Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Top Ten

Tuesday Night Idol time!

Tonight's theme: Songs sung by No Doubt, or songs that Gwen Stefani really really likes. (How lame is that?)

LaKisha: Really, really good version of "Last Dance". I think I remember someone doing this song in a previous season, and it turned out to indeed be their "last dance". Won't be that way tonight, though. Very strong. Donna Summer is jealous.

Gina: Excellent song choice with "I'll Stand By You". Knocked it out. Full points.

Phil: "Every Breath You Take". The judges liked it. I didn't. This is a song that doesn't sound right unless Sting is singing it, and guys shouldn't try. The equivalent of the "don't sing Whitney" rule except for guys. He didn't do it badly, however.

Haley: "True Colors". This song worked for Cindy Lauper because she vocally blunted her sharp edges in order to pull it off. Haley doesn't have sharp edges to her voice to begin with, so this was vanilla over vanilla. Very pretty, but not memorable.

Sanjaya: "Bath Water". I don't actually think he planned to do it, but he lucked into a decent song for his voice. Ska-like songs don't require much range (lucky for him), but do require you to hit the lyrics solidly in the right spots. One stumble, and you blow up the whole song. He didn't stumble, so it was OK. The faux-hawk, however, was atrocious. If Sanjaya offended the Californians that worship Gwen, he might lose out this week, as the majority of his votes come from Cali.

Blake: "Love Song", by The Cure. I thought this was a straight rip-off of the more modern cover of this song. The judges felt it was current and original. (WTF??) He performed it well, however.

Chris Sligh: "Every Little Thing She Does". I am seriously getting tired of the same old same old from Chris. This week, he did the song in the same style as always, but added a horrible tendency to lose the beat to his problems. He could go home. It's that serious.

Jordin: "Hey Baby". Bold choice, and she did it well, and showed some moves on-stage. The band, however, totally let her down. The backup singers which are SO critical in this song, were so soft that it sounded acapella at times. The drums were the only instrument loud enough, in my opinion. Gwen Stefani's No Doubt performances put her volume at the same level as the instruments instead of being out front with the band playing background, and without that same mix, this song loses it's excitement. Not Jordin's fault. The judges liked the performance, however.

Melinda: "Heaven Knows". Strange coincidence that LaKisha and Melinda both choose Donna Summer? Maybe not. We'll have to choose between these two at some point. Melinda met her usual standard with this one, putting her and LaKisha in a tie at the top once again in my rankings. Pretty funny that Simon could only say that he hated her outfit. I'd have suggested the long white 70's dress for this one.

Chris R.: I told my wife that if he did "Don't Speak", I'd hunt him down and kill him. Guess what he did? The No Doubt song has two great characteristics: The acoustic guitar, and the harmony, (which is really Gwen Stefani overrecording her own voice twice in the studio). Chris performs it R&B style, which omits both of these great things. Unfortunately, it also makes the song sound like "Careless Whisper", and Chris isn't nearly the singer that George Michael is. The judges of course, disagree with me and love it.

My rankings:
1 (tie). Melinda
1 (tie). LaKisha
3. Jordin
4. Gina
5. Blake
6. Phil
7. Haley
8. Chris Sligh
9 .Chris Richardson
10. Sanjaya

My prediction:
If Sanjaya doesn't get his comeuppance this week, one of the Chris's gets kicked to the curb.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My Wife's Evil List

Bernie and I went to church this morning, and she took out her little note pad and started scribbling during the service. I peeked and saw that she was making a shopping list for Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. Uh oh.

So right after church, we go to Lowe's. Here's the list as I remember it:
4 bags of mulch
6 bags of pea gravel (later reduced to 3)
10 bags of top soil (later reduced to 5 after I mentioned that 10 bags at 40 lbs each was 400lbs)
2 bags of garden soil
black plastic sheeting
Castle Wall bricks

I start wondering if I'm going to need a bigger truck.

We dropped the sheeting from the list because I knew we had some already, and we left off the castle wall because we were already pulling two heavy flatbed carts and Bernie was struggling to move the lightest one.

We added:
4 rectangular paving stones (to put in front of the lawn mower house)
1 bag of lawn fertilizer (with 4% iron)

Strangely, this whole haul only cost us $50, and we had a $10 off coupon.

(Since this wild urge to do yardwork hit her during mass, I have to assume that it didn't come from heaven.)
We were not looking forward to putting this stuff in the truck. Bernie stood around with her cart, giving her best "helpless little girl" act, and one of Lowe's teenage employees told her to pull the truck around and he'd load it for her. Then I showed up with the second cart. (Sucker!) I took pity and helped load, though.
(Bernie was really evil today and will need to go to church again next week to ask forgiveness.)

Then we got home and had three hours before the basketball game. I decided to take the initiative and choose a project myself. We've been wanting to use some of the flat landscaping stones from the fountain project and make a cobblestone path to the garden around the fountain. So Bernie and I pulled up all the grass in the area (we had to take turns because of the heat), put down landscape fabric, poured out some of the pea gravel, put down the flat stones, and filled in with more pea gravel. This took us a couple of hours, but was really hot and exhausting.

It looks pretty good, though. We intend to take this project a little bit further next Sunday.

Meanwhile, the grass-growing experiment in the front yard continues.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Plastic-sniffing Dogs: Marked for Death

You just gotta love Malaysia for weird news:

Malaysia DVD Pirates want sniffer dogs dead


Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian movie pirates have put a bounty on the heads of two sniffer dogs who busted a fake DVD ring with a seizure of discs worth about $3 million (Dh11 million), media and officials said yesterday.

Lucky and Flo, two female black Labradors deployed by Malaysian authorities in their crackdown on pirated movie DVDs and music CDs, carried out their first major successful operation in Johor state on Tuesday.

The New Straits Times said syndicate bosses had offered an unspecified reward for the killing of the two dogs.

Poor doggies! They were just doing their job!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stephanie Falters!

DialIdol.com really has a problem this year. The top 3 are so far ahead of the others that the remainder are too close to call in their predictions. I figured Sanjaya wouldn't go home this week after he at least tried to be better.

Poor Stephanie. She had been in a bit of a slump and she had stiff competition for the niche of black female soul singer in this season's competition. Basically, Jordin's surge fueled Stephanie's demise.

What really sucks is that America will have to listen to Sanjaya on tour all summer, now.

The good news is that Haley has figured out what it takes to get votes - wear less.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Night AI

This time tomorrow, we'll be down to the top 10 on American Idol.

I was actually impressed tonight. I think someone told the contestants that if you make it through this week, you get paid to go on tour all summer. Either that, or the guest coaches (some lady named Lulu and a guy that sounds just like Nick Arrojo on What Not To Wear) were particularly inspiring this week. Every single one of the performers (including Sanjaya) left it all on the stage tonight.

Anyway, here's my impressions:

Haley: Well, unfortunately, I got a phone call while she was performing. She sang "I Know Something About Love". The judges said she did well, so I'll have to take their word for it.

Chris Richardson: "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying". I think he did a good job, slowed down and relaxed and kept it real. The girls probably loved it. I am not a particular fan of his style, but he's not in danger for a few more weeks.

Stephanie: She's falling back into the pack lately, after being one of the top 3 in the beginning of the show. "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" should be performed such that the verse is sung off-rhythm, then the chorus snaps to the beat. Stephanie tried to do the whole song off-beat and she fought the band the whole way through. It sounded like a cat fight. Not good.

Blake: Sang "It's The Time Of The Season" and arranged it in a modern fashion. The judges really liked it. I personally didn't get it, but I have already conceded that Blake's style sometimes is too modern for me to understand. I thought he was off-pitch quite a bit, but sometimes that was intentional. The song lends itself (especially the way he arranged it) to being in a weird key, but I felt it wasn't right some of the time.

Lakisha: "Diamonds Are Forever". I loved the song and the performance, but it was un-original. I could imagine the Bond Babes With Guns in silhouette on-screen when I closed my eyes. Unfortunately, when I opened them, Lakisha was there and I had to grab for the eye bleach. Lakisha has dropped back a bit since establishing dominance early in the competition. Still in second place, but she's not as strong as she once seemed.

Phil: "Tobacco Road". I liked his performance on tape with the coach much better than the actual on-stage performance. He pushes a little too much when the band is playing behind him. He strutted and dipped and played with the mike stand and really tried to rock out. His voice is too clean for this kind of song, though and he really didn't sell it, despite a great effort. He needs to smoke a pack or two before trying this one again.

Sanjaya: Poor kid. He just doesn't have it and I finally saw him try to give us what we have been wanting for weeks - a song with a pulse. He attempted to rock out to "You Really Got Me". Unfortunately, this is NOT a song where vocals are important. He somehow managed to make me cringe to a Kinks song. Only a couple of times, though, which is a tenfold improvement over previous performances. Please, America, put him out of his misery.

Jordin: CRACK! Another one over the fence! She's my favorite and she didn't let me down. I had never heard the song before (and can't remember the title now), but it was a pleading, heart-ripping, love song, and she totally sold it. The vocals were impeccable and she blew everyone away. What was once a Lakisha-Melinda battle is turning into a Jordin-Melinda battle.

Gina: I knew she'd falter sometime. She picked "Fade To Black" and I think she chose poorly. The Stones were the correct band, but this song is too repetitive and non-melodic for a singing competition. Her performance was solid but not perfect, and not inspiring. I think she's in the bottom 3 this week.

Chris Sligh: A pretty good comeback after last week's debacle. He sang "She's Not There", which he said was one of his favorites. He didn't play with the arrangement at all this week. Vocals were good but vanilla. I think he needs to update his sound or he'll start losing votes for being boring. Nice job playing the crowd, but he looked distracted.

Melinda: It seems like the songs I liked best this week are ones I can't remember the titles to. Melinda sang a ballad and jazzed it up nicely. She is just flawless on stage and her held notes are crystal pure. The only bad thing to say this week is that her outfit was terrible and made her boobs look like a National Geographic photoshoot.

My Top Rankings:
1. Jordin (tie)
1. Melinda (tie)
3. Lakisha

Somewhere In The Middle:

Bottom 3:
9. Gina
10. Stephanie
11. Sanjaya

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Body Hurt

Today, I was planning on mowing the grass, then seeding and fertilizing the lawn.

This involves passing over the lawn 3 times, once with the mower and twice with the spreader. Easy, right?

Well, I mowed. Then I looked at the front lawn and decided that I had a thatch problem. Thatch is dead grass that gets tangled up in the live grass and sinks down to the soil, preventing water and nutrients from getting to the roots of the grass, and preventing grass seed from getting down to the dirt.

My grass is yellow. It has been yellow despite my best efforts to put various fertilizers, lime, seed, etc on it to get it to green up. I figure it's the thatch preventing the stuff from getting to the soil.

So Bernie and I grab rakes and start scratching the lawn. After 10 minutes, I can tell that my body isn't going to be happy tomorrow. After an hour, I can tell that my body may not be able to get out of bed in the morning. After an eternity, we finish the front lawn, and we pack a 40-gallon trash bag with dead grass that we've raked. I then proceed to seed. (haha).

I put one-third of a 50lb bag of grass seed into the spreader and give it to Bernie. The rest of the bag goes into a bucket and I toss it into bare patches by hand. Once we finish, we soak the heck out of the lawn. I plan to fertilize when I get home from work tomorrow.

Bernie remarked to me at dinner that the damn grass had better grow after this. I totally agree. The next option is green spray paint.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alert! Political Subject

I read my friend Brian Dickerson's blog the other day, and he made a post about how dissatisfied he is with the current administration and the President. I commented and he challenged me to find something - anything - that the current administration had accomplished that was not a disaster.

So I sat down and thought about it. I really haven't been able to understand throughout the Bush administration exactly what it is that makes some people so, well, hysterical about how much they dislike it, and Bush in particular. Also, the lengths that some folks will go to, to communicate their hatred for the President really shocks me. I know that my opinion of Americans in general has taken a sharp dip in the past few years, mostly due to the amount of emotional histrionics that people have put into their political opinions recently. Suddenly, everything is a conspiracy in the public eye. The media has taken to inventing crises because if the public isn't angry or scared, they don't watch news broadcasts.

So, I sat down and thought, and tried to take my emotions out of the equation. What good things have come from the Bush administration?

Well, I thought, it all started with 9/11. I thought the immediate response to the disaster was fairly well handled. Everyone stayed calm. All air traffic was immediately grounded and the planes left in the air at the time were tracked carefully. The one airborne hijacked plane was met with fighter jets and if it had gotten near a valuable target, it would have been shot down. In the days that immediately followed, the administration did a pretty good job of keeping the public informed without stirring up panic.

So far so good. Now, we all seem to be in agreement that the occupation of Iraq hasn't gone well. Can I blame the President for this? Well, not directly. In a war situation, the President has to allow the military to do the actual planning, unless he's got experience in doing that himself. My opinion is that Rumsfeld really screwed up the occupation. Can you blame the President for letting Rumsfeld run the occupation? Some, yes. But who knew that Rummy would do so poorly? He had a resume that read like Greenspan's. You couldn't doubt his credentials. He should have been replaced sooner, I agree, but it was nearly inconceivable that he could screw up that badly.

So we have one for the good, and one for the bad. For brevity, I'll bullet the next few things I'd like to point out.

  • Iran and nukes. Truly, I think this has been handled very well. Eventually, Russia and China will give in to hard sanctions, and it will all be over with. Russia is already wavering because Iran won't pay them for the reactor they are constructing.

  • Korea and nukes. This was also handled quite well. Kim Jong-Il was never serious about talking to us until we made China smack him in the face. Then we cut off his supply of Ipods and froze his bank accounts after we proved to the world that he was counterfeiting money and buying goods with it. Suddenly, he's ready to deal, and he can't cheat this time because his babysitters are watching.

  • The economy. It's good. Revenues are up due to middle-class tax cuts. Only because of war spending is there a deficit. Unemployment is low. Pork projects are at an all-time low. Interest rates have been relatively low for several years now. Inflation is in check. Greenspan retires and is replaced by an actual competent successor. (The whole financial world has been holding its breath for decades over that, and Bush handled it perfectly.) The stock market has recovered and surpassed its pre-9/11 record highs.
All in all, I really can't find much to be unhappy with, except for the war in Iraq, which I think should have been wrapped up long ago. However, I think the invasion of Iraq has achieved a goal that most people don't realize was a major reason for it: It turned the focus of Islamic fascists to their own back yard, instead of trying to attack the USA in the USA. Iraq is a smudge-pot for Islamic radicals. Better there than here.

Anyway, this post has gone on for too long. I just wanted to reason out why I don't feel that Bush has done a terrible job. I conclude that all the fuss isn't about policy - it's about politics and who wants power and what they'll do in order to seize it.

That's all. Now I'm preparing to handle a bunch of nasty comments from people that I've never heard of. We'll see if I get some prime examples of folks that have abandoned reason and given in to hateful name-calling.


Brandon goes home. No shock there. The good news is that Sanjaya was in the bottom three. I think we'll get rid of him next week, thank God. Only the top 10 go on tour after the season, so if he goes next week, America won't have to deal with that.

It's funny, though. Diana Ross dispenses all that good advice to the kids, and then goes out tonight and breaks every AI rule. She did a Stevie song, did it too low, shouted the chorus, was "pitchy", etc. Legends get a pass, though. What a nice lady!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

AI: The Top Twelve Take On Diana Ross!

It was a depressing show tonight, I thought. The guys fizzled for the most part, except for Phil Stacey, who elevated his game and finally impressed me. Melinda and LaKisha were off the scale, as always, but Jordin Sparks came up last and absolutely crushed one out of the ballpark. The judges are mentioning her in the same breath with the dynamic duo now.

Top 3 performances:
(well, duhhhh...)
1. Melinda
2. LaKisha
3. Jordin - wow!

As Darth Vader says, "Impressive!":
4. Gina. Really nice version of "Love Child" that hit on all cylinders. Perfect song for her style. She's on a roll.

5. Phil Stacey. "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" - He hit all the right notes. Very Michael McDonald-ish, and he totally sold the song with his stage presence. Just in the nick of time - I was about to lose hope for him.

6. Haley. She forgot the words to her song (I didn't notice it, until she let it show in her body language) and probably thinks that sank her tonight. Not so. Her performance was good, the style fit her well, and she garnered a lot of sympathy. She was far from the bottom tonight, and I think the fact that she's the best looking girl left will keep her around for a bit longer. She showed signs of 'getting it' tonight.

Nothing Special:
7. Chris Richardson. I actually dug his version of "Boss" and his performance. I don't think it was as obvious to the rest of America what he was trying to accomplish, though.

8. Chris Sligh. Did "Endless Love" in a free-form arrangement with a syncopated backbeat that just didn't work. This was the first example of Chris over-thinking his strategy. The arrangement of the song didn't work, but the vocals were good. The bad arrangement was stronger than the good vocals, though.

9. Blake. Tried to do the same thing as Chris. I wonder if they planned this out together? I've forgotten the song, but he tried to modernize it and he completely forgot that he needed to sell his vocals. He lost focus on the goal of the competition - singing well.

10. Stephanie. Vocals good, but nothing memorable. Her performance was better than the 3 guys above her on this list, but Chris, Chris, and Blake all took big swings and missed. To extend the baseball metaphor, she got on base, but people will remember their attempts and forget her performance. One thing I noticed with my super-powers of criticism, but the world will miss: She had a moment in one of the choruses where she actually channelled Diana Ross - I could swear Diana sang those couple of notes. Then the moment passed.

The Basement:
11. Brandon. Geez, guy, I feel sorry for you. You have all the tools, but haven't figured out song choice or style yet. Everyone else is shooting off cannons, and you keep fooling around with a bb gun. Pick an uptempo song, one that doesn't start off low and slow for once, and belt it out with some power! He did "Can't Hurry Love", using the same arrangement as Phil Collins, but didn't fill it up, and he messed up the roadmap of the song and tried to sing the chorus when the band played the bridge. Understandable, he didn't do anything else well enough to overlook it.

12. Sanjaya. Bad, and continuing to get worse. He pretty much spoke his song tonight ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). He couldn't win third prize in a karaoke bar. Whatever is causing him to get more votes than others will probably keep going until it gets serious, I'm afraid, but I can always hope that America wises up and kicks him to the curb.

For the first show on the big stage, I'd say that Haley, Phil, and Gina were positively affected by the big audience and expanded band, and Stephanie, Blake, and Brandon were negatively affected.

I'm personally disappointed that no one, particularly none of the guys, did "Upside Down". If a girl had tried it, they'd have had that low-note problem I described in a previous post, but a guy could take advantage of the range and pull it off, without being accused of "trying to be Diana Ross". That's a missed opportunity for one of the guys.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

2007 ACC Champions!

2007 ACC Regular Season
ACC Tournament Champions!

University of North Carolina Tar Heels

Friday, March 09, 2007

Total Eclipse of the Sun

So Sanjaya made the final 12. How embarrassing. Paula acted like the sun had gone out when it happened.

I have a little advice for you, Paula.


You keep handing out golden tickets to people you feel sorry for in auditions. Well, guess what? Those people end up getting sympathy votes and send people with actual talent home. If you'd start taking your job seriously, you'd remember that it's the 'panel of three' who have the job of weeding out the untalented from the talented each season before it gets to this point.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

White Girls (apparently) Can't Sing

Rosie O'Donnell has no idea what she's talking about. As usual. If Idol was racist, they'd be trying to keep the white girls on the show. After tomorrow, there will be 5 ladies of color, and 1 white chick on the show.

I'm looking forward to next week and beyond, because we're going to see the guys get dropped off one by one every week from now on.

Melinda and LaKisha will be fighting it out for the trophy (do they get a trophy?) in the end. If America has any taste, that is.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I watched AI tonight and I was seriously bored. Not a single song that I liked, except maybe the first one, which Blake performed fairly well.

There's not enough material here to analyze, but here's who I think is safe for next week:
1. Blake
2. Chris Sligh
3. Chris Richardson
4. Sundance

The rest just bore me to death. Jared gets on my nerves, because he's like a karaoke singer that takes himself too seriously. Brandon gets on my nerves because he could be good, but he can't pick a song. Phil bores me, and Sanjaya's presence on the show offends me. I swear, he's not even making an effort. I wish the judges would let him finish his song and just say "Next!", because he's not even worth criticizing.

There's still not a belly singer in the group. Blake's my new favorite because he at least is interesting.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Idol Voters Are Morons

AJ being voted out and Sanjaya being kept is reason enough to nuke California. The best guy singer leaves and the worst stays despite giving one of the worst performances in Idol history.

Antonella's continued existence on Idol can be chalked up to her internet striptease nonsense.

I wasn't planning on voting until it got near the end, but I think I'm going to have to hook up with DialIdol.com and start voting against people.

And I'm taking bets on AJ having a CD on the charts before they get down to the final two this season.

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