Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From the front, it's great...

I'm not a fashion person at all. I just don't have the time or the energy or the net income for such an indulgence.

Pictures like the ones below make me glad I'm not. However, they also teach an important lesson: look things over from ALL possible angles before making a decision. Unfortunately, my friend learned this AFTER getting super excited and realizing that, with gift cards she could buy the below purse for about 35% of retail cost. May you learn from her mistake.

So pretty (and cheap)! looks like a butt.

Friday, May 23, 2008

2010: The All-Star Game comes to Southern California?

Your host for the 2010 All-Star Game

ESPN is reporting that Angel Stadium has been awarded the 2010 All-Star Game.

I've been eagerly waiting for an All-Star game to come back to Southern California since I was a kid. I think it would be one of the absolute coolest things to see in person.

Obviously, I'd rather it be at Dodger Stadium. Unfortunately, MLB tends to show a bias toward newer stadiums or ones that have just undergone massive renovations. Dodger Stadium, though it's been improved and changed many times over the years, still essentially looks the same as it did when it opened. That's one of the things I love most about it, but unfortunately it also means that it tends to get ignored or overlooked when the All-Star committee makes their decision.

However, last month the Dodgers announced extensive, expansive renovation plans for Chavez Ravine. While I'm not a big fan of the plans overall, they do mean that we'll probably be angling for the All-Star game in 2013.

Wait until 2013?

Mark your calendars, Southern Californians. The big show is coming to town.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cook wins American Idol

David Cook after his win.

David Cook won American Idol.

David Cook also appeared sans pants in a Guitar Hero commercial.

Excuse me for a moment, my brain is broken.


Overcome with emotion. David Cook rocks.

I’m sorry, right now I have no journalistic, equal-opportunity integrity…I am so freakin’ happy right now I almost can’t take it.

Tuesday night’s final performances were amazing. I’m pleased that Simon Cowell apologized to Cook for unfairly putting him through the ringer the night before. While I don’t think he was “disrespectful,” he was definitely overly harsh.

Nice guys, fantastic singers. What a final two.

David Archuleta absolutely blew me away Tuesday night. For the first time all season, Archie went out on that stage and actually looked like he was fighting for that victory, and he was all the better for it. He was full of energy and charisma and the sheer power of his voice left me speechless. He gave three truly stunning performances, and I have no problem admitting that, overall, he came out on top. But just barely.

David Cook’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was one of the greatest performances I’ve seen all season. It was absolutely gorgeous, powerful with emotion and just a stunning achievement. His second song wasn’t as successful, but I applaud him for challenging himself by taking on a new song for his third and final performance. The night was a lot closer than Simon made it out to be…both of them absolutely blew me away.

Wednesday’s show didn’t seem nearly as padded as I thought it would. Some of my favorite highlights:

- The very end of the embarrassing, extended “Love Guru” sequence, where Mike Myers tried to lather up David Cook and shave off his beard. Cook leans away and a giant glob of shaving cream drops off his face…right into the helpfully waiting hand of David Archuleta, who grabbed it and moved it off camera without missing a beat. Cue Cook and me laughing so hard we almost fall off our chairs. That, coupled with their hilarious exchange at the end of the Top 3 American Idol Extra clip package, screams “amazing comedy duo” to me.

- David Cook’s Guitar Hero commercial. Especially the extended one minute version. Hubba hubba.

Thank you, Idol gods.

- The duet of “The Letter” between Carly Smithson and Michael Johns. It absolutely rocked, and they both sound great together. They also dueted on the Today Show and were equally as awesome.

- David Cook’s goofy dance halfway through his duet of “Sharp Dressed Man” with ZZ Top. I heart him.

- David Archuleta’s duet with One Republic. What a kid and what a voice.

- Bringing out the guy in the cape who sang that made up I Am Your Brother” song in the auditions to sing on stage with the USC Marching Band. It made that guy’s life, and Randy and Paula getting up on stage to goofily dance along sort of made mine. SO WEIRD.

When they finally got down to announcing the winner, Ryan very dramatically stretched it out as long as possible. “The winner of…American Idol…2008…is…David……….Cook!”

*cue me screaming and jumping up-and-down in my living room, then hugging my roommate like I’d just won the lottery. Yes, really.*

Rocker Boy looks blown away. Because he is a classy human being, he defers for a few moments to Archie, who gets a healthy round of applause. Archie handles his second place finish with poise and grace, fading from the stage and into the Top 12 crowd to allow Cook his moment. David Cook, overcome with emotion, breaks down on stage. I’m not going to lie, I teared up myself. What a sweetheart he is. What a moment for him.

America's first look at David Cook. He had me at "Tommy..."

I called it from the beginning, and I’m so happy that I was right. His winning song wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting. He did a great job signing it at least and managed to hold himself together, surrounded by the Top 12 and supported by Papa Johns, until the very end. It’s impossible to predict what the future hold for him, but I hope it involved Kelly Clarkson-Carrie Underwood levels of success. A rocker finally won American Idol.

This show reeled me in completely. I am amazed (but not surprised) by how big of a fan girl I became. There really isn’t anything quite like American Idol. For all the bad things you can say about it, it’s absolutely mesmerizing. I cannot WAIT until January. I know every subsequent season won’t quite live up to the joy of “my first time,” but I hope it’s another hell of a ride.

Congratulations, David Cook. You deserve every bit of your success. See you on tour, baby (I’ll be the girl trying to sneak by security…)!

"Time of My Life"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dollhouse at the Upfronts

The NY upfronts were this week. Essentially, it's the place where the media gathers to see and hear all about the fall schedules of all the major networks. They unveil their lineups, show presentations for new shows and roll out their stars for interviews, photos and the like.

On Thursday, Fox unveiled the Dollhouse trailer.

They also released a cast photo:

And a one-minute clip from the pilot episode.

Dollhouse will air Monday nights at 8pm on Fox beginning in January. It is the lead-in for 24.

Here is the show synopsis, as released by Fox.

DOLLHOUSE (Mondays, 8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT): Joss Whedon, creator of groundbreaking cult favorites "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," returns to television and reunites with fellow "Buffy" alumna Eliza Dushku for a thrilling new drama, DOLLHOUSE. ECHO (Dushku) is an "Active," a member of a highly illegal and underground group who have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new personas. Confined to a secret facility known as the "Dollhouse," Echo and the other Actives including SIERRA (Dichen Lachman, "Neighbours") and VICTOR (Enver Gjokaj, "The Unit") carry out engagements assigned by ADELLE (Olivia Williams, "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Rushmore"), one of the Dollhouse leaders. The engagements cater to the wealthy, powerful and connected, and require the Actives to immerse themselves in all manner of scenarios romantic, criminal, uplifting, dangerous, comical and the occasional "pro bono" good deed. After each scenario, Echo, always under the watchful eye of her handler BOYD (Harry Lennix, "Commander in Chief," 24), returns to the mysterious Dollhouse where her thoughts, feelings and experiences are erased by TOPHER (Fran Kranz, "Welcome to the Captain"), the Dollhouse's genius programmer. Echo enters the next scenario with no memory of before. Or does she? As the series progresses, FBI Agent PAUL SMITH (Tahmoh Penikett, "Battlestar Galactica") pieces together clues that lead him closer to the Dollhouse, while Echo stops forgetting, her memories begin to return and she slowly pieces together her mysterious past. DOLLHOUSE revolves around Echo's blossoming self-awareness and her desire to discover her true identity. But with each new engagement, comes a new memory and increased danger inside and outside the Dollhouse.

PRODUCTION COMPANIES: 20th Century Fox Television, Mutant Enemy Inc.


CAST: Eliza Dushku as Echo, Olivia Williams as Adelle, Tahmoh Penikett as Paul, Fran Kranz as Topher, Dichen Lachman as Sierra, Enver Gjokaj as Victor, Harry Lennix as Boyd

Lastly, an interview with Joss Whedon in the LA Times.


P.S. A very happy birthday to the hottest man in the universe, David Boreanaz!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

American Idol: The David-David Finale

Last woman standing. Good on you, Syesha!

I was almost convinced that Syesha might manage to unseat one of the Davids for a spot in the Top 2. Almost, but not quite. I had to give her the benefit of the doubt, considering that she outlasted Brooke, Carly and Jason despite never completely winning over the judges, the critics or the American public. She was Idol’s version of the little engine that could, outlasting the competition and continuing to climb higher and higher despite having the odds stacked against her.

It helped that, as Randy said, she peaked late in the competition. Whether it was strategy or just the fact that it took her a while to really get comfortable up there (considering she’s an actress/performer, I’m a mite suspicious), Syesha shone brighter and brighter in recent weeks. Of course, that could have been the sequined outfits she recently became so fond of.

Regardless of her improved performances of late, even she didn’t think she had a prayer of breaking up the David-David finale. That was very obvious when the first shot of the show last night showed her without a trace of a smile, looking like she was counting down the 50-odd minutes until her doom in her head.

Her performances Tuesday night didn’t do her any favors, and a lot of it wasn’t her fault. Randy’s choice for her – “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys – was both blatantly obvious and uninspired. Syesha rocked it as much as she could; she’s a technically gifted singer with great stage presence. But a song like that didn’t give her much room to make it her own…and indeed, that’s been the root of her problem all season. She’s never really put a personal stamp on anything she’s sung. Even when she lights up the stage, I can’t help feeling that someone else could’ve done exactly the same thing just as well. Gifted but forgettable. That’s Syesha.

I thought her personal choice, “Fever,” was her best of the night, despite the panning from the judges. It was fun and sassy and beautifully sung. Unfortunately, she was forced to end the night on a very sour note. A song from Happy Feet? Could the producers have made it any more obvious that they were setting her up to fail? It irks me a bit that it appears Syesha wasn’t given a 100% fair shot at cracking the Top 2. I don’t think there’s any way she would have regardless, but for the sake of credibility…

Syesha took her elimination with class and grace, and I like her all the more for it. She delivered a powerhouse final performance and kept her head up high; the last remaining bit of Idol cannon fodder.

Will it be David No. 1...

David Archuleta and David Cook are left, as Simon put it, to have a “humdinger” of a battle next week. Despite having the same name, the two couldn’t have followed more different paths on their way to the finals. Archuleta, an immediate crowd favorite, skated through on his adorableness and sheepish puppy demeanor and a voice that is smooth, gorgeous and mature beyond his years. He never met a ballad he didn’t like and earned points for his consistency and mad melisma skills.

...or David No. 2? (You know my vote!)

Cook, on the other hand, was more of a slow burn. A rocker with a soft side, he earned points for being one of the most inventive performers the Idol stage has ever seen. His arrangements, borrowed or original, turned everything from Mariah to Andrew Lloyd Weber on its head…with utterly fantastic results. Neither of them ever saw the Bottom 3, and they’ll face off next week in what I hope will be the closest race Idol has ever seen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rauschenberg Remembered

The artist in his heyday.

I am not an art connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. I don't really find much joy in wandering around museums or sitting and staring at a particularly fascinating piece for an hour or two.

However, I definitely have an appreciation for art. Whenever I travel to another country, I inevitably come back with a local piece or two. I like supporting local artists in Venice and Santa Monica. But that's neither here nor there.

When I joined Academic Decathlon in high school (yes, giant nerd alert) one of the artists we studied was Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg made a name for himself in the pop art movement of the 1950s and 60s by crating "combines" - art that married paint and odd, everyday objects to create modern, three dimensional pieces. Rauschenberg's work got me excited about art for the first time in my life, and researching his pieces opened my eyes a bit to the broader world of pop and modern art.

There's something about his work that just made me happy (indeed, I often told friends that one of my goals in life was to own a Rauschenberg original). That's why I'm so upset to report that Robert Rauschenberg passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

Rather than try to describe what he did, I think it's better to just showcase it. I'm confident that his contributions to the art world will remain long after his passing.

"Monogram": perhaps his most famous piece.

Stop (1963)

Page 42, Paragraph 1 (Short Stories) (2000)

Retroatcive 1 (1964)

Pilgrim (1950)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Idol's Top 4: Castro comes up short

Recapping Idol this week is tough (and honestly kind of dull) because the Top 3 seems to be a foregone conclusion. Last night, Jason Castro did everything to get himself booted short of saying flat-out, “Please, America, do not vote for me.”

I have no problem with Jason Castro signing Bob Marley. I take issue with certain artists supposedly being “off limits.” Yes, it’s not the best idea to try and sign Mariah or Whitney, but go for it if that’s what you’re feeling…as long as you understand that you will probably hear the phrase “pale imitation” in your critique.

However, Bob Marley was not a diva. His songs are fantastic, loose, spirited, reggae joints that aren’t vocally exclusive. And, c’mon, who better than Jason Castro to sing “I Shot the Sheriff?” Here’s the thing: Castro appeared to actually really dive into the song. He seemed more energetic and engaged with the song and the audience than I’ve seen him in weeks. That in mind, it’s really weird how, despite that, the song just really did not work. The vocals were all over the place; it was almost like he tried a little too much to channel Marley and ended up letting the song get away from him.

I'll miss the Jason Castro face. :-(

I was heartened when he started “Mr. Tambourine Man,” because I dug the laid back, folky vibe he infused it with. His voice sounded stronger and on key. He still seemed comfortable and engaged. I thought he was going to redeem himself in the eyes of the… “and the uh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh….” Oh, Jason. You just shoved that last nail right into your own coffin. Nononononononono. Simon, however blunt, was right. Even though the other three contestants were just “good” last night, I just don’t see any way he’ll avoid being the fourth place finisher.

I love Duran Duran. I love David Cook. How could I not love David Cook singing “Hungry Like the Wolf”? Sure, it was a fairly faithful interpretation (and he was forced to labor under the “this is the rocker’s week so he better be beyond amazing” weight dropped on him last Wednesday night) but he did a very solid job. The song suited his growly power vocals incredibly well, and I’ll confess my heart was all a-twitter when he stalked across the stage, promising “I’m on the hunt, I’m after you.” No, it wasn’t as groundbreaking an arrangement/performance as “Little Sparrow” or “Hello,” but when you’re singing songs that are “in your wheelhouse” can you really expect them to be?

His arrangement of “Baba O’Reilly” was much more inventive. He started the song on a slow build and slowly upped the tempo and the intensity until he gave his signature howl on “They’re all wasted – teenage waste!” However, I think 90 seconds wasn’t quite enough to give the song the proper slow build and crescendo that it needed to be truly fantastic. Still, Cook continues to be the most solid, creative performer on the Idol stage and he bounced back admirably from the criticism he received for his first song. To me, he’s still the one to beat.

I’ve stopped being impressed by the fact that David Archuleta is a precious, precocious 17-year-old moppet with an “aw shucks” demeanor and a beautiful voice that seems like it should come from a seasoned 40-year-old performer. Still, during an uneven night his “Stand By Me” and “Love Me Tender” were enough to easily make him the strongest overall performer of the night. I think the judges are almost always too quick to heap praise on Archie’s head, and that held true tonight.

Best of the night, no doubt.

His “Stand By Me” was gorgeous…and completely predictable. Archie is still too full of melisma for me, but he hit every single note with a seemingly effortless purity and grace. Best performance of the night. I wasn’t as big of a fan of his “Love Me Tender,” but that’s possibly because I have a very special place in my heart for that Elvis classic. There’s a depth and complexity Elvis brings to the ballad that a kid like Archie just couldn’t convey…his delivery fell a bit flat for me (and so did his two high notes at the end).

I wish Syesha Mercado would stop singing songs that were not only iconic, but have been covered by countless Idol wannabes of years past. She brought great energy and spirit to “Proud Mary,” but I don’t think she quite has the gravitas in her voice to pull off the Motown power hit. I was waiting for her to kick the song into high gear and it always fell just a bit short for me. Still, she’s come to life over the past couple weeks and I give her a lot of credit for persevering and continuing to improve late in the competition.

I found her version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” beautiful but forgettable. I’ve said many times that I just can’t quite figure Syesha out, and I’m going to have to stop trying…it’s never gonna happen. She’ll make the Top 3 and, barring an amazing upset, bow out gracefully (having gone much further than anyone expected) for the all-David finale.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dodger Stadium: The Next 50 Years

A little more than a week ago, the Dodgers unveiled a plan for “The next 50 years” of Dodger Stadium. I’ve taken that much time to process my thoughts on the changes and “improvements” proposed over the next handful of years.

I consider myself a purist when it comes to ballparks. A ballpark needs to have an atmosphere, a history, a beautiful simplicity that invites people to sit down with friends and family on a Sunday afternoon and watch a game. No frills are necessary, nor should they be required. All you need is your seat, the field in front of you and possibly a hot dog.

Artist rendering of the "new and improved" Dodger Stadium

I don’t need a cascading fountain in centerfield with flumes of water that shoot up when someone hits a home run. I don’t need a giant slide in left center that the mascot uses as part of his shtick. I don’t need a friggin’ pool in right center that people can rent out and watch the game from. In fact, add-ons like that only detract from the baseball experience. Things like that are unnecessary and silly and, in my opinion, suck the soul out of a stadium. For that reason, I dislike most of the newer ballparks. Give me the simple majesty of a Fenway Park or Dodger Stadium or even (god forbid) Yankee Stadium any day. Walking into one of those stadiums just has an inexplicably different feel – it’s just amazing.

That said, imagine my trepidation to learn that the Dodgers were planning tons of “upgrades” and “improvements” to my favorite place in the world. After looking over the plans put forth by owner Frank McCourt…I’m pretty worried. I’m afraid that these changes will alter the soul of the stadium in a way it can never recover from.

Pulled directly from the Dodgers website, here are three main changes that McCourt and company plan to implement:

Dodger Way - A dramatic, new tree-lined entrance will lead to a beautifully landscaped grand plaza where fans can gather beyond center field. The plaza will connect to a modern, bustling promenade that features restaurants, shops and the Dodger Experience museum showcasing the history of the Dodgers in an interactive setting.

The new main entrance - can you even SEE the stadium?

Green Necklace - The vibrant street setting of Dodger Way links to a beautiful perimeter around Dodger Stadium, enabling fans to walk around the park, outdoors yet inside the stadium gates. This Green Necklace will transform acres of parking lots into a landscaped outdoor walkway connecting the plaza and promenade to the rest of the ballpark.

Top of the Park - The Green Necklace connects to a large scale outdoor plaza featuring breathtaking 360 degree views spanning the downtown skyline and Santa Monica Bay, the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, and the Dodger Stadium diamond.

The way the website describes the changes, it seems like they’re trying to turn it into a vacation destination or a shopping mall that just happens to have a baseball stadium in the middle of it. It seems less about baseball and more about how much money they can squeeze out of the internationally-recognized organization (that “LA” logo has long since ceased to just stand for a baseball team). I fear that by building out and up, they’ll suffocate the life out of one of the most beautiful parks in all of baseball. I think it would kill my soul to see the Dodger Stadium I know now disappear under glitz and shops and stores and frankly, corporate bullshit.

Buy, buy, buy. Oh, and there's also a game happening somewhere.

I’m all for making a stadium more eco-friendly and improving things like restrooms, food facilities, the parking situation and improved office space for employees and media (all also part of the future plans). But when baseball stadiums become more about what you can DO as opposed to what you’re going to SEE and experience…there’s a problem. I’ve watched it happen to other teams with a wrinkled nose and sense of disdain.

Call me a snob, paranoid or archaic…I don’t care. I go to a baseball game for the baseball and the atmosphere, period. I love that stadium more than words can express, and if it turned into something unrecognizable and corporate and fake…I think it would kill my soul a little. Just play baseball, guys. That’s all we need. I fear for the next 50 years of Dodger baseball, frankly.

Friday, May 2, 2008

RIP Buzzie Bavasi

Yesterday marked the passing of great Dodger General Manager Buzzie Bavasi, who led the Dodgers to four of their six World Championships, including their only one in Brooklyn. He was 93.

Buzzie worked as an executive in the Dodgers’ minor league system in the 1940s, helping Branch Rickey guide and integrate players like Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Roy Campenella into the major leagues. Bavasi was also instrumental in creating the now-legendary Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.

In 1950, the Dodgers promoted him to GM, a position he held until the close of the 1968 season. During his tenure, the Dodgers beat the powerhouse Yankees to capture their first World Series title. Following their move to Los Angeles, Buzzie crafted the teams that won three other Series – in 1959, 1963 and 1965 – and eight National League pennants.

One of Bavasi’s sons, Bill, is now the General Manager of the Seattle Mariners.

By all accounts (see the official press release here and ESPN’s take here) Bavasi was a true baseball man with countless admirers. He leaves behind a legacy virtually unmatched by anyone else in the game, and he will be missed.

*sigh* I’m hoping the 50th anniversary year of the Dodgers doesn’t end up marked by too many more of these…