Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dancing with the Stars: Results

What a bloated results show. I watched American Idol (on DVR, fast forwarding through the commercials), and switched over at 9:25 to find I hadn't missed a damn thing at Dancing with the Stars.

The bottom two couples were finally revealed: Paulina & Alec, and Shandi & Brian. (Loved the genuinely surprised look on Billy Ray's face when they told him he was safe.)

and, the couple leaving us tonight: Paulina and Alec! It was a mercy killing, folks...I only wish we could have thinned the herd by three or four couples tonight.

American Idol: Top 10 Performance Show

Ryan promises we're in for an outstanding night, because Gwen Stefani is our guest mentor, and the contestants will be singing songs written by Gwen, performed by her and her band, or "songs from bands that inspired her." Nice loophole guys. Sounds like a lame imitation of "theme week" to me.

Gwen (who really could use a little blusher, by the way) didn't come across as the sharpest tool in the shed in her initial meet and greet film. Hopefully the one on ones will be more enlightening...

Lakisha: Singing "Last Dance" by Donna Summer....great song choice. Stefani says listening to Lakisha made her feel "sweaty" and like she should be asking HER for advice. Huh? Whatever...our girl Lakisha came out there and seized control of the stage from the very first note and worked those black leather boots for all they were worth. Can we just give her a free pass into the final two. Randy: first time I've seen you do an uptempo joint, you were like a true fly diva, that was hot. Paula: you did Donna Summer proud. Simon: Love those boots. Great Lakisha, because now you're 30 years younger this week. Love the big note at the end, had a great vocal.

Chris Sligh: Oh great, another viewer question: how much down time do you have? Fortunately, Chris trotted out his sense of humor (which was in short supply the last couple of weeks) and responded: "Well, you know, I knit, crochet, play the bongos in my boxer shorts, you know." Then he said he tries to get as much sleep as possible so they don't get sick...yawwwn. He chose "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by the Police. Gwen said he had trouble keeping the beat in rehearsal. His voice sounds good, but he started out looking a little stiff and nervous...I can't help thinking about Sting's manic jumping around in the original music video, and Chris' laid back approach seems too slow and lethargic. Randy: I think it was a good song choice, the biggest problem was rhythmically you weren't in tempo with the band. Paula: probably the biggest amount of criticism I've had for you all season. The audience wants to groove with you, but they can't get into with you. Simon: I thought it was a mess, to be honest. I don't think the song suited you, and it didn't feel right.

Simon got pissy when the music cut him off before he was done critiquing Chris...sounds like the producers want him to take it easy on Mr. Sligh and keep him around. Wonder if the music will cue up while they're trashing Sanjaya later? I doubt it!

Gina Glocksen: She cried like a pathetic stalker fan in front of her "inspiration" Gwen Stefani (who had absolutely nothing of value to add, once again). She sang, "I'll Stand By You", dressed in a trashy tank top/slip dress and super short mini. I guess it worked for Haley last week, so the girls will be trotting out the sex appeal again this week. She got big applause form the audience, but what did the judges think? Randy: Okay, yo...this must be boot night. I thought this was one of your best performances ever. Perfect song for you. Paula: I love the fact that you're proving each week and you're coming into your own. Best performance so far. Simon: Wasn't one of your best performances, it was your BEST performance. This is all about knowing who you are, choosing the right song. Best performance so far tonight (really? Better than Lakisha?? I beg to differ.)

oh boy..next up Sanjaya and Haley...bring on the earplugs

Sanjaya Malakar: Okay, first he has the balls to chose a No Doubt song. Gwen said, "I feel for him...it's a hard song." Then, he comes out in sky-high ponytailed mohawk. OMG...I'm tempted to vote for him just for the hilarity factor. Who knows what this guy is capable of? Keep him! Randy: I'm speechless, man. The hairdo is definitely interesting. You actually can sing man if you'd just go on and put it out there. Paula: If you had the gumption to go for it, then it would fit the wackiness of the faux-hawk. You can do it, c'mon. Simon: Well I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room tonight. I don't think it matters anymore what we say, I think you are in your own universe, and if people like you, then Good Luck. Ryan asked him about the "look" and he revealed the mohawk is comprised of seven individual pony tails...for those at home keeping score.

Haley Scarnato: oh no, she's choosing Cindy Lauper's True Colors. Loved the cringing, pained expression on Stefani's face. She said Haley started out okay, but lapsed into some other melody. Haley came out in a super short black number (no surprise there) and lots of bling. She sang the song okay, but it was boring and pitchy at the end, and had zero emotion in it. Randy: I mean, you know, I wasn't jumpin' up and down...it was just aw-ight for me. Paula: It's one of those songs that requires nothing other than singing the melody, you had more of an adult contemporary performance with that. Pretty girl. Simon: How do you think you did? I think it was sweet but forgettable. (Yes! Exactly.)

Phil Stacey: Wearing another unfortunate hate...dear lord. His audience question: how does it feel to become a household name in a matter of weeks? Phil says, "Oh we're too busy to notice." Such crap. He chose, "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, and Gwen was pleasantly surprised by how good he was, and once again advised sticking to the melody. Ah, now that he's singing, I can see why he chose this particular hat: it pins his huge ears back and keeps them hidden...smart ploy. Now you can notice his blue eyes. Randy: I actually kinda liked that dog! (Stop sounding so shocked, dude.) Paula: she liked the chorus, didn't like the verses. A real good performance. Simon: This may surprise, but I actually thought that was very good. You know what, great choice of song.

Melinda Dolittle: She decided to sing "Heaven Knows", another of my faves. Gwen had no advice, and didn't bother saying "good luck" because she didn't think MindyDoo needed any. Best hairstyle on Melinda yet...a Gladys Knight flip that was actually flattering. She can certainly sing the heck out of any song, and hit some wonderful big notes, but I thought she oversold the song. It was too showboaty and over the top for me. Randy: you know what's really so dope, man? A pro singer does exactly what you do, you sing with feeling, interpret the song, that was the bomb, yeah! Paula: It's fun, you're so joyful. Simon: I don't think this is the performance we look back on and say it was the best, vocally it was very good, hate the outfit.

Oh yeah, Ryan Seacrest earns MAJOR points with me for finally calling Melinda out on her "surprised look" every time she stands in front of the judges. About time!

Blake Lewis: Sang a love song by The Cure. Gwen says he needs to be careful when he chooses to trot out the beat boxing. Hmmm...tough song, and he sounds a little uneven in the beginning. Also, what the heck is up with those black suspenders hanging down past his butt? Weird outfit. Randy: not a good song choice, but you made the most of it. I liked it. Paula: I loved what you did with the song, I thought it was so cool. You're taking risks and being original. I think you're the dark horse, and I'd love to see you in the finale. Simon: definitely the strongest guy in the competition, but you've got to be careful not to become too indulgent and it's a bit boring. It's a matter of taste, for sure though, you are the front running guide.

Jordin Sparks: She chose "Hey Baby"....wow, talk about guts! Gwen said she was surprised, too, but that Jordin won her over and made the song sound a lot more musical than she thought. Ugh...I love Jordin, but this was a bad song choice. It does absolutely nothing to showcase her voice, and the schoolgirl outfit she chose tonight is dowdy and unflattering. Bleh. Randy: That was a very risky thing to do, but you could literally sing anything, that was brilliant. Paula: And you're adorable. I loved seeing you in this kind of mode. Simon: I think you are probably the most improved contestant in the last few weeks, it was much younger, only problem I had was it was a bit copycat-ish. Clearly the judges want her to stay and went easy on her....the song was a mess.

Chris Richardson: He's also choosing a No Doubt song, their huge hit, "Don't Speak". Stefani finally gives some relevant advice, which is to "stick with the emotion of the song" and to not oversing it with his usual "vocal Olympics." Again, the verses were a little weak, and the chorus didn't have the emotional punch of the original because he sang it like a boy bander, not a spurned lover filled with angst. The crowd cheered wildly, but I didn't like it. Randy: that was an interesting kind of thing, I liked the R&B thing, but I liked your twist on it. Paula: you're good, Chris, you're good. It was good (oh boy, she looks a little loopy again). Simon: I wasn't crazy about the vocal, I think you struggled in the middle, and I think you need to pay a lot more attention on your vocals right now. (Once again, he's spot on.)

I thought the show was only so-so tonight, and that Gwen Stefani was a total waste as a judge. She didn't offer much in the way of constructive advice, and the performances were as lackluster as her tips to the contestants. Let's face it...all she wants is to promote her upcoming tour...she couldn't care less about who wins this competition.

Tomorrow night...the results!

Dancing with the Stars: Recap Week 2

This week, the guys are doing the Quick Step, the gals are tackling the Mambo.

Apolo & Julianne (aka Ken & Barbie): They look great together, and their quick step had lots of energy and grace. As the youngest competitors, it's no surprise that they held their stamina throughout the dance, and did a great job.

Len: You're gonna stay for weeks and weeks!
Bruno: This was so fresh and uplifting...a dancing tonic
Carrie Ann: They left me nothing to say (then, shut up!). You guys were perfectly in sync, watch the sliding.

8, 9, 9 for a 26 out of 30 Combined score from last week's show: 47

Shandi & Brian: Miss USA was bossing around her partner in the rehearsal footage, calling him "Banana Boy" and "Girlie Man"....hmmm, that doesn't bode well for their chemistry. Sure enough. she was stiff and awkward on the floor, and her arms seemed to be flailing with nothing to do at several points during the performance.

Carrie Ann: Well, I think you look beautiful, but I didn't think there was anything special about it. You lost your spot alot.
Len: I thought your footwork was very good, you had difficult choreography, but you forgot to come out and really sell it.
Bruno: You should forget about Barbie and turn into a Brat. There were good moments, but not quite as good as it could be.

6, 7, 7 for 20 out of 30 Combined score: 39 out of 60

Clyde & Elena: Another giraffe-like contestant. He looked awkward and gangly in the rehearsal footage, and it was just as bad once he got out on the dance floor. He reminds me of Lurch from The Addams Family.

Bruno: David & Goliath rewriting history! (huh) Still a long way to go, but stepping in the right direction.
Carrie Ann: You travel across the floor so well, a real crowd pleaser. Well done.
Len: You've got so many problems when you're so tall and your partner is so short, but you overcame them. Well done. (Ugh...were they watching the same show I was?)

6, 6, 6 for an 18 out of 30 Combined score: 34 out of 60

Leeza & Tony: Leeza Gibbons celebrated her 50th birthday by dancing the mambo at her party, which she said gave her confidence to do it front of a live audience tonight. She looks great in a sexy red dress, but I find her embarrassed smiles and mugging for the camera annoying and distracting.

Len: I hope I look like you when I'm 50. (ha ha...the fossil made a joke!) You broke on the second beat, I thought it was very very good, just a tad careful.
Bruno: You did a proper mambo, but like a debutante on the first date, but you should have been a tramp.
Carrie Ann: Happy Birthday! That was fantastic. I love seeing people laugh while they're dancing.

7, 7, 7 for a 21 out of 30 Combined score: 36 out of 60

Ian & Cheryl: Ian kept kicking himself in the shins during the quick step rehearsal. Klutzy, no? How adorable was Ian's Dad, admiring Cheryl being light on her feet but having no comment on Ian's dancing? Aww, and now he's talking about his dead mom. He definitely gets the sympathy vote tonight, no matter how his dance turns out. I thought they did great, but I hated Cheryl's hair extensions...I prefer her cute, sassy & short style.

Carrie Ann: You looked so much more relaxed this week. You still have so much more potential, I'd love to see it come out.
Len: It was a great performance, work on your frame, it was a bit skippy and hoppy, but it was a great performance.
Bruno: Your elbow was a bit low, it was like watching a bunny rabbit--but it was a MINOR thing (ooh, Mr. Tonoli shouting down the booers...he yells like a girl)

7, 8, 7 for a 22 out of 30 Combined score: 43 out of 60

Paulina & Alec: The Czech model is having trouble finding her "inner Latina", and is petrified of the "death drop" dance move. She survived the move during her live performance, but was awkward and stilted in her moves.

Bruno: All in all, it was quite good. Let it go even more, you'll get better.
Carrie Ann: You've got great extension, beautiful flexibility, so use that. You were looking pretty sexy.
Len: You came out having fun, it was a bit sort of stiff and stodgy (yes, it was, people, STOP BOOING)

7, 7, 7, for a 21 out of 30 Combined score: 40 out of 60

Billy Ray & Karina: They played the "Look, he's Hannah Montana's Dad" card big time in the rehearsal footage, but he also gave a solid performance on the dance floor. I thought the laidback Johnny Cash song was off-pace with the quick step.

Len: You came out crazy, but calmed down and the rest of it was perfectly ordinary and very very good.
Bruno: The difference in a week is beyond belief. I'm not sure of the Riverdance at the end, but I'm overlooking that.
Carrie Ann: I vote you the most improved dancer from last week.

7, 7, 7 for a 21 out of 30 Combined score: 43 out of 60

Heather & Jonathan: They're trying to play up Heather's charity work to make her more likable, but it's going to take more than that to win me over. She came out all trampy and glammed up for the mambo, and did a decent job. I was surprised the judges didn't chastise her for the walkover maneuver, but it was impressive, I'll give her that.

Carrie Ann: What in the world?! You did a back walk over!! You nailed it and you had fun. That was great.
Len: I was worried about you doing such a fast dance, but it was better than your fox trot. It was great.
Bruno: Beyond any expectations, you were red hot Heather.

8, 8, 8 for a 24 out of 30 Combined score: 42 out of 60

John & Editya: Poor old John found the quick step a challenge, so Editya added in some karate moves to liven things up (he takes karate lessons). His footwork wasn't half bad, and he managed to keep up pretty well. Editya also "sold it" with her big kicks and flowing green dress.

Bruno: That proved that there is plenty of life in the old wolf. You got the character of the dance spot on. You sold it!
Carrie Ann: You got off to a slow start, but by the end, you pulled it all together and gave it pizazz.
Len: John's an actor, a thespian, so instead of learning the lines, you learned the steps, you came out and you did it. Well done!

7, 7, 7 for a 21 out of 30 Combined score: TKTKTK

Laila & Maxsim: She's still my favorite...I love how she has ego-centric Maxsim worried about HIS muscles. This doofus thinks it's all about him...yeah, right. No one is looking at his arms, especially when Laila vows to show her "Hot, Spicy side". Boy, did she ever! Her mambo was fantastic, and she had the most self-confidence of any of the dancers out there. It's her competition to lose, at this point.

Len: It had rhythm, great moves, you really sold it...it was the best mambo we saw tonight
Bruno: The mistress of the art of seduction. Simply irresistble.
Carrie Ann: That was HOT. Hot hot hot hot.

9,9,9 for a 27 out of 30 Combined score: 50 out of 60

Joey & Kym: He claimed to be feeling the pressure of being in first place after last week, but Joey seemed a little cocky and oversure of himself during rehearsal. They kept the pace well, and worked the entire dance floor, but I thought the performance was a little manic.

Carrie Ann: I expect you to give us the complete package, and you did. You guys are a really good team.
Len: It was light, bright, fast-moving. You had a couple of little foot things that happened, but it was a very strong performance.
Bruno: Once you took hold, you took off like a rocket, and you sold it.

8, 8, 8 for a 24 out of 30 Combined score: 48 out of 60

Monday, March 26, 2007

Elton John at Madison Square Garden: What a Party!

Last night, I went to celebrate Elton John's 60th birthday at his concert in Madison Square Garden. I've seen Elton in concert many times before, but this was by far the best one yet. There were a multitude of celebrities on hand, and we got to rub elbows with them thanks to a serendipitous twist of fate (well, that and $10).

We knew our seats weren't going to be good, but we didn't realize just how awful they were until we got there. We were wayyyy up high in the "nosebleed section," and our aisle seats had major line-of-sight problems. We couldn't see 3/4 of the stage, or the big screen above it. My husband pulled aside an usher, slipped him ten bucks, and said, "We can't see anything from our seats. Is there anything you can do?" The guy swiftly brought escorted us out into the hallway, where another employee sat with a stack of extra tickets for folks who were in a similar situation. The usher we greased gave him a look and said, "Take care of these folks," and boy, did he ever!

Next thing you know, our old tickets were traded in for two primo seats in the lower mezzanine, about 30 feet from the stage. We were seated one section away from all of the celebrities in attendance, including Rosie & Kellie O'Donnell, Pierce Brosnan, Robin Williams (who kept bouncing around in and out of his seat like a little kid--the man can't sit still!), Karl Lagerfeld, Sharon & Ozzy Osborne, Elizabeth Hurley...so many stars. We couldn't believe our luck!

Bill Clinton came out and introduced Elton right on time at 8pm, and for the next 3 1/2 hours, Elton played a mix of old, obscure songs (Roy Rogers), and newer songs that rocked the house. He dedicated, "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" to his partner, David Furnish, and sang many of his big hits (Burn Down the Mission, Saturday, Philadelphia Freedom, Daniel and so many more).

The highlights for me were when he sang "Empty Garden", his tribute to John Lennon (he said it just didn't feel right singing that song in any other venue but the Garden) and when Bernie Taupin came out on stage to sing Happy Birthday (along with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg). The band sounded great, and of course, so did Elton. It was an incredible night!

See my husband's other pictures from the concert HERE

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father's 75th birthday. I'm sure that he's in a good place, surrounded by his parents and siblings, and all of our other relatives who passed on before him.

He was diabetic for the last several years of his life, so I'm betting he's having one heck of a sugary cake up there, too.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

AI Results: Top 11 down to 10!

The show started out with the usual fluff and filler: recaps of last night’s performances, Peter Noone singing a song that was hip for about 3 ½ minutes 40 years ago, and Brad Garret doing some comedy schtick in a last ditch effort to get people to watch his struggling show, Til Death (which just happens to air after the results show, naturally).

Ryan finally starts reading the results, and calls off names of contestants who need to stand:

Phil, Melinda and Blake....are not the bottom 3! The only one that comes as news to is Phil, but whatever.

Chris Sligh, Lakisha and Jordin....hey, you’re not the bottom 3 either. Yawwwn...tell us something we don’t know, Seacrest.

Sanjaya, Hayley, Gina are asked to stand up (Hayley and Gina look ready to gag) but—c’mon, were you REALLY surprised—they are NOT the bottom 3, either.Chris Richardson and Stephanie: You ARE the bottom two this week. One is safe, one leaves tonight.

Okay, I may not be good at math, but ONE of those previously “safe” people HAD to have been in the bottom 3. To not reveal who it was is deceptive, don’t you think?

A commercial break, a shameless plug for “Idol Gives Back” (the cheesy charity they’ve set up), and then a performance from last night’s other guest mentor, Lulu. I loved her as a judge, and loved her original version of “To Sir With Love,” but tonight I felt like she was trying too hard to be hip and current. Her sexed-up black slinky outfit and short blond ‘do made it look like she was an Oliva Newton John impersonator, and she oversold the song, imo.

Two minutes left in the show, and the person going home tonight is: Stephanie Edwards.

No big surprise there...Stephanie has been skating on thin ice for a while now, trying to find her way and carve out a niche for herself in the competition. She got edged out by Lakisha, Melinda and Jordin...all it took was one weak performance.

And the train wreck that is Sanjaya lives to see another day. *sigh* There's always next week...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

American Idol: British Invasion Week

Welcome back to this week’s edition of American Idol. We’re down to 11 contestants, and the theme is British Invasion: songs of the early 1960s. Our guest judges: singer Peter Noone coaching the guys, and singer/actress LuLu stepping in to help out the girls. Can the contestants redeem themselves from the underwhelming show they put on last week?

Haley Scarnato Song choice: Tell Him. LuLu advised her to sing it with more of a staccato style, and gave struggling Haley a pep talk that even though there are some “big voices” in the competition, she needs to “be proud of her own sound.” Great advice! Haley came out all glammed/tramped up, channeling her inner Antonella Barba in a barely-there halter and short shorts with huge metal earrings that looked like a couple of coasters dangling from her ears. Her weird little come hither moves paired with her out-of-breath delivery wasn’t awful, but didn’t wow me.

Randy: It had “yo factor written all over it dawg”
Paula: I liked the “flirtation side” of you
Simon: you naughty little thing, it was a bit shrieky, “I think people will be talking about a lot more than your singing tonight.”

Chris Richardson sang Don’t Let the Sun Get You Cryin’. Peter Noone didn’t seem too happy with Chris, although to hear Chris tell it, they had a grand ole time. Noone said Chris never showed him the melody to the song, while Chris thought they got along all peachy..ruh roh. Chris sang the song well, but it was a little boring and very nasal.

Randy: check it out dawg, that was another great performance, showed a different side of you,
Paula: it was sexy and charming
Simon: it was your best performance yet, control was excellent, a little nasally but a good performance

Stephanie Edwards Ryan subjected her to an inane fan question before her performance: What’s the hardest part about preparing for the show? Steph said it was picking the right song. She chose Dusty Springfield’s mega-hit, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. LuLu compared her to Beyonce and had high hopes for her tonight. She sounded terrific but barely moved throughout the performance, seeming stiff and nervous.

Randy: great song choice, but not the best performance from you, a little pitchy
Paula: love what you’re wearing, you picked the right song, you’re a great singer, go back to having fun
Simon: asked her how she thought she did. “I thought I did well” (Note to Steph: if he’s asking...you didn’t) Simon said he though she was “losing her edge”, it was a bit night-clubby, it was cabaret, and she’s becoming far too old for herself.

Blake Lewis: he sang Time of the Season. Peter Noone once again seemed underwhelmed. Best thing he could think to say was, “I’m sure he’ll have all the young kids voting for him.” I thought he sounded a little bit sharp, and more than a little creepy on the slow parts.

Randy: yo, dawg, awight, it was vibey, massive yo factor, much props to you
Paula: I think you’ve raised the bar, I feel like I was at a concert (um, you mean, high?)
Simon: better than last week, chose the right song, made the song contemporary, strongest performance so far (I disagree...I think they want this guy in the Top 10/on the Idol tour, and they’re giving him a pass this week)

Lakisha Jones: Our resident ballad diva confessed she felt out of her element with this genre, and was torn between two songs: Diamonds are Forever and You’re My World, LuLu tried to talk her into You’re My World, but in the end, she went with her first pick. Draped in a pleated, kelly green confection that would make any leprechaun proud, she gave a soulful, sultry performance, but did look a touch uncomfortable.

Randy: yo, yo, yo, awight, so yo...it was a good choice, but I don’t know if it was my favorite performance. I didn’t feel enough LaKisha in it. It was just awight for me.
Paula: you made the right choice, picked the right song, and you’re a very smart girl (she was wearing a million bucks of diamonds...who cares?)
Simon: we know that you are a fantastic singer, but this was LaKisha in 50 years time. Wasn’t my favorite performance. It was too old, too old-fashioned (Totally agree)

Phil Stacey: he chose an uptempo number,Tobacco Road, because it was fun, Peter Noone thought he chose well because it’s a song that’s got life in it. He came and started hopping around the stage, doing a little “Bo Bice with the mike stand” impression (without the long tresses of hair flailing around, naturally). It wasn’t the strongest singing we’ve heard so far, but he certainly commanded the stage and hit the big note at the end for a strong finish. I think it was his best performance so far.

Randy: yo Phil, it was a pretty good performance, a little pitchy
Paula: I think it was a good choice of song, there were some parts that were pitchy, but I liked hearing the various ranges of your voice
Simon: I wasn’t crazy about it, kind of a third division bar band performance. I don’t hear any grit in your voice, and you need grit to pull off a song like that. You’re being outsung by the other singers.

Poor Phil. He looked very upset after hearing his critiques, because he’d really given it his all, and it just dawned on him (live, in front of millions of people) that his best just isn’t going to be good enough to win this competition. Ouch.

Jordin Sparks:
She had her beautiful curls flat ironed, and her boobs on display in a low-cut number. Way to pander to those Antonella votes, Jordin. She towered over LuLu, while practing her song, I Who Have Nothing. LuLu said she loves the song, and thought it was perfect for Jordin. She predicted that Jordin had a great chance to make to the finale. She came out and belted out the song in a way that made it hard to believe she’s only 17. Best performance of the night! She had an incredible finish, and got a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.

Randy: it was a very tall order for you to sing that song, yet it was very controlled, a great performance
Paula: each week we learn just how great your range is becoming, you’re a wonderful performer
Simon: you sang it beautifully, but I feel like jumping off a bridge, it was sooooo gloomy. It was a bit depressing, but you did sing it beautifully. (what a stupid, not-constructive comment).

Sanjaya Malakar: before the commercial break, Ryan promised we’d see “the wild side of Sanjaya”...lord help us. Then, Ryan spoke with Peter Noone out in the studio audience, who asserted that Simon was wrong and this ISN’T a singing competition, it’s a voting competition. He got in another dig at Cowell (something about certain Brits who chose to move to the States....oh snap!) Sanjaya was torn between “You Really Got Me” and “I’m Into Something Good” but went for his first pick. He confessed he’s not the best singer in the competition, but would try his best anyhow. He squinted and shouted his way through the whole song, while the cameras panned to an obviously mentally-unstable little girl who was sobbing her pre-prepubescent eyes out for no apparent reason.

Randy: you shocked me and came out of your shell...your best performance to date
Paula: that’s what we’ve been waiting for, I hope you had fun up there
Simon: ooh ho, my god, I think that little girl’s face says it all (cringe)

At Ryan Seacrest’s sadistic urging, Sanjaya then went down into the audience and hugged inconsolable little Ashley, while Ryan spoke to her in a tone of voice typically reserved for your Uncle Schlomo who hasn’t been the same since he took that bullet to the frontal lobe in “Nam. Who is this kid, and why are they giving this teenybopper train wreck so much air time?

Time for a commercial break with this juicy news teaser: Elliott Yamin is dating a model, details at 11. Yowsa! Snaggletooth from last season is getting some! Boo-yah!

Gina Glocksen: in full-on Pat Benatar mode (black leather pants and torn up black tank), she replied to a fan question about how the competition has made her stronger. She chose the song Paint it Black, and althought LuLu thought it was a good song choice, she suggested Gina kick it up a bit into a higher key. She came out and rocked it, working the stage but too often shrieking her lyrics, instead of singing them.

Randy: loved the energy vibe, didn’t love the vocal, a little pitchy in spots
Paula: miles better than last week, this is what you have fun doing, let loose a little more
Simon: there were moments of complete torture in that vocal, it was so off melody and just was not very good, it was style over content. You’re gonna have to sing a heck of a lot better than that. Vocally: not good enough, sweetheart. (C’mon Simon, tell us how you REALLY feel)

Chris Sligh: He chose She’s Not There by The Zombies. Said Peter Noone gave him great advice: figure out what the song is about, sing the lyric with feeling, and you’ll be fine. Before he even stepped out, the crowd started out on their feet, when Chris suddenly emerged from the middle of the audience and worked his way to the stage. He seemed to be shouting a lot to me, and I’m still not sure what the heck he was singing about.
Randy: dude, it’s like a concert in here, It started out a little bit rough, but you wound up good.
Paula: yeah, he was a little ahead of the beat, you’re dressing much nicer, I like that you’re working the audience, feel free to be more personable with the audience
Simon: (giving Paula that “are you stoned?” look: What could he have done to be more personable with the audience? You did your thing, I don’t think you had a problem with the audience, it was a good song for your, you showed a lot of personality, and you did a lot better than last week.

Chris ended by giving a few lame, desperate shout outs to his “Fro Patrol” voters, this season’s answer to Taylor Hicks’ “Soul Patrol” phenom.

Melinda Dolittle:
She throttled back a bit on the doe-eyed false modesty this week, but tried to convince us that shew as “out of her comfort zone” with an torch song. Yeah, right. She sang As Long As He Needs Me, and after their practice session, LuLu didn’t have much advice at all, other than, Yup, I felt what you were trying to say. Thankfully, the Darth Vader helmet-hair is gone this week, but the performance started out slow and boring. Oh jeez, and they’re so desperate for something to focus on OTHER than Melinda’s face, the camera cut away in to that inconsolable stalker kid again. What is UP with that?

Randy: we saved the best vocal for last, you have great relative pitch, you’re a pro up there
Paula: you’re in your own league my dear
Simon: Are you really as nice as you seem? I thought it was a very boring song, but you made the second part absolutely sensational. So, you really are that nice? (don’t bet on it, Cowell.)

Eh...overall, I thought it was definitely better than the suck-fest of last week, but I still wasn’t blown away. The only performance that I thought was memorable was Jordin’s. And why, for the love of all that’s holy, would Ryan end the show by bringing that deranged, sobbing little moppet Ashley up on stage? Style over substance, indeed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dancing with the Stars: Recap, Episode 1

Tom Bergeron is back, along with the useless hunk of dead weight known as his co-host Samantha Harris. I was really hoping they’d wise up and ditch her this year...her inane comments last season had me hitting mute during the backstage interviews. Ah well...there’s always hope Heather Mills’ leg will fly off and smack Sam upside the head.

They started out with a quick dance number featuring the professional dancers, just so that we know what GOOD dancing actually looks like....’cause we’re probably not going to see much of that during the next two hours.

Next, they introduced this season’s “stars”: actor Ian Zering (has he done anything since 90210?), Supermodel Paulina Porizkova (youngest person ever on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue...is this the part where we act all impressed?), Billy Ray Cyrus (sans the unfortunate mullet that made him famous for half a second), “TV personality” Leeza Gibbons (why don’t they just say “a nobody”?), singer Joey Fatone (my god, Sulu, look at you! You’ve let yourself go!), boxer Laila Ali (anyone else insulted by all the “can they make a woman out of her” talk?), John Ratzenberger (a last-minute substitution), Shandi Whosherface, Clyde Drexler (he looks so thin and gangly), Heather Mills (lord, she can barely hobble down the steps—this doesn’t bode well) and Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ono (still sporting the unfortunate soul patch on his chin).

Wow...even Kathy Griffin wouldn’t return calls from half of these folks.

Then of course, we have our esteemed judges:
Len Goodman, the smart judge with the British accent (sound familiar?)
Bruno Tonoli: the flaming drama queen with the weird mannerisms and oddball sayings
Carrie Ann Inaba: a dancer whose only claim to fame recently is that she’s been dating some hot guy that’s a lot younger than she is.

Tonight, the ladies will be doing the Fox Trot, while the guys tackle the Cha Cha. And away we go!

First up: Ian Zering paired with two-time champ Cheryl Burke
Fans of reality TV may remember Ian’s ditzy blonde ex-wife Nikki battling alligators while flirting and bouncing her way through “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here” a few years ago. I really want to concentrate on their dancing, but good lord, I can’t help but notice that you can see Cheryl's tush dimples in that dress. Man, I gotta start working out.

Len: you keep getting really good partners, Ian was a little bit wooden, but a great job
Bruno: he wants to see more bump and grind with Cheryl, aka “the cherry on the cake”
Carrie Ann: use the floor some more (yeah, that’s helpful)

Samantha is babbling backstage with Ian and Cheryl. Time to press mute.

And the scores: 7, 7, 7 for a total of 21 out of 30. If they’d gone later in the program, I think they would have scored higher.

Paulina Porizkova with season 1 champ Alec Mazo:
She’s claiming to be a “klutz” but damn she looks good...what the heck is she still doing with Ric Ocasek? Loved when Alec said, “Oh you’re 5”11”? So am I.” Yeah, right—she’s got at least an inch on him. Uh oh, lots of campy acting, not a lot of actual dancing. When they do move they look like they’re in slow motion.

Len: tells her she has “musical arms” but criticizes her posture and their holds. It’s obvious from Paulina’s wide-eyed blank stare that Len used one too many big-syllable words in his critique
Carrie Ann: wisely uses smaller words, but imparts some more useless advice (something about how they need to work on fitting together better).
Bruno: the wacko sucks up and tells them they have class oozing from every pore. I think he wants to borrow her dress. Then he says a bunch of stuff with such a heavy accent, Paulina just nods and smiles with a confused look on her face.

Samantha backstage again, asking the hard-hitting questions: “What’s it like out there?” Yawn. The scores: 6, 6, 7 (Bruno is SUCH a suck-up) for a 19 out of 30

Commercial break, time for a question: What’s with all the orange in the room? No, I’m not talking about Clyde Drexler’s shirt and Paulina’s dress...I’m talking about the ridiculously obvious spray tans everybody’s sporting. And we’re back...

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and Karina Smirnoff
A big cheer goes up from the crowd when he mentions that he’s “Hannah Montana’s dad”, which actually bodes well for his chances...never underestimate the voting base that is teenage girls (right Sanjaya?). His feet move pretty fast, but his arms are just sort of flailing around, and the country music they’re dancing to makes it look nothing like a Cha Cha. I don’t blame Billy Ray, though...this was Karina’s big problem last season with Mario, too. She kept putting in choreography that wasn’t part of the dance, and didn’t care about the rules or adhere to the required techniques. She annoys me. Oh, and the ripping off of the wig at the end (which didn’t work, on so many levels) was just plain gimmicky and stupid.

Carrie Ann: work on your musicality, that wasn’t a cha cha
Bruno: you were like a crazy bear lost in a swamp, it wasn’t the cha cha
Len: it was more like a ho-down than a cha cha cha

Scores: 5, 4, 4 for a total of 13 out of 30. Ouch! Lowest scores EVER on DWTS. That’s right, folks...he did worse than Tucker Carlson, who spent most of his routine last season sitting in chair.

Leeza Gibbons and Tony Dovolani :
She’s the oldest woman in the competition, and I can’t stop staring at her tightly pulled eyebrows. She looks continually surprised (brow lift anyone?). They did well in terms of form, but again, they look like they’re moving in slow motion, which was the same problem Tony had last year with clunky Sara Evans.

Bruno: you’ve got to relax, it lacked flow, you have to let it go
Len: technically it was very good, had a lovely elegance, he blamed her nervousness for the stiffness
Carrie Ann: let your confidence shine (where does she come up with this stuff? Fortune cookies?)

Scores: 5, 5, 5 for a 15 out of 30...wow, lower than I thought

Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson:

Poor Kym got stuck with Jerry Springer last year, and now she’s stuck with this year’s “no attention span” Mario-type cut-up. Their high-energy dance is a nice break after the Leeza-snoozefest, but again, it’s not a cha-cha. And whoa, Joey’s “got back” in those white pants.

Carrie Ann: charismatic! fun! and you look so sparkly!
Len: the path to glory starts here, and you’ve just taken an enormous step forward (someone’s been dipping into Carrie Ann’s notes)
Bruno: tells them they “really sold it” despite the fact that his mike pack went flying off and smacked him in the butt while they were dancing.

Scores: 8, 8, 8 for a 24 out of 30. Overly generous scores, imo

Laila Ali and Maxsim Chmerkovsky
I love this girl. She’s feisty and funny (“We’re going to fight to the death for this competition” followed by a mean glare). Maxim must be a real terror behind the scenes, because they all seem to be taking a little too much glee in saying, “He’s met his match!” They do a nice job, but are we REALLY supposed to be amazed at her “transformation”? For heavens’ sakes, she IS a woman, not a drag queen, and she’s a lot more feminine than Viveca Fox was last year.

Bruno: this fox trot was oozing sex appeal, you commanded the stage
Carrie Ann: seamless, effortless, and fluid
Len: float like a butterfly and fly like a swan, great technique, a fantastic job

Scores: 7, 8, 8 for a total of 23 out of 30

Edyta Slwinskya and Cheers' John Ratzenberger
This duo had only two weeks to practice, since Sopranos heavyweight Vincent Pastore bowed out halfway through training due to history of heart trouble. Ratzenberger seems awfully laid back about the whole thing, because I think he realizes expectations for him are about as low as you can get, so he has nothing to lose. If he stinks, he can blame it on lack of practice time. His performance had shades of Jerry Springer, with his likable smile and the way he sang along with the music while he danced.

Carrie Ann: You’ve got great musicality (is that anything like Wessonality, perchance?)
Len: I was dreading your performance, thought it would be a disaster, but you did a good job. (uh, thanks) Watch your heel lead.
Bruno: Yeah, what he said about the heel lead. Very good job.

Scores: 6, 5, 6 for a total of 17 out of 30

Shandi Finnessy and Brian Fortuna
Miss Usa 2004, trying to make a name for herself now that her reign is over and she didn’t think to grab headlines for underage boozing and entering rehab while she had the chance (such a shrewdie, that Tara Conner). Brian is the newest pro on the block, and my, isn’t he all young and energetic? He’s also got a creepy smile that reminds me of Bruno Tonoli. Lovely Shandi towers over Brian while they dance, and while their arms appear to be moving wildly, their feet aren’t doing very much. They’re certainly blinding us with those white teeth, though. Sheesh, pass me some sunglasses.

Bruno: You’re Barbie and Ken come to life, and you smile too much, you crazy kids
Carrie Ann: Your upper body was fantastic (wow, like, really? Cool!) but try not to be so pigeon-toed with your feet (Hey...that doesn’t sound like a compliment. Pigeon what?)
Len: A little aggressive, but a good job (smart guy, he knows she has no idea what they’re saying, because she hasn’t stopped smiling yet)

Scores: 6, 6, 7 for a total of 19 out of 30

NBA hall of famer Clyde Drexler and Elena Grinenko
The tallest competitor ever (6’7”) paired with one of the smaller pros (5’4 ½”)...this oughta be good. He seems to have a good attitude, but can he dance? As soon as they took the stage, all I could think of was that it looks like a Dad dancing with his little girl—which was more than a little creepy when they did some of the suggestive moves. It was like watching a giraffe do the fox trot.

Carrie: You’re smooth on your feet, but use your height and fill the dance floor (uh, aren’t you basically telling him to lie down?)
Len: Such a charming performance, I hate to critique it, you were a revelation (okay, Len, but how was his DANCING? And what was that stuff about wishing you were at home sipping tea and eating a cheese log? Hmmm.....I’m getting the sense that 1992 wasn’t the only year Clyde was a member of somebody’s “Dream Team.” Ewwww.)
Bruno: You have the talent, big is beautiful, sell it and don’t apologize for it

Oh man, talk about mercy comments. Let’s see how they score him once he ambles backstage.

Scores: 6, 5, 5 for a total of 16 out of 30. The audience may have booed, but they know full well that 6 was a gift.

Heather Mills (soon-to-be-ex of "the cute Beatle") and Jonathan Roberts
They described her as a charity campaigner, which must be some newfangled British code for gold digging opportunistic wretch. At least she had the presence of mind to introduce herself to the poor clueless dance instructor (he flew all the way to England to meet her, and was probably expecting Madonna or Duchess Fergie to walk in). Jonathan’s eyes nearly fell out of his head when she said, “I have an artificial leg.” I’m sure they cut the footage where he said, “Yeah, right! Oooohkay, where’s Ashton at? Ha ha, good one!” Then the poor guy had to watch her pop off her “sneaker leg” and pop on her “dancing shoe leg” and appear as though he sees this every day. Oh yeah, no biggie, here lemme just help you put your other leg in this duffle bag here. No problem.

I tell you what: aside from a few awkward hop-skip steps and some unfortunate posture, she wasn’t half bad.

Len: great job with the choreography, you’re an inspiration
Bruno: you’ve got more guts than Rambo, watch your hands and shoulders (as if he wasn’t watching her feet the entire time, waiting for her leg to pop off just like the rest of America)
Carrie: watch your arms like Bruno said

Scores: 6, 6, 6 for an 18 out of 30 I think Billy Ray Cyrus just threw himself out a window (the chick with one leg got more than me? What the hay?!?)

Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough
The youngest professional dancer to compete, she’s 18 and all squeaky and shiny. With Apolo Ohno and his “heartthrob” reputation, you just know the producers are doing everything they can to make these two a hot item, and draw in ratings from those pathetic souls who enjoy a little fake romance with their reality TV. During a rare practice session—they have to work around his speedskating training schedule—Julianne accidentally punches him right in the kisser...excellent!

They certainly have lots of youth and natural talent out there on the floor, and their moves are energetic but somewhat sloppy.

Bruno: It was like watching Happy Feet all over again. Apolo has a lot of work to do, but he has the most potential of any of the stars tonight
Carrie: Your impact was pretty amazing (come again?), don’t lead with your shoulders
Len: Your posture isn’t great (uh, yeah Len, he’s a speedskater...they start out all of their races hunched down), make sure you get that lovely ballroom look for next week

Scores: 7, 7, 7 for a 21 out of 30

There you have it, the very first episode of the season. A bloated two-hour premiere filled with mediocre dancing from a bunch of people you wouldn’t recognize on the street even if they had their I.D.s stapled to their foreheads. The promoters of this season’s Dancing with the Stars made quite a bit of fuss about how this group of celebs had less time to practice than in seasons past, and it sure does show. What were they thinking? For the most part, it was like amateur hour at the local dance club. There’s not one contestant that has the polish of Mario, the energy of Joey, or the smooth grace of Emmitt from last season. Unless these contestants “step it up” and improve exponentially each week, they’re going to have to change the name of the show to Snoozing with the Stars.

Dancing with the Stars premieres tonight!

This show is such a guilty pleasure.

I'm hoping that Heather Mills (Paul McCartney's soon-to-be-ex) does a face plant tonight. Can't stand the woman! I don't care how much she's done for land mine awareness and animal rights, she's always struck me as an opportunistic witch. Feh!

This season's "Who the Heck Is THAT" award goes to Shandi Finnessy, Miss Usa 2004. Talk about scraping the bottom of the "celebrity" barrel.

Shandi Who?

I'm rooting for Billy Ray Cyrus, if for no other reason than my kids are big fans of Hannah Montana, the TV show featuring his daughter Miley.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Grapefruit Diet

Fad diets don't work--at least not for long--and yet, I've managed to let a good friend talk me into trying the ridiculous Grapefruit Diet with her. The claim: you will lose 52 pounds in 10 weeks, or about five pounds a week.

yeah....and you'll also never want to see another grapefruit again for as long as you live.

What the heck, though...my buddy wants to give it a shot, and she doesn't want to do it alone (what is it they say, about how misery loves company?) and so I'm going to give it a whirl.

12 days without pasta. Lord help me! The rules are pretty straightforward:

* Drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of non-caloric drinks (preferably water). Slosh slosh...just like any other diet so far

* You can eat until you are full (uh, thanks) and you can't eliminate anything from the diet (especially the grapefruit servings, the bacon and the salads), lest you tear a whole in the very fabric of the space-time continuum.

* You can stuff your face full of huge portions of meat, salad, and allowed vegetables, but Allah have mercy on your soul if you eat so much as a grain of rice or a crust of bread.

* Limit coffee/caffeine intake to one cup at mealtime.

* No snacking between meals. Duh.

* You can drown your allowed foods in butter, but stay away from all desserts, breads, white (starchy) veggies, and potatoes of any kind.

You're supposed to stay on this diet for 12 days, take 2 days off, and then start up again. I'll be lucky if I last a week.

My buddy and I will weigh in again next Sunday, and whoever has lost the most weight wins (based on the overall percentage of body weight lost, not the actual # of pounds). The loser has to kick in $5 towards a future lunch date, where we'll most likely gain back every ounce we've lost.

The menu:
Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit or 8oz unsweetened grapefruit juice, 2 eggs (any style) 2 slices bacon
Lunch: 1/2 grapefruit or 8oz unsweetened grapefruit juice, Salad with any dressing, Meat (any style, in any amount you want), Coffee or tea (1 cup)
Dinner: 1/2 grapefruit or 8oz unsweetened grapefruit juice, Salad with any dressing OR a red or green veggie cookied in butter or spices, Meat or Fish (cooked in any style).

Bedtime Snacks: 8 oz of tomato juice (YUCK) or 8oz skim milk (ugh, those are the only two choices? bleh)

We'll see how this goes. I would like to lose a total of 19 pounds by June 30th, which is the day I leave for my big European summer vacation. This diet seems like a modified form of Atkins, which is one of the only other quick-fix diets that every worked for me. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

American Idol Results!

I'll cut right to the chase: Brandon Rogers is headed home, and Sanjaya lives to see another week. UGH!

I don't know why they bothered to put Sanjaya in the bottom two...we knew there was no way he was going home.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

American Idol Top 12: Diana Ross week

geez, Regis hasn’t even gone under the knife yet, and already Ryan Seacrest is stealing his tone-on-tone shirt & tie look, circa the early days of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Oh great, and why is Diana Ross working a Jennifer Beals/Flashdance ensemble in the mentoring clips? I’ve got a bad feeling about tonight, but here we go....

First up was Brandon Rogers, singing You Can’t Hurry Love, a Ross hit from 1966. He looked stiff and uncomfortable during the first half of the performance, and needs to show some more personality if he wants to stick around more than a couple of weeks. Things went from bad to worse as the song progressed, and I heard his voice crack once and though, “Uh oh...he’s gonna choke.” Sure enough, once he did that ridiculous Elvis-inspired leg wiggle, he rattled his brains and forgot his lyrics ¾ of the way through his song. Randy and Paula tried to couch the news of his incredible awfulness, but I’m with Simon all the way on this one: a complete letdown, no originality, not good enough.

Melinda Dolittle needs to fire that stylist she gave a shout out to a few weeks ago. The cutsie cap sleeves she wears week after week make it look like she’s constantly shrugging her shoulders, and the Darth Vader helmet hair has to go. She sang, Home, one of my favorite songs from The Wiz. The beginning of the song was a little boring, but she did a terrific job, hitting some big notes and singing her heart out like a seasoned pro--immediately reverting back to her wide-eyed "aw shucks, you mean, you liked it?" surprised look at the end. Argh!

Paula, bless her ditzy heart, graced us with a mini emotional-breakdown, sobbing her eyes out and declaring her excitement over what Melinda was experiencing (what’s that exactly? oh yes, the knowledge that SHE can actually SING. Someone, please pass Ms. A a tissue. ) Simon referred to her as a young Gladys Knight, but my favorite part was when he asked her, in an exasperated tone, “Why are you crying, Melinda?” The whole "humble pie" schtick has got to go!

Chris Sligh sang my least favorite Diana Ross song, Endless Love. Oh dear, Ross is advising him to “find the melody and hold onto it.” That does NOT bode well for his performance, and sure enough, he sounds totally out of sync with the music. He’s not wearing his glasses, either, which only adds to the weirdness of his sped-up, decidedly un-romantic version of this sinfully sappy ballad. What say the judges? Randy called it “weird” and “a mess”, Paula cautioned him not to try so hard to be “cool” and “contemporary”, and Simon told him he murdered the arrangement, and called the performance unemotional and uninspiring. Judging by Chris’ after-banter with Ryan, it sounds like he’s getting a serious case of attitude behind the scenes. He “respects Diana Ross, but...” BUT? But nothing! Dude, she was the musical guest this week, you’re singing HER songs, she’s been in the business for over 40 years...you might want to listen to her.

Gina Glocksen, on the other hand, was clearly hanging on Diana’s every word as she offered some great (albeit grammatically incorrect) advice on her rocker rendition of Love Child. (Someone might want to mention to Ms. Ross that the word is “annunciate” not “pronunciate”. Whatever...she’s a singer, not a scholar.) I think it’s becoming pretty clear that the contestants are really feeling the nerves tonight. The judges were underwhelmed, but I think her middle-of-road performance will be enough to keep her for another week.

Sanjaya Malakar singing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough? Please, say it ain’t so! Diana Ross seemed oddly smitten by the Michael Jackson-esque teenager. And, just like the creepy one-gloved wonder, Sanjaya seemed unnaturally obsessed with Ms. Ross, to the point that he curled his infamous mop of hair just like hers. The judges really let him have it: Randy called it “almost unlistenable” although he thought the ‘fro hair was “popping”, Paula reiterated Diana’s inexplicable assertion that “Sanjaya is pure love” even though he wasn’t on pitch at all throughout the song. Simon said Diana Ross is going to scream when she hears how “Pure Love” butchered her song, and poor clueless Sanjaya needed Ryan to explain what exactly that meant. Please America, put us all out of our misery and STOP VOTING FOR THIS KID.

Next up, Hayley Scarnato. She chose Missing You, and Diana Ross tried to convey the heartbreak and emotion behind it (she was missing the late-Marvin Gaye when she co-wrote it), but Hayley insisted on conjuring thoughts of her insipid fiancĂ© back home (remember, the guy who “doesn’t do well” while she’s away? ugh). Ross also worried that Hayley had more of a studio voice, and wouldn’t be able to “project” to a larger audience. So, how’d she do? Well, she certainly looked pretty in her hot purple mini-dress, but she spent most of the song furrowing her brow and looking confused, and pretty soon, she was missing the lyrics, too, and ended on a clunker of a flat note. Randy called it “a valiant effort” and chalked it up to nerves, while Paula trotted out her standard “you look lovely tonight” pity bone. Simon definitely noticed the mini-dress because he said, “It wasn’t that bad.” Judging with something other than your brain, Mr. Cowell? Methinks so. Oh, and how funny was Paula’s follow-up comment (meant to encourage Hayley not to be so hard on herself for forgetting the lyrics) that the audience “doesn’t know anything”? Talk about projecting, sheesh.

Diana Ross looked a little frightened by tall-blond-and-stalkery Phil Stacey when he first walked in, but she loved his song choice because it brought back great memories for her. (Uh yeah, that’s it, THAT’S why she was closing her eyes the whole time he was singing. Nothing personal, Phil.) Singing I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, a hit made popular by Ross & Marvin Gaye, Phil had the best performance by any of the guys so far tonight—which isn’t saying much. At least he looked like he was enjoying himself out there, and he took Ross’ advice to heart and tried to look at the audience and connect with them. Randy and Paula gave middling praise, and Simon told him he made the right song choice. “It wasn’t outstanding, it wasn’t awful, but it was better than last week” according to Simon.

Watching the video clip, it was clear that LaKisha Jones connected with Diana Ross on a professional level, asking her thought-provoking questions about how she should sing God Bless the Child. I found it very interesting that this was the first contestant that Ross seemed to relate to as an equal—and with good reason. LaKisha came out looking and sounding like a star, commanding the stage from the moment she stepped out into the spotlight. Eight contestants in, and it was the first standing ovation of the night! Randy called it “Sensational,” Paula said something useless and bland (“Your heart comes through, and that’s what’s important”) and Simon said simply, “You either have it or you don’t, and you have it.” He pointed out that LaKisha didn’t appear intimidated by the crowd, and that she and deer-in-the-headlights Doolittle are in a different league. If it comes down to LaKisha and MindyDoo in the finals, I’m telling you right now, I’m putting in another phone line just so that I can put “KiKi” over the top.

Blake Lewis needs to ditch the turned up collar look. I was going to criticize the spikey hairdo, too, until they showed him in the pre-recorded clip with hideous, slicked-forward bangs. Ewww, that wasn’t even a good look on George Clooney. Blake chose to do an updated version of You Keep Me Hangin’ On, with mixed results. I wasn’t thrilled with the tempo—it would have worked better if he’d sped it up just a bit more—but at least it was interesting, unique, and stayed true to this other performances. He’s got a good voice, but the song just didn’t showcase it to full effect. Randy thought he put too much of his own stamp on it, and Paula agreed, but reminded people that he does have a good voice. Simon didn’t get it, but told Blake he’d be fine.

Stephanie Edwards chose Love Hangover—not my favorite song, but I think it’s a good fit for Stephanie. She took Diana Ross’ advice and added a bit more soul to her onstage performance than we saw in the practice clip, but there didn’t seem to be enough varied lyrics to hold my interest. She kept moaning and singing the same 6 or 7 notes over and over again. Randy: “awright, so yo...” hmmm, sounds like he’s having trouble thinking of something nice to say, too. Paula asked her why she didn’t sing the uptempo disco portion of the song, and if it was an artistic choice? Nice try. Simon blamed it on a "strange arrangement," and told her she chose the wrong song.

Ugh, and here’s Chris Richardson in his recorded video clip with Diana, once again sporting an unfortunate hat. This one looks like a confederate soldier cap, without the little military insignia on the front. He sang The Boss, an upbeat choice that called for lots of moving and dancing while he performed, which made his falsetto voice sound shaky and chipmunk-ish. Randy said it was so-so, Paula gave him points for keeping it fresh and contemporary, and Simon brought him back to reality and told him the vocals were terrible. The studio audience rained down the obligatory boos, but that's okay, because they don’t know anything (right, Paula?).

Jordin Sparks chose a ballad, If We Hold On Together, and promised to take Diana Ross’ advice to heart and really “feel” the song. Ross also said Jordin has “an inner light”, and encouraged her to project during her performance. Unlike most of the other contestants, Jordin actually followed through on what Ross told her, and sang the song beautifully. Her performance was subtle, controlled, and came across as heartfelt and touching. Oh lord help me, while Randy’s telling her it’s now a “three girl race” between Jordin, Melinda and LaKisha, I can already see Paula blowing her nose. She holds it together long enough to blather out some compliments, and Simon concurred that Jordin’s vocal was great.

As I watched the recap clips & phone numbers whiz by one last time, I am overcome by the realization that I just spent two hours of my life watching what amounted to less than 10 minutes of worthwhile performances. The rest was either so-so or just plain awful.

They can't seem to thin down this Final 12 fast enough. Tune in tomorrow for the elimination results!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Comedian Richard Jeni: Dead at 49

I feel terrible about the death yesterday of comedian Richard Jeni. He has always been one of my favorite comedians of all time, and I simply can't believe he committed suicide. I'm curious to see how the investigation into his death unfolds.

For our first date back in 1988, my husband and I went to a comedy club in Brooklyn, and Richard Jeni was the featured performer. There were many comedians making the rounds at the clubs back then, including a couple of unknowns named Ray Romano and Richard Lewis. I'd seen those guys give great shows, and some so-so shows, but Richard Jeni never had a bad night when I saw him perform.

John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and now, Richard Jeni. Why is it that so many gifted comedians lead such turbulent lives, that end all too soon?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Maple Syruping Season begins!

Photo by RichYak 2007

The sap has finally started flowing here in NJ...pretty soon, we'll have enough to boil up a batch of homemade syrup.

Pancakes, anyone?

Volpino Italiano: a rare dog breed

When I was 5, my family got a dog. He was all white, with brown ears, and a little brown spot on top of his head. We named him Columbo, in honor of the lovable T.V. detective played by Peter Falk.

Columbo was a wonderful pet: he was smart, an excellent watchdog, affectionate, and not the least bit destructive. He lived to be 17 years old, and it still wasn't long enough for me.

We always knew that Columbo was half collie and half spitz, but it wasn't until today that I found out specifically what breed of spitz he was. Columbo was half Volpino Italiano, a rare breed of dog that is known for its longevity and hardiness.

My family and I have talked about getting a dog in the next few years, and now that I've seen some Volpino puppies online, I think I know exactly what breed I will get.

Heck, if it was good enough for Michelangelo, it's good enough for me!

The newest Disney Princess: It's about time!

Hard to believe it took so long, but Disney is finally going to have an African-American heroine in one of their animated features! Their upcoming movie, "The Frog Princess", will showcase a beautiful princess named Maddy.

I remember how excited my daughter was when Beauty & the Beast premiered, and Belle was depicted as a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl. There's something very affirming and confidence-building when a little girl sees someone who looks just like her starring in a film, and Disney has been much better about depicting something other than blonde blue-eyed ingenues in their films. In recent years, we've had Indian princess Jasmine, Hawaiian beauty Lilo, Chinese heroine Mulan, and now, Maddy. Good for you, Disney....good for all of us.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

American Idol: The Top 12 Results!

Time for the contestants to find out if they've secured a coveted spot in the Top 12! And this time, they're giving out the news to the boys and girls together.

Here are the results, in the order they got the news:

Blake Lewis and LaKisha : They both advance to the Top 12, and will work with Diana Ross next week. Was there ever any doubt?

Chris Sligh: Ryan made him sweat it out until after the break, but no worries dawg, 'cause he is safe!

Jordin Sparks: America loves you, Miss Heartbreaker. Safe!

Phil Stacey: Safe! The unfortunate hat-wearer will live to see another week.

Jared Cotter: The journey ends for him tonight...he's going home.

Melinda Dolittle and Brandon Rogers: Is there room for two backup singers, Ryan asks? YES, they're both safe.

Gina Glocksen and Chris Richardson: They've both made it into the top 12. Only 3 spots left, and 6 people still sitting on the couch.

A short Carrie Underwood break...and the promise of a "big announcement" coming up later

Antonella Barba and Stephanie Edwards: Antonella is GOING HOME!! YES!!!!!! There IS a God! Stephanie is safe. Whew!

Haley Scarnato and Sabrina Sloan: One is safe, and one is going home. Haley is safe (take THAT, Simon Cowell!) and Sabrina is headed home. C'mon, we knew there had to be at least one shocker. As Sabrina cries her eyes out on Haley's shoulder, Ryan calls it "one of the most intense episodes we've had here." Randy says, "America got it wrong."

Ryan makes the BIG announcement: in honor of AI's 200th episode, they've decided to "give back" and donate money to worthy causes. They're showing Simon & Ryan doing some male bonding in Africa, visiting poor children and passing out what looked to me like bunches of overripe bananas.

Randy reveals that he's going to bring Paula back to his hometown in New Orleans, and also visit parts of Mississipi, to help people who are struggling in those regions.

On April 24th and 25th, the Top 6 show will feature "inspirational songs", and for every vote cast after the Tuesday night show, AI sponsors (Coke, GM and others)will donate money to this new charity. During the Wednesday show, viewers will be able to call in and pledge additional numbers. Borat will be making a special appearance (because, nothing says "We care" more than a comedian with a fake accent saying, "My name eh Borat!"), along with Gwen Stefani, Pink, Quincy Jones, Josh Groban, Bono and others.

Alllll-righty then. Back to the results:

We're down to Sanjaya Malakar and Sundance Head, neither of whom deserve a spot in the Top 12. Nevertheless, one of them IS staying, and we'll find out who....after the break!

And...Sanjaya has STOLEN...uh, I mean, taken the final spot in the Top 12. Buh-bye Sundance!

The judges take a few moments to act stunned that Sundance the Screamer is leaving, and it's so long for another week. Cue the Daughtry music...4 unlucky contestants fade back into obscurity, and here is your Top 12 America:

Blake Lewis

La Kisha Jones

Chris Sligh

Jordin Sparks

Phil Stacey

Melinda Dolittle

Brandon Rogers

Gina Glocksen

Chris Richardson

Stephanie Edwards

Haley Scarnato

Sanjaya Malakar

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

American Idol, Week 3: The Top 8 Girls

Another night of AI, another evening of contestant “revelations” and make-or-break performances. Will the girls once again prove that the boys suck and they rule?

Jordin Sparks: She came out rockin’ with Pat Benatar’s Heartbreaker, but right from the start, the song seemed like a poor fit. It sounded like she messed up the words in the beginning, and all of that growling and stomping around struck me as a bit forced. Randy and Paula—anxious to keep people from flipping the channels like last night—poured on the praise (“Wow that was hot, that was dope.”) Simon gave her a dose of reality, telling her (rightly so) that it was a bit shrieky and manic. All 3 judges said they fully expected her to be around for a long time, but I’m not so sure. Going first in the lineup has been the kiss of death for many of the contestants: unless you hit it out the park and make a big impression, voters are going to forget how you did by the end of the show, and are less likely to call in for you. Jordin may be in big trouble tomorrow night...she’s got to hope a couple of other girls lose their way and tank tonight.

Sabrina Sloan: Her revelation was that she had big dreams of being the next Katie Couric, until she found music. She trotted out a soulful, bluesy Mary J. Blige song, but sounded sharp throughout, like she was shouting the high notes rather than hitting them (something Randy acknowledged when he said, “I wish there had been a bit more melody in that”). Paula then poured on the hyperbole about what a great great great voice Sabrina has (Paula, please, go back to sleep, or wherever it was you were hiding at the start of the show). Simon said it was a bit robotic, and that she needs to inject some personality.

Antonella Barba: Forget about those racy girl-on-girl pics floating around the internet—Antonella’s BIG secret is that she plays the violin. Ah well...let’s face it, anything she said would have been anti-climatic after all the dirty laundry this girl has had aired on the web these past few weeks. She tackled a Corinne Bailey Rae song (Put Your Records On), which was a smart choice, since she could speak most of it instead of reaching for notes that she can’t hit. The audience—usually willing to jump up and dance wildly at the drop of a hat—was oddly sedate and quiet during her performance....made me wonder if they’ve been sipping from Paula’s red Coke cup. No surprise that the judges gave her tepid praise...it’s clear they are ready for Antonella to go home. Simon said it as plain as he could, “You’ve gone as far as you can go.” When Antonella tried to explain away the fact that she is clearly out of her league, Simon snapped, “Let’s get real here.” I couldn’t agree more. Short of getting out a big hook and dragging her off the stage, the judges did everything they could tonight to ensure Antonella’s departure. Unfortunately, I still don’t think it’ll be enough. She’s this season’s Jasmine Trias, without the annoying Hawaiian flower behind one ear.

Haley Scarnato: Haley shared some cute video of herself as a child gymnast, a pursuit she gave up when her body “gave out” and she turned to singing. After tonight’s performance, I started wondering what she’s going to pursue next now that her voice has crapped out, too. She sure looked pretty, but that was about it...there was absolutely nothing memorable in her performance. As Randy said so eloquently: dawg, it was pretty much in tune, but had no pizzazz...there was no “Yo” in it. Simon was more brutal: he thought it was “horrible, like a terrible ghastly high school performance.” He also said that she hasn’t made enough of an impression this season to pull in the votes. Whew...at least Jordin Sparks is probably safe now.

Stephanie Edwards: Her big secret is that she’s been singing since she’s 3 years old, but that she used to be really shy. Y-a-w-n. Tonight’s show is not going well....no one is stepping up to show much personality, and the performances all seem a little off. Midway through the song, Stephanie found her footing and hit some good notes, ending off strong. Randy was honest in saying that her version of the song couldn’t hold a candle to Chaka Kahn’s original, but as Simon pointed out, she’s certainly deserving of a spot in the Top 12.

LaKisha: Our girl revealed that she is terrified of animals--a normally fatal-flaw with me that I am totally willing to overlook, based on her performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” It had all of the big notes of the original, without the weird facial expressions that I hated from the video. Her version was more subtle and less showy than Whitney’s, and that alone deserves a pass into the next round. It wasn’t LaKisha’s best performance this season, but it was still strong, and oh my, did Simon just give her a positive comment on her appearance? By gosh, I think he did. He was right though...she looked beautiful! A side note: LaKisha seems to have dropped her surname (Jones) this week...who didn’t see THAT coming?

Gina Glocksen: Gina trotted out all of her odd (and somewhat disturbing---a stuffed pickle?) good luck charms for her opening montage. Ugh. Try as I might, I just can’t force myself to like this girl. I’m still not buying this whole “rocker persona” she’s adopted. The red streaked hair, fishnet arm wrap, pink bra peeking out from under her sheer skull & crossbones shirt...it was all a little too much for me. Simon made her cry when he said he hopes she makes it through to the next round...at this point I think he’ll say anything to get people NOT to vote for Antonella. She has a good voice, but I don’t believe for a second that she’s our next American Idol. I think they want her to advance so that they have someone to sing something “edgy” for the Idol Top 12 CD compilation, instead of a Celine/Mariah/Whitney ballad.

Melinda Dolittle: OMG, oh no you din’t! You did NOT just reveal that you have OCD to 30 million people? I love it. Good for Melinda! She came out and owned the stage with a confidence and sass that no other contestant has shown yet this season. Girl can SING, and she rocked it tonight. I just wish she’d ditch the wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights, “Oh golly, you mean, you really liked it?” schtick, ‘cause she knows damn well she blew everyone else away tonight. Even Ryan did his own version of “Snap Out of It!” when he told her, “Don’t look so scared! Own it!!”

I think nerves got the best of the contestants tonight, and only LaKisha and Melinda can consider themselves truly safe from elimination. The real question is: if Antonella ISN’T sent home tomorrow night, what else can the judges possibly do (short of hiring someone to drive her out to a remote farm and leave her tied to the gate) to get this girl out of the competition?

Check back tomorrow night for the results!

R.I.P. Tombolina

I'm sad to report that we have lost a dear member of the family.

Her name was Tombolina, and she lived to be 5 1/2 years old--a long & full lifetime for a guinea pig.

We first got her in 2001 as a gift for my daughter, who had begged for years for a pet. She named her new friend "Crystal", and declared that she would take care of all her guinea pig's needs.

That lasted about an hour.

Unfortunately, we soon learned that a guinea pig is not a great choice for a squeamish 7-year-old. All Crystal did was eat and poop...mostly poop, in copious amounts, all day long. Keeping the cage clean was damn near impossible, and after numerous attempts to get my daughter to step up and take care of it, we finally decided it would be best to find a new home for Crystal (especially after we took in our second stray cat--a crazy gray striped feline named Tiger--who made it all-too-clear that she considered guinea pigs a singular delicacy).

My husband's sister, Cathy, offered to adopt the guinea pig so that she'd stay "in the family." God bless her...she and her husband loved that guinea pig and spoiled it rotten for the past three years. They re-named her Tombolina, and treated her like a little princess. She led a very happy life with them.

Tombolina died during the night...my SIL found her early this morning and called me after the kids had left for school. The weirdest thing in all of this is that just this morning, before she got on the bus, my daughter asked me if I'd let the cats up during the night. I told her no, the cats were still secure in their basement lair. She was surprised to hear it, because she could swear she felt one of them cuddling with her this morning at around 5:30am.

It seems our dear departed Crystal/Tombolina stopped by to say a little farewell to her original owner, before heading up to that great big pet shop in the sky. Very cool of her.

Rest in peace, Tombolina.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

American Idol, Week 3: The Top 8 Guys

This week’s gimmick: the contestants are asked to tell viewers something revealing about themselves. (I already can’t help wondering if Antonella’s planning on bringing visuals with her for tomorrow’s show. Set those DVRs now!)

Blake Lewis: His big revelation? He loves improv, and introduced one of his comedic characters, a painfully unfunny country hick with buckteeth named “Jimmy Walker Blue”. Way to alienate every state in the South, Blake. The song started out weak and off-key. At least he took a risk, choosing a reggae song that nobody recognized, but I would have re-thought those hideous plaid pants (more suited to a octogenarian golfer than an American Idol). The judges went easy on him, though, with Simon proclaiming that Blake should “sail through to the next round.” I’m not sure if that’s because Blake is just that good, or if the contestants who are slated to come after him are just that BAD.

Sanjaya Malakar: “People might actually be surprised to find out I can hula.” Oh yeah, dude, that’s a shocking secret for sure. Almost as shocking as the fact that O.J. has never remarried, Howard K. Stern hasn’t agreed to a paternity test yet, and the sun rises in the East. The most entertaining part of Sanjaya’s appearance was Simon’s riff on his “Paula hairstyle” and the subsequent hilarity that ensued. Ryan gallantly swept in to defend Paula Abdul’s honor by pointing out that the mop of hair on Sanjaya’s noggin looks nothing like her own glorious extensions. Chivalry is not dead, ladies and gentlemen.

Sundance Head: His “secret” (that he’s really got a smokin’ hot body, and only wears a fat suit to fake out America) was as lame as his screaming performance. Randy and Paula need to have their ears cleaned out (“you lost the melody a little bit a few times, but that was pretty hot, dawg” WTF?), and even Simon let him off relatively easy. The only reason I can think of for not totally slamming him is to avoid any possibility of a sympathy vote. Seriously, why is this guy still here?

Chris Richardson: His confession that he used to be “chunky” and play football was only mildly interesting, and had about the same impact as his safe-and-boring performance. It was pleasant, but as Simon said, it didn’t have me “jumping out of my chair.” He still sounds like he’s trying to imitate Justin Timberlake, which will only get him so far, especially once he’s up against the girls in the Top 12.

Jared Cotter: The revelation that he used to play college basketball was far less shocking than the fact that he gave one heck of a performance this week. Stevie Wonder’s “If You Really Love Me” was upbeat, on-key, and a great fit for Jared. Even more shocking: Paula Abdul seemed to suddenly wake from her six-season-long foggy stupor to give a critique that came eerily close to being coherent and constructive! Wow!!

Brandon Rogers: For a guy who plays classical piano, he can certainly funk things up when he wants to. I liked his performance, but once again, it didn’t have the “wow” factor one would expect from this stage in the competition. Simon did his best to buy Brandon some votes by saying he was a bit “worried” for him this week.

Phil Stacey: Oh dear. Poor Phil unveiled so many poor choices this week. He revealed that his baldness is an intentional choice (he shaves his head because...he doesn’t like short hair. Hmm’kay), he wore a goofy bucket hat (actually, I think it was a fedora with the brim crushed down) that made his ears look huge, and then he chose a sappy LeeAnn Rimes song that had dogs everywhere howling in protest. Sanjaya might want to send Phil a nice gift basket after Wednesday’s results show.

Chris Sligh: He revealed that his“luscious curls” are all natural, and he’ll never get a perm. I love this guy....he can sing anything, and proved once again that he’s in a totally different league than any of the other guys in this competition. Paula inexplicably called it, “middle of the road”, and Simon accused him of shouting the song. Chris seemed genuinely surprised by their tepid comments, which in my opinion, were overly harsh and undeserved.

Overall, an underwhelming night for the guys. No one was a standout, and I think we’ll see at least one shocking departure on Thursday.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Help Al Gore Raise Awareness on Global Warming!

On March 21st, 2007, Al Gore will be speaking to Congress about the worldwide crisis that is Global Warming. PLEASE show your support by visiting his website, and signing your name to a postcard that will be delivered to your State Representative when Al Gore visits Washington D.C. later this month.

Click HERE to sign a postcard and support this vital cause!

If Ignorance and Arrogance had a baby...

...it would be Ann Coulter.

I can't stand this woman. She's the worst of both worlds: she touts "conservative" values while slinking around in skin-tight outfits, playing off her sexuality and spewing poison while running her dragon-lady fingernails through her bleached blonde hair. I've never seen someone try so hard to be edgy and hip and fail so miserably.

After her hateful comments at a recent political function (she inexplicably referred to Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards--a heterosexual, married man and father of three--using a homophobic slur), even the Republicans are denouncing her.

It's about damn time.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

American Idol, Week 2: Results Show

The votes are in, and "It's a New Day" indeed for 4 of our contestants.

Eliminated this evening: Nick Pedro, Alaina Alexander, AJ Tabaldo and Leslie Hunt.


Nick's departure wasn't much of a shock. His performance was bland and uninspired, and I knew he was in trouble when they gave the drummer more camera time than him. Wonder if he'll try out again next year? Third time's the charm??


Alaina's ouster was more a mercy killing than anything else, but I give the girl credit for FINALLY demonstrating why it's so ill-conceived to have the just-booted contestants sing one last time. Poor Alaina couldn't get the words out to her song, and had to plead with the other contestants to come out on stage with her for a group hug and some half-hearted backup singing to get through it. It was embarrassing and pitiful, and I felt sorry for her. Back to obscurity for Alaina!


Both AJ and Leslie chose to sing Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" (It's a New Day) this week, and now that BOTH of them got the boot, I think it's safe to assume this song will NEVER again be chosen by another Idol contestant. Talk about unlucky mojo! Leslie's eventual departure was an inevitability, given her considerable singing limitations, but at least she showed some sense of humor as she sang her way out, posing the question, "Why did I scat? America hates jazz singing..."


Out of the 4 contestants that left the competition tonight, AJ is the one with the most to complain about. His performance on Tuesday was one of the best of the night, and he put forth another solid effort during his swan song tonight. It's not fair that he got sent home, while tone-deaf Sanjaya and screaming Sundance are around for another week.

Such are the pitfalls of a competition like American Idol. Once the choice is in America's hands, it ceases to be a singing competition, and becomes a popularity contest.