Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Play Is The Thing

Tonight I received very exciting news that the play I wrote, "The Timing of a Day," was accepted into the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival, otherwise known as FringeNYC. To say that I am thrilled and honored to have my piece be selected for inclusion would be a total understatement. This will be my first full-length play to be performed for an audience. I have written collaboratively before, but this is my most substantial piece of solo writing to date and I'm just over the moon to know that it's going to be performed in the Fringe this August. I can't wait to pour my energy into the production over the next 4 months.

I want to say thank you to my friends at Mind The Art Entertainment, especially Christian, Ariana, Ashley and David for shepherding me through the application process and for all their support as I continued to revise the script. I look forward to bringing this play to life with you guys, along with the rest of the team, throughout the summer.

I'd also like to give a shout out to everyone who read the play throughout all of its many drafts and who gave me their time and thoughtful comments. Many have sat in my living room acting the parts for me between last August and January so I could hear the characters in voices other than the ones in my head. This includes Sarah L, Una, Amanda, Sandi, John, Perri, Jacob, Richard, Jared, Sarah K, Rich, Jeff, Lin, Adam, Jenny and Joey. If I forgot anyone, my apologies. There are so many others who have listened to me talk and fret about the play over the past year as well and I just wanted to say thank you to them as well.

I'd also like to thank my family for their love and support even though I didn't tell them I was writing a play. I think they will be both thrilled and relieved to learn this play is not about them.

So now the fun begins! So much work to be done. I can't tell you how happy and energized I am to go after it. I was pretty much burying myself in anxiety for the past two weeks in anticipation of finding out what the verdict was. The relief I feel right now is huge. I know people put up plays all the time and mine is just one of many, but it's very special to me.

Thanks to everyone who's sent me kind wishes and congratulations since I found out earlier this evening. I'll keep you all updated on it as things develop!

LOVE OTM

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Idol Top 6 - It Only Hurts When I’m Listening

(GREAT AMERICAN SCREAM MACHINE. Siobahn and her powerful pipes make their exit during Shania Twain week. She had some flavor. She had some sass. She had some pitch problems. She will be missed.)

In continued observance of how I breeze through Am.Idol by fast-forwarding on my DVR, here are my brief comments on Tuesday's Top 6 performances, followed by the Wednesday Results Show. This week we are raiding the Shania Twain songbook, because that's as close to Country Week as we're going to get this season. Shania is also the guest mentor. I initially thought this would be tough on the guys, but then I reversed my position after thinking about it. I think it will in fact work in the guys' favor to sing female songs because it will automatically be a departure from the original version just by being dudes. That puts Crystal and Siobahn at an odd disadvantage at this stage of the game. Hmm. Let's see what happened, shall we?

So Ryan starts by telling America what the Final 6 did before they were on this show. Awesome. They don't look awkward about it all. Credits! Judges! Idol Gives Back raised over 45 million bucks! Here's your top 6! And your Shania montage! Her album Come on Over is the biggest selling record by any female artist in any genre EVER? Can that be true? Is that not a manufactured statistic in some way? I mean, really? I'll fess up that whenever it was in the 90's that Shania was mega-popular, I had a total crush on her. She was hot. She still looks great. But she's not at the front of the pack in country relevance right now the way a Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood or Lady Cerebellum are. What's Ryan saying now? On to performances! Zip Zap Zop.

1) Paint Salesman Lee Dewyze - He'll be singing "Still The One." I've heard of this one! He starts and...what key is he in? He doesn't know and neither do I. This happened at the beginning of his song last week. It sounds totally labored. If the judges fall all over this I'll be pissed. Randy almost is honest about it not being good, but then he runs the other way and lies. Ellen loves him. Kara thought it was a sign of growth. Simon liked it to and I think that's such bullshit that we zip zap zop.

2) Big Papa Mike - singing "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing." In the package Shania tells him to connect with the song because his pretty vocals aren't enough. He does a good job with it. I think his usual ticks that annoy me are under control. The judges all think it's the best thing that ever happened to anybody. We all know he's not my cup of tea, but he can certainly sing. This was a good week for him.

3) Construction Worker Casey James - he's singing "Don't." Shania calls him on his bullshit in the nicest Shania way possible by telling him to sing with some inner confidence for once instead of just coasting along like he's done for the past two weeks. It actually sounds really good in his voice and there is some fire behind the performance. A good showing for Casey this week. The judges applaud his return to form. Damn, Shania week is going so well! Who'da thought?

4) MAMASOX - She is singing "No One Needs To Know" Shania just tells her to sing it happier. It starts and it's... kinda... a flimsy song. I mean, it's cute. But it doesn't really have a lot of momentum as a song compared to the previous selections. There are a few beautiful falsetto moments with a nice harmony underneath them. But it's pretty underwhelming for Mamasox. The first three judges are all "not my favorite performance of yours." and Simon is all "We didn't like you tonight." Which is kinda honest, as much as I don't like to admit it. Crystal tells them they're wrong, she might have been overly concerned with her bf in the audience to realize it wasn't so great. Shania is ready to kill Simon after he says he doesn't like the song. I'm a little nervous for Crystal this week...

5) High School Student Aaron Kelly - he is singing "You've Got a Way" but it sounds like he's saying "You Got Away." Shania tells him he's preoccupied with hitting the notes instead of singing. Good analysis! This vocal isn't bad. He's definitely feeling this song more than what he's been singing the past three weeks or so. He did a good job, he still just seems to me like a little kid singin' a song though. Ellen says it's gonna be tough this week, and I agree. Bottom 3 should be interesting. There's apparently was a line change about "making love" which Aaron changed because he was singing thank to his mom. Good call, young Kelly.

6) Glass Blower Siobahn Magnus - singing Shania's first #1 hit. "Any Man of Mine." Shania believes Siobahn needs a lot of attitude behind this song. Allison Reynolds is dressed up this time like Strawberry Shortcake caught between a teenage rocker phase and a country phase. This is not the kind of idol performance I like, with the wandering around in the audience. It always feels like they can't quite move at a normal pace and it's not always on the beat either. The vocal's not really there either. When she gets back to the stage, the Scream of Siobahn comes parachuting in to the rescue. The judges like it, but Simon disses the scream as labored (literally). The girls kinda struggled with Shania this week.

So bottom 3 predictions? I honestly don't know. If I went purely on vocal tonight. I would say Lee, Bowersox and Siobahn. But that seems like a bizarro bottom 3. That won't happen. I think tonight was kind of a dead heat. Hmm...

Results Show! Montage of all I just recapped plus shots of the Idols getting their faces on. There are judges. There are millions of votes cast. There are something like 15 musical performances this hour. We can't waste any time! Here's Rascal Flatts. The truth is I don't pay attention to Rascal Flatts on a normal day and I'm not really digging this song "Unstoppable" though it might be, it is not UnZoppable? See what I did there? zip zap zop.

We fly though commercials. We fly through the Ford Idol Commercial. We fly through a Shrek Forever After premiere party. And then Cameron Diaz is there and I pause long enough to hear Ryan tell Cameron that this Shrek movie is actually emotional and that's enough of that. Zip zap.

We're now dividing contestants into pairs. We get Siobahn and Lee on the left. Aaron and Crystal in the center and Casey and Big Mike on the Right. Seacrest walks Siobahn over past Big Mike and Casey in a couch fake-out move that nobody really buys, and then slams her, Casey and Mike with the knowledge that they are Bottom 3. Ooh, I was sweatin' it for Crystal for a second there. Big Mike and Casey look mightily discouraged and Siobahn looks pissed. Commercial time!

It's only 30 minutes in and we only have two reveals left so more people have to perform. BTW Harry Connick Jr is gonna be here next week with Sinatra songs. Then suddenly Carrie Underwood is back to introduce Sons of Sylvia. These dudes are country singers? Emo-Country? Carrie likes 'em, so I guess they're okay. Then we have Lady Cerebellum. They sing that song about it being late and being drunk and needing you now. I snark, but I kinda really like that song. THEN we STILL can't get to the three very-depressed-looking bottom 3 contestants because Rascall Flatts has to perform AGAIN - this time with Shakira! She is singing "Gypsy." It has a line that goes "I'll steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me." It doesn't make any more sense now then when I wrote about the video.

Finally we're back to Bottom 3. Big Mike is safe. He seems relieved, but honestly, I don't know how much better he or Casey could do and they're STILL at the bottom. It's gotta be discouraging. So it's Casey or Siobahn, and Siobahn goes home. It's hard to really see her face, but she looks rather pissed nonetheless. We see her montage and all of her Allison Reynolds outfits that walked the Idol runway these past few months. Then Siobahn rocks out her sing out to "Think" and she sings like five verses I never knew existed. She lets The Scream of Siobahn get it's own curtain call, and it's certainly earned that honor.

Then something weird happens. There are four minutes left in the show. Somehow with all the filler and the FOUR musical performances and the longest sing out ever ,we are for once UNDER time. So Siobahn goes and hugs all the judges. And Seacrest asks Randy for his thoughts knowing that will kill at least two minutes on the time. Then after that, Ryan asks Siobahn to go get hugged by her friends who are now the Final Five, because that's always good footage. And then he wanders back to center stage, stalls for time and then restates things he's already said twice. Then finally the show is over. Goodbye, Siobahn! You were crazy and fun and interesting. I know what you're thinking, "Don't you forget about me." I promise I won't.

Five contestants remain. Bowersox is the lone female. Never thought it'd be like this from how things were going in the semifinals. Until next time, folks!

Roman Holiday Part 12 - Parting Gifts

Previously: I had a seat on a flight home and then suddenly I didn't. Time to find a new one!

The line at the ticket counter was so long. Apparently a lot of people were having Alitalia flight issues that day. When I was next in line to talk to an agent, the line came to a complete halt and I waited around 2o minutes to get seen. I joked with the people behind me that the wait itself wasn’t so bothersome as the fact that all the people in front of me had been talking to their agents for at least 20 minutes, so it wasn’t as if right when I got to speak to someone I’d be done lickety split. It never takes this long on Amazing Race! Editors, you make this part look so easy, when it is not! "Reality" TV, my ass!

Finally it was my turn. The ticket lady gave me the option of flying into Paris and then to NYC which got in about 90 minutes after my original flight or the one through London which was a lot later. I opted for the Paris flight. Just then this crazed woman came running over to my counter completely skipping the line and shouted/asked my agent what terminal had the Alitalia flight to Turkey. Her flight was supposed to leave in only 25 minutes. The ticketing lady told her it was Terminal C. The building we were in housed terminals A and B. Terminal C was next door, but you had to go back outside and around to get to it. “You’re sure it’s not B?” the crazed lady demanded. The ticketing lady and I both shot the woman death glares. “Miss, I’ve worked here for 20 years,” the flight attendant said (which I thought had to be impossible because she looked young). “I’m telling you it’s terminal C. “

“Do you think we’ll make it?” the woman screeched. The check-in lady was done with her. “I don’t think so. The flight has probably stopped boarding. You will have to go to Terminal C to find out.”

The crazy lady threw up her hands. “But we have to get on this flight!!” "Then don’t show up less than a half hour before your flight, bitch," is what I wanted to say. I was there two hours early for mine and that wasn’t early enough. Plus, who’d this lady think she was just ignoring my place at the ticket counter and also disregarding the line of people behind me. Some people are such assholes.

After the crazy woman left, we got back to the business at hand. “I can issue you your ticket to New York, JFK through Paris," she said, "and I will also give you 600 euros cash for the inconvenience." My eyebrows flew up to the top of my forehead and I slammed my hand down on the counter. “Done!” I exclaimed. 600 euros to get in 90 minutes later than I planned? That’s more than half the cost of my total trip returned to me! How amazing was that?? She tells me that right now we’re near terminal A and I need to go to terminal B to get the flight to France. It’s boarding soon, so I don’t have a ton of time.

With 600 euros in hand and a gigantic smile on my face, I rushed over to Terminal B. They tell me when I get there that, in fact, I needed to go to terminal C. This was funny to me because my ticketing lady who claimed to have been there for 20 years when talking to the crazy woman headed for Turkey, had given me the wrong terminal information, and I wondered if she screwed up with the other woman too. I kind of hope she did, because that woman was so nasty.

I got to Terminal C and realized just how lax the security was in the Rome airport screening department. I went through the metal detector with my shoes on and a half empty bottle of drinking water. Nobody made me get rid of it. It was weird. I couldn’t get away with shit like that flying out of Kennedy.

The flight from Rome to Paris was very nice. We left late and that meant all my layover time in Paris was eaten up. This resulted in another mad dash carrying luggage from one end of the Paris airport where we disembarked, to the other end of the airpoer where the flight for New York was waiting. This run was long enough and hectic enough to work up a proper sweat.

Once I got on the flight to JFK, everything went smoothly. On my little personal TV in my seat I watched two episodes of the Simpsons, two episodes of Sex & The City (the post-it note episodes), I Love You, Man (so good!) and Transformers 2 (SO terrible!) . I only subjected myself to Transformers 2 because it was equal in running time to how much time was left in the flight. Even still, I found it such a tedious and offensive movie. There were plenty of times when I talked back to the screen saying “that’s disgusting.” And I think it concerned the dude sitting next to me. The end of the movie got cut off as we started our descent, and I couldn’t have cared less to know how it all turned out.

After disembarking and making my way through a very long customs line, I was finally officially back in New York City. Hooray! Home soil. At this point, I was still laughing to myself about getting so much money for my overbooked flight. I made my way home via subway, which might have taken longer but was cheaper than a taxi and I didn’t want to deal with nighttime airport traffic which can be a total nightmare at JFK.

Upon arriving back at my apartment, I plugged all my equipment back in – my blackberry, my laptop, my camera and my ipod – all of which had run out of juice along the journey. Then I went through my luggage and dumped my dirty clothes in the laundry and unearthing the snow globe of the Colosseo I had stored in bag for safe keeping. I gave it a good shake and as the little white flecks floated down through the water to settle on the ancient structure below, I placed in on my living room mantle for display. Then I collapsed into bed. What a fun and crazy couple of days it had been! It was really an unforgettable time and I’m so glad I did it. Rome will always live in a special place in heart has a beautiful city where I had my first independent travel adventure. It reinforced the importance of travel in my mind, and the idea that you should see the places you want to see, and not wait forever for the "right time.” I certainly hope I make it back to that city and my beloved Colosseo sooner rather than later.

(Three days in Rome/Where do we go?/I'll always remember/ Three days in Rome. - Sheryl Crow, "The Book.")

I know the minutia of my adventure probably did not make for the most exciting reading and who knows if anyone actually got through it, BUT it was something I told myself I would do, and I wanted to keep that promise to myself and finish the project before I went on my next solo trip to Paris in June. It’s only a few weeks away! Best case scenario I'll see Rafa win The French Open LIVE at Roland Garros! HELL YEAH! I'll keep you (blog)posted!

My previous adventures: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese, The More Than 39 steps of Vittoriano, The Battle For Aventine Hill, Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!, Finding The Mouth Of Truth, and A Change of Flight Plans

Roman Holiday, Part 11 - Please Standy By...

(Me and my last gelati in Rome. Apple and Pear. Such delicious memories.)

Previously: As I finally got on the metro to head out of Rome, the rain began to fall...

By the time I got to Termini Station, where I had to change from the subway to the rail system, it has started to downpour. It’s the kind of rain that makes umbrellas useless because the rain is bouncing up off the ground with so much force. I waited a few minutes and it calmed down enough so that I could drag my carry-on the 200 yards between the metro and railway entrances and not get completely drenched in the process. I got inside and bought my ticket and waited for them to announce what track the train would leave on. With only a few minutes left before departure, they finally announced the track and of course it is the last possible track, clear on the other side of the giant facility. So everyone had to grab their bags and run to get there on time. I ran as fast as I could and was thankful I was in top shape from my marathon training, so that a sprint with luggage was not super-taxing. I’m glad I ran too, because shortly after I boarded, the train left the station. I’m sure that anyone who didn’t run for the train got screwed. The train was an express to the airport so we moved swiftly along, and the sun came out again on the way.

When I arrived at the airport, I still had two hours before my flight and figured I was good to go. I went to the Alitalia windows to check in and I noticed there was a very long line. After a minute or two, I realize that the line I’m standing in is for another Alitalia flight and that the window for my flight has NO line. Curious. I went over to that counter and there’s the random guy standing nearby and he says, “Oh, I bet you’re flying first class, right?” and I responded with a “No…(asshole)” I mean, seriously, WTF is that kinda comment? What’s it matter to him what section I'm sitting in?

I handed my ticket and passport to the check-in lady and she looked at it and then handed it back to me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “your flight was overbooked and there is no room lieft. I am going to have to put you on stand by.”

I blinked at her. “What?” She repeated herself. I furrowed my brow. “That doesn’t make sense. I have a reserved seat. I selected it and checked it with the airline. “ But she shook her head. “No, all seats are now full.”

“But when did they give it away? It’s still –“

“The flight was overbooked by 36 passengers. Check-in started at 10am and your seat is now full.”

It still didn’t make sense to me. “What’s the point of going online and selecting a seat, if it’s not here for me when I show up?”

The woman was at a loss. “I cannot explain it to you better, because I think like you. It does not make sense. I do not know why they do this. They want the flight to be full and some people cancel, so they overbook the flight.”

“By more than thirty people?” I ask incredulously. “Yes," she responds, "and now there is no seat for you. You are on stand-by.”

I’m getting nowhere so I change tracks. “Is there actually a chance I’ll get on the plane? How many people are ahead of me?” “You are fourth on the list. There are a few seats in first class. We are holding to make sure everyone who is supposed to make a connecting flight will be arriving here on time first.”

I considered this. “So 30 more people could show up after me, and they would all have less of a chance of getting on this plane?” “Correct, sir.” She confirmed, “I know. It’s crazy.”

“What if I don’t get on the flight?” I asked. She gave me a level look. “There are no more direct flights to New York today There’s a flight through Paris and a flight through London later today. You can try to get on either of those at the ticketing counter, or they can put you up in a hotel for the night and send you home on the first direct flight out in the morning.”

“I have to go home TODAY.” I implored her. In theory, the idea of being in Rome longer was nice, but I was already mentally in the zone to travel home. I didn’t want to have it not happen and then have to go through the whole process again the next day.

“I understand. You are not late for the flight.” She said, in a don’t-blame-yourself tone of voice. Then this other couple came up behind me, got the same speech, but reacted with a lot more anger. They stormed off to the ticketing counter without waiting to hear about stand-by. I think the check-in lady appreciated that I had not totally flipped out on her. I think she gets that a lot in her job.

So, as it turned out three people on stand-by got on the flight, including that annoying dude who asked me if I was the one traveling first class. I, being fourth on the list had to go over and sort out an alternate plan with a ticketing agent. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

My previous adventures: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese, The More Than 39 steps of Vittoriano, The Battle For Aventine Hill, Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! and Finding The Mouth Of Truth

Roman Holiday Part 10 - The Mouth of Truth!!

Previously: I had some pizza and wine and I hugged the Pantheon and then I went to sleep.

When morning arrived, I hopped out of bed and put on the one set of gym clothes I brought with me and my sneaks. I put on my ipod (which has been on battery rest since Friday) and headed out for a run around Rome. The NYC Marathon is only a few weeks away at this point in time, and though I’ve been walking my ass off for the past couple days I haven’t gotten a proper run in since Thursday. That just won’t do! Since I saw several people training in the circus Maximus over the weekend, I decided to go down there. It was really cool! It was a neat thing to get to run around the place where chariot races used to be held. There was a noticeable amount of party debris that had been littered along the stairs from some celebration the night before, but other than that it looked lovely. I did several loops around the area and then ran back up the hill to the Colosseo. After that I ran back to the hotel, showered and changed, and picked up my camera to once and for all get a picture of me in front of the Mouth of Truth.

I get to the proper piazza, which is only a little bit away from where I was just running laps, and I have to laugh at myself for missing it before. I’d walked through this area at least twice before over the weekend, and had no idea I was so close to the Mouth of Truth. I locate the correct church and go inside. I don’t see it. The church is very pretty, but there's no Mouth of Truth in here! I look all over the place, and I can’t find it. I go into the gift shop and there is all sorts of Mouth of Truth memorabilia on sale. This is definitely the place. Where the hell is it hiding? I go outside to retrace my steps. And there on the far wall on the outside of the entrance is the Mouth of Truth just waiting for me, looking at me as if to say, “I’m right here, dummy.”

Finally! I got this other tourist dude to take my picture, but it’s on the disposable so I can’t tell if it turned out okay, but I figured I’d just have to chance it. I strike the customary pose of sticking my hand in the actual mouth. As legend has it if you try to tell a lie while your hand is in the mouth, the stone will bite your hand off. Good times! I depart from the Mouth of Truth feeling very satisfied at having uncovered the last of the many attractions I set out to see while in Rome.

(I'm so happy to have found the Mouth of Truth, and that's no lie!)

On my way back to the hotel, I find that I’m right at the base of Aventine Hill. I decided since there was still time, I’d make another trek up the hill to look the keyhole in the green doors one more time. It really was such a treat. I which I could’ve take a picture of it, but I only had a few shots left and I really didn’t think the image would come through.

When I got to the top, the soldiers with their big guns were still there guarding… whatever. I really don’t know who they think is going to attack this place nor what secret they might be protecting inside, but clearly it would make a good plot for a Dan Brown novel. I looked through the keyhole again and the sight was as awesome as the first time. After I get a good look, I take a stroll through San Anselm, a beautiful church that is on the other side of the street from the Green Doors. When I left San Anselm, something unexpected and awesome happened. A maintenance truck was entering the Big Green Doors! I gasp as I realize this is my chance to escape into Narnia, if I can just run along side the truck and not be seen by the armed guards. Surely the pay off would be worth the risk of getting riddled with bullets. Unfortunately, the guards are posted everywhere and I can’t make a move. I was able to get a better look at the space when the doors were opened. I stood at a place where I could see inside and the guards didn’t raise their weapons on me, so I assumed that meant it was okay. Seeing it not through the keyhole lessens some of the mystique of the rows of shrubs, but the view of St. Peter’s Basilica is still a marvel. I want to live on Aventine Hill!

Time was ticking away, so I made my final trek back down the hill, knowing this will be last bit of time allowed for exploring. I checked out some more great churches and church grounds as I wound my way down to Circus Maximus below. Then it’s once again back up to my hotel where I gather my bags and check out. I really had a lovely stay at the Mercure Roma Delta Colosseo.

As I’m dragging my suitcase down the street to the metro station, storm clouds are rolling in. NOW it decides to rain? After so many beautiful days where it was predicted I’d have nothing but rain, the one day they predicted sun, was the one that was stormy. It held off as long as it took me to see all I wanted to see. Divine intervention, I’d say. Thanks again, mom!

I passed by the Colosseo one last time as I headed into the metro, blowing it one final kiss on the way. Before I went down into the station I had time for one last gelati – this time apple and pear! Mmmmm! Then finally I had to board the subway, and just then the rain starts to fall.

Next time: Planes and trains, but no automobiles. And maybe I leave Rome, and maybe I don't.

My previous adventures: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese, The More Than 39 steps of Vittoriano, The Battle For Aventine Hill and Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

Roman Holiday Part 9 - Pizza & Wine and Everything's Fine

Previously: I did a lot of stuff in Rome, most recently wandering around on Aventine Hill, so much so that it made me hungry for dinner. I decided to go to La Montecarlo, which is a pizzeria that was highly recommended in my Frommer’s guide. Distance-wise it was a bit of a walk from my hotel, but the path seemed straightforward enough on the map. Suffice to say, I got completely lost, yet again, and this time I really should’ve known better.

I went to far North, and instead of turning around on the main street I was on I decided to head East and then what I assumed would be back south, as if the crazy backstreets of Rome were formed in an NYC-style grid. They are not. They took me in several diagonal directions until I wound up heading North again. So, eventually I made it back to the right street heading in the right direction. I kept walking East, waiting to come across La Montecarlo but I kept on going and nothing was there. By this time, I’m really hungry because dinner is already much later than usual and I’ve been walking (and biking! Nilor!) all day long. Just as I’m about to give and head to the nearest McDonald’s (there are quite a few) . I give myself one more intersection, and there luckily was La Montecarol. The restaurant was very busy and there was a long line of people waiting. Since it is “solo mio” eating at a table for one tonight, though, I get seated rather quickly. A bonus of travelling alone is that even crowded places can usually find a space for just one person.

So I sit down and look over the menu. I went with “The Frieds, for One” as my appetizers and a pizza with all the toppings for my main meal and ¼ carafe of house red to drink. I went with the frieds, because back on the plane ride over the Tisi Women told me I had to sample the fried cheese balls that have different fillings in them. This seemed like my last big opportunity. When the frieds came out, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. The plate was huge! How was this an order for one person? Seriously there were probably 12 pieces of fried goodness in my serving. I wolfed them down. They were quite filling and I probably would’ve been okay with just eating them for dinner but I knew I had a personal size pizza on the way so I’d just have to really fill up tonight. I gulp down the carafe of wine, which was gone before the pizza came out. I order a second carafe to eat with the pizza. So delicious! Worth wandering the streets at night to find it.

So now I was stuffed to the gills what else could be the next stop for the night but Giolotti’s for a triple scoop of gelati? Sounded reasonable to me. I figured I’d take a nighttime stroll around the Pantheon and then make my way up to my favorite gelati store. As I’m walking along, I recognize that I’m a bit tipsy. Certainly not drunk because no matter how much wine I had I’d eaten just pounds and pounds of food. But it had been a LONG day and I was tired and the streets of Rome are very uneven and I was staggering, more so than usual. I was also feeling happy. As I came upon the Pantheon (I found it without getting lost!) everything suddenly became really hilarious to me. The craziness of taking this trip by myself, all the stuff I’d seen the fact that I had managed to avoid getting myself in any trouble despite my general ignorance about where I would be. Then, my life in general became really hilarious to me. How I was alone and had been for a long time and no matter what new goals I had set for myself over the past year, I still had not managed to solve that one big riddle of loneliness in my life. Oh, how funny it suddenly was! I looked up at the Pantheon, who’d been standing in that same spot for a couple millennia. Did it have answers to this riddle? Did it feel lonely? I give one of it’s big marble columns a hug. It feels so strong and cool against me skin. Maybe I was a little drunk.

(Looking at this picture makes jealous of myself for that delicious gelati. I also i wonder where I put that sweater...)

The piazza around the Pantheon was bustling late at night even though it had closed hours before. It was still filled with people who were eating at the surrounding restaurants or just sitting around and talking, drinking in the atmosphere. I make my way up the street and around the corner to Giolotti’s and get myself a nice cone of chocolate chip, frutti di bosco and pistachio. Yum yum yum! There was room in my tummy after all! With cone in hand, I headed back to my hotel. I would be leaving for Rome the following afternoon and I had a full morning of activities planned.

At the hotel, I made my way to the lounge (which was empty of course, since the bar closes at midnight) and hopped on the computer to find out where in the hell that Mouth of Truth was hiding. Turns out the concierge lady was pretty close in finding it for me. Instead of being South of Circus Maximus west of it instead. I double check with the map in my Frommer’s guide and sure enough I see piazza bocca d. verita in blue italic font. With that I retired to my room and start packing all my non-essentials for tomorrow, so I didn’t have to spend time on it in the morning. Then thoroughly exhausted, I conked out on my bed for a good night’s sleep.

My previous adventures: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese, The More Than 39 steps of Vittoriano and The Battle For Aventine Hill

Roman Holiday Part 8 - The Secret Treasures of Aventine Hill

Previously: I got some bad directions on my quest to find the Mouth of Truth, and wound up heading to Aventine Hill. Aventine Hill is truly a beautiful area of Rome, sprinkled with lovely residences and churches of all shapes and sizes. It’s so beautiful that as I wandered around there I fantasized about living there, getting some job where I could work from home, and order my groceries from the Italian version of Fresh Direct, and eventually meet a nice woman online and show her pictures of my house and she would come stay with me and then we’d get married on the premises and then when the time came for it, we’d home school my children so I never had to leave. It’s that nice there.

As I wandered around the Hill, I never gave up hope that I’d eventually stumble upon the Mouth of Truth. That of course didn’t happen, but what did happen was that I saw several churches with lush amazing courtyards and obscene views of the city down below. A really impressive one was Santa Sabina. The courtyard was filled with people right at dusk, and so many of these people were just sitting around making out! It’s a very romantic atmosphere, but come on, people! We’re on church property!

When I made it as far as I could up the hill I got to this area that was closed off by high walls and there was a sign indicating the property belonged to the University Of Rome. There were vines growing all along the top of the wall that stretched back almost giving an appearance of a roof on what otherwise looked like an open garden space beyond the wall. The wall was otherwise non-descript until you came to a place where there were two giant green doors and several military men carrying automatic rifles. Automatic rifles?!! What the hell is going on? Why is the military guarding this area? I became very nervous that perhaps I didn’t quite understand where I was. Was I trespassing on the hill? If I made a wrong move were the guards gonna gun me down, no questions asked (none in English anyway)?

There was a short line of people standing in front of the green doors. They looked like tourists to me. I can spot my own kind. There was a small circular hole in one of the doors right above the handle. The people in the line walk up to the door one by one and take a peek into what’s going on through the hole. This is met with a lot of oohing and ahhing afterwards. The military guys are not shooting any of these people, so I reason it’s okay if I get on line as well.

When it’s my turn to go, I put my eye up to the hole in the door and I gasp because it’s like Fucking Narnia on the other side. I mean, not literally. It’s not like Mr. Tumnus was inside prancing about, but there are row and rows of shrubs that create this archway leading out on the horizon, and there miles away but framed perfectly within the archway stands the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, blazing in the light of the setting sun. It was an amazing telescopic effect and it was so unexpected and quite breathtaking. Right at that moment I was so happy the concierge at the hotel gave me such horrible directions to the Mouth of Truth. Otherwise I never would’ve found this hidden treasure. I’m so thankful to have seen this, while I was in Rome.

After that, I looked at one more beautiful church and then started back down the hill. My search for the Mouth of Truth had not been successfully completed, but I was out of daylight. I vowed to locate it online when I got back to the hotel and seek it out in the morning before I left for the airport.

I walked back to my hotel and took a small nap before heading out again for dinner. I also watched this travel show on BBC International that explained to me the benefits of visiting Germany when it’s not Oktoberfest. Then finally: dinnertime!

Note: Somehow I took no pictures of this part of my Aventine Hill journey. I know why. I was running low on shots in the disposable and the light was fading. I had gotten several skyline shots of Rome from Vittoriano earlier in the day and wasn't really that stoked for more. But I did take this one picture between Vittoriano and my hotel that's worth mentioning. There was this Native American band playing on the street, possibly selling a CD. They were SO LOUD. I could hear them all the way past the Colosseo. They were the last thing I expected to see on this side of the Atlantic. It gave me a good chuckle.


Roman Holiday Part 7 - Never Ending Staircases and the Start of Wild Goose Chases

(My BBFF Nilor as we said good-bye at the bike rental place in Borghese. Gone but not forgotten...)

Previously: Nilor came to my aid in Via Borghese. Good times were had, but all good things come to an end. Having parted from Nilor, and now with only my feet now to carry me, I walked over to the cinema center in Via Borghese and had lunch – very delicious sandwiches to be had there! Afterwards, I took a final stroll around the grounds and head back to the Bat Cave-style Metro entrance that leads under the hill back toward Ancient Rome. As I start down the first bit of stairs, I got the first inkling of how Gypsies could make themselves a threat, as there was one sitting not so idly at the top of the stairs and a more suspicious-looking one standing on the first landing. They don’t pay me no mind as I pass, but there is a family coming up the stairs a few levels down. The children were running ahead of their parents and it looked like they were gonna take the side that would’ve brought them right up on the gypsies. I’m pretty sure I told them to take the gyspy-free side of the stairs, but I honestly don’t remember. It seems like something I’d do. I didn’t see what happened to the family, but I’m sure everything turned out okay.

The stairs going down are a endless as they were heading up and it really felt like I was traveling through the Mines of Moria after a while. Finally I emerged from the metro system to find myself situated right outside a gelati store! Excellent! I’ll take one with strawberry and lemon, please! Yummy! I turned the corner from the gelati store and Bam! What’s right in front of me but the 39 Steps! I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so much time the day before looking for the 39 Steps and then after that, looking for a gelati store in the vicinity, and this day I’m not looking for either and they both fall into my lap. I took my gelati up the Steps and decided this was the perfect opportunity to revisit my favorite painting in Rome at the Trinita de Monte. I wanted to make sure I wrote down the name of the piece and the artist who created it for future reference. I went into the church, took a good long gaze at the painting, sat down and said a prayer and then got out my journal to jot down “Corvi – Archangel St. Michael.” It is at this point that I notice I had scribbled down a note higher up on the same page that said “mouth of truth!” What was this? Oh, yes! On the plane the Tisi Women had told me I should see the Mouth of Truth which was shown in Roman Holiday. I almost forgot about it! I made a mental note to find out where it is after I make my next few scheduled stops.

I headed out of the church and travelled back down The 39 Steps. I made my way through town to Trevi Fountain to see what it was like during the day. Still as crowded as ever! But I made my way to the lip of the fountain and threw some change over my shoulder into the fountain for good luck.


(Trevi Fountain during the day, still beautiful and now 40 cents richer for my money.)

After that, I headed back down Via Del Corso toward the monument of Vittoriano. It’s this giant white stone monument that apparently the locals revile, but if you walk all the way to the top you can see an Amazing View of Rome, so that’s what I planned to do! It is a pretty long climb and the guards there are not big on letting people rest along the way. You cannot sit on the steps. This is the Vittoriano, not the Postal Building at 34th st and 8th Ave.


(It doesn't look like a lot from here, but I'd already climbed several levels to get to this point.)

So I climbed and climbed until finally I got to a level where you can take a lift the rest of the way to the top but you’ve gotta pay 7 euros for the ride. It’s worth it. The view from Vittoriano is great! It was a beautiful afternoon and it felt like the view just went on forever. You feel like you're up very high and it’s kinda of scary for agoraphobics like me, but I kept reminding myself that I’ve been sky-diving and been much higher than this and nothing bad happened to me then so I'd be okay now.

(Look! There in the distance is my beloved Colosseo! Rome is a beautiful city.)

When I finished taking in the beautiful sitting while basking in the mid-afternoon sun, I started my descent back down the monument. It’s funny, but whenever I face a long flight of stairs, I always think of my friend Suki who broke her ankle badly on some unsafe stairs at a 2-story Duane Reade a couple years ago. On my way down Vittoriano I kept thinking “Oh, Suki would not like these stairs.” Then when I was almost at the bottom with 5 steps to go, my ankle caves in and I go tumbling down. Luckily all that was injured was my pride. If you’d seen it happen you’d probably think it was hilarious, but at the moment I was very nervous that I had injured myself and I was alone and a fair distance from my hotel, and what about the marathon I had to run that was only a few weeks away?? But a quick assessment revealed that I was not hurt. It could’ve been much worse, as those stone steps can be very unforgiving. Somehow I managed to land on my right hand in just the right way that it broke my fall without breaking my wrist. Nothing else to do but dust myself off, walk down the last couple steps and head back to my hotel to get more info on the Mouth of Truth!

Now oddly enough, my Frommer’s Guide does not list Bocca de Verita or Mouth of Truth in its index, so after breezing through the different maps looking for it, I gave up and asked the concierge at the Mercure Colosseo for help. The lady at the counter printed out a small map of Rome from the interent and circled an area south of the Circus Maximus. She tells me the Mouth of Truth is there. This is not true. The Mouth of Truth is not there. But I don’t figure this out until WAY later. So in the meantime I’m about to get myself all sorts of lost on Aventine Hill!

Next Up: Part 8 - The Battle for Aventine Hill! Guns are involved! I'm not kidding! For the rest of trip: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out. and Owen & Nilor Take Via Borghese

Roman Holiday Part 6 - Via Borghese, Travel provided by Nilor

In honor of Rafael Nadal's bid this week to claim his fifth Rome Tennis Masters championship, I've decided to finally transcribe the remaining stories of my adventures in Rome last October from my notebooks into my blog. I had been working on them months ago, but never completed them until now. By finishing, I'm keeping a new year's resolution I made to myself to finish the projects I start, so even if it's just for the sake of finishing, and no one reads it, I'm glad I'm doing it. Enjoy! (hopefully!)

So... we're up to Sunday (links to parts 1-5 are at the bottom)! I woke up in my hotel room and realized that the room was too bright for what time I think it ought to be. I overslept?!! Where was my wake up alarm that I set on my TV the night before? Hmph. Not good. I got up and checked and saw The TV was not working at all. Curiouser and curiouser. I tried the lights and they weren’t working either. Hmm… Luckily there was a decent amount of sunlight coming in the room. I got myself ready, and as I turn on my camera I note the battery is very nearly dead. This is of much concern because it’s a rechargeable battery and as I noted earlier, I don’t have a working outlet converter for any of my electronic gizmos. Once the battery died, it’d be dead til I got home. I felt like if I just turned it on, took pictures quickly and turned it off again, I could make it though the day. I had high hopes! High delusional hopes!

I made my way downstairs and asked the desk clerk about the TV on my way out. “Ah yes,” we have had a power outage. It should be back shortly.” She said without concern. I don’t really know how she’s checking people in or out in this condition, but okay, if she’s not gonna worry, I’m not gonna worry.

I headed out from the hotel toward the metro (Hi Colosseo! You’re looking well today!) heading for today's first destination: Via Borghese. I was very excited to explore this area of Rome. It’s a large park area to the north of the Ancient Stuff. I got off the train at the Spagna station. The station here is very interesting. It’s kind of inside the hill (a very very tall steep hill and there are many stairs and escalators that take you from the bottom to the top. It’s a longer process than you’d think and it eventually lets you out into this overrun area that looks like a secret batmobile entrance the batcave on the 60's Batman TV show. You come out and you’re on the side of the highway… it’s weird. It felt unsafe. But that was the entrance to the metro! I walked about 200 yards north and came to the proper intersection leading into Via Borghese. It’s very pretty. I was excited because once again the weather was gorgeous and the sky was beautiful. Before heading in, I decided to take a walk down the street and find a place to grab some delicious pastry for breakfast. Not a lot was open yet because it was still early on a Sunday morning. But I found a nice coffee bar and got myself a croissant and a banana and headed back toward the parks.

Via Borghese is LARGE. There are several museums, picnic areas, ponds, and attractions throughout the many many roads and paths within its borders. There’s even a zoo! I walked a little ways in and saw a bike rental area. It was 10 euros to rent a bike for three hours. I decided to invest in the bike figuring I'd be able to cover much more ground on a bike in 3 hours than I would on my feet. I went with a traditional bike instead of a mountain bike. I’m not sure why, maybe it was a little cheaper, but it was fate that I did so, as I was introduced to my BBFF (bicycle best friend forever) Nilor. I didn’t know it right away but Nilor (that was the word written on the frame of the bike and thusly it became my name for him) and I would bond quite deeply over then next few hours.

When I got on Nilor, it was like I had been riding with him for ages. He was very comfortable to my height and body frame and we just took off. I tested the brakes as we went downhill and they were solid. Oh, how nice it was to feel the breeze against my skin as we whooshed through the crowds! It was not a steep hill, but the incline was enough that I didn’t even need to pedal and we were passing long distances in no time. Oh it was definitely the right call to rent the bike.

(Nilor and I posing with big smiles outside Galleria Borghese. It's the last picture taken by my digital camera in Rome. At least it's a good one!)

I stopped outside the Galleria Borghese by a lovely fountain and had a nice tourist take my picture with Nilor. Then, disaster happened. As I was trying to look at the picture he took, my thumb accidentally switched to movie mode. Movie mode drains the battery like nobody’s business. So right after I got my picture with Nilor, the camera died. Nooo! This was so sad. No more pictures? Everything is so beautiful! Well, I resigned myself to a camera-less existence. I took off on Nilor, and headed across the park. On my way I pass this rentable four person bike that looks a bit like the Flintstone mobile. This contraption looks fun to drive in theory, but lots of the paths in Borghese have restrictive poles coming out of the ground so that cars can’t mistakenly go on them, but they also are not wide enough apart for the four person bikes to get through. So the flintstonemobikes turn out to be kind of a pain in the ass. Also? They don’t go that fast. When I was traveling down a main thru-way where cars CAN get through the park, I witnessed an unfortunate/hilarious incident when a Flintstonemobike got stuck in front of a tour bus that was barreling down on them. The bus honked and honked and the riders screamed as they attempted to pedal fast enough to get out of the way, but they couldn't. There wasn't even enough of a shoulder on the road for the pedalers to veer out of the way and let the bus pass. I zoomed ahead on Nilor and I honestly don’t know what happened them, but I’m sure it probably all turned out okay.

Leaving the possible tragedy of the Flinstonemobike behind me, I went to look at another museum and then it dawned on me that they might have disposable cameras for sale inside! I went and take a look and the guy working there told me they didn't sell them but suggests I go look outside the park in the neighborhood of Flaminio. Take Nilor outside the park? Was I allowed? I had paid for his usage by the hour and it didn’t seem like there was an area restriction on where I could take him. But was it understood that he was strictly a park bike? Well, whatever. I wanted a new camera and taking Nilor around was gonna make my search much much faster. So I headed out of the park towards Flaminio.

When I got out, I biked around a few streets but everything was closed. That’s when I remembered it was still Sunday morning. I was screwed! This heavily Catholic city residents were all at effing church! I locked up Nilor at a bike stand and I headed into some of the side streets to see if I could find a store with disposable cameras. How can this city have no equivalent to Duane Reade or CVS? It just doesn’t. It's odd. You'd think people would need pharmacies. The whole are of Flaminio turned out to be a total ghost town this AM. I went back to Nilor and head back into the park, but then I remembered that the place around where I initially entered the park after having breakfast had some life to it. So I biked all the way back across and exit Burghese from the other side in Via Veneto. This side of the neighborhood was all downhill. I started checking newsstands and while they were open, nobody had cameras. Finally (after about a total 45 minutes of search time, I found a place with disposable cameras! Hooray! I headed back uphill into the park, which was not so easy since Nilor was a regular bike, not a mountain bike, so there were no gears to shift. But when I got back I once again could take pictures. I take pictures of Porta Pinciana, The Temple of Diana and the Orologio ad Acqua.

(The Orologio ad Acqua is a clock that runs on water in the middle of the park. It may or may not count down to Doomsday. I'll guess that it does.)

Finally I tried to go find Pincio, which I’m told is a beautiful park area, except it was all borded up! But at the very top of Pincio Hill there was a beautiful outlook that was not boarded up and as I gazed over this area I realized I had been in this area before… yesterday I had inadvertently climbed all the way up here from Piazza del Popolo! Oh, it’s nice to wander around a city and not really know where you are!

(One of the beautiful views of Rome from Pincio. Such beautiful skies! Quite a sight to see.)

After a few more loops around the park, including one around Galoppatoio which took me totally off road so I had to carry Nilor back to solid ground… and over a couple barricades (there MIGHT have been a sign that said no bicycles in that area, but it's hard to remember EVERY detail from that morning), it was time for me to return Nilor to the rental place. I was not ready to part ways, but the three-hour-mark was up. Sometimes people or bikes come into our lives for a reason. Nilor helped me so much beauty in Borghese, and without him so much picture taking would not have been possible. He'll be in my heart. Yes, he'll be in my heart. He'll be here in my heart. Always...

Up Next: Part 7 where there's lots of climbing up and down steps, lots of beautiful views of Rome and the quest for the Mouth Of Truth.

For the rest of trip: My Flight There, Emperor Palpatine's Hill, Good Times at the Colosseo & Vatican, SPB & The 39 Steps, and The Pantheon, Gays and Dining Out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

So You Think You Can Be A SYTYCD All-Star?

(Look, Ma! I'm an All-Star! Kat is back!)

The 12 Returning All-Star Dancers for the upcoming season of SYTYCD have recently been revealed. I think it's a good cross-section of dancers that I'm happy to see again. I don't really understand how the nuts and bolts of the show are going to change. I mean, are we supposed to only vote for the non-all-star half of the pair, because otherwise people could be getting through based on a former contestants popularity. Tune in and find out, I guess. find out. I'm not sure what constitutes an All-Star, but "former champ" is not part of the criteria because no previous winners are returning. Also, there's nobody representing from Season 1 - but that hardly surprises me since the show often tries to forget the original Cat Deely-free season ever existed. SYTYCD really came into it's own in Season 2.

So here's a quick run down of whose returning listed in alphabetical order. We've got one dancer from Season 2, 5 dancers from Season 3 (my personal favorite), 4 dancers from Season 4, one dancer from Season 5 and one dancer from Season 6. After I started making the below list, the official SYTYCD website came out with its own very similar list, but I disagree on some of the most memorable dances, so I included links to the ones I liked best. Re-watching these dances made me very happy. It proves that when this show is on, it's really the best competition out there.

Stephen “tWitch” Boss
Originally Competed In: Season 4. Finished 2nd to Joshua
Dance Specialties: Hip Hop, Popping, Locking, Krump
Memorable Dance: w/ Katee performing Mia Michaels choreo to "Mercy"
Odds & Ends: partial to wearing fake plastic glasses

Comfort Fedoke
Originally Competed in: Season 4. Finished Top 8
Dance Specialties: Hip Hop
Memorable Dance: w/ tWitch performing Dave Scott choreo to "Forever"
Odds & Ends: Originally eliminated before top 10, but came back when Jessica got injured

Courtney Galiano
Originally Competed in: Season 4 (noticing a trend?) Finished 4th.
Dance Specialties: Contemporary, Jazz
Memorable Dance: w/ Mark Kanemura performing Sonya Tayeh choreo in "The Garden"
Odds & Ends: known for her tiny size. Had a strong starting partnership with the also-short Gev.

Anya Garnis

Originally Competed in: Season 3. Finished Top 12, was so awesome she went on tour anyway.
Dance Specialties: Standard and Latin Ballroom
Memorable Dance: w/ Danny Tidwell performing Tony Meredith choreo to "Girlfriend"
Odds & Ends: Fun fact: she is the original hot tamale on the now standard setting Hot Tamale Train.

Lauren Gottlieb

Originally Competed in: Season 3, finished 6th
Dance Specialties: Jazz, Contemporary
Memorable Dance: w/ Pasha Kovalev performing Shane Sparks choreo in "Transformers"
Odds & Ends: has assisted many of the choreographers before and after her season on developing dance pieces.

Neil Haskell
Originally Competed in: Season 3, Finshed 3rd
Dance Specialties: Jazz, Contemporary, Broadway
Memorable Dance: w/ Sabra Johnson performing Mandy moore choreo in "The Table Dance"
Odds & Ends: was known for his gymnastics-inspired moves.

Allison Holker
Originally Competed in: Season 2, finished Top 8
Dance Specialties: Contemporary, Jazz
Memorable Dance: w/ Ivan Koumaev performing Tyce Diorio choreo in "Why,”
Odds & Ends: She's the only one of these dancers I don't actively remember.

Mark Kanemura
Originally Competed in: Season 4, finished Top 6
Dance Specialties: Jazz, Hip Hop, Cultural Dance
Memorable Dance: w/ Chelsie Hightower performing Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo choreo in “Bleeding Love.”
Odds & Ends: Mark performed with Lady Gaga in The Monster Ball Tour, so if you watched any of those youtube videos where she falls during performances, you probably saw him too!

Pasha Kovalev
Originally Competed in: Season 3, Top 6
Dance Specialties: Standard and Latin Ballroom
Memorable Dance: w Sara Von Gillern performing Benji Schwimmer choreo to "Rockafeller Skank"
Odds & Ends: I have a total guy crush on Pasha. He and Anya are unbelievable together. He once did a solo dance with a mannequin on the show. It was weird.

Kathryn McCormick
Originally Competed in: Season 6, finished 3rd
Dance Specialties: Jazz/Contemporary
Memorable Dance: w Jakob Karr performing Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden choreo to "At this Moment"
Odds & Ends: Probably would've won her season if she'd had one more week to build momentum in a Final 4, instead of having to go for the title in an unusually large Final 6 finale.

Ade Obayomi
Originally Competed in: Season 5, finished Top 6
Dance Specialties: contemporary and jazz
Memorable Dance: w/ Melissa Sandvig performing Tyce Diorio choreo in "This Woman’s Work,”
Odds & Ends: A great partner, I felt Ade was an under-appreciated talent in his season. I'm glad he's back.

Dominic “D-trix” Sandoval
Originally Competed in: Season 3, finished Top 8
Dance Specialties: Hip Hop, Breaking
Memorable Dance: w/ Sabra Johnson performing Shane Sparks Choreo in "Make It Work"
Odds & Ends: Dom was a part of Quest Crew that won Season 3 of America's Best Dance Crew with fellow SYTYCD fav, Hok.

Are there dancers not here I'd like to see? Sure! But lots of them are working on other shows. This is a good group. It just goes to show you how you can pick 12 all-stars and still have so many left over... hopefully for future seasons, if the format changes are a success! Also in the spirit of All-Stars I've been campaigning for the judges to pick lovable perennial also-ran Natalie for a spot in the competition. I'm hoping that she and the formerly mono-stricken Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell make it the main event this year. C'mon, judges! Do the right thing!

(Natalie: The All-Star Contestant!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Wanna Be An American Idiot?


(PUNK'D? They don't care if you don't. They don't care if you don't. They don't care if you don't caaaaare. I still care.)

So I saw the new American Idiot musical last Tuesday a week before it officially opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater. I've spent the last week or so trying to figure out how I felt about it. Initially, I was disappointed, and that disappointment hit deep. I'm a huge fan of the 2004 Green Day album. It's probably my favorite album of the last ten years. I think it totally lends itself to a stage adaptation. So instead of immediately writing my reaction, I sat with it awhile to see if my disappointment didn't just stem from it not being the stage version of American Idiot that already exists... IN MY MIND.

I have to say that a week later, my appreciation for the show has grown, but my problems with it (and I have a few) have also become clearer in my head. First off I loved what they did with the songs. It feels like the essence of what makes it a great album is intact on stage and the new arrangements by Tom Kitt really brought the songs to life in a new way for me. Plus in their stage renditions, it's much easier to understand some of the lyrics than it is on the original album. So I was good with the songs.

The cast is certainly attacking the show with everything they've got. I thought they all sang the hell out of the whole show and they threw themselves into the choreography (which I didn't really care for. It was kinda repetitive and looked like it had to be a literal pain in the neck for the actors swinging their heads around so much. There was also a lot of hunching over at the waist which has to result in lower back pain. I don't care how in shape these kids are.) My favorite performance belonged to Joshua Henry as the army recruiter singing "Favorite Son." It was a definite high point of the show. Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy also had a lot of stand out moments. John Gallagher Jr. was solid throughout and I really loved what Rebecca Naomi Jones brought vocally to Whatsername. So I was good with the cast.

The stage is amazing. There are different levels and there are more staircases moving around than you could find at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There are plasma screens scattered about the stage that flash TV images or messages throughout the songs. There are projections cascading over every inch of the walls. It's all to very cool effect. So I was good with the set.

So if I dig the songs, the cast and the set, what's the problem? Well, I guess the simple answer is the book. Or the story. Or the lack thereof. On the surface, there's a story about three friends who want to leave the suckitude of suburbia for the awesomeness of the big city. One doesn't make it on account of a pregnant girlfriend and spends the entire show on the couch. One goes to the city to find a girlfriend and get addicted to drugs, maybe not in that order. And the last one goes off to war. In the end they all meet up again. But that's all. I feel like in explaining it, I've somehow already set up more than what's actually there. I felt very removed from all three of them even though I liked how they sang the songs. I was just totally indifferent to these three guys as characters, because they weren't really characters at all. I feel like as a show American Idiot is a series of great songs who need people to sing them, instead of this being a show with great characters who need to sing these particular songs to tell their own stories.

I feel like I should also take just a second to say that I don't think the creators were intending to create the kind of show that I was anticipating. That's not their fault. I think they were successful in creating what they set out to do - dealing with archetypal characters in a rock opera setting. I feel like I get what they were doing, and I enjoyed certain moments and sequences a lot, it just didn't add up for me. There's a lot of passion but the show doesn't have anything new to SAY about these songs. Despite it's moments of punk tantrum, there's a lot in the arc that's oddly conventional and cliched and I couldn't connect on a visceral level. I know other people who saw it and quite enjoyed it, so maybe it's just one of those things where it works for some people and not for others. In that regard, I have a hard time recommending it. I'm much more quickly recommend people see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (now extended through May 30th at The Public! GO!) which has awesome emo rock songs you don't yet know you love, plus a story and execution that's really gonna grab you. However, I also wouldn't dissuade people from seeing American Idiot if they really wanted to, because the music and the spectacle might be just what they're looking for in a jam-packed 90 minute rock show.

One extra note: the soundtrack to the Broadway version of American Idiot ROCKS and I highly recommend it - especially if you're a fan of the original album. I feel very strongly that Tom Kitt is gonna get another Tony award for his work on the arrangements. The music really works. It's available on iTunes, but it's cheaper as an mp3 download from as amazon.com fully compatible with Ttunes so i suggest getting it that way.I It's worth adding to your music library.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Idol Top 7: This Show Just Takes and Takes and Takes! (and then It Gives Back)

(GRIN AND BEAR IT. Even though Tim was eliminated from the competition he still has a smile on his face. Stuff like that is really inspiring.)

In continued observance of how I breeze through Am.Idol by fast-forwarding on my DVR, here are my (somewhat) brief comments on Tuesday's Top 7 performances, followed by the Wednesday Results Show. This wee,k the results show recap will be longer than usual since it's the actual Idol Gives Back night, while tonight is just Inspirational Songs night. I took a look online at the list of songs they were allowed to choose from and I was very nervous about it. There are just some TERRIBLE songs they could choose. I feel very confident that Big Mike will sing The Greatest Love Of All, because if he doesn't believe that children are our future, nobody does. I think that he isn't the only one in this group who might try to throw themselves on top of the GLOA grenade. Siobahn, Aaron and Tim could also slam face first into that one. Let's see what happened, shall we?

This is American Idol... we slam through the credits, the judges, the contestants and let me pause to see what they're doing with IGB... it's a star-studded event tomorrow... and it's not sold out. Tickets are still available? Yikes. That's not promising. Alicia Keys is the mentor this week and I think she's kinda awesome, so it's cool. Do I have to watch her with the contestants though? Not really.

1) Casey James - is singing "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac. Alicia is already warning him to connect with the song more which is a bad sign for what's to come. He starts off stiff and a bit pitchy. Will the judges like this? I think it's got some nice guitar work. I think he's kinda coasting. Randy wants something more special. Every says it was uninspiring. Awesome. Simon calls it a lazy song choice. I agree. Seacrest comes out to talk to Casey and I care not to hear either of them, bringing us to the zip zap zop.

2) Lee Dewyze - does he have new hair? I think so. Still same scared expression though! He's singing The Boxer. Oooh, this could have promise! He starts and - NOOOO! What was that note he just screeched? There was no need for that! That's not the melody! I'm done. I try to fast forward and then my DVR goes crazy and refuses to stop. It doesn't want me to hear Lee at all. During judge's comments though, they all say they love it. Ugh, I'll have to go back.... zop zap zip. Nah, still not sold. Don't get me wrong, 100 times better than Casey, but I don't really get what the fuss is over him.

3) Tim Urban- Singing "Better Days" by Goo Goo Dolls. Again the challenge for him this week is to convince the audience he understands the words he's singing. Seriously, that's pretty much exactly what he says. Does Tim really have the pipes for Goo Goo Dolls? Hmm... sorta? It feels like the shortest performance ever. Nothing happens! It left no impression. Randy says it sounded "okay." The others all "meh." Simon doesn't body slam him. He would've in seasons past. Sigh. zip zap -

4) Zop? Oh wait. We're going straight to High School Student Aaron Kelly? He's singing "I Can Fly." One of the songs I didn't want to hear tonight. He's on for most of it. I think he's handling it pretty well. Oh dear. These last few notes can't really fly. I don't care how hard the audience screams for him, I don't like the ending. Kara thinks he got there at the end but I think the exact opposite! After that, Simon says it was bad but Aaron is likable. Ryan comes out and I immediately fast forward. Why can't I tolerate him at all this season? I really can't.

5) Siobahn - She is singing "If You Believe," it's from that Prince of Egypt movie, yes? Allison Reynolds is dressed up for a really nice school dance this week. It might even be the prom of a popular boy from another high school. It's quite an interesting dress of which I can't quite make out the details, but it looks spritely. The performance is controlled but I kinda hate this song, so it's very hard for me to care. I would greatly prefer the Scream of Siobahn over this. It ends and all the judges don't like it except for Ellen. Simon is baffled by the "leaves" on her outfit, but it turns out they are really BUTTERFLIES? That's what those were?? Okay... Then we head to a segment called "Explaining Siobhan" hosted by Seacrest and Siobahn where they attempt to figure out who the hell she is before he gives us her numbers.

6) Big Mike - He's got 200 songs in his Idol playbook. Then sing a good one, Big Mike! He's singing Hero. But not Mariah Carey's Hero like you might think! That other song Hero that I'm sure was from a superhero movie. It sounds goooood-ish? He has one of the better voices in this group, i think. Everything else just gets in the way. Simon pokes fun of the fact that it's a not very inspiring song from Spiderman. Then why is it on the list this week, Simon? As a decoy? Two other songs were from cartoon movies and they weren't singled out for where they came from. Meh.

7) Bowersox! Finally getting the pimp spot again! Inspire us, Bowersox! INSPIRE US! People get ready! Get on board. It's all cool a capella to start. And then the instruments come in, and I didn't really need them. I was cool with just her voice. But it builds and builds. And then she gets overwhelmed with emotion and can't finish the last couple notes. It's amazing! She's the best!! I love the Bowersox! The judges all think she's the best thing ever and head and shoulders above the rest of the group. Before we get to Simon, it cuts off, because we are running WAY long. But luckily I'm recording Glee as well so we can get his comments. And then there is banter between Seacrest and Bowersox that is actually endearing. Bowersox can humanize Seacrest again. See? She really is inspiring!

So who's Bottom 3? My guess would be... Casey, Siobahn and Aaron? Maybe Big Mike? We got rid of two consistent bottom 3 dwellers last week, so some people who have been safe are gonna start being not so much. Crystal and Lee were the best and the others were all just sorta hanging around. So who knows? And now...

Idol. Gives. BACK. I feel like I should say right from the start that I find the clips of people living in poverty really heartbreaking and obviously not snark-worthy. So I won't really say too much about them in the recap, we got to see how people are struggling in different parts of the United States and around the world and it's touching and sad and uplifting and twenty different other intense emotions. So I'll just say that I personally believe charitable giving is important and that people all over the world are in dire need of help. I appreciate that Idol takes the time to do this event. The show is really under no obligation to do it. So even if you don't feel like donating to IGB, you should find a relief organization that you want to support and give what you can. If you do want to donate to IGB charities you can follow this link

Also, before we start. I have to say that Idol never does (intentional) comedy well and I'll be skipping over the celebrity phone bank, George Lopez and even Wanda Sykes, because it just creeps me out. I recognize these things happened, but I'm not so dutiful a recapper to deal with them.

Anyway, let's finally start. Ryan opens and jumps to a recorded message from the POTUS and FLOTUS. I can't even focus on what they are saying as the thought pops into my mind that Sasha and Malia are most likey giant Tim Urban fans. By the time I recover, they've stopped talking and the credits are going.

Ryan lets us know that he has a co-host for the night in the form of Queen Latifah. She's in Pasadena where most of the special guest artists will be performing. Let me do a quick run down of who performed and how they fared:

Idol Top 12 reunited (GAH, why??) and dressed up like the White Lantern Corps to lip-sync to “Keeping the Dream Alive” and wander in small groups around the stage.

Black Eyed Peas brought out their latest batch of back up singers dressed up as latter-generation Power Ranger lackies to give us “Rock That Body” in the most atonal performance possible.

Jeff Beck and Joss Stone teamed with the Jubilation Choir for “I Put a Spell on You” I didn't really listen to the whole thing, but I thought it was fine. Joss Stone looked really hot in her dress. As the judges like to say, even though you're going second, it's the best performance of the night so far!

Alicia Keys serves up a combo platter of Unthinkable and Empire State of Mind. I thought it sounded like she had a cold. But still, one hand in the air for the Big City.

Carrie Underwood delivers as usual singing “Change.” Underwood's "Waiting For Time" from a previous Idol Gives Back is one of my favorite Idol performances ever, so this for me is not quite that. But she's such a pro, and certainly Idol's most bankable former winner in situations such as these.

Annie Lennox: This is a classy broad. My second favorite post IGB performance is her rocking out to Many Rivers To Cross. She's not on the piano for this year's “Universal Child” she's not even in LA due to the Volcano erupting in Iceland. It's just her and the mic and many many jumbo screens. She sounds great and she's rocking an HIV Positive t-shirt. I love her!

Mary J. Blige and her All Star Band including our own Randy Jackson team up for “Stairway to Heaven." I thought it rocked pretty hard. MJB is not everyone's personal taste, but I thought it was cool.

Elton John brings out the classic "Your Song.” Sometimes I can't believe this dude's darkest periods of life didn't kill him. I think he feels the same way. It's a very pretty and understated performance. So all in all, there were some nice performances the worst of which were gotten out of the way early. Good job, IGB!

As for this week's elimination? We had a couple face-offs where Casey went up against Crystal and so he was obviously in the bottom 3. Then HS Student Aaron Kelly went up against Lee Dewyze and he too was obviously in the bottom 3. Then w have a three-way face-off with Siobahn, Big Mike and Tim and this one is harder to call. Siobahn is safe and in my mind once again dodged a huge bullet. Then Big Mike is also safe which means Tim is bottom 3. He looks beautiful as he takes his place on the Silver Stools with Casey and Aaron. Finally we know that a guy will be leaving the competition!

Also, right after this bit, David Cook came out to introduce his journey to talk about the United Nations Foundation. I kinda totally love David Cook. He's one of my favorite winning Idols. His triumph over Archuleta still makes me smile.

So Bottom 3 is Casey, Aaron, and Tim. Then Bottom 2 is Casey and Tim. Casey looks so weird in that white suit and light blonde hair under the hot spotlight. I think he thinks he's gone in the moment before Seacrest is gonna read who's eliminated. But surprise! Apparently America found Tim Urban to be beautiful, but not inspiring, as he is sent home in 7th Place. Not bad for someone who originally wasn't supposed to make the Top 20 and totally bombed in his first performance singing "Apologize." He is as good natured as ever about getting the boot. His smile is intact, America. Never fear! His clip package proves that he seems like a solidly pleasant beautiful dude who managed not to get bitter under judge scrutiny. We close on a very pretty tableau of the remaining contestants standing around him and watch his smiley happy journey on the jumbo screen.


(It's like Tim is looking into the future at his eventual dismissal from the show and already shrugging it off.)

Next week Shania Twain is the mentor, and 4 boys and 2 girls will be singing her songbook. I hope that Bowersox rocks out to "Man, I feel Like A Woman." Because someone's gotta sing it, and it better not be Big Mike.


For the record, these are IGB 2010 Beneficiary Organizations if you would like to give directly:

The Children's Health Fund (www.childrenshealthfund.org)

Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org)

Malaria No More (www.malarianomore.org)


Save the Children (www.savethechildren.org)

United Nations Foundation (www.unfoundation.org)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rafael Nadal: The (Six) Count of Monte Carlo!

(After almost a year, Rafael Nadal tastes victory - literally - once again. The delight on Rafa's face, matched with the reflection of the stadium shining in the Masters Series Trophy makes me deem this photo, "Super Awesome.")

I woke up to fantastic news this morning! Rafa Nadal won the Monte Carlo Masters Tournament, thus becoming the first player in the Open Era to win a tournament title for six straight years! That's CRAZY. Rafa beat his friend and fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1. in the first all-Spanish final at the event since 2002. Rafa's been on fire all week. This is his third match of the week he won by the score 6-0, 6-1. He raced to the victory in only 85 minutes and improved to 10-0 lifetime against Verdasco. Rafa had been playing extremely high-level tennis through March and April but had not made it past the semi-finals of a tournament during that time. To get back to the podium at the event he has owned for years, is a huge boost of confidence to him going forward into the clay court season.

"It's fabulous to win here so many times. This has been an unbelievable week for me, it was very emotional for me," said Rafa. "This is the best week I've had in a long time and there is no better place to do it than here."

With this win, Nadal ended an 11-month title drought, stretching back to last May in Rome. Much of this empty-handed time was a result of injuries that affected him from the French Open all the way through the end of last year. Now he's really back and undeniably in top form!

Nadal has now won 16 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, tying the career total of Roger Federer and putting him one shy of all-time leader Andre Agassi. I think it is safe to say that both Fed and Nadal will break that record. With Rafa still only 23 years old, if he stays healthy, who knows how many titles he can rack up throughout his career?

Nadal remains the one-to-beat on clay this season. His stats are unbelievable. He has won 54 consecutive matches on clay for the month of April and he’s won 10 titles during that time, six in Monte-Carlo and four in Barcelona. His last loss on clay in April came on April 8, 2005 (five years ago!!!) to Igor Andreev in the Valencia quarter-finals. Even with that amazing stat, Rafa still only ranks seventh overall in the all-time list of clay-court title leaders. He currently has 26 trophies, whereas Guillermo Vilas, at the top of the list, has 45. Keep climbing that ladder Rafa! Vamos!