Saturday, May 29, 2010

Glee to Be You and Me!


Saturday afternoon I was lucky enough to be taken to "Glee Live! In Concert" at Radio City Music Hall. While I'm not a full on Gleek, I enjoy the show a lot, and have been fascinated by the idea of them taking the show on tour. What would it look/sound like in person as opposed to on screen? What numbers would they do? How would it all be put together?

Well I have to say I was very impressed. The opening act or the show was the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and LXD is no fucking joke. They do moves that seem to defy laws of physics, gravity and bodily movement. You may have caught them on So You Think You Can Dance performing their amazing routine to Coldplay's "Yellow." They staged it live today and it's just so great. Also, LXD features Glee Cast Member Harry Shrum Jr., and since his character doesn't get a lot of attention on the show, it was sweet that he got so much attention live on stage. He seemed really touched and thrilled by the crowd's enthusiastic reception of him.

So LXD warmed up the crowd and then there was a (very long) 20 minute intermission before Glee kicked in. The screeching of the Gleeks when the show finally started was... mind-shattering. These people went CRAZY as the cast came out. The cast seem so excited to be there and to get to perform. good thing, because the people behind the concert crammed pretty much every possible song that featured just the Glee kids (no songs with the adult characters were featured) into 85 minutes of show. Here's the set list:

Don't Stop Believin'
My Life Would Suck Without You
Push It
Don't Rain on My Parade
Beautiful
Dancing With Myself
Sweet Caroline
The Lady Is A Tramp
Defying Gravity
My Life/Confessions
Halo/Walkin' on Sunshine
Bust Your Windows
Bad Romance
The Boy Is Mine
Rehab
Mercy
Jump
Hello
Faithfully
Any Way You Want It
Like A Prayer
True Colors
Somebody to Love

As you can see, they sang a lot and the cast really worked their asses off up there. Vocally, Lea Michelle (Rachel), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Mark Salling (Puck) did most of the heavy-lifting. Heather Morris (Brittany) and Harry Shum Jr. (Mike) really highlighted all the dance numbers. Heather Morris especially got a lot of time in the spotlight as she went out on stage to talk to different people in character while the stage was getting set up for different production numbers. She's also incredibly hot and a totally engrossing dancer. I know that Amber Riley was on stage somewhere while singing "Bust Your Windows" but I couldn't tell you where while Morris was dancing on top of the SUV.

Everyone else in the cast had their featured moments throughout and I thought everyone did well. The least featured cast member was Dianna Agron (Quinn) who I don't think ever really sang a solo. She didn't seem to mind, however, as she matched everyone else's high octane enthusiasm throughout each number while singing in the chorus.

The show itself was kind of a hybrid rock concert/show choir performance extravaganza. with lasers and fireworks and big flashing overhead videos. It's quite intense and very very loud. There's also a group of supplemental dancers who sometimes filled in to make the stage look more full and also double as rival show choir "Vocal Adrenaline" - they performed the group's Rehab and Mercy numbers. One of the members of Vocal Adrenaline looked exactly like grown up Draco Malfoy and that was a little distracting, but he danced well. Also, as a nice cameo, Jonathan Groff (Jesse) showed up to duet with Lea Michele on "Hello." I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out that the decibel level in Radio City raised to a new height when Groff came out on stage.

All in all, it was really very entertaining and the audience couldn't have been more eager to take it all in. It was really fun to see what the cast could do on a live stage. My personal favorite numbers were Bad Romance, Jump, Defying Gravity, and Bust Your Windows. It may take me a few days before my sense of hearing returns to normal, but it was worth it. The production was just brimming with exuberance all the songs were anthems of love and positivity. Glee is a show that whether it's on TV or live in concert, tends to live up to its name.

Note to pre-teen girls in future Glee audiences: The cast will not wave to you mid-song, no matter how hard you wave at them. You should not attempt it. You are annoying the people who sit directly behind you and you're setting yourself up for a profound sense of failure when you go unacknowledged for the entire show. Also it looks like you're really making your arm tired. The performers can't see you from the stage, even though you seem really close to it, so just clap and scream for them and you'll avoid "down in front" heckles from your fellow rabid Gleeks a few rows back.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Idol Top 2: Crystal is the Best, America Is None DeWyzer

(MOCK THE VOTE - Lee and Crystal share a tender moment before Ryan reads America's vote off of his card and marginally changes both of their lives... forever!)

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 2 performances, followed by the impossible-to-be-brief Wednesday Season 9 Finale. We're finally at the end! Let's see what happened, shall we?

Well... here we are. We moved out of that cramped space known as the Idol-dome and are now cruising along the universe in the starship USS Idol-prize aka the Nokia Theater. It's huge. Thousands of people are on hand to make Lee feel overwhelmed by this unbelievable situation. There is tiny Seacrest swallowed up by the stage. There are judges. There are our final two, America. They'll be singing three songs a piece. There will be boxing metaphors. Round 1 will be encore performances from this season. Round 2 will be Producer's Choice (omitted from last week) and then lastly (and leastly) it will be coronation songs. Bowersox won the coin toss so she will perform second throughout the night.

Round 1. Ding!

Lee - The Boxer. How appropriate for the boxing metaphor. Lee has lost whatever confidence he's been gaining the past couple rounds with tonight's change in venue. He's trying to be into it. But it's winding up pitchy and weird. Maybe he's just trying too hard. The judges are all like "dude, this is yours. Stop thinking like a paint salesman. CLAIM IT." Lee shoots them a nervous smile. Oh jeez, it's gonna be a long night.

Crystal - Me and Bobby McGee. I love how she sings this song. It just continues picking up momentum until this frenzy at the end. She looks like she's having... FUN? Oh, look Mamasox has kicked it into high gear for the finale, after a couple of sleepy weeks! Excellent! We'll have to see if there are enough solid performances from her tonight to reverse Lee's show-mentum.

Round 1 victor: Bowersox Round 2! Ding! Ding!

Lee - Singing "Everybody Hurts." Ugh, really? Two downer songs in a row? I don't understand the reasoning behind this song. I have no interest in listening after a few bars. Zip Zap Zop. The judges tell me I wouldn't have liked it, if I'd listened to it. They explain to Lee that he is in the process of what in performance lingo is called "choking" and he better do something with his coronation song to save his ass.

Crystal - Singing Black Velvet, which I think is another odd Producer's choice song in terms of tone. Somebody behind the scenes was certainly in a dark mood! Perhaps they are having a hard time dealing with Simon's impending exit from the show? Anyway she's forced to wear heels and a long dress and walk down some stairs with no railing. The show is trying to kill her on Live TV. She survives the descent, however and sings the hell out of a song that will always remind me of Nickelodeon's "Fifteen" because in one episode one of the characters mentioned how they loved Alana Miles new album. The strange things that stick with you 20 years later. Again, the judges love what Bowersox is bringing tonight.

Round 2 Victor: Bowersox. Round 3 begins! Ding! Ding! Ding! (Note: They've finally given up on original coronation songs and figure since covers sell so well on itunes as it is, the finalists will just cover formerly awesome songs.)

Lee - U2's Beautiful Day. Well, since Bono hurt his back I guess it makes sense that someone should tour the country singing this song this summer. But holy cow is this performance all over the place. Lee looks totally confused on stage. And this is not a singer's song. It's all about what the instrumentation is doing. The lead vocal is not really the lead. Somehow we all make it to the end of the song in tact. Kara rightly notes that the song swallowed him up on stage. Really not a good night for DeWyze. I still kinda think he will win, but tonight shows he's really not as good as Bowersox despite how far he's come. OMG, that should've been his coronation song! How Far We've Come by Matchbox Twenty.

Crystal - Up On The Mountain by Patty Griffin. It's powerful, her emotional walls that she sometimes puts up come crumbling down, it's vocally interesting and soulful. She really digs deep within herself but doesn't stay stuck within herself. So so good. The judges all give her raves once again, she thanks Simon and wishes him well before he gives his final critique ever on the show: Outstanding. Round 3 Victor: Bowersox.

So to sum up, Lee got outperformed on each song. It's unfortunate because he will likely still win having won the favor of the voting public over the past few weeks. A woman hasn't won this show since 2007. There wasn't even a woman finalist the past 2 seasons. I'm resigned to her loss, but if Lee had brought anything to the stage tonigh, tomorrow's result wouldn't look completely ridiculous like it will now. Bowersox at least proved what she could really do as an artist tonight on the big stage, even if she doesn't take the title tomorrow.

THE BIG FINALE. This is gonna be taxing. As quickly as possible to spare us all then! It started with Chicago where Crystal and Lee sat one person apart. A bunch of shit happened over the course of several months and then they made it to the Nokia Theater. One has been consistently great. One has achieved GROWTH! 2 hours from now we'll most likely learn America has rewarded GROWTH! regardless of whether that Growth has met an actual standard of excellence. Think of it as No Artist Left Behind.

Lee and Crystal are in their Hogwarts-best, minus the wizarding robes and they sing a song about school being out accompanied by the Zombified corpse of Alice Cooper is on stage and it's all too frightening and I can't look. School's out forever indeed.

Then Kris Allen is on stage and he's cute and likable and he gets a considerable amount of screentime singing a song I don't know. I like this dude.

They start Simon's Farewell Parade with a clip package of him yelling at untalented and unstable people. That's good fun. Then Randy Jackson tries to do some "staged humor." That is not good fun.

Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly duet on "How Deep Is Your Love," and for ONCE I actually dig their harmony, but then some more zombies break free from what I can only assume is their holding cell beneath the stage and start singing along with the kids. I think it's the BeeGee's? They've passed beyond facial recognition, folks. Somebody shoot them in the head before the bite somebody!

Big Mike, sings "Takin' It To The Streets" with Old Old Old (Michael) McDonald, and now that he doesn't have to worry about getting votes Big Mike is free to be as hammy as he can possibly want to be. I observe the whole thing from the safe distance of Fast Forward Land.

And then as if the show knows I'm already fastforwarding, Dane Cook is on stage with a guitar and as we zip by I see several shots of Ellen looking totally steel-faced and I wonder what that's about. Then there's some other random shit happens with bad people. (Later I learned it involved Tatiana from last year, so I'm glad I missed it.

Jeebus, we're not even at the one hour mark! All the girls come out singing Beautiful and then Stronger so you know Xtina will be showing up on stage sometime soon. There she is! I don't even know how to describe her anymore. Man, she used to have something good going on. Now she's here. What is she even singing? Bah.

Ricky Gervais has taped a message to Simon. He loves Simon. We love Ricky Gervais. It's all good.

Then the boys come out and dance and sing and it's all bad. And then Zombie Hall and Oates come out. OMFG Show, really? What cadaver will you be having Crystal duet with later tonight? I am having a painful physical reaction to seeing these people on stage.

Then Crystal is singing Ironic which means she's gonna be singing with Alanis Morissette which is a huge relief for me that it's not literally Zombie Mama Cass performing with Mamasox. You know they would've had it if they could've had it. So Alanis is there and these are two cool chicks doing there thing. But then they start singing "you oughta know" with CLEAN lyrics. Would she go out with you to a theater? Yeah, and I bet she'd go down on you there too. Ugh, they should've done something that was nicer, like Hands Clean or Thank U. I mean I know they're not as big as You Oughta Know, but gimme a break. Anyway they finish and Alanis continues to be cool on her way out the door.

Carrie Underwood is here singing a song co-written with Kara. Carrie Underwood has turned out to be arguably the biggest winner this show ever had. I didn't really love her during her actual season, but she's grown on me enormously since then. I feel like she's made the most reappearances on the Idol Stage since she won more than any other contestant.

There's a very long sequence where Kris Allen gives the two finalists new Ford Cars and then we watch another long Ford commercial - perhaps it's a retrospective of other Ford Commercials throughout the season? Now the commercials get their own montage? Jeez.

Then Casey James is singing Every Rose Has Its Thorn with with Bret Michaels who continues to make live appearances on every reality show in town despite all his recent brain troubles.

Then Lee sings "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" with Zombie Chicago. I'm pretty sure one of them is really Will Forte wearing costume hair and make-up. The old folks musicians are really not doing well tonight. We haven't reached the point where it's like that time Bette Midler showed up and couldn't hit a note, but we're getting there.

Then there's more montage footage of Simon when he pretended to have an affair with his reflection. Then Paula is on stage! If you can figure out what she says, you're a better person than I am. Simon seems sincerely happy to see her and I think he really missed doing the show with her this season.

Then Kelly is on stage singing! And then Ruben and Fantasia! And then Carrie, Jordan and Taylor! And then Kris! But no David Cook? On tour, one guesses? Then it's everyone you've ever known from the show on stage. Oh it's turning into the last fifteen minutes of Lost! Maybe Paula was trying to explain the Flash-Sideways earlier and that's why I couldn't follow what she was saying! The song they are singing - that I don't think I've ever heard before - finally ends and Simon comes on stage. He's very touched and thanks everyone nicely. This show is not gonna work without him.

Then there is what seems like a 40 minute Janet Jackson section. It's not really Zombie Janet Jackson. She looks really hot, but maybe Zombie Hall or Zombie Oates bit her hand backstage, because she seems like she's struggling to sing and dance at the same time. Fight it, Janet! Don't succumb!

And somehow this show is STILL not over and Lee and Crystal are singing O"With A Little Help From My Friends" with the help of Zombie Joe Cocker. They seem to be enjoying themselves on this one, but c'mon, Show. End!

Finally - FINALLY - they are on stage with Ryan and about to get the news after some Brit comes out and tells us the results aren't fixed, but who believes him? Crystal is standing with eerie calm while Lee is doubled over with anxiety. I think the only thing better than Crystal winning would be Lee winning and passing out on stage. But it's not to be. Lee wins and stands up straight(er). He thinks it's all amazing and can't believe it. I agree with him on the last half of that sentiment.

He sings his song, (well, U2's song) and there is confetti and streamers and stuff. Then we're done. I think this might be the silliest finale vote in this history on the show. I mean some people thought Adam Lambert was robbed last year, but this to me is much stupider because Kris Allen came on really strong at the end of last season and the finale itself was a pretty even match. This year it was undeniably clear who performed better at the end, but voters give the title to DeWyze anyway. What can you do? Wait for redemption next season? With the only judge worth a damn leaving the panel, the jury is certainly still out on that one.

(We'll miss you, Simon! Hurry back with American X-Factor!)

Thanks to all who've read my recaps throughout the season. I hope you enjoyed them. Have a great time overy Memorial Day Weekend, and I'll see you soon for So You Think You Can Dance!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Word of Your YouTube

IN THE MIDDLE – There was this audition tape, (sent via youtube) to LMM by the cast of the National Tour of Spring Awakening. They were just finishing up the tour last week. Like all actors at the end of a job, they were looking ahead for their next gig. The continued success of “In The Heights” makes it an obvious goal for the trio, and trust, they've got mad skills.



If you ain't moved, you made of stone.

IN THE BEGINNING – There was the Broadway production of Spring Awakening (footage of which was posted to youtube) that begat the National Tour. The original show featured some very serious performances by some very talented artists that now can be seen together on Glee. The severity of their situation is captured in the video below.




This shit is intense, y’all.

IN THE END – LMM responded to the audition video (via youtube, natch) with an audition video of his own. Naturally, he's looking at the next National Tour of Spring Awakening. He finds a kindred spirit in Miranda Sings who also wants a role. They’ve done their homework studying the original choreo, and this is what they’ve come up with (added bonus: it's me manning the unsteady cam!).




Simply stunning. They are gonna be your bruise.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Pressure Over Lost & Cappuccino

"We should get coffee sometime. We could go dutch."

So this little show called LOST ended last night. Perhaps you've heard of it? :) Finales for event shows like these always come with high expectations and often they cannot live up to the hype. After last night's finale, I could tell by the facebook statuses of friends that there were a lot of mixed feelings about what happened and what was explained and not explained. Personally, I found the ending very satisfying. Do I think it makes total sense? No. Are there lingering questions that irk me? Yes. But two main things happened that were enough for me to be cool with it. SPOILER ALERT!!! 1) A group of people actually got off the island (again. this time no one unintentionally left behind) and 2) the mystery behind the sideways flashes was revealed. For those who really need answers to who's behind the Hanso Corporation, how the Dharma Initiative found the island, and the importance of the temple and the giant Egyptian statue, fear not. I'm sure it will only be a few years before there's a show where adult versions of Walt, Ji Yeon, and Charlie travel back to the island under the guidance of Eloise Hawking to visit Groundskeeper Hurley and Uncle Ben in the hopse of uncovering more island mysteries. It's never too soon to think sequel.

But as I was saying above, I really appreciated the finale and how Jack's overall story as it was wrapped up. I thought there was a tremendous amount of love shown to all the characters and a lot of forgiveness and redemption and release for them over the course of those last 2 and half hours. For me it really worked (hooray for me!).

As I was on my way to work this morning, rather randomly (... or was it FATE?) an old Alanis Morissette song shuffled on to my ipod. I nice unplugged version of "No Pressure Over Cappuccino." And as I was listening to the somewhat stream of consciousness lyrics I thought "wow, this song is so LOST." Yes, I'm that big of a dork. But check out the lyrics and tell me you don't think of Jack Shephard and many of his fellow Lostaways. Especially the first and last lines... :)
And you're like a 90's Jesus
And you revel in your psychosis
How dare you?
You sample concepts like hors d'oeurves
And you eat their questions for dessert
And is it just me or is it hot in here?

And you're like a 90's Kennedy
And you're really a million years old
You can't fool me
They'll throw opinions like rocks in riots
And they'll stumble around like hypocrites
And is it just me or is it dark in here?

You may never be or have a husband
You may never have or hold a child
You will learn to lose everything
We are temporary arrangements

And you're like a 90's Noah
And they laughed at you when you packed all of your things
And they wonder why you're frustrated
And they wonder why you're so angry
Is it just me or are you fed up?

And god bless you in you're travels
in your conquests and queries...


THANKS FOR SIX CRAZY SEASONS, LOST! BAD ROBOT!


A "Rafa at Roland Garros" Preview: Style & Substance

(Do you know what time it is? Rafa could tell you, and he wouldn't even need to look at his fancy new watch. It's time for the 2010 French Open!)

The French Open officially kicks off tomorrow, and two weeks from now, hopefully I'll be watching Nadal pick up another trophy live from the grounds in Paris! After winning in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, Rafa has to be considered the favorite to win another Slam title at the end of this tournament. You wouldn't know it by reading the nimrods who post "stories" on tennis.com though. I won't even call what the op-ed people do for that site writing articles - "posting stories" is much more accurate. They waste their time not actually analyzing the game, but trying to come up with ridiculous theories to discredit Rafa's accomplishments. For instance, just this past week there were a bunch of "stories" posted dealing with Federer and Nadal. Oh, how they hate this rivalry because Nadal comes out on top! How can the #1 player of all time (Federer) have an accomplished contemporary that gets the better of him 2:1? They don't know how to handle it. So instead, they keep posting these stories. Here's something they LOVE to trot out from time to time: Is it really such an accomplishment to have 18 masters series titles at such a young age? I mean they're MOSTLY from tournaments played on clay (which I guess is the bastard child of court surfaces because Americans typically have trouble playing on the dirt.) Their argument is that Rafa hasn't dominated ENOUGH on other surfaces. He just has Slam titles on all three. And he's only just now turning 24! And he was injured throughout all of last summer. So he did the majority of his work when he was 22! Nothing like giving a guy time.

Then there was this other ridiculous story about how we wouldn't really appreciate the style of Rafa's playing if he were an ugly person. Seriously, that's what it says. If Federer were ugly, he plays a game that we'd still consider beautiful, but if Rafa was ugly we wouldn't be fans of his at all. I mean, holey Jeebus, if that's how far you have to reach to discredit a 6-time Slam champion and a 18-time Masters Series Champion then you have huge issues and you need help. I sometimes think tennis.com only exists to make me angry. But since the jokers at tennis.com STILL don't see what's so impressive about Rafa's career, here are JUST A FEW more stats of note:

*Only male player to have won French Open, Wimbledon, and Olympic gold medal in the same year (2008)
*The only man in history to win the "treble" (2008) - taking titles at the French Open, The Queen's Club and Wimbledon
*Most singles titles won in a single season as a teenager: 11 (2005).
*The only player to reach 9 different ATP Masters tournament finals (all except Cincinnati, but I'm sure he'll get there too!).
*The only player to win the same ATP Masters event for 6 consecutive years (Monte Carlo Masters).
*The only player to win 400 singles matches in fewer than 500 matches played (401-91).
*The only player in history to win all three clay court Masters events in the same year.
*The only player to win three consecutive Masters titles, irrespective of surface.
*The only player to win at least three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in a season for four consecutive years
*Overall Nadal is 196-16 (.925) in his career on clay, the best winning pct. on clay in the Open Era

So suck on it, tennis.com writers. I'm done with you.

Deep breaths. Okay, so back to the French Open. I actually think Rafa has a pretty decent draw. His first round opponent is 18-year-old French wildcard Gianni Mina. This kid is ranked 653 in the world. On paper, Rafa shouldn't have any problem with him, but he'll probably be playing as if he nothing to lose and he'll have the hometown crowd really pulling for him, so it might not be as easy as it looks. He should still get through in 3 sets.

Looking head there's a possible third round opponent in the form of Lleyton Hewitt, who has lost to Nadal three of the last four years in Paris. I like Hewitt, but he's not much of a threat to Rafa at this point it his career.

Either Fernando Verdasco, (0-10 record against Rafa) , or Fernando Gonzalez (6 consecutive losses to Rafa) are potential quarterfinal opponents. The semifinals could feature a match against Djokovic (but he hasn't been playing well of late, so that seems unlikely), Juan Carlos Ferrero (Rafa leads 7-2 lifetime), David Ferrer (Rafa leads 11-3 lifetime) and Andy Roddick, who you know I love, but who has never gone farther that the fourth round at Roland Garros. If Rafa meets Fed in the Final, Rafa holds a 14-7 lifetime record against him and a 5-2 record in Slam Finals. So while nothing is a sure bet, you can see on paper why things are looking for a healthy Rafa this year.

Moving from tennis substance to style, Rafa's never shied away from some head-turning or head -scratching outfits. There was the hot pink shirt at last year's French Open, the crazy checkerboard shorts he wore at last year's US Open and Aussie Open, and now that he's gone back to more classic color patterns, he's moved into eye-catching accessories.

For the first time ever, Nadal will be wearing a watch while playing his matches at the French Open. But it's not just any watch. It's the new ‘TOURBILLON WATCH RM 027." The watch, was especially designed for Rafa Nadal, by Richard Mille and is so exclusive that only 50 of them will be produced worldwide. Oooooh!

It turns out the Tourbillon watch RM 027 is the lightest mechanical watch ever made (only weighing 3.83 grams) and it was designed over the course of 2 years by Mille. This watch can be yours for a cool $425,000. But like I said, there's only 50 so order now while supplies last!

I have to admit when I heard Rafa was wearing this "luxury watch" while playing, all I could picture was this gaudy clunky bracelety-thing that would weigh down his wrist and mess up his swing. When I saw the above picture of it though, I have to admit it's pretty cool. Maybe not for a half a million, but still it's pretty awesome. Although this will almost definitely open him up to criticism from opponents who'll request for him to "check his watch" when he starts taking too much time in between his service points.

So now that we've explored the style and substance of the upcoming tournament, I wish Rafa luck and the greatest of success at the 2010 French Open. I know he take home the trophy for the 5th time! Vamos Rafa!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Idol Top 3: Contestant's Choice, Judge's Choice, America's Choice... Sophie's Choice?

(CASEY AND THE SUNSHINE BLAND. The season's resident hunk with a sunny disposition, Casey had his good performance days and his bad performance days, but mostly he sang very pleasant songs that weren't very inspiring. He had a polite smile and impressive guitar skills. He never really thought he'd make it all the way to the end, and it turns out he was right.)

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 3 performances, followed by the even more brief Wednesday Results Show. This week, there's A LOT of hometown footage, which always looks the same to me and always doesn't get much of my attention, regardless of how heartwarming it is. We've got "contestant's choice and judge's choice" this week. Apparently we don't have time for a third song like we usually do - the dreaded producer's choice. So, six songs in one hour. Seacrest should be able to bring this baby in on time for once, right? Let's see what happened, shall we?

Ryan walks down The Stairs past the remaining three Idols, rattling off their hometowns along the way. It's the fight for the finale! Ryan says "THIS..." and then the three of them can't quite say "... is American Idol!" in unison. Jeez, how long do they work on these intros? They have no timing! There is talking. There are judges. There are two songs a piece. But no time to waste! Contestants' picks first.

Casey - He's singing "Okay It's Alright With Me" a song you probably haven't heard before. It's totally middle of the road Casey, meaning it's pleasant enough but leaves no impression. There's nothing really in the song that would jump out at you. The judges all think it's either blaaaah or zzzz.... Simon thinks it's like salad.

Crystal - Bowersox is singing "Come to My Window" by Melissa Etheridge with the harmonica contraption on her head. It's a solid performance. a good choice for her, she's rocking her personal mic stand, but it's a little.... It never quite transcends. The judges can't really knock it or embrace it. I think it's because Crystal is the same kind of awesome she was when she first walked out on the stage that they don't know what to say. They can't look at her and see "GROWTH!" like they can with Lee. But it's still good.

Lee - singing Simple Man by Lynrd Skynyrd. Lee has a new attitude after his hometown visit, but the girls in the audience aren't interested in hearing about it and just start SHRIEKING! It should be noted that Lee looks noticeably more relaxed than any other previous performance on stage. The vocal is strong too. These songs feel SO short tonight! The judges love it and they can see "GROWTH!" and he's in it to win it. It's true.

Casey - clips of home. zip zap zop. For Judge's Choice the tag team of Randy and Kara make Casey sing "Daughters" by John Mayer. They know it will force him into the sensitive rocker vibe they like for him. The song is a little too mellow to really inspire. He sounds good and the guitar work is great, but this is not what he needs to do to make enough impact. The judges are responsive, but pretty much know this will lead to his 3rd place finish.

Crystal - Ellen chose "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney, which I think is the weirdest song choice ever. It starts off a little weird, and I begin to think that maybe Bowersox is not in the healthiest voice tonight. She sings like crazy on the... chorus? The structure of this song is both unconventional and repetitive in an odd way. She unleashes some powerful notes on it though. I really liked. The judges offer reserved praise. What are you playing at, Judges?

Lee - Simon chose "Hallelujah" and it's clear from the beginning they are gonna try to force an Idol "MOMENT" on us, but you can't force a Moment, bitches. It has to happen on its own. This season has been pretty devoid of Moments, so I see why they are getting antsy about it. I mean, he starts singing (biffs the lyric just a smidge) and then they bring out a gospel chorus of background singers and have this bombastic arrangement supporting him, and he kinda wails away on the top notes, and he hits them, but in my opinion it's not really the right sentiment for this song. I actually liked Tim Urban's arrangement of this song from earlier this season better. But of course everyone loses their minds for this and then they cancel the rest of the season and declare Lee the winner on the spot. Then the execs at Fox tell them they have another 5 hours of programming to fill in the next week, so everybody pretend like they don't know Lee won and keep going through the paces until next Wednesday. Everyone agrees. Casey starts packing his bags because he knows tomorrow night is the end of his Idol Journey.

Results Show! Spectre-vision intro, this time with messages in imperial looking gold font! Seacrest comes out. There are judges! There are contestants! Seacrest talks to Finalists Lee and Crystal and Casey is also sitting there too. They talk about how Idol is hard. Simon is bored. Lee and Crystal fall all over themselves to show appreciation to everyone under the sun, but Casey knows he doesn't have to curry favor for next week, so he just laughs and says not everything the judges said to them was actually helpful. Heeheehee. Sweet freedom!

It's time for footage of Casey's trip home. There are lots of screaming people and a performance or two and the standard Idol motorcade down Main Street. USA. He also visits the hospital that saved his life when he was younger and that's very emotional. We're back in the Idoldome and the hospital footage is STILL emotional. Casey puts the biggest defense mechanism smile in the world on as he tries to get through the interview. He seems like such a sweet guy in moments like these. Time for commercials!

Ryan is back now talking to Perez Hilton. Apparently Perez "discovered" Travis Garland who Perez thinks is better than Justin Timberlake. The Idoldome audience bristles. Travis sounds okay, but they do this bizarre 24-style still split screen of his performance. Why? Have they ever done this before, and I just never noticed? The performance is totally straight out of a high school show choir and not in a lovely Glee sort of way. zip zap zop.

Crystal takes her trip home. It looks a lot like when Casey went home. Added bonuses: there is time with her son and she throws out a pitch at a baseball stadium and she gets it over the plate. Back in the Idoldome she doesn't have the strength of Casey's Defense Smile and she cries.

Lee heads back home. It looks a lot like when Casey went home and even more like when Crystal went home. There is a trip to the paint store and lots of grateful tears as girls just scream and scream at him. His crowd is the biggest while he performs. In the Idoldome, he too is teary-eyed but seems to possess an inner steel now. He is resolved to try and win the whole thing.

Before Casey gets eliminated, we are treated to a performance by High School Student Justin Bieber. Note: We found out at work yesterday that Bieber got a tattoo of a bird on his lower torso but it doesn't actually look like a bird. It looks like a squiggle. For the record, Suki does not approve of underage tattooing. I do not approve of tattooing that doesn't actually look like anything when it's done.

So it's time for the final cut. Lee is the first contestant moving on, followed by Bowersox who isn't really sure what Seacrest said because he doesn't say the key word "safe" which is all that her brain was hoping to hear at that moment, so nothing else coming out of his mouth registered as actual words. She hugs Casey politely and then runs over to Lee and they joyously attack each other. Casey has a nice sing out of "Daughters" with a little girl who looks sad because she knows Casey is going home, but she's otherwise the sweetest little thing on the planet and is focused on him throughout the song. It was actually a very sweet sweet send off. The montage reminds us that although he had some bummer weeks, Casey also had some really solid outings too. Good luck, sir!

And now next week we move on to the Bowersox-Dewyze finale, and Simon's final appearance on Idol. I'm curious to see how it all shakes out. Lee has all the Show-mentum at this point, and it seems inevitable to me that he will come out the victor, but sometimes when the show pushes for one person hard, the voters rebel and pick the underdog. Hopefully, Bowersox will throw the kitchen sink at Lee next Tuesday and edge him out for the title in the process. I've grown to appreciate Lee, but I'll always be in the Mamasox corner. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Tale of Two CV'S

It was the best of stores. It was the worst of stores. Once upon a time, at the intersection of Ditmars and 31st street, there were two pharmacies - an Eckerd and a CVS. The two stores were diagonally across from each other and people either shopped at one or the other, almost exclusively. The Eckerd was a large store and open 24 hours and was generally kinda awesome. The CVS was cramped and closed at 11pm.

One day, the Eckerd randomly turned into a Rite-Aid, presumably because the same corporation owns both stores and the names were interchangeable. There was no change in staff. Everything went on as it always had. Around this time, the CVS switched to 24-hour service, but still couldn't compete with the Rite Aid in terms of space and selection.

Then one day, the unexpected happened. Rite-Aid had a liquidation sale! Out of nowhere, it was closing! It appeared that the landlord just pushed everyone on the corner lot out of their leases, evidenced by the florist and hair salon in the same building putting up signs that they were moving a few blocks away. This was a very upsetting development for it's die-hard local shppers. Would they really soon be forced to shop at CVS?

(Closing Time. You don't have to go home, but you can't shop here.)

In no time, the Rite Aid was completely emptied and shut down. CVS was the locals only option and the situation there were deteriorating. With no Rite-Aid to handle the majority of the neighborhood business, CVS couldn't handle the increase in traffic. Even with all five registers open, the line often stretched around the building. It was nice to see that some of the old Rite-Aid staff were taken on by CVS, but the extra staff couldn't compensate for the extra customers. People would often would leave without buying anything for not wanting to wait on the line. The neighborhood needed another option.

While dealing with the horrible CVS situation, Locals wondered what would be coming to take the space vacated by Rite Aid. Somewhere, deep in one local's heart, was hope it would be a pool hall, or perhaps a Chuck-E-Cheese. He couldn't tell you why, he was just really hoping for one of these two things. While waiting for a "coming soon" announcement to be posted on the storefront, months passed and it looked like it would stay empty for a long time.

Then one day, as quickly as Rite Aid disappeared, signs popped up that a new store was coming to take its place! What did the signs say:

(Another CVS coming soon. Just one per intersection is never enough.)

WHAAAAT? Another CVS? Now locals would have two of the same damn store diagonally across from each other? This seemed ridiculous.

(view from the new CVS facing the older one. Objects in photo are closer than they appear.)

Was there a lesson to be learned? Is this some kind of twist on the Dr. Seuss's Star-Bellied Sneetches? Locals couldn't figure it out. But most were just looking forward to shopping for pharmacy needs in a new non-cramped setting. Only one was really disappointed in not getting a pool hall or a Chuck-E-Cheese...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yes, I Watch Survivor!

(TEN YEARS OUT. Has it really been that long? Probst, you haven't aged a day!)

So here's the thing. I really like Survivor, but I don't know anyone else who watches it. People DO watch it, because it's still the #1 rated show on Thursdays, but it's like Two and Half Men for me. That show is the top rated comedy on televisions, but I don't know anybody who contributes to that ranking. I don't have friends who I can run to afterward a particularly exciting episode of Survivor to discuss what happened like I readily do with Lost, or American Idol or Amazing Race or the late great Battlestar Galactica. When suggesting to my GF and my BFF separately that I would be watching Survivor, when they came over to my apartment, they both kind of responded "oh..." not in an eye-roll of disgust sort of way, but just in a "it never occurred to me to watch that" sort of way. And I understand that response. The show's been on for 10 years and they've had 20 seasons, and I certainly haven't watched all of them. I didn't follow early seasons like Australia, Africa and The Amazon. There were also seasons I checked out of along the way like Vanuatu, Fiji and Marquesas. There's also one or two that I'm sure I watched, but honestly can't remember like Panama and Gabon.

But I really enjoyed this past season of Heroes vs. Villains. I am surprised that I liked it so much because the first time they tried All-Stars I found that season painful to watch. This season, however, had a lot of great moments from ballsy strategic moves, horrible mistakes (mostly by the heroes) and some amazing blindsiding during tribal council votes. In honor of this satisfying season, I've listed my top 10 favorite seasons I've watched over the last 10 years.

1. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Winner: Parvati Shallow) This one had an AMAZING run of episodes heading into the finals in which the women somehow came up with the most ludicrous schemes to vote out the boys (Ozzy, Jason, and Erik all got blindsided, but Erik's was the most amazing when he GAVE UP the immunity necklace. Amanda also did a great job of using a hidden immunity idol - before collapsing for the second time at Final Tribal. It was a good mix of new players and old players and very fun.

2. Survivor: Heroes vs Villains (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine) Three Finalists - All Villains, all who had made it to the end before, two who were previous winners. All should've been taken out early, but somehow it didn't happen that way, because they're just too good at playing the game. Russell still doesn't seem to realize people aren't going to vote for you if you act like a hateful ass to them, and even though he's entertaining to watch, it's comforting to know the people playing with him aren't going to reward his awful treatment of them with a million dollar vote. This season also featured the early Russell vs. Boston Rob feud, the dumb-founding moment of Tyson basically voting himself off and in the process altering the whole course of the game, J.T. giving insanely giving his immunity idol to Russell, a villain he knew nothing about, and Parvati successfully handing out two immunity idols to her alliance mates at one Tribal Council and avoiding being voted out herself. I'm glad Sandra won again, because I think she's awesome. She couldn't vote Russell out like she wanted, but she beat him in the end which has to feel even better.

3. Survivor: Borneo (Winner: Richard Hatch) The original had contestants with no preconceived notions about how to play and it was well-cast and fun. They set the tone for how the game would be played for the next 10 years, so tip of the hat to the original players for that. Richard Hatch was the biggest villain ever until Russell came along last year. I never wanted him to win though. It might be the only time that the jury actually respected villainous at a Final Tribal Council vote.

4. Survivor: Palau (Winner: Tom Westman) Stephenie's tribe sucked so hard, she became a tribe of one. It made me laugh so hard that they couldn't win ANYTHING and then she was wandering around in the jungle by herself before finally being allowed to join the others. Also Tom was kind of an awesome overall winner.

5. Survivor: Cook Islands (Winner: Yul Kwon) Tribes were separated by race and then the minorities came together and overthrew the white people. That's essentially what happened. It wouldn't have been possible if Penner didn't realize that his fellow white folks were worthless people, thus switching his voted back to save the minority players when they really needed him. There also a final Tribal Council fire-making tiebreaker that went on forever when Sundra and Becky were exposed as totally inept fire builders. Heeheehee!

6. Survivor: Tocantins (Winner: J.T.) I really enjoyed J.T. in his first season and his friendship with Stephen was fun. The exile alliance never materialized which was too bad, but I did really like this season. J.T. should've stopped at one season, because he made some BAD moves in Heroes vs. Villains.

7. Survivor: Pearl Islands (Winner: Sandra Diaz-Twine) Rupert annoyed me, but he didn't win, so I can forgive that. Fairplay was horrible, but he too did not win, so I can forget that. The Outcasts twist, didn't bother me so much because they couldn't have gotten back in the game if the two tribes still in play had between the outcasts when it mattered most.

8. Survivor: China (Winner: Todd Herzog) I really liked this season's cast. Courtney was hilarious. Amanda had good ideas and probably should've one but this was our first example of how she chokes at Final Tribal. It would be higher on the list, except I have a hard time remembering a lot about the challenges and the locale.

9. Survivor: Guatemala (Winner: Danni Boatwright) Guatemala was a tough slog. The conditions were more horrendous than the producers anticipated and it made for some unhappy cast members, but I liked that Stephenie made it to the end, even if Underdog Danni was able to win the final vote.

10. Survivor: Thailand (Winner: Brian Heidik) Okay, honestly this season wasn't very good at all, but it DOES have the distinction of a winner who was a soft core porn "star" who performed in "The Virgins of Sherwood Forest." I think it just goes to show that anyone can win Survivor under the right circumstances. Even a male soft core porn star.

Next season they will be going to Nicaragua and I will most likely be watching again. I maintain that they should do one season of Survivor: Frozen Tundra, but then people couldn't be filmed wearing next to nothing. But maybe with global warming, if this show is still around in another 10 years that will no longer be an issue!

Nadal -vs- Federer XXI - Rafa Mastere Madrid!

(The winner of the Madrid Masters just gets a dish and not a giant trophy? Weird. But hey, the important thing is RAFA WINS AGAIN!!!)

Happy days are here again! This afternoon, Rafael Nadal reasserted himself as the true King of Clay with a win at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open (a mouthful of a tournament name, to be sure!). The win came at the expense of Roger Federer, who got edged out 6-4, 7-6 (5), in the first meeting between the two champions since last year's Madrid final when Federer beat Nadal. Obviously, I prefer this outcome.

It's so great to have Federer and Nadal both back at the top of their games, because at No. 1 and No. 2 it's guaranteed that if they are to meet in any tournament, it will have to be the championship match. Their matches are always amazing, even if in the head-to-head match-up Nadal (to my delight) totally owns Federer. With this victory, Nadal goes up 14-7 all-time against Fed. A 2:1 all-time advantage! Rafa is also 6-2 in major finals against Federer. It would feel like a more lopsided rivalry if Federer wasn't so dominate against all other players on tour, owning a record 16 Grand Slam titles and the Career Slam along with at least a dozen other mind-boggling tennis records. A lot of the drama in major tournaments is if Rafa can get through his draw to meet Federer at the end. It's more assumed that Fed can get to any final, but it's not a done deal that he'll be raising the trophy if Nadal is standing in his way in that final match.

Rafael Nadal is 15-0 this year on clay, winning all three clay tournaments he has played as we head into the French Open. With this win comes a bit of history. I believe this is the first time ever that one player has won all of the masters series tournaments on clay in the same season - those being Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid. Also this marks the 18th (!!) Masters Series win for Nadal, who now has the most of any player in history. Andre Agassi previously held the record at 17, with Federer one behind him at 16. And Rafa's only just about to turn 24. If he stays healthy, he can add to that total for years to come.

I hope Rafa gets to rest up after this win and I wish him so much success at Roland Garros this year. I really hope he makes it to the French Open final, so I can be there watching him play for the title on June 6th! Fingers crossed. Vamos Rafa!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Idol Top 4 - I Hated Hated Hated This Movie

(WHALE OF A FAIL - Voters were not willing to reward Big Mike for his long jump over irony when he sang the song from Free Willy for Movie Night. Astonishingly, it was hardly the worst song selection of the evening.)

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 4 performances, followed by the even more brief Wednesday Results Show. This week, I only watched the results show once and it was totally on fast forward just so I could see who got eliminated and then accidentally I deleted it. OOPS! It's Songs from the Cinema Week (or some similarly titled theme). Jamie Foxx is on hand as the mentor and it seems he brought novelty shirts. Wha-huh??, you ask? I understand your confusion. It's odd. Let's see what happened, shall we?

We start with giant contestant heads on a screen which isn't as awesome as you'd think if you are watching in HD. These are some giant-sized skin imperfections we're being treated to. I don't like to think how my own face would hold up under such conditions. Then the camera pans down the four contestants and on cue they're all supposed to shift their heads to the left at the same time as Ryan does his THIS... is American Idol! bit, but they can't pull it together. They turn at slightly different times killing the effect and making me laugh at them. Credits!

There are judges. There are contestants. We're not just getting solos tonight but a pair of duets!There is Jamie Foxx. He's got these shirts, see? Some say "CONTESTANT" and some say "ARTIST" and he's handing them out to the contestants as proof of how ready they are, see? He gave them out during the rehearsals based on how prepared they were, but maybe he'll switch and give them different shirts if they don't do well tonight, see? You don't see? Me neither. Jamie talk about all of this very seriously though. I feel like he thought about this shirt distribution for a long time.

1) Lee is singing Kiss From A Rose from Batman Forever. Really? Not only don't I think he has the voice for this song, but the song itself makes no lyrical sense. Working with Jamie, Lee looks terrified as always. The song starts and it's not good. The vocal is just... i want to say scattered or disorganized. It's messy. He looks lost. The pitch is off. This song goes by design goes all over the place, which is why people shouldn't sing it at karaoke. Too much work with little pay-off. Randy rightly says it was bad. Ellen lies and says it was good. Kara points out all the things I said. Simon agrees with Randy. Song choice was way off here. He gets a contestant shirt and not an artist shirt. Lee tries to explain why that's not accurate, but zip zap zop.

2) Big Mike - He's singing Free Willy. Oh god. Really? He's rehearsing with Mr. Foxx. It sounds like the key is too low. He doesn't know the words, so Jamie tries to give him the contestant shirt and Big Mike almost Hulk-smashes him. He'll earn the artist shirt during the performance! Except he won't! Again, in the live show it feels like the song starts too low. The key to this song is escalation. It has to get bigger and bigger and higher and more soulful. Big Mike sleepwalks through it and it goes nowhere. It sounds fine, but there's no motor. It ends and the judges all call it boring, safe and predictable. Ellen hates hearing that all he wants to be is Top 3 (which he mentioned in the clip package). This week Big Mike's not in it to win it. He tries to say it's not true, but he just performed as if that were exactly the case. I wonder what happened this week. Simon doesn't know the Free Willy movie. Big Mike tells him it's about a whale that needs people to save him. Indeed. The judges don't really pick up what he's putting down and instead make dick jokes. Classy as always, judges!

3) Duet #1 - Lee and Crystal singing Falling Slowly. This is a horrible song choice. Lee doesn't have these notes! Why are they pretending he's got this? They sing at each other, the solos are very choppy. The song's regularly a duet but they've gone further and chopped up the lines within an inch of its life. Crystal does all the heavy lifting when it comes to the high parts of the melody. The whole thing gets better as it goes, but gimme a break. Kris Allen's version was way better last year when it's selection was an inspired choice. This is not a song that needs to be repeated two years in a row on Movie Night. All the judges go absolutely crazy for it, hoping that this song will erase Lee's horrible performance from 10 minutes ago from voters' minds. Look, Crystal and Lee seemed to have a good time performing together and it didn't suck, but was it really better than the original or Kris's version? No.

4) Casey - He's singing "Mrs. Robinson." Blahhh. An uninspired choice and I'm not wasting a lot of words on it. Jamie Foxx wants Casey to seduce him. I guess it works because he gets an Artist Shirt. He's sitting down on stage, playing the yuke. It sounds okay, I guess. It's mad boring though. It's vocally simple. Randy takes the opportunity to bring up the Kara "scandal." Kara enjoys the attention. Then Simon wants to know what the movie was about and it goes on for like 15 minutes and goes know where. zip zap zop.

5) Bowersox - singing "I'm Alright" from Caddyshack. Awesome. Jamie Foxx doesn't want her to stop the song even if she messes up. He reluctantly gives her the artist shirt. Heresy! She changes it up and it's cool and different and sounds a lot like the version of herself we know and love. The judges are relieved she snapped out of her two week funk and seems to be back fighting for the win.

6) Duet #2 - Casey and Big Mike perform Have You Really Loved A Woman? Seriously, WTF show? Why these songs? The guitar playing by both is on point, but Casey's voice is way off. Big Mike's voice is good, but he sits out for like two whole verses just strummin' along. Crystal and Lee couldn't go three words without having to switch soloists and now I'm stuck with like 45 straight seconds of Casey? Why? When it ends, the judges again heap praise on them, saying the duets were so fantastic. They were not hearing what I was hearing. I thought there wasn't one truly awesome performance tonight. Crystal came off the best though. Bottom 2 has gotta be Casey and Big Mike.

Results Night! Daughtry, Fantasia and Bon Jovi are here to upstage all the remaining contestants. This all went by literally in a blur so let me see if I get it right. There is a movie trailer-ish opening montage in the Wednesday night standard spectre-vision. Then we see the judges. Then Fantasia is performing, sadly I don't stop to listen to her. And then... I don't even know what happens. i don't notice Jamie Foxx performing, I don't notice some kind of movie themed lip-synched group sing. Maybe that was the Ford Commercial whizzing by. Then Casey is safe which is BULLSHIT. No way he was bottom 2. I'm not listening to what Ryan is saying, but I do not believe Crystal or Lee were in the bottom 2 this week. Producers are trying to manufacture drama. Also the couches of safety are so big and empty that they now have contestants' family members sitting up there.

Daughtry performs, and again I kick myself for accidentally deleting this prematurely. It figures it would happen on a night when I want to actually here the guest performers. It looks like Ryan talks to Chris for a while after the performance and then Lee is safe and Crystal is in "danger." Please. Mike is going home. Then we listen to Bon Jovi. Well, you might have. I didn't. Then it's final elimination and Big Mike gets cut. I actually went back to normal speed for this part. He thanks the judges for saving him from a 9th place finish. He sings Free Willy again to close out his stay on the show, which is a little sad because I think he's sung better songs in better voice on across the season than this particular one. Afterwards he appropriately scoops up his baby and kisses her as she tries not to cry too hard on national TV. Oh, Big Mike. I was hard on you all season, but I thought you were one of the better vocalists. Best of luck and enjoy the tour!

Next week it's time for hometown visits and a couple songs each. If history is any indication, the producers will force one of the remaining contestants to sing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Idol Top 5 - The Chairman of the Bored

(YOUNG BLUE EYES. I'm guessing they're blue. Right now they are closed. Goodbye, High School Student Aaron Kelly.)

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 5 performances, followed by the Wednesday Results Show. This week it's Sinatra week with Harry Connick Jr on hand. Let's see what happened, shall we?

Here we go! Seacrest descends the glowing staircase and on his way down he checks the applause-o-meter for our contestants. Crystal wins! Harry Connick, Jr. is in the house and on stage already and he steals Seacrest's signature line ushering in the show. Opening Credits!

There is the intro of judges, the second intro of the contestants, a montage of both Harry Connick, Jr. and Sinatra, and then we learn that HCJR orchestrated and arranged all tonight's songs. Hmm! Consider me intrigued. Seacrest and HCJR talk for a LONG TIME. 5 songs in one hour means a lot of filler. Zip Zap Zop.

1) Aaron - Fly Me to the Moon! Oh, I really like this song. HCJR is on the piano! Aaron looks MAD nervous. I would be nervous too in this instance. He also looks more like a young Wil Wheaton tonight than ever before! How did I not notice this before? Randy tells him he did a really good job which I think is a little bit much. Ellen too is effusive with praise which bugs. I mean, he didn't KILL it. Kara and Simon are more realistic about telling him he sounded fine, but didn't really sell it.

2) Casey - We come back from commercials and HCJR is screaming something at Casey in a hammy way before we jump to the rehearsal footage. Casey is singing "Blue Skies." He starts and I think his second note's off key. Oh this is weird... the pace is weird, his pitch is off. He's back to being really stiff. No no no. Not a good performance from him at all. Oh, good. It's over. Omigod the audience LOVES it! Randy won't be swayed, and rightly says it's terrible. Oh thank goodness. We won't be kidding ourselves during this particular critique. Kara tells him his vibrato sounds like a lamb. True. Simon things helooks embarrassed and nervous. Double true. He doesn't like to be without his guitar. Now we know why.

3) BOWERSOX - She's singing "Summer Winds!" I think Martin sang this once on the Simpsons when his bathing suit got ripped off. HCJR loves the Bowersox. He doesn't know what's behind the lyrics for her and Mama ain't sharin'. She sounds good, like always. I think it's a solid enough performance... which the judges will feel isn't good enough for Crystal. They are kinda meh about it. I wouldn't necessarily call it "meh." But folks? Crystal isn't in it to win it. She will sing what she wants these next few weeks, and if she HAPPENS to win, so be it, but she's not trying to win. I think that's their main complaint. They always want to see someone trying to win.

4) Big Mike - The big man is singing The Way You Look Tonight. I don't really take anything away from his time with HCJR. This is another solid vocal. I'm not surprised. He's always got a solid vocal and this style suits him. I notice that if I don't look at the screen, I like it better. I think it's the best vocal of the night easily. The judges fall all over themselves to praise him. I already think Casey is going home this week. We still have to get to Lee, who i can't imagine will look anything but terrified to be sharing the stage with HCJR.

5) Lee Dewyze - Singing "That's Life." His montage with HCJR is cute. Let me say first that I liked the performance and secondly let me say he doesn't look nervous and thirdly let me say he looks totally drunk on stage. The judges won't call him on this, I'm sure. But he's definitely thrown a few back before coming on up to perform. It's like he's too mellow. Did HCJR put him up to this? Afterwards Kara asks him if he believes he can win and he's all "wha? yah i belief i cuh win..."and I almost believe he believes it.

Nutshell montage - Aaron and Casey tried to avoid the bottom 2 this week, but probably won't. Crystal isn't trying to win, but accidentally might. Big Mike IS trying to win, but probably won't. And Lee might now believe he can win and probably could.

Results Show! Spectre-vision of what you watched last night. Then there is Seacrest talking up a storm! And the judges are seated and we all brace for impact as we head into the Lip-Synched Sinatra Group Sing. The four gents are mouthing along to lady is a tramp before they introduce Crystal to the stage. The track doesn't even sound like them in my opinion. I don't need any more of this. Zip zap zop.

Talking talking talking. Ford commercial. Montage of what happens backstage on a Tuesday. Yada, yada, yada. Gaga is here! It's the usual crazy shit, so if you enjoy Gaga, I don't think you'd be disappointed. There's a giant angel statue that might be part of a fountain? There's a black piano with some black branches glued to the top. There's Gaga in a giant black veil, possibly mourning the loss of Siobahn Magnus last week. There are gay male dancers doing interpretive dance moves galore. The men dance together, but fox isn't sure you're really ready for it so they zoom in close to Gaga at these parts. Then the veil comes off and there's more dancing. She's singing about "Alejandro" which is not a song I know but I like to think it's a sequel to ABBA's "Fernando." Then it ends.

Is the show over? Is it time for results? No. Jeebus Cristo, Show! MORE filler?? We speed past HCJR talking to contestants and Ryan is bullshitting too and nobody's really saying anything. For Sinatra Week, HCJR has decided to sing The Beatles. You're a few weeks too late, dude. As I speed along I notice HCJR has the same kinda drunken looking expression that Lee had the night before, and people seemed to like that, so i guess they'll like this too.

Time for results. No, wait. ANOTHER medley? Oh, come on. Zip zap zop. Finally about 45 minutes into the show we start the results. Crystal to stage left. Big Mike to stage right. Aaron to stage right. Casey to stage left. Lee must choose who is the bottom two! No, instead they softball it. They only ask him if he HAD to choose WOULD HE? The obvious answer of course is he would not, but Lee is unprepared for this weird turn and has to take a second to think if they're not actually trying to get him to say the wrong thing, before agreeing with them that he'll decline to play their wicked game. So enough of this: Big Mike and Aaron are bottom 2! WHAAAAT? How is Casey not going home and not even in danger? He was SO BAD last night! Big Mike cannot believe it keeps going down like this. But he'll live to give another solid vocal performance and face another bottom 2 challenge next week, because High School Student Aaron Kelly is going home. He is sad. There's the goobdbye montage and then he sings out last night's song sadly. But he's young. He'll recover.

Next week it's "Songs of the Cinema!" but with Casey already having performed "Power of Love," what 80's classic will he turn to? Jamie Foxx will mentor the Final Four. Is there any way Bottom 2 won't be Casey and Big Mike? You better be in it to win it next week, Bowersox.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Roman Emperor: Rafa Wins Again!

(Don't Rain on Rafa's Parade!)

Success again! Today Rafa won his fifth Rome Masters title in six years, beating David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 in the twice rain-delayed final. I was not too surprised, given that he was playing against a fellow Spaniard. Nadal holds a special mental edge against the other Spanish players. I think they look up to him too much to be able to beat him when he's playing near the top of his game, despite their own prowess on clay. For instance Nadal's won the last 7 matches against Ferrer. He has similar records against his other compatriots on the tour.

With the win, Nadal improved to 10-0 on clay this year. It's a really encouraging sign looking ahead to the Madrid Masters and then Roland Garros, even if he didn't dominate his matches this week quite as mercilessly as he did two weeks ago in Monte Carlo. Nadal's dominance on clay remians staggering. No other player in history has won more than three titles here and Rafa's already got five. It's crazy!

Alos, this marks the 17th Masters Series title of Rafa's career, He's now tied Andre Agassi's record, and has a chance to pass it before the month has passed. Agassi was 34 when he reached that record. Nadal is still only 23! If he can stay healthy, he has the ability to blast that Masters Series record completely out of the water.

I'm so happy to see Rafa back in top form. Here's wishing him him some rest this week and a great tournament following that in Madrid!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Maybe, N Train, Maybe

Written to the tune of "Maybe" from Annie while in train purgatory at Atlantic/Pacific.

Maybe far away
Or maybe real near by
There is a Ditmars-bound N train
Or are my hopes set too high?

Maybe there's this guy
Who's peeing on a bench
He has to deal with the po-lice.
I have to deal with the stench!

Bet it runs local
Betcha it's slow
Betcha construction re-routes it fo' sho'
Bet it's delayed -why wouldn't it be?
Just wish this damn train would come and get me...

So maybe now it's time
The N train came on through
Sorry, this one is a D train...
F, Youuuuuuuuu