Thursday, March 24, 2005

"IDOL" CHATTER. Pathetic, I know. But I didn't want an entry on nothing but the part you'll find in boldface below.

This is my first season watching "American Idol." Boy, did I roll my eyes at Kelly and Justin and Ruben and Clay and all that crap. But now, alas, I'm hooked. The most recent episode, to flirt with going on-topic, was a rebroadcast to correct a copy-editing error! I really wanted to rank Tuesday's performances, but the gap between the top five and the bottom six was so immense, I decided to simply place them in those groups:

First (tie). BO BICE, "Time in a Bottle." The better of the two token rockers has been consistently good, and this was no exception. I'm a sucker for '70s singer-songwriter stuff, but I think even those who aren't would have to admit that the unplugged Croce number was very well done.

First (tie). VONZELL SOLOMON, "The Best of My Love." Darn, it was the Emotions song. I would have loved to see her do the Eagles one. I thought Vonzell was expandable for the past two or three votes, near the bottom of the pack, but this time she stood out as one of the stars.

First (tie). JESSICA SIERRA, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Ballsy song selection! She made it work, though. Strong voice, sweet and understated presence.

First (tie). CARRIE UNDERWOOD, "Alone." The token country girl has long been the favorite of this non-country boy. Carrie's voice is and always has been great, but her trademark as a finalist has been stage presence, and something strange is happening on that front. She looked as if she belonged up there until two or three weeks ago, when she suddenly started looking quite the opposite -- really scared. Maybe it's the non-country songs. This episode's finance-company jingle ("How will I get you a loan?") was fine but not outstanding. But the judges, even Simon, still love her, so what do I know?

First (tie). SCOTT SAVOL, "Against All Odds." Against all odds indeed. Maybe it's because he started out as a big fat outcast, but I've been rooting for the 1,700-pound dirtball (some sould say "wigger") with the big, clear voice. If he had to pick Phil Collins schlock, he picked one of the less-offensive examples.

* * *

Last (tie). CONSTANTINE MAROULIS, "I Think I Love You." Simon gave him too much grief for the intentionally tacky song selection, but I don't think the performance was that good. I'm not sure how much longer this competition will be big enough for both him and Bo. (A little tip, Conster: Don't hold the microphone like a hot dog. Never again.)

Last (tie). NADIA TURNER, "Time After Time." I can't believe none of the judges noticed this, but while they were distracted by her mohawk hairdo, she was botching some lyrics in spectacular fashion. "Caught up in circles" turned into -- I'm serious -- "always with zburkles." Confusion is nothing new indeed! Was I really the only one who heard that? I liked Nadia a lot, but this wasn't so hot, even discounting the zburkles.

Last (tie). MIKALAH GORDON, "Love Will Lead You Back." She's insufferable, yes, but I really thought she had a Barbra Streisand quality. I wanted to see her in a remake of "What's Up, Doc?" Slowly but unfortunately, she's turning into Cher.

Last (tie). ANTHONY FEDEROV, "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me." Not a bad song selection, but the hockey superstar and former Anna Kournikova husband continues to skate on the thin side after a promising start.

Last (tie). NIKKO SMITH, "Incomplete." Incomplete indeed. The son of Hall of Fame slugger Phil Rizzuto didn't deserve his later-luckily-reversed elimination, but this performance of a song that nobody has ever heard of, from an artist that nobody has ever heard of, didn't do it for me. The judges disagreed.

Last (tie). ANWAR ROBINSON, "Ain't Nobody." I really wish he could get rid of the stupid artificial smile, but he truly does seem to be genuinely and hopelessly good-natured. I liked him better earlier, though. The nasal white-guy voice just isn't working -- the gesticulating and dancing and forced audience participation of this performance made up the perfect example of not-at-all-funky masquerading as funky. At this point, I don't think the Republicans' determination to drill in him for oil is such a bad thing. (The judges kept saying he was doing a Chaka Khan song, but everybody knows Chaka Khan had only one song and this was not it. I feel for them.)

Who should go? Votes are based on more than just the last performance, of course, and so I would have to say Nadia is quite safe. Anwar, Nikko, Anthony, Mikalah and Constantine, not so much. I'd keep Mikalah for novelty value, for now. I'd be satisfied with any combination from the Anwar-Nikko-Anthony-Constantine group when the next elimination time arrives.

Second opinion.

Third opinion (still waiting)?

Monday, March 21, 2005

AS IF I DIDN'T have enough guilty-pleasure TV shows, A&E's "Intervention" is off to a riveting start.

"THE INCREDIBLES." Even if, like me, you're no fan of action-adventure crap or the usual Pixar fare, you may have to see this movie just for the, for lack of a better term, set design.

The buildings and their contents, and the cars on the roads, exist in a delightfully odd combination of the past and the future. As the movie's creators describe in the DVD extras, the idea was a mid-1960s conception of the world of tomorrow. The mid-century-modern house that the Incredible family lives in was the best part of the movie for me. I'll be on the vulnerable side if an enterprising real-estate agent corners me in Los Angeles.

Friday, March 18, 2005

EQUAL TIME for the side of me that is distinguishable from a particuarly shallow 14-year-old girl.

This is a story of a book that you must read, and how I came to read it.

My favorite episode of "Seinfeld" -- not the one I think is best, but my favorite -- is "The Jacket," in which Elaine's father is an obscure but well-regarded novelist who scares the living shit out of Jerry and George. In watching a DVD, I learned that the episode was based on Larry David's similarly scary experience meeting novelist Richard Yates when David was dating Yates's daughter Monica.

In looking up exactly who Richard Yates was, I came upon some very good notices for a Yates novel called "Revolutionary Road," written in the year of my birth but set several years earlier, in '50s suburbia. The subject matter is sad, bitter, morbid, depressing -- just the way I like it -- but the thing is the writing. Clear, lucid, vivid, without frills but also without a studied absence of frills. Imagine Fitzgerald if he lived up to his admirers' opinion of him.

I won't say much else because my description would be no match for Yates's writing. Trust me. There's an excerpt on the Amazon page I link to above, if you need a taste.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

IF YOU'RE READING THIS you probably have the good sense not to be keeping up with "The Real World: Philadelphia." On the other hand, if you're like me, you can't stay away. Even if you're not like me, the season's reunion show is worth catching for its editing.

If "SCTV" or "Mr. Show" were still around, this is what their writers might come up with as a parody of interview editing. Barely two words are spoken on this show before there's a cut and words or reactions or applause from a different point in the taping are spliced in.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


It's that time of year again when I start foaming at the mouth for no good reason. Never mind the fact that such a pedestrian exercise as the annual college-basketball tournament is elevated to national-holiday status. I'll accept that, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

1. There's no such thing as a No. 1 seed or a No. 9 seed. Either you're the top seed or you're not. This year, for the first time, I'm hearing talk of the top No. 1 seed as opposed to the second No. 1 seed, which makes this ridiculousness even more ridiculous. The second No. 1 seed is the No. 2 seed. The fourth No. 16 seed is the No. 64 seed. Is that so hard?

2. Don't give me that regional crap. When the University of Hawaii is in the Bangor Regionals, they ain't regionals.

3. Final Four? The event is pretty much defined in term of its final four? ("Woo-hoo! It's the semifinals!")

Am I bitter because, in the first year I didn't place a pool entry reflexively picking my alma mater to win the whole thing, my alma mater won the whole thing? No. Not at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Pottsville, Pa.
(address approximate), 1961-1962

Ferndale, Mich. (address approximate), 1962-1963

Ferndale, Mich.
(address approximate), 1963-1964

Madison Heights, Mich.
(the main childhood home), 1964-1973

Madison Heights, Mich.
, 1973-1979

Mesa, Ariz.
, 1979-1984

Tucson, Ariz.
(college), 1980-1984

Mesa, Ariz.
(first apartment), 1984-1985

Chandler, Ariz.
(first house), 1985-1989

Alexandria, Va.
, 1989-1990

Washington, D.C.
, 1990-1993

Washington, D.C.
, 1993-1995

Washington, D.C. 1995-present (address approximate)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"REALITY" ROUNDUP. Just when "The Amazing Race" had all the momentum in the world, it brings us two of the dullest episodes ever. (I did enjoy Santiago, Chile, though.)

Rob can barely speak his native language; how the hell is he doing so well in Spanish. (I hate to say this, but he and Ambuh are going to be hard to beat.)

Good riddance, "Real World: Philadelphia." I think this was the first cast without one person I liked. (Note to "M.J.": It's pretty pathetic when every 90-year-old in the country qualifies as less sheltered than you solely on the basis of a vague memory of Uncle Miltie.)

"Survivor"? Too early to tell. I was happy to see the tattooed and mutilated punker chick redeem herself, though.

Finally, Jacqueline and I have finally started watching "American Idol." I'm not in love with it, but I do see the appeal. Say what you will about the evil Simon: He's the only judge who knows what the hell he's talking about.

Links? Sorry. I'm tired.

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