REVIEW: Does ‘Rising Star’ have enough star power to keep fans?

Now that the latest singing competition, ABC’s ‘Rising Star, has premiered, the question is: Will it last?

The answer: I hope so, but I’m not sure.

The concept of the show is unique — people download and use the “Rising Star” app to vote in favor or against each contestant. The results are instantaneous. If a contestant receives at least 70 percent of the support, a large digital wall is raised (#RaiseTheWall) and the contestant moves on to the next round of the competition. If they don’t, they pack their bags and go home.

During Sunday night’s premiere, six contestants made it through. Four were sent packing. During the next two weeks (Yes, the shows will still be two hours long), America will be introduced to 20 more contestants who will audition and hope to #RaiseTheWall. From there, the competition turns into head-to-head duels, quarterfinals, semifinals and then the August finale. How will the later parts of the show work? We weren’t told that yet, but I assume contestants will sing and have to get 70 percent of the vote.

My concerns:

How were these 10 people selected to audition during the premiere? In the weeks leading up to the show, there were several commercials asking people to send in 15-second clips via Instagram. However, I didn’t see any of those clips in the stories, nor an figure on how many people actually applied to be considered for the auditions. Not to mention, the “surprise” audition by Macy Kates couldn’t have been any more planned. During Sarah Darling’s performance Paisley said the had “mutual” friends. Coincidental? Could be, but I’m sure it raised a eyebrow or two with the viewers.

– The experts (judges) are still trying to find their places. Ludacris was an animated, arrogant jerk during the premiere. Perhaps, the energy and atmosphere got the better of him. However, I thought his animated full-body “thumbs downs” (while the contestant’s parents are sitting a mere 30 feet away) was a bit classless. As for Kesha, she’s going to be the “Paula Abdul” of this judge’s panel. I’m not sure she offered any relevant piece of advice to any contestant. And, although I’m a huge fan, Brad Paisley just looked uncomfortable. People don’t want to listen to the experts talk for a 2-3 minutes, but feel free to give the singer 10-30 seconds of solid advice.

Why so many commercials? This was probably the biggest complaint of the show on social media. Those who tuned into the show were forced to watch several commercials after every. single. performance. Like other blogs have mentioned, with 10 90-second performances that’s 15 minutes of actual singing time. It was a two-hour premiere. Commercials and awkward banter filled the remaining 105 minutes.

East Coast vs West Coast? The show is aired live for those living in Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones. Those viewers vote in real time. However, those on the West Coast, also vote in “real time” during the show’s playback. But, as Groban said at the end of the premiere, those votes can be used to “save” an act that the East Coast viewers sent home. We’ll have to wait and see how that unfolds.

Will the novelty wear off? During the show, Groban said the “Rising Star” app had reached its millionth download. So, that means at least one million people have the ability to vote during each performance. But remember, if you don’t “check in” before a performance, you can’t vote. And if you do check in, but don’t vote, it’s automatically counted as a “no” vote. The United States has over 300 million people. The other singing shows boast their voting numbers near the 5-,6-,7-,8-,9-,10 million range. Will people continue to download and use the app to vote, or will they simply just delete the app and tune in for the performances?

Considering this was the show’s first night, it opened and closed without any major technical glitches. The app worked. The votes were instant. Perhaps as the week goes on, the show will address these issues so next week’s show doesn’t feel so long, the judge’s banter is constructive and tightened, while also better explaining how the competition will progress.

Bloodhound: Phoenix startup hopes app will help locate missing persons faster

A group of entrepreneurs in Phoenix will soon be beta testing a new application that could be used to help keep track of individuals most vulnerable to going missing — the elderly.

The application, Bloodhound, is designed to work with a small Bluetooth enabled device that is to be worn by the individual. This can be placed in a pocket, a wallet, on keys or a necklace.

Project spokesman Andrew Jones said the app does not actively track or monitor a person’s whereabouts, but is designed to help locate an individual quickly after being reported missing.


California company raises over $200,000 to build autonomous drone

A California company has created a personal drone that flies without a pilot or a controller.

The AirDog is the “world’s first autonomous personal action sports drone,” according to its company, Helico Aerospace Industries US LLC based in Palo Alto, Calif.

The flying drone takes off, lands and can follow you using a wristband worn by the user.

The company’s Kickstarter campaign has raised over $235,000, significantly more than it’s goal of $200,000.

“It took 285 believers to make our dream come true. You have made the right choice. We are now inspired to keep on innovating to make AirDog the most useful and intelligent personal drone system out there,” the company wrote on it’s kickstarter page.


BLOG: Why fostering puppies and kittens is not as fun or easy as it sounds (but I wish it was!)?

ImageSo, you’ve thought about partnering with your local animal shelter to be a foster parent for adorable puppies and kittens. That is fantastic and you truly have a kind, selfless heart. Here’s the big question, “Are you really prepared for it?”

Let’s get the hard part out of the way, it’s not easy. It’s not always fun either.

“I know that. I can handle it,” you say. You think you can handle it. You absolutely believe you can handle it, too. Come on, what’s so difficult about playing with and loving an adorable kitten every day?

I thought the exact same thing. Have you thought about the time, dedication and work that goes into it. I mean really thought about it. It’s not just about filling a bowl with water or food each morning and night, or scooping the litter box twice a week. It’s really about altering your lifestyle completely — turning your daily routine 180 degrees.

You have to be willing to accept that.

I’m not trying to deter anyone from thinking about fostering. I’ve done it. Twice now. I’ve both enjoyed and not enjoyed it. However, I just think it’s important to put all the expectations out on the table so to speak.

Often times, I find humans react on emotional impulse. I’m certainly one of them. We make a quick decision, we tell ourselves it’s going to be great, and then we have a panic-stricken “ah hah” moment that sends our gut through the grinder.

Let me start off with the great things about fostering:

1) The puppies and/or kittens are adorable. Who doesn’t love seeing pictures of baby animals on Instagram?
2) You will feel like you’re saving the world. It’s your good deed for the year.
3) Others (family, friends and co-workers) will tell you that you’re saving the world. Who doesn’t love praise?
4) The puppies and kittens (and the foster center) will thank you.
5) It’s a temporary commitment. Fostering is temporary. It may last as short as 10 days or beyond a month — it all depends on the age of the animal, its weight and health. No permanent commitment here, unless you get too attached and decide to officially adopt your foster pet.
6) It’s free. In my experience, the foster center provided ALL of the supplies needed (food, toys, cage, litter, food/water bowls, medicine (if needed) etc. This is not universal.

Now, let’s get to the real nitty-gritty about fostering.

1) Taking care of pets are A LOT of work (many of you are saying “Duh!” right now. Just hear me out).

Puppies are probably more work than kittens. Puppies have to be trained to go to the bathroom outside or on one of those puppy pads. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while.  Be prepared to be cleaning up “accidents” in your home (or in their cage) for a while. Yes, it’s going to stink. You may even gets some on your hand. Bathroom habits happen MULTIPLE times a day. Sometimes twice an hour.

You may find an accident on your carpet or on the couch. The cage may scratch the wall. You will have to soak, clean and dry the area.

Puppies need to exercise and play all the time. Not just 10 minutes, but for a long time. They’ll often last 30-45 minutes and then pass out for an hour or two. This goes on all day long. I mean it.

2) It’ll be noisy. Puppies and kittens go through social anxiety just like us. Heck, they were just ripped away from their mom and plopped into unfamiliar territory. They will be vocal about it. Expect them to whine, cry or yell when you leave or come through the door. They’re either sad that you left or so excited that you’ve come home from work or school.

It can be annoying when it’s early in the morning or late at night and all you want to do it get a few more minutes of sleep. That’s not a bad thing to think about because it’s honest — you will think about it.

3) Your house is going to smell. It’s not going to smell like the zoo or a barn, but it will have an animal odor too it. That can either be fecal matter or urine (but that’s only if you’re not cleaning it up). It’ll more than likely just smell like you have pets. Let’s be honest, puppies don’t have the best breath.

4) You’re going to get frustrated. You had an idea and maybe even a game plan. Things will change and so will your plan. You may need to walk outside or take a breather. That’s OK. But understand it will be frustrating. It’s not the animals fault or your fault. You’re not a bad person. It’s a lot of work and is stressful. It’s bound to happen.

5) You may fail. This is the tough one. Your pride really can’t prepare for this one. You may even realize that fostering was a lot harder than you imagines and you want to either take the puppies or kittens back early or just stop all together. Understand that you’re not the first to do this, and you certainly won’t be the last. But you will feel really bad. You’ll feel like you let the animals down as well as yourself.

The reason really doesn’t matter. The situation just didn’t work out. The next best option is to get the animals into another environment that will give them the best possible future. That should hopefully make you feel better.

6) The animal may not bond with you. Are you kidding me? I’m taking care of this animal and it doesn’t want to sit on my lap and cuddle? It just hides under the couch. Boring!

7) At some point, you’re going to want to foster again. It’s been six months or maybe a couple years since you first tried fostering. Perhaps you now have a bigger apartment, condo, town home or house, or you got married or make a little bit more money or work better hours. Fantastic! Life is really moving along. Maybe your ready to start fostering again, or maybe you’re slipping back into that emotional impulse. I say take the idea and think about it for the next week. At the end of the seven days, if you still feel as passionate about the idea, then go for it and try it out again. If not, hold off and put your passionate energy somewhere else.

What do I wish I knew before fostering for the first time?

I wish someone told me how hard it was and then how to do it well. Everyone wants to be successful all the time. It’s also important to set the correct expectations. That’s what I tried to do above. But beyond that, I wish a more veteran foster parent would have told me the strategies that worked for them.

For that to work, you have to be someone who’s willing to actively listen, engage and really take that person’s advice to heart.

I would have liked to have had an 8×11 paper with 10 most Frequently Asked Questions. But, not the simple ones that provide a basic (and often times unhelpful) answer.

Some examples:

1) What are two ways to help get my pet to stop whining or crying?
2) What are two ways to potty train the puppy or kitten? Like I said before, kittens instinctively know to use the litter box.

Where do I go from here? That answer is easy, weigh the options and make a decision.

After reading this, you think you’re up for the challenge, go ahead and contact your local shelter and inquire about their foster program. If you think it’s not right for you, understand that’s perfect OK and find out if you can volunteer in a different way. A lot of times the shelters themselves need either volunteer support or financial help.

I’d really like to hear about your foster experience. Share what worked and what didn’t work in the comments below. There’s aren’t any wrong answers, just different perspectives. The suggestions above are my opinions alone and are not absolute. Some people will have had great experiences (like I did) and some won’t (like I also did).

Central Wine is latest bar to join downtown Phoenix

Read the original story on

A chic new wine bar has moved into downtown Phoenix.

Central Wine Phoenix is one lightrail stop north of Lux Coffee and close neighbors to the George and Dragon along Central Avenue. But its only one sip away from the vineyards of California and Italy.

At least that is what owner Jenna Rousseau, 27, hopes you experience once you step through the front doors of the City’s newest wine bar. Central Wine celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 11.

Born and raised in Arizona, Rousseau set off to Italy to study economics and finance, but often found herself swirling wine at the local wineries.

“I drank a lot of wine, but I didn’t know much about it,” she said. So her curious pallet led her to try even more wines and learn about the flavors and process from the experts.

Eventually, Rousseau bounced around in California where she took a few wine classes, gained her necessary certifications, and has now moved back to the Valley.

She wants to help everyone experience the succulent joys of a delicious wine. It’s a “never ending education,” she says.

Central Wine Phoenix is allowing her to do just that. Customers will be able to try a variety of local, national and international wines, such as Stage Stop Vinyards in Page, Ariz. and Carlson Creek Vinyards in Willcox.

Rousseau says each week the bar will feature six wines–three red and three white– on tap, while having at least a dozen bottled wines available. They also have two home-brewed beers on tap, but will be expanding to four.

Rousseau wants customers to come in curious and find a wine that they truly enjoy. So, sample taste tests are allowed (but don’t be greedy!).

Central Wine doesn’t have a kitchen, but they are working with local grocers (currently Aj’s) to serve cheese and meat platters that customers can purchase. They also have a retail area where wine, wine toppers and bags can be purchased.

Most wines sold by the glass are under $10. Bottled wines range from $17 to $30.

Central Wine is open Tuesday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 12 p.m. – 11 p.m. They are closed Sunday and Monday.

Asked what her favorite wine is, Rousseau said she can’t just choose one. She says it depends on the mood and the meal. “That’s what makes it so fun,” she said. View the bar’s Facebook page for more information.

Know of a new restaurant or bar opening or closing around the Valley? Email Josh Frigerio and let him know.


Rescued tigers at Arizona park to join ‘tiger school’

CAMP VERDE, AZ – Two tiger cubs found in Arizona last month and now living at the Out of Africa Wildlife Park have some new names to go along with their new home.

The wildlife park held a contest from Jan. 7-23 where the public could suggest names for the 200-pound male tigers who were found tied-up in the backyards of two Phoenix homes in January.

According to a press release, zoo officials chose Gabriel, for the white tiger, and Journey for the orange tiger.

Two winners, one from Prescott, Ariz. and the other from Fort Collins, Co., will each receive a year-long family pass to visit the zoo, according to a press release.

Dan Harrison, one of the owner’s for the park, said the 7-month-old tigers will soon be enrolled in “tiger school.”

An adult tiger will help mentor Gabriel and Journey to teach them tiger etiquette, as well as how to interact with humans.

Officials said thousands of names were submitted during the nearly two-week contest.

The tigers made their public debut over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, according to zoo officials.

The tigers were captured by officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department on Jan. 7, after receiving a tip in December of 2013. Harrison said the tigers came to Arizona from Texas and were sold illegally.

The Out of Africa Wildlife Park is located in Camp Verde, Ariz.
Read more:

Arizona CARE Team: CPS agency understaffed, overwhelmed with cases

Arizona’s Child Advocate Response Examination Team, or CARE Team, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer released its report regarding thousands of reports of child abuse that went uninvestigated.

The CARE Team said one-specific issue is not to blame for the entire situation, however, a multitude of problems created a domino-effect of bad judgement and practices that led to 6,500 cases being marked “N.I.” or “Not Investigated.”

Read the entire report on, including the recommendations by the CARE Team to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park: Help name the two new tigers

How good are you at picking out baby names? What about tiger names?

The Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, Ariz. needs your help naming two if its most recent additions — a juvenile white and orange tiger.

In a bizarre story, the tigers were found in the backyards of two separate Arizona homes before eventually being captured and transported to the park.

Submissions can be submitted via the park’s Facebook page , Twitter page using the hashtag #Tigernames, or by email .

The winner will have a chance to win an annual family membership (up to four people) to the park.

Read more: