Still maddening!

Finally, someone missed. Xavier's Jordan Crawford missed a three-pointer and then his teammate Brad Redford missed another, and finally it was over. After 50 minutes and 197 points in the most epic battle in this most epic of NCAA tournaments, Kansas State could finally move on to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988. ~Kelli Anderson/Sports Illustrated
Epic is right. As in so epic, I’m having trouble thinking of any other words to describe it …

For most of last night’s K-State/Xavier game I was only half-watching, working on projects and then talking on Skype with my parents -- for the first time, I should add. They barely had their new toy out of the box when they were ringing me for a face-to-face computer chat.

Then Kates called for our nightly end-of-the-day chat, and I could hardly keep my attention focused on her as K-State and Xavier traded three-pointer after three-pointer after three-pointer.

As the end of regulation neared, and the barrage of points was just beginning, it seemed like everyone put down what they were doing and started to pay closer attention. My Facebook and Twitter accounts began lighting up, and we were all taking great pleasure in the NCAA tournament classic unfolding before our eyes -- commenting, cheering and jeering as if all of us were in the same living room …
My friend Dionna: I am NERVOUS!

Me: Are you kidding me!?!! It's raining threes!!!

My friend Jason: SERIOUSLY!!!!??? they can NOT miss a 3!!!!!!!

My friend Matt: Are you kidding me? You might as well put Pullen and Crawford out there alone and whoever misses first loses.

My friend Lisa: OMG! Andy just woke me up. Figured the games were over long ago - but no at 11:25 I see 2OT and time left on the clock!
Gosh, I love social media!

It was just as fun to hear the excitement in the voices of the guys broadcasting the game on CBS. Oooh! They shouted with every three-pointer that went down.
So many incredible plays were made that exuberant CBS announcer Gus Johnson was bursting out of his midcourt seat between overtimes to celebrate the spectacle. ~Kellis Robinett/Kansas City Star
Here's another good read about Frank Martin and the resurgence of the K-State program.

* * *

Just when I thought Kansas’s loss last weekend had shot my interest in the tournament, last night happened. No. 1 seed Syracuse fell to Butler in a dramatic game; the K-State thriller followed.

I’ll echo what every college basketball fan seems to be saying. This year’s tournament has been one of the most exciting tournaments I can recall -- at the least, since some of the mind-boggling tourneys of the late 90s. Remember Weber State over North Carolina?

And somehow, I’m still hanging around the top of my office pool.

The standings that arrived in my inbox this morning had be sitting in sixth place … And now, after a whole lot of fluctuating in the last week, and with Ohio State falling (good thing I didn’t write them in after all) and Baylor winning tonight, the standings have come full circle. Tonight, I’m ranked right back at No. 3 -- behind the same two guys who were ahead of me after the first day last week.

I’ve benefited by holding on to three of my Final Four teams -- K-State, Kentucky and Baylor, along with West Virginia and Duke. Although I’ve predicted a Duke loss tonight.

And while I’ve got not a single stake left in the midwest bracket, I’ll also be cheering Northern Iowa to the Final Four -- because gosh darn they’ve been fun to watch and that Farokhmanesh kid is pretty dang good.

* * *

Life isn’t nearly as fun if you can’t find laughter in the things that threaten to keep you down …

So it’s been fun to see the outpouring of jokes this week at the expense of KU’s -- ahem -- choke last weekend … (Here's a good read from the KC Star.)


And finally from Jimmy Fallon …
“Healthcare passed, Tiger did two interviews, and Kansas lost. So if you’re a Republican slut in Topeka…you had a bad weekend.”


Idol talk

Miley Cyrus as the mentor for a night of Billboard No. 1s? Not even going to discuss that ... Yeah. What Slezak said.

Lee Dewyze opened with Joe Cocker’s version (Check out the Kid Rock look-a-like in that video...) of the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” He stamped it and mailed it out! I loved Ellen’s analogy comparing him to a favorite pen that you hope never runs out of ink. And I completely agreed with Kara’s comments about the improvements Mr. Lee has made since the first time he stepped on the stage.

Paige, Paige, Paige. What’re you doing to me!? Every time I pump you up, you shut it down -- and you did it to me again this week, to a realm from which I don’t think you’ll recover. It didn’t matter that “Against All Odds” is a huge song to tackle; her vocals were dull, airy and way pitchy.

Tim Urban. The kid finally delivered a performance that I kind of enjoyed with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” It helped that he was singing a song I really like. And I thought the vocals were as good as I've heard from his mouth … That said, I totally got what the judges were saying about his performance being corny and feeling like a “High School Musical” audition. His stage presence felt awkward and forced.

Most surprising performance of the night goes to Aaron Kelly on “Don't Want to Miss a Thing.” I loved his tone and the liberties he took with the melody, and the way he held onto notes … Plus, the puppy love between him and Miley was sort of sweet.

On the other hand, Crystal (look at how I don't even need to use her last name at this point ...) appeared less than pleased to be taking advice from Miley -- although, I think that’s more of a reading on Crystal’s hard shell than of any actual feelings she might have about Miley. Either way, I thought Crystal's slowed-down take of “Me and Bobby McGee” was her most captivating performance yet. The girl was in a world of her own on that stage tonight, smiling and letting go, and it was soooooooo fun to watch. She also looked really good ... I’m with Simon; I wouldn’t change anything.

The footage of Michael Lynche singing to Miley Cyrus made me stop everything I was doing. Based on that footage, I had started to think that perhaps I was about to hear the most beautiful version of “When A Man Loves A Woman” ever recorded … But a minute into his live performance, I was thinking just what the judges said when it was over: too many riffs, I lost my connection with it, I was loving the one scoop of ice cream and then the kid behind the counter gave me nine more scoops, and the ice cream started to make me sick.

I’m so over Andrew Garcia. His performance of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” couldn’t have been more boring. I stopped paying attention halfway through it to read about Joe Biden supposedly dropping the F-bomb today.

Katie Stevens performed “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” … Ugh. First, it’s Fergie’s song and it’s a one-of-a-kind song that Katie couldn’t possibly have matched. Second, I don’t know where Kara got her pop/R&B vibe because I was totally hearing country twang from Katie tonight. Seriously, I was watching Katie perform and thinking: Tammy Wynette. I’m just saying.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Casey James’ “Power of Love.” My only critique -- and it’s kind of a biggie -- he had zip for stage presence.

Didi Benami’s performance of “You’re No Good” was good … not great. I agreed with the judges -- I didn’t get the song choice and it didn’t feel like Didi. Good thing she’s so darn cute.

And believe it or not, Siobhan’s performance (Don't need to say her last name either ...) of “Superstitious” was among my least favorite of the night. I thought her rendition was hokey. And seriously, she’s gotta pull back on the screaming before she starts getting Adam Lambert-style annoying.

Summertime blues

I was afraid this might happen.

In recent years, I’ve gone to Summerfest wondering whether my run might end -- the kind of feeling I suppose an athlete has when his career is in its twilight. … At Summerfest, it’s the notion that the crowds appear to be getting younger and more immature, the music sounds louder and the array of bands less appealing.

Last year, when I went to the magnificent festival for a record-low two nights, I figured maybe the time had come. I figured my youth may have finally escaped me and my concert days were waning.

I prepared myself to move on … And I have. Literally.

Then Summerfest started rolling out its lineup for this summer …

Colbie Caillat. The Moody Blues ... O.A.R.! ... Sheryl Crow!! ... She & Him!!! (... A good read about She & Him in today's Boston Globe.)

A few weeks ago when Cubs tickets went on sale, I was gritting my teeth and doing all I could to hold back on purchasing a couple seats. The mantra “Wait ’til next year” has taken a whole new meaning now.

And then today, the most painful announcement of all. The New Pornographers are playing the Pabst Theater. The announcement via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ...

Indie-pop darlings the New Pornographers - made up of some of the best and busiest in the music scene - will play the Pabst Theater at 8:30 p.m. June 12. The eight-member outfit, including mastermind A.C. Newman and songbird Neko Case, releases its fifth album, "Together," in May.

The New Pornographers. Indie-pop darlings. Songbird Neko Case ...

The New Pornographers. A band that’s hovered around the top of my Concert Bucket List for a couple years now -- along with Matchbox Twenty (so close! ), Belle & Sebastian, The Weepies, Dave Matthews Band, Mates of State (whose “For the Actor” I've heard on multiple Royal Carribean commercials lately!) and The Shins (oh, oh, so close!)


Last night, an old friend of mine tweeted, "don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

When I saw her statement, I smiled and thought so true, especially right now ... But it won't keep me from thinking of ways I can still enjoy the great things that came with the good.


The mourning after

Sigh. I’ve written too many of these types of posts over the years.

My beloved Kansas Jayhawks -- the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks and the overwhelming favorite to win it all -- were dethroned by the feisty No. 9-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers yesterday. My tournament bracket, which shimmered with success after all the first round upsets, is dead. And my interest in the rest of the tournament has been blown to bits.

My bracket also lost out on the Villanova, Murray State and New Mexico games. As of this morning, I sit fifth in the office pool, and I still have three Final Four teams playing, but with Kansas -- my national champion -- out, my stock is sure to drop.

After watching Villanova get knocked out of the tournament, I donned my Jayhawk blue and hit the road to my friend Tom’s house for the big game … Kansas didn’t look good from the start, of course, but I was quick to deny that. Nothing to worry about, it’s only the first half, I said.

But the game’s second half wasn’t any better than the first. Tom and I were on our feet in front of the television for the last 12 minutes, bemoaning every ill-advised shot, mishandled rebound and turnover. Even little Kieran was shouting at the TV and beating his toy drum in frustration, “Oh no! Come on!”

Then, then! With the minutes waning, the Jayhawks showed some fight! They stole two consecutive inbound passes! They closed the deficit to one point! Our hearts were pounding! They had a chance!

And then, as fast as the Jayhawks appeared to have turned a corner, they ran into a wall. Sure, I’d celebrated Ali Farokhmanesh on Thursday night for his performance against UNLV and the game-winning three-pointer he drained to beat them, but I was loathing him last night … With about 30 seconds left in the game, Farokhmanesh brought the ball down by himself and had three -- three! -- Jayhawks circling him. And all three of them left him free to take the shot as though he had a force field bubble protecting him. If there was one guy the Jayhawks shouldn’t have given space to shoot, Farokhmanesh was THAT guy!

Season over.

Within seconds, Kates, who had been watching the game in K-Town and texting me throughout, was calling my cell phone. I looked at the caller ID and rolled my eyes. “Doesn’t she know better?” I said to Tom.

“Hello.” I answered the phone as if someone had just died.
“Are you ok?” Kates asked
“Yeah, I’ll be ok.” I should give her credit -- she knows my Jayhawk passion well enough to immediately offer support in these tough times.

In the minutes afterward, Tom and I wandered the room, lamenting the loss and making comparisons to other Kansas bracket busters. Bradley in ’06. Bucknell in ’05. Syracuse in ’03. Rhode Island in ’98. Arizona in ’97 …“That was brutal” … “That may go down as one of the biggest Kansas chokes” … “I feel like going outside and just burying my head in the snow” ... “Hey, 2008 was fun!” ...

The TV analysts discussed and showed the KU miscues over and over and over. My social media pages started lighting up with messages about busted brackets, crushed hopes and teasing from KU-haters. A Jayhawk nation was stunned and left wondering … how?

The thing is, we know how. We’ve watched this scenario play out again and again for Kansas in the tournament, and it makes me pause every year when I begin to fill out my brackets. Looking back on the season, and past defeats, Tom and I came to the realization that this year’s team lacked a killer instinct. They were complacent. They tended to play to the level of their competition. Joe Posnanski also has a great blog post this morning explaining exactly those themes.

We dined on some homemade tacos and watched Kansas State win its game over BYU with glazed eyes. I’ll be cheering for Kansas State in the tournament now, if only to salvage some pride for the state I love.

By 10 last night I was working my way back to The ’Ville, dealing with the cherry on top of our emotionally challenging day -- 8 inches of snow on the first day of spring, not to mention the start of the university’s spring break … We’d heard the weather forecasts but chose to ignore them. Then the white stuff started falling around 4:30 Friday afternoon, and when I heard the snowplow outside my window yesterday morning, I figured the scenery wasn’t to my liking.

Nonetheless, I ventured onto the roads and handled the weather just fine. I’m from Wisconsin after all! … Coming home last night was a little tougher. By then, several more inches had fallen and I had an amusing time pushing my Little Green Machine through it just to get out of Tom’s neighborhood.

When I hit the Interstate it became apparent that the snowfall must’ve made the Missouri plows too nervous to even clear the roads. But again, I handled it, cruising past the less-confident drivers at a steady 40 mph and proudly displaying my Wisconsin license plate on my rear -- if only for a few more months.

Just when my focus on all the snow had nearly helped me forget the shock and sadness of the Kansas loss, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” started playing on my iPod and conjured all the images from the game. Ugh.

Oh, but life goes on. Like the others, this loss won’t change my life. And there will be a new season of Kansas basketball to celebrate next year.

Today’s a new day. And baseball’s opening day is just weeks away.

Some good reads about yesterday’s tournament action ...
a Big reason Gaels are moving on
a Kansas, Villanova bust Obama's men's bracket
a Day 3: Kansas Falls, Kentucky Explodes
a Northern Iowa Coolly Upsets No. 1 Seed Kansas


All the right moves

So the song I can’t get out of my head this week …

One Republic’s “All The Right Moves.”

It’s playing in my head when I wake. While I work. And when I hit the bed.

But the thing I like best about it -- along with the power pop beat, the rolling piano accompaniment and the epic chorus -- is the memories and images it conjures up from my night with the OneRepublic boys at Carthage. That was the night this band earned my respect and made me a fan.

Staying with the music and video theme …

I caught this story this week in the Tribune about OK Go’s mastery of the music video art form.

I love this video of “This Too Shall Pass,” an alternate to their earlier video with the Notre Dame Marching Band.

I’ve watched it a few times now and I’m still seeing new things. So cool.

Baseball's good, bad and ugly

Oh, man, I'm getting excited for the baseball season to start ... The days of watching afternoon games on WGN and Sunday night games on ESPN can't seem to come soon enough.

(How much I'm going to miss playing the game on Sunday afternoons remains to be seen, but at least I can take solace in the fact I went out on top.)

I get even more excited when I read stories like this optimistic one about the Cubs. Getting rid of Milton Bradley was the best move the Cubs could have made during the offseason.

* * *

So I read this morning that there's a plan to put a Toyota sign above the bleachers at Wrigley Field ...


I'm not opposed to advertising at Wrigley Field ... as long as it's done tastefully. This proposed plan doesn't do that.

If the illustration in the Tribune story is an accurate depiction, and I believe it probably is, the sign would totally take away from the aesthetics of the surrounding archtecure that help make the ballpark so wonderful.

I'm with Jim Peters ...

"It's a vertical sign on a design that's horizontal. It's very obtrusive."

* * *

Meanwhile, down in St. Louis ...

A story surfaced this week that the Phillies had discussed trading Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols. I caught Buster Olney's mention of it on Sportscenter earlier this week, and even he looked uncomfortable reporting it, saying flat-out that the talks were internal and there was almost no likelihood the trade would become a reality ...

And yet, the Sportscenter anchor seemed to push him on it and asked additional questions when, clearly, the deal was probably nothing more than a random musing in the Phillies' executive hallway.

Never should have been reported, if you ask me. And it's stuff like this that gives us media types a bad reputation. The players involved have the right to be a little annoyed.

As Joe Posnanski wrote about the non-story:
The fact that this rumor got ANYWHERE gives you an idea about how hungry we in America are for dramatic trade talk, no matter how illogical. And this is as illogical as they get. Albert Pujols is the most popular athlete in St. Louis -- probably the most popular athlete in St. Louis since Stan Musial. If the Cardinals were bound by law to either a) Trade Pujols or b) Change the team name to the Budweisers and going with a drunken guy wearing a beer hat as their logo, they would lose fewer fans going with b).


Maddening good!

I don't want to brag but ...

As today’s NCAA Tournament first round games wrap up … I’m sitting happily in a three-way tie for first place in the Funnest Office Pool Ever, which, for the record, has 60 entrants this year. What’s more interesting is that the three of us at the top are former employees of the place.

Given the number of upsets -- and my knack to pick them -- I was having a ball watching tonight’s games (I was monitoring the changes in our pool's standings online like a stock broker watching the market). I picked correctly on Northern Iowa, Murray State, Wake Forest and St. Mary’s. And I didn’t bite on other trendy upset picks, like UTEP over Butler, or San Diego State over Tennessee.

Only the Notre Dame and Marquette losses were upsets I never saw coming … I had picked Georgetown to advance to the Elite Eight on some influence from my mother -- even though my gut told me Ohio State was the better pick; “Don’t count out Georgetown!” she said. Aye. Should, woulda, coulda.

This afternoon, work kept me from seeing the double-overtime BYU-Florida game (I accurately picked BYU), and that Notre Dame-Old Dominion thriller … But tonight’s games more than made up for them. Every game left me holding my breath!

In that Texas-Wake Forest game, Texas started running all over Wake in overtime, and I figured it was over when Wake went down by eight; Texas was cleaning up. But Wake somehow worked its way back into the game and then won it with a last second two-pointer that sent me dancing around my living room.

And Northern Iowa! It took me little time to fall in love with the play of Ali Farokhmanesh and that team’s scrappiness. When Farokhmanesh hit that winning three-pointer from waaaaay behind the arc, I erupted in a cheer loud enough make me the obnoxious and annoying neighbor of my apartment building.

Still, as fun as it was today, I know it's still early. And my story might be completely different tomorrow.

Traditionally, I’m fairly liberal with my upset picks, sometimes too liberal probably. But this year that appears to be working to my advantage.

I had started filling out my brackets on Monday night but stopped halfway, completely and utterly confused about the direction I was heading (Good thing, too. In my original bracket I had Florida and Richmond winning today.) … So I let my thoughts wander on Tuesday and Wednesday. I continued listening to the gurus on ESPN. I continued to pour over the records and articles in USA Today.

I was still waffling on my bracket as the clock moved into Thursday, having watched the “Idol” results show and proofing 60 magazine pages. Finally at around 12:30 a.m., I completed my bracket with Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Kentucky as my Final Four picks …

In a nutshell, I called my shot to Kates weeks ago, predicting Kansas and Syracuse in the championship game. Now, with the way the brackets are set up, Kansas and Syracuse could only face each other in the Final Four’s semi-final … Even then, Syracuse has faltered down the stretch and they’ve been hurt by injuries. Also, the Big East hasn’t lived up to its hype in the tournament in recent years, and the Big 12, arguably, has been the toughest and most competitive conference in the nation this year -- hence my endorsements for Kansas State and Baylor in the Final Four.

As I have every year, I’ve inserted Kansas in my Final Four with some trepidation -- because, as any Kansas fan knows, their play in the tournament hasn’t always lived up to the hype of their regular seasons (I'm feeling lucky they made it past LeHigh tonight). And yet, here I am, staying loyal and believing again that this could be “the year,” putting them as the national champion in my bracket over Kentucky.

For the record, me, my mother and 30 others have Kansas winning it all in our pool. Nine have picked Kentucky.

We’ll see.

Some good reads ...
a Day 1 at the Dance: Utter Madness
a Wherever he has coached, Self preaches a “magic level”
a Collins’ four years at KU have seen huge growth and change
a Jayhawks may be No. 1, but they can't take it easy
a Kansas is my favorite, but its road to Indy is chock full of roadblocks
a They’re all in it to win it, but a final of Kansas-Kentucky would be shining moment
a NCAA tournament committee had large at-large pool of shallow talent
a More Parity Atop the Bracket, but Less Talent on the Bubble
a A gazillion chances to miss a pick
a Near perfect: 79% got Villanova title in '85


Rolling 'Idol'

Ok, so it’s like this…

On paper, I’ve never considered myself a huge Rolling Stones fan. I’ve always been Beatles all the way … Then I started delving farther into classic rock during my adulthood, I began collecting vinyl records and became friends with a die-hard Stones fan …

The more I listen to them, the more I love them -- and the more I realize their songs have become a huge part of the soundtrack for my life.

Needless to say, I was stoked going into tonight’s “American Idol” because it was Rolling Stones night.

Naming my favorite Stones songs off the top of my head, I’d tell you they’re “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Under My Thumb” “Get Off my Cloud,” “Honky Tonk Women” and, of course, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Get me thinking harder and I could go on and on ...

Some big songs. So in a way, I was kind of dreading tonight’s “Idol” experience, fearing what some of the contestants might do to the songs … Add to that, nothing about this season has had an easy flow or predictability to it. The performers have been all over the board, and the judges feedback have been just as contradictory. My thoughts about this season have felt just as scatter-brained.

I sat up in my chair when I heard Tim Urban was doing “Under My Thumb” (Simon!? A boring song!? Wha!? Where‘s the love for your fellow Englanders?) … And then I slumped right back down a few moments later, sick of his reggae play on the song. Randy categorized it perfectly: Bizarre.

(For the record I put my Stones records on the moment the show was over -- mostly to get Urban’s coconut version out of my head, along with some of the unfortunate events on tonight‘s show.)

Casey James’ “It‘s All Over Now” was just ok. Andrew Garcia’s “Gimme Shelter” was too hokey for me. Aaron Kelly’s “Angie” didn’t do it for me. Katie Stevens’ “Wild Horses” was way too, um, mild.

I thought Lacey Brown killed “Ruby Tuesday” -- and not in a good way. I want to like Lacey, but the girl has such a fragility and uniqueness to her voice that her performances don’t work unless she picks just the right songs. I gave up halfway through her performance tonight and headed to my kitchen for a snack.

Michael Lynche falls into similar territory for me. Clearly he has gobs of talent and a smooth R&B voice that reminds me of Luther Vandross. At this point there’s no doubt he’s a force among the top 12 … But I’m just not that into him. Maybe it’s because I prefer the rock/pop vibe over the R&B/Soul. Maybe it’s that I get what Simon is talking about when he calls Big Mike’s performance of “Miss You” a little corny.

Didi Benami came out with “Play With Fire.” I didn’t love the song choice, but I was captured by the emotion and, as Kara noted, the intensity she gave her song. I really like that Didi’s starting to turn it on -- finally!

Siobhan Magnus. Really, should any of us have been surprised that she picked “Paint It Black”!? … I was totally having flashbacks of Adam Lambert -- only better. But Simon said it as I was thinking it -- like Adam Lambert, with that scream of hers, there are going to people who will really like her style and others who won’t. So far, I really like it.

Still, after Siobhan, the first performance to really get me smiling was Lee Dewyze’s “Beast of Burden.” I loved the arrangement; I loved the toe-tapping, laid-back vibe he gave it.

And then there was Paige Miles. Girlfriend broke out “Honky Tonk Woman” -- on top of her laryngitis! -- and rocked her way back to the top tier of the contenders. She used the stage, she hit some big notes, I was totally entertained. And yet Kara appeared so disappointed that Paige did so well, because we all know how the judges like to play favorites.

And then there was the grand finale. Crystal Bowersox singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” … To that point, I had been wringing my hands in hopes that no one tried to tackle “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” It’s a huge song, and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take a wannabe toying with it.

When the time came, it occurred to me that only Crystal could have pulled off that song. She bottled the soul of the song and tinged it with just the right amount of her personality -- not to mention a bit of an Ani DiFranco vibe. And those horns! I’d have to disagree with Randy: I did think it was her best performance.


Idol thoughts

Well, I’m good to go on the top “America Idol” girls. How ’bout you?

The only girls I care for were the first four sent to the silver stools tonight -- Didi, Siobhan, Paige and Crystal. And yeah, I’ll take Lacey Brown in the fifth spot. And yeah, I’ll take Katie Stevens because, if nothing else, I suppose there’s some entertainment value in seeing an innocent, likable 17-year-old chasing her whopping dream. … Katelyn Epperly and her poofy locks never stood a chance in my eyes.

Tuesday night’s show, for me, was arguably the most fulfilling of this dreadful season. Perhaps that was largely because after a tense, tough day of work, the number of sleeper songs suited my mood wonderfully …

Performance of the night -- and one of my favorite moments of the season, next to Andrew Garcia’s “Straight Up” and Siobhan’s “Think” -- goes to Didi Benami for her sparkling version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhianon.” Just when you thought Didi was done-di, she stepped up her game and inserted herself right back into the top tier of girls. I loved seeing Didi just strumming her guitar and hearing the lightness in her voice, sans background singers until the choral cries at the end … I wanted to download it from iTunes as soon as it was over!

Siobhan, meanwhile, has reached a level on which she can do nothing wrong in my mind. At this point, she’s my "Idol," and I was shaking my head in amazement at her take on “House of the Rising Sun” and that brilliant a capella opening. That girl and all her quirks are a breath of fresh air.

I’ll give Lacey Brown an honorable mention for her take on Brandi Carlile’s “The Story.” Although I’ll agree it was easily her best performance so far, I thought her emotional attachment to the song was lacking and I was left wanting more … The same goes for Crystal Bowersox’s take on Tracy Chapman‘s “Give Me One Reason.” The performance was strong -- in the way we’ve come to expect from Crystal -- but I was left wanting more. Part of that sentiment also could be coming from my feeling that the radio has played that song to death.

I thought Katie Stevens was as good as gone after her dull and gloomy performance of “Breakaway” … And one week after I went on a limb and said I thought Paige could win it all, she went and tried to commit “Idol” suicide by attempting “Smile” as her personal tribute to Michael Jackson.

In the end, though, all of my favorite girls survived. I didn’t care for Lily (I couldn’t even tell you what she sang Tuesday night, let alone the last few weeks), and I agreed with Kara on Katelyn’s performance of “I Feel the Earth Move.” It looked like she wasn’t playing that piano.

The top guys, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. Even after gushing about Andrew Garcia a couple weeks ago -- as Ryan prepared to announced the final male for the Top 12, I was sort of hoping for him to call Alex Lambert’s name.

It’s just short of a travesty that shaggy-haired Tim Urban broke into the Top 12 over Alex's more deserving soulful tone … Once again, I didn’t hear all the good things the judges appeared to have heard from Timmy’s mouth. But that also might have been the annoyed feeling that settled in at the sound of another Idol contestant trying to tackle “Hallelujah.” Have I also mentioned how annoying Timmy’s reaction shots are when he learns he’s safe?

Then again, as anyone who's ever watched more than a season of "Idol" knows -- "outrage is part of the process."

Admittedly, I only saw half of Wednesday’s night performances …

At exactly 8:30 p.m., I was enjoying Andrew Garcia’s fresh take on “Genie in a Bottle” when, halfway though his performance, the local FOX station’s signal cut out, apparently zapped by a thunderstorm in the area … When it happened, I wondered if I should laugh or cry -- I leaned toward laughing. The FOX station announced tonight it would air the show in its entirety at 4 p.m. on Sunday -- because it’s going to draw mega viewers then, after the people who really care have watched the missed performances on YouTube, read about them on blogs and the Top 12 is old news.

Until now, I had yet to log on to YouTube for Big Mike's performance which several of my Facebook friends and EW have proclaimed one of the best performances of the season ... I thought it was good, not that good. But I'll agree the big guy is definitely a frontrunner.

Of the highlights I did catch …

I sprang from my chair, the moment Lee DeWyze opened the night with a different take on “Fireflies.” I didn’t love the performance, and there were some pitch problems, but it was good fun to hear him rock it up. And for that, I‘ll give him pass to the Top 12.

(Mock me all you want, but have I mentioned how much I love “Fireflies?” … To add to it, Kates told me she was driving with Phoebe this afternoon and the song came on the radio. Phoebe reacted by shouting “Daddy!” -- A product of the number of times Phoebe and I bounced around together while listening to the song last fall.)

And I reacted almost the same way when Alex Lambert started strumming “Trouble.” I also clapped when he inserted a pause in the first verse. I loved his performance and genuinely thought Alex Lambert had secured a spot among the top guys. How wrong I was.

Final note: Matt Giraud and Scott McIntyre’s piano duet on “Tell Her About It” was surprisingly fun to watch. Like David Gokey last week, it’s great to see them really enjoying themselves and holding lots of possibilities in front of them. Caught this version during a search on YouTube ...


Framing Childhood

I got a good kick from this story in The New York Times about the role parents in the 21st century have taken in branding their children ...

One passage from the story reads ...
The marching orders come immediately, with the newborn photo, which must be e-mailed to friends before a baby has left the maternity ward. A conscientious father — chief executive of the budding business — must snap dozens of shots of the modestly wrapped newborn, generally with a Canon PowerShot though sometimes with a showy digital single-lens-reflex camera or a lowly cameraphone. Back at a laptop, he uploads the haul, scrutinizing pixels with the intensity of Anna Wintour. He selects a becoming one. The mother signs off, often via e-mail, from her hospital bed.
For better or worse, I'm one of those fathers, having planned and posted a blog entry within hours of Phoebe's birth ... Heck, just look at all stories, photos and videos of her I've posted on this blog -- I posted another one the other night -- and that doesn't include all of the photos posted to Flickr, the videos on YouTube, and the Facebook status updates. (What's more, notice how I've shamelessly provided a link to all of them ...)

Interestingly, I stumbled on this story this morning just a couple nights after reading about and finding "STFU, Parents," a blog that lampoons parents who go a little overboard with their Facebook status updates ...

And now that I'm self-conscious about producing and posting too much about my kid. I'll end this post and move on to another topic ...


How babies are made: The 21st century version

This one was forwarded to me this week by my friend Gina ...
A little boy goes to his father and asks "Daddy, how was I born?"

The father answers, "Well, son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway! Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe. We sneaked into a secluded room, and Googled each other. There, your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a little pop-up appeared that said ... 'You got male!' "

President party

I'm late to the party on this one ...

I still think Darrell Hammond's portrayal of Bill Clinton is the best of the bunch.

In case you missed it this week, check out Funny Or Die's latest viral hit ...

Tournament expansion could become a big issue

I've said it before, and I'll say it again ...

I don't like the NCAA's notion of expanding its basketball tournament one bit.

The Washington Post has another story on the issue this morning that got my blood pumping, and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's comments (see the end of the story) do have some merit -- believe me, I know all about and appreciate the benefits of change -- but tournament expansion is one idea I can't understand. It would dilute the tournament, and I've already been turned off by Division I football because of the BCS mess.

The major conference coaches complaining about their teams' inability to break into the current tournament doesn't sit well with me, and Kentucky Coach John Calipari's statements in this morning's Post story concur with my sentiments ...
If major conference teams feel they are losing berths to mid-major teams, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said: "Then play better. Finish higher. I just don't agree with [expansion]. Where it is right now, it is hard to get in, which makes it neat. It is hard to be seeded right, which makes it great.

"When I was in those other leagues, it would be aggravating that certain leagues would say they should get nine teams in and we should get one. 'What? We beat four teams in your league.' 'Yeah, but that was different, that was in December.' 'Yeah, but we beat them by 20.' 'Yeah, but we had a guy out and the officials killed us.' It blew me away."


Shobeling through

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post dedicated to Phoebe. Some other things have been slightly more pressing lately …

But here we are, just inside the two-year mark. It hardly seems like it’s been that long

And still, life with her is as exciting as ever. Even if I’m stuck watching it unfold from some 500 miles away.

She loves playing with her “hair pretties” and dropping them in empty milk jugs to shake them and make fun noises that drive Mommy and Daddy nearly insane … She’s honing her cleaning skills by sweeping and vacuuming the floor with her talking friends … She enjoys dumping her play food on the floor so there’s barely enough room to walk … And she’s getting really good at stacking blocks as high as she can reach.

She’s been climbing onto chairs and furniture for months. But now she’s figured out how to climb into her hi-chair, bounding into it like a monkey -- and making my heart skip every time I’ve see her try it. Although, she’s also spending more time sitting at the big table … Haven’t caught her climbing out of her crib, though.

Topping everything, the girl’s vocabulary never fails to amaze us. The moment a word leaves our mouths, she's repeating it and embedding it in her little brain … On one night I won‘t soon forget during my visit in January, I moved to plug in my laptop when I realized I didn’t have the power cord and I let an “Oh, shoot!” slip from my mouth. A second later, Phoebe was repeating me. “Oh, soot!” she said … It could have been worse. Good thing I don’t curse.

The word of this week is “shovel” -- or “shobel” in Phoebe-speak. She learned the word after Kates arrived home one day this week and had to shovel snow from the sidewalk. To keep Phoebe occupied, Kates handed her a kid-size shovel from our garage; Phoebe wasted no time copying Kates, and another word was embedded in brain … Earlier tonight, Kates told me about her and Phoebe taking a walk around our block, with Phoebe trotting and carrying her "shobel" the whole way.

Last night, we caught Pheebs admiring her shoes, saying “cute shoes.” … Tonight, we were trading greetings of “whassup.” … She wastes no time celebrating her accomplishments and admitting her downfalls, saying “I did it.” … She loves all of her “animols” ... She loves to jump and dance, shouting the words and giggling as she does them … And she’s going through this unsettling phase right now of calling me "Mork."

She knows conversational basics, often greeting me with “Hi, Daddy, how are wou?” when I log on for our night time conversations. When I ask how her day was -- if she can stop drinking her milk long enough -- she answers, “good.” … Then, after a few minutes, she loses interest and she’s racing to her play room, singing, “Bye, Daddy, wuv wou!” -- her little head blurring off my computer screen.

In recent weeks, she’s also learned her ABCs, and her alphabet songs have replaced the non-stop dinnertime counting we were enjoying in December. No matter, it’s just as delightful ... Speaking of delightful, we also spent about 15 minutes last night watching and listening to her behave like an elephant.

We have “Noni,” and all of her daycare pals to thank for making her weekdays so bright and chocked full of meaningful playtime. Already, we could fill a room with the art projects Phoebe has brought home; Kates had started to cover our refrigerator with them --so Phoebe could always see her work -- until they had to go in boxes with most of our other personal belongings for realty show-and-tells …

Phoebe knows the word “mine” all too well, also. And she’s got full grasp of the word “no” … In fact, she’s even begun using it to stand up for Mommy. During some of our nightly Skype chats lately, when Kates and I disagree, Phoebe, amusingly, has been quick to respond by sternly looking me in my web cam eyes, throwing her hands down on the tray of her hi-chair and shouting, “No, Daddy!” Surely, she has no idea what she’s saying “no” to, but her response is mature enough to rival one of those talking E*Trade babies

Clearly, since I’ve been away, Phoebe and Kates have become best buds. Not that they weren’t before, but as we talk each night, it’s easy to see the trust Phoebe has in her mother. Kates has been there everyday, whereas I’m mostly a face on the “ ’puter” right now … Kates has done a marvelous job at establishing — and sticking to — a routine for Phoebe to help her feel as secure and comfortable as possible.

With that, Phoebe’s also learning -- as I imagine most toddlers do at this age -- the art of manipulation. When she wants something, she’ll ask for it -- “mooovies” is always a popular request -- and before Kates can deny her, Phoebe’s saying “Ok, Mommy!” and moving to the DVD player in her funny, cute way like it’s a done deal. … Our other favorite Phoebeism lately is the way she shows no regard when one of us is busy, tugs on one of our hands and says, “Mommy, come?” Which is inevitably followed by the “Ok, Mommy!” -- and pulling Kates along like it’s a done deal. When Phoebe succeeds, rather, it results in requests of “ ’gain, Mommy! … Peas!”

Of course, when she doesn’t get her way -- well, the temper tantrums have never been more entertaining. Uncontrollable crying. Huge tears. Flapping arms. And then zombie-like walking to another room, arms lying low in defeat and utter despair.

Man, I miss her.


TV week

Some interesting stuff on TV this week … Ready. Set. Go …

“American Idol.”

What a difference a week makes.

With the guys on Tuesday night, Casey James and Alex Lambert were the top guys who had me smiling widest after their performances. A far cry from last week.

I’m liking the innocence Lambert brings to the stage, and I loved his tone on John Legend's “Everybody Knows,” while James garnered a new respect from me for his rock-solid guitar playing and strong vocals on Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don't Want to Be”

As for the girls on Wednesday night, unfortunately, I missed Crystal Bowersox’s opening performance night -- because I was flipping channels, trying to find the mammoth KU/K-State game, which for some odd reason wasn’t shown in this region, and I had to resort to following an internet feed -- but I sure was glad to see her back after a hospital-run that could have threatened her life on “Idol.”

Of the females I did see, none were better than Paige Miles and Siobhan Magnus

While her storyline isn’t as memorable as some others -- say Katie Stevens' grandmother who has Alzheimers, or Crystal “Mamasox” -- I can’t recall a bad performance by Paige. I really enjoyed her take on "Walk Away," and she’s solidifying herself as a sleeper in the competition. So much so that I could see her winning the whole shebang, a la Jordin Sparks.

When Siobhan announced she was singing Aretha Franklin’s “Think,” I rolled my eyes and thought, no way, she’s gonna do that justice. But lo and behold, she took it to new heights; it was a delight to watch and she blew Idol Nation away with her ending “glory note.” However dark and odd her personality, as the weeks pass I’m increasingly developing a soft spot for Miss Siobhan Magnus. (Randy: It was dope!)

I’m not going to go any further than that because there’s still very, very little I’m enjoying about this season of “Idol.” (Katelyn Epperly's Coldplay cover: love the song, didn’t love her slooooow version of it.) … Even the group performances, which I usually enjoy, are unbearable to watch.

The four who were canned tonight hardly came as a surprise. When Haeley and Lacy were invited to center stage with Ryan, I cared so little that I was tuning out. Both should have been gone weeks ago; Of Haeley’s awful Wednesday night performance, Kates noted her version of “The Climb” actually made Miley Cyrus’ torturous version sound pleasant.

It is amusing to me, though, the ways some of the early “safeties” react to Seacrest’s proclamation that they’re not going home … Seriously, guys, the producers are not going to knock off the first name they tell Seacrest to call (I’m looking at you Tim Urban). In case you haven’t heard, "American Idol" has a whole hour to fill with sappy drama, panning camera shots and horrendous pauses. Oh, and we have to listen to the knocked-offs perform one more time for a reminder of how bad it was the first go around.

On one more note, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from our Milwaukee boy, Danny Gokey, and I might just have to get his album … It was great to see him so happy and excited about life.

* * *

“The Office.”

I’ve had my frustrations over the years with “The Office,” too, but the show has rarely failed to deliver on its most-hyped episodes (Think: The post-Super Bowl show, Pam & Jim’s wedding.) … I was laughing a minute into tonight’s very special baby episode as Dwight got personal to compete with Jim’s and Pam’s sales (“I need a baby … sometimes I wake up cradling a gourd.”)

The laugh-out-loud, instant-classic lines came one after another -- with Oscar serving up my favorite line to Michael who becomes upset his hospital bag isn't packed and starts by looking for a dictionary: “The hospital will provide dictionaries. Bring a thesaurus” (as he looks wryly at the camera).

Michael’s interest, anxiety and joy for the whole process was, at times, even more amusing to watch than the emotions of Jim and Pam. Michael playing shadow to Jim as he tried to console Pam in the lunch room was another instant highlight. And Michael showing no restraint as he walked into the delivery room, holding a handful of gigantic balloons, while Pam was giving birth.

The sidestory of Dwight and poor Angela mapping our a parenting contract was just as hilarious ... My heart melted when Jim learned him and Pam were having a little girl … I was laughing with tears in my eyes as the male lactation consultant tried to help Pam while Jim sat nearby trying to distract himself with a magazine … And I couldn’t help but smile at seeing Pam and Jim trying to figure out the nuances of early parenthood …

Oh, how the memories and images of those first few days came rushing back

* * *


Last year, I couldn’t get enough of it.

This year, I’m not sure I want to keep watching.

But despite all the endless waffling from fulfillment to frustration, like “Idol,” that’s part of the show‘s hook: It’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen from week to week and you hold out hope for the big reveal, the ah-ha moment, the underdog to emerge victorious.

That said, I wasn’t giddy after watching this week’s episode -- ok, that fight scene with Sayid and Dogen was pretty dang good. But I was more thrilled to see Dogen and Lennon get whacked near the end and some movement toward getting the island gang out of that crazy temple. As if the sideways storylines aren’t mind-boggling enough, the whole premise of hiding in the temple caught on about as well with me as the whole Kate-and-Sawyer-in-cages travesty of Season 3.

* * *


Having read a ton of copy about the show last summer and fall, and having been beat over the head the last few weeks with the endless, but enticing promos from NBC, complete with that catchy-cool bah-ba-ba-bah music, I could hardly wait to see “Parenthood.” Not to mention, it’s got a strong cast (Patty from “American Dreams”!!) …

I watched with great anticipation on Tuesday night and … eh. It felt like a darker “Modern Family,” without the mocumentary-style interviews, but with the angst and drama of “Brothers & Sisters.”

I’ll keep watching for now. But my interest in it may have flatlined.

* * *

“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Haven’t watched a second of it.

I wasn’t a fan of him before. I certainly won’t be now, considering the mess he fostered at NBC. And no parade of celebrities stepping onto his stage is going to change my mind.

Here’s a good read, submitted by my friend Ann, that sums up my argument beautifully

* * *

“The Marriage Ref.”

Having been beaten with promos for “Marriage Ref” as well, my sentiment one week ago was: “Looks like a waste of time. There’s no way I’ll watch that …”

It is a waste of time … But ah ha! It’s a dang-funny waste of time.