Thursday, April 24, 2008

Texting your way to love

If you're in your 20s and this doesn't look and sound very familiar to you, then you probably live in a hole.

Absolutely spot-on hysterical.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Idol's Top 6: Syesha breaks out, Brooke breaks down

Andrew Lloyd Webber, you are a cheeky bastard. I kind of want to write this whole review around you. But I won’t, because no one would read it. They want to hear about how Syesha blew the roof off the place last night, Brooke continued her televised mental breakdown and David Cook almost moved me to tears.

I will say that ALW was by far the best mentor of the year. He didn’t coddle the contestants or blindly give them oodles of praise. He offered constructive advice and criticism, even suggesting (rightly) that Carly pick a different song. The best part, of course, was his thinly-veiled flirting with David Cook. Watching Rocker Boy blush and go “Well, I’m 25, so…” when ALW told him to sing to him like he was the most gorgeous 17-year-old girl in the world made me laugh until my sides hurt. ALW, good on you. Though last night proved to be rather polarizing and bewildering as a whole, you were absolutely fabulous, dahling.

Anyway, Syesha Mercado is up first, singing “One Rock and Roll too Many” from Starlight Express, a musical I have never seen or heard, though I’m told it’s about trains who come to life and fall in love. Also there are people on roller skates. I wish I were making this up. I have a sneaking suspicion ALW may have been going through a Sgt. Pepper period while conceiving and writing this. Just a thought.

Her performance was sexy, confident and absolutely crackling with energy and attitude. Syesha’s stance that she is an “actress-singer” was tested tonight, and man did she deliver. Musicals require a big voice and an even bigger stage presence. You have to act and emote with your entire body to a level that would be considered ridiculous on television or film. Syesha has always had attitude and personality to spare, but never in a good way. Last night, she found the perfect conduit for it. I was lounging on my couch in my pajamas at the end of a ridiculously long day, and I had to stop myself from giving her a standing ovation in my living room. The fact that the judges didn’t praise her like she was the second coming was a huge head-scratcher (of course, as the night went on that became a trend…ignoring the mistakes of the favorites and being far too harsh on the unchosen few).

Broadway star potential: realized

Poor Jason Castro was at a huge disadvantage from the get go this week. He and Brooke do not have the “big voices” required to sing Broadway numbers. So, I knew I wasn’t going to get soaring power notes and big runs and huge chest voice out of Jason’s version of “Memory.” I give him a lot of credit for deciding that the best way to go was to keep the emotion and power of the song but tone down the theatrics of it to make it something that suited his style. Unfortunately, his style is pretty much the anti-Broadway, which is perhaps why it was received so poorly by the judges. It didn’t fit the night, but it definitely fit him, and I think that’s more important. I felt like Jason connected to the emotion of the song very well and conveyed it in his voice and delivery. It was good, but it wasn’t great and it definitely wasn’t Broadway, which is probably why he’ll end up in the bottom three tonight.

Brooke White's tendency to warble a bit here and there during most of her songs is a part of why I could never fully jump on her bandwagon (that and the fact that she’s what I would become if my nightmares came true). Week by week, as she slowly breaks down before our very eyes on national television, the warbling has gotten worse. Last night, she sounded like she was gargling through “You Must Love Me.”

Of course, all of that came after she messed up the lyrics, stopped the band and then made them start over. I’m pretty sure my jaw hung open for about five minutes after that. The reboot obviously rattled her (but then again, what doesn’t these days? I’m pretty sure she’s the kind of person who leaps ten feet in the air and trembles when someone says “Hello.”). Her performance was a huge mess, warbly and uncomfortable and nervous and off kilter. The judges, obviously sensing that she’d break into a million pieces live on the air if someone said too harsh a word, were way too kind in their critique. Huge props to Paula for calling her out on starting over, though she’s Paula so it was said in the sweetest way possible. Simon patting her on the head by agreeing that he would’ve done the same thing in her position just meant my jaw hung open even longer.

Say bye bye to Brooke, America.

David Archuleta forgot the lyrics again, something I didn’t notice until my second viewing this morning on YouTube. Know why I didn’t notice? Because the camera conveniently cut away from his face the second he “went up” on his lines. Once is bad enough, Archie, but twice? And from a kid who has been performing since he could hold a microphone in his tiny toddler hands? Absolutely inexcusable. Look, props to him for taking a grand musical number sung by a girl (and a first soprano at that) and turning it into a crooning, adult contemporary song. We all know the kid can sing, and sing incredibly well, but I remain unconvinced that he should wear the idol crown…though the judges and producers obviously feel differently. Archie was given the lofty praise that should’ve been directed at Syesha, and the fact that not one judge called him out on his flub? Huge thumbs down.

Carly Smithson came back to life during last night’s performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” After weeks of looking uncomfortable and dour and tense, Carly let loose and put on a rousing, rocking show. As Simon said, she got a tad too shouty and borderline shrill on a few notes, but overall she was fantastic and reminded me why I picked her as one of my Idol frontrunners way back in Hollywood Week. Also, I want the shirt she had made.

This is what my brain did as soon as David Cook started singing and fixed those sultry eyes on me: G&^%&$R%Y$%^@!!!!! I was a little concerned with his song selection, but damn if he didn’t pull it off again. ALW said it was his most sensual, sexy song and I agree…if it’s sung well. Not only do you need to have the big, broad voice to pull this off…you really have to be able to just pour emotion into it. His “Music of the Night” nearly moved me to tears, and I’m definitely not the type.

I see you looking at me with those eyes...

I’m really glad he didn’t “rock it out” (with the exception of that last glory note). He’s already proved that he can rock, but this week he expand his range even further, showing that he can deliver a beautiful, soaring ballad with the same level of competency and success.

Bottom three is getting nearly impossible to predict this late in the competition, but I’m going to go Brooke, Jason and Carly…though I think it should be Archie instead of Carly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The 1st 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational

On Saturday, I was one of the lucky few to attend the 1st 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational in Griffith Park. The whole event was just this side of utterly ridiculous…which is naturally why I loved every second of it.

Cheese. It brings the smiles.

140 different teams of grillers competed in four different categories that ranged from basic (only white bread, yellow cheese and butter allowed) to the slightly absurd (dessert grilled cheese sandwiches). A dozen folding tables surrounded the cooking area, where excited competitors doled out their creations to an eager, raucous crowd of judges. Everyone who ate was asked to submit a ballot that ranked the sandwich on taste, presentation and creativity.

I honestly had no idea there were that many ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich. There are very few foods that I love more than cheese, so Saturday was akin to a little slice of heaven. I had tiny finger grilled cheese sandwiches with Tillamook, muenster cheese on jalapeƱo cheese bread, and an unparalleled concoction that consisted of one slice white cheese, one slice yellow and a spread able cheese (I believe it was ricotta) on top.

An event like this brings out the, er, enthusiastic and the LA crazies. There was a guy wearing the bottom half of a bear costume, another in bright green furry boots, giant cheese necklaces, a woman in a wedding dress with cheese angel wings…you get my point. The free eats were only slightly more awesome than the people-watching I got done. I was hoping to find out who won before posting this, but sadly the results aren’t up yet. All in all, it was an incredibly random experience that I have to give a hearty two thumbs up.

I did not see this woman. I did see many of her kindred spirits, however.

I’m taking requests now to join me there next year. You know you want to come…

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Friday Whedonverse Roundup

Two pieces of news caught my eye at the end of yesterday, thanks to the lovely people at Whedonesque.

Alan Tudyk, of Firefly fame, was cast as one of the leads in the new Kohan/Mutchnik (Will & Grace) pilot for ABC. The show is about two men - one straight, one gay (Tudyk) - who are business partners and best friends.

Tudyk as Firefly's Wash.

Tudyk is a great character actor and tends to shine playing semi-ridiculous characters in comedies (A Knight's Tale, Dodgeball, 28 Days). For a kid from Texas he also, inexplicably, is often asked to be British (A Knight's Tale, Death at a Funeral). He's great fun to watch and I'm crossing my fingers that the show gets picked up so I can watch him be front-and-center for once. He deserves it.


Joss Whedon announced three new additions to his Dollhouse last week, and one's a very familiar face.

Harry Lennix (Across the Universe) has been cast as Echo's (Eliza Dushku) bodyguard, a former cop. Newcomer Miracle Laurie will play November, a recurring character who does not appear in the pilot.

Joining Dushku in the "second go-around with Joss" category is Angel's Amy Acker, who was just cast as Dr. Claire Saunders. Acker was, in my opinion, the weakest link in the Angel cast. I never particularly cared for her as an actress, and she only became mildly interesting after morphing into Illyria. However, I have endless trust in Whedon and his ability to put together a top notch cast, so I'll keep mostly quite on this front.

I'm ready to be dazzled, Amy.

The first Dollhouse table read was yesterday, which mean the pilot should start shooting in the next couple weeks.

Kristin from E! has more specific pilot details for those that are interested.

I'm getting so excited for Dollhouse that I can hardly contain myself.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Idol Elimination: KLC, I'll Actually Miss You

Have fun in Nashville, KLC.

I have to admit, my respect for Kristy Lee Cook shot up exponentially watching her last night. She was definitely well past her Idol expiration date, but I really don’t think she deserved to go home based on her performance during Mariah Week. Of course, at this point may people are voting for their favorite regardless (or for the body of work as opposed to the most recent week alone). On the other hand, humans tend to have pretty short memories…so her elimination was a bit of a puzzler for me.

She was the weakest performer left with zero shot of taking it all, but since her massacring of “Eight Days A Week,” KLC’s performances steadily improved, to the point that I really enjoyed Tuesday night’s country-tinged “Forever.” She won me over the point that I hoped incredibly hard that Brooke White would be the one going home. Her “Hero” was painful to watch, and she appears to be creeping ever closer to a breakdown with every passing week. It was cute when Brooke defended KLC to Simon, but once Ryan sent Syesha Mercado to safety, it was pretty obvious who was a goner. Little Miss Vanilla hasn’t worn out her welcome…yet.

Even though it was pretty clear Carly Smithson wasn’t in the bottom three, I wished America could magically change her mind as I watched her chastise Simon for being to hard on her and then desperately beckon David Archuleta over to her side of the stage like he was a puppy (which, okay…). Desperation is not an attractive look. In fact, I think the stink of it has clouded my mind the past few weeks. A second listen to “Without You” revealed it to be not nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, it was pretty good. I just couldn't hear it over the part of her that was screaming, "LIKE ME! GOOD GOD, PLEASE LIKE ME!"

I didn’t believe for a second that either Jason Castro or David Cook were in the bottom three, so I was a bit confused when Ryan started pulling the “you stand to my right, you stand to my left” bit. I think this week’s reveal was the silliest, most ridiculous thing I’ve seen on Idol yet…and I’ve seen some pretty odd things (people in capes, scary laughter, pratfalls, “Eight Days A Week” as a country song, etc.). Casting David Archuleta as the “deciding vote” topped it, though. Of course he immediately plopped down in the middle of the stage with an “aw, shucks guys” chuckle and shrug. He’s not stupid and he’s David Archuleta for the love of pete. You actually expected him to make a decision without his daddy present?

KLC really won me over, however, with her sing off. Perched atop the judges’ desk right in front of Simon, she unabashedly sang the first verse directly into his obviously uncomfortable face. I actually hooted with laughter. Add that to the fact that she spun around and walked away right after delivering the tweaked line, “'Still I burn on and on/ All of my life/ Only for a good comment from you” and it was absolute perfection. I kind of fell in love with her right there.

Respect, Kristy Lee. Respect.

In the end, it was time for Kristy Lee to go, I know. I just didn’t realize until she actually got the boot how much her self-deprecating sense of humor (“Kristy’s seat,” anyone?) and ability to keep her head up high despite the waves of dislike that were thrown at her every week actually earned her a lot of my respect, in the end. I wish her well post-Idol and look forward to what she brings to the tour this summer.

Andrew Lloyd Weber week is up next…and again I am worried. Not about what Archie will sing (c’mon, it’s totally “Any Dream Will Do”) but about what the heck my Rocker Boy is gonna sing. Then again, I worried about Mariah Week, and we know how that turned out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Idol's Top 7: Long Live the Divas!

I went into Mariah week fearing for the three remaining men in the Idol race. Mariah Carey is pretty much the epitome of the power-voiced pop diva. Her vocal range stretches eight octaves, and her astonishing ability to hit power notes and pull off ridiculous runs is second-to-none. Moreover, she infuses that strange and wonderful power into almost every single one of her songs. Restraint is not in the Carey repertoire (that is not a dig, I grew up on Mariah and I have mad respect for her as a vocalist).

Seriously, though: why is everyone leaning?

In a season where no one has really stood out as a diva-in-training (though Syesha has struggled valiantly to wedge herself into that category), it seemed a bit ill-fitting to have Mariah Carey mentor the Idols in general, male or female. At the beginning of the show, Simon pointed out that the women might actually be in for a tougher time because they would have to endure the direct comparison to the woman herself (and, this was unspoken, but it was there: “from what I’ve seen of the remaining women, no one will come close to living up to the Mariah standard”).

As usual, Simon turned out to be right (you smug bastard). While this was a good week overall for the finalists – indeed, for the first time I can remember, no one was downright bad – the men shone.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that, out of every single song in Mariah’s songbook, David Archuleta picked a message song with the Bible in it. Anyone? No? Didn’t think so. Here’s the thing: painful falsetto aside, he sang it very well. I was able to discern that much despite being incredibly distracted by the fact that he (or Papa Archuleta, who knows at this point) decided to don leather pants. If there’s one thing we know Archie can do, it’s runs. Of all three guys left, he was the most well-equipped out of the gate to tackle Mariah, and he delivered. Still, I continue to be under whelmed and slightly bored.

Just because I couldn't find a picture of the leather pants.

I got incredibly worried after I read the TMZ leak that reported David Cook would be singing “Always Be My Baby.” It is the epitome of the syrupy sweet pop song and the idea of Rocker Boy singing it made about as much sense as a hooker at the opera (sorry, Julia Roberts). But, once again, he showed just how good he is at choosing songs and arranging them (or finding existing arrangements) to suit his own personal style. His version was a slowed-down, slightly emo take that exploded at the end with his trademark power rock and roll howl. Other than one or two minor note problems, he was absolutely fantastic. The performance of the night, made extra touching by the fact that he was brought to tears singing for his cancer-stricken brother, who was in the audience.

The power note face: now familiar to millions.

Jason Castro came in a very close second with his bongo-backed, coffeehouse take on “I Don’t Wanna Cry.” He managed to actually hit his falsetto notes while completely reinventing the song. I almost don’t even know what to say about it, except that after he finished all I said was “YES.” Yes, Jason Castro, I am back on your bandwagon. Yes, I still think you have a bit of a problem connecting to what you’re singing, but you’re so adorably goofy and your voice is so easy to listen to that I forgive you. Bravo.

Even though the women sang well, I’m betting on an all-female bottom three yet again…and I shocked myself when I realized that Kristy Lee Cook probably wouldn’t be one of them.

I actually really liked Kristy Lee’s version of “Forever.” It wasn’t particularly groundbreaking in any way (apart from the minor country twang she infused through it) but her voice was surprisingly strong and tuneful and those power notes were winners. She was good, plain and simple, and her performance earns her the right to stick around another week…and this time not just because of her crafty song choice.

Given her attempts in recent weeks to prove how much of a diva she was by tackling the Whitey/Mariah/Celine oeuvre, this week appeared to be tailor-made for Syesha Mercado. Surprisingly, she chose a lesser-known Mariah song, “Vanishing,” and she sang it well. As Simon said, technically she was very, very good: on pitch, strong, clear, gorgeous. I think what has thus far stopped Syesha from breaking out completely (because I think she and Archie have the best, purest voices left in the competition) is Syesha herself. There’s still something just…off-putting and strange about her that prevents me from connecting to her as a listener. It’s what will ultimately prevent her from winning as well.

I say "WIN" for Syesha.

Carly Smithson, what is your deal? Actually, I honestly don’t care anymore. I love your voice and you were one of my favorites at the beginning of the competition. But after a series of uncomfortable, slightly angry and tense performances…I just don’t know what to do with you. If you don’t look like you’re having fun, no one else will be either. Your “Without You” was good, though you wavered a bit on a few of the longer notes you were holding. But you’ve devolved into kind of a hot mess and it’s so disappointing, because you’re so much better than that. If you survive the week, you’ll be lucky.

Brooke White looked like she was performing on the train tracks, watching a giant locomotive race closer and closer and desperately trying to figure out how to finish “Hero” before she died. Seriously, re-watching her performance you can see (and hear) her get more and more panicked as the song went on. I’m not sure what the cause of her troubles were, exactly, but she fumbled on piano, which made her sing faster and throw her off beat with the music, which made her play faster, which started this vicious circle of badness that just kept getting funnier (if we’re being totally honest). The whole thing was pretty much a mess, and if I were her I’d be worried tonight.

Mariah herself was a decent mentor, if a bit self-indulgent. I appreciate that she actually offered suggestions instead of just lavishing praise…and she did seem genuinely intrigued/flattered by the different perspectives the Idols brought to her songs. Overall, Mariah Week was a success across the board…and I don’t think anyone is more surprised about that than I am.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Attempt to "curse" New Yankee Stadium Foiled

I read this an hour ago and I'm still laughing about it.

Buried Red Sox Jersey Unearthed At New Yankee Stadium

There aren't many details yet (the whys and hows and whatnot), but the construction worker who did this should get free drinks in any Boston bar he walks into for the next month.

This would never happen except between the Red Sox and the Yankees. I love it. Hopefully someone else will succeed where that guy failed, because...well, the Yankees suck. :-)

Keep trying, Sox fans!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Idol Gives Back Week Takes From Michael Johns

Ryan Seacrest, he of the shiny smile and surprisingly adept dance moves, became a schoolyard bully last night: first he knocked the wind out of Michael Johns by announcing that he’d received the fewest votes, then he kicked him while he was down with a “will we or won’t we boot you?” tease that ultimately ended in Johns being sent packing.

Lookit! He can't believe Seacrest either!

C’mon Seacrest, was that really necessary? It’s bad enough that you told Michael America loved him the least. Poor MJ, who’d never been in the bottom three before, looked like someone had sucker punched him (it was you, Seacrest, it was YOU!). Then you lifted his hopes by reminding everyone that no one got eliminated last year during Idol Gives Back week. By the time you got to the “but…” part of your little speech, Idol’s top Aussie looked positively green. I was far from Michael Johns’ biggest fan, but shame on you, Seacrest. That kind of cruelty is beneath you.

Michael Johns wasn’t going to win American Idol. Through the semis and his time on the big stage, he never really positively identified himself as a singer and fought a (losing) battle to straddle the rock-and-roll/blues line with varying degrees of success. Following his two strongest performances outside of Hollywood Week (his “Wee Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” medley and Dolly Parton’s “It’s All Wrong, But It’s Allright”) his rendition of “Dream On” was weak by comparison, but by no means awful.

Johns will join Chikezie on the list of “contestants who went home a couple weeks too early.” I can understand how Kristy Lee Cook avoided the axe this week: her performances over the last couple weeks have shown growth and improvement. Indeed, her “Anyway” was her strongest performance to date. She looked comfortable and confident on stage for the first time and it showed. I’m definitely not jumping on the KLC bandwagon (I still think she’ll go in the next two weeks) but she was good this week.

KLC loves America, America says, "eh, she's growing on us."

Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson, on the other hand, deserved to be in the bottom three. What the heck happened to Carly over the past few weeks? She’s on a scary, self-destructive downward spiral. Each week, she stinks more and more of desperation while her performances just plain stink. Her version of “The Show Must Go On” was just an utter mess. She was off beat, awkward, vocally scattered and unhappy. It was wince-worthy and I hate to have to say that, because I really like Carly. She and KLC seem to be following opposite trajectories and I wish they’d switch places already. Bring Back “Come Together!” Carly!

The only other person worthy of any commentary (I was under whelmed by pretty much everyone this week) is David Cook. Who is ridiculously lucky that he didn’t end up in the bottom three. Rocker Boy has proved that he can give stellar performances of other people’s fantastic arrangements and last week he grew even more by delivering a slightly out of character, self-arranged version of “Little Sparrow” that stretched his already broad range of abilities even further. But “Innocent” was just plain bad, Rocker Boy. It was out of your vocal range, which you seemed to realize and attempt (badly) to correct mid-verse. The arrangement was shaky and, for the first time, you looked uncomfortable on stage. I have no doubt that he’ll come back stronger than ever next week but, well…he’s lucky he’s a hottie is all I’m saying.

A small footnote. I don't really have anything to say about Wednesday's Idol except "please give." But I wanted to showcase Annie Lennox's performance of "Many Rivers To Cross" because her performance and video package were the most powerful parts of the event.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Dodgers: One Week In

Barely a week into the 2008 Major League Baseball season and my Dodgers are 4-2, having taken 2-of-3 from the Giants (at home) and the Padres (at Petco).

Here’s what I’m liking:

- The defense of Andruw Jones. Him and his 10 Gold Gloves have already proved valuable out in center. I breathe much easier knowing that he’s out there instead of Pierre (he of the mad hustle but the anemic arm).

- Hiroki Kuroda, who was absolutely brilliant in his MLB debut on Friday, giving up three this and only one run in a 7-1 Dodger victory. He exhibited excellent control and a few absolutely filthy pitches. I can’t wait to watch him do his thing for the rest of the year.

Kuroda: ready to rock the Ravine.

- A 100% healthy Rafael Furcal. You can absolutely see the difference and it’s incredibly heartening. His range defensively has improved and he’s already had at least three or four fantastic defensive plays this year.

- A staff 1.70 ERA, the lowest in the Majors. Our pitching has pulled us through tough spots so far, and we have a very solid 1-4 rotation. Our bullpen, a weakness in recent years past, has thus far held strong (such a positive sign).

- Blake DeWitt. Third base (and their default choice to fill the hole) was suspect at the beginning of the season. But DeWitt has been solid at the plate – three runs and five hits in 18 at-bats – and even better defensively. He showed up to play and hopefully will continue trying to make Torre think long and hard about getting rid of him once Nomar and LaRoche return.

Here’s what I’m not liking:

- Our .229 team batting average as a team, the fourth worst in the Majors. Jones, Martin and Kent (among others) are all off to sluggish starts, and for a team not really known for their power and amazing run production even when they’re ON…this is troubling.

Peavy: One scary mo-fo.

- A continuing inability to beat top pitchers. Our only loss to San Diego came when we put our ace (Penny) up against theirs (reigning Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy). Peavy made every single person in that lineup look absolutely silly. As LA Daily News beat reporter Tony Jackson points out, “Since the start of last season, the No. 1 starters for the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks -- Jeff Francis, Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb, respectively -- are now a combined 11-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 14 starts against the Dodgers, who are 1-13 in those 14 games.” They’ll never go away, so we have to find a way to beat No. 1 starters…especially in our own division.

Here’s a big question mark:

- Torre. He’s got the biggest spotlight in town shining on him right now, and a ton of questions hanging over his head. It’s hard to say anything one way or another about his managerial skills a mere one week in. Two months from now, I may be saying the same thing. It’s really hard to say. There’s not much to call in to question and, conversely, there’s not a lot to praise to the heavens (thus far). I’ll say that I’m very comfortable with him at the helm; hopeful but not unrealistic. He doesn’t quite know our team completely yet, but he knows the game inside out. I trust in his experience and his skill, and I’m very interested to watch how much (if any) of an AL managerial style he tries to bring into an NL world.

Friday, April 4, 2008

New Kids On The Block had a bunch of hits...

My sister is seven years older than me, and when I was little I wanted to be just like her. This explains why, as a 6-year-old, I loved New Kids on the Block. I actually had an 11x14 poster pulled from Tiger Beat or BOP or some other teen dream magazine that I made my mother frame and put on the wall (I made her use the one that I had a Disney character poster in because I was “too big for it now”). And I kissed it every night before I went to bed, I’m not gonna lie.

15 years later, Danny Wood is still odd-looking and Joey McIntyre is still pretty.

Rumors have been flying all week, but this morning on Today the band announced that, after a 15-year hiatus, they would be reuniting for a new album and tour. My female friends and I are already making plans to buy tickets. The opportunity to see “Hangin’ Tough” live in concert is just too good to pass up…especially since the members of the band are in their mid-to-late 30s now (and a couple of them stayed out of showbiz completely following the breakup).

Stay tuned to see if a friend of mine has one of her dreams come true by being the girl pulled on stage by Donnie for “Cover Girl.”

Ahhh...nostalgia for the "oh oh ohhh oh oh."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

American Idol Top 9: Elimination

Hey America, congratulations! You have no good excuse for leaving Kristy Lee Cook in the competition this long – SHAME! – but you definitely got it right this week. Booting pint-sized Ramiele Malubay (possibly the most fashion-challenged person I’ve ever seen on television next to Bai Ling) from the Idol stage last night was a just and proper ousting. I applaud you for the first time since we hit the Top 12. In fact, your bottom three was absolutely spot on…and unintentionally provided possibly the funniest moment all season.

Tiny Ramiele, sandwiched between the boobs of two blonde giants named Kristy Lee and Brooke White, sloooooowly looked heavenward and gave the most comical “what the heck is going on and how in the world did I get here?” look that I have ever seen. My roommate and I immediately started chanting “one of these things is not like the other, not like the other…” Way to set up the comedy, America. I approve.

Since hitting the big stage, it’s been glaringly obvious that Ramiele just isn’t on the same level as the other remaining contestants. How she managed to outlast Chikezie is a complete mystery (only slightly less puzzling than the “how did Kristy Lee even make the Top 12 at all?” conundrum). Her song choices fit her awkwardly and were almost always stale leftovers from Idols past. She never quite delivered on the second half of the “tiny person, big voice” label that Paula stuck her with. Also, the American Idol makeover boat seemed to miss her completely…I know that’s secondary to the singing, but let’s face it, it still matters. So, farewell Ramiele. See you on tour.

Kristy Lee didn’t sell her horse to pay for her ticket to Idol auditions. She traded it for some voodoo magic. That is literally the only explanation I will accept for why she is still in the competition. Country music, as Randy would say, is her "wheelhouse” and she still failed to impress Tuesday night. Some will blame poor song choice (long, complicated story songs should not be condensed into 90 seconds) but I blame the fact that she’s not a very good singer. Assuming Idol Gives Back week is a free pass, hopefully we’ll finally be saying goodbye to her the week after.

Brooke’s place in the bottom three this week is akin to Jason Castro’s placement there last week…it was really just a warning. Nothing to worry about, she’ll probably won’t find herself there next time…blah blah I’m bored. Which is usually how I feel when watching Brooke perform, so that’s par for the course. Brooke sang “Jolene” perfectly well if it were a song about puppies and sunshine. But it’s not: it’s about begging a woman not to steal your man. Might not want to smile while you’re singing it. Just a thought.

Two days later, I have no idea who the top performer of the week was. No one particularly “wow”-ed me, but everyone who escaped the bottom three was solid.

David Cook (thankfully okay after being taken to the hospital Tuesday night with high blood pressure and heart palpitations) arranged “Little Sparrow” himself and gave another strong performance. In my opinion, it wasn’t his best, but he continues to take risks and show off his range as a singer and is still the only Idol I can see paying money to go see.

This picture is entirely self-indulgent. Haircut = big win.

Michael Johns continued his climb back into the top tier with a gorgeous bluesy take on “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right.” He was pitch perfect and charismatic (so much that I’m choosing to ignore the ascot) and I loved every second of his performance.

Yes, Michael Johns. You are all right.

Carly Smithson’s take on “Here You Come Again” was just plain great. She and Archie have the purest voices in the competition this year, and on a song like this her strengths really shine. I’m still waiting for her transcendent performance, though. It just seems like there’s still something she’s holding back and I want to see what it is! C’mon Carly!

You look like a pirate, but you sing like whoa!

I liked Jason Castro’s “Travelin’ Thru” quite a bit. It’s my favorite performance of his since “Hallelujah.” Great song choice for him and he looked incredibly at ease performing it up on stage. Plus, it was just a joy to listen to: smooth and light and pitch perfect.

That’s it. I’m totally and completely over the David Archuleta hoopla. Until he gets the same criticism as everyone else for doing the same thing week after week, I refuse to take him seriously. Yes, it was another ballad, beautifully sung…but Archie, I’m bored. Can he sing anything else? If Archie sang something up tempo would his carefully-crafted persona crumble before our eyes? I’m not convinced that he’s not a really amazing one-trick pony…and that just doesn’t cut it for me. Sorry.

Syesha Mercado, stop it with the Whitney. If you’d stuck with the milder, mellower version of “I Will Always Love You” all the way through, you would’ve been solid. But you didn’t and…mistake. That is all.

Tune in next week for Idol Gives Back, when my roommate and I will probably cry like babies through the whole damn thing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dodgers' Opening Day: 50 Years Later

The “Field of Dreams” music started playing over the loudspeakers and out across the empty baseball field. All 56,000 of us knew that the Dodgers were planning something special for Opening Day 2008, the 50th anniversary of the team’s arrival in Los Angeles. Many of us, less than 48 hours before, watched the Dodgers play the Boston Red Sox at the LA Coliseum. That was pretty special by itself. I wasn’t sure how they’d top the nostalgic majesty of the Saturday night game.

Opening Day 2008: what a beautiful sight.

But then the center field wall swung open, and Duke Snider ambled slowly out onto the grass. He stopped in center field, his home for 15 years with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, and waved to an awestruck stadium full of Dodgers faithful. The silence that pervaded while people processed what exactly they were seeing was deafening; the cheering that followed, ear-splitting.

Before we all had time to fully digest the Duke, out walked Wally Moon from the right field bullpen. Then Don Newcombe trotted in from the left field bullpen. Back and forth it went, the bullpens propelling “Sweet” Lou Johnson, Steve Yeager, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Steve Garvey, Jerry Reuss, Carl Erskine, Eric Karros, Steve Finley, Steve Sax, Fernando Valenzuela and Tommy Lasorda to their former positions.

Not without reason, I assumed that Tommy was the last of them. I leaned over to my roommate, who accompanied me to the game, and said, “I wish they could’ve gotten Sandy Koufax to come out. That’s the only thing that would’ve made this better. But he’s pretty private and almost never comes out to anything official anymore.” The second those words left my mouth, a slender, silver-haired man in jeans and a navy blazer walked out of the Dodger dugout. I swear my heart stopped for a second.

Sandy Koufax walked out to the baseball mound where he pitched a perfect game on September 9, 1965 (among other accomplishments too numerous to mention here) and the crowd went absolutely crazy. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The parade started with one of the greatest centerfielders to ever play the game and ended with arguably the greatest pitcher baseball has ever seen. When Koufax walked up to Snider and shook his hand, I thought I was going to die of joy on the spot.

Erskine, Koufax and Newcombe: too awesome for words.

Honestly, the Dodgers could have lost the game that followed 12-0 and I wouldn’t have cared at all. Thankfully, they won only their second Opening Day game in the last seven years (both, funnily enough, against the Giants). Brad Penny, though he struggled with his control in the first few innings, impressed in his 2008 debut, giving up no runs and scattering five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Offensively, the Dodgers scored three runs in the bottom of the first, two off of Jeff Kent’s fifth career Opening Day home run. They added two more runs, one in the second and one in the sixth, to coast to an easy 5-0 victory over San Francisco.

Without a doubt, yesterday was the greatest baseball experience I have ever had…and possibly one of the best days of my life. I know my dad was watching from somewhere as well, loving every minute.

NOTE: My own pictures to come, once I get them off of my camera.