Two Go In, One Comes Out: American Idol XIII Top 2

Jena Irene and Caleb Top 2 Diptych

Michael Becker / Fox

For American Idol XIII contestants, the season is at the climax. Two went in, and only one would come out. It is hard to imagine the chummy finalists, Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson, actually coming to fisticuffs, despite the faux prom battle that kicked off the show, but each battled for the title currently owned by Season XII winner Candace Glover. Unfortunately, that lovely lady, who brought us moments like “Lovesong,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” and “Straight Up, has been seemingly cast aside by Idol management—a rant worthy of its own blog article.

Jena

Jena and Caleb: Faux Prom

Jena and Caleb performed three songs each: a Nigel Fuller choice, a repeat memorable performance, and the potential winner’s single. For once, American Idol creator, Nigel Fuller, chose wisely and the judging panel dished him platitudes as he sat smirking and nodding in the front row.

Nigel Fuller’s Choice

Jena Irene: Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”

Florence Welch

Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine

Jena, you delivered an excellent performance. And Florence Welch’s vocals are hard to match. This is a word-rich, up-tempo song. You gave the song a dynamic arc and didn’t let the rhythm drive you. I agree with judge Keith Urban’s comments that you owned the stage. Opening the show is a difficult spot, and one you chose via the coin toss. That shows the confidence you have in yourself. It is remarkable how much you’ve grown after rewatching your audition, dear girl. You have absorbed everything positive Idol has had to offer you.

Watching your performance live, I found it difficult to make out the words in the beginning because of your propensity to sing softly in your lower range. Your intonation was a little slippery. I didn’t hear any bum notes, per se; rather, that your pitch was not as centered as it could’ve been. That said, when I rewatched your performance several times today with earphones, I did not detect the volume or intonation issues as much.  While I love watching your work the stage, be careful of bending over to shake hands with your fans because it can affect your breath support. Here’s an idea: Instead of walking, squat while keeping your torso as erect as possible. Sing to those individuals in front of you. Quality of connection is paramount, not quantity.

This was a quality performance and very much “You.”

A–

Caleb Johnson: Aerosmith’s “Dream On”

Steven Tyler Billboard photo

Steven Tyler

I thought that this was a predictable choice, but you handled the Aerosmith anthem well. Steven Tyler has a unique instrument, and it is amazing that he can sing night after night without blowing out his vocal chords. I was worried after losing your voice last week that you might not have that high note (Tyler’s G-sharp) in you, but you did! Like Jena, you built the energy throughout the number. A song needs a character arc as much as a story, and many of your performances, including this one, reflect your understanding of this necessity.

If anything was weak about this performance, it was the quiet introduction. You gave us a few wonky notes, especially in the line “like dust to dawn.” Remember to support your lower range, Caleb. I think this is what Harry was referring to in his comments about your lower register. You gotta restrain that power. It almost sounded like you were unsure of your artistic choices in some of the runs in that opening part, so your intonation went flat. Be sure of your choices before the performance and make the notes in your lower register as pointedly “on” as the glory notes. While you hit those glory notes, your voice sounded raspy and strident, not surprising given that you are probably still in recovery. Be careful of your instrument, Caleb. You flaunt it indiscriminately, and you must save it for performances.

This number was full of fun and intensity, but the beginning was shaky.

B+

Memorable Performances

Jena: “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Elvis Presley

Jena Irene Top 2 Can't Help Falling 2

Jena Irene – Top 2

Jena, this sublime performance was just as strong as the first time you sang it. I agree with Harry, who said it was “just beautiful.” This song is so beloved that it would be easy to offend by making artistic choices that are too far off the beaten path, but you stayed true to the song while adding your complementary vocal flourishes. You have such a feel for the nuances of an arrangement, and somehow, at your young age you completely plug in to the emotional content of a song. We all know teenagers are full of strong emotions, but what sets you apart is your ability to harness those chaotic emotions, then set them free again in such a controlled way that we, as your audience, can appreciate and absorb them. You have such a command of tone and dynamics that I felt as though you were cradling my soul. I have absolutely nothing to critique about this performance. It was just perfect.

A+

PS: I did listen to Ingrid Michaelson’s adaptation of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” because you did receive some criticism in the blogosphere for not giving her credit for your inspiration. I don’t know from where you drew your inspiration, but I didn’t feel it was a carbon copy. There were a couple places where artistic choices were similar, but you truly made it your own.

Caleb: “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney

Caleb Johnson Top 2 Maybe I'm Amazed

Caleb – Top 2

As judged Keith Urban noted, this is a love song Sir Paul wrote to his wife Linda. The gentleness at the beginning gives rise to unbridled passion in the middle section, and as the former Beatles performs it, the end brings back the tender feel. You did a great job on this power ballad the first time around, and you performed this confidently again. You have the power to perform this anthem, but I agree with judging panel. You are powerful technical performer, but the soul, the nugget of love at the center, got lost for me. I should have gotten goosies, but I didn’t.

B+

Winner’s Single

Jena: “We Are One,” songwriter Jillian Jensen

I listened to the iTunes studio recording of “We Are One” last week, and I thought you did a good job on it, but I think the energy you bring to a performance really completed this song. I could hear the electronic influence in the studio recording, and while I could definitely hear this as a dance EP, I preferred your pop-rock performance. Your delivery showed your sensitivity to dynamics. You know how and when to pull back into a softer voice then re-crescendo to a new dynamic level. In the line, “In spite of you, In spite of me,” I love how you maintained your volume on the first phrase, then drew back on the second phrase. You crescendoed on the word “me.” This contrast gave greater meaning to the lyrics because it gave a sense of vulnerability to your first-person persona.

I earnestly encourage you to keep working on supporting your lower register so you can maintain your intensity and we can understand the lyrics. When you catapulted into your upper register on “Never felt so alive,” your voice became shriek-y.  Talk to your vocal coach about smoothing the transition from your undeniably strong chest voice to your pretty head voice. It sounded to me as though you tried to push the chest voice, but your soprano head voice you showed us in “Unbreakable Me” could have soared there! Also, be careful not to pull the mike away from your mouth before you finish a line. We lost some lyrics that way.

Jena Irene sings "We Are One" Top 2 Night

Jena Irene sings “We Are One” Top 2 Night

Jena, this was a really strong performance. At home, we could feel your connection to the live audience. I hope to hear this on the radio. Unlike Phillip Phillips “Home,” which has been a commercial hit on the radio and sampled in commercials like State Farm Insurance, some Idol winners are not graced with the raw material to make a hit record. I think this one has a real chance. I wish you all the luck in the word, Jena, and hope I get to see your perform live on tour.

A–

Caleb Johnson: “As Long As You Love Me”

You sang this well, Caleb, but the song itself was thoroughly underwhelming. Did the song have a middle eighth beyond the following two lines?

You will never have a reason to tell me I’m a fool. I will  never ask you not to do what you want to do.

Because it felt like a medium-power delivery with no emotional or dynamic depth. Listen to how Jena creates contrast within a single line, or even a single word. This song came at me the same way, the whole time, which grew old rather quickly. I realize some of this can be chalked up to the song itself, but know that as a performer you have the power to tweak phrasing, and, again, dynamics. I’m so glad your voice held up. I’m looking forward to you performing with KISS tonight.

B–

Michael Becker - Fox

Won’t You Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer?

American-Idol-2014-Spoilers-Top-3

American Idol Top 3: Alex Preston, Jena Irene, and Caleb Johnson

 

Jena Irene and Alex Preston delivered sublime performances in Top 3 Week on American Idol, but producer Per Blankens made front-runner Caleb Johnson’s bruised vocal chords the lead story, unfortunately. Regrettably, the judges gave Caleb a pass despite his butchering of the poignant INXS ballad, “Never Tear Us Apart” and a forgettable “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. Perhaps Caleb wouldn’t have lost his voice if he didn’t throw out gratuitous glory notes whenever the camera was on him.

Entitled Ennui

Masterclass Lady, for whom I wrote this blog article, has made the strong stand that she will not cover Caleb’s performances due to his thoughtless “retard” retort to his fans and ensuing heartless apology. However, I must take this moment to rue the Eric Northmansimilarly heartless performance of “Never Tear Us Apart.” This single from the Australian band’s 1987 album, Kick, is an intimate first-person ballad, which lead singer Michael Hutchence delivered with such conviction that he made every girl or boy believe he was singing only for them, especially on the powerful line: “I … I was standing. You were there.” (Granted, I have a personal connection to the song that only a girl remembering her eighteenth birthday with her first real boyfriend could … but I digress.) I could produce a note-by-note rant about Caleb’s artistic choices, but suffice to say that his lackadaisical approach to the song was marked by his recumbent pose in his “throne” was filled with as much ennui as True Blood’s Eric Northman watching submissive humans dance at Fangtasia. “Entitled ennui” sums up Caleb’s attitude towards his newfound fame and is what turns me off. To the powers that be, is this persona you want carrying the Idol torch?

Alex Preston

“Pompeii” by Bastille

Michael Becker - Fox

Michael Becker / Fox

Alex, your passion was evident in this up-tempo song that you delivered with conviction. You are always thoughtful and careful with your song lyrics, and contrary to Bastille’s original, I heard every word in the staccato line, “How am I going to be an optimist about this?” I felt the urgency in your voice that this important thematic line imports. You also made subtle, but important, artistic flourishes in the melodic line that gave gravitas to this anthem about humans’ self-importance and subsequent insignificance in the face of natural disaster. As usual, your use of a lilting, but controlled falsetto is so effective because you add authentic emotion to the lyric, especially in “the ru-bble of our sins.” You used the consonant “r” to springboard into the vowel, letting it fly in a way that showed the last optimistic breath of the doomed residents of Pompeii. Then, after a slight hesitation, you used the plosive syllable (“-bble”) to embody the volcanic eruption which sealed their fate. This is just one small example of how you encapsulate the tone and meaning of a song in just two syllables.

You also upped your stage game. I love the way you snatched the microphone off its stand after your impressive percussion interlude. It showed me another level of earnestness I was sure you had, but hadn’t yet seen. You owned the stage! I could see your back-up percussionists smiling and nodding during your percussion solo. They felt it, and we felt it.

I was sorry that your microphone cut out when you moved to your drum because that would’ve been a memorable transition. As an artist who must create his own moments on stage, do not let your eyes or body belie it when these snafus happen (as they will). I saw your eyes shift in a querying “What just happened?” This brought me out of the moment, but if you stay engaged, we will too. One other critique: I would have liked you to sustain the last note longer. If you are going to do a downward scale to a fade, support it. Keep it in your control rather than letting it peter out.

Alex, you are always genuine in performances. I feel, rather than figure out, your message. Especially after watching video of your hometown performances, which were of “real length,” I know you will be able to thrill your audiences with vocals, guitar solos, and interactions with your band. I’m giving you a B+, Alex, only because the performance wasn’t seamless. As your judge Harry Connick, Jr. pointed out, a couple more days of rehearsal would have ironed out these details. You will rock this on the Idol tour if you choose to do it. And I hope you do. B+

“Stay” by Rihanna, feat. Mikky Ekko

Alex, this performance was SUBLIME. I love this song whenever I hear it on the radio. Now it will only pale in comparison to yours. My favorite moment was when you did a descending minor scale at end of the first “Round and around and around we go.” It gave the song even more longing and sadness than Rihanna’s version. Your vibrato in the sustained “Sta-a-a-ay” added the necessary fragility. Your second to last “Stay” soared in an ascending sequential scale that was in perfect contrast to your closing descending scale ending on a seventh minor chord. I did not want this to end. And yes, I got goosies, just like Jennifer did. And they stayed the whole way through.  There was nothing wrong with this performance. The back-up vocals and string quartet perfectly complemented you. Although the production cut you off, I saw you turning to give them well-deserved credit. You are the consummate artist, Alex. I can’t wait for your first album. For me, this was an A+.

“Story of My Life” by One Direction

I’m so glad the Granite State chose “Story of My Life” to reprise. I loved your performance of this pop song the first time. Between your live hometown performance and last nights, you’ve proved your consistency as well. This song comes to you with a danceable forward-moving beat that you embody. You set the groove instead of letting it push you along. You gentle a song like Robert Redford whispers to a horse.

I started to sense a little bit of fatigue in your voice, but you do a good job of preserving your instrument. Many guitar players make odd faces as they play, especially when doing lead licks. Be sure not to let that same intensity creep into the muscles that drive your vocal instrument. It’s an oxymoron, I know, to carry emotional intensity and muscular relaxation in the same moment, but I’m sure if you review Masterclass Lady’s articles, she’ll have specific, actionable advice. As an aside, I love your guitar playing and missed the guitar prelude from your Top 10 performance, but perhaps the Idol production was pushing you for time. The subway video treatment was distracting, especially in the medium camera shots that made it look like you were in front of a green screen.  Stand up for your sensibilities not just in musical choices, but production choices, too!

You own this song, Alex.  A-

Jena Irene

“Titanium” by David Guetta, feat. Sia

This was a powerful song to open with. My favorite part of your performance was your echoing of the sliding beat on the word “glass” (Stone-hard as bulletproof glass). In addition to the demanding vocals of this popular dance song, your production complicated matters, but you overcame them! I can’t imagine feeling grounded enough to sing from a place of power whilst tethered to the top of a shaky moving podium. And, you had to open a stubborn clip to get loose and walk down the stairs. I haven’t seen a strap before on those moving stage props, but perhaps it is because you are a minor still. Kudos to you for manhandling these obstacles. You still let your voice soar during this driving song that crescendos from start to finish. I’m not a vocal professor like Masterclass Lady, but I can see that you have learned some good habits in your training thus far and your voice shows it. It has character and depth, just like you.

Jena, you command the stage like an old pro. You know how to hold the gaze of the camera and the audience, whether you are sitting at the piano, standing singing. In the little time you’ve had to absorb these techniques, methinks you are simply a natural entertainer. By itself, that won’t do, but you also have the authentic connection to your audience. Even if you slide a wee bit into a flat note, you never let it throw you off. You have pluck and tenacity.

Be careful of your voice, Jena. You mentioned that you were all battling some illness. I could hear a strain in your voice, and while the beat and the electronic wizardry vie for top billing, you might have served yourself better by stripping down the a portion of the arrangement, switching into your head voice or falsetto. Blending the two interpretations would have allowed you to craft a song more your own. Did you see Angie Miller and the great Adam Lambert perform a stripped down version of Titanium? I would love to hear more of your head voice to contrast with your powerful chest voice. It would provide nuance to your performances. I know it is there as we heard it in your “Unbreakable Me.”

All in all, this was a strong number, Jena. With some tweaks to the arrangement and smoothing out the production, this could be a show stopper. B+

 “Heart Attack” by Demi Lovato

Wow! This is a difficult song to sing live, and you killed it. After re-listening to Demi Lovato’s original I am all the more impressed. In the studio, artists have the liberty of retakes and digital editing, but you showed you have the chops to punch out such obstacles live while maintaining your connection to your band, the live audience, and the camera. No subtle feat, my dear!

The thematic content of this song is perfect for a girl like you. Girls must stay strong and not depend on some boy, but yet we still fall in love, which means sharing fragile parts of ourselves. It’s a conflict, isn’t it? You were spot on in portraying this character. You played the strong woman by commanding the stage and your voice, but the abridged version of this song didn’t allow you to delve into the angst involved in revealing your brittle side. Demi does this in a middle eighth that uses acoustic guitar to contrast with the tough, electronic driving tone that dominates the song. You tried to do that in the beginning, but it wasn’t quite as effective. This is more a function of the amount of time you have to develop the lyrics and the music. Like a character, a song needs an emotional arc and some songs end too early. This was one of those.

I hope you will continue to work on your lower range because you are too soft. It is difficult to make out the lyrics. Often the soft parts have very important lyrics the audience needs to complete the meaning of a song. Don’t neglect them! Masterclass Lady has offered suggestions to many Idol singers on how to support their lower range and diction. Don’t be afraid to read them and seek out more help from your vocal coaches. You have a long summer of touring and need to preserve your voice with attention to technique. B-

“Creep” by Radiohead

I loved this song the first time you performed it, and I loved it this time, too. I am constantly amazed at the maturity of your

Michael Becker/Fox

Michael Becker/Fox

artistic choices and ability to connect with the lyrics.  It’s rare to find a teenager who has both enough empathy to connect with the lyrics and enough poise to convey the meaning. You have a willingness to bare your soul to the audience in order to share the fears and desires that define our human condition. You have also shown this ability in your own songwriting. I hope we see “Unbreakable Me” in the Finale! There was nothing wrong with this performance. In fact, it is everything that is right with American Idol. A+

Aside

Bucking Bronc Undergoes Colic Surgery

Some animal rights activists believe rodeo rough stock don’t get treated well. That’s hardly the case with Big Tex, 2010 Bareback Horse of the Year.

According to PRCA ProRodeo, Big Tex underwent colic surgery on Saturday night for a displaced colon, according to his veterinarian Dr. Grace Richter of Oakridge Equine Hospital in Edmond, Oklahoma. After three days of non-invasive treatments, the 14-year-old bay bucking champion was still in pain and was not producing enough feces. Richter kept Big Tex on IV fluids and attempted a rolling maneuver to reduce pressure on the equine star’s spleen and kidney.

Emergency Surgery

Travis Adams, the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo operations manager, shipped Big Tex the 45 miles from Edmond to Stillwater where he underwent surgery at the Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Chase Whitfield found an impaction in Big Tex’s colon, which he removed by injecting fluids into the colon. The blockage made its way out without having to open up the colon itself.

Recovery and Prognosis

Big Tex had been schedule to perform at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, but will need 4–6 months to recover completely. The horse holds the world record for the highest score—94 points—in 2010.Image

Colic Surgery Costs

According to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, surgery estimates can range from $2,800–$8,000. Often this is too large a budget for the average backyard horse owner. Owners of valuable performance horses usually insurance them through an equine-specific insurance company. Owners can also enter a care program like SmartPak’s ColiCare, which offers up to $7,500 of surgery reimbursement when you follow their supplement program.

Aside

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan …

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night

God said: “Let Newton be!” and all was light.

 Alexander Pope

I felt as though I were on a wingèd chariot, fingers flying across the keyboard writing to enlighten the medical masses like the goddess Eos, dawn, accompanying her brother Helios brightening the cloaked night sky. Then I came to methodology. Eos’ rosy fingers were left behind as Helios climbed in the cerulean sky and eventually sank into his golden cup in the west leaving behind Nyx, the night,  who drew a dark veil of mist summoned from the underworld over my eyes, blotting out the light. Neither Athena the goddess of wisdom nor Zeus, Olympians of wisdom and order, could draw me out of the miasma. Only I could save myself.

Mathematics. Statistics. Numbers. Symbols. Give me a foreign language to learn before you ask me when that sideways caret is indicating “less than” or “greater than.” I am beginning to think I have a math dysgraphia. Is this possible? I know in theory that the greater-less than sign is an alligator that chomps the smaller number, but what if there is only one number? For instance, consider the following sentence from one of my sources: “The interaction term was not significant (P >0.084) but was included in the model.”  The arrow looks to me as if it pointing up a number line so it would be read, “P is greater than 0.084.” But yet, the P is about to be chomped by the alligator, so I consider that P is smaller. Then doubt creeps in.  After all the chomp side is wider, so therefore it ought to be the “greater than” side.  Clearly, faulty reasoning, but meta-analysis of my thinking process doesn’t enlighten anymore.

To solve my processing disorder, I went to Amazon.com. As I typed in “statistics,” a list of option popped up below the search window. The first was “statistics for dummies.” I know that search engine optimization (SEO) is a science that now has its own appropriately-online journal (Search Engine Journal), but I’m starting to worry that Google Chrome can actually sense what I am writing here on Microsoft Word, sort of like the Fed looking directly into my wallet, rather than just into my bank account. (As if they’d find anything there …) Indeed, Andy Greenberg wrote for Forbes online that “Google … has the impact that Alan Greenspan once had on the financial markets.” Back to self-improvement, however, Amazon’s top five books for the search “statistics easy” are:

  1. Statistics The Easy Way (Barron’s E-Z)
  2. Statistics for Six Sigma Made Easy — Is “six sigma” a real thing or just a tongue twister?
  3. Medical Statistics Made Easy
  4. T
  5. he Complete Idiot’s Guide to Statistics
  6. Statistics in Plain English

 

            Under each title on Amazon, in the “Customer Who Bought This Item Also Bought …” was this common title: The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. Now that’s what I am talking about! The description reads, “If you have ever looked for P-values by shopping at P mart, tried to watch the Bernoulli Trails on “People’s Court,” or think that the standard deviation is a criminal offense in six states, then you need The Cartoon Guide to Statistics to put you on the road to statistical literacy.” At least it covers P values because clearly, given the model in the second paragraph, I need to know what it is. After yet another Google search, I found a couple scanned pages of said cartoon guide. While it appears that it could provide an overview, some insights, and humor, I do need to continue this quest to find my  Greek hero of statistics.

            Then I had an a moment of clarity. When I was taking some science prerequisites for an RN program, for which I am still on a long waiting list, I struggled with some of the math-based units. Chemistry was particularly difficult, and although doctor friends assured me that they, too, struggled, their admissions did little to assuage my anxiety. One day in chemistry lab while discussing the merits of burning VW magnesium-block engines in the desert wilderness, a lab partner suggested that I check out a series of video tutorials by a brilliant man named Sal Khan. “Khan Academy,” she said. “Conn Academy? Like UCONN?” I shook my head thinking of my alma mater. “No, ‘Khan.’ Like ‘The Wrath of Khan.” I doubtfully searched YouTube by “mole and khan” because the concept of a mole, as a unit of measure, was blinding me—like a … uh … mole. (I know. I know.) A boring black screen and colored scribbles appeared on the screen. It reminded me of those elementary black waxy drawing projects where you scratch off the surface to reveal rainbow colors underneath, but Sal Khan’s melodious deep British voice had me entranced at “Avogadro’s Number.” And I learned. The man’s ability to make something complicated seem simple should not be understated.

            Today I did a search on Khan Academy for P value. I watched an 11:33 second tutorial, and as a result, I understand that a P value has to do with probability. As I gather, in statistical hypothesis testing, the number represents the likelihood that a test statistic will be at least as extreme as the original one observed, given the null hypothesis—a default position. If the resulting mean is more extreme than generally one can reject the null hypothesis and validate the new hypothesis. Granted, I could not do the calculations, yet, but it is a start. Khan Academy sports about 80 videos in statistics ranging from Mean, Median, and Mode to ANOVA2—Calculating SSW and SSB. (HUH?)

            While the long-term solution is probably to take a statistics class, I think Khan and some cartoons may be able to shed some light on those darkest hours before dawn.

Leo THJA 2

This Old Horse

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I haven’t ridden in almost a month due to a summer sojourn back east and other various summer activities. This October I’m hoping to ride in the Grass Ridge Horse Trials in the Beginner Novice division. Now, while I’m neither a beginner or a novice rider, really, I haven’t jumped over 2’6″ regularly since I sold my old thoroughbred Nigel before moving to Tucson, AZ from Jacksonville, FL. Plus, both of us – the horse and me – are out of shape. He has an excuse, however; I do not.

This old horse I ride is twenty-four years old. Leo, formerly Feliks, was born the year I graduated from high school – 1988. He was born in Nebraska and raced only once at a two year old. His Jockey Club papers only say “finished” – no placing. That he wasn’t a speed prospect comes as no surprise. He is a very “chill” kind of guy. I’ve never seen him perturbed by anything. Alert -yes. Upset – no. Apparently, he was like this from the beginning. His first owner off the track, Heidi Young, was in college then, looking for a prospect to ride in the hunters. She loved his movement and his kind eye and brought him home to Colorado. He was coming three at the time. He was always ready to please, she remembers. He learned fast.

And he remembers all his lessons. Today, Leo is sound and happy. He could do any number of competitive disciplines competently and competitively. Last October, we were reserve champion in the modified adults (2’3 – 2’6″) at the Annual Tucson Hunter-Jumper Show (THJA). He is a lovely mover and was second in the hack. I’ve never had the opportunity to ride regularly a horse that is so broke on the flat, so getting a top ribbon in the hack was a first for me.  I was on Cloud 9 that day.

Leo Reserve Champion

Leo and I – Reserve Champion 2011 THJA Show

The competitive nature of this horse always stuns me. Leo is always up to the task whether it’s a gallop in the wash, negotiating a bank on cross-country, or putting in an ever-smooth hunter round.

Leo THJA 2

Leo and I – THJA 2011

I love the above picture because, a) it shows how enthusiastic he is about is job, and b) it doesn’t show my craptastic position.

Thanks to Leo’s owner, Nancy, I have the privilege and the pleasure of riding this horse. He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He is so drop-dead “made” – a horsey expression that basically means he knows the ropes. I could give Malcolm, my disabled son, a pony ride, take my non-horsey sister on a trail ride, and show him all in the same week. He keeps my heart and soul afloat.

Leo & Lindsay getting ready for a wash ride

I love him so much.

Leo Kisses

The Best

Cake Wrecks: At least it’s not a land war in Asia

Cake Wrecks is one of my favorite blogs. It seeks out, and laughs at, snort-worthy “professional cakes gone horribly, hilariously wrong.” Wrong in what way you ask? Everything from spelling mistakes, implosions, sad character representations, and, sometimes, pure grossness.

One of their all time greats is the Baby Carrot Jockey cake.

Carrot Jockey Babies

courtesy of Cake Wrecks

The entry from July 12th, At Least It’s Not a Land War in Asia, features some classic piping faux pas. Not that these bakers could spell that correctly.

Literally "Just Wedding Cake"

courtesy of Cake Wrecks

Check out Cake Wrecks. Let me know which cakes had you spurting coffee on the computer screen.

The road from Tucson to Sonoita

Greetings!

The road from Tucson to Sonoita

Welcome to my uncommon blog.

On March 7, 2005, my family of three was increased by a pound and a half. Not a kitten. Not a guinea pig. Or a pet rock. A baby. A ghost of baby, he was all translucence.

Seven years later and over 2,000 miles away, we endure.

Reflecting on what has been and looking forward to what will be, some of the subjects I enjoy musing upon are medicine, autism, disability, humor, family, education, photography, horses, literature, film, and Mr. Darcy, both the character and the dog.