W.Va. ‘Voice’ contestant misses cut in ‘Knockout’ round

The Voice - Season 8

Beckley’s Cody Wickline performs “Til My Last Day” on Tuesday’s airing of “The Voice” on NBC.

Tuesday night marked the end of the road for Beckley native Cody Wickline on NBC’s singing competition, “The Voice.”

Having advanced through the audition and “Battle” rounds, Wickline was pitted against Corey Kent White in the “Knockout” segment between “team members” under the mentorship of country music star Blake Shelton.

Wickline performed Justin Moore’s 2013 hit “Til My Last Day” while White did a cover of Tim McGraw’s 2004 crossover smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Forced to choose between his two proteges, Shelton selected White to move on. Under the show’s format, other members of the celebrity panel — Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine — were free to pick up Wickline for their teams, but declined.

Following the Knockout round are the Live Playoffs and the final live performance segment, where the television audience votes for the winner who receives a recording contract. The show airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” makes a delightful debut

It’s been nearly three years since we cut the cable cord. After growing tired of never finding anything on TV, we cut our services back and now rely on Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime instant video. Thankfully, streaming services are stepping up their programming game with original shows that rival anything currently on network TV. Until this point however, with the exception of the fourth season of “Arrested Development,” we’ve seen mostly dramas promoted by streaming services such as “Orange is the New Black,” “Transparent” and “House of Cards.”

As dedicated binge watchers, streaming services satisfy our thirst to watch every episode of a show in one sitting. This past weekend, we worked our way through “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — an original comedy created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”) now streaming the entire first season on Netflix. The show stars Ellie Kemper (Erin on “The Office”) as Kimmy, Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”), Tituss Burgess and Carol Kane (“Taxi’). The show was originally scheduled to air on NBC, but the network passed, thereby widening the hole left by recent comedies such as “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.” The network that once boasted “Must See TV” and “Let’s All Be There” with classics such as “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends” no longer has a must-see lineup any day of the week.

From here, there are possible spoilers!

Screenshot/Courtesy Netflix Ellie Kemper's positivity is infectious as Kimmy Schmidt.

Screenshot/Courtesy Netflix
Ellie Kemper’s positivity is infectious as Kimmy Schmidt.

The show begins with the rescue of Kimmy and her fellow “Mole Women” from an underground bunker in Indiana. They had been held captive by Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) for 15 years after he claimed the Earth was scorched and desolate in the apocalypse. Instead of staying in Durnsville, Kimmy decides to try to make it on her own in New York City, where she quickly befriends a wanna-be Broadstar star (Burgess) who is making ends meeting by playing a generic Iron Man character in Times Square. She almost immediately finds a job babysitting/assisting Krakowski who repeatedly fires her in the beginning.

According to the Netflix press release, having survived 15 years in an underground bunker, Kimmy is “wide-eyed but resilient.” “Nothing is going to stand in her way.” Kemper’s positivity and naivety are endearing and she does a great job spearheading the series. Burgess, Krakowski and Kane are outstanding supporting players and Hamm makes a memorable turn as the cult leader.

Much of the humor is derived from Kimmy’s time in the bunker and her reactions acclimating herself to the world. The comedy deals with an uncomfortable and dark subject matter — we never really learn specifics of what happened to Kimmy in the bunker — she clearly still suffers PTSD and nightmares. But, she is determined to overcome her past and refuses to let Wayne control her anymore. Kimmy reminds me of a mix between Leslie Knope, Liz Lemon and of course, Erin Hannon. Despite her tragic past, she is optimistic and proves herself to be a true friend. Without the limits of network TV, I’m looking forward to seeing where the second season takes us.

Beckley boy advances on NBC’s ‘The Voice’

The Voice - Season 8

Cody Wickline, 20, of Beckley sings “How Country Feels” on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Beckley’s own Cody Wickline continued to impress entertainment pros on Tuesday’s installment of NBC’s primetime talent competition to advance on “The Voice.”

The judges named Wickline the winner of the head-to-head “Battle” segment where he pitted his performance chops against those of competitor Matt Snook as they alternated vocals on Randy Houser’s 2013 country hit “How Country Feels.”

Wickline’s professional “coach” on the show, country star Blake Shelton, complimented both singers, and said of Wickline, “You did a  great job coming out of your shell and having some fun out there. Your singing was perfect.” He then declared Wickline the winner of the evening’s competition.

The 20-year-old now advances to the “Knockout” round. The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays.

Paper-Thin Is Only An Improvement On Paper

I’ve been an Apple-holic for quite some time. Not just an Apple owner, but an addict. My 15 inch Macbook lasted me the lifetime of 3 Dells and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend in times of work and leisurely scrolls. My iPhone 4S was with as faithful as a family pet. Then, Steve Jobs passed away and Apple decided that improvements to their products were no longer necessary.
As a matter of fact, they decided to wreck their products. My Macbook passed away after more than five years of service. I ordered a 13” with retina display and a higher memory. When it arrived, I noticed it was extremely thin, which caused me to notice it no longer had a disc drive. Had they sent me an Air by mistake? No.
Not only was it thinner, the 13” screen was smaller than my wife’s 13” screen! I believe they rounded up. And the retina display? A completely worthless feature that I see no positive reason for. The Apple customer service was not only no help, they were less than stellar in answering questions, considering that we had just given them more than $1500 for a product that did not fail to disappoint.
Now, there’s a 12” that is being released with no fan (due to a low power core) and a single plug. The design comes in multiple color shades, which has lead me to believe that Apple is not only out of ideas, they just do not care anymore. Their goal is no longer to provide excellence or improvement for those of us who have relied on Mac for work, but to provide a throw-away model that offers no reason to remain loyal.
My fear, when I “upgraded” from the iPhone 4S to our current iPhone, was that the rumors of popping screens, power failures, app issues, notification problems that caused users to restart their phones constantly and other issues would cause the phone to be a worthless item by the end of its second year. Now, midway through the second year, I am ready to toss it and look at LG and Samsung.
I swore by Apple for the duration of my tech life. The simplicity and charm of the products they offered was a staple of why I loved them. I didn’t have to “learn” how to use anything because everything was natural and easy. If I pay enough for a product, I thought it would fit my needs naturally. For years, I was right.
My hope for the next upgrade period is that someone, anyone, will come out with a product that takes up where Apple left off in the last generation of products. Here’s what I want:
1. I don’t want to have to worry about malware, spyware, trojans, or other nonsense. Apple had this part right!

Quality isn't defined by how thin your product can be.

Quality isn’t defined by how thin your product can be.

2. I want speed and ease. I want to be able to watch a movie while doing my budget while running Facebook without worrying about my computer restarting.
3. I want to be able to purchase software discs, insert them into my laptop, burn music or movies, do my taxes, or add Photoshop without having to buy an external disc drive.
4. I want a full size laptop screen without paying $2000 for it. I’m not concerned about going to a coffeeshop and having a little laptop that fits snuggly on the table, or having something paper thin. I want a laptop that is sturdy, big enough to see, capable of me using for 18 hours a day while 5. I work, without hurting my eyes. The retina display does nothing. NOTHING!
6. Finally, I want something that will last. I want a product that is made like a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. Cubans still drive them today! If I replace it, I want it to be because I wanted to.
Apple has thousands of my dollars. Probably close to ten of those thousands. They exceeded my expectations for many years. A year of disbelief has made me realize that addiction is dangerous and I’m looking for help

Join us in #SilentNight2014

Soldiers play soccer during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Soldiers play soccer during the Christmas Truce of 1914

Tonight marks the 100th anniversary of the “Christmas Truce of 1914,” when English and German soldiers temporarily laid down their weapons on the battlefields of France to celebrate the holiday with their enemies.

The soldiers shared food and played games. They also sang together: the English and German voices joining in a song known to some as “Silent Night,” known to others as “Stille Nacht.”

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of this display of peace and goodwill, let’s join in the soldiers’ songs.

Musicians and singers, use a video camera or smartphone to record yourself playing or singing “Silent Night.” Upload that video to YouTube, then post it on Twitter or Facebook with the hash-tag #SilentNight2014,

We will collect your contributions in this blog tomorrow.

Musicians and singers of all skill levels are welcome to participate, and don’t worry about making some fancy video production. As with most things this time of year, it’s the thought that counts.

 

Bill Withers to join Rock Hall

withers-bill-5096d68b895a0West Virginia’s favorite soul star, Bill Withers, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The announcement came this morning.

The induction ceremony will be held April 18th, 2015 at the Public Hall in Cleveland, home of the Rock Hall. 

It is customary for inductees (if they are still living) to perform at the ceremony. Although Withers does not perform publicly anymore, he told Rolling Stone he is considering a special performance for the hall of fame induction ceremony.

In October, Withers was one of 16 artists and bands to be included in a public ballot to be inducted into the hall. He came in fourth.

(The Rock  and Roll Hall of Fame selects its inductees through a ballot process. The artists who receive the most votes are inducted into the hall, with usually five to seven artists added each year. Most of those votes come from members of the music industry, but in recent years, fans have also been allowed to vote.)

 

Do you have a favorite ornament?

Nutcracker_christmas_ornament

Every Christmas tree has a story to tell, and the Daily Mail wants to hear your tree’s story.

From now until Dec. 17, we are collecting stories and pictures of your favorite ornaments.

It might be an antique glass orb handed down from your grandparents, or a tree topper your parents purchased when they were still newlyweds.

Maybe it’s a candy-cane reindeer or a clothespin Christ child one of your children made in Sunday school.

Snap a close-up photo of the ornament — preferably while it’s hanging on your tree — and write a few sentences about how it came into your family.

There are a few ways to get your submissions to us. You can email your photos and stories to life@dailymailwv.com, or shoot us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

If you prefer ink and paper, you can mail your submission to Memorable Ornaments, Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301.

We will review every entry and pick the best ones for publication in our Christmas Eve newspaper on Wednesday, Dec. 24.

The submissions also will be published on memorableornaments.tumblr.com.

A story to warm your cold, cynical heart

O.HenryYesterday was the 109th birthday of O. Henry’s famous short story “The Gift of the Magi.” It was originally published in The New York Sunday World on Dec. 10, 1905.

All these years later, it remains a holiday classic and is one my all-time favorite pieces of writing. If you’ve never read it, reward yourself a few minutes. And if you’ve read it many times, like me, read it anyway.

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.” The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

Click here to read the rest of the story.