Thursday, March 31, 2005

American Idol: Another One Bites the Dust

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust...


... in the immortal words of Queen. And then there were nine. I was in the middle of something when it came on, and I forgot to set the VCR, so I only caught the last five minutes of last night's show, which are the only ones worth watching. Who got the boot? Semi-surprisingly, Jessica was ousted this week, a move deemed unfair by Randy and Paula, but I didn't see much protest from Simon. (Was there any protest from Simon? He sat with his head in his hands most of Monday.) I didn't think she would nab the top spot, but I certainly didn't think she'd make an exit this early. But, the people have voted, and Jessica got to sing her way out in Week 11. That leaves us with three girls, and six guys.

I thought the playing field was more even on Monday night than any other night I've seen, with no one performance I'd call outstanding. At the same time, no one sang hideously, either, so it was a matter of picking which song diverged the most from mediocre, up and down the quality scale.

In many ways, watching American Idol is like watching figure skating: I tense up when they go for that triple axel -- the big Whitney Houston zinger -- because if they flub up that note, it's Bedtime for Bonzo. None of them are singing original music, so when the song begins, my mind immediately fast forwards through it to watch for the BIG NOTES so I can brace myself for the potential sharp or flat. I'm sure there are more than a few sweaty palms out there in the American Idol audience. I can just imagine an Aunt Mamy with her upside placard and custom-made t-shirt, praying in her seat during commercial breaks. That's how AI is UNLIKE the Apollo: it doesn't resemble an amateur night at all, since everyone in the audience is rooting for the contestants. While it's a morale boost for the singers, who knows what effect it has on the voting audience?

THE PERFORMANCES
Week 11 - "The 90s"




Wonders never cease. This week marks the very first time Constantine won Simon's favour over Bo, singing Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me". Whenever I hear that song, I keep thinking of a woman singing it to a man, but Constantine did a pretty job of turning it around to his advantage. In fact, I think it's his best performance to date -- no hair-tossing nonsense and bopping around the stage like David Cassidy this week, just singing.

Jessica sang Lee Ann Rimes' "On The Side Of Angels" this week, to her detriment. By now, she should've figured out that the mainstream voting public want to hear mainstream songs, and Lee Ann Rimes isn't quite there in the pop music world. The song wasn't bold enough, which is something Jessica needed to stay in the running. I hate to say this, but even *eek* a Shania Twain song, sung with lots of sass, might've done the trick. Alas.



Anthony is, without a doubt, my least favourite of the contestants, but I thought his shot at Elton John's "Something About The Way You Look Tonight" was better than his previous outings with Latin love songs. Good: he didn't wear his glasses. Bad: he chose a song that highlighted the fact that English isn't his first language. Sure, he informed us in his pre-interview that he arrived in America in the 90s, when he was nine. But the "th" consonant pairing is really distracting when you keeping singing it like "d":

Dere was a time...
But in de moonlight...
But it's someding about de way you look tonight...
You pull de deepest secrets from my heart...


It's not a hard "d", and most people won't notice it, but if you study languages the "th" pronunciation is a dead giveaway, like a bell ringing. Ouch!

Anwar was on the chopping block last night after his performance of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly". His polish and trademark style is beginning to wear thin and lose its appeal. It's too bad, because he started out so well, but I think the audience is looking for something more, and I don't know if he can pull away from the bottom. He'll need nothing short of a breakout performance to stay in the competition much longer.

Bo sang The Black Crowe's "Remedy", which was ultimately not the wisest move. I'm a fan of The Black Crowes and that song, specifically, but it doesn't lend itself very well to American Idol judging. It's a "rowdy bar song", the kind that Randy and Simon usually slam for being too "cover band". I liked Bo's version of the song, but the risk of singing a "band" song versus one that puts the vocalist front and centre is that the vocals get overshadowed by the drums, guitar, and backup singers. In a bar, that's a good thing, because the singer can get hammered and everybody's drunk and loud, but this does not bode well for a singing competition.

It goes without saying that the songs people sing best are from their favourite genre, eg. Scott and his Motown hits. Carrie is very relaxed and natural singing country, so Tina McBride's "Independence Day" was a good choice. The exception was her standout song, Heart's "Alone" last week, but with that performance she's gained enough momentum and established her vocal credibility to be able to do a country song this week without putting herself at risk. I think Carrie's proof that timing, as well as song selection, is crucial for AI reputation and getting votes.



Nadia knew she had to pull up her socks after being one step away from getting voted off for her Cyndi Lauper song, so she ambitiously tackled Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One". I'll admit, I was somewhat dubious. Etheridge is the consummate rocker chick, she plays a mean guitar and belts out each and every note like it's her last, but Nadia kept up the whole way and it was enough to keep her out off the bottom rung. Her voice even seemed to change quality and emulate Etheridge's to the point where I couldn't tell it was Nadia if I looked away. That's impressive, especially since such a move runs one at the risk of sounding like a karaoke singer.

Nikko. Nikko. Nikko. Who taught you that mike toss? It was so distracting, watching him throw the mike from one hand to the next. I wanted to cry out "Oooh, don't drop it!" while he was singing Babyface's "Can We Talk". Nikko's pretty co-ordinated, though, and choreographs his movements much more than the other guys, but I should add he did an equally fine job of singing. His unexpected resurrection from the American Idol scrap-heap revitalised his oomph, now all he needs to do is turn it up a notch or two to keep up with the older, more experienced guys.

Scott looked so nervous this week, his concentration fully devoted to hitting the notes cleanly and forgetting about what to do with his face and body. Unfortunately, the big stripey shirt didn't help -- I couldn't help but think of pyjamas. Or maybe jail. Neither one good. He's so much more relaxed with the Motown stuff that maybe "One Last Cry" was his jinx.

Vonzell was my prime example of the figure skating analogy: she sang Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing", played ad nauseam during the days of the Kevin Costner vehicle "The Bodyguard" (groan). I braced myself for the BIG WHITNEY NOTE, the triple axel. Vonzell stuck the landing, and I could hear a collective sigh of relief. It's a good thing she didn't attempt this song at the beginning, because it takes a lot of confidence to reach those heights. It's apparent her confidence is building week by week with more ambitious song choices, in a way that never seemed to happen for Jessica, Lindsey, et al. Also, her buoyant personality adds to that confidence, and makes an enormous difference onstage.

    SIDE NOTES:

  • I will retract what I said about refraining from the Paula-bashing. I said last week that she needed a tranquiliser gun, but maybe she's taking tranquilisers -- slurred speech, unfocussed eyes, what's the deal?? If American Idol had random drug testing, that lady would fail!
  • Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest poking at each other reminded me of high school... no, primary school!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cat Town

Somebody sent me this link earlier, and it sent me into a fit of giggling...

http://www.spatch.net/cattown/

I'm sure I'll get over it soon, but man, it's a hoot!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

memorabilia

When I moved out of my apartment in January, I had to toss out a gigantic heap of stuff. It was ridiculous to think the hoarding could continue apace without reaching critical mass, i.e. fire hazard proportions. After all, the apartment was 565 sq. ft!

That didn't seem to deter me while I was living there; I made quite good use of the space. I kept theatre programs, playbills, museum maps, postcards, in-flight magazines, correspondence, all my university textbooks (didn't re-sell a single one) and custom courseware, obsolete foreign currency (Dutch guilders, deutschemarks, Irish punts, etc.), thousands of photographs, CDs in languages I don't speak, concert tickets, all my credit card receipts for the past five years, software installation disks, assorted cables, filters, hardware manuals, maps and mapbooks, all the greeting cards I've managed to hold onto in my many moves (birthdays, thanks, congratulations, Christmas, announcements), files of old CVs, Canadian citizenship papers, charity fundraisers I've been involved with, car repairs, all the university papers and lecture notes I've ever written, business cards from people I haven't seen in over a decade, the list is endless...

Most of the documents I keep for CYA (Cover Your Ass) reasons, in case I get audited, or there's a discrepancy with my taxes, or billing agencies try and tell me I signed up for A and I'd purchased B, or I wonder if I've learned anything at SFU.

The rest, the memorabilia, is for me. Not in case I ever get Alzheimer's or anything debilitating -- if I do, I'd like to look at people's faces rather than root around in dusty bric-a-brac -- but to re-live certain fleeting moments in time and reflect on life.

Now that I no longer inhabit an apartment but a house (with an attic and basement, even! essential spaces for the consummate hoarder!), I doubt the ritualistic squirrelling away of seemingly worthless items will ever subside. If anything, David is an even more diligent hoarder than I am. For one thing, he's not moved around as much, so his collection is much larger. His collection also includes YEARS of aviation magazines, and large items I could never move from continent to continent, such as the giant wooden antique propeller that graces one wall of our dining room. Years of telling myself "I can't take that with me!" have conditioned me to always keep my items small and portable.

From time to time since I've been here I try and do a big bung-out, get rid of some of the stuff to make more room and promote organisation. Somehow, I don't buy David's excuse of "Being messy is a sign of genius!" but I won't ever make him throw out his memorabilia. Not for selling them on eBay, like his Corgi car, but because I understand very well the sentimental journey we take with our "stuff". It reminds us of fun times, that life isn't always bogged down with bread-and-butter activity -- it's punctuated by events and people and places. The sentimental journey puts things in a broader perspective, so that when we find ourselves floundering in the daily grind, wondering if we're getting ANYWHERE or merely spinning our wheels, we can look back from whence we came and chart some progress (or not, as the case may be... sometimes it's best to retain some "inner child"). Not just changes with ourselves, but also to ponder the way the world has changed. To that end, I took some photos of tickets that David had lying around. They caught some people's attention on Flickr (click on photo for comments), the ticket on the left for obvious reasons.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Feeding My Photography Bent


44th St.
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
Thanks to Kim for sending along this link to Leonard Nimoy's photography site.

http://www.leonardnimoyphotography.com/

I had no idea Leonard Nimoy was into photography. But then, I also didn't know he derived his trademark Vulcan salute and pinch from the Jewish religion -- I didn't even know he was Jewish! He was even in "Fiddler on the Roof"! Who am I kidding? I don't know Leonard Nimoy at all! (What would I do without IMDB.com?)

Anyway, Nimoy's got an exhibit in New York opening in June:

"Maximum Beauty"

An exhibition of new works by
Leonard Nimoy will open on June 2nd, 2005

Bonni Benrubi Gallery
41 East 57th Street, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10021
(212) 888-6007


I hope it hangs around for a while -- I'll be in Vancouver in June, but if all goes well, will be back in July. I'd love to associate Leonard Nimoy with photography rather than tweezed eyebrows and pointy ears.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Sunday: time to gorge

I had a craving for some Greek food today, but could we find any??? No. I didn't hold out much hope, since it's Easter Sunday, but we gave it a try. Apparently, though, there's only ONE Greek restaurant listed in Scranton, but we couldn't get through on the phone. When we drove past the address, it wasn't there! I always thought of Greek restaurants as fairly ubiquitous, like Chinese (OK, fast food, Westernised Chinese), but I suppose that doesn't apply here. I was ready to drive half an hour to Wilkes-Barre for some moussaka, but when we phoned, nobody answered there, either!

So, I'm like Hugh in this photo -- I can picture the food, but it's out of reach. (Click on the pic for comments.)

The three of us did, however, stuff ourselves silly at Jim Dandy's down the road. No one starved, including Hugh. Our regular Sunday Scrabble game followed, during which I got a surprise phone call from my cousin in Vancouver, who incidentally was hosting my old Scrabble cronies (her mom and our aunts) for Easter dinner.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday. Manhattan. Jewtopia.


vertical
Uploaded by gailontheweb.



David hasn't been my guest writer since last November, so I thought Friday was a good day as any to invite him back for another post. My Yiddish just isn't good enough yet.

Good Friday? Great Friday!

It caught me by surprise, that I had the day off Friday; luckily someone mentioned it earlier in the week, or I might have showed up anyway. (It's hard being the token Jew.) But in that vein, Gail suggested that we use the free day for a trip into Manhattan, to take in some museums and a show.

I checked out Broadway.com to see what was current on-and-off, and we came up with a short list of shows that looked appealing. We settled on I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at the Westside Theatre; but when I went to purchase tickets, I found that the theatre has two halls, and another show was playing upstairs...

Jewtopia

Reading on: "Written, produced by and starring Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, Jewtopia tells the story of two 30-year-old single men, Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz. Chris, a gentile, wants to marry a nice Jewish girl so he'll never have to make another decision. After forming a secret pact, Adam promises to help Chris shed his gentile-ness and bring him undercover into the Jewish world."

So? What's not to love? I bought the tickets, and browsed around for museums to visit before dinner. The Jewish Museum? Make Good Friday into a meshugeh Jewish holiday? But also on 43rd Street I found the International Center of Photography, and given our fervor for Flickr and Gail's interest in photography we decided to pay it a visit.

Friday morning the trip into the city went quickly, with light traffic and tunes from Gail's iPod on the car stereo; the new transmitter gizmo worked pretty well. We resumed the car-game that Gail taught me, going through the alphabet naming geographical locations without repeating any. (Q and Z are tough; X is nearly impossible after a few rounds!) Once in the city, we ditched the car in a garage on 44th and went to pick up our tickets at the theatre.

We found the International Center of Photography and paid the admission. The lower floor was given to an exhibit of works by controversial photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark. Clark's works focus on his life experiences - including stark portrayals of drug use and adolescent sexual activity. I found it uncomfortable but fascinating to review; his work is frank, often brutally so. From the 1960s to the present he has captured raw images of young addicts, the homeless, and street hustlers; more recently he has explored the urban skatepunk culture.

The upstairs hall featured a selection of prints from the ICP collection, including an exploration of the possibilities of the "portrait". Great stuff, with images from the 1880s to the present. Our visit inspired us to go out and explore the city a bit with our cameras; you can see our images here as a slideshow (uses Flash). Then it was a narrow Japanese place for dinner, which we were both ravenous for; delicious and really reasonable, even by NYC standards. Afterwards we stopped at a deli for a quick dessert-on-foot near the theatre.

The show was in a snug (300-seat) hall, and full of broad Jewish comedy. Lots of laughs; I especially liked one scene where Adam is teaching his friend Chris how to act convincingly Jewish in a restaurant: "Your meal has arrived, and it's exactly how you ordered it - what do you do? SEND IT BACK!" Gail liked it too, so it seems that you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the absurdities that were lampooned in the show. The program did provide a short guide to Jewish holidays and an index of Yiddish words for the gentiles in the audience (who, by my guess, were firmly in the minority!)

We drove straight home after the show, resuming our ongoing geography game, as I was flying with some cadets in the morning.

Plus, I was so oysgemutshet I could plotz.

Photos on Flickr (no Flash): Good Friday around Manhattan

Thursday, March 24, 2005

White Stuff


oi!
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
On the drive to Philadelphia last Saturday, I noticed some white hairs on the right side of my head. I pulled a few out, a few more, then stopped when I saw this pile grow. If this is any indication of how much white hair I've got on my head, I'll have enough to make a bird's nest by the time I'm 35!

When my brothers and I were youngsters, our parents would ask us pluck out their white hair with tweezers. For some unknown reason, I ended up with the job, not my brothers, so I needed some incentive to curb my griping. They paid me one cent for every hair, and I had to show them the hair before it could count. For all my grumbling about child labour, they never did raise the per-hair rate! Eventually they decided it was easier to colour their hair than listen to me go on about inflation and the rising costs of gum and magazines.

Speaking of white stuff, we got a big dumping of snow yesterday, after weeks of thinking winter was finally over.

David's Multiply entry: The Perfect (Snow) Storm

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

American Idol: Definitely Not The Apollo



Anybody who's ever watched "Amateur Night at the Apollo", a Harlem institution since 1934, can't watch American Idol and feel too sorry for the contestants. The audience members at the Apollo Theatre are famous for booing the acts they don't like in 10 bars or less, sending the weak-kneed performers into panic mode, then drowning them out altogether with a chorus of disapproval. At least Simon sits through the whole performance, even if it's obvious he's in aural distress.

Between last week's and this week's shows, the performances were a real mixed bag. Aren't they always? There just can't be enough drama for the AI producers, it seems. First Mario Vasquez bails for "personal reasons", then they find a refill for the #12 spot with the last-ditched Nikko Smith, then Lindsey Cardinale gets her walking papers to bring the number back to 11. But wait -- what's going on at American Idol this week? Are people not paid enough in the AV department?

IMPORTANT PROGRAM NOTE CHANGE
Due to an error with the graphics shown on-screen (incorrect voting numbers were displayed) during the performance recap at the end of last night?s AMERICAN IDOL, a live, one-hour show will air tonight, Wednesday, March 23 9/8c on FOX, to enable a re-vote. This new show will combine new live elements with encores of Tuesday's performances from the remaining 11 contestants.

Seems a bit fishy to me, especially since people can't vote until the show is over, so that gave them ample time to correct things. We didn't know what the "new live elements" would be, so we taped it, anyway. In the end, we couldn't be bothered to sit through the fast forwarding, so this is my take on the last two "live" shows.

THE PERFORMANCES
Week 9 - "The 60s"
Week 10 - "Billboard #1"




Nadia was far and away the best female performer last week, singing Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" with equal parts heart and soul. For that, Simon cracked, "In a competition full of hamburgers, you are the steak." This competition is so classy... This week, however, she came out in a mohawk the size of Texas to sing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", but didn't have the vocals to match. She sounded more like a backup vocalist than the main event. I think Nadia's voice is wrong for the song -- too low-pitched. Cyndi's voice had a distinct quality to match her persona. If her voice were a colour, it would be orange!

Nikko was brought back from the Idol dead last week after Mario bowed out, so he only had four days to learn a song. What did he pick? "I Want You Back" by Michael Jackson, which he hoped would put him back in the competition. (How embarrassing would THAT be, to get kicked off, brought back, and kicked off in one week???) He danced his little heart out and made it fun, probably to distract us from his rough vocals, and it kept him alive another week. Last night, in keeping with the Billboard #1 theme, Nikko sang an R&B tune I'd never heard of from 2000, one that allowed him to toss his hat and jacket off like a stripper. That part was more memorable than the song, believe me.

Scott actually set the precedent for stripping this week, tearing his glasses off for full effect on "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins. Because, you know, nothing says "my heart is rending" like a little eyewear throwdown. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere near the calibre of his star turn last week with the Motown hit "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", but I doubt the audience will turn its collective back on him after last night, which, although not one of his better performances, was far from the worst of the evening.

Vonzell's persistence and hard work finally paid off. Last week she was resplendent in a gown, singing "Anyone Who Had A Heart" with gusto, but it wasn't enough to steal the spotlight. She didn't steal the spotlight this week, either, but her performance of "Best of My Love" was a much stronger contender. Ryan Seacrest announced she'd just celebrated her 21st birthday, so my theory is she discovered the positive side-effects of alcohol. They don't call it "Dutch courage" for nothin'.



Constantine never fails to surprise us with his song choices. Last week his preening on the stage during "You Make Me Very Happy" earned him the title "Smouldering Idol" from Simon, and this week he baffled us with The Partridge Family's 1970 hit "I Think I Love You".

David: "That's not even a real band!"
Me: "He's singing like a 50-year old David Cassidy at the MGM Grand!"

In all fairness, Constantine's voice sounded pretty good last week, but this week David and I were completely distracted by the way he was holding his microphone (backwards) and bouncing around the stage. I, for one, never get the feeling that he really wants to win this competition, it seems he's just in it for the kicks. The fact that he gets enough votes to stay in week after week is great for the diversity of the group, but not saying much for the way people rank the singing on AI.

I realised last week that Jessica reminds me an awful lot of Bette Midler, with her curly blonde hair and her "come hither" gaze, but she lacks Midler's talent. Jessica also does this weird thing with her posture that scrunches her shoulders close to her head so it's as if she has no neck. Anyway, why she chose Smokey Robinson's "Shop Around" last week escapes me, but I was even more baffled by Simon's faint praise this week of "Total Eclipse of the Heart"?!? When you compare it with the original version by Bonnie Tyler, Jessica sounds far too young to carry the song.

Lindsey's number was up last week after her performance of "Knock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd. She can sing, but she doesn't show any range, instead picking all sorts of middling tunes and taking them far too low in vocal register. It's gotta be tough to be the only person kicked out during the show, but she managed to keep it together enough to sing it AGAIN on her way out.

After Mikalah's stellar jazz number a couple of weeks ago, I seriously thought her poor showing the following week was a fluke and she'd make a comeback. Now, I think the opposite -- that incredible jazz performance was the fluke, because she's been absolutely dreadful ever since! Last week, she couldn't pull off Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" to save her life, and this week's "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dane was horrendous! It's too bad, because along with the bigger audience, bigger theatre, and bigger stage, she acquired a makeup artist who took a more natural approach with her cosmetics. Now she doesn't look like Liza Minelli anymore, but she's singing like a boozy Liza!



Would the American people just stop voting for Anthony, for crying out loud? Enough is enough! Last week he sang "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". Why? "I feel connected spiritually and emotionally to this song," he said in the pre-song interview. The judges disagreed, thumbs went down. Last night he sang the 1987 song "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me", which I hope this puts him out of the contest once and for all, because only the hearing-impaired could possibly vote him in after that one.

Anwar is showing too much formula, not enough pizzazz. He sang Burt Bacharach's "A House is Not a Home" last week like he sang all previous songs -- technically well, starting slow and ending big. Which was fine the first few times, but now where's the ZING? This week he upped the tempo with the bodacious "Ain't Nobody" by Chaka Khan, but he just didn't have the right energy for the song. Chaka Khan is a diva, but his performance lacked that diva-esque quality -- I thought he looked awkward, David called him "wooden".

Bo did the opposite of the others this week, taking it downtempo from "Spinning Wheel" of last week (which the judges liked) to the emotive "Time In a Bottle" of 1973 this week, which brought less enthusiasm, but still positive reactions from the judges. It was probably too subdued for Week 10, but Bo remains very consistent in selecting songs that suit his personality and show off his voice.

Maybe Bo's approach rubbed off on Carrie, because she FINALLY picked a good song to suit her personality and voice. Every week she hits the notes, but the songs are never dynamic enough, like last week's "When Will I Be Loved", which Simon liked but Randy didn't, and Paula called "safe and boring". But she turned it on last night, picking the big arena song -- "Alone" by Heart -- and putting on the big arena voice, topping it off with the big arena 80s hair. Whoa! Barely recognise her now, and for all the right reasons. She was smoking!

MY ELIMINATION PICK: Anthony or Mikalah


    SIDE NOTES:

  • What was up with Simon's hair last week??? He had it parted in the middle like he was a "Little Rascal"!
  • I am refraining from Paula-bashing on the basis that I will sound just as repetitive as she does.
  • Muckdog commented earlier on Paula being smoochy, and after watching the tape I can only agree! Somebody get out the tranquiliser gun!

Apple Announces 50" PowerBook!

Not large enough? Click it! View larger!

(Speaking of oversized, my American Idol post is forthcoming.)

EDIT 9:01: As soon as I blogged this, Flickr went down for maintenance. What? No massage?
EDIT 9:52: Ah, back to the massage. Hmmm, "... non-invasive" -- good.
EDIT 10:35: Ahhhh.... back again. But sluggish.
EDIT 11:10: More massaging.
EDIT 11:25: Massage is finished?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I'm Having a Massage...

If you ever wonder what I'm doing when I'm not writing here, wonder no more. It's true...

http://gail.ishavingamassage.com

No, I didn't register a new domain. Besides, it's already taken... See here for explanation.

Looks like someone is having a little Flickr-style fun. (When Flickr servers shut down for maintenance, this is what the page says, except with the message "Flickr is having a massage...")

Have your own bit of fun by replacing my name with yours in the URL, and tell everyone that's your new site...

Azalea Trail Maids

They say every picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand of my words cannot describe how bizarre-looking these outfits are, but then most of you know my feelings toward the colour pink.

Anyway, the full story is linked from the description, once you click on the photo. (Don't be lazy, it's just one click.) There you will also find equally colourful comments.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Confirmed Yesterday: Yahoo! Bought Flickr

Yesterday afternoon Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake posted that the rumours of Yahoo buying Flickr are indeed true. The forums erupted, naturally, especially FlickrCentral:

Yahoo! actually does acquire Flickr
announcement in FlickrBlog


It's taken ages to get through all the comments, but along with the expected extremes of "Yahoo? I'm leaving!" and "Yahoo? Congratulations!" there's been a great deal of impassioned pleading for the Flickrization of Yahoo! and not the other way around. I've posted my own opinions there, based on my dreadful experience with Yahoo albums. I also still have a Geocities page, which I don't bother with anymore because I hate Yahoo!'s popup ads.

But, I'll be optimistic that Flickr hasn't sold out on their creative direction, UI, or starts looking too... Yahoo!ish. Aesthetically, Yahoo! is nowhere near Flickr -- it assumes all internet users have ADD. There are things constantly competing for your eye, and the clutter is a big turnoff. Take Yahoo! IM, for example -- it's too cutesy for words, so I hate using it. I'll have to keep reminding myself that the Ludicorp team are the poster people for responsiveness, simplicity, and interface elegance, and I would like to think that no amount of money in the world would be enough to put their names behind a schlocked-down version of Flickr.

UPDATE WED, MAR 23: Thanks to evilcoffee for letting me use his logo. Click on it for more info.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Quick visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday, mostly to the Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery. Photoset is here:

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Click on the photos for the descriptions.

After checking out museums, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant called Karma in the historic district before heading to the Apple Store in King of Prussia.

Yeah, what a name for city! I suppose BC has its share of "different" names, many of them First Nations: Tsawwassen, Squamish, Lillooet, etc. I don't know where Spuzzum came from, but I always had a chuckle when passing it on the TransCanada Highway.

Pennsylvania has city/town names from afar, like Lebanon and Bethlehem, but there are also some real headscratchers, namely:

Forty Fort
Fort Indiantowngap
Fearnot
Panic
Porkey
Blueballs
Quiggleville
Intercourse
(town signs are stolen all the time, I've read)
Climax (apparently there's one in Saskatchewan, too)

Can you imagine some of the reaction you might elicit with a postal address of Panic, PA?

Some of these I've seen on the map, some I've heard from David, some are from www.floydpinkerton.net. I'm sure there are others around the state that I can't seem to recall at this moment.

Let me know of odd city/town names you've come across anywhere!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Retail Therapy


What do you do when you're feeling blue? Go to the Apple Store with a wad o' cash, that's what. Or an unused credit card. You can drop SO MUCH MONEY in there, between the different iPods, iMacs, displays, accessories, software, and PowerBooks.

Thankfully we didn't indulge in too much retail therapy at the Apple Store. I was going to get iLife '05, but I can only get the educational discount via the Apple Canada website... except my credit cards all have my U.S. address, which won't input at the Apple Canada site (Apple Canada only accepts Canadian addresses and ships within Canada, same with Apple USA, etc.). I have a 20GB iPod, but I've got my eye on iPod Photo -- waiting for the March release of the iPod Camera Connector (downloads photos directly from camera to iPod, which eliminates the need for extra Flash memory cards), and for prices to come down. Seems like they're releasing new stuff all the time, and increasing battery life, which is always a plus.

We managed to escape the Apple Store with only one small purchase -- an iPod FM transmitter so we can use my iPod in the car on road trips. The Griffin iTrip was $4 cheaper, but this one was smaller and it had all the frequencies built right in.

I Miss Vancouver

This is the view from the balcony of my apartment in Vancouver, which I left more than six weeks ago. I took this photo on February 22 last year. It sounds like this February's weather was even better than last year, with temperatures up past 20C!

I miss the ocean, and the freedom of walking out of my apartment to the beach, up to English Bay, into Stanley Park. I could get brunch, go to the bank, get groceries, pick up packages at the post office, and get my driver's license renewed, all within easy walking distance. I didn't need a car, so mine usually sat in my parking spot until it was time to see the kids. Needless to say, I miss the kids, too.

The best way for me not to think of these things is to engage in activities I couldn't do in Vancouver, so now I have the burning desire to see museums, of which there is a dearth in Vancouver. Off we go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Reality in a Box

Last night David and I watched "35 Up", part of the 'Up' series mentioned previously. We are well and truly sucked into this series. We watched '28 Up' last weekend, but I haven't written a coherent commentary on it yet. I scribbled pages of notes while I sat in the waiting lounge at the hospital on Monday, but haven't put them together. Last night, when we watched '35 Up', I was even more affected. There is so much going on in their lives beyond what a documentary can show that I think it's rather impossible to be detached about it, not if you are interested at all in the human condition.

The last installment we have is '42 Up' (they're filming/editing '49 Up'), which we'll probably watch tonight. I'm wondering already how I'm going to write about my observations of these people from 7-35 years old, let alone cover the next stage of 42. As David mentioned, onscreen we've watched them grow up, age to our ages, and in this film they'll pass us. All in a couple of weeks. It's a mind-boggling time compression.

What makes it even more hard-hitting, to me, is that I'm watching and writing about this documentary in tandem with "American Idol". It seems a joke to draw a comparison since the scope of reality is completely different between the 'Up' series and American Idol, but they share a common theme of video documentary for the purpose of showing "reality". Other than that they bear virtually no resemblance. I made notes on American Idol on Wednesday night after watching the two segments, but haven't finished putting it together. I think I might combine this week and next week's episodes, because I find Idol's formula wearing on me and -- next to the 'Up' series -- looking more like a dog and pony show.

The Photographer's Right


Gail at work
Uploaded by AviatorDave.
Yep, that's me. I was taking photos of the St. Patrick's Day parade last Saturday, and David was up one floor in a parking garage, sniper-like. (As if I would add to the paranoia of the American public! He did get some good shots of the parade, until an attendant told him he couldn't take photos up there, but gave no real reason why not.)

Which brings me to my next question -- what are our rights to photograph? Here in the U.S., I'm in a minority camp as far as I can tell. I participate and read discussions in Flickr about the right to photograph something or somebody -- accidents, people, situations -- and whether an image in the public eye is within one's rights to capture. Compared to the rest, I'm not aggressive enough. Maybe I'm too shy, maybe I don't think the need to photograph exceeds general courtesy where people are concerned. I commented in a forum about a photograph someone took of an accident. There was nothing particularly artistic about this photo, and he said both drivers looked fine -- it was just a fender bender. I said there didn't seem to be any purpose served in posting such a photograph, since it was just a picture of two bunged-up cars. I suggested that he might take it to the local police station to see if it would prove useful in an accident report, then David informed me that photographs are not admissible as evidence in court any more. (Later in that thread someone dug up a report stating NO recorded image or data is admissible, including audio.)

Counter to my idea of intent determining the action of taking and posting a photograph, the other arguments in this discussion centre around the idea that you can take photographs of whatever is public. It's all fair game. There are many instances of people harrassed by authorities for taking photographs of such things as bridges after 9/11, and for that I agree we've given up too much freedom for the sake of H*meland Security bureaucratic measures that amount to bugger-all. No, I'm talking about people hiding in the bushes near the homes of famous people, or taking photographs of death and destruction when a person could be helping in an emergency situation. Rubbernecking, basically. I would make a terrible photojournalist, because photography just isn't THAT important to me. It would take nerves of steel, and I just don't have them. If someone doesn't want me to take his or her photograph, I won't even ask twice. When I look at tabloid magazines, I can't help but think, "Who's buying this rubbish?" or "Do unflattering photos of total strangers make people feel better about themselves?"

I realise there's a huge grey area for photography in terms of privacy, responsibility, and what constitutes the public domain. But I don't know sometimes if I'm concerned with respecting people's privacy or inadvertently acknowledging a level of paranoia heightened by media. (What makes the news? Shootings, sex crimes, stalkings, voyeurism, break-ins... it's a wonder people get the nerve to leave the house after watching the news. We are BOMBARDED with negative imagery every single day!)

I will admit I have taken photos of people covertly, such as people looking at art at MoMA in New York, usually with their backs are turned, but I don't make a practice of it. I'm very reluctant to take candid photographs of children unless I get their parents' attention first and get some sort of confirmation that it's OK for me to photograph them. I'm not posting to Flickr photographs of my own nieces and nephews in the bath, and I'm thinking of even pulling all the kids' photos off Flickr and this website, or making them available to family only in Flickr, just to cover myself. Is this extreme? I don't know -- I find this country rather extreme at times, so maybe I'm just acclimatising.

In a couple of the threads I mentioned, someone posted a URL to a guide called "The Photographer's Right", by Bert P. Krages II, Attorney at Law.

Your Rights When Stopped or Confronted for Photography

On the page is a link to a downloadable guide in PDF format that is loosely based on the ACLU's Bust Card and the Know Your Rights flyer, which is worth having a look at and printing for future reference. I don't know what the equivalent would be for Canada, but there's a link to a UK guide on that site.

As far as the guide's pertinence to me, I'm less of a street photographer than a still life photographer, but I imagine my inclinations will change over time, and involve more people than inanimate objects. I've been reading about bans on public transit such as the New York subway with much interest. I perhaps don't exercise my rights to the fullest extent of the law -- if someone tells me not to photograph, I don't even question it. My ambivalence towards the weight and balance of rights versus personal ethics will no doubt codify the more photos I take of people in broader contexts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Photos from trip to Ireland, 2003. Here's a tip: Dublin is dry at Easter. If you want to indulge in a tipple, you'll have to make sure you've got some at home!

Last weekend, I was trying to remember my one and only St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, 1993. There are photos somewhere, archived away in one of my boxes in Vancouver. It was only but a blur...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

(What's Left Of) The Cake

David's disappearing cake... brought home with "Lt." intact, but I took a few swipes at it with a spoon. I want to preserve it in its current state to take with us to the hospital this evening for his mom. It's soft cake, so she'll be able to tackle it. David got his sweet tooth from his mom, which is what sent him to the dentist for another crown on Monday. Lesson: don't leave hard candy on the coffee table long-term. It only gets harder.

Will there be enough cake???
Also reminds me of this little munchkin's 3rd birthday last October. Corresponding video:

Will There Be Enough Cake????
(12.8MBs - my favourite part is the last 5 seconds)

Beware the Ides of March

A link to David's entry on Multiply:

Beware the Ides of March

I didn't want to write about it until David's mom was well on the road to recovery. Any surgery, even the minor ones, have inherent risks, especially for the elderly. (She's going to protest me calling her elderly, but maybe I'll calm her down with some sweets!) Monday was the big day, and even at 9:00 in the morning, she kept asking "When are they going to feed me????" She has a voracious appetite for someone so slight!

Surgery prep didn't begin until about 11:45, and she was recuperating in her own room around 4:20 in the afternoon. As far as I know, the doctors haven't said when she's supposed to go home. She was hoping today, but they didn't say as much last night. Maybe tomorrow. At any rate, she's a self-admitted miserable patient (I call her the most impatient patient ever), and wants to go home to her cat asap. I'm sure Penny the cat is missing her, too.

Meanwhile, David arrived at the hospital last night from CAP when we were in the middle of watching the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" on my PowerBook. Visiting hours were over at 8:30, but we turned out the lights and I put a pair of headphones on Mona and selected the subtitles option. "It's just like in the theatre!" she marvelled rather loudly, not realising she was wearing headphones.

David looked very handsome in his uniform. His mom looked so proud.

Americana


Supersize Me
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
From the St. Patrick's Day parade in Scranton last Saturday. I prodded David to start a corresponding group for Americana. Who's more American than Ronald McDonald?

After the parade, we were walking behind this guy who was absolutely blotto, chatting with everyone in sight, including these Army Rangers. He was ranting about supporting the troops, and how badly he felt about them having to do what they were doing. When they moved on, he latched onto us, then Mr. America.

fatiguedthe drunk guy who walked and talked to us

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Canadiana


Lactose intolerance
Uploaded by selva.
I was completely preoccupied with stuff yesterday, and did a lot of writing outwith the internet. I even wrote a long piece of snail mail! Can't remember the last handwritten letter I've sent that was more than a page. I used to write 10-page letters to pen pals when I was wee, but it's been a long time since I was wee (literally and figuratively).

Thanks to an American guy in Java, Indonesia who linked to me in FlickrSocial, I had a bunch more people visit my photo sets. One of them is Selva, an artist in Seattle. I was browsing through her stuff and came upon this photo. (Click on the pic for the description.) A bit of Canadiana. She added this pic to my Canadiana group, which is growing little by little:

Canadiana, on Flickr

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Lake Scranton


fiery sunset
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
I walked around Lake Scranton for the first time today. It's fairly close to our house, with an asphalted path around its four or so miles by the water's edge. It's owned by the Pennsylvania Gas and Water Company, and the gates are closed from dusk to dawn. Since it's a water reservoir, there's no fishing or recreation in the lake, and from what I've read, it has over 200 species of wildflowers and is home to nearly all of Pennsylvania's native trees.

We also saw our share of fowl such as geese and ducks, and the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed greedy bugger called the squirrel. The lake is adjacent to a posh development (no, that doesn't include our house), so the squirrels are fed gourmet nuts. You can see by the photo that this squirrel is far from starving.

More photos here: Lake Scranton

After huffing it around the lake -- with plenty of photo op stops, of course -- we went for dinner with David's mom. It was a case of life imitating nature: we followed the squirrel's example and stuffed ourselves silly, to the bulging point. For me, that would be with this obscenely large platter of Irish fare to celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend -- corned beef brisket on cabbage, with boiled carrots and potatoes. It's still officially winter, isn't it?

The three of us have been getting into regular Sunday games of Scrabble, and I've taken to bringing my PowerBook along with me to show David's mom our weekly haul of photos and video while we wait our turn to play. I shoot digital regularly, and we usually go flying or on a road trip on Saturday, so there's always plenty to view. David's mom uses WebTV to view our online journals and Flickr photos, but it can only translate HTML and graphics, not Flash or anything that requires cookies. Thus, Sunday has turned into Multimedia Day. The last few Sundays we also went to see "Cats" the musical and wedding expos, so it's good to just play Scrabble this time around.

(I'm thinking of getting WebTV for my dad, since he's quite intimidated by the computer my brother set up for him, and missing out on a pictorial version of my life here. Somehow, I think we should give up the idea of him learning anytime soon. He just turned 68. I did show him the basics, put shortcuts on his desktop, and set him up with an internet connection and all that, but I think he finds it more hassle than it's worth.)

Me: "So Dad, have you been on your computer lately?"
My dad: "No, I tried to do something and it told me I did something very wrong."
Me: "Oh? What did it tell you?"
My dad: "I don't know what happened. I don't know what I did."
Me, persisting: "But what did the screen say?"
My dad: "It told me I did something illegal. I didn't!"
Me, bewildered: "Illegal?"
My dad, getting worked up: "Yes! Illegal! The screen was blue and said I performed an operation that was illegal. I couldn't do anything to make it go away, so I just shut it off!"

Great. My dad doesn't want to learn how to use a computer because Bill Gates told him he committed a crime. Now he's all paranoid. Thanks Bill.

what colour is Jesus?

Click on the photo for the description.

Yes, I am facetious.



In completely unrelated news, I uploaded a videoclip of "Enter the Haggis" from Friday night -- some spontaneous dancing:

Enter the Haggis: dance! (avi format, 10.5MBs)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

St. Patrick's Day Parade



We caught the last quarter of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Scranton today, an annual institution since 1962. As I'd mentioned in the previous post, it's the fourth-largest St. Patty's Day Parade in the country... who knew? Scranton only has about 80,000 people, and by the looks of things most of them were either in this parade or watching it.

We had a full day (we went flying, too), so we're going to watch the "28 Up" DVD that arrived today from Netflix and take it easy. I've got some photos to colour-correct, so the set isn't complete yet, but here's the link to the concert and parade photos thus far. We'll write about the day and post the flying photos later.

St. Patrick's Day weekend - Friday night concert and Saturday's parade

Enter the Haggis!


spotlight
Uploaded by gailontheweb.
It's St. Patrick's Day weekend -- a big deal here in Scranton, home to a sizeable Irish population (everyone is either Irish, Italian, or Polish). In fact, the St. Patty's Day Parade later today is the fourth-largest in the country, behind Boston, New York, and Philadelphia! We thought we'd get into the spirit of things by going to see a concert...

Enter the Haggis!

For a BARGAIN price, we got to see a live-wire of a show put on by this band from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Ah, my COMPATRIOTS! Good to see some Canadians again! And how can you resist hearing a band who titled their last CD "Casualties of Retail"?

This was a talented bunch o' coconuts, for sure, combining the bagpipes, guitars, fiddle, and percussion into a blend of Celtic, bluegrass, and rock. They play with the likes of Ashley MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster, who are Canadian fiddling virtuosos. I video'd like mad...!

David's has better shots as he's the one with the mega-zoom, so I'll post a link to his pics later. There are clips on their website, but I'll edit and post a link to one of my videoclips, but for now I'd better get some sleep.

ADDITION: Sunday, Mar 13

Enter the Haggis: dance!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Praise and Curse of the City

David posted in a Flickr thread called Praise and Curse of the City about Scranton.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE OR HATE ABOUT YOUR CITY?

"I love that my immigrant grandparents made a life here, and my memories of their house across from the park and the museum, and hearing my grandmother's Yiddish as a child. I love the railroad tracks and the boarded-up coal mines and the slag heaps. I love the careless accents and the affability of my neighbors' voices. I love that there are soaring cities to the east, and endless forests to the west. I love that we still have our original chrome diners and our wonderfully awful newspaper, and one remaining human elevator operator. I love that Harry Chapin sang a silly song* about our town.

I hate that so much was lost when our city fell ill, around the time that I was born, and the youth and optimism that bled away over the years. (I love that health is returning, though.) Sometimes I hate that my city isn't quite big enough, so that foreign films and foods and people don't find their way here. I hate that the nearby farms are turning into housing developments, gated communities full of New Yorkers, wealthy and imprisoned. I hate the inept, corrupt and - worst of all - unimaginative public officials.

I love and hate the idea of leaving it, someday. I am Scranton.

*30,000 Pounds of Bananas.

Original post

David writes beautifully. I wish he'd write more. In the meantime, I'll be his publicist...

Especially since it was such gorgeous weather in Vancouver for most of February (21C *sob*), I've tried not to think about what I'm missing and just carry on with setting up a different sort of life here. Since the people who read this blog are scattered around the globe, and some of my friends have never stepped foot in North America, it may not be clear what the differences are.

It's a big continent, North America, with disparate climates, culture, attitudes, and populations. I don't even know where to begin outlining the differences between the West Coast, where I could dip my toe in the Pacific Ocean by walking less than 100m from my front door, and here, where we have to fly 45 minutes east in the Tri-Pacer to see the Atlantic Ocean shimmering (with pollution, no doubt) beside the skyscrapers of Manhattan. In the throes of a wet winter the people of Vancouver fly a couple of hours south to places like Palm Springs, California, or further south to Mexico. Here, people jet to the Caribbean or Florida. In Vancouver the next major city of comparable size is 250kms south -- Seattle (I can't really count Victoria as a major city, can I?). Even touring east from Vancouver, it takes hours to reach a city more than half a million people -- Calgary, which is nearly 1,000kms away, across mountain ranges. On the West Coast, until you reach Southern California, cities are fairly wide apart. On the East Coast, however, where the cities are much older and more established, the accents are stronger, the ideas more entrenched, and the winters most definitely colder, there is less isolation --Philadelphia and New York are as close by as Seattle is to Vancouver (and I don't have that wildcard called the U.S./Canadian border).

There are all sorts of other differences living on this side of the continent, but for the sake of brevity I'll cover those another day.

If You Love Colour...

... you will LOVE this:



Flickr Crayon Box Experimental Colr Pickr by Jim Bumgardner

Brilliant!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

American Idol: Can We Eliminate Paula Abdul?

Let's take the heat off the contestants for the moment and JUDGE THE JUDGES!

Paula Abdul is driving me bananas. Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader? She is a one-note song, but at least she's found her "NITCH" in American Idol *eye-rolling*. (If I hear her mispronounce "niche" ONE more time...) The woman is a clotheshorse who parrots Randy Jackson and acts like a foil for Simon Cowell. I'd say she was useless except the producers would say they need a woman to bridge the two men. Get someone else, I say! She treats this show like it's the Special Olympics:

"I'm so proud of you..."
"You really brought it..."
"I think the best is yet to come..."
"This is the beginning of your journey..."
"This is your 'NITCH'..."
"You know what? You take risks, and that's why I like you..."


... and, my personal favourite redundancy:"I think you're unique in your own special way..."


Randy Jackson also suffers from inarticulosis, often resorting to such constructive utterings as "I don't know, man... that just didn't do it for me." Sometimes he doesn't even say anything, he sits there with a pained expression on his face. We, the audience, are pained, too, but he's paid to ENUNCIATE his pain.


Simon Cowell -- the man everyone loves to hate. He isn't as brutal as everyone makes him out to be, it's mostly because the other two are too busy high-fiving and rah rah rah-ing instead of judging. The contestants should be sucking up to Simon, anyway, since as David pointed out, he has a controlling share in American Idol and it's in everyone's best interests to kiss his British arse.

Fox story, May 27, 2003

Oddly enough (as David is my witness), by the time the performer is finished I usually give an opinion that matches Simon's. In fact, Simon's sometimes kinder than I am, and he's surprised me a number of times with how positive he can be. In recent weeks, he's given at least a dozen glowing reviews that I felt were not all deserved. For example, he agreed with Paula on Bo Bice's performance of "I'll Be" on Monday, in which Bo moved rather awkwardly, and didn't sing like a guy who'd done this at 10 weddings like he'd said! Even Paula, the choreographer, resorted to praising the singing than speak ill of his movements.

BACK TO THE ELIMINATIONS:

The Girls:

My predictions: Amanda Avila and Janay Castine
David's predictions: Janay Castine and Mikalah Gordon
Viewers eliminated: Amanda Avila and Janay Castine

The Guys:

My predictions: Travis Tucker and Nikko Smith
David's predictions: Constantine Maroulis and Scott Savol
Viewers eliminated: Travis Tucker and Nikko Smith

Finally, a week when the American public agree with me! It's hard to believe those four eliminated managed to hang on for as long as they did, although I think Nikko Smith pulled up his socks this week, in this case too little too late. The only explanation for it is a fan base built entirely of family and friends hitting the redial on their phones. (It's not as if the calls are verified in any way -- and how do we know AI producers aren't rigging the polls?)

Amanda Avila wasn't taking things too well at the end, even though she should be pleased that consistent mediocrity took her as far as Week 8. I think she should eat more -- belting out "River Deep, Mountain High" takes the energy and spunk of Tina Turner, and Amanda has neither. I don't even like the (Aussie singer) Jimmy Barnes' version, and I liked it better than this. Clearly calories and some hard living is what it takes to sing these songs properly. When asked about the camraderie between the girls in the face of competition, she said, "We're like soldiers in a war... we bond..." Huh? War?

Janay Castine tried in vain this week to hit those notes cleanly, but even with the (Simon's words) "cute" outfit, she missed the mark. She still looked scared, which didn't help in her bid to avoid looking like a youngster. In Janay's interview, she said she was a romantic, enjoying "candlelit dinners"... Do high school dances count?

Travis Tucker took his nasty habit of singing songs best left for dead into a fourth week, singing Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step". He's like a cheesy-music gravedigger. The dancing is what saved his sorry carcass last week, and before he started with the Bobby Brown number I predicted that he'd do a dance routine with as little singing as possible. And whaddya know...

Nikko Smith had St. Louis on his mind, but he sang "Georgia" instead. At least, that's what he said. I think to sing like Ray requires choking back a thousand cigarettes to start. It was a good choice for bailing himself out of Idol hot water, but he gambled on the force of that final note and the resurgence of the Ray Charles love-fest to make people forget how otherwise unremarkable he's been thus far. Well, it looks like people hadn't forgotten...

WHO PULLED THROUGH?



Anthony Federov might seem like a better singer -- to me (and Simon, apparently) -- if he didn't try to do a Wonderbread version of Latin singers, this week Marc Anthony. David thought he did quite well, but then again, David hasn't heard the song "I've Got You" before. I thought Anthony went off a bit, and this song too current in people's minds to NOT be compared to the original singer. We'll see which Latin singer he tries on for size next week.

Muckdog predicts Anwar Robinson to win this competition. Me, I'd love for him to win, but I'm with Simon on this one, too -- the guy is just SO nice it's hard to say anything bad about him. Yet, I think he won't win. As with the other songs he's done, he put a spin on the old Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World", and all the judges loved him. As he was singing, I couldn't help thinking of CHRISTMAS for some reason, and I'd rather he did a big ol' arm-raising gospel tune, instead. Maybe next week.

Bo Bice, as I'd mentioned earlier, took it too downtempo this week, in my opinion. I'm beginning to question his versatility, since he didn't exactly bring down the house with this performance. I think he should stick to rocker ballads as that suits his voice and style better.

It says something about Carrie Underwood's singing that her choice of wardrobe distracts from her performance. If this was the Grand Ole Opry, she'd have won by now, but her style is just too low-key for this competition. She was wearing this Vegas-flashy silver sequined camisole top that drowned out her voice. David says her singing is well-controlled, but maybe she could've picked a more dynamic song. Personally, I thought her skills would've been better put to use in a song like "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters -- a torch tune with lots of heart and plenty of room to move, vocally.

Constantine Maroulis is walking a thin, thin line on American Idol. He's testing the loyalty of his fan base and hoping they're too young to remember The Police. Although David liked his performance, I agreed with Simon -- "a bad impersonation of Sting" on "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic". If Constantine wanted to do a Sting song, he should've moved forward in time. Hey, Sting can sing, but when he was with The Police it was more of a ska/reggae style, and Constantine should've cut out the vibrato completely. I would've suggested a jazzier Sting, like "My One and Only Love". That would REALLY woo the ladies.

Jessica Sierra wowed 'em last week, and did just as well this week, growling her way through the rock anthem "The Boys are Back in Town" with an outfit to match (Simon says). She's got a sultry quality to her voice and heaps of personality to deliver the goods. I don't know if it's enough to get top votes, but she's definitely got a fighting chance.

Lindsey Cardinale has more staying power than I've given her credit for. She somehow managed to stay off the bottom of the list, but she's going to have to pull an ace out of the deck to stay in another week. She's got a relatively low voice, too, but I don't think she's found a good song for her range yet. Why don't more of the girls do rock and roll, like Tina Turner? There are plenty of big arena-type songs if they want to bring the audience to their feet.

Mario Vazquez, in the words of Simon (it sounds like I'm only quoting Simon, but that's because he's the only one who says anything original), looked like "a nice boy who's meeting a girl's parents for the first time", singing "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart". But, he's consistently high-quality and is confident, two things that definitely stand out after weeks of performances while others have their bad days. I really, really wish Mario would do a classic Prince song like "Purple Rain" and work it like I know he can, but at the same time I think the American Idol band would ruin the music.

Mikalah Gordon squeaked into the Top 12, which proves that the audience can be forgiving. Last week Mikalah owned the show with her toned-down jazz number, but she committed the same sin as Nadia last week -- she took it TOO far down. Vocally, she went all the way down to the bottom of her singing range on Streisand's "Somewhere" and nearly lost her grip on the notes. (She reminds me of Babs, but it must be the Jewish thing.) David thought this song took her out of the running, but she got the last spot going forward. Though I find her speaking voice grating in a Fran Drescher way (she's from Las Vegas, which makes the New Yawk squawk even more affected), I think she's a gifted performer. She needs to do something fun next week, like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive".

Nadia Turner turned it on this week! She probably sensed her own spot was in jeopardy after her weak showing of "My Love" and thankfully took action this week. (Puns aside, I likened her to Tina Turner early on, and thought her well-suited for a Tina song.) What surprised me was that she admitted to hearing "Try A Little Tenderness" for the first time last week. What??? C'mon, she's 28 -- didn't she hear it on the soundtrack of "The Commitments" played ad nauseam in the early 90's?? Hers was far and away the best performance from the ladies on Tuesday, especially since her arrangement included both extremes of tempo. My bets are on Nadia to win the competition if she continues her streak. She's got the edge over the others in terms of style and charisma, even if she doesn't have the best voice.

David didn't think Scott Savol would make it through this week with his rendition of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", but I thought the song was great for his voice. Scott needs a choreographer, for sure -- he did this really weak hand wave partway through the song that made me laugh. Simon grimaced and call him names. But aside from that, when Scott speaks he lacks whatever expression he brings to his singing voice, and I don't know if that's enough to send him much further. He's going to have to pull out all the stops to make it through next week.

Vonzell Solomon wore a cowgirl outfit that didn't match her singing "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. It made her look like she wasn't going to GET any respect wearing such a getup unless she sung for her supper. I'll hand it to Vonzell, though, she works hard -- her whole body is constantly moving while she sings and she always has a big smile on her face. She's got a great attitude, which has everything to do with her getting this far, because she's far from the top, rank-wise. My call is she might be in her last week, too, if she doesn't pull out a big number next week.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cats on Computers


We're watching...
Uploaded by keledy.
The cat on the computer screen is Hugh! I uploaded this pic earlier, and Keledy's cat had a peek -- Hugh has another fan!!

is there a tutorial for this thing?
The original pic I took earlier this evening (click on the pic to see comments).