At one point Wednesday night, I said it would be a miracle if I could finish everything I needed to do within the ensuing 36 hours.

Sometimes miracles do happen.

First, a little bit of history …

Earlier this month Kates and I cut a deal with our realtor and agreed to rent a duplex from her, figuring it’s best for us, at this point, to take a break from our house hunt, concentrate on selling our house in K-Town and get our bearings in The ‘Ville.

She assured us the family living in the duplex would be moved out by May 20, and I relayed the message to my apartment landlord that I’d be moved out of my place by June 1.

(I hate using the word duplex. It seems to have this sad, unfortunate, trashy connotation. … Sort of the way condo living takes on the connotation of a place for retirees or yuppies.)

Never mind that I was in Wisconsin last weekend, and had plans to be in K-Town this weekend, too. If the family in the duplex was moving out by the 20th, I had plenty of time, right?


By Wednesday night, the 26th, they were almost moved out -- but still had belongings spread throughout the garage.

But by that point, I had no choice. I needed to get my stuff out of my apartment. I was determined to get out of town so I could spend the weekend with my wife and daughter!

I started packing my Little Green Machine around 6 on Wednesday night with all the boxes it could hold and began making the car trips halfway across town from my apartment to the duplex. Once I got to the duplex, I had to practically beg the departing residents for a key to the place.

In all, I made three trips and filled a spare bedroom that we’ve designated as a storage room.

* * *

Meanwhile, the “American Idol” finale was playing out live on FOX.

Before I started the moving process, I popped a video tape into my VCR and let it record.

I wasn’t expecting to have any trouble avoiding the results. Although I’d have to check my Blackberry for messages from time to time, I just wouldn’t open any of my news alerts, and I’d be fine, right?

Wrong again.

The alerts started rolling in around 9:30, while I was walking into my apartment from making my second trip to the duplex. Nearly every alert spilled the beans right there in the subject line: Lee DeWyze is next ‘American Idol.’ … Leaving no time for the shock I would have felt had I been watching it live, I could only roll my eyes and keep on moving.

But for the record, I couldn’t keep myself from playing back that video tape when I was back in my apartment for good -- past midnight, early Thursday morning. And the spectacle of all the big time performances kept me up until past 2 a.m. …

I finally did give in to sleep -- recognizing my Thursday was going be another busy and trying day -- just before the Janet Jackson performance … I watched the remainder of the show while I ate breakfast and got ready for work Thursday morning.

My favorite performance of the night, easily, was Crystal Bowersox’s hookup with Alanis Morrissette. A distant second goes to Crystal and Lee teaming up with Joe Cocker … Cocker’s age showed throughout the performance, but Crystal’s and Lee’s singing gave the performance a major energy boost.

The showcase of past American Idols and the ensuing parade of past contestants, in a tribute to Simon Cowell, also was extremely memorable. And I surprised myself with how many of the Idols I recognized and remembered.

Worst performance of the night -- and it pains me to say this, as much as I adore their music -- was Chicago with Lee DeWyzeChicago hasn’t been Chicago since Peter Cetera left the band, and the remaining members just can’t cut it like they used to.

As for Lee winning the competition over Crystal? I didn’t agree entirely with the outcome, but I didn’t care. Both have loads of appeal and both have promising careers ahead of them.

Good reads ...
a Lee DeWyze beats Crystal Bowersox on 'American Idol' in Simon Cowell's farewell
a 'Idolatry': Lee DeWyze on 'pitchy' singing, 'confidence' critiques, and his alternate 'Beautiful Day'
a 'Idolatry': Crystal Bowersox on dream collaborations (Adam Lambert?), confrontations with judges, and what she'd change about 'Idol'
a Crystal Bowersox after 'American Idol' finale: 'I wouldn't have tried out if I didn't think I had a shot at winning'
a As Lee DeWyze wins a sleepy season, where does 'Idol' go without Simon?

* * *

I pushed through my work day on Thursday and took off a couple hours early to get a head start on the move …

Sometime around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, after completing the first night of my move and in the midst of watching the Idol finale, I went online and booked a Uhaul truck -- the Internet rocks! -- to move my larger furniture.

I got a phone call from a Uhaul person later in the day and recruited my old friend Shawn -- aka Tall Bobby -- to help. I picked up the truck, and Shawn met me at the apartment around 4. We went to work loading all of my furniture and the remaining boxes that wouldn’t fit into my car … Within 90 minutes we had my belongings moved to the duplex and I was returning the truck to the local True Value store.

Then came the cleanup. I scrubbed the bathroom from wall to wall and wiped the kitchen from top to bottom. I vacuumed the floors … Finally, I left the old apartment for the last time around 12:30 a.m. Friday, and for the second consecutive day, it was past 2 a.m. before I could get into bed.

* * *

On Friday morning, although I had marked the day as a vacation day on my calendar, I went to work for a couple hours anyway. I had to make up time for taking off early the day before, and I had to meet a television reporter for an interview …

At around 10 a.m., I had finished my work for the day and was checking out for the Memorial Day weekend. After a quick trip back to the duplex to grab my suitcase -- and taking a few minutes to handle one final media call about a budget issue that had cropped up -- I was on the road to K-Town once more. My last trip before the big move next month.

After five months of driving the same route through Iowa and Illinois it’s nearly second-nature.

Admittedly, I probably drove a little faster this time … Because I wanted badly to arrive in time to say good night to Phoebe.

The adrenaline pumping the closer I got, I finally reached our house around 8:30. Pulled the car into the garage. Jogged through the back yard and into the house. Opened the back door and burst through the kitchen …

And there playing in the living room with Kates was a smiling and wide awake Phoebe!

Without skipping a beat, I joined Kates on the floor beside the couch. Phoebe jumped into my lap, and promptly started feeling my face with her little hands, as if she had to touch my mouth, ears and cheeks to make it sure it was really me and not just another image of me on Skype.

As hard as it has been to be apart, the homecomings never get dull.


Ode to my apartment

This week I'm saying goodbye to the old apartment ...

In the nearly five months I spent in my return to apartment living, I never once posted about my experiences here ...

What can I say? I've had few complaints.

I was lucky. Lucky enough after I accepted this adventure last December that my new friend Gina was able to put me in touch with someone who had a quiet, affordable, kempt apartment available for me.

The place was decent, not great. I had all the space I needed. A washer and dryer. A dishwasher that I only used once because I never dirtied enough dishes by myself (The one time I did use it, the door got stuck.).

Sure, the walls were so paper thin that I had the luxury of falling asleep each night to my neighbor's snoring and coughing and waking up in the morning to the same neighbor's TV blaring "The Early Show" ... And there was the guy down the hall who preferred to park his moped in the hallway, thus stinking up the place with nauseating gasoline ... And there was the one night -- only one, which must be a record for apartment living -- that my neighbors had their hip hop music so loud I couldn't think.

It could have been a lot worse. Living in a college town, I could have been coming home every night to thumping bass shaking the building and shirtless, pant-sagging boys gallivanting in the hallway.

Prior to arriving here, I was having flashbacks of my college apartment -- where the floor sloped, the roof leaked so badly that my roommate and I got to experience a waterfall between our bedrooms every time it rained, we refused to use the oven for fear it would explode, we sat at our dining table and watched mice crawl from the floor register ... The place was on the verge of collapsing when we moved out of it 8 1/2 years ago, and yet it's still standing today -- and looking worse yet.

Yep, my last five months could have been a lot worse.

The Definitive Guide to WTF Just Happened on ‘Lost’

Ok ...

This interpretation of the "Lost" finale is really good.

Update 5.29

More good reads ...
a 'Lost' finale recap, part one And In The End...
a 'Lost' finale recap, part two Step into the light
a 'Lost': ABC says final images of wreckage 'not part of the final story' ... Count me among the viewers who never thought they were part of the story.
a No Longer ‘Lost,’ but Still Searching
a Totally Lost

Idol ... um

Forty-eight hours later, I’m still processing Sunday night’s “Lost.” Just the thought of it still excites me.

Tonight‘s “American Idol” hasn’t even ended, and I’m ready to turn off the TV, never to watch the show again. Seriously.

A fitting final performance night to what has been a dud of a season. The performances were good, but hardly the best we’ve seen from the two finalists, I thought.

Not to take anything away from Crystal Bowersox. After her performances tonight -- from my favorite of the season, “Me and Bobby McGee” to her passionate “Up to the Mountain” -- she’s the clear-cut winner.

And Lee DeWyze is a nice, talented dude who no doubt has a bright career ahead of him. But he was really lacking punch tonight, and all of his wailing and moaning is starting to get a little grating.

The worst offense of tonight’s performance night -- aside from the love fest that was pouring from the judges table -- was the revelation that this year's winner won’t be releasing an original song as his or her first single. Nope, whoever wins will be releasing songs already made popular by other artists … And Lee, if he wins, will release U2’s “Beautiful Day” !?! So not cool, dude.

The awfulness that was Kara DioGuardi’s attempt at penning a hit single for winner Kris Allen last year has been blogged to death … But c’mon! The number of lip-synched performances this season was bad enough. Does the show not have any integrity left?

How about allowing Crystal to sing her heartfelt original "Holy Toledo" and letting her release that as a first single!?

And now the minds behind “Glee” expect me to watch a Lady Gaga-themed episode?

I’m tuning out.

* * *

I missed last Tuesday night's performances, and caught them all on YouTube later.

On Wednesday night, I'll admit, I did tear up a little seeing the montages of Crystal in Toledo and Lee in Chicago -- two wonderfully talented and charming people visiting two cities that hold a special place in my heart for varying reasons.

Here's a good read and news video detailing Crystal's hometown visit.

Here's a good read and amateur video detailing Lee's hometown visit.

Here's a good read about Idol culture from the great Michael Slezak.


The end of "Lost"

I started writing this post at about 12:30 this morning because I couldn’t sleep, and my mind was whirling with “Lost” visions and questions that I told myself I wasn’t going to dwell on. It never fails, my mind is always most active before I try to sleep.

My instant reaction to last night’s “Lost” finale was this: I was very, very pleased … It worked.

Of course, all of my sentiments were thrown into a tailspin when Kates finished watching the finale about an hour behind me and called, seemingly more lost and confused than I. Our interpretations of the finale varied, which seems to be occurring across the country today, and probably will for weeks and months to come. For my friends still catching up on previous seasons via DVD, good luck.

Still, I’m quite comfortable with my interpretation, thank you very much -- that everything we saw during the first five seasons was real life for the Oceanic 815 survivors. I’m contending that the remaining survivors died at the end of Season 5 when Juliet detonated the nuclear bomb at the Swan station, and here’s why:

… Juliet detonated the bomb and everything went white. Even the “Lost” title screen with white letters on a black background was reversed to black letters on a white screen. As if everything was entering a new dimension.

… The sideways lives started appearing after Juliet detonated the bomb. The survivors got the “reset” they had hoped for, the plane landed safely and they began living in purgatory.

… In the finale, we heard the line “It worked” multiple times, which is what Juliet said in the Season 6 premiere just after she detonated the bomb.

… I also think the bomb detonation is what ultimately sunk the island, as we saw it in the opening sequence of the Season 6 premiere -- not whatever magic Desmond tried in the cave of light during the finale, as Locke/Smoke Monster/Man in Black/Whatever He Was tried to have us believe.

… The Season 5 finale, in which the bomb was detonated, was titled “The Incident.” Perhaps it was the incident that killed the remaining survivors?

I could be way off base. And I probably am. But that’s so the beauty of “Lost.”

Kates -- and a multitude of fans, I’m finding -- interpreted the finale by concluding all of the castaways died in the original plane crash, and everything that followed was a complex journey through the afterlife …

But that theory contradicts Christian’s parting words to Jack in the church -- that some died before and some died long after. The exchange leaves the impression that Hurley and Ben were still very much living on the island after Jack died. That Kate, Sawyer and the remaining survivors really did fly off the island in the Ajira Airways plane. And that Hurley really was “a great No. 1” to Ben’s “real good No. 2.”

By the way, my favorite line of the night …
Sawyer (responding to Jack‘s recap of Jacob‘s instructions): “Sounds to me like he didn’t say anything about anything.”

Hugo: “That’s kinda true, dude. He’s worse than Yoda.”

And keeping with the “Star Wars” theme, Hurley added later: “I got a bad feeling about this.”
The entire show -- with all of its ties to religion and mythology -- is wide open for interpretation.

I caught Evangeline Lily’s appearance on Letterman a couple weeks ago, on which she said the finale represented “Lost” nicely. After watching the finale tonight, I understand what she meant …

If you’re complaining now that it didn’t make sense … what did you expect? The show has never made sense. But the finale made sense for “Lost.”

As frustrating as it was at times, the whole journey of the show was a mind-blowing puzzle of epic storylines that were never clear. If you thought the finale and all of its answers were going to be handed to you on a silver platter, than you’re missing the beauty and art of the show.
With its rich characters and sumptous score and ingenius plot turns, “Lost’’ is a triumphant work of art — yes, anti-TV snobs, I did say “art.’’ That’s why the ending of “Lost’’ raises age-old artistic questions ...

But when it comes to “Lost,’’ the equation isn’t so easy. The beauty and innovation of the show is the way it coexists with its audience, which goes online after every episode, asking and answering questions, analyzing screen shots, sharing theories that are sometimes more intriguing than anything that aired on TV. “Lost’’ is a collective experience, which is why catching up on DVDs will be possible, but unsatisfying — like watching the Super Bowl a week later, alone.
All theories aside, the final scenes were beautifully written, choreographed and shot, with some inspired music for an extra punch. As the final moments played out, I couldn’t stop smiling, chills were running through my spine, and I was tearing up -- all at once. ... Sawyer and Juliet's reunion. The smirk on Kates face as she left Jack in his jeep. Locke forgiving Ben and rising out of his wheelchair. And the way Jack stumbled to the very same spot where he landed on the island, and closed his eyes in a reversal of the way the whole wild journey began ...

I loved the way the survivors found each other and reclaimed the memories of their pasts. I delighted at seeing Shannon reappear in front of Sayid, and for me, that was the moment the finale really started clicking. That was the moment I gave in, realized the finale was heading for one grand reunion and settled on the notion that not all of the island’s mysteries would be put to rest.

So what if we didn’t get clear cut answers to all of our questions -- to the polar bear, the numbers and why exactly Richard didn’t age -- or why, in the end, he did age? All of that, too, remains open for interpretation.

Finally, I thought Christian’s parting words and his church scene with son Jack couldn’t have been more symbolic -- to the show, and to the situation playing out in our lives right now. It occurred to me toward the end of the finale that the show ran parallel to our life in K-Town ... The memories of watching the “Lost” premiere on a September night in the fall of 2004 and being mesmerized by all of its thrilling sequences, while Kates and I were still unpacking boxes in our new home, remain etched in my brain. For those six years, “Lost” was an escape from reality that no other television show provided us. In the last six years, there was rarely a television show that we consistently looked forward to watching more, and there was never another show that forced us to drop everything we were doing for an hour -- every Tuesday, Wednesday, or whatever night we chose to watch it on DVR -- out of fear that we might miss something very important. Talk about a fitting title, we got lost in the story-telling.

In my mind, there’s only one other show in our lifetimes that consistently captivated Kates and I on a weekly basis and created a similar stir when it retired: “Friends,” which ran parallel to another important phase of our lives -- the collision of our youth with adulthood.

Just like I’ve said there will never be another show like “Friends,” there will never ever be another show like “Lost.”

And so, in the words of Christian …

Moving on.

Here are some of my favorite passages from the day's reviews ...

The Chicago Tribune ...
And after all the present-future-past machinations on this show, time did seem to stop in the last 20 minutes of the "Lost" series finale. The closing sequence was a hymn, it was an emotionally cathartic sendoff, it was a beautiful reunion and a testament to what the show was about: Creating your own world. Creating your own fate. Creating a community of people that you can't exist without -- in any sphere, before or after death.
EW ...
Lost last night was a combination of a greatest-hits album and a lively Sunday-school lesson. Everyone was forgiven; everyone smiled. If The Mary Tyler Moore Show hadn’t done it first, I suspect that the Lost producers would have had every member assembled in the final scene gather in a group hug.
The Boston Globe ...
The déjà vu revelations came on in the characters like a love drug, as Kate delivered Claire’s baby, as Sayid saw Shannon, as Sawyer and Juliet re-met cute by the hospital candy machine. When they all sat in a church at the end, ready to “move on,’’ it was like a flashforward to the sentimental “Lost’’ reunion show that will inevitably take place 10 years from now.
USA Today ... 
Thrillingly, cleverly, and in a manner that tapped into the simple, profound truths of great American works like Our Town, the show spelled out for viewers what it has been saying all along. Lost is about life and death, faith and science, spirit and flesh, and has always stressed that the title refers to the characters' souls, not their location.
More good reads and links ...
a 'Lost': A Character Gallery
a 'Lost': 30 Key Deaths
a YouTube: Lost eyeballs
a A swan song for Lost' composer
a In ‘Lost,’ Mythology Trumps Mystery
a It’s not even over, but they feel ‘Lost’
a The Men Who Made ABC’s ‘Lost’ Last
a As Lost Ends, Creators Explain How They Did It, What’s Going On
a Daniel Dae Kim on 'Lost' Finale: 'I Wanted to Find Some Kind of Closure'
a When it’s time for TV series finales, parting is almost always botched
a Lost Like Us: Will Cubs Ever Leave the Island?  ... Clever.


A wedding weekend whirlwind

So here I am again. Back in good ol’ Gate D52. General Mitchell Airport. Milwaukee.

I’ve spent some time at this gate the last seven months. It’s a nice gate. There’s lots of daylight pouring in from the windows and slylights. Big flat screen TVs, airing the day’s news everywhere you look. Lots of food choices. And a nice desk to plug in and … reflect.

I’m home again. The K-Town one. Although, this time, I was all over the southeast corner of Wisconsin, really.

In terms of rest and relaxation -- I didn’t get much of it this weekend. But that's OK, I'll gladly take the whirlwind with family.

It’s not going to get any easier this week. My days will be spent writing gobs of material for the University and attending strategy meetings. At night, I’ll be moving out my apartment and into the duplex where we’ll be living for the next one, two, three, maybe 12 months. And I still have to find time for grocery shopping, making doctor's appointments and getting a new driver's license.

Our family was reunited again this weekend for Orrin and Kelli’s wedding. They would be Kates’ brother and his longtime girlfriend. Of course, Kelli has been a part of the family for years now, so it was pretty swell to welcome her to the family officially.

* * *

I arrived Thursday evening on a flight from Kansas City to Milwaukee. My flight arrived shortly after 6, but we didn’t pull into our garage in K-Town until well after 10 p.m., compliments of a lot of traffic, road construction, a much-needed supper break at Arby’s, and some dress-shopping with Kates … Those delays left me little time to do some of the chores I’d hoped to do Thursday night around our house. By the time I finished sorting through my mail and some bills, and Kates finished some laundry and packing for our wedding road trip, we headed to bed around 1 a.m.

On Friday morning, the whirlwind started again, with me getting out of bed around 6:30. I finished what I started the night before and let Kates enjoy some much-needed sleep-in time. Then I played with Phoebe while Kates ran some errands, and we were on the road again around noon, making the four-hour trek to Wausau. Phoebe, I should add, never slept.

We rolled into our hotel around 4 p.m. and Kates’ parents were passing through the doors behind us. We had a minor glitch right away when we were mistakenly assigned to a smoking room, but the staff was perfectly apologetic and quick to give us a non-smoking room.

Before we could drop our bags in the room, Phoebe had climbed onto “the big bed” and was sprawled out in the middle of it, pillows propped behind her, hands behind her head. We were in an extended stay hotel, after all, which meant that for the weekend we were practically living in a studio apartment equipped with a full kitchen, king-sized bed, recliner and entertainment center. Not too shabby.

We did the rehearsal thing, and Kates I marveled at the church's late '60s architecture ...

Then we gathered at a brewery for a dinner that was best classified as organized chaos. The reservation had been set well in advance, but the staff was hardly ready for our party of 30 when we started drifting in the doors. We ended up scattered at tables throughout the restaurant, eating a buffet of salads, appetizers and gourmet pizza that appeared specially thrown together for us. Then, around 9:30, Phoebe began her meltdown, giving us the sign that it was time to head for our accommodations.

(I’ve interrupted this post to board my flight to Kansas City. I’m now seated beside a window and traveling somewhere over Illinois I’ll guess … I’m faring more comfortably this time than my flight to Milwaukee on Thursday, when I ended up in a middle seat between two men much older and larger than I ...)

Saturday morning was care-free. While Kates and her mother went for manicures, I spent the morning in our hotel room with Pheebs. We watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, built towers with her blocks, played games and I gave Phoebe a bath. The highlight of the morning, undoubtedly, was brushing her hair and honoring her request to attach every last one of her "hair pretties" to the back of her head (see right) … Having experienced the ramifications of a no-nap day on Friday night, I had Phoebe down for a nap around noon, and that left me plenty of time to start getting ready for the wedding. Kates arrived back at the hotel around 1:30. We downed some Culver’s and we were driving to the wedding by 2:30.

* * *

The wedding day was one to cherish. The weather was wonderful, everything happened without any hint of a hitch, and there was an understated emotion to the entire day that I won’t even begin to try explaining on his blog …

It was refreshing to catch up with family, friends and other familiar faces who have long been a part of the intertwined lives Kates and I have shared. That circle of friends and family also included the wedding photographer, who might as well be dubbed our official family photographer. A longtime friend, he’s shot numerous occasions over the years; Kates and I even give him credit for breaking the shyness between us 12 years ago, which prompted us to admit we 'liked' each other, which led us to begin dating, which led to the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, all I got to see of the ceremony was the beginning and the end. We took our seats in the second pew behind Kates’ parents, but Orrin and Kelli had barely settled at the alter when Phoebe started -- quite verbally -- passing out offering envelopes to everyone around her. Kates flashed me the look of horror, pointed to the side aisle and whispered, “Get her out!” To which I swiftly turned around and carried Phoebe out of the sanctuary.

I spent the rest of the ceremony pacing around the church atrium with her in my arms and refusing to take her back into the sanctuary, while she feebly pleaded, “I listen, Daddy. I listen.” … I missed Kates reading the scripture passage. I missed the vows. I missed the lighting of the unity candle. I missed the soloist.

But I did see their first kiss as a married couple. And by virtue of being in the atrium, I got to be the first person to greet them as a married couple.

The usual travails of getting to the reception and organizing family pictures came next … We were already running late when we got lost driving back to our hotel because we hadn’t brought the directions to the reception with us.

Once the last family photo was taken, Kates and I finally were able to let go a little … We lost track of Phoebe -- and it was totally fine. It turned out she was inside the bar room, coloring with her aunts. Kates mingled with a glass of white wine. And I nursed a glass of Point beer while catching up at a table with Ruth, Bruce and Allan. … The bar room really started buzzing as the big screen TV started commanding people’s attention and the Brewers put together a ninth-inning comeback on the Minnesota Twins

During dinner, we indulged on savory trout and chicken. We listened to the speeches. Phoebe played with Mr. Potato Head. And we got some fun entertainment as The Couple challenged any guests who dared ding their glasses to show them how they should kiss. We saw everything from sweet pecks on the lips to all-out falling over chairs.

Then we danced the night away, with Phoebe becoming the life of the party …

She danced -- jumped, rather -- like that for more than two hours straight, until finally around a quarter to 11 Kates and I decided it was a good time to leave. With Def Leperd’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” starting up, I whisked Phoebe into my arms and carried her away from the dance floor -- while she burst into cries and reached for the dance floor.

We said our goodbyes, and Phoebe was half asleep in my arms by the time we got to our car … Within minutes she was zonked out in her car seat, and then I got the pleasure of carrying her on my shoulder up the three flights of stairs to our hotel room. That job is one of the things I’ve looked forward to most in fatherhood; as we traveled the staircase I whispered to Kates that it was the best part of my night.


Interpretations of Jesus

So Phoebe has developed an interest in Jesus lately …

It began earlier this spring when Kates’ mother gave Phoebe a children’s book that plays “Jesus Loves Me” when you open the cover. The book proceeds with a series of pictures of Jesus interacting with children and the lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me” playing out on the pages. All of the pictures show the adult, bearded Jesus smiling with children, but for a long time Phoebe pointed to the pictures and proclaimed, “Baby Jesus crying!”

Last weekend, Phoebe was obsessed again with a picture of Jesus in my grandmother’s home. I wasn’t there, but the story as told to me went a little like this: My father was playing with Phoebe in the back yard, and every few minutes she’d want to go into the house, saying “I go see Jesus!” Then she’d find the picture of Jesus, point to it and shout “Jesus!” … Go back outside, play with my dad and repeat.

Now, yesterday. During our road trip to Wausau, I spotted a bumper sticker and read it aloud. “Jesus is a liberal!”

“Nice,” I said. Kates laughed.

Then Phoebe shouted from the back seat, “No, no, Daddy! Jesus is a boy!”


Secrets of the Ya-Ya Neighborhood

I attended a presentation about technology and media this morning where the video below was shown ...

I couldn't stop nodding my head as I watched all of the factoids scroll and sweep across the screen. Because I can relate to this video on so many levels -- from the ways I interact with technology, to my television-viewing habits, to relying on my parents' advice and examples in certain situations ...

I love this stuff!

On a side note, this gem came over on Overheard In the Newsroom today:
Sports Editor: “So May 31 is Quit Facebook Day?”
Managing Editor: “Yes. Because the people too stupid to use it are now afraid of it.”
Don't get me started about the people who complain about Facebook and all of its quirks and privacy issues when so many of those same people are sharing their locations on Foursquare, whining on Twitter or sharing their innermost thoughts on blogs ...

Ok, check out the video ...


Sunday baseball

I’m watching the Brewers and Phillies tonight. … Corey Hart just hit a bomb to cut the Phillies’ lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

I watched the Cubs beat the Pirates this afternoon. On WGN. During what appeared to be a beautiful sunny day at Wrigley Field.

I wish we had been blessed with that brand of weather here today. I had plans to go to the Royals game today with my friend Tom. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks … But it’s been raining and dreary all weekend here, and when we woke up to more cold, overcast skies this morning, we decided to call it off.

Not only was I looking forward to attending a major league ball game and getting my first look at the new and improved Kauffman Stadium, I was excited to watch the new and improved Royals …

For me, the most exciting news I received all week was that Ned Yost had been tabbed to replace Trey Hillman as the Royals skipper. I was in a meeting late Thursday afternoon when I checked my Blackberry for messages and saw the breaking news alert from the Kansas City Star. I smiled at the headline and then had to quickly snuff out my excitement for the rest of the meeting.

With Ned Yost as manager, I suddenly feel like I have a stake in the Royals, besides being a mere local. Sure, I’ve watched Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik play close by in recent years, and you couldn’t be a baseball fan last year without knowing at least a little about Zack Greinke. But for six years in Milwaukee, we watched Yost help mold the Brewers into a contender. (Looking back on his exit from Milwaukee, it was too bad it had to end that way, but it felt like the right move at the time.)

With Ned Yost as manager, I feel like the Royals have a decent chance of turning their woeful franchise around. The Royals have a budding farm system just like the Atlanta Braves did on their way to becoming the best team of the ’90s, just like Milwaukee Brewers did on their way to becoming a postseason contender in the latter part of this decade.

Ned Yost has a proven record and intensity that could suit the Royals really well.

Good reads ...
aRoyals' leadership takes tough action, but Hillman hardly the root problem
aRoyals players excited for Yost's arrival

Songs of the season

Following up on a previous post, Summerfest has finished announcing its headliners …

If this was like past summers, this would be my go-to list …
… And those are only my top choices. Never mind that I’d also love to catch a glimpse of Colbie Caillat, She & Him, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The B-52s, 311, Danny Gokey, and Blue Oyster Cult playing “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (... more cowbell!)

But this won’t be like past summers. We’ve entered a new era. We’re starting over and trying new things.

At least I can take solace in the fact I’ve seen Guster, I've seen OAR and I've seen Counting Crows -- three times, in fact, on all three. It’s the idea that they’re so darn fun to hear and see that keeps me wanting more! I also can settle on the idea that The Moody Blues and Yes are, um, aged and perhaps wouldn’t be worthwhile …

Which leaves the one and only Sheryl Crow. The dream isn’t dead yet.

If all goes well and according to plan, we’ll be moving from K-Town the weekend that Ms. Crow will be touring through the area. Which is also my birthday weekend … Yay me.

Of course, now I’m on a mission to find the hot concert venues around our new home base.

* * *

The New Pornographers show I was pining to attend in June, however, is not likely to happen for me.

Sigh. It’s ok. Really. We have a lot on our plate right now. And we don’t need to spend the money. … Sigh.

Ooh, but it could have been great. Seeing one of the great indie bands of this era, the ridiculously talented supergroup, with all eight of its members jamming on a stage together. Hearing upbeat rock songs like “The Bleeding Heart Show” and “All the Old Showstoppers” live. Perhaps Neko Case would pull out a couple of her solo songs …

Surely there would be some cuts from their new album, "Together," which I picked up the day after its release a couple weeks ago. I haven’t felt the immediate love I did for 2007‘s “Challengers,” but it’s growing me.

Here’s a great perspective from AllMusic.

* * *

I am certain on not liking another album …

Court Yard Hounds. In case you’re not familiar with the duo, it’s the Dixie Chicks, minus Natalie Maines. You’d think it’s gotta be great, right!?

I had already added it to my Amazon wish list in wild anticipation, when I streamed it online a couple weeks ago … And oh, how very disappointed I was. A Washington Post review couldn’t have summarized it better: “tepid, torpid and disappointingly pleasant.”

I want Natalie Maines back.

* * *

The other night I spotted a posting about Ingrid Michaelson covering R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming.”

I gasped and logged onto YouTube for a glimpse.

In our household: “Nightswimming” + Ingrid Michaelson = Bliss.

Check it out.

* * *

Before I go …

Here’s one more I got wind of this week …

Ben Folds covering Elliott Smith’s “Say Yes.” More bliss.

Check it out.


TV watch

So I read a good story today about the trend in sitcoms built on the mockumentary format, and the observation that we never see the camera crews in any of the shows …
"... who is on the other end of the camera when Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, Jim and Pam Halpert, and the other employees of Dunder Mifflin confess their innermost thoughts on "The Office"? And what sort of fictional camera crew, making what sort of film, would find itself limitlessly interested in one Leslie Knope of the Pawnee, Ind., "Parks and Recreation" department?"
Interestingly, I had a brainstorm this morning about exactly that and what the finale of “The Office” -- when that day comes -- might look like … Don’t ask me why I thought of it. The thought just entered my brain. Probably from doing a catch-up marathon of “Modern Family” episodes late last night.

For “The Office” finale, why not show the camera crews wrapping up and leaving Scranton? … Although that would alter the dynamic of the show if we’re suddenly seeing a bunch of cameramen around the office. And then we’d probably be asking ourselves, Who’s filming the cameramen?

Or … Or! The finale could be the finished product. The complete fictional documentary that the film crew would produce after spending the last four, five, six -- however long it’s been -- years filming in Scranton. Dunder Mifflin's culture from beginning to end. … Although that would require NBC to dedicate something like a two-hour movie timeslot for the finale, which would seem unlikely.

The whole brainstorm appeared better in my head.

* * *

Speaking of “The Office,” there’s been some rumblings lately that Steve Carell could be leaving the show.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about that.

But EW recently made a good case for a reboot of “The Office” if Carell does leave ... My vote is for Ricky Gervais to move into the Scranton branch.
* * *

Heroes” got canceled this week.

And I got reaffirmation that I right to stop watching the show when I did. It's about time.

The first season was so, so glorious (Take a look at that post. Geez, how wrong was I about "30 Rock"!?) ... The rest of the "Heroes" lifespan -- um, not so much.


Idol chatter

Oh, man my heart was racing as Ryan Seacrest prepared to announce who would be going home tonight on “American Idol.”

Not that I doubted Michael Lynche was heading home tonight (I called it), but the notion that Crystal Bowersox could go seriously scared me.

Seriously. Then again, by the end of last night’s performances -- featuring another mentor whose name I refuse to mention because he doesn't deserve the title of musical mentor in the first place -- it was clearer than ever who we’ll be seeing in the finale.

Lee DeWyze and Crystal nailed their duet of the Swell Season’s “Falling Slowly.” ("Once" ... Excellent movie. See it if you haven't.)… Anyone who’s watched Idol closely this season, has seen the chemistry between those two (How many times have we seen them with interlocked arms during the intros and outros?) Tonight, Crystal called Lee her “musical crush.” You knew the moment those two stepped to the mic together, it was going to be special. The chemistry and interaction between them during their duet was sublime.

I’ll hand it to Michael and Casey James for performing a pretty swell rendition of “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman.” Casey’s guitar work was a nice touch, while Michael added his smooth vocals.

Between the duets, Lee’s and Crystal’s individual performances were 10 times better than Casey’s boring “Mrs. Robinson” and Michael’s boring-er “Will You Be There.”

Lee and Crystal in the finale. Let’s wrap this thing up already.

Good reads ...
aLee DeWyze: The reluctant 'Idol'
aNext judge on 'Idol': What are they thinking?

Glee times

So I spent most of last night’s “Glee” episode (which was much improved musically from the episodes of the last couple weeks) on YouTube.

I recently read that Glee’s Brittany, aka Heather Morris, is quite the dancer. That she’d toured with Beyonce. And that videos of their performances can be found on YouTube.

Which of course can turn into hours of endless, time-wasting fun, clicking from video to related video to related video … and so on.

I started with this … Ms. Morris is hidden in the back of the crowd for the first half of the video before taking center stage with another dancer. It’s kind of charming to see her dancing with these kids during a workshop.

That led me to this one, which shows Ms. Morris in action at the 2008 American Music Awards.

And finally, the best for last, a rehearsal video featuring Beyonce singing with the live band. The raw sound of the band is mesmerizing, and I almost prefer this version to the album cut. I wanna know where I can get it!

And now I’ve had “Single Ladies” in my head all day.

Ken Burns pitches extra 'Inning' this fall

Spotted this one on Twitter last night.

Awwwwwwwwww yeah.

Arguably one of the greatest documentaries of all time. It's a fascinating piece of work. It's an epic. And I've watched it repeatedly over the years ... Not to mention listened to its soundtrack and flipped through its companion book.

I am so thankful Ken Burns has finally decided to play another inning.

* * *

While we're on the subject of baseball, check out these fascinating finds illustrating fan bases ...

This first one, "The Die Hard Index," comes via Cubs Fan Report (an excellent daily digest of Cubs happenings that I've recently caught onto, by the way), and analyzes ticket prices, attendance, stadium capacity and home losses, among other things to determine the quality of each club's fans. Turns out Cubs fans are the best ... Royals fans, meanwhile ... Ugh.

Then there's this one, via my friend Matt, which I had not seen before. I find it fascinating, though not surprising, the swath that Cubs loyalty cuts through Iowa and Indiana -- competing, of course, with the large base of Cardinals loyalty across Missouri, southern Illinois and parts of other southern states ... I think I like this map the best of the two.

Fun stuff. 


On Baseball: Done and gone

In the words of the late, great Harry Caray -- Holy cow! I’ve watched a lot of Cubs games lately.

To my utter delight, nearly every game the Cubs have played in the last week has aired on WGN. I haven’t checked the numbers, but that seems like a big change from all the games that have been showing on Chicago’s Comcast Sports Network the last couple years … Now, if only the Brewers had a national cable network. I’ve started to drop hints to Kates that we need to think seriously about subscribing to the MLB Network.

Too bad the Cubs are stinking it up this year, to put it lightly ... Aramis Ramirez forgot how to use a bat. Carlos Zambrano isn't resembling his former self. And Alfonso Soriano only seems to excel against the bad teams.

For one night at least, we got to bask in the glorious debut of much-hyped Starlin Castro … But any longtime Cubs fan knows that may not continue. (Read this gem from Rick Morrissey.)

In today’s game, no sooner had Bob Brenly finished sharing his disapproval of Lou Piniella’s decision to leave Ryan Dempster on the mound with two runners on, two outs and the Cubs up 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh when, Joey Votto popped one into the outfield stands to give the Reds a two-run lead and the win.

I know, the Cubs have had slow starts before. But this one seems more dismal.

Really, though, what kind of baseball season would it be if the Cubs weren’t driving us fans mad? … Over in Boston, those once lovable losers of the American League haven’t started so hot either.

Still, what I would give to get to Wrigley for just one afternoon this summer.

Here's some good reads ...
aThe Throwback
aWhat to do about Wrigley Field? (By the way, one of my favorite museum exhibits ever was a photography exhibit I attended years ago -- which I'm sure included the photo in this post -- at the Truman Library that illustrated the gutting of the White House.)
aExcerpt From Are We Winning? A Prayer For Steve Bartman
aA culture change at Wrigley? New owner Tom Ricketts thinks it's a numbers game

And finally, if you've experienced the atmosphere that envelopes Wrigley on a game day, you can appreciate this video ... Make sure you watch it to the end.

* * *

Like a great many baseball fans, my heart sank a little last week when I heard the news of Ernie Harwell’s death.

Though I grew up in the upper Midwest, I was the kid who grew up falling asleep to Harry Caray doing radio broadcasts for the Cubs. So I can’t say I developed an appreciation for Harwell and his unmistakable radio voice, calling Detroit Tigers games, until I hit my late teens in the age of “Sportscenter” and “Baseball Tonight” montages.

They don’t come like Harwell anymore, and he will be dearly missed.

Here's three tributes worth reading: The Washington Post, Mitch Albom and Joe Posnanski.

On a side note, during yesterday’s game of the week on Fox between the Red Sox and Yankees, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver offered a wonderful tribute to Harwell by going silent for some five minutes in the third inning. In that time, all of the sounds of the ballpark were amplified. The umpire calling balls and strikes, the game announcer, the chatter of the crowd. It felt as though I was right there, spending a Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park … It was truly a remarkable thing, and it made me wish more games were broadcast in that way, sans non-stop-talking analysts.

* * *

Two more good reads before I go ...

Are the Yankees Truly the Most-Despised Ballclub? ... It turns out they're not.

Minneapolis paints its new ballpark green ... Can hardly wait to get there some day.

A 'Golden' night for SNL

Let’s start by saying I was watching the clock throughout Saturday and counting down the hours to 10:30 p.m. central time.

You had to have been living under a rock (or a non-Facebook user) to not know that Betty White -- at 88 years old -- was hosting “Saturday Night Live” last night for the first time. When show time rolled around, you could just feel TVs lighting up across the country.

Admittedly, after all the hype, I went into it a little nervous. I couldn’t keep from thinking, This is either going to be really good, or it’s going to be really dumb. This season’s SNL shows haven’t exactly been stellar.

But when midnight rolled around, and the cast members had surrounded Ms. White for the final send-off, I could not only say I had watched the entire show without dozing off, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was smiling from beginning to end at what also was a fantastic Mother’s Day tribute to this generation of hilarious and successful SNL women (who also got their due a couple weeks ago on "SNL in the 2000s").

Of course, some skits were better than others, with the best of the best front-loading the show. White’s monologue was a simple reflection on her long entertainment career, loaded with hilarious deadpans about live television and Facebook. She needed no fancy musical number to keep it interesting.

I burst out laughing every time White's knitting old lady spouted "She's a lesbian!" White's turn with Tina Fey as a census-taker also was memorable. Even the MacGruber skits, which I normally don’t care for, had me laughing out loud with White playing MacGruber’s nagging grandmother.

The Digital Short, which began with the SNL gang singing a charming “Golden Girls” tribute for White, turned shocking when White plunged into her own death-metal, mayhem-laden version. It wasn’t funny as much as it was strong proof that White remains hip and willing to try anything.

(It's also worth taking a look at sketches that didn't air, including "Debbie Downer" and "Bronx Beat.")

My only complaint of the show is that I wished Seth Myers had taken a week off from “Weekend Update” to let Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reoccupy the news desk. Instead, we got Myers doing his regular shtick before Poehler joined him for a special segment of “Really?!? With Seth & AmyFey did join them for a stint at the end, but it seemed pointless.

Best skit of the night: “Delicious Dish” featuring White with SNL alumnae Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon, hands-down. One word: muffins.

Good reads ...
aBetty White is just right on 'SNL'
a'Saturday Night Live' recap: Betty White was funny, vulgar, and totally charming
aBetty White goes not gently into that 'Saturday Night Live'
aBetty White on 'Saturday Night Live' provides golden hosting
aThey haven't hosted 'SNL'?! 8 other celebs who should

Happy Mother's Day

... I'd wish my mom a Happy Mother's Day on Facebook or Twitter. But she doesn't have either ... So I'll probably do it on Skype instead.

(Check out more great Mother's Day cartoons here.)


Frank Caliendo on Leno

I caught this bit of Frank Caliendo visiting Jay Leno the other night ...

It's ha-larious as usual. And I'd say Frank is doing pretty well at getting his Obama impression down.

(Remember when we saw Frank Caliendo a couple years ago? That was fun ... )


After months of worrying way too much about settling into my new job, being away from my girls, selling a house, buying a house -- let alone finding time to sleep and eat -- I'm finally feeling as though I'm returning to something that resembles my former routine ...

And that means reclaiming a piece of my news-junkie status. I'm reading more news again, and getting better at catching the national news each evening. I'm more aware of what's going on in the world now than I have been in months.

I don't doubt that a lot of that has to do with the start of our summer sessions. But I'll take what I can get.

That said, check out this fascinating video, "Airspace Rebooted," showing the effects of the volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull -- Oh yeah, I spelled it! -- on air travel in Europe.

Airspace Rebooted from ItoWorld on Vimeo.


Running down the Lord

I caught this one in one of my slew of news alerts today ... It's too good not to share ....

Lord Jesus Christ hit by Mass. car

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) -- The victim might have forgiven the woman who ran him down in a Massachusetts crosswalk, but police haven't.
Police say a Pittsfield woman has been cited for running down a man named Lord Jesus Christ as he crossed a street in Northampton on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old man is from Belchertown. Officers checked his ID and discovered that, indeed, his legal name is Lord Jesus Christ. He was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor facial injuries. (more)


Sweet music

So I stumbled onto this YouTube channel tonight, thanks to a Facebook post by the admirable Glen Phillips

How did I not know about this choir?

Mr. Phillips linked to a video of the children performing Toad the Wet Sprocket's kicking, lovely "Nightingale Song." I love it.

With some more clicking around I found their version of Donovan's "Catch The Wind," and their blog. Good stuff.


Too much TV

When I peaked at the TV listings last night, I knew there’d be little hope of getting any significant work done.

Cubs on WGN. “American Idol.” “Glee.” My old friend Adam was going to be “Found” on “NCIS: Los Angeles” (though the ending didn't turn out well for Adam, er Dom). And -- the rock in my TV-watching schedule, amid this tumultuous 2010 -- “Lost.” (We'll get to that later.)

My trusty VCR was going to get a workout.

I tuned into the Cubs game during commercial breaks, but didn’t miss much. I saw Ryan Church’s go-ahead two-run homer, and that was enough. The Cubs lost 3-2.

After watching “American Idol,” though, the Cubs loss might have been more entertaining. The best thing about last night’s show was seeing Harry Connick Jr. skillfully mentoring the gang and smacking them with wisecracks.

Regarding the singing? Ugh. The finale cannot come soon enough.

Aaron Kelly had to go. Randy and Ellen were far too nice. But Kara and Simon hit it on the head -- Aaron lacked charisma and conviction … I admire the kid, I do. But I think his voice and stage presence still need a lot of growing. As Phoebe would say, “I need mo!”

I actually thought Casey James sounded pretty decent, even though the judges beat him up pretty good … Crystal Bowersox just looked stunning.

Michael Lynche cleaned up, of course. Frank Sinatra and “The Way You Look Tonight” are in his wheelhouse. Although, I didn’t like that he kept slurring his words.

Lee DeWyze won the night, hands down. And I agreed with Ellen -- if the final performance were tonight, he would have won the whole thing.

* * *

A couple weeks ago, I suggested “All is right with the world when ‘Glee’ is on.” … It was the one hour each week that transported me away from thoughts of work, house hunting and family stuff.

I take that back now.

The Madonna episode was good. Last week’s episode of elevator songs was lame. And last night’s episode of hits people would generally like to forget was just brutal ... And I'm not expecting the Brittney Spears and Lady Gaga theme nights to be much better.

It’s a good thing most of the zingers thrown around McKinley High are still sharp. Brittany’s character is rising, too, with her hilarious head-in-the-clouds lines.

But I'm missing the rousing, glowing, chill-inducing performances (listen to "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Jump" and "Don't Stop Believin'") that helped make the first season such a smash. The show is better when it samples a range of the musical spectrum, not a narrow theme focused on a specific style or artist.