Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What to do (filler)

Let's get some things straight:

American Idol is over until next January. Star Wars is out. Football season doesn't start for another 100 days. The sail date on my cruise isn't for 145 more days (see the counter to the right for the exact count).

So what is there to keep me occupied.

We just finished re-modeling our old deck and put up a new deck.

I'll have more pictures of the completely finised project up later.

We also went to see Star Wars again, and the second time through I couldn't help be think how much better it would have been if George Lucas hadn't been the director. I did notice that in one shot, a ship looking like the Millennium Falcon is in the background and that the most reviled character in the Star Wars universe, Jar Jar Binks is in a total of four shots, not the one where he is seen clearly.

Aside from that, not much is happening. I'll have to find some new show(s) to watch or I'll be stuck spending my summer playing computer games over and over or watching reruns of 24 and Alias.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Some final thoughts on American Idol, Season 4

This is for everyone who though I was done going on and on about American Idol but decided to drop back by for another visit.

Last night I was thinking (scary thought, huh?) about AI4 in its entirety and despite my disappointment that Bo didn't win, overall it was a very good season.

The final 2 were definitely the best of the bunch, both from the beginning and down the stretch. Although two of the final 5 had no business going as deep into the competition as they did, the final 3 were all worthy contestants.

In fact, the Top 12 this year is definitely the best Top 12 that American Idol has had. While the top tier of contestants (Bo, Carrie, Vonzell) are, in my opinion, not as strong as the top tier of Season 2 (Clay, Kimberley Locke, Rueben), the field is better. I'd take the middle of this year's class (Anthony, Anwar, Constantine, Jessica, Nadia) over last year (George, Jasmine, Jennifer) or Season 2 (Josh, Kimberly Caldwell, Rickey, Trenyce). Even the worst performers of this year (Lindsey, Mikalah) are better than the bottom of the barrel from seasons past (Camile, Carmen, Leah).

This depth is a direct result of the new method of choosing the finalists, something Fox should be given big props for. By letting the judges choose the 24 semi-finalists, they assured a base level of quality for the finalists and prevented people who were long on likeabilty but short on talent (JPL, John Stevens) from getting through. It also let the judges also do some judging, rather than just sit there and parrot the same lines over and over and over.

There are some other quibbles I have with Fox, the three biggest being:

  1. The Voting

    I have gone on and on about how I hate the voting. I think "America" should vote people off for the week and not to keep people around. Notice that Seacrest never says, "Vote for the best performance of the week", he says, "Vote for your favourite."

    This makes the show less about talent and more about popularity.

    The current voting format is designed to cater to powervoters. People who get behind someone and vote for them over and over and over regardless of how good their performance actually is. I heard of people last year voting for JPL or John Stevens over 400 times every week. And that's before the Vote for the Worst movement got any press or really caught on.

    I think that if powervoters are allowed to skew the results as they have the past two seasons, and if, heaven forbid, someone like Scott or JPL actually wins, American Idol will have a serious credibility problem.

    People have talked about only allowing one vote per phone, or making people wait a certain amount of time before they can vote again, but the easiest solution is to vote someone off.

    If you put 100 people in a room, show them 10 performances, and then ask them to rank those performances, you're going to get 100 different opinions about who was better than who. A girl who frequents some of the same blogs I do, thinks Nikko was the best thing since sliced bread. I thought he was deservedly eliminated in the rounds of 24.

    However, if you ask that same group of people who the worst of the bunch is, they will pretty quickly come to a consensus. Now apply that same principle to American Idol. By voting someone off, the power of a few people who burn up their phone dial for someone of inferior talent, is diluted in favour of the general consensus.

    Of course, Fox will never do this. The official reason is that they "want to keep things positive." This is of course, pure crap. There is nothing positive about pulling some of the stunts they did, so why start now.

    Fox will never change the voting because by keeping the popular contestants around, they ensure that people will continue to watch, and continue to vote to keep someone on the show who would have otherwise have been sent packing. It also generates controversy. And Fox has traditionally thrives off controversy.

    Kind of ironic that the news network that is staunchly in the corner of the fundy Christians thrives on the controversy generated by "Married . . . with children", "The Littlest Groom" and "My Big, Fat Obnoxious Fiancee". This is, of course because the people at Fox know that ratings pay the bills, and controversy = ratings.

    Every time American Idol is in the news, negatively or positively, that's money in the bank for Fox. When the yokels at Vote for the Worst make the news, so does American Idol. When ABC runs its prime time special dissing American Idol, it sends some people over to Fox on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to see what the bruhaha is all about.

    And unfortunately, unless the show suffers a major catastrophe (like another Scott Savol or JPL winning), the voting will never change.

  2. Manufactured Drama

    I hate some of the crap Fox puts on the show, especially when it is unnecessary. Like the hour-long results show. Like the hour long pre-show leading into the hour-long results show.

    It started last year when they pulled that stunt on George and then eliminated Jennifer and continued this year when they pulled that crap on Judd. I understand that they want to build tension on the show. But there are ways of doing that which don't involve kicking someone to the curb at the same time.

    In my opinion, every contestant on every results show deserveres a straight up "You're safe" or "You're in the bottom 3". Then cut to commercial. Then make someone safe. Then kick eliminate someone. Don't pull that same crap that they pulled on Judd and that same stunt that worked on George, but didn't work on Bo.

    There is enough real drama on American Idol without having to make stuff up. Pulling stunts humiliates contestants, embarrasses Fox and makes me want to unplug the babblebox.

  3. TV Time

    This is my biggest gripe of the year.

    Melinda mentioned it when she was eliminated (and was none too happy, either!) and I can't help but think that it's true. During the auditions and Hollywood phases of the competition, Fox puts forward people who have "compelling" stories.

    Miracle baby Anthony who had a tracheotomy and was told he may never talk again is now on American Idol. Scott's dad said he'd never amount to anything and now he's on American Idol. Carrie works on a farm; oh, and she's pretty and wide-eyed, too. Constantine quit his band on national TV to be on American Idol.

    Everytime we see someone on TV, it starts to build a relationship between that person and the audience. So people think Anthony is good looking and they know him as the miracle baby and every time he sings with the bottom of his neck showing, his fans want to vote for him. And everytime we see Scott, we are reminded of how he's overcoming his father's doubts and the image problem he has to be on the show.

    Meanwhile, other contestants, who have their own stories are brushed aside in favour of the trainwrecks like Mary Roach and the guy who was told he sang like Brian McKnight. Look at the 12 people who were eliminated in the rounds of 24. Of those, I don't recall seeing Aloha, Celena, Melinda, Jared, Joseph and Travis before they sang for the first time. Plus Bo, Jessica and Judd were only shown once during that same time.

    The other night I was watching some of the semi-final rounds of 24, and I can't help but wonder how the voting might have been different if Celena had advanced instead of Mikalah or if Melinda had been on instead of Lindsey. If you go back and watch their performances, they're actually pretty good and I believe that they were not put through because people knew something about Lindsey and Mikalah because they had been on TV before.

    In Mikalah, Scott and Anthony's cases, polarising people bring out the most rabid supporters and their people voted for them while other contestants did not have any sort of support going in to the season. I think Melinda, Aloha, Joseph et al have a valid case that the playing field was not level for them.

    Of course the bottom line is that contestants have to sing, but if you look at how far inferior singers have advanced these last two years, talent alone is not getting people on to the next round. Part of it is how each contestant is portrayed because all things being equal, people are going to support the familiar before someone they don't know.

    The worst part of all this is that the Top 24 was picked before the first episode of American Idol hit the air. Fox knew who was advancing and had the opportunity to show everyone singing, and they didn't do it. By intentionally putting some contestants forward and not promoting others, the appearance is that they are favouring some people and putting others at a disadvantage.

    If this continues, I think it will only stoke the flames of conspiracy and manipluation, which is probably the only thing that can bring the show down. I think that if they're going to show one contestant, they need to show them all. Give the audience an opportunity to build a relationship with everyone who makes the semi-final rounds, not just a few. That's the only way they can even pretend the field is level, because if people think they are going on the show just to get the shaft, no one will go on unless they have a sob story to get them on TV.

As I said before, I think this year was overall a good year. The show could use some minor tweaks but right now it's still the best reality show on TV and going into next year will only get better.

I wish everyone the best of luck, even the contestants I didn't care for, and I hope you all will visit every now and then until American Idol 5 starts up.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Carrie Underwood, American Idol

I knew they were going to work in "I'm a Little Bit Country" into the show, didn't you?

First of all, why does Fox subject us to a 2 hour results show that is 115 minutes of fluff, product placement and commercials and 10 minutes of actual substance? (Because we will sit through it).

I was happy to see all of the Top 12 at the show and hear all of them singing. Although the final three were probably the best of the bunch, I am still left wondering how "America" advanced Scott and Anthony ahead of Lindsey and Jessica. In a fit of insomnia, I stayed up late last night played some Republic Commando and Knights of the Old Republic, but I also went back and watched some clips from the earlier rounds and I can't understand why some people advanced into the Top 12 and some people didn't.

Part of it is that there had to be 6 girls and 6 guys. So exchanging Celena for Scott or Anthony isn't an option. However, I can't for the life of me figure out how "America" put Mikalah into the Top 12, but left Celena out. I kind of understand why Lindsey was the first of the Top 12 to go ("Knock on Wood" was just horrible, but Mikalah was worse).

As far as Mikalah making into the Top 12 at the expense of Celena or Aloha, the only thing I can think of is the TV time issue, which hopefully Fox will fix for next year. Of course, Bo advancing to the finals after being shown once in Hollywood doesn't help my cause.

Back to the results show:

The opening group sing, the Beach Boys medley, to me was almost unbearable. Don't get me wrong; I like the Beach Boys, but you'd think they could some up with some music that isn't 40 years old. The rest of the "pre-show" was also fluff, although I was happy to see David Hasslehoff show up for his biggest fan. My favourite American Idol non-winner was also there, the lovely LaToya London, who was extra-punchy in Birmingham. Matt must have been drinking the same Kool Aid because he was a little goofy, too. There were also George, John Steven and Jasmine sightings in the audience, and JPL may have been sitting behind George; I couldn't tell.

On to one quick tangent: Why doesn't the reigning American Idol show up to crown the next one? Besides being beauty pageant cheesy, it would bring a little bit of continuity to the show. Fox, of course, never shys away from being cheesy; some of those group sings are loaded up with enough Velveeta to feed all the starving children in Africa. We'd also reminded of what Reuben and Fantasia look like.

The Top 12 singing with some top-flight musicians was pretty good, although I wish they could have gotten Martina McBride to show up for Carrie and Joe Perry to show up to play "Walk This Way". Who the hell is Kenny Wayne Sheppard, anyway?

And how about Bo bringing the house down with Lynyrd Skynyrd? He looked like he could take over singing lead for them. Contrast that with Carrie singing with Rascal Flatts, and there's the difference between Carrie and Bo. Carrie's vocals were spot on. Absolutely flawless. Bo's performance brought people to their feet.

I had a feeling that Carrie was going to win. I don't know if she has a long term future in the music business, but she is a deserving winner. My wife wanted Bo to win; she thinks he is more entertaining and that Carrie is a little to "automatic".

"Carrie is pretty and has a good voice, but how many other girls out there are pretty and have good voices," my wife says. "Look at the ones who have stuck around. People aren't buying Britney Spears albums because she can sing. Britney is entertaining."

I can't help but think that there is something to this argument. Rueben has a good voice and he has basically disappeared. Bo is a superior entertainer, and in my opinion, that's why he should have won.

Having said that, Carrie can become a good entertainer. The American Idol folks are going to try and make her into a country-pop star which has a wide appeal and offers many avenues for success. If I'm Carrie's handler, I'm giving her a couple of days to savour the win, drive her new car back to Oklahoma, and then I'm taking her to a stage coach to work on her performance skills. Her studio album will be near perfect with virtually no producer necessary.

But before the tour, she needs healthy injection of personality and if that works, she could be very, very good. I think her initial outing will sell lots of records, but I wonder if she can become a better performer and have some staying power, or if she will fall off the face of the earth like Rueben and Fantasia.

I also think Bo has a bright future; Paula said last week, "You get one more show for free, and then you have to start paying." Clive Davis endorsed Bo and Clive knows a thing or two about successful musicians. As I've said before, I'd pay money to see Bo in concert and I think a lot of other folks would, too. And Fox, if you're listening, I'd also pay money to see that steel-cage match between Bo's ass-whuppin' grandma and Simon.

For me, the evening would have been better if Bo had won, but I'm not upset like I was last year when Fantasia "Has She Been on VH-1's 'Where Are They Now' Yet" Barrino won. In fact, I think I predicted in this very blog that the winner would be either Anwar, Bo or Carrie. Aside from overrating The Weaved One, I'd say I had a pretty good year.

As a side note, I'd like to thank the girls over at Idolrant, Jennifer of Idoling Along, DJ Slim and anyone else who has a link to this blog for plugging my blog one their websites. I'd also like to thank everyone who has stopped by, read through my ramblings, left a comment or sent me an email telling me what a hack I am. I hope you guys will stop by every now and then to check in, drop me an email or leave a comment. For all you other American Idol fans, I'll see you back here when American Idol 5 starts!

High Lord, out!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

AI Finale

So what did everyone think of the finale? Who's going to win?

My thoughts on Bo

Bo has been constant throughout the competition, and last night was the first time he looked strained. Maybe it was because two of his songs were out of his elements. The first song (which I only caught part of) was okay and "In Your Heaven" sounded like it was intended for someone with a higher register, so that was off, too.

Since the rounds of 24 started, Bo has always picked songs that were perfect for him. As the most seasoned performer in the group, he knows what he can and cannot do, and he also knows the point at which is mediocre vocal skills become a liability and he stays within his range. Unlike say, Vonzell, he never reaches or gets too ambitious with his voice and, in my opinion, that has been the key for him sticking around.

Still, what has carried Bo this far is his stage presence. Where other contestants have looked scared (Vonzell) or wide-eyed (Carrie), Bo chugs along each week and puts on the best show of anyone in the top 12. If this were solely a performance-based competition, Bo would have had this one in the bag weeks ago.

My thoughts on Carrie

For the past couple of weeks, Carrie has looked rattled, and last night she looked downright scared. Maybe it was because she finally realised that she was on the verge of winning. Maybe it was because the competition was coming to an end. Maybe it was because of what was at stake last night. Whatever the reason, Carrie who, like Bo, has been rock-solid all seaon, seemed nervous and skittish.

As a result, Carrie had some pitch problems for the first time this year, but she had better songs than Bo. I don't know if the American Idol producers pick songs that would be sung better than girls, but when Justin and Kelly had to sing the same song, Kelly sounded better, and when Bo and Carrie had to sing the same song, Carrie sounded better. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Carrie is an "all-American" girl, or at least that's the image that has been crafted for her. She is pretty, smart, wide-eyed and has the perfect voice. What she has always lacked is stage presence. She does not look comfortable on stage, and never has. To be fair, she's never been terrified like Janay or as nervous as Vonzell, but she never looked in her element like Bo, Constantine or even Nadia.

Who I think is going to win

I think right now the competition is a dead heat, much like the Rueben/Clay show of two years ago. What it comes down to is this: What does it mean to be the "American Idol"?

Bo and Carrie are two very different contestants. About the only thing they have in common is that they're from "red states". In almost every other respect, as performers they are polar opposites.

Carrie will win if people think the American Idol should be pretty and have a great voice. Bo will win if people think the American Idol should rock and put on a great show. Both contestants have weaknesses. Both have different strengths.

Personally, if I were going to buy a CD, I would probably buy Carrie's before I'd buy Bo's. She has a better voice and she could put out a very good record. However, if I were going to see a show, I'd rather see Bo. Carrie sometimes looks choreographed, but Bo looks very natural on stage. Part of that is because he's 8 years older than Carrie and has spent most of those 8 years performing.

Who I think should win: Bo

Whi I think will win: Carrie

It was good to see all 12 of the finalists together, even though they've found a way to ditch Mikalah and Lindsey off the tour. I notice that Anwar cut off his dreads; he was looking very Lenny Kravitz. Constantine even managed to pout for the camera.

I was also happy that I got to see Bo's hot mom again and his ass-whuppin' grandma. When American Idol is over for this year, who wants to see Bo's grandma vs. Simon in a steel-cage match? I'd pay money to watch that.

After four hours of voting last night, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out in the 2 hour results show tonight.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Please forgive my rather abbreviated review of last night's American Idol; I was pre-occupied with Star Wars.

Some guys from work were going to the midnight show and one of them even left work at 3:45 and went straight to the theater. I waited until a little after 10:00 pm to head over, but my buddies who went early got into a "VIP" party hosted by a local radio station that provided them with special badges, catered dinner and gave away some Star Wars posters, etc., so on one level, I'm sorry I skipped the party to work in my deck and watch American Idol.

They started seating for the movie at about 11:15 and my friends who were "VIPs" got to go in first so they saved me a seat and even hooked me up with a collectable Star Wars: Episode III cup.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It had some glaring shortcomings, such as stilted dialogue, bad directing and "acting" that was wooden at best and laughable at worst. Still it was a good time.

One other thing: depending on your kid, I would seriously consider whether or not you want to take young children to this movie. It's very violent, with lots of lightsaber fights, dismemberments, a little bit of gore and, in my opinion, parts are too intense for younger kids. We babysit a little girls who will be 5 in July, and I don't think I would take her to see this movie.

You guys know your kids best, make the call, but if you are unsure, you might want to screen it first yourselves before taking any kids under the age of 9 or 10.

Spoiler Alert!!!!!!!!

If you do not want parts of the movie to be spoiled for you, STOP READING NOW!!!!!

For major spoilers, I will use white text, select the text and highlight it to read, but you still may not want to read the entire review if you have not yet seen the movie.

Consider yourself warned!

Much like Titanic (the boat sinks!), we all know how this movie is going to end: Anakin is going to do lots of evil stuff and become Darth Vader. Vader is, after all, a very evil guy. Within the first five minutes that we had seen him, Vader had taken over Princess Leia's ship, choked a guy because he had a bad day and then covered the whole thing up. Later, he leaves a handful of dead Star Destroyer captains in his wake, tortures Han and Leia for no reason and then cuts off his own kid's hand. You just don't want to like him.

At the end of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, there is something to cheer about. The Death Stars blow up. Vader is redeemed. All is right with in the universe.

There's no such ending in this movie. In fact, if you didn't know that it led into ANH, it would be downright depressing. Cheering at the end of ROTS would be like clapping at the end of Saving Private Ryan.

All the jedi are dead, except for Yoda and Kenobi. Luke and Leia are in hiding. (Spoiler: highlight to read) Padme died in childbirth from a broken heart. The Chancellor has become the Emperor and is building the first Death Star. Anakin has become Darth Vader and is in the suit.

It's hard to feel anything other than to be anything other than depressed at the end of this movie. When the Special Edition of ANH came out, I went to the theater, watched Luke blow up the Death Star and got a high five from some guy I didn't know. When ROTS ended, I was like, "Yup. Sith happens."

The story of this final installment is not a happy one, but it was necessary. I just wish I could have left the theater feeling a little better than I did.

As a film, ROTS is much like the other two Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones: visually spectacular but hindered by bad directing and cheesy "dialogue".

George Lucas is not a good filmmaker. In fact, his directing is downright horrible. I've always said that he is a much better idea factory than he is at making movies. Look at the innovations he has brought to the movies: Pixar, ILM, Skywalker Sound, the THX standard. But his directing sucks. Flat. Out. Sucks.

But consider that he was the executive producer of Willow and the Indian Jones movies (it makes him look real good to have directors like Ron Howard and Stephen Speilberg at the helm, too), so his abilities as a visionary are very good, but when it comes to making the movie, he's not even close to being in the same league as other, even grade C or D, directors.

Lucas's writing and directing is the downfall of ROTS. The dialogue is straight out of a poorly-written comic book. The "plot" is almost non-existent. Lucas's directing is so bad, the "acting" turns otherwise good actors into cardboard cut-out charicatures.

Lucas let Irvin Kirshner direct The Empire Strikes Back and he let Richard Marquand direct Return of the Jedi. While neither of those guys are going to ever win an Oscar® for anything, at least they're not Lucas. Lucas also got help with the screenplay on those movies from Lawrence Kasden and ROTS could have used some script doctoring as well.

As a fan, what bothers me is that ROTS (and TPM and AOTC, too, for that matter) could have been soooooooooooooooooo much better. With a little bit of script doctoring and an even half-competent director, all three of the prequels had the potential to be very good movies. Unfortunately, because of Lucas's medling, we had to settle for a product that overall was mediocre.

Of course, George Lucas can buy me and sell me a thousand times over, so why would he listen to what I have to say about making a movie?

That said, ROTS is visually spectacular. Lucas has always pushed the envelope of movie technology and while they say that there was no new technology used for ROTS, what they did with the existing technology was brilliant. In TPM and AOTC, Yoda looked computer-generated, his movements were very still, but in ROTS, he could be a real person.

The battle scenes and the landscapes are superb and the computer-generated sets blend seamlessly. Depending on what other movies come out this year, ILM could sweep the technical awards again this year.

I have a few minor nitpicks with the movie, but overall it wasn't too bad.

  1. Spoiler (highlight to read): Since Padme dies in childbirth, it makes me wonder how Leia can remember her birth mother as she claims to in ROTJ.

  2. At the end of ROTJ, Kenobi is in his 30s (Ewan McGregor is 34), but at the beginning of ANH, Kenobi is in his 60s, even though only about 18 years have elapsed (Alec Guinness was 63 when he filmed ANH).

  3. At the end of ROTS, they show the first Death Star about 20% completed, but at the beginning of ANH, it has just been completed (18 years later). Five years after that Death Star has been blown up, the new Death Star is nearing completion.

  4. General Grevious starts the movie with a horrible cough, but that is never fully explained. Did the warranty on his bionic lung expire? Computer generated lung cancer? One too many death sticks?

  5. Explaining one of the great mysteries of the Star Wars universe, at the end of ROTS, Captain Antilles orders C-3PO's memory to be wiped clean. Throughout the original trilogy, everyone wonders why C-3PO doesn't remember that Anakin built him and that Anakin is Vader. However, this doesn't explain how Vader doesn't recognise 3PO when he encounters him on Bespin or why R2-D2 doesn't ever chime in about who Vader is, who Luke is and how the two are related.

  6. Leia goes to live with Bail Organa and Luke goes to Tatooine to live with his "uncle" (Owen, Anakin's stepbrother). Why wouldn't Vader/Anakin go to Tatooine and either wipe out his family or turn on them, too. If I had been raised in slavery and had such bad memories of a planet, and then I suddenly had the power to do something about it (plus a disposition towards revenge and wholesale slaughter), I think I would have destroyed the planet.

  7. All of the clone troopers have sealed environmental helmets, except your clone pilots, who have open faced visors and they pilot ships in a vacuum.

  8. Four Jedi Masters go to arrest Palpatine/Darth Sidious. Let's say you're Mace Windu. You're going to arrest a Sith Lord. The most evil being in the galaxy. Not the most evil person in your office. Not the most evil person in your apartment complex. Not even the most evil person in your country. This is the most evil person IN THE ENTIRE GALAXY. 1) Why do you only take three other guys with you? 2) Why don't you lock up the Jedi Temple before you leave? and 3) Why don't you send out a blast email to all the other Jedi around that if you don't make it, they all need to go after Palpatine, who is, once again, the most evil person in the galaxy

  9. Let's say your Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Spoiler: highlight to read) Anakin (aka "Stumpy") is lying on the ground. He can't hurt you. He's got one half-working robotic arm. He bursts into flame and his horribly scarred. Why don't you kill him?

  10. What's up with Chewbacca in ROTS? He didn't really do anything. It seems kind of a reach that the same Chewbacca would know Yoda, get released from slavery by Han Solo, join up with Luke in the Mos Eisley cantina, help blow up the first Death Star, get captured on Bespin and then have a hand in blowing up the second Death Star and then have to get his rightfully-earned medal from MTV. He could have been substituted for any other wookie and it wouldn't have felt so contrived.

  11. In the world of Star Wars, the technology exists to build cybernetic limbs to replaced those severed by a lightsaber, travel from star system to star system, holographically project someone's image across hundreds and thousands of light-years in real time and clone one guy into an army of millions without any sort of DNA degeneration, but they don't have a single ultrasound machine that can tell a woman she is carrying more than one child in her womb.

Despite all my gripes, I did enjoy the movie. I'm sure I'll go see it again in the theater (maybe even two more times) and when the prequel trilogy comes out on DVD, I'm sure I'll pick it up then, too.

It's a good show, despite its shortcomings, but that may just be the fanboy in me.

A word of warning though. There are at least 7 limbs that are severed (Spoiler: highlight to read) Dooku loses both hands and his head, Mace Windu loses an arm, and Anakin loses both legs and his non-cybernetic arm), plus Grievious loses all four of his hands (does that really count as dismemberment?) in lightsaber battles.

Most of the other violence is of the standard, sterile Star Wars type; laser blasts that don't open wounds or leave markes. Lots of battle droids get chopped up. Spaceships blow up and that sort of thing. There's just a lot more violence than in any movie other than ROTJ and the Endor battle.

I would caution anyone bringing young children to the movie; again, depending on your child. When Anakin and Obi-Wan are fighting on Mustafar, things get ugly (that's how Vader ends up in the suit). (Spoiler: highlight to read) Anakin is near some lava and his clothes burst into flame, singeing his flesh, burning away all his hair and leaving him disfigured. Then later, we see Vader on the operating table, being put in the black armour and you get to see his burned skin, he's writhing around in pain, the stumps of his arms and legs covered by cybernetic caps. I could be too intense for younger children.

And then there's another scene in the Jedi Temple. (Spoiler: highlight to read) Anakin has gone to the Temple to destroy all the Jedi there. He takes several hundred clone troopers and they're gunning down Jedi. Anakin enters a room with several Jedi children in it. The door closes. One of the "younglings" says, "Master Skywalker, there are too many of them." Anakin has an evil look in his eye. He ignites his lightsaber. The scene cuts away.

Again, I would seriously consider screening this movie first if your younger children are wanting to see it. I read one review that said that if your kids were okay watching The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, they'll probably be okay watchinng ROTS.

I've also read that Lucas is making a statement against the current administration with several jabs at Dubya. Read more here and here. Here's the thing: Lucas finished the principal photography on this film almost two years ago. And while Dubya was saying things like "Either your with me or you're my enemy", the Iraq war hadn't started so I don't see how you can draw an intentional parallel between ROTS and Dubya, not that I'd ever want to defend Dubya, but I also don't want to hammer the guy for something he didn't do.

So my evaluation on ROTS would be 6½/7 out of 10. As a cinematic piece of work, the writing and directing probably comes in at about 3½ out of 10, the technology and visual effects are 9½ out of 10 and as a fan of the Star Wars franchinse, I'd rate it about 8 out of 10.

May the Force be with you.

AI: Down to two

Was there any big surprise about who was going home last night? Not if you listened to the judges on Tuesday.

It seems that Vonzell's pitch problems finally caught up with her, but she made a good showing for herself and finished 3rd out of a Top 12 that was deeper (top to bottom) than any other Top 12 that American Idol had put out there for us.

That leaves us with Carrie and Bo going into the finale, and if this past week was any indication of next week, Bo will be the last one standing. Carrie is good and she's the only one of the Top 12 to never be in the bottom 3, so I wonder if the pressure is going to get to her (I think it already has; let's see if she can pull herself together and rally).

I'm very happy with the final two (unlike last year). I just hope Fox can put together a finale show that doesn't involve too much product placement, artificial suspense and a horrible theme song both of them have to sing.

Plus, I'd pay real money for Bo and Carrie to open the show singing "I'm a little bit country/I'm a little bit rock and roll."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

It's about time!

West Virginia governor Joe Manchin announced today that Marshall University and West Virginia University will begin playing a home-and-home series that would begin in Morgantown in 2006 and last for at least seven seasons.

All I can say is this: It's about damn time!!!

WVU has always refused to play Marshall. Since Marshall started playing Division I-A football again in 1997, the teams have met once, with WVU winning in Morgantown. Since then WVU has been too chicken to play Marshall, but has hidden behind the excuse of "Marshall's stadium is too small."

The new deal, brokered by Manchin, puts the two teams on the field for at least seven years, and hopefully will continue ad infinitum. I can't understand why WVU doesn't want to play Marshall. They think it is some sort of embarrassment to play and lose to a smaller school that's just across the state.

The University of Florida used to think like that. It took an act of the state legislature to force Florida to play Florida State in the 50s, and now that is one of the biggest rivalries in the country. Once the folks at WVU see how much money the game generates, not only because the Marshall-WVU game was the only time Mountaineer Field was ever sold out, but in TV revenue, I think it will become a regular game, just like the other cross-state rivalry games.

Not Star Wars

Since I'm goofing off at work, I figured I'd drop in a gratuitious animated .gif of Jessica Alba.

The Star Wars blitz

With the movie opening in wide release tonight at midnight, everybody and their brother is trying to cash in on Star Wars.

CNNSi had this comparison between sports and Star Wars.

Entertainment Weekly is all over Star Wars

More from CNNSi

From MSNBC.com

Star Wars vs. The Yankees: Tale of the Tape

Star Wars vs. Star Trek according to Forbes.com

Why the Dark Side is more powerful

10 Things the New Star Wars should explain

Star Wars glitches that almost kept ANH from being made

MSNBC.com's review of ROTS

Entertainment Weekly's ROTS review

CNN.com's review

Some MSNBC.com reader reactions to Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

And of course, there's always TheForce.Net

Final 3

So what did you guys think of the show? Could they put another commercial or product placement in?

You wonder if Clive Davis gets his choice of the finalists in exchange for coming on to the show and lending it some much-needed credibility.

The Good


One of the things I've harped on all year is consistency and Bo showed it last night. Where the other two had some problems, Bo was fairly constant, although part way through "Satisfaction", it looked like he was bored, as if he had sung it hundreds of times already (he probably had).

Did anyone else notice that when they showed him at home in Alabama, he was surrounded by cops? Coincidence or conspiracy? Maybe he was there to settle up some old parking tickets.

The Bad

Carrie, Vonzell

The good news is that no one was bad, which is what we should expect at this stage of the competition. Carrie made me like a Roy Orbison song and if the whole country music thing falls through for her, she could always cover 80s standards.

Speaking of which, why hasn't there been an "Air Supply" theme night?

Vonzell was also up and down, not because of her performing, which is always on, but because her pitch problems came back.

How great would it be if someone would build a machine that would put Carrie and Vonzell into one person and get only the best qualities from each. Take all of Vonzell's personality and stage presence and put it together with Carrie's vocal control.

Don't get me wrong; Vonzell's voice isn't bad, but she has a habit of over-reaching and when that happens, she has some pitch issues. When Simon called Carrie "wooden", he hit the nail on the head; she is a fabulous singer but on stage there's something missing.

The Ugly

"After the break."

You know, if Fox didn't try and cram in as much advertising as they possibly could, Seacrest and the judges would sound like they were talking waaaaaayyyyy too fast.

After last night, Bo is clearly in the driver's seat. The thing is this: it's not because of his voice. Where past winners have been vocally superior to the rest of the compeition, Bo has one of the worst voices of the top 12. It's is stage presence and the fact that he puts on a good show that makes him better than both Carrie and Vonzell.

If you had the choice to go see Bo, Carrie or Vonzell in concert, who would you pick? For me, in concert it would be Bo, Vonzell and Carrie, in that order.

If you had the choice to buy an album by Bo, Carrie or Vonzell, who would you pick? I'd probably pick up Carrie's album first, followed by Bo or Vonzell (flip a coin).

I think Bo Bice would rock in concert. He looks comfortable on stage (unlike Carrie) and doesn't get rattled (unlike Vonzell). I think Carrie and Vonzell have both had some confidence problems of late, and that's what sets Bo above them. He doesn't get rattled by negative criticism and he's performed at a consistently high level throughout the compeititon (much like both Clay and Rueben).

We'll see how it plays out tonight (and then it's off to the midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A buddy of mine got the American Idol 4: The Showstoppers CD and check out the track listing:

  1. Carrie, Independence Day
  2. Bo, I Don’t Want to Be
  3. Vonzell, Best of My Love
  4. Anwar, A House is Not a Home
  5. Nadia, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
  6. Nikko, Part-Time Lover
  7. Constantine, My Funny Valentine
  8. Jessica, Total Eclipse of the Heart
  9. Anthony, Every Time You Go Away
  10. Scott, Against All Odds
  11. Lindsay, Knock on Wood
  12. Mikalah, God Bless the Child
  13. Group Song, When you Tell Me That You Love Me

Check out the #1, #2 and #3 tracks. The CD has been in the works for a while so it's not like they decided last week what order the tracks were going to be placed on the CD. Coincidence? Conspiracy?

Everyone sounds good on the CD; which is a testament to how good all of this year's contestants can be (in the studio). I don't know that any of them will go on to any sort of long-term success, but it's nice to hear good work out of folks like Mikalah and Lindsey.

Beware the computer nerd

You know who he is. There's at least one at every company. A guy in his mid-30s, probably single. Might still live at home. Sticks to himself. Very smart. Socially inept. Likes TV shows with "star" in the title (and I don't mean Star Search).

According to this article at MSNBC.com, computer geeks have been known to sabotage computer systems causing economic damage, lost productivity and even compromising national security, often as a result of passive-aggressive rage against their boss.

So becareful about pissing off the computer geek in your office. He may decide to ruin your credit or wipe out your hard drive.

On a similar note, with Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith opening in wide release tomorrow night at midnight, if you need any troubleshooting or computer reports run, I suggest you try and get that taken care of today or tomorrow because your office computer geek will probably be either absent, asleep or completely ineffective on Thursday morning.

Friday, May 13, 2005

What is the purpose of your life?

Every clique has that one person who is the bad luck magnet. They're accident prone, they get pulled over for driving 3 miles over the speed limit and they can't ever get a date. Look around at your friends and I guarantee you know who I'm talking about.

Apparently, in the community of NFL players, Kellen Winslow, Jr. is that person. Last year, he broke leg while covering a kick and missed 14 games of his rookie season, which caused him to lose out in several million dollars worth of contract incentives. While unfortunate for his wallet, on-field injuries have sidelined players far better than Winslow and that's not the real problem.

A couple of weeks ago, Winslow went out and bought a new motorcycle and according to eyewitnesses was trying to do wheelies and ended up in the hospital with unspecified internal injuries and came out on crutches. From what I have been able to gather, Winslow had never ridden a motorcycle before and went against the advice of his friends and even the salesman and hopped on without taking any lessons.

I don't think too much of Winslow. Like Eli Manning, he let his father do the talking for him and steamrolled the Browns into making him the highest paid tight end in the league before he played a down for them. So he misses almost all of one season over something that isn't really his fault, goes out, does something stupid and may miss his second season. It's a good thing he was able to cash in because now he's going to be labelled not only as an injury-prone player, but a player who does reckless things.

And that's not even the best part. The Browns are considering taking back some or all of his $5+ million signing bonus for violating the clause in his contract that prohibits him from engaging in "high-risk" behaviour. That kind of clause is very common and is designed to protect teams who invest large portions of their salary cap (not to mention actual cash) in a player who may end up injured (or dead) after going skydiving or skiing.

I think the Browns should take all of the signing bonus back. Winslow is an idiot who has been trading on his father's name, and now it's come back to bite him in the butt.

On the plus side, his antics have other players talking about being careful in their off the field activities.

So look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Am I the bad example that others should learn from?"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

AI finale speculation

If there is a Bo/Carrie finale, wouldn't it be absolutely hilarious, if they sang "I'm a little bit country/I'm a little bit rock and roll"?

I don't know how many football fans there are that read this column, but once American Idol ends, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself until September when footbal season starts again. If you don't already, you should read Tuesday Morning Quarterback, a weekly feature during the football season by Gregg Easterbrook.

In perusing his final column for the 2004-2005 season, I found out that our very own Nadia was once a cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins. She was with the squad for one year in 1996. What a difference 9 years makes, huh?

You know you're a Star Wars nerd when . . . (don't worry there's American Idol stuff in here, too!)

I was 20 minutes into American Idol last night when the phone rang. Since it's almost never for me, my wife answered it and after "Yes . . . Yes . . . Sure . . . He's right here" and some giggling she handed the phone to me.

The person on the other end starts off with "Hi, I'm Sarah with the local paper, and I was wondering if you were the same David that we interviewed for a story on Star Wars Episode I in 1999."

So I did the interview for the paper and they're sending someone out to the house to take some pictures of me with all my Star Wars stuff on Monday. I guess the only things holding me back from the title of Supreme Star Wars Geek are the facts that I don't have a Star Wars costume, I don't live in my parents's basement and I'm not a 31-year old virgin.

The girl on the phone was really nice and I was very tempted to tell her to call back in 15 minutes, but I had the TV on and got to see Anthony get eliminated. I can't say I'm surprised at his elimination, but I was surprised Carrie wasn't in the bottom 2; overall, she truly had the worst night this week.

So that means that every year, someone unexpected (and in my opinion, undeserving) slips into the top 4; Nikki McKibbon, Josh Gracin, Jasmine Trias and now Anthony Fedorov. How does this happen? Why is it that more deserving contestants (LaToya, Trenyce, Tamyra) are eliminated? More importantly, how can we stop this from happening in the future?

With all the free publicity, the Vote for the Worst crowd is only going to become more powerful given that people vote for their favourite contestant (not to have someone eliminated) and that Fox refuses to limit the number of votes that may be cast from a certain phone. Unless something changes, crap like this will continue to happen.

My personal feeling is that we should vote to eliminate the worst contestant, not keep "your favourite"; it's interesting to hear Ryan encourage people to participate in what is essentially a popularity contest, not to vote for the best. I think this is why the FCC considers American Idol to be "entertainment" (like say, the WWE), rather than a game show, which it could investigate like the quiz show scandals of the 50s.

I don't think Anthony is a bad guy and I don't think he was entirely undeserving of making the top 24 or even the top 12. What I do think is that he outlasted people who were better than him. However, like Scott, I don't blame him; I blame Fox for enabling powervoters to keep him around over better singers and performers (Jessica, Nadia and even FRC).

Things are heating up and unless she has an absolutely monster week next week, Vonzell will be the next one gone. I just hope she proves to be more of a Kimberly Locke than a Jasmine Trias.

I'll let you guys know how the Star Wars thing works out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Top 4

Was it just me or did everyone fall asleep halfway through the show?

If not for a brief appearance by Bo's hot mom, I might have missed his entire performance.

Also, I thought the judges were uncharacteristically nice when they shouldn't have been. After her first song, Randy (in his usual Randy way) said she wasn't very good, Paula (in her usual Paula way) said she wasn't very good, and I thought Simon was going to open up on her, but apparently her tears averted a good (and deserved) verbal beat-down. I think future contestants are going to learn that if they cry, they both avert negative criticism and gain sympathy.

The Good

Vonzell (II), Bo (II), Carrie (I)

After a shaky first song, Vonzell brought it all with "Don't Leave Me This Way" and it was easily the best performance of the night. Vonzell had the most to lose last night; Anthony has his share of powervoters and VFTW is backing him. Bo and Carrie are locks for the Top 3, if not the finale, so Vonzell needed two strong performances to have a shot at the Top 2. She got one, but I think she needs a monster week next week in order to stave off elimination.

Carrie started in the dreaded lead-off spot and was actually pretty good. I'm not fan of the song, but she sounded good and didn't look as automatic as usual. She does need to lay off the eyeliner, though. Bo's second song was good, but he's not venturing too far out of his comfort box.

The Bad

Anthony (II), Bo (I)

Scar needs to talk to AI's make up people and tell them to stop using so much lip gloss or whatever it is that he had on his face last night. Anthony has been flying under the radar. He's clearly inferior to the other three remaining contestants, but up until now he's been shielded from the haters by Scott. Anthony's biggest problem isn't necessarily his vocal deficiencies (he's actually a better singer than Bo), it's that he picks the same kinds of songs over and over and over, and unlike Bo, he's not entertaining as he does it.

When the show starts, you can be guaranteed of hearing the following things:

  • Randy saying "Dawg."
  • Paula telling someone how proud she is of them.
  • "After the break."
  • Scar singing a power ballad.

When Paula told Anthony that he needs to challenge himself, she really meant he needs to not sing power ballads, and I couldn't agree more.

Bo's first song wasn't bad in a musical sense, but it was boring. Even he looked like he couldn't wait for the song to end. With a huge catalog of country music to choose from, why did Bo pick a bad song and then put it on autopilot?

The Ugly

Carrie (II), Anthony (I), Vonzell (I)

Why, oh, why did the AI producers let Anthony and Carrie sing the same damn song?!?!?!

Of the two Anthony's was better, but I don't know if that's because he does power ballads better or if because Carrie's arrangement was worse. Carrie's version of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" was absolutely gawd-awful, but when Ryan said, "Here's Anthony singing the same song as Carrie" (emphasis added by me), I had to leave the room. It was bad enough hearing Carrie butcher the song, but having to sit through it twice was a torture the AI audience does not deserve. And the sad thing is that Scar did it better.

I really dislike the song "I'm Already There" and Anthony did the song no favours. I hope "America" put him out of my misery and gets rid of him this week.

Vonzell's "How Do I Live" was excruciatingly bad and I don't think either Tricia or LeAnn are very happy with her right about now. Not only was she vocally all over the place, in at least one spot she either forgot the words or missed her que. It's a good thing she had a good second song.

I still like Bo and Carrie in the finale. As far as I'm concerned, Scar is a dead man walking. Vonzell, after looking like she was going to be this year's Kimberly Locke by making a strong charge at the end, turned in a first performance that made her look more like Jasmine Trias and that she was backing into the final 3 rather than earning that spot.

Anthony should not have gotten as far as he has gotten. If not for Scott being a more unworthy contestant, I think he would have been bounced two or three weeks ago. Really: how is Anthony a better singer than Jessica?

Let's see how things shake out tonight. Will there be another "shocker" or will Scar be given his walking papers. You could see it in his eyes last week that he thought he would be eliminated. Will Vonzell's dad dress like a pimp again? Will Bo's grandma kick Simon's ass?

Oh, the suspense!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fillibuster fight

I don't know where my readers fall on the political spectrum; frankly, I don't think anyone reads this blog for my political views, but the Republicans are trying to do away with the filibuster when it comes to judicial nominees.

The Republicans are pissed that the Democrats have blocked 10 of Dubya's judicial nominees either with fillibusters or the threat of a filibuster. A filibuster is basically when someone starts talking and doesn't stop. It takes a 60 votes to invoke "cloture" a motion that is the only way to end a filibuster. Since neither party has a 60 seat majority, a filibuster can basically destroy any legislation someone is bound and determined to block.

In the Consitutition, the Senate is given the power and responsibility to confirm presidential appointments, not only to the cabinet and other positions but to the federal courts, which are lifetime appointments. The Republicans want to change the rules so that in the case of judicial appointments, only 51 votes are needed to end a filibuster. The Democrats have vowed that if this is done, they will use procedural delays to basically bring the business of the Senate to a halt. This is the so-called nuclear option.

Here's what I don't understand:

Why are the Republicans so interested in getting these guys through? Dubya is upset that 10 of his nominees are being held up. He's apparently forgotten that the Republicans held up 62 of Bill Clinton's judicial nominees. Let me say that again:

The Republicans held up 62 of Bill Clinton's judicial nominees.

So where do they get off thinking that all of the sudden "every nominee deserves a straight up or down vote"?

The filibuster is a powerful tool of the minority party, one that is necessary for the operation of our democracy. Critics of the filibuster say that it is nothing more than an obstruction used by disgruntled people to stop important legislation. But in reality it is a tool that protects the minority interests from being overrun by a lot of people who may believe in something that is not right.

The most famous filibuster was mounted by Strom Thurmond when he talked for over 24 hours straight trying to block the Civil Rights Act in 1957. Thurmond's filibuster ended with him running out of steam and the Civil Rights Act passed anyway, but it allowed a minority view to be projected and fought for.

There are a fair number of Republicans who don't want the rule change, but are keeping their mouths shut for the sake of party unity. John McCain, who doesn't give a damn about party unity, has said he won't vote for the rule change, partially because he recognises the importance and power of the filibuster, and partially because he knows that there will be a day when the Republicans are again in the minority and don't want to be run roughshod over like they're trying to do to the Democrats.

I don't care what you guys believe or what your political bend is, but please write to your Senator and encourage them to not vote for this rule change.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Who will VFTW try to push on us now?

Where to begin?

I think I'll start in a familiar spot: blasting Fox for being jackasses.

When they sent Scar to the couch, the first thing I said to myself was, "Seacrest didn't tell him he was safe." When they told Vonzell to stay put and then sent Rasputin to the couch, I knew that the folks on the couch were on the chopping block. The only thing that worried me was Carrie or Bo being sent into the Bottom 3 and then being possibly eliminated after having to face the Vote for the Worst crowd and the Anthony powervoters.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Fox needs to quit screwing around with the contestants by manufacturing drama. Nobody deserves to be jerked around; as they intended, Scott thought he was safe when they sent him to the couch. Every contestant, no matter how horrible, no matter how badly they need to be sent home; every contestant deserves a straight-up "You're safe/You're in the bottom 3."

Frankly, I'm surprised Scott was eliminated. He did get a lot of negative press this week, but between the VFTW people getting a lot of press and the American Idol voting format enabling powervoters, I thought for sure Anthony or Vonzell would be sent home.

If the voting were based on last week's performance alone, Anthony was the weakest, but I think there has been a backlash against Scott lately, mostly because of his attitude. I think Scott appealed to the underdog; he's obviously not the kind of guy who we see in pop music and he's got a fairly good voice. And then when the domestic violence charges came out, I think that hurt him a bit, too.

Back in March, I put Scott in the category of "Who's not going to win" and he has advanced farther than I certainly expected him to. Simon said it best when he said essentially "You're the ordinary guy who's doing very well in this competition."

My problem with Scott isn't that he's still around over some other people, although I think folks like Jessica and Anwar are certainly more deserving of the spot he's taking up, it's that he's got a bad attitude. It seems to me that he's a lot like Josh, who I did not think much of, because he takes criticism personally.

What contestants have to understand is that American Idol is a business. Mario understood this. Simon understands this. Clay understood this.

When Simon says something, once you get past the way he says it, you'll find that he's often right. I also think the way he says things is intentional; he's not just giving someone criticism, he's seeing how they react and testing them. Remember that guy in the auditions phase that was the cruise ship trainer? He wasn't a bad singer and if hadn't blown his stack, he might have made it to Hollywood. He talked his way out of the auditions by taking Simon personally and showing that he doesn't have thick skin.

Josh and Scott were the same way. As the weeks wore on, they became angrier and angrier and directed that anger towards Simon, not realising that the reason they were consistently in the bottom 3 wasn't because Simon didn't like them, but because there were other people in the competition who were better and more consistent.

Clay understood all this. Of all the American Idol contestants, Clay's transformation is the most remarkable, not only because of how far he went, but if you look at Clay from the beginning to Clay at the end, he's really a different performer, and it's mostly because Clay "got it".

Simon was not a Clay fan, and on many occasions, let Clay know it. But Clay never took it personally, and he actually took much of the advice Simon gave him. That got him to second place, and is arguably the most successful American Idol contestant next to Kelly Clarkson and William Hung. Josh and Scott could have learned a lot from Clay, not just to advance farther in the competition, but in terms of learning what the music business is really like.

Having said that, Scott was the guy who needed American Idol the most this year. I think the image problem he has is, while not insurmountable, considerable enough to think that he's not going to be commercially successful. It's not his voice; when he picks the right songs, he's spot on. Hell, if JPL can get a record deal, there's no reason why Scott can't, too.

He's got the tour coming up and I'm sure he'll end up with a record deal (supposedly all the finalists from season 3 got recording contracts), so the question for is long-term career is: Would you pay for a Scott Savol album?

Now that Rasputin has been knocked off it's just a matter of Anthony being eliminated next week and then seeing if Vonzell can unseat either Bo or Carrie for the finale.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Some AI musings

Even though we have been absolutely busy as hell at work lately, I've still found the time to look back through my blog and I saw something interesting.

Except for the first week (when Lindsey was eliminated), I've grouped all the singers into three groups: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I went back through each week and awarded everyone points: 3 for being in "The Good", 2 for being in "The Bad" and 1 for being in "The Ugly". The points shake out like this:

CMG - 16
Vonzell - 15
Bo - 13
FRC - 12
Scar - 9
Anwar - 8
Rasputin - 7.5
Nadia - 7
Nikko - 6
Jessica - 3
Mikalah - 1

Rasputin got 1.5 points for last week since he had one song that was in "The Bad" an don in "The Ugly".

So what does this tell us? According to me, the Top 3 are CMG, The Vonze and Bo. Scar and Rasputin round out the five remaining contestants, which is no surprise. What is a surprise is the voting and the apparent strength of the VFTW crowd.

Of course, all this could be solved by changing the voting format to eliminate someone instead of letting powervoters keep people around who don't deserve it (Private Pyle, John Stevens--I'm talking to you!).

How funny would it have been for Bo to have sung "Jailhouse Rock" after his appearance on The Smoking Gun? It is a Leiber and Stoller song . . .

Top 5

There are 5 people left and each got to sing two songs. That's two chances to secure voters. Some folks took those chances and ran, others . . . well, fell flat (literally).

The Good

Bo, Carrie

Two things were missing with Bo: his hot mom and his razor. Everything else was spot on. The funk that Bo was in a couple of weeks ago is gone and it seems to me that he was out for blood last night. As the judges pointed out, Bo has the knack for picking just the right song that highlights his style and vocals, while not showing his weaknesses. Bo also has his swagger back; something that was missing a few weeks ago.

Carrie was also on last night, but she seemed a little more nervous than Bo. It's like she was her high school chorus and church choir, did all the solos, but was never in the big school play. She seems less comfortable on stage than Bo, but vocally, she is clearly superior.

Bo and Carrie have separated themselves from the others and I thought both were out to put the others away last night. If only they'd had this killer instinct a couple of weeks ago . . .

The Bad

Vonzell, Scott (I)

I like Vonzell a lot and last night she was playing to win. She almost made "The Good" for today, but she had some pitch problems and when compared to Bo and Carrie, it hurts her. She picks ambitious songs and when she hits everything right ("I Have Nothing"), she blows everyone away, but when she's a little off, like she was last night, she shows that she lacks the polish of Bo and the control of Carrie.

One of "The Vonze's" strengths is that she is fearless with her song selection and isn't afraid to push herself. I think Bo doesn't take chances because he knows that he is a weak vocalist and Carrie doesn't venture too far out of her comfort box, but Vonzell likes to pick songs that we don't expect. With me that scores a lot of points, but at this stage of the competition, I think she is second tier behind the two front-runners.

With each performer having two songs, we got to hear Scott twice and as Simon pointed out, his first song was much better than his second. In some ways it was a "safe" selection because "On Broadway" doesn't require a lot of range, but Scott did it very well. I could have done without his "Simon is the reason why people don't like me attitude", though.

The Ugly

Anthony, Scott (II)

With all the negative press Scott has gotten lately (USA Today had an article yesterday that just ripped him apart), the worst performances lately have been coming from Scar. I guess "Velveeta" is the best way to describe him and if Vonzell is this year's Kimberly Locke, Anthony is this year's Jasmine Trias. He's clearly out of his league when compared to Bo and Carrie, he isn't a lightning rod for negative attention, and week after week, does just well enough to get by.

I didn't care for either of his performances last night and I think that with Scott gaining momentum through the folks over at Vote For the Worst pumping up Rasputin's totals, it may be Scar's week to go. Which is a good thing because when he's on stage, I find myself staring at the base of his neck and that freaks me out.

Scott's second performance was wretched. Simply wretched. Maybe it was because I didn't know the song, but he sounded off pitch and just plain yech.

So how will all this shake out?

I think Bo and Carrie have pretty much locked up their spots in the final 3. Now it's just a matter of the other three knocking each other off. I think FRC's considerable voting bloc will now throw its support behind Bo, with a few going to Carrie and maybe a few going going to Scar. Of course, many eliminated contestants may be so bitter at their guy or gal being voted off, that they may join the VFTW movement and try to get Scott chosen as "your" American Idol, which, while it may be a sign of the Apocalypse, would also be pretty funny to watch.

Who should be in the bottom 3: Scar, Rasputin, The Vonze

Who will be eliminated: Scar

One other thing about last night:

It seems to me that the show has become an overproduced monstrosity. Maybe it's the sound mixers, but I think many of the contestants are overpowered by the band.

A couple of years ago, everybody sang along with canned music, then they started having a small band, and then a big band, and then the Miami Sound Machine. Now the house band has 6+ pieces plus there's a string section and backup singers. What's up with that?

What happened to people just singing?

Sometimes less is more and I think American Idol would do well to getting back to someone on stage by themselves and singing their hearts out and not having to worry about being drowned out by an orchestra.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Just leave her alone

When I heard that a young bride-to-be disappeared last week, I'm sure like many of you the first thing I thought there was another psycho out there and that she was face down in a ditch somewhere. As things turned out, she got cold feet and ran away. After hearing the details of the wedding (600 guests), I can't say I blame her.

Now it seems that the district attorny in Duluth, GA, is considering filing charges against the woman holding her criminally responsible for getting cold feet at her wedding.

Is it just me or is this absolutely absurd.

At some point, the woman claimed she had been kidnapped, but in reality, she just hopped on a bus and skipped town. How many grooms to be have gone out for a beer or a pack of cigarettes and not come back? You don't see any of them being prosecuted.

It's unfortunate that this case got such national attention, blowing it up into something it was not meant to be. I understand that with people being kidnapped, murdered and disappearing, this makes great news, and we must be in a sad state when we hear something like this and the first thing we think of is that her fiancee must have killed her, but how crazy is it that someone is even entertaining the possibility that she might be prosecuted for running from her own wedding.

She definitely shouldn't have claimed to be kidnapped, but she's embarrassed; embarrased that her picture is all over the news, embarrassed that she has to face her family after the expense and trouble of a big wedding and embarrassed for her beau, who had to go through all sorts of hell ranging from being a jilted groom to a suspect in her disappearance.

There is, to my knowledge, nothing that indicates that she was out for extra attention or was defrauding anyone, so why can't we just leave her alone? Maybe she'll marry this guy, maybe she won't.

I'm just happy she's safe.