My New Home

Monday, November 30, 2009

What Is a Picture Really Worth?



I've been spending a good amount of time (and the time has been mostly good) playing with the face identification feature on Picasa 3. Even with over 6,000 people yet to be identified, Picasa has shown me that I have more than 1,000 pictures of each (or both) of my sons. Scrolling through the years' worth of memories enshrined in digital glory has propelled me to almost weepy levels of happiness.

But then I start to wonder: how many of these pictures are true? How many pictures in the world are true? Are they as valuable as we all think they are? Is a picture worth a thousand words or a million lies?


If the statement these photos make is, "My kids are cute," then it's all kinds of true. Most of the time. But my kids aren't always cute. They're not always smiling. They are often engaged in less than photogenic behavior. I don't take those pictures. I don't save the blurry ones or the ones where I'm making an unflattering face or the ones my wife tells me to delete "or else." When it comes to pictures, truth isn't usually the goal. Personal photography is usually more a study in PR than an exploration of reality. Does that make them more valuable or less?

On some level, I guess there is tremendous value in having pictures that remind me how much I love my family, my friends, all my extended relatives, and all else who line up to face my camera lens. I'm not as pleased with the fact that my finicky emotions respond better to forced smiles than to portraits of slobbering rage. Part of me wonders if memories are worth the visual preservation if we save the good ones and delete the bad.

Is holding on to a memory all that valuable, or does it prevent us from forging new ones? Can a bogus smile from yesterday make us too complacent to make genuine smiles today? I don't know. I try to envision myself in another time when photography wasn't an option. Did people with no photos have poorer memories of their loved ones, or was their dependence on story telling and camaraderie enhanced by the lack of props? Something that happened yesterday made me think the latter was true.


We were driving to church (late, as usual) and passed a gorgeous, radiantly white swan swimming alone in a pond. My second thought was, "That is beautiful! *gasp*" But my first thought was, "I wish I had my camera."

That turn of events kind of depressed me. It brought to mind all the times I have seen my kids doing something truly memorable and thought, "Where's the camera?" My desire to preserve the moment too often outweighs my need to embrace it. I think of how much time I've spent lining up for pictures at family gatherings instead of actually enjoying each other's company.

I don't think photos are evil. I don't think they do justice to their subjects, either, but they're not bad. I just wonder if they make us lazy with our memories as we're making them.

All I know is, from now on, when I don't have a picture of a memorable event, I'm going to remember the joy  of escaping my own self-imposed paparazzi. And then, I'll smile for real.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Let's Get It Started



Yes, Addison has moves. No, I don't possess those same moves. Yes, I will do my best to learn.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reach



I have an intense fear of heights. For instance, when I look up at a water tower—from the ground, mind you—I panic a little bit just imagining myself standing up there. I'm not afraid of falling so much as I just feel like I don't belong up there. Just writing that freaked me out.

I'm a man of irrational fears. Sometimes I'm afraid of writing. If you want to know why I haven't posted here in so long, it's because of that. It's not precise enough to say I haven't felt like it. I have felt like it. But when I have thought about it, I have frozen. I think about writing, about being up there on the internetial platform, and I just feel like I don't belong here. I'm afraid of the permanence of words. Once anything I write is out there, I can't really pull it back. I can never scale back down the mountain.

That hasn't stopped me from writing altogether, but . . . it's stopped me from writing a lot of things. Things I know I should be writing. I guess I've just been afraid to reach the things I really want, feeling like they belonged in my dreams, not in my grasp.

It's so very silly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beach + Blizzard = Pure Summer Joy

The night didn't start off particularly well. Neither of the boys ate their dinner. They wouldn't sit still. They wouldn't stay quiet. They didn't show any signs of wanting to make good on our plans to go to the beach after dinner, scampering around the back yard, cranky, tired.

We corralled them. Swimsuits were donned. Beach stuff was packed. The van was loaded. Off we went to Kimmel Beach. Wait, we missed the turn. Okay, now we're on our way to Kimmel Beach. Just have to find the parking lot. No, this ain't it. Aaaand, here we are. Suddenly it all turned. Everything from then on was pure magic.

Kimmel Beach is just secluded enough. Not a ton of people go hunting for it, especially in the evening. But there are enough people that you don't have to be entirely paranoid about sharks. The big benefit, though, was the feeling that the four of us had about an acre of beach to ourselves. Easy to let them have fun. Easy for them to splash without collateral stranger damage. Easy to keep an eye on them at all times.

And the keeping an eye on them part was the best. Colin tried to jump over waves (funny). Addison rode the waves in his life-jacket (a little fun, but scary). We all got to watch a bunch of guys doing some kind of boarding . . . not wake boarding or paddle boarding or boogie boarding . . . I want to say water boarding, but I know that's not right. Anyway, we saw guys riding small surfboard type things right along the shore, and it was fun.

Then we ran up and down the face of a mini-dune a dozen or so times, taking breaks to watch the sun think about setting as we caught our collective breath. So much fun. So much sand trapped in places it had no business hiding. So much relief not even carrying around a camera.

After dusting off as much sand would agree to dislodge and changing into slightly drier clothes, we got into the van and Colin laid these pearls of wisdom on Heather's ears: "Thanks for going to the beach, Mommy." For a two-year-old kid, that's like a 500-word essay on how much he loves you.

We were so going to Dairy Queen.

So we got ice cream. The boys sat still, but not in a boring way. Just in a "Heck, yeah, I want ice cream" way. Maybe there was a hint of, "We're so content, why in the world would we cause trouble?" in there as well. Addison danced to a smooth jazz version of "You Wanna Be Starting Something," but never left his seat. Both boys were quiet. It was pure magic.

The only real tension of the night was between my sensible side and the side of me that makes decisions. The conversation went like this:

Sensible: Just get a cone.

Insatiable: (Dirty look)

Sensible: Fine, get a small Tagalong Blizzard. Those are really good.

Insatiable: Medium. Final offer.

Sensible: Come on, look at your stomach! You're lucky I'm letting you have a small.

So while my Sensible side curled up in a bruised, broken ball of shame, I enjoyed the medium Tagalong Blizzard and the most enjoyable evening of the year. (Don't get me wrong, the Blizzard wasn't the highlight, but like I said, I didn't bring a camera. {Okay, forgive me . . . I really like the Tagalong Blizzard. [Alright, Sensible and Insatiable are back at it again, so I should just stop typing.]})

Thank God for simple pleasures.

The Eyes Have It


I'm a big fan of words, but sometimes pictures do a better job of telling a story. This picture (and 35 others like it) tells the story of the devastation of Typhoon Morakot and the beauty of persevering love.

The story it fails to tell is how I can go so long without caring when I read a headline bearing the same news: 40 people dead, hundreds missing.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Key to Resisting Temptation: Admit You Have a Problem


This is a news story for the smokers, the cheaters, and the overeaters. It's also a lesson to those people who look down their noses at anyone who ever succumbs to life's primal urges. A scientific study by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University showed that judgmental people who think they're impervious to temptation are more likely to give in than those who lack the confidence to resist.

I generally give scientists a hard time, but I have to applaud them for this study. Using science to expose hypocrisy and false pride is well worthwhile. Granted, Proverbs 16:18 told us as much a long time ago, but it's still good to get some practical evidence to back it up.

By the way: the photo (and the chocolate) comes from here: http://www.grocersdaughter.com/

Monday, August 03, 2009

Miley Cyrus Genius


I don't know if Miley Cyrus is a genius in real life, but for this morning she's a genius on my iTunes.

As the title of the post would immediately suggest, you can dispense with any artistic pretense right away (and, believe me, there is nothing more fun and freeing than dispensing with artistic pretense). Yes, I have Miley Cyrus on my iTunes.

I made a birthday mix for my fourteen-year-old niece, and she loves Miley Cyrus. So I gave her a shot of the world's perkiest mega-starlet and her cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." This morning I was doing a bit of iTunes housekeeping and arranged all my tracks by Date Added. Then a thought struck me: why not create a Genius mix out of Miley?

Fortunately, it wasn't the bulkiest thought in the room, so it struck me with the weight of a gliding feather. But I still pursued it, and I have to say, the results pleased me. It's a fun list, and it's making for a delightful, carefree Monday morning.

That's all. Thank you, Miley. Thank you, too, Mackenzie. Happy Monday. Oh, and here's the playlist:

"Footloose" Kenny Loggins
"Feelings Show" Colbie Caillat
"Only The Good Die Young" Billy Joel
"Slow Dancing In A Burning Room" John Mayer
"Details In the Fabric (feat. James Morrison)" Jason Mraz
"Change Your Mind" All American Rejects
"Real Gone" Sheryl Crow
"Bennie and the Jets (Live)" Elton John
"The Way You Make Me Feel" Michael Jackson
"Big Yellow Taxi" Counting Crows
"Dare You to Move" Switchfoot
"Like A Star" Corinne Bailey Rae
"Hope" Jack Johnson
"Samson" Regina Spektor
"Bicycle Race" Queen
"Tied Down" Colbie Caillat
"It's Still Rock And Roll To Me" Billy Joel
"If It Kills Me" Jason Mraz
"No Such Thing" John Mayer
"Pinch Me" Barenaked Ladies
"Black Or White" Michael Jackson
"Last Kiss" Pearl Jam
"All Shook Up" Elvis Presley
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" Elton John & Kiki Dee
"Take a Chance on Me" ABBA
"Stab My Back" All American Rejects
"One Thing" Finger Eleven
"Angel" Jack Johnson
"Somebody To Love" Queen
"Belief" John Mayer
"Battle" Colbie Caillat
"Make It Mine" Jason Mraz
"Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" Billy Joel
"Take It On The Run" REO Speedwagon
"Crocodile Rock" Elton John
"The Luckiest" Ben Folds
"On the Radio" Regina Spektor
"Man In The Mirror" Michael Jackson
"Why Georgia" John Mayer
"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" James Taylor
"Top Of The World" All American Regects
"Oxygen" Colbie Caillat
"Thunder Road" Bruce Springsteen
"Uptown Girl" Billy Joel

Note to self: make default length for Genius playlists much shorter. Whew!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Classic SNL: Devil on People's Court

This is not new. It's irrelevant to everything happening in the world today. It is also hilarious and one of the few SNL bits in history that is truly funny from beginning to end. (Disclaimer: the views and opinions of the devil expressed herein are not espoused or supported by this blog or its authors.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ten Things to Like about Twitter

It's been so long since I started making this list of 10 Things to Like about Twitter, I forgot to list them all in one top ten list. But to call this a top ten is a misnomer. It's hardly the definitive 10 best things about Twitter. I haven't even touched on the commercial possibilities Twitter presents, the potential for social change, or anything all that much bigger than my own private Twittersphere.

That's the point, really. This is my list. These are 10 things you should like because I like them. If you're an experienced tweetist, you may hate some of them. If you're new to Twitter . . . you might hate some of them. But I like 'em. Humor me.

I guess I should also preface this with a brief tutorial. If you want to partake in the Twitterfest, it's really not hard, far simpler than Facebook or just about anything else you could do online. Twitter is a place (or a method) for updating and getting updates on anything or anyone. To get started, just go to Twitter.com, browse, sign up, go to my page, and click "Follow." Alright, this is a long preface. Here's the 10 Things I Like about Twitter:

10. Trends. When a topic gets tweeted a lot, the keywords show up at various places on Twitter (the home page, the sidebar). You can find out what people are talking about almost as soon as they start talking about them.

9. Hashtags. That's Twitterese for putting a # in front of your update's (or tweet's) keyword, so you can easily find tweets about the same thing. It's more useful (and less confusing) than it sounds.

8. No Commitment. You don't have to read everything your friends, followers, or followees post. You don't have to join groups, causes, or drawn-out comment threads. It's light, casual . . . we're just friends with twitterfits. That was terrible.

7. The Return of Editing. You only have 140 characters, and everybody can read it. You best clean up your spelling and grammar, there, kid.

6. Twt.fm. And other easily postable links to the music of the moment. If a song is stuck in your head, why shouldn't you lure some unsuspecting soul to wallow/revel in it.

5. No Computer Necessary. Most Internet experiences get a serious downgrade when you switch to mobile. Twitter was made for mobile. You don't have to live like a nerd to get your geek on.

4. Anyone Can Do It. Kelso from That 70's Show is the Twitter king. If you can't at least get started . . . okay, there's no then statement. You can at least get started.

3. We, Not They. Twitter users determine what reigns on Twitter. Not The Media. Not The Government. Not The Corporate World. It's ours, people. We have no one to blame but us.

2. Conversation. I like to think Twitter is just one big conversation. It's in the moment. Blogging is more of a journal for posterity. Twitter doesn't wait around that long. Twitter is now. Twitter is a party to which everyone is invited, everyone can hear (almost) everything anyone is saying, and it's real easy to sneak away.

1. Words. In a world of video, images, CGI wizardry, Twitter is governed by the almighty word. Thank God.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some Children's Vitamins Aren't What They Seem

How upset should I be about this?

We brought home a bottle of Transformers gummy vitamins. Complaint 1) Addison thought they tasted like feet. Complaint 2) They aren't Transformers gummy vitamins. As the pictures here somewhat clearly show (how clear an image can gummy vitamins really portray?) the vitamins are Thomas the Tank Engine gummy vitamins.

For what it's worth, Addison seemed more inclined to consume these homogenized globs of fortified corn syrup when he found out they were Thomas. I really don't know what to make of that. But I wasn't going to let that happen.

The good sign, I guess, is that Health Science Labs does sell Thomas the Tank Engine gummy vitamins. But that's small comfort to the fact that this bottle of children's vitamins is mislabeled. Health Science Labs also sells gummy vitamins for adults (yeah . . . go figure) concocted to combat osteoporosis, heart disease, and irregularity.

Would the adult gummies, Infinity8, be harmful to my kid? The nutritional info says it can be taken by children over the age of 2. But here's the problem: the dosage for Infinity8 is one gummy; the dosage for the children's vitamins is two gummies. So if Health Science Labs is in the habit of putting their vitamins into the wrong bottles, some other poor kid could be chowing down on two black-cherry Regul8 gummies with 6 grams of fiber when he thinks he's getting a balanced blend of vitamins and nutrients.

I am fairly upset about this. For me, the bottom line is that this company doesn't know precisely what they're putting into their bottles. I've emailed their customer service department, and I'll update this if and when I hear back from them. But I've seen nothing on their site in the way of an announcement of any kind.

Am I being silly? Wouldn't be the first time. I'm just curious what people's various states of alarm would be if a bottle of something dangerous enough to require a child-proof cap—something intended for your child's health—didn't contain what it said it did.

Thoughts?

Poppy the Puppy Song

Colin: Sing "Poppy the Puppy" song!

Me: (thinking) There is no "Poppy the Puppy" song. It's a lift-the-flap book you turned into a rip-the-flap book.

Me: (out loud) Addison, make up a "Poppy the Puppy" song.

Addison: (3 seconds later, to the tune of "Five Little Ducks") Poppy the Puppy loved to play / all, all, all, all, all, all day. / He didn't know a lot of stuff / but he liked to say, "Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff."

Colin: Good song, Addison!

Good song indeed.

William Shatner Turns Palin into Poetry

I don't want to ruin this with a lot of talk, but I was wrong. This video will change your life. William Shatner reads Sarah Palin's resignation speech . . . to bongos. Live on Conan.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Video Will Change Your Life

Especially if you live in a house made entirely of privacy Plexiglas.



I love science experiments that consist of revealing strange phenomena by playing with everyday stuff. This is just one of those things.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Missed This

Last night, I went to play in a softball game while Heather and the boys went to the beach. It looks like I missed a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that Colin had absolutely no interest in ever looking at the camera. I can understand that one.





I'm glad Heather saved some glimpses of those moments, but it strikes me how pictures almost always fail to tell the whole story. Life tends to seem a bit cleaner in pictures.

For example: None of these photos accurately portray how Heather had to hose the boys off
before they could set foot in our house because they had sand caked everywhere. Or how they then had to take baths because, for real, the sand was everywhere.





The pictures don't show how frustrating it is when the batteries go out on your camera and the back-ups are nowhere to be found.

The shots also don't quite capture what it's like not to be there. That's why God gave us words like dookie.



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Investment Insurance = Crappy Health Care

If you want to read more than just my vast oversimplification of the national health care insurance crock, you can find an in depth look at the latest confession from within the health insurance industry at the Daily Kos. Here's my take:

The health insurance industry is owned by investors. Investors will invest in only those insurance providers who can insure a low medical loss ratio (aka no more than 80% of health insurance premiums being used to, you know, pay actual medical bills). Insurance companies start covering too many of their customers, investors will find other suitors, stock prices go in the tank, and health care insurance providers that insure customer health instead of investor profits get penalized for being who they say they are.

I like to think of myself as a conservative, but if wanting to completely overhaul the corrupt health care system makes me a radical, so be it. Is it that radical to think any industry that lives or dies on its ability to satisfy the snakes on Wall Street is inherently evil and crippled and doomed to become a complete sham?

I guess it's the fear of being viewed as a radical, socialist, communist that makes most people wary of national health insurance. So it's pretty fascinating to hear someone from within the industry admit that the aforementioned fear is the industry's only hope.

In the video below, former CIGNA PR head honcho Wendell Potter admits that Michael Moore (and Canada and a lot of Europe) was on to something. He knows it. The insurance giants know it. Government involvement in the health care system is a good idea for everyone except the people getting rich off of the current scheme.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #1 Words

Yes, there are links and myriad technological innovations. Yes, there are avatars and background wallpaper images. But the main course at the Twitter table is the written (or typed or texted or however it arrives on screen) word.

It's kind of fun to track how the evolution of communication technology brought us to the age of Twitter. The Phoenician alphabet, the Chinese invention of paper, Gutenberg's printing press all collaborated in the industry of putting words on paper for the masses to read in portable, reproducible fashion. Then people found ways to reproduce and record more than just words. With the photograph, the microphone, the telegraph, Morse code, the typewriter, the phonograph, the camera, the telephone, radio, motion pictures, television, tape recorders, and transistor radios, electronic media could capture and deliver codes, sounds, and images. We could communicate with color and volume and inflection. Words were just one weapon in an arsenal of long-distance, timeless messaging. Then computers, the Internet, email, cell phones, and the ability to shrink infinite data into infinitesimal compartments opened up an entirely new world of communication.

The cell phone became a mass media world of its own. In a box the size and weight of a deck of cards, we hold our photos, music, telephone, television, movies, Internet, email, cameras, video cameras, planners, news sources, calculators, athletic trainers, video games, GPS navigators, road maps, restaurant finders, sniper rifle cross-hairs, fashion statements, and who knows what else.

And with all that—given the world of entertainment, diversions, and applications with which our cell phones are equipped to delight us—the grandest sensation that is blowing everybody away consists essentially of sending and receiving strings of 140 letters, numbers, and symbols.

We could be stimulated, intoxicated, or carried adrift by the tumult of mindblowing displays of technological genius. But millions of people are captivated instead, once again, by the mere exchange of words.

Twitter is ticker tape on steroids, the telegraph for dummies. It's a bunch of words flying around the world, getting caught in the Internets, and I absolutely love it for that.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #2 Conversation

Twitter is basically a bunch of people talking on the Internet. That's it. Ignore the hooey about the question, "What are you doing?" Tweets do occasionally take that form, but people type whatever they want into their 140-character containers. Twitter is really just one gigantic conversation.

That's the beautiful simplicity of it. Whether by phone, by Web, by Twitter app, or by the plain old Twitter home page, Twitter is just a single silo of tweets. The gross complexity of it is that it's also a billion random tiny conversations that can be categorized, searched, hash-tagged, nested (on Tweetboards), replied to, sent privately and directly, posted for all the world to see, linked through, linked to, deleted, and retweeted (RT). It is equal parts organized and chaotic.

It's like a party where all the Jesus people, atheists, anal-retentives, pack rats, control freaks, free-thinking hippies, slobs, nerds, geeks, preps, righteous dudes, Ferris lovers, school administrators, Scrabble lovers, Harley riders, sellers, buyers, poets, dreamers, hummers, and screamers are all invited. You can get advice, inspiration, laughs, alerts, pictures, stories, summaries, games, tech news, good news, bad news, fake news, and stuff you didn't know about Argentinian airlines.

Or, you can just check in on how your friends are doing.

This is a big revelation, especially for Facebook users who try to read all their friends' updates and are expecting more of the same from Twitter. Like any place where conversations are being held, you can listen in, speak up, and/or ignore to your heart's content. You can catch up on practically any thread you please, but you needn't.

On the other hand, if you are planning on revealing the deepest, most guarded treasures of your very soul to everyone you hold dear as a kindred spirit . . . Twitter might not be the way to go. I mean, feel free to tweet your heart out, but recognize that you're probably talking with only those people who are listening at the time; you can't expect everyone who has ever heard your voice to hang on your every word.

Still, the twitting and tweeting has more permanence than a normal chat at a dinner party. People in Iran can actually hear you talking about Iran. You can selectively eavesdrop on almost anything. You can bend your ear toward whatever whispers you want.

But when it comes right down to it, it's just a lot of people talking.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #3 We, Not They

When the 10:00 news leads with a story about Drew Peterson and Rod Blagojevich's secret gay marriage on the set of The Hills, our typical reaction is, "Why do they put junk like this on television?" And usually, the answer comes back, "Because they know that's what people will watch."

That's just the way the media business works. News. Entertainment. Newsertainment. PBS. They are all in the business of publishing/airing what they think we will want to consume. Of course, when we don't approve of what they are broadcasting, we separate ourselves from the intended audience with the term those people. Because we aren't those people, we have higher standards. It is they who are in control of the content who truly decide what we can read, view, and hear.

With Twitter, though, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Twitter is media without the control of business. It is still open for business, and corporate entities definitely can influence which way the twind blows. But they can't control it.

A look at Twitter's trending topics at the moment reveals a widespread interest in Michael Jackson and Iran and a quiz about what McFLY song you might be.

One could argue that those trends represent three distinct groups of people, but one would be wrong. There is plenty of overlap in those trends. If you follow enough people on Twitter, you'll see plenty of people who tweet both the frivolous and the serious. You'll also see people filling their tweets with nothing but trending topic references and a spam link.

Those people. :)

It's not perfect. But I love that there is this global sampling of people and their interests that is governed almost exclusively by the interest of the audience itself and not just some big-wig's greedy interpretation of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Victim of a Selfish Kind of Love


I'll get this out of the way: I was terribly saddened to learn that Michael Jackson died today. My first thought: No way. My second thought: On the list of People Most Likely to Fake Their Own Deaths, Michael Jackson is at the very top. My third through thousandth thoughts: Damn.

It's hard enough on a normal day to know how to feel and what to think about Michael Jackson. His music is stamped on our souls. His personal life . . . we can't wash away the stink of what we've heard about that man. It's impossible to know how much of it is true, but it's tough to prove a shred of it false. Besides, the maelstrom of shocking doubt and bizarre intrigue seems to be the image MJ wanted anyway. But I don't think he wanted exactly what he got.

The thing about death is, it's the personification of everything bad in the world. When someone dies, you remember the good stuff and the bad—no matter what the optimists say to the contrary—you remember it all, and it comes in a flood.

You remember the disagreements that never got settled. The regrets. The questions that never got asked, or were asked without a satisfactory answer. You remember unkind thoughts. Faults that won't get mentioned. And the good things, they just turn sour when you remember that the person who brought you happiness is gone.

And when someone dies, the full weight of all that is wrong with the world converges at one point that pierces your heart, the chronic pain of life uniting in an acute moment of agony.

So Michael Jackson presents a little problem for us, don't he? The loss of the musical master, the entertainment icon, the moonwalker (I didn't exist when JFK died or Armstrong leapt for mankind, but I remember where I was when I first saw MJ moonwalk); the nonexistent childhood and the troubled family; the mountains of abuse that categorized his life . . . MJ died, and I felt like I had to process it all while watching The Tale of Desperaux with my two sons.

I'll remember where I was when I heard about Michael. It was an awful moment. But I will carry with me the music, the moves (they live on in me, Michael, rest easy), and the memory of every "don't do this" child-rearing lesson he ever taught me. I still don't know how to feel. I don't know where MJ is now. I just know that whatever people say about him, whatever he might have done, we all need a lot of grace. We're all lucky ever to shine. And we all . . . well, we all die. There isn't anything good about that.

Still, when it ends, mourning the loss of what's good is less painful than crying over trouble that never got resolved. So I'll just say that waiting to make peace is the worst kind of procrastination. To MJ, I hope you finally found the peace that so long eluded you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #4 Anyone Can Do It

When I say anyone can Twitter, I don't just mean anyone can have an account or anyone can do it if they really try. I mean anyone can absolutely take over Twitterdom.

Case in point: Ashton Kutcher, aka aplusk. I'm not happy he's using my initials to further his twittermania, but the dude was the quickest to amass 2 million followers.

Yeah, A+K is the reigning king of Twitter. He's no longer Kelso from That '70s Show, The New Bruce Willis, or the dude from Punk'd. Ashton is Mr. Twitter.

So if you don't think you can make Twitter work for you, take a good hard look at who can.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #5 No Computer Necessary

I don't tweet by phone. I don't really text much by phone, either. I use my phone to, you know, call people. I'm old school that way. I just can't see paying $100 a month for service, but what do I know?

For those people who do use the features on their power/smart/mega phones, you'll less-than-3 Twitter. For all the bagazillion things the Internets offer, Twitter is the one that makes the most sense in the translation from PC to phone (okay, maybe it's in a tie with mapping/GPS applications).

Twitter gives you that sense (be it quasi or genuine) of being connected, and the quality of the experience is by no means diminished by the limitations of your phone. It's actually enhanced, because, unlike PC-based functions that require you to be home* on a Friday night to hang with your e-friends, phone Twittering allows you to maintain your virtual network while also enjoying an actual life. You can have your geek and eat out, too.

As for me, I'm still sitting when I'm twitting. But for those of you with lives, take heart. Twitter (and all your techno tweeple) can follow right along.


*or in your dorm room, library, office, or the local Panera where you and your laptop are usually stationed

Friday, June 12, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #6 twt.fm

You can accomplish the same effect with blip.fm (with more features, if you're into that, but I like Twitter for the simplicity), but I really like the ability to share music one song at a time with twt.fm. Sometimes you hear the whole thing. Sometimes you hear a :30 clip. But you know what? Sometimes all you need is :30 of MJ to turn your day around.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #7 The Return of Editing

If you've had any conversations in the last five years with anyone who has ever taught you anything about language, you've probably heard that person (those people) bemoan the demise of all things literary. The electronic era was supposed to have destroyed the concept of stringing words together by now, but Twitter, I believe, has brought about a resurgence or sorts.

People just don't write anymore. Word processors made everybody lazy, and email made us careless. But texting? It spawned a generation whose typical communications look more like vanity plates than personal messages. The average text message (which is limited to 160 characters, here's why) is devoid of substance and vowels. W00t. L8r. Ttfn.

It wasn't the medium that took meaning from the messages, it was the context. Continuing in email's carelessness, texting is casual. We've all collectively decided our friends aren't worth writing for. But what if our texts suddenly weren't so private? Then we'd have to make sure that somewhere beneath those 160 characters hid a clean pair of underwear and a decently constructed thought.

Enter Twitter.

Limited down to 140 characters to accommodate usernames, tweets are meant to be noticed, to attract, to communicate something personal albeit trivial. To fit in your thought, a link, an @reply, and a #hashtag, you can't just spit out whatever words come to mind. To tweet, one must edit.

Sure, most people simply use shorthand to squeeze their lengthy missives under the 140-character wire. But others actually start eliminating that, nixing the passive voice, and axing frivolous adjectives and adverbs.

The bottom line: every tweep or twitterer must edit. How they do it and how well they do it are totally up to them. But Twitter is teaching texters the value of every letter and inspiring them to text with meaning and purpose.

Let your 6th grade English teacher know there's still hope for the future.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #8 No Commitment

Fake friends. Everybody on facebook has them. Heck, everybody in the world has them. It's been that way pretty much since the beginning of time. Caesar had Brutus. Hamlet had Rosencrantz and Gildenstern (and vice versa). Heck, even Abel thought Cain was his friend.

Cain: "Hey, Abel, come here for a second, would ya?"
Abel: "Sure, buddy, what's up?"
Cain: "Remember how the serpent told mom, 'You won't surely die,' that one time?"
Abel: "Of course."
Cain: "Yeah, I don't think he meant you."

But these days fake friends don't kill you. At worst, they invite you to send e-Karma to other fake friends or join their "Bring Back Dungeons & Dragons" group. At best, they boost your fake friends statistics and give you links to dancing Jonases in leotards. But for those who aren't totally comfortable with fake friendship and all the emotional fabrication it entails, social networking is just big tangled mess of electronic awkward.

First you have the friend requests you don't want to accept but are afraid to refuse. Then you've got the endless streams of invitations to groups, causes, games, and other. And the "decline" options are always worded to make you feel completely devoid of compassion. "Your fake friend wishes to share this wonderfully joyful application with you. Do you care enough to just click a couple of times?" And then your options are, "Yes, I'm a good person," and "Ignore," "Turn a blind eye to their cry for attention, " "How 'bout a rude gesture, instead," or "I loathe you."

And there's pressure. Pressure to comment on the notes, the links, the statuses, the photos. Pressure to engage in the debates. Pressure to "like" stuff when you just can't think of anything to say. Pressure to wish people happy birthday and thank them all for the pressurized wishes.

Well with Twitter, there's no pressure. Tweets are like dust in the wind. You send 'em out, and the people who notice, notice. The people who don't, don't. Maybe they're more like farts in the wind, now that I think about it. I'll address that subject more in a later post, I'm sure . . . minus the flatulence, hopefully.

And friends on Twitter make casual facebook friends look like Diana Barry and Anne Shirley. Somebody follows you on Twitter, you don't have to follow them. You can, but the pressure is gone. What do they notice? They don't need to know what you're doing, they have Ashton and Demi and Shaq to keep them company. You're too good for me? Huh, well, at least Barack Obama can follow me. Yes he can.

So yeah, I like the no commitment. The no requests. The no groups. The no structure. I can have real Twitter friends. I can have fake Twitter friends. I can have fake Twitter friends who are real Twitter stalkers. It doesn't bother me. It's only 140 characters.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Liked Ravinia, Loved Patty & Friends

Heather and I had the pleasure of seeing the Three Girls and Their Buddy tour stop at Ravinia last night. For as much as I loved the performances by Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, and Buddy Miller, the show was really just Patty Griffin & Friends for me. I love me some Patty Griffin.

The concert itself was pretty much one big surprise. The four headliners were the onlyliners. No supporting band. No set list. No intermission. Just some guitars, a few makeshift percussion instruments, and four earthbound voices of ethereal richness singing the best songs that came to mind.

My favorite moments came from unexpected places, like Shawn Colvin's, "I Don't Know Why," a song she said was written for her daughter . . . about 17 years before she was born. The strange thing was, I knew exactly what the song was about the minute I heard that synopsis. I have no excuse for not knowing and loving that song prior to last night, but I'll try to make it up to you by letting you in on the gem.

Buddy Miller's highlight was a cover of a Stephen Bruton song called, "Heart of Hearts." It's so obscure, I couldn't locate it with the lyrics I could remember. Even after discovering a YouTube performance of the song with a band called The Resentments, I found precious little evidence of its existence anywhere else. Heather called it her new theme song, and I just loved it. I hope you enjoy it, too—although as Buddy played it (in honor of his friend, the songwriter Bruton, who died while Miller was recovering from a heart attack earlier this year) I couldn't help thinking that there has been no advancement in the audio industry capable of recreating the sound of a live performance.

I was thrilled to the point of aneurysm when Emmylou Harris mentioned a forthcoming album from Patty (produced by Buddy) dubbed a "lapsed Catholic" gospel album called Downtown Church. This struck me as particularly humorous since just this week I had used Patty Griffin's tribute to her grandmother, "Mary," as part of the soundtrack for a slideshow honoring Heather's grandmother Mary (a devout Catholic, and a delightfully unboring human being). I knew Patty was unlikely to play the song in a concert where she performed only a handful of covers and originals, so I took this small emotional tie-in as sufficient coincidence for the evening.

And then, after the stage was cleared and the artists were beckoned back for an encore, Patty & Friends treated us to a quasi-a capella spiritual hymn followed by one last group performance, a song Patty called their benediction: (yeah, you guessed it) "Mary." There were tears.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Things to like about Twitter: #9 - Hashtags


What the @#!$ is a hashtag? On Twitteria Lane, it's when you put a # in front of a word to facilitate real-time searching. So this thing I like about Twitter is actually two things.

1. By using a hashtag, you can easily search Twitter for a real-time list of twerps from everyone in the entire land of Twit who is intentionally discussing a topic in installments of fewer than 140 characters. If you want to discuss So You Think You Can Dance, you simply add the #sytycd hashtag to your dia-twibe, and anyone perusing an active search of that topic via Twitter's search feature or TweetDeck or any of the twillions of other Twitter-related applications.

And unlike Facebook or MySpace, you aren't just discussing with your friends, you're tweeting it up with all of Twitter. Everybody is gathered around one giant water cooler.

2. The hashtag also brings more practical usage to yet another rarely used character on the keyboard. For quite awhile, @ was reigning as the otherwise-useless symbol du jour, but # has taken its rightful place among the inner circle.

It's not just pound or number, anymore, baby. Make way for #, the hash master.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Things to Like about Twitter: #10 Trends

Twitter tracks the most-tweeted topics in twitternity. Today, it's Joe Jonas and his "Single Ladies" dance. I can't even comment other than to say, thank you, Twitter, for this:




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spelling Bee: Numb What?

Yesterday Heather, Addison, and I were playing Cubs Monopoly and flipping between a repeat of last year's Scripps National Spelling Bee and Empire Strikes Back . . . pretty awesome, all the way around. But what kept us coming back to this year-old spell-off was the adorable and unintentionally hilarious eventual winner, Sameer Mishra.

As you'll see in this clip, he got a word that may have sounded a tad familiar, but not from any of his studying. As the crowd laughter indicates, he wasn't the only one who misheard the judge. It was, as far as I can remember from my extensive spelling bee viewing, the funniest moment in spelling bee history. Enjoy.





Priceless, no? My favorite was his commentary after the confusion was over: "That's a relief."

Yes, indeed, Sameer. A comic one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Idol Eyes: Finale Finally


This is weird. It's an Idol show filled with a lot of good music . . . and two performances of the same bad, bad song. (As anyone who knows my family is well aware, this is hardly the first or fiercest Adam vs. Kris showdown in history.) Randy came straight from the set of Revenge of the Nerds VI: The Musical, Kara dressed up like a good songwriter, Paula found her true self as the queen of the plant fairies, and Simon wore a flippin' jacket. Nice!

Adam Lambert
"Mad World" was Adam at his best, up to that point. He's so much better, shockingly enough, when he's subdued. And Adam subdued is still pretty whoa.  Good song, good performance, good start; and he's the only guy who could have begun the AI finale with a slow non-love-ballad and not fallen flat. 

But the real stroke of genius was the producer choice of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." R&B has been calling out to Adam all season long. Here's the thing: Adam is the kind of guy who needs to pour his heart out every time he sings. Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith aren't good vehicles for that, and the end result is a frivolous cheesefest. I still prefer Sam's version, but Adam reached his AI peak on that song. 

But when the last song, "No Boundaries," hit the fan, his voice sounded strained, tired, and entirely uninspired by the slop he was singing. That's okay. It was still a good night for Mr. Flamboyert. Sorry. My depleted bank of nicknames and I are glad this season is almost finished.

Kris Allen
I didn't remember Kris's version of "Ain't No Sunshine," being one of his better performances, but . . . crap, that was pretty dang good. I've pretty much let go of my Krisdain (I told you, the word play tank is on E, big time) to the point that I've almost got a man crush on the guy. Stop, season, stop! 

Next came a truly inspired rendition of another grade-A song choice, "What's Goin' On?" It was so Gaye. I mean, it was probably Kris's best performance of the season, too. Randy and Simon both called it too light and casual for the big stage and the grandiose nature of the night, but they were dead wrong. What they failed to realize (and what Kris capitalized on) was the fact that these two guys aren't competing on a big stage, they're competing in people's living rooms. 

That's why the final song was such a huge goose egg for both guys. Kris's version of "Happy, Happy Dream Song" was slightly less offensive than Adam's, but the song that was too cheery for a guy in black mascara was too Diva for the crooner next door. That piece of crap song didn't fit either of them, because neither of them are . . . pieces of crap. Okay, I'm done.

RIP, LOL

I'm a self-professed word addict, but I'm not a language snob. I don't really like Grammar Nazis. I don't bemoan the demise of the English language. I just want to make it clear from the outset that this rant is not, I repeat, not (at the risk of creating a double negative . . . I mean, the second not was for emphasis, not to negate the previous not . . . I didn't say I wasn't a nerd) grammatically or linguistically motivated. 

I do love language, I just don't believe in lording it over people. I love it when people use words well to communicate ideas not just clearly but also beautifully. When people can't communicate, that's okay. There's plenty of other cool stuff to do. So, once again, this isn't a rant in defense of language.

This is a rant in defense of laughter. I haven't decided yet, but I just may love laughter more than language. I love the sound of genuine, good-natured laughter. Haughty laughter (which should kind of rhyme, but doesn't at all) is irritating. Derisive laughter, not so fun. And some people's laughs are just plain wrong, though it's no fault of their own. But when people laugh for all the right reasons, laughter is my favorite sound in the universe.

But in text speak, it's just LOL. Or LMAO. Or ROFL. Or ROFLMAO. Normally, I love abbreviations. But LOL just doesn't cut it. LOL isn't funny. Laughter is supposed to be contagious, but LOL is a virtual laughter vaccine. What's more, the paranoid side of me (all of me) has serious doubts about just how OL the L really is. It's the texting equivalent of just telling someone, "That was funny." Cue the video:


When I see LOL, no matter how much I trust the person who typed it, I usually suspect them of lying. I think, Oh . . . they didn't really think that was funny. They just saw that I was trying to be funny and patronizingly LOL'd me to make me feel better. Well guess what . . . IT DIDN'T WORK! And that's just not healthy.

The sad thing is, I don't know a remedy. Typing in "Ha ha" doesn't really work. "Hee hee" sounds . . . not manly. Expounding on how hard you're laughing sometimes works. (My friend Heather usually informs me when an IM or email forces her to involuntarily spray her beverage on her computer screen . . . I really like that one, but it can be expensive.) And no acknowledgment of the humor is even worse. Total silence just lets the joke-teller's mind wander to all kinds of bad places. Youcrossedthelineville. Youreanidiot City. Ihavenoideawhatyourtalkingaburg. I hate those places.

I guess we could all just YouTube videos of ourselves laughing at various degrees of hilarity. You could tape the, "I'll humor you with a subdued chuckle" laugh. The "I don't get it, but I'm laughing anyway" laugh. The "seriously, if I typed LOL, I wouldn't be lying," laugh. The delayed, "Okay, I'm laughing, but just kind of . . . still figuring it out . . . oh, NOW I get it, that's hilarious and I can't stop laughing," laugh. And of course the "Someone call a doctor, I'm having an aneurysm and my abdomen's imploding," laugh. I'm sure there are others, but those would do okay.

Still, I guess there's just no substitute for actually being with people and laughing in their company. Kind of the down side of freelance writing from home, eh? Of course, my favorite audience of laughers is almost always here, and they're a very easy crowd to please. :) (Oh, yeah, smiling via text is completely ok with me.)

If you have any better ideas for LOL alternatives, please let me know. I'm dying here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Overheard: On the 8th day, God created . . .

Addison: I want to know about God. Tell me about Him.

Me: Okay . . .  He created the world.

Addison: Really? You mean, He created everything? He created pants?

Me: Well, He created people who could make pants. But when He created people, they didn't wear any clothes.

Addison: They were naked?

Me: Yeah. They weren't embarrassed to be naked when God created them.

Addison: They were once all the other people could see their privates.

Me: No, they weren't embarrassed until they sinned.

Addison: Did they have privates?

Me: Yes . . . but I guess they weren't that private at the time. But after they sinned, they were ashamed.

Addison: I know what they wore: animal skins.

Me: Well, God gave them animal skins, but at first they just wore leaves.

Addison: They wore leaves on their privates?

Me: Do you want to watch a show on TV?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Overheard: I can't believe it's not tooter


Addison's latest gem:

Butterflies don't toot, they just shoot butter out.

Awesome.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Knows?

Just to build the buzz for one of American Idol's most anticipated results shows in history, I thought I'd point out that American Idol prognosticators at DialIdol.com say it's too close to call. 

I can almost hear Ryan drooling over how close the voting was now . . . 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idol Eyes - The Judges Take Over the Universe


Huh. I seem to remember when it got down to the final three that the contestants each sang three songs. The show was larger than larger-than-life. The self-promotion was nauseating. The show would leave viewers with the general impression that the planets were going to stop dead in their revolutionary arcs to watch this episode.

This year? They went small. The production level was somewhere in between junior high musical and Waiting for Guffman. And the judges decided to act like SNL charicatures of themselves. Fortunately, the guys singing put on a pretty good show on their own (with just two performances).

Danny Gokey
Danny started with Paula's choice, Terrence Trent D'arby's "Dance, Little Sister," which amounted to little more than a high-energy waste of time. Contrary to Simon, I did like his little "Danny duels the saxophone" shtick in the middle, because it showed off . . . I don't know, Danny's pitch-perfect reedy resemblance to a saxophone? His second song, "You Are So Beautiful," was more of a showcase for Danny's non-woodwind-related talents. Will it be enough? I don't know. Something tells me he'll be in the bottom three.

Kris Allen
Let me take one moment to point out that Kara is officially a total waste of space. It may have taken her all season to come out of her shell, and now I'd be willing to pull my eyelashes out if it would cram her back in it. Back to Kris. He inherited a song that sounded exactly like the type of song he would sing, and the very judges who thought One Republic's "Apologize" sounded like him lambasted him for not singing it differently enough.  My opinion? He did a good job. His second song, Kanye's "Heartless," was (and I hate to admit it) frickin' awesome. And here's my theory: will anyone vote for Adam and Danny? I don't see that happening much. I can see people liking Kris and Adam or Kris and Danny . . . but I have a hard time imagining much overlap between the Church of Danny and the Adam Bar.

Adam Lambert
Simon chooses good songs, which is why he can get away with wearing Hanes on national television. Adam was pretty phenomenal vocally on Mary J. Blige and U2's "One." Yeah, you heard me, he stone-cold ripped off Mary J.'s version. Don't get me wrong, he did a great job of ripping off Ms. Blige and Sir Bono (I mean, come on, is it even possible to go further over the top than Bono?), but the judges' ridiculous raves about how he "made it his own" were embarrassing. He gave it his own flair (78 points of it, by my count), but it was still a ripoff. His choice of Aerosmith's "Cryin' (phase one in the Cryin'/Amazing/Crazy self-ripoff trilogy)" was a classic case of becausehecanitis. Why did he drench an already syrupy song in rich Southern fried vocal gravy? Because he can. And it sucked. Let me put it this way: if a gymnast can stick his head up his own keister, does he deserve a gold medal if he does it on the pommel horse? Yeah, it's a talent, but nobody wants to see that. I needed to listen to some Patty Griffin afterward to cleanse my ears.

I'm gonna try predicting this dude's exit just one more time . . .

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Teed Off


Addison has officially begun playing tee ball. His first practice was Friday, and I'm not sure who was more excited, Addison or his dad. But we took care of that competition by doing the one thing that will escalate any kid's interest (and most parent's exhaustion): we went shopping for new stuff.

We stopped at Blythe's Sporting Goods to pick up some new baseball cleats and a bat. Shoe shopping was easy (minus the constant Colin chasing around the store). The bat shopping, not so much (they actually sell teeny tiny little kid DeMarini baseball bats for $200+ . . . we did not get one of those). Maybe the most difficult thing about the shopping excursion was convincing Addison he didn't need a full arsenal of catcher's gear. 

If you've ever taken a pre-schooler to a practice of any kind of sport or activity, you know that the interest level varies from kid to kid and from second to second. I've experienced the wavering attention, sweeping disinterest, and tapering enthusiasm induced by soccer practice before, and I was pretty much expecting the same thing if not worse with tee ball. The simple fact is, baseball is harder than soccer. 

Any kid can kick a ball or throw it two-handed over their heads. But throwing a baseball at a specific target on command is difficult for some professionals. (Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax and many others developed serious psychological blocks that prevented them from getting the ball to first base. Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers were two pitchers whose psyches completely unraveled to the point where they became allergic to the strike zone.) Hitting the ball, even on a tee, isn't the easiest thing to do (for some kids, the tee makes it even harder, because they're even more afraid of hitting the tee than they are of missing everything altogether). And catching . . . shoot, catching is just plain hard for most kids.

Long story short, failure to execute difficult skills can cause kids to lose interest really quick.

Addison loved every minute of it, beginning to end.

The team's coach ran a good practice, which was key. He started them off, as every baseball practice should begin, with everyone pairing off and playing catch (in this case they were really playing chase after and pick up). Then they stretched. Then they took turns hitting five balls off the tee (which Addison was anxiously ready to begin from the moment he stepped out of the van, making his desires known to anyone who would listen). Batting practice also gives the kids who aren't hitting a chance to practice their fielding . . . which was pretty hilarious.

But here's what I noticed: when Addison was in the field, he wanted to field every ground ball. He beckoned the batter to run on every hit, not just their fifth and final one. When it was his turn to hit, he bellowed out commands to all the kids and the coach to take their positions fast because he was ready to hit. As soon as his previous shot stopped rolling, he asked for the next ball and gripped his bat impatiently until the team was ready for the next screaming liner. 

The only real time he got distracted was when he was playing first base and wanted to give me a high five after every play (and, at the end of practice, when he discovered some dog poo by the fence and ordered the entire team over for a look). He even caught a throw at first base, got momentarily ecstatic, and then returned to the flow of the game as if he realized this feat should be viewed as absolutely normal now that he had arrived as a real live baseball player.

You can set aside thoughts of me being an overbearing baseball dad who demands his kid to excel to MLB All-Star status at the risk of colossal disappointment. What I've always wanted has been for Addison to enjoy baseball. I was never all that good, really. I don't have tons of natural ability, and I would expect Addison to inherit my limitations. But the fact that he shows every sign of absolutely being absorbed and infatuated with the game . . . it's like an adrenaline overdose.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Yes, This Is a Spoiler

Warning, warning, warning. Go watch the Idol results show . . . or don't, and just read this. I was really sad to see Allison get the boot tonight, and I still contend she gave the very best performance of the night. I realized what made Adam's over-the-top performance so much worse than his usual over-the-top performances. This time, he was actually trying to mimic the real thing. He didn't "put his own spin" on Led Zeppelin, he just did Led Zeppelin with Cheese. It was . . . Velveeta Zeppelin. 

Don't get me wrong, the guy's a great singer. And I always thought the songs that would do him in would be the soft, understated numbers, but his "Tracks of My Tears" was actually really good. But his straight-up rock attempt missed just as badly as Danny's last note.

And that's real bad.

Allison, on the other hand, never had a bad performance, and I'll argue to the death (or at least to the real-tired) that point with anyone who disagrees. And, as happens so frequently, Allison's very best performance came right after she found out she was leaving. She didn't hold back. She didn't sing to the judges (except when she really wanted to). She was singing what she felt instead of singing how she thought she should. It was brilliant. I love her loveher lovhr.

Okay, I think it's time I write about something other than Idol, because I've been woefully absent from this site, and I've got stuff I need to say.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Idol Eyes: Rock Weak


The American Idol is never crowned during Final Four week, but Slash may have just won the competition for worst Idol mentor of all time. His approach: self-aggrandizing guitar solos and sneering mumbling vagaries as critiques. But that's cool. It's rock week. What's not cool: the duets. I like the concept in theory, but in practice it leaves Kris and Danny at the huge disadvantage of having to perform their solo stints after straining through a Styx cover. But who cares about Idol's propensity for killing itself softly? Let's get to the performances.

Adam Lambert
I think we've established that Adam is a technically terrific singer. Tonight, though, was artistically abysmal. "Whole Lotta Love"? How 'bout "Holy crap that was cheesy." Just dripping in overwrought, scalded nacho. And I'm far from being a die-hard Zeppelin fan, but that was the gaudiest slaying of Led I've ever heard. I was constantly distracted by the battle being waged on Adam's face between his eyeliner and foundation (the foundation won in a nasty cat-scratcher of a brouhaha). And Kara? Wearing the same outfit as Adam (and then doing a fine impression of a backstreet Italian pimp all show long)? Not cool.
For the first time, I want Adam to be done. The odds of that happening: 6 to 1

Allison Iraheta
Allison finally gave in to the overwhelming implicative pressure that she should be singing Janis Joplin, and I thought she rocked out on "Cry, Cry Baby." I've made no mystery of my Allison love, but I'll say it again: I love Allison. I do think this song was still a tad on the forgettable side. The problem with "Rock Week" for Allison is that she's been rocking all season long. There was really nothing special for her to do this week, so . . . man, I don't know. She just didn't give us anything more amazing than she's already delivered. But, in comparison, I still think she gave the best performance of the night; it's just not saying that much.
I really hope she makes it to the final three. Odds of being voted off: 8 to 1

Kris and Danny's duet
Wow, clearly they struggled agreeing on a song . . . because this one sucked. Their harmony sounded good, but Danny's solos outshone Kris's in a song that clearly favored the Gokester. Ultimately, the song might have hurt Danny's ability to hit his final note . . . we'll cover that later. But I don't think these duets will affect the voting AT ALL.

Kris Allen
For taking a Beatles song and cheesing it up a little bit, I thought Kris actually did okay with "Come Together." Did someone forget to remind Kris and Danny of the concept of the power ballad? Hello! It's pretty tough to connect emotionally with screaming girl voters when you're singing things like "hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease." But ignoring the lyrics and the risk of ruining a classic (Aerosmith and Michael Jackson both failed miserably in their cover attempts), Kris sang pretty well. The judges have lapsed into absolute condescending drivel. Kara now looks like the evil twin of the already evil female trainer from Rocky IV.
I won't cry if Kris leaves. Odds of millions of girls crying because he did get voted off: 7 to 1

Danny Gokey
Okay. Um . . . yeah. Saying simply, "Dream on," is way too easy, but Danny's attempt at Aerosmith's classic strains the seams of the word ambitious. His final screech made my soul bleed, and not in a good way. Danny is pretty much riding the wings of never dipping into the final three, but he tested the allegiance of his faithful following with that disaster. Would he have been able to hit that final note if he hadn't spent himself getting his Styx on? We'll never know. But I do know this: Danny trying to be Steven Tyler makes Anoop's Bobby Brown impression look so convincing, the paparazzi are currently raiding Noop-dog's residence for the chance of a Whitney sighting . . . or an overdose . . . or multiple occurrences of both.
Would I be shocked to see Danny go? Do 9:1 odds seem all that shocking?

Adam and Allison
I liked them together. And I don't think it will matter one iota.

So who will go? I'll let my picture do the talking.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Idol Eyes - The Rat Pack


Ah . . . at last we're down to five. Now we have plenty of time to hear all four judges ramble on. We don't even have to rush to try to get a performance in before the first commercial break. And the surprise Rat-Pack-era judge? Jamie Foxx. And if you think about it*, it makes sense. Still, Mr. Foxx seemed to do a pretty good job, judging by the results.

*If by "think about it" you mean not even a little.

Kris Allen
Kris is still doing his "you're so in love with me, right?" thing. And he's right. Oh, he's ever so dreamy. His take on "The Way You Look Tonight" was tactically brilliant. There he was, eyes wet with cool, crooning in all his Bublé-esque please-punch-me glory. He doesn't have the range of the other singers, but he's got a pretty sweet niche carved out . . . the screaming, hormone-crazed girl niche. He's also got a good voice, an increasingly expert grasp of reverb exploitation, and a nice touch. I'll admit it, the guy knows his way around a song.
He's staying. Darn it all.

Allison Iraheta
I've always been a big fan of Allison's, and I'm so glad she made it this far. I still think she'll stick around one more week, but her time is coming. In some seasons (especially next season . . . I've seen the future, and they're terrible in AI 9) I think Allison would have had a good shot of sticking around until the finals, but not this time. She looked great (warning, criticism approaching) and she sounded great (okay, here it comes) but her phrasing was off. It was like every measure was a separate performance . . . or that she learned the whole song phonetically. But I still love her. 
Insert corny "Someone to Watch Over Me" joke here.

Matt Giraud
"My Funny Valentine," huh? You studied jazz in college. You know what I studied in college? Psychology. I took a whole class. In summer school. And I got an A. So let me give you a little evaluation: you got a jacked-up brain hiding out under that jauntily cocked little cap, son. I'm glad Simon liked the performance, but in the words of Will Smith, "Aw HAIL no." It's not that it was bad, but . . . "I like jazz" is not the right motivation when you're in the top 5 of American Idol. The vocals were alright, especially after you got past the initial "I want to start slow and boring to make the end sound better" stage, but . . . no. That's not a vote getter. If this were Jazz Idol, maybe you would be advancing (but I definitely wouldn't be watching). I don't know why I'm writing this review as if you're reading this, Matt, it's really nothing personal.
There's a reason behind the pictures I choose, you know?

Danny Gokey
Danny, welcome back! His "Come Rain or Come Shine" was sunny, money, and dipped in honey. Seriously, after a few weeks of sleepwalking through safe and boring performances, finally Danny turned it on. I don't know if he should have said he could see the finish line (a bit cocky) or smiled so dreamily into all the judges' faces (a bit creepy), but the singing was on. He started quiet but strong and then exploded into the final riffs of soulful improv that Taylor Hicks could only dream of. Nice job.
The only question is if Danny or Kris will visit the bottom three.

Adam Lambert
This guy is such a showman, it's hysterical. I mean, he has choreographed every note, wardrobe decision, and facial expression right down to the calculation of the shadows cast by his cockatoo coif. He's obviously through to the next round and probably more talented than anyone this show's ever seen. But will he get the votes in the final weeks . . . probably. Enough people don't like him that it could get interesting later on. He's pretty much the AI Obama.
I'm only typing something in bold because I decided at this point I should make predictions on everyone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Idle Alert

All recent evidence to the contrary, this is not an American Idol blog. I've just been a bit uninspired to write anything other than Idol, Lost, and trivia. Actually, the daily trivia email/blog has expanded lately, which has been fun. (You can sign up to receive it just by sending a blank email to kelloggtrivia@aweber.com . . . in case you were wondering.)

It's not as though I have nothing to say. It's not as though nothing has moved me to rant, rave, or write. It's not as though my sons haven't said anything interesting lately (Addison, today out of the blue: I think Anoop's coming back; Colin, any time Heather is gone: Mommy, where are you?). I just . . . you know, haven't posted much of anything here.

I'm sure it will get better. I'm sure I'll get sick of writing elsewhere or enjoying nature or whatever else keeps distracting me. But for now . . . all I've got are ellipses. . . .