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Monday, March 31, 2008

Does Life Have A Purpose?

While I was conjuring up a fresh idea to write about, the following concept struck me:
Is the gift of life a springboard for personal progress, or is it meant to simply be experienced?

At the risk of sounding profoundly vain, I found myself as the inspiration for this idea as I am a constant work in progress, but looking back I have evolved a great deal over the last few years. At the same time, I also recognize that my progress would not have been possible without the contributions of those around me as inspiration.

For example, just four years ago I was living at my sister's house while trying to get back on my feet after hitting a low point by losing my driver's license from not taking care of a few simple traffic tickets. Luckily for me, my brother in law worked very close to where I work so we carpooled. We both enjoyed the ride to work and home so it wasn't much of an inconvenience for him but without it I would have lost my job. It was the help and support of my sister and brother in law that allowed me to move past a difficult time in my life and press on.

It was during that time when I met my wife Kacy and after sharing emails and calls, she drove up and we met in person. While I was already on the track to regaining my independence and moving forward, it was our relationship that really motivated me to finally put all of the mistakes behind me because of what the future may hold. Three and a half years later we're approaching our second anniversary, with a 9 month old son.

Of course, one could argue that because I had gotten myself into the position I was in that it would not be considered progress. Through my way of thinking, it certainly is and let me explain why. I think that progress can only be considered in the overall timeline of one's life. Everyone takes a step backwards now and then but it only makes the progress they make from that point even more of an achievement. I've actually been in that situation before and bounced back but not quite to the level I have this time.

In terms of personal growth, not counting employment or financial status, I think I've been on a steady climb for several years and never looked back. I have my ex's to thank for that, as I've endured a few very unfortunate relationships in which I got involved with someone that was clearly not right for me from the very start. It's easy to see that now, and I'm sure those around me saw it because they told me later on that they knew what the outcome would be. I've loved and learned on a few occasions and I'm better for it. This brings us back to my earlier mention of the contributions of others around me which lends to my personal progress. While I can attribute much of my personal growth to my past relationships, and my current one, I know that my overall personality and outlook are the result of my decision to live life as the kind of person that most people would feel thankful for having in their life. I'm not the most chivalrous person in the world, but I try to be kind to everyone and as helpful as I can be in any situation.

At this point of my life, I'm a ball of ambition with no means to achieve it. I have so many aspirations that I strongly believe I can accomplish but at this point they're not reachable, for lack of time or money, or both. I wish to play the drums and record a Grammy-winning instrumental album. I dream of making a living as a writer, if even as a side job, so I can buy a beautiful home for my family. I wish to be involved in the end of dolphin slaughter and murder of sharks for nothing more than their fins. I think progress has to come at a reasonable pace and since I've overcome so much in the last few years I'm guessing I need to enjoy everything as it comes for a while before trying to take myself to another level. However, the progress I've made only makes me strive to do more so I'm always ready to press on.

In answering the question I posed at the beginning of this post, I feel that without progress, society would not have lasted as long as it has. I started to say the world would not have lasted, but history tells us that the world has been around for millions of years before we came around, so it will remain for a very long time whether we succeed or fail. Everyone is responsible for making personal progress because financial progress promises nothing more than quality of life, in terms of status and property. The possibility of a solid future for society rests on the progress to be made by our children and their children and every generation that follows.

It is with that idea in mind that resting on what we have is no longer good enough if we want to see the future generations have a chance at the kind of life that we live. We must push ourselves and teach our children to always reach for more because progress is what keeps us going, not only in the literal sense.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Idol Fever!!

It's America's favorite guilty pleasure but, like me, no one seems to feel guilty for watching. Every season starts with the hilarious auditions, most of which are made up of people who just want to be on TV and know they have no chance. By the time the early finalists get to Hollywood, most of us have already picked favorites, even predicting the next winner.

If there's one thing that I've noticed most recently, it's that the talent each year has significantly dropped, which is exactly opposite of what the announcers and judges say to get us excited about watching. Two years ago, Taylor Hicks was crowned the American Idol and was since dropped from his record label after lackluster sales. Personally, I loved Taylor's Cocker-esque approach and I think his album is a nice departure from the pop standard that Idol winners have adhered to. Behind him was Katherine McPhee, who seems less interested in making music than just being seen, and Chris Daughtry who is undoubtedly the most successful non-winner. I've heard him called the best Idol loser, but there's nothing about him that earns the title "loser" as he had the best-selling album of 2007. Last season belonged to Jordin Sparks, pretty much through the whole competition and there weren't too many others who have even been heard of since.

I feel that Kelly Clarkson is the most successful American Idol so far, closely followed by Carrie Underwood. To me, they represent what the competition is all about, which is finding a true unsigned talent and giving them the opportunity to prove that they have what it takes. Nobody can deny that those two have what it takes to be around for a very long time, as long as they wish to be at least. Even with Kelly's recent troubles regarding her album "My December" I think she will easily bounce back to the kind of success she found on her sophomore album "Breakaway". One thing that has to be admired, is Kelly's strong conviction in the way she stood by her album when record exes such as legendary Clive Davis, told her to rework the album. While Ruben Studdard's albums have not performed on the charts as Kelly's or Carrie's, I believe he was the clear winner of season two, deservedly so.

This season has been boasted by judges as having the most talented group ever, and I have yet to agree. Early standouts for me are David Archuleta, David Cook "the rocker", Michael Johns, and Irish lass Carly Smithson. I learned early in the season that Carly Smithson was previously a signed artist and that Idol will be seeking out some professional singers like her to add to the group, in hopes of raising the level of competition each year.

My prediction is a finale standoff between Carly and David Archuleta. My wife Kacy likes Dave Cook, and besides him being the rocker guy of the group I'm not sure why. The female rocker, Amanda Overmyer was the last Idol to be sent home, after another southern-fried Joplin-inspired take on "Back In The USSR". After a successful week of music from the Lennon-McCartney partnership, Idol decided to continue the theme of music from the Beatles for a second week. Unfortunately, the performances universally dropped from the first to second week of the same theme. Amanda was critiqued for always doing the same thing, as Paula asked her to try something more vulnerable and soft and Simon said that her typical approach was "boring". Amanda replied with "ballads are boring" and went on to say "I have a minute and a half to show these people what they'd see if they bought a ticket." Something about counting chickens is coming to mind.........weird.

Something that Simon said recently is a perfect statement to sum up the evolution of the show. He told David Cook after his performance of "Elanor Rigby" that if American Idol continues to be a talent contest rather than a popularity contest, he just might win the whole thing. Usually, most of what comes from Simon Cowell is just negative criticism and useless rantings which makes his presence look more and more like a ratings tool. However, I could not agree more with that statement. Despite my earlier comments, I think Taylor Hicks won American Idol because the "Soul Patrol" had his back. Sanjaya, from season 6, is a perfect example of popularity vs. talent as most viewers were more eager to see what his hair would be doing than his song choice.
One disappointing aspect of Idol is the annual display of prior "questionable" activity which is dug up on a few contestants, some of which have been eliminated as a result of their troubled pasts. The show is supposed to be a search for the next great recording artist, according to Simon. There really is no need to air out the dirty laundry of these aspiring music artists, except to feed the tabloid beast and its devoted followers. I'm wondering if Idol will ever get smart and start screening people so we can concentrate on the music rather than the pictures that may surface, featuring our next group of hopefuls in compromising situations.

Until then, we can watch David Archuleta charm us week by week and Carly Smithson school the others on how to give a flawless performance.

Monday, March 17, 2008

They grow so fast..........

It's been a while since I shared any news about our son Gavin; I figured you've waited long enough. At just 5 days shy of 9 months old, Gavin is becoming quite mobile and vocal all at once, which is both joyful and stressful all at once.
After six months of living in our one-bedroom apartment, we found a nice two-bedroom duplex which allowed us to finally put his room together. Little did we know that the transition would cause many sleepless nights on the couch for Kacy. He has been teething for quite some time, with no sign of teeth yet, so our only guess is that his poor gums are making him wake up and then he can't fall back asleep on his own.
**I encourage everyone to leave comments, sharing stories of sleepless nights with your children who are/were at his age and any tricks or advice that worked to bring peace back to your house at night.**
On the positive side of Gavin's development, we have a wonderful boy who loves to laugh and is crawling and rolling over like it's an Olympic event. Kacy and I have to start the babyproofing process (as if that's possible) to keep his curious mobility from taking a painful turn like a basket of DVDs on his head. On that note, I'll be the first to admit that I gave Gavin his first "injury" when his nose met the leg of our coffee table but learned that he rebounds pretty quickly so it was no big deal.
Gavin LOVES Elmo and many of the other Sesame Street characters. He also has taken a liking to the one character that I swore would never appear on my TV...........Barney! Kacy takes Gavin for an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood on most days, and a huge smile covers his face as soon as the front door opens and the breeze hits him. When summer hits you can bet he'll be poolside, and he has two pools to choose from so I'm betting he'll take to the water in no time!
I'll have much more to share in June when Gavin has his first birthday party!!