Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Winner is Crowned

As you know, I don't usually recap a rundown of the finale, so I'll just hit some highlights.

Fabulous finale as usual. It's like a huge party and we get to be a part of it.

We turn up our TV really loud and make a lot of food and we even make signs.

Our clever kids came up with the clever signs themselves:

Thing 2, a Crystal fan, has a sign that says "Crystal Rox" (Get it? She rocks. And she rox (as in Bowersox). I could cry, he's so smart.

Thing 1, a Lee fan like her Mommy, has a sign that says "Lee is De Winner!"(Get it? Lee DeWyze . . . De Winner).

I didn't take notes. I just ate, sang along, and screamed excitedly (and scared the dog) when I saw the famous people they brought out on stage tonight. (Off the top of my head, I was pretty pumped to see Joe Cocker, Chicago, and Janet Jackson). Long live the '80s! (There's a reason John Cusack is my Hollywood crush).

I loved the tribute to Simon with all the past idols (minus David Cook, who was hosting a charity event in Kansas City).

I loved that they brought out the "Pants on the Ground" guy. I hate stupid auditions, but I loved his.

Kris Allen is adorable.

I thought the Crystal-Alanis Morissette duet was fabulous. They sounded so, so good.

Oh! Oh! And Casey James and Bret Michaels?!?!?! How freaking cool was that?!! I was so happy to see Bret Michaels! I've been following all his health stuff in the tabloids and it was such a huge surprise to see him on stage and he and Casey did AWESOME work up there.

I love, love, love Paula and was so happy to see her pixie self. She has been missed this season and it was good to have her back. The other 3 judges seemed to melt into obscurity a bit tonight.

Lee was a class act. I absolutely love when the winners sing with such raw emotion. I loved every minute of it.

(And I won't say "I told you so.").

Great, great Idol night. I loved it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lee vs. Crystal

I read on TMZ today (because, yes, that's what I do) that in rehearsal, both contestants were such bundles of nerves that Crystal stopped mid-song and forgot the lyrics and Lee supposedly got angry and left the stage when he was accidentally hit with a violin bow.

Watching the intro, I thought Lee looked collected. But Crystal and the cameraman? That was another story.

Ah, live television. Poor Crystal dropped her mic while high-five-ing everyone down the aisle. Lee, on the other hand, coolly placed his mic in his pocket while strolling down the aisle seemingly nonplussed. Crystal seemed flustered when she couldn't figure out where to stand among the audience and then it turned out she wasn't supposed to stand there at all, but rather get on stage, so Lee beat her there. Is that a foreshadowing of what's to come?

Crystal won the coin toss, so she of course chose to go 2nd. 3 songs tonight. Here we go.

1. Contestant's Choice:

Lee - "The Boxer"
His video intro made me like him even more. What a cute kid. His song was great. Simon calls it a kiss on the cheek rather than a kiss on the lips. Using that analogy, both kinds of kisses are nice and getting both enhances the effect of either. I like how he kisses either way. :P

Crystal - "Me and Bobby McGee"
Her video intro made me wonder, where's her mom? Crystal was excellent and totally gave me chills.

Round 1 goes to Crystal.

2. Producer's Choice

Lee - "Everybody Hurts"
Awesome choice. I don't think I could've predicted that song choice at all, but as soon as I heard it, it fit like a glove! I don't know if I would've made a connection between R.E.M.'s sound and Lee's, but it works. Plus this was R.E.M and a gospel choir and that's just extra cool. It was fabulous on him and I love his stage presence.

The audience, however, drives me crazy . . . Shut. Up!

Crystal - "Black Velvet"
This song has been done to death on this show, so it was hard to imagine her pulling it off as anything other than stale. However, they rocked it up and she did the song (and the arrangement) justice. It's just too bad they made her wear such an unflattering dress and awful heels to walk down those stairs. It was all very distracting. But her voice? She gave me chills again!

HOWEVER. When Ryan talks to her in between songs, she's a little too "Macy's Day Parade" - ish when she talks with him. Maybe it's her constant use of the word "Ryan." I suppose anyone would sound "Macy's Day Parade" - ish if they kept saying someone's name after every sentence. Especially if they threw in a "Thank you" (or 19) along with it. Gag.

Round 2 was tied.

3. Winner's Song

Wow, so this year they went with already-produced songs instead of the same old crap they've used for the past 8 years. No amount of song writing contests or Kara DioGuardi lyrics has been able to de-cheese the winning songs, so stick to already-awesome songs? Winning concept. Give that guy a raise.

Lee - "Beautiful Day"
I love this U2 song. It's so . . . NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Yes, that was the sound in our living room tonight as our local cable company cut out about 10 straight minutes of the show. Well, thank God for the internet, because I don't watch countless horrid auditions and 5 months of this show, week after week, to miss the final performances of the season. So, we high tailed it to my computer and watched Lee and Crystal perform the winner's songs. I'll keep it simple. Lee did great (and I can totally see how he might've gotten hit with a violin bow). And . . .

Crystal - "Up to the Mountain"
So did Crystal.

That's really all I have to say about the final songs. Maybe it's the distraction of the video cutting out. Maybe it's that I'm trying really hard to be open to the idea that Crystal could sound more deserving than Lee. Maybe it's that I'm tired and have a headache. I don't know, but I will say this.

I do think Crystal sounded fantastic tonight. And Lee sounded great, too. They are BOTH excellent. I like both their sounds. Heck, I'd even buy BOTH their albums.

That being said, Crystal almost swung me over to team Crystal tonight. ALMOST.

You see, I was thinking, as the show progressed tonight, that it worked very well in her favor that they weren't allowing time for them to TALK between songs, because I find her ingratiating when she does. And it was all going so well. Until. Until . . .

That girl doesn't know when to stop or shut up. Her little "Can I say something?" tribute to Simon took the energy (that, by the way, she had totally and successfully unleashed in her performances, creating a fantastic high in the crowd) and sucked it right out of the gigantic room.

If she'd not talked, I might, might have liked her more than Lee tonight. MIGHT. Because she did sound really, really good tonight. BUT. She reminded me why I love Lee (and yes, I vote based partly on personality--always have, always will). It's the nature of the show. It's not just about a sound (though a large part of it IS). It's a love story. I love both of their sounds, but I think America has fallen in love with Lee AND his sound.

They will both put out albums, because they are both incredible performers.

But Lee will win, because he has stolen our hearts.

I can hardly WAIT for the finale. I *love* American Idol finales. And Simon's final show should be a doozy. Bring on the group songs, the keys to the new Fords, and the celebration!

The Last Hurrah

I entered this night with high expectations, and a healthy dose of realism. It's long been my assertion that eventually fans of American Idol stop caring about who performs better and vote for who they like the best. So even deciding who was best tonight does very little to help us decide who will win. It's still fun to review it and debate it, though, isn't it?

First, a couple of general observations. Simon Fuller and whoever picked the winners' songs did Lee no favors tonight. First of all, Lee was given the much more mellow "Everyody Hurts" to Crystal's overdone, but more overtly exciting "Black Velvet." Then he was given the unenviable task of trying to improve on what is one of U2's better songs, while Crystal gets the benefit of a song that is so naturally suited to her soulful voice and great guitar skills.

I was happy to see that American Idol has done what many of us thought they should have done a long time ago: get rid of the cheesy, formulaic, mock inspirational winners' songs in favor of more relevant, established songs. Kara seemed a bit bitter about not getting a chance to create more cheddar for the winners, though. I would advise Kara to go back and look at the final performances of such contestants as Bo Bice, Blake Lewis, and David Cook as they tried to put their spins on the winners' songs. It wasn't pretty. There is some music that was just meant to be sung by the David Archuletas of the world.

I also enjoyed hearing Will Young sing tonight. What a tribute to the Idol process to see the original Pop Idol having such a successful career. He's got a really good voice.

OK, now my contestant-specific reviews . . .

Lee DeWyze: I completely disagree that Lee seemed nervous. He may have been a little awestruck and humbled by the whole setting, but he seemed very comfortable on stage all night. "The Boxer" was a great choice, especially since I get a little tired of the over-the-top arrangements that always surface during the finale. I prefer an emotional performance of a great song to a forced cliche of a presentation. Lee's voice is perfectly suited to sing R.E.M., so his second song was great in my opinion, even if the judges seemed underwhelmed. "Beautiful Day" is a great song, but there is no way to really compare to Bono on this one. I do disagree with Kara, though--he was not "swallowed up" by the song. All in all I thought it was a very solid set of performances.

Crystal Bowersox: Crystal got off to a rough start with dropping her microphone in the aisle in the opening, and it seemed like no one knew where she was supposed to be. The biggest challenge for her tonight seemed to be getting to the stage because once she got there she was just fine. All of her songs were great selections, and she had probably her best night of the season. She seemed herself, complete with attention-seeking ingratiation (is that even a word?). I can't take anything away from her performances tonight, though, because she was in the zone. I think she probably had a better night than Lee, and it pains me to say it since I'm a Lee fan.

With that said, I still think Lee is the next American Idol. He just seems to be a fit for the typical voters, or at least the ones that will vote for the entire four hours, risking the development of severe arthritis as adults.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The evolution of interest (or media-free weeks)

I wrote this on Wednesday, but am only now posting it.
I don't know why.

We're enjoying a (mostly) media-free week. We're not big regular TV watchers (other than American Idol and Amazing Race), but we do love our computers. We use them for reading, writing, researching, playing games, using our library system, pictures, organizing, videos, communicating, you name it.

The kids don't generally use the computers until after dinner, except for some stuff in the mornings that we do almost daily like typing tutor, Portuguese, and looking stuff up that we're studying. And when the weather is nice, we are outside as much as is humanly possible -- usually in the backyard, but also at a park, at the pool, or something.

So usually, after dinner and when we don't have other, outside or out-of-the-home plans, they like to play Webkinz, Wizard101, and other super fun games. But every once in a while, we declare a media-free week for ourselves and see where that leads us. We always, always enjoy it.

It's kind of like being Amish for a week (only, not really).

Suddenly, they play with toys they haven't maybe noticed in a while. Or they pick up those how-to-draw books they love. Or we do puzzle books. Or we listen to more books on tape (something we do a lot anyway). We read even more (even more than "a lot"). We cook. We bake. We play games. We get stuff done. We work on projects.

Well, this week is a media-free week (and we've even put off Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon to after dinner and, astonishingly, they haven't even made many appearances!). So, we've been doing whatever strikes our fancy.

Some of the interesting things we've done so far this week include:

* A violin recital
* A 4-H cooking class
* An art class
* Writer's group
* Homemade Orange Rolls
* Poker (5-card draw)
* Pretzel M&Ms (for gambling while playing poker) :P
* Letter writing to companies to let them know we like their products (yes, we're hoping for letters back and maybe coupons for free stuff)
* Silent movies
* Zorro!

One of the things I love about go "au natural" (as far as technology goes--c'mon now, what kind of a homeschool do you think we run around here?) is seeing where our interests carry us.

Buster Keaton

I'm on a mailing list for homeschoolers and someone there mentioned that their child was interested in silent movies. "Huh," I thought. "That kind of sounds like fun." So, I got on our online library catalog system and ordered 2 Buster Keaton movies and 1 Charlie Chaplin movie.

Yesterday, we watched "The General." We absolutely loved it. I hadn't ever seen a Buster Keaton movie before! Why? I have no idea, but now I get why people love him. It was fantastic!

I remember him being referenced in Friends and also in Benny and Joon (I think), but he was just some iconic figure to which people referred, not someone I actually had ever seen. Until now. Love him! And so do the kids.

Little interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

Orson Welles has stated that Keaton's The General is the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made. A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton's The General as the 15th best film of all time.

Trains/Civil War

Well, watching "The General" got Thing 2 interested (yet again -- he went through a major train phase when he was about 3) in trains and how they work. It also got both Thing 1 and Thing 2 totally interested in the Civil War. So, now we're in the midst of gathering documentaries, activity books, novels, and other fun stuff for us to research and enjoy, as we learn more about that time period. And we are all excited about it! Nerds.

Baking Bread

I've been craving good breakfast bread for a while now. So, yesterday, I decided to pull out an old recipe I got from an old college roommate and make some orange rolls. They were delicious! It was an all-day affair to make them. During the early stages, I worked on the bread while the kids practiced their instruments, did some spelling stuff (we watched the documentary "Spellbound" this past week and played a bunch of word games and did a bunch of activities, and researched some of the contestants, all in preparation for the televised National Spelling Bee coming up), and played poker. When it came time to roll them out, spread the filling, cut them, and roll them, the kids totally helped out. It was so much fun (and so, so yummy to celebrate a great Idol night by eating warm, glazed rolls afterward). Mmmmm.


On Monday at the library, we found a free book (they always have a whole lobby of free books you can take and we usually do a quick scan to see what's there) on card games. Well, by that afternoon, the kids had read up on several games and were begging us to play.

So we tried out some new games and one of the games they like best? Poker. They're now using poker chips, but we started out using those new Pretzel M&Ms (have you tried them? They are DELICIOUS!!).

It's actually really fun to learn math by betting, figuring out odds, strategy, and chances instead of some boring, old worksheet. Plus, we got to play poker! It's a riot to hear our kids toss in a chip and say, "Ante up!"

Letter Writing

Eating the M&Ms also got Thing 1 wondering, "Why do they call them M&Ms?" I looked it up (and found myself reading the entire wiki page on M&Ms -- who knew a candy's history could be so interesting?), but Thing 1 didn't want me to tell her. She wrote a letter to the company to ask them herself. She thought it would be more fun that way.


And while we're playing poker, eating dinner, baking rolls, we look out the window and watch the bird feeders and see red cardinals, gray sparrows, brown finches, red-headed house finches, blue jays, golden finches, and more. We use our bird book (that we keep in that room) to figure out what the birds are called and to learn more about them. We love our birds (and Scout mostly does, too, unless they're big birds -- crows, starlings, and mourning doves? Not so much.).


Speaking of eating dinner, a favorite game around here is "What's the healthiest thing on my plate?" Anyone initiates it anytime and we rank order the foods we're eating. It always, inevitably, leads to more discussions on healthy eating, nutrition, good eating habits, the food pyramid, vitamins, avoiding the not-good-for-you stuff, etc. We, of course, balance this by eating M&Ms and donuts now and then. :)


Today, we've had some other things going on -- mulch delivery for some yard work, planting our garden (kids have their own sections, too), figure skating lessons, etc. But the kids have started watching Zorro! (the old, black and white version) and we've also played a game called Calamityville (kind of like Monopoly for the Wild West/Gold Rush era) that we're borrowing from a friend in our homeschool group.

Data Entry

Not sure what we're doing for dinner yet, but we've all been working on organizing our recipes into an online and book form. The kids have been using their typing skills and doing data entry (.25/recipe) and that's been a lot of fun, too.


Thing 1 has been saving up her money to buy herself a Nintendo DS and I'm really proud of her for doing so. Thing 2 is saving up, too, for a Yu-Gi-Oh card, but sometimes he changes his mind on what he wants to get. I'm hoping he saves up for a DS, too, because I think it's a great experience for them to work and save like that. They will always treasure them and care for them, because they've worked so hard to save for them. (Update: inspired by his sister's saving and our success in finding her an awesome deal, he's now saving for a DS!)

They both have regular jobs helping out in the clinic and they do side jobs to help out, too (extra money for bigger outdoor jobs, data entry on the recipes, etc.). Thing 1 even gets paid to be a "Mother's Helper" now and then by a friend of ours. She gets to go over and help with the little ones so the mom can get some stuff done. A brilliant concept.

Both kids track their earnings and expenditures in their own ledgers, which has really been a nice way for them to see how this whole money thing works.

Natural Learning

I guess what I'm loving most about our media-free weeks, besides the fun, relaxed feel of it and how much we're enjoying it in general, is watching the process of natural learning. I didn't come up with some kind of rigid lesson plan and make our kids stick to it, whether they were interested or not. I have a vague idea (and a checklist) of what we hope to get to each day, but we approach it with flexibility that allows for natural interest, curiosity, and excitement. After all, that's how we learn before school. And that's how we learn after we graduate. Naturally.

When I'm interested in something, I look it up, read a book, talk to someone, watch a movie, take a course. So, we try to incorporate that same attitude in our own "schooling." It's really such a natural process anyway, that if I can let go and trust (easier said than done at times), it's amazing where it takes us. I love it when this happens.

Is it all roses, pretzel M&Ms, unicorns, and poker chips? No.

Some days/weeks are hard or don't flow quite so easily (therein lies the challenge--being in tune with the energy of the good weeks and learning from, instead of getting sucked down by, the rough ones). It's challenging to find time for myself or to keep up on things around the house or in my work in our clinic. It really takes some serious finagling at times for me and Mark to simply touch base and stay caught up on things we share with each other (read: we use the instant messenger a lot, but how cool is that? Our kids can literally look up our marital conversations and read transcripts! What other generation can boast that? Or maybe that's not boast-worthy? :P).

It can be tricky to find the balance of all that we do. It's not easy to keep the house clean (ha!) or stay caught up on laundry or dishes or work on organizing that closet. It's an enormous responsibility to home educate and it's one we do not take lightly. It's a trick to try to stay ahead of the calendar and be on top of what we're doing day to day, let alone what's coming up. I do a lot of research. I do a lot of reading. I worry about finances sometimes. I get tired and even downright grumpy sometimes, but all in all? I love, love, love spending time together as a family. I love the flexibility it affords us. I love the learning. We love our homeschool group. We love what we do.

The noise and activity level can sometimes test the limits of my patience, but I can't think of anyone else I'd rather spend daily time with--I absolutely love my husband, my kids, and yes, even our puppy. And learning together? Naturally? For us? Thankfully, it's a perfect match. Because these kids are growing up so quickly right before our very eyes and I'm glad we are together so much and can honestly, even though we all drive each other crazy sometimes, call each other "friend." That's another benefit to our days -- learning through trial and error, through time together and quiet time apart, how to daily work on lasting relationships together. I love, love, love my family.

Oh, and thank you, media-free week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And now we're down to 2

Big, dramatic intro.
(fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)
No stairs for Seacrest.
(fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)
Next week is the finale.
(fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)
Say hello to our judges.
(fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)
Here are our Idols.
(fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)

And we're FIVE minutes in, America.
Behold the power of TiVo.

During the chat with the idols on the couches and also during those backstage glimpses and also during the interviews, a rather cocky Crystal and a very humble other two emerged.

She kept cutting in, smiling smugly, talking about herself, whereas the boys kept thinking of others and expressing gratitude and wonder.

When asked what their day-to-day is like, both boys expressed feeling badly that they're not able to give more to others. Crystal talked about herself.

When reviewing the judges' comments this season, Lee came across as sweet, Casey came across as hilariously honest, and Crystal . . . well, I kept thinking, "Shut up!" as she kept butting in on everyone else's answers.

Hometown visit #1: Cool, TX
Cool, TX is home to a very cool breezer. Casey is a very cool guy and a really good sport. He's humble. He took it all in. He expressed thanks. He was tearful afterward, with gratitude to those who saved his arm and his life. He was clearly moved. Class act, that Casey.

Then Perez Hilton (!) . . . seriously? . . . wow, I thought that was going to be Ryan's idea of a joke, but nope. Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, Perez Hilton introduced Travis Garland as being "better than Justin Timberlake." Well, he wasn't. But I'll give him that it was a pretty clean performance as far as Idol is concerned. (fast forward, fast forward, fast forward)

Hometown visit #2: Toledo, OH
Crystal is from Toledo. She sang at "Bowerstock." She didn't seem surprised by all the hoopla surrounding her. She seemed to be expecting it. She was crying afterward, too, but not because of others so much as being overwhelmed that they were singing her song. She kept saying, "My song. My song."

Hometown visit #3: Chicago, IL
Lee shook his head in disbelief. A lot. He seemed overwhelmed and so humbled. He uttered many, many thank yous. He was tearful, too, afterward, expressing thanks (yet again) to his parents.

Little Justin Bieber and his cheesy back-up dancers performed. (fast forward, fast forward, fast forward) His voice sounds like that mechanical/robotic voice they use in pop-country crossover songs. I have to hand it to the kid, though -- he can dance, sing, and play the drums! Plus, he can act. He was actually quite good on SNL recently.

Casey is a good sport, a nice guy, and a class act. He is also going home.

Lee and Crystal remain. It will be a great finale. I am totally, totally rooting for Lee. And I saw in Simon's eyes tonight, that he is, too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Top 3

Is it just me or did the whole show play out like they didn't rehearse beforehand? Not the songs so much (those were fine), but rather the awkward banter and stilted interviews. Either they lacked practice or Ryan didn't take his usual dose of uppers tonight.

I do love to see how much more confident they all seem after getting out in the world for hometown visits to see and feel the energy of crowds of fans (even if they did make them all stand in front of an AT&T cell phone store--how lame is that?). I can't think of many locations less anti-climactic than that. Even a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place would've been more exciting.

Casey - "Okay, It's All Right To Me"
That song was in a bad key for him or maybe he was just slightly enough off to make it a bit uncomfortable. It got better throughout and he is not unpleasant to watch, but while good, it was not stellar. And what really bugged me (rather than distracted me, as does his appearance as Zach Braff with a blond wig) is that the poor guy didn't have his guitar pick ready and the band counted it out before he said to. Hello? He's the lead man, duh. And the judges pretty much agree he's salad. Or something.

Crystal - "Come To My Window"
Crystal showed up in gang-banger pants and I thought for sure this was going to be a brilliant song choice (not because of the pants, but because I thought the song style would suit her). And I was mistaken (not about the pants -- they were gang banger, but about the song . . . geez, keep up). It was good, but not as amazing as I expected (again, the song, not the pants).

Lee - "Simple Man"
Now, in Lee's case, I thought it was a GREAT song for him and I was right. It was FABULOUS and the best of the three. And I said that before the judges did, so neener neener.

Casey - "Daughters"
Casey's visit to the AT&T store where he gets a text on his AT&T phone tells us that Randy and Kara chose "Daughters" by John Mayer for him. I thought that was an excellent choice (plus, I love that song and pretty much any song by John Mayer) and I also wondered if they were going to pair up Ellen and Simon for a song choice (they didn't) or let Ellen choose her own (they did). I thought that wouldn't work well, but was proven wrong. But I digress. Back to Casey and the horrible product placement, I mean the song. He sang it without his trademark nervous smiling, so that's good. He had a short, great guitar solo. He did better than the first song he sang. And, predictably, Simon criticized the other judges' choice. He always does. ALWAYS.

Crystal - "Maybe, I'm amazed"
Wow. Go Ellen. She did really, really well with that. Wow. She didn't change the lyrics (from "man" to "woman" and "woman" to "man") and I'm glad - I always find it more weird and distracting when they do that. So, wow. That girl can really sing. She did it guitarless and all vulnerable (and in boots instead of gang banger pants this time) and it was FABULOUS! Girl's got soul. Soul indeed.

Lee - "Hallelujah"
We were going to stop after Crystal, and eat the Orange Rolls I worked on all day (seriously--I made the dough, refrigerated it for 6 hours, kneaded it again, let it rise for 3 hours, divided it and rolled it out, spread orange filling all over it, cut into triangles, rolled and shaped them, let them rise again, baked, glazed . . . so so worth it, though -- who's coming for breakfast tomorrow?), but I couldn't wait. I had to hear the song choice. And then once I did, I had to hear the song. Lee moved me to tears. He moved me. He really is the heart of the show. I felt like I was watching him have a slightly out-of-body-experience (in a good way) and he looked positively drained (again, in a good way) when he was done. I. Absolutely. Loved. It. I predicted as far back as the Top 7 that Lee would win it all. I stand by that prediction.

Going back to his hometown again: Casey
Finale: Lee and Crystal
Winning it all (perhaps in front of an AT&T sign): Lee

We're Getting Close

The final 3. This is the night we've all been waiting for. All of these contestants went home. Tomorrow you send one home for good. This--

Have I watched this show too many times? As sick as Ryan probably is of going through the intro, letting Crystal, Lee, and Casey finish it was almost too cheesy to bear. That aside, it was a good night and I didn't even feel like there was too much filler. I did notice that Lee got his text message somewhere other than an AT&T store. Wonder what happened there. Once again the judges make selections, and once again there is varying success. Ellen made a better choice for Crystal than Paula would have if she were still around, but the jury is still out on the season-long experiment. Kara and Randy did an OK job, and I may just have a shoddy memory, but I can't think of a year when Simon didn't have the best choice. He proves each year why he has been so successful at spotting talent, and he also proves that being a musician may actually hinder one's ability to match songs with singers.

On to the review . . .

Casey James: He did a great job this week with the songs on his list, but I'm not sure he or he judges did him any favors. I agree that his choice had no "Wow Factor"--I liked the song but kind of understood why they were underwhelmed. As far as "Daughters" goes, I love that song. I think John Mayer is great--totally crazy as a person, but awesome as a musician. Simon didn't really give him enough credit for what was good about that choice, but historically speaking, understated, tender songs don't go over very well at this point in the competition. You need an arrangement that is borderline over the top this week if you are going to pick a slower song, and "Daughters" doesn't really lend itself well to that sort of thing.

Crystal Bowersox: She was solid as always, and like Simon said, she is herself every week. Stacy did point out during the show that her brief stint behind the piano was a bit awkward, but otherwise she's been totally true to herself. The harmonica distracted me a bit and I don't know that it was necessary, but Crystal did a great job on Melissa Ethridge's song. Kim Caldwell may have ruined "Come to My Window" for Idol, though. Ellen's choice was great and I loved how Crystal didn't cheesify the lyrics by changing all the "Maybe I'm a man" to the syllabically inappropriate "Maybe I'm a woman." It came off much better that way. I don't see any way that she isn't one of the final 2.

Lee DeWyze: This was most definitely his night. He sounded great and current on both songs and you can see how much his confidence has grown throughout the season. He made a perfect selection with "Simple Man," and sang it very well. When I heard Simon was choosing his song I felt really happy for Lee, and then I heard it was "Hallelujah" and as much as I love the song (and I really do), it definitely is in danger of becoming an overdone song on Idol. It's really tough to top Jason Castro's rendition, too. Lee outdid himself again, though. When the stage doors opened up I found myself hoping the bagpipe dude was coming out, but the gospel choir was a nice touch, too. The arrangement was almost too much, but like I said about Casey's night, you need that type of performance this week, especially with a song that's been done so many times. What a night for Lee. Finale here we come.

Final 2: Crystal and Lee
So I Guess I'm the Odd One Out: Casey

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Results -- Not a whole lot to say

I don't have a lot to say tonight, so this is going to be short.

Fantasia had a real 70's sound about her. It was all a bit Donna Summer. I didn't love the song (it was all a bit mellow/boring), but I do think she's amazing.

Ryan then teased them with a hometown visit montage and Casey is safe! (That does it. Unless there's a shocker a la Chris Daughtry, Big Mike will be smelling that saltwater air sooner than later).

Speaking of Daughtry, they're awesome. I love his voice and his stage presence.

And Lee is safe! (That clinches it. Mike is out. If it were either Lee or Crystal, they'd keep them both on stage for the suspense factor).

Bon Jovi performed next and they look exactly the same as when I was 11 and they were Livin' On A Prayer. I haven't ever been able to see what it is women find hot about him. I still don't see it. Because we're nerds, Mark looked it up -- all those guys are in their 50s or late 40s. Good for them!

And Crystal is safe. Mike sings us out (beautifully).

My favorite shot of the night (along with all the footage of Elliott!) was the one just before the show ended -- Big Mike and his CUTE baby girl.

See? Not much to say.

Until next week!

Goodnight, America. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oh, Those Movies

When I think of movies with great music, I do not think of "Free Willy" and "Caddyshack" (even though Caddyshack is still one of Bill Murray's greatest comedic movies). And to be honest, as great as "Mrs. Robinson" is as a song, it's not a great song to showcase your talent. The producers made the best picks of the night with the duet performances, but I think the Idols were trying so hard to pick the less than obvious choice that they ended up picking weird stuff. With all of that said, the judges were a bit harsh tonight, but that's to be expected at this point in the competition. I would have loved to hear their choices for the contestants this week since there are "thousands" from which to choose. I'm not so sure their choices would have been any better.

Jamie Foxx was a good mentor again this year. I like how he really gets the contestants to emote and connect with the songs. He had the same effect last year as well.

Lee DeWyze: Let's just say this was not his best work. The song fit him a lot better than Randy thought, but it was a bit strange. As I like to say at this point, "it all comes down to personal preference." So, I think Lee should be safe another week.

Michael Lynche: Michael is just good. Was this the perfect song for this week? No. Was it a good performance? Yes. An R&B artist singing a Gospel song is not that big a stretch, Randy. Consider R&B's roots.

Casey James: Great song. Bad choice. Nice Mandolin. Somewhat original. He should have gotten more props and less teasing about Kara. This week was a "normal" Casey performance.

Crystal Bowersox: Another weird choice tonight, but of course she did very well. Plus, she had my favorite auxillary performer on stage with her, minus his washboard, plus his timbali/cowbell/conga drum/and more setup. Bagpipe dude hasn't made enough appearances to be considered a favorite . . . yet.

The duets were fantastic. Both songs are great, and the pairings were perfect. They were by far the highlights of the evening. Mad props to whichever staffer put those together.

So, here is my rank order of performances:

Crystal/Lee Duet
Michael/Casey Duet
Crystal (Cuban Percussionist Bonus)
The other three

Going Home, but not on the chartered jet: Casey

Top 4 Sing Movie Songs

THIS is your Top 4!


(dramatic pause while all 4 Idols give themselves whiplash)

is American Idol!


Didn't like that either? Have other opinions on Idol? Want to let the producers know what you like and don't like? Want Paula back (I DO!)? They're asking for feedback here.

4 Individual Songs and 2 Duets tonight. Songs were, for the most part, okay. Duets were, for the whole part, awesome.

Lee - "A Kiss From A Rose"
He was pretty off for most of it. It pains me to say that, because I like Lee and hope he makes the final 2 and then wins it all, but it's true. However, his confidence seems to have definitely skyrocketed. And, for that, I'm glad. He is so cute and so likable. I find myself really rooting for him. Go Lee!

Big Mike - "Will You Be There?"
I don't know what the judges were listening to, but I loved it. He R&B-ed it up and sounded fantastic.

Duet: Lee and Crystal - "Falling Slowly"
Brilliant! Perfect! Absolutely LOVED it. I love this song (like LOVE it) and they were fantastic. These two are fabulous and they're so so so totally our Top 2, America! Get ready.

Casey - "Mrs. Robinson"
I have to admit that I had the same thoughts Randy did during this performance. Is Casey that desperate for some praise from the judges that he's going to resort to sending cryptic love messages to Kara to set her heart a-flutter (again) and have her gush about how great he is? Maybe. He looked like J.D. with a blond wig and, to boot, the song could've been on a SCRUBS soundtrack. He was surrounded by women and a couple of guys pretending not to have a crush on him, too. Because, well, come on! Casey's hot. But, dude, Randy? He totally changed it up. I don't know what Randy's hearing. Tonight, Ellen was more spot on than Randy.

Crystal - "I'm All Right"
She brought back the guitar and the mic stand, but where's the rug?? It was VERY good. She's awesome. She's just so already there.

Duet: Casey and Big Mike - "To Love A Woman"
What? No Ebony and Ivory? (I totally laughed out loud at my own joke tonight). Their duet was very nice. Casey played some smokin' classical guitar. And the two of them did a smashing job. It was great.

I agree that the individual song choices were strange (especially when they could've picked, essentially, anything). But the duets? Phenomenal.

Ryan sees us off with a "Bu-bye, America." Even he knows he's lost some coolness, so he's apparently ditched "Seacrest. Out."

Top to bottom tonight is hard to say. Do duets count?

Best to worst based on individual performances:

Big Mike

(I know. It pains me to admit that.)

Considering the duets?

Lee and Crystal are your top 2.
Casey and Big Mike are your bottom 2.

One of those bottom 2 will leave tomorrow, but I'm not sure which one. It should be Casey, but it might be Mike. Whichever one goes, the other will follow next week and we'll have our Lee-Crystal finale after that. With Lee winning it all. Methinks.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I'm taking a blog break--writing and reading them.

I'll finish up the next few American Idol weeks, but other than that, I won't be posting much for a while. I still might post something here and there and I'll pop in now and then on other people's blogs, too, but I've got other things that I've been either neglecting or perpetually trying to get done and I'm going to work on those instead.

I find myself saying things like, "Haven't gotten to that yet" or "I'm still working on that" and "I'm trying." I'm pretty behind on blogging as it is anyway. I have loads of pictures I'd love to share, but haven't had a chance. We're a pretty busy family with a lot going on and while blogging, something I started as a means to keep up with those who live far from us, is something I really enjoy, I really ought to get to the other things I have to do, too.

So, I'll catch you later!

Happy spring!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fill in the Blank

I want to organize the stuff on the 3rd floor (think: file cabinets).

I can't get enough of these kinds of blog posts.

I think batteries are perplexing -- do they or don't they have more juice in them?

I think it's annoying that Sallie Mae would raise our rates if we did a 10 (versus 30) year plan with them.

I’m not sure I like how long I've sat here trying to think of what to write for this one.

I’m hungry when I see good food on commercials.

For cinco de mayo, I went to our local, cheap Mexican place with my family. Delicious!

I’m mad that we don't use the word "mad" they way they do in Britain.

I’m glad that we homeschool.

I’m nervous about nothing. I'm thankfully in a good place.

I have this song in my head big time. Will Forte is totally awesome.

I need food, shelter, water, and love. Nothing more.

I wish upon falling stars.

I’m excited about some leads I have on some very cool ideas.

I’m happy that Emily posted this on her blog, because I love writing prompts!

Now you fill in the blank!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And so we say goodbye to . . .

Harry. *Sniff. Sniff.*

Oh yeah, and Aaron, too, but I'll miss Harry more.

On to the recap.

Top 2 Things I'm Sick Of On Results Nights:

1. Randy booing Simon.

It wasn't funny the first time. It's still not funny 279 times later.

2. The #*&@&$* Lip Sync!!

Why?!? It's a singing competition, for crying out loud. If they can't sing well as a group, we should be able to observe that for ourselves! When they lip sync, it only lets us see who sucks at lip syncing (Casey and Aaron, by the way).

Next week's theme? Songs of the Cinema with Jamie Foxx. I remember him being a good mentor in the past. A little full of himself, but good with the kids.

I'm loving the peek into the behind-the-scenes of a typical Tuesday. If they're going to have filler, give us that kind of stuff. The judge stand-ins, what the Idols eat for breakfast, how they do their rehearsals . . . I like that.

In fact, here's a thought. Tell us about the Idol's typical Thursdays and ditch the stupid Lady Gaga performances.

Lady Gaga sat at the piano in netting and a black widow-esque poncho and, apparently forgetting her clothing, her panties. She was surrounded by smoke and trees and satyrs? I'm not sure, but they forget their clothing, too. Then she faked a Spanish accent ("Alejandro!"). And suddenly it was like Erasure meets Gloria Estefan (minus the Miami Sound Machine).

If I'm understanding her message tonight, it's, "If you can't sing, wear a garbage bag and dance in smoke with creepy men who have also forgotten their clothing and you, too, can be famous."


I loved the Harry Connick, Jr. montage. I think that's part of his charm -- he, like so many jazz greats, has personality and loads of "charismer" as Simon would say. He's hilarious. I love Harry!

Then, Harry Connick, Jr (who sings and performs well enough to not need a costume --or lack thereof--behind which to hide) sang beautifully in an oh-so-classy performance.

Take that, inappropriate female "singer" who can't find her clothing and whose performance I had to mostly fast forward because it was so so so totally inappropriate for my children who like to watch this family program with us. (Imagine me shaking my Craig Ferguson-like fist right here).

Harry RULES. This was the best results show ever (minus Lady Gaga).

The top 5 then lip synced (WHY?!) a medley of Harry's songs. They faked singing, but he played the bejeezus out of that piano. He is a MASTER on the keys. I envy that so much. He's a fantastic performer and a fun story teller. Dude, I love Harry.

Except that he had to announce his concert run on Broadway on live television tonight. ARGH. I'd already looked it up and was hoping to possibly surprise Mark. Oh well, he's in on it now. And yes, we just may go. We are, like, 2 hours from NYC so we can do these things. It's awesome.

The Top 5 look so nice tonight. I totally dig an untied tie.

So, Aaron flies to the moon. He's a sweet, sweet kid.

And I already miss Harry.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Love Harry

In September 1992 when I was starting college and moving into my dorm, my freshman roommate plastered a gigantic poster of an up-close picture of a man's face on her wall. He stared right over at my side of the tiny dorm room.

I asked, "Who's that?"

And she said, "Who's that?!!
Who's that?!! That's Harry Connick, Jr.!!"

I said, "Never heard of him."

She introduced me to Harry immediately, popping in CDs and gushing all about the guy. By Christmas, I was in love with Harry, too.

She, together with many more friends as well as my future husband, taught me more about jazz than I had ever, ever known. And specifically, they taught me about Harry.

By April, I'd properly driven my roommate crazy by coming upstairs and blaring Harry's "Just Kiss Me" very loudly after every date with Mark.

Two summers later, a group of us girls went up to Park City and saw Harry live at an outdoor concert. That was for his "She" album. He was phenomenal. I've never,
NEVER seen anyone play piano like that. It may be that--his piano playing ability--more than anything else, that I love about Harry most. Have you ever seen him play?? It's like he is ONE with the keys. He effortlessly dances over the keys like nobody's business. And I go crazy watching it. I was hoarse by the end of that concert and couldn't speak for 2 days.

Before the concert

After the concert

Harry is THE BOMB.

As newlyweds, Mark and I got tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival. Why? Because it's cool, but mostly because HARRY was headlining! HARRY!!

I was SO excited about Harry mentoring tonight that I caught myself daydreaming and smiling earlier today. Seriously.

OMG! I LOVE HARRY!! I will try to write about the contestants tonight and not let my love, love, love of Harry Connick, Jr. get too much in the way, "try" being the operative word.

The Top 5 all looked studly and lovely tonight as they walked out on stage.
And then, the kingpin stud of them all, Harry Connick, Jr., descended the grand staircase with his Louisiana swagger.

And OMG! He's playing piano!! He's playing piano!! And, holy moly, he arranged all the songs!! Have I mentioned I love him??

Aaron - "Fly Me To The Moon" I'm so star struck. He's PLAYING FOR THEM!! I kept not paying attention, instead daydreaming about what it would be like to meet Harry. What would I do? I'd be so excited, but I hope I'd hold it together and not be giddy. I don't know if I could, though. I mean, it's Harry! We own every one of his CDs. We've both seen him in concert twice (once each separately back in our single days and once --so far--together). We've seen him in movies. We've watched his concerts on DVD. We've caught interviews with him. We yell, "Hi" to him every time we drive through Stamford, CT on our way to MA. I'd try to hold it together. It would be such a thrill to meet him. Oh, I'm supposed to be writing about Aaron. See? This is how the performance was for me, though. Aaron was singing and I was daydreaming, so clearly it didn't capture my attention. Aaron seemed nervous and shaky. He looks cute and I, unlike Ellen, thought he sounded like a country singer doing a jazz number. Kinda weird and just okay.

Casey - "Blue Skies" Casey reminded me of Ace Young tonight--hair slicked back, smiling too much, making us uncomfortable, and seeming oh so nervous. It was not effortless at all. He did challenge himself vocally and I give him props for that, but it all felt a bit awkward for us at home. He was very J.D. (Scrubs) tonight again. And that's really not good. See, I was distracted enough from his performance to notice that, so it wasn't as good as previous performances of his. The judges were awfully harsh. And Harry (he's da man!) defended him. He's the best (Harry, not Casey). C'mon, keep up.

Crystal - "Summer Wind"
She looked stunning. It was awesome. It was very her AND very Harry. She sounded much better than the judges said. She's going to start annoying people, though, with her constant arguments with the judges. Take a page out of Lee's book, honey. He's the one to your left, passing you in the fast lane.

Big Mike - "The Way You Look Tonight"
It was VERY good. He seemed so confident and so at ease. He sang incredibly well. And that arrangement? GO HARRY!

Lee - "That's Life" Harry Connick, Jr. says, "My wife thinks he's cute." And I yell out, "That's 'cuz they look alike!" I've been saying that all along -- like here and here and here. I know my stuff when it comes to Harry. And Lee looks like Harry and even has a little swagger like Harry. I. Loved. It. Lee was PHENOMENAL. And I'll say it yet again -- he is SO going to win it all. He's very modest and humble a la Elliott and David Cook. I love Lee. And so does Harry!

What do I get from the show tonight? 3 things.

1. I never thought I'd ever hear the words "Harry Connick, Jr." and "Lady Gaga" in the same sentence. It's honestly almost insulting that they're even going to perform on the same stage on the same night. Bah.

2. Harry rules. I love Harry.

3. Lee will win.

I already knew 2 and 3. #1 was new to me.

Best to worst tonight:




Kevin/Casey (tied for last)

Bottom 3: Kevin, Casey, and Crystal

Leaving us tomorrow: Kevin or Casey

Best. Mentor. E-ver.

I honestly can't think of an idol night I've enjoyed more than tonight. Of course, that's mostly due to the fact that Harry Connick, Jr. Was the mentor. There is no way I'll ever be able to heap on the praise and adoration like Stacy will, but I did have a number of thoughts as I watched.

1. I think when we look back on my generation's musical era, HCJr will be considered one of the top 5 all-around entertainers of our time. He is an incredible pianist, singer, composer, arranger, etc., etc., etc.

2. To take time to work with the contestants, arrange their songs, and perform on Tuesday night is a testament to not only HCJr, but the jazz world as well. This is how it is--mentorship is just a way of life. Through the years I had the good fortune to meet a lot of jazz celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area and they were all just like Harry--ready to spend time and inspire a young musician.

3. Interestingly HCJr was compared to Frank Sinatra early in his career, but he's always been a bit more unique than that. He definitely embodies the New Orleans style of jazz and has always incorporated that into his arrangements.

4. Give me one measure of any HCJr arrangement and I can immediately identify it as his. He has an incredible way of orchestrating the band. I've always loved it.

5. If I really had to choose, HCJr's job is the only one in the world I could ever come close to coveting. Plus, I love how he does all of his arranging on the computer, and all of his musicians read their music on the computer as well. Technology at its finest.

I could go on and on, but there were a few performances to think about as well. It was painfully obvious who was comfortable with Sinatra songs and who was not. And I could have predicted who those people would be before hand. And a big challenge for the contestants was to not be overshadowed by the band. I won't bother to comment on the arrangements individually--they were all great.

Aaron Kelly: Look. Aaron can sing. He did fairly well, but he was just average tonight. I, unlike Kara, did hear a bit of country in his voice, but that's who he is after all. I do agree that last week was much better for him, but c'mon, Shania or Harry? Which one suits Aaron better?

Casey James: What a letdown this week. I'm not surprised at all that this week was a performance worthy of channel surfing, but it was worse than I had hoped for him. His voice isn't suited to jazz stylings, and he didn't end up getting bluesy enough for this song. I'm a bit worried for him.

Crystal Bowersox: I hear what Simon was saying about Crystal's performances lately seeming a bit indulgent. It's a fine line between pandering to the audience and just singing songs you can do well. The contestants have to find a way to wow viewers and stay true. That being said, I really liked Crystal's performance and am continually amazed at how well she sings. It's so easy to forget she has that talent sometimes.

Michael Lynche: This guy was born to be on stage. He is so comfortable there so it makes it easy to come out each week ready to put on a great show. This week was no exception. I loved his interpretation and the song fit his voice very well. I hope people keep voting for Michael because he truly deserves to go on.

Lee Dewyze: I don't know what HCJr did with him, but Lee was so confident tonight it was ridiculous. The arrangement was perfect (couldn't resist making this observation again) and that may have been part of it. Maybe the fact that Lee is Harry's long-lost brother helped a bit, too. Whatever it was, Lee was awesome. Before the judges said anything, Stacy looked over at me and said, "I think Lee's going to win." That was more than just wishful thinking. It was a decent prediction.

Top to Bottom:

Flying Somewhere Less Exciting than the Moon: Casey

(Do we have to see Lady Gaga again? I don't know if I can take it. I'd rather see this guy.)

HCJr Albums, Top to Bottom (in case you care)

* We Are In Love (his original songs are incredible on this one--first HCJr concert for me was this one)
* When Harry Met Sally
* Come by Me (another great album to hear live)
* Songs I Heard (great songs from kids' movies of yesteryear)
* Blue Light, Red Light (all original songs--fantastic)
* Harry for the Holidays (from the first note you'll be ready for Christmas)
* When My Heart Finds Christmas
* She (really funky, really cool)
* Star Turtle (if not for four really odd tracks with a talking turtle from outer space I'd rank it higher)
* What a Night! A Christmas Album
* To See You (awesome love songs album)
* Oh, My NOLA (what a great post-Katrina tribute to the New Orleans style)
* Your Songs
* 30
* 20
* Only You
* 25 (I can still hear my freshman roommate singing about being an "ol' cowhand")
* Lofty's Roach Souffle (you'll appreciate his piano playing ability after this one)
* Occasion : Connick on Piano, Volume 2
* Other Hours : Connick on Piano, Volume 1
* Chanson du Vieux Carre : Connick On Piano, Volume 3
(His instrumental albums are great, but not quite as interesting if you really like his singing best)
* Harry Connick Jr.
* Thou Shalt Not

Believe it or not we don't own "Harry on Broadway, Act I" so I can't really comment on it

I still can't take his recordings as a kid seriously. Seriously impressive to hear him at 11, but I consider this more of a "pseudo-album" than anything.

I want a maid.

That is all.