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Welcome to Wonderland

In one way or another, I have kept a journal since age 12. I've kept an online journal called Musings since late 2002. My topics range from things that happen in my daily life to my thoughts on pop culture to my ponderings about everything from dreams to the secret thoughts of pets. In November 2007, I began mirroring it here, although I often included extras to this version, such as memes and quizzes. In February 2010, I stopped updating the original journal on my home page and instead started a writing journal there.

For some insight into who I am, read Intro to Alyce. For a guide to the many nicknames I use in my online journal, check out Who's Who in Musings.

The beautiful, sweet dog in one of my icons is Una, my best friend and nurse dog for nearly 11 years, who passed away on October 22, 2010. She was my inspiration, and she taught me how to be a better friend and mother; a better person. My son, Kung Fu Panda (KFP for short), benefits from all the caregiving skills I learned in those 11 years. My husband, The Gryphon, probably does, as well!

The goals I established when I first begin an online journal remain the same: this is a way to explore the tangential, the seemingly accidental observations many of us overlook but which may, ultimately, be where all life and all mystery hinges.

This week, Wild Violet's contributors show the many sides of hardships, including a sliver of hope.

Featured Works: Week of May 17 (Hardship) | Wild Violet online literary magazine

Idol Minor - Sign Ups

So far, KFP is the only person signed up for Idol Minor, for ages 14 and under. Do you know anyone under that age who would like a fun, noncompetitive writing challenge?

You can find all the sign-up sheet here: Idol Minor - Sign Ups.

American Idol Recap: Finale (Part 1)

Did you hear the news, that next season will be "American Idol's" last? To be honest, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. What do you hope to see next year?

I'm going to post tonight's recap before I get distracted. (Unfortunately, last week I fell asleep halfway through and watched it but never got around to finishing the recap.)

• For part one of the two-part "American Idol finale, we began by learning who would leave and not be competing in the finale. The person leaving was... Jax. Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani would compete for the title. The audience groaned in disappointment, and then Ryan Seacrest showed her the video package created about her. Bummer. I had hoped she was in the final two, but last week's songs weren't her best.
• Tonight, each of the finalists would sing three songs: one a reprise of a song they'd performed earlier in the season, one selected by season mentor Scott Borchetta, and finally their coronation song, a single meant to suit each artist.
• For his reprisal song, Clark, in a button-down shirt and black vest, did the Ray Charles song "Georgia on My Mind," playing the piano. The song was a great choice for him: a song that was right in his wheelhouse and allowed him to groove and show off his vocal abilities. Keith Urban called it soulful and really good. Jennifer Lopez said, "You're singing to win; you're reminding us why you are here." Harry Connick Jr. liked his drive and how he's always stretching musically.
• Nick sang "Bright Lights" by Matchbox 20 for his reprisal song, which he'd sung later in the season and gotten good comments from the judges. He wore just a gray T-shirt and jeans. Jennifer predicted this performance could "get you to the next level." Harry pointed out that the people in home had to vote in order to make the decision. Keith said it's not just about having a great voice but whether the audience could relate to the performers. "I can relate to you, Nick."
• Asked to give her winner for round one, Jennifer opted for a tie.
• For his second song, chosen by the season mentor, he sang "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers, this time wearing a dark V-neck and dark pants, sitting on a stool and accompanying himself on guitar. Again, very emotional and lots of raw but soaring vocals. Harry called this an "inward, soulful performance" and called it great. Keith said, "Do you know how you turn a duck into a soul singer? You put him in the oven and bake him until he's Bill Withers." (Think about it, but substitute the word "his" for "he's".) Jennifer wanted to know who he was singing to -- he wouldn't say -- and said she loved it.
• For Nick, the song was "I Won't Give Up," which he performed at a piano, wearing a white T-shirt and black vest. This could have been one of his best performances, with tender vocals. Keith didn't know that he played piano. He said, "Your heart is so good." Jennifer thought it was "another strong performance." Harry said, "Your strongest thing is how you just lay it all out there on an emotional level." He called it a very heartfelt performance. Being asked who to choose, Harry called it a tie, because he said that Nick won the first won and Clark won the second.
• Clark's coronation song was "Champion," and he performed it in a dark suit and dark shirt, without a tie, in front of a starry background, with four back-up singers. The pop-rock song fit his vocal range, and he delivered it like a pro. Jennifer said he sounded great and it was going to be a tough night. Harry said it was obvious that it's a new song and he's just getting used to it but predicted Nick would have the same problem. Keith called it inspiring.
• Nick's coronation song was "Beautiful Life." He sang it wearing an olive drab military-style jacket with red epaulettes. The song sounded very much like his sort of song, but it felt like it was lacking something that he tried to make up for by running all over the stage. Harry observed the song really sounded like it was written just for him. Jennifer also praised it. Keith felt it was a bull's eye.
• Asked to pick a winner, Keith said he was leaning a little into Nick's camp, "by a narrow margin."
• Who will America choose? Who would you choose? I am a Clark Beckham fan myself.

Elmwood Park Zoo - an album on Flickr

My dad was in town this weekend, and we took KFP to the Elmwood Park Zoo, which is a small zoo that is not as crowded or expensive as the Philadelphia Zoo. KFP loved it so much we upgraded our day passes to a year-long membership, so that we can come back when they open their new Red Panda exhibit in about a month.

Check out our photos, which give an overview of the day.

Elmwood Park Zoo - an album on Flickr
The Top 5 became the Top 4 on "American Idol," Season 14, performing two songs. The first would be a song related to one of the home cities of the three judges. The second song would be a song that spoke to the contestants' soul (what judge Harry Connick Jr. calls "the gravy"). I didn't get a chance to watch the show live, but here are the highlights from watching it off my DVR. I skipped all the little video segments (and the Ford commercial) and concentrated on the performances.
• Clark Beckham sang a song about New York, "Living for the City." It seemed a bit too high for him at the beginning, but he found his groove and even worked in a pretty smooth piano solo, standing up. By the end of the song, it was clear he'd made a smart song choice, allowing him to show off both his vocal strength and his pure ease on stage, playing with the band and relating to the audience. Keith Urban said that he liked the piano playing and thought the whole song found a good groove. He thought he ought to play the piano for more of it. Jennifer Lopez agreed that he's most easy when he's with his instrument, though he sounded great. Harry Connick Jr. thought it was a solid performance but thought he had to work on the timing to get into the pocket.
• Next up was Jax. She sang another New York-related selection, the Alicia Keys song "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down." She performed at the piano, wearing a silver embellished denim jacket and a black fringed skirt. At the apex of the song, she stood up to sing to the crowd, her voice soaring above the band. Jennifer thought she looked uncertain at the end. She also said that Jax was like a serious artist but wasn't sure about the song choice for her. Still, she thought Jax has the potential to "take the whole thing." Harry said, "I really dug it." He called it a mini-showcase of what she can do. He asked her if her voice was a little hoarse tonight, and she admitted it was. Knowing that, he praised her for powering through and "killing it" despite that. Keith found her voice was in a beautiful register and that she has a strong artistic foundation.
• When it was Nick Fradiani's turn, he sang the Matchbox Twenty song "Bright Lights," another song about New York. He was possibly at his most comfortable yet, and his vocals were strong. Harry called it the "most comfortable by far." He also thought he sang the hell out of the song. He observed that Nick sounds a lot like Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty. Keith said that every time he performs it gets stronger and better. Jennifer said, "You're peaking at the right time."
• The results were down to the last two: Rayvon Owen and Tyanna Jones. Rayvon managed to survive again, this time without a Twitter vote, leaving Tyanna to watch her good-bye package, wipe away the tears, and then perform "Rule the World (Girls)" by Beyonce. Her voice broke frequently as she performed, but it might have been because of the emotion of having just been eliminated. She moved very easily around the stage, wearing a black sleeveless black top and black pants, her braids piled on her head. Harry told her that she's special, and he hopes she continues to learn about harmony and music. Jennifer told her that she's young and will have a fun journey ahead of her. Keith thought her last performance was perfect for the last song from her.
• Rayvon sang "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum, staring right into the camera lens as he sang an emotionally overwrought song about feeling lonely and needing love. Keith gave him props for making the song his own. He thought that he'd blended dramatics and heart but he wanted it a little more carefree. Jennifer thought it was about connection to a personal thing, so that instead of just acting, he's feeling something. She felt the vocal was pretty, though. Harry noted singers have a tendency to over-dramatize a lyric. He thought he was 100 percent on with his interpretation of that lyric.
• For his second song, Clark sang a Josh Turner song, "Your Man," going against his mentors for his song choice. He sang it a lot higher and sort of disco, compared to the way that a previous Idol winter had performed it. Still, the mellow groove worked for him. Jennifer thought he sang it well. She questioned, though, whether this was the type of musician he wanted to be. Harry advised him to think more about what the audience would think of a song. He found the song a little tepid. Keith told him to think about it in terms of singles. "They're the songs you need now. You don't need album tracks. You need hit singles."
• Jax chose "Human" by Christina Perri for her second song, standing in the center of the stage surrounded by dry ice clouds and wearing a sequined tunic min-dress with long sleeves. She built up the song to the climax, then dropped to her knees, almost whispering it and then powering through the ending. Despite the theatrics, it actually felt very real and vulnerable. Harry called it a perfect example of the technical versus the emotional. He noted pitch issues but said, "I really felt what you were doing." He thought it was really nice. Keith called it a perfect song for her, because it was so fragile, and that she'd killed it. Jennifer liked how she was connecting with people in the audience. She praised how pure her tone can be on certain phrases.
• Rayvon sang "Believe" by Justin Bieber, dedicating it to his mother. His choice was smart, because it gave him an emotional connection to the song. He almost sounded at the edge of tears at points, and he took it to church but without ever going too extreme. Keith told him, "You sang phenomenally just then." He'd enjoyed watching Rayvon's mom listening to the song. Jennifer pointed out the connection was so important. "That's what you have to do every time." Harry said the songwriters would be very happy with how he'd done.
• Finally, Nick sang the Rascal Flatts song, "What Hurts the Most," taking the advice of the mentors to put the guitar down and just sing at a microphone. As always, he bounced around a little as he felt the music. This was one of his best, vocally. Jennifer called it the song of the night. Harry said, "I could really hear you singing that on your CD." Keith predicted that song would do well on the iTunes chart.
• Based on last night's performances, it's hard to say who will join Rayvon in next week's bottom two (because that seems to be his destiny). Was Clark right that people really like the music he plays? Or will he lose support for arguing with the mentors? Chances are, if Clark's in the bottom two, he'll survive, but with Rayvon's success in that position, it's hard to say!

Wild Violet: NaPoWriMo Prompt 30

On the final day of the NaPoWriMo challenge, Wild Violet suggests you write an epilogue poem or a poetic biography. Click the link for more.

NaPoWriMo Prompt 30 | Wild Violet online literary magazine

Wild Violet: NaPoWriMo Prompt 29

I didn't get a chance to post this yesterday. The Day 29 NaPoWriMo prompt from Wild violet was "Z" is for "Zenith." Write a poem with a list that builds to a climax. Click on the link for more.

NaPoWriMo Prompt 29 | Wild Violet online literary magazine

Wild Violet: NaPoWriMo Prompt 28

Today's prompt is a Burmese poetry form, "Y" is for "Yadu." Click the link for an explanation and an example.

NaPoWriMo Prompt 28 | Wild Violet online literary magazine

This prompt also includes another of my NaPoWriMo poems!

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