Friday, February 29, 2008

Meet My Grandmom


This is my Grandmom and her dog, Lucy. My Grandmom is 97-1/2 years old, still lives by herself, is very active in her church, and has quite a social life. I want to be like her when I grow up.

The year she was born (1910) William Taft was president; Florence Nightingale and Mark Twain died; Dizzy Dean, E.G. Marshall, and Mother Theresa were born; the NAACP was founded; the average U.S. man earned less than $15 for a 54-60 hour work week; The Secret Garden (one of my favorite books) was published; and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" was a hit song.

Week 2 American Idol Power Rankings

4 went home last night, 16 are left standing. Here are this week's power rankings, the number in parenthesis is last week's ranking. Biggest gainers: Chikezie [Eze] and Tatoo Girl Carly Smithson. Biggest losers: Syesha Mercado and Kady Malloy (Impressions Blonde).

1. David Archuleta (3)
2. Michael Johns (1)
3. Ramiele Malubay (2)
4. Asia'h Epperson (4)
5. Carly Smithson (11)
6. Jason Castro (5)
7. Kristy Lee Cook (Horse-loving Blonde) (10)
8. Brooke White (Sweet Blonde)(7)
9. Chikezie [Eze] (18)
10. David Cook (14)
11. Syesha Mercado (6)
12. David Hernandez (16)
13. Kady Malloy (Impressions Blonde) (9)
14. Luke Menard (17)
15. Amanda Overmyer (12)
16. Danny Noriega (19)

My favorites are Michael Johns, Ramiele Malubay, and Asia'h Epperson...even though they didn't have the best performances this week. I used to really like Amanda Overmyer, but she needs to show some versatility this week or she's off my list. And, please, help send pretty little Danny Noriega home.

Who are your favorites?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

American Idol Results--4 Going Home Out Of Top 20

Here we are. Results night. The guys are getting the shaft tonight. On the merits of all the performances, three girls and one guy should be going home, but the rules say two guys and two girls go home each week until we have the single eliminations. Oh well.

Here are my predictions.
Bottom 3: Alexandrea Lushington, Kady Malloy, Amanda Overmyer
Bottom 3: Robbie Carrico, Danny Noriega, Jason Yeager


Unfortunate medley, then the highlights from the 10 Ten Guys’ performances. Finally, time to let the first dude loose. The lights are dimmed, the back row stands up. Michael is safe. Chikezie [Eze] is safe. Jason Castro is safe. Now it’s between two of my least favorites…Jason Yeager and Danny Noriega. Pregnant pause...Jason Yeager is headed back to the singing waiter job in Branson. That’s the good news. The bad news is Danny/Sanjaya is safe for another week.

Jason Yeager. Last week’s power ranking: #20. Jason brought up the rear last week. This week he tells us he plays piano, drums, and guitar. Still not interesting Jason. He doesn’t even play an interesting instrument like an oboe or a piccolo. Jason sings the Doobie Brothers “Without Love.” His dance moves are so cheesy I’m embarrassed to watch and yet, my eyes are drawn to the TV screen like a moth to a candle. The ending moves are really awful. Yes, this is a singing competition, but the dance moves did me in. Even the judges hate his performance. I think Jason’s going to cry, so now I feel sorry for him. (Even so, he's still going in my bottom 3).


The back row stands up--Kristy (Horse-loving blonde), Amanda, Alexandrea, Brooke (Sweet blonde) and Asia’h—one of them is going home. Again, it’s down to two of my bottom picks Alexandrea and Amanda. Alexandrea Lushington isn’t ready for prime time and she’s going home.

Alexandrea Lushington. Last week's power ranking: 15. Scary video of Alexandrea singing as a little kid. These precocious kids make me uncomfortable. She sings Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and I think she seals her fate…she’s leaving this week…that’s my prediction.


Immediately after the break, the girls are back in the spotlight. Carly, Alaina (Carrie Underwood blonde), Ramiele, Syesha, and Kady (Impressions blonde) stand up. Syesha and Kady look terrified. Well, Syesha is safe. One of the blondes is going home. We all expected Kady (Impressions blonde) to be headed back home to find her own voice, but wait it’s Alaina Whitaker (Carrie Underwood blonde) who’s leaving. Wow! Both blondes are stunned. Make that three of us. But, Kady (Impressions blonde) is safe to try out a new voice next week.

Alaina Whitaker (Carrie Underwood blonde). Last week's power ranking: 8. Alaina is a little OCD about different foods on her plate touching each other. She comes out in a homecoming dress and sings “Hopelessly Devoted To You” by Olivia Newton-John. She was probably good enough to stay in the competition for another week. Paula and Simon remind us that Alaina is only 17. They give her advice she doesn’t understand.


[Skipping over the Idol gives back stuff…lots of big names: Brad Pitt, Miley Cyrus, Reese Witherspoon (Pick Flick), Snoop Dawg, Carrie Underwood and more…]

Guys need to give up one more. Oh look our Faux Rocker Robbie Carrico is wearing a bandana over his Faux Hair. Quickly, Faux Rocker/Faux Hair Robbie and Luke Menard are called center stage. Faux Rocker Robbie Carrico is headed back home.

Robbie Carrico. Last week’s power ranking: #13. Faux-rocker Robbie tells us he’s just being him and there are lots of types of rockers. We get to see him drag racing in a lime green car. He likes to smell the high octane fuel and burnt tires. Only a few bars into “Hot Blooded” and we’re treated to our first rocker cliché, yep it’s the old pick up the standing mic move. Robbie, this was your last chance with me. I hate this performance. Randy agrees with me…Robbie is faux, faux, faux. Paula defends him. Simon thinks Robbie's vocals were good.


So wrapping it up, I was 3 for 4 again. C+.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

American Idol Top 10 Girls: Week 2 Performances Battle Of The Blondes And The Others

The girls, week 2.

First off, I apologize for getting my four blondes confused in the week 1 power rankings.
To avoid any confusion, from now on they will be referred to as follows:
Alaina Whitaker (Carrie Underwood blonde)
Kady Malloy (Impressions blonde)
Brooke White (Sweet Blonde)
Kristy Lee Cook (Horse-loving blonde)
No disrespect intended to any of the four, but I have to find a way to keep them straight...and until further notice, this is it.

Also, by now you know my feelings about Carly Smithson. I think she's a ringer. A semi-pro who recorded and released an album in 2001. In the interest of full disclosure, Kristy Lee Cook (Horse-loving blonde) was once signed to Arista, Michael Johns--then known as Michael Lee--fronted a major label's rock act called The Rising, little cutey David Archuleta won Star Search when he was 12, and Faux Rocker with the Faux Hair Robbie Carrico was in a group called Boyz N Girlz United (he also dated Britney for awhile). So at least 5 out of the top 20 can be considered semi-pros. I'm going to try to keep an open mind from here on out, even about my friend Tattoo Girl Carly.

Now...on with the show.

1. Carly Smithson. Last week's power ranking: 11. Oh boy we get to hear Tattoo Girl tell us all about her and her husband’s tattoo shop, working at the Irish bar, and how much she just loves her home—you know, cooking and cleaning. She sings one of my favorite Heart songs, Crazy on You. Even with all the hype about Carly, I really don’t hear anything special. It’s weird that she’s so out of breath at the end of the song. Maybe she has some underlying lung problem or she’s really out of shape.
2. Syesha Mercado (Last week's power ranking: 6) tells us about her commercial work in Miami and we see clips from the videos. The commercials were better than her trying to sing “Me And Mrs. Jones” it’s awful and not just because she changes Mrs. to Mr. Syesha is all over the melody, but not on it. She looks great though.
3. Brooke White (Sweet Blonde) (Last week's power ranking: 7) went to beauty school…she sees doing hair as art. Brooke plays guitar and sings Carly Simon’s uber-hit “You’re So Vain.” It’s okay, not unique, a little too smiley, but she’s so sweet I don’t think she can help herself.
4. Ramiele Malubay (Last week's power ranking 2) gives a lesson in Polynesian dancing. Thanks, Ramiele. Rough start to “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Rough middle. Okay end. Ramiele, you’ve let me down girl.
5. Kristy Lee Cook (Horse-loving blonde). Last week's power ranking: 10. Kristy Lee is a tomboy and of course, she loves her some horses. Kristy Lee looks hot tonight in her silver top and black jeans. She belts out “You’re No Good.” It drags a little at the end, but overall she did a nice job. Way better than last week.
6. Amanda Overmyer. Last week's power ranking: 12. Biker and nurse, we know. Now we find out Amanda is a bookworm. What is she wearing??? Why does she always look twenty years older than she is??? Amanda starts out okay on “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas, but it gets worse as the song goes on…especially the low notes. The ending is absolutely atrocious. We see Amanda’s parents in the audience and her mom looks younger than she does. I think Amanda needs to lighten up...if by some miracle she doesn't get sent home this week.
7. Alaina Whitaker (Carrie Underwood blonde). Last week's power ranking: 8. Alaina is a little OCD about different foods on her plate touching each other. She comes out in a homecoming dress and sings “Hopelessly Devoted To You” by Olivia Newton-John. She was probably good enough to stay in the competition for another week. Paula and Simon remind us that Alaina is only 17. They give her advice she doesn’t understand.
8. Alexandrea Lushington. Last week's power ranking: 15. Scary video of Alexandrea singing as a little kid. These precocious kids make me uncomfortable. She sings Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and I think she seals her fate…she’s leaving this week…that’s my prediction.
9. Kady Malloy (Impressions blonde). Last week's power ranking: 9. Kady does impressions for us (of course), then sings some opera in the bathroom. She comes walking down the staircase singing yet another Heart song “Magic Man”. Really bad. She’s going into my bottom 3.
10. Asia’h Epperson is in the judges’ choice spot. Last week's power ranking: 4. Asia’h was a cheerleader and she loved it. Okay, good. Not so good that Asia’h’s (there go those pesky apostrophes again) chosen a Celine Dion song. She pretty much butchers “All By Myself”. I’m so upset. I loved this girl last week…now look what she’s done. The only thing that saves her from my bottom 3 is that the end isn't terrible. Not good, but not terrible.

Bottom 3: Alexandrea Lushington, Kady Malloy (Impressions Blonde), Amanda Overmyer

Faux Rocker's Faux Hair


TMZ is reporting that our favorite American Idol faux rocker Robbie Carrico sports a wig. That's right, folks. Even his hair is fake. What a poser.

An Incovenient Truth

The snow cover over North America, Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.
Several articles are also pointing out that the polar ice cap is actually growing slightly.

Maybe Al Gore can calm down now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

American Idol Top 10 Guys: Week 2 Performances Faux & Con

So it's week 2 and the guys are up again. We know the drill by now, so let’s just get to it.

1. Michael Johns. Last week’s power ranking: #1. We get a little background on our favorite Aussie. He loves him some tennis. Sings Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” I like him, but the vibrato sounds overdone and during the verse he’s dragging a little behind the band. Randy and Paula blow him some kisses. Simon brings everyone back to reality and says it’s just meh. Regardless, no doubt Michael's safe for another week, even though I liked him much better week 1.

2. Jason Castro. Last week’s power ranking: #5. Jason hates doing interviews. We’re treated to an awkward montage of a bunch of outtakes from interviews. Ahhh. Isn’t that cute. More coffee house strumming. “I Just Want to Be Your Everything.” Randy criticizes Jason for playing the guitar because he has weak vocals. Paula tells Jason not to play the guitar next week. Simon thinks it was all very Schmaltzy. I tried to tell him.

3. Luke Menard. Last week’s power ranking: #17 Luke’s been touring with an acapella group for the last six years. He’s also lost about 60 pounds. Falsetto in "Killer Queen" sounds awesome at the beginning, but he kind of loses it to a squeak toward the middle of the song.

4. Robbie Carrico. Last week’s power ranking: #13. Faux-rocker Robbie tells us he’s just being him and there are lots of types of rockers. We get to see him drag racing in a lime green car. He likes to smell the high octane fuel and burnt tires. Only a few bars into “Hot Blooded” and we’re treated to our first rocker cliché, yep it’s the old pick up the standing mic move. Robbie, this was your last chance with me. I hate this performance. Randy agrees with me…Robbie is faux, faux, faux. Paula defends him. Simon thinks Robbie's vocals were good.

5. Danny Noriega. Last week’s power ranking: #19. Painfully listen to him reminisce about being in a punk rock band. He gets three notes out of The Carpenters’ “Don’t You Remember I Told You I Love You Baby” and this sick cat needs to be put out of its misery. Every week he’s more Sanjaya-ish. I don’t understand why the judges are encouraging him. He was terrible. I really want him to go home.

6. David Hernandez. Last week’s power ranking: #16. He was a gymnast when he was younger. Thanks for sharing, David. He sings “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” I’m liking this David. Way better than last week. The first interesting song of the night. Nice job, David, you surprised me, maybe I’ll remember you after all.

7. Jason Yeager. Last week’s power ranking: #20. Jason brought up the rear last week. This week he tells us he plays piano, drums, and guitar. Still not interesting Jason. He doesn’t even play an interesting instrument like an oboe or a piccolo. Jason sings the Doobie Brothers “Without Love.” His dance moves are so cheesy I’m embarrassed to watch and yet, my eyes are drawn to the TV screen like a moth to a candle. The ending moves are really awful. Yes, this is a singing competition, but the dance moves did me in. Even the judges hate his performance. I think Jason’s going to cry, so now I feel sorry for him. (Even so, he's still going in my bottom 3).

8. Chikezie [Ezie]. Last week’s power ranking: #18. Chikezie tells us his name is Nigerian and means something created by God. Cool. Well, he looks better with his blue polo shirt on. I like this bluesy song, “I Believe”. The background singers are awesome. Nicely done, Chikezie [Ezie].

9. David Cook. Last week’s power ranking: #14. David is a word nerd, his term not mine. David sounds like a real rocker as he sings 70s favorite “All Right Now”. I hope faux-rocker Robbie is listening and watching. This is how it’s done.

10. David Archuleta. Last week’s power ranking: #3. David Archuleta gets the “judges’ choice” spot (ie. last) tonight. We see video of him when he was 11 singing to Kelly Clarkson (it makes me uncomfortable). I agree the kid can sing, but I just can’t get over thinking of him as a sort of precocious, early maturing, savant. David sings John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He’s all intent and stylized. The little girls in the front row cheer him on. The judges are clearly in the tank for him. Expect to see DA in the final if they have their way.


Bottom 3: Robbie Carrico, Danny Noriega, Jason Yeager

Monday, February 25, 2008

American Idol Season 7 Week 1 Power Rankings

These are my American Idol week 1 power rankings. If you don't agree leave me a comment, but remember it's my blog.

#1 Michael Johns. The dude from down under. Gets points for style and talent. The camera loves him and so do the judges. Needless to say, so do I.

#2 Ramiele Malubay. Refreshing in her polished, yet non-professional attitude. I love how much she’s loving the process.

#3 David Archuleta. Yes, he can sing—but is he really American Idol material? He just seems so prepubescent. David is just a little too precious for me.

#4 Asia’h Epperson. Talent and personality, but maybe too green to make it all the way to the finals. Not sure her voice is strong enough to hold up week after week.

#5 Jason Castro. He has a style that’s easy to love. Relaxed, open, and a little gee whiz about the whole deal. Even so, he has to break out of the coffee house strummer role to move up.

#6 Syesha Mercado. A real beauty. She was terrific last week…not so terrific in the Hollywood rounds so consistency could be a problem.

#7 Brooke White. One of the blondes, but just different enough to distinguish herself from the rest of the Nice n Easy pack. Her over-the-top sweetness could get a little grating before it’s over.

#8 Alaina Whitaker. #2 generic blonde. This is the one who wants to buy the horse. Alaina is the youngest kid in the competition. That always buys a couple of weeks of accolades from the judges.

#9 Kady Malloy. #3 generic blonde. Don’t get me wrong, I like blondes. I am one. I just can’t keep these girls straight. Kady is the blonde who does the impressions. She needs to figure out what her own voice sounds like and sing.

#10 Kristy Lee Cook. #4 generic blonde. I think she can sing, too, but so far she’s going to go down as this year’s Haley Scarnato if she’s not careful.

#11 Carly Smithson. I’ll toss Tattoo Carly smackdab in the middle. I’ll never vote for her due to her previous album release and ringer status, but she’s all right.

#12 Amanda Overmeyer. She needs to show us some versatility to stay in the competition. How about a big showtune, or a nice ballad? Just, something different.

#13 Robbie Carrico. Okay, a lot of people like this guy, but I still think he’s a faux-rocker. Lose the bandana, no more rock clichés, definitely no sleeveless vest thing, no more chains hanging out of the jeans pocket—you get the idea.

#14 David Cook. He’s another rocker. The middle of his song was okay, but 1/3 of a song is not enough to move up into the top 10.

#15 Alexandra Lushington. Just a youngster. I don’t think she’s in the same league as the idols.

#16 David Hernandez. Totally and completely forgettable. White bread. Marshmallows. Soft, puffy clouds. Forgettable.

#17 Luke Menard. He’s this year’s Antonella Barba. Handsome and nice, he just can’t sing worth a plug nickel.

#18 Chikezie Eze. I read somewhere that Chikezie Eze is now going by just Chikezie. Please-ee Chikezie Eze, it’s a little early to go Hollywood on us! Chickezie had a rough time finding the tune last week. Maybe it was just first show jitters, but I still have to put him in one of the bottom slots. Sorry Chickezie.

#19 Danny Noriega. Pretty and Sanjaya-ish. That's our Danny. Please go home. And stop talking back to the judges until you do. Thank you.

#20 Jason Yeager. Poor Jason, it is not a plus that he's been singing in Branson. He needs to drop the inclination to sing anything close to the Moon River he sang last week. He's lucky to have squeaked through. He needs to turn his back on Branson if he wants to live to see another week on the AI stage.

The Three [Hundred] Faces Of Eve [Hillary]



After losing eleven in a row and boring us all with a fireworks-free debate that showed her conciliatory side last week, Hillary’s changed her tune again. This weekend Hill came out fighting. She was at times angry and at times sarcastic. She continues to berate Barack-star for raising folks’ hopes. Bad Barack. Bad Barack. Down boy, down boy.

I’ve been reading that there are two factions in the Hill Camp. One side is worried about protecting her `long-term legacy.’ That’s the conciliatory side of Hill, “I’m honored to be on the same stage as Barack Obama.” The other side says `win at all costs.’ That's the attack dog in her: “So shame on you Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That’s what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign,”

Not saying which path she’s chosen to take…but Drudge has posted a photo of Barack-star in traditional Somali garb that was released by someone in the Clinton Camp. After Barack-star called the photo a campaign smear, Maggie Williams Hill’s newly-ensconced campaign manager (who also just happens to be African-American) coyly replied, “If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.” Maggie didn’t say why the photo was released by Hill’s peeps in the first place.

Ooooooooooohhhh…it’s gettin’ good now. Which Hillary will show up for tomorrow night’s debate (maybe final?) on MSNBC? Finger to the wind, folks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Scenes From Our Movie Marathon

Joey and I had a blast at our all-day movie marathon. Here are the photos and our ratings for each of the movies. We're already planning to go next year!

Our official lanyards.
Ready for the show.



Here's how we rated the movies:
Michael Clayton Joey: 4 stars Kathryn 4 stars
There Will Be Blood Joey: 3 1/2 stars Kathryn 5 stars
Atonement Joey: 4 1/2 stars Kathryn 4 1/2 stars
Juno Joey 5 stars Kathryn 4 stars
No Country For Old Men Joey 4 1/2 stars Kathryn 4 stars

Saturday, February 23, 2008

That's Entertainment!

I'm off for the Academy Award movie marathon with my friend Joey. We're so excited! 12 hours and 25 minutes of celluloid heaven. We'll post twitter reviews throughout the day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dangers of Socialized Healthcare

Before you buy into all the hype of a national healthcare system, read this article. Think of it as a precautionary tale.


LONDON — Created 60 years ago as a cornerstone of the British welfare state, the National Health Service is devoted to the principle of free medical care for everyone. But recently it has been wrestling with a problem its founders never anticipated: how to handle patients with complex illnesses who want to pay for parts of their treatment while receiving the rest free from the health service. (Read the rest of the story here...)

American Idol Results--4 Going Home Out Of Top 24

It’s the first American Idol results show of Season 7. As a reminder, here are my predictions:
GUYS
Bottom 3: Danny Noriega, Luke Menard, Garrett Haley
Top 3: Jason Castro, David Archuleta, Michael Johns
GIRLS
Bottom 3: Joanne Borgella, Kristy Lee Cook, Amy Davis
Top 3: Asaia’h Epperson, Ramiele Maluby, Syesha Mercado

Already this year I find myself rooting against Carly Smithson. It’s not that I mind a little controversy in my American Idol. A mug shot or two, a scandal with Paula, somebody’s mom selling marijuana from her suburban garage…all that’s okay. But this Carly Smithson thing goes right to the integrity of the competition. American Idol is a talent show…A modern version of Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. Amateur being the key word. So, like I said last night, I will not be voting for Carly Smithson. I think she’s a good singer, but she’s already got her foot in the door. Let someone else have a chance, that’s my mantra.

So, on with the show.

The first thing the judges do is defend having semi-pros in the competition. Sorry, you didn’t sell me.

Now the requisite, but always unfortunate, Up With People segment. This time it’s a medley of sixties-lite tunes. Time out for me, I’m heading to CNN for a little debate action. I’ll be back…after the break.

After the break, the guys are on the hot seat first. They all look so handsome in their black suits and white shirts.

Garrett Haley
is called to the stage and tossed to the curb just as quickly.

Garrett Haley, 17, Elida, Ohio. Another guy I have NEVER seen. Never. Have you? Garrett is not an idol name. He has Peter Frampton hair and sings like a girl in the audition flashback. Now for the stage. Garett sings Breaking Up Is Hard To Do—BORING with a capital B-O-R-I-N-G. Oh brother, make him stop. I’m taking Jason out of my bottom 3 and putting Garrett in.


One down, three to go.

Girls are next. They all look shell-shocked having seen how quickly Garrett was cut loose.

Ryan calls Kristi Lee Cook to center stage. Oops. It’s a switcheroo. Kristi Lee is safe, but Amy Davis is going home.
Amy Davis 25, Cedar Lake, Indiana. I think she might be more successful as a model or actress, but she might as well try this first. Very forgettable, very generic, very meh. The most interesting thing about her is that her grandmother is Japanese. Amy, unfortunately, chooses Connie Francis’/Patsy Cline Where The Boys Are. She’s so bad it’s indescribable. Can’t find the tune. Sounds worse than a high school talent show. I’m telling you, horrible. Sayonara Amy.


Back to the girls. Ryan calls up Joanne Borgella and Amanda Overmeyer. Amanda actually looks quite pretty tonight. Joanne looks terrified...and for good reason…Ryan reveals she’s going home.
Joanne Borgella 25, Hoboken, New Jersey. Joanne carries on the tradition of AI (Lakisha, Mandisa, Frenchie) having at least one large, black woman in the competition. So much for reversing stereotypes, huh? Joanne, a plus-size model, sang Celine in her audition and I thought her voice was really thin, even if she isn’t. Joanne chooses to sing-scream I Say A Little Prayer. Too bad. Joanne couldn’t hang onto the tune at all and sounds so nervous I felt sorry for her. I predict Joanne will be back on the cover of Lane Bryant catalogs soon.


And the final loser is? Chikezie Ezie and Colton/Ellen Berry are brought front and center. Ryan is sad to inform us that Colton/Ellen is headed back to Little Town, Virginia.
Colton Berry, 18, Staunton, Virginia. Earlier in the show Colton told Ryan he (Colton) looks like Ellen DeGeneres. This is a visual I won’t be able to get out of my head for the rest of the competition. But I digress. Colton/Ellen sings Suspicious Minds, another Elvis tune to remind us that no one does it like Elvis. He’s definitely not the worst tonight.


Goodbye Garrett, Amy, Colton/Ellen, and Joanne.

So , I’m 3 for 4. 75%, C+. Not bad. See you next week.

19th Debate Showdown--Expect Fireworks


Tonight Barack-star and Hill meet for the 19th Democratic debate of the presidential campaign (CNN 7-8:30pm). With Hill reeling from 10 consecutive losses, Barack-star leading in the delegate count, Hill's donor pool drying up, and time running out...look for Hill to try and deliver a knockout punch tonight to turn this thing around. Can one debate really make a difference? They have in the past. Remember these golden moments?

Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle: "I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, and Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Ronald Reagan after a shrill attack by Jimmy Carter in 1980: "There you go again."

Ronald Reagan neutralizing fears that he was too old to be president with his debate quip that he wouldn't hold Mondale's "youth and inexperience" against him.

Gerald Ford never fully recovering from mistakenly saying that communist Poland was free from Soviet control.

Richard Nixon's poor makeup, 5 o'clock shadow, and profuse sweating in 1960.

Hill's challenge is to deliver a memorable zinger or two that will capture the headlines without making her seem shrill, desperate, or too negative. That's a tall order and one she hasn't filled yet. Barack-star has no doubt done his own prep work and if he isn't ready to answer with a few quips of his own, shame on him.

It's like Ali vs Frazier '71.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

American Idol Top 12 Girls: Blondes, Babes, Bikers

Four of the six American Idols are women. What about 2008? Tonight should give us a good indication if the trend will continue. The girls are up.


1) Kristy Lee Cook 24, Selma, Oregon. Blonde, horse-loving Kristy Lee wants to win this thing so she can buy a horse. Kristy’s relied on Amazing Grace twice, the song not divine intervention, to get her into the top 12. The judges and producers seem to be pushing her to the frontlines, but I like to think of her as this year’s Haley Scarnato. This time Kristy Lee sings a sleepy Rescue Me and makes me want to dust off my Linda Ronstadt albums. Not terrible. Not great. Just boring. Haley Scarnato.

2) Joanne Borgella 25, Hoboken, New Jersey. Joanne carries on the tradition of AI having at least one large, black woman (Lakisha, Mandisa, Frenchie) in the competition. So much for reversing stereotypes, huh? Monique, a plus-size model, sang Celine in her audition and I thought her voice was really thin, even if she isn’t. Joanne chooses to sing-scream I Say A Little Prayer. Too bad. Joanne couldn’t hang onto the tune at all and sounds so nervous I felt sorry for her. I predict Joanne will be back on the cover of Lane Bryant catalogs soon.

3) Alaina Whitaker 16, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Alaina is the youngest girl in the competition. Remember last year when the judges kept saying to Jordin how they couldn’t believe she’s only 16? I hope they don’t start that riff. Anyway, Alaina is a Blonde Carrie Underwood-wannabe who I really don’t remember too well. My notes tell me she sang a Faith Hill song, I’ll trust myself but I honestly don’t remember. Not a good sign. The more she talks, the less I like her. Alaina, be quiet. Please. She sings I Love You More Today Than Yesterday. It starts off really awful, but when she gets going it’s better. A little cheesy. But remember, she’s only 16, Randy reminds us. The judges like her way more than I do.

4) Amanda Overmeyer 23, Mulberry, Indiana. Amanda is one of my favorites because she’s different. She’s a nurse/biker/rocker. So far she’s been a Janis clone and I hope for her sake she breaks out tonight to show us something original. Oh goody. She tells us, no more Janis Joplin. Not that it makes any difference, but she looks older than 23. Amanda comes out looking like a Dominatrix, she sings Van Morrison’s Baby, Please Don’t Go. I love Amanda, but I get really tired midway through this. There’s only 4 words in the whole song. Baby. Please. Don’t. Go.

5) Amy Davis 25, Cedar Lake, Indiana. I think she might be more successful as a model or actress, but she might as well try this first. Very forgettable, very generic, very meh. The most interesting thing about her is that her grandmother is Japanese. Amy, unfortunately, chooses Connie Francis’/Patsy Cline Where The Boys Are. She’s so bad it’s indescribable. Can’t find the tune. Sounds worse than a high school talent show. I’m telling you, horrible. Sayonara Amy.

6) Brooke White 24, Van Nuys, California. Brooke is sweet, sweet, sweet—to the point of saccharine-sweet. Remember her in Hollywood? She accompanied herself on keyboards to Carole King’s Beautiful. She’s one of this year’s contestants who are semi-pro. She released an album a couple of years ago under an independent label. We’ll see if the controversy hurts her. Brooke sings Happy Together, the same song David Cook sang last night. Again, I love the song. I like Brooke’s version better than David’s. I worry that she’s going to be lost in all the blondeness of the night. Simon is underwhelmed with Brooke’s overall niceness.

7) Alexandrea Lushington 16, Atlanta, Georgia. During the auditions we saw her 90-something grandmother more than her audition, so I don’t have an opinion on Ms. Lushington other than not having an opinion. I don’t want to be premature, but not having an opinion on a contestant at this stage of the game is not good. Alexandrea sings Spinning Wheel. Alexandrea descends a spiral staircase wearing a tight t-shirt and suspenders. I don’t know if this is a good look, but it might get her some votes. I like the peace earring she’s wearing. It’s kind of hard for me to tell if she’s singing or screaming because she’s out of breath. I don’t know. I just didn’t like it. But! Randy loves Alexandrea! Paula loves Alexandrea, the staircase and her outfit! Simon agrees with me. He doesn’t get it either.

8) Kady Malloy 18, Houston Texas. Kady was the contestant who did spot-on impressions of Britney Spears and Carrie Underwood. That’s different, but is it enough to win the battle of the blondes? Actually, if she lasts long enoughI think her vocal impression experience will serve her well with all the different genres of music these kids have to sing. She sings A Groovy kind Of Love. Kady is our first seated contestant. She sounds really nasally. The song doesn’t sound all that groovy. She sings it like a funeral dirge.

9) Asia’h Epperson 19, Joplin, Missouri. Asia’h’s (I’m glad I don’t have an apostrophe in my name, it’s really annoying) the girl who auditioned two days after her dad was killed in a car accident. It was really emotional and I felt like she might have gotten through to Hollywood simply because of her sad story. But she surprised me in Hollywood. Asia’h showed a load of personality, matched with talent…hmmm, what a combo, huh? Asia'h sings Piece of My Heart and it’s good, but not as good as I want it to be. I have to say, no one sings Janis songs like Janis. Anyway, the judges are clearly in the tank for her and gush over her performance.


10) Ramiele Malubay 20, Miramar, Florida. Ramiele was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in the Philippines. Ramiele’s our teeny-tiny contestant with the great big voice. I like two things about Ramiele before she ever sings a note: 1) She’s not blonde. 2) She’s never had a recording contract. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, a Dusty Springfield standard, is her song. She sings and she’s sultry and hot. She’s my favorite of the night so far. The judges love her, too.

11) Syesha Mercado 21, Miami, Florida. I think Syesha is stunningly beautiful, which is a good thing because her auditions up to this point have been awful. At least that’s my opinion. She told us she had throat problems in Hollywood, so she got a pass after her first try and moved onto the finals after singing AI standard Chain of Fools. Show me something new Syesha. Syesha talks to Ryan and obviously knows she’s really cute. She works the camera. Well, I’ll eat my words, Syesha sings the notes off of Tobacco Road. She has the most stage presence of all the contestants. Hands down winner tonight. (I think I’ve said that for each of the last three!)

12) Carly Smithson 24, Dublin Ireland/San Diego. Carly has the judges’ favorite position—last. Carly is also the source of this year’s big AI stink. Back in 1999 Carly came to the land of opportunity and record deals from Dublin, Ireland. Eventually she landed a contract with MCA and produced an album. The album tanked and she was dropped from the label. In 2006 our wee Irish tattooed lass tried out for American Idol and was supposed to be in the post-Hollywood rounds but pesky visa problems kept her from competing. Two years later, with new husband and presumably new visa in hand, Carly auditions again to raves from the judges. Controversy and conspiracy theories flood the blogosphere. Should folks who’ve been signed to labels be allowed to compete? Is this really a competition between amateurs? Is the playing field level? Is Carly a ringer? Carly sings The Shadow Of Your Smile. You can tell Carly’s a professional. I’m not voting for her. Ever. No matter what the judges say to me, they can not make me vote for her.

Top 3: Asaia’h Epperson, Ramiele Maluby, Syesha Mercado
Bottom 3: Joanne Borgella, Kristy Lee Cook, Amy Davis

Tomorrow night two boys go home and two girls go home.

And the winner is...


One of the goals on my 2008 list is to see all of the movies nominated for an Academy Award. So far I've seen a grand total of 0 and I only have four days left. Not to fear...my friend Joey is coming to the rescue. Saturday we're going to an all-day marathon of the 5 nominated movies.

Here's our schedule:

Michael Clayton 11:00am
There Will Be Blood 1:20pm
Atonement 4:20
Juno 7:00pm
No Country For Old Men 9:00pm
total running time: 12 hours, 25 minutes

We get unlimited free popcorn and all the movies for $30. We're taking our own drinks and our neck pillows.

Doesn't it sound like fun? I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

American Idol Top 12 Guys: Dreads, Andy Williams, And This Year's Sanjaya

The top 12 boys are performing tonight. I started to call these guys men, but a couple of them don’t even look old enough to shave. So, they’re boys to me. Tonight will be the first time we see and hear half of these dudes.
1) David Hernandez, 24, Glendale, Arizona. Looks like a poser to me. Sings Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour and I really like the beginning. The background vocalists are great, giving the song a gospel vibe. The end was wobbly. David has some weird facial expressions, or maybe he just doesn’t look cool. Like an accounting major who sings.
2) Chikezie Eze, 22, Inglewood, California. Say it with me. Chikezie Eze. I hope his name isn’t the best part of his audition. Can you believe he’s the only black guy in this year’s competition? I didn’t realize that until tonight. Now I’m stunned. I’m also stunned by the bright orange suit he’s wearing. Chikezie Eze sings I Love You More Today Than Yesterday. Okay, he’s in the third line of the song and he still hasn’t found the right note. This is sad. Finally, we’re near the end and I think he hit two or three of the notes. I agree with Simon—hate the suit, hate the singing, hate the performance. Still he’ll stick around through this first round.
3) David Cook, 25 Blue Springs, Missouri .This year’s likeable rocker. Could be quirky for quirky sake, which I don’t like. I’m happy to see he’s lost the red lick in his hair. If he’s a sincere weirdo okay, no phonies. He sings Happy Together and it starts slow, finally he picks it up and rocks it out a little until he starts shouting. David tries a little Constantine-esque eye action, but it doesn’t work. He’s all right. Nothing to get too excited about, but since he auditioned in my home town, I’m on his side.
4) Jason Yeager, 28, Grand Prairie, Texas. He’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock and roll. He’s a lot forgettable. Thank goodness for that white stripe in his hair or he’d just be generic white guy to me. He is very wholesome, though. Oh my, he’s singing and it’s Moon River. Jason, please don’t sing an Andy Williams tune. He’s now become twice as forgettable. First, maybe last, performance. I definitely predict bottom 3 and we’re only on the fourth song.
5) Robbie Carrico, 26, Melbourne, Florida. Former boy bander who wants to be a rocker. The judges liked him early on, so I predict he’ll stick around for awhile. Robbie sings One Is The Loneliest Number. I like his vocals, but maybe it’s because I love, love, love this song. I wish he’d cool it with all the rocker clichés—double-fisting the mic, stomping the stage, and rip that bandana off his head. Enjoyable, though—he’ll stick around this week.
6) David Archuleta, 17, Murray, Utah. You have to think of this kid as an early on favorite. He’s cute, squeaky clean, with a crossover appeal from moms to daughters. And, he proves he can sing with Shop Around. The only thing that bothers me is he looks like he’s 12. Maybe he’ll grow on me because he’s the best so far.
7) Danny Noriega, 18, Azusa, California. Here’s my androgynous buddy, looking pretty as usual. I’m seeing Danny, but thinking Sanjaya. Jailhouse Rock like you’ve never seen/heard it and I don’t want to again. I’m telling you he’s this year’s Sanjaya.
8) Luke Menard, 29, Crawfordsville, Indiana. Looks good, but that doesn’t usually bode well on AI. Remember Antonella Barba? Anyway, that’s my first impression. Now for the song, Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me. He’s even more handsome on stage, kind of like a young Kenny Loggins. I’ll give him a 10 for stage presence and a 3 on vocals. Simon calls him forgettable.
9) Colton Berry, 18, Staunton, Virginia . Earlier in the show Colton told Ryan he (Colton) looks like Ellen DeGeneres. This is a visual I won’t be able to get out of my head for the rest of the competition. But I digress. Colton/Ellen sings Suspicious Minds, another Elvis tune to remind us that no one does it like Elvis. He’s definitely not the worst tonight.
10) Garrett Haley, 17, Elida, Ohio . Another guy I have NEVER seen. Never. Have you? Garrett is not an idol name. He has Peter Frampton hair and sings like a girl in the audition flashback. Now for the stage. Garett sings Breaking Up Is Hard To Do—BORING with a capital B-O-R-I-N-G. Oh brother, make him stop. I’m taking Jason out of my bottom 3 and putting Garrett in.
11) Jason Castro, 20, Rockwell, Texas. We’ve never heard this guy sing until tonight, but I’m already in like with his dreadlocks and blue eyes. Already he stands out. Of course, the last contestant with dreadlocks (Anwar Something) was a dud. Dud-locks. Ha. Jason Dreadlocks sings Daydream and plays guitar. He sounds fun, young, and contemporary. He’s in my top 3 of the night.
12) Michael Johns, 29, Atlanta by way of Australia. Another early favorite and he’s got the primo position of singing last so I’m expecting something good. Michael sings another one of my favorites, Light My Fire. He’s hot. Sizzling just like the background in the big screen.

Bottom 3: Danny Noriega, Luke Menard, Garrett Haley
Top 3: Jason Castro, David Archuleta, Michael Johns

Tomorrow night the girls are up.

Dictator


Fidel Castro is stepping down after nearly 50 years as the leader of Cuba. Sad to say, a lot of the news media is participating in some revisionist history and whitewashing Fidel’s misdeeds, choosing to portray him not as the brutal Dictator he is, but rather as some sort of swash-buckling, freedom fighter who liberated the masses.

Good Morning America co-anchor Diane Sawyer did a profile piece on Castro, saying "Castro knew life is a stage and played the part of the dashing revolutionary coming to New York, getting rock star treatment."

Diane forgot to mention that Fidel studied Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a blueprint for power, confiscated privately-owned property, bankrupted his country, employed flame-throwers to burn hundreds of rural palm-thatched cottages, jailed thousand of dissidents for decades, sentenced thousands of others to face firing squads, forced religious activists to work in forced labor camps, and imprisoned AIDs patients. According to the human rights group Freedom House, 500,000 Cubans (young and old, male and female) have passed through Castro's prison camps. At one time during 1961-62, 300,000 Cubans were jailed for political offenses, making Castro's political incarceration rate higher than Stalin and Hitler's.

Diane Sawyer went on to laud Castro by saying "The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by ten different U.S. presidents to bring him down..."

Maybe Sawyer and other television anchors should give equal time to former political prisoner Armando Valladares. In 1960 Valladares had been arrested in his office for refusing to display a pro-Castro sign on his desk. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Sawyer can ask Valladares how he managed to get his writings smuggled out of prison and into Europe. She can go on to ask him how he felt when in December 1977, forty-seven U.S. Senators signed an appeal for his release, and Amnesty International took up his cause.

Perhaps Diane can ask Valladares how he first heard that international pressure including personal appeals to Castro by his friend Francois Mitterand finally won his release in 1982. In return, I’m sure Valladares would gladly autograph a copy of his 1984 prison memoirs Against all Hope, which first exposed the horrors of Castro's Gulag to the international community. I doubt that, given the chance, Armando Valladares would agree with Diane Sawyer’s assessment of Castro as a “dashing revolutionary” worthy of “rock star treatment.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bill-Dawg, Please Calm Down


I know how frustrating it is to know you're right about something and feel like no one's listening. That must be how Bill Clinton is feeling, because he's really been losing his cool lately when people challenge him. After the debacle in South Carolina when he kept bringing race into the `race', Bill settled down and dropped out of the spotlight for awhile. But now that Hillary has it all on the line in Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania he's back. Over the weekend he had two very non-Presidential meltdowns during political rallies. One was directed to abortion protestors and another to a heckler who kept shouting "Barack".

I don't remember Bill getting so worked up at regular folks when he was President. I was wondering if his behavior could be a result of the open heart surgery he had a few years ago, or maybe some medication he's on. The Cleveland Clinic has a whole segment on their website called "The Effect of Heart Surgery on Neurological Function."

Long-term deficits in mental functioning--such as an inability to process complex problems, follow directions or plan actions--also may occur, although they are often subtle. The person may express these deficits by being short-tempered or easily frustrated. He or she also may be depressed or have mood swings.


So, maybe his bad behavior isn't really his fault after all. (Haven't we been down this road before?)

Bill Clinton Loses Temper, Lashes Out at Pro-Lifers

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The BEST Baked Chicken

Once you bake a chicken in salt, you'll never do it any other way. I mean it! Nothing rivals this baked chicken for moist, tender meat.

Salt-Baked Chicken
Use flat leaf parsley and rosemary, basil, sage, or thyme to flavor the chicken. My favorite is sage in the winter, thyme in the spring, rosemary in the summer and basil if I'm serving some pasta or Italian potatoes as a side dish. Use whole sprigs of the herbs, nothing out of a can.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Take out the giblets and rinse a whole 3 1/2-4 1/2 pound chicken inside and out and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Grab a whole head of garlic (not a clove, a head) and peel two cloves from the head and cut them
in half. Put the garlic in the chicken's cavity. Take a good tablespoon of fresly ground pepper and rub it around in the cavity. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze a little juice in the cavity and stick the two lemon halves inside the chicken. Don't truss the chicken.

Take a few sprigs of fresh parsley and your herb of choice and slide them in between the skin and the flesh over the breast of the chicken. The herbs will impregnate the breast meat with their aromas and also form a pattern under the skin that will be more visible when it's cooked.

Now the fun part. Line a roasting pan with aliminum foil, bringing the foil up the sides of the pan to make a collar that stands up at least an inch or so and will keep the salt from spilling out in your oven.

Chop up a full cup of herbs. I use half parsley and half something else, but you can use your own combination. Put the herbs in a large mixing bowl and add 6 cups of coarse sea salt. A couple of notes. Yes, it takes that much salt. And, no, you can't use regular salt. It must be sea salt--and not too fine. Mix the herbs and salt together, then lay a bed of the salt mixture about an inch or so thick on the bottom
of your roasting pan. Lay your bird on top of it. Scatter the remaining unpeeled cloves of garlic around the chicken. Spoon the rest of the salt all over the chicken and down the sides, so that the bird is completely covered with the herbal salt. Pat it down slightly, but don't pack it too tightly. Kind of gently, but firmly, like you'd pat baby powder on a baby's bottom.

Set the pan in the center of the preheated oven and roast, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy the aromas that fill your kitchen.


Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit undisturbed for an additional 30 minutes. The chicken will continue cooking in the heat of the salt. Very nice.

I like to knock of the big chunks of the salt crust with the back of a knife handle and brush off any excess with a pastry brush. You can also use a spoon to remove any salt that's scooted into the cavity if you want.

Carve that baby up and serve to admiring diners. Makes 4-6 servings.

Trust me, it's the best baked chicken you'll ever eat!

Recipe from The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Friday, February 15, 2008

Other Big Collapses in American History Besides Hillary's

The American Research Group has a new national primary poll showing that Obama has overtaken Clinton by two percentage points. That's not much of a lead and certainly within the margin of error, but less than a year ago Clinton led Obama by 17 points and was considered invincible. She was supposed to have had this nomination thing sewn up by now. Uh-oh.

National Primary

May June July August Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Clinton 39% 39% 38% 36% 39% 45% 46% 41% 47% 45%
Obama 22% 19% 25% 21% 21% 20% 21% 22% 27% 47%
Other* 27% 24% 24% 30% 28% 23% 21% 27% 14% --
Undecided 11% 16% 12% 12% 12% 12% 12% 10% 11% 8%
*total for all other candidates

Invincible looks pretty shaky. But, no reason for Hillary to feel like the only loser, there have been lots of dramatic collapses in our country's history:

Business:
Enron--largest bankruptcy in U.S. history
Dot Com Meltdown in 2000
Wall Street 1929

Sports:
The Patriots 18 game winning streak ending at the Superbowl in 2008
2007 Mets--With a seven-game lead in mid September, the Mets lost 12 of their last 17games and missed the postseason.
Tanja Harding--figure skating wonder to jailbird

Politics:
Richard Nixon
Howard Dean--Lost 20 percentage points in a poll following a bizarre banshee-like scream after he came in third in the 2004 Iowa primaries

Entertainment:
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire #1 show in 1999, cancelled in 2002 due to bad ratings
Britney Spears--Grammy Award-winner who's sold more than 83 million records worldwide...went off the deep end in 2007 starting with rehab, leaving rehab, shaving her head bald, going back to rehab, leaving rehab, losing custody of her kids, talking with a British accent, being carted off in an ambulance and involuntarily held in UCLA Medical Center's psychiatric center not once, but twice, and the court finally giving her father complete control of her assets.

The Clintons could still claw their way back to the top, but if they don't they're in good company with all these folks and more who had it all and let it slip through their fingers.

Does Anyone Else Think This Might Not Be Such A Good Idea?

The U.S. military is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite filled with toxic fuel sometime in the next couple of weeks. This from the New York Times:

This time their target is not an incoming warhead or a dummy test target, but a doomed experimental satellite the size of a school bus and weighing 5000 pounds. It went dead shortly after being launched in December 2006. It contains a half-ton of hydrazene, a rocket fuel that officials said can burn the lungs and even is deadly in extended doses.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lamest Campaign Video I've Ever Seen



Okay, this clinches it. I can never, ever, vote for anyone this uncool. Sorry. All issues aside. Democrat. Republican. Or Libertarian. It's not happening.

The Global Business of Love

Valentine's Day, a holiday that started in the third century in Rome, is a 17 billion dollar holiday in the United States. 17 billion dollars!! Is this just an American-made Hallmark Holiday, or is the rest of the world in love with love?

Denmark/Norway: Valentisdag isn't universally celebrated, but those who do exchange cards, gifts and roses--similar to Americans. Ixnay on the exotic flowers though...Norwegians are trying to save the environment and become a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 so they limit the number of flowers that are imported.

Mexico: Mexicans heart their Cupid. Maybe even more than Americans! They begin their celebration of all things lovely right after Christmas and carry on all the way to the big day. Men and women gift each other with candy, flowers, balloons, and anything else heart-shaped.

Vietnam: Valentine's Day is a newcomer to Vietnam and only celebrated by single folks. Apparently the Vietnamese aren't too hip on married romance.

Japan: The Japanese have put their own Sadie Hawkins spin on Valentine's Day. On February 14th women give men chocolates. The men reciprocate a month later on March 14th, known as White Day, by giving their women white chocolates.

Spain: A few people exchange cards, but V-Day in Spain is more of a bar holiday, with special Cupid drinks advertised throughout the cities. Ole.

India:
Public displays of affection are generally frowned on in the Indian culture, but exporting Indian flowers to other countries is big business--accounting for more than 40% of the total money made in cut-flower exports.

Islamic countries: Valentine's Day is considered decadent and overly physical in most Islamic countries. One exception is Iran, where the young folks give their sweethearts candy, stuffed animals, and red balloons.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Finally! The Official List! Season 7 American Idol Top 24

There have been so many spoilers it will be fun to finally hear once and for all who’s really in season 7’s American Idol top 24. Last night there were 50, tonight more than half are being sent home. Will Josiah Leming be commuting to oblivion in his car/home or will he be driving the road to stardom? Will Carly Smithson celebrate with another tattoo or move back to Ireland? Will Aussie Michael Johns make his homeland proud in our American Idol? Here’s the list:

Official Top 12 Girls
Alaina Whitaker
Alex Lushington
Amanda Overmeyer
Carly Smithson
Amy Davis
Brooke White
Kristy Lee Cook
Kady Malloy
Ramielle Malubay
Syesha Mercado
Joanne Borgella
Asiah Epperson


Official Top 12 Boys
Chikeze Ezie
Colton Berry
Danny Noriega
David Archuletta
David Cook
David Hernandez
Garret Haley
Jason Castro
Jason Yeager
Luke Menard
Michael Lee Johns
Robbie Carrico

Who's your favorite? Any predictions?

Bad Loser

Last night Barack-star swept Hill in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. and she couldn't muster up enough manners to congratulate him. Oh well. I'm not a Barack or Hillary supporter, but he seems to have more class. He definitely gives a better speech.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

American Idol in Hollywood: Aussies, Irish, Homeless in The Final 50


Ryan tells us in the intro that some of these finalists have grown up watching this show. It’s true. The youngest of these kids is now 16, meaning they were only 10 when the show started! Simon sets the tone when he tells the contestants that 2/3 of them are going home. Welcome to Hollywood.
Round 1
The new rules are 3 yesses move the contestant automatically to the finals. Get a no and you get a second chance on Day 3.
Brooke White’s keyboard is wheeled in dramatically. She sings Carole King’s `Beautiful’. And it is. Brooke gets 3 yesses, giving her a pass to the finals.
Lorena Pinot the hot Miami salsita, Amy Flynn, and Leo Marlowe don’t fare as well and get no’s for today. They’ll come back for Round 2.
Alisha Dixon screams over her guitar. Micheal Sanfilippo holds his guitar. Alyssa Coco and Shaun Barrowes both pound their poor keyboards like it’s a whack a mole game. Then a real treat--Jake Mellama plays (?) drums while he sings Hooked On A Feeling and I feel a flashback to Karen Carpenter. Not a good flashback either.
David Hernandez sounds even better than he did in his audition. He’s become one of my favorites. 3 yesses and David is in the finals.
Amanda Overmeyer our rocker/biker/nurse is next. She’s singing the Doors. Brave Amanda, you Light My Fire. Amanda gets 3 yesses.
Oh no. Here come the lyric forgetters. Buck something or other, Cardin McKinney, and Natashia Blach all blow it.
Ghaleb Emaceh shows the other contestants a little Latin love and gets a lot of screen time with Cardin. Cardin may have remembered the lyrics if she’d spent more time with the sheet music and a little less time mugging for the camera. Ghaleb is in a word…horrific. I despise this guy. If he moves on he’ll be this year’s Sanjaya.
Josiah Leming, the kid who lives in his car is next. I hope he makes it so he can sleep in a real bed for awhile longer. I like his audition a lot, he reminds me of Elton John in a straight sort of way. Simon says of all the auditions this Josiah’s is one he’ll remember. He’s moving on to the finals.
Danny Noriega, Ramielle Malubay, Carly Smithson (what’s with the blue tongue?), Michael Johns, and David Cook (whoa, he has a blue tongue, too) all make it to the finals.
A whole bunch of forgettable auditions before the end the day with our friendly nerd of the group—Kyle Ensley. Kyle is just plain horrible. Do not, I repeat, do not put him through to the finals. Thankfully, Simon calls it what it is—abysmal—and walks out of the theater.
First cuts are coming up…no second chances…if the judges don’t like them it’s over, they’re going home.
Round 2:
In groups of 10, contestants come out and sing a capella.
One of my favorites—Suzanne Toon is up. She looks really different. Now, Perrie Cataldo. Perrie makes an excuse for a previous bad performance then sings. Neither make it. David Swopes and Paul Anthony Daniel are the only two of the group who make it through and we didn’t hear either of them.
Amy Flynn our abstinence preacher is next. She’s travelled with her vocal coach. Really. We get a behind the scenes with Amy Flynn. I like her for some reason. Her lips look they’re filled with collagen. Amy Flynn and another guy are going home. I hate to see her go, she was sweet.
Everyone in the third group is sent home.
The fourth group was so bad we didn’t even see them.
We see a sort of dream sequence of contestants quietly stepping forward and getting the bad news. I hate how devastated these kids feel.
Kristy Lee Cook sings Amazing Grace. Jeffrey Lampkin is large and in charge. His sister has already been cut. He looks, sings, dances like a stereotype. I don’t like it. Angela Martin, dedicates her song to her daughter. She tells us about her father being killed right before the auditions. Wow. I don’t like her audition. The judges confer. Kristy Lee and Jeffrey make it through. Angela is going back home to her daughter.
Round 3:
This is the make or break day. The judges are going to choose 50 finalists.
Young David Archuleta is up. Nothing risky, but a solid performance. He looks really clean and I like that. Oh my, the judges are over the moon about him. Way over the moon.
Kyle Ensley, our Young Republican, is back wearing his tie. The judges surprise me and put him through. Kyle could be our Sanjaya, our John Stevens. No no no no no.
Jeffrey Lampkin sings Disney-style all wide-eyed and gets cut. Hooray.
Joey Catalano missed his audition before because he had a migraine. That was a mistake Joey. You’re out.
Syesha Mercado has also been sick. Her voice started to go out on Day 1, but she still sang. Now she’s down to a squeaky rasp. Still she belts out Chain of Fools. She makes it through.
Michael Johns delivers “Bohemian Rhapsody.” First dawg of the night, Randy says, yes. Simon gives Michael the top compliment, “Best audition of the day,” By the way, Michael is from Georgia but has a down under type accent. He’ll stand out for more than his powerful voice. He’s moving on.
Blue-tongued Carly Smithson is up. This is the year of the accents. Carly is Irish. She sings and has some odd facial movements I find hard to watch, but I like her voice. The judges love her and move her on.
First time we hear Asia’h Epperson tonight and she was excellent. She’s moving on.
Here’s our beauty pageant princess Brooke Helvie. She looks the part, but can she sing? She was okay until the chorus. Randy says no. Simon says yes. It’s up to Paula. Paula tosses her. Ouch. Rejected by Paula.
Final contestant is car-living Josiah Leming. We watch tape of him having a painful emotional breakdown the night before. Apparently he didn’t have any rehearsal time because he was too busy being neurotic. Josiah walks to the stage and sends the musicians off. Randy hates the audition. Paula seconds it. Simon makes it unanimous. They all hated the audition, but they love him so they’re moving him on. I think they agree with me and want him sleeping in a bed as long as possible.
What’s up tomorrow night? We go from 50, down to the final 24.

7 Things You May Not Know You Need For Your Kitchen

Some of you know I do a lot of cooking. That means I've bought nearly every conceivable kitchen gadget, utensil, or appliance that exists--at least once. When I got married (again), we needed to do some streamlining to make room for all of our joint possessions. I was ruthless. I boxed up perfectly good pots and pans, toaster ovens, spatulas, potholders, etc. Anything I didn't use and love I put in the basement. Along the way, I identified the indispensable items (some new, some old) that make my life easier. Just to make it clear, I'm not getting any kickbacks for recommending these products. I'm doing it as a public service to make your life happier.

[Note: Don't wait 30 years to get these things like I did! Get them now and I promise, you won't regret the investment. Also, a word of advice, it doesn't pay to buy cheap stuff. You'll just end up spending the same amount of money eventually replacing and/or repairing.]

My knife skills are not the best. My mother actually takes knives away from me. This chopper has made neatly diced onions, green peppers, and celery possible for me. There's also a section for slicing that works with mushrooms and strawberries. I don't have the deluxe model, but mine has two dicing/slicing sizes available. I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma and I think it cost about $25 on sale. By the way, it's dishwasher safe but I wash the blade section by hand to keep it sharp.


I bought a skillet like this a couple of years ago and I've used it nearly every day since then. Technically, it's more like a saute pan than a skillet. Here are the features to look for: at least 12-13" (that's big), straight up sides rather than curved, oven proof, oven proof lid, handles on both sides (mine is like the picture with one long handle and a small one on the other side), non-stick. I LOVE this pan. I make everything in it from chicken breasts and pork chops to spaghetti sauce to gravy to chili. It's big, wide, not too heavy. When I brown 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts they all fit in at one time. Perfect. Plus, it can go straight from the stove top to the oven. Mine came from Sur La Table. In fact, I think it's their brand. It was expensive, but worth every penny. I use it so often, I never even put it in the pan drawer, I leave it out on the stove, at the ready.

You may not know you need these, but you do. These are narrow measuring spoons. They fit inside narrow spice jars, olive jars, pickle relish containers, every type of bottle or jar you can think of. Plus they're stainless steel and really sleek. I probably have 3 or 4 sets of measuring spoons and these are the ones I reach for. Buy them tomorrow! I got mine at The Container Store and I'm sure they were less than $10.


Okay, this is an OXO mandoline. My husband and I actually attended a mandoline class after getting in an argument about how to use the dumb thing. So, ask someone how to use it when you buy it. Do not think you can figure it out from the directions. You can't. But, after you do figure it out, it's wonderful. It slices, dices, juliennes, makes really cute waffle cut potatoes and apples and things. If I had young kids, I would buy this gadget and cut up fun veggies and fruits for them to eat. Now remember what I told you about my lack of knife skills? Well, look at the picture, and notice the black round thing? Use it. It will keep you from julienning your own hand. I didn't use it once and I'm here to tell you those blades are sharp. Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, any good kitchen shop have these--but buy the OXO. Don't be tempted by the more expensive models. They're not worth the extra money.

This is like a tea ball, but look for a bigger version about 2" across. I'll call it a giant spice ball. I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma and they sold it to put mulling spices in to make hot spiced cider. It works great for that once a year. But the rest of the time I load that puppy up with whole herbs and spices and stick it in simmering pots of stew, soup, and sauces. Works perfectly. You can pick one of these up for less than $5.

I have scoops like these in 4 different sizes. From really tiny--about 1/4"--to ice cream scoop size. They're stainless steel so they're super easy to clean. I use them for scooping out appetizers, making meatballs, scooping out cookie dough, melon balls, ice cream, filling cupcake liners, etc. etc. Another thing I LOVE that you can get for less than $10 at Sur La Table or W-S.


This is a splurge, but worth it. Two years ago, I cut a picture out of this pot and gave it to my mother and told her I wanted it for my birthday. It's a cast iron, 6 quart pot, with enamel outside. It's really, really heavy so don't get any bigger than 6 quart or it will take two people to lift it. Mine is a Mario Batali which is very similar to the more expensive Le Creuset. It came from Crate and Barrel and I think it was about $115. This pot will handle anything you throw at it. Spaghetti sauce, soup, short ribs. It can be used in the oven, as well as the stove. It's pretty. But be careful, like I said before, it's really heavy and could hurt somebody.

Let me know if you buy any of these things. I want to know how much you love them and how much you'll love me for suggesting them.

We're Going To Hollywood! Tonight's American Idol Preview

Hooray. At Last. After 4 long weeks of sometimes painful, sometimes awesome, American Idol auditions we're finally headed to Hollywood.

Tonight the judges start the process of winnowing down 160 hopefuls to 24 semifinalists. 12 boys and 12 girls. Not going out on a limb here, but I'll predict there will be some contestants who inexplicably forget their lyrics, that some people who stood out during the city auditions will sound like high school talent show material, that someone we've never seen before will knock our socks off, that we'll see some uncomfortable emotional breakdowns, and that someone who made it through the AI background check isn't going any further because of something embarrassing they did in a past life.

One big change this season is that contestants were allowed to use instruments during the Hollywood Round. I think most people would sound better with an instrument and that would give those folks an advantage, but maybe not...

The contestants I'm looking forward to seeing again are:

Kady Malloy
Amanda Overmeyer
Samantha Sidley
Amy Davis
Suzanne Tune (great name for a singer)
Ilsy Pino

(Oh my, they're all girls!)


I'll post a recap after the show, so come back!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hands On

I'm trying to learn how to knit and it's so confusing. I feel really uncoordinated...I'm all thumbs. But I'm determined to learn, so I keep practicing. My friend Jenny called tonight to tell me about two websites she says will be helpful. The first, Knitting Help has all these really cool videos that you can watch over and over until you get it, plus free patterns for when you're ready to actually knit something. The other site, Knitty, has patterns and chat rooms and different articles on knitting. Look at this beautiful scarf from Knitty. I'd love to learn how to make something like that!

The Ultimate Valentine's Day Cupcake

I saw a picture of these on someone's blog (sorry, I forgot where) and they were so cute, I had to make them. Here's a link to the recipe. Come over if you want one--they taste as good as they look!

The Not So Democratic Process In The Democrats' Presidential Race--Or The Role Of Super Delegates

Superman

Superpower

Supernatural

Superstition

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious....

And now joining the Super Lexicon...Super Delegates!

You've heard about them. But what are they? The main stream media must not know, because no one's taken the time to explain to us exactly what their super powers are or which planet they've come from. All we're hearing is that now that Barack-star is leading Hill in the number of delegates, she could still get the nomination through the power of the so-called Super Delegates.

Fact is a Democrat needs 2025 delegate votes to get the party nomination. Right now Barack-star has 943 to Hill's 895. You may have noticed that Barack-star has the wind at his back right now...sweeping last weekend's caucuses and primary and expected to win the upcoming "Potomac primaries" this month. Regardless...neither Barack-star or Hill can emerge from the race with enough delegates to put the nomination in their pocket. Whatttttt??? Whattttt's going on here???? Shouldn't the person with the most delegates win the nomination???? Not in the dems’ case. Nope. It could all change through the power wielded by the [dum de dum dum dum...] Super Delegates.

Who are these folks?

Super Delegates were instituted by the Democratic party in the 80s after the disastrous candidacy of George McGovern. Super Delegates are supposed to protect the people from themselves...you know, preventing fringe candidates--say Dennis Kucinich--from catching on fire and sweeping a primary election and getting themselves nominated. In other words, Super Delegates were put in place to protect the establishment candidate.

There are 796 Super Delegates--making up a full 40% of the total delegates necessary to win. Who are they? They're public figures whose names you're probably familiar with. They're senators, congressional representatives, governors, former Presidents (like Bill-Dawg), and members of the DNC. Some are committed to voting for the person who wins the popular vote in their state, but most of them decide who to vote for based on their own personal loyalties and back-room horse trading.

What all this means is that the Democrats' contest will clearly go into the convention itself this summer and whoever can get the most Super Delegates to back them will win the nomination. Essentially, Super Delegates can negate the votes of millions of Democrats. They can make their own deals for support in exchange for their vote. Hmmmmmmmmm...check out the irony of this.

Barack-star runs on a campaign of change, brings hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls...but the nomination itself could be tossed to "the past" represented by the old guard of politicians and political power brokers? Yep.

Many of the Super Delegates have already endorsed a candidate. In that regard, Hill is ahead. Depending on the news source, Hill's Super Delegate count ranges from 182-207 and Barack-star's ranges from 86-112.

Mucking it all up even further is the fact that this is unchartered territory. Super Delegates are technically not bound to vote for anyone--they can change their votes at anytime. That's why you're hearing all these stories of Bill-Dawg and Hill-Bill Spawn Chelsea on the phone trying to solidify support for Mrs. Bill. Also, remember when all the candidates agreed not to seat specific delegates from Michigan and not to campaign in Florida because they hadn't followed DNC rules? Well, maybe you don’t, but they did. Hill went back on her word (imagine that) and ended up campaigning in Florida. Now she wants those delegates and Michigan’s, too, since she won there. A battle is brewing.

There's also the question of who gets John Edwards' 25 delegates. He can tell his delegates to support a specific candidate, but they'll probably be under a lot of pressure from the other candidates to switch their allegiance.

Is it possible for a candidate to win the highest number of regular delegates and then lose because they don't get the most Super Delegates. Afraid so. Power to the People. Not.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grammys

Two thoughts:

1) If Miley Ray Cyrus is only about 16, why have her stylists made her up to look like she's 40?
2) Tina Turner is hotter than just about anybody...before or since.

Food Challenge--Nigella Lawson's Big Pasta

Foodie Chickie posted a food challenge to pick any Nigella Lawson recipe, make it and post about it. I LOVE Nigella and her relaxed glamour in the kitchen. Nigella (we're on a first-name basis) is everything I'm not. She's British. She's a graduate of Oxford. She's a tall brunette. She always looks put together. And, she's the best-selling author of several cookbooks, including How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella Bites, and How to Eat. Nigella is also on the Food Network and that's where I found two recipes. Even though Foodie Chickie only challenged us to do one recipe, I couldn't decide between Creamy Potato Gratin and Big Pasta with Mushroom, Parsley, Garlic and Thyme, so I made them both!

Here goes:

Big Pasta with Mushroom, Parsley, Garlic and Thyme

Don't you love that title? I halved this recipe and it still fed six with some leftover, so this is Big Pasta in more than one way. I used a 13X9 casserole dish, so if you make the full amount, you'll need a gigantic pan.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Now you're going to make a bechamel sauce.
1 stick butter
1 cup all purpose flour
8 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring gently to make a smooth paste. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk.
Turn the heat back on to medium, and stir the bechamel until it begins to thicken and come to the boil. let it bubble for about 5 minutes to get rid of the folour taste. Take off the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Time to make the mushroom mixture.
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 stick
1 tablespoon oil
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups boiling water
1 pound, 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, chopped
3/4 cups fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus 3/4 cup, plus 1/4 cup more for garnish
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sherry
1 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus 1 cup
Salt
3 pounds rigatoni or other big pasta of choice
Few sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish

Melt 2 tables butter and the oil in a large wide pan. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid, and chop before adding to the pan with 3/4 cup chopped parsley, the dried or fresh thyme, and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes then melt the remaining 1 stick of butter in the same pan and add the chopped mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. The mushrooms will appear dry at first but will eventually start to give off some liquid.

Add the porcini soaking liquid, which the mushrooms will largely absorb, but keep stirring and add the sherry and let it bubble away. Turn off the heat when you have a bronzed, syrupy stew.

Stir the mushroom mixture into the bechamel and add 1 cup of the parmesan and the other 3/4 cup of the chopped parsley. Put a big pan of water on for the pasta, and when it boils, salt it well. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and add to the mushroomy white sauce, stirring it as best you can to get the pasta covered.

Turn into a large roasting pan, approximately 13X16 1/2 inhches. Sprinkle over the remaining 1 cup of parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden in places.

When the tin (her word, not mine...love it) comes out of the oven, decorate with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped parsley and some sprigs of fresh thyme.

Nigella's Creamy Potato Gratin

Thanks for the challenge Foodie Chickie! It was great fun. I tried two new Nigella Lawson recipes--click here for the Big Pasta post--and we loved them both.

The second one I made was Creamy Potato Gratin. I took these potatoes to a potluck dinner and they were a hit. I've made lots of potato dishes, because potatoes are my absolute favorite food, but I've never made them like this. Try it. The flavors cook all the way through the potatoes so the taste is more complex. The recipe is from The Food Network.

Creamy Potato Gratin
4 1/2 pounds all purpose potatoes (I used a 5 lb. bag of red potatoes)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves)
1 tablespoon salt
Approximately 1/4 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices, approximately 1/2 inch thick. [I used my mandoline so they were all the same thickness] Put them into a large saucepan with the milk, cream, onion, minced garlic and salt. Bring to the boil and cook at a robust simmer or gentle boil (however you like to think of it) until verging on tender, but not dissolving into mush. [I cooked my potatoes about 30 minutes, but I'll probably back this down to 20-25 minutes next time]

This part is a direct quote from Nigella's recipe, which will give you an idea why I love her so much:

"The pan might be h*** to clean afterward,but any excuse for long, lazy soaking rather than brisk pre- or postprandial scrubbing always appeals to me. And, for what it's worth, i find that when pans are really, dauntingly, stuck with cooked-on grunge, it's more effective to soak them in hot water and detergent (ie., the suff you put in the washing machine) rather than the dish liquid."


Use some of the butter to grease a large roasting pan (15x12 inches) and then pour the almost sludgy milk and potato mixture into it. Dot with remaining butter and cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until the potato is bubbly and browned on top. Remove, let stand for 10 to 20 minutes and then serve.

Again from Nigella:

This is not the most labor saving way of cooking potatoes, to be sure, but one of the most seductive. And it reheats well as an accompaniment to cold roast pork or indeed anything in the days that follow.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Another Rehab Resident

Pat O'Brien is back in rehab.

Ten Rules For Valentine's Day

Do you just big red, puffy heart Valentine’s Day or do you think Cupid’s Stupid? Regardless of where you weigh in on the V-Day meter, these rules apply:

1) Requires a card, does not have to be Hallmark or even American Greetings. Extra points for handmade Valentine’s Day cards. By the way, romantic trumps funny on Valentine’s Day.
2) Please no expensive roses. If you absolutely must send flowers, go the exotic hot house route.
3) Absolutely no candy in a heart-shaped box. [I do like those little bitty red-hots, though.]
4) No plush toys unless the recipient is under five-years-old. This includes any stuffed bears with cute sayings on their t-shirts that may be advertised on the radio. No stuffed Build-A-Anythings, either.
5) Romantic dinners at home are fabulous. Overpriced romantic dinner at a stuffy restaurant with a pretentious waiter is not fabulous. I never voted for John Edwards, but I always liked the story that he and his wife celebrate their anniversary at Wendy’s because that’s where they celebrated their first anniversary. How about making dinner together for just the two of you?
6) Better to give nothing than to resort to a ceramic mug with red hearts on it. It reeks of a late purchase at Walgreens. In fact, if you’re tempted to shop in a drugstore for Valentine’s Day, stop yourself.
7) Do not wear red or pink or a sweater with appliquéd hearts on it to the office on Valentine’s Day. Theme wear is always in poor taste, regardless of the holiday.
8) If you’re a woman, you MUST reciprocate. The reason most men really hate Valentine’s Day is that it’s so focused on what they have to do for the weaker sex. Ladies, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t stomp our feet for equal rights and then turn around and wait for our men to shower us with gifts. When I say reciprocate, all the above rules apply—but even more so. Absolutely no flowers, stuffed animals, or chocolate. Run, don’t walk, past the boxer shorts with hearts on them. Instead, look for mid-priced gadgets, tickets to sporting events, or maybe a movie with lots of car chases in it.
9) If you don’t have a significant other, it’s a rule that you must do something nice for yourself. Buy yourself something frivolous and unnecessary. You deserve it.
10) If you tell your significant other not to get you anything…mean it! Assure him/her over and over that you mean it. Then, do not go out and buy him/her a gift. And of course, do not hold it against him/her when he/she doesn’t give you anything.