Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Getting to First Base (Bachelorette 4 Round of 15)

I look forward to a season when the show segues from the Magic Castle to having Siegfried help Roy find a wife.

I’ve never thought of Tommy Lasorda as a romantic advisor, but that may have something to do with the book Secrets of a Hollywood Super Madam. When I compare the Dodger Stadium date to the tennis date during the Matt-Shayne season, I think it’s a clear sign that Fleiss (try connecting some dots here Tommy Lasorda, Jody Gibson's former friend Heidi Fleiss) is probably a bit more on his game (sorry about the pun) with the Deanna installment. Instead of the ultra-annoying Ashlee Williss or Shayne and Chelsea doing cartwheels for Matt’s amusement, they got a soap opera worthy bit in the dugout with Jeremy Anderson’s story of having experienced the loss of both his parents. It was especially emotional because rather than leave it at “my dad died”, they actually let Jeremy go on about how his father used to be his baseball coach. That gives the viewer the impression that Jeremy’s dad was up there inspiring him during the home run hitting contest so that he hits six or four more than any other guy. (Apparently the other bachelors were so jealous that he turned Jeremy in to George Mitchell's steroid investigation team)

When Deanna decides to give the guy a rose (not to be confused with Pete Rose), they naturally show it on the Jumbotron and that leads to a very well developed fit of jealousy from the other guys. In essence, the whole Jeremy storyline includes mushy romantic confession, a testosterone war with Ron and Ryan Hoag the Virgin pro-football player (Ryan might do well as part of Siegfried and Roy), and a pushup contest where Jeremy happens to beat both Ron and Ryan then quits least he draw too much attention to his uber-manliness. Jesse Csincsak, the least macho looking of the guys, naturally wins the contest at just under a hundred. I have to say that was just really good reality television.

For once, the winner of the first rose appears to have a more interesting arc than everyone hates me because I’m beautiful, the standard plot line with Bachelor first rose winners.

It’s pretty clear that Twilley stays on for comic relief rather than any actual potential for a final rose unless it comes with a lifetime gift certificate at Starbucks. The scene at the Magic Castle where he turns into the spinner of endless but pointless story got edited to look strangely painful. Btw When martial arts guy Sean Ramey was battling the annoying piano, I was waiting for him to kick it into a thousand pieces then calmly return to the love seat with Deanna and say “Well now, where were we?”

Twilley then realizes that he maybe fell too much in love with the camera instead of Deanna there and frets over how to make amends with Jason who encourages Twilley to go for it (mmmm….was this purposeful sabotage). Twilley then hides in the bushes as Deanna returns from her rose-bestowing date with Graham. This is one bright guy!
Deanna takes it well, which means that she doesn’t call 911, but Twilley’s chances seem to have gotten worse not better. He makes another pleas at the pre-rose cocktail party and somehow gets his rose. Again, I was struck by the way they did this. We were all totally annoyed by Twilley’s endless commentary and his capacity to chatter without actually disclosing anything about himself. At the same time, I could understand Deanna’s reasons for keeping him. He really did seem to be trying. Can you have a less romantic job than being in the debt management business? I guess he could be a repo guy or a funeral home director like Dan Ackroyd in My Girl (another blended family movie) where they had the good sense and taste to knock off Macaulay Caulkin. Whatever happened to Anna Chlumsky anyway?

My take on Graham Bunn is that they’re setting him up more or less as Brad 2.0. Good God, the guy even manages a bar or is it a couple bars? He has the same facial hair thing going on and while he says the right stuff, he’s a bit stand-offish at the same time. He was also genuinely charming with his failed attempts to reenact the Kite Runner (good movie btw) which if you’re into subliminal hints winds up being about the creation of a blended family. He also probably won some hearts when he confronted Deanna at the camp fire about wanting some body language that fit the mood. For a shy guy, he was pretty damn smooth there. I also suspect that’s the crux of Graham’s run on the show. He’s going to have commitment problems and Deanna’s maybe going to call him on it. In the meantime, she’s going to be drawn to his cool approach to the courtship especially after dealing with Twilley, Ron, Paul, et. al.

I suppose I’m going to be really embarrassed when Jason, the single dad, gets sent home, but I’m still feeling that he’s the story line for this installment and for once they’re letting it build at more or less the right pace by showing his rivals scoring major points with Deanna while he hems and haws about breaking the news about being Dustin Hoffman’s character in Kramer vs. Kramer or if you’re really old Bill Bixby in Courtship of Eddie’s Father (Deanna can you be like Mrs. Livingston?) or if you’re like John McCain’s age Fred Mcmurray in My Three Sons (take a look at William Frawley the grandpa in the early years who also used to be Lucy’s landlord). You know the drill by now, being a single Dad has made me a better person and my son is the best part of me. Until he can come out to her about having to do laundry and meet with the day care lady instead of playing poker and watching NASCAR (gee that’ll turn any woman off :}), Jason has to play Peter Parker-Clark Kent. He basically bumbles even though Deanna shows signs of being attracted to the guy, like picking him first for the disappearing act.

Btw. I thought the Bachelor folk weren’t allowed to talk to anyone during the filming. What’s with letting this guy have a cellphone and talking to the boy? Weren’t the isolation and the constant presence of alcohol supposed to turn them all into drunken camera-crazed idiots?

Anyway he winds up confessing to the guys before he tells Deanna. You got one potential source of drama there. Second, they make it appear like Ryan the virgin is going to “out” Jason to Deanna in the name of being different (Siegrfried and Roy were probably different too) from other guys and really trying to protect her. Ryan never gets the chance as Deanna seems to correctly spot the fact that the guy has a knack for talking about himself a lot in the name of talking about his “faith”. I was honestly trying to make sense of why the guy would be that into Deanna who spent the night in Brad’s fantasy suite all of six months ago and thus is very unlikely saving her special gift for her future husband for life (is that like being president for life?). What kind of Chirstian calls someone he doesn’t really know “A Dick” on national tv ?

While we’re at it, what’s this business about Deanna not having dated anyone since the last time she was on the Bachelor? She’s honestly decided this is a better way to find the love of her life? It brings back memories of Deanna weird sparring with Jade on their double date with Brad. To quote one of the best Bachelor’s ever at least according to Chris Harrison, “We might be a slice short of a picnic” here too.

Other thoughts:

Robert Fair the Chef: Wow, not only will he be the guy who gets picked last when they Bachelors choose teams for the softball game, they made him eat hot dogs with red wine instead of beer. Hard to understand why he got a rose anyway except maybe she liked his singing in that outtake at the end.

Eric Papachristos: I think I figured it out. I’m pretty sure this guy is Greek. Did he know that Deanna is only half-Greek? Deanna scored major points by dumping him so he could go marry one of the cousins from that Nina Vardalos movie about marrying a non-Greek. Don’t these guys ever actually watch the movie?

Chris: I guess she just didn’t like guys who sing like Roseanne Barr and who hit about as well as she does. I guess if he’d made it to the majors, it would have had to be with an American league team.

Fred: Was he even on the show? Why did she even give him a rose? Maybe she needs someone to file the restraining order against Twilley for her?

Richard Mathy: for a shy guy, he sure had that bar pickup routine with the paper flower down.

Ron Mayer: Confrontational enough? The drama seems like a good reason to keep him around for at least one more show, but he seems like a character out of Big Brother or even The Mole.

Paul: Don’t they have laws against flashing in Canada? Deanna definitely likes guys who are up front, but I still figure this guy is fodder regardless of how quickly he wants kids.

Jesse: Nice story about the truckdriver dad making peanut butter sandwiches. It was straight out of some romance movie. Deanna seems to respond well to the guys who have actual stories as opposed to the type who say “Amazing” over and over. He sort of makes me think Robin Williams a little bit physically. My wife who is very shallow (something that doesn’t explain me at all) in certain ways keeps saying “How can she date a guy who looks like that?”

Brian: I just don’t see Deanna Pappas married to some high school football coach. I figure that Paul, Ron, Fred, Robert, and this guy all leave about the same time, but you can probably get pretty interesting odds on which one stays the longest.

You know, I’m actually looking forward to Ellen, Deanna getting thrown from the mechanical bull (remember Tessa faked it to get Andy’s attention), etc. They’ve got several storylines in place this time and they seem to be keeping the “crazy” at a minimum. My one question is why have the guys move in with her, if they don’t show any footage in the house? I’m sure they’ll fix that. My wife’s even said that four or five of the guys are even more than okay, but as I said she can be very shallow. I did notice that they have short guys , but once again no fat guys just like they don’t have overweight women on the Bachelor. I figure that’s the next frontier. I was walking through town the other day and we Americans are getting wider and wider as in having to move into the gutter to make room for people walking side by side on the sidewalk. Maybe a Bachelor edition where they do a makeover and give “roses” to whoever loses the most weight that week?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Raw and the Cooked (Idol 7 finale)

At the end of Tuesday night, Randy “phonebook” Jackson was telling America that the show was all about picking the best singer and how that was David Archuleta. By itself, that might make for an interesting debate. Instead of talking about the two Davids trapped inside that boxing metaphor from hell, my mind wandered briefly to Melinda Doolittle. Did someone not get Randy’s memo last season? I don’t think anyone seriously argued that Blake Lewis was a better singer than Melinda. Talk of Jordin Sparks vs. the former backup singer wasn’t about chest voices, head voices, breath support, articulation, etc. , mostly it was that the Arizona teenager was more the total package. Does anyone remember how hard Simon Cowell made his case for Melinda Doolittle as the real singer at the end of last year’s round of 3? Similarly two years ago, Katharine Mcphee had more of a voice (in a conventional sense) than Taylor Hicks. Honestly, I’m wondering what show Randy Jackson was watching the last couple seasons.

A few weeks ago, I came out for David Cook and compared David Archuleta to a singing blender. I then started hearing from rabid David Archuleta fans. Much to my surprise, they didn’t seem to be teenaged girls waving their arms in the front row of my blog. One guy claimed to be a former Deadhead. More surprisingly, I heard from two voice teachers (yeah, I know that one never knows who anyone really is on the net, but they seem real enough) both gushing about David Archuleta’s amazing voice and extraordinary musicality. Apparently, they call him “the voice”.

I have to say that was pretty clearly in evidence on his version of Imagine on Tuesday and in the way he threw down the gauntlet not to David Cook, but Clay Aiken, with Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. At the same time, David Cook sang quite well on Tuesday fwiw I thought it was th best-performed final I've seen on the show. Still I don’t know that there was any diminished-chord conspiracy when the judges more or less prostrated themselves before Little David on Tuesday as he shook his head, said “Gee Thanks” “Wow”, then sighed in the general direction of the camera.

My own kids are very athletic. In fact, I missed part of the finale because we were attending an awards banquet last night for our youngest (long story about my daughter changing the channel when she came home that afternoon and winding up with two hours of Flavor of Love on our digital video recorder). While they were quite successful in their sport when it came time to be recruited by colleges the fact that they didn’t have the ideal body for their sport came up repeatedly. In essence, it didn’t matter what they did in the actual games. Recruiting is often about “potential” first. Coaches tend to think they can fix the other stuff. Personally, I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

I bring this up, because I see a bit of a parallel with the Davids. I suspect that music producers and the people who market pop music tend to think they can teach stagecraft, song choice, image management (compare the early photos of David C to the newer ones). They also know how rare a really good voice is. It’s about the equivalent of being seven feet tall and coordinated in basketball. Anyway, basketball coaches think constantly about upside and I would guess that music producers and teachers sometimes do the same. In other words, they weren’t necessarily noticing what was happening on the AI stage as much as they were simultaneously figuring what was possible with someone with David Archuleta’s voice, look, and youth.

All that said, I’d love to know the behind the scenes story for this year. While I think the voting is reasonably honest, I do think the producers and the judges (they may not have the same agenda btw) have been blatantly manipulative at times. For most of the beginning of the season, David Archuleta was clearly the judges and the producer’s favorite. He got the pimp spot twice in the early rounds and even when he forgot his lyrics and more or less stopped mid Beatles song, Paula and Randy were suspiciously forgiving.

After the show last night, I looked at some of the early clips of David Cook. It’s clear that Simon was concerned about the guy’s marketability. Btw, I never found any reference to the brother during the Omaha audition. In Hollywood he not only accused him of having to hide behind the guitar, but actually voted “no” on David Cook. Fwiw, Simon voted “no” on Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry as well. My favorite came after a semi-final performance of “All Right Now” where Simon played the “Charisma” card and David Cook said “That’s for voters to decide”. It showed a little rocker backbone, but the weirdest part was that Simon turned it into a “bitch” fest. So much for a couple longstanding Idol myths, Simon Cowell is often wrong in a big way and sometimes contestants do talk back to him and thrive. The very next week David Cook did “Hello” and essentially vaulted past Amanda Overmyer (an early judges’ favorite) to become this year’s real rocker and “artiste”.

By the finals, it was clear that the two Davids were both judges and producer favorites. That’s the only explanation for the whole screaming girl thing that quietly disappeared during the final. My take is that the show was especially excited by the “tween” market, but something happened during Idol Cares and her name was Miley Cyrus. She not only sang two songs on the telethon, she also got an extended and painfully bad skit with Billy Crystal. I suspect that Miley Cyrus’s inclusion on the show basically bombed. Worse yet, she got a bunch of bad publicity for the Vanity Fair shoot with Annie Liebovitz all of two weeks later. Suddenly, having a male Miley who actually can sing doesn’t seem like such a sure thing. In the meantime, people start accusing Billy Ray Cyrus of being yet another bad stage parent.

With Miley suddenly looking more like Lyndsay, Britney, and the lost Olsen twin, the producers start noticing Jeff Archuleta a bit more. I don’t know that he did anything different in those last few weeks, but he became his son’s Jeremiah Wright and the producers ran with it at the critical moment by letting America know that they’d banned Jeff from being backstage in the name of fairness.

There is a point during the Idol season when the music matters less than the story. When you get to the final 6, the singers generally have some reasonable level of talent. In the last couple years, the finalists have worked in very different genres as well so it’s even more difficult to compare the music. This became the story for Season 8.

David Archuleta: really talented, but almost genetically-engineered to be a pop star. Overbearing stage father who manages every musical choice. Started so early with Junior Star Search that he nearly hurt his voice (oddly Jordin Sparks hurt her voice earlier this year) between Junior Star Search and Idol. Not terribly articulate though very pleasant personally. You know all that talk about thoroughbreds being forced to run too early? The whole bit of David Archuleta hugging fellow Junior Star Search alum, Alexandria Lushington, seemed like a long lost memory when they showed it during the finale. Btw, did you notice how many shots of Jeff they suddenly showed this week and then a whole bit with the Grandfather pointedly saying how proud he is of his son as well?

Yes, he didn’t seem to have a great sense of rhythm which I maintain is a big part of the “pop” in pop music. He also didn’t inject much personality into his performances. Every performer has strengths and weaknesses though. David’s storyline was still “Child Star”. Whether it’s horses or humans, this hasn’t been a good year to be a “child star”. Just as significant, there was this undercurrent of “even if he doesn’t win” he’ll get his chance.

David Cook: Hard working, unassuming, a little bit nerdy with the word thing, certainly talented. But also a great brother to one brother who maybe didn’t sing as well and another with cancer. Mom and Dad seem almost scary normal No-temparment issues. Very generous on stage. Smart enough and mature enough to deal with the quirks of the Idol judges. Crying at just the right moments as his time comes just before the dream of a national career fades out. The guy Simon said didn’t have the charisma to do it. The guy who let his music speak for itself and who didn’t frantically try for a charisma fix.
David A’s musical big brother, a guy old enough to have perspective on the whole Idol thing.

So tell me, which story’s going to make people vote? No shock that David Cook won by something like a 16% margin. Of course, if this were a Democratic primary that would mean that David Cook would have gotten 13 delegates and David Archuleta would get 11. I have heard that Idol 9’s getting super delegates.

The actual singing on Tuesday and the judges’ reactions didn’t really matter. I believe the America was voting on the two Davids very different storylines. This one was Taylor Hicks the hard working guy who almost quit the music business in frustration vs. Katharine Mcphee the tv producer’s daughter with the vocal teacher mother.

In the meantime, the show has both Davids to promote. I suspect that David Archuleta actually won a bit by losing, because it wasn’t handed to him after all.

One of the oddest things about the season was that this was the year of the ringer, yet it went strangely flat for several weeks. I have heard that the finale did very well in the ratings though, I suspect partly because whatever happened on Tuesday with Simon proclaiming the knockout had much of America yelling “low blow” and demanding the tko the other way really built some doubt about the winner on Wednesday. Anyway, I did start thinking about which finalists actually could have careers and I was a bit surprised to count half a dozen or so- the two Davids-Carly Smithson-Michael Johns-Syesha- Jason Castro- Brooke White. I’m not saying I’d pay to download their music, just that I could see that happening with any of them. So why was the season so boring?

I believe that part of the magic of tv is the power of the unexpected. There were certainly surprises this year. Anyone who saw the Hollywood rounds and the semifinals then left the planet might be a little surprised that Carly Smithson or David Archuleta didn’t win. There were also a number of early exits for various contestants. Michael Johns might have been the most notable. Still, those aren’t the kinds of surprises that matter. The longest lasting shows on tv think Johnny Carson, Bonanza, MASH, ER have always found ways to reinvent themselves without violating the essential identity of the show.
Idol hasn’t exactly done that yet.

All the talk of greater talent and more professional experience this year and I think the most compelling story on the show might have been the opposite of that. The producers missed the opportunity to present the most provocative contrast of all. Think about the buzz of David Archuleta’s story line being compared to Josiah Leming. They should have let Josiah Leming get voted off on his own. I think Levi-Strauss called it The Raw and the Cooked:}

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Mamas and the Pappas (Bachelorette 4 round of 25)

Do Ellen and Portia De Rossi get to be the Maids of Honor?

If you put twenty five men in one room and twenty five women in some other room, which one do you think would be filled with drunks, flashers, and borderline personalities? Which do you think would be filled with talk of children, relationships, and professions of longing? For whatever reason, the room filled with guys tends to far more romantic than the room of women. I imagine part of this is that the contestants on the show do what they think will get the Bachelor/Bachelorette’s attention.

If a guy sits down with a woman he’s never met and tells her, “I really love and value family. I’m just looking for someone to settle down with…,” people think it’s really romantic.

If a woman starts talking about those things right away, she’s either delusional or a stalker. In the meantime, the women of the Bachelor do figure that the fastest way to get the attention of a twenty something male gorilla is to shake various body parts.

That doesn’t mean that some of the guys hoping to get a first rose from Deanna Pappas didn’t indulge in stunts of their own. The most spectacular was Paul Brosseau, a twenty three year old Canadian, who jumped into a very cold pool fully clothed then came out in a speedo with “Deanna” emblazoned on the fabric covering his booty (Deanna’s term). He got a rose, but not a first-impression rose. Compare that to the relative flame out of Brian from Indiana who not only pulled up his shirt to show off his pecs, but grabbed the Georgia real estate agent’s hand and made her feel them. I could see Brian as the guy who cuts a hole in the bottom of his popcorn container at the movie theater then offers some to his date. Wisely, Deanna sent him home.

At another point, Sean Ramey the martial arts instructor roundhouse kicked a lemon off of Jesse Csincsak’s head. While Sean gets his rose (Deanna was probably afraid of what he’d do if he didn’t get one), he inadvertently scored points for Jesse. Deanna seemed more impressed with the good-natured way Jesse, the professional snowboarder, handled the situation. Jesse got one of the first impression roses. Just as striking given the fact that Deanna fell for Brad Womack, Jesse doesn’t look a whole lot like Brad.

In fact, Deanna seemed to be almost consciously avoiding Brad with some of her choices. Richard Mathy, the former nerd high school science teacher bearing Herkimer diamonds, seemed almost shy about his own attractiveness, especially compared to the way the Sexiest Bachelor ever kept baring his chest. She also kept Ron Meyer who almost immediately confessed that he’d just gone through a divorce. I think she rather liked the idea of a guy who wasn’t afraid to tell the truth this time. After two very tall Bachelors, it was also fascinating to see the Bachelorette keep a number of shorter guys.

There are any numbers of stories within stories this time through (if you trust in the sleuthers). Apparently Jeremy Anderson, the Dallas attorney, has met Brad Womack. That didn’t keep him from getting the first of the three first impression roses. Far weirder, it appears that Jason, the single dad, had Bevin (Nossa) Powers from Andy’s season as one of the bridesmaids in his wedding party. There were also any number of guys who were Greek (Eric Papachristos), tried to speak Greek, and one guy who tried to make Moussaka ( or was that crab spread?) I was a little shocked to see that they didn’t edit out one Bachelor talking about pearl necklaces and crabs. Maybe they only cut out the part about Greek and the twenty five guys one woman?

Despite that, there’s a certain confidence in the product this season. It’s not just because they’re going to more two hour episodes, they’re clearly making it easier for the viewer to get more of a sense of the characters’ actual personalities. Most of these guys talk. After spending the first ten minutes of the show more or less repeating Chris Harrison’s prompts, Deanna talks too and it’s not always just to say how excited she is or what a journey she’s having. This time it looks like they might actually let us get to know the Bachelors, hence the three guys staying in Deanna’s house at a time etc., more extended interviews, and likely more bits about their lives away from the show.

I honestly believe that much of Deanna’s popularity (the gold dress with the scooped out back didn’t hurt though) came from the fact that she got across actual values and showed that she had a complex emotional life in her first run on the Bachelor. We knew that she had dealt with her mother’s death at an early age (they didn’t tell us that her parents were already divorced). She had very strong feelings about being cheated on, a fact that Jenni Croft came back to over and over again in her cameo last night, because she’d felt the pain of being cheated on once before. She also believed in speaking her feelings and her deep sense of family came across all on its own.

Despite the fact that Deanna claims to be big on first impressions, very clear with Jeremy and Brian the football coach (2 Texas guys), I suspect they’re going to be big on leading Deanna back to her core values as a character. My guess is that she’ll be tempted by the slicker facades like Graham Bunn (Appalachian State) the guy with his own charitable foundation in favor of the anti-Brad, a more low key fellow who has solid family values.

That is to say that the opening show was pointing straight at Jason Mesnick, the single dad from Costco I mean Kirkland, Washington. We’re looking at the whole of Deanna’s story arc playing out from her empathy about stepping in as stepmom for a child who needs a mother, having a guy who knows that he wants a wife, mother, lifemate (remember some of Deanna’s speeches from Brad time), and being willing to seek it out.

In episode one, the producers do the loveable Dad thing with Jason as they cycle through a montage of narcissists, sweet-natured oyster farmers, yuppies, and what my wife and daughter just called “odd ducks”(very literal in Chandler Fulton's case). Jason does not have the smooth moves nor does he get a first impression rose, but he noticeably is the first guy to ask Deanna for one on one time. Although he’s not ready to break the news about the kid, Jason comes across as just nervous and awkward enough to make it seem like a close call at rose time. For once, they’ve modeled the installment on a good romance movie.

It’s certainly worth noting that the previews of coming weeks more or less extended a middle finger at the sleuthers. I know the Bachelor well enough to say that they can artfully hide who stays and who goes in the early previews. It was pretty clear that they’re not even trying this time. A bunch of the sleuthing types insist that they’ve had the final three nailed by maybe 11:05 PM.

Previous installments of the Bachelor have spent much of their energy on the “Who”, I’m guessing that this one is going to be about the “How” and that Deanna’s show will be the better for it. Think about really good romance writers. I’m not talking about the ones with Fabio on the cover. I’m talking Jane Austen. In the great romances, the reader generally knows where it’s going before the characters do. They keep reading not because they can’t figure out whose hearts truly beat together, but because the author gets it to unfold in surprising and even fascinating ways. Just like we knew that Shayne had to make the home visits so America could get a look at Lorenzo Lamas and Michelle Smith, they’re not going to show us that kid then cheat the viewer out of the drama of seeing Deanna’s heart melt for little Junior Jason. I’m not sure how they’re going to handle the whole divorce thing unless it comes out that his ex-wife met someone else. If they get to the hometown visit, I just don't see how they'll let Deanna break that cute little kid's heart.

btw...Charlie O'connell's season had a single mom on it as well. She went ice skating, got some time away, but Charlie didn't keep her. The difference here is how much we saw the kid in that opening sequence.

In the meantime, Deanna will be momentarily entranced by more overtly charming guys who turn out to be players, control freaks, etc. while Jason Mesnick more or less plays the Deanna role. That is he’ll have some fun moments like Deanna in the dune buggy, but mostly he’ll be coming back to the simple theme of wanting a mate for life and having recognized the same thing in Deanna back when she crossed his tv so many months ago.

If you’ve seen the movie Enchanted with the Gray’s Anatomy guy Patrick Dempsey (a tv show set in Seattle as it happens) where the modern re-blended family gets the fairy tale treatment, I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re in for. After learning that Andy Baldwin loved fame as much as Tessa, that the sexiest bachelor ever was also the lyingest Bachelor ever, and that the family-oriented English banker just wanted to hang out with Paris Hilton, I have a feeling that this one might actually save the franchise.

On the other hand, I could be completely wrong and Deanna could be taking up martial arts, hooking up with virgin football player Ryan Hoag in the fantasy suite, or learning to make gourmet spanakopita with Robert Fair in San Francisco. I guess I’ll be watching to be proven wrong.


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Davids (Idol 7 final 3)

Ethel Mormon later the star of Gypsy was once the world's fastest typist

I suspect a lot of people aren’t going to remember this week’s final three performances as much as they’ll think of it as the week of Jeff Archuleta. The show confirmed that it had decided to ban David the Younger’s father from backstage discussions about song choice, performance, etc, with the contestants. The story’s been circulating for some time that the seventeen year old singer’s father, also a musician himself, is more or less Gypsy Rose Lee’s mother for the I-tunes era. For those who don’t do Sondheim, that’s shorthand for “stage parent”.

Nigel said something about it not being fair that one contestant was getting help from his “father”, so they decided to address it. I have to say that the timing is fascinating. For one, David chose his own song this week, a Chris Brown number about being someone’s “boo”. The judges both noted that this just wasn’t right for you, Dawg. More significant, it’s the week of the final two and how many people out there are going to now have second thoughts about voting for a teenager with an out of control stage dad? Even the footage from Murray, Utah seemed to pointedly feature David's very attractive mom with virtually no signs of Dad.

I don’t know that Jeff Archuleta is necessarily an out of control stage dad. Apparently no one says he yells or plays weird mind games with his son, he just knows music and doesn’t quite trust people to do right by him. Given what Idol does sometimes, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’m old and my tastes are hardly current, but you saw Fantasia this week. Red hair, dressed as a character out of the Matrix meets Grace Jones, and screeching around the stage. Yes, I know that the show gave her a career and this is post-Idol, but I remember the Fantasia who could sing. It could be Fantasia’s vision, but I worried that this is what producers sometimes do to pop singers. So if you’re Jeff Archuleta, what do you do?

A few nights ago, we were channel surfing and kept coming back to Danny Bonaduce’s Next Child Star. The final musical performance has the nine year old singing “Alone” by Heart while the 11 year old was doing “So Emotional”, i.e. it was sort of mini-idol. Anyway the gimmick on the show is they pick not just based on the talent of the kid, but also on the “sanest” most supportive mother. The winning mom prayed a lot and was constantly in “we’re proud of you regardless” mode. For being good mom and talented daughter they got fifty thousand dollars and an agent for a year named Ruben Kinkade who is secretly in love with the Shirley Jones character. Anyway, it made me think about David Archuleta, junior Star Search, and how Jeff is now a news item. How many voters out there are thinking the same thing? Of course, there is the matter that the tweens who vote for David fifty times a minute may be the one group immune from that sort of publicity. Still, it strikes me that this was Idol’s version of push-polling.

For those of you doubting the possibility that the press release about Jeff Archuleta wasn’t mildly manipulative, I have a five word answer, the producers picked Dan Fogelberg. Years ago, I had a girl friend who loved Dan Fogelberg. She dumped me very quickly (personally I thought the restraining order was totally unnecessary), but even at the height of the pain I knew that one good thing about the dumping was that I’d never have to listen to Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting old girlfriends in the Safeway parking lot while the Christmas Carols played in the background or whatever it was.

I do tend to think that the voting is more or less on the level, but this year I have wondered about the level of manipulation. How many times and ways did they tell Syesha Mercado that she’d done really well to be third? For some odd reason, Syesha was the one idol contestant in the last five years who literally made me grind my teeth when watching her. Yes I got tired of Mikalah Gordon and Kevin Covais very quickly but only Constantine came anywhere close to hitting the Syesha level for me. I think it was the actress thing and the way she was always over-emoting/playing to the camera. It felt phony and empty. That said, she sang quite well for the last four weeks, she’s nice to look at, and how the hell could they go from this was the closest vote ever last week to you don’t have a chance girl in what thirty seven minutes? Am I the only one who remembers how during this week in season 5, Ryan told us that Elliot Yamin, Katharine Mcphee, and Taylor Hicks each had roughly 33 percent of the vote? And the producers made her sing a song from a cartoon? What was up with that?

In the meantime, I am glad that her run on Idol has given her father a reason to get off drugs. Did her mother ever get to talk on the show?

So how many ways did they point to David Cook? I didn’t see the Omaha auditions. Did we get to see David Cook’s younger brother sing? Boy did they torture the guy. Hey, David’s so nice that he just came along to support you. Now, he’s won the show and you’re Gummo Marx, the Wilson who couldn’t be a Beach Boy, Mike Maddux. Let’s rub it in here on national television a few more times so we can underscore how great a guy David is.

To be honest, I sort of wished they had thrown him a Chakha Khan song instead of yet another non-rock ballad for him to vamp into a rock anthem. A few weeks ago, I did more or less say that David Cook was the one I’d pick of the remaining five. Still I thought David Archuleta was actually going to win, partly because of the way I started hearing form his fans after I came out for David Cook. Btw. Could you have two 17 year olds more physically different than Jordin Sparks and David Archuleta?

I do think David Cook does come off as both poised and genuine when he does get to speak. He has a nice way of honoring the other contestants, not getting overly excited when he gets either praised or dissed by the judges, and he also does seem genuinely touched by the thrill of suddenly being noticed as a performer.

In terms of this being the most talented group ever, I do have to say that I’m sort of wondering how we could hear nine songs form the top 3 and not have a single one that’s all that memorable on the last night they would break out new songs. Amidst all the talk about the show losing steam, one thing has been very clear to me. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much whether you change the judges, let Ryan talk more, add more backstory, etc. (well, let me suggest just dumping the group sings. Even an I-phone commercial to go with the Ford commercial would be better) , it’s the music that matters. I just don’t know that either finalist has kept something in reserve to thrill America. No amount of pimping by the judges or the producers can make that happen artificially.

Maybe Idol needs a stage dad of its own?
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let Me Call You Monkey (Bachelor 12 finale)

There was one moment of really great reality tv last night and it wasn’t the proposal. After a relatively composed rejection, Matt and Chelsea walk down the stairs towards the limousine of shame and the non-giggly version of Chelsea made an abrupt appearance. There on the landing, Chelsea suddenly (might have been edited) tells Matt, “How could you choose her. She’s the falsest one of them all.”

Obviously the worst thing you can possibly be on a Reality TV show is “false or fake”. Shallow’s fine and even bat-shit crazy is pretty much okay as long as you cop to it on the Women Tell All show, but God forbid if you happen to be either “fake” or not there for the “right reasons”.

Matt’s usually placid facial expression changes immediately and his voice turns angry as he defends his monkey, “That’s not the woman I’ve come to know.”
Quick note: I’m glad that Matt didn’t try to call Marshana Ritchie his “monkey”, that would truly have been the most unforgettable Bachelor moment yet.

Chelsea manages not to say that she lived in the same house with Shayne for four weeks and might even know her better than Matt because she’s gotten to observe her in less guarded circumstances.

He then remembers something he saw in a debate at Cambridge and ends the argument via logical induction, “If I were the sort of person who would pick the falsest one, then would I be a Bachelor that you would want in the first place?”

I know he meant it as a proof that Shayne couldn’t possibly be “false”, but the other way to go is that Chelsea really had no business being all that into Matt, because he is after all into the “fakest” of them all. Whichever way that Chelsea Wanstrath took it, the argument ended, Matt got to tell her how much he would miss her, packed her into the limo, and sent her muttering off into the Barbados sunset in her transparent evening gown.

It’s generally not a good sign when the hottest debate on the forums is whether or not Matt and Shayne’s romance was scripted. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be an After the Final Rose Show for what was allegedly the most romantic ring ceremony ever on the show (like Fleiss is going to miss a chance to pimp that) and Matt and Shayne don’t seem to be making the usual media rounds (no Ellen, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.). On top of that ABC kept the number of hours of this installment to the bare minimum and is promising two hour shows for Deanna Pappas as the Bachelorette and instead of a “cooling off” period between installments, they’re just moving straight on to the Deanna show. I’d also mention that my usual indicators were way down. The Final Rose for Andy and Tessa netted 8,000 hits that day. Matt and Shayne produced 850 hits on my page, a number much closer to the first season I covered, Prince Lorenzo (no relation to Lorenzo the dad). Obviously that includes a number of factors that may or may not have much to do with the show’s actual ratings, but I’m pretty sure this installment didn’t help the franchise. I did hear though that the show did very well with simians of all kinds. In fact, they’re talking about a spinoff movie called The Planet of the Shayne.

Btw…If the Bachelor starts calling one of the ladies with a pet name (albeit a strange one), it’s pretty much a lock. I noticed that during the gift exchange for that final date, there was a stuffed monkey next to Matt about which no one commented, too much of a giveaway I suspect. Also was I the only one who noticed one oddity of those pictures of Shayne on the beach with the “I LOVE MATT” written in the sand. They were shot at an angle that pretty much required a photographer and even possibly a helicopter shot. Notice that they were shot from the ocean side and downwards, though slight (maybe a high tripod or monopole). I even wondered if this was the same “private untouched beach” that Matt took Chelsea too. If Chelsea’s post-no rose for you outburst was the most up front any finalist has been about not liking the winner, how cool would it be if Shayne marked her territory on Matt and Chelsea’s private beach? Yes, they were in Barbados once before and the photo might even have been some beach in Southern California or even CGI, but interesting turnaround time with those framed photos just in time for the gift exchange on the date. More btw, does anyone remember the first Average Joe where Adam, the last of the Joes, has his last date and Adam gave Melana Scantlin all these very personal gifts and she gives him a picture of herself. Of course, she chose the other guy because she wasn’t into Adam at all. Well, think about it.

I’m probably reading too much into the sand writing there, but I’m a little nervous about giving photos of oneself as opposed to the two of you as a “special gift”. This one did have Matt’s name it though and it probably was still more romantic than Chelsea’s trip to the Dollar Tree store gift. For one, I got confused. She was talking about California and I thought she lived in Colorado.

All that said, I’m inclined to believe that the romance and attraction between Matt and Shayne was very real. That doesn’t meant that I think it’ll last beyond Deanna’s show or that I think it’s a good idea for either of them. Going back in time, you have to wonder if Fernando Lamas married Arlene Dahl (his 3rd wife and Shayne’s grandmother- he came to Hollywood in 1951) to get his green card. There might be this interesting Karmic thing going on. Matt proposes to Shayne who doesn’t appear too tied to her Argentinian roots to get his green card two generations later. England-Argentina-an Island in the Atlantic, it’s the Falkland Islands War all over again!

It’s also not that far-fetched that Shayne signed onto the show to boost her career a little. For one, there was a writers’ strike on at the time and Reality Shows were the only things going when London Calling filmed. Still, here it is. My general impression was that Shayne (General Hospital) and Matt (Firefly- damn those Bachelor detectives work hard) just weren’t good enough actors to pull off faking it. There were after all many endearing things about Shayne Lamas.

1) She stood up for the other ladies at times.
2) She was the peacemaker in the Marshana vs. Chelsea walk off showdown
3) She knew how to laugh at herself
4) She was unusually honest about her family life
5) She was quite charming with Matt’s family.I liked her admission that she wasn’t a good actress in the beginning. I was briefly excited to hear that Matt's brother Simon would be there (I thought he would be saying, you're no Bachelorette, that was like something out of an MTV dating show, you're a karaoke Bahcelorette). I also do wonder about "Both my parents were married multiple times, that's why I'm on a reality show with a dismal record of finding true love for anyone.)

Another random thought: Why do they show the Bachelor and his fantasy dates all but jumping into bed (sometimes they show that too), but on the final date the ladies go to their own rooms?

Bottom line, I could certainly see “falling for Shayne”. She’s fun, open, and has a kind of emotional confidence that came right through the television screen. Falling for Matt, I’m less sure about. Maybe it was the tongue thing, but they sort of sold this guy as an English gentleman and I wasn’t sure that he was quite that unless you’re talking about Englishmen as they really can be. Here’s one of the things that ultimately troubled me about Matt. After he booted Amanda Rantuccio, an episode where she’s shown to be genuinely upset and invested in the possibility of Matt (as far as I know she isn’t an actress, she just hires them to be her parents), Matt was interviewed and said “Well, the connection to Amanda was shown to be much stronger in the edit than it really was.”
Maybe true, but where did that leave Amanda and how did it make her look? In the Japanese movie Shall We Dansu (remade in the US with JLO and Richard Gere), the female lead tells the nerdy guy “You protected your partner first, a gentleman always does that" and thus suggests that the competition doesn’t matter. I’m not sure that Matt Grant was the sort of guy who “protects his partners first”. The rest is just manners, but in romance the real measure is whether or not the male is a gentleman at heart.

There was something about the little flashes of anger from Matt Grant first with Amanda calling him a “douchebag” (accurate given what appeared to happen on the fantasy date) and then when Chelsea says what she was really feeling, that I just didn’t like much. For a moment, I even thought O.J. as in I wondered if he was going to throw Chelsea off the stairway. Notice, he didn’t say anything specifically in defense of Shayne either in that moment, just that he’d seen her differently.

So here’s the conundrum with Bachelor: London Calling. They may actually have gotten a romance, something that’s not been that easy to get on this show, yet it didn’t sell. For one, romance sells when you think it’s a good thing and you like the partners. Two, there wasn’t any dramatic tension about the choice. I could see rooting for Chelsea, but was the audience ever given much to root about with her? Fleiss threw her under the limo with the whole underwear shot during the Fantasy dates. Compare that to the very real and possibly inappropriate passion between Andy and Bevin or Meredith telling Matt she wanted him to give her a ring.

You want an onscreen romance about an ordinary, but well educated, English chap and an actress? Consider the movie Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. The key to that one is that Hugh’s character was quirky, awkward, but ultimately loveable. He was into Julia Roberts for her not because she was some superstar actress. In the end, she’s the one who takes time off from her career to be with Hugh Grant and the travel book store. In London Calling, we get an English guy who seems attracted to the glamorous actress fantasy and he then leaves London to go to Hollywood. At the end, he’s got the whole Don Johnson/David Beckham look down. Does that sound like a romantic comedy to you or does it sound like some sort of satire?

It’s almost fitting that it ended with Shayne’s seemingly pre-scripted line. “I don’t want you to ever look at another woman. You’ve been with too many women in the course of our relationship already.”

I thought back to that moment in Las Vegas where Shayne broke down because Matt would be spending time with all those other women. I remember that was the first time when I wondered “Who would really root for this woman? She’s on a reality show built around one guy dating 25 women and now she’s saying she can’t deal with it.”

I also remember Matt’s initial response, “Well, get over it lady.”

I guess I’m over the Bachelor London Calling just as ABC seems to be more than ready to be over it too and onto Deanna and the 25 guys who are better than Brad Womack.

At a personal level (very different from my was this satisfying tv hat), I want to point out that the real Matt Grant and Shayne Lamas are likely quite different form the Fleiss-edited versions that we got to know. I wish them well together and individually. One final suggestion, if Shayne’s a “monkey”, can she start calling Matt “anteater”?
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Monday, May 12, 2008

Michelangelo's Secret Room

Cave Painting, my short story based on this place On Sunday morning, I woke up early and rode my bike down to our local market to pick up flowers and coffee (yuppie version) for my wife. Our daughter woke up a couple hours later and drove to the local market to pick up flowers and coffee for my wife. She didn’t realize that I’d already done it. This sort of thing naturally makes my wife very happy albeit a bit more caffeinated than usual.

I also spent much of the weekend surfing the internet for information about a secret room at the Basilica Di San Lorenzo. My only visit to Italy took place in 1980. I had met the wrong woman on a train in Southern France and we’d agreed to travel together into Italy as friends anyway. We wound up in Florence with yet another guy we met on the train. While I liked all that Renaissance art, several hours a day of it might have been a bit much. Anyway, we wound up amongst all these tombs of various dead Medici, about whom I kept making Borgia poisoning jokes (I had the two confused in my head). There was an English art student sketching one of the statutes. Actually there were two. On one side, an attractive young woman was doing a pen and ink of two opposed figures (something like light and darkness) on one of the tombs at the Basilica di San Lorenzo. Her sketches were tidy, precise, and accomplished. My friend, guy from the train, complimented her drawing. She thanked him politely, talked for a minute, mentioned the Royal Academy of Art, then went back to what she was doing. I look back and realize that was one of many moments in my life when I had to face the fact that I just had no idea how to approach attractive young women. Anyway, that’s why I watch the Bachelor.

On the other side of room, a guy in a t-shirt with unruly hair, was sketching the same tomb. He had more of a working class British accent that made him sound like one of the Beatles. His drawings were loose, primitive, and covered with signs of dozens of do overs. After asking to peek at his work, we didn’t exactly know what to say but this guy kept chatting anyway. We didn’t ask if he’d made a run at his compatriot on the other side of the room. He then went into a monologue about homo-eroticism in Michelangelo’s art, though he used less socially acceptable terms. He then pointed us towards a doorway and told us to knock to see something really interesting.

Now, this was exciting! I was going to see something that wasn’t part of the standard Florence tourist menu. We then found ourselves in a small windowless room whose walls were covered with “doodles”. There were bits of the Sistine Chapel, a drawing of a resurrected Christ, and several male forms and various body parts. Friend from the train who happened to be an avid photographer tried to take pictures, but they stopped him from using his flash in there. The charcoal drawings were really delicate. I didn’t see any writing on the walls, but they were in the tradition of all good graffiti. It was all basically a varation of “Michelangelo was here!”

Somewhere mid-awestruck, it occurred to us that this was an interior room with no windows. How the heck did the guy see well enough to draw on the walls? Second, what was Michelangelo who was a famous enough artist at the time doing shut away in this room in the first place? If it were a sanctuary, it seemed like he’d pick a spot more conducive to his art. We tried to ask, but the person who let us into room spoke limited English and I was the sort of person who confused the Borgias with the Medicis anyway.
Nonetheless, it was maybe the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen in a museum setting. It was literally like being inside Michelangelo’s head.

It’s been argued that Michelangelo anticipated modern art in many ways. The effect of this room was almost disturbingly modern. With all the stray body parts decontextualized on the wall, the image of the Christ, and then bits of the Sistine Chapel, it was kind of a Renaissance version of Picasso’s Guernica. Hieronymous Bosch was a near contemporary of Michelangelo and his Garden of Earthly Delights in some ways can be seen as a darker take on themes from the Sistine Chapel. I doubt that the two artists knew much of anything about one another, but I suppose one could argue that Bosch had already managed to paint “outside his time”. I had just never thought of Michelangelo as ever having done the same. Fwiw at the time, I thought these were pre-sketches for the Sistine Chapel. In fact, he’d finished the Sistine Chapel twenty years earlier. The doodles are even more fascinating given that perspective.

Anyway, friend from the train and I came out of there really excited. We’d seen something amazing and wanted to tell other people to check it out yet the drawings were so delicate it struck me that it never could be a standard exhibit seen by thousands of people from behind a set of velvet ropes. I eventually lost touch with friend from the train though I did use him as the photographer for my first wedding a few years later. I never again spoke to wrong woman after she left Florence a day earlier than I did. Still for several years when I heard someone else was going to Florence I’d try to tell them about this secret Michelangelo room, but I’m not sure that anyone else found it or thought it was anything about which they’d care to remark.

Generally once you stop talking about something, you forget it. I didn’t know exactly what the place was called. Over time, it became this sort of indistinct memory of having seen the lightning moment of creation from hundreds of years ago (something Michelangelo depicted in Rome) of a great artist. I have no idea what to make of the modern feel of that room. He obviously never formalized what he did there and who knows if he ever thought of it as anything more than random doodles while he stuck in some dank room.

For some reason, the memory of that room came up for me once again a few days ago. I think I was involved in some online discussion of whether or not unfinished works by writers should be published posthumously. There’s a thing now with Nabokov’s son having been told to destroy his father’s draft of “Laura” and now a full generation after the man’s death the son is publishing it anyway. I went “Damn, I remember this thing with Michelangelo” and tried to google the secret room. Ultimately, this is pretty much all I found, but it does explain why no one else ever came back from Florence raving about secret drawings in some sort of dungeon.

Oddly, I can still remember the smell of the mold and wonder if it was the same mold that Michelangelo might have sniffed in his six weeks in that room.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jason Castro's Excellent Adventure (Idol 7 Round of 4)

How unclear is American Idol on the concept of Rock and Roll? Well, did you see the final four do Steely Dan’s Reeling in the Years as a Brady Bunch reunion number? I especially loved the bit where after walking into position, they disappeared from camera view momentarily then suddenly reappeared on the catwalk. Imagine if Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had been talked into being mentors this week. My guess is that they would have dropped Ryan off the catwalk right onto that guitar soloist. No jury would have dared convict. It would clearly have been an act of self-defense in response to whatever Idol had done to their music.

So imagine that you’re Jason Castro and you’re the sort of young man who really does think Bob Marley is cool. You’re definitely not the kind of guy who would do rock and roll hall of fame night and do Stand By Me without the beat or Love Me Tender without the growl. Just after you get your eight word solo and then have to walk/dance on the Idol Stage so that icon of the Civil Rights movement Syesha can get her bit, you have this vision of showing up two weeks from now and being forced to sing “This Is My Proud Glory Moment Because I Believe” in the key of I-money.

“Yo Dude, this is so bogus. I must have shot the Tambourine Man to land in a place this scary. Help me Mr. Wizard please Help me Mr. Wizard, I don’t want to be an Idol any more.”

George Carlin, however, doesn’t appear to bring you back to the present so you can finish your term paper at Texas A&M and finally pass that music class. Instead, you have this flashback of Simon Cowell pointing his finger at you and telling you to “Pack your suitcase. You’re going home.”

You ask yourself, “Isn’t that a Chris Daughtry song? Wow, I might even know that one for once. Where did I hear it three hundred times last year?”

David Cook seems nice enough. He even admitted that he didn’t bring it for that Duran Duran song last night, but how do you sing a 90 second version of Babba O’riley? There’s not much bad you’d have to say about David Archuleta either. It’s more that if the two of you happened to be at the same high school, any cool person would go out of his way to avoid the kid. He’s way too eager to please. Okay, if it were just the two dudes, you could maybe cope one more week, but Syesha is like what you get if you took the bad acid at Woodstock, though you admit to yourself that you’re way too young to know anything about Woodstock.

First Syesha dresses up like Tina Turner and you’re pretty sure she’s talking about being excited to go on tour to see her “fans”. Lady, you’ve been in the bottom two like six out of seven weeks and you have visions of being overrun by “your fans” on that AI tour. You’re not the one who’s getting kissed by strange teenage girls mid photo-op in Las Vegas, I’m the one who has actual fans and I’ve got to say all those balloons were pretty weird. Mine are different from that Pittsburgh stalker lady hitting on David Cook or from having millions of fan too young to drive but old enough to have their own cell phone. You remember that moment with Amanda Overmyer where she talked about selling tickets to her concerts? Lady, I saw that movie with Angela Bassett and Larry Fishburne and you’re no Tina Turner, your’e not even Angela Bassett. If Randy wants to say I was karaoke, the only zone that was in had one of those machines that takes out the vocals then plays the lyrics on a widescreen television.

If that wasn’t enough, she jumps from emulating an abused woman's act at the height of the abuse to singing about civil rights. Did I miss a transition somewhere or shouldn't she have done Tina Turner post-Ike if she wanted to invoke liberation? Let’s talk about the other slippery syllogism, Sam Cooke wrote A Change Is Gonna Come at a critical moment in the civil rights movement. This is a critical moment in my career. Therefore, this is the perfect song for me.

She sings the song more or less predictably channeling Whitney more than say Odetta or even Joan Baez who really did have something to do with the music of the Civil Rights movement. Randy disses her then Paula gives her a standing ovation. Syesha breaks out the tears like she’s just won the right to sit at a lunch counter in Greensboro or fought off Bull Conner and his dogs. I hate to break it to you lady, but being on that show the One at age eighteen where Nick was messing around with Aubrey even though his girlfriend back home was pregnant, then having the show cancelled just isn’t the same thing. There’s a difference between Philadelphia, Mississippi and people literally dying to get the vote and trotting out your dad as “Here’s my dad the drug addict”, I want you to vote for me on AI.

And what was that bit with changing the lyric from A Change “is” Gonna Come to a Change Gonna Come? There’s like a double negative in formal English….Is there such a thing as a double ebonic? How fake and manipulative was that? Oh and one more thing, what was up with talkng like the civil rights thing was done and taken care of forty years ago?

Cry all you want, please don’t do it on the Idol Stage with me. Just get me out of here… I’ll tell America anything the producers want me to say. Mmmmm….I can say that I just can’t remember all the words to two songs, much less three….You see, my brain is dead and I just want to go home….Help me George Carlin! I can’t deal with this *$&# just get me back to jamming with my pal Renaldo Lapuz,
“You are my brother, my best friend forever…”

I’ll miss Jason Castro. One of the ingredients for good live tv is the hint of impending chaos. Last year Sanjaya brought it. This year Jason Castro was the one that seemed like he just wanted to do his thing instead of go to Idol Obedience School. David Cook does manage to appear a bit removed, but you can kind of tell he’s with the program. You may have noticed that when Bo Bice came out and did Witness (I guess he borrowed David Cook’s vocoder)instead of the Nigelfied rockish songs that Bo had to do so that all of 12 people could buy his album, everyone was sort of silent. I liked it. It was certainly better than that silly man from Maroon 5 (Adam Levine), but it wasn’t Idolzak. I know this is harsh because I know he’s had health problems, but it felt like the show castrated Bo Bice’s music and now he’s back trying to be Bo Bice again. You really want that sort of Endless Love there?

How do I put it? Jason might not have had much of a chance to win, but that doesn’t mean that Jason Castro wasn’t the one contestant left who could generate buzz (okay potheads, not that kind of buzz).

Could he maybe have brought out the poetry in Dylan’s Tambourine Man a bit better? Sure, it helps if you remember all the words. Could he have done a better job with I Shot the Sherrif? I mean he didn’t have to reach Bob Marley, he could have maybe gotten within singing distance of Eric Clapton. Sure….Would it have made any difference at all in the result? I doubt it. The best moment of the week was Jason’s response to Simon’s “What were you thinking?”

“It’s Bob Marley….”’

There’s no one left who could pull anything off like that.

David Cook: I don’t think anyone liked the Duran Duran. I thought he was just starting to rock with the Who song when he had to stop.

David Archuleta: Yeah yeah…..sure he sounded fine. Paula noticed that he keeps his eyes open now and he’s clearly learned to do the falsetto bit that Mariah encouraged him to add. Did Simon and all notice that this was rock and roll week? It was like going on Dancing with the Stars and getting out there and doing a perfectly competent break dance. That was Vegas Elvis not rock and roll slightly menacing and sexual Elvis. And that Stand By Me was more Jerry O’connell than River Phoenix.

Best of luck Jason and I hope you get to make music one of these days. It’s cool that you figured out that that might have nothing to do with being the American Idol.

btw: (some publicist sends me this for some reason, so I thought I'd oblige)
Tune in!!! Idol cast-off Jason Castro will be on "The Ellen Degeneres Show" on Monday May 12, 2008. Check your
local listings or visit for time and channel.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hollywood Matt Grant (Bachelor 12 WTA)

I’m pretty sure that the Women Tell All was the first Bachelor Special in some time not to mention Trista’s baby. As always they brought fifteen women back for the show, but maybe only six of them got to say anything. It was also quite noticeable that when they brought Matt out that none of the women were allowed to get within slugging distance. And what was with the makeover? Matt looked like he’d gone Hollywood and as if he had no plans to ever go back to England. Or maybe he shaved his head because he got lice or something from kissing random women, men, or pets at parties in Malibu. Who knows? There's also that persistent rumor that he doesn't have a job back in England any longer.

They gave Stacey, the trashy inebriated lady who offered Matt her panties at the opening night cocktail party almost five minutes of screen time. On WTA she appeared either sober or properly medicated and offered Matt a second more modest pair of her underwear. Matt pretended to try them on, but I have to ask what was the point? She only needed her chance to say “I’m really embarrassed” then disappear from our televisions forever.

Ditto with getting to see that nice Church organizer from Florida tear apart a beer can with her teeth a second time. What’s with reprising the freak show? Was this installment that boring?

Pretty much the only really interesting moment came when Matt tried to explain why he rejected Amanda Rantuccio, who btw came across really well. Matt claimed that he only talked “like” with Amanda, while with Chelsea he had actually discussed “love” and oh yes with Shayne too. This hesitation no doubt buoyed the hopes of the Chelsea fans, but I need to point out that with this Bachelor what he says about or to the lady is always far less significant than what he does. Matt was no longer dressed as a British banker. He’s now dressing and grooming like a really tall Jason Priestley with an accent, Bachelor 90210.

Amanda struck me as sincere, intelligent, and well-spoken, though I did hesitate a little when she talked about their story just beginning. She also got plenty of camera time (including a meeps montage) on WTA and she looked great. Are they thinking Bachelorette? Marshana Ritchie also got a suspiciously large amount of talk time to explain her strong personality. Equally interesting, Noelle Drake made it to the final four and didn’t get to say a single word at the WTA and certainly nothing directly to Matt. Ashlee Williss didn’t sing a note. Holly Durst didn’t get to discuss her tanning machine. Maybe they talked and simply got edited out? Perhaps most significant of all though, there just wasn’t much mention of the two finalists Shayne or Chelsea.

I do have to ask if Robin Canfield or Marshana Ritchie were all that interesting? With Robin, her dress was longer and more substantial than her explanations of her endless demands for one on one time. I think Marshana got as much time as she did because her survival on the show might have been one of the most likeable things about Matt Grant. He was the first Bachelor to actually seriously consider the black one. Marshana’s personal style clearly differed from the other ladies. Letting her be Marshana on the WTA likely helped Matt’s image. Still when Chris announced the romantic wedding proposal ending for one of the “best Bachelors ever”, the studio applause just didn’t sound all that enthusiastic.

Actually, if I noticed anything about this installment of the Bachelor, it’s the fact that it’s so emotionally tepid. Chelsea and Shayne have their fans as well as their detractors (I’m not holding my breath for any invitations to the Lamas house), but the level of enthusiasm for any of the ladies didn’t quite happen with the possible exception of Amanda. So much of the camera time went to Shayne that it was just difficult to bond with any of the other candidates including Chelsea (I should mention that many sleuthers seem to be saying that it's Chelsea). Even if Shayne and Matt really did fall in love, I believe that the producers forgot that the viewers need to fall in love with at least one of them as individuals. Things could turn some in the final episode, but I can’t say that Matt has struck me as romantic in any significant way unless you confuse ready physical affection with romance. Has he made any gestures to the ladies, shown any special level of sensitivity, or even have a memorable moment? I tend to remember Matt Grant talking to a London phone booth or lusting after sea turtles off Barbados. Even Brad Womack got to look at photos of Deanna’s mother.

This year, the Women Tell All might have been the winner’s show. Poor Chris Harrison didn’t even have much to ad lib about. At one point Marshana talked about leaving the show and feeling okay about it because women like Amanda and Noelle were still in the pack (as in he had some great choices if he really wanted what he said he wanted). I had to nod my head and agree both with what she didn’t say and what Amanda and Noelle’s presence on the stage implied. I just wish they had subtitles to show what some of these ladies were really thinking.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving 1939-2008

Mildred Loving died at the age of 68 last week. If you don’t know the name, it might be a good thing. She was the plaintiff in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court Case that finally declared laws banning interracial marriages unconstitutional in 1967. Until 1967 some 17 states had laws against interracial marriage. Does that date sound a little late to you?

A lot has happened in forty one years. One of those things is that my wife and I got married way back in 1989, actually just twenty one years after the date of Loving v. Virginia. To be clear, interracial marriage was reasonably common in the United States well before that date as were mixed-race children. It’s just that it remained illegal in many states. In some cases the states tolerated it, you just had to go to another state to get a marriage license. In the case of Richard and Mildred Loving though, the state of Virginia decided to prosecute and convict them nearly a decade after the school integration case, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

For those of you following the Gay marriage debate, it’s a reminder of how slow social change can be. If you happen to be in Northern California, what was illegal in 1967 became quite routine in less than a generation. It’s now “normal” enough that Barack Obama is a serious candidate for the presidency. It’s maybe a hopeful thing that there’s already at least one state in the west with a married gay U.S. Senator. Even if he doesn’t admit to it yet, most of the rest of us know.

The actual story of Mildred (Jeter) Loving is pretty interesting. She met Richard Loving who was white when he was 17 and she was 11. She got pregnant at age 18 and the couple married in Washington D.C., a state that had no such ban. While this took care of the marriage part, it meant that the couple couldn’t go home and that they couldn’t drive into Virginia together even to see their family. As we discuss things like a state by state policy on abortion or gay marriage, the real life of the Lovings serves as a reminder of how strange state by state “civil rights” policies might be. I’m reminded that the basis of the Dred Scott case back in the 19th century was the question of how could the same man be “free” in one state and a “slave” in another. Saddest of all, Richard Loving died in 1976 in a car accident.

This is the language from one of the original judges who heard the Loving case at the state level,

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

After the couple won their case, they kept their private lives essentially private. I think about Strom Thurmond who had an unacknowledged daughter with an African-American housekeeper when he was a young man. He spent much of his political career fighting desegregation. The daughter only came forward after his death a couple years ago. When he died, Thurmond was hailed as an icon and some sort of “hero”. I think about the quiet courage of the Lovings (yes, the name is ironic). Richard Loving did not want his child to be born out of wedlock nor did he want Mildred Loving to suffer the stigma of that so they took on the State of Virginia.

Forty years from now, I hope people will be shaking their heads at us and how long it took our culture to recognize the obvious. In the meantime, we need to think twice before calling other countries' mores backwards.

Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers


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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Two Wongs Don't Make a Wright (politics)

James Cone

A couple months ago I was in my car and happened to turn on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terri Gross. Much to my surprise, the guest was someone I knew in high school, Dwight Hopkins. He’s currently a professor of theology at the University of Chicago and attends the same Trinity church as Barack Obama from time to time. He was on the show to put some perspective on what was then the beginning of the Jeremiah Wright controversy. Mostly, he explained that things like “God Damn America” were taken out of context. Essentially, he pointed out that Wright was using “Damn” as a verb not an “adjective” and that the sermon itself was about what America had done wrong in God’s eyes and what it would need to do for God to love America. It made some sense to me. America is no more “damn” proof than any other country. One is not righteous simply because one is American. Just for perspective, Martin Luther King’s next sermon before his assassination was titled something like “How America Could Go to Hell”.

I didn’t know Dwight Hopkins well when we were in high school together in Massachusetts. I'm not even sure he'd remember me. My freshman year, I was the guy who kept the scorebook for the basketball teams. He was a sophomore and the captain of the JV basketball team. That should tell you where we both stood in the social pecking order at a boys school. His senior year, I happened to have an electric typewriter. He offered to pay me to help him type his application to Harvard. I told him I’d just do it for him., partly because I wanted to see how someone else would fill out an application to Harvard and I figured Dwight was going to get in. I never applied and likely would never have gotten in.

Obviously, without me he would never have gone on to Harvard, Union Seminary, and doctoral work in South Africa to work with Desmond Tutu. What can I say? I guess I should have known then that I would wind up blogging, because I would volunteer to type things. Somewhere in there as well, Dwight did in his knee and so he didn’t get to be a star athlete at the school. I’ve sometimes wondered what role that might have played in the direction he wound up taking.

When people find out that I went to a boarding school in New England, they tend to assume a lot of things about the place. In fact, it was the first time in my life that I got to know African-Americans well. The school had about two hundred students and around fifteen black students. A couple came from relatively wealthy families, most came through a program known as A Better Chance (ABC) that identified talented minority youth and then seeded them into what had then been the breeding grounds for the “power elite”. John Kerrey (St. Paul’s) and George W. Bush (Andover) were both products of those places along with the Kennedys (Caroline came to one of our mixers once). Barack went to the Hawaiian equivalent Punahou. Deval Patrick (Milton) the current governor of Massachussetts was a product of ABC. I honestly don’t remember if Dwight was an ABC kid, but there was a group of them in my school from Richmond, Virginia and that’s where he was from.

One aspect of a small boarding school is that one has much closer contact with a greater range of people than one would at a typical public high school. Post-desegregation many public schools stayed internally segregated through ability-based tracking. Many of my college friends went to these sorts of public high schools which often had large numbers of blacks, latinos, etc. in them, but they were never in the same class with them nor did they even share a meal with them. At my school, you got to know pretty much everyone in your class at least minimally well.

I’ve only really tracked down two members of my class on my own since we graduated. Both of them were ABC kids. Fascinatingly, both had ultimately returned to the black community. One was in Harlem and the other was in Prince George’s County, Maryland, parts of which are almost exclusively black and middle to upper middle class at the same time. It reminded me of a perfectly understandable phenomenon at the school. When they had the chance (we could sit where we wanted at breakfast and on some other occasions), the black students sat together at a table in the far corner of the cafeteria.
It wasn’t written in stone that others couldn’t sit there, but there was sort of an informal understanding. My take is that they simply wanted to feel like something other than the isolated black guy from time to time. Being one of the few Asians there (times have now changed so that large numbers of Asians go to these schools), I envied their having the option to congregate in some fashion.

There were some real challenges in this enforced “fraternity” that I think were very hard for anyone at the time to grasp. Most of the black students there came from the city. Occasionally a black student would manage to find his way there from some very rural place and there was an assumption that he’d fit in with the other black guys. There was one such fellow in my class who lasted about a year and a quarter. He had some other issues, but the biggest problem was that he was clueless about the norms of the school and all of the school was clueless about him. He liked to use big words and had learned to use them more or less defensively, he wasn’t all that athletic, and he had no idea what was socially acceptable. The black students there didn’t quite know how to deal with him either. Eventually he got sent back home to North Carolina and that was followed by rumors that he’d had some sort of nervous breakdown. No one seems to know what happened to him.

My classmate who did make it through who ultimately led a colorful life of his own (he wound up on the street at one point) said that no one there really understood what it felt like when he came from Bedford as the “brightest kid around” to a place where he always felt like the village idiot. He was the first classmate there to invite me home. I think my parents had some image of me getting invited home to visit some version of the Kennedys. I went to Bedford Stuyvesant instead and spent a Thanksgiving there. I remember we spent much of the time in M’s cramped bedroom watching Knicks games on a black and white television. He didn’t tell me until thirty five years later that his stepdad was beating him up constantly and/or smoking pot. He’d never have revealed anything like that to the school. Another rather interesting bit is that both of the friends I tracked down had a sibling who didn’t get the golden ticket. In both cases, their siblings wound up in blue collar work that paid them more money. So the golden ticket wasn’t all that golden in certain ways or they just didn’t care that much about money once they lived among those who had it. Oddly, the ABC kid in our class who’d become a doctor was another student who left the school early.

M also mentioned that he used to wander Greenwich Village on vacations and he would spot one of our teachers coming out of gay bars there. The teacher would pretend not to recognize him for obvious reasons. Again, it was nothing that he shared with anyone at school at the time. One of the other strange phenomena was that a large percentage of the teachers were gay. I just didn’t notice at the time.

Anyway, I did live to see the day when a black man (Obama’s as white as he is black of course) would be a serious candidate for president. It just happens that we have the tie of being part of that generation where minorities got access in various ways to what were once exclusive schools. It’s strange and fascinating to me that Obama’s “blackness” is now being identified as the pastor of his church, Jeremiah Wright. It’s perhaps even more fascinating (especially to me) that one of the people the media called on to explain Black Liberation Theology is also the product of this fascinating attempt to improve race relations from the seventies.

When I was working in the non-profit world a few years ago, one of the funnier things would be that I’d run into peers from various agencies and community groups who also happened to be black, latino, Asian or some mixture of these things. I can’t tell you how many times they turned out to be graduates of one of the prep schools then gone on to some relatively prestigious college. Perhaps the oddest aspect of that was in places like Anacostia and Strawberry Mansion in Philadelphia they were both insiders and foreigners in these places. They couldn’t embrace the big money world and felt some sort of draw to working in communities they didn’t exactly grow up in.

There’s a long history of white America being uncomfortable with black anger, perhaps especially when it gets tied to religious belief. At one time Malcolm X and his embrace of Islam was thought to be the scariest man in America. It’s also no coincidence that his contemporary Martin Luther King was a reverend. Both were shot, one by black men and one by a white man. Black liberation theology, Wright is a product of it, came directly out of the black power movement of the sixties and apparently started with an ad in the New York Times in 1966.

The basic idea was that you take the tenets of the Christian faith and harmonize them with the civil rights movement. In particular it insists that improving conditions for those who are poor and black are deeply Christian principles. Like Obama, I can’t endorse the more extreme things that Reverend Wright said in his most recent speeches. At the same time, I have to object to the way the black church is being vilified, marginalized, and made to appear sinister and paranoid through one man’s more extreme statements.

Eight years ago, it was mostly white evangelicals who were seen as the key to the presidential election. Somehow George W. Bush even appeared at Bob Jones University, a place whose founder had far more radical ideas than Reverend Wright. John McCain has been endorsed by a Texas preacher whose notions about Catholics and others are well out of the mainstream. While Bush’s speech at Bob Jones did get media attention, why isn’t the comparison being brought up more now? In the meantime, why is everyone focusing on the sound bytes and ignoring the broader purpose of the church Obama attends? Pre-Wright brouhaha, Obama used to quote Lincoln’s take on God,

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

Can someone just point out that Reverend Wright’s general point about America has been exactly that? America is not a good country simply because it is America. America must be a good country by being one that’s fair, just, and dedicated to the welfare of all of its people.

As people who have had the experience of growing up on the racial margins of America yet who had the privilege of being exposed to the most elite realms of America’s non-public educational system, both Barack Obama and Dwight Hopkins likely had the opportunity to slip into that world and more or less leave the one they came from behind. Instead, they both felt some compulsion to make it better and even more accessible. It doesn’t shock me that they’ve sought out a Church dedicated to that notion. In fact, I admire them for it. They’re black men who came back (in Obama’s case) to the black church because they believe in making America a better country not because they secretly hate it or damn it.


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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Paula Abdul Spaces Out (Idol 7 Round of 5)

Personally, I liked the second hour of the Tuesday night show better than the first. On that second hour, available only to subscribers to Heartlight Television, not only did the five remaining singers on Idol perform much better than they had on the Fox version, but Paula Abdul’s critiques were incisive, detailed, and brilliant. I have to say it was an amazing moment when Jason Castro came out on a kid’s bicycle then sang that Neil Diamond song about space aliens with dreadlocks. I think it was called “Turn on Your Hash Pipe”.

Actually, I’ve been sort of puzzled by the Jason Castro doper jokes. People seem to jump to conclusions because of the hair the neo-Spicoli act from Idol Does Ridgemont High, and the fact that he was once a drummer in a rock group. As I understand it, Jason Castro is quite religious and frequently sings for his church. It’s strange how people assume so much based on appearances. Okay, now I’ve undercut my own joke.

Anyway, at the end of the other second Jason Castro song, he did an even more clever thing. Before the judges started their critiques, he ordered pizza for them. It so disoriented Paula that she forgot that most of America isn’t supposed to know about the Heartlight Television version of the show. As you may have guessed, space aliens have very different tastes in music from everyday Americans. Maybe it’s because their ears are shaped differently or because some of them have more than two of them. Anyway, the other thing to understand is that the millions of Alien life forms who watch Heartlight Television can do things with cell phones that the rest of us can’t. You remember E.T. and that glowing finger? Just imagine millions of them with cellphones voting for their pal Jason Castro. By the way, the aliens apparently hated Michael Johns and Carly Smithson. They resented the idea that some non-alien alien might actually be the American Idol. For reasons I can’t go into in detail, they were big fans of Scot Savol.

While standard Idol’s popularity continues to drift this year, the Heartlight Network’s version has never been more popular. All those alternative life forms just love it when Ryan implores everyone to Phone Home after the show. They’re saying that next week’s show might set Heartlight ratings records. Guest mentors Tommie Lee Jones and Will Smith will help the 4 remaining Idols sing songs from Johnny Cash’s classic album “Man in Black”. It’s too bad that the earthside viewers of the show won’t get to see any of it. If you do happen to get the chance (my daughter has a friend who got us one of those satellite dish decoder boxes for thirty nine dollars), it’s well worth it and you’ll probably understand Paula Abdul a bit better. To Extra Terrestrials, Paula Abdul’s music is like the Beatles. They love her so much that Emilio Estevez movies can not be shown on Heartlight television out of fear that they will cause riots.

Anyway, isn’t that way more plausible than that silly notion that Paula Abdul was either reading from a script or that the judges more or less write their reviews based on the rehearsals? I mean this is reality television. They’d never do something like that.

When I heard that Neil Diamond was going to be the guest mentor for Idol, I really rooted for them to build the show around his turn in Saving Silverman. Could you imagine the Ford commercial? David Cook could have done the Jack Black role and David Archuleta could have been Steve Zahn kidnapping old Neil, throwing him in the back of their Ford Escape Hybrid Van, and getting him to help them break up say Brooke White’s sister’s wedding. Now, that’s the Neil Diamond I wanted. Instead, this was some old guy who told everyone he or she would be great and hugged Syesha. About the only thing I remember him doing was to tell Brooke White to change the lyric from New York City born and bred to “I’m Arizona Born and Bred” to make it her own. That sure made me a Believer and look how well it worked! No wonder, the aliens are bringing in their own mentors next week.

I was probably the most uncool kid in the world. Even I knew that I didn’t want to ever be caught buying or listening to a Neil Diamond album. The only thing worse than that would be to be found with a Barry Manilow album….mmmm…..Do I sense a pattern here? I can’t even say that Neil’s a guilty pleasure for me. I thought he hit his peak as a songwriter back with the Monkees. Other than Saving Silverman, the only really fascinating thing I can remember reading about Neil Diamond was a feature story on Sweet Connie from Little Rock (Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re an American Band) and her account of her meeting with Neil Diamond.

Brooke White: I did think that I Am I Said might have been the best she’s done in many weeks. After all, she did remember the lyrics etc., but it was getting increasingly obvious that the former nanny had essentially played her best cards too early in the show’s cycle. She had no more to show and no surprises after Battlefield and I do think that realization probably started getting to her nerves which sometimes pushed her off key.

I liked the crying thing after she got voted off and her stopping to thank America. There’s something corny, genuine, and likeable about Brook White the personality. I’m also okay with listening to her music in limited amounts. I still wanted to know if anyone got her to see an R-rated movie.

David Archuleta: I get comments about my posts from time to time. One time, I brought down the wrath of Kellie Pickler nation after I compared her to Anna Nicole Smith because of the boob job (the Kellie fan was convinced that she hadn’t had one). Other times, someone will come along and persuade me to listen and watch the show a little differently. Last week this guy Brett C. came forward and slyly complimented my reviews then made a case for David Archuleta as a genuinely innovative singer from a musical standpoint. After all, I’d compared the kid to a musical blender that always made smoothies.

Neil Diamond might not have been the best test for that, but I did hear some of that in Sweet Caroline. Brett’s argument is that David blends pop and soul elements in some unique ways. I confess, I can hear that a little now that someone’s mentioned it to me. I’m still not sure that the guy connects emotionally (not many seventeen year olds do). For a kid ( I think at least one of his parents is an immigrant to the US) who might have a direct feel for a song like “America”, I’d argue that the personal connection didn’t make it into the song. Some of that is musical. Some of that is performance/presentation. On occasion, he’s talked about what some of the “idealistic” songs he’s sung have meant to him, but I’m not yet hearing it in the actual performance.

David Cook: That was a weird bit with Ryan talking about the station wagon and singing Neil. Are they seeing if David Cook might want to host the show some day? Last week, I was ready to send the guy off to sell CD’s. This week, I don’t much remember what he sang just that it was pretty good alt. rock takes on Neil Diamond songs. He didn’t transform either one nor did he penetrate them emotionally. Whatever one says about Neil Diamond’s songs, they’re definitely emotional.

Syesha Mercado: No matter how well she sings, the judges appear to say “That was well done, but it wasn’t amazing.” I confess that I sort of know what they mean. Ever since Andrew Lloyd Webber, Syesha and the judges have been putting her in the Broadway box. I see that. The best pop singers bring something of themselves into their music. Singers in musicals play roles. She clearly seems more comfortable doing the latter and I think she’s good at it. I thought she did well with Hello Again and for the most part avoided her self-imposed trap of trying to turn every song into a glory-noting screamfest at some point. She also unquestionably has a very nice voice. She doesn’t, however, have that little thing where you hear her and go “That’s got to be Syesha Mercado”.

I’d love to chat more , but I just found all these new channels on our Satellite Dish with some sort of Alien Dating Show. I think this one’s called A Shot At Love….Ooops, sorry my daughter’s telling me those aren’t aliens at all. Okay, here’s an alien dating show from a planet where all the life forms are silicone instead of carbon-based. I think it’s called Rock of Love.

Simon's first kiss lady apparently lives in my county.

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