Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sexy Is as Sexy Does

The ConCLAYve: Sex, Sexy and Sex on a Stick

The ConCLAYve's latest blog, linked above, has made me think about how the characteristic of being "sexy" is so very subjective. Many people, even some fans, just don't see in Clay what so many other of his fans do see.

Even Clay himself doesn't see it, often saying "I don't get it, I just don't get it!" I think he's starting to get it though, don't you?

Well, here's one Claymate's opinion.

While research proves there is power in physical "attractiveness," the art of being sexy is not solely about the physical attributes of a person. Or, the wardrobe choices of a masterful stylist. Or a hot new haircut, for that matter. Neither is it about broad shoulders, long legs, smoldering looks, or a nice backside.

OK, maybe a little bit.

To this Claymate however, sexiness is a more abstract concept.

Here's what is sexy to me. A person who looks you straight in the eye - inordinately sexy.

Approachability. By this, I don't mean invading someone's personal boundaries, but rather, a person with which you feel you could have a fun conversation, someone who would make you feel comfortable. A man who imparts warmth and compassion for others, especially others less fortunate, is very sexy.

Intelligence, or at least awareness of what's going on in the world; a person who can challenge me, provide stimulating conversation, and, even debate a little bit - that's very pleasing. Maybe he's a little competitive, but not annoyingly so.

Remember that "really nice guy," with a "great personality" your friends always wanted you to meet? Remember how that usually meant a guy that may be lacking a little in the "looks" department? Well, I usually liked those guys. Because they were nice, and they did have a great personality.

There is nothing worse than meeting a guy whose very visage makes your insides twingle, then finding out he is dumber than a stick. Trust me, I dated those guys. And, I've learned from friends who are fortunate enough to have those wonderful, long, happy marriages, the wisdom of marrying a man who is kind, thoughtful, and compassionate, and who gives good conversation.

Creative, artistic people are often moody, awkward, and come off as tongue tied misfits when in public situations. Some are dumber than a piece of cardboard. So believe me when I say: personality is paramount!

Speaking of compassion, there is nothing sexier than a man who thinks of others before himself, who has an innate desire, a need even, to do good deeds, to help others. Heart achingly sexy.

A great sense of humor is important, and any man who makes me laugh is someone I'm automatically drawn to. A man who often laughs at himself, even better. And a man who is ticklish? Well, just imagine the possibilities.

Talent. A person who is confident in their talent is incredibly attractive, but arrogance...not so much. There is a big difference. Every one of us has a talent of some type. It may be in sculpting, drawing, dancing, or singing. For some of us, our talent is less obvious. One of the sexiest men I ever knew was once my best friend. His talent was in being a friend. Whatever the gift, in yourself, or in others; find it, embrace it, and most of all, respect it. That's sexy.

But when all is said and done, the sexiest man on earth to me is one who keeps his heart open when it comes to receiving love, and keeps his mind open when it comes to giving love.

Really, it's not too much to ask - is it?

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Soap Me Up Clay!

Claymates, take note: Your guy is now a soap opera star.

Clays of our Lives.

Clay Aiken Gets Soapy.

Aiken to Sing on Days of Our Lives, Officially Marking the Slowest Days of the Year. (Huh?)

Attention Claymates! Clay Aiken will perform on NBC’s ‘Days of our Lives’

What, like only Claymates would want to hear Clay sing? Honey, please.

This is just a sampling of the recent headlines from entertainment news pages around the world, linked at over 100 sites on Yahoo at this writing, and found in every single Yahoo and Google news alert for the past week, and mentioned on every entertainment show, national and local.

What could be so mind blowingingly important to rate such publicity? A presidential appointment? A UNICEF trip?

A new album?

None of the above. The event that is garnering all this publicity is the taping of a single appearance on a daytime soap opera. In fact, it rivals the publicity that swirled around us before and after the AI5 surprise party featuring Clay's New Hairstyle.

Don't get me wrong; it's great when Clay Aiken gets good publicity of any kind. But when the PR for a new haircut and a soap opera performance overshadows anything that has been printed about his recent presidential appointment to the Committee for Individuals with Disabilities, and his trips to Africa and Banda Aceh for UNICEF, not to mention his brand new, beautifully produced showcase of pop love songs from the past twenty years or so, which opened in the number two spot behind the ubiquitous Justin Timberlake, and which has sold over 350,000 copies in just four weeks, well, that just ain't right my friends.

The obsession with such pop culture frivolities as haircuts and soap operas (not to mention sexuality) is a sign to this Claymate that something is amiss in our society.

Now, I'm no stick-in-the-mud, far from it. Nor am I a prude. (Very far from that.) I'm sure the pop culture obsession that is rampant right now has something to do with fantasy, escapism, denial, and possibly even politics.... but I'm not tackling it at this time.

Maybe later though.

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Clay and His Fans Are Making a Difference

American Idol Fans Have Fun, Building Lasting Friendships While Helping Others.

(PRWEB) October 25, 2006 -- Cure diabetes; help bring peace to northern Uganda; help kids go to school; send candy to troops in Iraq; check on caregivers and people who live alone; or how about build a new wing for a children's hospital?

These are just some of the efforts that American Idol fans have supported, not only on behalf of their favorite Idol, but simply because they can pool their enormous well-organized resources together to make a difference.

The list of fortunate charitable programs who have received contributions from this rapidly growing fan base includes well-known organizations such as UNICEF, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, The Children's Hospital and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as newer organizations which have benefited from awareness and contributions such as the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, GuluWalk, CheckOnMe.org and others.

Many celebrities have put their names and visibility to work for the causes they support, but what makes this network of givers stand out is their passion for being part of a nation of tightly bonded fan-friends. American Idol fans are not on board because they are star-struck, but because they identify with someone who was just like them or like the people they know in their hometowns, families, schools, at work and places of worship. The exuberance that these supporters embrace from rallying around the lucky few contestants who become finalists for the American Idol reality TV phenomenon is unlike any other magic they have experienced in their lives in a long time.

When Clay Aiken was on American Idol, his fans began making contributions to the AE Finley YMCA in Raleigh, where Clay worked during the summer camps. They also sent money on his behalf to the Autism Society of NC, in honor of his work with a child with autism while in college.

The following information is from the news blog at Claymaniacs News Network.

In 2004, Clay participated in the "Arthur: Stories for Heroes” audio book, with proceeds benefiting the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and other children’s charities.

Also in 2004, Clay performed with Heather Headley at the Children & Families Initiative of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids event in New York City. There was recently a poster from that event, autographed by Clay and other participants, for sale on eBay in continued support.

A shirt and tie worn by Clay during his Summer 2004 Tour was auctioned in December 2004 in support of YouthAIDS, an action-based global initiative working in over sixty countries to educate and protect young people from HIV/AIDS. It brought over $2,400.

In support of the 2004 Give a Hand program, benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities, Clay's handprints in cement were auctioned for $15,099.

Clay is a national ambassador and spokesman for UNICEF, which advocates and places a high priority on AIDS education and protection of children’s health around the world.

In 2005, his participation in Kenneth Cole’s “Clothes Off Our Back” charity raised over $27,000 in support of UNICEF and other charities.

Early in 2006, Clay joined Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, Dustin Hoffman and other stars on "NBC for Tsunami Relief." The benefit raised more than $10 million nationally.

In addition, he served as 2005 national spokesperson for UNICEF's Trick or Treat campaign, 2004 national spokesperson for the Toys For Tots campaign, and supported Youth Service America, the Make A Wish Foundation, Best Buddies, and so much more.

In 2003, Clay formed his own foundation. The Bubel/Aiken Foundation was created in order to bring awareness to issues of inclusion. Their mission is to “provide services and financial assistance to facilitate the full integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of those without.” His heart was bound to the issue of inclusion when, while working at the YMCA, he learned there were no means to allow children with special needs into the camp programs.

I'm sure there's more. But think about this - the success of the fundraising spearheaded by Clay was really due to his fans, the Claymates, Claydawgs, Claymaniacs - Clay Nation. Many celebrities realize their position of power and influence and make use of it for the good of society. Kudos to all that do.

But for these young, fresh faced artists, flush with the initial glow of success, to enter into their careers with one foot on the concert stage and the other in mainstream altruistic endeavors, speaks to what could possibly become a new era of meaningfulness in the music industry.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the next big format would include music that inspires the human spirit to action; to do good work, to affect positive change, to use our voices for more than just a song. To do things not normally imaginable by man.

Not like contemporary Christian music, which is often beautifully uplifting spiritually, but more a call to action.

I dream of a day when we can turn on the radio and hear music that inspires us to believe in each other, trust one another, help one another. Music that teaches us how to come together in the spirit of love, forgiveness and caring.

I know that music exists now. Why do we not hear it? I want more. Am I the only one?

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Power of Nice

Be nice. It often makes people wonder what you are up to.

The current issue of Image magazine features an interview with Michael Orland. According to his website, Michael is is currently the Pianist, Arranger and Associate Musical Director for American Idol. He also worked with Clay in creating the arrangements and setlist for his 2005 Jukebox Tour.

During the course of the interview, writer Dianne Austin asked Orland about working with Clay Aiken.

"I think Clay's new, great look is indicative of what is about to break for his future. He'll be hitting the music scene with fresh material in a big way. He's just got it - he's that talented and that different."

"Clay is one of the most giving and generous performers I've ever known. When I worked with him on his Jukebox Tour it became particularly evident. I have never seen a performer in my life who can share the spotlight as easily and genuinely with other talented people like he does and feel so unthreatened by it. That can only come from a feeling of complete security about who he is as a performer - it's one of the things that make him unique."

As is typical in any fanbase, the interview spread throughout Clay Nation, and as a result, many thoughtful fans and Claymates sent thanks to Michael for expressing such kind sentiments about their favorite singer.

A fan reported this message from Michael, in regards to all the love coming his way.

"I love all the E-mails I'm getting with people THANKING me for the nice things I said about Clay - it's so great. But I do say the things I say because I think he's a HUGE talent - and a great guy - and I don't care what the critics say or do - the PEOPLE speak, and they know...and Clay will be a huge talent and will be around for a LONG LONG time cuz he's that good.
Take care."

If you would like to thank Michael for his kind words about Clay, you can leave him a message on his website, linked above.

Regardless of what the media would have us think, some of the nicest people in the universe are citizens of Clay Nation. I've read and heard story after story of the kind and generous actions of the fans of Clay Aiken.

Do you have a story? Please share it.

I think it would be lovely to have all those stories together, in one place. And no one has to buy a book in order to see them.

You never know who might be reading.

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fan Baiting 101

They think they are so smart. HA!

Ex.1 From a review of Clay's friend Ruben Studdard's new CD release:

"But when he sticks to songs that complement his individuality, Studdard has no problem maintaining his position as Idol royalty.

Take that, Claymates."

"Take that, Claymates?" Take what? A favorable comment about Clay's friend Ruben Studdard? Sure, I'll take that, no problem. It's not like it's a knife in the back after all, since Clay and Ruben are friends. The writer's comment is flawed in that there is nothing wrong with what he said about Ruben, therefore there is nothing for the Claymates to "take."

Ex.2 From a music reviewer about to review Clay's friend Ruben Studdard's new CD release:

"WARNING: This column mentions Clay Aiken, and not in a favorable light. So if you're a Clay-mate, you might want to skip to the sports section and read a story about some world-class athlete like Marco Scutaro. The warning is really more for my benefit than for the Clay-mates. Misguided as they may be in regard to their singer, they are undeniably passionate fans. Whenever I write about him, usually in a less-than-flattering manner, I get bombarded with e-mails from irate fans. Nobody sends e-mails like a Clay Aiken fan. But I hope those e-mails will be countered by supporters of other acts in today's new releases column. The top of the class includes Sarah McLachlan, Vince Gill and Diddy. Read on — look for the Aiken reference if you'd like — as I cruise through the latest batch of new records. "

Wow. There are no less than FIVE mentions of Clay and/or "Clay-mates" in this paragraph; and he hasn't even got to the reviews yet. And none of the reviews are for Clay's album either, in fact, the column is not about Clay at all. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, it almost seems as if he is using those Clay mentions to get us to read his article. The article that isn't about Clay. What's up with that?

I'll tell you what's up with that, and the other example as well. These two recent mentions are prime examples of fan baiting, or "Bait the Mates."

What is fan baiting? When a writer makes a random negative comment for the express purpose of garnering a response, and no other reason, that is baiting.

It's also the standard behavior of a bully. Both writers are practically begging for responses from Clay fans. The question is: Why?

Here's why. Power. Control. Because they fancy themselves the puppetmasters and we, when we acknowledge, are their puppets. I'm not a professional writer, but I do know one thing - all writers want to know they are being read. And, most writers want to know they have affected the reader in some way.

(For example, I love when you leave a comment. But, if you don't, that's OK too, because I know from the page views that lots of people are reading. And by the way, thank you!)

Writers who make critical comments about Clay in articles that have nothing to do with him, do it for one reason, and that is to get a response; to push our buttons, yank our chains, and pee in our Cheerios.

Writers for online publications must justify themselves in order to be relevent. One way to do this is to increase web traffic to their page. Did you know that a well known Internet gossip monger used Clay's fans to launch his career? It's true, and here's how - by making derogatory comments about Clay on his gossip site, he incited the Claymates into a fury unlike any ever seen.

The fans stormed his website in order to defend Clay's honor, others showed up just to witness the train wreck; all of which increased web traffic to the point where he could then begin to actually sell advertising space on his site. Before which, he was a struggling blogger, being sued by a legitimate print publication for violating their copyright.

Now he has a widely read gossip site, guests on entertainment TV programs, and is basically a member of the Hollyweird jet set. He actually thanked the Claymates in an interview.

The results of the storming of the site? Nothing. He still makes insulting comments about Clay, and he's richer for it.

Here's the thing; a very wise singer from Raleigh once said he "chooses his battles." I think he knows what he's talking about, so I hereby resolve to follow his lead and do just that, and in doing so, I will be dealing these baiters the very punishment they deserve for their bullying behavior -

I will ignore them.

Trust me, they will hate being ignored. It will hurt them much more than an insulting email from a defensive Claymate. From now on, I'm following Clay's lead. I'm saving the big guns for the real battles, the important ones, not some pissing match with some obscure critic who means nothing to Clay, or to me.

I know it's difficult not to speak to a perceived verbal injustice, but I will consider the source in the future, and preserve my energy for the times when it's truly important to do so, not every time some hipper-than-thou critic randomly tosses Clay's name into the mix like so much loose change.

It seems much easier when I think of Clay's own words...."choose your battles." I will choose more wisely in the future, and both Clay and myself will be better for it.

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006

How it All Begn Part 1

There are two things I love about Clay Aiken. Beyond the obvious of course.

One – his determination to be a person of worth. I guess you could call it stubbornness. The man is bound and determined to have purpose in his life; whether he becomes one of the world’s greatest recording artists and humanitarians, or the beloved principal of some charter school in Podunk, North Carolina.

Or both.

Two - his way of inspiring such passion and emotion, both good and bad, in so many people. Ones who claim to not like him seem to know every little obscure thing about him, from exact quotes in his interviews to who grooms his dogs. And some of those who love him, whatever their reasons, believe with their full heart that he inspires them to be better people.

A person with the power and opportunity to affect change, who also has the ability to inspire passion, and action; a person with these qualities may be threatening to some people. Sure, he's polarizing, and has been since Idol. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. More on all this later.

There has probably been a mention of Clay in some type of media every day for the past three years. Some are random and totally unrelated to him, except in principle. His name has become synonymous with the idea that “second place is sometimes better.” He is the Avis Rent a Car of current pop culture consciousness.

People, in general, are interested in him; if not his music, just the idea of him. Clay especially fascinates the media. They don’t seem to understand why, which creates a sort of subconscious resentment in some, resulting in many of those mentions being negative in tone. Clay is different, and interesting. He is different because he is succeeding while in defiance of standard celebrity norms. He is interesting because he cannot be labeled.

With his recent stance of refusing to respond to questions about his personal life, he has made himself even more intriguing.

It must be exasperating to those who feel they must always have their finger on the pulse of pop culture, even while dismissing most of it by lazily slapping a label on everything and everyone in the public eye. Some throw around labels like so much rice at a wedding. “Geek, elfin, mama’s boy, crooner,” the media declares. But somehow, those epithets fall short, and are laughable even, because we know he is really more.

Clay Aiken must be a source of frustration for those who believe all things can and must be labeled. For some, if it can’t be labeled, it must not be good. And that must be conveyed to the masses; the unwashed, unhip, middle American, adult female masses.

Using more labels while doing so; such as "blue haired," "teenybopper," "nostalgic moms," and other unoriginal descriptives. As I said in DMCI, the media sometimes appears to be as or more interested in the fans than the fans are in Clay.

People don’t always “get” Clay. Even some fans can’t explain their devotion. Even he doesn’t get why people like him. I’m pretty sure he realizes people love his voice. There are some who respect his humanitarian endeavors, others who admire how he deals with adversity. He is informed, funny, confident, thoughtful, and talented. He has purpose. He makes people happy, or inspires them. There isn’t one answer, and that’s OK. Not all questions in life have only one answer.

The critics often go beyond the pale of just reviewing the music. They are somehow compelled to also review his origins, his looks, and even his fans. Often, I have to laugh at some of the reviews. But that's another blog.

Then there are those who don’t understand why others like him. Especially the ones who are the antithesis of what he is about, or who don’t know anything about him except his surface.

Or perhaps they see in him what is missing in themselves.

On American Idol, Clay refused to label himself. Letting the stylists on the show mold him to their will (except for the unfortunate demand that his freckles be covered,) he stood tall in the face of weekly diatribes from Simon (which included, yes, labels, such as "Broadway".) His strategy in the competition seems to have been allowing America to ascribe onto him their own notions of an “idol." A good strategy perhaps, but it fell short.

Or perhaps it was really the logistics of American Idol voting that fell short. You can only put so much water into a bucket, or so many phone calls onto the phone lines, before you lose some in the overflow. Just a theory.

His role from the very beginning was that of underdog. He lost his first audition, so he tried again. He lost the first round, but America brought him back. He did not win the title of “American Idol,” coming in second to his friend Ruben, but he did seem to win the hearts of America.

Enter the Claymates.

To be continued - feedback is welcome.

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

© touchstone 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

TV Guide Channel Presents: Clay Aiken - Up Close

Next up in the brilliantly conceived promotional campaign for his fabulously beautiful CD, A Thousand Different Ways... a TV Guide Close Up special.

(That's snark by the way, about the promotion anyway; the part about the CD is truth. What? You don't think it's fabulously beautiful? Well, that's another blog.)

The TV Guide network is airing an hour long program next weekend called "Clay Aiken: Close Up." They say it includes a "whole new sit down interview" and the promo footage shows some as yet unseen video of Clay at his last TV Guide cover shoot. That would be the one that brought us this most swoon-worthy photo.

But some who viewed their Kelly Clarkson Close Up said it contained some non-flattering commentary by some alleged "comedians" and tabloid types. You know what? I have no desire to see anything like that. I get enough crap and lies just by watching the nightly news, know what I mean? For that reason, I am not going to get all fluttery and say this one is "must see Clay TV!!"

Instead, like a good Clay fan, I will withhold judgement until I see it with my own eyes.

Eyes wide open.

But, if it's craptastic, I vow NOT to write TV Guide and tell them what meanies they are, that they owed him more since he helped sell so many magazines for them. No, I will not do that. Why? Not because they are not meanies, but because it's what they expect, it's what they WANT. I'm not playing.

However, if it's a nice retrospective of his career up to now, I WILL write to them and sing their praises and thank them profusely. From the bottom of my Clay lovin' heart. I may send them cookies even.

I resolved long ago to always focus my karmic energy and personal power on the positive, and to ignore the negative. Because goodness and humor and positive energy deserve to be recognized. Positive energy begets positive energy.

And the meanies, who crave the attention their negative energy pathetically begs for, deserve to be IGNORED. Because they are nothing to me, and not worthy of my time nor my energy.

Here's the link, which is actually quite cute. That Clay, he is such a motor mouth. And his feet are freakin' huge man!

Clay on TV Guide - Close Up

What do you think about the promo, will you be watching, and if the program is good, will you make a promise to write TV Guide and thank them?

touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated

©touchstone 2006