Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Comin' to Americ-aaaaaaah! AI final five results

It's the songs of Neil Diamond, kids! He's been around forevah, y'all. Each contestant will get two songs, and we will somehow cram it into one hour - a worse crush than the round of 24, actually. I wish they'd go to 90 minutes for the next three rounds: ten songs, eight songs, nine songs. That's enough time to actually perform.

Anyway, Jason first. "Forever in Blue Jeans." I like it. He just has a likeable voice and a pleasant manner. He was made to sing songs like this, instead of "Memory." Decent start to the evening.

David Cook has chosen two more obscure songs. The first is "I'm Alive." He's actually channeling Neil's patented "sliding vowel" technique: I'm al-i-aaaaave! High marks for this. He seems to be the only one of the final six or seven who bothered to raise his game.

Ladybug said she would have liked to hear the H.I.M. version of "Solitary Man." She has a total thing for Ville Valo and the band. I'm rather glad he didn't nick the thing, but H.I.M. is a good show - their "Wicked Game" is terrific and their stuff is decently rocking.

Brooke is taking her gee-tar on "I'm a Believer" and saving the piano for "I Am, I Said." I don't like this idea. Alas, it is so - she is doing the Smashmouth version and it is horrid. All I can see is Donkey singing with a gingerbread boy, only nobody likes it. Paula, a big Shrek fan apparently, is still dancing about.

Sign in the crowd: "My Husband Has a Man-Crush on Seacrest." HAHAHAHAHA!

David Archuleta is next - "Sweet Caroline" and "Comin' to America." My threat, however, remains active, depending on how this goes. Unless the rest of Caroline starts to improve, I'm catching a cab, Crown Prince. Finally, he reaches the chorus and picks a key, and sticks to it. What a mess. Still better than Brooke, but well in the rear of the other gents.

Syesha is toiling through "Hello Again." She did get a hug from Neil (awwwww), but crapola, she's Happy Facing. The crowd is doing to slow arm-wave again. Urge to kill.... rising.... Wow, that was over pretty quickly. They are galloping through these tunes. Go to 90 minutes, for pity's sake.

Judges' comments! Yay! Crazy time! Randy is quick, and Paula is completely bonkers. She complained about having no time to take notes. If you weren't doing Drunken Master tai chi during the songs you could do it, Pawler. Simon kills all the contestants, tells them to pick things up for the second song.

Castro, take two: "September Morn." (Two lovahs playin scenes from some romantic pleeeaaaaay!) He hits a couple of rough notes, and there's more stupid tweener arm waving. Regrettably, this is very sleepy. Bad news, Jason. You've got to GO FOR A NOTE, especially when it's Neil's stuff. Sep. Tem. Bah. MOOOOOOAAAAHN! Failing that, you have to make it utterly your own. Poor boy fell between two stools there. Maybe he's sad because Pawler stole all of his herb.

David Cook ("the rocker," according to Ryan) is already moving onto the stage. Gosh, this is like a relay race up there. "All I Really Need is You," and he's singing this awfully sedately for a rocker. Now it goes power ballad for the second half. Not as impressed this time, but still pretty good.

Randy: Blazing.
Paula: Stutter glig bibble blah blah I see the next American Idol.
Simon: brilliant, made it sound like it was written this year.
'fly: This year? Chicago and Journey did fifty power ballads each in the 70's and 80's.

Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer... as done by the Wachoski Brothers. OH NOES.

Brooke's second song. She Is, She Said. She's tinkering with the lyrics per Neil's advice by chaning "New York City born and raised" to "Arizona born and raised." That's fine and good - but then you have to actually change the other stuff to make sense. I mean, "lost between two shores"? Which shore is Arizona on? The Rockies? And "Arizona's home" didn't scan at all. (Besides, she should have changed "No one heard at all, not even the chair." Begging your pardon, Mr. Diamond, but that's one of the all-time "wha?" lyrics.) Folks, this is hella weak. Simon calls it a million times better than the first, but a million times zero is still a really small number. This is a disaster.

Crown Prince closes the show with one-fourth of "Comin' to America." (Got a dream to take'm theaaaaah!) Open your eyes, kid. And stop holding out your hand like you're offering me gum. I do not want gum.

Just expand these rounds to 90 minutes already! This is stupid. They can barely do anything. As it is, 75 seconds per tune is enough to remind me of a song rather than sing it. There's no flow to these at all. Ladybug says that this is atrocious in any case and she's sick of young Archuleta - hates the messages, hates the squinty earnestness, the whole shebang. She defended him to me in the early going, but she's off the reservation.

Oooh, Indy is back. Woo-hoo! It looks like they've got a big set piece in the huge warehouse where the Top. Men. stashed the Ark. Woot! (But I miss Denholm Elliot.)

Syesha thanks the Lord for the Nighttime. The hand claps are fun. I dig the R & B twist. She seemed to get more time up there than the Crown Prince, so it's all good all around.

OK - I am a doofus - I just noticed David Cook 's jacket can be read as an AC/DC reference.

Bottom pair - Brooke and Jason. I hope Jason doesn't go, but it's tough to lead off and his first, decent song was a long while ago. Simon says that Syesha may be in trouble - only five left and all, and he's playing a hunch. Who knows? Well - we do, because it's actually Wednesday night and I have a DVR. Huzzah!

Golly, they got 45 million votes. Group sing is "Cracklin' Rosie." Jason hit his low note - wish that he'd sang this well yesterday. Holy CROW it's David Archuleta between Brooke and Syesha, both fruging. Eeeeek cooties! Poor kid literally has no idea what to do. David Cook's easily the best though. They all do an awkward segue into "Song Sung Blue" (lousy) and then finish with the song I would have done myself, "Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show." They give DC the narration, but cut it short, the evildoers. He would have rocked that out. I wancha to reach out that hand to the person next ta ya.... cause that's what it's there foah!

Ryan's in the audience. It's the Glock! And Constantine! They're doing some sort of AI Extra deal on a channel I've never heard of. Ryan asks him to pout at the camera, but he says he's forgotten how. That's OK, Ace is sitting in front of him. Jeepers. Has a camera ever gotten a restraining order against someone before?

Ladybug: Is Constantine still on The Bold and the Beautiful?
'fly: The who to the what now?
Ladybug: It's a soap. He played a rocker named Constantine.
'fly: ...

Ryan is rehabbing Paula's rep and says she won't be fired. Apparently someone's reading the blogs, I KNOW I read somebody earlier this evening who said that she should be replaced. I think that the show needs her, it's nonstop entertainment, and when she buckles down to it, she's actually observant and makes useful comments.

Well, Jason's first, usually a good omen. He has good insight into his struggles: "All the times I've done well, it's a song I really knew or a song I really changed." And he is safe to take his own advice next week. Cool.

Crown Prince next. Safe, of course. This is not sitting well with Ladybug. "His 'America' sucked," she says. And that's why we don't let 13 year olds vote for reals. If David Cook goes home, I will buy that ticket for my wife and let her borrow my stick.

Randy is showing us his Coke Cup - but hiding the bottom completely. Nice. Way to demonstrate the product.

David Cook is out next. Brooke said something just as he went out, and looked really pissy. Sarah's right, she's cracking. Dave thinks about Carly last week and the "kiss of death" since Simon said he was brilliant - but he's safe. Sorry, Orbitz.

So, one of the ladies is Out! I was actually right about something - the guys were stronger than the ladies this time. But I only got one of my four finalists right from my initial prediction: Jason Castro. (Though I took the two Davids as dark horses, I don't consider that a true prediction, taking six cracks at the four spots. That's cheating, y'all, sort of like Peter King's MMQB columns for His "Ten Things" lists are always like 38 items because he splits a couple of them into parts A-L or some nonsense.) Lost Mike Johns and Carly back to back, and that was just teh suq - but for them more than me, it's not like I got kicked off the Internet.

Brooke's smile would crack if she pulled her face any tighter. She says she finally kicked back and relaxed this week - UH OH Carly said the same thing about nine seconds before they dropped the anvil on her. And it doesn't show. She seemed much happier during the first five weeks than now. Syesha says that she has trouble picking the songs, but again, it doesn't really show. There are times she may sound overmatched by a song, but she never looks lost out there.

Guest performers - Natasha Beddington, "the lady from the UK taking the US by storm." They zoom in on the guitarist first.

Ladybug: that looks like a dude.
'fly: so does Natasha.
Ladybug: whoa! It's Dominique!

(I love my wife.)

This isn't my preferred form of song but she is really good. David Cook is the only finalist who maybe could hang with her for two or three minutes. It's just a different class altogether. She runs over and hugs David Archuleta (more cooties!), earning death threats from ten million middle schoolers.

Ryan: David wants to take you to the prom.
Natasha: I have a dress - and also a boyfriend.
'fly: So does Ryan! ZING!

Gosh, this is long. Sowry. Good questions though. Mike from Lancaster PA wants to know why Paula is so nice to the contestants. (Even kids notice!) Well, she says someone has to, and that Randy would make a good animated cat. Mike, next time my hockey guys play the Lancaster tournament, show up and we'll toss you a jersey or something. Then Simon's very first beau calls in to ask if she kisses better than Paula. He remembers her name right off the bat - that is very sweet - and then says "It was, what? About 17 years ago?" I don't care what anyone says, Simon is a good-hearted guy. Of course everyone else is mean about it - a rabies shot comment, Paula? What happened to nice? Omarosa called, she wants to meet for lunch. Simon doesn't shoot back, just says, "This was my first crush." Paula, ur pwnd.

The Ford spot is Donovan's "Catch the Wind." Good singing, malarky message deal. Everything is blooming in the finger-snapping magical wake of the Five Idols. GAG. LAdybug says it's like watching a bizarre suburban version of Rent. (I think this is what the hardcore greenies see in their head as actually happening, if only we pass enough laws.)

Now Neil himself is out to sing a new song: "Pretty Amazing Grace." (Look for the B-side - "Our God is a Halfway-Decent God.") Yeah, well, he's still rilly awesome. It's a good song, I'm sorry I snarked the title before listening. Aw, it's his mom! Go Brooklyn! She's adorable.

OK - so finally - who's the goner? Brooke is pre-emptively crying. So is Kristy Lee in the audience. And they're right, Brooke is done. That "Love is a Battlefield" girl is long gone, she even botched her farewell sing-off. And don't ever admit you're "just enjoying yourself now." Kiss of death.

Oh, and an AI preview

I hear tell it's Neil Diamond night - two songs per contestant, ten total.

I'm going to watch with two pages open: this page, and Orbitz. If David Archuleta sings "Turn on Your Heart Light," I am going to buy a ticket to Los Angeles, grab my goalie stick, and head out to the airport.

Bad news

I'm an Islanders fan, so I have a general disdain for the crosstown Rangers. I am truly enjoying their second-round disaster against Pittsburgh. In addition, I have a general disdain for the kind of play that gets announcers saying stuff like "You love him if he's on your team." I'm not talking about hard hits or physical play - it's when you cross the line into cheap shots, jackassery, and agitation.

Sean Avery, of course, is both that kind of player AND a Ranger, so no, I don't care for him much. This, however, is a tough break. It isn't a heart attack as first reported in some media outlets, thank God. In any case Avery has my prayers for a full and speedy recovery.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hey nineteen

Cullen said that I was tagged, so here I go, somewhat slowly. The rules of the tag:

1. Choose 19 of the songs you like best, regardless of artist or genre.
2. Put them all together in a CD.
3. Make 5 other copies.
4. Post your playlist on your blog.
5. Choose 5 people and send them a copy of your CD each. Send the first copy you made to the one who tagged you.

The thing is, if I took this literally, I'd never actually finish because it's going to take a while to carve out spare time to put 19 songs on a CD, much less actually boil down all the faves to a cohesive list. I tend to have so many favorites that I organize my playlists by genre. Then I have lists that mix genres for variety's sake. It must the same for many people - part of me just wants to take the ol' PC and set it on shuffle, and grab the first 19 songs. Problem with that is that not everything I own is on the PC, and something's going to get left out.

Enough whining about the meme? Good, I agree. To the list, in no particular order.

1. "In the Mood," Ernie Fields and His Orchestra - since the last time Cullen and I pulled a CD swap, I added a few more instrumental compilations, and this is on one of them. I included this mostly because he included the original Glenn Miller version. This is a fun take.
2. "Go Where No One's Gone Before," Billy Preston - from the soundtrack of Licensed By Royalty. I go in for these heavy brass numbers, but I'm working hard not to make this monotonous.
3. "Too Good Too Bad," Seatbelts - one of the hundred awesome songs of Yoko Kanno.
4. "Casino Royale," Herb Alpert - swank and fun; I love the six-note baritone figure in the background of the chorus. Really, almost anything of his could be here.
5. "Proud Mary," Ike and Tina Turner - genius. Does Fogerty even bother to play it?
6. "A Little Less Conversation [JXL Remix]," Elvis Presley - I hope this doesn't make me cliché, because it was everywhere for a while, but I love this thing.
7. "Bold as Love," Jimi Hendrix - it's like a Prince song, fifteen years early.
8. "Archie's Theme," The Anderson Council - local Jersey band. They rock. I hope the new album's out.
9. "Come Home," Back Door Slam - a power blues trio from the Isle of Man, and they rocketh exceeding fine. None of them can yet draw a legal pint in the United States. Someday they will rule the world, especially since they got a recent shout-out in John Buccigross' column.
10. "Starship Trooper," Yes - probably my favorite of all of their stuff, ever.
11. "Rio," Duran Duran - likewise, my favorite of theirs. (True fact - VH-1 once ran a long list of the greatest albums ever, compiled by ranking the five best as given by a variety of musical folk. Simon LeBon's list had "Rio" third. I absolutely love that.) I took time to track down the unedited version since I love the last 45 seconds of this song.
12. "King George Street," Squeeze - I have an admission: the end of this song usually makes me cry. I'm such a sap.
13. "I Can't Get Next to You," The Temptations - ain't it funky now? (Wait, wrong singer.) My college buddy Nick used to joke that if the Temps put out a Christian album, they would have to change their name to The Near Occasions.
14. "Pearl of the Quarter," Steely Dan - I'm a big fan of the band in general, but I love this song from their second album; kind of a country twang they went after very rarely, and it's a sweeter song than Fagen's usual fare.
15. "Your Poppa Don't Mind," Supertramp - early song of theirs, and probably the first time they sounded like the band they were capable of being.
16. "Yomiko About Town," Taku Iwasaki - it's from the Read or Die soundtrack. The main theme is yet another swank spy brass number, but I'm going to resist and give this; it's audio sunshine.
17. "Detroit Swing City," Alien Fashion Show - yes, a remake of the old KISS song, only - you guessed it! - brassier. I'm through resisting.
18. "Love You Inside Out," The Bee Gees - yup, it's official. I love the Brothers Gibb. They really were terrific, and the harmonies! Gracious me.
19. "Everybody is a Star," Sly and the Family Stone - a gorgeous and overlooked song.

Odd, the post title is not in here. I had a built-in gimme and I left it out. Them's the breaks. But I can't leave out Johnny Cash, who is THE MAN, so all y'all get a bonus track - but which song? Heh. Not telling until you see it. (And jeepers, I hope it fits, I have a couple of long plays on here.) Ah, but who gets the CD's (and the tags)? Well, the tag part is up to whomever is listed - I'm not angling for giveaways here. These are the five, however. If you see yourself down here, email me a PO Box or what-have-you for your amazing award; unless, of course, you think my choices are a festering pile of dog snot.

Ken Summers (It Comes in Pints) - the song trivia master. Interested to see what he says.
SarahK - the mistress of snark, Queen of Infidels, and a music lover.
Sheila - her obsessions cover more than just movies. Sorry I couldn't get any Dean Martin on here for you.
Kate P - once classes are over, of course.
The Barking Spider - I can't leave my co-blogger out of the fun, should he wish to participate.

Don't feel badly if you were left out of the great CD Pyramid Scheme of 2008; there were a lot of people I was thinking of that I wish I could have included, but I'll go broke making CD's if I'm not careful.

The Weight of Incarceration

Inmate withering away on jail food

Broderick Lloyd Laswell has dropped more than 100 pounds since September, but you won't see him on Biggest Loser, and it's not part of a successful health plan. In fact, he's not even happy about it. Laswell weighed 413 pounds when he was arrested in September on murder charges in Bentonville, Ark. He's down to 308 and is filing a lawsuit. "The only reason we lost weight in here is because we are literally being starved to death," he said. Capt. Hunter Petray told the Morning News of northwest Arkansas that inmates are fed a 3,000-calorie-per-day diet, which is above average, though probably less than someone clocking in at four-bills is used to. "About an hour after each meal my stomach starts to hurt and growl," Laswell says in his complaint. "I feel hungry again." Jailers are on watch so that Laswell does not escape by sneaking through the cell bars.

This guy went into the slammer at twice my size. Stomach hurting and growling an hour after each meal? I'm down with you bro.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Ray of Hope

"Five of you will chase a hundred , and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand , and your enemies will fall before you by the sword ."

Leviticus 26:8

The Rays are passing out the Kool-Aid, and I'm drinking it.

Those really were the Rays finishing a weeklong flight of fancy Sunday at Tropicana Field by blanking the World Series champion Red Sox 3-0 for another (yawn) three-game sweep.

Rays starting pitcher James Shields, who outdueled Boston's Josh Beckett, had thousands on their feet as he closed out a two-hitter. He was congratulated by fellow believers.

"This is what we're talking about," Shields said.

Bucs, schmucks.

Your first-place Rays are on the clock.

Their magic number is 135.

What makes this sweet is all these Bosox fans who have been living here for 20 years and come to our home to root for the enemy - they left shamed and humiliated.

The Rays ownership is spending money to keep these young stars. The shaking you feel is the shift of power in the AL East.


Guys Do It All the Time

Got in this morning at 4 AM
Your as mad as you can be
Well I was drinking and talking
And you know how that goes
Time just slipped away from me
By the time I knew what time it was
It was to late to call home
Stop carrying on and acting like a child
I wasn't doing anything wrong

Guys do it all the time
And you expect us to understand
When the shoe's on the other foot
You know that's when it hits the fan
Get over it honey life's a two way street
Or you won't be a man of mine
So I had some beers with the girls last nightG
Guys do it all the time

Even if that guy is Roger Clemens.

Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.

The revelations could torpedo claims of an unsullied character that are central to the defamation suit Clemens filed Jan. 6 against his former personal trainer Brian McNamee. Vivid details of the affair could surface in several media projects that McCready is involved with - including a documentary that begins filming today in Nashville, a new album and a reality show.

I know I'm stooping low, but this is the intersection of two of my favorite subjects, baseball & country music. Ms. McCready, like many of the ladies in Country music, is very beautiful. And I remember going to a resaturant where the waitresses would jump up on the tables and dance to the above song. Her career has been stalled because she started living her life too much like a country song.

Suspicions are that the McNamee camp leaked this to demostrate that Roger has no character to defame.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mr. Vento to the candidates:

No Geno's, no huevos.

On Tuesday, Primary Day, Barack Obama went across the street to Pat's for a cheesesteak.

Same day, Hillary Clinton had a chicken cheesesteak with Italian greens in the Philadelphia suburbs.

To Geno's owner Joey Vento, such decisions showed such a lack of courage that neither Democrat deserves to be president.

"If they don't have the guts to come here and talk about the immigration problem ... they're not capable of running our country," he said.

Kate P, Geno's is well known outside the Philly area. If you read the whole article you will learn that Mr. Vento isn't to thrilled with the McCainchurian Candidate either.

Friday, April 25, 2008

We are hiring..

..and we have high standards. One of them is that you have to be able to speak English.

I know I sound bitter and I'm probably clinging to my gun and my religion and my hatred of others not like me, but if you are going to be an A/C service tech for us you need to be able to talk to customers.

A woman called me about a job opening on behalf of her brother. In these cases I always ask why the candidate isn't calling me himself, and the answer is always that the candidate can't speak English. Can he fill out a job application? The sister goes on job interviews with him.

In trying to get a gauge on the brother's English I asked if he's been to HVAC school. Yes , he has. I thought this is a good sign; he must speak English well enough to understand the teaching. Nein, meine Dammen und Herren, for here in Tampa there are HVAC classes taught en Espanol. The day will come, if it hasn't already, when I will need to learn Spanish to function in my own country.

This is why I am no longer a Republican. Last summer's illegal immigration caper made me realise that the GOP is has no principles. The day Voting Bloc B is greater than Voting Bloc A then the party will pursue B and ignore A.

I am, what they call in Florida, No Party Afilliation (NPA). I am a free man, and no longer obligated to carry water for these pandering votewhores.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

All your time zones are belong to us

What you say?

It's true. Somebody set up us the clock. At least, that's what certain people would like.

SPEAKERS at a Doha conference on Mecca's importance said that the holy city, not Greenwich, should become the reference point for world time, reigniting an old controversy that started some four decades ago.

Maybe they're floating this idea because they think that England's gone wobbly enough to go for it, I don't know.

A group of Islamic scholars


presented on Saturday “scientific evidence”


to prove that Mecca was the core of that the zero longitude passes through the holy city and not through Greenwich in the UK.

Sorry, kids. If you run the "top-selling English daily in Qatar" then you have to get the grammar right before we start re-jiggering every clock on the planet.

In a clear support for the call, Islamic scholar Yousuf al-Qaradawi said Islam, “unlike other religions, never contradicted science”.


I'll grant that you're doing well in practical chemistry, though at the current rate you'll run short of folks smart enough to cook up the required material for self-immolation. But "never contradicted science" is a load of hooey. For example:

The participants recommended the unification of the time in the Arab world to the time in Mecca instead of Greenwich.

You want all of the Arab world to have the same time as Mecca? You want people way to the west of Mecca to have to get up four hours before dawn because it's 7 am in Mecca, while people eastward get to have the sun shining in their windows at 3 am. The Earth is ROUND, o great non-contradictors of science. It turns at a certain rate. Mecca will remain a certain number of hours ahead of Greenwich no matter what anyone says. One may as well order water to consist of oxygen and argon.

They also called the Arab governments to abandon the new world maps “because they are forged to serve Western interests.”

I'm not sure where you guys got those globes made of solid iron, but they're heavy as hell and they scare the cat when you turn them. (Also, they are flat.) Most maps are printed. Then they are folded into glove boxes, to serve the interests of people who want to know where the hell they are; or hung in classrooms, so kids can learn geography.

The conference was organised to introduce Saat Makkah (the watch of Mecca). The inventor of the clock, Yasin a-Shouk, said it runs anti-clockwise in the direction of Tawaf, the rotation around Kaaba. The Switzerland-based award-winning inventor of Palestinian origin said that his invention met a lot of opposition and it took him four years to win the patent.

There is a dearth of information in English on the invention, which apparently helps Muslims face the proper way when praying, from anywhere on earth. This would make a-Shouk's amazing invention.... a compass. Entirely useless for telling time, in other words.

(BTW - that linked article is "being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia's deletion policy.")

The moderator of the event, Rabaa Hamo, who is also the wife of the watch's inventor, said “the West imposed on us the invisible Greenwich line” as the world's reference time.

The inventor's wife - objective source, that. As for imposing Greenwich time? Every community on Earth in the history of ever has always had a local time. Nobody ever woke up in ancient Beijing and said, "I know! Let's make it so that we wake up when it's dawn 1000 miles away!" At least, nobody said that once they understood that the sun didn't rise on the whole Earth all at the same time. Again, there's that whole "flat planet" concept rearing its ugly head.

Now, you may think I'm exaggerating or being unkind, but they close the article thus:

She hoped that an Islamic country would adopt the project to strengthen the belief that Mecca was the core of the world, not theoretically but practically. [emphasis mine]

Islamic scholar, Zaghloul al-Najjar, said that the West did not like the scientific proofs that “Mecca was located in the centre of our planet, but nevertheless we will go on our research to establish it as a truth”.

You see? Earth is shaped like a plate, with Mecca in the geographical middle. This is the only way the above statement can be accurate. This is stupidity squared. Our planet = spherical, and thus "center of our planet" = molten, airless core. (I daresay that a few folks are eager to establish this as a truth, in a way al-Najjar won't like.) Instead of doing something to drag themselves out of barbarity, ignorance, oppression of their own people, and etc... they're trying to redefine the shape of the Earth and the flow of time itself - all based on "quoting verses from the Holy Qur'an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad." This would be the same religion that "never contradicts science."

Hat tip to Cullen, and thanks for the comedy hookup. "Nitwittery" is just too poor a tag for this magnificent kookery.

All TV, all the time - AI / ANTM / water coolering

Yup, everything at once. Why not?

Starting with the Idol - I am sad about Carly getting dropped. Not entirely deserved, but again, a lot of good singers are going to go home this year. I rather wish it had been the Crown Prince, since he was very snoozy. One of the commenters at Snark Raving said that Carly maybe annoyed some of the Christians by singing "Jesus Christ Superstar." I can't say one way or the other - I know some people (such as the Spider) who were on board with what ALW and Tim Rice were trying for.

For me, the song just wasn't the same when it wasn't sung by a black dude wearing the seventies-iest fringed, sequined, white suit. What I'm surprised by is that Carly couldn't really comfortably sing the high notes. The song was written for a male tenor, I don't see why she wasn't able to hit those notes - or why she wouldn't have shifted it to a key where she could. (Doncha get me wrong, now; I only wanna know.)

Pity, though - she finally loosened up, and as she said on the results show, "I'm going to have fun from now on." And then "now on" lasted twelve minutes.

She wasn't the only one. During the recap snippet that I saw, David Cook took the choruses of "Music of the Night" up the scale, rather than down. Now, I'm not saying that any schlub can hit the bottom notes of that song, but it just sounded odd. I wish I'd seen the whole thing, maybe I'm wrong on this.

PS - I also liked Jason's "midnight train to Georgia" move when Randy called his performance a train wreck. And gosh, is ALW the biggest geek or what? I loved the guy. He's just a big musical theater nerd who happens to have written songs for Michael Feinstein and Sarah Brightman and made eleventy billion pounds sterling.

PPS - Hancock just looks like it rocks hard. He is legend, with superpowers. I can't tell if they're going for a gritty urban retelling of Superman or if this is adapted from an indy comic, but it looks really sweet. And I have to go see Iron Man. And Prince Caspian. And I'm not really a movie goer at all.

Moving to the fierceness - they are in Italia, bellas, and it makes me sad because the Death Cab for Cuties is now parked in some garage in North Jersey. Their new digs are sweet. They get some Tyra Mail from the new driver they have, and of course - it's Tyra's face on the Mona Lisa. She is beautifully cracked. They're going to be rolling or something, and Anya cries out, "We're going to be on gondolas!" or some such. Everyone mocks her a bit, but I see what she was going for: they were rolling, rolling, rolling on the river. Anya's got some Ike and Tina soul going for her, ya dig? But sadly, she's incorrect. Some guy tours them around Rome in segways, which looked pretty darned funny - all these ancient buildings and absolutely awesome scenery, and this dude and six models tooling by on upright scooters.

They got to meet a big mucky-muck Italian designer, and instantly the Ladybug turned to me and said, innocently, "Hm. I wonder if Whitney is going to have to overcome something since she's a plus-sized model." Heheheheheh. She says it every three minutes. Sure enough - "Will any of this stuff fit me, the samples are all size 2..." But she found something, of course. Anya, however, won the challenge. Gondola THIS, girls! This is where Whitney really shone through - being a plus-size model, she finds it hard to be remotely pleasant. "She won $10,000 last challenge, gripe gripe gripe." No - she EARNED $10,000 by doing a print ad for 7-up that is currently running in magazines everywhere. (Ladybug actually saw the finished product a couple of days ago.) Man up, chickie.

The challenge is to do a commercial for Cover Girl - in Italian. Hoo boy, this is gonna be Il buono, il cattivo, il brutto - only without the buono. Capice? I mean, Anya is hard to understand in English, much less Italian. (NB - Nigel Barker stole that line during the judging. Poopie.)

Yup, it was horrid. Pretty much all of them. Dominique looked like a zombie mannequin. Anya was cute and flirty, but her Italian had the entire set cracking up. I had to pause because the director's reaction made me laugh so hard I missed the next girl. Fatima was eh, Katarzyna was best of the lot. Whitney, as a plus-sized model, found it hard to act well, or at all. She definetely lacks that touch of Tuesday Weld; so plasticky. And poor Lauren - oy.

This is where I have to rant a little bit. Mr. Jay is the consultant on all the shoots. He's good at what he does, I suppose, but would a little feedback and coaching really be so hard? He's too much of a diva. These aren't models, yet - they're contestants, they're not professionals - it's not a matter of being too hard on them, but he's just cutting and bitchy. I mean, there's a difference between someone like Simon being no-nonsense but essentially fair vs. trying to destroy the contestant.

In Lauren's case, I would have tried a few things. First - be natural, don't defeat yourself. Second - don't worry about your accent. Third - don't talk at the camera; talk through the camera, as if you were talking to a friend on the phone.

Then, I would have tried a couple of other things as the takes began to mount badly. Take a minute, get composed. Then, do a run-through in English, to get the rhythm of the thing. I mean, if you're doing eight takes anyway, why not one to give her a bit of confidence in her ability? The whole idea is to get something useable, right? Then, for real in Italian.

Wow, that's a lot of things, isn't it?

Too late. Lauren and Whitney were the bottom two. It's Lauren going home, of course. She was simply too disastrous. As a plus-sized model, Whitney found that it was a challenge to pretend that she was worried about losing.

(I'm going to work that phrase into my everyday life as often as possible: "As a plus-sized model, I find it difficult to type that memo." "As a plus-sized model, it's harder for me to stop for red lights." WE GET IT, you're a normal human woman with curves. Maybe she can abbreviate it for all the interview bits: AAPSM? AA+M? She should just make a little plus sign with her fingers every time she talks on camera.)

The kid's birthday is coming up..'s a gift idea.
An action-man style doll of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler has gone on sale in the Ukraine, with saleswomen comparing the doll to Barbie.

Supermarkets in the capital Kiev are stocking the 40 centimetre high figure of the fuhrer, complete with jackboots, leather trench-coat and swastika armband.

The £100 figure has a spare head "with a kind expression on it," glasses and several changes of clothes.

It gets better.

One saleswoman said: "It is like Barbie. Kids can undress fuhrer, pin on medals and there's a spare head in the kit to give him a kinder expression on his face.

"He has glasses that are round, in the manner of pacifist Jon Lennon".

But wait! That's not all.

According to the saleswoman, should the demand be high, manufacturers will go further and launch a series of themed Third Reich toys, including interiors of Hitler's chancellery, toy concentration camps with barbed wire, barracks and operating models of gas chambers and crematoriums.

I'm thinking as I post this - It's got to be some kind of internet gag. If it is, then the Daily Mail, a major British newspaper got punked.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plague of locusts cats

Yup, it’s confirmed – thanks to SCIENCE! (And a hat tip to the Ace of Spades.)

It's an older post, but I've been a little busy lately. (Explanations to follow.) I just loved the solution that Dr. Lord called for in the article: "Government has tended to not want to be involved with cats. And I don't know if they can avoid it anymore."

Of course! And if the gummint can't come through, we'll have to fall back on our guns and religion.

I happen to be a cat lover. (I mean, those cats in the picture with the article? Awwwwwwww.) As far as ferals are concerned, I support "catch-fix-release" programs. This way, they get to live out their natural life with no risk of breeding in the wild (or knocking up poor Fluffy). Seems fairest to all concerned. But I’m not such a big fan of letting a government attempt to manage this, especially if it works as well as the rest of their social programs. Behold, government Cat Population Control:

May 2008 – Dr. Lord publicly freaks out about feral cats overrunning our cities, like miniature Godzillas rumbling through Tokyo.

June 2008 – Obama clinches the Democratic nomination and promises “Change Kittehs Can Believe In.” (Hillary’s “A Cat in Every Pot” backfires among undecided voters.)

Jan 2009 – Congress’ first session of the new term results in a “Cat Population Commission” to study the problem, even though Dr. Lord has done so for years. She drops her objections in exchange for a six-figure, six-month position leading the Commission.

Sept 2009 – The CPC overruns its budget but says it still needs more time to weigh the competing options for feral cat control – catch-fix-release, abstinence-only programs, or giant slingshots into the ocean.

March 2010 – gangs of feral cats start hanging on street corners, intimidating neighborhoods, vandalizing public property, and selling catnip in schools. The CPC is doubled in size and tripled in budget.

August 2010 – ferals are caught trying to smuggle dozens of undocumented cats across the border. The CPC becomes the federal Department of Cat Immigration and Neuterization.

Sept 2010 – Moqtada al-Sadr issues a fatwa encouraging domestic cats to join their feral brothers in vexing America. “The blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) was a great cat lover and you can repay his kindness by eating all of the infidels’ tuna, fighting and mating outside of their windows at 2 am, and putting all female cats in large shapeless bags so that you shall not be tempted by their sleek coats, almond eyes, and come-hither purring.” The Department of CIN concurs; the bags make it easy to toss the cats in the river should they be found with kitten by a domestic tom.

November 2010 – the Republicans crush the incumbent Democrats in the midterm elections, calling for tighter controls on feral cats.

Jan 2011 – new majority party proposes sweeping reforms; Democrats stall by saying their own programs need more time and that Republicans just hate cats.

May 2011 – feral populations are in sudden, shocking decline. Both sides claim success. Neither side notices that private organizations got fed the hell up and decided on their own to catch-fix-release – and occasionally employ the giant slingshot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Is It Hot in Here?

Or is it just jihad?

"You Would Find 10 Black-Eyed Virgins Sprawled on Musk Cushions"
"He said that faces would be soft that day. Even your own face will be soft without any powder or makeup. You yourself will be soft, so how soft will a black-eyed virgin be, when she comes to you so tall and with her beautiful face, her black hair and white face - praised be He who created night and day. Just feel her palm, Sheikh!
"He said: How soft will a fingertip be, after being softened in paradise for thousands of years! There is no god but Allah. He told us that if you entered one of the palaces, you would find 10 black-eyed virgins sprawled on musk cushions. Where is Abu Khaled? Here, he has arrived!
"When they see you, they will get up and run to you. Lucky is the one who gets to put her thumb in your hand. When they get hold of you, they will push you onto your back, on the musk cushions. They will push you onto your back, Jamal! Allah Akbar! I wish this on all people present here.
"He said that one of them would place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want.

"Another one would press her cheek against yours, yet another would press her chest against yours, and the others would await their turn. There is no god but Allah."

What a recruiting tool! Now if my pastor preached like this it would get my attention! Of course, my pastor will probable tell me that "whatever is true , whatever is honorable , whatever is right , whatever is pure , whatever is lovely , whatever is of good repute , if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise , dwell on these things". (Phil 4:8)

And not that I'm being shorted 62 virgins.
This comes from a website called which tranlsates in English sermons and other fun items from the Muslim world.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Alex Callahan

It looks like GIs in Iraq took time out from the important work of torturing prisoners and murdering non-combatants to do this:
Soldiers recently watched as a car pulled up to an entry control point at Forward Operating Base Callahan in northern Baghdad. They continued to watch as a woman stepped out of the car holding a bag. Once the woman dropped the bag near the gate, internal alarms were ringing and a careful search was called for and conducted...

...That search yielded a newborn baby wrapped tightly in several cloths. Soldiers raced to the bag, retrieved the child and brought him to the aid station to be examined.

“We unwrapped it to make sure he was alive – and he wasn’t sick, he wasn’t dead, he wasn’t injured,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Briscoe, the aid station non-commissioned officer in charge at FOB Callahan. “He was a perfectly healthy baby. I’m guessing three to seven days old. He was in perfect health. There wasn’t a scratch on him.”

This story wasn't in your local paper? Gee, I wonder why.

I seem to be unable to post a photo of the little guy; when I figure out how to do it I'll have it up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Good times at the ball game

If you're a sports fan, this spring is in the midst of rocking out.

In baseball, you've got the first month of the year: everyone is still in it, and some teams that have suffered long have the glimmer of hope - the Royals and Orioles have started well, and the Cubs (of all teams) have as good a shot as anyone of winning the National League.

Basketball is coming off an incredible NCAA final game, with Kansas rallying from eight down in the final minute, and one of the best regular-seasons in recent NBA history, especially in the Western Conference - nine teams won 48 games or more (sadly, that means Golden State is home while the mediocre Atlanta Hawks stink in up in the east against Boston in the opening round). There are four legit MVP candidates (Bill Simmons gives you a two-part breakdown).

Football? Well, even that's fun, with the schedule getting released and official crazy person Chad Johnson demanding a trade before draft day.

Then, of course, there's the Lord's Own Hockey. With the exception of Ottawa getting pantsed by Pittsburgh, the playoffs have been very good so far. We've had breakout goaltending from Carey Price in Montreal, huge comebacks in the Calgary-San Jose series, and if you're into idiocy, both Sean Avery and Mike Milbury have delivered.

(For the record, I'd have put Avery in the box at once for his antics in front of Marty Brodeur. I've actually had someone do that to me and he was hit up for unsportsmanlike conduct. No question. And Milbury hardly invented the "Washington Crapitals" insult - remember, he played when Washington was going 8-67-5 in their first season in the league. They had THREE head coaches. Yikes.)

SI's Mike Farber has a column about the Senators, BTW, that deserves some fisking. I'll probably get into it tomorrow.

Messiah or Obamessiah?

Take the Test.

It's harder than you think. I scored 7 out of 10 correct.

H/T to WORLD Magazine

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Happy tax day!

A $4000 deduction for catnip?
Hope your accountant is as good as mine.

Those who ignore history

The Anchoress has a fine post about Iraq 1991 v. Iraq 2008, and asks a pertinent question at the end: "The question of why it was wrong to abandon the Iraqis to chaos in 1991 but is right to do it in 2008 is a really good one that I wish someone in the mainstream media with access to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi — or for that matter with access to someone like the anti-war George Clooney — would finally ask. I would love to hear the answer."

The answer is all too simple. In 1991, bugging out was right; it only became wrong years later, in hindsight. It's right in 2008 because of lack of foresight. Should we "do the right thing" now, the Left will be busily denouncing that decision as wrong come about 2025 - but then as now, only well after other people took considerable risk and trouble to correct the mistake, at a terrible cost.

Given the genuine cost of war, one hopes that those fighting it won't give up because of the wholly imaginary cost of being criticized for it.

Liquid Courage to Face that Two-Edged Sword

It does pierce as far as the division between soul and spirit, and it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. So I can understand why one would need a little fortification before facing it.
A Fremont woman was driving drunk to a Sunday morning Bible study class when she failed to negotiate a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through and crashed into a fence, say police.

As a result, Mary Lou Kohlhofer, 53, of 848 Main St., was arrested on a charge of aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Arresting officer Rochelle Jones said the aggravated charge was levied because after Kohlhofer displayed signs of intoxication during a field sobriety test, she agreed to take a Breathalyzer test and her blood alcohol concentration was above the .16 threshold for the more-serious aggravated charge. Jones said Kohlhofer "was above the legal limit" and admitted she drank wine before driving.

Jones said police were called at about 10:45 a.m. after Kohlhofer went through the Islington Street Dunkin' Donuts drive-through and crashed into an adjacent fence, causing significant damage to her car.
According to the District Court clerk's office, Kohlhofer has not yet been scheduled for arraignment.

Kohlhofer's husband, Andy, is active in politics in Fremont, serving on the town Budget Committee and the Fremont state Republican committee. He is also a founder of Fremont Citizens for Sensible Government.
Did I ever think that I would file a post under both winoism and faith?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mille Borne

Blame the Barking Spider - it was his idea that I start to write a blog. And here we are 3½ years later, and this is post #1000.

You can just taste the excitement.
I didn't think I'd ever get this far when I first put up a goofy little bit about the 2004 elections.

Along the way, I've had good posts and lousy posts, and early on, wound up being a little prophetic. (I actually saw it adveristed on TV the other day.) I swapped out my commenting system, which is why nearly all the early posts are comment-free. As Blogger updated, I tried to catch up, but a good many of the posts are also unlabeled, which makes searching the archives a hunk of trouble - hence, no greatest hits or anything like. (Each time I try, I'm forced to give it up from lack of time.) I've annoyed people without trying, made friends, made amends, and made no sense. I even got married.

Most of all, I've just enjoyed myself a whole bunch, even if I've never been Instalanched or anything. I've "met" some great folks in the cyber-wilds, some of whom I have since actually met in person.* It's been a great time. My deepest thanks to everyone who reads, whether you've been on for the whole ride or are just jumping in now.

*Amazingly, Ms. Eden mentioned this blog in passing in her book, The Thrill of the Chaste. I had never quite finished it (NOT HER FAULT - it's really a good book, but I tend to read three or four at once and it got lost in the shuffle) so I had no idea until the good judge mentioned it. Agog, I finished. It was a very kind recommendation for my young adult's church group. Dawn, I'm very sorry; I never knew, but I'm glad to correct my oversight and pass on the thanks of the whole group, who were properly geeked out when they heard.

Friday, April 11, 2008

No me tase hermano

One of the drawbacks of day baseball games is that some players have too much time on their hands at night.
TAMPA Police and prosecutors are discussing whether to file additional charges against a Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher who police say spat blood on people outside a South Tampa bar.
Tampa police zapped Rafael "Al" Reyes twice with a Taser about 2:30 a.m. this morning after a fight outside Hyde Park Café. Police charged him with a misdemeanor related to causing a fight and released him on his own recognizance.
However, police are reviewing the situation with the state attorney's office, and additional charges could be filed, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said this morning that the team just learned of the situation and is looking into it.
Witnesses told police Reyes, who turned 38 on Thursday, fell against a ceramic pot while leaving the bar. He exchanged words with another individual, Eduardo Mora, who he thought had pushed him into the pot, police said.
Mora then punched Reyes in the face, and bouncers grabbed Mora, police said.
Witnesses told police that Reyes, who appeared to be intoxicated, began to spit blood on people and swing his arms. Bouncers tried to control the right-handed pitcher but could not, police said.
Al Reyes recovered enough to get the win in relief Friday night.

AI results, eight to seven

Tomorrow, the good Lord really did take him away. Michael Johns, one of my top four picks, went home tonight.

More details when I'm not super-sleepy... actually, forget it. I talk too much. You guys can discuss it - that's the whole point of a water cooler. My own quick thoughts:

1. They really sang "Shout to the Lord" as the medley song. Cool.
2. Then there's "I'm a Believer," which was simply bizarro world. If you made a list of the ten least desirable celebs to sing "I'm a Believer," Kobe Bryant would have to be on it twice, wouldn't he? Watching him make googly eyes at the camera while singing "And then I saw her face" was alternately creepy and completely hilarious.
3. Rob Schneider. Sigh.
4. Dr. Phil was actually kinda fun and goofy.
5. Carly and Syesha joined Michael Johns in the bottom three.

Surprising? Well, not much. They were three of the four weakest performances, even though none of them were terrible. As I'm fond of repeating - wait, I'm fond of repeating everything. Let's rephrase: as I've said often, we will be losing good singers every time out now. Everyone left has a legit shot of winning, except possibly Kristy Lee; and she's even turning in better performances now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One of the Challenges of a Relationship... deciding in which street gang to raise the baby.
When Mom wears one set of gang colors and Dad wears another, conflict over how to raise the baby can cause irreconcilable differences.
At least that's what happened for one Commerce City couple.
Commerce City police were called to a disturbance Saturday at a Hollywood Video on East 64th Street, where a man reportedly was harassing his ex-girlfriend, who was working there.
The man knocked over a computer and a magazine stand and yelled obscenities at her, witnesses said.
He left the store before police arrived.
When officers questioned the woman, they learned that the two had been together for four years and were the parents of a child.
When police asked the woman why the two had separated, she said they have "different ideas about how the baby should be raised," according to a police report.
When officer Daniel Swift asked the woman what she meant by that, she said that the two belong to different street gangs.
"They could not agree on which gang the baby would claim," Swift said.
Joseph Manzanares, 19, was arrested later at his home.
He was taken to the Commerce City Police Department for processing and then transferred to the Adams County Jail, police said.
Manzanares pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and a harassment charge against him was dismissed.
He owes Adams County Courts $810 in court, processing and probation-supervision fees.
Manzanares wasn't available for comment.

Fly and Spider's Excellent Blog Venture

Who sez? The lovely Nina, that's who.

Or it could mean that I booted a grounder.  Either way.
We are honored. I shall obey the conventions and name some other blogs that are also most righteous. Then I shall do the Wyld Stallyons 80's air guitar riff.

Visit the excellence at the following locations:

Ricki's Rants and Rambles
Beyond the Pale
The Coalition of the Swilling
Dawn Eden - already Pantheon, of course, but at a new address that I haven't updated yet - so click here, not the sidebar!
The Judge Report
WunderKraut - who must find and post the .wav file of the Monty Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence
The Shiela Variations - probably named eleventy times already, so here's another
SarahK's Mountaineer Musings AND Snark Raving Mad
bonus, via Ricki - the Superest! These guys rule.

And that's eleven... If you weren't named, but are on my sidebar - give it a rest, you're already on the sidebar, which means that you are permanently approved. Seriously, check out anyone on that sidebar I haven't pegged. They are worthy of guitar solos while action heroes walk slow motion in front of giant explosions.

Update - as the Spider says in the comments, I negelcted to link back to the lovely Nina's blog. Excellence took exactly twelve seconds to make me a dithering doofus. You want to check out the Reader Blog to find Nina.

Now this is forgiveness

Bill Buckner @ Fenway.

H/T to Crunchy Con.

Burning down the blog

A small item at the Swilling about the Olympic Torch protests have resulted in an explosion of comments about China. It's worth a long read.

Some of the comments are very good. Some are simply jibbering gut-shouts, of the "how dare you?" variety. (Short answer - we dare, because we are allowed to dare. Would that the Chinese people had that freedom.) And a few are laughable: "Be assured amercians are very smart people they won't make illegall and non-profitable investment in any foreign countries."

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Best joke I've heard on the Internet in a dog's age. Second best is telling Dave, a lawyer and prosecutor, to get a legal education. Can we hire you for parties?

Plenty of people have tried to make illegal deals overseas and wound up losing their shirts over it. Neither the illegality nor the risk would stop them. But then again, that's why we have jails and stuff. If you choose to break the law - we put lawbreakers safely away from their potential victims to protect the innocent and law-abiding. That isn't enslavement. If they had wanted to remain free, they wouldn't have hurt other people and taken their stuff. (And here we have prison ministry, intervention, and outreach programs to educate, teach trades, and attempt rehabilitation - we don't simply stuff these people into a hole.)

A fellow named NP tries to quote prison statistics to prove that the West enslaves its people, overlooking two things: 1. calling another person wrong for doing the same thing you do is not absolution for your crimes; 2. punishing a theif, rapist, or murderer is not the same thing as jailing a dissident - in the West we follow the dictum of the great St. Thomas More: "He should go free, were he the Devil Himself, unless he broke the law." (In fact, just rent "A Man for All Seasons" and watch that scene in its entirety. It's the perfect summation of the argument.)

His math is off, too - 1 in 9 is only 11%, not 25%. Still ridiculously high, but not the fault of the people who catch and prosecute criminals. In fact, there is one huge correlating factor in crime and poverty - fatherlessness - that is rampant in Western society. Fix that, and families prosper: children learn better discipline and diligence in pursuing their goals; they are less prone to joining criminal gangs as surrogatets to their ravaged families; they do better in school and thus have greater economic opportunities; and they generally make better spouses and parents themselves, having had strong examples while growing up.

I would also suggest to prochina that China's investment in Tibet is hugely profitable - not in money, but in public relations. It makes good press. No doubt there is also a good deal of genuine motivation to do good works for one's fellow citizens, but this is where things get difficult for a totalitarian government - they do those works for you whether you want them done, or not. Then the totalitarian feels perfectly justified in jailing, beating, or killing those who resist, because "it was for their own good." If I tried to give you a free sandwich that you didn't want, and then hit you with a hockey stick when you turned me down, I'd be in jail with the other 1 in 100 people - nobody would waste time saying what a wonderful guy I was, and what an ungrateful jerk you were, unless I was China and you were Tibet. (Or if I was Castro and you were Cuba, etc. etc.)

Now, because of the economic reforms in China, the Communist government has plenty of sandwiches to give away - unlike most Communist countries, which eventually grind to a bloody halt because nobody has anything left anymore. Freedom works, and ultimately everything else fails. China has been savvy enough to permit economic freedoms in order to avoid the fate of the Soviets. Full marks for intelligence, but why not permit freedom of speech, of faith, of the arts, of the press? Those things also die when caged. Think of any country you care to that is ruled by tyrants - the great works of art, literature, and philosophy are almost exclusively from before the rise of those governments, or else from the dissidents speaking from jail or exile.

To answer your question: "Do you know of any Corporation that would make such an investment? I doubt that." Doubt no more. In the West, plenty of corporations do astounding amounts of charitable and public works. Major cities are full of museums, libraries, and civic improvements that were completely paid for by old-time industrialists like Carnegie, duPont, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Ford: in fact, even my small hometown has a Carnegie Library. Most major companies fund and/or run non-profit Foundations today, and even some private citizens such as actor Paul Newman. (By himself he's donated about $275 million through his food company's sales over the past 25 years or so.) Private charitable funding in this country, through church, business, and personal gift, is staggering: just over 295 billion dollars in 2006 - up $35 billion from '05. There are over one million charitable organizations in the United States (according to the UN Fund for Internatonal Partnerships) - that's one group for every 320 or so people in America, dedicated solely to giving away stuff.

Philosophically, there's more to say about it, but this for now.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You're the inspiration - AI final eight

"You make the call... you call the shots." You shoot the contestants! THIS.... is American Idol!

In keeping with Idol Gives Back, tonight the contestants are singing inspirational music. This may well be the week I throw things at David Archuleta. And if anyone sings that "release your inhibitions" piece o' poop, millions will suffer my wrath.

Michael Johns is singing a bit of Aerosmith's "Dream On" to inspire us. Randy says that this is where the contestants start to tell America who they are - contrasted with all of the other weeks, where the contestants generally jerk us around.

Mike - "I'm living here in America, and dreams can come true, and it's happening."
Randy - "This show is about being the best singer, undiscovered talent we can find, not about dreams."
Nightfly - "...the hell?!!?" He's serious, too. He broke into Paula's dressing room and found her Special Tonic.

Paula and her chihuahuas loved it, Simon liked it but wasn't thrilled with the Steven Tyler imitation at the end. I liked it as well but am forced to agree that he didn't quite put his own stamp on it. And THAT is how you tell America who you are. (Biker Nurse sure did.)

Syesha is singing "I Believe" by Fantasia Barrino, season three's winner. This is probably a poor idea. Talk about imitating others - will she sing this like Whitney? Will she sing like Ramiele, with whom she's been keeping in touch? Will the size of her afro match the diameter of her earrings? That would inspire me. Well, she's not singing so badly after all: pretty well, in fact. That last note cracked the front of the TV, but she got it. My problem is that this song is NOT inspirational, unless you consider Hallmark's rejection pile an inspiration. Shmaltz Week is rolling along.

Randy, though stoned, is right about comparing Syesha to Fantasia. Simon said it was technically fine, but he missed the emotion. "We want to find out who you are," he says.

Up next, Jason Castro. (Direct quote from Ryan.) During the taped intro he tells us that he will be singing "Over the Rainbow," and credits the arrangement to a Hawai'ian singer named Britta Iz (sp?). The producers are all over this attribution thing. He's singing very well, and it's growing on me - started sort of cartoony but is really coming on. He boofed a lyric in the middle but he's right on key and hit that beautiful falsetto note. Connected emotionally. This was the opposite of shmaltz. Thank you, sir. Paula says it was his definitive sound; Simon calls it fantastic.

Aside - the Meat Loaf/Paradise by the Cel Phone Light spot was bizarre. I liked the Sealy mattress commercial, though. (I'm only letting them run to catch up on typing. OK, fast forwarding.)

Here comes Kristy Lee. She's singing "Anyway" by Martina McBride, because it inspired her. That's the idea. And she's smoking this! Holy crap. She's doing that bouncy thing where she stands off on one leg and bops to the music, which I rather dislike, but the singing is very good. She got down to the low notes too. (I didn't hear the pitch thing Randy did, but I could be wrong.) Simon gave it a thumbs up as well - and he says "you look like a star tonight, Kristy. You're appealing to your audience." And he's on his game again: Paula says it was unbelievable, and Simon says, "Well, not unbelievably - it was good."

Aside - Al Gore is a complete dilweed. Holy freaking hell, comparing the Normandy landings and the civil rights struggle to global warming? Hey, Mr. "We Didn't Wait to Take Fred Phelps' Money," if you want to lead the fight, how about cutting down on your own Godzillian carbon footprint? Snotrag.

David Cook is singing Our Lady of Peace's "Innocent." He says it speaks to him. The jacket doesn't say much for him, though. His performance is not doing it for me. I'm not sure why; he's showing more range than normal, but I think it's the speed of the song. He does the slower, power jams quite well but tonight he seemed rushed and a little short of breath. He wades into the audience and then has "give back." written on his palm. (The Crown Prince really wishes he thought of that.) Simon says not near as good as the last two weeks, and calls it a little pretentious. Paula is happy with it and wants to make sure that everyone saw the palm thing. (Maybe her TV's mute button kills the picture instead of the sound?)

Now it's Carly, who threatens to club Queen's "The Show Must Go On" like a seal pup unless everyone votes for her. No, no, no... she didn't really say that, but I fear that this is what will happen. Maybe three dozen contestants have done Queen songs, including the ill-advised Queen Week a few seasons ago, but how many have even come close to pulling it off? Three? (And two of those were Mike Johns this year.) I also like that they're showing the behind the scenes stuff like they are this season; I love the shots of them with the vocal coaches.

The beginning is pretty good. She's singing like Carly, not Freddie. Then the choir comes in and it's too much. The oh-oo-whoa-oo-ohs are unconvincing, and she failed to even attempt the note at the end with the choir. Pfffft. Linda Carter called, she wants her Wonder Woman bracelet back. (Though otherwise the outfit is an improvement over last week; anything would be.) Simon says that it came over a little oversang and as a result, sounded angry. Carly was gracious about it, but she may be staring at the bottom three this go-round.

Ryan's talking with the Crown Prince in the Coke Ad Section. They cut to the tape, and David says he had a hard time picking this week. (HAHAHAHAHAHA. Must be because he's already sang this genre five times.) But he found a message in "Angels." He's at the piano, which I don't think is smart. It started slow, and he was a little off on the low notes. When the chorus comes up, he does much better. Randy heard a few runs and calls it his best moment of the season, proving that he hasn't been watching the show at all this year. Simon does say it's the best song choice of the evening but says it was nasally and that the end was better than the start. But he says it's nitpicking, "you'll sail through."

Another break, and then Brooke will take us home with some Carole King. "You've Got a Friend," right? Yup. She is not at the piano, which is also surprising, but she opened better than David did. The throwback late 60's sun dress is an inspired choice with this song. And she's connecting much better with this song, no Happy Facing. (Nice piano riff in the high notes, whoever you are back there!) This is a good performance. And you know something, the audience seems to have held back on all of the slow arm waving. (That, my friends, is inspirational. There's hope for the children!) Randy gave it an "aight," Simon called it "a pleasant walk in the park. Was it original? No. Was it pleasant? Yes." I liked it more than that, but not an unfair assessment.

Neither of my choices of song were here; no surprise. I'd have gone with "Gotta Knock a Little Harder" by Seatbelts (great gospel rave up at the end of it), or "Stand!" by Sly and the Family Stone as easier to cut down a bit.

Bottom three? Kind of tough this week. I think Carly and Dave Cook are there. Third... I fear Jason may wind up there, though he was my favorite of the night. Syesha would be my pick. It's not that she was any worse than Brooke, but she sang way early (harder to remember) and wasn't really any better than usual, while Brooke really improved from last week's misstep.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Now This is a Sin Tax

Or shall I say, a pole tax.
Texas was forced by federal law to end its poll tax on voters four decades ago, and now another levy has put the Lone Star State in constitutionally murky waters: the "pole tax."
Texas lawmakers last year imposed a $5-per-patron fee on strip joints to raise more than $40 million annually for anti-sexual-assault programs and healthcare for the uninsured.
The fee, which took effect Jan. 1, infuriated the owners of Texas' 162 strip clubs, who said politicians were cynically taxing a population they knew would not fight back. After all, critics reasoned, men who make a habit of drinking and stuffing currency in the attire of scantily clad women are usually not eager to tell the world about it at legislative hearings.
"It's not like Al Sharpton is going to show up and protest that we're being discriminated against," said a man who identified himself only as Dave, as he exited the Penthouse Club in Houston.
On March 28, however, Texas strip club devotees found a powerful ally: An Austin judge declared the pole tax unconstitutional, saying it infringed on expression protected by the 1st Amendment.
There is a Wendy's fast food place next door to one of the most famous strip joints in Tampa, The Mons Venus. The Wendy's parking lot is filled with signs explaining that this lot is for Wendy's customers only and that you car will be towed if it's here longer than 30 minutes. This is because too many cowards would park in the Wendy's lot and visit the Mons. The last thing you need is for your pastor to see your truck parked in front of a strip joint.

Protected by First Amendment? Would it be the end of the Republic if you couldn't open a strip joint across the street from an elementary school? Are the guys in Ashcanistan and Iraq endangering their lives for your right to stuff a buck in some babe's garter?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stolen Valor

Apparently there are a lot of these pieces of dirt out there.

A New Yorker who for 40 years passed himself off as Vietnam war hero who had been decorated for extreme gallantry was sentenced to community service Wednesday after being outed as a fraud.
According to prosecutors, Louis Lowell McGuinn claimed to have been a lieutenant colonel in the US special forces and had used his fake military history since 1968 to get work or to win kudos at social functions.
His military records showed that McGuinn had indeed been in the US Army and served in Vietnam, but was discharged as a private without being decorated.
In 2006, McGuinn, who is now in his 60s, attended a ball in New York's glitzy Pierre Hotel wearing the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, awarded for being wounded in action.
The Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration of the US Army, is awarded for acts of extraordinary heroism.
A real lieutenant colonel and West Point graduate, Mark Kimey, instantly spotted there was something not quite right about McGuinn and reported him.
"They're always (Navy) SEALs or special forces," Kimey told the New York Daily News last year. "Nobody ever masquerades as a cook."
I joined the Air Force in 1977 and ended as a weekend warrior with the Florida Air National Guard in 1998. The Fly remembers me coming back to the RU dorm from drill weekends on Sunday night.
All I did was drink beer on three continents. Now they don't give out medals for that, and I don't have a whole lot of documentation of my beer-drinking (though I have proof I was on three continents, and I have proof that beer was sold on those same continents) so my claims of engaging in warfare against foriegn beers can be challenged.

Workin' nine to eight - AI results

The Ladybug and I rolled through all of it in one blitz session last night; here are my recollections.

Unfunny April Fool's gag. Ryan says that they've pre-empted for a "Moment of Truth" special with Simon Cowell as the contestant. That would have been much better if they opened on the Moment of Truth set with Simon in the chair and the other judges watching from that little side area. The MoT host could then welcome AI viewers to this special edition of his show, and then the buzzer or whatever goes off - FALSE - and we pull back to see that it's all on tape on the main screen, while Ryan, on stage, says "This IS American Idol!" And this IS why I should be Emperor of Television Programming.

It's Dolly Parton Week. Syesha is a mortal lock to sing "I Will Always Love You." You've ever wondered how free will fits in with God's omniscience? This is a perfect example. You know this is happening, without causing it in any way.

Brooke, however, is first, with an unfortunately cheerful version of "Jolene." What's with the Happy Facing? Brooke, m'dear, this is a song of desperate heartache; you look (and sound) as if you're chatting up Jolene while treating her to brunch. Aren't you married? Picture her as an old flame of your husband's who is trying to take him back, and then sing.

David Cook next, and he's responding to the kerfuffle over his borrowed arrangements. But this song arrangement is original, he says. I'm drawing a total blank on the name of the song right now, sorry - in any case, he's hitting high notes and generally doing well. Let's hope that this doesn't turn out to be an obscure B-side from the Little River Band or something. PS - the hair is greatly improved.

Ramiele, who may or may not have actually gone third, is again in trouble. She actually looks a lot like Amanda towards the end - the light has gone out. She has the Nick Anderson Face going.* At least she's moving around the stage while singing. I fear it's too late. Remember my theory: singers who struggle repeatedly are often bounced the week they finally improve.

* Remember Nick Anderson? Magic-Rockets, game 1 of the NBA finals, 1995, he was fouled at the end of the game, with his team up three, needing only one of the two free throws to clinch the win. He missed both, wound up rebounding the second miss and getting fouled again - and missed both of those too. His team wound up losing that game (and the title) and he was never the same as a player. The face he made after missing the first of his second pair of free throws? Ramielle has looked like that for two weeks: a thin smile of terror, as if the judges were a firing squad.

Jason Castro does "Traveling," and it's a perfect song for him. (Coming into this I was worried. Jason doesn't have a powerful voice, and Dolly does. I didn't know what he could take on.) It was a much more focused performance this week, which means he got the message from his near-debacle with Sting's song. He even put a little rougher edge into the song at spots. Overall, I think it worked very well. (Simon is off my Christmas card list this year, sowry.)

Carly does a very down-tempo cut of "Here You Come Again," and I love it. We know she can rock out like anybody's business, but this is a welcome growth in her repetoire; I always felt that she could have done better on "Blackbird," and I feel justified now. (Maybe that's coloring my impression of her singing? Nah.)

Judges like the singing, but Simon says that her outfit is horrid. Randy doesn't like that. Well, Simon's right. (Sorwy!) I mean, we are going to be losing good singers every week - and soon, good singers who sang well that week, because it's a deep field this year and someone has to go. Given equally-good performing, little things like wardrobe are going to tell. Carly looks like she's dressed in a sack, and that huge waistband makes her bust and hips look awkwardly out-of-proportion. It's very unflattering. If this keeps up Carly is going to look like a homeless person in two weeks.

I think it was Archuleta sixth. Doesn't matter. "Smoky Mountain Memories." Is this about clear-cutting the mountains and displacing the Spotty-Freckled Polka-Dot Bird? No, it's actually a sweet little song. I think it's David's best since "Imagine." Well done all around.

(Lots of Jesus in the music tonight: some people may look askew at it, but you know what? First of all, it's country; second of all, it's totally unaffected - nobody's going out of their way to avoid it, or out of their way to mention it. It's just there, matter of fact. It's a welcome change.)

Kristy Lee. Can't remember her song. I will look it up. "Coat of Many Colors." OH, that's right. But I think that I just proved Simon's point - pleasant but forgettable. Yup. (He's back on my Christmas card list.) Randy said something about this being in her wheelhouse. If so, she just weakly fouled out to third.

Up next, Syesha, singing... well, you know. Vegas took this off the board, so I'm sorry, we're not paying off any bets. It's actually decent, but I'm a little torn. I think she would have been better off sticking with one style or the other: but if she sticks to the wistful Dolly version, she can't show off her power, and if she sticks to the Whitney version, she's trapped in the shadow of a superior performer. Yet another reason to stretch one's talents. I think she has the voice to pull off quieter runs (but don't go crazy with it), and should have stuck with wistful. This may land her in the bottom three.

Michael Johns will close the show. "It's All Wrong, but It's All Right." Not familiar with this. He's really doing well. His poses and stuff are all the same again, but the singing is just fine. (Ladybug likes his Villa Vallo "scarf around the bare neck" look.) Go to the couch, you're safe this week. DVR cut off after Randy; I'll catch the recap.

My bottom three: Kristy Lee, who should have done far better; Ramiele, who did do better but it's too late; and... hm. Ladybug says that Brooke could be in trouble. Her instincts for such things are unerring, so I'll go with her call instead of mine.

Results: we open with a very dull "Nine to Five" group sing. It sounded a little too fast. Kristy Lee didn't sound at all in her wheelhouse, Brooke bailed on the higher notes of her verse, Jason Castro... my goodness, what was that... dreadful capering? He looked like a demented marionette. Yipes. They're storming the judges' table for the finale. Run for it, Simon! Flee!

Idols backstage. Remiele is 3' 8", tops. They couldn't have her stand next to David Archuleta to de-emphasize the contrast?

OK, that Clark Brothers performance, was good - but it went to eleven on the oddity scale. They totally lost the beat during the first break, and though both the non-singers were great guitarists (or, a great guitarist and a great mandolinist), it was very chaotic. And bless us, the lead singer had the Nick Anderson Face going the whole time. I think he may have blinked once the entire song. So, yeah, I'm not gonna buy that on iTunes.

The commercial made me laugh out loud, but at them, not with them. Song was a dud, singing was a dud, and they wouldn't have a prayer of winning a pickup game against those guys if they all played at once.

Playing nine on five
What a way to take a beating
They're just running by
It's all dunking and repeating
We've just lost the game
Sixty-seven against zero
We should have stayed home
Playing "Guitar Hero"

Questions. Mostly forgettable, but Simon was funny about apologizing after giving tough criticism. It should be obvious by now that he's actually on the contestants' side, and wants them to be as good as they can be, and his way of doing this is not to be constantly cheerleading. It's an excellent balance between the three judges. Stay the course, Simon. Later, he winds up giving one of his quick winks, too. He's actually kind of charming.

(Ryan did skip one question I was able to read off the screen: "Is all the arguing for real, or is it scripted?" You know what? Excellent decision to skip that. Knowing one way or the other would ruin it - if you know it's fake you can't enjoy it the same way, and if you know it's real it would be really uncomfortable. The uncertainty is what makes it so much fun.)

I turned to Ladybug before Dolly came on and said, "As good as some of the contestants were this week, you know that Dolly is going to be as good as all of them put together." Well, she wasn't quite that good, but dude, she was pretty close - especially considering the insanity of the show up until now. "Jesus and Gravity." I think I'm with the Barking Spider on this one: I'm going to come out of the country/western closet and announce that I'm a fan. A lot of new pop or rock songs, it takes a little while to get into them; country is immediately accessible, and appealing. You either dig it right off or you walk away from it. For example, Trace Adkins sang his new single, "You're Gonna Miss This," live on the Celebrity Apprentice finale. iTunes download of that performance? Done, and done. This will probably join it. Good lyrics, nice tune, and I liked the gospel rave up at the end. Dolly is going a little crazy here, introducing everyone and everything, but I found it oddly charming. (But the outfit? It's like Elvira in Vegas. Completely insane.)

Idol Gives Back moment. Darn, it got really dusty in our living room. Finding that girl's sister on the streets of Addis Ababa? Worth every penny. God bless them.

Catching up with previous Idols. Holy cow, it's Nosferatu! (Phil Stacey.) Didn't recognize him with the beard. Or by name. Oops. Bo Bice, a fave of the Ladybug's, has had some rough times - long hospital stay and surgery, man. Took some time off, is doing the southern rock thing (fifty times better than Biker Nurse - sowry!), hanging with his family. God bless you too, Bo.

As for results... first three (Mike Johns, Dave A, Carly) are safe. Backstage, Remiele has gotten smaller if possible. David Cook goes to the couch. Remiele is out now, and taking a stool. Syesha is safe. Kristy Lee Hoedown takes a stool. (If she can't clean up doing country music, she is done like a Christmas ham.) It's down to Jason and Brooke. Ladybug's right, Brooke is in the bottom three. Judges say it's the right call. Remiele is now about two feet high, and bluffs sneaking out from under the arms of the taller girls. (Nice moment.)

Brooke is sent back to the couch, which is also the right call. So it's either Hoedown or Ramiele, and either way, America can't really lose.

Ramiele goes home. I'm sad for her. So is Kristy, who looked for a split-second like she was going to kiss Ramiele on the forehead. Instead she opts for a big hug. I can't even see Ramiele anymore. She's buried her face in Kristy's belly button. Let her sing, already! Finally she does, and the Nick Anderson Face is gone. As if it hasn't been said enough, I'll say it again - PLEASE enjoy your time on the show while it's happening! You will sing better and be happier.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More for the Venn diagram..

..of politics and whorism.

The co-founder and former CEO of the liberal-progressive Democracy Radio and husband of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was caught in February by a Troy police sting aimed at catching prostitutes, according to a police report.

Thomas L. Athans was stopped Feb. 26 by undercover officers investigating a possible prostitution ring in a room at the Residence Inn near Big Beaver and Interstate 75. Athans paid a 20-year-old prostitute $150 for sex in a Troy hotel but was not arrested, according to police reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Detroit News.

The police report said officers observed Athans enter a room under surveillance and leave 15 minutes later. Detectives followed and stopped Athans' silver 2002 Cadillac DeVille on Interstate 75 near Square Lake Road.

This guy's a lot cheaper than Spitzer. When he has his press conference, will Senator Stabenow (AKA Stab me now) be at his side like a good wife?

I Can Haz Bear

My lolspeak is bad.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Breaking news

Manhattan (AP) - nearly four weeks after resigning amid prostitution and money laundering scandals, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer has emerged from seclusion to announce a new candidacy: the pulpit.

"I have decided that the best remedy to my disgrace is to apply for as much grace as I can possibly get," Spitzer said during his surprising announcement at a hastily-called press conference. "I will be joining the General Theological Seminary in hopes to become an Episcopalian clergyman."

Flanked by his wife and Anglican bishop Rowan Williams, Spitzer looked calm, and refused to take any questions from reporters. Bishop Williams, however, was happy to step into the breach.

"I don't find it inappropriate at all," said Williams when asked if Spitzer's conduct was a disqualification. "1 Timothy 3 is an ambiguous passage when filtered through today's ethos. Or you could filter it through my beard. Either way, I mean, really. You'd disqualify everyone if you disqualify a guy like Eliot Spitzer. It's not like he did anything anti-choice while in office."

"In fact," he continued, "you could argue that he helped empower young women. I think it's a noble use of taxpayer funds."

"They're not your taxes," someone called out, leading to quietly smug, dismissive laughter.

"We look forward to Mr. Spitzer's contributions in ministry," said the sub-associate-vice-dean the seminary, Rev. Chumley Scott-Free FitzHughPatMcHenry. "He will really go after all of those sinners and give them what-for. I also anticipate that collections will rise dramatically during his tenure."

At this point, the conference came to a sharp close when Mrs. Spitzer set upon her husband like a timber wolf, forcing authorities to use stun guns to subdue her. "Don't taze her, brother!" cried Williams. "Like hell - taze her!" shouted Spitzer, holding his wife's jaws at bay with a mic stand.

Spitzer could still be heard muttering "jackass" at Williams as they were rushed to a waiting helicopter.

To reach the unreachable goal

Ricki reports that the lolcats have finally achieved the perfect resolution of their chase for cheeseburgers.

I was told TUNA. This was a falsehood.

Personally, I liked my own take on the age-old quest. (For the internet, 15 months is an age.)

What is the nature of 'cheezburger?'

Didn't even make the voting page. Ur pics, let me not show anyone dem.

(Pics come from ICHC)