Going social

Watching the Michigan State-Louisville game and really liking how the Spartans are playing so far ... My bracket depends on Michigan State moving on.

Going to have some good friends over for dinner tonight ...

And catching up on some reading. Here's some good reads on the growth of Facebook and celebrities on Twitter ...

And while I'm talking Twitter, in case you missed it on my Twitter this week, here's an interesting reader on celebs who have other people do their Twittering for them ...

Best of all, Cagle's Cartoons has a whole collection of Twitter cartoons! Fun stuff.



Oh, you Jayhawks are going to give me a heart attack yet.

About an hour ago, I was as happy as a parrot in the congo ... Kansas was playing well and appeared to have Michigan State under control. I also was gasping at the idea of Phoebe's bracket on the verge of a perfect 8-for-8 in the Elite Eight ...

Then the nightmare that us Jayhawk fans are so used to began. I got that sickening feeling in my stomach ... and watched the game slip away until finally, despair.


The good news -- if there's such a thing in this case --is I named Michigan State the national champion in my bracket ...

But keeping Michigan State was hardly a concern for me as that game got underway tonight ... I had Syracuse as Michigan State's opponent in the championship game, and that possibility was blown away tonight by Oklahoma. Plus, I'd already lost Wake Forest and Duke in my Elite Eight, giving me a 5-for-8 in this round.

When it comes down to it, though, you just want to see your daughter do well ... and dang, Pheebs was doing well. As I said, a Kansas win would have given her bracket a perfect Elite Eight, not to mention a near perfect Midwest region. The only game she's missed there was the Purdue win over Washington. ... What can I say, she's a smart 11-month-old.

Hopefully, when I break the news to her in the morning she'll be OK with just 7-for-8 in her bracket.

Idol chatter

So I had three hours of freedom when I got home today. And I had a choice -- take a much-desired nap or get some much-needed work done around the house.

I did neither. I caught up on the three hours of “American Idol” I had avoided up until this point in the week. … Not that I was yearning to watch it. I’m fighting my lack of interest in this year’s contestants -- and television in general -- more each week, and Alexis Grace getting the boot last week didn’t help.

But then my love of music overpowers. And you can’t go wrong with Motown … Truth be told there were some parts of Wednesday’s show I really dug -- including Paula throwing a set of coloring books and box of crayons at Simon.

Starting with Matt Giraud’s opener on “Let’s Get It On” … The piano intro, the falsetto -- the whole thing was brilliant … I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d go down and download it from iTunes as soon as I finished this post. Then Ryan mentioned after the first commercial break that all of this week’s songs are set to the original instrumentalsDoh! The updated piano and instrumental was one of the things I really liked about Matt’s version.

I thought Kris Allen (“How Sweet It Is”), Danny Gokey (“Get Ready”) and Allison Iraheta (“Papa Had a Rolling Stone”) were just OK.

On Scott MacIntyre’sYou Can’t Hurry Love,” I loved his rockin’ piano accompaniment. But his voice is wearing on me more each week. He just isn’t cutting it for me anymore.

Megan Joy really hasn’t been cutting it since her audition … I’ll give her some props for picking Stevie Wonder‘s “For Once In My Life.” I don’t have to go on about how much I love that song or even Stevie Wonder’s music ...

(Speaking of Stevie, how awesome was his medley performance during Thursday's results show!? ... On a few other notes, did anybody else get the sour feeling the gang was lip-syncing during their group performance? Apparently others realized this sooner than I did ... I ended up really liking Ruben Studdard’s performance of “Together.” I had planned to fast-forward through it, but the piano intro helped change my mind … It turned out Joss Stone and Smokey Robinson was the performance I should have skipped.)

But as I watched another week of Megan shuffling awkwardly around the stage, I was certain the judges were going to blast her. I know she doesn’t stand a Sanjaya’s chance of winning the thing. Still, I love her personality, she’s fun to watch and I love seeing what she’s going to come up with each week … At least on Wednesday night, aside from all the criticism, the judges duly noted how gorgeous she looked.

Anoop on “Ooh, baby baby.” … Um, Noop. Same goes for Michael Sarver and Lil Rounds. Sorry, folks. It’s nothing against them, I just haven’t seen or heard anything from them that makes me want to latch on.

See ya later, Sarver. It's a week too late, but I'll take it.

And then there was Adam Lambert, another guy I just haven’t understood. … His performance this week, however, completely blew me away. To echo Smokey Robinson, I loved his tender, stripped-down, mellow treatment of the song. And to jump off of Kara’s critique -- one of the best performances of the season. … Chalk it up as another performance I’d be racing to download -- if it had Adam’s accompaniment. Double-doh!

Good reads...
a Most Awkward Mentor Moments
a America worships 'Idol'
a `Idol' finalists savor group prize: concert tour

Linking up

This is a really good read about the pulls and advantages of social networking.

I can't deny I've harassed a couple of my closest friends for not being on Facebook, but I also completely understand their reasons for not wanting a part of it ...

On the other hand, I'm also a big subscriber to the idea of likening your social networks to your cell phone or the TV: You have to know what to turn them off.


Math lesson

Our friend Pamela passed this on ... Good stuff.

Little Zachary was doing very badly in math.

His parents had tried everything. Tutors, mentors, flash cards, special learning centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math.

Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him in the local Catholic school. After the first day, little Zachary came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn't even kiss his mother hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying. Books and papers were spread out all over the room and little Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed.

She called him down to dinner. To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference.

Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room and hit the books. With great trepidation, his Mom looked at it and to her great surprise, little Zachary got an 'A' in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity. She went to his room and said, "Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?"

Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no.

"Well, then," she replied, "was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? What was it already?"

Little Zachary looked at her and said, "Well, on the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren't fooling around."

Brand new day

Whether you like it or not, things change sometimes.

Some of the best changes come when you’re down. And my industry is down.

So after a lot of discussing and debating and contemplating and negotiating …

My cohort Laura and I agreed earlier this week to a proposal that has us starting our shifts at 5 in the morning. And those news shifts started today.

After having the first discussions about these new shifts last week, we figured it wouldn’t actually happen as fast as it did … Then we got the word on Monday that, Oh, it’s happening.

The following days were somewhat amusing as we plotted Ok, how late can I sleep until I absolutely have to get out of bed and still have enough time to get myself ready? … Or How late do I have to go to bed so that I get just enough sleep to be able to function the next day?

Oh, the agony.

But the flip side was that we were going to have increased responsibilities, and responsibilities we welcomed with open arms. And, perhaps best of all, our new shift would end by about 1:30 in the afternoon, giving us the rest of the day to enjoy.

Laura and I also have joked that the rest of our staff is probably saying “Oh, Mark and Laura, here they go again, trying something new and playing with the Internet!” And how we’re such suckers because it seems as though we’re always the ones ready and willing to try something new.

The changes were announced in a staff meeting yesterday. The response was immediately positive. And when we left our work areas at the end of our shifts there was, I think, a feeling that we were on the verge of something really good. I came home feeling reenergized, renewed, refreshed, ready to start this new phase.

Kates and I filled our night with playing with Phoebe. A mac and cheese dinner and the regular chores that follow our dinner time these days. We let ourselves be sucked into the latest mesmerizing episode of “Lost.”

Then I had to force myself to head to the bedroom at 9 …

I enjoyed a deep sleep …

And the chimes of my alarm pulled me awake at 4:17 a.m.

Tip-toing along our creaky floors, I got in the shower, found my clothes and downed a bowl of Cheerios. … Downtown I headed, with no traffic and flashing yellow stoplights all the way. So eery.

At almost exactly 5 a.m. I parked my car in the building lot and stepped out of my door -- to see Laura stumbling through the lot. I let out a sinister laugh and together we walked into the dark building and up the staircase to our office, no doubt thinking, What have we agreed to?

But we quickly settled in as though the hour never mattered. Items were coming in and we were posting them for the virtual world. We were getting the information and reporting it. … By 6 a.m., our editor appeared through the office door -- we knew he wouldn’t be able to stay away -- singing some folk tune about changes and a new day or something like that … And at 6:30, our cohort Joe appeared in the door. Out for his morning walk, he bought each of us some donuts and some caffeine for our sacrifice.

By 9 a.m., our day was in full swing. The rest of the staff had arrived. Keyboards were clicking, debates were going, phones were ringing -- and for a few moments, I couldn’t keep from thinking, I can’t remember the last time our office seemed so engaged, so focused on doing what we do.

Maybe we can survive this thing after all.


Taming The Twitter Beast

Just watched this -- "Taming The Twitter Beast" -- compliments of RedEye.


Learning as we go

So yesterday I had Phoebe in my arms while I was using the microwave. And after I set my beverage inside, she grabbed the handle and closed the microwave door for me! Then, she did it again after I removed the beverage.

Words can't explain my delight when that happened. We've always thought she was smart and observant, but come on.

The way things have progressed the last few days, we're also expecting her to start walking any day.

Here's a video taken a weekend ago while we were walking and made a pit stop at a nearby park. It's the first time we put her in a swing and you can see she loved it. This is probably my favorite video of her yet ...

David Letterman marries longtime girlfriend

I caught this story in my news alerts this morning. Just finished watching it now on the DVR, and I couldn't be happier for Dave.

On another Letterman note, I was just perusing the "Late Show" Web site and saw they have the clip of a story he told a few years ago about a bear busting into his home ...

Although I think the animation (which was not part of the original airing) takes away from the joy of actually watching Dave tell the story, THIS is one of the funniest things I think Letterman has ever done (His story of the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl was pretty good too).

Either way, I am THRILLED to share it and post it here. Enjoy.

Curt Schilling retires

I caught this news about Curt Schilling this morning ...

It was time for him to go, but he's become one of my baseball heroes along the way. His postseason performances are the stuff of legend. And those performances in Philadelphia, Arizona and especially in Boston encompass some of my favorite baseball memories.

He's a proven winner. Let's get him into the Hall of Fame.


Ting Tings Sing Sing

Here's a good music review about a Ting Tings show on Friday night ...

The more I read and hear of them, the more I'm sorry I'd never heard of them when I saw them last December. Since then, it seems I'm seeing them all over the place ...

Good stuff.


Going places

Kates and I are settling in tonight after spending part of the weekend at her ’rents house … That’s right I used ’rents ... The basketball games are finished for another night, and I’ve got some records spinning on the turntable. Bliss.

We ate really well. And watched a lot of basketball … And slept through quite a lot of the basketball. Last night, I was zonked out in the rocking chair by halftime of the Wisconsin-Florida State game -- the game I think everybody thought Florida State was going to win. Then we woke up this morning to the headlines in the newspaper that said Wisconsin upset Florida State in an overtime thriller. And Cleveland State stunned Wake Forest, whom I had penned in my Elite Eight. Doh!

Today, we supported Kates’ father at one of his visions workshops (fascinating stuff …). Had a good time reconnecting with Kerri and introducing her to Phoebe ... We returned to Kates’ parents’ place. Watched some more basketball. Did some more sleeping …

And best of all, on the way home we indulged in our first Mocha Moo-Lattes of the season. Mmm mmm good.

Back at home, Kates got Phoebe ready for bed; I put away our travel gear and other belongings …

At about 7:30 tonight, I’m in our bedroom putting clothes away when I hear this squeak, squeak, squeak. …

Phoebe is still awake, I thought. Then I heard it again. Squeak, squeak squeak.

Phoebe’s not only still awake. I'll bet she’s standing and bouncing in her crib!

I bolted to her room, and sure enough, she’d pulled herself to her feet and was bouncing on the mattress while she held onto the rails. All smiles.

Knowing she was hardly ready for sleeping, I whisked her out of her crib and into the kitchen to share the development with her mother … Who wasn’t amused.

For the next hour we proceeded to watch her crawl and bounce her way throughout our kitchen and living room. Babbling endlessly, of course … She was spinning in circles from a sitting position on the kitchen floor, and beating her hands against the refrigerator door. Then, she was pushing the buttons on the DVD player. Then, she was pulling herself up on her saucer and beating her musical band of animals. Then, she was rolling all over the floor with her musical octopus. Finally, around 8:30, she let out a long yawn and Kates scooped her up to take her to bed, for good.

At one point during all of this, I just smiled and shook my head at Phoebe. I see so much of me in her, I love it and hate it at the same time. “

Pheebs, you won’t go to sleep, you’re always full of energy and you’re always moving, just like your daddy
,” I told her.

And always happy like her daddy,” Kates added.

Yeah. Most of the time.”


Rough seas

There’s no easy way to say it.

Six more people lost their jobs at my company this week, including one of my editors and my good friend Raechel …

That’s on top of six writers who were laid off last fall …

And that’s on top of two more good friends in the biz who were laid off from their respective entities in the last two months.

I’ve rarely been so uncertain of my standing than I am right now. Honestly, I’m terrified.

As the subscriptions fall, the bankruptcies are filed and the presses shut down, the voice in my head seems to get louder: Get out while you still can! ... One of my college mentors, Erica, has done some wonderful work chronicling the cuts.

The signs have been all over the place for me … Our pastor has preached about it. I also got a fortune cookie with a fortune that told me now is “a good time to start something new.”

There’s also that CareerBuilder commercial where the man walks into a copy place and confronts a mirror image of himself. The guy throws his mirror image over his shoulder and leaves the copy place. Then the tag reads “Help you, help you -- CareerBuilder.com.”

Amid all of it, this story and the scene it paints has been engrained in my head since I read it a couple weeks ago.

It’s not so easy for our breed to just pick up and try something else. There’s a reason we got into this business. It’s a passion; it gets into your blood. A lot of us are of the mind set that we don’t sail until the ship is sunk. We stay true to our mission.

I’m not ready to sail yet.

Good reads ...
a How to save your newspaper
a The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America
a Frayed Thread in a Free Society
a Seattle Times still standing, but for how long?


The madness

So while Ben Folds is playing The Rave tonight …

I’m home watching the basketball games.

I’d known about tonight’s Ben Folds show since it was announced several weeks ago. And for the first time in my life I said “Um, no, thanks.”

I did it partly because, in our current state, that was an extra $40 I didn’t need to spend. But there was another part of me that -- oddly and somewhat sadly -- had no interest in going. I’ve seen the guy play live so many times I’m starting to lose count (nine times, I think). The crowds are getting younger and more obnoxious, and the music, in my opinion, isn’t as inspiring as it used to be. For years I didn’t understand when I heard people say, “I used to love (insert a popular band).” I'd always think, How can you just let go like that?! Aren’t they always your favorite band!?

Now I’m starting to understand. I fear I maybe growing out of my lust for Ben Folds music. Not that his music will cease sounding oh so good to my ears or being so meaningful to me.

But …

Ben’s latest “Way to Normal” album fronts a little too much angst for my tastes at this stage in my life, and the barrage of cursing on it makes it appear as though he’s more interested these days in impressing a younger crowd loaded with rebellious teens and drunken frat boys. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope I haven’t seen the last of ol’ Ben, but those feelings weren’t happening as tonight’s date approached …

Then I read things like this and I get excited about him all over again.

Anyway. Bring on the basketball

I haven’t watched nearly as many games this season as I’d like to claim. But having Sportscenter on in the background as I’ve fed Phoebe and got her dressed every morning certainly helped keep my college basketball knowledge up to par. And I’ve heard and seen enough to know no team was strong enough this year to sustain more than a couple weeks atop the rankings.

Let’s face it. When this time of year comes around, filling out brackets is a total crapshoot.

Once again this year, I’m partaking in my office’s infamous pool -- which, for $2 a bracket, is open to all staff members, as well as their friends, family members, pets and beings imaginary, deceased, made-up or otherwise. My editor Dave takes great pride and pleasure in running it each year and, after each round, provides us with standing updates, as well as funny and amusing facts from the contest.

Basically, I think it’s the funnest office pool in the history of the NCAA tournament.

And once again this year, my mother is participating in the pool, providing good reason for a little fun competition and trash-talking between the two of us. (Mom’s picked all the No. 1 seeds for this year’s Final Four, and I’ve got to wonder where the heck her logic is in those picks. She picked all the No. 1s last year, too, and I chastised her for it because all the No. 1 seeds had never made it to a Final Four … Until last year. But seriously, Mom, you really think that’s going to happen two years in a row!?)

In my bracket, I’ve got Michigan State, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in my Final Four, with Michigan State beating Syracuse in the championship game …

Again, it’s a crapshoot and I don’t have the time to analyze every game by checking each team’s stats, records and head-to-head competition …

But I do think Connecticut and Pittsburgh have been the most consistent this season, and I had them pegged for my Final Four before the brackets even came out on Sunday. I also think Louisville and North Carolina are overrated and, with a little luck, they’ll be knocked out by the regional finals -- which paves the way for some good Michigan State and Syracuse teams. And if the fact that the Final Four is in Detroit this year isn’t enough motivation for Michigan State …

Then there’s Phoebe’s bracket …

As you’ll recall, she did quite well in last year’s pool. I referred to her bracket last year as my bracket “for luck.” She picked Kansas to win it all … And we all know how that turned out.

So I decided again this year that I’d fill out a bracket for Phoebe. And if there’s was any logical way to get Kansas into the Final Four, I was going to do it. And I did.

Phoebe’s Final Four is Kansas, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and North Carolina … Basically, it’s me picking the teams that I was second-guessing in my first bracket, along with some sentimental favorites.

As I said, I think Connecticut and Pittsburgh are the teams to beat. And while I think North Carolina is overrated, well, there still pretty darn good. … As for my theory on Kansas, I think they’ve shown enough this season that there’s a chance they could beat Michigan State to move onto the Sweet Sixteen and then beat the overrated Louisville Cardinals to move into the Final Four.

That would mark the end of the road for Kansas, though. In the Final Four, Phoebe’s got Connecticut beating Kansas, and North Carolina beating Pittsburgh. Then North Carolina beats Connecticut for the championship. Like I said, North Carolina may be overrated, but there still pretty darn good.

Let the madness begin.

Some good March Madness reads ...
a The Case for Hoopsteria
a One Who Did It Best Tells How to Pick ’Em
a Bracketphobia -- Why my tourney chart remains blank until after the games are played

Idol chatter

So Alexis got the boot from “American Idol” last night


I was sure she was an easy top four, maybe even a top three.

But America kept Michael Sarver.

Seriously, America!? The guy is the most boring, unappealing contestant on stage this year. And you’d rather see him on the summer tour than Alexis Grace!? Seriously, America!?

It was too bad that even Alexis’ “save me” performance couldn’t get her through. There was no doubt the judges were thinking of using their one save on her, but her final performance was too forced and growly to give her any shot.


But somebody had to go. And after Tuesday night’s performances I was prepared for it to be anyone in the gang … Not one of the performances blew me away. Granted, they were singing the songs of Grand Ole Opry singers, but I really did think almost all of the performances were -- as Simon would say -- forgettable.

Especially Sarver’s. Seriously, America.

More Idol reading ...
a Here’s an interesting behind-the-scenes account of last night’s show.
a 'American Idol' needs to open the closet door
a Advice to the Top 13


Tracy Morgan returns to 'Saturday Night Live'

I saw a line this morning that read "On 'Saturday Night Live,' Tracy Morgan proves that playing 'loud, brash and not-too-bright' is about all he does.

Pretty much.

Kates and I almost didn't bother watching SNL this weekend, knowing Morgan was the host. We would've been perfectly satisfied with watching Kelly Clarkson's performances (watch them here and here) and turning it off ...

Then again, Kristen Wiig's entertaining Barbie impression almost made the show worth watching ...

And I could watch her do that dance she did in the "High IQ" gameshow sketch over and over. I'm laughing just from typing it and playing the image in my head ... I'd love to post the video it, but I can't find it anywhere!


Cramer vs. Stewart

EW suggested we watch Jon Stewart's Jim Cramer smackdown again ...

So tonight we did. It it was still just as good.

Without a doubt, it's probably one of my favorite things Jon Stewart's ever done -- next to serving tea to Pervez Musharraf.

It was more than time for someone to stick it to Cramer and CNBC, and Stewart's clash is an instant classic ...

Here's more about it ...
a Jon Stewart puts spotlight on CNBC and meltdown
a High Noon on the Set: Cramer vs. Stewart
a It's true: Jon Stewart has become Edward R. Murrow

Gervais + Elmo = Hilarity on 'Sesame Street'

This was going around my office this week ...

Muppets talking like adults. Funny stuff ...


Joys of Phoebe

... Phoebe turned 11 months old yesterday and we went through the day without even acknowledging it. Not on purpose, of course ...

Must be a sign that we've grown used to having her around. That things aren't so new to us anymore ...

She's scooting and crawling around the house faster than we can keep up now. And she's getting pretty good darn at pulling herself up on things ... The other day I left her in her crib with some toys for barely five minutes, and when I returned she was standing and holding on to the bars, jumping up and down on the mattress, probably out of excitement for having pulled herself up for the first time ...

Last night Kates and I had some good fun giggling, too, as we watched Phoebe try to pull herself up on our dining room table ... In one way it looked like she was trying to do chin-ups. In another, it looked like the scene in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events with Sunny swinging from the table by her bite.

Then there's this ... One of her new favorite things is to crawl down our hallway and find the doorstop, which has proven to be endlessly fascinating for her ... After several nights of trying, I finally captured a good clip of her playing with her new toy ...


One man stimulus package

Caught this one on the NBC News and thought it was too good to not share ...

I love this guy's requirement that his employees should spend the money he's given them at local businesses. And that he's given them $2 bills so that the money circulates locally and anyone who receives one of the bills has a pretty good idea where it came from ...

Oh! Breaking news!

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston cancel their engagement

As my editor just said: "Didn't see that coming."


Idol chatter

I love Michael Jackson’s music. And I’m not ashamed to say that … Say what you want about his antics off the stage, but when it comes to his music and performance -- the man is a legend.

So I was quite excited when I learned this week’s “American Idol” contestants would be performing from the Michael Jackson songbook …

But I had to work a late shift last night and let the DVR do the work … Leaving us to cram three hours of “American Idol” into tonight …

(Crazy story about last night … I updated my Facebook status to say I was “working on the night shift.” As in the 1985 song by The Commodores …Then I was driving home late last night and guess what song comes on my radio? The 1985 song by The Commodores, titled "Nightshift." ... I know. You don’t care. It’s a cheesy song anyway … )

On with Tuesday night’s show

I loved Lil Rounds opening the show with “The Way You Make Me Feel.” You knew she was bringing it the moment the music started and she stepped off that staircase. It also helped that she chose what is arguably my favorite MJ song … On the downside, I thought she was dragging down the band at times. And I agreed with Simon: I didn’t like what she was wearing.

Scott McIntyre. Well Kara, I thought it was a pretty dynamic performance. McIntyre picked “Keep the Faith,” a deep cut from the “Dangerous” album, which also happens to be one of faves on that entire album. And Scotty clearly is at his best when he’s at his piano … What astonished me more than the judges’ criticisms was Simon’s remark: “It’s fine being artistic, but not on this show.” … What the heck kind of performer are you looking for Simon!?!

Danny Gokey on “P.Y.T.” … Now that choice, I thought, was a little safe. Not one of my favorite MJ songs either. Nonetheless, he rocked it and Paula’s probably right: He’s got a ticket to the finals.

Then came Michael Sarver … As Tuesday’s show was getting underway, I told Kates I didn’t want to hear anyone sing “You Are Not Alone,” arguably the cheesiest of MJ songs. Then, Sarver pulls it out. Ugh. … Good thing he’s my least favorite in the competition.

(What was up with the huge gold dog chain Paula was wearing on her wrist!?)

I had forgotten about “I’ll Be There” and I thought it ended up being an excellent pick for Jasmine Murray … Taking off on what Paula said, there were some brilliant moments, and there were some moments that she missed the bar.

Kris Allen brought out “Remember the Time” -- with his guitar! Contrary to what Simon’s critique and agreeing with Randy’s take, I loved the way the guitar gave the song sort of a rock vibe. … I also couldn’t help thinking during Kris’s performance that it would be a great song for Blake Lewis to have performed during his Season 6 run.

Allison Iraheta performed a rockin’ “Give Into Me” … Yeah, she’s got it. I think she’ll be around for awhile.

“Anoop shoop, do doop” sang “Beat It.” … Eh. Say all you want about it being a classic, but I’ve never really liked “Beat It.” Either way, I didn’t think Anoop did it any justice; his version sorely lacked the umpf and aggression of the original.

Jorge Nunez sang “Never Can Say Good-bye.” … Another eh. Jorge has as good a chance of impressing me as Michael Sarver. Not good, Jorge. Really boring, actually. … Jorge: “I’m not going to sing ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackon.” Simon: “Well, you sort of did.” Ha-larious!

Ah, but Megan’s back! … Just before her Tuesday night performance I said I was sort of dreading it. After we fell in love with her audition, her performances the last couple weeks have barely kept her in the game …. Her performance of “Rockin’ Robin” was a welcomed return, I thought. She’s carefree. She’s original. She’s fun to watch. And I thought she sounded great.

Adam Lambert picked “Black or White,” another one of my true MJ faves … I’ve never really liked Adam, but I thought he nailed it. Great performance.

Next comes Matt Giraud … So of all the songs in the MJ catalog, I said at the top of Tuesday night’s show the one I wanted to hear most was “Human Nature” off the “Thriller” album. Matt G. did it on the piano and aced it. Music to my ears.

Finally, we got to see Alexis Grace perform after three weeks in the safety seat. And after Megan’s downfalls, it’s safe to say she’s arguably the one I’m keeping my eyes on … Her performance of “Dirty Diana” was fun to watch.

* * *

And that brought us to 9:43 p.m. The point we started watching tonight’s results show …

In my mind, clearly Anoop, Jorge and Michael were the performers who needed to be thinking about packing up and leaving that posh mansion they moved into.

But Ryan also informed us of the new rule -- inspired by the early eliminations of Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Michael Johns during previous seasons -- that allows the judges to keep a contestant they think is voted out earlier than he/she deserves … I like the new rule.

Loved the group performance -- “Want You Back,” an all-time favorite -- and the Ford commercial. As usual.

Then, Ryan started the roll call … And Jasmine and Megan were called to center stage for possible elimination. It turned out Jasmine got the boot, and I wasn’t at all upset (If it had been Megan, I think I would have screamed.). Under the new rule, the judges had to be thinking, Can we see this girl as one of our finalists? And the answer was a pretty easy no. There was no need to give her another chance, especially if the judges have just one “save” for the duration of the season.

So bring on Kelly Clarkson! … Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Kelly Clarkson?! And how “My Life Would Suck Without You” is my favorite song on the radio right now?! And how lately I watch VH1’s countdown just to see that video?!

After the break, we got Anoop and Jorge standing at center stage, and I couldn’t have cared less about either one. But I had a feeling Anoop would hang on; people seem to like him, I’m just not one of those people. … Jorge, meanwhile, didn’t stand a chance.

As he reprised his “Never Can Say Good-bye,” and sang the lyrics “no no no, no no no,” Kates burst out with an impression of the famous “no-no, no-no, no-no!” home run call. Pretty funny.

So would Jorge be saved? Simon answered a simple: No.

Until next week …


Saturday Night faves

In case you missed them ...

A couple of my favorite skits from last weekend's "Saturday Night Live" ...

Ray LaMontagne was entertaining as usual. I was thrilled he performed "Trouble," along with this one, "You Are the Best Thing" ...

... And who knew The Rock could do such a good impression of Barack Obama!?!


Break away

I have a day off today.

And it feels oh so good.

No fires or police cars to chase. No court records to run down. No doctor appointments. No things to pick up. No one to take care of but me.

A true day off. And I can do the things around the house I want to do.

So I'm listening to some music (Playing in my iTunes library this second: Bryan Adams) ...

And catching up on some reading. I just finished reading this story about an alleged 1969 Led Zeppelin concert in a Washington, D.C., area youth center. Fascinating story about the myth of the concert and a time when ...

"... music as the 1960s burned out. The modern rock concert industry had yet to be born, there was no Ticketmaster or Live Nation, and a ticket to a Zeppelin show at Merriweather Post Pavilion (where the band definitely did play in May 1969) cost $5.75 -- while a ticket for a show at Wheaton cost a dollar or two."

P.S. ... I saw my life flash before my eyes this morning as I was driving home from taking Phoebe to the daycare: I was heading east and coming up on a red stoplight at an intersection. I had come to a complete stop in the left lane when I hear a car whizzing by me on the right. The car gets halfway through the intersection, completely ignoring the red light, when it slams on its brakes and skids, just missing a car that was turning in front of him and a second car that was traveling north across the intersection, on a green light. The two cars passed in front of the red-light-runner and he proceeded through the rest of the intersection, lucky to be still driving. Sheesh.


Two guys from Chicago

My cohort Brian sent this last week ...

Two guys from Chicago die and wake up in Hell.

The next day, the Devil stops to check on them and sees them dressed in parkas, mittens and bomber hats, warming themselves around the fire.The Devil asks them, "What are you doing? Isn't it hot enough for you?"

The two guys reply, "Well, you know, we're from Illinois, the land of ice and snow and cold. We're just happy for a chance to warm up a bit, you know."

The Devil gets a little steamed up and he decides to fix the two guys. He cranks the heat up as high as it will go. The people are wailing and screaming everywhere. He stops by the room with the two guys from Chicago and finds them in light jackets and hats, grilling sausage and drinking beer.

The Devil is astonished. "Everyone down here is in abject misery, and you seem to be enjoying yourselves."

The two Chicagoans reply, 'Well, ya know, we don't get too much warm weather up there in Chicago, we've just got to have a cookout when the weather is this nice."

The Devil is absolutely furious. He decides to turn all the heat in Hell off.The next morning, the temperature is below zero, icicles are hanging everywhere, the people are shivering so bad, they are unable to wail or moan. The Devil smiles and heads for the room with the two Chicagoans. He finds them back in their parkas, mittens and hats. They are jumping up and down and cheering.

The Devil was dumbfounded. "I don't understand. When I turn the heat up, you're happy. Now it's freezing cold, and you're happy. What is wrong with you two?"

The Chicagoans look at the Devil in surprise. "Well, don't ya know? If Hell froze over, that must mean one thing -- the Cubs won the World Series!"

Sunday reading

Just said good-bye to the parents, who spent a couple days with us here on the homestead ...

A great weekend. Great food. Great conversation. Great times playing with Phoebe ... And not so great weather. It poured almost endlessly yesterday and today ...

The afternoon is fast turning into a lazy Sunday evening. Kates and I can barely keep our eyes open.

Here's some of the reads that caught my eyes over the last few days ...

Sports ...
a A tragic end for minor leaguer traded for bats
a For Free Throws, 50 Years of Practice Is No Help
a Manny Ramirez has some things to say
a What Yankees Knew About Rodriguez’s Injury, and When They Knew It

Media & the Internet ...
a When Everyone’s a Friend, Is Anything Private?
a 15 Fake and Funny Twitter Accounts
a WIAA files suit against Gannett over broadcasting of postseason games on Internet
a In Denver, Residents Lament the Closing of a Newspaper
a Will Report for Tips
a Small Town News" journalist dissed by Letterman was laid off last week ... I'm posting this mostly because I thought the "Small Town News" segment -- in case you missed it -- was hilarious. I think this reporter's reaction to it is a little over-the-top.
a Copyright Challenge for Sites That Excerpt
a YouTube and Universal Music Are Said to Discuss Deal
a A Google Search of a Distinctly Retro Kind
a How To Save Print ... A good funny

Politics ...
a For Young President, Flecks of Gray

TV ...
a CBS has its eye on Fox's ratings prize

Music ...
a Kelly Clarkson's 'All I Ever Wanted': 3.5 stars
a U2 looks in, branches out

Life & other stuff ...
a Here, all sales are final ... Never made it to any of the local Circuit City sales to check out the big sales (We don't have the money to spend), but this was an amusing read nonetheless.
a This winter, last year's add up to some bragging rights ... I'm throwing it back.


This is American Idol?!

Sorry, I’m not very excited about “American Idol” this week …

Call it Cabin Fever, but it could be that lately I’ve had no desire to watch television. It’s nearly hit a point of hating to turn on the big box at night -- unless it’s for “Lost,” which is the only show I really, truly look forward to watching right now.

(Yeah, “Lost!” … How good is that show right now, right?! I know it’s good when I’d rather drop every thing and every thought, and allow myself to be absorbed completely by that show. And then do little talking about it afterward, just letting it settle into my brain like a mudslide. … But, oooh, I‘m liking the idea of Sawyer and Juliette together, which made the whole Kate-showing-up-at-the-end thing so much more dramatic …But, I digress … )

Lately, I would rather spend two hours rocking a screaming, squirmy Phoebe to sleep than be glued to a couch, watching a television.

Amid the frigid winter, the duties of fatherhood, the threat of more layoffs, plummeting economy and some side projects, I haven’t been feeling inspired to blog much lately, either. There are bigger things looming …

So then … I’ve been pondering my noticeably lessened enthusiasm for “Idol” since the early audition rounds. Is it the many changes and the addition of the Wild Cards? Maybe, it’s the new judge? Is it that I find this year’s lineup less interesting and talented than past years, and thus haven’t latched on to any number of contestants the way I have in the past (See: Brooke White, Danny Noriega, Gina Glocksen, Chris Sligh). I don’t know.

And if I hear Kara label a contestant as “commercial” or “package” one more time, or even if she tries to convince an artist he/she should be a blues singer rather than a pop singer, I think I might throw Phoebe’s toy basket at the TV …

Ah, but the pull of “Idol” -- and my love for music -- still lingers. So I keep watching.

On with the show …

* * *

For the record, I thought Tuesday’s performance night was the worst of the trio of semifinal rounds … It seemed like a lot more than 12 people performed. More like 22. Goodness, that felt like a looooooong show.

I can’t understand why people seem so hyped-up about Lil Rounds … Or Jorge Nunez for that matter. So he got excited about his performance and started blabbering to the judges in Spanish. Big deal, it wasn’t that great.

(I, too, would like to know how the performance order is picked. I’ve only been a faithful “Idol” watcher since Season 6, but I’ve noticed every year that it seems like the most buzzed-about contestants get the prime performance spots. Lakisha Jones, David Archuleta and Danny Gokey are a few who come to mind … )

“Blind Man” Scott Macintyre (“Mandolin Wind”), Kendall Beard (“This One’s For the Girls”), Ju’not Joyner (“Hey There Delilah”) and Taylor Vaifanua (“If I Ain't Got You”) picked some great songs, but I thought their vocals left something to be desired. On Ju’not’s slowed-down take of “Delilah,” I couldn’t have agreed more with Simon: Halfway through I was ready for it to be over.

Arianna Afsar‘s take on Abba‘s “The Winner Takes It All” and Alex Wagner-Trugman’s version of Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” were deathly awful … Seriously, guys. You can’t just add a bunch of runs and roars to a song and think that makes it more contemporary. Ridiculous.

Nathaniel Marshall’s performance of Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love” was just boring.

The only clear-cut winner, from where I was sitting, was the second-chance-girl Felicia Barton singing Alicia Keys’ “No One.” She was easily the female performer of the night, I thought.

And I thought Kristen McNamara, singing “Gimme One Reason,” was a good second, even while the judges ripped her. Yeah, I got the karaoke vibe, too, but compared to the rest of the singers on Tuesday night, I thought she was in -- if not, then a Wild Card spot for sure.

Which left Von Smith, who started the night with a decent “You’re All I Need to Get By,” despite missing some of his lower notes, as my pick to take the third spot.

How wrong I was.

Lil, Jorge and Scott were the three who got through. Kristen and Felicia were discounted even for Wild Card spots.

* * *

Going into Thursday night’s Wild Card show, Kates and I were rooting most for Jesse Langseth, Von Smith, Megan Corkrey, Matt Giraud and Jasmine Murray …

Coming out of Thursday night’s performances, I figured on Jasmine Murray (“Reflections”) and Megan Corkrey (“Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”) being clear favorites -- though my adoration for them is burning out, too …

I was calling for Matt Giraud (“Who’s Lovin’ You”) as the top male. Gosh, with his soulful take on “Who’s Loving You,” I was ready for Kara to have an orgasm right there on the “Idol” stage.

The performances by Jessi (“Tell Me Something Good”), Von Smith (“Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word”) and Ricky Braddy (“Superstition”) were good but not great. … I didn’t even bother taking notes on Tatiyana who sang Whitney Houston A-gain. What the crap is she thinking!?

And Anoop Desai as the unprecedented No. 13? I don’t think he’s tops in the bunch, but if he’s in it means I can keep singing my “Anoop shoop, doo-doop” song every time his name is called.


Sunday reading

Happy, sunny Sunday, folks.

Just finished watching Kansas whip up on Missouri. ... Things couldn't be better.

Here's some of the stuff that caught my eyes last week ...

Baseball ...
a Five bold predictions for 2009 ... I'm not holding my breath for the Cubs.
a At 81, Lasorda still has nothing but love for game
a Griffey and Giambi Head Back Home in Twilight
a Judge in Bonds Case Has Reputation as Quick Study
a Johnson Has Lost a Little Off His Fastball but Not His Reputation
a The Incredible Shrinking Baseball Player

Music ...
a At White House Show, Truly a Night of Wonder
a Lawmakers, promoters slam Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger at Senate hearing ... Let's hope their money-making ideas include reducing or getting rid of those wretched "convenience fees."

TV ...
a Ready or Not, Here Comes Jimmy Fallon To Update 'Late Night'
a 'Late Night' host Fallon just wants to have fun
a Don’t Worry, Bedtime’s Safe With the Lads ... Good read on the constant that is late night television.
a Conan O'Brien's 'The Tonight Show'
a Once Again, Conan Will Be on a Richter Scale ... Yes!
a Oscars host Hugh Jackman gave the job his all ... I seemed to be one of the few last week who really enjoyed Jackman as the Oscar host. His opening number featuring Anne Hathaway was one of the best moments of the night.

Politics ...
a A Better Bobby Jindal ... Another good one from Kathleen Parker. Kates and I couldn't stop rolling our eyes during his speech Tuesday night.
a The Jindal Phenomenon

Media & the Internet ...
a Advertisers need patience to tap into Web's potential
a Google Puts Small Ads on Pages of News Site
a What Are You Doing? Media Twitterers Can’t Stop Typing ... After initially being weary and then a slow warming period, I became a full-fledged Twitterer last week.
a Anchors Oblige Public's Craving for Tweets
a A Tale of 140 Characters, Plus the Ones in Congress ... Speaking of Twitter, this was one of the more amusing stories I read last week.
a Tragic death of Rocky Mountain News
a Tropicana Discovers Some Buyers Are Passionate About Packaging
a Hit 'send,' then hit the door

Life & other stuff ...
a Miami banker lavishes $60M on his employees ... Got this one from my friend Raechel
a A jobless man around the house
a Missouri family struggles to pay for cave home ... Now this sounds like a fun place to live. Something tells me it's not, however.
a Restroom ransom? Airline mulls toilet toll ... In case you hadn't heard. This is the Bonehead Idea of the Week.
a The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess
a The unclaimed ashes of hard times
a 6,473 Texts a Month, But at What Cost?

Finally ... Check out this clip featuring Frank Caliendo and Dana Carvey doing their respective Bush impressions ...