Monday, January 31, 2005

Beer can save your life.

According to this article, a man in Slovakia was stuck in his car under an avalanche. He was trapped with only 60 pints of beer in the truck with him. So what does he do? He starts drinking the beer and urinating out the window to melt the snow until he can free himself from the car.

I am at a loss for words.

Check out the Leroy Wells fansite

Leroy Wells has his own fansite where you can watch his American Idol audition in its entirety.

My favourite moment is when he is going through a door and you can see a baby in the background. As soon as Leroy opens the door, you see someone grab the baby like they were saving it from being run over by a car or trying to protect it from being infected with whatever it is that Leroy had.

As an interesting side-note, the Leroy Wells fansite has a rotating public service ad provided by Google and when I clicked on the page, the ad came up promoting literacy in Cambodia. It seems that we need to be promoting literacy and articulation in whatever town Leroy lives in in Louisiana. As of this morning, Leroy's fansite had over 57,000 hits.

In case you're interested in promoting literacy in Cambodia, go to roomtoread.org.

You can also read about Leroy's recent incarceration here.

Friday, January 28, 2005

An interesting read

ESPN.com is running a series of articles about Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, winner of four Super Bowls and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Webster died in 2002, his body broken and his mind shattered from playing offensive line in an era when the headslap was still legal. It's a five part series and something worth checking out.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hang this guy out to dry

CNN is reporting that a man who was going to kill himself by parking his truck on some railroad tracks, then chickened out but left is truck on the tracks may face the death penalty under California's "special circumstances" law for the 11 people who died and over 200 who were injured after the commuter train that hit his SUV de-railed, hit another passenger train then careened into a third cargo train. Plus, there is still one person listed as missing.

He has apparently confessed and told police that he was suicidal after his estranged wife took out a restraining order against the guy. He also apparently is an alcoholic.

I'm kind of surprised that he survived to confess to the police. If this had happened in Texas, he would have been found with an unregistered handgun in one hand and multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and head. In West Virginia or Nebraska, he would have simply disappeared and been found years later buried in a field somewhere.

It's bad enough that this guy wanted to kill himself but to do it in a way that put other people at risk is inexcusible. If he wanted to die, I hope the state of California helps him.

AI: Las Vegas

After watching the auditions in Las Vegas, I was struck by one thing: how bland everyone was. Nobody reached out and grabbed me, and no one was too bad. How said is it that I'm complaining that Fox could dredge up the next William Hung or "rat voiceover" girl?

It did strike me as odd that Fox would allow the 44 year old man to even get in the room, especially considering that he didn't even look close to 28. I mean, I might be able to pass for 28, but I'm not 16 years past the upper age limit.

The "psychic" was mildly entertaining and I was happy to see one of the twins who got hosed in New Orleans go through.

Did everyone who made it through work for a casino? I know they employ a lot of people, but there was a showgirl and a cocktail waitress. Plus there was the really bad front desk clerk from the Venetian.

I also expected more people to do "Viva Las Vegas" and for AI to have a montage like they did in St. Louis for everyone who sang "Proud Mary."

The guy who sang, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" was good (and entertaining, to boot). I would have put him through because I think he could do very well, but I can also see why they said no. If he sticks with it and comes back next year, I think he'll do very well.

What was Kenny Loggins doing on the show? Has he done anything since the theme to Top Gun?

One of my ongoing pet peeves is the double-standard towards large women. We've heard Simon tell several girls (ie-the tube-top triplets and Lisa Leuschner) that they were fat, but they don't seem to be as hard on the guys. Last night, there was Jennifer, the homemaker who was a little large and has some big, frizzy hair. Kenny Loggins said, "You have a great voice, but we have an image problem" but quickly added, "But look at Rueben".

American Idol is a combination of two competitions: a singing competition and a sales competition.

Unfortunately, the bottom line for Fox is sales and ratings and pretty people sell better than unattractive people, no matter how good their voices are. Even the plus-sized contestants in the past (Kimberly Locke, Rueben, and Frenchie before she got booted) were attractive, just a little large. Jennifer could be made-over, but Fox may decide that she would require too much effort (maybe they should put her on "The Swan" first) and cut her after the next round.

Personally, I'd rather see a good singer who was plain-looking win before a beautiful person who had a mediocre voice. That's why I was happy to see Kimberly Caldwell get cut a couple of years ago; she clearly wasn't up to the standard of the other contestants (although I also believe she should have been around longer than Josh).

Fox's earlier claims that this year's talent is better than last years are making me incredulous about the show. I'm just not seeing it. Maybe things will get better once we get to Hollywood.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More on the decline of personal responsibility

A class action lawsuit by people claiming that McDonald's made them fat has been reinstated. They claim that McDonald's never warned them that Big Macs and fries were fattening and that Micky D's is to blame for their obeisity.

I think I'm going to sue Bacardi and Corona for all the one night stands I had with girls who turned out to be less attractive in the morning than they were when we met the night before.

Image is everything

There is an interesting article at MSNBC.com about image on American Idol. They rightly say that American Idol contestants all fit a general mold: they attractive, they generally dress the same and none are too threatening. And if they didn't start the competition that way, they'll end it after being dressed and fed lines by Fox.

The one kid whose parents were both from New Orleans was almost rejected because he was a little on the large side. Of course, former winner Rueben Studdard is about three times my size and no one thought that made a difference. Simon also told the triplets that they were "fat", apparently forgetting that Kimberly Locke was plus-sized and Frenchie Davis was plus-plus-sized. And don't forget the geeky Clay Aiken who while not large, was a nerd with goofy hair and glasses.

Season 2 seemed to be the exception ("substance over style" the judges boldy declared) but I wonder if American Idol is feeding us what they think we want to see, or if they are really reflecting what we, the public, like and will buy. Personally, I'd like to see people with talent, no matter if they wear coke-bottle glasses and are big enough to have their own gravity well. But will that sell records and look good on TV, which is what American Idol is all about.

Look where Rueben's sales have gone (nowhere) compared to the album sales of post-makeover Clay. And what about Diana Degarmo, who is a teen beauty queen and very pretty, if a little tubby? Her album was released to virtually no fanfare; I didn't even know about it until I read it on the internet. Diana fits the pretty girl mold, but she's not the ideal looker, like say Kimberly Caldwell is. Of course, Diana's voice is head and shoulders above Caldwell's, but she and Kimberly Locke will always have a hard time fitting in to what people think they should look like.

Last year's winner Fantasia also wasn't the ideal in terms of image, with her nasally voice, extra-large lips and flamboyant arrogance and Jennifer Hudson was a little bigger than the producers would have liked, so in terms of the show and voting, image isn't everything. It's what happens after the show that really matters though.

How many of these folks go on to music (or other) careers? Caldwell got a job working for E! and Fox Sports. Josh has a CD; even Lisa Leuschner (who Simon also called fat) has a CD. What role does image play in their careers? Would they be viable if they all looked like Deron or the ubernerds, Dirk and Adam?

AI: N'Awlins

I had a boring budget meeting at church tonight, so I had to record American Idol and watch it later. I was surprised that not a lot of people (22, or something like that) went to Hollywood from the Big Easy. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised that Fox didn't show us loads of people who were awful, not that everyone was good, but no one was outright awful.

A couple of the highlights for me:

  • Projection Boy needs to hook up with Adam and Dirk and go check out a Star Trek convention.

  • The two sets of twins at the end, I wasn't keen on. The black guys were okay, but seemed a little gimmicky. The white guys were also okay; I think Simon screwed them over by separating them and then shooting them both down. Like the triplets in the tube dresses, one was clearly better than the others and at least deserved a shot, especially considering some of the other people who have made it through (Camile, anyone?).

  • I wasn't too high on the minister guy and I think Gene Simmons was right on when he said Nashville Star was better for him.

  • Speaking of Gene Simmons, what the hell was he doing on American Idol? He seemed a little harsh, but I think that's good.

  • Lindsey, the girl who wore not one, but two Victoria's Secret tops was very good (and hot, too!). I predict my buddy at work who was in love with Carrie the Farmgirl just switched to Lindsey.

  • That brings me to the guy who couldn't speak a lick of recognisable English. WTF was up with that guy? He seemed genuinely happy to be there and to be on TV, but if there is ever a post boy for not doing drugs, he seems to be it. I wonder if he forgot to take his ritalin before the audition or if he was just hopped up on Jolt and crystal meth. Very entertaining, but just a little too wild for me.

  • One other complaint about the early audition shows: Why all the commercials? I know Fox likes to get paid, but I'd like to see more than 42 minutes of show in the hour they're allotted.

  • How about that 8-foot tall accountant? I've seen worse (JPL, anyone?)

  • One of the highlights for me was the guy from New Orleans who, after winning, ran out into the street, whooping and hollaring; as soon as he jumped out into the road, I half expected him to get run over by a car.

  • I really liked the guy in the pinstripe suit with the greasy hair. He had a lot of flair. Definitely didn't belong on American Idol, but he was entertaining. If MTV had a Freak Idol competition, he'd make the cut.

  • After checking out the pictures on Fox's website, I see a lot of girls wearing tube tops (are they back in?) or otherwise bare shoulders. Girls, if you're going to show your shoulders, make sure you don't have tan lines.


Can't wait for Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Diana Degarmo CD

Did anyone know that Diana has a CD? I didn't until I read it in a story saying that American Idol sales are down. Fantasia's CD sold several hundred thousand copies, but Diana's only sold 47,000. I guess that's what happens when you release something and don't bother to tell anyone outside of Snellville, GA.

The CD is titled "Blue Skies" and was released without fanfare by RCA Records, the same label as Clay Aiken. You can listen to some audio clips from Amazon and you can check out RCA's page for Diana.

I was listening to the CD earlier today and it's surprisingly good considering how vapid most pop music is. She always had a very strong voice and doesn't sound like she's just 17.




There are also reports that Diana has been tapped to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.

Conference Game thoughts

I watched both the AFC and NFC Championship games in preparation for the Super Bowl and the end of football for another seven months.

I'm glad to see that the Eagles finally got through the NFC Championship game with a win, but one one level I hate to see them get to the Super Bowl because I think their fans are asses. I'm all for fanaticism and supporting your team, but the reputation of the fans in Philadelphia is not positive. Let's face it, when your stadium has its own magistrate, your fan base could be characterised as "out of control."

On the football side, I'm happy to see that Andy Reid is getting past the "can't win the big one" reputation, but I'm not sure that the Eagles will be able to pull this one out. I am sorry to see that Terrell Owens's team is going to the Super Bowl because I think he's a sorry excuse for a human being, and I am kind of delighting in the fact that he probably won't play (and if he does, he won't be near the threat he was during the regular season).

Philadelphia has been a good team for several years and they've been unfortunate enough to face several good teams in the previous three NFC Championship games, which more than any deficiency in the Eagles, has prevented them from getting to the Super Bowl.

I thought the Falcons looked lost, and specifically, Michael Vick looked lost. The Eagles must have watched a lot of game film of the Bucs manhandling Vick. For all the fear he strikes in teams around the league, Tampa Bay has never been scared of Vick. In fact, they've done a good job of containing him between their scheme and their personnel, and the Eagles played him very similarly. Atlanta needs a couple more players and he needs to understand that he doesn't have to win the game himself.

The Patriots/Steelers was a good game, although I never expected it to be the blowout it became. I've said for several weeks that Pittsburgh escaped several times near the end of the season (against Jacksonville and both New York teams) and in the playoffs, big Ben Roethlisberger started playing like a rookie. Maybe it was because he wasn't used to playing an 18 game season, or maybe because in the playoffs, the quality of the opposing teams goes up or maybe it was because he was extremely lucky during the season and was hurt in the playoffs.

In any event, how about those Patriots. For a team everyone had given up for dead against the Colts last weekend, they came out and spanked the #1 offense in football and then chewed up the #1 defense in football. I will be interested to see how losing both their offensive and defensive coordinators will affect them next year.

American Idol is in New Orleans this week, can't wait to see who made it to Hollywood.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Don't got out on the snow if you're high on crystal meth

A young couple in Nebraska was found dead, frozen to death after calling 911. Unfortunately, the dispatchers were unable to find the couple. Read more details here.

Apparently, both kids were high on crystal meth, having concentration of 127 and 495 nanograms per millilitre in their blood. If they were prescribed methamphetamines by a doctor, the concentration would be about 20-30 nanograms per millilitre in their blood.

The kids were hallucinating, they got out of their truck and neither was wearing any sort of winter clothing. Of course, both froze to death. The young man was found near the car and the girl was found six days later at the bottom of a cliff.

Now both their families are blaming the 911 dispatchers for transferring them from one 911 region to another. The dispatchers transferred them because they saw the cell phone towers changing that the calls were coming in from.

Why would the dispatchers be to blame for these two kids freezing to death?

Does the fact that the kids were high on crystal meth have anything to do with their deaths? I think the families are just trying to deflect accountability and possibly cash in from their kid's tragic deaths, but it seems to me that if they weren't high, they would have 1) known not to go out in a blizzard, 2) taken a jacket, and 3) been lucid enough to accurately describe where they were.

Why do we (as a society) always try to deflect blame away from ourselves?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

AI: St. Louis

Well, there was more of the same. That is, more of the bad and the ugly.

One thing strikes me about all the people that leave in tears: they all seem to truly believe they are good. Take the guy who says he was told that he sounded like Brian McKnight.

Who told him this?!?!?!?

You should be ashamed of yourselves! His "friends", his family, those around him; anyone who has ever told this guy he could sing should apologise to him right now and offer to pay for his therapy. I'm all for building people up, but to tell a guy, who may sound fine in his church choir, that he sings like Brian McKnight is absolutely inexcusible.

I have a couple of theories about folks like this. First, that they come from small communities and truly are the best singer in their church choir, school chorus or the local theater company. They're not bad, but they're clearly not American Idol material. After years of being told how good they are, they go off and try to make it on Broadway, in Vegas or on American Idol, only to find out that being the big fish in a small pond is more a delusional curse than a blessing.

My other theory is that people tell them that they are good singers because they aren't good at anything else. It's a self-esteem thing, and unless that person goes to try out for American Idol, it's usually a positive thing. I think this is the "Brian McKnight" guy.

The third group are the self-deluded wackos. This is that Mary girl who hears voices telling her how good she is. These are the two guys, Dirk and Matt, who would have been more at home at a Star Trek convention than American Idol auditions. And then there is the girl who sang "Over the Rainbow" and was told by Paula she could always do voiceover work if they're looking for a rat.

I am still kind of dismayed at how Fox keeps showing all the bad auditions and fewer of the people who made it. I liked the farmgirl and I like Osbourne Smith, but I could have seen more of the good than the bad.

I'm not crazy about the music teacher who got through, but her student didn't. I thought the triplets have a good act, and they sounded good together, but since it's an individual competition, it's probably a good move that they were eliminated. I was not crazy about the girl who looked like Lil Bow Wow; I think she had a bad attitude and I don't think she's getting out of the next round. I was also glad that the cruise ship trainer guy was eliminated; he had a bad attidude, too.

Another thing that astounds me is the number of parents who let their kids go on, knowing they are going to be chewed up and spit out. I will again say that I think the lower age limit should be raised to 18 to keep the kids out, no matter how talented they are.

Take for instance the boxer girl who was on Tuesday; she had a nice voice, but lacked control. Nothing some voice training couldn't help. If she takes lessons for say two years, she could come in and clean up. At 17 years old, she could do very well, but now she might not because of the initial rejection. Perseverence pays off; we saw several people last year say they had tried out or gotten to Hollywood the year before and were back after some growing up.

I liked how in a couple of instances Randy, Paula and Simon did a little bit of coaching and gave some tips; even for the folks who don't make it, if they take the (free) advice to heart, not take the criticism personally, and work on their performance, they could do very well. Especially the younger kids. 18 year olds don't just get one shot; now they can come back every year for the next 10 to try and get on American Idol. I just wish people wouldn't try out when they're not ready.

You can read a couple of other opinions about the auditions here and here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I just found this article that discusses Fox's tendency to show the bad people on the audition shows and our propensity to for watching them. With some people, I almost feel dirty for watching them, like the guy who claimed to be related to Toni Braxton.

Of course, Fox know viewers like to revel in the misery of others (how else to explain shows like My Big, Fat, Obnoxious Fiancee) so they show the bad, bad auditions, but it seems to me that our fascination with these people is like rubbernecking a 50 car pile-up on I-95: you don't really want to see it, but you just can't look away.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

AI4

Just finished the first night of American Idol 4. It seemed to be much of the usual. No one came out and blew me away, although they certainly showed us more than a fair share of people who were just plain bad. I know they like to have good TV, but did they have to pile on the guy who forgot the words to his song and then follow him out of the room as he broke down in tears?

I'm not sure I like having the guest judges in the preliminary rounds; Mark McGrath seemed a little out of place.

What's up with the girl that sold her wedding rings to try out for American Idol? It seems to me that if you are so far behind or in the hole that you have to choose between selling your karaoke machine and your wedding rings, you might consider keeping your day job, even if you are a good singer. It seems to me that putting all your eggs in the basket that is American Idol is not a good life decision.

I also wonder what effect William Hung has had on the contestants; it seems to me that some people may try out for the show and be intentionally bad in the hopes that they can land a deal like Hung to be so bad that they get a meal ticket anyway.

I wish they had shown us more of the good instead of the bad or the ugly.

A couple of other notes:

This guy from church mentioned to me tonight that his sister tried out for the show, but didn't tell anyone how she did.

The local FOX affiliate, WVAH is pre-empting American Idol tomorrow night for college basketball. This pisses me off to no end. I think I'll write some nasty emails to them tomorrow.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

William Hung was in a movie

Read all about it here.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

AI update

It's almost time for American Idol to start. (13 more days if you're counting)

According to MSNBC.com, they're changing the format to cover 3 nights per week and take a group of 12 men and 12 women and eliminate 2 every week. There will also be no celebrity judges.

One thing that is not changing is the voting format. In my opinion, the voting system, and is susceptibility to abuse, is the sole detriment to the show. I think that voters should be voting people off, not voting for their favourite. I've ranted about this before, so I won't take up much more space here, but the powervoters who kept people around who should have gone home long before they did need to have their influence reduced so people like Jennifer Hudson and LaToya London don't get sent hom while people like Jon Peter Lewis and John Stevens are kept around.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The wacky NFL

There are three teams win winning records (Jacksonville, Buffalo and Baltimore) that are watching the playoffs from home and two 8-8 teams that are in. What's up with that?

Certainly, each of those three had a chance to take care of business and not get shut out, but it seems to me that something is seriously amok when mediocre teams get into the post-season while other teams with better records are left out.

Gregg Easterbrook, NFL.com's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, suggests that wild card slots be made league-wide instead of conference-specific. Certainly this is a good idea if you subscribe to the belief that the teams who play the best should be rewarded with a playoff appearance. Frankly though, I don't see the playoff format changing, but it would be nice if the 12 teams with the best records go in.

Speaking of the playoffs, how about the Vikings's annual December implosion replacing the annual Dolphins's collapse as the biggest gut-wrench of the year? If I were a betting man, I'd put a lot of money on Green Bay this weekend; give as many points as the bookies want; the Vikes won't cover.