AI6 Tryouts – Birmingham

American Idol logoLadies and gentlemen, we have met this year’s American Idol.  At least, I know who to root for now.  Any guy who answers the question, “Why do you want to be the next American Idol?” with “I want to make David Hasslehoff cry” is the right man for the right job at the right time.

I know Simon has talked glowingly of him in interviews recently, but he can sing, he’s got a wicked sense of humor, and I like him.  Chris Sligh is his name.  Remember it.

All in all, it was an entertaining hour.  I laughed out loud a few times.  I think keeping it down to an hour really helps.  Two hours of bad singers all at once is too much to handle, but mixing in some strong singers with the usual assortment of TV Camera Hogs and Self-Centered Clueless Ego Monsters is an entertaining hour.

Who stuck out in your mind last night?  Who are you looking forward to seeing at Hollywood Hell Week?

New DVD Releases, 30 January 2007

My apologies for the delay this week.  Let’s get to it.

I do believe I’m starting to get excited about some new releases again. OK, just one:

Flyboys (Two-Disc Collector\'s Edition)

  • Flyboys: Collectors’ Edition (widescreen) (2-disc set) (2006)
  • Flyboys (widescreen) (2006)

I don’t know why, but it looks like a really cool movie to me. Plus, it came and left the theaters very quickly and quietly back in September. It barely had a chance. I love a good aerial battle.

  • Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency: Season One

I admit it — I like the show. Yes, she’s over the top and the scripted bits aren’t my favorite form of reality TV, but I can get over it. The second season is on now, and they smartly moved to all one-hour episodes for the second go-around, just as things get really serious and rivalries begin to develop inside the agency.

Best Buy is advertising an exclusive bonus disc with this set.

  • Murder She Wrote: Season Five

Jessica Fletcher has a lot of dead friends.

Open Season (Widescreen Special Edition)

  • Open Season (widescreen) (2006)

The glut of CGI films continues. . .

  • Unknown (2005)

Yeah, I don’t know, either.

And next week: BEN 10: Season One, Benn Affleck in HOLLYWOODLAND, TEEN TITANS: TROUBLE IN TOKYO, and CINDERELLA III! It’s the threequel you’ve all been waiting for!

Later today: American Idol goes to Birmingham.

Posted in DVD

Mini Link Dump

A truly random assortment:

  • In the three weeks since I installed the Akismet spam blocker on this blog, it’s caught over 15,000 spam comments.  And I’ve only had to manually delete three or four.  Score!
  • You can buy Windows Vista today! But which one? This cartoon has the answer.
  • A 3D desktop metaphor video. Throw your files across your desktop; pile them up high. Crazy.
  • Apple Rumor Du Jour: Some cool Apple TV/Leopard integration.
  • Best investment advice ever: Save those pennies. They might each be worth a nickel soon. Of course, it begs the question: If there are no one-cent pieces, won’t everything go up a penny in price? (From $1.99 to $2, for example.) And how would that work with tax rates? Just round everything up to the next nickel and pay extra taxes? I’m sure the politicians would have a field day pledging to ear mark those extra pennies to whatever the hot cause du jour is.
  • The weekly DVD roundup will be available later this afternoon.

24 Season Six – 11:00 a.m. – Noon

Jack BauerI think this is the longest we’ve gone into ANY season of 24 without revealing a mole at CTU. Of course, they set up one giant big red flag in last night’s episode, didn’t they?

And this is also the episode where things go bad for certain people. Not unpredictable, but bad, nonetheless.

Some related links:

Let your spoilers fly in the comments below! Just don’t discuss the coming attractions for next week and you’ll be OK.

Posted in TV

Grease Live: Week One

GREASE isn’t exactly American Idol, but the comparisons are obvious. I laughed out loud last night during the first live episode when a judge panellist told a singer to be less pop and more Broadway. That’s the exact inverse of what the judges tell the contestants on American Idol.

And, yes, GREASE gives us a “panel,” while AI has “judges. ” I was surprised, though, to hear the panellists saying anything negative. Given that they need someone to win this competition that America likes, you’d like they’d put on a dog and pony show here. You don’t want to be the guy putting $10 million dollars up and being stuck with a Danny that you’ve been bashing for the last six weeks. They were more honest and critical than I thought they’d be, though I suppose they can afford to be this early on.

It helps that the contestants all know how to sing. It’s mostly a matter of fine-tuning their performances, encouraging them, and giving them advice for the next round.

There were two glaring exceptions, though. They brought back two contestants to round the cast up to 14 contestants, from 12. These two didn’t make the cut originally, but no doubt garnered enough fan reaction that they thought it would make good TV to bring them back. That would be Long Island 50s Expert, Matt Nolan, and emotionally overloaded Ashley A. They both stunk. It might have been nerves on the latter, but neither could hold a note. Matt covered it up better, often pulling out of long notes just before his voice cracked. Ashley couldn’t hold two notes together if she tried. It was embarrassing for her. She was the first Crash And Burn of the season.

The show opened with a group musical number in which the high spandex pants did the girls no favors. I felt bad for them. Then Billy Bush described the show as having “the most unique prize” in television history. Call me a grammarian, but any modifier on the word “unique” makes my teeth grind.

The contestants all sang in pairs. Each would perform a song separately, then be judged together. Comparisons were inevitable, but it didn’t cause any spectacularly embarrassing moments for anyone this week. The pairs seemed to be well chosen, to show versatility or levels of skill.

Derek went first with “Crazy Little Thing.” He sounded good, and wasn’t afraid to move around the stage.

Austin, who I thought was the favorite going in, opened with “Moany Moany.” (Is that how you spell it?) He added a bunch of gratuitous high notes, but that’s not all together a bad thing. GREASE has a few of those, and he’ll need to show he can hit them. There’s just something a little too confident in his appearance that bothered me, but I was impressed at the way he ran around the stage and didn’t run out of breath in his singing.

Allie did “I Love Rock N Roll.” She’s only 19, but the hair and makeup made her look well into her 20s. I wasn’t in love with the performance. She seemed a little tentative and awkward at times, though her voice was good. She also had a lot of dead looks during the song. Broadway is all about overacting. She’ll learn.

Kate sang one of my favorite IDOL songs, “All By Myself.” (LaToya London nailed it once.) She hit the high and long notes. She looked confident. She’s a great singer with a great look. She’s an early favorite for me.

Max the Slacker has a long way to go to overcome his slacker look. He’s not believable just yet as Danny, but I think he might learn. He has to unpop that collar, too. His voice is great, though. He did “Summer of 69.”

Jason has a bit of a boy band background, and has done musical theater before. He performed “Faith,” but I was distracted the entire time by the prop microphone he held. His voice was carried by the headset he wore, but he often didn’t have the mic up to his mouth when he’d start singing. You’d expect the voice to be a little softer at those points, but it didn’t matter at all. The sound stayed the same. It was very distracting and unnecessary. That said, he’s got an amazing voice.

Laura did “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” She acted well, but we were all too distracted by her weird yellow outfit with white boots to notice. The producer thought she might be too sweet and too nice. We’ll see if she does something more “dangerous” in the next show, now. And Billy Bush awkwardly asked for his shorts back. Ick. Kathleen went with “Suddenly I See,” a very ODD choice of song for a Broadway audition. She did what she could with it. I thought it was ironic that the song with “hell” in it multiple times was the one sung by the prayer leader.

Kevin did “Walking In Memphis,” which the judges seemed fairly lukewarm on, even through their positive comments. He has a strong voice, but I wonder if he’s just not too preppy looking for the musical.

I also noticed at this point that the way to show you are “Broadway” is to sing with your arms spread wide. It screams “musical theater.”

Chad had “Signed Sealed Delivered.” I thought he was overacting a bit, but the judges thought he was great and some thought he was the best of the night. I guess I don’t know Broadway enough. Good voice, though, and he did do a great job of building the song up to an exciting pitch at the end.

Juliana got stuck with “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” which she failed to pull all the emotion out of. I thought, though, that she had the most powerful, most confident, and most controlled voice of all the girls. She made me a believer that she could star on Broadway today.

Ashley S. finished the night with “It’s In His Kiss,” and couldn’t help but pale in comparison to Juliana. She sang it in key and acted well, but her voice wilted by comparison. Every time she sang “It’s In His Kiss,” it was way too soft and almost an afterthought. That annoyed me.

Jim – the guy who co-wrote GREASE in the first place – compared the two girls to Betty and Veronica. Very true.

One last note about the contestants: They’re all young, and a lot of them married young, too. There are kids here who wouldn’t normally be out of college who are already married. I don’t think there are any parents amongst them, though. America voted last night. There is no show next week due to the Superbowl, so we’ll have our first eliminations in two weeks. If America gets it right, then the two late additions will also be the first two to leave. They were awful. There’s a LOT of talent up on that stage, all of whom would easily coast to Hollywood Hell Week on American Idol. But which one will star on Broadway? I just don’t know yet. Even I don’t have any favorites.

Related Various and Sundry Posts:

Posted in TV

Word Counting

Get FirefoxDoes anyone know of a word count extension plug-in add-on for Firefox 2.0 and better? I’d like to be able to highlight text on a web page and click on a button or right-click to get a word count pop up.

I found one that has been broken since Firefox 1.5 or so(*), and another that will only count words in TEXTAREAs, both of which are useless to me. On the Mac, I see potential for ThisService that I wouldn’t mind doing a little Perl Coding for. I just have to believe that someone’s already invented this particular wheel.

I would prefer a simple cross-platform web-based counter for this. If it ignores anything in a BLOCKQUOTE tag, all the better.

Related Links:

(*) Nevermind. It’s working for me now (in Windows 2000), and is basically exactly what I was looking for. But if you know of anything else, I’ll take further suggestions. Thanks!

Posted in Web

Friday Link Dump




Shopping and Discount Prices

Retail stores love to complain that they’re not making money. It’s especially true around the holidays. What was the last post-Black Friday story that didn’t begin with, “sales failed to meet expectations?” It’s always the economy’s fault, or a war, or a good movie season, or some such.

I would like to suggest that part of the reason why department stores and the like aren’t maximizing their profits is because they’re locked into bad sales models. It’s not OUR fault that they do dumb things, but we’ll take advantage of it.

It’s January 26th today. It’s turned bitterly cold here in the Northeast for the first time this winter. Up until now, it’s been relatively mild with a couple of cold days here and there. We had our first real snowfall this week, and even that was only an inch or two.

Many of the clothing stores have their winter clothes on sale at large discounts to move them out so they can put their spring clothes out soon.

So let’s consider the logic here: Sell warm clothes at full price in moderate weather. Discount the warm clothes wildly when the temperature drops and people will want them the most.

Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed buying those long-sleeved shirts this week for half the price. They’re going to come in handy in the weeks ahead. But I don’t want to hear those stores complaining that we’re not buying anything from them. We are — but only when they start acting stupid and we can take advantage of them. I’m not buying jackets at full price when it’s warm out.

I also think they should consider NOT putting the Valentine’s Day candy out on January 1st, too.  All of that stuff will move quickly at the end of January/beginning of February.  Until then, it’s just laying there — a sea of red stuff gathering dust on shelves.

But this just may be me.  I enjoy buying my calendars on January 1st for 50% off.  Because, you know, calendars are only worth half as much when there’s only 364 days left in the year to use them.

NBC’s Poker After Dark – Week Four

I’m way behind on watching the show this week, but the first hour tells me this:

It’s the table from hell, and no doubt by design.

Picture this sitting at a table: Tony G., Phil Hellmuth, and Mike Matusow. Sitting at either end are Andy Bloch and Sam Farha. And poor Phil Ivey is shrinking away in the corner of the table, rolling his eyes and counting the minutes in his head until the tournament is over.

Sam FarhaIt’s, by far, the chattiest table of the tournament so far. And with that many loudmouths at the table, I can’t imagine that stopping anytime soon. This will be a very good week for entertainment, but not such a good week for poker skill. All you can do in a situation like this is root for Phil Ivey, who seems to be a better cash game player than tournament player. ::sigh::

But Farha is still the coolest of them all. I just wish they had put him at a table with Chris Moneymaker. Maybe that’s yet to come. . .

Posted in TV

AI6 Tryouts – “New York City”

American Idol logoWell, they weren’t completely lying. It looks like the cattle call was held at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. Specifically, Continental Airlines Arena. The judges were seeing contestants at some unknown location in the city afterwards. That’s my guess. Through creative editing, you were given the impression (as with all cities) that this all happens on the same day and in the same location.

I still cringed every time they made the gathered throng in NJ scream anything about New York, though. Typical – we do all the heavy lifting, and NY gets all the credit. We take their garbage and then we get blamed for the smell. Thankfully, it took them a full half hour before they went to a “Jersey Girl” routine. (Those aren’t hard to find in Point Pleasant, though.) Amazingly enough, they both made it through.

The night started with Ian, who I recognized immediately from SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Simon was right — his routine is old because it’s a routine. It’s not real and nobody is falling for it. He’s overplayed his hand now and it’s time to go back into obscurity.

Sarah Burgess will sail into the Top 12 if she makes it to America’s vote. Her beautiful story of a teenager lying to her parents, cutting school, and then calling her father to rub his nose in it on national television will make America race to the phones. Crying forgives all.

Ashanti returned. Again. This time, they’re not going to bother with her in Hollywood. She’s not that great, either. Her entire song was in a very high register that made dogs bark within 100 feet of my television. It was when she launched into her soap opera plea for mercy that she became truly hilarious, though. And she wasn’t the only one to try that, either. Nakita did it a little later in the episode. She was the one who proved that singing a second song can HURT you even more than HELP you, sometimes.

I also love how many people this year think that the judges will reconsider if they just spontaneously burst into a new song while the judges are rejecting them. Desperation is a funny thing.

Sarah Goldberg stole the show for me. I know they tried to tease you on with the dramatic reveal at the end of the questionable Isadora, but it was the logic behind Sarah’s audition that impressed the heck out of me. She wanted to be the first Idol who couldn’t sing. She thought they could teach her how, and she’d win by being the Comeback Kid that America likes to vote for. While there is SOME logic there, it’s not really what’s right for the show. But she’s SERIOUS, and the REALLY MEANS IT, and the judges should see it, too. She was so earnest that I was almost convinced. Either that, or I was frightened for her sanity. She was worth stringing along. Sometimes, you just need to let them talk to get all the crazy out.

Hey, at least she made friends with the security guy.

Jory Steinberg came from Canada, originally, and has a heck of a voice. She sang a Tina Arena song, which works for me since Jim Steinman has written some music for her.

I just realized — AI NYC had a relatively large Jewish turnout, didn’t it? I’m not sure what that means or what that says, but I wanted to note it for some reason.

Rachel Zebita is this year’s opera singer. We had one last year who was very entertaining in the auditions (you can hear her here), but stunk came Hollywood Hell Week. Rachel made it through, so we’ll see if she fares any better.

Nicholas Pedro, the “Buttercup” quitter from last season returned to audition. He still has a great voice. Let’s hope he doesn’t choke this year. He claims he’s learned his lesson. . .

Things end with the hilarious awful Isadora, who thinks “Isadora” is a preferable name to whatever “J” name she really has. Must be really awful.

In the end, 35 people go to Hollywood, after two days of poor auditions. If the judges weren’t getting paid millions for this abuse, I’d feel bad for them.

Next week – Birmingham! Here comes your Idol winner. . .

Thursday Link Dump

Katharine McPhee News:

  • Need to see more of Katharine McPhee? Here you go.
  • Want to hear more of McPhee’s new album? Check out her record company’s website. If you like Beyonce, you’ll like some of the album, I think. Sadly, it doesn’t sound so great. There’s a song in there devoted to her love of open toed shoes. I kid you not. It’s called “Open Toes.” What the — ?!?



Web/Tech Geekery:

iPod in your car

iPodsWho here listens to the iPod in the car a lot? How do you do it?

I’ve gone through two FM transmitters in the last two years. The first one I left out in the car in the freezing cold and it never came back to life. The second one recently and suddenly stopped transmitting to the left speaker.

I don’t want to repeat my mistakes, though. I’m not going to spend another $80 or $90 for a car charger/transmitter, when I can just buy a new car stereo for a couple of bucks more with an aux jack in the front that I can plug the iPod into with a $4 wire. I can recharge the iPod at night. And I won’t have to deal with the static anymore this way. But in looking around, I also see other things available, like plain old iPod plug-in kits. I saw that there’s an iPod2Car unit available for my car that I could get. It costs a little bit more than a new stereo, but it would serve the purpose well.

I’d like to have my iPod accessible at all times so I can pause it, change tracks, etc. I don’t want to hide it in the glove compartment and have to fiddle with the stereo controls to get to the next podcast I want to listen to. So I’m a little wary of getting an iPod box put into the car. Chrysler/Jeep didn’t start building those in until the year after I got my car.

Does anyone have any experience with one of these things? Anything you care to recommend, or warnings you care to give?