Friday, February 29, 2008

I Choose the Songs (Idol 7 Round of 20)

I was singing in the bathroom before getting ready for work this morning when my wife stopped me.
“No no Dear! You can’t go to the office singing that.”

“Singing what?”

“Whatever that is, it doesn’t suit you. It’s all wrong for your voice. You’re more jazzy but soulful. “Betty, Don’t be a Hero, Don’t be a Fool With Your Life” just doesn’t work. I know you’re giving it a contemporary feel by changing Billy to Betty and that’s dope, but I don’t know man….Just being real.”

“You don’t love me anymore,” I started to cry. “Don’t you remember when I sang The Night Chicago Died on our second date?”

“Honey, I still love that memory, but it was twenty years ago. Since we’re talking the seventies, there are so many great songs that you can turn into something “today”. How about Alone Again Naturally, Knock Three Times on the Ceiling, Brandy, Torn Between Two Lovers? The seventies were such a great decade for music. You’ve got to know by now that it’s all about song choice.”

“Dear, you didn’t even mention You Light Up My Life.”

We both bow three times at the waist towards that framed autograph portrait of Debbie Boone that sits above our stereo.

“Why thank you dear. It’s sweet of you to say that after all these years.”

I begin to sing,

“I choose the songs that make the whole world cry, I choose the songs that make…”

“See dear, now you’ve got it….It’s all about song choice.”

This doesn’t exactly explain what happened to Garrett Haley during sixties week when he apparently was told that his three choices form the list of fifty were taken by others and he was more or less told that Neil Sedaka was all they had left. I’m not trying to create any Bad Blood here, but if Garrett’s story is true this song choice bluster is about as bogus as Robbie Karaoke and Amanda Overmeyer as hardcore rockers? Here’s a list of 50 mediocre songs from an era that happened fifteen years before you were born, find the one that’s best for you in “Is 2 hours long enough for you?” I suppose if America is built on “choice” as the libertarians insist, that’s pretty much America’s notion of choice as it applies to regular people. Buy any computer you want as long as it’s a PC or a Mac. Watch any movie you want as long as it has George, Denzel, Brad, or Leo playing the male lead. Have it your way as long as it’s a hamburger. Vote for any candidate you want as long as it’s someone who has raised 60 million dollars or more. Ooh… I hear laughter in the rain.

Okay, here’s my other question. After all these lectures about “It’s all about song choice”, who the *(#$* chooses the songs for those cheesy group sings on Wednesday night? If those are the same people who hire the vocal coaches for the show, I have this theory about why so many of these young people make such iffy song choices. Maybe some idiot’s filling their head with really stupid suggestions. Did the earth move for you too?

At least for this week, they did stop saying “most talented cast” ever. I think it had something to do with the FCC’s decision to come down on false advertising, but that might just be a coincidence. I was on E-Bay the other night and someone was selling an “Authentic Rocker Detector” once owned by Randy Jackson. There were like four bids on the item all by someone named S.C. Halfmoosehead. Basically it works by measuring the amount of edgy electricity in the air at a concert.

Years ago, I bought a battery-powered stud finder from the hardware store. I had to return it for a refund because it kept directing me to hammer nails in my own body instead of the drywall. Anyway, they apparently still sell really well in the back of Cosmopolitan magazine. There’s a bogus version that they sold to the producers of the Bachelor a couple years ago and it turned out to be a “Dud” detector instead.

As I understand it, the Authentic Rocker Detector got put on E-Bay when the producers used it this Tuesday and Wednesday during Robbie and Amanda’s performances and they kept trying to replace the batteries because the meter wouldn’t move off zero. If you’re going to bid on it, be warned. E-Bay can be a little slow about false-advertising. I do think if you act fast though, you can still bid on an Authentic Rocker bandana, drag racing car, and two fake and lightly-used Bret Michaels outfits.

a small hint: Genuine rock stars do read. Often they used to make a point of being seen reading things like Baudelaire or Yeats to project a sense of gravitas. The spirit of rock is after all about rebellion, pushing boundaries, a sense of freedom, and questioning conformity. It comes from the inside. It doesn't come from costumes, harleys, or the rush of drag racing. I just don't see Kurt Cobain breaking out a biography of Jim Morrison so he can blueprint his performances. I do see Courtney Love doing that, but...

also, why don't they do real "Things American doesn't know about me" like when I was seven years old I drowned a cat, I had to have sex with my agent who used a connection to get me through the audition rounds, I have hepatitis B and killed my best friend when I shared a needle with him. You want real rock stars...


Michael Johns: Really good tennis players don’t hit the ball that slowly or with strokes like that. If you’re a fan, I wouldn’t worry. Beckeye has apparently already voted for him three million times.

Jason Castro: Last week we loved the guitar. This week we’re telling you to dump the guitar. We just give this advice to help you in the competition. In the meantime, just trust yourself.

David Hernandez: Someone claims to have pictures of this guy as a chorus boy in some sort of gay club. I don’t think the gymnastics bit with the leotard helped dispel that one. Fwiw, I think it would be great if it’s true and the guy goes deep into the top 12. I like his performances though Pappa Was a Rolling Stone’s really should be the B side for In the Ghetto.

Chikezie: One sign that the music’s not good on the show is when they take to multiple Simon jokes. I counted three. Brooke White turned Simon into Warren Beattie. David Hernandez started thanking “God” after Simon praised him and then Chikezie aiming “You’ll know my name” right at Simon. They’re taking the “Idol” part of the show way too seriously. Also if the show goes completely Simoncentric, it’s going to go flat very fast.

The joke got him some votes. He has a nice voice. I find his Simon repartee sort of funny. I’d still never go out of my way to buy a CD or mp3 by this guy. If it’s sYESha….this guy’s CHikEZIE.

Jason Yeager: Very earnest, nice voice, if they ever remake Adam Sandler’s “Wedding Singer” and cross it with “Big Daddy”, this is the guy.

Luke Menard: You’ve been on tour for six years, look a bit like Orlando Bloom….Shouldn’t you be doing better than this?

David Cook: If American Idol doesn’t work out, you can play with the Stanford Band at halftime for the rest of your life. If you can tackle Kevin Moen, I’ll pay for the gig. (apologies to non-Stanford-Cal fans). All Right Now indeed. I liked the crossword puzzle bit. The backtalk with Simon was a bit “egregious”, but that goes with the “rocker” mien. Anyway, Randy who tells me that he’s been around real rock bands says that you’re the real rocker on this year’s show.

Danny Noriega: Elvis and Karen Carpenter back to back. I just wish he sang better. The whole bit with the “ish” was very funny. My theory is that he’s Simon and Ryan’s secret love child.

David Archueleta: Okay, I liked Imagine. It was sort of like a guy version of Celine Dion doing the song on stage in Las Vegas. He conveniently skipped the verse about “No more religion, no more possessions, etc.” A lot of people say, you shouldn’t mess with “Imagine”, I tend to agree. Still, when Blake Lewis did it straight it was pretty dull. This was better even if it violated the spirit of the song which is sort of about a world beyond “ego” and doing it this way was all about the singer.

In the meantime, they’re clearly trying to turn the kid into some sort of teen idol. Girls screaming…He’s incredibly sweet with his good friend from junior star search Alexandrea Lushington. He also has that weird “safe” vibe that old time teen idols used to have. Not sure what to make of it…but it feels like Hannah Montana Idol.

Carly Smithson: Now she’s a barmaid in an Irish pub. Next week, we’ll learn that she shops for and pays for her own groceries. She was good doing Heart. I think the lingering thing is “Why didn’t she sell the first time? And what’s missing?”

Kristy Lee Cook: Isn’t Linda Ronstadt country rock? Why’s she talking about doing “country” some time in the future? Maybe it was the silver lame, but she also finds some pretty awkward looking body positions on the stage. She’s very thin, so there are times she looks sort of pretzel like. Other question, why do the judges keep coming to her rescue? I hope she gets her horse back.

Alaina Whitaker: I wasn’t hopelessly devoted to her, but I was surprised to see her get voted off. This is my odd theory. She kind of came into the contest as a Carrie Underwood clone and she got into that territory (not country but girly ballad) and wasn’t at the same level. Some have mentioned that in the battle of the blondes, she might have sung the best but maybe looked the least like a magazine cover prospect. All that said, I don’t blame her for being so upset when she got eliminated. It made for good TV, but it felt sort of unfair. Didn’t Melinda Doolittle do the OCD thing last year? Inviting that comparison on top of the Carrie Underwood comparison probably didn’t help.

Ramiele Malubay: She went disco…it didn’t quite work, but it felt like the judges protected her. She might have earned that though.

Syesha Mercado: The actress bit actually made me cringe. She went down tempo and I was hoping to see a bit more emotional depth and musical individuality. I’m wondering what happens when she catches a theme outside the soul r&b thing she does.

Brooke White: I kept thinking…Wow, she sounds and looks just like someone singing in a coffee house. For whatever reason, Simon never mentions coffee house folk singers in his diatribes. Carly Simon (as opposed to Simon C) has better control of dynamics and maybe because she wrote it used the drama in the pauses in the song much more effectively. Still, it was nice to hear something different on the show.

Asiah Epperson: I thought All By Myself was going to be more of a play on her missing father. It slipped right past the judges and me. She was doing that thing with the musical build in the song and somehow bypassed the actual “feeling” of loneliness in the lyric. I was a little surprised that this one got the pimp spot.

Alexandrea Lushington: I think it’s tricky for a black female singer who doesn’t happen to do bluesy and soulful. Might have been the wrong song, but I thought she was at least pretty good both weeks and clearly has good performance sense. She did keep the “goodbye” song choice jinx intact. “If you leave me now” is almost like some sort of weird wish fulfillment thing in retrospect.

I was touched by her running straight over to David Archuleta after she got the boot. It’s got to be an interesting story, two teen singers who spend at least six years on the “celebrity search” beat and David does better both times. At the same time, what’s with all the crying this year on the elimination show? Is Ryan going to start saying “This is our most empathic cast ever” and is Kleenex going to turn up as the show’s new sponsor?
Instead of Ford commercials….never mind…

Kady Malloy: Ouch….She looked like she was all set for a graceful and inevitable exit on Thursday night, then had to improvise. It was a bit like some of the Sanjaya eliminations last year. Yes, I’m rooting for her, but she didn’t do well. It’s not the singing necessarily, it’s that her voice and presence just sort of shrink in front of the camera when she’s performing. The choice of Heart didn’t help, but it’s interesting. Also, I honestly couldn't tell which one was Alaina and which one was Kady.

Some people say that in movies you can project a character, but in tv you have to project yourself. I think that’s part of the reason Sanjaya worked and also why Danny Noriega comes across. It’s also the reason that Robbie Carrico bombed and Amanda Overmeyer doesn’t seem to be doing much better. My take with Kady Malloy is that she’s naturally a bit shy and maybe really is all about the music, other people’s music.

It’s really interesting though. Very nice voice, good look for television except for the “faces”, but she’s backing off about projecting much of herself. I think the intriguing thing is that the switch may just happen to go on. It’ll have to if she’s going to make the final 12.

I also have to confess that I didn’t exactly put Idol Gives Back 2 on my calendar as soon as Ryan announced it. I’m all for ending world hunger, but I’m also getting hungry for really good musical performances. A night of Beatles songs should be fun as long as they don’t make Julie Taymor the guest mentor and turn it into Across the Universe Redux. Fwiw….the producers of Idol need to watch Once to get back in touch with the real spirit of making music.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Pork Chow Mein Primary (politics)

We stopped to see my mother over the weekend and she was surprisingly restrained in feeding us. She served us a main course (chow mein) and Chinese broccoli and even resisted dropping a freshly poached chicken into the mix. After she talked about their trip to Peru, the subject shifted to the presidential race. I wouldn’t say that my mother’s ever had strong political convictions. My father was a fan of the Kennedys. He broke with his own family’s support of Richard Nixon in 1960. My Grandfather thought that Nixon was more supportive of Taiwan because of his stance on protecting Quemoy and Matsu, islands between the two Chinas. My dad felt that one should vote for President based on more than one issue and he was one of many thousands of people who were swayed by JFK’s more vigorous appearance in the televised debates. My dad and I also used to exchange books about Robert Kennedy. My father died in 1978 which I now realize was just 10 years after RFK was shot.

After my dad died, she married my stepfather who had been a farmer and who believes that the Republican party supports business owners. My mom’s politics drifted towards my stepfather’s views and those of his friends. It didn’t help that they motor homed for several years. My mom started getting Swift Boat e-mails and Hillary jokes from various people she had exchanged e-mail addresses with from the world of motor homing. We visited them once when they were staying in a park in Palm Springs. The average age was about 70 and the hot springs pool was like a scene out of the movie Cocoon. While Hillary enjoys strong support from seniors, it’s probably not from the seniors who drive around the country in motor homes as opposed to the much larger number who fret about paying their rent vs. paying for prescription drugs.

I was more than a little surprised between plates of pork chow mein to learn that my mother had decided to support Barack Obama (at least for now). First she felt that McCain was too much in the thrall of lobbyists. I’m pretty sure that mom’s main source of information about political matters is the cable news networks and occasional chatter with friends their age. It also doesn’t help that she also thinks he’s entangled with certain lobbyists in ways that go beyond money. Second, she was very offended by attempts to twist Michelle Obama’s comments about being “really proud” of her country now. My stepfather remains mildly supportive of McCain. A few minutes later my mother said “We’re republicans.”

My wife and daughter are supporting Hillary Clinton. My daughter didn't say much.
She's one of these kids who eats bacon, but doesn't eat pork :} She spent much of the meal eating all parts of her grandmother's chow mein while laying strips of roast pork on the outer edge of her plate. My wife mentioned a couple times that she feels that Obama is promising too much while Hillary Clinton is both getting a bad shake from the media and the one who seems to be presenting realistic-detailed approaches to the problems. My mother apparently really does find Barack’s speeches about doing things in new ways and working together inspiring. No one mentioned the war.

As strange as this may sound, I said virtually nothing other than my usual I’m actually happy with either Democratic candidate vs. McCain. I read my own blog from time to time and I hardly seem like the sort of person who wouldn’t say something in one of these dinner table exchanges. Is Chancelucky really a different person from me? On the other hand, what sane person would take a side in a political discussion between his mother and wife at his mother's house unless he absoutely had to?


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Friday, February 22, 2008

Virgin Sacrifice (American Idol 7 round of 24)

I know that Simon Cowell gets paid to be the guy who delivers the bad news, but I think he crossed the line again on Thursday night with Colton Berry. No, it wasn’t another Bush Baby thing, but it wasn’t that far off. He told Colton Berry to get a day job and enjoy the singing on the side, because he didn’t think he could make it. Colton Berry is all of seventeen years old. He made the final 24 on a show with 100,000 plus auditioners and you played some role in his getting there. Why drop this in front of 20 million viewers on the nice young man who sang a forgettable version of Elvis’s Suspicious Mimes?

“We’re caught behind glass….We can’t get out….Because we're suspicious mimes, babeee..”

If you really want to give that advice, you pull him aside after the show and give him the "do you really want this, because this is what it might take for someone like you" speech.

For my own reasons, I often think about Roomful Of Mirrors, a biography of Jimi Hendrix, a well known musician from the sixties who was almost as memorable as Spiral Staircase and the Turtles according to the producers of American Idol. Into his early twenties, Hendrix had the experience of having people walk out on him, getting kicked out of bands (one of which included Tommy Chong on lead guitar) , and repeatedly being told that he should pursue something else like joining the army or selling drugs. No record producer would have touched Jimi Hendrix at age seventeen.

No, Colton Berry is probably not the next Hendrix, but he had a nice enough voice, he looks like Ellen Degeneres, and he certainly didn’t embarrass himself on Tuesday night. He even showed a bit of humor and poise that weren’t extraordinary for a 17 year old a la Jordin Sparks or Lisa Tucker, but if it were my kid I’d be pretty proud of him. I, personally, have no idea where Colton Berry will be in ten years musically. When I was seventeen, no one in his right mind would have told me to write (they might have been right about that), but I’m glad I kept trying. I would say telling anyone, regardless of talent, to make sure they have a day job to fall back on isn’t bad advice….Just don’t take away the dream. It’s not your right, even if you happen to be right. And don’t do it on national tv. What’s the point of that other than to beat up on a perfectly nice 17 year old who probably at least sings better than Paula Abdul? Was it some weird fear of Ellen Degeneres?

My own theory is that Simon has some man crush on Kyle Ensley, the aspirant who got let go in favor of Colton Berry over Simon’s objections. Now that Ryan has clearly moved on from his long flirtation with Simon and now that my web-pal Beckeye seems to have taken up with Michael Johns (my guess is she has thing for guys with funny accents), Simon probably got a little fixated on the geeky guy from Oklahoma and was lashing back. I also think that Danny Noriega’s head snap (Well, someone didn't like it..) further triggered some unexamined homo-erotic longing for Kyle with Simon. If you remember, he had a thing for Carrie Underwood, also from Oklahoma. I’m thinking Simon has one of those peculiar British fascinations with cowboy life. In the privacy of his glass-bricked bathroom, he probably puts on a holster, boots, and chaps and lipsynchs to Gene Autry MP3s. I’ve heard that his next concept group is going to be called “Il Cowboyo” and will homage the Village People but with more of an S&M tinge. Once a year some sassy contestant Slighly spends camera time to remind Simon Cowell that his own time in the music industry has been more Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys than Hendrix, Jim Morrison, or Janis Joplin.

The other strange venture into meanness went into crushing Kady Malloy. Later in the show Simon tells Alexandrea (did I pronounce that right?) Lushington that he isn’t looking for a performer, he wanted someone who sang well. I did agree some that Lushington, the other Junior Star Search alum, performed Spinning Wheel well in a theatrical sense, made the arrangement contemporary, but even I could hear that her voice had some limits and some technical issues. I thought Kady Malloy showed off a very promising voice, it just wasn’t much of a performance. One of things I like about Kady Malloy is she really is into music. On her profile page, she mentions Eva Cassidy, Queen, and Led Zeppelin. Usually Idol Singers don’t seem to know about much beyond Mariah and Whitney Houston or whatever the equivalents are in other genres. Anyway, I’m always cringing when they turn up with these top 40 musical loves. Groovy Kind of Love is one of those sixties artifacts because it weds Austin Powers lyrics to a melody and harmony by Clementi (the Italian composer not the baseball player who died in the plane crash). You remember when Rick Wakeman put the theme from Brahms Fourth on an Album and Emerson Lake and Palmer did a whole arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition? It’s at least interesting.

So, yes she needs to smile some and yes she probably needed to sing out more (especially for first impression purposes). I’m not saying that Kady Malloy was great on Wednesday, but it’s clear to me that she has a pretty rich voice and definitely looks like a potential pop star or at least someone’s mean sister for teen movies. The judges treated her like Melinda Lira or the return of Stevie Scott. Instead, they’re playing this weird head trip about you’re only good when you’re being Britney. I mean the girl’s eighteen years old….It’s okay to make one deserved positive comment beyond Paula’s usual “You look really pretty”. Comparing her to pencils and Night of the Living Dead was simply over the top. I would have cried too.

Of course, that’s the irony. They pay Simon to do this sort of thing and America allegedly loves it. It’s what we talk about on the day after the results show. It’s kind of like a modernized version of ritual virgin sacrifices. (Please don’t read anything into that about either Kady Malloy or Colton Berry)


Kristie Lee Clark: Paula personally came to her rescue. I wouldn’t have voted her out either, but if she performs like this some stranger’s going to be keeping that horse for a while.

Joanne Borgella: There’s likely some law of the Reality TV universe that says you can’t win two different shows on two different networks anyway. We’ll find out as David Archulata gets pimped forward, but she just wasn’t very memorable.

Alaina Whitaker: Some nice fellow commented on my review of Tuesday that yes, indeed the contestants were limited to about 50 songs for the show. (thus 2 versions of Spiral Staircase and the Turtles). She did pretty much wipe out Chikezie (who somehow survived anyway). I want to hate her, but I couldn’t. How am I supposed to tell the difference between Kristie Lee Clark, Kady Malloy, and Alaina Whitaker? You mean the attractive blonde one with the pretty good voice?

Amanda Overmeyer: What the hell is an authentic rocker? A couple years ago, I kept asking if Chris Daughtry is a real alt rocker, what the hell’s he doing singing beneath a logo for Coca Cola and Ford? Do they become genuine because Paula, Randy, and Simon certify them as such?

“Yo, Paula Abdul told me that I’m a real rocker! Can you believe that….I’m so cool.”

Of course, Chris Daughtry’s real business as a rocker seem to be providing background music for Idol segues. Does anyone remember when musicians actually were expected to provide social commentary through their art?

Let me break it to you….she’s playing the part. I tend to agree with Simon that the actual singing was all over the place and does anyone see an actual rebel here? I did think she did good schtick though about being the one who pulled out into the intersection.

Amy Davis: the most telling moment during Where the Boys Are (can you think of a worse song choice…well there’s Moon River I guess), they did their obligatory shot of the guy contestants and they were all shifting around in their chairs and looking painfully uncomfortable. Can anyone sing Connie Francis in a way that’s remotely contemporary?
For years there’s been this, well she looks nice she’ll go a round or two just based on that, but this year’s mix it was almost like one of the singer/model types had to go in the first round because two people had to go.

Brooke White: I was disappointed. In the audition rounds she seemed to have a feel for lyrical and personal and she chooses Happy Together? If she doesn’t go to her strength next week even though she’s been pimped a fair amount, we’ll be talking about washed-up instead of washing up liquid.

Asia’h Epperson: I liked her version of Piece of My Heart….I look forward to her making it to Wednesday without the show mentioning that her father died.

Ramiele Malubay: There used to be a North Beach punk club called the Mabuhay Gardens and well I keep seeing this young woman singing there. She took on Dusty Springfield and did very well. She has a very nice voice, but if Simon’s lingering concern about her was that she’s too old-fashioned….I Don’t Have to say this was exactly that, you will understand. Believe me. She also showed off a very relaxed self-effacing personality in the dismount. Re: Ryan and the shoes. If you’re still trying to butch it up, this was up there with telling Simon last year that it’s not pink, actually it’s salmon.

Syesha Marcado: She’s my wife’s favorite. To me she’s kind of an Aretha impersonator who goes by the motto, “When in doubt, shout”. I’d like to see her do well with other material, but she’s definitely good. Original is an open question. That’s why I’d like to see her do a ballad to see if she can bring off vulnerability, etc. I also get this feeling that there’s a closet diva lurking within her. Could be interesting if the judges ever turn on her.

Carly “Hennesy” Smithson: They came clean about the former record deal, but I thought it wasn’t because the company collapsed more that she just didn’t sell. She covered up the tattoos for sixties night, but they mentioned the tattoo parlor anyway and I have to say it’s cool that she owns a tattoo parlor with her husband, though it’s more like she should be the nurse and Amanda Overmeyer should own the tattoo parlor.

She was really good on Shadow of Your Smile though I could hear the cold a bit (not sure if I would have had they not claimed that all the women were sick all week). My wild guess about Simon breaking ranks was that he was being cunning. The producers have set her up as the frontrunner. Actually, the last thing she needed was over the top praise from the judges. The whisper across the net has already been “fix”. What else are you supposed to think when Carly and Michael Johns both just happen to get the pimp spot? Simon rather cannily took the edge off. Notice he didn’t criticize her, it was more like “Not as fantastic as it should be” as in you’re properly in this competition.

Sorry I can’t chat longer, I’ve got to go meet Garrett Haley at the tanning salon.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Disappearing the Sixties (American Idol Men Round of 24)

Andy Williams singing Moon River is of course most people's symbol of the music of the sixties.

How’s this list? The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, The Band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel… What’s it got to do with American Idol last night? Well, nothing. The twelve males in the alleged most talented cast ever responded with songs by the Turtles, Three Dog Night, Harry Nilsson, and Henry Mancini/Andy Williams. Yikes! You have maybe the most iconic music and musicians of the last century and you do the equivalent of going out to dinner in New York City and settle on Pizza Hut. Is the list of “permitted” songs that restrictive or are these “artistes” that bland? For one, everything about the sixties is about being edgy and being socially relevant. It was if everyone involved in Last Night’s first male semi-final had no clue. In the meantime, most of the night consisted of Paula vs. Simon making like bickering brother and sister.

David Hernandez: He seemed a little stiff and nervous. He has a nice voice, a little bit of presence, but there’s a difference between taking on Stephen Stills instead of Wilson Pickett. Was there any connection with either the camera or the audience?

Chikezie Ezie: Paula and the producers were trying to sell him as this year’s hard working journeyman. He lost weight and he kept trying. Losing weight appears to be the modern equivalent of moral virtue. He sounded okay, but it was like listening to a singer on Quaaludes. You also have more of a personality to start talking back to the judges this early. This guy might survive tonight, but I don’t see him making it to the final 12.

David Cook: He turned Happy Together into something more rock. And this is good, because? Maybe next week, he’ll do Led Zeppelin to a Latin beat.

Jason Yeager: Moon River? Muzak night, yes. Chris Richardson did Geek in the Pink for his grandmother last year. I’m the next pop star? Actually, Anwar Robinson did a very nice version of Moon River a couple years ago but he completely transformed the song. You know what, Anwar actually compares very well to this so called “most talented” group ever.

Robbie Carrico: I really don’t care if you’re a real rocker or not. American wants to know if you ever got it on with Britney or if you ever saw her snort anything. Get with it guy. No, I don’t think his version of “One is the Loneliest Number” could be a hit today unless you consider number 121 on the charts a not so lonely number.

David Archulata: Wasn’t “how old are you again?” last year’s tagline for Jordin Sparks. He sounded good doing Motown, but he hardly sounded original. He has a nice enough voice, though he does have this oddly giddy laugh. The judges have been so over the top with their praise of this guy though that I’m thinking “agenda”.

Danny Noriega: This might be Sanjaya’s successor. He was goofy and entertaining. He has more performance confidence than Sanjaya in that he was able to sing out. He also seemed quite comfortable with being “out”. You want original. This guy is definitely memorable and new. For some reason, Danny Noriega made me think of the sort of act that gets hugely popular in some place like Japan then gets sprung on the American market with totally unpredictable consequences. Yes, his channeling of Elvis as a slightly mincing androgynous teenager was weird, but that’s also what was great about it.

Luke Menard: The irony is that I suspect hardly anyone is talking about the guy. Midnight Cowboy was a great movie though. I wonder if Luke has a clue what the movie was about (actually Moon River was the theme for Breakfast at Tiffany’s which is about the same theme just a few rungs up the class ladder). I think if Ryan wants a second career he’d make a great Ratso Rizzo in the remake. If only, everybody was talking about the guy, they'd be saying "Wow, that Luke guy sure looked comfortable doing whatever he was doing last night!"

Colton Berry: He really did sort of look like Ellen Degeneres. Why would you smile while singing Suspicious Minds? Ellen Degeneres doing Elvis? What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, Elvis did this song in the sixties, but for whatever reason he belongs to fifties night. Again, how did so many of these guys wind up so unclear on the concept?

Garrett Haley: My first thought was Rex Smith. The guy really looks like a teen idol from the late sixties early seventies. Neil Sedaka? First, didn’t the guy first make the song a hit as a doo wop thing in the fifties? Second, I agree with Simon. Who’s going to buy this record in 2008? You can do the Beatles, David Crosby, Santana and you decide to do Neil Sedaka? He might just as easily have done "Me and you and a dog named Boo". I’m for bringing back the death penalty for 17 year old singing teenagers. Also, can any of these guys move at all?

Jason Castro: His dad finally left his job as El Presidente of Cuba and the show doesn’t mention it. I liked the guitar, the Lovin’ Spoonful song choice, and the very different presentation of light, goofy (a touch of Tiny Tim), yet slightly sexy (at least to girls that age). I’m not sure how much range he has for later rounds, but he was actually memorable.

Michael Johns: He sings well. He looks good. The judges clearly like him. I hate the guy. My take- the parts are more than the whole with this guy. He sort of does all the things you’re supposed to do with a performance except that there’s no clear identity coming off of him as “the performer”. He looks like, sounds like, does everything right, but I’m not sure where the iconic identity is with this guy. I figure he goes at minimum deep into the final twelve though, but he might be this year’s Melinda Doolittle, consummate professional except for the actual star quality part. Melinda didn’t pretend that she had charisma. This guy seems to think he has it and doesn’t know that he might not.

My big worry. As much as Randy tried to play up how great the guys did, they didn’t. I’m not sitting here going, I can’t wait to hear what xxxx does next week. If like 7 of them disappeared instead of 2, I’m not sure I’d even notice. Michael Johns ended the show with “Light My Fire”, well I hate to tell you this Nigel, “I think the mix still needs some kindling, lighter fluid, or even something like sirens and a Dalmatian.” You’ve got a show full of Chris Richardsons and Ace Youngs. As much fun as you made of Clay Aiken during the auditions, I’m not sure any of these guys breaks out at the level of Clay.

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Lion in Winter (movie review)

For the last five months our friend Richard has been trying to get us to dinner so he could show off his new home theater. We finally made it there last week. He has a closet full of DVD’s some blue ray, some standard, and some featuring Nicholas Cage in a helicopter and Edward Norton in a hockey goalie’s mask as the King of Jerusalem. My wife’s not a big fan of explosions and she loves old movies. After debating the virtues of Denzel Washington in the Hurricane and some foreign movie, we somehow decided on Lion in Winter, a costume drama from 1968.

We didn’t choose it to be mean to Richard, but he did seem a little disappointed when the whole Dolby thing wasn’t happening. There was no subwoofer, no channel directing anything to the ceiling or the sides. The picture was quite good. Richard has a projection system and a ten foot wide image. It was actually somewhat better than some art house screens I’ve seen. It’s certainly better than the picture we had when I participated in a movie showing venture in 1978. We’d rent the movies from Audio Brandon and similar companies, the schools’ auditorium had a projector, and we put up a fifteen to twenty foot screen with a small rip in it.

If you don’t happen to know Lion in Winter, it’s a movie based on a Broadway play by James Goldman who served as the screenwriter for the film. It’s best remembered for featuring Katherine Hepburn (then 61) and Peter O’toole (then 36) as the Middle Ages version of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. The historical Eleanor of Aquitaine was 11 years older than Henry 2 (Plantagenet). Anthony Hopkins played Richard the Lionhearted. Timothy Dalton (later better known as James Bond) was Phillip 2, king of France. The movie essentially mixes court intrigue with the story of a beyond dysfunctional royal family (way beyond Charles and Diana) at a fictional Christmas Court in Chinon, France in the year 1183 after the rebellion and death of Henry’s presumptive heir, Henry 3. Hepburn gets one of the better lines in the script. “It’s 1183, we are the barbarians.”

The short version is that Lion in Winter contains enough moral transgression to fill several seasons of Jerry Springer. Henry keeps one of his sons’ fiancés as his own mistress. Richard (the one in the movie, not the guy with the home theater)is gay and arguably a pederast. Jeffrey was reincarnated as Kenneth Lay, the driving force behind Enron. Henry has a knife fight with his own sons.

Lion was part of a run of costume dramas that combined bits of European history, spectacular dialogue, and philosophical digressions well beyond anything in current Hollywood. The run included Beckett, Man for All Seasons, and Anne of a Thousand Days. When I was thirteen, this was my idea of a good movie. Now that I’m way older, it’s clear to me that I barely understood if I understood at all most of the themes in these movies. For one, it was one of the first times I ever thought about homosexuality. Honestly, even in middle age (as opposed to the Middle Ages), it was very hard to keep up with the various references and complex plot points in Lion in Winter. It’s clear to me that movie audiences in the sixties and seventies had much better attention spans, that these movies were targeted for a very adult audience, and it was okay to expect audiences to know a little bit about history.

At first glance, the only thing sixties about Lion in Winter is the fact that the men had long hair and everyone in the movie seems to be literally and figuratively boundary challenged. On closer examination it’s very much a product of its time. If the catch phrase for one form of sixties politics was “Question Authority”, Lion in Winter is about how deeply flawed those sources of authority were in the first place. Henry and Phillip are engaged in endless petty wars and the shadow of Vietnam and the women's movement is much more prominent when you see the movie forty years outside its time.

Another fascinating aspect is that the effects and scenes are done without the benefit of CGI or other digitized special effects. I have no idea how elaborate the real set was, but the battle scenes and fight scenes are very muted. Instead the art directors work with things like dozens of well-placed canines, roaring fires, and tinted lenses to give the movie the feel of not so comfortable life in a royal castle. It’s quite convincing and reminds you that physical set design will soon be something of a lost art or at least a very different one in movies.

Other than that, the movie depends on talking and acting and what acting it is! O’toole is outsized, larger than life, and seems to take huge swashbuckling risks with every gesture. Hepburn plays her role as part monarch and part vulnerable older woman. You sense the immensity of her failures with her family at an emotional level, yet she’s so layered as an actress that you still see that she loves her sons and somehow, against all instincts, longs for Henry as the only man in the known world who can match her brains, drive, and passion (in a weird way, even though she capped her career with Spencer Tracy in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, this is Hepburn's real final and definitive statement on the Hepburn-Tracy repartee). The sheer bravura of O’toole's scenes with Hepburn is a special effect that has nothing to do with technology. Our host mentioned at one point that he’d tried a few times to make it through Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (Richard the Lionhearted has a small bit in this Crusades epic as well). It reminds me that CGI can bring a time and a look to a film, but it takes serious actors and real writers to bring a scene to life.

Just as amazing, Hepburn at 61 and 25 years older was able to make the lingering sexual attraction with O’toole palpable. It helps that Hepburn was a strikingly attractive woman, but we’re not that removed from a time when we judged our actors and actresses by what they were able to project from the inside not just the outside. I’m not sure there are a pair of current-day actors who could pull this off. Angelina Jolie has some actual movie star quality and real intesity, but I’ve never seen her manage nearly as many “dimensions” to a character as Hepburn makes possible here. Daniel Day Lewis can project an outsized character, but I’m not sure that he invests his portrayals with the same level of humanity burning inside that O’toole manages. Then there’s the whole chemistry bit that brings to mind Norma Desmond’s line from Sunset Boulevard, “I am big…The pictures got smaller.” If you’ve seen Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller in “Interview”, Hollywood’s current idea of two person bravura acting, you’ll catch my drift.

Even more amazing, their’s might not have been the best performance in the movie. Nigel Terry, who plays John 2 as kind of a premonition of George W. Bush, delivers one of these almost completely ego free recreations of John as hapless, foolish, feeble, yet somehow cunning. Apparently, he fell into character roles and more or less disappeared.

So exactly how many times did we wind up saying, “Wow, they don’t make them like that anymore?”

It’s somewhere up there with the number of clever almost undecipherable insults strewn through the script of Lion in Winter.

The technology behind our friend Richard’s new home theater was genuinely amazing. The picture was sharp and huge. It’s as close as I’ve ever come to having the movie theater experience in someone’s house. This includes the private theater at Skywalker Ranch from twelve years ago that was state of the art then and Saul Zaentz’s private screening room in the Fantasy Building back when he was making Amadeus and the Mosquito Coast. I can’t imagine how advanced the technology for this sort of thing has gotten.

This is the weird thing. We wound up watching a forty year old movie that reminded us almost painfully of just how much our culture is actually going backwards in the midst of all this technological progress. Maybe they don’t make them like they used to, but we’ve got to get back to an era where people actually made big movies instead of big effects.

fwiw, There's a modern remake with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close (no boiled rabbits or starships), that I'll have to check out just to see if I was just sort of wowed by the 1968 version and if the same sort of acting/dramatic energy is still possible. Maybe they do make them that way anymore and they just don't hype it....


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Friday, February 15, 2008

The Most Talented "Cast" Ever (American Idol 7- Hollywood)

While most people are talking about the “talent” part of the Idol producers’ tagline for Season 7, I’m still mulling over the “cast” bit. Movies and plays have casts as do operas and musicals. People with broken arms have casts. Don’t national music competitions have contestants? Isn’t whatever talent that comes through the various rounds of said competition “discovered” not “cast”? Ryan’s repeated description may have been inadvertent but it’s a pretty significant admission. Idol is only nominally a competition. At heart, it’s really a show with script, cast, and a purpose other than just the shared pleasure of watching new talent appear, develop, etc.

That said, I suspect it’s not an accident that the various “ringers” placed into this year’s competition all just happened to make the Final 24. Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, Brooke White, David Archuelata, “Yes” Marcado, Kristie Lee Cook (you know if they have an Amazing Grace theme night, I bet she’s going to do really really well) each got more than his/her share of camera time all somehow without any direct mention that each is at least twelve minutes into the allotted fifteen minutes of Warhol standard time. It wouldn’t be that hard to just say, “Hey you had a major label release several years ago that bombed and now you’re here. What’s that like?”

They could at least come clean with Carly Smithson about her claim that a dog allergy had affected her voice. If you were watching closely on Tuesday night, it was clear that the problem is that her husband had tattooed her tongue blue. I’m sure it was swollen for weeks before it finally healed. And wouldn’t it be a great gimmick if she added a tattoo for every week that she survives the competition? BTW First law of tv, if they do a clip of her at home they now have to show the dog wearing its own pollen mask and with a sleeve of tattoos up its foreleg.

To be honest, Brooke White scared me. She sounded fine in the Tuesday clip of her playing Carole King. On Wednesday, they revealed Brooke White, emotional wreck. If she really were just a nanny I’d understand, but this is someone who opened for and toured with a major artist as a solo act not as someone’s backup singer. They also revealed her flubbing in the same performance on a song that’s not all that difficult though it’s harmonically not completely straightforward. If this is casting, her story line is the shy but talented one who needs to be confident enough to relax on stage. Maybe Simon and Ryan will take her to an R-rated movie and loosen her up.

Michael Johns is currently cast as the cocky teacher’s pet. I figure the script calls for some crisis to develop with the guy as the show unfolds. Maybe he can’t sing country music or Josiah Leming will accuse that Australian guy of stealing one of his songs and trying to sing it with an American accent.

David Archuelata is the ingénue. In fact, he looks sort of like Ferris Bueller if he happened to be one of the Brady Bunch. He's the guy who they think has the talent, but may be in the thing too early. I figure they bring Barry Manilow in to give him a long talk about stardom, talent, etc. and David emerges ready to compete “now”. He then develops some new node on his vocal cords and is forced to have radical and life-endangering surgery performed by members of the cast from House just before the final four.

Kristie Lee Cook I figure is the one who will make the really dumb move that threatens to sink her. Maybe she’ll sing “Dixie” on Motown night or some part of her outfit falls off mid-performance. Randy starts chanting “The South Will Rise Again” then gives some sort of gang sign. Then we get to see the other competitors rally around Kristie and help her out of free fall. She gets the axe anyway, but America winds up loving her after she helps Ramiele Malubay come forward and confess that she used HGH on her vocal cords.

Random non-sequitur: speaking of HGH, does anyone find it a little weird that Roger Clemens admitted that his wife Debbie got a shot of HGH (for an SI swimwear shot that included him) from Brian Mcnamee yet Roger himself never did the stuff? If you’re going to lie, at least protect your wife too. In the meantime, I think someone should tell congress that Dick Cheney used steroids in the leadup to the War in Iraq. Maybe then they’d actually investigate it and blame the whole thing on Barry Bonds.

I don’t know where Kady Malloy, who was barely seen in the two Hollywood days, fits in. Is she one of the ringers? Is she going to show up say in week 9 and amaze American by doing a spot on Ethel Merman impression? Simon then says, “You’re not as enormous and brassy as you think you are.” Paula insists on hugging her. Three weeks later she does Eddie Vedder then finally gets voted off the show when she does Fantasia Barrino and Taylor Hicks singing a duet perfectly and none of the judges remember who they were. In between, guest Idol Britney Spears has the most talented “cast” ever spend two days with her in rehab so they can get a real taste of stardom. On their visit, there are surprise appearances by Constantine Maroullis, Justin Guarini, and Chris Sligh who keeps a blog about his experience there.

Robbie Carrico, the former boy bander, somehow doesn’t make it out of the semi-finals. Depressed by the fact that his “last chance” didn’t work out and still desperate for fame, he makes a movie with Jessica Sierra called “Boys and Girls United The Sequel”. The same week, People Magazine breaks a story about the hundreds of homeless single singing parents left living under the Hollywood sign. Word has it that the males will be signed for a new boy band called the “Backstory Boys”. Every couple months, Brian Dunkleman comes by to interview one of them for his podcast“I used to be on American Idol.”

Does this final 24 sing better than past groups of semifinalists? Maybe….At least because they don’t have this one strewn with Brenna Gathers, Mykalah Gordons, and Bobbie Bennetts. As usual there are half a dozen semifinalists about whom I know nothing at this point, but I feel very confident that I won’t be thinking “Oh Geez, this guy’s not quite as good as Paul Kim.” Here’s the harder question. Do any of them make you feel like here’s a totally original talent with actual star quality say at the level of Marvin Gaye or Linda Ronstadt? I didn’t see that. I’m not even sure that I’ve seen anyone with the star quality of Susannah Hoffs.

Equally weird, Simon Cowell’s tag line for this year’s Hollywood round (fwiw I do miss the social train wreck of the group sings) was “We’re only going to take singers we think have a serious chance of making the top ten.”

We then spend half an hour following the “journeys” of Kyle Ensley and Josiah Leming. First off, Kyle Ensley, the bespectacled Oklahoma State student, was clearly an attempt to morph Clay Aiken with Kevin Covais. First he takes a page out of the Covais playbook and does some absurd bubble gum pop song (Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes was not nearly as good a choice as say Paul Anka's Having My Baby) then he auditions with the same Josh Groban song that Kevin Covais sang pre- Chicken Little. Tell me with a straight face that this was the last guy cut when you’re only taking singers with a real chance to win. Simon Cowell himself then endorses the “charm” of Kyle Ensley, “People Like you”. What happened to the bit about “real singers who have a serious shot at this”?

I figure they’re setting up Josiah Leming for some sort of spinoff show. Yes, he was sort of interesting. No, I couldn’t see him actually surviving country music and Latin night or singing in a Ford commercial with Tony Bennett. Also, his a cappella version of Stand By Me was in Sundance Head territory. It’s the perfect premise for a dramedy series. 19 year old lives out of his car while he goes from town to town trying to get his music career to take off, sort of Route 66 with music.

Am I the only one who noticed that they didn’t have any crooners this year? Clearly, Idol’s musical fascination has shifted out of the fifties all the way to the sixties. Nothing else would explain all the auditioners doing Janis Joplin impressions. Honestly, Amanda Overmeyer looks and acts less like Janis than she does Wednesday Addams. I swear the producers told her to have that car crash to give her even more of a sixties swagger. If she makes the round of six watch for her to be caught in Van Nuys motel room with a bottle of Wild Turkey and David Archuelata. As they hose her down, she tells the producers that she's having his baby.

Is this the most talented cast yet? I guess we’ll find out, but aren’t you wondering how they did the casting for this show in previous seasons?

Other Chancelucky Idol Reviews

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

John McCain and the Gook Factor (politics)

My sister in law is a Republican and she sent me an e-mail saying that she plans to vote for John McCain. Maybe she was just making conversation, but she also wanted to know what I think of John McCain. First, I wouldn’t vote for John McCain myself. I’m politically liberal, he’s not.

That means there are several issues right off the top where I part ways with the presumptive Republican nominee.

1) He strongly supports the war. In fact, he risked his candidacy on the viability of the “surge”. My memories of candidate McCain shopping in Baghdad while guarded by helicopters, armored escort, etc. then coming how to tell America how safe the place is are a bit too fresh. He’s also a military man. He knows better than to confuse a drop in the level of violence (military success) with the White House’s own measure for the surge, the Iraqis taking steps towards political reconciliation a goal that seems no closer now than it did a year ago.

2) He’s not pro-choice.

3) Although he initially opposed the Bush tax cuts as fiscally irresponsible, he now endorses them despite the fact that they’re still driving up the deficits. He also just happened to be absent the other day when the senate voted on the tax “stimulus” package.

There are many things I admire about John McCain

1) Not only did he spend seven years as a POW, he refused to be released before lower –ranking captives were released. I couldn’t have survived such an experience nor would I have ever had the courage to pull someone out of a river under enemy fire the way John Kerrey did. The ultra-rights do have a mini swift-boat thing going with McCain. They claim that he disclosed his mission and the position his plane flew from to avoid torture. Even if true, I still admire the guy.

2) He worked with Russ Feingold and tried to do something about campaign finance reform. It’s not often mentioned that part of the impetus for McCain taking on campaign reform is the fact that he was one of the Keating Five. The investigation found that McCain and family had been taking free trips courtesy of Lincoln Savings and Loan. A lot of politicians have this kind of baggage though and I give him credit for working to clean this sort of stuff up.

3) As a Republican in a conservative state, he’s refused to jump on the anti-gay marriage thing as a way to get votes. It’s never been written much, but McCain had a reputation as a womanizer that rivals Bill Clinton’s. Again there have been grumblings from the far right about the fact that he dumped his first wife after she dutifully waited for his return from Vietnam. She was so loyal that she didn’t even tell him about her own serious medical problems that caused her to lose her looks. After he returned, he cheated on her openly then married a twenty five year old daughter of the man who would pay for his entry into Arizona politics.

Unlike some other conservatives who live in glass houses, McCain has never thrown stones.

4) I agree with him on immigration. I can’t punish people who simply sought to feed their families. If you want to get serious about it, it’s employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens whom I feel need to face stiff penalties.

5) As the only candidate who actually was tortured in war, he’s the rare Republican who simply opposes waterboarding as un-American. His exchange with Mitt Romney in the debates was one of those moments where I thought “Wow, I see why so many people are so entranced with John McCain.”

6) He’s one of the few Republicans who acknowledges that global warming is a serious problem. I do have to say that his plan for addressing the issue is extremely flawed though.

All that said, I’m not sure what to tell a Republican who maybe still believes in both the war and happens to feel that abortion should never be legal. My “policy” reasons for not voting for John McCain just wouldn’t matter much to her. Many of my reasons for liking John McCain might also be reasons a Republican would vote against the guy.

My problem with John McCain though runs deeper than his stances. If I voted on policy positions alone, I would have voted for Dennis Kucinich. I’ve never voted for Kucinich because he never struck me as having the right personality for the presidency. I’ve heard conservatives say the same about Ron Paul. When it comes to John McCain, I’m troubled by two matters that many people dismiss as minor. Maybe they are a sign of how petty I am, but here they are.

The Gook Factor

Up through 2000, John McCain was publicly using the word “Gook” as in “I’ll hate the gooks until the day I die.”

Until late February 2000, candidate McCain refused to apologize or give up using the term. He explained that he wasn’t referring to “Asian” people in general, just the people who held him captive and tortured him and his fellow POWs. After some pressure, he agreed to stop using the term publicly Yeah, that does suggest that he may well still be using the phrase in private. Interestingly, many Vietnamese Republicans in California continued to support John McCain. It’s worth mentioning that the McCains have an adopted daughter from Bangladesh. I don’t know if they privately call her a “wog” or a “nigger” (most people don’t know that the British applied the “n” word to East Indians and other groups who were brown or darker in addition to black Africans.

Perhaps this is why McCain later hugged George W. Bush even after what Karl Rove managed to insinuate during the 2000 South Carolina primary. I suspect Rove told McCain, “We didn’t mean you were black in those push polls, just your daughter.”

To which the Senator from Arizona responded, "Karl, it's not like you guys called her 'macaca' or anything like that."

To be accurate, I’m a “chink” and have only been called a “gook” a couple times in my life. The people who did it may well have thought that I looked like someone who had tortured them for all I know. I say call the people who tortured you anything you want, but it’s interesting that the guy settled on “gook”. Had they been “fuckers”, “scum”, “commies” (wouldn’t that at least make more sense), or even “neo-commies”, I’d feel much better about John McCain. Thse after all are things one chooses to be.

So how does this guy really think away from reporters and tv cameras? I can’t vote for him to be my president. That’s just me speaking as a “gook” though and as one who knows that when Senator McCain uses the phrase he desn’t mean me. Of course if this were Britain and 100 years ago, he’d have been running around telling everyone how much he hates “niggers”. I wonder what American voters, even conservative Republicans, would make of that.

fwiw, I do know what conservatives made of it when Jesse Jackson was caught using the word "Hymie" in a private conversation. I would never vote for Jess Jackson btw and never did.

The Chelsea joke:

Last week, a David Shuster got suspended from MSNBC for suggesting that the Clintons had “pimped’ their daughter Chelsea out by getting her to call various female politicians on behalf of her mother’s campaign. In 1998, Senator McCain made the following joke at a DC Republican fundraiser to general laughter and applause, “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father.”

When the word got out, McCain quickly apologized to the Clintons who quietly accepted the apology. Personally, I think Chelsea Clinton’s quite attractive, especially if you know anything about her. Have you looked in a mirror lately Senator? In any case, the joke itself manages to be anti-gay, anti-female, and God knows what else all at once. Chelsea Clinton was not quite 18 at the time and given that other scandal that started in 1996 wasn’t exactly going through the easiest time as the First Daughter. Janet Reno was also dealing with the onset of Parkinson's disease at the time. I've found nothing that suggests that McCain ever apologized to the Attorney General.

The incident suggests a streak of cruelty and/or thoughtlessness. Neither is a good thing for a possible leader fo the "free world". It also echoes some people's concerns about why John McCain left his first wife.

Even if I were a Republican I couldn’t vote for John McCain. It is after all Abraham Lincoln's party. Maybe my reasons are down there with those folk who say they would never vote for the Clintons because of Monica. Even if I happened to agree with candidate McCain on every single issue, there’s a side of the man that I can't support. It worries me that the national media has largely covered it up and maybe there are things I don’t know about the other candidates, but I happen to know these things about John McCain.

Yes, I admire John McCain’s service. He’s also shown genuine political courage. I just don’t trust him to represent all of America.


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Saturday, February 09, 2008

No American Idol Review this week

Yes, I skipped American Idol for a week. I did watch the Atlanta tryouts, but totally missed the “Best of the Rest” on Wednesday. Remarkably, it had no impact on my life other than the drop in my hit count. Atlanta had a bunch of people with back stories. Okay, maybe it’s just me, but frankly I don’t care if your father just died or that you live in your car, I’d rather you sing better than that. No, I’m not saying most of the on to Hollywood types weren’t good. Most of them were. Their music just wasn’t memorable.
You know that bit with the glass cutter where Simon made him turn around to sing? The guy still didn’t actually sing very well. In any case on Wednesday, I took Simon’s advice. I turned my back to the show for a week.

I’ll probably be back next week, but I guess that pretty much says it all for where the show stand right now. That and I haven’t heard it come up at the water cooler or the equivalent a single time this year. Think of it as American Eyeball.

Check out Beckeye's reviews from this week and others.

Sirlinksalot American Idol stories


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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Law of Return (fiction)

published in The Puritan

Story on Hague Convention

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Giant Upset in Super Bowl (sports)

photo from the Associated Press

Okay, I missed the Super Bowl or about ninety eight percent of it. My daughter had a tournament and we did the family thing. I could have recorded it, I just didn’t figure on the game being actually interesting. I did see that incredible throw and catch between Eli Manning and David Tyree. It might have been the biggest single play in Super Bowl history. There might be more spectacular scrambles and maybe there’s a better catch, but I don’t think there’s been one with that much riding on it. I guess about the only “knock” is that it wasn’t a touchdown. I had no idea who David Tyree was so I looked him up and learned that he’d caught all of four passes for thirty five yards during the regular season. He has made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player though, so he isn’t a total obscurity.

Two years ago, I was listening to ESPN radio and the subject was how Tom Coughlin’s time in New York was all but up because he was too much of an old school “hard ass” and possibly due to that he had no idea how to develop Eli Manning. I wish I had a tape of that show. I thought it was cool to see older brother Peyton Manning in the stands cheering his younger brother on. Two years ago, Peyton was the brother who had made good but who couldn’t win the truly big game and Eli was the possibly wasted first round draft choice who was never going to survive New York. Now they both have Super Bowl championships (first brothers to do it I think). Ironically Tiki Barber whose twin brother Ronde Barber won one with Tampa Bay, retired from the Giants just before this year after having been the heart of the team’s offense for so many years. It just felt good to see Peyton cheering his brother on even as the ground just shifted around the two.

Some are now comparing Bill Bellichick to Richard Nixon. For many years, Bellichick has been the coach with all the answers and three Super Bowl wins. Now, he’s lost the big one to a team that was supposedly vastly inferior to his undefeated and unprecedented Patriots. Fwiw Randy Moss must bring some seriously strange karma wherever he goes. More significant, Bellichick is the center of a spying scandal that got bigger right on the eve of the Super Bowl. It’s gone from was he stealing signals by videotaping the other team’s bench to did he sneak in a camera of the Rams practice just before the Super Bowl?
Perhaps it’s no accident that the Bush Administration has called its surveillance legislation the “Patriot Act”.

If Bellichick cheated, what do we do about it? My take is that you suspend him for a few years for messing with the integrity of the game.

Anyway, I’m not a Giants fan or a Tom Coughlin fan, but this was a victory for doing things the old-fashioned way: hard work, a good game plan, and a refusal to be initimidated by the hype. It was a game really won by Michael Strahan and the New York defensive scheme. It’ll probably be remembered as the moment when Eli Manning stepped up to elite status as a quarterback. I prefer to think of it as David Tyree’s moment. Somehow it seems fitting that it came at the expense of Randy Moss.

I just hope it’s an omen for these kinds of triumphs in other realms of life (hint 2008 election and don't let the cheaters win). Okay, you want the other weird thing? They had last year’s American Idol winner (Fox carries both the Super Bowl and American Idol), Jordin Sparks sing the national anthem. The clip I saw had her sounding great (it’s lipsynched by the way for some odd legal reason). She was the youngest winner ever on the show and her CD didn’t do very well. In a way this was her comeback too. Guess what? Jordin Sparks’s father, Phillippi, naturally once played defensive back for the New York Giants and her family lives in Glendale, Arizona (the site of the game)In nine years, he never got to the Super Bowl.


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