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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Idol Eyes

Why does Ryan do the extra-long "I'm about to tell you who got booted, but I just want to soak in the anticipation" pause before he tells us what "This" is? We know. It's American Idol. That's kinda why we're watching. And he always points out that it's live. First of all, it's never live when I watch. Second, duh. It's always live.  And Scott has poofy Ziggy Stardust hair.  Let's move on to "people have to like the song enough to download it" night.

Anoop Desai
Anoop tells us he's singing Usher's "Caught Up," returning to the form of weeks gone by when every performance made us question why he was on the show. You remember, the Bad Arse days. Anoop, Anoop, Anoop. You know when Michael asked the infamous musical question, "Who's bad?" Nobody in the history of the world has ever answered that question by saying, "Anoop." Holy crap that was terrible. Kara accused him of just living up to a dare from a bunch of frat guys, and the camera cut immediately to a bunch of frat guys denying it . . . perfect. I don't know how Paula and Randy could say the vocals were good.

I just don't get it. He had two performances that were good and that the judges liked. And then he decides to perform the style of song that sucked his entire identity so hard he became the human hickey. That and he's wearing one of Michael's old "I'm a lieutenant in a big gay army" shoulder chains. Sorry. That took too long. People are really gonna have to suck for Anoop to survive.

Megan Corkrey
Megan Joy borrowed "Turn Your Lights Down Low" from Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley, and she borrowed the style of Wyclef Jean. Here's what's going on with Megan, who didn't even do her little dance: she's singing to four judges. I don't think she intends to, but that's what's happening. What Megan needs to do, if America realizes she did in fact suck way less than Anoop did, is sing to just one person. Her confidence and her heart are just not showing up. What the judges need to do is put a lid on it. When they're disappointed, they're taking forEVer to tell us about it. Megan is in danger, but I don't see her waving goodbye.

Danny Gokey
"What Hurts the Most," by Rascal Flatts earned Danny a glowing review from Simon in one of those rare moments when a performance actually makes Simon approach an apology for the previous week's criticism. He was good. I wouldn't rave the way the judges did, especially not Kara's "I'm so enjoying this Sweet Tart" love fest, but . . . hey. He's clearly one of the best.

Allison Iraheta
I don't know how the song will go, but I kind of like the fact Allison hunted down Sanjaya and is wearing him as a headdress. As for her version of "Don't Speak," it didn't leave me wowed out of my mind. She actually did play the guitar in a way that you could actually, oh, what's the word . . . hear? But the song was not exactly right. Given Allison's track record of not earning the votes her vocals earn, she might have something to worry about. But . . . I think she's safeish. And I just have to say, Paula right now reminds me of George W. Bush reading the names of foreign dignitaries off a teleprompter. I love Allison.

Scott Macintyre
Dude . . . I've already talked about the hair, but I actually thought that was his weakest performance. I didn't like the Hasselhoffian look. I thought his voice was shaky. His piano skills are solid, but they just don't stand out for me on this show. And somehow, the judges once again totally disagree with me. And I'm cool with that. Still, I think Scotty has an outside shot of leaving this week.

Matt Giraud
In the style of Anoop, Matt returned to his top-36 style of hitting up the college rock scene with the Fray's, "You Found Me," which allowed him to totally lose me. It's the classic, classic AI pitfall, singing a song that you love instead of a song that loves you. And last week, it seemed like America didn't love on Matt all too much. But at this point, I think America starts to vote their conscience instead of their actual impressions of the song, so I think Matt's gonna get through. Maybe.

Lil Rounds
Well, Lil has been touted as vocally awesome, and this is her chance to prove it. She can definitely deliver some powerful notes. But I think you should break out the Power Diva song only when you're on the upswing. It's the gesture of a lion standing over it's wounded prey, not the defense mechanism of a cornered gazelle. And as Power Diva songs go, Celine Dion's "I Surrender" is a crappy one. Lil's another one who is picking and performing songs for the judges instead of what actually suits her. Lil could go. But the judges would save her.

Adam Lambert
He played that funky music a la Wild Cherry, and all I have to say is, I have to, have to, HAVE TO hear a duet featuring Adam and Norman Gentile. He's really good. And yet really hilarious. And Paula's coming out of her prom dress.

Kris Allen
I'm sorry, but does anybody else feel like the reverb is on absolute overdrive when this dude sings? He was fine. He really could use a butt kicking. And everybody loves him, yay! But let me tell you, any male caught owning one of this guy's future albums loses his man card immediately.

Bottom three: Anoop, Megan, Matt.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Overheard, Ad Placement

I could tell you Addison doesn't watch much TV. I'm good at lying like that. But the fact of the matter is, Addison absorbs whatever he watches, and he's especially quick to connect to anything he sees on a commercial. Some recent quotes prove his allegiance to all things advertised:

"Hey, Dad, do you want to win $5,000? Then be sure to watch the season finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

"No, Dad, I want to use my Reach toothbrush. It's better than normal toothbrushes. Here, I want you to see. See that? (setting it on the sink and pointing to the head) It's above. It's got an angled neck."

"Hey, Mom? Are you gonna get some of that so your eyelashes will be long and luscious?"

"Dad, we have to watch Special Agent Oso. It's all part of the plan . . . more or less."

I am so ready for spring to invite this boy outside again. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Comparitively, Everything Else Is A Diet

The eating day started out innocently enough: a bowl of Rice Krispies, some OJ, some coffee. But it all went to digestive inferno after we headed to the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, Michigan. 
The museum itself was a blast. Addison had fun. Colin had fun. Everybody had fun and not a calorie was consumed. Then we headed to Roxy Burgers for lunch, and here's how it broke down:

Chili cheese dog. Onion rings. Large Coke. Remnant fries. Remnant ice cream . . . with sprinkles. I don't eat chili cheese dogs. I tried one 11 years ago, didn't like it, and gave them up without even feeling the need to swear them off. But for some reason, seeing "CHILI CHEESE DOG" spelled out in red plastic letters proved too oddly compelling to resist. And I loved that chili cheese dog.

We returned home and made plans with my dad to meet for dinner at Quaker Steak & Lube. I had never been to Quaker Steak & Lube, but you don't go into a meal at a place called Quaker Steak & Lube expecting to eat like a bunny. And unless bunnies routinely scarf down chicken enchilada soup, an 8-oz. steak (medium), an enormous pile of gravy-laden mashed potatoes, and four lemonades (they stick a half-lemon atop each one, and they're really good) without leaving the tiniest shred of leftovers, I outstripped those leporine expectations.

Then my dad, Heather, Addison, Colin, and I finalized the meal by sharing a triple rich brownie with vanilla bean ice cream. My belly was hurtin', but my mouth was in heaven. Seriously, go to Quaker Steak & Lube and ask for the Triple Rich Brownie. Abandon all pretense, culture, and whatever other shallow tides of cultured self-righteousness have caused you to turn your nose up at the QS&L and their TRB . . . go get yourself one. If you have the means, I highly recommend it . . . it's so choice.

Fifteen hours later, I'm still full. But it was still worth it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Picture . . .

. . . Another Idol down. I got a little trickier with this week's Idol Eyes photo choosing to depict an occupation rather than an actual contestant.

But the voters knew what I meant, and I think they sent the right person packing. A bit of a shock on the bottom three (and especially the bottom two). Whew!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Idol Eyes: Motown

Motown week on American Idol is always a mixed blessing: it's both an opportunity to hear some great songs and an occasion for slaughtering great songs. Hopefully the music wins out over the carnage. Let's get right to it.

Matt Giraud
His version of "Let's Get It On" unquestionably beat the last version from two years ago when a contestant dedicated his performance to his mother (eww!) but I'm not sure I feel a whole lot more comfortable hearing a guy dressed like Ward Cleaver croon his way through a song about bumping uglies.

But it was still good. Tough song, he did well with it. I just don't want to see his thighs hugged that tightly by a pair of slacks again anytime soon. Matt can breathe easy (which is more than I can say for his thighs).

Kris Allen
I know the ladies love him and his rendition of "How Sweet It Is," but . . . well, the ladies love him. I still can't get past the notion that David Archuleta went through puberty and returned for another round. In the end, I don't think he's that great a singer, and his guitar playing continues to be completely inaudible. I'm glad he feels comfortable with a prop, but if the competition ever forces him to leave the comfort of his college quad, I don't think he'll be up to the challenge. But hey, Jason Castro got by for a long time on similar talent (but a lot more coolness). Kris ain't goin' anywhere.

Scott Macintyre
I don't think I'm in the majority here, but I'm liking Scott more with every passing week. I like his voice more now than I did at the beginning, and his nerves aren't as shaky. But for some reason I feel like Chandler in the episode, "The One with All the Resolutions," in which he screamed, "Somebody please comment about the pants!"

Scott is wearing pink pants. And it seems fairly obvious that all of the judges have made a solemn pact not to comment on his clothes because he's blind. Isn't it insensitive to not comment on the pants? My theory: the judges are compensating for the no-pink-pants-comments restriction by being extra harsh on his vocals. No, he is probably not as good of a singer as the two who went before him, but he's better than a lot of performers who have made it much further in years past. Still . . . Scott's in danger.

Megan Corkrey
Before Megan even started singing "For Once in My Life," my wife reminded me not to look at her. Too late. At first I really liked her outfit . . . and then I realized I wasn't on a  Carnival Cruise and Kathie Lee Gifford isn't the woman she once was. But she's feeling better, so that's good. As Paula said, the camera loves her . . . but the microphone does not. The thing about being quirky is, if you're not quirky enough, you're just bad.  I actually didn't think she was as bad as the judges did, but . . . yeah. Not quirky enough. We may have seen our last Megan "Corkscrew" dance of awkwardness.

Anoop Desai
Anoop just gave Smokey a look that clearly said, "Who are the Miracles?" And he's dressed up as Richie Cunningham, which would officially make him "Anopie." But his vocals are, in a word, hot. Too much breathing and P-pops into the microphone, but he definitely did well. I think Anoop has some legs in this competition. Kara is connected to Anoop's chest, I think. I'm not sure she's comfortable being a judge yet. She needs more work than Anoop's eyebrows. All in all, the judges are delivering some long-winded speeches. Where is the Oscars orchestra when you need 'em? Anoop risks the "Anoops! We forgot to vote" dismissal.

Michael Sarver
This should be Michael's bread and butter, because he rode the funky groove of Rhythm and Blues all the way to this stage. He's left that country for the last few weeks . . . let's see if he follows Smokey's advice and belts it out. Um . . . a little bit. I think he's got to elevate his performance a couple of notches if he wants to make it to "I want to vote for him," instead of "I want him to sing at my wedding." And it kinda crashed at the end in Oceanic 815 fashion. I'm being harder on him than I was on Scott. Holy moly, he made Paula cry with his mediocrity. And Kara is wasting our time. Yikes.

Lil Rounds
Lil got her "Heat Wave" goin' with a loaner from the set of Salt 'n' Pepa's "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" video. She looks the best she's looked so far, but her sound was . . . off. I think her big problem was similar to Michael's in that she doesn't have to try hard to sing, but she did. It just reeked of trying too hard. There was a classic moment when Paula was standing up, shaking her booty while Kara was sitting down shaking her head in stunned silence. The judges . . . man, I'm so sick of them suggesting songs. They tell her one week that she could sing the phone book—the next they tell her she chose the wrong song. So . . . I guess she should have sung the phone book. Lil . . . You shouldn't be goin' anywhere, but you might.

Adam Lambert
He ditched the dead crow hairdo in favor of an Elvis ducktail. Um . . . Smokey Robinson and Barry Gordy gave him a standing ovation. What else do you say? (He looks like Kurt Russel tonight, and he's better than everyone else and can no longer be considered a one-trick Broadway show pony. I might buy that track off iTunes if I can. He's so good, his iffy notes make you question if he's singing off key or if you're just not artsy enough to recognize his nuance . . . that's what else I say.)

Danny Gokey
Um, Danny? You didn't follow Smokey's advice, bro, what gives? He is a good singer, and it was a good vocal. But being from Wisconsin does not excuse being that cheesy with the dancing. Paula rhymed! And I really like it when the judges are to-the-point. Why can't someone remind them to do that all show long. For the first half hour of the show, only two singers performed. In. Ex. Cusable. And so was that dancing, Danny. And, yeah, I know you're a youth pastor or whatever, but you can still sing "make love to you" on Idol. If you can't, pick a different song, dude. Don't make the judges use their save this early. They won't need to, though.

Allison Iraheta
I wish they would show Allison's middle name, because I feel the need to use it in mock disciplinary fashion. I'll assign her one for the time being: Allison Michelle! Dang! If we hadn't already met him, I would have thought for sure Allison's papa really was a rolling stone. That may have been Allison's Jordin Sparks moment. That girl, Danny, and Adam are making the first several performances of the night look like total crap. Wow.

Okay, after hearing the first view back again, I'm embarrassed by my leniency on the first half of performers. My predicted bottom three (and Heather agrees): Scott, Megan, Michael.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Man Chair? (and other assorted musings)

Don't worry, American Idol recaps are coming (but not for another day . . . I forgot Obama grabbed a mic of his own), but I have just a few random updates.

1. I finally have a man chair. It's the recliner no wife really wants in their living quarters (but Heather has grudgingly graciously welcomed into our abode). It's leather. It's old fashioned. It was free. My parents had three too many chairs, and they only have room for two too many. So as of Saturday afternoon, the armchair is mine. Er, ours.

The only problem is, it's now the boys' new favorite. As you can see from the picture, Colin is quite literally getting lost in its cavernous luxury. I mean, seriously, where is his head? I took this picture, and I don't know the answer. So what seemed destined to be a harbor of manly respite, a leather-clad fortress of solitude, is now just a swiftly tilting playground.

2. Speaking of things that turned out to be more youthful than one might have thought, Heather had an interesting encounter at Fair Oaks Farms. She took the boys to see the cows and the asundry other lactose-related wonders, and some guy (any non-blood-relative male who speaks to my wife instantly becomes some guy to me) mistook Colin's Elmo shirt for a Bob the Tomato shirt. The conversation continued like this:

H: Oh, we love Veggie Tales, but it's not a Bob the Tomato shirt, it's actually an Elmo shirt.

SG: Wow, well, not a lot of people know about Veggie Tales. I guess you have to be from our era.

H (not associating her era with that of SG): Oh, well I think I'm a bit older than your era.

SG: Well how old are you? I mean, I'm 20.

H (quite happy at this point): Oh, you're so nice.

3. Colin has now taken to playing Ring Around the Rosie by himself. It's slightly less dangerous than mixed martial arts, but every bit as entertaining.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Overheard, Maybe it was the music?

We're driving home from my parents' house tonight, and "Rocky Mountain High" is playing in all its Jon Denver-ness (thanks to an iPod genius mix based on Rob Thomas & Willie Nelson's version of "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys"). All of a sudden, Addison quietly but confidently blurts out this little gem:

"I'm always gonna be with God."

Yes, Addison. Yes you are. But where in the world did that come from?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sheet of Integrity

I've entered my bracket picks five times this year, maybe the most I've ever done (I'm not that much of an addict). But in the past, I've always tried to take five different approaches to my selections. With one bracket, I'd follow my gut. With another, I'd predict what I reasoned would happen. And with yet another, I'd make the picks I wanted to happen. I remember even doing a Costanza: take whatever impulse I had and do the exact opposite.

But this year, I'm borrowing a term from Mike & Mike in the Morning and filling out my Sheet of Integrity. I have five brackets in five different competitions, all with the same picks. The same upsets. The same Final Four. The same fate for every one of my predictions. I'm putting all my eggs into one bracket.

I will lose embarrassingly in every league I'm in (except maybe the failed resurrection of my old co-worker league that at last check had five entrants, one of whom is my five-year-old son . . . I have my fingers crossed on that one). I'll try to find my one shred of redemption in knowing that I took a stand. I'm me. I'm not proud of it, but I'm at peace with it.

Picture This

Well . . . it looks like I placed the right picture atop the last post. I actually think it was a good thing for her, and not just in the fake "I want to make you feel better" way Paula always says it. But when people are telling you that you need to make yourself look and sound sluttier in order to be taken seriously as an artist and you agree with them, it's best to leave that little opportunity behind you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Idol Eyes (Are Smiling . . . Happy SPD)

Tonight I thought I'd do things just a bit differently, updating our little American Idol recap as I went along but without a dozen separate posts. For starters, I'm just so happy the producers of Idol have decided to employ every conceivable method to push the show beyond its time limits. Last week we had an extra performer and an extra judge, and an elaborate intro. To make sure the results show could run long, they decided to add the bizarro judge save, a hopelessly convoluted gimmick that allows the judges to save one fave from elimination, one time, up until the final five round, after which no more saves shall be offered. And that's not even counting the human show delay: Kanye.

Essentially they're telling America, vote for the people you're afraid we won't save (a repercussion they seem to have realized, prompting the "You gotta vote" promos they've been running). But it's just so awkward and pointless and silly. But then again, so is the show . . . let's not think about it too long.

Okay, time to wait for the show to start . . . commence waiting.

So we're getting a little bit country? I dig it. And I love Randy Travis. Everything about him. The preamble is ridiculous, but . . . let's get to the music.


Michael Sarver
"Ain't Goin' Down ('til the Sun Comes Up)" . . . dude. That's a tall order for a big dude burnin' throuh a lot of precious oxygen—no way that performance was green. He did okay, but the impression he leaves you with is, "Wow, that must be hard." You wanna leave people thinking, "Wow, he made that look easy." Not a great choice in my opinion, but doing something similar in the opening rounds got him through. I'm on the fence with this one. He handles the judges well, I'll give him that. If elimination is a sniper, it might pick him off like a fly on a sow's backside.

Allison Iraheta
Patty Loveless might be the single greatest Country name in the genre's grand ole history. And when Randy Travis gave her props for her mature (for a 16 year old) rendition of "Blame it on Your Heart," that girl must have been flyin' high. It was just a tad bit cutesier than she's been, but . . . other than that, she pretty much rocked. She's growing on me, and she's sticking around. I'm getting the feeling that there's absolutely no reason for Simon to comment on tonight's show, because he hates country music. We'll see if he likes anyone.

Kris Allen
Randy hit on a real solid point: Kris is good at singing ballads, and it's about time he actually sang one. He's also getting away with singing a song that ain't really country. Sure it's a Garth Brooks song . . . that used to be a Billy Joel song . . . that's really just a Bob Dylan tune. But hey, I'm lovin' the Garth. He sounded okay . . . I got a bit bored and a little distracted by the massive AI reverb. Paula sounds like she's about to break up with him. Simons drooling on him. Randy loved it. Kara is surprised that a non-country song didn't sound like country. Ah well, Kris isn't going anywhere.

Lil Rounds
In her interview, I can already tell Lil's making a mistake. She has no idea how well the R&B and Country worlds blend. Did I mention I love Randy Travis? Well, strategy shmategy. I think she could have improved on her performance if she let her true self shine through, but she's still pretty freakin' awesome. Her "Independence Day," was [insert fireworks cliché]. It's cool. She'll move on through, and if she doesn't, the judges love her enough to save her. Wow, the judges really talk a long time. Simon called her "Little." Simon agrees with me and is getting characteristically pummeled for it.

Adam Lambert
Randy Travis is a pastor in the church of Country, and he just kicked Adam on out of the parish. Priceless video of the mentoring session. Oh man . . . Adam is pretty much what Jack Black always hopes he could be . . . and then some. His mystical version of "Ring of Fire" was, as Heather put it, "a little weird," but I actually liked it. I mean, he stuck to who he is (a little weird). He kept it Country, but he made the country India. The vocals were tight. The jeans were tighter. Judge reviews for the courtesy of Steph: Kara was confused and weirded out . . . but I think her eyes were happier than her ears. Paula seemed perfectly at home in the mist. Simon's reaction: "I think what Randy Travis was trying to say was, What the hell was that?" He called it self-indulgent rubbish . . . which I think is pretty much Adam's market anyway. Randy actually loved it and compared it to Nine Inch Nails . . . and if Trent Reznor ever channeled Liberace. Whatever, he's cruising on through on a magic carpet.

Scott MacIntyre
When I heard him say he was performing, "Wild Angels," my reaction was identical to Randy Travis's: dude, you kidding? But holy crap, this was his best performance ever . . . freaking ever. The weak, tremulous uncertainty got replaced by a strength I had yet to hear on a single clip of his performances. It was really good, really strong . . . I thought he kicked it. Paula just called the blind man crippled. Simon just called Paula stupid. Um, I'm not agreeing with Paula and I'll leave it at that. And dang, the judge critique sessions are turning into drawn out divorce proceedings. Overall, the judges are kind of being downers on this one, and I really don't get it. Is this show going to be three hours? Look who's talking; I told myself to keep these short. Scott is walkin' the line between safety and scary.

Alexis Grace
Lexi's "Jolene," had more great moments than bad ones, but she definitely had some of both. She did have some pitch problems and some groove problems . . . and I guess it's just not the song that's going to awaken the inner "yahoo!" in most people. And oh gosh, now this is turning into a debate. The judges are grumpy now after their little spat. They're telling Alexis to get dirty again, which makes me cry inside. Alexis is flirting with a surprise exit.

Danny Gokey
Danny's singing about Jesus. I'm shocked. And I'm even unsarcastically shocked to see how nervous he was in front of Randy Travis. In his actual performance, he stumbled out of the gate a little bit, sounding almost like he was rehearsing a speech. But then he turned his Danny on and rocked it. He does look like he's on an expedition to the ice planet of Hoth, but it's all good.

Anoop Desai
Anoop may be from NC, but it seems like this round was timed expressly to eliminate him. However, his "Always on My Mind," proved one piece of advice beyond a shadow of a doubt: "Dude, they got the reverb blasting, sing a stinking ballad!" Anoop really did it. It was Willie-riffic. I'm so glad to hear this guy finally sing and stop pretending. After that (and after surviving his vocal atrocity) I really don't see him going home.

Megan Corkrey
Is she gonna go on and grow on me? I mean, I have to close my eyes to enjoy the performance. Pretty as she is, I can't stop laughing when she does her little dance that looks like she's trying to shake free from the two rocks tied around her neck. But I do like her voice. And apparently she was sick to the point of hospitalization with the flu. Hopefully that won't influence (sorry) people's votes. But it will. Pretty impressive that she gave that performance while sick (although I'm not sure which performance was more convincing: "Walkin' after Midnight" or the endless coughing afterward). Megan might be in just a little bit of danger . . . quirky often means a few people really like you, but that's not really what you're going for in this competition, is it?

Matt Giraud
He sang, "So Small," by Carrie Underwood, and he blew it up. I had never heard the song, but I am thrilled that I did. Man, he can sing. How's that for short?

I don't know if they'll do a bottom three or not, but here are the people I'd suggest may want to pack their bags just in case: Alexis, Megan, and Michael.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bracket Bucks

I love March Madness. I love making predictions. I love Starbucks coffee. And this year I decided to combine those three love affairs into one cup of hot blended fun.

I'm inviting all of my blog readers to join my blog bracket league on Yahoo! Sports. Just follow the link and enter the group password: bucks. Make your picks before the games start on Thursday, and share the love.

Oh, and the winner of this league will win a $20 Starbucks gift card.

Keep in mind that the scoring of this league rewards upset picks (well, correct ones, anyway) and that you can enter up to 3 brackets.

So have fun, enter thrice, and play nice. Oh, and don't forget to enjoy "the shot." Thanks for playing!

Click here to enter

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Been a Long Year

It's hard to believe it's been a year since Jim passed away . . . 3/13/2008 still seems pretty fresh, and the time since seems infinitely longer than just a few hundred days. Heather and I wanted to commemorate his memory with the slideshow we played before his funeral, and this post from the day after he met his Savior in person. We still love you and miss you, Jim, very much.

Tuesdays with Jim

A few months ago, Heather's dad (Jim) mentioned to Heather that he'd like me to write a book about his life. I thought it was a great idea, so we agreed to do a series of interviews to cover . . . everything. From his earliest memory to his ten-year battle with cancer.

Last night, that battle ended. Jim won. He's in heaven, pain-free, and the cancer is fading to nothing. But the rest of us left here are taking turns blubbering, remembering, laughing, and quietly coping. I just finished my blubbering shift, but I wanted to comment on one of the great gifts of my life.

That handful of evening interviews with Jim were amazing. He relived a little bit of troublemaking on the South Side of Chicago. He journeyed back to summers with his grandparents in Michigan where he met his first crush, a teenage girl ten years his senior. And he returned to his days as an altar boy, where his primary responsibility was sneaking wine with one of his buddies.

Every childhood story was sewn together by the single common thread of drinking. It was like alcohol was his best friend, the only one who never left his side. And I got to hear about it. I had the privilege of hearing his reflections on alcoholism at its worst, his saving grace in his wife Judy, his private revelation from God calling him out of that life and into a new life with Him.

He told me about his father, a man's man, a cop turned mechanic, who could do just about anything around the house or under the hood of a car. And I could see how Jim emulated the things he admired most. But he also told me about Orville, his spiritual father who showed him what it meant to follow Christ, to be a good father and husband. Again, Jim imitated those things he loved, and it made him a great man.

Then I got the cancer stories. He told the recorder (not me . . . when he gave details about his cancer, he most definitely spoke to the recorder to keep his emotions in check) more than I had ever known about his struggle. Conversations with doctors, his fears, and the unexpected grace that came from God and the people who surrounded Jim. It humbled me and emboldened me at the same time.

Here was someone who had the opportunity on this earth to reflect on his entire life and see the unmistakable hand of God in broad strokes and pin points. And as he did, with a candid honesty toward his own faults, he had no regrets. And he talked as if it was only the beginning. And there I was to take it all in. I saw his life, as well as my own, as a story. Not just some "one day at a time" meandering. Everyone's life has a conflict, but without the courage to change, it has no plot.

Jim showed me the plot of his life, the story of how God gave him victory over alcohol, over cancer, and over the sin that drives us away from Him and from each other. It was an incredible privilege that changed me forever. I didn't even realize it was changing me, but it did.

So, Jim, if you're reading this . . . thank you. (Also, if you can pull a few strings up there, is one World Series too much to ask?) I love you, Jim.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It Only Took Me a Year, But . . .

My new Web site is up and running. Contrary to the 37 blogs I have floating out there (not really . . . at least I don't think that's true, I guess I've lost count) this focuses more on the business side of things: freelance writing with a particular focus on helping nonprofits or individuals in ministry with fundraising campaigns. If there's anything I can do to help any of you, please let me know.

Also, if you have any advice, suggestions, constructive criticism, or questions (especially things like, "Dude, you really have to pull back on the awesomeness," or "You should insert some mistakes and flaws so all the other sites don't get jealous.) . . . I'd love to hear that, too.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Idol Eyes: Can I Get a Shamon!?!

**GASP** The songs of Michael Jackson! I'm so happy I could tinkle. . . . And maybe I just did a little bit. The excitement must have overwhelmed Paula, because she obviously just woke up from a good hour or so of passing out on her face (while some kind of pigeon appears to have passed out on her neck). Is something wrong with my TV, or is her face fuchsia? And . . . Ryan just descended the stairs through some kind of downhill skiing gate, and we're off!

Just a quick note (or two): I'm not being sarcastic, at all, when I say I love Michael Jackson. Know this now. His songs don't exactly scream, "Cover me!" because he's one of those singers you don't want to be compared to . . . but everybody's on more or less an even playing field in that regard.

I also just have to disagree with all the judges and Ryan—the show just got a heck of a lot easier. Even with the announcement that the bottom two vote getters will be jettisoned this week, it's still better than the 75% cuts they had been subject to. No one has to be the best, they just have to avoid sucking the worst. Now let's get to the songs:

Lil Rounds
"The Way You Make Me Feel," is a wonderful song, even if it features a blatant ripoff of Transformer sound effects. But it's also one of those songs that's a little more fun to dance to than to sing along with, but Lil did okay. There seems to be an unwritten agreement that whoever starts off the show has to do an upbeat song, and Lil complied nicely. Her vocals were solid, but . . . eh, it kinda fell flat for me. Still, you gotta love Lil, even if she is dressed like a mall chick.

Scott MacIntyre
Maybe Simon didn't know the song, but I wore out my copy of the Dangerous CD, particularly this track, "Keep the Faith." Oh, man, I love this song. And I liked what Scott did with it. It still seems like he's a bit nervous, and maybe, underneath the nerves, not the best singer. Still, I loved the song. I like him. I'm not too worried about his chances at this point, but I don't think he'll break through the top 5. Outer fringes of elimination danger

Danny Gokey
It takes some serious chutzpah to stand in front of a national audience and sing, "P.Y.T." Danny Gokey has chutzpah coming out of his pores (and I think that's what he uses in his hair, too). The dude SANG that song. The dancing was funny. But man . . . I loved everything about the vocals. The King of Pop catalog is tough enough, and Danny chose one of the most demanding songs in there. Very, very solid. Oh, and the "Na Na Na Na's" with Paula and Kara were pure genius. He's a keeper.

Michael Sarver
Michael decided to go all Free Willy on us and sing, "You Are Not Alone." He sang great, but here's the thing non-Jacko fans might not have picked up on: he butchered the words. But he never really let on that he was making up new ones, which is . . . awesome. It's also sacrilege, but as he wasn't singing in the Chapel of MJ, it's forgivable sacrilege. I liked him quite a bit. I think elimination passes him by for now, but he should go over the lyrics one more time before tomorrow's show, just in case.

Jasmine Murray
Jasmine wasn't satisfied with being compared just to Michael Jackson, so she decided to double her displeasure by getting grouped with Mariah Carey as well—although she did avoid the dreaded Trey Lorenz standard by skipping the bridge altogether (and yes, I did know the dude's name without the help of Wikipedia; I double-majored in Michael and Mariah studies—deal with it). Jasmine did not compare favorably. She did look smoking, though. The sound side of things, less than hot. (Aside: I think it's absolutely hilarious that Simon said she sounded like a little girl trying to be a grown up when she was performing a song made famous by a 10 year old.) Inner circle of elimination targets

Kris Allen
You know what "Do You Remember?" really needs? An acoustic guitar. Thank you, Kris, for playing an instrument that, while Paula described with X-rated affection, could not be audibly detected by anyone, anywhere, by any means. The singing was fine, but the song was just weird. He will, apparently, continue to advance because he resembles a post-pubescent David Archuleta. Congrats. But from the looks of it, his wife won't be dialing or texting his number. She was clearly not wild about him becoming America's newest brand of eye candy. His mother, on the other hand, was quite giddy to hear Paula describe him as "sexy," while Simon attempted to unravel what I can only assume is the pull-string that makes Paula talk. One of the weirdest rounds of critiques I've ever seen.

Allison Iraheta
Allison brought B+ vocals with A+ poise to her rendition of "Give into Me," an unfortunate song choice not only for its too-dark-for-AI menace but also for the disturbing unspoken suspicion shared by all of Americans on some level: there's just the slightest possibility that song was written for Macaulay Culkin. Forgive me, Michael, but somebody had to say it. I actually really liked the performance, but I wonder if the darkness will fail to register with AI voters. After David Cook's win last year, I'm gonna say, nah. She's safe. She can see elimination nation from her house.

Anoop Desai
Michael Jackson was already a superstar before Thriller. "Beat It," was Michael's official notice to the world, saying, "It doesn't matter how ridiculous my lyrics are. I can make them awesome. I'm that good. Suck it." In fact, "Suck It," was the original title, but Quincy Jones put his foot down and made him tone down the machismo. All of that serves as my way of graciously glossing over the suckiness of Anoop's performance. There is just no way he should have been legally allowed to perform that song. The boot of elimination is planted firmly on his neck.

Jorge Núñez
"Never Can Say Goodbye." I feel for Jorge, I really do. No one has a better excuse to be unfamiliar with Jacko's songs than Jorge. But I thought the judges were a little too harsh on him. I actually thought he did fairly well. The only problem was, even in MJ's Jackson 5 version, the entire song is redeemed on the basis of a single, mind-blowing note that very few people in the history of R&B could have delivered as powerfully and masterfully as the young Michael did so long ago. It is that note and that note alone that holds the difference between okay and awesome. Jorge never had a prayer. Jorge can smell elimination singeing his tail feathers, but I'm not sure his goose is cooked quite yet.

Megan Corkrey
Last week Simon called Megan current and quirky. She decided to avenge that critique by singing "Rockin' Robin." She added a new dimension of mobility to her previously static gyrations of awkwardness. She flapped. She pointed. She actually sang pretty well, but the whole thing was just so . . . eerily cutesy. Her street cred sank below even the sewers, but her chances of winning Disney Idol have skyrocketed. But if I may do a Paula, she looks prettier every week. Elimination is taking a shot at Megan. If his aim's any good, she's gone. But I think he's just a bit distracted by her legs.

Adam Lambert
Paula got Word of the Day toilet paper for Christmas. And Adam rocked the bejeezus out of "Black or White" (I've always wanted to say that.) Fancy that. A guy with a showcase voice picks a showcase song to . . . well, you know, showcase his pipes. He did roam around in Cheeseville quite a bit, though. He can easily get away with that during MJ week, but he better watch it if they explore the songs of James Taylor down the road. Still . . . wow.

Matt Giraud
I haven't heard him sing but a few notes as I type, but this was the perfect song choice. Love. It. Now that I hear him sing, aw, man . . . is it even worth describing? Go buy it off iTunes. It's an awful lot of falsetto, but still, the dude rocked and rolled all over that sucker. The judges are hurrying now . . . thank goodness.

Alexis Grace
Did you ever have that dream where you show up to work or school or church with no pants on? On a completely unrelated note, Alexis sang, "Dirty Diana" . . . in front of her daughter, which took some of the teary-eyed aw-shucks sympathy away from her intro. That said, I like her—I just wish she hadn't taken the judges' early advice to dirty-up her image so stinking seriously. She definitely can sing, but she overdrew from her vocal chords and had nothing left for her final boo-yah note. If for no other reason than the weird phone number problem and the fact that she and the last few contestants won't have their replays show up on DVRs, she's a distant threat to get overlooked.

Ryan and Simon ended the show with a tease about a new wrinkle in the rules involving the role of the judges. I wonder if they'll have veto power. Very interesting and just a little troubling, because this was a great show (MJ bias noted) and the judges seem to have their clear favorites in mind. Still . . . this was one of the most impressive rounds of performances this early in a season. I'm pretty excited to see and hear what unfolds.

I Might Be A . . . yeah.

I've made no mystery of my love of mail (for those of you snickering, please note the spelling and the lack of an "s" at the end of that word). Be it snail or e, fan or hate, personal or junk, I love mail. Today was a major postal haul at the homestead. It was both glorious and humbling.

The first thing I noticed was that the mailman came to the door. Usually that means one of two things: 1) I'm in trouble, or 2) Awesome! Today it was a little bit of both. He was a carrying a big puffy bag, a handful of would-be normal mail, and the BMG CD I was trying to send back. So let's start with the trouble.

He was very nice about it, in fact, only trying to look out for my best interests, which I greatly appreciate. No beef at all with the mailman. He's great. What he pointed out to me, though, stoked the flames of my ire in a different direction. "When they see that you've taped up the package, sometimes they return it to you and charge you postage because you already opened it," he said kindly, pointing to the packing tape encircling the bottom of the unwanted CD carrier. 

"As far as I know," I replied honestly, "that's how it came to me. So I guess I'll risk it." 

He gave me a wry smile that said silently, "You might want to ask your wife if one of your kids got a hold of this." 

I gave him a nod in an unspoken attempt at saying, "You're right. And the fact that BMG is going out of business isn't going to help my chances of them taking this back, but you know what? It serves them right for making it impossible to cancel your account while making me refuse 2-3 featured selections per month. Good riddance, and I hope you bring down Columbia House with you." I think he understood.

Then I took the mail inside and was filled with glee and horror, intermingled into a kind of, "Eh, could be worse," feeling. The big puffy bag was a big puffy Valvoline stadium blanket and a $7 auto service gift card. And in the mail was an envelope with my official United States Bowling Congress membership card. 

I immediately faced a moment of truth. Do I accept my destiny or inwardly rebel at the circumstances raging out of control around me? There I was at home, hair a mess, in a t-shirt and jeans, with a Valvoline stadium blanket in one hand and a bowling congress membership card in the other, and feeling like Nick Cage in The Family Man. And then I made the only decision that could ever bring me peace.

I'm a redneck. And proud of it.

P. S. I highly recommend doing a Google image search on the term redneck. It's priceless.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Monopoly: Beginner's Luck Edition

I played Monopoly (Cubs Edition) with Addison today. Yes, a full game of Monopoly that took entirely too little time to complete. There was no cheating, no fudging, no grace.

Addison smoked my sorry behind.

It broke down like this: Addison never drew a single Chance or Community Chest (Home Jersey or Away Jersey in the Cub Edition) that made him pay money. Every single card he drew either transported him to safety or earned him money. I got all the "you pay" cards. He then proceeded to gobble up Boardwalk and Park Place (Billy Williams and Alfonso Soriano) in his first two trips around the board. Then he bought all four railroads (bases), and I subsequently drew the card requiring me to advance to the nearest railroad and pay the owner twice what he was entitled ($400).

I was completely bankrupt within the hour, going broke on Baltic Avenue (Kerry Wood) of all places. It was the single most embarrassing Monopoly performance of my life. I'd like to say I was a good sport, that I was proud of my son for playing like a man. But in truth, I hated it. It was ridiculous. I had never seen such luck, and I kinda resented the fact that it fell on Addison at my expense. I may have gotten a bit angry if I wasn't still laughing at him calling it "Monny Polly" and his other in-game antics. But here was the best part.

At one point in the game, Addison was dancing in typical goofy fashion . . . a sort of line dance that carried him back and forth in a straight line . . . left, right, left, right. I asked him if he had to take a bathroom break, but he flatly responded (without breaking his rhythmic pacing):

"No, I'm just moving to the beat of 'We Will Rock You' (which wasn't playing)."

But in his head, it was playing. And I had blood on my face, a big disgrace, and he was kicking my can all over the place.

Oh, and I almost forgot. At one point, Addison turns to me and goes, "This game is hard for you." Gotta love the smack talk.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I'm gonna start at the very end with this one . . . that was not even close. American Idol was so far from being completed in the allotted time, Ryan had only begun to break the bad news to the fourth competitor from the end when the program had reached the 3-minutes late mark. Yes, I should have adjusted my DVR settings to accommodate the predictable end of the show, but the folks at AI had some nerve cutting to yet another commercial break when the show was already supposed to be over!

And now, the performances:

Jesse Langseth
She sang "Tell Me Something Good" in a way that invoked Jamie Lee Curtis trying to look sexy in the "Dance for me, doucement" scene from True Lies but just the part before she really got the hang of it. The vocals were just alright for me. Really, she's an okay singer, but she just doesn't quite have the stage savvy to stay in this competition, I'm afraid. But not that afraid, I don't really like her that much.

Matt Giraud
About 10 seconds into his performance of "Who's Loving You," I told Heather, "He's through." He rocked it out all bluesy like, but I had a real problem with the end. The last thirty seconds or so (of a ninety second performance) were all yeah yeah's and oo whoo's. Sing real words if you can squeeze them in there, Matt.

Megan Joy Corkrey
Gosh, I would like this girl a little bit more if she didn't imitate a washing machine on its gentle cycle at key points throughout every performance. Really, she looks like an idiot when she does that. I predict many more weeks of annoyance from this one, as she's got a good voice and a nice little veil of protection from the judges: they like the fact that she doesn't sing songs that are all that vocally challenging (like "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree." Some might call that "not really good," but I think she'll sail on for quite awhile under the guise of it just being "quirky."

Von Smith
He started out doing Adam Sandler's Opera Man sotto voce routine in what is clearly the weirdest ever performance of "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word." Then he started singing well, but with the completely wrong emotional palette. The lyrics said, "it's sad," but his vocals were telling me, "It's mad, so mad. Like . . . tell-tale heart mad, you feel me, lamb chop?" I feel you, Von-due. You're scalding hot and yummy on fries. But you really should have sung, "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road."

Jasmine Murray
When I heard she was singing "Reflections," by Christina Aguilera, I knew the song was just a little too big for her--an obvious overcompensation for choosing a pathetically small song the last time out. The only question was, would her voice be big enough to excuse the judges for wanting her back with all of their hearts no matter how badly she performed. From what I can tell, she vindicated the Jasmine love. I like her, I do. But the judges clearly wanted a true hottie in the finals, and Jasmine didn't disappoint.

Ricky Braddy
Before he sang a single note of "Superstition," I knew Ricky's chances for survival were pretty slim, because his bluesy-white-dude counterpart, Matt, already knocked the swinging, soulful slider out of the park. But Ricky was good. Still, Stevie Wonder is one of those guys that if you're gonna do his song, you better either change it up enough to make it clear you're not competing with him, or seriously compete with him. Ricky ain't Stevie. He ain't bad, but he ain't Stevie. Stevie Wonder is a musical genius.

Tatiana Del Villa De Los Locos Muchachas
She sang "Saving All My Love for You" . . . AGAIN. Fortunately for me and my newly scrubbed carpet, she nixed the part about making love the whole night through, which spared my evening Idol snack from going all projectile on me. Whew. The thing is, Tatiana has an amazing voice. But I'm genuinely concerned that she's going to kill someone. In the interviews before and after her performance, she was suddenly very, very, very Latina. It was like Sammy Sosa forgetting English when he testified before Congress. Then she broke out the psycho laughter, the convulsing, the "omygahiloyousomach," and the dead-on, I'm talking "boil up the rabbit and leave the bathtub running" flawless imitation of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. I'm scared. I want her show to end.

Anoop Desai
How perfect is it to follow up a worn-out Whitney song with a needlessly exhumed Bobby Brown song? I'm sorry, but I can't say Anoop's name without getting Salt 'n' Pepa stuck in my head. Anoop can sing, but I don't understand how his performances thus far have been anything but a punchline. At least with Nick Mitchell, he intended to make people laugh. But Anoop? I love you, dawg, but I don't understand the judges' fascination with what you got going on on-stage. He's just not . . . bad-arse. In fact, he's so not bad-arse, I'd feel dirty putting the real word in a sentence describing Anoop.


After all the performers were done, I turned to Heather and said, "Okay, Jasmine, Megan, Matt, and Anoop. Which one isn't going to make it?" But the judges finally revealed their decisions and (after too much pageantry and Tati-drama) it turns out that all four are going through. The final 12 is actually a baker's dozen.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Idol Eyes, Group 3

Well, well, well, Idol saved its best for last in the mass-elimination, Godfather-style bloodbath that has been the round of 36. If you watched the show, you've suffered through more than enough painful introduction, so let's get to it.

Von Smith
I dub thee, Von-due, because that performance was dunked, covered, and simmering in a big ol' vat of cheese. It wasn't just that he saturated "You're All I Need to Get By," with overdone theatrics and under-thought style, the dude lit up the cameras with the facial expressions of Japanimation heroes in shock. At one point I almost yelled, "Speed, Trixie, Spritle and Chimp-Chimp are in the trunk!" at my TV.  In an effort to convince us this show won't suck (which turned out to be completely unnecessary) the judges collude to praise Von for not disrupting the space-time continuum. If they were being genuine, Von must have rocked out in rehearsals. Not according to Seacrest, though, who seemed to wonder if Von-due had rehearsed at all. Odds of advancing: 25 to 1

Taylor Vaifanua
I'm amazed by her boots . . . or are they pants? What in the world is causing that patent shine, because I am entranced!?! Oh, yes, she's singing. If I ain't got you. Alicia Keys is a great artist to cover, because her songs are much better than her voice (more on that later). Taylor is almost there, but not quite. Too bad, I like her, I love her boot/pant/leather action (Paula has informed me those are leggings . . . I shouldn't want to try on a pair, but I'm absolutely fascinated) . . . um, where am I? Oh, yes, sorry, Taylor, you couldn't hit those low notes (a very common problem among the ladies this year) and you can't afford to show America which notes you can't sing. Not this time, but she seems like something great could develop if she only had more time. Odds of advancing: 15:1

Alex Wagner-Trugman
It's called the giggle test, Alex. And you did not pass. I have to confess that when I'm pondering my own American Idol song choice, I frequently settle upon "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," but this did not work. OMJ! He actually did the Michael Jackson thigh slap! That is brilliant. Eliminate the strange growling and the scary moments and the whole Freaks & Geeks vibe, and Alex might have something. He needed to play it meek and smooth. He opted instead for the Austin Powers meets Doogie Howser vibe. And there, look, the judges are giggling. And I guess that's why they call it the giggle test. Odds of advancing: identical to the odds of nine of the contestants dying from a real bad case of the giggles

Arianna Afsar
Abba. I don't even know how I should punctuate that. Abba? Abba! Abba . . . hmm. Oh, sweetie, you took a risk, and for that I applaud you. For everything else, though, not so much on the applause. If she could have edited out all but 30% of the notes she sang, it might have been great. But you have to be really sure of yourself to sing that song, and ironically the only parts she really managed to deliver correctly were the phrases about losing and being judged. Now, if sitting there looking cute were the only factor, Arianna's puppy-dog eyes would have been enough to get me dialing and texting and wishing and hoping and praying. But this is not Puppy Dog Idol. But there should be a Puppy Dog Idol. Odds of advancing: 1,000 Puppy Dogs to 1

Ju'Not Joyner
I kinda hope we haven't heard Simon butcher his name for the last time, but I'm afraid that just might be the case. "Hey There, Delilah," is one of those songs that, when you slow it down, really gives you time to reflect on how devoid of substance it really is. By comparison to those who sang before him, Ju'Not is awesome. And looking forward, he could be the leading vote-getter for the guys . . . it's possible. But he did hold back and play it safe (until he told the world he just got a cortisone shot to the butt). If this is Ju'Not hyper, he must be a zombie on a normal day. He really seemed to be holding back, which is too bad. This is so not the hold-back round. Odds of advancing: 8 to 1

Kristen McNamara
Kristen is the Tonya Harding of the competition (watch your knees, Lil). Okay, I think she's much, much sweeter than that, but she's . . . I don't know, the girl with Macy's talent at Big Lots prices--she eliminated the expensive ads and fancy packaging and passed the savings on to you. Because of that, something inside me really wants her to get another chance. Tracy Chapman is another good artist to cover on Idol because her songs are all beautiful and her performances understated. But Kristen went a little chintzy and came off looking like she had just won the talent show at the County Fair. But her voice is sooooo good and pure, and I truly believe she has a chance to find her voice and connect with America. I really hope she gets another chance. And hey, look, it only took Kara one week to forget everything she learned about live television. Odds of advancing: 6 to 1

Nathaniel Marshall
Okay, call me crazy, but Nathaniel somehow managed to seem more comfortable on the big stage than anyone else has so far. If that comfort had translated into awesomeness, he'd be guaranteed a spot in the final 12. Unfortunately, he looked like Simon LeBon dressed as Olivia Newton John for Halloween (when Simon stole this comparison, I peed a little . . . I guess it wasn't as clever as I thought). Somehow he managed to make "I Would Do Anything for Love (but I won't do that)" sound even more campy and fruity than Meatloaf did. (Aside: Hey, check it out! Paula brought her notes and took her meds tonight!) Odds of advancing: Slimmer than his headband

Felicia Barton
I was so excited for a chance to finally hear someone sing "No One," on key that I almost forgot to pay attention to Felicia's performance. Unlike Alicia Keys, Felicia didn't miss all the notes, but she didn't quite hit the big ones. She also got a little sloppy with her diction, at times turning into a jumbled mess of breathy vowels. The judges loved her, and she had her moments, but I don't see this translating into a repeat performance. Still, she was good enough to make me wonder how many other possible finalists were sent home way too soon. Odds of advancing: 10 to 1 (take heart, Felicia; that's been a great omen the past two weeks)

Scott MacIntyre
I'll admit, I was a little nervous for Scott, as I always am. I feel like there's more pressure on him than anyone to validate his place here. There's just no getting around it: everybody wants him to do well, not just because he's blind, but because he seems like such a great person. I liked his choice of Bruce Hornsby. I didn't like the overpronouncing, the straying notes, and the choppiness. But Scott is another person who seems like he has so much more to offer than what we've seen and heard so far. I have a feeling America loves him as much as the judges do, though, and I don't think anyone should apologize for that. Odds of advancing: 5 to 1

Kendall Beard
With a strong voice (that weakened as the song went on) and a sharp dress, Kendall brought her A- game on "This One's for the Girls." The main problem with Kendall is the simple fact that I think this was probably the very best she could do. It wouldn't be a shock to see a country hopeful advance on the strength of a grass roots campaign, but it would be disappointing in light of the superior competition. Odds of advancing: 11 to 1

Jorge Nuñez
Jorge can sing beautifully. I wish he hadn't looked hypnotized at the outset of his performance, but other than a lack of a truly breathtaking finish, the dude really represented himself well. He had a memorable post-performance interview ("When I get this emotional, I can't think in English") that should help him. I was impressed, and I think he has something more to offer as well. Hmm . . . man, he truly is a wild card, because he really seems to have a unique style in this season and in American Idol history. Very interesting. (Stop banging the dang table already, Kara!) Odds of advancing: 6 to 1

Lil Rounds
We knew the judges wanted her in the finals from the beginning. But this is the first time I've fully understood why. Holy moly. She has it all. The clothes, the voice, the presence, the rhythm, the hair, the lipstick, the flair, the ease . . . she has it. Every single week the show has managed to put the clear favorite in the final slot. Random? Um, no. But who cares. Lil needs no preferential treatment. I can't wait to see what happens when she actually tries. The only questions at this point are 1) Will anyone this season manage to compete with her at all? 2) Will America remember to vote for her? I hope the answers to both questions are yes, but we shall see. Odds of advancing: 1 to 1. She's advancing.

I'm not even going to give predictions, because aside from Lil, it seems pretty wide open to me. I do think we're going to see two ladies advance, but I'm just not certain. Good week, AI, good week.

***Update with Spoiler Warning (Also, this update was made with equipment that may have come into contact with peanuts)***
Jorge, Scott, and Lil. I can't say I disagree with any of those choices. What I will say is I'm shocked just a little bit by the judges' Wild Card selections. Group 3 was, in my arrogant opinion, clearly the best of the bunch. The judges clearly disagreed, sending one of the worst of the bunch back to torture America's auditory sensibilities once more. Seriously, Von Smith's singing career should have been shut down along with Gitmo. And Tatiana? I seriously think they picked her just to prove she really is that crazy. I'm thinking about voting for her just out of spite. The other choice that can be explained only by one of two possibilities 1) Crack, or 2) General Juma was about to dismember Emilio Estevez (yes, their relationship is now strained, but she couldn't let that man hurt her baby) unless they put her through . . . is Marilyn Manson Jesse Langseth. Gimme a W . . . W! Gimme a T . . . T! Gimme an F . . . F! What's that spell? Jesse Langseth!!!

Overheard, the Red Rule

Addison wasn't satisfied with the Golden Rule, so he asked what the Red Rule was. Upon learning that there was no such thing, he decided to make one up. I unveil it to the world today with the hopes that all will follow its beautiful wisdom:

"The Red Rule: Peace and love; obey God and forgive your friends."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Top 5 Movie List

In our Sunday School class this morning, we all fessed up to the last movie we saw from beginning to end. A lot of facts and trends stood out to me (Taken is getting mad Sunday School reviews; parents in general seem overjoyed just to see an entire movie sans kids, no matter how bad it is; parents don't like the movies they watch with their kids), but the most telling observation was the simple fact that as a group we weren't wild about our latest film choices.

And now that I think about it, I'm having a real hard time remembering the last film that I loved

Just to be clear, I've seen plenty of movies I thought were really good over the past several years. I enjoy almost every movie I watch. I'm no film snob. And when it comes to movies, I probably play it freer and looser with the word great than just about anybody I know (my brother Steve comes to mind as a clear exception). 

But I wouldn't say I LOVED a movie unless I really do love it so much that I simply must see it again. To love it, it must change the way I think about my life. If I really, truly love a movie, when I see its name pop up on the channel guide, I won't flip by without checking out a few minutes of it. That's a rare flick that captures my affection so strongly. It can't just have great action. It can't just be hilarious. It has to become a part of my consciousness.

And now that I think of it, I have to go back many years to find a movie that I loved and still love. It's been probably 10, 15 years since I amended my Top 5 movie list, so here's a new one:

The Last 5 Movies I've Loved (in reverse chronological order of first viewing)

1. Happy Feet
2. Good Will Hunting
3. Pulp Fiction
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Se7en