was amazing and she took a risk. Simon said there was too much going on and it made a beautiful song fussy. He said he didn't like the arrangement and said it was overcomplicated. Britney feels she should be competing with the biggest stars in the world. I actually agree with Simon, and another which he said that was really smart--- she sang those big notes, but the song didn't need that.

Emblem3 sang Hey Jude by The Beatles-- This is an awesome song choice by Simon, ingenious! It totally paid off too; unbelievable performance. L.A. said I thought this was presumptuous and I was going to tear you to shreds for thinking you are teen heartthrobs like The Beatles and you are. Britney told them to take a bow. Simon said you guys have steel in your eyes and nailed it on both songs; you were fantastic.

Fifth Harmony sang Impossible by Shontelle-- Amazing, I could see them putting so much passion into their vocals and the performance. L.A. found their song choice lazy. I totally do not agree with L.A. Britney said she would be surprised if they are in it next week. Demi said there aren't a lot of people supporting them so their fans need to support them. Simon said I hope and pray America gets behind you because I know you were one of the strongest acts tonight.

I loved both groups, I kind of hope one of the solo artists is going home. I don't think Carly Rose had as strong a night as everyone thinks.

Just wanted to comment that regardless of Trevin Hunte being voted off The Voice, I think he has quite the future ahead of him. The best on performance night was Terry McDermott's Let It Be; that guy can sing. He joins Cassadee Pope and Nicholas David in the finals.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reality Recap: The Voice and The X Factor

Surprises this week on my reality shows:

On The Voice, Adam lost the rest of his team, Amanda Brown and Melanie Martinez, making this a two man race in the finals. It's Cee Lo Green versus Blake Shelton. Cee Lo boasts young soul singer Trevin Hunte and guy from another time with the distinct voice, Nicholas David. Blake's team is not shabby with authentic Scottish rocker Terry McDermott and pop rock star with a pretty face Cassadee Pope. So, I am completely unsure of who will win this thing, each artist is so strong in their own right. Potentially, any one of them could release a great album with the right song writers, songs, and producers.

On The X Factor, Cece Frey and Diamond White participated in the Pepsi Challenge (where the public votes for every aspect of each artist's performance from their song down to their outfit and the stage), but it wasn't enough to win them votes. For Demi, it meant the end of the competition for her, her final contestant was voted off. Four acts remain, two of Simon's groups Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony, Tate Stevens from L.A.'s Team, and Carly Rose Sonenclar from Britney's Team. Each remaining act is definitely in it to win it. Fifth Harmony was improved leaps and bounds every single week. Their save me song this week, Anytime You Need A Friend, by Mariah Carey was the most stunning performance by them to date. There was so much passion in the performance that it begged the question, how could you not save them? Emblem3 will continue to receive loads of votes from teenage and college girls; they also have a real likeability, you want them to do well. I think Demi saying that they are much like The Jonas Brothers was pretty wrong. Emblem3 sounds different, stylistically, they're unique. Tate Stevens is the family man with tons of heart and a golden voice. He's been in cruise control for the majority of this competition. Some think the only person who can beat him is Carly Rose. Carly Rose is amazing, when she sings, I don't believe it because she's so young and yet she has so much poise, maturity, and passion when she sings these songs that you have no choice but to believe her. It's Fifth Hamony and Emblem3's competition to win and it's Tate and Carly Rose's competition to lose. I have a feeling that we'll be seeing more than just the winner after this competition is over.