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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.