Leah Shafer: Paula Abdul She Is Not!

A really great talent finds its happiness in execution – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ImageLike most people, I spent my Sunday watching the NFL Playoffs. After all the great plays and the wild interviews, the most memorable event was the singing of the national anthem at the AFC Championship game.

The singer who performed the national anthem at the Denver / New England game did an incedible job. I was blown away by the performer’s range. Her rendition was respectful and powerfully delivered. While she was singing, I mistook her as Paula Abdul. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to make that mistake; an Instagram post by David Spade attributed the singing to Ms. Abdul too. We were both wrong. Image

Following the game, I had a nagging feeling that I was incorrect about the singer’s identity. She really impressed me, and there was something about how she carried herself that set her apart from Abdul. Her performance radiated charm and projected style; furthermore, she had a wholesomeness that is missing from so many celebrities. Since I missed her introduction, I had to do some research to find out who this singer was.

I managed to locate a YouTube clip that gave me her name, but it took a little extra time to find out more information about her. As of this writing, the mystery singer has no Wikipedia entry, but she does have a Facebook Fan Page (only 228 followers), a Twitter feed (200 followers), and a website. She’s a devoted Christian, wife, and mother. Her name is Leah Shafer.

Shafer is a talented individual with an interesting background. Her website states, “In High School, she was chosen as ‘Best Alto’ for the California All-State Choir.” She has traveled internationally as the “main soloist of ‘The Young Americans’”; a non-profit organization and performing group based in Southern California. She’s a three-time winner of “Destination Stardom” (A PAX-TV version of Star Search) and was featured on NBC’s “The Singing Bee”.

Despite her accomplishments, she is virtually unknown to the general pubic. This is sure to change given her performance at the AFC Championship game. All things considered, I’m guessing her obscurity will not last due to her stunning recital of the national anthem. It was nice to see a decent hardworking artist get some well-deserved attention. A Crow’s View wishes her and her family the best.


A Christmas Carol For Everyone

IMG_1562“I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant”– Charles Dickens, December 1843

I have always enjoyed the Holidays. It starts with Halloween then Thanksgiving, which quickly turns into the yuletide season. Each has a distinctiveness that holds a special meaning, but Christmas is the most singular of the three.

Christmas, more than any other Holiday, is celebrated worldwide. As December 25 approaches, anticipation builds and electricity fills the air. People observe various yuletide festivities and traditions. Both rich and poor celebrate the season.

For Christians (all denominations), Christmas is the observance of the birth of their savior. It is a time to rejoice in God’s benevolence and compassion. The season is a solemn period that is marked by worshiping God through song and praise.

On the other hand, despite being steeped in religious dogma, those with a secular view of Christmas see it as an institution worthy of celebration. Its principles of peace, charity, and goodwill are noble aspects for civil society.

In both cases there is a valid reason for people to revel in the Christmas season. A particular charming part of Christmas is the many traditions people observe. For me, I always look forward to watching A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens’ classic tale about a crotchety oldScreen Shot 2013-12-21 at 10.39.30 PM miser, Mr. Scrooge, and his reclamation.

What I like most about A Christmas Carol is its ability to bridge opposing interpretations on Christmas. For instance, people of different political or religious views will agree with Jacob Marley’s simple declaration, “the common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business…” (A Christmas Carol, 52) . Marley’s statement doesn’t just set the tone for the narrative; it forges a connection with readers and viewers. In a broader sense Marley completely captures the core of the yuletide season, if not the magic of Christmas.

Marley’s statement isn’t the only time a Dickens’ character expresses an idea that is universally accepted. An earlier conversation between Scrooge and his nephew Fred has a similar effect. Scrooge’s nephew states, “I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time…when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely…” (A Christmas Carol, 23). Like Marley’s declaration, Scrooge’s nephew touches upon a topic that is easily agreed upon and shared by readers and viewers.

Dickens’ genius is his ability to relate A Christmas Carol to virtually everyone. His story simply plays upon societies’ desire to see cold-hearted individuals find their humanity, while it reaffirms each individual’s view of the meaning of Christmas.

Christians associate Scrooge’s redemption as a value that is rooted in their doctrine, while the secularists see his transformation as a realigning of his ethical framework. Each group is equally pleased when Scrooge changes his ways and join the community. People are delighted that their view of the season is (seemingly) endorsed. The brilliance of how Dickens uses his characters to accomplish this feat is remarkable.

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has withstood the test of time. It has undergone countless reproductions and remakes; yet, the core message always shines through. If you haven’t read the original book, then do so. If you prefer to watch a film, I suggest the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. In my opinion, it’s the best.

Some other nicely done versions are the classic 1935 picture, staring Seymour Hicks, and the 1951 film, starring Alastair Sim, are fantastic too. All three of these titles are offered on YouTube.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

A Christmas Carol

1935 Film

1951 Film

1984 Film

1935 YouTube Film

1951 YouTube Film

1984 YouTube Film

Pope Francis: A new era

An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.Pope John Paul II

I’m not catholic, but I do find it interesting when a new person ascends to the throne of the Catholic Church. The rituals and customs of the selection are fascinating. A new Pope brings a new seal and most likely a new direction. It will be interesting to see where Pope Francis will take the 1.2 billion believers.

The election of Pope Francis provided lots of fodder for the TV viewing audience. It’s hard to believe that in a secular world this process dominated the media the way it did. I can only conclude that the Catholic Church is still relevant and going strong after 2000 years and 266 different pontiffs. The Pope and the seal may change, but the church’s message remains the same. It’s no wonder that the catholic church has endured as long as it has.

One word of caution. The Catholic hierarchy needs to address the recent scandals in a manner far different than the papal conclave. The process needs to be transparent and quick. Hopefully the new Pope, who cherishes the poor and disenfranchised the way Cardinal  Bergoglio did, will translate into action. If the new Pope deracinates the corrupt priests and cardinals who protected the perpetrators of children, then his accession to the popacy will truly be worthy of worldwide adoration.