Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2010 Wimbledon - Quarterfinals: Sod' Off!!

(I'm happy Soderling is gone too, Rafa.)

Oh, hooray! Rafael Nadal managed to survive the current plague of "Upset-itis" affecting this second week of Wimbledon by bouncing Robin Soderling from the tournament. Rafa won their quarterfinal match in four sets - 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1. It would've been so sad, but harldy surprising if the No. 2 seed lost here. Things have been upside down at Wimby the past few days. Roddick? Gone. Venus? Gone. Clijsters? Gone. And in doubles: Bryan Brothers? Gone. Williams Sisters? Gone. Then earlier today: Federer? GONE!!! Done in by Berdych in 4 sets that were not even particularly close. My brain still has not completely accepted Fed's early dismissal. But at the time of the day when Federer had match point against him on Centre Court, Rafa was trailing in his opening set to Soderling 5-0. I could only watch the score tick by on SlamTracker. I couldn't see how Rafa was actually moving. Was he injured? What else could account for what was shaping up to be a bagel set against Soderling? I was very dismayed.

But then, Rafa woke up and fought back a bit - losing the first set, but getting it to a somewhat respectable score of 3-6. He then took complete charge in the second, winning that 6-3. The third set was closer, but Rafa remained ahead. And then the 4th set was all him. I was so relieved and happy he made it through. What a sweet comeback it would be to go from injury at this time last year to once-again Champion!

The Wimbledon crowd has been extremely supportive of Rafa throughout the competition. I have a distinct feeling that will not be the case when he takes on home-crowd favorite Andy Murray in the semis on Friday. That's gonna be a really tough match, as Murray has been playing outstanding tennis this tournament. But Soderling had been playing incredible tennis as well, and that didn't stop Rafa from finding a way to win. Really, with Federer out of the competition, all four remaining men have a great chance of winning the competition. Each one has to really like their chances. Rafa's the only one of them to make it to a Wimbledon final, though. Hopefully that experience gives him the edge.

Vamos Rafa!

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Wimbledon - 4th Round: Rest Does A Body Good

(Rafa is relieved he got through in straight sets! So am I!)

I wrote this and then forgot to post it! Congrats to Rafa on his straight sets victory against Paul-Henri Mathieu today (err.. Monday.). He's back in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon! It was a pretty straightforward win for Nadal, finishing things up 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. He got through the match in just about two hours. This was the kind of win he needed going into the next round where he'll meet the dreaded Robin Soderling. My irrational and intense distaste for Soderling has been expressed here before. Soderling beat Rafa in the 2009 French Open and again at the end of the year Masters Championship, but Rafa avenged those losses by beating Soderling in the 2010 Roland Garros final just weeks ago. Grass is different than clay though, and Soderling's play has been outstanding this tournament. Hopefully Rafa will be in great shape for that match, which will be played on Wednesday (err... today). Soderling must be DESTROYED! Vamos Rafa!

On a sadder note, Andy Roddick is out of the competition after losing to 82nd-ranked Taiwanese player Yen-hsun Lu, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 9-7. This is really disappointing, since Roddick really should've rolled through this match. Andy served up 38 aces but converted only one of eight breakpoint chances! It sucks that he only lost serve once, but it also happened to be the last game of the match. I really wanted him to have another real shot at the title. A Nadal-Roddick Final would've been ideal because then I'd be delighted by whoever won. I still think Roddick has a Wimbledon title in him before the end of his career. Next time, Andy!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 Wimbledon - Round 3: Another Tough Victory

(Rafa digs deep for another 5 set victory)

Congrats to Rafael Nadal for making it through another tough match in the 3rd round of Wimbledon on Saturday. This time it was against Germany's Philipp Petzschner, and Rafa pulled out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 victory. For the second straight match, Nadal had to come back from being down 2 sets to 1 to win. I'm a little concerned for Rafa right now. as he is contending with injuries to his left arm and right thigh, needing to call the trainer twice for treatment during the match. Nadal needed more than 3.5 hours to defeat Petzschner. While that isn't 70-68 in the fifth set, it's still a long match if your body isn't feeling right. Luckily he has today off and his 4th round opponent is Frenchie opponent, Paul-Henri Mathieu. Matthieu is currently ranked 66th in the world and Rafa's never lost to him - a 9-0 record. Still Rafa had a crazy win streak against Feliciano Lopez going into their match a few weeks ago at Queen's Club, and lost that due to a minor leg injury. So certainly moving forward I hope Rafa is in good condition and can win quickly Monday giving him a chance to save energy for some tougher opponents who still loom large in his side of the draw.

Another interesting tidbit from the game. At the beginning of the 5th set, Rafa's energy and focus was fading a bit, when the chair umpire gave him a warning for receiving coaching from Uncle Tony from the player's box. This is a big no no, especially in men's tennis (though against the rules, it goes largely ignored in the women's game) and Rafa freaked out a bit over the warning. He got very animated in conversation with the ump, pointing at him and saying what I like to imagine was "you're a dead man!" Maybe that's just what I was thinking at the time. Obviously, this is not what he actually said, since Rafa would never say that, nor would the tournament allow him to, but the warning really got the fire lit within Rafa again, and he tore through the end of the 5th set to win. It wasn't nice to see Rafa receive the warning, but it was great to see him snap back into focus afterwards.
hope Rafa enjoys a restful middle-Sunday at Wimbledon. He's half-way to the finish line! Vamos!

World Cup 2010: Round of 16 Bracket

Before action fully gets underway knock-out style in Round of 16 World Cup action, I wanted to post my bracket pics for the rest of the tourney.

Round 16:
U.R.Gay beats Korea
USA beats Ghana
Netherlands beats Slovakia
Brazil beats Chile
Argentina beats Mexico
Germany beats England
Japan beats Paraguay
Spain beats Portugal

I think this is pretty solid round of 16 pick from the spread. Japan v. Paraguay to me is kind of a toss up. So is German v. England, but that's how I see it coming down. Plus maybe I'm hoping too hard for USA, but I don't care.

USA beats U.R.Gay
Netherlands beats Brazil
Argentina beats Germany
Spain beats Japan

Again, I think that's asking a lot of USA, but who cares? The other matches will be really close too, i think, except for Spain. I think they should roll over Japan.

Netherlands beats USA
Spain beats Argentina

This is where USA's run should end and where Spain faces a real challenge against Argentina.

Third Place Finish:
Argentina beats USA

This shouldn't be a problem for Argentina.

Spain beats Netherlands

Viva España!

Let's see how well I do!

Friday, June 25, 2010

SYTYCD 7 - 10 Steps into Bizarro World

(A KISS BEFORE DYING. Even the Power of Pasha can't save Christina as the judge's send her home, perhaps a week too early.)

It's an all new season of SYTYCD! 10 Finalists Remain: 4 contempos, 1 jazz hands, 1 breaker, 1 salsa, 1 tappa tappa tappa, 1 lyric dancer and 1 ballet boy are ready to take it up a notch after an impressive first week of live competition. Welcome... to So You THINK You Can Dance!

They've finally figured out how to film the opening credit solos! Bravo! We greet the judges and then we get to see the contestants pair up with the All-Stars and find out what's they're doing. Some are not the easiest match ups: Billy gets Comfort and Krump (!!), Lauren gets Dominic and Lyrical Hip Hop, Adechicke gets Allison - so it's another week of Contempo from both, Kent gets Courtney and Jazz, Melinda gets Ade for Contemproary. Alex gets Lauren for Broadway, Christina gets Pasha for Paso Doble, Ashley gets Mark for Jazz, Robert gets ANYA! for Argentine Tango and then Jose gets Kathryn and Bollywood! Ohh, it's gonna be crazy. Also tonight the contestants tell us about their childhood dance memories, but they are really not worth going into separately. They all had a lot of energy and loved to dance! Shocking, no?

Christina - her number with Pasha is by Jean-Marc & France. There are a lot of lifts. They keep talking about it in the clip package as the "Passionate Paso Doble" which makes me wonder if there are other types of Paso Doble (like there are different variations on the tango or the waltz). In any event, this Paso Doble is not very passionate. The steps are fine, but there isn't a lot of heat between Christina and Pasha. It feels a little labored. When it's over, Pasha is allowed to stand with her for the critique, and the other All-Stars will likely follow suit! A good tweak, Show. The judges heap praise on her, but I didn't think it was quite all that. Better than last week, though. Pasha runs off before the numbers are read so the public is not confused about who they are voting for. However, if we keep getting rid of female dancers, the likelihood of seeing Pasha week after week dwindles.

Adechicke - his number with Allison is by Mandy Moore. It's very strong. There's no story. It's just emotion. Adechicke still has his great form on hand, but this time he's bringing some variation of facial expression with him as well. The judges give him praise for improvement, but still hold back on full praise. I still think he'll be the first guy to go when the judges get the chance.

Alex - his routine with Lauren is by Tyce. It's in the "style of Fosse" if you know what that means, tell me. Because it's not Fosse choreo. It doesn't even seem Broadway to me. I like both of these dancers, but I didn't like the routine. All the judges blame Alex, but I think that's ridiculous. It's Tyce's fault. Mia doesn't think the outfits fit the song. I just think the whole thing was ill-conceived.

Ashley - Now Ashley is here, suddenly sexy as all hell. When did this transformation take place? Kudos to her and Robert for escaping the almost certain fate of early elimination as a result of lack of screentime. She's my favorite girl now. She's dancing jazz* with Mark by Travis. They are gorgeous. They are dancing to Annie Lennox. It's Ashley's 20th birthday this weekend! I would kill for Mark's abs. * - The judges hate the choreo. Not that the routine wasn't awesome, but they insist it wasn't a jazz routine. I watched it back, and I have to agree. It has a very contempo vibe. But when have the judges ever dissed Travis. Travis looks so pissed in the audience. How DARE they question his choreo! You know you're in Bizarro World when Travis is the problem, not the solution.

Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell - The Krump with Comfort is being choreo'ed by Lil C. Oh, it just isn't right. No one wants to see Billy dance this way. He's giving it his best, but it's just not aggressive enough. You feel uncomfortable watching it. You just want it to end. The judges are as kind as possible to him personally while panning his performance. Comfort starts to stick up for her partner which is sweet of her, but she can't convince us that Bill was bucc during this number. Billy seems just relieved to never have to dance this style again in his whole life.

Robert - the Argentine Tango with ANYA! is choreo'ed by Jeanne Marc and France again. They make an incredibly good looking couple, but this dance is off from the beginning. It's not the steps. it's the style. I don't know a lot about a lot of dances, but i DO know that the man has to totally dominate the woman in the dance. His steps are weird and his face looks distressed and ANYA! is flipping and kicking away, but it doesn't look like Robert's leading her through it. Nigel tries to say that Robert succeeded as the dominant partner, but Mia, Adam and I disagree. I felt like she was doing all the work. ANYA! SPEAKS! She defends her man. Still I think this wasn't a great dance for him. He's still my NGBF though!

Melinda - her contempo routine with Ade by Stacey Tookey is all about Mother Nature. I... I'm sorry, Ima get right to it, I don't like this routine and I really don't like the costume Melinda's wearing. She's supposed to be mother Nature, but it's like... if Poison Ivy was a character on the 60's Batman show, that's the dress she would've worn. It looks cheap. Ade is strong and awesome as usual, but I think this is the weakest routine of the season so far. Sorry, Stacey Tookey! I've liked other routines of yours in the past! The judges offer her mixed reviews and try to soften the blow to Stacey herself - but all Mia can say is that she appreciated "the concept" but seem to be distracted by the crazy dress and the not stellar . I'm just kinda done with Melinda.

Jose - It's time for Kathryn and Jose to go Bollywood with Nakul Dev Mahajan. In rehearsals, no one knew each other's styles. Would they all be able to come together for an entertaining routine? You may be not-so-surprised to find out it worked out in the end. The only problem is that they keep losing bits and pieces off their costumes that i fear they will step on and hurt themselves during the routine. Also Jose's handwork is not great, but he makes up for it with his overall energy. The judges all give him a pass on technique for the entertainment value, and Jose is grateful to get through it.

Lauren - she's with Dominic handling some Lyrical Hip Hop by new choreographer, Tessandra Chavez. Lauren has to emotionally connect this week since she was a bit artificial last week. Lucky for her, she can tap into the always comfortable emotions of an abuse-themed routine! It seems like a tough place for her to go and it doesn't look like Dom's thoroughly pleased with being the abuser either. Still, Tessandra demands perfection! I remember her as a good hip hopper from Vegas, so I actually expect good things here. It's a good routine. I think Lauren really acquits herself from last week's technically strong, but emotionally sterile routine. I think this was probably the best routine of the night. the judges tell her all is forgiven and implore her to go farther in future routines so that maybe a girl will survive the the top 5 this season.

Kent - Jazz with Courtney and choreo by Tyce. It's very sexy and Courtney's like "sure. let's do it." and Kent is all "WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY DO IT???" Even before they start Cat informs us Courtney's about to eat him alive. In the dance, Courtney is dressed like a no-need-for-rehab Amy Winehouse and will be dancing to an Amy Winehoues song called "Amy Amy Amy." Kent is wearing some weird harness. Overall, I like this routine, there's some "Doing It On a Table" motifs that look good, but Kent looks slightly intimidated by Courtney the whole time, which is not the right tone for this kind of dance. The judges cut him no slack about letting his big personality and nerves overpower the feeling of the piece he's dancing. Nigel takes another opportunity to make a knock at Travis by thanking Tyce for an actual Jazz routine. There's a cut away shot to Travis sitting next to Tyce looking dumbfounded by all the disapproval shovelled his way tonight.

With Kent's dance done, we've got a little bit of time left so Cat replays the numbers and then we get an extended freestyle sequence between the All-Stars and the Contestants and Cat on stage. SO GOOD. Kinda better than any of tonight's routines actually.

In order of my preference tonight's routines went: Lauren, Ashley, Adechicke, Jose, Kent, Christina, Robert, Alex, Billy, Melinda. This should be a weird bottom 3 though because I think Billy might be too popular to fall so far into danger. Even after the Krump! Boy, it was a weird performance night this week!

So. here we go with elimination night. There's a group dance that looks cool, but my DVR is spazzing so I can't get a sense of the fluidity. Boo! The bottom 3 wind up being Christina (really?) Melinda (Really!) and Robert (NO!!!). Why is America turning on its New Gay Best Friend??

Before the solos, we get a routine from RemoteKontrol featuring Brian Gaynor, who has graced this stage with his awesomeness several times before, including Nashville this season. He's a SYTCYD All-Star in his own right. I like that the producer's continue to let the show be a platform for his dancing even though he could never be a contestant. I wanted to post a clip of this latest routine because it is both brilliant and kinda indescribable, but the producers have already taken it down off youtube. Lame and a shame! It needs to be seen.

Then the solos happen and they're not really that good. Then Debi Nova comes out to sing her song "Drummer Boy" but she employs 6 of the all-stars to be her back-up dancers and it is a WISE CHOICE. Also of note: Cat is several feet taller than Debi Nova.

After the break. Robert is spared despite the growing male female disparity of the contestants, and Christina is eliminated. I think it should've been Melinda, personally. Nigel lets it be known that he would've cut Melinda too, but he got outvoted by Adam and Mia. If she falls in the bottom 3 again and they save her again, the judges are crazy. Christina wills herself not to cry, thanks everyone sincerely and then the rest of the dancers rush onto the stage for a giant-sized group hug.

Next week, there will be nine dancers remaining and Melinda will be dancing with a giant target on her back. It will still look better on her than that Mother Nature Dress...

2010 Wimbledon - One For The Record Books

(Your eyes do not deceive you. The score behind Isner is a "68." That's the amount of games won in the 5th set by the guy who LOST. Insanity.)

As I mentioned in my last post, 5-setters have been quite common this Wimbledon, but I'd be remiss if I didn't dedicate a separate blog entry to the most insane 5 setter in the history of tennis. I say that without hyperbole. This one will be in the record books for a long long time. It seems unfathomable that a match could last longer and have higher stats than this one. It seems unfathomable that it happened at all.

Of course I refer to the marathon 1st Round match at Wimbledon between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. The match lasted a whopping 11 hours:5 minutes over the course of three days. Play went so long it was suspended twice not because of rain, but because of darkness. Tuesday went by with no winner. Wednesday went by with no winner. It was crazy.

I first saw the match on TV after the US won its third world cup game. Looking at the score, I was confused. Why did it say the score in the 5th set was 44-43? It didn't make any sense. One of the people in my office explained that they'd been playing for almost two straight days. Wimbledon of course has that fun rule that the 5th set can't be determined by a tiebreak. One player has to win by two games. The problem here was that neither player could break serve, so the score just kept piling up game after game after game. It was unbelievable, and kind of exhausting to watch. I can't for the life of me understand how both players maintained such fitness as the hours rolled by. As they passed the 100 game mark in the fifth set, I was astounded. The scoreboard freaked out. It couldn't deal with it anymore and reset as if a new set had started. I understand how it was feeling. You can win a whole match just by capturing just 18 games and here each player had almost tripled that amount won in the 5th set alone. Who could of thought it possible?

Play resumed (for the second time) on Thursday, on what had become a jam-packed Court 18. The score was 59-all in the 5th set. The two players went at it for 20 more games and an additional hour of play before Isner finally won: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.

Isner finished with 112 aces, and Mahut was no slouch with 103. Both totals far surpassed the previous match record of 78. They combined to hold for a staggering 168 games in a row.
The duration of fifth set on its own lasted 8 hours, 11 minutes, which was enough to beat the previous longest match altogether. That distinction used to be a 2004 French Open Match that was 6 hours, 33 minutes long. That seems like nothing in comparison!

“We played the greatest match ever in the greatest place to play tennis,” Mahut said. “John deserved to win. He just served unbelievable.”

Isner told the press he felt “completely delirious” by the end of play Wednesday and who could expect otherwise?

The last shot shot came at 4:48 p.m. on Thursday — almost two full days from when the match began. Both players got a well-deserved standing ovation and Isner and Mahut shared a long hug at net as they took in this once-in-a-lifetime moment,

“It’s something Nic and I will share forever,” Isner said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said five words to the guy prior to our match—not that he’s a bad guy. Now when I do see him in the locker room at other tournaments, we’ll always be able to share that.”

Isner had the unenviable task of playing AGAIN today, as his side of the bracket was backlogged by his never-ending 1st round match. As you'd expect, Isner had nothing left in the tank and lost to Theimo De Bakker in three quick sets - 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. Still you have to applaud the effort of such an amazing record-breaking first round match. Both players were phenomenal. Such a feat may never happen again. I wish them both a well-deserved rest and good luck for the rest of the season.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Wimbledon: Round 2 - Five Setters Are All the Fashion!

(Rafa celebrates his hard-fought 2nd Round victory!)

It seems all the top seeds want to have long 5 set matches this first week of Wimbledon. Federer and Djokovic both had five setters in the first round, and now Nadal had to win in five coming back from 2 sets to 1 down today to beat the formidable Dutch server Robin Haase 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. I could only watch the score go by on SlamTracker at work, and I couldn't believe when Rafa lost the first set 7-5 and then again the third 6-3. I wondered what his body language was on the court. Did he look like he was ailing, or was Haase just really taking it to him? When he won the fourth set 6-0, I relaxed - but just a little bit. The 5th set wasn't so tense, but of course I'm very relieved and pleased that Rafa made it through.

Rafa will next face Philipp Petzschner of Germany in the third round on Saturday. I don't know if I've ever seen Petzschner before. The name doesn't ring a bell even though he's the 33rd seed. Rafa holds a 2-0 record against him, but this will be their first meeting on grass. Petzschner is coming off a 5-set win too (they are everywhere this year at Wimbledon! I swear!) so we'll have to see how this one goes. I'll certainly be cheering for a quick victory by Nadal. Vamos!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 Wimbledon: Round 1 - Rafa Returns!

(Rafa's back at Wimbledon!)

As if World Cup was not time consuming enough here comes Wimbledon as well. Rafa is back and ready to go after missing last year’s tournament with knee tendinitis. We all know how disappointing that was. It's great to see him here again brimming with confidence and playing in good health! There was a small bit of controversy before the tourney started because Wimbledon decided to rank Federer as the top seed and Nadal as No. 2 even though the world rankings are currently the opposite. I admit I'm a little insulted on Rafa's behalf. I wouldn't really care except that I think part of their reason is total bullshit. They said they that grass is it's own surface and deserves it's own considerations, plus both players would still be positioned at the right places in the bracket only on different sides. I would've been more accepting if they'd just said "Look, Federer has won this tournament 6 times and while mathematically he's slightly behind Rafa in points, we still believes he deserves to be the top seed at this event." Because the rest is just spin. Nadal is more dominant on clay than Federer is on grass, but when it came time for the French Open this year, that tournament didn't rank him over Federer. There were no surface considerations given there. Plus which half they fall on can be very important because it determines their road to the final. Take, for instance, Federer. Because he was ranked No. 1 he almost wound up losing his 1st Round Match against Alejandro Falla of Colombia barely surviving after going down 2 sets to love with a 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0 victory. Had he been ranked No. 2, he'd have instead faced Kei Nishikori whom Rafa easily beat in 3 sets 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Now both men are through to the 2nd round and Fed has a chance to regroup. I don't want Federer to win this year, but I didn't want him to lose like that either. He's got much tougher competition coming up in later rounds he better be ready for.

(Federer's down but not out!)

But the most important thing to focus on here is that Rafa is playing well. His road to the final isn't without obstacles. He's got Murray and Soderling in his half of the draw and several other players who could possibly beat Nadal, if they are at their best and he has is not. Hopefully he'll make it through! One round at a time though. Next up is Robin Haase from the Netherlands. Rafa never played Haase before. Haase, just beat James Blake in a disappointing 1st round match where Blake got into a heated exchange with Pam Shriver of all people! It's not good when the players and commentators go at it. So Rafa and Haase play on Thursday. The Queen may also be on hand for that match! Exciting, no? She hasn't been there since 1977! Why she's going on the first Thursday of the tournament after all these years is unclear to me, but I'm sure there's a good reason. Vamos!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SYTYCD 7 - On A Scale of 1 to 10, you are Top 11.

(I like to think that Cat is pointing Alexie toward her bright future, and not just toward the exit, after she's eliminated.)

It's an all new season of SYTYCD! 11 Finalists are about to face off to become America's Latest Favorite Dancer! 5 contempo dancers, 1 jazz hands, 1 breaker, 1 salsa dancer, 1 tappa tappa tappa, 1 lyric dancer and 1 (effing awesome) ballet boy are ready to leave blood, sweat and tears on the dance floor for our viewing pleasure all summer. Welcome... to So You THINK You Can Dance!

Oh JEEBUS, we're live! The camera initially has no idea where to go. Did they not work this out in rehearsal? Just stay straight on center so we can see the solos! Don't go crazy there's only one angle that works for this. These are the girls! Ballroom girl didn't snap her head on cue! There's no going back. Here are your guys! Pose! Cheers! There are judges in the form of Nigel, Mia and Adam. There is delightful Cat Deely making sure this thing doesn't go to hell in handbasket. I know she'll bring it in on time.

So the format is this: Each dancer picks an All-Star to dance with at random, and then i think based on that pairing they get set up with a choreographer for the week. It remains unclear if All-Stars will ever dance in a genre that is not their specialty. Even though we met them last week in the non-elimination performance showcase, we're digging deeper tonight with each dancer before we see the routines. What don't we know about these people?

Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell - He builds things! Like tables and such! With his papa. Aww. Tonight, he is dancing a Broadway routine with Lauren (yay!!) with choreo by Tyce (ehh) to Footloose (hmmm). There's use of a free standing locker unit that is kinda useless. Billy has leg extension for days. He has a decent rapport with Lauren who is as awesome as ever. There's no iconic footloose moves which is a missed opportunity, D'Orio! The judges are nice to him because he is Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell and because he had to go first and because it wasn't that bad. But they tell him he has to fill in the moments between the steps. It's good advice and I bet it's not the last time tonight we hear some variation on that theme.

Christina - She at once tried to change her last name to Aguilera and be a singer, but that failed. So she dances. She's doing Jazz (hotcha!) with Mark (oooh!) with choreo by Sonja (oof!) to some crazy ass song where they'll have some kind of predatory insect-like relationship most likely. What else could Sonja do paired with Mark? I'm afraid Sonja will forget about Christina in her choreo and focus primarily on Mark like she did when she mainly showcased Neil in her group routine for the Top 11 showcase last week. Turns out she isn't so blatant about it this time, but Mark is just do damn watchable! This is so completely his element too. Christina is game. but the character isn't as strong as it could be in her face. The judges think she held her own with Mark and Sonja and I don't think that's quite true, but it's not a total lie. We'll have to see how the votes go, because Sonja's weirder routines are sometimes not embraced by the voting public and this one qualifies as such.

Jose - He's dancing Hop Hop (okay!) with Comfort (sweet!) with choreo by NappyTabs (alrighty!) They'll be doing a Twilight Saga; Eclipsian number where Jose and Comfort are like wolves ready to... eat each other? The wolves in Twilight don't really do that, but okay. This is the first number where I feel like the choreographers really understood that the all-stars are only there to compliment the contestant. Comfort did really well, but the routine was really all about Jose. The judges tell him to keep his character when he's up on his feet in the routine. So he kinda has the opposite challenge of Billy. He did quite well for himself this week.

Adechicke - He went to the Fame School in NYC. That's what you didn't know, but probably could've guessed. He is dancing contemporary (lucky!) with Kathryn (HOTT!!!) with choreo by Travis Wohl (DAMN!) This is his to mess up, because all the elements are set up for a total win here. Kathryn's amazing and Travis never creates a bad routine and it's in Adechicke's style of dance. I actually thought he did a good job, there was a lot of sexiness in this dance, but the judges totally dump on it - especially Mia. They think all the sexiness was coming from Kathryn and he didn't give enough in return. Maybe I thought it was sexy because I was ONLY watching Kathryn the whole time. Hmm. Very possible. I think the critique immediately puts him in danger of going home.

Melinda - was on As The World Turns! She is dancing the jive (yes!) with Pasha (eeee!!!) with choreo by Tony and Melanie (meh). Tony and Melanie are not my favs. I want Mary Murphy choreo this season! It turns out to be a fun jive, but as it goes on, it becomes clear that Pasha is awesome and Melinda is struggling. There's some weird stiffness with her hands, and her legs don't look natural. She's totally trying to sell it with her face and attitude though. The judges don't love the technique, but they think when she sees how she did she'll know what she needs to improve. Five people in, Nigel declares she'll be bottom 3. Dang. The judges claim they all love her, but in the words of Randy Jackson, I don't know it was only okay for me.

Alex - he sings and play the piano. I love this guy! He is dancing contemporary (money) with Allison (sexy) with choreo by Sonja (dirty). They are dancing to Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. OMG it's so good. It's like the best thing ever. I'm so happy they brought back Allison from Season 2 because she's so good and kinda forgotten from that season in favor of Benji winning, and Travis and Heidi in Mia's bench routine. The judges talk about it for like 20 minutes which means this show is totally gonna go long now. I'm embedding the dance here, because it must be seen!

Alexie - was on Star Search! With a group called The Hip Hop Kids!! and she was judged a by moustached Adam Shankman! Okay, she wins the what-don't-you-know competition. She will be dancing hip hop (interesting) with Twitch (awesome) with choreo by NappyTabs (cool.) This is a difficult number to follow Alex because there's just not a lot there. It's kinda mellow and it's over before you know it. The judges think Alexie is cute and don't give her much more than that. We're running long. Get it back on track, Cat!

Lauren - works with children... in some unspecified way. She will be dancing pop-jazz (niiice) with Ade (woohoo!) with choreo by Mandy Moore (80's!). It's all sexy and smiles to Ferris Bueller music so it couldn't have been set up better for her. The judges praise her technique but want her to go deeper. Adam thinks she's not really listening and tries to throw her a lifeline by going back and being all "no. listen. it's all presentational right now. the approval needs to come from you, not from us." it's pretty cool. But does she really get it? We'll see in coming weeks.

Kent - was Homecoming King at his school of 20 people. Okay. He will be dancing ballroom(hmm) with ANYA (LOVE!) to choreo by Tony and Melanie (ANYA!), Look, the routine is super-fun and Kent is obviously having a great time, and that's pretty infectious but ANYA! is so far out of his league on several levels that's it's kinda hard to take any of it that seriously. The judges enjoy the routine and him and appreciate it's so far out of his element and he went at it with gusto, but at least Adam recognizes the fact that routine was all Anya all the time and there's no way he could really handle her.

Ashley - one thing we don't know about Ashley (one thing? we don't know anything!) is that she does robot voices. Oh jeez. Pack your bags, Ash. She will be dancing contempo (repetitious) with Neil (yeeeahh!) to choreo by Tyce (repetitious!). She actually looks very lovely while dancing, but will this routine be memorable? Nigel tries to set her up as being too young to know what being in love is, but she totally counters him sweetly telling him she's currently in love (though not with him). Well played, Ms. Ashley! This one's got moves to fall back on in the non-dancing variety. If the show won't give you the screentime to have a real backstory, use the comments section to create your own! It just might be enough to save her from going home tomorrow.

Robert - he's a baseball jock. He's also your Instant Gay Best Friend. You'll love him immediately. He's dancing African Jazz (rare!) with Courtney (rowr!) with choreo by Sean Cheesman (hooray!). This routine is about mystical creatures that turn into humans once a year and that's why I enjoy Sean Cheesman. The routine is great fun and they are both just cool cats. The judges love Robert and call him a dark horse for the season which I think is accurate because the show did it's damnedest to hide Robert's awesomeness from throughout the auditions and Vegas callbacks episodes. But I'm glad he's here and I hope he keeps sticking around. He seems very shocked to get such praise and that's the last of the "who me?" shock I want to see from him this season. We all love you, Robert. Don't act surprised. You may continue making air claws at Mia Michaels during the judging though. That's amusing.

So in order of best to worst for the night I rank the dancers thusly: Alex, Robert, Jose, Kent, Billy, Ashley, Christina, Alexie, Lauren, Adechicke and Melinda. The general note was that they all could connect more emotionally with the characters and their partners in their routines, but I honestly didn't think any of them were bad, which is a great sign for the 1st week especially given all the changes. It's a totally different format from any previous season, it's taped live and I'm sure they're all hella nervous. Cat found a way to bring the show in on time even with all the judges rambling non-stop (watching and taking notes, Seacrest?) and then with a minute to go all the All-Stars joined the contestants to freestyle dance during the credits. AWESOME. I'm really digging the format changes so far. They really work for me. Plus this week we got a reprieve from Dominic mugging for the camera! Thank you, show!

The Results Show is an hour of filler. A delightful hour. But it's not worth more than a short paragraph or two of everyone's time. The group routine to open the show was a fun uptempo piece to "Acapella" by Kelis. Choreo was provided by newcomer Tessandra Chavez, and it must be strange to mark your introduction to the show with a group number. I wonder what her work will look like if she gets paired up with just one contestant and an all-star.

Other than that, Ashely's declaration of love along with her fine dancing was enough for her to make an impression on voters, and the bottom 3 turned out to be Alexie, Melinda and Christina. None of the solos were inspiring, but Salsa dancer Christina will always be at a disadvantage in this situation without a partner. The increasingly cold-seeming Melinda dodges a bullet when the judges axe Alexie instead. The judges think she'll get tons of work away from the show. I wonder when in this season the eliminations will switch over to a strict vote count decision. There doesn't seem to be a natural turning point. Also are they really gonna keep a format that will clearly see all the girls eliminated before the Top 5? I can't see any of them lasting past Alex, Billy, Kent, Mark or Jose. But the season is young. We'll wait and see. Dark Horses always emerge.

Many questions remain. Can Alex ever outdo his Week 1 performance? Will the judges axe Adechicke at their first opportunity? Will any of the girls really be able to compete with the guys? Will all of the All-Stars be on this year's live tour? We'll see how many answers we get next week when the Top 10 compete for a spot in the Top 9.

World Cup 2010: Spain Dominates... and LOSES??

Ay, no. I was so excited for this game. Fabolous and I wore our jerseys to work and everything.

(Fabby and me in front of the TV at work this morning - back when hopes were high and life worth living.)

Then the game happened. Let me break some statistics down for you:

Spain had possession of the ball for roughly 88% of the game.
Spain had 27 shots on net in the game, compared to Switzerland's 7.
Spain had 12 corner kicks to Switz's 3.
Spain committed only 9 fouls to Switz's 19.
Spain received 0 yellow cards to Switz's 4.

So, of course, Spain lost to Switzerland 1-0.


I can't believe none of Spain's shots went in. I can't believe one freak play where Spain's defense got completely thrown off and Casillas left the net open resulted in the one goal by the Swiss. Look how crazy it was!


What a mess. It's just unbelievable. The rest of the game didn't seem real. I'm very discouraged that my adopted home team had such a horrible start to World Cup. They were one of the favorites to win the whole tournament! What does this mean for them now?? We will have to stay tuned. Hang in there, guys! Vamos!

Tennis News Unrelated to Rafa (Apparently Such A Thing Exists)

(A giant-sized trophy for a giant-sized player. Sam Querry wins the 2010 Queen's Club. The tournament now has another name, but for me it'll always be Queen's Club.)

I know this is a couple days old already, but there were a few interesting tidbits relating to Wimbledon warm-up events at Queen's Club and Halle. Firstly, American Sam Querrey from the good ol' Unites States won the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament on Sunday, getting the best of his good friend and fellow American Mardy Fish in a 7-6 (3), 7-5 decision. It's nice to see an All-American final. Rare these days! It's interesting to note that with Queen's Club, Querrey has won three titles this year, and each one was on a different surface. His previous win in Memphis was on hardcourts and his win in Belgrade was on clay. That shows he's got a strong game all around, and hopefully he can capitalize on that at Wimbledon this year. I want a strong showing by the US Men there this year!

Also of note was the final in Halle. I'm pleased to report that Lleyton Hewitt snapped a 15-match losing streak against Roger Federer to defeat the Swiss in a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 battle. As you can probably guess, it was a huge relief for Hewitt to finally get a win over Federer after so many tries and undergoing multiple hip surgeries late in his career. The win also marked Hewitt's 98th career grass court victory and his first title this year, so if he can make it to the third round of Wimbledon this year, he can hit the 100 mark. Best of luck, Hewitt!

Monday, June 14, 2010

2010 Tonys: After-thoughts & Leftovers

(Dear Tonys: I love you. You're Perfect. Now Change.)

I realized I started writing about the 2010 Tonys last week, and then never finished or posted. A week later, it seems the world, if it was paying attention at all, has moved on. I usually like blogging awards shows, but I never got into the Tony field this year. I was so annoyed by the snub of Tom Kitt in the Best Orchestrations category for his work on American Idiot that it put a bad taste in my mouth toward the whole affair. The original musicals were a weak field overall, in my opinion, and the original scores were really lacking. Lots of celebrities nominees were in attendance this year though! It's always nice to look at pretty celebrities! Here are my brief thoughts on the night before they completely fade from my mind.

1) The problems with sound are unacceptable. It's totally ridiculous to me that they can't get the microphones to work. It ruins the experience of watching these performances on TV. It happens almost every year and it drives me crazy. I watch plenty of live shows that have musical performances and the sound is never more poor than it is at the Tonys. Why can't they get this issue under control? They rehearse the show beforehand. What has to happen should not be a surprise to the tech people. These are all shows that perform live with mics 8 times a week, with only rare technical malfunctions. Why can't the Tonys pull it together? Don't give me excuses. JUST FIX IT.

2) I know the third time will be the charm for my friend Robin de Jesús. Two acting nominations to his credit at the age of 25. He's such a wonderful performer. I can't wait to hear the fantastic speech he will give when he finally claims his award. It's gonna happen!

3) Angela Lansbury reading from a prompter is better than most people speaking directly from their soul.

4) GLEE is here! This was not the first time Lea Michele sang Don't Rain On My Parade while running up the aisle of Radio City Music Hall. That would be when she performed it at "Glee Live in Concert" a couple weeks ago. It didn't sound quite the same this time. I guess she was thinking of it not coming from Rachel this time and that made the difference. I liked Matthew Morrison's camera time as well. His musical performance was crisp and tuneful (even though he seemed a smidge winded at the end from all the hoofing) and he was a good sport about Douglas Hodge singing so much of "The Best of Times" directly to him while holding his hand. Morrison tipping him with a $20 when the moment was over was also particularly awesome.

5) I didn't find Sean Hayes' costume changes to be as hilarious as the people in Radio City did. I do like how he played piano to open the show though! He seems like a nice fellow. He did a good job, but nothing could top NPH's End Credit's song from last year.

6) Bebe Neuwirth, after being passed over for a nomination in the Best Actress category for her work in Addams Family, actually presented the award to winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who we all know also won the Oscar as Velma Kelly in the movie-version of Chicago, after Neuwirth was passed over for that role which she played to immense acclaim on Broadway. CJZ keeps stepping over Bebe to get these top honors!

7) I love me some CZJ, and I totally dug her aggressive almost manic live performance of Send in the Clowns - a song I don't really get even though it's probably one of Sondheim's most popular songs.

8) I also loved her bizarre, confused attempt to drag her husband Michael Douglas up onstage with following the announcement that she won Best Actress. Both of them look legitimately dumbfounded. Heehee!

9) The post-win performance of 2010 Best New Musical Memphis was... anti-climactic and kinda scattered. I didn't like it the first time they performed that number during the broadcast, and the encore was even worse. I don't blame them for it being a weak ending. Obviously, they were happy and excited and it took a lot for them to concentrate on the song, which was why it was a bad idea to make them do it. Let them just enjoy the moment, show!

10) Green Day rocked. Their multiple song set in the opening of the show was fantastic and really filled with energy and emotion. Even though I think the plot of their musical is super-thin, I really feel like this show should've had more nominations. The craft was top level even if the plot wasn't.

So that's it for me about the Tonys. There were a bunch of really nice speeches, appearances by Antonio Banderas, Ricky Martin and Daniel Radcliffe to promote their returns to Broadway in Zorba The Greek, Evita, and How To Succeed... I look forward to a stronger field of original shows for next year and wonder if "Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark" will ever actually see the light of day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup: The Perfect Excuse to Shout GOOOOAAAALL!!!!

(d'oh. goooooaaaal?)

World Cup is back, ladies and gentlemen, and with it comes the obligatory questions from news commentators far and wide asking if this is the tournament that will finally make Americans actively care about soccer as part of the zeitgeist. It won't be. It's not intended to be! It's an "Event." An exciting world event like the Olympics that is only supposed to be acknowledged and experienced every four years. That's what makes it special. We don't collectively pay attention to international football or national soccer leagues with the same intensity as Football or Baseball or Basketball or even Hockey (I still think the most recognized international year-round pro-sport in the US has to be tennis, because no matter where the tournaments are played the players are always associated with their country of origin). People in the US like soccer, but here it's soccer and everywhere else it's Football, and for me that kinda says it all. It's just different. Maybe it doesn't need a national league presence in order to be important to people, so that's why it's never really taken off that way Stateside.

Still every four years, it's exciting to pay attention to World Cup and hope that are underdog squad from the United States can make it far into the competition, even if winning the title is a total pipe dream. I know I'll be actively rooting for our home team as well as my adoptive home team, Spain. VIVA ESPAÑA! I even bought myself a jersey this year. I don't know if all my Greek and Italian neighbors will appreciate that, but most of them have been pretty quiet this weekend with Greece suffering an early first round loss.

A good example of this is yesterday's match with the United States vs. England. This was a highly-anticipated match. Most people liked to believe we could beat England but also wouldn't be surprised is we didn't beat England. This makes me think they really just WANTED us to beat England so that the US wouldn't immediately disengage from the proceedings, but weren't kidding themselves that on paper we'd probably lose. As it turns out, we tied. But we could've easily won. And we just as easily could've lost. Here's why!

We easily could've won if the US just figured out a way to hold itself together at the beginning of matches. We have some horrible statistic of getting scored on mad early in these events. I can't find it online, but they were talking about it during the game so you'll just have to trust me this time. In 2006 we got scored on in the 5th minute. This time we hadn't even been playing for four when England's Steven Gerrard broke through. It's a frustrating lack of form because then you could be playing catch up for almost the entire game. Our goalie, Tim Howard, made many incredible saves. So better form at the beginning would've provided him better support and put us in a better position to win. The whole really turned it up in the second half of the game and we should be able to do that from the beginning.

(How to have the most ridiculous goal scored on you in 4 quick steps. 1) Don't actually grab hold of the ball as it comes to you in front of the goal. 2) Watch in horror as it rolls by you. 3) Reach out for it in vain after it has already passed the goal line. 4) Curl up in a ball of shame as the ball sits in the back of the net. photo sequence by AP Photos/Michael Sohn. Nice work, Mike.)

We easily could've lost if not for the freak goal by Clint Dempsey of the US against Robert Green of England to tie the game. The ball just bounced off Green's hands and dribbled into the goal. It was the oddest thing. I mean, a goal is a goal. It doesn't have to pretty to count on the scoreboard, but of all the shots on net in the game, for that to be the one to go in was rather incredible. If Green had kept his hands on it, we'd have been down 1-0, and that would've been the game. Poor Robert Green. I'm sure the British Tabloids are tearing him a new one this morning. I hope he gets a chance to redeem himself later this tournament. That was a toughie.

So in the end, we got a bit lucky. A tie seems to be a fitting outcome for a game where both sides battled hard and had one slip up each. And a tie is almost like a win. We'll treat it as such here at home. Hopefully this will help build confidence for the US Squad and they can pull out a couple wins within their initial group. Rack up the points, gentlemen. Everybody likes to scream "GOOOOOOAAAAAL!!!!"

Lost Fans: Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve

Dear Readers,

Perhaps you are still processing the LOST Finale or lamenting all of the unanswered questions - especially those involving what the hell was going on with the Dharma Initiative (why did the Others start leaving the Island in the Dharma submarine??). Was it all for nothing? Did none of the intrigue with the Dharma Initiative, The Hanso Foundation, The Widmore Corporation or Paik Heavy Industries matter? Perhaps you feel like you can't talk about it with your friends and loved ones anymore, as they grow tired of going around the same logic circles with you. Perhaps you feel the swift tide of pop culture has pushed us too far downstream to keep revisiting it with coworkers or strangers on the subway. If that is the case, and you're just not ready to let go, allow me to tell you that it's okay and then point you in a direction that will allow you to continue to express yourself in silent protest.

My friend Alex designed a Lost "Red Herring Dharma Station" t-shirt which is now available for purchase up on Cafe Press. I think it's awesome. Eventually, it'd be great for it to show up on the ABC-authorized, fan-designed Lost gear section of Cafe Press. Until then, you can find it at the Strange Case Storefront. There's some fun Alice Jacobs is Dead merchandise there are well. Fill up that online shopping cart! Who knows the next time Dharma will just inexplicably airdrop you supplies on the beach...


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The King of Clay Reclaims His Crown and Court!!

(Rafa back at the top. Where he belongs!)

So while in Paris, I got to go to Roland Garros during the men's final. It was a very fun experience. I didn't have a ticket into the main stadium. But watching from the grounds was a treat in itself. I've never gotten to see Rafa play live, although I've watched him practice at the US Open twice, and I wonder how I would conduct myself if I was actually in the stadium watching it happen. :) I think I'd be one of those people the Chair Umpire regularly told "quiet, please." Maybe I'd make myself a cape out of the Spanish flag. It wouldn't surprise me.

Anyway, I watched in the tented lounge area right next to Court Felipe Chatrier. There were two groups. spread out in this area. On one side there were the gravely serious and quiet Rafa fans, low-grunting at any point that Rafa didn't win and clapping loudly every time he won a game or a long rally. On the other side it was the (at least slightly drunken) vocal crowd who cheered every great play by Rafa and dismissed every lucky shot by Soderling. I sat with the super serious kids. I was very intense about the match.

As you may know, since it's been a couple days now, Rafa beat Soderling soundly with a score of 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. It was about as clean as I'd hoped it would be. I was hoping Rafa would finish him off in 2:30 (so I'd have my evening free to explore more of Paris) and he actually claimed victory a little early. in two hours and 18 minutes. He's so good. Always thinking of my schedule!

This marks Rafa's 7th Grand Slam Championship and his 5th title in Roland Garros. With the win, he replaced Roger Federer as World No. 1 in the rankings. Federer falls from the top spot one week short of besting Pete Sampras's career record as No. 1. It will be hard for Federer to take back the top spot over the summer, considering that Rafa didn't play at all last year during this time. This means he doesn't have any ranking points to defend for a while and every tournament he plays for the next couple months will help pad his lead.

Rafa played remarkable tennis, and for once, the Roland Garros crowd was firmly in his corner. My friend at work tried to explain to me when I told him about it, that the French generally don't get along with the Spanish, which is why it might be hard for them to fully embrace Rafa. Ay, Europeans! Soderling had a group of supporters in the stadium but around the grounds it was all Rafa all the time. Soderling couldn't even get polite applause from the crowd outside the stadium. I attribute that to Soderling not being a very popular personality on the tour (he and Djokovic are both top players who don't really inspire a lot of international fandom) but also because he knocked out Federer in the quarterfinals. The French simply adore Federer and were probably looking to Rafa to extract some revenge on their behalf. Whatever the reasoning, it was nice to feel the crowd really getting behind Rafa as he quickly took control of the match and never looked back.

Following the joy of the win, Rafa sat in his courtside chair and had a long hard cry into his hands. You could just see the waves of emotion pouring out of him. All the relief, the elation, the banishing of doubts - it's been such an insane year for Nadal. At the French Open last year, he was No. 1 in the world. Then he lost to Soderling in the fourth round (on the day I went skydiving!). His knees were injured and he couldn't defend his Wimbledon title or play for most of the summer. Federer took over as No. 1 again. Nadal then had to deal with some unfortunate family issues that affected his game mentally. Then he injured himself again at the US Open. Then he had to retire in the quarterfinals during the defense of his Australian Open title. It was eleven months that Nadal didn't win a single tournament after being on top of the game.

Today, he looks healthier and more threatening than ever! This clay season, he became the only man to ever have a ‘Clay Grand Slam’ - winning all three clay Masters Series and Roland Garros - and being 22-0 on clay this season. He is now 203-16 in his career on clay and a staggering 176-6 since 2005!! If he can maintain his health and conditioning over the next few years he'll continue to dominate in unbelievable fashion. I would love to watch that for the next six or seven years.

So congrats again to Rafa on achieving this remarkable turnaround of fortune from last year. It would not be possible without having such fierce inner-strength and determination to be his best. I have such incredible respect for him. I look forward to following his path through the Wimbledon draw in the end of June and I hope he can take a bite out of the championship trophy there as well. Vamos!

(Me on the grounds of Roland Garros. Wimbledon and Aussie Open - you're next on my list!!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rue McClanahan: A Golden Girl for the Ages

(Ah dearest, Rue. Your heart is true.)

Since I was away on my Paris trip when news broke that Rue McClanahan passed away, I didn't have a chance to post anything acknowledging her death. Still I was thinking about it. The subway stop next to my hotel in Paris was coincidentally named "Blanche" so I mentally referred to it as "Blanche Devereaux Station" throughout my visit there. I knew when I got back and got resettled into my routine, I'd post about it.

I always think it's sad news when a Golden Girl passes away. I mean, of course, that's life. It's inevitable. But for me, like so many other viewers, they were like surrogate grandmothers for years on the show. And seeing them in reruns it was easy to pretend they were not really aging. And then in the past two years we lost three of them. First Estelle passed, and then Bea, and now with Rue gone we've only got Betty White left with us. At least Betty is still vital and active and kicking comedy ass in TV and film.

Aside from her outstanding work on Golden Girls, I will always remember Rue for her work on Mama's Family, Nunsense, for being the grandma in the first family on Charles in Charge, and perhaps most delightfully for her cameo appearance in Starship Troopers. I love her in that!

But her turn as Blanche was in turns unforgettably vain, sexy, bitchy, vulnerable and of course hilarious. This is my favorite Blanche moment. The way the scene is structured, she never really gets the ovation she deserves for what is pretty much 5 minutes of straight joyous delirium. (this is from the episode where Dorothy is diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.)

RIP, Rue McClanahan. Thank you for all the great laughs and, of course, thank you for being a friend.