Charlottes Web Blog







May 1, 2008

"Here we go 'round the may-pole…"

I remember when I was a child, I just loved the may-pole…

I really have no idea why; perhaps it was the colors, the promise of warm weather… okay, scratch the second reason, considering that I grew up in sunny, warm Southern California.

May Day is not an overly prominent holiday in America, though it does have a long and notable history as one of the world's principal festivals.

The origin of the May Day as a day for celebration dates back to the days, even before the birth of Christ. And like many ancient festivals it too has a Pagan connection.

For the Druids of the British Isles, May 1st was the second most important holiday of the year because it was when the festival of Beltane was held. It was thought that the day divides the year into half (the other half was to be ended with the Samhain on November 1st). Back in this time period, the May Day custom was the setting of new fire. It was one of those ancient New Year rites performed throughout the world. And the fire itself was thought to lend life to the burgeoning springtime sun. Cattle were driven through the fire to purify them. Men, with their sweethearts, passed through the smoke for seeing good luck.

Then the Romans came to occupy the British Isles. The beginning of May was a very popular feast time for the Romans as well; it was devoted primarily to the worship of Flora, the goddess of flowers. It was in her honor a five day celebration, called the Floralia, was held. The five day festival would start from April 28th and end on May 2nd. The Romans brought the rituals of the Floralia festival in the British Isles, and gradually the rituals of the Floralia were added to those of the Beltane.

Many of today's customs on the May Day bear a stark similarity with those combined traditions.

May day observance was discouraged during the time of the Puritans, and though it was relived when the Puritans lost power in England, it didn't have the same robust force. Gradually, it came to be regarded more as a day of joy and merriment for the kids, rather than a day of observing the ancient fertility rights.

By the Middle Ages every English village had its Maypole. The bringing in of the Maypole from the woods was a great occasion and was accompanied by much rejoicing and merrymaking. The Maypoles were found in all sizes. Villages would vie with each other to show who could produce the tallest Maypole. Maypoles were usually set up for the day in small towns, but in London and the larger towns they were erected permanently.

The Maypole tradition suffered a setback for about a couple of decades since the Puritan Long Parliament stopped it in 1644. However, with the return of the Stuarts, the Maypole reappeared and the festivities of May Day were again enjoyed. The changes brought about by the Reformation included attempts to do away with practices that were obviously of pagan origin. But the Maypole, or, May tree, was not issued in practice at the behest of the second Stuart.

Although they succeeded in doing this, Maypole with most of the other traditions, many still survived. And Maypole is one of them. In France it merely changed its name. In Perigord and elsewhere, the May Tree became the "Tree of Liberty" and was the symbol of the French Revolution. Despite the new nomenclature, the peasants treated the tree in the same traditional spirit. And they would dance around it the same way as their forefathers had always done.

Trees have been linked to a part of celebration, perhaps, to the days ancient New Year rites. The association of trees to this celebration has come riding on the back of the spring festival in ancient Europe. Trees have always been the symbol of the great vitality and fertility of nature and were often used at the spring festivals of antiquity. Anthropologist E. O. James finds a strong relationship between the ancient tree related traditions of the British and the Romans. According to James' description, as a part of the May Day celebration, the youths in old Europe cut down a tree, lopped off the branches leaving a few at the top. They then wrapped it round with violets like the figure of the Attis, the ancient Roman god. At sunrise, they used to take it back to their villages by blowing horns and flutes. In a similar manner, the sacred pine tree representing the god Attis was carried in procession to the temple of Cybele on Rome's Palatine Hill during the Spring Festival (March 22).

The Puritans frowned on May Day, so the day has never been celebrated with as much enthusiasm in the United States as in Great Britain. But the tradition of celebrating May Day by dancing and singing around a maypole, tied with colorful streamers or ribbons, survived as a part of the English tradition. The kids celebrating the day by moving back and forth around the pole with the the streamers, choosing of May queen, and hanging of May baskets on the doorknobs of folks are all the leftovers of the old European traditions.

YES! Brooke is finally booted off American Idol.

Got your sombrero ready for Cinco de Mayo?



May 7, 2008

I feel like death warmed over today; allergies are driving me crazy. Everyone else too. It's a majorly bad year this year, and they forewarned us. After a week of battling the sinusitis, and not able to hardly because my eyes tear up so bad, I'm forced to have to go get some over the counter stuff to help out.

Blah. I hate taking any form of pharmaceutical, even vitamins.

I think the judges on Dancing With the Stars have definitely gotten cranky, and are judging more not on the dance, but on the actual player involved.

For example, while Cristián did dance far better than he ever has, I don't think his dances warranted such high scores. It was obvious he was stiff from his injury to his arm, and his movements rather awkward in his strive to ensure he didn't use that arm at all. Yet, he managed to earn even 10s!


Where a judge gave Kristi a 9 because she "looked awkward" that same judge gave a VERY visibily awkward Cristián a 10.

Lifts, or rather, one per dance as long as it met with the character of the dance, were now legal. Other than that, though, Monday night was pretty typical. The script contained way too much Kristi vs. Jason pitting; Bruno cut off Len, as uzh; and Mark can't stop distracting me from Kristi's dancing with his flair and face. And Len's inexplicable bias against Mario rages on. To recap…

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl: 57 out of a possible 60. During the tango, Cheryl got to incorporate lots of her specialty move — whipping herself around — to mask Cristián's relative stillness. But I'm guessing some of Cheryl's head jerks may have been necessitated by the upside-down doorway of feathers surrounding her chin. Oddly enough, injured Cristián seems to have more composure on the floor than healthy Cristián. Their second dance, the mamba, was my second favorite of the night. And that final lift was so clever! God, I'm as easily impressed as the judges. "The things you can do with one arm," indeed, Bruno. Moving on…

Did anyone else love when Cristián tried to act demure and shield his nipples from the camera after giving everyone backstage a high five?

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark came in second (again) with 55 out of a possible 60. Considering Kristi's background, I was not surprised when she pushed doing lifts. Though, her partner, Mark, didn't want to take anything away from the character of their samba, though he did allow a lift in at the end of their tango. The judges loved Kristi's royal blue tango, quickly dubbing her as "right back where you were a few weeks ago." Bruno didn't think that was clear enough, so he told Kristi she was a "super candidate with a super ticket to the finals!"

Kristi's second dance was the samba, but all my memories focus on that busted red-and-yellow costume. It was completely fringed — and I personally loved it. The judges dissed Kristi's samba, calling it "slightly awkward" and lacking in rhythm. Mark didn't put in any samba rolls, which surprised me. But I loved all those incredible turns! I thought, she was beautiful, and still a shoo-in for the winner of the trophy.

Mario and Karina got a 53 out of 60. Mario and Karina's Viennese waltz was my favorite dance of the night. I thought Mario was pretty graceful, and certainly as "stiff" as Carrie Ann wanted him to be. I loved the cool sequence in the middle where they stepped in and out of hold four times quickly, and I thought their lift during the waltz was the most seamless of all the attempted lifts of the evening. Of course, it was a professional dancer being lifted… Everything about their just flowed very nicely, including Karina's white dress. Good thing they practiced that one in the pool during rehearsal, huh? Because, Mario informed us, in a pool, "the only thing Karina has to worry about is being cold." In a white bikini. Ah, that was rich. Len's comments, on the other hand, were just cheap and uncalled for. "Normally your ballroom dance reminds me of Britney Spears getting out of a car — not very elegant," he told Mario before even addressing the waltz at hand.

Mario's jive was much less impressive, but certainly not as bad as Len made it out to be. Out of nowhere, his contempt returned to knock down Mario's "bloody big, ugly" feet. Huh? Why not just say, "No technique in the footwork," which was the next phrase out of his squinchy mouth, and leave it at that? Bruno and Carrie Ann had better things to say.

After "sacking Kristi" last week (thanks for that visual, Tom), Jason Taylor and Edyta dropped from first place, receiving a 52 out of 60. Jason dropped to fourth place. The judges loved Jason and Edyta's first dance, a sultry tango that, as Bruno pointed out, was thoroughly enhanced by Edyta's performance. In fact, Edyta was told this was her best performance in all the years she has done the show.

Jason's samba was a different story: Len called out Jason's lack of musicality and uncomfortable look, Carrie Ann said he failed at flamboyance (which Jason probably took as a compliment), and Bruno just called the dance "a turkey." Jason's moves did seem a bit recycled and basic, and for me the only awesome part of the dance was another incredible lift that basically begged us to worship at the six-foot-six-inch-tall altar of the perfect female form — an upside-down Edyta arched into a stunning diagonal line.

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony came last (surprise! Not!) at 50 out of 60. It's crunch time, which means Marissa needs to mention her triumph over cancer in the same breath as "We're in the bottom two." Cringe! Marissa and Tony's fox-trot, featuring a pewter gown that was a bit too Broadway for Bruno's tastes. I didn't even think that was possible, but okay. There was a lot of stop-and-go in Marissa and Tony's fox-trot and mambo, and both dances just seemed a little slower and less complicated than everyone else's. After their mambo, Len went ahead and confused everyone even more with a complaint that Marissa wasn't "raunchy" enough.

Marissa has definitely grown on me, but based strictly on dance ability, she — or Cristián — should go home this week. I await anxiously now, while gearing up for American Idol

Okay, so I missed the "Favorite Dances" hour of the show; not a biggie because often the judges favorite dances were not mine and I can always catch that on the replay online. The super-duper 100th show results show however, to me, didn't live up to the hype.

Okay, so Rascal Flats was on. Eh. I like their one song "Life is a Highway" and that's about it. The dance number of Apolo Anton Ono and Julianne Hough was quite lovely; I'd have preferred watching them throughout the entire show than the members of Rascal Flats.

I think Mel and Maks got shafted on their spotlight time.

I yawned my way through Mario and his Chorus Line performance. Oooh Wowww Ahhh. NOT!

I was surprised to see Marissa remaining to compete in the semi-finals and Mario gone, but at the same time, Len pretty much ensured Mario wasn't going to continue on with his nasty comments. I'll miss Mario. Not Karina. Did you catch those eyerolls of hers? Indeed, I am more certain now that Mario's failure was not Mario, but of Karina and the judges' disdain for her and her bad attitude.

I was less dazzled by American Idol last night.

David Cook was pitchy in the first number, and the song choice I found odd, which he didn't make his own; and shined in the second one, with his take on a great Who song.

Syesha may have done herself major harm by trying to top Tina Turner. I agree with much of what Simon said about her performance of "Proud Mary," though her second song was quite good.

David Archuleta was predictable.

Jason. WHAT was wrong with him last night? First he tried to top Bob Marley and even I have to agree with Simon, it was truly a horrific nightmare. Then, on his second song, which would have been a much better performance, he … forgot some of the words.

Okay, but so did Brooke AND David Archuleta a couple of weeks ago, but this wasn't pointed out as far as David Archuleta goes, and Brooke's restart was ignored as well.

So, I'm watching right now, and expect to report in a few minutes that Jason is saying Hasta la vista, baby…

*ticking clock*

And … yes indeed; Jason bids his farewell.

Did you think he mouthed "Don't vote" after his performance Tuesday night? It looks indeed that he did…

I can't wait for Memorial Day weekend; I've taken off a couple of extra days just to make it a really niiiiiiiiiiiice long weekend…




May 10, 2008

I joined Bally's. On Thursday. The ol' $19 down, $19 a month ploy that, well, is so 1980s. That's because when I first joined Bally's (then called Hollywood Health Spa) in the mid-1980s, it was truthfully, $19 down, $19 a month with access to all the health clubs in ever state, which was like 3 clubs in all. Okay. Maybe 13. Then Bally's bought them out, and so the number of clubs grew and the number of states totaled more than the number of fingers on one hand. Still, there were no extras, like the juice bar to get you to pay $5 for a tiny glass of orange juice or $3 for a bottle of water that costs $1 every where else. Clothes. Oh. And personal trainers.

The $19 down, $19 a month now only buys you three days a week that you have to pre-plan for the next three years of which exact three days they allow you to come in; either Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, or Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Too constrictive, so I opted for a higher level that allows me access to all New York and New Jersey clubs (except the hoity toity ones), seven days a week as much as I want. The minimal cost above the $19 per month special is worth the flexibility.

So, this morning, I went to meet with the personal trainer for my first workout there. Okay folks, I'm WAY out of shape, I admit that, but apparently my telling him of my bad knees didn't stop him from having me to exercises that I shouldn't do or not supposed to do because of the damaged cartilage. I started off warming up on one of the stationary bikes — that was broken. Yay. So, I didn't get my target heart rate set and so forth, to alert him just what I could do. Off we went for floor exercises. So, here I was bouncing away doing jumping jacks, which didn't hurt then… Some step exercises with hand weights; things I do at home. I got winded (allergy season has me whipped and it was a struggle for breath doing nothing at all) and a bit dizzy, so he didn't put me through the full hour-long routine, and only put me on one machine, for 30 seconds. Yay. So, because of that, I didn't get my rub-down massage (which is fine!).

What I did get, was hit on to hire him as my personal trainer, to the tune of $500, down, $700 per month for three months, giving me 48 sessions with him.

I looked at him, smiled, and said, "No thanks."

Oh, he hustled me, and gave me a price cut (a senior citizen discount – GRRRRRR), to the tune of $500, down, $500 per month for three months.

"I can't afford it."

Last offer, was 16 sessions to the tune of $200 down, $400 a month for two months. Such a deal!

Finally, I said to him, "If I could afford any of what you're offering, I'd be living in a different place than I am now, I'd have a room dedicated as a personal gym, rather than having to wait until Bally's offered a sweet deal I had no excuse to refuse, and I'd have long ago hired a personal trainer to come to my house."

Message received.

To be fair, Alvin, that's the personal trainer's name, was quite likable.

Okay. I'm going to lay down and die now.

Actually, I feel pretty good; energized.

Happy weekend!



May 13 , 2008

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day to all you Moms out there!

I had a quiet, relaxing day, working out the kinks in my body from muscles that were very upset with me. I had to have a discussion with them that exercise is a GOOD thing. They didn't agree.

However, my body was later sated when Tony whipped up some (turkey) meatballs and spaghetti for dinner. YUM.

Sadly, I didn't make my next goal prior to my doctor's visit yesterday. But, I'm happy. I'm almost there, and I did make my first and most important goal. My doctor was quite happy, though there are a few things I have yet to work on before I'm considered healthy again.

Now my week is complete before it's fully kicked into gear. Finally, on Dancing With the Stars we got our first (and probably only glimpse this year) of DANCMSTR, the greatest vanity plate in the whole world! Indeed, the Man With the Golden Ten delivered by far the most entertaining segment of the night; cuddling with Cristián while dancing as "the girl," getting inappropriately felt up by Marissa, and canoodling with Kym in the back of his stretch limo. Actually, speaking of high-intensity TV segments featuring limos, Tom Bergeron ripping on that silly Brit Bachelor bloke (what's name? Matt?) was pretty awesome, too. "So she gets a diamond ring, and you get a green card? That's how that works?"

Hehe. Guess so!

I swore to myself I'd never watch one of those Bachelor shows, but I did watch it the year of Andy and Tessa. Who could resist that year? Of course, they are no more, and afterwards, it was revealed how much of a whore Andy is, and well, now he's dating Ivana's daughter, or something like that. Tessa was too good for him, and well, Andy redefined WHY I don't watch The Bachelor.

Anyway, back to Dancing With the Stars. It was semifinals night, and a rather ho-hum one for certain. The couples each performed one standard ballroom dance and one Latin one, but this week *insert drum roll here* fate — determined which dances those would be. HA! "Fate." That's a cute word. The idea of the producers assuming I'd actually believe those choices were truly random is completely laughable, but not as funny as the dance-drawing method itself. Everyone pulled a mini disco ball (which then separated into halves, like a plastic egg full of jelly beans) from a super-duper giant disco ball. (We have at long last been let in on the secret of what disco balls look like inside. Red.)

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark earned 57 out of a possible 60 points. Kristi continues to dance WAY better than anyone else but still lands within one point of the others on the useless judges' even more useless leaderboard. Len gave her two dances — the "too hectic" tango and the "little bit stiff" jive — the same scores he gave Jason, Marissa, and Cristián for much lesser routines. I think perhaps his drawers were starched more than normal last night. Or is that knickers? Carrie Ann pointed out Mark's difficult choreography for the jive but said the partners were "just a hair out of sync." I wonder … if Mark did tone down the choreo, would Kristi be able to relax and add that performance element the judges always say is lacking? Or should she dance the most complicated routines she can, because she's that capable? Hmmm. Definitely discussion fodder!

I must commend Mark however, for the one area in which Mark did show some restraint was in fish-face making during the tango. The mouth popped open, but never as widely as in the glory guppy days of weeks 4 and 5. He was trying so hard! I think he should have made an exception during the pair's jive, when a lock of Kristi's hair got stuck on her lip gloss for at least a full minute (I wanted to reach through the TV and unpluck it for her!).

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl got a 56 out of 60. I think both dances were lacking in comparison to last week. Though, when you figure in Cheryl's silver, wearable-art Viennese waltz dress, she literally looked like the "satellite" their song was supposed to be about. The tasty, one-armed Chilean sea bass of a man scored straight 9s for the waltz, which Bruno insisted had a "wow factor." This was definitely the term of the night, which made me feel confused and like a bit of a party pooper because I barely ever thought "wow" to myself. Had to laugh at Tom remarking on that dress of Cheryl's, "Anyone missing a weather balloon?"

Anyway, in his next dance, the ill-fated samba which ripped the tendons in Cristián's left arm, this altogether different samba failed to rupture a tendon in his good arm. Then, of all things, Carrie Ann likened him to Emmitt "Twinkle Toes" Smith (sitting cute right there on the first row!) and Len whipped out the rare food simile: "That was hotter than a chili pepper, my Chilean friend." He was the only judge not to score Cristián a 10 for the samba. I think it was really because during the Len teaching segment, Cristián hilariously scored Len and Cheryl a 7.

Jason Taylor and Edyta got a gracious 55 out of 60. Huge pancake hands down, the best part of Jason and Edyta's performance last night was their adorable "game-plan strategy" segment, involving Edyta laying down the law as a naughty schoolteacher/coach with a penchant for leg warmers. The pair lucked out with the fox-trot and the paso doble — perfect for Jason, who's had trouble with the quicker-paced Latin dances that involve more dancing out of hold. I really liked their fox-trot. Jason even sort of got into character, straightening his tie and acting all uppity when Edyta suddenly faced away from him. I know. I'm stretching here, but hey, it's something!

Jason's paso was not even interesting to me, which earned them a 27; considering the inflated scores across the board, a 27 is pretty much akin to "average" at this point. I don't personally care when there are illegal floor-spinning lifts because I find them less impressive than when they're executed correctly, but this dance definitely had one. And aside from some unexpectedly quick hip swiveling for a few beats, I didn't think we saw anything new from the star Bruno said has "the strength and momentum of Iron Man." Then, Len joked that Jason was "a bit like the price of gas — you're going up!" Wow! Current affairs! Then Jason took it even further, promising Samantha that if people voted for him, he'd lower taxes, provide free health care to everyone, and bring home the troops (adding that he really wishes he could do the last one).

Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony came in last *insert shocked gasp here* with a 52 out of 60. Marissa is definitely not even close to being near the skill level of the other three. The quickstep was the pair's better dance, even though Marissa's long red-violet dress rivaled last week's pewter nightmare and Sabrina's season 5 Grimace gown for the most unflattering garment ever. The judges acknowledged the difficulty of the dance but took points away for a missed jeté. (Hey! I know the word jeté!)

Marissa's rumba was slow and boring — except for a fun wardrobe malfunction at the end that gave it a "wow." Though, the gruesome aftermath was painful to watch. The judges engaged in a collective hissy fit debating the "wow factor" of the rumba — after Carrie Ann started out with a dreadful "Ohhhhhhh, Marissa…" and said the dance did nothing for her, Len condescended to Carrie Ann by using her name while sitting right next to her. Bruno lobbed a halfhearted compliment about how Marissa "sustained a lovely backbend," a comment so ridiculous that Carrie Ann just had to do it, and snapped out, "It's not exciting enough at this stage! Come on, you guys have high standards for everybody else." Now, the judges criticizing each other for their questionable and constantly shifting "standards" is ludicrous.

Then I got annoyed when Marissa pleaded with the audience: "Keep voting for us because we deserve to be here!" Uh. Not even.

What do you think? Does Marissa deserve to be there? In what universe? Should the judges have scored some of the dancers lower than an 8? And which stars do you think will make the most entertaining final three?

I swear, I'll vomit in my purse if Marissa makes it to the finals!

Tonight on American Idol will be the last performance of Syesha; we all know it that no matter how good she is, it's going to be a final Battle of the Davids. Hmmm. David and the Goliath David mayhaps? Rather late in the game, little David's father has been banned from rehearsals AND backstage; he's a royal pain in the ass, it's been said (which goes back to the days when little David appeared on Star Search and his father caused havoc there!).



May 14, 2008

So, after work, I kept trying to talk myself out of going to the gym. Actually, it was more a debate between the "good" me and my muscles that sided with the "bad" me.

THIS time, at the gym, I did my cardio and fat burning workout without getting faint, dizzy, out of breath… I left pretty darn proud of myself. When I got home, my blood was still pumping, so I grabbed the dog, leashed him up and off we went on our walk. After he took care of his business, I worked him out too. He got into it, the brisk power walk. Until he stopped and braced himself like the stubbornest of donkeys. He looked up at me with a look that said, "Ma, I'm done."

I didn't take no for an answer, and power-walked the half-block left to go to get to our building. I've never seen an "outside-happy" dog more happy to get back inside (save for his last vet visit, that is).

That evening, I settled in to watch American Idol and the results show for Dancing With the Stars expecting it to be a predictable night. I wasn't disappointed in my predictions.

For a semi-final round for American Idol it sure lacked the "wow" factor as in previous years. In brief:

First Round:

Second Round:

Third Round:

So, let's take a look at last night in depth.

Interior: A dark hollywood soundstage.

Dressed in a slinky, metallic-sequined gown, a blindfolded Syesha is led by a pair of big, evil-looking goons to center stage, where she is then tied to a wooden post. One of the men lights the extra long cigarette hanging from Syesha's mouth. She inhales, chin held high, betraying no hint of fear or desperation. Suddenly! the floodlights are switched on. Syesha finds herself facing an angry semicircle of violin players. From stage left, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe rubs his hands and salivates, while a deathly quiet falls over the audience. The judges take their seats and prepare to speak.

RANDY: What's goin' down, Syesha? So listen, dawg, in round 1, your Alicia Keys cover, I dunno… for me, for you, it started out a little rough for me, but ultimately, it was equal to Little David's "And So It Goes."

PAULA: Let me just start by saying that you look lovely tonight. You are authentically playing the role of Syesha with authenticity. And also, your performance of "Fever" was definitely more in tune than Rocker David's "Dare You to Move."

SIMON: What Paula and Randy are trying to say is it's a good thing we ended with the "producers' choice" round, because if I'm being honest, even if the sequins in your dress miraculously began to display the image of the Virgin Mary in front of an American flag, there's no way you'd be able to overcome the fact that we (because I'm one of the producers, too, involved in this!) saddled you with that deplorable Rihanna knockoff from the Happy Feet soundtrack (and so that I could further embaress you and remark that it's about penguins).

Syesha lets the cigarette drop from her mouth. She smiles broadly, and though her mike has been shut off, she gamely mouths the words "Simon fu–" Before she can finish, however, a trapdoor opens up beneath Syesha, and she falls out of view. The camera cuts to Ryan.

RYAN: Syesha, your journey ends tonight.

Backstage, Nigel and his fellow producers jump up and down excitedly, while confetti rains down from the ceiling.

NIGEL: [Tearfully.] David wins! And so does David!

Yeah, so maybe that's not exactly how neither the performance episode nor the results show played out, but hey, it sure makes for a interesting "real" reality TV! Especially since this was the season that will live in infamy; a season where a favorite TV show has repeatedly undermined its own credibility — judging some contestants before they've actually performed, praising others even when they noticeably botch kind-of-important details like, oh, their lyrics — it would've been nice if the Mistress of the Bottom Two had been allowed to compete on a musically level playing field with the dueling Davids. However, we all know what that is, yes? Though she isn't my favorite, she has consistently demonstrated not only her talent, but her resolve. However, putting aside any overt or subconscious efforts by the production to sabotage her, Syesha was merely good when she needed to be great.

Okay, end of rant.

Simon, not surprisingly, was spot-on when he declared that round 1 went to "Cook and Cowell," considering that his unexpected pick of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" turned out to be the performance of the evening and rendered everything that followed anticlimactic by comparison. As Simon explained it, he wanted to pick a song that was "very, very, very tough" vocally and would also force the contestant to stretch his artistic boundaries. And interestingly, while Rocker David added a little more guitar to the mix, he didn't stray wildly off the path laid down by Roberta Flack, which allowed him to highlight the gravelly timbre of his voice, the seldom-heard beauty of his falsetto, and, most important, his ability to breathe new life into decades-old lyrics that most of us have heard more times than Randy has used his "you could sing the phone book" cliché.

I was awed by it, the cleverness of the arrangement, the vocals…

Of course, it was a good laugh on Simon when Ryan egged him on the song choice and the reasons why… SIMON: All my girlfriends have said I inspired that song; it's quite romantic… RYAN: So that's why you chose it for David? SIMON: [Flustered]

The depth of emotion in Rocker David's face was the one ingredient missing from Little David's delicate rendition of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" (rarely, have I noticed any emotion in Little David's face when singing actually). I momentarily nodded off when Ryan once again attempted to elicit a spontaneous answer from the young contestant about song choice ("I was excited; it was a really pretty song"), and judging from all the squinting that took place during the performance, I worried Little David might be about to catch some z's, too. But let's give credit where it's due: The way the kid stripped the song's arrangement down to just a light sprinkling of strings made his performance sound borderline a cappella and highlighted the purity of his tone. I will agree with Randy, though, that it might've been even more effective if David had sat down behind the piano on this one.

I conclude here before proceeding further, any more kind thoughts about Randy, because, seriously, could the Dawg have been less imaginative choosing Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" for Syesha? At no point in the season has Ms. Mercado proven herself to be a masterful song re-arranger, so why saddle her with a big, well-known ballad by one of the most successful pop-R&B belters to conquer radio in the last decade? (In fact, don't they always tell contestants, DON'T do the big divas?) Ultimately, her performancewas perfectly serviceable, albeit a wee bit shrill on her upper register.

When it came to the "contestants' choice" round, I moaned moreso than when I gave birth!

I just couldn't believe Syesha's choice of songs; it truly was a very cabaret cover of "Fever." Her pre-performance mantra of "fever, fun, happy, yeah" was typically bizarre (and not in a good way either) and her use of the "sexy chair" was a lot stagy, but I think we can all agree this was the most successful public audition for a road-company production of Chicago that the world has ever seen. Granted, Simon had a point when he noted Syesha's performance squandered the "chance to prove that you are a contemporary recording artist…"

Which brings me to Little David's deeply embarrassing take on Chris Brown's "With You" — how come Simon didn't drive home the exact same point he did with Syesha? To me, they were neck and neck on the squandering… I agreed with Randy and Simon that on paper, it was refreshing that the kid chose a contemporary R&B jam over yet another ho-hum ballad (or, "treacly" as Simon put it), but he delivered it as if there was a blade-sharp pendulum swinging back and forth over his head, ready to slice and dice at the first botched note (I counted several!) or mangled lyric (just one). By the time he went in for his first big run (on "girl, you're my heart"), he actually looked like he might vomit into the pit full of manic girls. (They would've deserved it.)

Paula gave some sage advice about "not extending the phrases" on a stylized track that requires the kind of nimble, airy cadence that is decidedly not Little David's forte. And indeed, when David held on to his notes too long, "You're a class all your own" morphed into "You are a…uh…classyourown." (This, naturally, went unnoticed by the judges.) What's more, I disagree with Randy and Little David that a white boy can't convincingly sing about his "boo;" skin color had nothing to do with the performance catastrophe. Instead, it should have been pointed out his season-long struggles to handle nonfunereal rhythms, and/or the way he can't seem to break out of his "catch a rainbow" hand-extension dance move that grows more and more annoying, and/or his general discomfort tackling mature relationship-themed material.

Rocker David did Switchfoot's "Dare You to Move." *sighs* Seriously my friends, my absolute-favorite contestant in the competition had more issues with pitch than I could count, and although he kept repeating the line "today never happened" at the end of his performance, I regret to inform him that indeed it did, and it was a lot worse than the judges would have him believe.

And now I come to the "producers' choice" portion of the evening. Oh, and guess who the producers want to win now. Not the poor child who had to try to sell Dan Fogelberg's "Longer" to the advertiser-desired demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds. Not the chick who was slapped hard with that tacky dance track you've never heard before. Nope, apparently Nigel & Co. are now squarely behind Rocker David, since they served him "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," delivered hot and fresh by songwriter Diane Warren herself and garnished with the kind of "serious strings section" drama usually reserved for the Oscars, Very Special Grammys performances, or Fourth of July fireworks with the Boston Pops. Still, take away all the fanfare, and you really had a pretty middle-of-the-road performance with a bum final note. Yeah, David delivered it with his typical sexy swagger and stubble, but this was far from starmaking magic. Even still, Simon was right: "David Cook wins the night."

Still, you have to wonder, don't you? Little David and Syesha couldn't help that they drew matching short straws with "Longer" and "Hit Me Up," though of course, the big difference was that the judges were willing to excuse the former, not the latter.

My biggest chuckle of the night was watching Randy and Paula use complex code to critique Little David's "Longer." Randy looked positively unenthusiastic about what he had just seen, tepidly declared it "an interesting song choice for me for you," and then, as if he had just remembered who he's supposed to be pimping for the final two, used his top two clichés of the season — "phone book!" and "in the zone" — and then screamed "another hot one from you!" (Good save, Mr. Jackson!) Paula, for her part, flatly declared, "It was a lovely performance, David. I expect nothing more. It was just very lovely." (I know, Paula, I don't expect anything more from Little David than a bland, straightforward ballad with lots of runs, either!) Only Simon had the guts to tell Little David he wouldn't criticize him for getting stuck with a horrible, gooey ballad that you'd expect to come out of a 90-year-old. Yes Simon, it certainly was gooey!

I'm not going to slam Syesha for her performance of "Hit Me Up," a non-hit single (No? *gasp*) from the Happy Feet soundtrack. It was and okay performance but the song itself is… horrible. I mean, the producers could've selected any one of the millions of songs in recorded history, or at least the hundreds of thousands of songs in recorded history that they could get cleared. They could've let her sing some En Vogue or some Rolling Stones or some Madonna or some Frank Sinatra… Instead, they made her sing Gia Freakin' Farrell, and if that weren't enough of a banana cream pie to the face, they dumped a bucket of cold water over the poor woman's head by having Paula declare, "I don't know if it's gonna be good enough to get into the finals of American Idol. I love you, though." Lucky for Syesha, she's an actress as well as a singer; no matter how maddening the script, she'll play her part.

If Syesha makes it to the final two, that'll be the shocker of the century. I expect her to be the next in line after winning her fifth Tony and proclaiming American Idol nothing but a scam…

It's bye-bye for Marissa on Dancing With the Stars — and boy, am I glad I don't have to barf in my purse! I love my purse.

I like having the kids this year. They're cute and rather remarkable little dancers. That pre-teen couple though, they were HAWT.

So You Think You Can Dance starts up next week. Goody! Of the three, it is my favorite without a doubt.



May 15, 2008

I'm trying to convince myself I should go to the gym today… though tomorrow would be a better day since it's supposed to be rainy and people tend not to go out in the rain much…

I had a bad start to the day is all, after a rather bad night and being rudely awakened at something like four this morning by the TV remote smacking against my head. I'm not a happy camper today at all.

So… I'm late getting up out of bed (the 5 more minutes resulted in falling back to a brief sleep), late getting out the door, and all was well by time I got to the deli, I wasn't late at all for work… I paid for my coffee, drove to work, parked my car, started to get out — CRAP! I left my coffee at the deli. Of course, I had to go back for it! So, now I was late for work.

So, were YOU surprised by the outcome on American Idol? Syesha was doing her best acting job effort, by trying not to act like she already knew. Sadly, she takes no Oscar home; it was plainly obvious on her face. David Cook needs better acting lessons.

Before the results were announced however, we were given a performance by Season 3 Idol winner Fantasia, who performed ''Bore Me (Yawn)" — did YOU catch the chica with her ass hanging out of her too-short dress? and how about Simon's jaw hanging to the floor? Was he more shocked at the butt cheeks or the really horrible song and nightmarish performance? Then after that, to keep up the suspense and spend sponsors' monies, we saw taped highlights of the two Davids and Syesha receiving heroes' welcomes on their respective homecoming trips. Oh. And the final goodbye clip because, we're all supposed to be on the edge of our seats biting our nails in case one of the Davids is out the door.


So, who will win. First-time ever having a rocker win? Perhaps. Though I think Little David fits the mold more; he's very young, he's *cough* innocent, and he's a hit of the tweens and under, who are the biggest consumers of the music industry. It will all depend on who gets the best song to sing, or rather, the best arrangement of the song…

I fell asleep on Boston Legal and so I didn't even try to watch Top Chef afterwards. It looked like a good one too, but it'll be on tonight again. I've already decided Richard will win it all.

Yes. It's almost Friday.



May 16, 2008

So, I didn't make it to the gym yesterday after all. I wanted to, since Tony had called in sick, thusly leaving me with no "my space" time when I got home, but I just wasn't feeling very well by the time I left work.

So, last night was just the pre-finale of Ugly Betty but… ZOMG! I hope Eddie Cibrian stays a part of the cast as a permanent fixture.

After that, it was time to catch up on this week's Top Chef. The episode delivered everything the trailers promised. There is more drama on that show than in so-called dramas.

This week's episode, I'm dubbing, "Succotash Sabotage." Catchy, eh?

So, after being up for more than forty hours straight for last week's challenges, the chef-tants were (expectedly) less than bright eyed for this episode.

Stephanie was still dazed and grappling with Nikki's (expected) departure and Richard was just plain the picture of death warmed over. Amusingly, Spike was still hot under the collar at Dale, who was busy coiffing his hair with something that looked suspiciously like an Elmer's glue stick.

Only bulbous-nosed Andrew claimed to be fine. Better than fine, in fact, prounouncing that, "I woke up today with a fucking fire in my stomach! Either I'm going to stab somebody, or I'm going to make some amazing food."

I'd say it's about even money on that one, Andy-boy.

Anyway, so the chef-tants head to the kitchen, where they (me!) were fully shocked out of their slumber by the appearance of the Ghost of Top Chef past: Sam Talbot, that hunk of diabetic man candy lookin' better than ever.

The challenge, according to Sam, was to "put a little sexy back in the salad." I really had no idea that greens needed to get their groove back, but if Padma and Sam say it's true, it's gotta be true.

With forty-five minutes to throw together their dishes, the chef-tants had plenty of time to pull off something above and beyond the usual rabbit cuisine, so they all went for some various interesting ingredients. Andrew went for Thai-themed fruits, Lisa opted for bananas — and Spike grabbed a massive hunk of beef, which he claimed would make a person exclaim, "Let's have sex after we eat this salad!" (Personal experience for Spike, maybe?). At this point, Lisa took a moment to point out that some of the remaining chef-tants didn't deserve to be in the competition because they lacked talent and had personalities that "suck ass."

Hmm… Sounds like a little case of the nonstick pasta pot calling the anodized skillet black to me, wouldn't you say?

Despite the lengthy time to execute their dishes, mistakes were, of course, made (we have to have that drama for the quickfire even, yes?). Of greatest note, Stephanie smacked her forehead and proclaims that she forgot to put an all-important artichoke chip on her plate. *gasp* Are you kidding me? *eye roll* When will these people learn to keep their overly greedy mouths shut? We see it, painfully, time after time, where the chef-tants have been compelled to 'fess up to the judges about ingredients that were left out — as if honesty were going to win them points. In this particular instance Steffie, nobody would've missed an artichoke chip because nobody even knows what an artichoke chip is!

Sam's verdicts were issued in his patented caveman (okay and sexy too) grunt: Richard's ceviche-style mix "just wasn't there," and Lisa's plate of banana whatever-the-heck-it-was concoction was "a hodgepodge." In the end, Spike won his very first quickfire with a "sensual beef salad." Personally, I would've given it to him for the name alone. No immunity anymore, but Spike was promised a "significant advantage" in the elimination challenge. Usually, they're pretty lame in comparison to immunity.

Now, the dreaded elimination challenge! Padma and Sam introduced the game by bringing out trays of grease-covered fast food, which I can only assume were intended to look gross, although I found them lip-smacking enticing, and even Lisa said so. Padma explained that this was the average lunch order for the hungry cops and cadets at the Chicago Police Academy, and that the chef-tants' mission (should they decide to accept!) was to create gourmet box lunches that would satisfy the cops' hunger with hearty and healthier alternatives (and maybe earn them a few less parking tickets on their runs to Whole Foods).

Speaking of which, the Whole Foods by me is NOTHING like the ones the chef-tants shop in. What gives? I'm figuring they get special deliveries of impossible to get Chilean Sea Bass and other rare "typical grocery store" items.

Anyway… Specifically, the meals had to contain a whole grain, a lean protein, a fruit, and a vegetable, be hearty and healthy (as in, even a diabetic could eat this). Is it me, or does there seem to be a theme in this season's challenges? Haute tail-gating, gourmet block-party, kid-friendly courses… Wait. They did the kids diet camp last year, so scratch that one. However, it does seem that almost every other episode has the chef-tants struggling to dumb down their food for the culinarily-challenged, and griping every step of the way as if it were an insult to have to feed *gasp* normal people. Like… would they actually be on Top Chef if they were some super-duper high quality chef at some hoity-toity food fare, say, Pete's Tavern on the Green?

So, Spike's "significant" advantage was a ten-minute head start at the grocery store (did anyone else have a Supermarket Sweep flashback like I did?) — and the nasty clincher — he was also allowed to declare four of the foods he purchased to be off limits to the other chef-tants! Spike is so not nice, and he decides to make it tough(er) for them by picking common foods: chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and bread. Ouch! It was all in the spirit of competition, though the move was interpreted by the other chef-tants as — YEP! SABOTAGE.

Stephanie had to rethink her plan to do chicken with smoked tomatoes *shucks!* and Lisa's soup-and-sandwich menu went flying out the proverbial window. Only Andrew, who has (often) made a point of saying that he had studied nutrition for two years, was as unfazed as a Zen master. "I think beyond what most people think of when it comes to food," he said. Hunh? I no clue what that means.

*insert SABOTAGE background musack* Finished with their shopping and back in the kitchen, tempers flare when the burner under Lisa's brown rice somehow ended up on high, which left the rice hard on the outside and undercooked on the inside; the dish was nearly ruined and Lisa was instantly sure that it wasn't an accident or a mistake: It could only have been… da-dum-da-dum… sabotage. She threw a little (big!) hissy fit, but time was ticking away. The chef-tants packed up their lunch box meals and headed out, falling over things, dropping things, general flailing in their exhaustion…

At the academy now, with only a few minutes left, the chef-tants scribble the instructions on microwaving the meals on labels. I think they should have been artistic too, with little flowers, or guns, or something…

It was time; the hungry cops surveyed the goods before choosing one box each to munch on. The feedback from the cops was generally pretty good, ranging from "very tender" to "better than McDonald's" (what higher praise, really?). Unfortunately, the judges weren't quite as nice. Padma said that Spike's chicken salad with pita was "pedestrian," while Andrew's fake-rice salmon roll was deemed "very strange" with an utter look of revulsion on her face. Padma also noted that Andrew didn't use a whole grain in his dish. DOH!

At the judges table later on, the judges laid down the law on the chef-tants' cop cuisine.

Tom complimented Dale's use of bison and Stephanie's seasoning before declaring Dale the winner. For his efforts, he was presented with a nice bottle of wine and a free trip to Napa (he can pretend it's Italy, can't he?).

Things really gor interesting when Andrew was summoned to the room in the bottom three along with Spike and Lisa! Whooo! Padma started by questioning how "substantial" Andrew's dainty dish was, which prompted him to go off on another rant about how he had studied nutrition. (Okay, okay! We get it already!) By now, Padma and Tom seem genuinely pissed by Andrew's refusal to accept their judgments as the word of the Almighty God him(her)self — which, of course, tripped Andrew's crazy switch (it's located in that nose, I swear!), leading to this OH-so-delicious little catfight:

Andrew: "I want to show you guys what it is to eat healthy."
Tom: "How about serving something that's good?"
Andrew: "Was it not good?"
Tom: "It didn't taste good at all."
Andrew: "Really? That's funny. I had two people go back for it."
Tom: "They went back for it because it wasn't enough. They had to eat more."

ZOMG! Who knew Tom had claws on those stubby little hands of his? Things got worse when Lisa decided to rat out Andrew for his ommission of a whole grain in his dish, of which Padma makes a nasty remark in return to her. In his defense, sweetly loopy Andrew spends about ten seconds pretending that it was a conscious decision before finally 'fessing up that he had lost the rule list and forgot to include a grain. Lisa also made sure to mention her little rice-sabotage theory to the judges, although they didn't seem to be particularly sympathetic, or forgiving of her mistakes. Which of course, after they all walked out, the judges spoke on the fact that each chef-tant must keep an eye on their cooking delights; whatever happens, and they're not looking, bad for them. Ouch.

Finally, Andrew and Lisa spat a few final insults at each other in the dungeon while the judges deliberated, but it seemed pretty preordained that Andrew was going home. Andrew's reaction was surprisingly tame after all the threats of having to call security to get him off the show. "No security necessary," he joked before shaking hands and heading off to pack his knives.

Hey! Today IS Friday! TGIF!



May 20, 2008

Well, after a weekend of feeling like I had been hit by a freight train, I'm feeling much better today.

Which means, back to my work outs and all that I had put on the back burner while trying to recuperate from said freight train.

ZOMG! Not one contestant last night on Dancing With the Stars finale pretended that he or she was a doll. Amazing. Doesn't get much better than that!

Of course, I almost didn't get to watch it in HDTV, not that it really would have mattered, but it was nice; it was well worth having the other half angry at me.

An absolutely fabulous new development was created for last night, and I hope that it will be repeated in future seasons (different dances, too, of course). This new development was a group cha-cha, in which Kristi, Cristián, and Jason had to cha-cha to the same music; each couple getting about 30 seconds to strut their stuff, culminating to all three dancing at the same time. It was awesome to see in that final segment when Jason, Kristi, and Cristián performed the same steps side by side, no one was trying to jut themselves out in front of the others. That sequence really put it all in perspective: Jason was a bit slow, Kristi appeared to be on a smaller geographic scale than everyone else on the floor, and Cristián moved with pronounced rhythm and an eager expression as eager as perhaps Bruno's own when contemplating the prospect of lounging at South Beach in a thong with Jason.

And — ZOMG! At the very culmination of that cha-cha came the Jason-Cristián figure-skating lift of Kristi that was the very embodiment of that "WOW" factor everyone talks about.

Each finalist received a cha-cha score to combine with his or her all-important freestyle score, albeit still very confusing reason to the WHY since this is a ballroom competition after all.

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark received a perfect 60 out of a possible 60 points. Oh, I know that there will be those who will say Kristi's perfect scoring was a little over-the-top. For me, it makes sense in comparison with the other two celebrities' scores. "Showing your personality" is one of the lamest clichés of all time that the judges throw out there, but that's exactly what Kristi managed to do during the group cha-cha. WOOT! Then she "spontaneously" kissed Bruno at the start of her part of the cha-cha, which to me, demonstrated that she was way more personally invested in the dance than usual. Could have been the hair; instead of the ponytail we're used to, Kristi's hair was crimped.

For the freestyle, Mark choreographed a cross between the mambo and hip-hop that for some odd reason started off with the two yawning dressed in pajamas . Huh? R-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p! Off went the clothes; well, the pajamas anyway, leaving them clan in matching black spangly pinstripe suits and Converse sneakers. Kristi and Mark threw in every move possible (and I do mean EVERY) move, some of which were not particularly lovely to watch, but all of which were technically difficult, as the judges pointed out. Bruno even went so far as to call her "Miss Synchronicity," which I'm guessing he thought might have qualified as a play on the name "Kristi." It did not.

I award a few extra irony points to Mark, who warned Kristi during their rehearsal footage that she shouldn't make a goofy, fish-lipped facial expression while dancing. Because that would be totally out of line.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl came in second with 52 out of 60. During the cha-cha, the tasty Chilean sea bass of a man channeled Mark's affinity for heinous monochromatic suits, complete with heeled slippers in the same exact color. Up this week: fuchsia! Everyone knows that real men, especially those who "bang like the best" (said Bruno, of course), wear fuchsia. Unlike Mark, though, Cristián had the sense to forgo buttons on his shirt.

In their Brussels-sprouts-colored freestyle, the sexy couple actually did keep it a little ballroom-esque, and were the only couple to incorporate many of their moves from past weeks. Probably because they had no other choice. With Cristián's ruptured tendon, which he fell on during one of his rehearsals, it left him awkward on the lifts he did attempt. Carrie Ann pointed out that perhaps his injury was now hurting to the point that it caused him to hunch over his posture; I caught that, too. The dual fist pumps and a few seconds of Cheryl rolling around on the floor while Cristián shuffled sideways wasn't cutting it for the judges, who said they had to score Cristián according to the standards of the able-bodied. Even if able-bodied, that particular segment didn't do it for me either. Len, in particular, criticized them for a lackluster set of lifts.

Finally, Jason Taylor and Edyta scored at the bottom with 51 out of 60. After the cha-cha showdown, Len and Carrie Ann both admitted to feeling sorry for the NFL Man of the Year because Latin's not exactly his thing. (But the foxtrot is; a plot of sabotage perhaps? Oh wait. That's Top Chef. My bad.). Anyway, Jason's floppy hands the cha-cha only earned him a 24, the lowest score since the halcyon days of two weeks ago. (He got a 23 for week 8's samba.)

Jason's freestyle song, "Miami" (get it?), was a bit slow for a freestyle dance, lacking that "WOW" factor, but, he was rather sexy in it. , I have to say, though, Jason sold the style fairly well. Edyta's first freestyle turned out to be a pretty enjoyable dance that started out with four players — Jason, a giant beach ball, Edyta, and a sunhat, then gradually whittled down to traces of Jason and Edyta, plus performance legwarmers, which did not fly off at some point like the rest of their costumes.

Seeing his kids was just a fabulous highlight.

I'm predicting a Kristi "GIRL POWER" win tonight.



May 21, 2008

I'm quite proud of myself.

I went to the gym after work yesterday after work, in the pouring rain, and worked out a good almost- hour (maybe just five minutes shy of a full hour). Thirty minutes straight on the stationary bike, then various weight machines that worked all parts of my body.

Oh, I hurt by time I crawled into bed after all the finale shows on television. Surprisingly, I woke up feeling — GREAT!

So, were you as annoyed by the whole boxing analogy on American Idol as I was? Talk about a bunch of super- hype BS… I mean, I love Michael Buffer, but … when I watch BOXING. Jim Lampley's "analysis" throughout was wearying.

Overall, I think Little David will win, only because he is kewpie- doll cute and fits more the image of the pop idol, rather than David. Too, I kind of have a hunch David purposely didn't perform as well as we all know he can, because he wants to be just like Chris Daughtry. I think he's the best of the two, talent- wise and growth potential, but to me, he just isn't the Idol character.

Maybe I'm wrong.

Overall, for me, David Cook said it all: "As far as I'm concerned, the competition's over, and we're just having fun." While those are the exact words used to describe his feelings about the final performance episode of the American Idol season, they also describe my own.

While I could blather on incessantly about how American Idol needs to crown a hip, radio-ready winner like Rocker David, fans of Little David could just as easily (and very correctly) counter with the fact that tonight's finale was a vocal tour de force for their boy, a tidal wave of glory notes, runs, and misty eyelashes that only the most horrible kind of cynic would try to deny.

But as Brooke White always liked to remind us, "It's okay. It's okay."

Because while nothing and no one will ever convince me that David Cook didn't prove himself the undisputed Idolweight champ over the last 14 weeks — and while I remain optimistic he will prevail when the votes are tabulated (and Idol fans realize they'll need to take out home-equity loans to pay off their text-messaging bills) — I won't gnash my teeth if it's David Archuleta who gets the confetti shower tonight.

I put together a little something to consider while we wait for tonight's results production.

A Look At David Cook

+ He's got that late-in-the-day-grunge growl down.
- It's pretty late in the day for grunge growls.

+ He's male rocker handsome. A definite favorite of the post-teenybopper viewers, but draws the teenyboppers as well.
- No minuses here.

Preferred Song Style
+ His faux-rock sound recalls runner-up Chris Daughtry from last season, whom many viewers still think he should have won (and some still think he truly did, but the votes were doctored). They've proved it by buying six times as many copies of his album as they did of the Idol winner Jordin Sparks.
- No minuses here.

Role of Relatives
+ He's gotten major sympathy votes because of his brother, with whom he originally audtioned for the show, who is battling cancer.
- No minuses here.

Physical Demeanor
+ His confident gait gives him alpha male appeal.
- A bit pompous; he can seem entitled.

Who Wants it More
+ He's okay with it if the prize goes to someone else, which makes the voters feel less manipulated. (Oh, but did you catch his bash of Little David with the remark, "I didn't feel like doing a song I've already done…"
- A bit of a sense of being needy, almost desperately so; a key draw in contestants like this.

A Look At David Archuleta

+ He's got a rich, almost- soulful timbre that is rich and smooth as cream.
- He's boring; he shows no variety in his phrasings and style, he sings virtually with the same expression for every song. He also hasn't shown any real growth in his approach to songs over the course of the season as others definitely have.

+ He's Kewpie-doll cute, with a dimpled visage born to grace every 10-13 year old girl's dream lunch box.
- He's too much a teenybopper, too pre-sexual for grown-up tastes.

Preferred Song Style
+ Ballads and more ballads, which truly fit into the "pop" imagery.
- His songs are full of more sap than a forest of maple trees.

Role of Relatives
+ A few people, I suppose, may feel sorry for him for having to deal with his horror-story of a father, infamous for his meddling and getting booted out of rehearsals and then some.
- His famous meddling father has creeped out so many people, it taints him as well.

Physical Demeanor
+ The kid's constant aw- shucks blushing makes him appear to be truly humble and overwhelmed.
- At first I thought it was genuine, but myself, and many others are beginning to see it as an act.

Who Wants it More
+ From the petrified look on his face at ever elimination round, you can tell he clearly wants it more than David Cook. In fact, I'd say he wants it more than any contestant with every Idol season combined.
- It's creepy-scary how much this kid wants it. What is scarier is what you can speculate will happen if he doesn't get it, the truth of it all, meaning, his father.

As far as the performances, I yawned through every song of Little David's. Ballads are well and good, and we know how well he can do THEM; how about proving his musical growth? For me, the fact that he returned to "Imagine" shows to me that he's not comfortable yet with progressing. Which, was something David Cook hit upon when Simon commented on a bad song choice; he was showing his progression. I agree! I found the song David Cook chose from the amateur song-writers contest to be much more enjoyable than, yep, you guessed it, the ballad that Little David chose to sing.

Round 1, better known as Clive's Choice! Or, alternatively, as the round in which Clive Davis continues his ongoing love affair with Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," the same song he chose for Bo Bice on top-three night in Idol's fourth season. Seriously, Clive, I know it's a pretty ballad, but after spending almost six decades in the music business, don't you know a few thousand great songs that you haven't already foisted onto an Idol contestant? (And maybe one that hasn't been covered on the show by Justin Guarini, Clay Aiken, and Jasmine Trias, as well?)

I was more taken with Rocker David's heartfelt cover of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (and his very stylish gray jacket — WOOTS!). I'll admit that when Randy started his yammering about how Rocker David hadn't done everything he could do with U2's anthem, I actually found myself doing something I never thought I'd cop to: Looking forward to Paula's critique! (Oh, snap!) But really, while Rocker David's rendition may not have been a radical reinterpretation of the original — and why should he be asked to clear that bar every stinkin' time unless Little David is asked to do the same? — it accomplished something even more impressive, by making me hear every word of the well-worn lyrics like I was hearing 'em for the first time.

The only thing that had me reaching for the Kleenex during round 2, unfortunately, was the sheer awfulness of the songs the two Davids selected from the top 10 vote getters in the American Idol songwriting competition. I don't understand why Simon was all over Rocker David's case for his choice of "Dream Big," and how he determined Little David's "In This Moment" was the better song. That'd be like saying a fetid turkey sandwich is far less appetizing than a fetid tuna sandwich. And if Simon meant to say that Rocker David messed up by choosing a mid-tempo rocker over a maudlin bucket of balladry, then perhaps the British judge isn't as good as he thinks he is.

I didn't think either David was particularly superstarry in round 2. Rocker David reached far and wide for that big finishing note on "Dream Big" but fell just a tiny bit flat, despite Randy's contention that he was "singing his face off." Meanwhile Little David's vocal sounded uncomfortably tremulous throughout "In This Moment," and he looked genuinely horrified as he received his critiques from the judges. (Perhaps he was freaked out by the scary hand with gigantic fake nails — ZOMG!!!!! — that reached out of the Swaybot pit midway through his performance.) I am curious, though, about Little David's giant anchor on the back of his jacket.

Side note: Randy managed to cram three of his favorite clichés — "in the zone," "sing the phone book," and "another hot performance" — into his critique of "In This Moment." Um, dawg, seriously…

Round 3 was the contestants' choice, during which both Davids fared considerably better than they did in last week's Chris Brown/Switchfoot debacles. Not so thankfully, however, Simon berated Rocker David for his brave (and delightful) decision to choose a brand new number for his last performance, instead of trotting out one of his "greatest hits" from earlier in the season. I took Cook's cover of "The World I Know" as a very special gift to all of us who've made it a point to watch every single episode of Idol this year. We've already heard his takes on "Billie Jean," "Hello," and "Always Be My Baby" — why look backward on the biggest night of his life, especially knowing that it'd be damn near impossible to re-create the magic of those original performances? Instead, David tackled a pretty terrific Collective Soul track that he's been jonesing to do all season, opening with a gentle, acoustic vibe, gradually building momentum throughout the performance, and wrapping it up with a gentle falsetto note. To me, it was near perfection — including the evening's snappiest fashion choice, a black shirt, a black pinstripe vest, and an audacious pink tie — except for the fact that I would've liked to hear the entire track, not just a two-minute snippet.

Meanwhile, round 3 found Little David revisiting the most memorable moment of his Idol journey. However, the second time around was not so memorable for me, not to mention, he threw a few additional (and unnecessary) runs into the mix.

Either way (and I think we all know it's gonna be a close one), this much is certain: After a long and winding season — one that focused on artists more than contestants; one that allowed the singers to play instruments for the very first time; one in which performances were judged before they happened; one in which truly talented folks sometimes got sent home in the wrong order — our collective journey will come to an end tonight, and a guy named David will be crowned King of the Nokia. And whether or not you and I end up thinking it's the "right" David who takes home the enchilada, here's hoping that come January '09, we'll all find ourselves another Carly or Syesha or Michael or Jason or David to capture our imaginations, and turn us from mild-mannered music lovers into speed-dialing, trash-talking members of the great Idol nation. You may say I'm a dreamer…

Then it was on to the two-hour finale of Dancing With the Stars in which we had to endure, er, watch, some of the dances from the losing celebrities, and listen to the drivel of both them and the judges. Of course, both Jason and Edyta, and Kristi and Mark, were given a big perfect 30 for their final judges round dance-off. It didn't matter; Kristi was now a perfect 90 — a first in the history of the show. Unless America decided Jason was the better performer, it was obvious who was going to win.

As for Jason, the quickstep he and Edyta performed for the final judging definitely deserved the perfect 30 everyone who was watching already knew it would receive. "Hey, Kristi, it does feel good," said Jason backstage. He was sooooo excited to have totally nailed that handstand-into-horizontal flop at the end of that dance. It really WAS a thing of beauty — he even shifted his hands on the floor to allow for more hang time and better balance. Lenss comment that Jason was "the people's champion" almost had me convinced (for at least a few seconds anyway) that we were in for a surprise ending.

Kristi, of course, also scored a 30 for the jive she and Mark reprised from week 6, despite getting her foot caught in her frock for a moment. The judges, who had already decided what to say, just incorporated the mistake into their critiques. My favorite was Bruno's: Dealing with the wardrobe malfunction like a pro was "a great achievement from the great achiever." I liked how all three judges confirmed something that they hadn't really gushed about before but was glaringly obvious to all viewers: that Kristi's been possibly the most consistent contestant in the show's history.

Try saying "consistent contestant" five times fast, and you'll be as befuddled as Tom was when Shannon Elizabeth inexplicably wrapped her wonky legs around his torso. Seriously, what the hell was that? I assumed she would have realized how poorly she came off in general this season and attempt to redeem herself by serving up some modesty with a side order of restraint on the finale. Instead, she treated Tom like the not-quite-sturdy trunk of a tree she got bored of climbing about two feet up. She even sounded like a 7-year-old, screeching into Tom's mike, "You know, I just wanted to say, I didn't get to thank the judges," before he cut her off with a well timed and completely necessary joke about Cirque du Soleil. O.o DISS!

Thirteen-and-unders Brandon and Brittany shuffled onto the floor as the winners of the kids' competition, looking like, refreshingly, a pair of 13-year-olds. But things were a little too pure out there, so Tom wrangled a few Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (Brandon's fantasy!) to swarm the floor and shower him with an amusingly embarrassing amount of attention. "Somebody just grew up a little bit today!" said Tom.

And win Kristi did. Yay "GIRL POWER"! and all that.

Now, we have September to wait for the influx of another sorry group of clumsy celebrities…

Is it Friday yet?



May 22, 2008

Life is good and a major upset was had last night on American Idol.

I do have a couple of questions though. At the beginning of the show, Ryan Seacrest said that one of the Davids received 56% of the vote, and the other received 54%. Do the math. THEN, at the end of the show, the accountant walked up to hand Ryan the envelope, and stated that he verified that the contents of the envelope were sealed and had not been seen. So, okay. Back to the beginning of the show, Ryan Seacrest announced the percentages…

I had to admit, it was terrific watching Simon first humble himself and apologize to David Cook for being even disrespectful to him the night before, having gone home and watched the show again, he announced he was also wrong about his performances, and that indeed he was still a very vital contender and was downright brilliant. Was this because he already knew the outcome? (See previous paragraph.) Then, it was just too funny watching Simon bounce like a teenybopper and laugh when the new Idol was announced.

That was, of course, David Cook, who won by 12 million votes (out of a possible 97.5 million); undeniably touching victory it was indeed.


It took 4 months, 42 episodes, three intermittently infuriating judges, a small army of swooning swaying teenybopper females (the Swaybots) in the mosh pit, a handful of botched lyrics, 97.5 million votes, and one particularly soul-crushing bit of promotion on behalf of Mike Myers' latest (alleged) comedy, to finally bring it all to an end.

Fellow Idoloonies, only 237 days (give or take a few) till the start of season 8! Admit it: You're kind of excited. And despite all the irritations and indignities of the season — the blatant producer manipulation, the fusty theme nights and mentors, the Paulagate incident (and lack of follow-up apology), Randy's excruciatingly limited vocabulary, the too often inexplicable order of contestant elimination — you're probably not going to follow through on your annual resolution to "never watch another episode of this damn show ever again!"

Of course, for the first twenty minutes or so of tonight's show, I worried that Nigel Lythgoe had learned nothing from season 6's disastrous season finale. That opening shot of David Cook and David Archuleta, dressed in white and engaged in a tense face-off, was so bogus that even Ryan Seacrest sounded a little embarrassed as he approached the two finalists and declared, "This… is the American Idol season finale!"

No less excruciating was the opening musical number, a brutal mash-up of the Temptations' "Get Ready" by this year's twelve Idol finalists and the current reigning top ten of So You Think You Can Dance. With everyone dressed in white and dashing to and fro all over the stage, the rapid-fire, shoddy camera work, and the presence of those blasted Swaybot hands in the foreground… it was enough to cause an epilectic seizure from the workout of the eyeballs!

Nothing could prepare me for the bile and ipecac cocktail that was the extended advertisement for Mike Myers' movie The Love Guru. Another mindless "comedy" that I have no desire to see, let alone see the trailer or any other big hype-up for it. Oh. And he predicted the winner was going to be the one named… David. Did you laugh as much as I didn't?

Now let me get this straight for a second here. There was no time in tonight's telecast for, say, a 90-second solo (or duet) spot for Kristy Lee Cook, Ramiele Malubay, Chikezie, Amanda Overmyer, or David Hernandez, and yet Myers got to dress up as "Guru Pitka" and makes an absolutely stomach-turning remark about 17-year-old contestant David Archuleta growing "hair in weird and wonderful places." Are you freakin' kidding me?

Thankfully, the awful opening 1,200 seconds of the show quickly gave way to a series of musical performances that were so splendid that, honestly and truly, I kept forgetting that the point of the telecast was to crown one of the Davids as King of the Nokia.

There was the season's uncontested fashion champion, Syesha Mercado, resplendent in a sexy gray dress, holding her own alongside Seal on his recent single "Waiting for You." Yeah, there were shades of Elliott Yamin's season 5 performance with Mary J. Blige (where the young Idol contestant seemed excessively deferential to the more famous duet partner), but it was nice to see Syesha have her moment and prove her voice need not (and should not) be slapped with a "Theater!" stamp and shipped off to Broadway; and Wow. Seal. Awesome. With him popping out babies from Heidi Klum, that's all he seems to be known for lately. Who knew he was really a singer?

Even more impressive, Syesha managed to outshine the slightly unsteady Donna Summer as they played pass the mike during the ladies' rendition of "On the Radio."

Okay, so did anyone else wonder about the decision to introduce the disco legend by having a pair of dudes walk her, invalid-style, down that long flight of stairs, rather than have her simply emerge more gracefully from the wings?

I think my favorite performances though was the pairing of Rocker David with ZZ Top on the latter's "Sharp Dressed Man," especially seeing how the one-time shlubby bartender has slowly emerged as this season's most stylish male contestant. I wasn't quite sure what was happening every time the ZZ Top dudes leaned into their mikes (and seemingly muttered some syllables out of time with the music) but Cook's spot-on vocals was fantastic. Can you imagine, though, the conversation to draw ZZ Top to the show? Idol exec: "Hey dudes, we want you for American Idol finale night." ZZ: "Dude, what IS American Idol?" Idol exec: "Doesn't matter, we don't need you to sing; we have someone else to do that. Just be there and be cool. We'll even pay you." Right on!

Wow, and what a delightful pairing was Brooke White and Graham Nash on "Teach Your Children." Sitting on a stool, barefoot, strumming her guitar and harmonizing with a folk-rock legend, she looked and sounded completely in her element, and her post-performance exclamation of "Graham Nash, wow!" was as genuine a moment as Idol has seen all season. After several weeks of watching Brooke's confidence falter under the competitive pressure of the Idol juggernaut, resulting in her eventual fifth-place finish, it was especially satisfying to see her re-emerge tonight as a soulful artist performing music for the simple joy of it. Beautiful. Just beautiful!

While Jason Castro got a slightly dismissive intro from Ryan (something about his lack of interview skills, followed by a throwaway comment about his "pleasant" performances) and some utterly bizarre camera angles (cue Nigel directing his crew to shoot the dreadlocked dude from behind, and at a distance of no less than 200 paces), his repeat performance of "Hallelujah" was even more touching than his wondrous version from week 3 of the semifinals. I kinda wished Idol had hooked Jason up with a worthy duet partner, but in the end, I was cheering as hard in my living room as Melinda Doolittle and Teri Hatcher did at the Nokia.

And as much time as I spent this season questioning whether Little David would be capable of making a record that could get airplay outside the lightest of Lite FM stations, the kid seemed to finally find his niche doing a lot of the heavy lifting on OneRepublic's "Apologize." While the lead singer of this amazing group faltered on his notes, Little David helped along by … squeaking … a few of his. Okay then…

O.o! But what a treat, having Carly Smithson and Michael Johns together singing! I'm right now waiting (hoping!) for them to hurry to the studio to record their bluesy rendition of "The Letter" that they treated us with last night. They created some serious heat together tonight. Michael clearly benefits when he infuses his standard rock sound with a little bit of soul; and freed from the need to seek Simon's approval, Carly looked and sounded like she was having the time of her life, instead of trying to prove to all of us that she was having the time of her life.

Wow. Has Carried Underwood changed or what? Yeah, she's a little bit older, a little bit more in the game now — and coiffed by a crew, I am quite sure.

Not faring quite as well in the Idol champions department was Jordin Sparks, who looked adorable (as usual), and seeing season 6 runner-up Blake Lewis mouthing the words to his one-time rival's song gives me one more reason to plug his sadly underappreciated album Audio Day Dream.

I have to chuckle though; at the beginning of the season, Simon commented that he wanted to "make this year's finale (musically) current." ZZ Top, Donna Summer, Graham Nash… even Gladys Knight; current????

Okay, and I have to admit I liked the bit of a promo for the new movie out with Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey by way of that "audition" of possible Pips for Gladys.

David Cook, who received a whopping fifty-six percent of the 97.5 million votes, somehow didn't let the rush go to his head, but instead hunched over, in tears of joy (and disbelief, as many were!). Then… he stepped back and momentarily turned the spotlight to Little David, who handled his runner-up finish with equal class, disappearing into a huddle of his fellow finalists and allowing Rocker David to wing victory ballad (wrong song choice for Rocker David; it would have been perfect for Little David though). It got me choked up watching a grown man break down in tears of joy, watching his mom beam, and watching his brother (the one who was supposed to be trying out for Idol in the first place) tearfully mouth the words "that's my brother" into the camera.

Honestly? I so wanted to see the face of Little David's father… I don't know, something in me just wanted to gloat at his face on the television…

The fact that the right singer took home the big prize, well, that was just gravy.

Tonight is (truly) the Ugly Betty season finale, and of course the new season of So You Think You Can Dance kicks off at the same time. Thank goodness for ancient technology (my VCR).

Okay. I have a confession. I think Nigel Lythgoe is kind of hot.

What a week it's been; my choice on Dancing With the Stars was the winner, and now David Cook as the new American Idol.

Is it Friday yet?



May 23, 2008


I've never been happier to see a Friday as I am today. Not only is it Friday… not only is it a Friday prior to a three-day holiday weekend… I'm also taking off two days next week to make my three-day weekend a FIVE-day weekend.

I just need some me time… some, get my head back on straight and relax time.

Ugly Betty was sure full of a lot of plot twists last night. I'm thinking she left for Rome… by herself! Heck, I would have, too!

Did you see the uh, not-so-human contortionist last night on So You Think You Can Dance? ZOMG. He was amazing, yet he made my skin crawl and my tummy flip-flop… I had to love the comment by Mia Michaels: "I was waiting for you to unzip yur skin and show your true alien self."

Have to love the sensitivity, yes?

Actually, I love Mia Michaels; she's an awesome choreographer and has a good heart.

Mary Murphy was rather quiet last night; no one really got that famous screeching shout from her.




May 29, 2008

Well, it's back to work. Yay.

Can you tell I'm thrilled?

I should truly bang my head against my desk for not asking for the whole week off. Then again, I plan to take a full week off in July. I'd prefer to wait until August, but since my boss is gone on his family vacation and then on the big meeting somewhere in Europe this year, it leaves really no time in August I can take. It would be my one motivation to have a job where I can take at least a week during the two weeks that Tony is off so that maybe we could go somewhere together.

Actually, I returned to work without a huge pile on my desk waiting for me. Today and Friday will be actually quite light as far as work goes, which is … awesome.

Though I had intended to add to my blog during my blessed five days away from work, alas I did not. I shall recap.

While it was albeit a short five days away, it was actually in part, good to get back to work today. I was literally bored to death yesterday, having been alone from about 9:30 am to 9:30 pm.

Saturday I had intended to go to the gym and do my grocery shopping. Nope, got up too late, so I downloaded coupons and wrote out my list, then spent the rest of the day just being a bum and doing nothing, and thusly ending up in bed to watch TV by around 6:30-ish and not getting up until about 8:00 the next morning. UGH. My back was not happy with me at all.

Sunday, I didn't go to the gym, but I did make my rounds to get groceries and had intended to stop at Petco, but it didn't open until 1:00 and … I was NOT going to spend two hours idle to wait for it to open. Had I wanted to go to the gym, I would have had to do so before shopping, and then that would mean … crowds of people having escaped their dutiful church attendance. No, no, it was quite fine to intend to work out at home and get my shopping done early.

Of course, I never got my work out done.

In fact, my entire five days off, starting with Friday … I was … very very bad. I ate over my 1500 calorie limit by 500-700 calories per day; Friday night … Pizza, but a semi-healthy one, and actually, pizza doesn't have all that many calories, but lots of bad carbs. Saturday … Tony usually doesn't eat on Saturdays, but he's on a mission to decrease his drinking, so he got hungry and … we ordered from the Mexican place. Heavy carbs. Sunday, he made the pork bracciole, and though the calories for my entire day were something like 2,100, all the meals that day were healthy, including the pork bracciole. Memorial Day was healthy at least until dinner which was two nice homemade cheeseburgers, though I did use the 95% lean sirloin. But still … Tuesday … I had intended to go to the gym, as I had told you, after the doppler test but it was just … wow. Packed. I spent the day not working out as I had intended from home, but, enjoying an entire bag of Chex Mix Turtle snacks — which are low fat, low calorie, but an entire bag was almost a full day's meal and … I didn't give a damn! I never did my intended work out from home. Yesterday, while I did peak just about 600 calories more than I should have eaten, again, it was an entirely healthy, basically fat free, low carb day. What did it to me yesterday was that I had decided to make a salad to go with my Lean Cuisine, and my salad ended up with the low-fat/calorie/salt turkey and a slice of Muenster cheese, which I sandwiched between the turkey, then rolled it up like a sushi roll and sliced it like that … but that was alread 140 calories, then the 40 calories for the dressing, the veggies which probably all total were 60 calories tops, plus the very minor bit of chopped pepperoni and salad olives, adding another 100 calories … then … the hard boiled egg. So while healthy, it was a HUGE hearty salad that I could have just had that and been fine, but I had already started cooking the Lean Cuisine, and …

Well … at least I did work out. Sort of. I don't like working out when Tony is home because of interruptions, and mostly because… I like to be alone when working out! By time I talked myself into the workout, the twenty minutes that I had to do the work out (before Tony arrived home) that I like to do for a full hour hardly seemed worth the effort. I did my sit-ups only, then put away the mat and settled to finish watching So You Think You Can Dance comforably on the bed.

I did get up this morning and did my twenty minute morning work out that I like to do every morning, though weekends I tend not to do it. And tonight, after work, I'll head to the gym and work out all my frustrations.

Monday night, Tony was home, and I curled up early with him to watch the American Gladiators that I hadn't seen from last season, then the new one that started at 8:00 that night. Afterwards, we watched Top Chef; he had to catch up from two weeks ago, and we both had missed last week's. Following is my take on the episode!

Hurray! Hurray! "Restaurant Wars" indeed had returned, and they're always the best episodes of all.

The elimination challenge was a good one; the egg station at a very busy diner and it allowed the chefs to remember their humbler beginnings (most of the remaning chefs had indeed started with such work). Antonia won, and in doing so, got one of those omnious "advantages." She did deserve to win from what I saw; she seemed the least frazzled.

It was the Restaurant Wars I sat on edge for though. The space they had to work with for the restaurant war was the best I've seen: raw and rustic, with wood floors and brick walls. There was also track lighting, which I thought meant that there would finally be a restaurant war in which the spaces didn't look like a Walmart or something. However, by the time the teams had finished decorating the space, one team obliterated all of the original ambience, and the other team nearly so.

The more notable change was Tom's announcement that he had a charity event to attend and would be missing the elimination challenge. The cheftestants must have been like, Oh, no, Dad's not going to be there to validate my touchdown. But wait, badass Anthony Bourdain is taking over. Sold. Bourdain said he was bringing his "warmer, sunnier disposition to this challenge." Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Antonia's quickfire win gave her the advantage of picking her partners out of the quintet. This was SO predictable and wonderful at the same time. Of course, she chose Richard and Stephanie! Who in their right mind wouldn't!? They dubbed their concept "Warehouse Kitchen" and were the one team that mostly kept the ambience of the interior.

That left, of course, Lisa, Dale, and Spike, who have not played well together. They instantly chose to go Asian and settled on the name "Mai Buddha" — the only two times they were able to reach a consensus for the entire challenge! They, of course, were the team to destroy the interior ambience. Spike was in charge of Mai Buddha's front of the house, and he was inspired to decorate it with — guess what? — Buddhas! As well as purple napkins that Bourdain said looked like they came from "the back of Prince's van." *LOL* So true… The Buddhas neither inspired any culinary enlightenment, nor did they help Spike realize that he's a jerk. The tomato-chicken-lettuce thing in the last episode was so childish, and his unwillingness to participate in this episode as if he were taking some kind of high road was equally obnoxious. However, more obnoxious, was in the kitchen, Lisa and Dale were a hot stinky mess! ZOMG! Lisa's laksa was too smoky, and her sticky rice was a mushy conglomeration that looked like the Glob. Wait. I mean, THE Blob. Ick, and Dale made an avocado mousse that looked more like some nasty vegetable sort of baby food, and then he decided that butterscotch would go well with — scallops! WHAT was he thinking?! In fact, I recall a statement HE made a couple of episodes ago: "Why are they even HERE? This is about the TOP CHEF!"

Anyway, Warehouse Kitchen was better thought-out in both interior and gastronomical design. Stephanie seemed to be juggling quite a few things: getting started on the homemade pasta that Antonia was having a "heart palpitation" over, making a gorgonzola cheesecake, and running and decorating the front of the house. Both teams eventually got some help from former season 4 Top Chef-ers. Jen was selected by Dale (he got first choice) to work for Mai Buddha, and Nikki was selected for Warehouse Kitchen; the latter proved to be a big-time lifesaver by calling out those gritty clams before they went out! ICK!

Bourdain checked in with the teams, à la Tom, but he's so much more of a Chatty Cathy, providing some comic relief now that Andrew the maniac is gone. "The difference between the two teams' comportment is very striking," Bourdain said. "Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie's team are deliberately creating modest expectations. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to exceed those expectations. But nobody is reaching too far or taking any big chances with this menu. Over at Mai Buddha, things could go really, really well here or really badly. They say they're all very comfortable with Asian food. You know, Asia's big. How good can you be at all of those things? I hear the word laksa, I have very high expectations. But if Dale, Lisa, and Spike pull this menu off, it would be an inspiring accomplishment. We have two very different teams tonight, and they're offering us two very different dining concepts. This should be a really interesting meal." Bourdain should have taken bets! Because — Dale didn't even know what a laska was!?!

José Andrés, who has a PBS show called Made in Spain, was the guest judge this time around. He, Bourdain, Padma, and Ted Allen first tried out Warehouse Kitchen, where they cumulatively had the following to say: "This is delicious." "This is a nice presentation." "I really love this dish." "How much do you love that they leave the skin on the trout?" "It's like, my God." "They're not joking around on Top Chef." If you were on the other team, how would you like to follow that? Not so much, right? Though you might have a leg up on dessert as long as you don't have any brown smears on your plate, which reminded Ted of "New York City sidewalks."

As food started to go out on the Mai Buddha side, Lisa noted that "it's probably the first time I made a huge mistake in this competition, and I'm going to suffer for it big time."

Uh. I just want to utter four words: magenta, drunken Polish sausage. But then again, maybe this truly was worse. Dale and Lisa cannot coexist in the same kitchen plain and simple. There was constant yelling about who could take what criticism and who's negative. And it obviously affected their food, according to the judges and the customers: "It was just too damn smoky." "Compared to this atrocity, it wasn't bad." "I don't know exactly what we're eating here." "It's baby vomit with wood chips." "It was like putting my face in a campfire."

Team Warehouse Kitchen received plenty of kudos, with Stephanie ultimately winning the challenge and a trip for two to Spain.

Team Mai Buddha was roasted for their lack of teamwork and really bad ideas for food. "You're the executive chef, and you don't even know what a laksa is?" Bourdain said to Dale. Regarding that dubious seafood dish, he said, "Hearing the words 'butterscotch' and 'scallops' together in the first place was very worrying to me; it looked like a melted candy bar." Dale was forced to pack his knives, which wasn't a total surprise this time. The entire episode hinged on that coin toss of executive chef. If Lisa had won that, I think she would have been saying goodbye, not Dale.

Okay, back to my so-called vacation.

Tuesday, was doctor day. When I see my doctor again, I intend to let her know that I was not pleased at the technician getting KY on my shirt; it was inexcusable. When I had the venous doppler, the office that I had it done at had me undress fully and gave me a gown. This techie just squirted that shit and I had felt it flying onto places it didn't need to be. Yuck. I had just showered that morning, too. I was glad, in a way, the gym was overly packed because the little bit I did manage to do, I was conscious of all the KY goo still sticky on my thighs because paper towels could only clean so much … and it was damn uncomfortable.

The day started out ALL wrong. I couldn't sleep in bed anymore around 3:30-4:00 a.m., and curled up in the recliner in the living room and promptly zoned dead away. That is until about 6:15, when my head lolled too far over the edge of the chair's arm. I had another good two hours to waste away sleeping, so I drifted off, only to be rousted from a VERY deep sleep. HOLY MOTHER…! 8:45! I had 15 minutes to dress and be out the door. Except … when I got to the bedroom, I noted the clock read 6:45. My blurred eyes misread the clock.

I was wide awake by then, so I showered, then curled up with my breakfast and read my book until time to leave. Only to discover my car was blocked in by a double parker. And said person was nowhere in sight. Thank goodness for our building super who was sweeping outside the back door. His car was parked in front of mine and he had a way out, so he moved for me. From there it was the traffic on the highway leading up to the bridge to head into New Jersey. I sufficiently pissed off many a person to wiggle over a couple of lanes needed to bypass it all, and was soon on my way without further disruption, arriving on the dot at the doctor's office.

After the doctor, I stopped at the store and headed to the gym which was way beyond packed. I forced myself into a very illegal parking spot, and managed to get a stationary bike, but the waiting time for the machines was horrendous. I would do my workout then at home!

While I never got my work out done that day, I spent it relaxing as much as I could stand. I played a game on my PS2 and poked around on my computer.

My last day of vacation, I wanted to sleep in, but was able to remain in bed as long as 7:30. I got up and started to read my book, and Tony got up shortly after to get ready to head out. I did do a bit of work that I had brought home yesterday while I was bored. -laughs- That kept me busy for a whole half hour. I played my game on the PS2 at short intervals before getting bored. I tried to sit at my computer and do some webpage stuff but never did anything in that regard and returned to my game for a brief time. I toyed with some avatars I was making, but couldn't concentrate enough to work with the various backgrounds I have or even to look for new ones.

I noticed a movie coming on HBO that I wanted to see, so I flipped the channel, and some sports thing was on, so I grabbed JD and took him for a walk. When I returned, putting away my keys and sunglasses in the bedroom, the subject had switched to the inhumane treatment of racehorses; specifically … what they do to them once they no longer can race. Although it's now (only recently) illegal in the US, these horse owners ship them off to Mexico and Canada, where they are basically tortured in their deaths, then gutted and butchered, and the edible bits shipped to Europe to sell to high priced restaurants, the skin separated, cleaned and shipped to furriers and the rest made to dog food. Rather than donate these horses to such wonderful organizations as those stables who help handicapped children by having them learn to ride a horse, who thrive on donated horses, usually old, tired ones that won't be a behavioral problem to these children … they subject those poor animals to their deaths. My gawd, I looked at the TV and watched maybe 5 minutes; I couldn't stomach anymore of the things they do to kill them, and was just in tears. It was the most obscene thing I've seen on TV, and the subject of nightmares far greater than all of the Saw movies times a zillion…

Tomorrow is Friday already. YAY!

Tomorrow… this week's current Top Chef along with some comments on So You Think You Can Dance.


^back to top^