RIP Michael Jackson

We got news early this afternoon that Farrah Fawcett lost her horrible battle with cancer. Before that news could even sink in, news that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital with cardiac arrest started hitting the airwaves. TMZ announced around 5:15pm eastern than Michael passed away. The other news outlets didn't confirm that news until 6:00pm or later. Wow. What a shock. He was 50 years old and was just about to go on a comeback tour around the world. So sad.

On the radio, several stations played MJ's music all night. Man, that music brings back SO many memories. I remember friends in Omaha doing a dance routine to Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough. Me, my sister and my cousins doing our own routine to Rock with You in front of the whole family at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Seeing the "Moonwalk" for the first time during his performance of Billie Jean on the Motown 25 special. That is something I will never forget. The next day at school, everyone was trying to do the moonwalk. Suddenly everyone was wearing penny loafers, high-water pants and thick white socks.

Then came the videos: Billie Jean, Beat It. I heard Beat It on the radio this evening and I can picture his movements as he's singing "Beat It, Beat It, no one wants to be defeated!" right after the "brawl" so clearly in my head. Then came Thriller. Wow. It was a movie! It's funny that when young people see the dance now (like in Ferris Bueller when it's on TV or those lizards dancing in the Sobe commercial), they think it's something new. The Thriller Dance will live forever.

Smooth Criminal, my 2nd favorite MJ video after Thriller, had that cool move at 3 minutes and 25 seconds where MJ and dancersdo that cool lean. (I still wonder how they did that....)

I remember riding in a car with friends and having a debate about whether Off the Wall or Thriller is the better album. (Answer: Off the Wall!) One friend insisted it was Thriller, but she was outnumbered three to one. As I heard on a retrospective tonight, Off the Wall is a perfect album. I've already pulled it out to listen to while I'm working tomorrow.

One funny memory I have is watching Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest on HBO with my grandma. She was a little disturbed by his outfit. I don't remember the circumstances, but for some reason, I arrived in Omaha a day before the rest of my family did, so I had Grandma to myself, and she indulged and watched the concert all the way through.

My sister does a great imitation of the various singers at the end of Black and White...especially the girl at 5 minutes and 30 seconds. She cracks me up every time.

There are plenty more songs that I loved, but one of my favorites was Do You Remember the Time. That gets lots of play on the iPod. And Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson in the video? Too much! I love with Magic shakes his head and says "That was cold" after Iman sent a guy to the lions for not entertaining her.

Michael was an amazing entertainer. No one can move like him, though some do come close (Usher, Justin Timberlake). It's sad that despite all his talent and fame, he lead such a troubled life. Anytime I hear his music, I'll enjoy these memories. I do hope he rests in peace.

RIP also, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon who passed earlier this week. Sad, sad news.


I'm Down by Mishna Wolff

I'm Down: a memoir I'm Down: a memoir by Mishna Wolff

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is Mishna's Wolff's memoir about her dad and her childhood. Mishna and her family are white, but Mishna grew up in a poor black neighborhood. And, her father thought he was black. He used to be a hippie, but when they moved to the new neighborhood, he cut his hair and got a curly perm. Mishna found herself "too white" for the kids in her neighborhood, and when she transfers to a "rich school," she doesn't fit in there either because she's poor and "too ghetto." I really enjoyed this book, and find Mishna Wolff to be a good writer. I'd like to rate it 3.5 stars, because it's not quite four, and three makes it seem like I didn't like it that much. I can't quite rate it a four, because some of the stuff with Mishna's dad gets a little monotonous and I found myself infuriated with him, and with Mishna's reaction to him as the same type of scene happened over and over. Still, there are some really funny scenarios throughout, and also some that are touching, and even troubling. It's a quick read and I recommend it.


2nd Thursday vote-off on SYTYCD

The show opened with a Mia Michaels routine to Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground. I absolutely loved this routine. The guys and girls were in black suits, white shirts and ties. The very beginning reminded me of Pink Floyd's The Wall. There were a lot of African moves in it, but at the same time, the dancers looked futuristic & robotic. Very cool.

I still haven't seen the final two performances from last night, but I discovered that they recorded on my Tivo upstairs, so I can catch them later! Nice to have a backup! My friend Erika tells me I didn't miss much anyway, so I'm not too concerned. (Still doesn't explain why the downstairs Tivo stopped recording....)

They did a quick montage of people's reaction to Lil C's commentary--funny! Some examples of what he said: "The primary focus of all obstacles is to induce labor so progression can be born"; "There's a certain divinity to your movement and that subtle approach may be a hindrance"; "You are modifying your manipulation of movement." Everyone just looked confused. Lil C took it well--he was cracking up!

Here come the results:

Melissa/Ade - Safe!

Kaitlin/Jason and Jeanine/Phillip (this was one I didn't see-- a Tony Meredith tango) are left on the stage. Sounds like Jeanine did okay, Phillip not so much. Kaitlin and Jason are in the bottom three. I thought that might happen (it's true--check out the comments section from my last post!)

Next three couples: Janette/Brandon; Karla/Jonathon; and Ashley/Kupono (the other routine I didn't see--they did a Shane Sparks hip-hop routine. The judges panned it.)

Janette and Brandon are safe!

Karla and Jonathon were in the bottom three last week, but not tonight! They're safe. That leaves Ashley and Kupono to dance for their lives.

Next up: Randi/Evan; Asuka/Vitolio and Kayla/Max.

Before getting to the results, they showed that Evan's brother Ryan showed up for the Season 6 auditions. He's going to Vegas, folks! Yay! I really like him!

Randi and Evan are safe!

Asuka and Vitolio were in the bottom three last week, and this week, they're safe! (Notice a pattern?).

Nigel said this is the first time we've had three completely different couples in the bottom three than we had in week one.

Time for some culture. Each week they'll feature a dance from around this world. This week it's dance from India (I don't know if what she did is classified as Bollywood or not). Oh my--I just got dizzy from all the spins this lady did...TWENTY of them! WOW. That lady was amazing.

Kaitlin comes out to dance her solo to Adele's Make You Feel My Love (I love this song) - Kaitlin's performance showed of her gracefulness and athleticism. Lovely.

Jason dances to Robin Thicke's Superman. Wow...Jason is so talented and athletic too. (And have I mentioned how cute he is?)

Ashley - Coco Rosie's By Your Side. Her performance was very unique and I enjoyed it.

Kupono - Janelle Monae, Many Moons - Ahh...we get to see Kupono's originality again. He moves like no one else. (He's also a cutie, by the way!)

Kayla - Kerli's Walking on Air - Her routine seems frantic and rushed and desperate.

Max - Kenny Loggins, Footloose - Gosh. His routine was really good too. I don't know how they'll choose among the guys. For the girls, I think think Kaitlin is safe, but I'm not sure who will go.

The judges go backstage to vote and we get a performance from someone I've never heard of before because it's her first major TV appearance. Oh dear--she's lip synching badly. Oh, her name's Krititnia DeBarge. Hmmm....is she related to THE DeBarge's? I'll have to look into that. Her lip synching is atrocious! OK, yes, her dad is James DeBarge from THE DeBarge's original group. Terrible performance. I'd rather see the DeBarge family come out and sing one of their oldies by goodies.

Nigel says they are not unanimous on their votes tonight. Nigel would prefer not to lose any of the six, but we have to move forward. Kaitlin had "great quality of movement"; Ashley had "wonderful Hollywood glamour, but her approach to her solo was wrong because it had no substance"; Kayla, "we felt as though your solo was crowded; you were trying to throw too much in there." The person leaving tonight is Ashley. Aw....poor Ashley.

Now the guys. Jason: "we thought your solo was exceptionally strong....go and sit down, we'll see you in another week." Kupono: they didn't think there was substance in his solo, but they're impressed that he's different, an "intelligent dancer" and that he "takes on characters." Max: "Nobody could impress us more than you when it comes to hard work." The person leaving tonight is Max....Aw. He looked devastated.

So, a new couple next week: Kupono and Kayla--can't wait to see what happens!


The top 18 dancers perform on SYTYCD

Lil C is the guest judge tonight. Cat Deely introduces the judges and makes a joke about Mary not being able to look surprised anymore. (Mary made an announcement last week that she uses Botox.) Then we get to learn a little bit about the dancers.

First up are Randi and Evan. Randi has a dog she treats like a child. Evan built a car from scratch, all by himself. Tonight they're dancing the Jive to Ray Charles' Shake a Tail Feather. For two people who've never done Jive before, they look great! And like they're having FUN. (A joke was made during the interviews about how many times they used the word "fun.") I loved Evan's split jump over Randi while she was laid back. These two are perfectly paired. Ooh--she squeezed his tail feathers! Great start to the show! Lil C said, "Out the box with a bang." He thought they had a great partnership and it was a solid beginning to the show. When they get to Mary they run the "fun" gag for too long. Mary said these two were built for the Jive, but that it felt short a little bit. She dinged Evan for being a little sloppy. Nigel congratulated Louie, the choreographer. Did he say something about Louie being from Dancing with the Stars? Nigel said Evan should've been better...he did it with a jazz style and lost the "double bounce feel." He felt Nigel did much better job.

Melissa and Ade (reminder--it's pronounced a-DAY) are next. Facts about the dancers: Melissa and her sister married brothers. Ade's real name is....Adetokunbo Isaac Kayode Obayomi. They drew Jazz from the hat and their routine will be choreographed by Sonya. It'll be about "a high-maintenance girl who's hard to get and the cliche idea of a man who hates to lose." They'll be dancing to 24 Hours (The Ashton Shuffle A-Bomb Remix) by Terry Poison. They were great. Lil C said, "That's what's buck...." Lil C thinks Ade is everybody's competition in this show, even though it's only week two. I concur. He liked Melissa's performance too. Mary said "it's time to give some tough love...because it was REALLY TOUGH to find anything I didn't like about it!" That Mary--she sure knows how to fool us every time. (Zzzzzzz) Nigel thought it was a great routine from Sonya and that the pair danced it brilliantly.

Kaitlin and Jason - fun facts--Jason was obsessed with Michael Jackson as a kid--they showed cute video of 4-year-old Jason doing Michael's moves. Kaitlin does baby voices, and some sort of dinosaur imitation that drives Jason crazy. This week they're doing a Shane Sparks hip-hop routine. It's good to see Shane! The song is Missin You by Trey Songz. Jason is SO cute!!! And he's a stronger hip-hop dancer than Kaitlin is. It looks natural on him--on her, it looks like she's trying really hard. Lil C did not love that. He felt it was corny and missing nectar. (Whatever that means.) Mary said it seemed like Michael Jackson dancing with Britney Spears. She said the chemistry didn't work tonight. Nigel thinks Shane did a different style with these particular dancers who aren't strong hip-hoppers and that they looked good.

Janette and Brandon - Facts: Janette had bad teeth. Brandon has never worked out a day in his life. His massive muscles come from lifting girls while dancing. Not sure I believe that one.... They're dancing DISCO! Choreographer Doriana Sanchez says this is the fastest dance she's ever done on SYTYCD. Janette was struggling and came to tears during practice. Song: Loving Is Really My Game by Brainstorm. They look good, though not quite 100% synchronized. Curious to hear what Lil C has to say about Brandon since he's expressed in the past that Brandon didn't impress him. Ooh...looks like Janette tripped coming out of a spin. And their last lift/spin ended a little awkwardly. Lil C said it was extremely amazing and that Brandon did a phenomenal job. He saw Janette's mishap at the end, but liked her recovery. Mary said she's never seen a disco that fast on SYTYCD or anywhere else. Mary says they nailed it! (Hmm...maybe I need to go back and watch again.) Mary even screamed AND gave them a standing O. Nigel thought it was tremendous.

Asuka and Vitolio - Facts: Vitolio likes motorcycles. Asuka likes to blow spit bubbles. Niiiiiiice. (Grosssssss.) This week they have the waltz. Louie, the choreographer decided to make it a lyrical waltz based on Vitolio's story--he was an orphan. They're dancing to Enya's Dreams Are More Precious. It was beautiful. So graceful and lovely. They moved Mary to tears. Lil C said Vitolio's choppy steps were compensated for by the sincerity and authenticity of his emotion. (I love Lil C--who talks like that?) He said his hat's off to them. Nigel said anyone who wasn't touched by the beauty of the routine is heartless. Seems like we're seeing a different couple than we saw last week.

Kayla and Max - Max is a "house dad" at the apartment. He cooks for everyone. Kayla likes text messaging. Tonight they're dancing pop-jazz to Brian Friedman's choreography. (Yay! Brian! Love the shaved head.) Song: Hot Like Wow by Nadia Oh. I thought the dancers' technicality was great, but I didn't love the routine...it's probably more that I didn't care for the song. Lil C said Kayla was amazing and that Max picked up Brian's vernacular, whatever that means. Mary thought Max was quite a surprise, and that Kayla nailed it! Nigel said Kayla is a front runner...she's an incredible dancer. (I concur.) He said Max really kept up with her and the pair bring a lot to the program.

Karla and Jonathon - Karla is a really good hip-hop dancer, despite her contemporary training. Jonathon likes to sing...badly. This week they're dancing contemporary, and we have a new choreographer: Stacey Tookey. Aw, they're dancing to Falling Slowly by The Frames (originally from the movie Once...one of my all-time favs). They were fantastic! I absolutely loved it...very passionate. Mary said, "I have never said this in five seasons: Jonathon, you did that style better than your own!" (His own style is Salsa.) Mary said she was spellbound. Nigel said it was sensational. Lil C thought it was buck! I rewound and watched it two more times.

And then.........

My show stopped recording for some unknown reason. I wasn't home, but I wonder if there was a power blip or something. I'll have to try and catch the final two performances online tomorrow. Damn. Oh well. Thank goodness I have Karla & Jonathon's routine recorded so I can watch it over and over again.


The Ridiculous Race: 26,000 miles. 2 guys. 1 globe. No airplanes.

The Ridiculous Race The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely & Vali Chandrasekaran

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of two friends/TV writers (Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran) who challenged each other to a race around the world, without airplanes. The prize is an expensive, aged bottle of scotch. In addition to finishing the race first, they also worked to have the best stories to tell...the Awesomeness Contest. I'd give Steve's portion of the book 3.5 stars, and Vali's portion 2.5. Simply put, Vali is a punk and I found him to be very annoying. Steve's stories were more interesting and insightful. The stuff that I did enjoy reading from Vali had to do with his experiences as a brown-skinned person in places like Rio de Janeiro where it didn't matter at all versus Moscow, where it seemed to matter a lot.

Overall, it's decent travel writing and it's intersting to read about places of the world that I'll likely never see in person--such as Outer Mongolia or Dubai.


SYTYCD - first elimination

I decided earlier that I wasn't going to post tonight about the elimination show (mainly because I never got the chance to post about last night's show), but then I saw the special guests perform the best Argentine Tango I've ever, ever seen. They were AMAZING. It was sexy and smoldering and hot! Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! (Each week, the show will feature a different dance style from around the world. Cat Deely never said it was the Argentine Tango, but if I remember my lessons from previous seasons of SYTYCD, the one with all those fancy kicks is Argentine (Argentinian?))

So, since I'm here, I may as well go over the rest of the show. The pairs from last night were:

Kayla/Max - samba (it was fantastic! I love those Russian Latin dancers--last night Nigel mentioned Pasha and Dmitri from previous seasons--loved them too. Nice hip action!)

Randi/Evan - jazz (by obnoxious, yet extremely talented Tyce Diorio) - beautiful routine. Romantic, sultry. Loved it.

Jeanine/Philip - hip hop (by Tabitha and her cutie-pie husband Napoleon) - also a great routine. (Last night's show was REALLY good.)

All three of these groups are safe!

Next up:

Caitlin/Jason - Bollywood. Man-that routine looked exhausting! (I was watching a show recently where a fitness trainer sent a client to a Bollywood aerobics class--I imagine that's an incredible work out.) BTW, Caitlin is from Maryland, so I'm routing for her.

Melissa/Ade - Contemporary. (To Richard Marx's Waiting for You...man that song brings back some memories.*) It was a beautiful routine--they had such beautiful chemistry.

Ashley/Kupono - Jazz - Wade Robson created a routine where the dancers were crash test dummies--it was unique, extraordinary, and they danced amazingly. Loved it.

Paris/Tony - Hip hop; they got panned last night by the judges for it not being memorable. Mary Murphy said it was *good*, but that in this competition, good's not good enough. She was right...the kids are SO talented this year. Anyway, "America" agreed--Paris and Tony are not safe and will have to dance to save themselves.


Asuka/Vitolio - Broadway - here was Tyce Diorio at work again! I thought the routine was cute, but the judges felt it was "artificial" and "just safe." America agreed with the judges again, and these two are in the bottom three.

Janette/Brandon - Fox Trot - they were beautiful, and the judges loved it, but America typically doesn't like Fox Trot--we'll see what happens.

Karla/Jonathon - Cha Cha by Tony Meredith; I really liked this routine --especially when Jonathon slid between Karla's legs while in a split. Fantastic! Unfortunately, these two are in the bottom three. Even though everyone was so good last night, someone has to fall to the bottom three.

It's getting late, so I won't go into detail on the solo dances. But, my favorites were: Tony (who came out pop-locking to the Gap Band); Vitolio won me over with his first leap--what a power house--he was six feet off the ground!) and Jonathon--another good hip shaker. Hm. No girls in my list.

Too bad the judges have to eliminate a girl and a guy. My guess is it will be Karla and Jonathon. POSSIBLY Paris instead of Karla.

Sean Kingston performs. I fast-forward. Not that I don't like him--just to save time!

OK. Girls first. Karla's safe! Glad I didn't put any money on that. Nigel said everything's been taken into account...not just tonight's solo. Based on that, I think Asuka's safe. Paris is going home--she didn't bring all she could bring tonight, AND considering all the other contemporary dancers on the show, the judges decided to let her go to keep the balance. They like having Asuka, a Latin dancer, in the competition so more styles are represented.

Guys. Judges didn't think any of the three danced particularly well tonight. I disagree--I thought Vitolio was great. Nigel said he didn't show his personality. But, he's safe. The judges went back to what they saw in Vegas and decided to keep Jonathon. Again--I'm glad I put no money down on my guess.

OK. Two down, 17 to go. Looking forward to a great season!!

In other news, I watched Top Chef Masters last night and developed a bit of a crush on Hubert Keller. Part of it is the French accent. Part of it is the long hair/ponytail. Part of it is that he was either going to be a chef or a DJ. Part of it is his humor. Part of it is that he created a little pastry swan and cute little whipped cream mouse in a dessert made for young judges (Girl Scouts). And the last part is that he made a yummy-looking macaroni and cheese with shrimp in a dorm room. On a hot plate. Love him!

*That Richard Marx song was out the summer I worked as a temp. I was sent to this pharmaceutical company for two weeks. All we did was place little plastic caps onto test tubes filled with saline water. ALL. DAY. LONG. EIGHT. HOURS. A. DAY. The radio station they insisted on listening to played "Waiting for You" AT LEAST two times a day, sometimes three. I absolutely hated that song by the end of the two weeks.


So You Think You Can Dance begins!

...and I missed it. Since I have Tivo, I always watch shows on a 30-45 minute delay so I can fast forward through the commercials. I was feeling tired, so I decided to set an alarm for 8:30 and take a 1/2 hour nap. When that alarm went off, I reset it for 8:45. Next thing I knew.....it was MIDNIGHT!! OOPS. Now I don't have time to watch the two-hour show tonight, but I'll try to watch it tomorrow after work before I head out for the evening.

In any case, I watched the first few minutes to see the contestants. Let's start learning their names--the top 20 are:

Ade (pronoucned a-DAY)
Asuka (pronounced OS-ka)
Karla (don't think I've ever seen her up 'til now)
Kupono (pronounced Ku-PO-no)
Max (never seen him either)

Looking forward to seeing it all tomorrow. A friend remarked on Facebook that Mary seemed like she was on something...that should be fun to watch!


We had good intentions...

Last night, my sister and I went with our friend Lisa to the Smithsonian for a lecture called Gaudi's Barcelona, which was about Antoni Gaudi's architecture. When we visisted Barcelona last year, we all fell in love with Gaudi's work, and we thought it would be interesting to learn more about it. We also thought it would be fun to do something we'd never done before. And maybe we'd meet some cool people who'd also traveled to Barcelona, and hey, it'll be a cool evening. We dubbed it our "PBS Night."

Well. The lecture was interesting, but it was very techical. While we were looking to hear stories about how Gaudi decided to design the stairwells at La Sagrada Familia to look like a seashell, we instead heard about the parabollic arches and the loads they could bear. When we wanted to hear about how Gaudi designed Casa Batlló without straight lines, we instead heard about how Gaudi had wood reinforced with steel T-beams. (On this building, the lecturer did touch on how it was designed to look like a dragon on top, but we were hoping for more--we were looking for more about Gaudi's whimsical nature.) We wanted to hear lots about Parc Guell, but he barely touched on it--probably because there are only two buildings there...the rest is outdoor design.

If we were architecture students, I think it would've been fabulous, but it just wasn't quite what we expected. Oh, and for all the cool people we were going to meet...um. I'm sure the people there were very nice, but Lisa, who's 33 was probably the youngest person there. Let's just say there was a lot of gray hair in the room.


People are getting old all around me

Me? I'm maintaining, but, I saw the latest example of folks getting old on Jimmy Fallon last week. The Beastie Boys were on, and man, do they look old! Well, Mike D basically looks the same--his hair's still dark and curly, but MCA and Ad-Rock are gray. I didn't think much of it while they were talking to Jimmy, but then when he asked them to do a song, I realized that it was SO weird to see gray-haired men saying, "So whatcha whatcha whatcha want." They've got a new album coming out, and seriously, if they go on tour, they ought to take some Grecian Formula with them. Still, despite all this, they still sound great and it was good to see them perform. And, can I just say that I love The Roots on Jimmy Fallon?

p.s. Let the record show that these guys are 5-6 years older than me. I'm just sayin'.