My Friday Five: On Ansel Adams, Greg Olsen & The Return Of 'Idol'(?)

Photo: Chris White

1. Elizabeth Warren Silenced

This week, the U.S. Senate debated the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for attorney general. His nomination has come under heavy scrutiny, given past allegations of racism which ultimately sank his nomination for a federal judgeship by Ronald Reagan. According to NPR, Sessions admitted to making insensitive comments and calling civil rights groups like the ACLU "un-American." Per NPR, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) became the first sitting senator to ever testify against a colleague's nomination when he did so against Sessions last month. In his testimony, Booker cited concerns with Sessions' "commitment to defending minorities, the LGBT community and voting rights," according to NPR.

On the Senate floor Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was arguing in opposition to Sessions' confirmation. Warren then began to read a letter penned in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter was written in opposition to Sessions' aforementioned nomination to a federal judgeship. Warren was later interrupted by Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), saying she was in violation of a senate rule that disallowed impugning the character of a fellow senator. Warren was subsequently silenced altogether. Check out one of several videos on this here.

Are we living in the Twilight Zone? I swear I've never seen so much hypocritical antics coming from Republicans nowadays. It was McConnell himself who famously said, according to this article from The Washington Post, that the Republicans Party's job was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. He and most of his GOP counterparts continued this obstructionist strategy against Obama, coming to a head when they refused to even hold a hearing on Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. Something I don't recall seeing for a Supreme Court judgeship in my lifetime. I contacted McConnell's office regarding this foolishness but - surprise, surprise - no response. He doesn't care. Obviously.

2. Two Years Later

It's hard to believe that two years have gone by since Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor and Yusor's sister, Razan were so tragically taken from us. The three lived in Chapel Hill, all successful young adults. Deah graduated magna cum laude from N.C. State in May 2013 and was in his second-year of dental school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Yusor graduated cum laude from N.C. State in December 2014 - the same time I graduated - and was set to begin dental classes soon after. Razan was a sophomore at N.C. State, studying design and a member of the dean's list in 2014, as reported by ABC News. Their lives were savagely taken away, police charging Craig Stephen Hicks in connection with the shooting. Many believe it was a hate crime as Hicks, a Caucasian man, was a neighbor to the three Muslim victims, although police said there was an ongoing dispute between them.

In any case, this has been a sad situation all around. But the folks at Our Three Winners, a movement and foundation dedicated to the memory of Deah, Yusor and Razan, have done many great things to promote love and acceptance of all people since its inception. I invite you to check out the Our Three Winners site to see the great work that is being done and how you can get involved!

3. WPMOY

In case you're not hip to the sports world, the NFL Honors, an annual ceremony awarding NFL players on various achievements, aired Saturday before the Super Bowl. Carolina Panthers tight end, Greg Olsen, was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year (WPMOY) Award alongside Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald and New York Giants' quarterback, Eli Manning. The award recognizes not only accomplishments on the field but contributions to society outside of football. Each finalist has done tremendous work for their respective communities and all were deserving of the award. However, in a move that stunned many people including yours truly, the voting committee decided to award two finalists, Fitzgerald and Manning, saying it was a tie, which left out Olsen. I couldn't believe it when I heard what happened.

First off, the award is called Walter Payton MAN of the Year, not men. Second, in what logical world do you have three finalists and only award two of them? Either award one or all three, especially in this case. Now, I'm sure Olsen doesn't need a piece of hardware to validate the work with his foundation, Receptions for Research, and beyond, but it was still very disrespectful for him to be snubbed in that fashion when the award focuses on charitable works and making a difference in the world. It's a shame that it happened and I contacted the NFL as well as Nationwide Insurance, who sponsors the award, about it. No surprise, I have not heard back from the NFL as of this post but I did receive a response from Jim McCoy, Director of Sports Marketing at Nationwide. It reads:

"Thank you for your note regarding Greg Olsen and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. I completely agree with you that all three men were worthy of winning this special award recognizing them for their charitable efforts off the field and it is heart wrenching to see two or in this case one of the players not win. This was a unique situation that has actually occurred 2 other times in the awards 50+ year history. Once the nominees are narrowed from 32 players to three finalists, a smaller committee made up of Commissioner Goodell, The Payton Family, Ladanian Tomlinson, and John Lynch provide a score for each of the three players. 3 pts for first, 2 pts for second, and 1 point for third. Though a tie is possible, it is not probable but did occur based on how the committee voted. Nationwide will be partnering with Greg in the upcoming year to support his foundation’s efforts with Dale Jr. I am confident he will be back on stage at NFL Honors next year."

This statement doesn't change my opinion on the matter and, if you're as disappointed with this as I am, I encourage you to donate or get involved with Receptions for Research.

4. Return of Idol?

Is a return of American Idol on the horizon? According to multiple sources and reported by Variety, the reality singing competition show could be getting a revival on NBC. Since its final bow on FOX, Variety reports that Idol's producers at Fremantle have shopped it around to other networks in search of a revival. Per Variety, sources close to the discussions say NBC has been pitched a revival and officials are now "mulling options on how to integrate the show into its programming slate." One such option, according to the report, is to cut NBC's other reality singing show, The Voice from two seasons a year to one - but no deal of any kind has been met.

Idol ran on FOX from 2002 to 2016. During its heyday, it received a 12.4 rating among the coveted 18-49 demographic and 36.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen and as cited by Variety. Practically unheard of nowadays. After its peak, Idol experienced a decline throughout the years from 36.4 million viewers to 9.1 million in 2016, which is still indicative of a healthy show by today's standards. Despite that, FOX pulled the plug which, if you know me, infuriated me as an Idol superfan. This latest news has made me feel as giddy as a child on Christmas but I'll (try to) be cautious about my giddiness!

5. Ansel Adams Exhibit

Ansel Adams, one of our country's great photographers, is being celebrated at the North Carolina Museum of Art with a special exhibit. The exhibit, called Ansel Adams: Masterworks, showcases a selection of the photographer's great works throughout his life. You know that I, as a photography junkie, would love something like this so I checked it out. I couldn't take photos of the works inside the exhibit of course but, let me tell you, the pieces on display were magnificent. I studied a little of Adams' works while at N.C. State but the exhibit really opened my eyes to the sheer mastery he possessed. Some of the works included snippets detailing technical bits on how Adams was able to achieve the photo, which were interesting to read. Afterward, there was a store where I picked up a poster featuring one of his works, entitled  Moon and Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, California, 1927.

Ansel Adams: Masterworks runs through May 7 at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Click here for more details.

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