Whoa... I saw Black Swan today.

A couple weeks ago, as I was leaving a movie theater, I overheard two women talking.  They had just seen Black Swan and one of them said, "That movie was fucked up!"  Well, I saw it today, and I can say that she was 100% correct.  Richard Roeper called it the "most whacked out art house movie you'll ever see," and I'd have to agree with him too.  


The movie is about Natalie Portman's character, Nina, a ballet dancer obsessed with perfection and with dancing the lead in her company's new production of Swan Lake.  She gives an outstanding performance, as does Mila Kunis, who plays a new dancer in the company, whom Nina feels is after her role.  Nina becomes quite paranoid and lost in her own mind.  I was on the edge of my seat most of the show, but became really confused about what was real and what wasn't.  I ultimately left the theater thinking, "What the?"  Just FYI, there are some pretty disturbing and bloody scenes in the movie--it's probably not for the faint of heart.   A lot of the movie feels like a horror film.  I wouldn't recommend this to folks who prefer the typical studio movie with a predictable plot and happy ending.


Enough about that.  I would like to change the subject and bring your attention to another blog you should be following.  It's called Catalog Living, and it's "A look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs."  The blog's creator has created the lives of Gary and Elaine based on photos from various catalogs.  It's hard to explain, so you'll just have to take a look at a couple of examples:

From the Hands of Babes
Going the Distance
Pining for Something

One last thing...if you find yourself in New York City any time soon, I highly recommend seeing La Cage aux Folles, currently starring Kelsey Grammer. HILARIOUS. And there's great music. I left there thinking that I need to buy the soundtrack, which is pretty much the highest praise I can give a show. We also saw Billy Elliott while in NY for the holidays, and while this show is visually a joy to watch, I didn't leave there with any tunes in my head, or the need to buy the music. I did leave thinking that I needed to see the movie again though, so that's on the agenda for the weekend.


The Sing Off finale -- already?!

Tonight's the finale show...and although I like that the show doesn't drag on like other contest shows, I'm kinda sad to see this one go.

The show opens with the final four singing a great rendition of Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Annie Lennox & Al Green.  Toward the end of the song, the judges joined in.  The crowd was on their feet.

After the commercial break and introductions, Committed performs Motownphilly with Boyz II Men.  Only three of the Boyz are there.  I remember there were only three last year too, but I don't think I ever found out what happened to the fourth.  Aw man...they told America to sing along, but I can't--I've lost my voice.  Otherwise I'd be right there.  The guys all sounded great.

The Whiffenpoofs sing us into the commercial break, but I don't know the song.

Next, the Backbeats perform King of Anything with Sarah Bareilles, who also used to sing a capella at UCLA, just like some members of the group.   

Nicole performs Ain't No Mountain High Enough with Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.  Nice.  They did a mix of Marvin Gaye/Tammy Terrell's version and The Supremes' version.  Great job.

The high-schoolers, Eleventh Hour sing Justin's Bieber's Baby on the way to the commercial break. 

When the show returns, we see that Ben Folds will be performing with Street Corner Symphony.  They're singing...I don't know what.  I do know that Ben sounds slightly out of tune.  Oh, I looked it up--it's Ben Folds' song Gone.  I usually love this group, but I didn't love this performance.  Don't know if it's Ben Folds or the song itself that I don't care for. 

Jazzy group Groove for Thought sings Mike Posner's Cooler than Me into the break.

Next, the Backbeats and Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town accompany Sheryl Crow on her song Long Road Home.  Uh-oh...is that an instrument I see?  Sheryl's playing her guitar.  They all sound good though.  Jerry got to do a little duet with Sheryl at the end--it sounded great.

I guess Neil Diamond is coming out next.  Nick Lachey says everyone has at least one Neil Diamond song they love to sing.  Um....I don't really have one, as I'm not a big fan--but that's besides the point.  The groups and judges go through their favorites:  The Backbeats sing Cherry, Cherry.  Ben Folds sings Cracklin' Rose.  Jerry Lawson et al sing Song Sung Blue. Shawn Stockman -- I have no idea what song it was.  I can't even look it up.  Oh wait...I listened again.  It's Holly Holy.  Committed sings I'm a Believer.  Nicole sings I Am...I Said.  Nick Lachey sings America, and Street Corner Symphony sing Sweet Caroline.  (Well, someone had to sing it.)  Neil Diamond takes the stage and performs one of his favorite songs, "Ain't No Sunshine" from his new album, Dreams.  Street Corner Symphony and Committed are backing him up, nicely I might add.  Especially when they got to "I know, I know, I know".....sounded fantastic! 

Next we have a "Special Holiday Treat."  Nick Lachey and the Final Four are performing What Christmas Means to Me by Stevie Wonder.  Fun performance.  I think Stevie would be proud.

Nick tells us that the holidays are a time to give back to the community, and we're shown a little clip of the groups working in the community, and that each group will perform songs of hope.  The Backbeats go to Hope Gardens to spread holiday cheer.  Hope Gardens is transitional housing for single moms.  The group helps the kids decorate a tree.  They also perform.  Very sweet.

Next, the Backbeats perform Katy Perry's Firework. They do a nice job--all that's missing is fireworks shooting out of their chests.  The judges reflect on the season, and Ben says they have so much texture and nuance in what they do.  He likes that they bring the emotional content to the song each time.  Ben and Shawn both commented that we had to wait this long to hear Kenton (the guy who put the group together) sing.  Are they forgetting Love Shack???   Anyway, Shawn likes that they have so much depth and such a diverse group of people.  He gives Kenton hats off for putting the group together.  Nicole blathers on about ice cream sundaes.  They're like all her favorite flavors of ice cream, and Kenton is the bananas, Joanna are the rainbow sprinkles and Courtney is the cherry on top.  Okaaaaaay.

Men of Note take us to the break with Billy Joel's The Longest Time.

After the break, we're taken along with Committed as they visited  Suva Intermediate School to surprise the After School all-stars.  After School is a national program that serves kids from low income families in inner city areas.  The group played rugby with the kids, learned some dance moves and performed for and with the kids.

They then perform Hold My Hand by Michael Jackson and Akon.  I really hope these guys win.  They are so great.  Ben says he learned some new vocabulary to describe this group:  buttah, dope, stupid dope, sick and bad ass.  When we get to Nicole, she's in tears--she said she was really moved by the song.  She likes their message of love and light.   That puts tears in some of the guys' eyes too.  Shawn says they're the embodiment of why The Sing Off is the best TV vocal show right now and that they're awesome.

Next Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town visit Ability First, who work with adults with physical and developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, and down syndrome.  The group painted ceramic ornaments and performed and danced for, and with, the members.

For their song of hope, they sing The O'Jay's Love Train.  Great performance.  I love these guys too.  Nicole, holding back tears, said they are "our teachers, and show us that there are no limits to who we can be in our lives.  I feel like what you're doing up there is beyond music.  You inspire us all and I just wanna say it was a true honor to share the stage with a legend."  Shawn said that everything built in this world has a foundation, and these guys are the foundation.  He said they're here because they're good at what they do--it has nothing to do with age--and that they make the show what it is.  Ben says that whenever they sing, he forgets it's a competition because they always put the song first.  He said, 'I think you young men are going to have a fine future."

Next, Pitch Slapped perform I Got the Music in Me, by the Kiki Dee Band, into the break.

And finally, the guys from Street Corner Symphony visit a middle school in East L.A. to hand out some guitars donated by Fender to a group called Little Kids Rock which provides music education for students across the United States.  The guys and the kids have a jam session, and the guys give some singing lessons.

They perform Cold Play's Fix You.  This song will forever remind me of Robert & Allison's beautiful  performance on SYTYCD that was choreographed by Travis Wall for his mom. [Sorry I couldn't embed the video here--embedding is disabled.]  Anyway, SCS does a great job with the song.  They're joined by the other groups too.  Beautiful.

Shawn says you can not have a heart and not have been moved by that performance.  He said their harmonies are pure and the Jeremy is the ultimate perfect front man.  Nicole says they're authentic, real musicians.  Ben says they're bridging the rock world and the a capella world.  He added that what made the show for him is that every one of the ten bands on the show is talented in their own right.

Results are coming.  First they'll announce the top two groups, and the other two will sing their swan songs.  My prediction:  top two will be Committed and Street Corner Symphony.

Ok, America has voted, the first group to leave the competition is:  Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town.   Nick asks for final thoughts and Jerry said it's been a wonderful experience to sing with Talk of the Town and he gave props to all the groups on the show.  He said they're family and there are no winners or losers, because they're all winners.  For their swan song, they sing Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles.  Class act.

The next group to go is:  The Backbeats.  Committed and SCS are American's top two groups.  Courtney said the group is grateful to be where they are.  Their swan song is, Goodbye to You by Michelle Branch.

I'm so proud of America.  This is just how it should be.  I'm really pulling for Committed, but will be happy either way.   We take a look at each group's climb to the top.

My faves from each:

Street Corner Symphony singing Creep:

Committed singing Apologize:

On the Rocks sings Final Countdown before the results are announced. 

After the break, it's the "moment of truth."  The group that has won the cash prize, a Sony music contract, and the Sing Off title is: 

[insert dramatic music and LONG-ASS pause here.]


WOO-HOO!!!  I'm SO happy for them! 

It's time for Street Corner Symphony's swan song, which is Drift Away by Dobie Gray--perfect song for them.   Bye guys.

And finally, Committed performs a soulful version of We Are the Champions, and they're joined by the rest of the groups. 

Aww....season's over.  *sniffle*  Great show!


The Sing Off - Top 5 perform

The group starts off with a gorgeous version of Joe Cocker's A Little Help From My Friends.  The best word I can use to describe it is "rousing."  It was fantastic!  And Jerry Lawson hit a high note in the middle that made me say, "Whoo!"  I watched it three times before I moved on.

Nick Lachey introduces the groups, then the judges and then tells us that the groups will first be doing "superstar medleys" and then they'll do "judges' request."  After tonight only three groups will remain, and then it's time for America to vote.

Time for superstar medleys. 

On the Rocks will be performing a medley of Elton John tunes.  They start with The Bitch is Back, then move into Benny & the Jets and finally into Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.  They sounded good, but I didn't love their performance.  Nicole loved it.  Ben said they had problems with the groove--they needed to slow it down.  I think he's right.  Shawn liked that we got to see some other guys singing lead.

After the commercial break we're treated to Committed's version of Joy to the World.

Back to the competition.  Committed will be performing an Usher medley of DJ's Got Us Falling in Love Again, You Got It Bad, and Love In This Club.  All three songs were great, but when they did You got It Bad, it sounded like a recorded studio version with a band.  It could play on the radio.  These are the church boys and Ben said they've taken a journey from "birth control music to that."  He also said, "I didn't miss any instruments, you held down the groove, you were making records on stage."  That's pretty much what I meant.  Shawn loved their transitions, and that they kept the "bounce" that Usher has in his songs. 

Street Corner Symphony takes on The Beatles.  They start with Eleanor Rigby, move into Help, and then sing my favorite Beatles tune, Hey Jude.  Great harmonies!!  The guys look great in spiffy black suits.  Great job.  Shawn thought it started tough, but they picked it up and got better with each song.  Ben agreed. 

Time for another holiday song...this time it's The Backbeats doing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. 

For the competition, they're singing Lady Gaga.  We have Poker Face, Paparazzi, and Just Dance. Something about Poker Face was a little off.  Paparazzi (sung by my favorite, Joanna) was great.  Just Dance was pretty good too.   Ben complimented Courtney (the beat box) for the Paparazzi groove.  The judges all liked the performance.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town sing Otis Redding.  They start with Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.  Next Try a Little Tenderness (my favorite Otis song) and then Respect, where they brought the gospel.  Great job guys! 

Uh-oh.  The first of two eliminations is coming up.  Based on tonight's performances, I'd let On the Rocks go.  And that's just what the judges do.  In saying goodbye, one of the guys said, "We've all really grown from boys to men and we've shown the nation that we're not just a bunch of pussycats anymore.  I'm just really proud that we haven't been folding under pressure, and I just wish the judges would give us one more night...una noche."  That was great. [In case you're just joining us, the judges on the show are Shawn Stockman from Boys II Men, Nicole S. from the Pussycat Dolls, and Ben Folds.]  For their swan song, they sing The Final Countdown by Europe.

The second part of the show will feature songs that the judges selected for each group to showcase each group's talent & personality.

For Committed, the judges selected Al Green's Let's Stay Together.  In interviews the judges talked about Committed's natural talent, great harmonies, and soulful sound.  Shawn also pointed out that Al Green transitioned from gospel to soul, just as this group is doing.  What a great song choice.  Five of the six guys took turns singing lead (all except the guy maintaining the bass line)-- it was soooo nice...so smooth.  I loved it.  Shawn said it was perfect. 

Street Corner Symphony's holiday tune is Auld Lang Syne.  Nice.

For the competition, the judges talk about their laid back sound like they're sitting on a porch and select Credence Clearwater Revival's Down on the Corner.  Awesome performance.  This one had me up and dancing.  I loved how in the bridge of the song, they threw in their group name.  ♬♫"Down on the corner....♪out in the street...♬ down on the corner ♬....Street Corner Symphony.♫♬"  Ben loved it and was proud of the judges for choosing the right song.  Shawn said it was "playful, soulful, fun, tight, funky...it was funky.  You white boys got funky out there!"  He said it could be called "arena a capella" and Ben chimed in, "arenapella." 

The Backbeats are up next.  The judges talk about Joanna bringing the house down in the their first performance.  Nicole says the judges chose Landslide by Fleetwood Mac because "The Backbeats really shine when they're singing intimate and emotional songs."  Joanna's in the lead and does a great job.  It was beautiful.  Courtney was crying by the end.  The judges loved it and are going to have a tough decision to make later. 

And last, but not least, it's time for Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.  First, their Christmas song is Silent Night, Holy Night.  Lovely.

The judges' choice for this group is House of the Rising Sun by the Animals, because they like their classic sound. Fantastic!  The bass made the song.  Oh my god...so good...so haunting.  How are the judges going to choose?   Shawn said he thinks the Animals meant for the song to sound like that.  He said it was soul-stirring.  Ben agreed.

For this decision, I have to take the whole season into account.  You can't send any of these groups home based on these performances.  So, thinking about all the performances, I'd have to let The Backbeats go.  On this last song they were amazing, but last week they had some slips.  Plus, I just like the other three groups SO much! 

Nick Lachey announces that these groups are going into the finale:  Committed.  Street Corner Symphony.  The Backbeats.  I was like, OH NO...they let Jerry Lawson go?  And then Nick says "And Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town!"  All four are going through...the judges felt they all deserved to be in the finale and they're going to let America decide.  Good decision!

Voting closes on Sunday, December 19 at 9:00am eastern.  So, if you want to vote, here's the info (limit 10 votes per method; message and data rates may apply for texting.

Committed:  1-877-6-SING-01 (1-877-674-6401) or text 1 to 97979

Street Corner Symphony: 1-877-SING-02 (1-877-674-6402) or text 2 to 97979

The Backbeats:  1-877-SING-03 (1-877-674-6403) or text 3 to 97979

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town: 1-877-SING-04 (1-877-674-6404) or text 4 to 97979

The finale's on Monday, December 20.  Should be great!


The Sing Off - Top 6 perform

The groups open tonight with Green Day's "21 Guns."   Nice job.

Two themes for tonight.  First, the groups will sing rock hits, next, they'll take on guilty pleasures.

First up are the Back Beats singing Bon Jovi's You Give Love a Bad Name.   I decree that Joanna Jones should sing all leads for this group.  The young lady singing lead tonight isn't nearly as strong as Joanna and could be a weak link for the group.  (In my opinion, of course.)  The background harmonies are great though.  The judges liked it, but for the first time for this group had quite a bit of constructive criticism.  They thought it was a little fast, and the song was better in the 2nd half than at the beginning.

Street Corner Symphony performs Creep by Radiohead.  It's amazing how six guys can sound like a full band with just their voices.  Wow, they really built up a crescendo to lead singer Jeremy Lister hitting an amazing note during the chorus.  I watched this performance three times.  The first time I thought they Jeremy was singing too low, but then I realized that's part of what makes it so great--and then that crescendo!  I also think Jeremy had tears in his eyes when it was over.  The song ends with "I don't belong here."  Maybe he's feeling that for some reason.  They absolutely belong there!  The judges loved that there was no choreography because that would've made it cheesy.  Nicole thought the background accompaniment was even better than the original recording.

Next is Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.  Should be interesting to see how they handle a rock song since their sound is so R&B.  They're doing The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction.  Perfect.  Uh-oh...Jerry's out there shaking his hips!  Very nice--they do a bluesy-gospelly version, which is really the sound rock-and-roll derived from in the first place.  I loved it!   Judges loved it.  Ben Folds shared a little TMI...he used to listen to an Otis Redding album when he was a kid and he'd put the speaker on the floor so it would shake his butt.

On the Rocks comes out to perform Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me.  Great percussion on this song!  I loved the background sounds.  Guys!  This is a family show.  No writhing around on the floor like Madonna singing Like a Virgin!  Haha!  They were really good and it's obvious they were having fun.  Nicole wanted the lead singer to "own it a little bit more."  I'm not sure what she meant by that.  Shawn said he needed a little more edge, which I guess is what Nicole was talking about.

Groove for Thought is up next.  They've got the jazz sound down pat, so how will they do with  a rock song?  Tonight they are performing David Bowie's Changes.  I have mixed feelings about their performance.  On the one hand, they sound good--great harmonies and the lead singer Amanda has a great voice.  On the other hand, it was just kind of dull compared to the performances we've already seen.  Shawn gave them props for their great voices, but said he was hoping they stepped away from their jazz sound just a little bit and make changes to their style.  I agree with him completely.  And so does Nicole.  She said she's looking for more diversity in their sound.  Ben said it wasn't "rocking out" exactly, but he was moved by their performance.

And now the gospel group comes out for their turn.  Committed sings Every Breath You Take by The Police.  I love these guys, but I didn't love this performance.  Ben said that on the one hand, it was a beautiful performance, but on the other hand, "the judges wanna rock!"  Shawn points out that it was a problem with the arrangement.  Instead of being so upbeat, Shawn wishes they'd captured the haunting loneliness of the song.  Nicole agreed too.

Before we move on, I wanted to share Committed's performance from last week--this was fantastic:

Okay, back to the show.   Now it's time for the guilty pleasures.

The Back Beats take on Love Shack by the B-52s.  They were great this go around.  I loved their retro outfits and and dance moves, and, they sounded great.   I think it'd be hard to go wrong with that song.  Ben said, "that's more like it."  Shawn said, "That's what I'm talkin' about..hot and fun.  Hot and fun."

Time for Street Corner Symphony's second performance.  They sing Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners.  That was a fun performance.  This isn't my favorite song in the world, but the guys did a good job with it.  Judges loved it.

Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town sing The Commodores' Easy.   They guys say they'll be singing to the ladies.   Mmm.....I dunno.  They didn't melt this lady, but they sounded nice.  Judges loved it.

Next up, Groove for Thought do Hall & Oates' You Make My Dreams Come True.  They were good...did a little hip hop beat in the middle that I liked.  Judges loved their performance.  [Sorry...I wasn't paying much attention here, and didn't feel like rewinding.]

On the Rocks performs Kyrie by Mister Mister.  They're hoping this performance will be the bridge between entertainment and artistry that Ben Folds was looking for.  I think they accomplished it.  That was a great performance.  I'm not sure about their choreography, bu they sounded great.  Great harmonies.  Judges loved it, even though Ben and Shawn hate that song.

Committed does a boy band song so Nick Lachey is really happy.  They choose Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way.  During rehearsals they're trying to pump up the sexy--something they don't typically do while singing in church.   They threw in some hips that were pretty sexy in my opinion!  I have a crush on one of these guys.  (The lead singing Apologize in the video above.)  Ah, Nick Lachey's upset they didn't do a 98 degrees song.  Can anyone name a 98 Degrees song off the top of their heads?  I can't think of one right now.  Judges liked it.  They redeemed themselves from the first song.

Now it's time for someone to go home.  If it were up to me, I'd let go of Groove for Thought.   Judges agree with me AGAIN. 

The group's swan song to say goodbye is Frank Sinatra's That's Life.  Great song choice.

Looking forward to Wednesday's show.


Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest BestiarySquirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is David Sedaris' collection of essays about animals with human characteristics--i.e., they talk, go to beauty salons, philosophize, are selfish, or are braggarts, etc. I have to admit there were a couple of essays that I didn't quite "get," but for the most part, I found myself laughing out loud at least once in each story. Not just a laugh-out-loud, actually--more like a snort because each time, the laugh was completely unexpected. You're just reading along and all of a sudden you see a baboon complain to a cat that she's grooming about how she hates dogs because they lick themselves and the cat defensively responding, "It's good to have a clean anus." Ha! (Okay, maybe you had to be there.) Anyway, David Sedaris is very clever, and I admire how he pulled these stories together.

View all my reviews


The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White TigerThe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book...didn't love it, but liked it. It took me more than a month to read it, so I certainly wouldn't call it a page turner. While I felt it was well-written and interesting, I just never felt compelled to pick it up. As the jacket says, this is the story of Balram Halwai, a "Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer." It's told in first person from Balram's point of view and describes how he moved through these various stages of his life. The descriptions of India and the caste system left me feeling kind of depressed, and I could understand why Balram did what he did, but I never really sympathized with him.

View all my reviews


I wanna do this

The good folks at Photojojo.com brought my attention to this website called Young Me/Now Me. People recreate photos from their childhood, and I'm completely fascinated. This is my favorite so far.

I immediately sent a note to my sister that we have to do this. I have just the picture in mind...I'm about four, and she's one-ish, and I'm giving her a hug, but her face looks like I might be squeezing her too tight. It makes me laugh and I think it'll be fun to recreate. I hope she's game.

Update: Found another good one that I had to share.


The Sing Off - night two

Is it Wednesday already. Thank goodness for Tivo--I forgot The Sing Off was on again tonight.

The remaining eight groups opened the show with a great performance of Kings of Leon's Use Somebody. This group sing is SOOOOOO much better than the group sings they do on American Idol. Everyone actually sounds good together. I just love this show.

Nick Lachey tells us that the groups will be performing "monster hits" this evening.

First up is On the Rocks performing T.I. and Rihanna's Live Your Life. Their challenge, according to the group, is that they're an a capella group doing a rap song. They did a really good job.

Street Corner Symphony performs Hey Soul Sister by Train. They said their challenge would be all the high notes in the song. They give a little hip hop feel in the middle song--love it. I really like this group a lot.

Next is the high school group, Eleventh Hour performs Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are. They had a nice performance...the harmony was off slightly toward the end, but it wasn't too bad.

Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town perform Mercy by Duffy. They point out that though it's a modern song, it's a throw back to the type of music they like to do. [BTW...Duffy has a new album out!] Awesome! I thought they were a little rushed at the beginning, but then they found their way, and got a standing "O" from the audience, the judges, and the other contestants.

Time for the first elimination. Based on these four performances, I'd keep all but Eleventh Hour. And the judges elected to send them home.

Their swan song was Leavin by Jesse McCartney.

Last years' champs, NOTA perform next. I loved these guys last season. (Here's one of their performances from last year.)

Tonight they sing The Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling. Nice. They slowed it down toward the end with a little reggae beat...awesome.

The Back Beats are up to perform Break Even by The Script. They were great...lots of great voices in this group. Nicole gave props to Courtney, who is the only female voice percussionist in the whole competition.

Next is Committed performing One Republic's Apologize. The lead on this song is so cute. I digress. They sound AMAZING and this song was perfect for them. So far...this is the best performance of the night. Shawn seems to be having another musical orgasm tonight, and Ben says he understands that feeling, and says, "there's so many great things going on in that." I had to rewind and watch it again.
Nicole said she even had a musical climax during their performance.

Groove for Thought and their jazzy sound take on Cooler than Me by Mike Posner. The guy doing bass with his voice pantomimed with his fingers like he was playing a bass. They have a nice sound. I enjoyed their performance. Shawn said they "did the song justice and then some."

The final performance is from the Whiffenpoofs. They sing Michael Bublé's Haven't Met You Yet. They're a talented group, but I didn't enjoy their performance as much as the first night, nor as much as the other performances tonight. Nicole mentioned their chorale sound and I think that's what I didn't care for...the choral sound with a Top 40 hit just didn't work for me. The judges seemed to like it, though Shawn said the leads weren't as strong as he would've have liked.

If it were up to me, I'd let go of the Whiffenpoofs. And...the judges agreed with me. For their swan song, the Whiffenpoofs sing Home Sweet Home by Mötley Crüe.

The show will be back on Monday and the remaining groups will perform guilty pleasure songs.

Can't wait!


The Sing Off

I'm so happy that NBC brought "The Sing Off" back for another round. For those who don't know, the show is an a capella singing competition. It's a fun show and it's like watching Glee on stage. Judges are Ben Folds (as in Ben Folds Five), Nicole Scherzinger (from The Pussycat Dolls) and Shawn Stockman (Boys II Men). Nick Lachey is the host.

Ooh--the second group up tonight is called On the Rocks and did this performance of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance that I saw on YouTube several months ago:

They did Bad Romance on the show tonight too. Great performance.

I'm debating whether to do a rundown of the whole show or not. I guess I may as well introduce all the groups, though I don't know that I'll do a full run down each week. We'll see.

So, On the Rocks was 2nd up. First up was a high school group called Eleventh Hour. They did a nice rendition of Justin Bieber's Baby. They were cute because they compared themselves to The Breakfast Club, not because they met in detention, but because they're made up of an artist, jock, and honor roll student, a computer whiz, the homecoming queen, etc. They admitted that they probably wouldn't talk to each other at school if it weren't for the love of a capella music.

Next is Groove for Thought which has a jazzy sound. Four of the group are teachers. And then one guys' daughter joined the group as a lead singer. Tonight they perform Stevie Wonder's I Wish. They remind me of Manhattan Transfer. Nice sound.

Pitch Slapped is next. They're a bunch of musicians from The Berkeley College of Music in Boston, which we hear is the #1 contemporary music school in the world. They sing Good Girls Go Bad by Cobra Starship. This group's "percussion" was great--it's hard to believe there wasn't a drummer on the stage with them. Instead, they had someone beat boxing.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town come next. They're the seniors of the show's cast. Jerry Lawson says he's been singing for 61 years, and he was part of a group called The Persuasions. He fell on hard times, and then he found Talk of the Town and started singing with them. The group had been singing Persuasions' songs for thirty years and then a guy from the Persuasions actually joins their group. How cool is that? Tonight they sing The Drifters' Save the Last Dance. They ended with a little cha-cha-cha hip shake. Cute. I really enjoyed them. Ben Folds mentions that Doc Pomus wrote the song, he was in a wheelchair from polio, and he wrote the song for his wife, who could dance. Very poignant.

So, we've seen the first five groups. The judges only get to keep four. Of the four, I'd say that I would let Pitch Slapped go. The judges agreed with me. Pitch Slapped is going home. They perform their "Swan Song" which was Kiss Him Goodbye (they substituted "us" for "him") - otherwise known as "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye."

Time for the second half of the show.

The first group in this half is called The Whiffenpoofs from Yale University. The original group was founded in 1909. One of the guys very arrogantly announces that The Whiffenpoofs were the first a capella group in history--"we invented it." Since 1909, the group has performed in white tie and tails, and the guys tonight do the same thing. They perform Mika's Grace Kelly. I wasn't familiar with that song, but they were good. I didn't want to like them, but I liked the lead singer. HA! Shawn Stockman called out the arrogant dude from earlier. He said, "Stefan, I would like to thank you, and the Whiffenpoofs for inventing a capella. We would not be here if it wasn't for you. And we appreciate you gracing us with your presence."

Next is Men of Note. They like to go to the mall and literally "serenade the ladies." A little creepy, but also kind of sweet. I'm trying to imagine walking through the mall when a group of eight guys starts following me while singing doo-wop. They sing Billy Joel's For the Longest Time. Nice job--maybe a little dull. Hmmm...Shawn says that he and Boyz II Men used to do the same thing to girls at the mall.

Street Corner Symphony hails from Nashville, TN. They mix bluegrass and southern gospel into their sound. One guy said they like to "un-practice," which means they get together, they don't sing, and they drink beer. Love it. They sing Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World. I love their performance--mostly because of how they broke it down at the bridge. (Though Ben Folds didn't care for the cymbal sound they put in at that part--it's what I loved. Oh well...what do I know?)

Next is The Back Beats. Their group is a mixture of various rival a capella groups. Two of the girls performed in a group on the show last season. They sing Beyoncé's If I Were a Boy. I don't like this song much, but this group did a good job. The lead female's voice was fantastic.

And finally, we have Committed is next. They're committed to God, their music, and each other. They've got the gospel sound going on, and they're new to singing Top 40 music. They sing Maroon 5's This Love and they were awesome! I think Adam Levine would be proud. The judges loved them. Nicole said that Shawn was having a "musical orgasm" during the performance.

Time for the judges to choose four more teams to move forward. My vote is for all but Men of Note. And again, the judges agreed with me. Thanks judges.

For their Swan Song, Men of Note sing Rihanna's Take a Bow.

Good show. The next episode is on Wednesday. Yay!


Dear Brendan,

I'm sure you're a nice guy, but it seems that karma kinda bit you in the ass tonight on The Biggest Loser. And I gotta say, I was glad to see it happen.

Good luck as you continue your weight loss journey--your 125-pound loss so far is amazing and admirable. And hey, maybe you'll come back and win the $100,000 at-home prize.

Now, I hope you'll join me in pulling for Ada to win the whole damn thing. She deserves it.



Love and Other Drugs

I saw Love and Other Drugs starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal and have mixed emotions about it.  There were certain parts I really enjoyed and others that just made me groan (these mostly involved the brother of Jake Gyllenhaal's character).  Ultimately, I think the writers tried too hard.  At different times, the movie is a romantic comedy, then a romantic drama, then a melodrama with a message. I really enjoyed the scenes with just Hathaway and Gyllenhaal, and they both did an excellent job, but all the side stories and characters just brought the movie down.  In my opinion.


Morning Glory

My sister and I saw Morning Glory yesterday.  It stars Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton as the executive producer (Rachel McAdams) and hosts of a morning show ala The Today Show, called Daybreak.  I don't think there are spoilers here because you pretty much get the gist of the whole thing from the previews, but just in case, here's heads' up that I'm discussing some plot points here:

***possible spoiler***

Rachel McAdams is the new executive producer of the show who's working to save the show from its ratings slump.   I think they could have done a lot more with the plot.  Harrison Ford plays an experienced newscaster, like Dan Rather, who's reduced to having to host the morning show.  He feels it's beneath him, and in Rachel McAdam's attempts to raise ratings, she creates a show that *IS* beneath him, in my opinion.  Instead of adding more and more zany antics to the morning show, I would've preferred to see Rachel's character add a new dimension to the show with a reliable and interesting news show that's enhanced by the entertainment stories, rather than focusing on those the whole time.  Everything she added to the morning show is what I've come to hate about The Today Show in real life.  (On The Today Show, after the first 15 minutes or so, where they cover the news headlines, it becomes mostly 3 hours and 45 minutes of sensationalistic nonsense.

***end spoiler***

So, while the movie is mildly enjoyable, it is not great by any means.  On one of the commercials, they compare it to The Devil Wears Prada.  Wrong.  It's nowhere close to TDWP.  I'd be upset if I paid full price for it.  (Thank god for Entertainment coupons!) I wouldn't recommend you pay full price for this movie, but if you can see a cheap matinee, or have some sort of coupon, it'd be okay.  Maybe even better to wait for video.


99 Books. I got...

Saw this on a friend's Facebook page, and decided to share here. I have no idea if the statement about BBC is true, but let's go with it.

99 Books

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 99 books listed here. Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. *Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  13. *Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  24. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  25. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  26. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  27. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  28. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
  29. *Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  30. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  31. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
  32. *Emma - Jane Austen
  33. *Persuasion - Jane Austen
  34. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
  35. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  36. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  37. *Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  38. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
  39. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  40. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  41. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  42. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
  43. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  44. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
  45. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
  46. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  47. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  48. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  49. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  50. Dune - Frank Herbert
  51. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
  52. *Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  53. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  54. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  55. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  56. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  57. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Had
  58. *Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  59. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  60. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  61. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  62. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  63. *Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  64. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
  65. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  66. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
  67. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
  68. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  69. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  70. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  71. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
  72. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
  73. Ulysses - James Joyce
  74. The Inferno - Dante
  75. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  76. Germinal - Emile Zola
  77. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  78. Possession - AS Byatt
  79. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  80. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  81. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  82. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  83. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  84. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  85. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
  86. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
  87. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  88. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
  89. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  90. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  91. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  92. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  93. *A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  94. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  95. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  96. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

So, let's see. There are 27 that I read.  And another 6 that I've touched on.   Just for kicks, I went ahead and added asterisks for those I own, but just haven't read yet.  That's another 10.  Not bad considering the supposed 6-book estimate.  I'll have to revisit this list down the road to see how I do.

How did YOU do?


American Music Awards - 2010

Just watched the American Music Awards, and gosh--it was a pretty lackluster night. There's nothing I want to go back and watch again. I enjoyed Pink's performance. New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys closed the show, but I was never a screaming fan for either group. They were more of my sister's thing.

Here are the nominees and winners of the night, as well as some of my random commentary.

Rihanna starts off the show wearing ENORMOUS hoop earrings...5 inches in diameter. She does a decent job, but to be honest, I'm a little tired of her voice.

Favorite Soul/R&B Album: Usher beats Sade and Alicia Keys.

Favorite Band/Duo or Group (Pop/Rock) - interesting lineup: Black Eyed Peas, Lady Antebellum or Train. BEPs win. Interesting combination in that group of nominees.

Favorite Female Country Artist--Taylor Swift wins. She's there with long straight hair and bangs and looks so different. She beat Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert.

Samuel L. Jackson comes out looking like he's manning a lighthouse. He's got on a pea coat, and his pants are tucked into boots. He introduces Kid Rock who sings "Times Like These." Nice song.

Favorite Latin Music Artist goes to Shakira, She beat Enrique Iglesias and Daddy Yankee (who would be my choice to win).

Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist is Rihanna, who beat Alicia Keys and Sade. (My fave would've been Alicia Keys.)

Favorite Country Male Artist nominees are Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Brad Paisley. I actually remember Luke Bryan from one of the challenges on Celebrity Apprentice, but alas, Brad Paisley is the winner.

Bon Jovi performs.  First, "What Do You Got" and then "You Give Love a Bad Name," and "It's My Life." Wow...haven't heard this medley of songs since....last week when they were on the Today Show. That's alright, it was a fun performance. The whole audience was on its feet.

The T-Mobile Breakthrough Artist nominees were Justin Bieber, Lady Antebellum, Travie McCoy or Mike Posner. Voting "just ended" and the winner is: Justin Bieber.

Taylor Swift performs, but I'll refrain from my usual comments about her because I don't want my friend Kerri to get mad at me. ;o)

Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist nominees are: Justin Bieber, Eminem, and Usher. The AMA goes to J.B. Funny...he says he's not sure how this is possible since he's been singing Eminem since he was, "like, three years old" (I'm sure Eminem feels good about that), and that Usher is his mentor.

Favorite Country Band/Duo/Group: Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, and Rascal Flatts. Winner is: Lady Antebellum.

Favorite Alternative Rock nominees: Muse, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend. Muse wins. I'm glad because I like their song "Uprising."

Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist noms: Michael Bublé, Lady Antebellum, and Train. Michael Bublé takes it. His first AMA.

Ke$ha performs "We R Who We R." She needs to find a new theme. All of her songs are about going out, dancing, and drinking. Nothing wrong with those things...just that "Tick Tock" was enough on the subject.

Favorite Soul/R&B Male. Lady Antebellum come out to introduce this award. The guy with the beard said, "As a country band from Nashville, Tennessee, if there's one thing we know it's soul and R&B music." Heh, heh. Nominees are Chris Brown,Trey Songz, and Usher. Usher wins again.

Ryan Seacrest gets to announce Artist of the Year. There are five nominees: Justin Bieber, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Katy Perry. What, no Usher? The winner is....J.B. What a surprise. He's the youngest person to ever win this award. Good for him. He invited Usher on stage to share the award as his mentor, best friend and big brother. Aww...that was sweet.

And finally, New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys perform together, for the first time. I still contend that Howie's the cutest. I saw Michael C. from Project Runway grooving in the audience...looked like he was having a ball.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.


Breaking news

I've decided to drop Desperate Housewives from my TV lineup, and Brothers & Sisters is hanging by a thread.

On DH, there is not one single story line that I am enjoying this season. Bree and "David" from 90210 (Brian Austin Green)--I don't buy them as a couple AT ALL. Gaby and the case of her newly discovered daughter is too much. I hate how she's ignoring Juanita in favor of her true biological daughter. Susan and her money woes--I've said it before and I'll say it again--SELL THE DAMN VOLVO! I like Mike, but now he's off in Alaska, so I can't even enjoy him on the screen. I usually love Lynette and Tom's relationship, but it's not enough. They keep hinting at some connection between Tom and Vanessa Williams, but it's not enough to keep me tuned in. I just don't care. Speaking of Vanessa Williams...I watched her play the exact same character for four years on Ugly Betty. Enough. And the episode where we learned of her phobia of little people was rather offensive. Worst of all is Paul Young being back. UGH. I hate his character. I hate his acting. I hate that they're trying to build drama over how he's going to exact revenge on his neighbors just because they didn't visit him in jail, when frankly, I just don't give a damn. This show used to be fun to watch. They'd leave you wondering what in the world is going to happen next, but now I find myself flipping the channels when it's on. It has overstayed its welcome.

As for Brothers and Sisters. I'm interested in Nora's new relationship with the radio guy. I love Scottie, but it seems like the writers just threw in the side story of his having cheated on Kevin at the last minute, without really considering his characters' background. I'm enjoying Kittie's story line, but she wasn't even in the episode this week, so it dragged. Sarah's annoying. Justin's annoying. I miss Rebecca. I miss the tension with Holly. Now that they're all friends, the show's no fun. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking I should just go ahead and drop it, but I really do want to see what they do with Nora's storyline. I'll give them a few more weeks.

In other news, a show that I really enjoyed was The Big C with Laura Linney. It started slowly, but after 3 shows I was hooked. It's very well written and I just adore Laura Linney. The season finale left me wanting more, which is what a show's supposed to do. I can't wait for season two, which I hope is coming. (I haven't heard yet whether it's been renewed.)

And finally, Thanksgiving is next week, so I'll be pulling out Home for the Holidays for my annual viewing. My family's coming to my house for the Big Day, and we're going to watch Pieces of April, my other annual Thanksgiving fave. Looking forward to it.


Clearing out the cobwebs

It's been a long time since my last post. In that time I've turned 40! YIKES! Thankfully, I've had several people tell me over the past week that I don't LOOK 40. Good...I'll do my best to keep it that way. I had a wonderful birthday...different celebrations with different people. I'll tell the story soon about the biggest surprise of the weekend--my friends treated me to a "Dolphin Encounter" at Baltimore's National Aquarium. As I said to a friend last night, "What did you do today? I played with dolphins." When I get the pictures from my friends, I'll dedicate a post to the events of that day...it was a lot of fun and something I'll never forget.

So, I'm sitting here watching Oprah, and have been meaning to mention that although she still gets on my nerves, a LOT, I still record her show every day, just in case there's something interesting, and this season, plenty of shows have fit the bill. I really enjoyed the one last week about teenage heartthrobs, and last week, the show with Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, Ricki Lake, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Montel Jordan was a lot of fun. This week, the cast of The Color Purple will be reunited--I'm looking forward to that. I think she's going out in style in her last season, and I do wonder what it will be like without this show.

In other news, I sawDue Date on Friday. Eh. I love Robert Downey, Jr. and enjoyed watching him on the screen. There were plenty of funny scenes, but unfortunately, most I'd already seen in the previews. There was a gentleman in the theater who kept laughing boisterously at the jokes and site gags, as if they were the funniest things he'd ever seen and heard, but for me, that just called attention to the fact that most of the movie was not THAT funny. I'd recommend saving this one for video.

I guess that's it for now. I hope to be around here more regularly now that things have settled down. Stay tuned...


Let's do the time warp again!

Just finished watching Glee's Rocky Horror Picture Show. The kids did a good job, but what I really wanted to talk about is the scene where Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf (from the original RHPS) were talking to Sue Sylvester. My immediate first thought was, "What is Salahi doing on here?!" Then I realized--oh, that's Meatloaf. Duh.

But seriously...I'm not crazy, right?


Fascinating project

I noticed on Facebook that a friend of mine "liked" something that said, "This Guy Took A Picture Of Himself Every Day For 8 Years." I learned my lesson a while back about clicking on those "I Like" things, so instead of following the link, I Googled the phrase.

Sure enough, there's a guy out there, who has taken his picture every day since 1996. He put together a video of each picture and it is simply fascinating to watch. You see how he ages, you see his different hairstyles, when he got pimples, when he wore glasses and didn't, when he grew facial hair, etc. It's really very cool.

His website is: http://www.c71123.com/daily_photo/. Check it out.

While you're there, be sure to read his FAQs...pretty entertaining.

In other news, I saw Red the other day with a friend of mine. It's about a group of former CIA agents trying to solve the mystery of why someone's coming after them now, after they've been retired for so many years. My friend and I both agreed that it's not going to win any awards, but it was fun. We also agreed that we both still love Bruce Willis. I think if you look up "twinkle in the eye," his picture should accompany the description. John Malkovich was hilarious, and Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were great too.


A few things that make me happy

  • I'm sitting here listening to Macy Gray's "I Try" and realized that after all these years, I've never tired of this song. I still love it. But now when I listen to it, I always think about a day a couple years ago when I stopped at a convenience store for coffee on my way to work. This song came on, and I was singing to myself. Then I noticed the girl next to me was also singing. As was the cashier. Everyone was in their own world just singing along with Macy Gray, and that made me smile.

  • "Prince Radio" on Pandora. I was listening to it all afternoon yesterday and only skipped one song in, like, a 5-hour period. That's pretty good. I was giving "thumbs up" all over the place. There was Prince, a little Michael Jackson, a little James Brown, a little Ray Charles, some Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Madonna, Diana Ross....it was awesome.

  • More about Prince. I heard rumors that he might begin touring again in December. Please, please, please let the rumors be true.

  • Wednesday nights: The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougar Town.

  • Long weekends. I'm leaving work early tomorrow and am off on Friday. Woo-hoo!
Yep. That should hold me over for a while.


Best Grey's Ever

I'm working from home today and came across an episode of Grey's Anatomy running on the Lifetime channel. I'd even call it THE episode of Grey's.

It's called "As We Know It." It's the one where everything seems to be going wrong at the hospital. The chief has a heart attack, Dr. Bailey is about to give birth and her husband is in a car accident on his way to the hospital, and it's the one where someone, somehow, had a bomb implanted inside their body. (I didn't see the first 20 minutes today, and I don't remember how the bomb came to be.) The one with Kyle Chandler from Friday Night Lights as the bomb expert. Where Meredith surgically removes the bomb from the body and gingerly hands it to the bomb expert. As he proceed to walk out, very slowly, Meredith goes into the hall to watch him leave, and then....BOOM! OMG.

The first time I saw this episode whenever it first aired, I remember gasping, "Oh my god!" I just wasn't expecting it at all. Where's the happy ending? This time, I knew what was coming, and yet the tension just built up, up, up, and I still screamed "Oh my god!" That was one intense show. I can't keep track of how many seasons there have been of Grey's, but this is definitely their most memorable and well-done episode. Whoa.


A most auspicious day

Today is 10/10/10. There were several groups on Flickr.com created around this date. The one I chose to participate in, "10/10/10 - A Most Auspicious Day," asked for contributors to post one picture taken at any time on this date. Many people took their pictures at 10:10, but I didn't take it that far. It was a GORGEOUS day today, so I picked up my sister and we went to the Smithsonian Gardens to enjoy the gorgeousness. I just love it there. I used to work near there, and really miss stopping by for lunch.

In any case, I took about 20 shots, 7 of them I was pretty happy with, and here is the one I submitted for the group:

10.10.10 - Rose @ Smithsonian Gardens

I love that rose and wish I could've clipped it and brought it home with me.

Here are my runners up:



Others that were decent can be found on my Flickr site.

In other news, I just finished watching Desperate Housewives. Here's a thought for Mike and Susan. Maybe they should sell their $40,000 Volvo and get something a little more economical to help with their money situation. Dumb detail, but I picked up on it, so the writers should too.

And finally, on Friday I saw Easy A with Emma Stone and really enjoyed it. There were a few references to some of my favorite teen movies of the 80s, such as Breakfast Club, Say Anything and Sixteen Candles. I was the only one in the theater who laughed at some of those jokes and I fear I may have been the oldest person there. This was a Friday at 4pm, so there weren't a lot of people there, and I noticed a group of 13-year-old boys as we were leaving the theater. They certainly wouldn't recognize anything from The Breakfast Club. It was great to see Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Emma Stone's parents. They all had great chemistry. The movie's not unbelievable, but it was good for a couple hours of entertainment.


Sometimes you're better off not knowing everything

Earlier today, I quoted an old TV commercial to some friends in an email. The quote came out of nowhere: "Pretty sneaky, sis." I knew it was from a commercial. but I couldn't remember which commercial. Thanks to the Internet, it took me about a minute to find out. It was a Connect Four ad from 1981. I sent a note back to my friends saying, "I love the Internet" and provided a link to the ad on YouTube.

Later, I was watching Grey's Anatomy and they had a case of a man whose warts caused by HPV were out of control. His hands looks like tree branches. One of the doctors screamed "Oh my god!" when the patient got out of the car. Well, I guess I was curious as to whether that could really happen, so I did a search on "HPV out of control" and oh gosh. There was a case of a man they called "Tree Man" who had this exact affliction. Apparently there's a documentary movie about him. I found a news clip and watching it, I just felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't finish watching. My first thought was: that poor man. My second thought was, sometimes the Internet is not so great after all. You truly can find anything on the Internet, but sometimes it's better if you don't.

It's kind of like eating hotdogs. You probably don't really want to know what's in them.


What I'm not liking these days

  • Gretchen on Project Runway. I didn't like Ivy either, but she's already gone, so one down, one to go. Gretchen's ego takes up the whole room whenever the designers are together, and I'm tired of hearing her criticize everyone else's work mercilessly. Now, of course I realize a lot of that is due to how the show is edited, but still--she gave them plenty of material to work with. I don't really care for her designs either.

  • Better with You. This is a sitcom on ABC about three couples. One couple is newly engaged, the female's sister is part of a couple that's been married for ten years, and the girls' parents make up the third couple. This could be funny, but it's not, and tucked in between two shows that are VERY funny (The Middle and Modern Family) just makes its lack of humor all the more obvious.

  • Mike & Molly. I think I wrote about this before, but this show has an annoying laugh track and just isn't that funny.

  • Cancellation of Lone Star. This show only aired twice, and already, Fox has pulled it. I enjoyed it, but I guess I may have been the only one. The number of viewers dropped significantly from the first show to the second. Oh well.

  • The Biggest Loser. I still watch the show because I enjoy seeing the transformations of each contestant. What I don't like is that the show is two hours long, all the ridiculous product placement, and the constant talk of whether someone's a game player or not (aren't they all "game players" considering that they're on the show in the first place?). It's getting old. At least this season they've tried to shake it up a bit by having the 8 people below the yellow line competing to stay on the show. I dunno...this might be my last season watching.

That's all I can think of right now. Glad to get it off my chest.

What I'm liking these days

  • Glee - tonight's episode about God and faith was great. I love the scenes the show has with Sue and her sister, and this week's didn't disappoint. It's great to see Jane Lynch show a tender side every once in a while. I thought the show was respectful of all beliefs (or lack thereof), and it wasn't preachy. It also had the best title: "Grilled Cheesus." (Finn found Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich.)
  • Raising Hope - this show cracks me up. The site gags are hilarious, and you can't go wrong with Cloris Leachman as Maw-Maw. It's about a young kid who winds up raising his baby girl after his one night stand with a woman who turns out to be a serial killer. I know it doesn't sound like it, but trust me...it really is funny. Martha Plimpton's great too.
  • Maroon 5's new CD, Hands All Over. I feel like my friend Kerri has asked me several times how I'm liking it, and I just realized I never answered her question. Rude! Sorry Kerri! Anyway, I really like it. Songs About Jane is still my favorite of theirs, but this one's good. Lots of songs that have a great beat you can dance to. I love the collaboration with Lady Antebellum, "Out of Goodbyes." Great sounds.
  • Wednesday nights. I love ABC's line up--The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougar Town--still great. I can do without Better with You, though, but this post is about what I like, so it doesn't really matter.
  • Project Runway. Jeez. Did you see it last week? **SPOILER ALERT** I was practically sobbing when one of the cast members, Mondo, announced that he's HIV positive. Whoa. I was really moved by that episode, and I'm so glad the rest of the cast were so supportive of him.
  • Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's History of Rap. This was fantastic! I made my own playlist based on the songs they did. There's a couple I don't know though. If you can help, what's the song they do after Soulja Boy? Also, what song does JT do right before they do "Slim Shady"? (Sorry for the ad that comes first.)
UPDATE 10/6/10:  My friend Jeanene came through.  In the comments, she provided a link to this blog post about the song list. Thanks Jeanene!

That should do it for now. Maybe tomorrow I won't be in a good mood and we'll go over the things I'm not liking these days....


Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

Love Is a Mix TapeLove Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I read a few pages while at the book store and told my friend, "I love this book, I have to get it." It's a memoir about the author's tragic loss of his wife, told through his experience with music. It's a sad story, but I also laughed and reminisced about my own days of creating mix tapes The book reminded me a lot of Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity," one of my favorites. I came across many beautiful passages as I was reading, though, I didn't think to make note of them until I was about 3/4 of the way through. I'll have to read it again to find them all. I found this particularly moving: "When I started feeling morbid and empty, I felt like I was turning into a different person from the guy she fell in love with. I had no voice to talk because she was my whole language."

I look forward to reading Rob Sheffield's second book, "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut" which is about music from the 80's.


Amazing Race and stuff

I'm about 15 minutes into The Amazing Race and I'm already praying for a particular team to be eliminated. It's two college guys who are part of an a capella singing group, and apparently, they like to sing about EV. ERY. THING. So annoying.

Beyond that, I'm happy the show's back on again.

Time for a movie recommendation: The Town. Great flick. Saw it with my pops on Friday afternoon--his treat. That was nice. Ben Affleck did a great job in his role, but also as director. I was all into the Boston accent when we got out of the show, so I also put in Good Will Hunting over the weekend.

Getting ready to check out Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters...I love new Fall TV!


Books, books and more books

There was an interesting covnersation going on over at washingtonpost.com the other day. The National Book Festival is taking place on the National Mall this weekend, and in gearing up for that, the Washington Post posed this question to readers:
As we gear up for the National Book Festival, we want to know: Which books did you love as a kid? Which books defined your high school experience or got you through college? Tell us what you loved to read before BlackBerrys and iPhones ruled the world. Which books changed your world?
I have a difficult time saying that any book that "changed my world," per sé, but there certainly are many books that I've adored over the years and do mean something to me. Did they change my life? I don't think so, but who knows, maybe my values and beliefs would be different today if I hadn't read them. I was once asked a similar question about albums, and I had a hard time with that too. The music I listened to as a kid definitely influenced what I listen to now, but I can't say that any one album changed my life.

Anyway, for the beginning part of the Post's question--which books did you love as a kid?--my top answer has to be anything by Judy Blume. My all-time favorite was Are You There God It's Me, Margaret. These books taught me about being a girl, about being a teenager, about boys, about insecurities, about life. As a young kid, before I got into Judy Blume, I read all of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary as well as all the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol. Starting in 6th grade, I also read a lot of V.C. Andrews' stuff, starting with Flowers in the Attic. Those books were so scandalous for a sixth grader.

My whole sixth-grade class passed different books around with the corners of pages with juicy scenes turned down so you could flip to them easily. In addition to Flowers in the Attic, I also remember passing around Judy Blume's Forever, which is about a young girls' first love and first sexual experience. We also passed around Amityville Horror. To this day, all I remember about that book is a black toilet and large flies. Ew. For what it's worth, our sixth-grade teachers introduced us to Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree. All was not lost.

As I moved in to junior high, my friends and I got into romances. We'd skip through most of the plot and read the hot sex scenes. I remember spending the night at a friend's house and we were reading Judy Blume's Wifey, which is basically about an unhappy woman trying to find fulfillment through sex. When we heard my friend's mom coming up the stairs, we would quickly hide the book under the bed, and pretend we were just talking.

In 8th grade English, we read To Kill a Mockingbird, and that remains my favorite book. Scout and Atticus definitely left an impression on me that's lasted throughout my life. But, can I say it changed my world? I'm not sure.

In high school, college, and for some time after, I read a lot of trashy novels. They were guilty pleasures. I spent a lot of time reading Jackie Collins (favorite=Lucky), Danielle Steele (Fine Things), and Sidney Sheldon (The Other Side of Midnight). In college, I used to go to my math classes (yep, I majored in math) and would hear other students fretting over the fact that they couldn't solve question #7 of the homework. Meanwhile, I would sit there and read Hollywood Wives, figuring the professor would explain #7 when he got there. (By the way, my favorite "trashy" novel of all time is called Butterfly by Kathryn Harvey. I read it every couple of years and it still manages to keep me on the edge of my seat. You should check this one out ladies--on Amazon.com it has a 5-star rating, with 97 reviews. It really is a good book!) Anyway, I also went through a period of long books. There's no rhyme or reason to it, but I read Gone with the Wind, Roots, The Stand, It, and maybe some others that I can't think of now. I also read several gangster books (The Godfather and Donnie Brascoe come to mind), and I also went through a Vietnam phase (Bloods, FNG).

All of this brings me to where I am now. My tastes are all over the place. I still like to read fiction, but I also like memoirs. I like satire and humor (Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, Laurie Notaro, Jen Lancaster). I like reading books that I can relate to (i.e., "chick lit"). Or books that make me smile or warm my heart (Water for Elephants), or tug at my heart (Art of Racing in the Rain). Or are clever (Ella Minnow Pea, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and make me think (Barbara Kingsolver, Life of Pi). I like page turners (The Firm, Dragon Tattoo books). I'm always thrilled when I find a book that I want to read without stopping. Every once in a while, I'll challenge myself with a classic that I've never read (my favorite of these being Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen). I always say that Sci-Fi/Fantasy isn't my thing, but I enjoyed what I read of Dune (I didn't finish--got sidetracked by something else, probably. I'll get back to it again one day), and I loved Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.

Whew! I could go on and on, but I guess my point is that I love reading, whether it's changing my life or not. And despite BlackBerrys and iPhones (and Droids) taking over the world, this will never change.



Glee's back and I'm so happy. 

Watched Hawaii Five-0 and enjoyed it.  The banter between Danno and Steve McGarrett was great.  And now I want to go to Hawaii.

Also watched The Biggest Loser and am happy to see someone from my hometown on the show.  It's fun to have someone to pull for.  

Short post, but I gotta get to bed.  More on the new season tomorrow.

First reviews...

Watched a couple of new shows last night.  One was good, one not so good.  Also, before the new lineup even started, I already decided to drop The Event.  Hank Steuver gave it a terrible review in the Washington Post, and I tend to agree with his reviews, so I skipped it.  A friend of mine confirmed later that I made the right decision--he said it was horrible. 

But I did watch Lone Star and really enjoyed it.  The main character is a con man who leads a double life and is trying to go straight.  He's played by James Wolk who is cute and charming and I just love his crooked grin.  Adrianne Palicki (Tyra from Friday Night Lights) plays the wife in the "straight" life--good to see her again.  I really missed her on FNL.  I look forward to seeing this again next week.

The other show I watched was Mike & Molly.  I was looking foward to this because I love the lead actress, Melissa McCarthy.  The show is about the romance between a guy and a girl who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.  Right before I watched it on Tivo, my dad called to say he was watching it and was laughing so hard that he was crying.  Well, let's just say he kinda oversold it a bit.  I never laughed to that point, and only chuckled a couple of times.  Something must've struck my dad's funny bone, but it couldn't have been this show.

With great comedies like Modern Family, The Office, and The Middle, I'm finding that I just can't stand a laugh track any more.  Funny should stand on its own.  I shouldn't need a cue to laugh.  The laugh track on Mike & Molly makes the bad jokes seem even worse.  To put it more succinctly, my sister sent me an email that said, "just watched it. hated it. don't think i'll be watching."

I also watched the return of How I Met Your Mother, which I enjoy, even though each new season, I wonder how much longer they can hold out on revealing who Mom is.  The narrator has been telling his kids this story for FIVE years now.  Come on.  That's not to say that I don't love the show.  I really do.  I just don't think the original premise can last that much longer.

I have Hawaii Five-0 on Tivo and I'll try to watch tonight.  Same friend who said that The Event was horrible, also said that Hawaii Five-0 exhibits how a pilot episode should be done, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.


My Fall TV Schedule - 2010

I'm WAY behind, but I went through Entertainment Weekly's Fall TV Preview and picked out my TV schedule. With no further ado:

  • The shows with asterisks are those that EW picked as the Best Five of the new season.  I decided to try them all at least once, but I'm most looking forward to Boardwalk Empire, which is about Atlantic City during Prohibition.  Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, gangsters....all right up my alley.  The other four are Hawaii Five-O (which I'm not really that interested in, but decided to try because it's on EW's list), Lone Star, Blue Bloods and Raising Hope.
  • Really  looking forward to Wednesday nights--especially The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougar Town.
  • Tuesday nights are tough, but I'll make it work.  That's what Tivos are for.
  • Glad to see Vanessa Williams found a new job so soon after Ugly Betty ended.  She'll be moving to Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives .
  • Decided to watch Mike & Molly strictly because I loved Melissa McCarthy as one of Christina Applegate's best friends on Samantha Who? 
  • Project Runway is on that list somewhere, but thanks to Tivo, I'm not sure of it's real time and couldn't be bothered to look it up.  It records in the middle of the night on Wednesdays, but I'm not sure of its true air time.  
We'll see how long all of these shows last.  I'm looking forward to the season though.

CORRECTION:  Hawaii Five-O is on CBS, not ABC.  Just FYI.  


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium, #3)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I've heard from others, this was, by far, the best of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I didn't want the story to end, and as I did in the first two books, I again found myself on the edge of my seat as I was reading. As a certain sequence in the book unfolded, it reminded me of a great scene from The Godfather, and I smiled. I'm sorry to see the series end.

View all my reviews


Revolt against Youth in Revolt

Kinda stealing that title from a review that Gene Shalit did years ago for Far and Away. He said, "Stay far and away from Far and Away." While you're at it, stay far and away from Youth in Revolt too.

Ay yi yi. As I sat here and watched this movie, I often felt compelled to just stop the DVD and forget about it. I kept hoping it would get better, but it never did.

I'm a huge fan of Michael Cera, but in this movie, he played the same character that I've seen him play his whole career, starting with Arrested Development, and also in Juno and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist , and it just seems he played it one time too many. The only difference is that here, his character has a rebellious, bad-boy alter ego, also played by Cera. He did a decent job stepping outside of his box, but not well enough to redeem the movie.

Beyond the fact that the movie was slow, the characters unlikeable, and moments that were supposed to be funny, weren't, what drove me most crazy with this movie was the constant, monotone drone that every single character spoke in. It was like fingernails slowly dragging across a chalkboard for 90 minutes.

Definitely feeling disappointed tonight.


BEST Comedy!!

I completely forgot the Emmys were on tonight and missed the first 45 minutes of the show. Not sure how this happened since NBC advertised the heck out of it. I just forgot to set Tivo, and got home late. Oh well. Based on what I saw, the best deserved award of the night (in my opinion) was Best Comedy for Modern Family. I'm thrilled! One, because it IS the best and funniest comedy on TV right now, and two, because it wasn't 30 Rock.

From what I saw, it seems that Jimmy Fallon did a good job as host. I also liked the music intros when presenters were coming on stage--kinda funky.

Happy for Mad Men as Best Drama, and for Kyra Sedgwick as Best Actress in a drama, even though I was really pulling for Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights.

I just checked the list of winners on IMDb, and am also thrilled for Eric Stonestreet, a.k.a. Cam, from Modern Family and Jane Lynch from Glee for their wins as Best Supporting Actors. Very well-deserved.

Good show, and it even ended on time.

Meanwhile, today my sister and I saw The Switch with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. Eh, it was okay. A little slow in places, and pretty predictable, but not horrible. The little kid in the movie is adorable and steals the show.

For the first time, we experienced a fire alarm during the movie. Sounds like someone set it off by accident, but they still have to follow procedures and empty everyone out of the theater. We were outside for maybe 3 minutes and then were allowed back in. Deb and I were pretty impressed with how calm and orderly everyone was. All those years of hearing "walk, do not run, to the nearest exit" seems to have sunk in with everyone. Of course, things might have been different if there were an actual fire in the theater. Thank goodness that wasn't the case.


You gotta see City Island

Just finished watching a movie with Andy Garcia (love him1) and Julianna Margulies called City Island. It came highly recommended by my sister, and she was right--it was great. It's a funny movie about a dysfunctional family who spend most of their time lying to and being suspicious of each other. The way the movie plays out, I was wondering if it may have been a stage play--I could totally see it as a play. It is diaglogue driven, so the locale shots are just secondary. I found a couple of continuity problems, but when I find those, I always just feel proud of myself for noticing.

Check it out, folks. It's on DVD. Oh, and watch the extra featurette called "Dinner with the Rizzo Family" -- good stuff.


Project Runway catchup

I'm catching up on Tivo and watching Project Runway from last night. I am SOOOOO happy to see the cockiest, most obnoxious team of six people I've ever seen on this show get beaten by the misfit underdogs. Now I just hope Gretchen or Ivy goes home--their attitudes are the worst. And I don't like their designs. I really didn't understand Gretchen's wins. I just want her to go.

Ack. Ivy and Gretchen are still in...but, at least Gretchen found herself in the bottom two. Maybe now she'll find some humility.

Oh, and what's this? Tim put her in her place and now I"m smiling ear to ear!

This requires a direct quote. Tim Gunn said:
I have a few words for Team Luxe. I fundamentally do not understand your behavior and demeanor and affect on the runway. I don't get it. I don't know why you let Gretchen maniupulate control and bully you. I don't understand it. And AJ, you've taken the bullet and now I have to send you to the workroom to clean up your space.
HA! Perfect words, Tim!

Then during her solo interview, Ivy pulled her nose out of Gretchen's butt and said, ohhh...Tim's right.




In a chat I was reading on washingtonpost.com, a new song was brought to my attention. It's by Cee-Lo from Gnarls Barkley and it's called "F*ck You." Apparently I'm way behind because this went viral last week and I missed it, but now I've caught on, and I must admit, that though this song/video is in no way safe for work, I kinda like it. It's a catchy little ditty. Check it for yourself.

Anyway, what I really wanted to write about is this: I was at a stoplight earlier today and several firetrucks rushed by. I started thinking about something that happened several years ago. It's not entertainment, but it's entertaining. To me anyway.

So, the day before we were supposed to leave town for a trip, I was hanging out with my sister in DC. Before we left her apartment, she had some trash to get rid of and headed to the trash chute. In throwing her trash away, she accidentally threw her purse down the chute with it. ACK! We go to the front desk, where the woman was no help. She (slowly) walked with us to the trash room to see if we could access the dumpster, but the chute fed right into it...there were no openings. (A note on this woman's movement: if a turtle was going with us, he would've gotten there first.) The woman refused to call the manager, and because it was the weekend, we couldn't call the trash company. It was Saturday, we were leaving town Sunday, and it was after 9/11, so my sister needed her ID to fly. Plus, by Monday, the purse would've been buried under all kinds of crap.

Deb's freakin' out and I'm trying to figure out what to do. We go back to her apartment and I came up with the brilliant idea that perhaps the fire department could help. They rescue cats out of trees, right? Why couldn't they rescue a purse from a trash dumpster? They were close by, and it was the only thing I could think of. So, I called the non-emergency number and explained the situation. The friendly woman on the phone discussed it with her supervisor, and they agreed to send someone over.

About 10 minutes later, I look out the window and see a HUGE ladder truck coming down my sister's street, lights flashing. Thank god they didn't have the siren on. This is a tiny street folks--cars park on both sides, and there is barely room for two cars to get by--often, only one can go at a time. So, here comes the ladder truck. We rush out to meet the firemen, and we see that they've brought six or seven people. Debbie or I said, "Okay, the trash room is this way." One of the guys said, "the trash room?" And then we realized they didn't know why they were sent to help. We explained the situation and the guy said, "We're here because you dropped your purse down the trash chute??" Deb and I sheepishly said, "yes." He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Come on, it's a slow day anyway." So, three of the guys come with us, while the others move the huge truck out of the street. When we get to the trash bin, one of the guys walks back a forth a couple of times and then went to the front of the bin and opened a door, and there's the trash. The door was right on the front--we could have done that ourselves!

I was so embarrassed. I started to reach in, but the guy told me to stop--he said the other guys would bring a pole rod so we didn't have to touch the trash. Sure enough, here come the rest of the guys with their pole. They asked what the purse looked like, and Deb described it--a small red purse. She added that the trash bag she threw with it was white with red handles. One of the guys goes digging around and finds a red purse. Believe it or not, it wasn't DEB's purse! It was another red purse. The guy digs some more, and then finds Deb's purse. No more trash had landed on it, so it was clean.

We thanked the guys profusely, and offered to buy them some pizza. They said they'd already eaten dinner, so we offered dessert. They said ice cream might be nice.

So, we walked to the little market and got 6 pints of ice cream -- all different flavors. Then we walked to the fire station. A couple of guys were hanging out in the front--none of them had come with the truck, but since we didn't have anyone's name, we gave the ice cream to them. As we turned to walk away, one of the guys said, "Wait a minute. Are you the ones with the purse?" We turned around, and Deb said, "That was me." The guys just started rolling.

I can only imagine the scene when the guys who came to help went back to the station to tell the story. Deb and I just had to laugh along with them.