Charlottes Web Blog







June 2, 2008

It's back to work a full week after have three off last week, but it wasn't really that terrible. Well, at least today wasn't. There are four more days to go.

So, I'm going on vacation next month; taking a little more than a week off and flying out to Oregon to see the kiddies and grand-kiddie. I can't wait!

I'm kind of sore. And tired. I just got home from the gym, so I will try to organize my brain cells.

Let's see, the world of television is now slower paced, with only a couple of shows now that I bother watching; So You Think You Can Dance and Top Chef. After months of feeling like the cud to American Idol's masticating cow, I have to confess that leaping right into the warm, sweaty, finely toned embrace of So You Think You Can Dance was just fantastic; if felt like coming home. There was more artistry, charisma, sex appeal, and jaw-in-the-basement moments in the two-hour season premiere (who am I kidding? in the two minutes of the two-hour season premiere!) than there was in whole episodes of the just concluded season of Idol.

I'll recap thus far what I think of So You Think You Can Dance (or, SYTYCD for short!), the auditions that we have been graced with viewing thus far.

The premier of SYTYCD episode wasn't perfect, of course; they still spend far too little time on the auditions of dancers who made it through to the semi-finals in Las Vegas and far too much on oddballs like Sex. And I'm sorry to disappoint his "fans," but I sincerely hope we never have the displeasure of looking at him again. Though I did think judges Mary Murphy and Nigel Lythgoe didn't exactly take the high road with him (i mean, really, why did Nigel bother broadcasting Sex's audition if he feels all Sex wants is to be on television?), but I do agree with Nigel that more attention is the last thing this guy needs. Please Nigel, do not force this nightmare of a person down our throats ever again!

It's sometimes impossible to tell whether a dancer is any good. For example, during Devon Oshiro's routine, the judges sat so stone-faced through the number that I honestly hadn't a clue whether Devon was any good or not until they told me. Likewise, I had to scratch my head when Mary told the ballroom couple Leonidas "Shia 'Mutt Williams' LaBeouf" Proskurov and Aliona "Ashlee 'Pre-Nose-Job' Simpson" Vetrenko that she thought they danced with "class." If by "class," Mary means "hip-swiveling, fellatio-alluding panache," then, sure — maybe it's a special dancing term, like "great lines" or "floor work."

I do know what "star quality" means, though, and I'm not exactly sure that Kherington Payne has it as much as she has "great skin," "symmetrical features," and "the potential to be this year's prima donna nightmare." She certainly danced with light and bright energy, but between her uniquely spelled name, dangerously pronounced home town of Placentia, Calif., and confession that she once hit a girl on the soccer field, my takeaway was a pretty, precious princess. I mean, the judges praised Kherington's face as much as her dancing; I think all Nigel needed to know about her potential on the show was written right into the doofy grin on Dominic, the special guest from season 3.

And that's all good, really. Nigel has admitted that these auditions are as much about "casting" as they are about finding fantabulous dancers. This is a reality TV show; anyone who thinks a contestant's physical beauty and potential for behind-the-scenes fireworks shouldn't matter apparently hasn't spent much time, you know, watching reality TV. Besides, I trust the judges aren't out to make a complete travesty of the audition process for the simple reason that the judges know what they're talking about, and they're entertaining to boot.

Case in point: For every Kherington Payne who makes it through, there's a Jonathan Anzalone who doesn't. A near-perfect specimen of male beauty whose cockiness dial was turned all the way to at least a 35 on a scale of 1-10 ("I like myself, and I like to show that to people"), Jonathan was also not so much a "professional dancer" as a guy who watched far too many Michael Jackson music videos back in his native Italy and thought, "I am way hotter than this dude here, and I already unbutton my shirt, pump my hips and grab my crotch a lot, so I must be dancing already!" I think the judges kept Jonathan around for the choreography portion of the auditions simply for the eye candy, and I don't blame them; even a man as staunchly heterosexual as Nigel seemed to appreciate the chance to admire the (insanely obnoxious) Adonis.

At the very least, Jonathan allowed for the most hysterical comment of the night. After Nigel asked guest judge Mia Michaels whether she thought the guy would be successful in the U.S., she replied, "Not very sex-cessful," before dissolving into a puddle of embarrassment. Ah, Mia. Without you, we'd have no honest entertainment.

Not that Nigel and Mary were slouches. It would have been easy for the judges to have either dismissed out of hand or grossly overpraised William B. Wingfield's stirring contemp routine to a spoken-word track about race and class oppression. Instead, all three judges thoughtfully responded to the creativity of its content while holding firm to the correct assertion that it was a bad showcase for a SYTYCD audition. (One wonders how often WBW has actually seen the show, however, given his professed international-gypsy lifestyle.) Thankfully, WBW made it through to Vegas after the choreography round, as Mary made quite clear with her trademark ear-piercing scream. Loved Mia's face at that moment, right?

And double loved that season 2's Travis Wall was leading the choreography sessions! Heart… be still!

Still, Mia was the top judge of the night after her tear-jerking reaction to dancer Laura Garcia. Afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that has left her legally blind, Laura still managed to give a truly strong, if understandably unrefined, audition. Nigel and Mary punted when they said they were passing on Laura not because she was blind but because her "technique" was lacking — which was, of course, in part because, as Laura herself explained, she can only really learn choreography when she's standing right next to the choreographer. But then it was Mia's turn to speak, and the normally steely Emmy winner was a sobbing wreck, deeply moved by Laura's drive and reminded of a close friend and dancer who had recently been rendered blind as well. Afterward, standing in the lobby, Laura softly said to the camera, "Thank you for even watching me, and I wish I could have stayed longer. And I love Mia Michaels." Ah, maaaaaaaaan…

I was petrified that Victor Kim's back was going to snap as he lifted himself by his arms as his legs curled over his head,. I did think it was a bit cruel for the show to spend that much time with the guy and then so casually toss him away with a quick shot of an apparently disappointing go at the choreography. And if Asuka Kondoh dances like that when she's sick, she's going to be soooooo stupid when she heals up. Her dance partner Ricky Sun, however, may want to invest in a pair of jeans that aren't quite so conspicuously from the women's section…

Repeat auditioners actually DO improve with each passing year. A fine example is Twitch, the freestyler who just missed making it into the final 20 last season. He clearly took the time to make sure that won't happen again. His audition was a full-on, thoughtful, contemporary-inflected routine; Twitch's decision to take it all a bit more seriously paid off in spades. I wish I could say the same for Phillip Chbeeb, whose mind-blowing rubber-boned popping still had me worried about whether he's getting enough calcium and whether he's just a one-trick pony. Hopefully, the producers won't forget him completely during Vegas week as they did last season.

And if any blond female dancer exuded star quality last night, it was three-time auditioner Erika Gee, who dropped her "musical theater, flamenco, jazz, baton twirler" style in favor of an impassioned contemporary number that had the judges raving.

Meanwhile, I finally figured out where Gold Inferno developed the inimitable "jump style" that he debuted to America last season: The superstar factory that is Dance Dance Revolution. I think he wears that mask so we can't see him mouthing, "Up, down, left, left, right and left, up, down, right and left, down, up, right, down, left, up and down, right, down, right," to himself as he imagines the stage floor littered with corresponding arrows. Even the music — the best music SYTYCD has ever heard, mind you — sounded like it was right out of the game. I do hope someone cheers the guy up.

Extra-terrestrials even were allowed to try out. Mia Michaels spoke for all of us, I think, when she told L.A. popper Robert Muraine that she was "ready for you to unzip your skin and come out like, blaaAAAAaah, like you're an alien or something." This guy's dancing was stupid, stank, even sick, so much so that it started to inch into the unironically sick; as in, I was turning a bit green at the gills feeling queasy watching someone twist, bend, buckle and pivot his body into shapes that mathematicians can only re-create on a supercomputer as they have been deemed theoretically impossible in the real world.

The second week's auditions proved to be too much of a repeat of history. I mean, I get it. Really. These audition episodes aren't about dancing as much as they're about "dramatic stories" with "colorful personalities" and "the wicked schadenfreude of watching people who think they're epically awesome get shown up when they're exposed to be quite less than epically awesome." But then you get, say, Wednesday night's episode; the stories aren't that dramatic, the personalities more monochromatic than colorful, and the awful dancers neither all that awful nor all that epically full of themselves. I'd just as soon lose one or two of those segments in favor of, you know, good dancing. Instead, with only 15 minutes left in the two hours spent on the auditions in Salt Lake City and Dallas, the producers chose to race through eight or nine seemingly excellent performers, including a woman who Nigel Lythgoe called the "best female hip-hop dancer we've had on the program" — a line that was prominently highlighted in the trailers for this episode.

Nigel and company certainly didn't waste any time getting down to the business at hand with their first audition, introducing Chelsie Hightower with some bleating Britney beats and repeated testimony from young Chelsie's mother and Chelsie herself that she's "tough." Why so? Well, once upon a time, her sizable family lost their house and "several cars." Several? Oh, DO tell! But, no, that vaguely defined hardship was as in-depth as we got with Chelsie; we didn't even learn why she had to snag someone else's partner for her audition. Seems like there could've been a good three more minutes wasted on dragging out that drama, eh, Nigel? Considering she was dancing with an unfamiliar partner, Chelsie was impressive and guest judge Mandy Moore trotted out our second "star quality" of the season. But the burning question in my mind — whatever became of Chelsie's ad hoc partner?

Our next "story" followed right away, and it was an easy favorite of the night precisely because it could've devolved into treacle but didn't. Brett Banford, a global messenger for the Special Olympics, won over pretty much everyone he encountered (including me) with his engaging enthusiasm; when he crowed, "I'm here to represent," and the crowd leapt to their feet and roared their approval.

But so help me GAWD, I could not have cared less about Kortney taking dance fitness classes from Michelle to lose her baby weight, or Nicole packing up her halfway-to-eight-is-enough brood each morning to walk to the school bus. I want to see good dancing! DAMMIT!

But, no, instead I had to suffer through such atrocities like Brian Davidson, who began his brief tenure on the show by barking like a dog and ended it with a litany of non sequitur trash talk, with a smattering of cheesy club boogie-ing somewhere in the middle. Mind you, Brian is not the one to be mad at, but rather the producers for putting Brian on the audition stage and into my TV. I want to be in charge of what goes into THEIR TV now. Oh yes. Bwhahaha…

The judges seemed to take the bad dancing extra-personally last night, as if the specter of foot slides and shoulder shuffles Naomie Christensen sloughed onto the floorboards was some kind of affront to dancing itself. I realize Naomie wasn't exactly the most self-aware person in the world; that much was clear the moment she said, "I do some acting and financial advising," without any apparent irony. *blink* But Nigel and Mary seemed quite — angry — that she and Cassidy "31 flavors of booty-shaking" Corder even dared to attempt to try out when those judges both know full well their anger should be directed at whomever prescreened these two and deemed them ready for prime time!

OHH Boy! And, that anger peaked with Steven Arner, the last dancer of the night. It seems pretty darn obvious that the prescreeners took one look at the guy's Mickey Mouse'd fro and put him right through to the judges. However, his hip-hop chair dance wasn't really all that memorably awful, and neither, really, was his jank attitude. Okay, the hand puppets at the beginning were pretty silly… But something about the guy flipped the catty switch in Mary Murphy; after she repeatedly insisted that he needed hip-hop training, Steven finally broke out with a bratty "giiiirl," to which Mary instantly replied, "Boy, you want to get in my face?" (WHO forgot the bowl of milk and Meow Mix munchies?!) Then he called her what I assume was a word that rhymes with witch, and Mary was on his ass all the way out of the auditorium. Now, I do not believe Mary meant the "boy" as any kind of racial pejorative, but simply was coming back at Steven by using his own particular idiom. Despite it all, the whole exchange left me feeling quite unpleasant; akin to being stuck in the room as your best friend fights with his or her spouse (or parents!). That's not so much the recommended way to leave things with your viewers, guys!

There were the good dancers. Take Ryann Race, whose fluid flow dancing so won over the judges that they put him through to Vegas even though it would appear he crashed and burned during the choreography stage, and Joshua Allen, whose forceful hip-hopping and winning smile had me beaming. The strip-club DJ with the stripper girlfriend earned their place in my mind for my favorite line of the night: he lamented that "it's hard to be a couple in a strip club." (Oh, ain't it, though?). Of the three strongest male dancers , the one who stood out the most to me was Thayn Jasperson, who of course, got the least screen time out of all of them. Matt Dorame's technique seemed strong; Nigel was rather distracted by his gym shorts.

For me, the real winners were Arielle Coker and Kelli Baker. I was rather shocked that the producers didn't sic Cat on Arielle and her partner, John Dix for the third degree about their "relationship." Of course, when Arielle admitted that John pretty much does everything she asks of him, we all knew exactly how that story was going to end…and then we saw how, when she awkwardly pushed him away after she'd made it to Vegas. But Arielle's dancing was light and expressive.

Kelli was my favorite, though. And Nigel's. And Mary's. And Mandy's. Even though she faltered after one of her jumps, Kelli's lines, technique, floor work, musicality and extension were all first rate. And she kinda better be, what with having an Emmy-winning choreographer for a mother!

After the Wednesday night episode, my enthusiasm for yet another two-hour SYTYCD audition episode was really beginning to wane. Just about everything that was out of whack on that fateful night was righted back into far more entertaining proportions during the Charleston, SC, and Washington, DC, auditions Thursday. With far more engaging "stories," far more outrageous "disasters," and far, far, far better dancing and, in at least one case, all in the same audition, SYTYCD has been redeemed.

On Wednesday, we had ballroom dancer Chelsie Hightower's fuzzy tale of woe to launch us into the evening (all those cars! gone!); last night, we began with jazz dancer Sheila Kaiser, a biological-engineering student at the University of Georgia who came to Charleston in the face of her father's apparently strong disapproval, a hardship far easier to key into. Like Chelsie, Sheila did not disappoint with her audition, bringing a playful and polished showmanship that I hadn't realized had been largely missing from the season thus far.

After Sheila, though, it wasn't until day 2 in Charleston that the SYTYCD cameras ventured once more from whatever field of converted warehouses was playing home to the auditions. We saw just enough of Abigail Thurman's life as a swim teacher to understand what a sweetheart she is, and no more, which made it a perfect setup for her adorable realization she's really not all that cut out for professional dancing. Before she'd even finished her amateurish routine, she caught a glimpse of Nigel burying his head in his hands and simply just stopped right there, saying with not a small amount of sheepish chagrin, "Am I that bad? Really?" Nigel assured her she was not a loser, "just a shitty dancer." "It's true," Abigail replied. "I really suck at dancing!"

B. J. Harris, however, did not suck at dancing, even if I'm not entirely convinced he didn't truck in an elaborate wire-and-harness system to pull off flopping and tossing his body around the stage like he was a rag-doll marionette, lifting his body from the floor seemingly just on his tiptoes. There had to be a rope, fishing line, elves?! — something lifting the guy up! It's a shame, really, that BJ couldn't master the choreography. He told Cat that many friends and family members had helped him get to Charleston; here's hoping they'll also help him pay for the dancing classes he needs to make it to Vegas next year. Aw!

That's the kind of support, by the way, that Claire Callaway certainly doesn't seem to be getting. After an injury felled her during Vegas week in season 2 and a (seemingly unplanned) baby sidelined her from returning for season 3, Claire appeared to have lost all her confidence along with a scary amount of weight. She could barely speak through her sobs after posing her way through her first audition; one wonders whether the 20-year-old will be able to hold it together in Vegas.

I sure do hope Markus Shields does. About halfway through his fascinatingly varied routine, I found myself getting a wee bit choked up realizing how much Markus was doing his late mother proud. *le sigh*

Nigel mentioned that one of the great surprises this year was the number of hip-hop dancers who showed up having trained in more traditional styles, creating "this fusion… this sort of soft hip-hop."

And how cool was it to see a guy who'd weathered adolescence with one of the most unfortunate names I've ever seen/heard — that'd be Phucdat Ngyuen — come out the other side completely embracing his geekiness and sporting some pretty fly dancing skills besides? Only a true, deep-dish geek would dance in a replica of Bruce Lee's yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death, and Phucdat totally pulled it off.

I could talk about Erin Mansour's inexplicable decision to audition as a ballroom dancer after only eight hours of work with partner John Tabakian, and sure, I could sing odes of praise to the producers for compacting most of the horrid auditions into two tightly edited montages, with the asterisk that I actually would like to have seen more of the druidic lesbian floor rolling, because, seriously, who doesn't love druidic lesbians?

But, really, there were only two truly disastrous auditions worth getting fussy about. The first is Jason Looney, or Betty Wallace, or just plain YUCK. This guy (uh, gal?) work of horrific performance art was either a complete put-on or seriously delusional, and all three judges bet squarely on the former when they released the full measure of their scorn on his coyly awful dancing, thick-as-molasses Southern accent, and Old French Whore makeup job. It's not exactly clear what about dear Jason was making Mary so sick!

Best (worst?) of all, there's Anthony Bryant and his catchphrase of "Fuck these peeee-pullll" over and over and over again. Bryant's meltdown was actually completely understandable this year. It must be absolutely maddening to graduate from Juilliard (in three years instead of four, no less); return to audition for the show after your first ribbon-twirling tryout back in 2005 generated an altogether unflattering clip repeated ad nauseam by TV comedians and snark demons alike; dance a routine that wins high marks from everyone on technical prowess but still be told you must go through the choreography round because of a vaguely defined lack of "spark"; wear an army camouflage jumpsuit clearly meant to comment directly on Nigel Lythgoe's damning slam three years earlier that you're not masculine enough, only to have Nigel not even acknowledge said event even occurred; dance the aforementioned choreography without the camo and with a smile and attitude that earns a scripted voice-over remark on said smile and attitude by host Cat Deeley; and still be told you're not good enough to go to Vegas. And then, on top of everything else, they won't let you have your shoes!!! Say it with me now: "Fuck these peeee-pullll!"

The standouts were identical twins Anthony and Antwain Hart who totally won me over, during the entire sequence of their introduction (when Anthony said of Antwain, "I've lived with him just about my entire life," and Antwain added, "Yeah, same here"); Antwain sticking up for his brother after Anthony failed to wow the judges; Nigel giving Antwain a Sophie's choice between Anthony and Vegas; the brothers' double-wide-grin-inducing dance together; Anthony saying of Antwain after they'd won him the rare second chance, "I love this guy; you're my lifesaver, dude."

Brandon Bryant is right up there, too, on top. He's handsome, winning, exuberant, and, as judge Dan Karaty pointed out, gifted with a rare mix of dancing talents. If this kid doesn't make it to at least the Top 10, then, it's confirmed that American is suffering major brain farts.

On to last week's episode of Top Chef entitled "High Steaks."

Once the quintet had seven tomahawks spruced up, they had thirty minutes at the Top Chef kitchen to make the perfect steak. For guest judge Rick Tramonto, who ended up being a tough guy to read, that meant medium rare. Not only did they have to make the perfect steak cooking wise, they had to butcher the meat and form it perfectly to look like perfect tomahawks. Inside a large butchering shop. Ugh. The smell alone…

Spike, Lisa and Antonia executed their cuts of meat the best, and Spike won. It was rather obvious, and of course, having a father who was a butcher no doubt was the clincher!

Only five chefs are left now: Spike, Richard, Stephanie, Antonia, and Lisa (to the dismay of many a fan). It's the first time in Top Chef history that three women have made it this far. Spike and Lisa are the obvious the weakest links; Spike's been at the judge's table seven times, Lisa five times. Spike said he'd like to see Antonia go home, without much explanation, even though he thinks Stephanie seems like the better chef. Unless you're a super overachiever who finds challenging yourself more important than winning competitions, wouldn't you want the better chef to go home?

They all have their eyes set on Puerto Rico, so the pressure is on. Richard said, "I don't want to walk out of here tomorrow and say, 'Oh, that was a good game. I was the fifth person.' No difference between going home now or being the first one to go home. I want to get to the final four." I have no doubt he will make it.

This elimination challenge would be the test of tests. We needed to see some chops. As a group, they were to take over Tramonto's new steakhouse, but individually, they were responsible for producing their own appetizer and entree in three hours. Spike's prize for winning the quickfire was a five-minute head start to pick his ingredients for the elimination challenge. First thing that came to mind was that he was going to skeezily take advantage of the situation and grab ingredients that the other chefs wanted. It turned out his choice affected the outcome quite differently.

In the kitchen cooler, Spike made a beeline for tomahawk steaks and scallops. Frozen scallops. *BLECH* Which everybody balked at. I mean. Even I balked at that choice! Later, when Tom Colicchio stopped by to check in, Spike started second-guessing himself. "It's kind of ironic that I get an advantage," he said, "and it ends up just biting me in the ass." But doesn't Tom have that effect on everyone? "Interesting" seems to be code for "scary." Richard said his own policy in talking about his food is to manage expectations: "underpromise, overdeliver."

To turn up the heat in the kitchen, Colicchio announced that he was going to expedite dinner service. Awesome! Well, if you were a super top chef with a super fancy restaurant whose reputation balanced on the service that was going to affect all of his restaurant attendees that night, would you have just anyone be expediter?

The show brought in Top Chef's previous winners, Harold, Ilan, and Hung, to be guest judges for the elimination challenge. Ugh. The three biggest dorkheads. "You're here to win, not be fan favorites," Hung told the five contestants. *Tsks* Considering that us fans are those that seek out these chefs in their restaurants, Hung might hang by his own words… The comment was dorky anyway, since these cheftestants wouldn't really know if the public liked them until the season started airing! I'm sure Hung found out post-taping that everybody thought he was obnoxious. I'm quite sure that's what Lisa is going through now, because she didn't seem to be aware of the fact that the judges and the other contestants thought she was overbearing and thin-skinned. At the end of the episode, while the judges were deliberating, she told her competitors that they were "fucking awesome, and I hope we all stay in touch." Aw.

Antonia was concerned that the former cheftestants would be overly critical. "I don't know if these former Top Chef winners are going to be more gentle or harsh," she said. "You know, once you're on the other side and you're sitting at the judge's table, it's easy to become very critical." She was right. The trio layed it on thick — Hung and Ilan were very chatty, even mugging for the cameras at times. Hung criticized Lisa's grilled and chilled prawns for needing "more sugar;" Harold said Spike's scallops lacked "anything texturally interesting;" and Ilan, whose least favorite cut of meat happens to be tenderloin, just seemed to want more out of everybody, saying, "This is the episode before the finale — you know, blow my mind." The latter really sort of annoyed me, giving off that been-there, done-that arrogance, and considering HE never really blew anyone's mind up to and including at the very end of his victory.

Despite Lisa's bizarre peanut-butter mashed potatoes (WTF?), nothing looked like a disaster. Stephanie's sweetbreads with golden raisins seemed a nice flavor combination, while Antonia's bone-in rib eye and gratin sounded like the perfect winter comfort food. Tramonto said he would put Richard's hamachi appetizer on his menu in "a heartbeat," and even gave the PB&P a chance, saying he was really "digging the mash." Hmmmm.

While the judges conferred, the cheftestants popped open wine, beers, and perhaps some Xanax to relieve the tension. Then it was back to the judges' table, which I think was one of the best in the show's history. First, Padma asked Richard how he felt he did, but Richard was afraid of digging himself in a hole and responded, "Generally I felt I did… Why don't you tell me how I did?" They all loved Richard's hamachi but criticized him for his inconsistent steak. Stephanie was just as nervous about a bomb dropping on her, but Tom praised her, saying, "At no time do you ever show you're under pressure at all." Pause. Then he added, "Except now." To which Stephanie replied, "Because you guys are freaking me out." The panel generally favored Antonia's dish, so she was quickly in the clear.

It was obvious early on that the choice of eliminee would come down to Lisa and Spike. I have been rooting for Lisa to get the boot, but Spike sealed the deal after being a complete jerk on the firing line. Tom told him, "Scallops come in frozen, send them back, choose something else. I was really surprised that you stuck with those scallops. They're really terrible." Then Tramanto gave him a bit of a lecture, saying, "Being a chef is all about choices… I mean, a vendor brings in something like that in your restaurant, in the back door, you gotta be able to say, 'You know what? Change in plan, change in direction.'" Spike fired back: "Well, with all due respect, they were in your walk-in, and it should never make it in the walk-in if it's not high quality." (ZOMG!) At this point Tom seemed slightly embarrassed, looking down and scratching his head. Tramanto replied, "I'll take the shot, bro. I had frozen scallops in my cooler, but you gotta take the shot that you used them." Spike tried to defend himself one last time: "I did use them. I mean, I understand that I did use the frozen scallops, and…" Tramanto shut him down: "Wrong move." On the way out, Spike the operator had the audacity to go up to Tramanto, shake his hand, and say, "It was an honor."

At least Spike regretted the exchange afterward. "I can't believe I said that about the walk-in thing. I don't know where that came from." Despite the slip-up, Spike still thought he should be in the top four. The judges disagreed and gave him the boot — albeit with a professional summation by Tramonto: "I love his spunk, I love his fire, but coming off of yesterday, I was expecting more." Spike was naturally disappointed and had to make some sort of self-aggrandizing statement to make himself feel better. "I felt like I've showed so much of myself here in so many different ways more than any other individual in this competition," he said. "It's just that it sucks that it had to end like this for me."

In the winner's circle was Stephanie, who, no matter what happens next, will be going home with a most awesomely sweet set of kitchen appliances (maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I was salivating!). Rounding out second and third place were Richard and Antonia, while Lisa just barely hung on for that fourth Puerto Rico spot. Padma and Tom seemed to disagree on where Lisa is coming from. Tom thinks she's apathetic, while Padma noted "she has an amazing palate. I think she focuses more on flavor and less on the technique." To which Tom said, "Technique is how you make flavor." Did anyone else notice that Padma seemed perturbed by Tom's shortness? Are things sour in the land of gastronomy?

Is it Friday yet?

Heck. Is it July 8th yet?



June 2, 2008

I was … SWAMPED … today at work. Before noon hit, I knew that when I got home, I'm going to be zonked! Not to mention, the weatherman ensured that it was due to be almost 90 degrees and "sultry" which translates to fucking horrible. And … I had to go to the gym today. I mean, I had no reason not to go. My knees were a big achy, but I planned to fight past the pain and do my exercise routine tonight regardless.

Dreading walking outside after my day at work, I open the door to discover that it's BEAUTIFUL out, nice and cool! So much for the near-90 degree day! The storm due the next day appeared to be arriving a bit early, and I predicted that by late evening the rain would fall.

I get to the gym, and it's crowded, and I park in a rather illegal parking, but hey, two other cars are parked that way too, and no one bothers them because, truthfully, there's plenty of room for people to get out of their (legal) spots, and for cars to pass.

Inside, I find a quiet area in the locker room, and choose an empty locker, setting out the clothes I plan to change into, getting out my MP3 player, and such. In walks three girls, probably no more than 16 years old, who have been in the pool. Generally, they're not allowed in the gym at that age, because of liabilities, but apparently there's some summer event thing, and they're allowed to come to use the pool only and some of the very basic machines, but from what I understand, they must be there with an adult. I saw no adult.

So these three girls (I will call them Chubby, Freckles and Mute), wet and pool-stinky, arrive — of course where I am. Of the entire 200-at least lockers, theirs is in that tiny space that I'm at. Freckles had already dressed and flopped herself down on the bench, nearly knocking me over because she wasn't paying attention, while she waited for her friends, possibly one a sister, to get changed; but she does apologize and I am amazed at all the freckles on her face, of all sizes and varying degrees of color, from reddish to dark brown.

They're chattering away in what at first I thought was perhaps Russian or Polish, but really,they were talking in English, only slurred and very fast with some subtle changes to make it appear they were speaking a foreign language. *eye rolls* Whatever it was, it was fucking annoying and one of them especially loud.

The loud girl, is the one I call Chubby. Tall, chubby, her skirt so tight that her big round belly jutted out almost as if she were pregnant, her skin toasted lobster red and her overall demeanor just plain crude. Chubby is standing by her locker, brushing out her hair, which is very long, about like mine. She decides she needs to look at the mirror …

Okay … so the lockers are lined up this way:

[X][ ][ ][ ][ ][C]|<— Mirror
          | BENCH |
[X][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]

The two girls have the lockers with the X's. Mine is the locker with the C. Notice the position of the mirror?

So she, stands there brushing her hair and all of a sudden — WHIP! SNAP! WHIP! SNAP! WHIP! SNAP! WHIP! SNAP! She goes with her hair, while she's spinning in circles. I'm in my work clothes getting ready to get out of them and into my work out clothes, and I'm getting assaulted not only by the water from her hair, but from her hair itself.

I said, in a very slow, calm, but that hint of annoyance quite distinguishable: "Do you have to do that right here?"

Chubby's answer? "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah…"

Me to Chubby: "Hm. Okay. I have to assume you really love your hair, and it certainly is the only feature about you that is flattering. I do not appreciate having whatever shit is in your hair to get onto my work clothes, and I certainly don't appreciate getting stung by your hair. Bearing that in mind, since you say you HAVE to do that right here on top of me, do it again, and we'll see what happens to that hair of yours…" I smile a most malevolently-sweet smile at her.

Freckles to me: "I'm sorry. There's something wrong with my friend."

Me to Freckles: "It's called a total lack of respect for other people that an attitude adjustment won't solve."

Chubby meanwhile goes dead silent and starts walking off, but Freckles points out, "hey, don't forget your bag" and she rises up to head toward the exit. So, Chubby is in a dilemna, which is, remaining within reach of me; she quietly eases back to her locker to grab her purse before she hurries to follow Mute.

Mute, a tiny thing I could stuff into one of the lockers with no problem, has not said one word during all of this (thus her name), but has managed to slither off and away, heading towards the exit …

It set my mood to a much lighter one, because, I just cracked up as they hurried off to leave and another woman nearby joined in; she had watched it all!

So I get to the stationary bikes, have my MP3 on, started up the bike, and set the program. So that I wouldn't see the time passing, I through my towel over the computer screen, set my bottle of water there, and cracked open my book, listening to Daughtry while immersing myself into the world of Odd Thomas. I stopped once, to wipe the sweat from my forehead and take a drink — 17 minutes had passed already, and I could have sworn it had only been 5. I cover the screen back up and return to my book. The next time I stopped for a drink and a peek at the time, I had been pedalling for 42 minutes! I finished the last page of my chapter, winding down just as the screen blipped 43.45 seconds, and thought, wow, I could have gone on for longer.

Then I did the weight circuit, and met a woman who was using the machine next to me. I finished my set and she had risen to leave the machine she was on; basically, we switched places. She turns to me, "This is my favorite machine" (the one I had been on previously). I laughed and said, "Me too! It's so relaxing." The machine in question is a reverse sit-up. It seems oh so easy, and as if it really doesn't do anything at all; it's almost like being in a rocker, and it really is relaxing. But, as I added to her, "It gets you later though!" She laughed and said, "Yeah, you get home, and shower and sit back to watch some TV or something and all of a sudden you grimace and think 'what the heck did I do??' and you realize it's this machine!"

After that, we basically did our circuit together; if one would finish before the other, we'd move on to the next machine, and in this way, we spent zero time waiting for a machine. I was having such a good time, I didn't realize how late it was getting. I glanced at the clock — an hour and a half working out! I was already feeling my body say, "hey, can we stop now?" and decided not to overdo and headed off to the locker room.

The drive home was rather traffic-free, one of the advantages of doing my workout after work! Though parking is always something that can be a problem getting home at that later time of day where I live. So far, I've been lucky and always get a spot in my preferred areas. I put away my stuff, leash up JD, and took him on his walk, allowing him the slower pace on the first half, a power walk on the return home. He has learned that giving me the puppy-dog-eyes does nothing to ease up the power walk he must endure…

By the time the day has ended, I have come the closest ever to reaching my 10,000 step goal. I got to 8,499 steps! Had I taken JD on a bit of a longer walk, I would have made it. I remind myself daily of why it was easy for Valerie Bertinelli to make her 10,000 steps…

Is it Friday yet?



June 4, 2008

Morning arrived, and I got out of bed without doing the usual "five more minutes please" because, I was wide awake, and actually wanted to get up so I could do some stretches and warm ups. My long workout last night left me this morning not exactly sore, but I knew if I didn't do some stretches and warm them up, they were likely to protest later today!

I left early, and of course, hit all the idiots on the road. I swear, that's why it's better for me to leave no sooner than 7:05 because I miss them all and have relatively no one on the road to deal with. It's nasty rainy today, though the afternoon is supposed to clear up and be nice for awhile before the next storm due pelts us on our evening commute.

So I get to the deli and park, listening to my favorite DJs as they play one of their phone scams they pulled. I was just about to get out of the car when Mama Duck and her three babies came waddling from the bushes across from where I was parked. I had to watch because the scene was rather amusing. Mama walked them until about where they were likely to run into possibly a car moving or people, and she made them stop and look both ways before proceeding! Of course, she directs them to MY car … So, now I can't get out because a mommy duck I do not wish to tangle with, but I roll my window down and watch the very cute little babies swim in the rain-filled pothole my car is seated over, while Mom glanced up at me, but wasn't in the least bit nasty in her attitude. It was more a proud Mom look.

I have been such a braindead dork this week on top of it all. Monday, I wasn't ready for it to be Monday. I packed up my lunch for work, and as I got off the highway, heading to the deli for my coffee, I realized I forgot to pack the power bar to carb up. Then when I got to the gym, realized that I didn't bring my tennis shoes. And … in between all that, the dry cleaner guy walked past my desk and then a few moments later. DOH! Tony's jacket! I told him, "It's too early to be Monday already." He agreed. And … of course, I forgot to take it home!

So yesterday at the gym. Because I didn't go Monday … I packed up my gym back WITH shoes and told myself, I didn't care if it was 135 with 3000 percent humidity, I WAS going. I locked up the boss's office, and passing by the closet, reminded myself to get Tony's jacket. Then I grabbed my stuff and left to head out for the day. I put my stuff in the trunk of the car. So, I'm driving along, and I call Tony as I usually do, and we're talking and he says something about his jacket. FUCK MEEEEEEEEEE! I forgot it … again.

Being that friend of mine is apparently still quite ill, I shall lose myself now to the land of the couch potato and dance TV…

Is it July 8th yet?



June 6, 2008

Yesterday is a blur.

Work was quiet, with the boss out having surgery (and recovering today), but regardless of the quiet, it was still a stressful day dealing with a few idiots. Nonetheless, I was quite thrilled that Friday finally arrived.

I muchly needed my workout last night, and drove enthusiastically to the gym. Indeed, I had a great workout, a good just over ninety minutes worth, and only stopped because I felt a tug in my left glute; no yanked muscles for me, thankyouverymuch. Pumped up as I was, I stopped at the grocery store for a few things… and left with those few things — and then some. Er. I mean a lot more than just… some. Like to the tune of $150. Of course, in this day and age, that doesn't make an exceptionally lot of of things.

As I headed to my car, I realized it was growing darker out; nope, not clouds&helllip; Time just whizzed on past while I was spending a leisurely time wandering the store, walking off the stitch in the glute muscle and ensuring I reach my 10,000 step goal. Since it was so late, I decided to pick Tony up from work.

Of course, nothing I did was right, from the means upon which I found parking, to the actual parking, to the 1/4 block walk to our building hauling all those groceries (that I carried the most of, plus my gym bag, plus my purse, plus my book bag AND my lunch bag…). Which, considering all that, clearly left me unhappy; I hadn't even received a thank you for him not having to endure the subway…

On my drive to pick him up, I chatted on the phone with a friend, and learned that another friend had a most difficult time with pneumonia and was back in action; that was my perk for the night. As the phone call winded down, I was feeling a bit scratchy in my throat; thirsty I thought.

I woke up this morning feeling like death warmed over. I can't breathe, my head is throbbing and woozy-dizzy and I'm going to bring the cost of stock up personally for Kimberly-Clark's tissue industry. How I made it through the day today at work is beyond me. I don't remember most of it, to tell you the truth. Tony is bringing home wonderful things to put me to sleep and breath…

While waiting for him and my rescue, I'm crawling off to bed.

Until tomorrow…



June 7, 2008

I still feel like death warmed over. So much for making my Saturday morning workout.

At least, the TheraFlu that Tony brought home for me provided me a night of sleep. This morning, I feel like I could curl in a corner and just die. I found some NyQuil caps in the medicine cabinet this morning. I popped a couple and before it begins to work, I'll hit upon part one of the season finale for Top Chef, which I finally got to watch last night, lying in bed sipping the TheraFlu like it was fine wine.

First… Lisa's new 'do. It was apt that she would get a new haircut, given that we began the season discussing Richard's and Jen's wacky fauxhawks. While I'm sure most of you agree with Richard's assessment that "I don't think too many people expected Lisa to be here," we can at least throw her a bone by saying she looks good (less sloppy), which has hopefully translated over the break into her being able to find her Zen place when things heat up in the kitchen.

The quickfire challenge was quite interesting (okay, did you too think Wilo Benet could be a twin Tom Colicchio, albeit bloated?) As Richard, Stephanie, Lisa, and Antonia cooked up frituras (fried snacks; YUM!) in an unfamiliar kitchen, Richard almost blaised his eyebrows off with the stove's flame. Albóndigas (meatballs) with burnt-brow-hair garnish; it has a ring to it.

I was SO jonesing for Stephanie's tostone and Lisa's chorizo fritter even though I couldn't even taste my TheraFlu. Okay. Mostly, I was jonesing to return to beautiful Puerto Rico, where this part of the competition was being held. It was enjoyable to see those parts of this isla verde that I recognized from my own time spent there.

Hey, uh, Tom and Padma?! I'd like to go out on a limb and say I'm available to be a guest judge next season (especially if Bourdain is also a guest).

Stephanie and Lisa ended up on top in this challenge. The former had said she wasn't too fond of cooking with plantains, while the latter said she had been practicing during the break. Who won? Well, Stephanie. Why? Because she didn't take for granted that her familiarity with plantains would translate into victory. I'll add to that by saying this was her first Quick-Fire Challenge win, and as Padma said, "Better late than never." Personally, I think it's better now at this stage of the game; it makes you stand out that much more to the judges.

Next, Benet and Padma invited the cheftestants to a party in San Juan. It was like, "Gee, thanks, we finally get to go to a party where we aren't surprised with having to cook!" Of course, clearly, what is weighing on their minds is the elimination challenge. *insert Carly Simon singing "Anticipation" here* They ate, they danced, and they painfully stressed.

The next day, they were taken to La Fortaleza, the private residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. Nice! Their assignment: cooking for a garden party of 100 VIPs. "As I think you learned yesterday, in Puerto Rico, it's just not a party without a pig," Colicchio declared with a gleeful smirk while uncovering a whole pig. Dead. Lying there in the shade. Okay, it did look like it was rubber. Each cheftestant were given their own whole pig and had to butcher (at least it was gutted already) and produce at least two dishes using two different parts of Porky. I was not the only one who was shocked ad nauseam, though at least this time they were spared having to butcher in a slaughterhouse.

"The challenges have progressively gotten so much harder," said Antonia. Her statement was amazing in itself. She continued, "I mean when we first get to Chicago, we're like making a pizza, and now we have like an entire pig. Deep-dish is looking real good right now."

I would like to amend my availability to be a guest judge next season: I can only attend episodes in which I do not have to witness the butchering of the food I am about to eat. Thanks much!

"It's a big job," Colicchio announced (DOH!), "but we're going to give you a little help." In walked Dale, Nikki, Spike, and Andrew. Stephanie, thanks to her quickfire win, got to decide which eliminated contestant would serve as sous chef to each finalist. ZOMG! I was laughing. She decided that she'd "just try and put people together that will actually work well together, just 'cause I'd rather have everybody in the kitchen getting along rather than like having people screaming." Good call; nothing like trying to work in an atmosphere like that; I can appreciate her sentiment having had the "enjoyment" of such working conditions before.

So Steph took Dale, whom she's known some ten years. She gave Spike to Richard, which I thought a good call; Antonia got Nikki, yanno, BFF and all; and Lisa got Andrew (this after Lisa specifically mentioned Andrew as someone she didn't want to work with!). I took pleasure in that last pairing; she had to eat humble pie after she had ratted him out in the episode where he was eliminated.

While the sous chefs shopped at the market, the chefs had to butcher their pigs. "We each have our own Wilbur just sitting there," Stephanie said. She went on to say something to the effect that people don't really think of where the meat products they purchase at the store are coming from. I think, most likely, people aren't keen that they just consumed Porky's tummy. I personally like the ears. Crunchy. Antonia was quick to offer a suggestion: "If you angle it this way, you can actually pop it out of its socket" while she demonstrated a butchering technique, then paused. "I know, it sounds terrible." Egads.

At the market, some of the sous chefs found their way better than others. Nikki used her instincts, smelling ingredients to choose items, while Andrew attempted to communicate with the locals through pantomime or by just adding o's to the end of most of his words. Plastic-o, for example. "I just come off looking like a retard," he said, "which happens more often than not." Andrew should know by now that he doesn't have to be in a foreign environment to look that way. *clucks tongue*

Lisa hovered around the kitchen, cursing or being an underminer to the very person who was trying to help her. "Why don't we switch jobs," she asked Andrew, "because I seem to be a bit faster than you at that?" Nice move there Lisa. I think Lisa would clearly never win the Miss Congeniality award.

Meanwhile, Stephanie experienced a real disaster: Dale left a tray full of pork belly out on the counter the entire night. "It's okay," she said. She'd rather throw it out than make people sick. Dale felt terrible about it. "If I get her sent home," he said, "I swear to God I'll never forgive myself. It's like someone pulled my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Fuck." Stephanie was clearly now stressed out by the turn of events but was understanding enough not to take it out on Dale. They coolly changed the game plan together, deciding to make a salad topped with chicharrones (Oh YUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMM I moaned into my TheraFlu).

The party was pretty uneventful, and the VIPs at least liked the food, or at least they were polite about it all. Sometimes, their faces betrayed their words, but most I'd say, had some pleasantly surprised palates.

At the judges' table, Colicchio stated that Richard's pork belly and Steph's chicharrón salad were the highlights of the competition. Later, Stephanie didn't even mention to the judges the huge mistake Dale had made; again, this says a lot about her character, given what we've seen out of some of the others. Richard came out on top, though — winning a 2009 Toyota Corolla! He was shocked: "So I win the challenge, and I win a new car. I don't know how to react to it, to be honest with you."

As for the bottom two, Antonia and Lisa were lambasted for minor things. Antonia for her undercooked beans and her plating methods and Lisa for choosing to go Latin American although she knows Asian cuisine better. Lisa was convinced she had lost. "I'm telling you right now I'm going home," she said. "I'm not saying I did a horrible job. I'm being realistic." I pretty much felt as she did, though, for a Latina woman to make undercooked beans? *gasp*

Apparently, the judges too felt it was a far bigger disgrace to undercook the beans, though they said it was due to her technical errors. What a shame. "My entire heart was invested in it," she said afterward. Oh, sad.

Sad mostly for me; stuck with Lisa one more show.

True to form, Lisa said to Stephanie and Richard, "I know you guys are upset that Antonia's leaving, but a congratulations would have been a little bit nice." Good going, Lisa. Way to make it about you. She then added, "You just make me feel like the wrong person went home." Well, Lisa darlin', that last comment has less to do with them and more to do with your own insecurity, and the fact that you know that Antonia is a far better cook! To set the record straight, too pumpkin, right before Lisa and Antonia had gone to face the judges, Stephanie had said, "Good luck, guys." As in, plural.

Richard aptly summed up the ridiculousness of Lisa's comment with: "You won the fucking bronze medal. Congratulations."

The NyQuil definitely did the job; bet you didn't realize I stepped away for a little nap, now did you?

On the last audition night of So You Think You Can Dance before Las Vegas, one in particular said something so profound: "We don't have a lot of money. We just have our friends and our dancing."

It's this kind of line, delivered with such simple sincerity and spirit by Philip Courter after witnessing his friend Yesenia Gomez's year-long dream quashed by a bum knee, that is the heart of this competition. You can scour through hour upon hour of all those other shows like, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, Project Runway and American Idol and I truly doubt you'd be able to find enough moments that when added together equal the deeply felt heart in Yesenia and Philip's auditions. Okay, so there was a twinge self-congratulatory for Nigel Lythgoe to air so much of Yesenia heaping praise upon him, the other judges, and the show itself for changing her life, but regardless, it's pretty darn clear Nigel, the other judges, and the show itself did impact her life, as displayed by the 50-pound weight loss, the massive leap in self-worth, and that unshakable determination to become a great dancer.

That ain't manufactured drama, of which we got plenty of during the Vegas show. There is no doubt why Nigel and Co. chose to end their audition episodes in the apparent dancing mecca of Milwaukee; it was blown clear away by Yesenia and Philip's angsts and love.

Maybe my dismay at the show's previous episodes reached the minds of the producers; I couldn't help noticing a few marked improvements. I was concerned about how the producers planned to stretch a single city's auditions into a full two-hour episode. Some potential drama like: a tearful mother of twelve, devastated by the loss of all her cats, was now going to fulfill her life's dream of being a dancer.

Mercifully we were instead treated to four auditions from previous cities that we hadn't yet had a chance to see, which was just cool. Michael Kim's ball-bearing joints won him a ticket to Vegas (rare for a popper, though, really, will any popper ever be able to surpass the insanity of Robert Muraine from the L.A. auditions?), and Janette Manrara and Romulo Villaverde showed off a few tricks that came off more like a rough rehearsal of some faux Cirque du Soleil acrobatic routine than what I'd expect from salsa.

Then I counted only 4 truly "disastrous" dancers out of 21 total auditions, and none of them had to bear the full time-sucking weight of Mary's or Nigel's "outrage." I knew exactly how bad James Davis was going to be the minute he started bragging that the team of choreographers who took his money to teach him how to duplicate moves from such movies as "Footloose" and "Staying Alive" and then told him that he'd make it straight to Vegas. Then there was Hau Hou, that I think the only reason we got to enjoy his burlap "tribal" outfit was for the moment when new judge Tabitha (of the hip-hop choreography team Napoleon and Tabitha) said she'd noticed he had to hold his "package" in place while he was dancing. The other two were not so memorable.

Seriously, have parents just, you know, abandoned the letter "y" altogether? It's become a fun little game for me this season to see how precisely I can spell a person's name after I hear Cat speak it but before it officially flashes up on the screen. I mean, Kourtni's mother is unquestionably devoted to her… So why would she spell her daughter's name like it's some new prescription remedy for muscle aches and pains?

I was thrilled to see two actually decent tap dancers make it to Vegas, though of the two, it was quite obvious that Bianca Revels couldn't really hold a candle to Lizz Plottt. Lizz did her whole routine with the front metal sole of her right tap shoe duct-taped on. I didn't expect them to go further than Vegas, but hey, they were coolbeans.

How about that Evan Kasprzak? A swoon-worthy smile, an open love for musical theater, fantastic hair, sexy arms, and some slinky, Fosse-esque dance moves… Cooper Zamorano was also impressive, but it was strange that Nigel didn't take him to task for wearing close to the same gym shorts that Matt Dorame wore in Salt Lake City.

It was also strange at first when Nigel stopped Raymond Love just a few seconds into his audition to rebuke him for failing to connect with his female dance partner (who, inexplicably, was not auditioning), giving the guy the quite rare second chance to do it again. Turns out the guy's a minister and, I guess, unable to portray any kind of sexual heat in his performance lest it fall precipitously into baser, sinful lust. At least, that's what I read between the lines, because Raymond barely got the words out that he's a minister before he was overcome with emotion. Of course, this also came right after Nigel said he might as well be dancing with another man, an inadvertent insinuation about his sexuality that Raymond didn't appear to appreciate! Um, yeah…

Now, I know there's a growing cadre of people who've made discussing the gayness of male dancers and any homophobia on the part of Nigel into a regular blood sport on various message boards I have perused. Well, any show that ends with its season 2 runner-up finalist dancing an outrageously entertaining number in drag to "It's Raining Men" isn't exactly afraid of coming off as a little gay. Nigel's Ryan Seacrest joke at the end was for me, the highlight.

My burning questions after the episode ended: Would I really want to see "Kill Bill: The Musical" starring Uma Thurman? And what subject, precisely, does Susie Garcia teach in her Florida high school? Or, rather, what subject could she possibly teach that her straight male students would actually learn?

The Vegas-week show was infuriating because of one name: Phillip Chbeeb. Last season, this rubber-boned popper thrilled the judges and the home audience alike in the Chicago auditions, landed a ticket to Vegas, and then won exactly zero seconds of screen time during the Vegas episodes. So this year, when he came back to audition in Los Angeles, charmed the judges all over again, and won even more up-close-and-personal screen time along with his novelty ticket to Vegas, I was certain that once we reached the Vegas stage, at the absolute least we would get a single shot of the guy being told he wasn't moving on. Just five seconds would've been fine. We wouldn't have even needed to hear his name. But, no. Nothing. Not even an inadvertent glance of the guy.

I suppose it truly was best that Chbeeb was denied any screen time. He could've had cameras poking their way into his every sleep-deprived outburst, sobbing fit, and last-minute reprieve only to be cut at the final round. Or… he could have been an early favorite captured in reassuring glimpses throughout the Vegas audition process, like Kelli "My Mom's a Dancing God" Baker, Asuka "Snagged a Ticket to Vegas While Deathly Ill" Kondoh, Markus "I'm Dancing for My Mom" Shields, Evan "Broadway Babe" Kasprzak, or Brandon "Best First Audition of the Season" Bryant, only to be cut at the final round.

Or… Chbeeb could have simply said something absolutely, boneheadedly, senselessly stupid, and as a result either been sent home, like Lizz "No, Really, I'm Not Stressed Out About Dancing, Really, Seriously, I'm Not, It's Just That I'm Super on Edge About My Legs Seizing Up and Keeping Me From Dancing, That's All" Plott, or walked into the top 20 with a massive home-viewer handicap, like Katee "Do You Really Expect Me to Try Out for This Frakking Show for a Third Time After Getting Cut Right Before the Top 20?" Shean.

Or… Chbeeb could have been Robert Muraine and made the inexplicable decision to keep twisting his arm 450 degrees as Mr. Fantastic on his small patch of pavement in Santa Monica, CA, rather than risk stumbling through some choreography as Mr. Could Use Some Professional Training for even one second on stage in Las Vegas. (Nigel's sniff after his "See you on the promenade — I look forward to it" kiss-off to Robert was especially choice.)

Really, the show did Chbeeb a favor.

What was most annoying, was for example, in the cases of Bryant and Kasprzak especially, I really would have appreciated, you know, any footage of their Vegas auditions so I could have at least a smidge of context for the judges' decision not to include them in the top 20.

I know the finalists were selected before the season began, but even so, Nigel and Co. had to have known how much these two guys were going to resonate with viewers when they were deciding who to put in the finals. Why else would they have bothered to showcase their initial auditions so prominently? Not to mention that they were (very) easy on the eyes.

I must point out the two instant-classic reality-TV lines, both provided by Paige "Elle Woods" "Perma-Smile" "Backwards Dress" Jones. I'm not really kidding about the perma-smile thing, either. Line one came right after the beauty-pageant contestant had been cut following her second attempt at Jean Marc Genereaux's fox-trot routine. It contained perhaps the best argument for the separation of church and state I've heard in a long time: "I'm going to plead the Fifth Amendment, and I just want to say that Jesus Christ has a plan for me." Amen! That plea didn't last too long. The tear-streaked Paige topped herself with a maxim that could've come right out of a Adam Sandler pageant mockumentary: "You don't fail. And if you do fail, you don't cry. And if you do cry, you do it in your room by yourself." *sobs and dabs with dainty hankie*

So, the Top 20 are:

With all that said, the bed calls again. NyQuil is ensuring that I ensure my eyelids have no holes…

Happy weekend.



June 11, 2008

I really hate the weatherman.

I mean, we were PROMISED a break from the first official heat wave today!

But no, this morning, I learn that while it is dropping a (very) few degrees, to the high 80s, we will still have to deal with the humidity.

Yesterday was the worst though. Thoroughly dreading heading out for the day, I was met with that oppressive thick humid hot air that sucks your breath instantly. Thank goodness for small cars with good ACs because in no time, my car was cooled down. It's the only reason that I made it to the gym last night!

Or course, the gym was crowded; people unable to do their outdoor sports, or exercise like jogging, surged to the gym. I managed to get a stationary bike, and after a few tries of finding broken ones, was at last pumping away while reading my book. I managed 35 minutes, and then headed off to work on the machines. I was feeling shakey, dizzy; the gym was not especially cool, and apparently that area of Yonkers was hit with a decline of power. Too many were at the machines, and I just didn't have the patience to wait in a sweaty, sultry room several minutes in between each machine. I considered I did good enough at the bike, that I could forgo the rest of the workout, especially since I still am not feeling one-hundred percent well.

When I got home, I wanted to die. I could hardly breathe; my chest was congested and my sinuses filled up again. Yay. After taking a very dismayed JD out for his walk, perturbed that I didn't turn the AC on outside, I ended up curled on the bed watching Music and Lyrics on HBO; great movie by the way. I recommend it.

I got my entire set of the first three seasons of Boston Legal, too. That pleased me to no end.

Tony came home announcing it was hurricane-like outside; I heard thunder, watched lightning.

Driving to work this morning, it was like driving through some war-ravaged landscape with trees cracked and broken and just everywhere, including the highway! And, blocking my deli's driveway, their monster of an oak snapped in two. At least the geese and their babies were just fine and dandy; they waved as I parked a block away and trudged there for my morning joe. Hey, today I had a freebie coming!

Tonight is the first week of the Top 20 performing on So You Think You Can Dance. Sadly, too, the last-ever-and-ever episode of Men in Trees followed by the last-ever episode (at least this season) of Top Chef. I expect the winner to be Richard, maybe Stephanie. Lisa will just be there to offer comedy (?) factor.

Okay, my mind has now gone blank.




June 12, 2008

Spring is almost here, though by the weather we've been having, it feels more like summer! Already a near-100 degree heat wave; it makes me wonder how horribly hot summer really is going to be. So much for enjoying all the colors and the new green of spring!

Speaking of turning green… did you hear about the fellow in Albany, New Hampshire they arrested because he stripped naked and lowered himself to the holding tank of an outhouse?

One of those large log-cabin type outhouses that are scattered about for hikers and such, police got a call from the parents of a teenage girl who said that when she went to use the facilities, she saw a man's face staring back at her from the hole. (ZOMG!)

He had to be decontaminated because of his wallowing in (as my favorite dee-jays on the radio say it) "Butt Soup" …

"You can draw your own conclusions as to the conditions we encountered," said Capt. John Hebert, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department. "It's a very filthy environment, and before we put anybody in contact with him, we had to decontaminate him," Hebert said. "We treated him as if he were hazardous material."

Police said they don't know how long Moody was in the tank, but they said the door to it was locked, which means he must have gone in through the toilet. They said they don't know why he was there.

"I started this business in 1980, and I have never in my career encountered anybody in this type of situation," Hebert said.

It's apparently against the law to swim in an outhouse… Who knew?

Here's the full story and you can watch a video clip:

Speaking of soup…

The finale for Top Chef was rather anti-climatic for myself. I mean, at least the winner was someone I liked this year, but the episode itself lacked what prior episodes offered. It was basically a simply, straightforward final competition; no string of sailor-blushing curses from the mouth of Lisa, no cries of foul play, no … drama. Lisa, Richard, and Stephanie created a four-course meal using the traditional progression: fish to poultry to red meat to dessert. Zzzzz…

During the breakfast scene among the three finalists, you could cut the tension at the table with a knife. Richard and Stephanie seemed annoyed by Lisa's company. "I still can't get over how Lisa is still here," Richard said. "I think a chef has to be a leader, and she's just got a bad attitude. I don't think Lisa deserves to win Top Chef." But the irony of her presence wasn't lost on Lisa. "I'm in the finale," she said, "and I just kind of managed to get through by the skin of my teeth. But you know what, I don't care that Stephanie and Richard won a bunch of eliminations and I've only won one."

To be precise, Richard and Stephanie each won 4 of the 13 rounds of competition. So most of them. Which is why, after they drew knives to break the tie, Stephanie got first pick of one of three celebrity chefs who would serve as sous chefs, each of whom came with a different list of proteins to work with for the final dinner. Stephanie picked Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, and Richard picked Dan Barber of Blue Hill, leaving Lisa with April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig. The Spotted Pig has become an überly hip place to dine at here in New York.

The cheftestants suddenly got to order these super-respected, award-winning chefs around: "Um, yeaaaah, could you just filet that fish this way. Yeaaaah, thanks." Stephanie joked about ordering Ripert around: "So I tell Eric how I want him to cut the snapper, and then I just sort of hover over him… I think he got a little, like, offended for a sec. He's like, 'I know.' " Day one was filled with this sort of the thing, the preparation for the preparations; Dan Barber mentioned that he felt Richard didn't really have a direction yet, but rather made a whole bunch of different things to throw together at the last minute.

ZOMG… then Richard broke out the liquid nitrogen, obviously proud of his abilities with this molecular gastronomy. "There are probably less than a dozen chefs in the country that cook with liquid nitrogen," he said. "I broke out the nitrogen, and all of a sudden I'm doing a demonstration for the best chefs in the world." No doubt he's talented but it's the kind of thing that almost always comes back to bite chefs in the bum (remember poor Marcel?). That said, Ripert took a particular interest in Richard's ice cream making. "I've never seen such a technique," he said. "As a chef, the day you don't learn anymore, it means you're such an egomaniac you're blind."

Day two was the actual preparing the meal itself, and the big curveball was they didn't get their sous chefs back. *twirls finger* Big deal… Explaining the celebrity chefs' absence, Colicchio said, "The judges wanted to make sure you live and die by your own hand." *yawns*

In the kitchen, Stephanie and Richard were a bit frantic, while Lisa was cool as a cucumber. WTF? That was the big surprise; the normally cool and collected frantic not so much, but the one most vocal about foul play acting now like she was enjoying a nice feel of Xanax? Even Colicchio was caught off guard! "It was surprising to see the reactions," Colicchio said after his usual check-in. "You know, Richard has been usually calm, but he seems very excited, I think partly because he has so many ideas running around in his head and he can't keep them quiet. His Achilles' heel could be that he's doing too much, but again, if he pulls it off, it should be great. Lisa is very calm. We know she's a tough competitor. We've seen her at judges' table time and time again defending herself, and I think part of being a chef is having somewhat of an attitude and a swagger. It helps."

Colicchio also mentioned that Stephanie was freaking out about her cake. Lisa told her she habitually bad-mouthed her own food. "You always fucking say that," Lisa said, "and it's always awesome stuff. You've said that like three times to me, and then you won. I don't want to hear that from you." Wha? Is that sincerity I hear? For once, I actually agreed with Lisa. but then Stephanie's a perfectionist, and I can understand where she's coming from. Because of that, she occasionally has a hard time persuading herself that her dish is good, and her cake was a textbook example of this. She felt uncomfortable about it and overcompensated by adding a salty banana cream, which the judges ultimately picked up on.

Along with the usual gang (Gail, Ted, Padma and Colicchio), Ripert, Barber, local chef Alfredo Ayala and Tim Zagat, creator of the renowned Zagat Survey.

There isn't much to say about the individual dishes other than they all looked amazing, refined, and elegant. Even Lisa's. The judges were a tough read, sort of lukewarm, until a lightbulb went off in Gail's head after sampling Stephanie's lamb-pistachio dish. Ripert seconded her, saying, "It's the first time I hear at the table, everybody is using the word I love. We haven't heard that yet." Colicchio agreed, saying, "Richard's dish just needs work, Lisa's dish is just pedestrian, Stephanie's is just full of surprises, and it works."

But even after those words of validation, it was difficult to determine who would come out on top. There were dishes that they really liked that Lisa had made; same with Richard. All three had failures and mistakes. Lisa and Stephanie provided the favored dishes. Lisa definitely thought she had a chance, and at one point I nearly barfed thinking it might be true. However, the judges don't just rely on the actual meal they are eating; they also take into account previous performances, and whether or not the chef has grown, etc.

Standing in front of the judges, Stephanie looked straight ahead, stoic, as she often does, as if she were getting her mug shot taken in prison. It's okay, Stephanie, the judges just thought your leeks could have been cooked more. Richard, on the other hand, was in much bigger trouble. His scallops were underseasoned. "A little bland," attested Colicchio. OUCH! By the time the judges said Richard's pork belly needed to be crispier, he seemed truly defeated. In general, Lisa had behaved herself throughout the episode and had actually cooked what looked and tasted like good food was the overall judgment.

Before determining who would end up on the chopping block, Padma asked if the cheftestants had any last words. That resulted in a some last-minute groveling.

Stephanie: "It's just sort of funny that when I was having Dale work with me and the number one thing he said was don't second-guess yourself, and the dish that I fell short on, I think that that dessert was me second-guessing myself. But I think I'll be able to take this and learn, and I think I just am what a Top Chef should be." (Okay, that was too Miss America for me, but whatever…)

Lisa: "I feel very strongly about the menu that I provided you guys with tonight. I'm very confident that you're going to be like, 'She deserves this, she deserves to be Top Chef, you know, she's got the qualities.' " Hm.

Richard: "Yeah, sure, I'll say it, I feel like I choked a little bit. I think I overthought things too much. I think when I'm at my best, it's when I'm not thinking. And I think that it wasn't certainly my top performance that I've had so far."


Gail said she was "totally shocked by what Richard just said." Before the preceding commercial break, there had been a teaser that edited Gail's comment in a way to make you think Richard was going to bad-mouth Lisa.

While the judges deliberated, Lisa offered her own assessment in the back room. "You definitely killed the first and third [courses]," she told Stephanie, "and I kind of feel like I nailed the second and fourth. I don't know." Richard and Stephanie's response? *insert cricket sounds*

*inserts a yawn* And… the judges continued to deliberate. Apparently it was a "long road" to making a decision; so long, in fact, that Ted Allen started to hear morning birds chirp.

In the end, however, it was Stephanie who won. "I won Top Chef!" she cried. "Holy shit! This is the biggest thing that's happened in my life. My life is about to change. It's going to be absolutely insane."

It was sad, though; Richard was crying, he had depended on the win for many a reason.

Though Top Chef met its season's end (though next week we have the reunion episode), So You Think You Can Dance starts the countdown of the Top 20. Coupled up, performing a variety of dance styles, hoping to win a zillion fingers punching in their numbers…

While there were dancers that I had wished would be part of the Top 20, and others I still wonder why they are there, the night was genuinely great, with only a couple of unsatisfying performances. And, Nigel astutely pointed out at the top of the show, there were a good five or six dancers who we'd seen next to nothing from before tonight. Hm. AND… whose fault is that, Mr. Executive Producer type guy?

I don't know what Mary Murphy was watching when she proclaimed Jessica and Will the couple to beat after their (very) wobbly (and then some) Viennese waltz! For me, the top routine of the night to beat was easily Katee and Joshua's contempo hip-hop number; about a soldier going off to war. It was the one number that felt all of a piece, that transcended its steps, told a story, and made me actually feel something, and got all misty-eyed watching. It'd be easy to chalk that up entirely to the choreography of Napoleon and Tabitha, but both Katee and Joshua brought an uncomplicated humanity to their performances that is far more difficult to pull off, especially when you're giving your first ever performance in a nationally televised dance competition show.

Chelsea T. and Thayne. The chemistry they have with each other may be a bit questionable, but there's no denying both these dancers were just about assaulting their audience with sex. Her "cute" "coy" plays with her finger to her cheek were annoying…

While Chris can protest all he wants about having enough personality for an entire forest, I didn't really watch him during his whole routine, because of Comfort. Sans braces and in a spangly "bra and panties," this hip-hop tomboy blew me away with her light touch throughout the jive routine.

Jessica, meanwhile, gamely made light of her oft-replayed spelling of V-E-A-G-S. Unfortunately, her good humor certainly didn't save her shaky tango with Debbie Allen protégé William, who outclassed her on just about every level. Even with his obvious talent on ready display last night, I didn't really see where Mary was getting the notion that both of them were STRONG! or PASSIONATE! or ON FIRE!, let alone that they were the couple to beat. I was bored through the dance.

I was really glad to see that Chelsie H. is so strong in a genre outside her ballroom training; I really hoped there was more to her than whatever "issues" plagued her family, drove her to dance, and caused the loss of a house and "several cars." There certainly appears to be a lot going on with her partner, Mark, who got the terse and testy Mia Michaels treatment when first learning her "Tim Burton's wedding" contemporary routine but came out the other end of it intact and winning raves. It was my second favorite performance of the night. I do have to love Nigel's comment to Mia about her rather strange fantasies and how dark and twisted her mind is. *chuckles* Mia would be a choreographer that if I had been graced with the body and grace of a dancer, I would want to dance for.

"Twitch-ington" that was my third favorite performance. Kherington was beautiful and fun to watch, holding her own against Twitch's beaming charisma.

I have to truly wonder if the producers stacked the deck against Rayven and Jamie. We'd seen practically nothing from these two dancers until last night, and yet they were given the very first slot in a two-hour show. Then, in their hip-hop number, Rayven yanks down Jamie's impressively pliant jeans, revealing some funky blue Hanes. Rayven and Jamie were not the only couples in danger of being in the bottom three, however.

For me, even with all of Susie's flavor, fire, hips, sass, passion, or color streaks, this would distract viewers from her wobbly, uncoordinated issues with that smooth waltz lift. I was like, wow, that was horrible. For those who might have missed it, Nigel pointed it out by stating that most had probably missed it because most were not versed in technique for such a difficult dance, and the insta-replay provided detail to those who missed it, and to those of us who had seen wobbly, understood well wobbly, even if we weren't official judges, to remind us of how bad she really did despite Nigel's rave review. But hey. Her partner, Marquis fared a bit better, winning praise from Nigel for his "line technique" and "carriage." To my disgruntlement, he started the show with a serious case of pit stains, and seriously, I don't think dancing the most lethargic style of the night is exactly the most winning of debuts. I was bored, up until the time I started catching all those wobbly moments.

Of course, even when you're given a razzmatazz jazz number by Mandy Moore — replete with diamond dust, no less! — you can still fudge it with a mismatched partner and relentless camera mugging. Matt would be forgivable if he were able to treat his partner as something more than a sack of potatoes that bears an uncanny resemblance to Uma Thurman, Princess Diana, Cameron Diaz, and one of the faeries from Willow. Kourtni's a fine dancer, but she is blessed (cursed?) with a physical stature will make her a vexing partner for anyone this season other than Twitch and William, and that lack of chemistry read all over both Kourtni and Matt's ho-hum performance. The look on Mandy Moore's face after guest judge Dan Karaty said the choreographer would've hit the number ten times harder pretty much said it's all: "Aw…but it's true."

At least that duo wasn't compared unfavorably to a waterfowl, like Courtney G. and Gev. Truth be told, I don't think I've ever really enjoyed a disco routine on this show; all the dancers are just far too young to get the "feel" of the 1970s that Nigel's looking for.

I was most frustrated with all the American Idol Swaybots? who invaded the SYTYCD audience. Eesh.

Now the results show is starting…




June 13, 2008

Happy Friday the 13th!

I love Friday the 13th; it's amusing to watch all the superstitious folk!

Last night was the first elimination night for All I can say is… Cat. I have to wonder if Cat sensed that she'd better ramp up her unique brand of insanity to compensate for what was otherwise quite an anticlimactic results show, plagued with technical glitches, feeble guest performances, and the most (DOH!) obvious contestant kiss-offs demonstrated in a long while.

The night began heading south pretty quickly, with a Wade Robson group number that wasn't his usual mix of virtuosic brilliance so much as it was an inexplicably hideous mix of Captain Eo, The Road Warrior, and Mrs. Robson's third-grade homeroom production of Peter Pan, with Principal Lythgoe playing Wendy. I was sadly soured.

Wearing a dress that appeared to be made of dyed coffee filters and those fake flowers in cheap Hawaiian leis, Cat took the reins for the show, sent Nigel to his corner, and launched right into the results. Twitch and Kherington were safe. Thayne and Chelsea were safe. Mark and Chelsie, safe. All three couples celebrated with the other dancers until Cat told them to "shush now!"

Matt and Kourtni were unsurprisingly announced as the first couple in the bottom-three. Susie and Marquis were saved no doubt by a good portion of Miami wearing down their redial buttons because with all the much better performers; even Matt and Kourtni&hellip Comfort and Chris were safe, leaving Rayven and Jamie predictably in the bottom three. Nigel speculated that perhaps jerking down Jamie's jeans could well have offended enough of America to harm their chances, as if the dancers had any say in the matter.

Cat declared Katee and Joshua safe, and then another shock of the night: William and Jessica were in the bottom three, and Gev and Courtney were safe. I suppose there were more disco fans out there than tango fans.

Cat began explaining that every week we would be treated to a different performer from "the world of dance." Our first sampling, from the Electric Boogaloos, was Popin Pete and his son. Pete and Boog's popping was a bit like a parade of 1920s Model Ts during a caution flag at the 2008 Daytona 500. With much due respect to Pete's pioneering family, but any number of poppers who've auditioned for this season and didn't even make it to the top 20 could've shown up these two dudes.

On to the solos. There was no doubt the moment Rayven and Jamie finished theirs I knew they were going home. Rayven's ballet routine wasn't just not en pointe, it consisted mainly of languorous arm waves. There was really no effort there on her part. As for Jamie's solo, it basically was chest thumps and banal spins.

Of the other dancers, Matt's just lucky that Jamie's solo was so completely lacking, because he would for sure have been the one to go, and Jessica seemed to lose considerable steam after her opening backflips. Kourt's single-leg stand was slightly wobbly, but she deserved to be singled out along with the increasingly impressive William, the only soloist who actually, you know, danced to the music.

While the judges deliberated, we were "treated" with … the Pussycat Dolls. Is anyone really so into the Dolls' vocal mastery that they need to hear them breathlessly bleat into live microphones, especially when lip-synching really would make their lives easier and our ears (relatively) happier? And what happened to the sixth Pussycat Doll? Did Robin Antin accidentally leave her behind at summer camp?

Vacation count-down begins…



June 19, 2008

The day yesterday started off with news of my middle daughter, who had been admitted with appendicitis; surgery was scheduled for late in the afternoon/early evening.

So You Think You Can Dance was banoodles, as Mia Michaels (love the new hair!) coined. I mean, for every moment of inspired choreography, there was footwork that didn't bear it out. For every dancer who beat expectations in a genre wildly out of his or her comfort zone, there was a performer who failed to excel in her or his own discipline. Not to mention those costume; all 19 flavors of banoodles.

Cat; such a slinky minx, though I'm not sure why the boa was around the hem, but hey! she can pull that off. But ahm, Mary, Mary… eeps! What were you thinking? Not only the animal print thing, but what's with the crimped hair and gaudy jewelry?

Chelsea and Thayne. What can I say except that not only were the costumes not anywhere regal enough for the Mandy Moore concept of a king and his forbidden love, but the couple themselves were anything but in character. I can overlook the pinstripes. Maybe. The Elizabethan cuff was obnoxious. Thayne was slouchy and too soft. Chelsea wasn't flirtatious enough. There was no chemistry that I could see between the two. Awkward, disconnected and just not believable. Ah, but they were just the first couple of many to have a bad night…

I think there was a tie for the Couple Most Likely to Go Home award. Well. Maybe a tie. It was so close as far as bad…

First there was Susie and Marquis. I still have NO clue why Susie made it to the Top 20 because clearly she lacks in talent and personality, and so many others were sent packing for home while Susie was given the pick for the 20 best. Then there absolutely horrid waltz last week that they attempted to perform, and even a person who doesn't know the technical points of the waltz could see well enough how sloppy they truly were. But, somehow, they escaped the bottom three. This week? Unfortunately, I'm sure no one was more shocked than choreographer Alex Da Silva to discover that his Cuban firecracker "is not really a salsa dancer. She does street salsa." And he was being quite generous at even that. This number was so bad, that you knew it was going to be horrid from the video clip of their rehearsals. I mean, she started crying because Da Silva had the *insert gasp* NERVE to say that she wasn't really a salsa dancer… Well. The proof is in the pudding, or rather, in the dancer, as she demonstrated last night. Not only were Susie and Marquis out of sync from the beginning, but she appeared to forget the choreography at one point. Their whip turns were disgustingly sloppy and obviously neither knew how to pull them off, then she had trouble pulling up out of her split. Even with Mary saying Marquis had to coax Susie through her turns and Nigel dropping the word "labored," the jidges were just way too kind. It's time to say hasta la vista… baby.

The act that probably might tie for the worst pair was sadly, Chris and Comfort. As much as I love Comfort, her krump was seriously lacking, which considering Nigel considers her the best B-girl he's ever seen, created that anticipation of that "WOW" factor that Carrie Ann (oops, the other dancing show judge) would be yawing about. Zero lack of authority seen in that krump, and Chris was total white-boy-who-has-no-clue, but hey, he tried. It's pretty hard to project badass when your floppy handkerchief keeps getting in your eyes (the costume department should be fired for that one). Maybe Comfort eased her performance so that she wouldn't be such a stark contrast between herself and Chris, who certainly didn't deserve Nigel's "My granny is more gangster than you." The guy worked hard. It showed. I was more concerned and disappointed by Comfort's lacking performance.

Kourtni and Matt performed a foxtrot that was decent, but could have been so much better. She's tall but shows no sparkle at all that I could see, and you just know she's got it. Matt sparkled despite his "twee" arms. So, it's frustrating to see a couple who could be utterly amazing…

Through the bad, however, there was the good performances that helped ease the ache of watching the supposedly Top 20 dancers of the entire country flop…

Chelsie and Mark's Argentine tango was just …. superb. Beautiful. Even through the shoe emergency. That girl has gorgeous lines; just sexy, the two of them. Mark fully committed to the smolder. However, Chelsie swears can't get over that he's too much like her brother, but, well… I think her partner grosses her out. I mean, she grimaces when he gets up close and personal, and in that video clip she DID say that the worst thing about him is that he's loud and ugly. But, the dance was pulled off well despite it all, and her kicks were just the … kicker.

Will… Wow. He's just gorgeous. I think I'm in love. Hm. I was right there with Mia, when in her moment of meanness, told his partner, Jessica, "You weren't even on the stage to me." Ouch. I did, however, think Jessica was, in fact, rather "cheerleader-ish", though she did do a great job trying to keep up with him. One thing I noticed; she rarely looked at him and attempted to connect, while he did with her.

Courtney and Gev danced a contemporary number that was boldly intimate, romantic, and Gev was used like a human jungle gym. Mia thought Courtney was too much in the lead, and Nigel swears Gev is just entranced by his partner. It was a good number. Not the best, but I enjoyed it immensely.

Joshua and Katee's Broadway piece was enjoyable and fun, but my question is, what exactly were hip-hop pops and grooves doing in there? Considering these are supposedly super-talented dancers who expect to be pushed out of their comfort zones! So why should the choreographers pander to these dancers by slipping in bits of their preferred genre into the routine? Like, we wouldn't see that? The judges all concurred that Joshua more than capably performed the Broadway material, thusly providing no reason to show off his B-boy skills.

Twitchington… er, Kherington and Twitch, performed a stunning Viennese waltz, which… really wasn't a Viennese waltz (why do they even have this category when none of the choreographers actually create a real Viennese waltz?) Choreographer Jean Marc Genereux shared the very emotional story of his daughter, who has Rett syndrome, the dance was dedicated to her. The couple performed the dance with such elegance, footwork and all, despite the daunting costuming. Unfortunately, the beauty ended when the judges came to a rather nasty showdown. Mia harped on Kherington's smile (apparently, it's not needed for a Viennese waltz), then did an about-face after some scolding from Nigel (the dance was meant to be beautiful and moving and the smile added to the joy of the dance), and told herself to shut up. Nigel then explained the history of the Viennese waltz (I believe DNCEMSTR once did this too) and how it's generally supposed to look. I say … so what, that it wasn't a true Viennese waltz. The Broadway number had hip-hop. I've never seen any of the Latin or ballroom numbers truly be true to their genre (yanno, the whole lift issue!). Their dance was just … GORGEOUS. Breathtaking. I got all misty eyed. Not to mention, to see Twitch perform it with such beautiful lines and skill was … awesome.

Afterwards, I watched the bitchfest known as the return of Top Chef contenders to listen to stories and find out how much the fans liked them (or not). It was especially precious at the end, when they were about to announce the winner of the Fan Favorite $10,000 award, and Collichio said with a huge smile: "Well, of course Lisa, you're obviously not in the running…" Ouch. She didn't find it amusing.

Three weeks from today, I'm flying off to Oregon…




June 20, 2008

I managed a good workout after work yesterday despite how I felt that morning. I have to tell myself in the mornings that it'll be okay, pack my gym bag and bring it with me as motivation. It's those first few moments of morning that are the killers…

I talked a bit with my daughter; she had her appendix removed the evening before. At least she's getting all this stuff taken care of before I go out there… we shared a chuckle over that one.

Last night's elimination on So You Think You Can Dance held a mix of ecstatic wicked joy and a bit of sadness as well. Without a doubt, the right girl was sent home, but I don't think they chose the right guy.

The show opened with an awesome number created by hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks.

I love his work and the dancers who get to work with him are always aglow. I was rather amused at how much Shane showcased Twitch, Will, Joshua, Comfort and Marquis. The latter two of most interest as they were definitely set for the danger zone after their performances last night. This decision proved wise, but onto that shortly.

Sadly, Shane's he's been gone from the show, apparently replaced by Napoleon and Tabita; the reason evident on a commercial plug for MTV's America's Best Dance Crew which features Shane as a permanent judge.

Okay, so it was a bit … weird … watching a commercial for ''the best dance show on TV'' during a show (SYTYCD) that Fox has promoted as, um, the best dance show on TV. Hm. Now, I do enjoy America's Best Dance Crew though the contest quite different, of course, from SYTYCD. Anyway… I digress.

Another side note. What was Mary thinking? I mean, her outfit Wednesday night was bad enough. Last night, it looked like she had been caught in the rain and had to scamper to a second-hand store to grab … anything … dry to wear! Mia wore a total farm-girl shirt; I loved it. They're so comfy. Mia looked comfy; down-to-earth.

Right away, the non-shocker that Chelsea and Thayne were the first couple in the bottom three. Then a delightful surprise (and the wicked evil machinations of Nigel and those neat tricks), when I was wondering if it were Kourtni and Matt, or Jessica and Will in the bottom three (or both), only to hear … "SAFE!" WOOTS! They were surrprised too and as Kourtni and Matt were walking off, Cat telling Jessica and Will as Jessica was wiping tears already nervous about dancing for her life again so coyly that they too were safe. Kourtni turned and raced back to tackle the two of them, and microphones got discomboobalated and it was just so grand.

Of course, I started bouncing with glee because it was only too obvious that Susie and Marquis would be in the bottom three (gleeful for Susie, not Marquis). Susie knew it; Cat confirmed it. Sadly, Comfort and Chris joined them.

While they went off to prepare mentally and physically, the guest hoofer was America's ''No. 1 flamenco dancer'' Timo 'Not Good Enough to Compete in SYTYCD But Good Enough to Showcase'' Nuñez. Hm. He was quite pretty, though.

The solos were nothing but expected, at least for me. I knew Comfort was going to exhibit herself beautiful in her genre; the same for Chelsea. I had zero anticipation that Susie would burn the stage and prove to America that just because she has boobs does not make her a dancer (hello!). The fellows were a difference, however, all three of them strong contemporary dancers. I felt of the three, Chris was the least spectacular in his solo.

The judges deliberated, we watched guest Flo Rida perform; or rather while he performed, I did my nightly sit-ups and stuff. Then the judges returned and the dancers all lined up. It was … The Moment of Truth.

First, the girls … Chelsea needs to step it up, but for now she's safe. That left Susie and Comfort. Nigel said he thought he saw a spark of what he knows she's got inside of her in the Shane Sparks number, and that's why she's safe. Susie, apparently, lost her appeal to Nigel's tired eyes, and he decided she had fizzled and was cold fish.

At least Susie's gone. Susie belonged in that top 20 about as much me being in the top 2 of American Idol. Okay? It's … that bad.

For the fellows, Marquis showed some serious skills, and truly did "WOW" at least me, including showing that personality stuff that gets talked about. Chris danced like, well, a tree. Nigel disagreed and felt Chris showed passion, while he told Marquis that he merely did a bunch of tricks, and that's not what dancing is about. Um. Tricks. Isn't that pretty much the entire arsenal of abilities deployed by poppers and hip-hoppers?

It's Friday. Yay. TGIF!

What's really cool is that next week is my last full work week until … the week of July 21st! Too awesome.

The week after providese for a 3-day weekend thanks to Independence Day. The next week after that, I'll be at work two days only two days before vacation starts. And the next week after that, I'll only be in for two days upon my return from vacation.

I like when things work out cool like that.




June 24, 2008

Today I had a fight with the piece-of-garbage printer that I have at work. It's a Dell junker. All the time I'm having problems with paper feeds, paper jams, and regardless that the drum has been changed, the light won't go off. Yeah. Fun. The drum light was an easy fix, but the paper jams/feeds is a continual problem since the thing was brand new. Today, however, was a major jam, of course in the rear area where you can't get to the paper unless it's kind and leaves enough of a tail sticking out to "grab carefully."

I so hoped it would prove to be something that I couldn't fix. Too bad I come to work armed with a screwdriver and pocket knife.

By the time I finished fixing it, I was ever so much more ready to head to the gym and work out the frustrations of it all. I got in nearly two hours of work out time at the gym, then came home and took JD for an almost half hour walk. I felt really good, despite that I ate more than I should have at lunch. It was one of them sort-a-days.

I turned on TV and caught that new show Wipeout last night and wasn't too very impressed. It was definitely a poor copy of American Gladiators featuring a lot of too-old, too-fat contestants kill themselves (almost literally) on the hip-dislocating-threatening obstacle courses.

No one got their hip dislocated last night, though one woman lost one of her nails (ouch) and maybe another one, by the looks of her pain-filled face looking at her hand at the end of the night.

First, the whole bunch of contestants (24 in all) all get to try their hand at obstacle course #1, which included: crossing mini-towers of stacked plastic cushions, which many a contestant plunged into the mud below… crossing punching fists of fury that knocked each contestant to the mud below… and swinging on a rope to crash through a cookie-cutout, though most were lucky to even crash into the plastic tower upon which it stood.

Next, the ten people with the fastest time then got to proceed to obstacle course #2, which was only one obstacle. Standing on a very small round platform high above the water, they had to jump over a spinning plastic log, that sent many landing upon their faces (probably a lot of dentists got some extra business). After a few spins around, the log inched higher and higher… Last man standing won a $1,000 bonus.

The six contestants that lasted the longest on that course went to the elimination course to determine the four finalists. This included a ride on the Dizzy Dummy, a spinning purgatory for the best of stomachs. After thirty seconds (or so) of spinning fast on this machine, they then had to (dizzily) try to cross the water without falling in; a course that even without the dizzying circumstances would get the best of most people.

Then it came to the final obstacle course; a mad dash down a huge water slide (fun!), then climb a ramp avoiding huge plastic barrels by leaping over them, across a very tiny lip with rock climbing handholds to a platform, leaping from there to a spinning platform with lots of obstacles. From there, they had to leap to another stationary platform, then bounce across four trampolined platforms to the finish line. Best time wins. The first two took well over five minutes to complete, the latter two in less than half that time.

Somehow I managed to watch the entire thing. Why…

Then afterwards, I left the TV on and caught I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Oh. I am hooked. Now THIS show is just plain fun…

Ten contestants arrive in Los Angeles LAX airport, and are herded to a shuttle bus where they meet their host, Tony Sano, who announces to them that they are (surprise! surprise!) traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun — Japan. WOOTS! Everyone is thrilled.

Now, they have NO idea of what this reality game they've stepped into will consist of. At all.

So, okay, they're off to Japan. The ten players are:

MARY. Gym membership sales rep from Matthews, NC, who (surprise! surprise!) holds a BFA in Acting. Red-headed with a devil-may-care attitude and admittedly vain, a generous love of herself and a low opinion of everyone else, she is the epitome of a fireball. Mostly, she's just incredibly silly and relies on her pixieish charm to get by.

ANDREW. A Radio sales consultant from Boston, MA is just hilarious as can be; full of crazy stories with crazy energy to boot. He is the resident nut of the cast.

BILENDA. Feisty veterinarian from Charlotte, NC puts making money and friends before any romantic relationships; her confidence is evident in her vivacious and spunky persona. I think so far, she's high on my favorite list.

CATHY is an affiliate manager from Staten Island, NY, who is the resident princess-biatch, with a mouth that would make a sailor blush. She says she will remain in Staten Island "for life" with no plans or desires to ever leave. This brutally honest tough chick will "swear to God" she's not to be messed with in the slightest.

DARCY. A photo editor from Sandpoint, ID is a small town, single mom is in desperate need of an escape from her lackluster life. Always putting her kids first, Darcy feels it's time to take herself off the back burner and get back to the fiery blonde she used to be. Mostly, I found her as a sobbing pathetic soul…

DONNELL. Real estate appraiser from Chicago, IL is an energetic and loud "All American" dad struggling to provide for his family and fulfill his shattered dreams of playing pro football. Donnell has competition coursing through his veins and would love the opportunity to prove to his family that he can be greater than what they've seen so far.

JUSTIN is a financial representative from Trussville, AL who is both charming and good looking. He in fact describes himself as a "divine, fine and genuine-grade-A piece of southern beast."

MEAGHAN, a bartender from San Antonio, TX, could fit in well in the San Fernando Valley in California. Hot, ditzy and free-spirited, she uses her sex appeal to her advantage in both her work and personal life — and, of course, loves (and must) to be the center of attention.

OLGA is a waitress hailing from Medford, MA. Her "don't-mess-with-me attitude" comes off quite abrasive, but considering she is a part of a Russian family with eight brothers…

BEN is none other than Punxsutawney Phil's handler! He's lovable, he's comical, modest, quirky, and admittedly in the midst of a mid-life crisis (maybe it's the groundhog thing?).

The group seemed excited when they were brought to Tokyo's version of Times Square, officially the busiest intersection in the world. From there, they were sent off to their new home in a suburb of Tokyo, where they met with the culture shock of the snacks that were provided and the remote controlled toilet had them all lining up to try it out. Busy prowling and playing in their home away from home, the group continued their investigations. Reaching the single bedroom, most grumbled about the beds lined up on the floor; mattresses really, and one poor fellow fell upon the one he chose expecting it to bounce. "This is HARD!" Suddenly! In walks — MAMA-SAN! This is the house mother, a traditional Japanese helper who rules the roost and relentlessly reminds them "I?m not your Mama!" and makes sure they will never wear their shoes in the house again! She promptly sends them off to bed and they rush to obey. Mama-san has no sympathy for the Americans.

So, the next morning they're awakened early by Mama-San and told to get ready. First off, the contestants are taking a tour of the very famous and legendary Toho film studios. Approaching a studio door, they are warned that a show is taping right then and there, and ushered inside, presumably so they can watch. The lights come up and they?re live in front of a studio audience! The name of the show is Majide (a slang term that is generally not particularly politely, and loosely translated: "You?ve Got to Be Crazy"), hosted by the witty game show host Romu Kanda (i.e., "Pink Panther" and "Saturday Night Live") — and the contestants have no idea what is going on.

They learn quickly.

These ten Americans are the contestants on Majide with a contestant eliminated each week and sent back home to the Land of the Free. The final remaining contestant at the end of it all will get $250,000 and the prestige of being a Japanese Game Show veteran. Unlike most reality shows, this one is all about adventure in a very traditional land and the unique Japanese culture. While the contestants excited, they also demonstrated that they were annoyed with the people, the culture, and the country as a whole. Hm. The Japanese people are just disgusted by the fact that, none of these contestants are lovers of Japanese TV stuff.

The contestants were divided into two teams; the Yellow Penguins and the Green Monkeys. They still are in a daze as they are forced to dress (undress) in a single room. "I'm only wearing a THONG!" cries one of the women, as they slip off their jeans and pants to put on the required uniform they were handed; of course, upon hearing that exclamation, one of the fellows lifts his head to get a peek!

Up first, a game called "Conveyor Restaurant" or more aptly … "Why is This Food so Hard to Eat." Why is it hard to eat? First, because it's mocchi balls, which is basically gummed rice. Secondly, because the food is attached to the head of a teammate who must run in place on a fast-moving treadmill, while the first teammate leans over a platform and tries to snatch it up from the moving dish and then quickly consume it. All traces of the mocchi ball must be swallowed before a point is credited. Judge Bob is on hand to make sure there is no hanky panky or cheating, and verifies the consumption of each mocchi ball.

The Green Monkeys are first up, and the Yellow Penguins are ushered to a small room to watch on a monitor. Mary runs first and she keeps up a good pace. Donnell is having trouble swallowing the food ("it's like eating GUM!") but finally gets it down. Judge Bob inspects his teeth to make sure every scrap has been swallowed; man! is Bob ever tough! Olga falls down right away and so does Ben. The contestants keep trying and the Green Monkeys end up with 10 points.

The Yellow Penguins are up next, and they?re ready to go; Andrew is certain he can eat way faster. Justin is first on the tread mill, and the first mocchi ball goes down fast, evidenced by Andrew's waggly tongue. Darcy keep falling and dropping the mochi balls; actually, almost none of the contestants can keep their balance, at least at first, making a comeback (except poor Darcy), but Andrew doesn?t chew the last ball fast enough and the Green Monkeys win. Darcy sheds her tears, and becomes, as Andrew puts it, a mushy dishmop.

The winners get a tour of Tokyo, and the losers are forced to GIVE tours, working as rickshaw cabbies. Additionally, the losing team must select two of their team members to play an elimination game; the loser to be sent home.

The tour of Tokyo was pretty awesome; shuttled around in a yummy treat-and-drink filled limo, and a helicopter ride over the city ("It's GINORMOUS" says Olga). "Winning is good; you're treated like a rock star," I believe it was Meaghan this time speaking up.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Penguins had to dress in rickshaw outfits, complete with Japanese shorts and little coats. "I feel like a fat man in a little suit," Andrew says. Cathy, takes her sweet time getting ready ("I have to look PERFECT"), and Mama-san has to force her out of the bathroom. "I think Cathy is just rude," Darcy says. Happily, Cathy gets a huge fat fellow to cart around in her rickshaw.

After two hours, they are released and are returned to the studio to deliberate who will be the two up for elimination. Right away, Darcy admits that she should be put up for elimination. Bilenda mentions that Cathy is late and holds people up, and the guys agree. Ultimately, though, they decide to put Bilenda up against Darcy. "I can?t believe someone is getting eliminated," Meaghan says — and I can?t believe she doesn?t know how reality shows work!

Bilenda and Darcy are given outfits to change into; they are flies. As in bugs. Cute. Darcy was embaressed, while Bilenda was suggesting red stillettos to match the panties. They are led back to the stage where they are told they get to play, "Big Bugs Splat on Windshield" — now that looked just fun. Being bugs, they must launch themselves into the air and onto a giant car windshield, and go, "SPLAT!" while leaving a marker aiming for the highest score possible. There are three targets. Low, higher and highest. These targets have three rings, with three different scores. First ring holds 1, 2 and 3; second ring holds 4, 5, and 6; the highest ring holds 7, 8 and 9.

Bilenda?s up to splatter first, and she gets two points right away. Darcy gets three on her first jump, majorly bumming out the other Yellow penguins who want Darcy off the team. Bilenda makes up for her lacking on the next leap and after the third leap, the ladies are tied. But wait! Our wacky host, Romu, promises a big solution to their big problem! They go into overtime, a 4th jump and Bilenda nearly reaches the 9, however Darcy misses her jump, and Bilenda gets to stay. The Yellow Penguins give her a standing ovation and a mob of suited Japanese bouncers carry off the loser.

Darcy feels proud of herself despite being the first one eliminated.

My last-full-week-of-working-until-the-end-of-July is nearly over! WOOTS!

Time for bed; the work-out is truly felt now…



June 26, 2008

Not only did we learn about the secret lives of the dancers (as told by their partners) during So You Think You Can Dance, but we learn so very much more than that!

Here's the breakdown of what extra goodies we learned:

Wardrobe. Ugh. What is it with wardrobe this year. First, there's Mary and Cat, who overdid themselves in outfits of kitschy rhinestone explosions of the 1980's. Guest judge Adam Shankman referred to Mary as a ''really pretty disco ball'' and called Cat's outfit ''categorically, cataclysmically cat-tastic'' (as opposed to the outfit he deemed merely ''catastrophically cat-tastic'' last season). Then there's the dancers who suffer the most of all. I should apply; I could certainly do better.

Last night proved to the audience which couples are still flying under the radar, rising to the challenge, straining to match their hype, and stumbling after auspicious debuts.

Gev and Courtney danced a smoldering rumba that seemed to have Courtney a bit uncomfortable with all the ass-grabbing required of Gev. She was rather lovely though, and the sexy outfit helped soothe the eyes of any mistakes. Courtney certainly brings out Gev's smoldering side, but the first half of their routine felt a tad too slow and shaky to me. Adam Shankman bored everyone to tears in his overly-lengthy advice and commentary to the two of them, and thusly, forcing the audience to forget who they were long before the better performances.

Thayne and Chelsea, easily pegged as favorites from day one of the Top 20 countdown, having earned themselves the first couple to make it to the Hot Tamale Train, sadly have drawn the short end of the stick since! Last week's dabaucle of neck ruffles and disjointed choreography was bad enough, and last night they had to perform the very difficult quickstep. They make that dance look easy on Dancing With the Stars, but then again, there is one member of each couple who is a professional. Maybe it's karmic payback for all the floral arrangements Chelsea's allegedly been purloining from hotel lobbies. It's no doubt they'll be in the bottom three again, so hopefully they strut their stuff well in their solos; Nigel told them to be sure to have them ready. Sad, but true.

Kourtni and Matt, both contemporary dancers, were rather confuzzled and didn't know what to make of new choreographer Sonya Tayeh's "comic-book" contemporary stylings, so they fell back on their considerable technical skill and quirky wardrobe rather than evoke a pair of vivid characters on their own, Which, to me is rather odd, considering how idiosyncratic these two appear to be off the stage. While they danced with their technical flare, I'm not sure they lit up the sparks enough to be noticed. Still, I think they're okay for this week; they may make the bottom three again, but they won't be sent home. Yet.

Even worse is the demise of Comfort and Chris. Now, granted, neither last week's krumping routine nor this week's African jazz routine was exactly the most ideal as far as dancing showcase pieces, but it's safe to say that if any of the other couples (Twitchington, Chelsie and Mark, et al) had been handed these routines, they'd at least have been able to make them interesting! It was a killer-mean song they had to perform to, but they looked… dulled. Which dulled me. Maybe it's Chris' tree-like personality, sucking away all of Comfort's spunk and charm. Regardless, neither of them exactly helped matters when they shared that Comfort was once a standard-issue pageant queen (well, folks, there goes her street cred) and Chris, um, eats other people's food right off their fork. Urk.

The volume of cheering during Twitch and Kherington's opening solos provided clearly that they are in no danger of dancing for their lives. Their popularity high, and it's easy to see why; beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous girl and the charming Twitch. Their hip-hop routine was solid in concept, but for me, it wasn't as fantastic as lauded by the judges. I found their excution sometimes sloppy, which one of the judges did point out that Kherington sort of lost the feel of the dance while she scrambled to get behind Twitch for the lift set-up. What bothered me mostly, was Kherington who kept seesawing from her showbizzy grinning into a vaguely doofy ''tough gal'' grimace along with some really bad lip-synching. Twitch clearly toned down to allow for Kherington's flaws to not be so obvious. Maybe a little taste of hitting the bottom three could be just the bitter pill these two need to keep from permanently sinking into lazy complacency?

As for Will and Jessica, they sure aren't in any danger of that — thanks to the judges' relentless commands to Jessica to be as splenderifically awesomulous as Will, dammit, or we'll strap you to the nearest stretch of railroad tracks and run you over with the hot tamale train! That pressure seems to be paying off; their disco routine was watchable, and enjoyable to boot, even after Jessica went down with a pretty harsh thud for her first spin. (oops!) The thing about Will, though, while he proves how hard he's worked to make his dancing seem effortless and smooth, he's only offered a cheeky "check me out" sort of smirk, and as Adam Shankman pointed out to Chelsie and Mark, the eyes are as vital a part to a performance on this show as any other element. So true!

Chelsie and Mark. OHmigosh. And here, I thought nothing would top that odd, wacky wedding contemporary number they performed so well. Last night's lyrical hip-hop number was just … awesome. It beats out Travis and Heidi and the park bench totally. Napoleon and Tabitha seem to understand better than most of the other choreographers on this show that when you're putting together a two-minute dance routine for TV, you can scarcely go wrong telling a complete story. Mark and Chelsie delivered on that score so captivatingly that they earned Adam's pronouncement that they're now the couple to beat. If you watched their eyes? Oh yeah. Bingo. You felt the emotion of it all.

Hot on their heels, though, are Katee and Joshua, who've established by far the best chemistry of any couple this season that I can see. Nigel was absolutely right when he said Katee's strength is in how she never oversells her movements, which makes her feel that much more natural and human. ZOMG! Was there ever a SYTYCD hip-hopper/popper more unmistakably born to dance than Joshua? He samba'd as if he's samba'd his entire life. MmmMM, that hip action. No wonder why even Nigel was impressed. Personally, I really loved how he tossed Katee into her first spin while he nonchalantly looked the other way. They were so utterly beguiling. The judges didn't bother to mention the seemingly missed lift at the end, but what with all the attention paid to Joshua's trousers and gluteal inheritance from his father, who had time to make note of a mistake?

I dread stepping outside tonight heading home; those hot, humid days are due back. Ugh. Worse, I'll be driving home after getting all sweaty at the gym. Good times.




June 27, 2008

I SO needed my workout last night after my long day at work. Even though the humidity and my frazzled self tried to talk me out of the workout. I decided to make the effort. As a car pulled into the small lot in front of me, I was all wiggly thinking, "Cool! I mean Darn! No parking!" But as he scooted on around and back out of the lot to head to the large lot, along comes a fellow and opens up a spot for me.

Once inside, it's pretty crowded, though by the time I had done my thirty-minutes on the bike, the weight circuit area had pretty much cleared out. I was able, again, to have a good workout and not spend time hanging around waiting on a machine.

This is what happens at gyms. People scramble in for the 2-week freebie passes during the big sales specials; some will purchase a membership, others just wait for a chance at another freebie. Of those who purchase, after about a month they start falling off…

Which, of course, is cool for people like me.

For my reward, I got a parking by my building in my preferred area to park. Okay, so it was worth being a good girl.

I was happy and took JD on a long walk, to finish out my workout and let him enjoy a not-too-terribly humid day (we're so doomed for this weekend though).

By the time all that was done and dinner served to the boy, and I had a chance to sit, it was nearly time for So You Think You Can Dance.

Well, last night proved one surprise (then again not really) as far as the eliminations. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What wasn't surprising was the wardrobe department. Poor Cat. That inverted dust ruffle along Cat's neckline was a bit much, though the overall dress was pretty nice. Tony walked in and said, "What's with that ruffle?" *chuckles* Mary Murphy was in a very nice red dress (did you catch her cell phone in her hand? I wonder if she was texting during the show). Nigel looked fine in his leather jacket.

The opening dance number was just amazing, and I was correct in my guess that it was thanks to Mia Michaels. Cat let us know that indeed so, it was a Mia creation. Only Mia's awesomely wicked brain could have conjured up this black-and-white fever dream of Alice in Wonderland aristocratic angst and rejection. Maybe Wade could have come close. Again, Comfort enjoyed a sizable spotlight in the opening number. Obviously, she's favored by the producers, or at least the choreographers, and they want to ensure she is showcased extra-so. The only other comment on the number: I know that what will haunt my dreams for a long time to come will be the quick, non sequitur shot of Gev, in a crouch, tripping like a court jester who's just shot pure meth into his eyeball. Ew.

Quickly lining up Thayne and Chelsea, Katee and Joshua, and Mark and Chelsie to get their results, Cat sends the expected Thayne and Chelsea off to prep for their solos. No hem- or hawing there; upfront and quick to ease the pain perhaps. The other couples, naturally, were safe. Now that would have been a shocker otherwise.

After the break, Kherington and Twitch were sent off to their happy place, still quite popular with the crowd. Left then to await the news were Courtney and Gev, and Comfort and Chris. As I predicted, Comfort and Chris were sent off to prepare to dance for their lives. Adam Shankman's advice to those two: Dance Better. Hm.

Another break, and now we're left to wonder who will join the bottom three; Will and Jessica or Matt and Kourtni. I liked Matt and Kourtni's number last night the best, however, in all fairness, Will and Jessica were pretty hot. Cat tells Matt and Kourtni, they are in the bottom three as well. Nigel tells Kourtni that she lost that inner twinkle and that he had dropped her out of his top five girls. Then Nigel's impressive display of continental accents (and mannerisms), he remarked on Matt's inability to dance as anyone other than himself. In other words, he's not acting the part, he's just being Matt. The real point of it all was crystal clear: You two better put it all out there tonight or you're gone.

I've never watched MTV's America's Best Dance Crew mostly because I dislike MTV these days. I mean, where are the MUSIC VIDEOS?! I miss MY MTV; you know, Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood and JJ Jackson… I guess what really gets my goat is that the folks at SYTYCD behave as if all these other dancing shows are somehow base pretenders to their throne. American Idol may be all kinds of obnoxious even to its most die-hard fans, but I've never seen the show question, say, Nashville Star's right to exist.

I digress. Sorry.

Back to this other dance show, I can safely say that SYTYCD's claim that Quest is really America's best dance crew just because it happens to contain three SYTYCD alumni doesn't so much hold water. While the crew's spastic interpretation of ''Chemical Calisthenics'' had wit and charm for days, the performances were just all OVER the place, veering from sharp and fierce to a flop-sweaty mess and back again. It was just all right to me; none of the flare and passion of the opening number.

The individual solos tonight were just incredible. I've heard that there's been some muttering that this season is fairly lackluster in talent. Excuuuuuuuuse me! The overall breadth of talent this season just plainly is better than in any past season. Chelsea, Thayne, Comfort, Chris, Kourtni, and Matt all gave their steps at least a sense of coherent form beyond just a ''Hey, look what I can do!'' collection of tricks and moves.

Of the six solos, Thayne's came off the weakest, at least to me. As the end of his solo time allotted came near the end, he began he began racing around the stage like he wasn't sure what to do next. Next to Thayne, Comfort still didn't utilize the stage well, but both of them still brought spark to their numbers. Chris finally delivered a number that was more interesting than he's ever been. Kourtni and Matt definitely took Nigel's dressing-down to heart. In my opinion, Chelsea miscalculated by choosing to go for melancholy when the judges had her pegged as the fiery vixen who's always scorching the stage. Matt pulled off some moves that were just pure amazing, and Kourtni made the bold choice to leave behind her most conspicuous technique and instead simply give the best shape to Ani DiFranco's ''Fire Door'' that she possibly could. It my favorite solo of the night.

Nigel, apparently pressed for time, neglected to give any rationale for cutting Chelsea and Chris. It was quick to the chase on Chelsea, though Nigel paused long enough to apologize to Matt, citing his solo as incredible.

I was a bit shocked that Chelsea was sent home. If I were a voting judge, Comfort would be the one going home, though, I do believe that she is quickly running out of second chances (i.e, next week will be her last, I'm predicting. Again). Chris, I wasn't so sure that he should have been the one to go either; it was a toss-up between he and Thayne.

It shall be interesting to see how Comfort and Thayne will perform together as new partners.


Now to get through the four days next week at work…

Happy weekend!



June 30, 2008

I woke up this morning and thought, "Where has this year gone?"

We are now half-way through the year, and looking back the past six months, they literally flew by, most with a blur of a memory.

On to less depressing things…

Saturday, I had to take my car for its oil change and scheduled maintenance to keep my warranty happy. Not to mention, they top off the washer reservoir (or in the case of Saturday, completely fill it), master cylinder and such, all without charge. I wanted them to check the plug I had on that tire that had gone flat, and decided I should take the warranty just in case. That was a very smart move it turns out.

After sitting there a bit, the manager comes out and asks me which tire had the plug. I repeated it. "Are you sure?" he asked. I was right there and know he only took off the one tire (so, okay, it turns out that it wasn't a plug, but was in fact, a patch, which is much better anyway). "Well, you may have a nail in another tire," he adds. Wonderful!

A few minutes later he's back, and confirms that it's a patch in the front tire, not a plug, and yes indeed, I have another nail. "We don't plug, we patch, and that's $25." The tire shop in my neighborhood only charged me $10 for the patch. But, I shake my head, and mention the road hazard coverage that I have, purchased there at Saturn when I bought my car. He wrinkles his forehead, as I take out my envelope and pull it out to show him. "Jim, who sold the warranty to me said that if I bring the car here, any and all work done on the tires is free of charge, up to and including new tires…" The manager mumbles something that this is new to him, but jots the contract number down. "New?" I say… I bought the car over six months ago. I don't find that particularly… new.

After my car was ready to go, free car wash and all too, I headed off to do some grocery shopping across the highway. I had downloaded a bunch of store coupons, and upon attempting to use them there, was informed they don't take them. At all. "They're stolen and photocopied," I'm told. Uh. These were in crisp COLOR! I smiled, said, "Fine, I don't want the items then," and the manager was quick to say she could void out the whole order if I was that unhappy. "OH no," I replied, "I spent my valuable time here in this store, and I even bagged ALL my groceries by myself, so… now you shall work and waste your time for not accepting a whole $4.25 cents of coupons, while I dig them out and hand them back for you to remove from my total…" One customer behind me was so digusted at them, she left her items on the conveyor belt and walked out, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves. A few others also voiced their disgruntlement of the store's practice.

So, on my way home today, I shall take those coupons to the grocery store I normally go to and use them; I've never had a problem there, and they even double them. Tsk.

Though… I will go through with my promise to the store manager that I will be writing to the head office. Which, when I looked on their website, the only mention of using online coupons (or rather, ALL coupons) is to make sure you buy the right products!

Ten more days until I leave for Oregon. Five more days of coming to work. Woot!

Happy last day of June.


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