A lion, a few tigers, and a bear. Oh my!

I saw We Bought a Zoo today and really enjoyed it.  The story, about a guy who's trying to start a new life with his kids after his wife dies, is pretty predictable.  Still, Matt Damon and the two actors who play his kids are so charming and engaging, it doesn't matter.  The animals at the zoo are GORGEOUS and I was mesmerized by them...especially the tiger, Spar.  As is typical with Cameron Crowe movies, I also enjoyed the soundtrack. In the movie, someone poses the question, if you had a choice, which would you choose: animals or people?  Hmmm....tough one.  Depends on which people we're talking about! 

I noticed on Rotten Tomatoes that the movies has a 63% approval rating among top critics, while the general audience (a.k.a. "America") rates it at 83%.  I'm with the audience on this one.  It's a cute, feel-good movie with good performances and beautiful animals.  Nothing wrong with that.


At the movies...

I saw Young Adult with my family the other day.    The movie's about a woman who writes young adult fiction, who goes back to her home town to try to get back her high school boyfriend, who's married and just had a baby.  Charlize Theron's performance was great.  It's amazing how she's so beautiful, but can play down, out and scrubby so easily.  Her character was a mess.  We all enjoyed it.

Last night I saw The Artist, which was WONDERFUL.  It's a black-and-white, silent film about movies and the transition from silent films to "talkies."  The movie was great.  There's always talk about there being no original ideas out there.  Well, this was certainly original.  It was fun to watch, and dare I say, magical?   Plus it was also a great movie-going experience.  I think because it was a silent film, and all you heard was the musical score, people in the audience were more conscientious of the noises they made.  I wasn't annoyed by anyone's talking, texting, popcorn crunching, or paper unwrapping.  It was nice.  And the movie made me smile. 

I'm off work this week and plan to see a few more movies.  It's hard to decide what to see because there's so much out there I want to see:  We Bought a Zoo, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, My Week with Marilyn, War Horse, Hugo....   I just love this time of year!


Jersey Boys

Just saw Jersey Boys for the second time.  I just LOVE that show.  This one was in D.C. and it was even better than the first time because 1) the people behind us weren't talking and singing the whole time, and 2) the guy playing Frankie Valli was better than the guy we saw on Broadway.  He was wonderful.

As we were leaving, I was singing December 1963 (Oh What a Night) in my head and it got me thinking about shows that leave you singing.  (This was my problem with Wicked.  I didn't leave the theater singing.)  Then that got me thinking about what my favorite all-time musicals are.   After Rent, it's difficult to rank them, so just know that Rent is my all-time fave and the others are tops.  I also included how many times I've seen these shows on stage.

  • Rent (Hmm...I lost count.  I think 12, maybe 13)
  • Les Miserables (4, maybe 5)
  • Jersey Boys (2)
  • Hairspray (2)
  • A Chorus Line (2 - though one was a high-school production...it was well done though!)
  • West Side Story (1)
Methinks I'll be puling out all these soundtracks next week (after all the Christmas music is over), and I'll just be singing along to my heart's content.


The X Factor

I haven't written much about The X Factor for a couple of reasons:
  1. Me and a guy at work are the only people I know who are watching it, and we have enough discussion over Facebook.
  2. I didn't really care about the show that much.  The show came on Wednesday nights, but I wouldn't watch it until the weekend.  I wasn't interested in voting, and there was no urgency to see it since no one would be talking about it the next day.


VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul

Last night VH1 premiered VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul, where various Divas pay tribute to the cities of soul music:
  • Memphis (Booker T & the MGs, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Al Green) 
  • Detroit (Motown...duh) 
  • Philadelphia (The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Hall & Oates, Jill Scott) 
  • London (Dusty Springfield, Sade, Adele, Simply Red, Amy Winehouse) 
  • Chicago (Sam Cooke, The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, The Chi-Lites, Donny Hathaway, Etta James) 

Divas (and other performers) include Mavis Staples, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Florence & the Machine, Jessie J, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu (and her spaced-out self), Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, The Roots, and Boyz II Men.

It is a GREAT show!  (And I'm not just saying that because Common made an appearance.) The music and performances are fantastic. I'm sure VH1 will air it over and over again. In fact it's on again tonight (Tuesday the 20th) at 11pm eastern. Try to catch it if you can.


Strangers No More

I just finished watching a beautiful short film that's airing on HBO this month called Strangers No More. It's a documentary about the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, Israel which provides education and services for refugee students from all over the world. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short, and deservedly so. The school is K-12 and the movie follows the stories of several students as they get acclimated to their new surroundings. The stories are heartbreaking, but the development of the children is so inspiring. To quote young Esther, originally from South Africa, whom I guessing is about 10 or 11 years old:
In South Africa we didn't have a school like this. Some children didn't like Black children because they were Black. This school, they're from all over the world. They don't care. It's like all of the world meeting together, and there is peace.
Make an effort to find this on HBO. It's really wonderful.


Random thoughts...

  • I saw one of these Charmin commercials earlier today:

    I have always wondered since they started airing these commercials....  Is leftover TP really a problem for anyone??  Even with the cheapest TP they use at work (that feels like parchment paper), I've never had this problem. I just don't get it. 


Mobbed--a low point for NBC

Wow. I'm watching an episode of Howie Mandel's Mobbed that was on the other night. The show is about creating a huge flash mob to surprise someone with big news. It's one thing to create such a huge production for a marriage proposal, but what they've done on this episode is disgusting. There's a guy who wanted to create this flashy dance scene so he could apologize to his 18-year-old daughter for not really being there for her most of her life. Dude. Take her out to dinner and make your damn apology. Why does this have to be a big television production? I saw a preview for an upcoming show where a guy is telling someone he's their father. WHAT?! With song and dance?????


Glee's good again

Since they've limited the shenanigans of Sue Sylvester this season on Glee, I find I'm enjoying it much more.  I loved the performances for the West Side Story production.  I LOVE Idina Menzel.  And I like that Santana and Mercedes are getting more singing time.  Which leads me to this...this weak featured one of my favorite performances on Glee since it started.  Santana and Mercedes did a mash-up of Adele's "Rumour Has It" and "Someone Like You."  LOVED IT.

In other news, I saw Ides of March over the weekend. Good movie with strong performances. It just shows what a game our political system is. Ryan Gosling was great, as always.


R.I.P. Heavy D

I was so sad to hear of the passing of Heavy D last week.  His music was a BIG part of my high school/college years.  It wasn't just that I loved his stuff, but also that I was dating a guy who kinda thought he was/ wanted to be Heavy D.

There was a nice piece on NPR about Heavy D's influence on hip hop.

My favorite song was Somebody for Me:

And finally, his recent performance on the BET Awards. He looked just as good as he did 20+ years ago:

R.I.P. Heavy D


My eyes! My eyes!

I saw Drive today starring Ryan Gosling.

First the good:  Ryan Gosling plays a quiet loner who works as a getaway driver by night, and a car mechanic and part-time stunt driver by day.  He has a crush on his neighbor, and his desire to protect her and her young son leads to all kinds of trouble.  Ryan Gosling is an amazing actor.  Just his presence says so much without him uttering a word.  He can just stand there and with a look, you know exactly what he's feeling, whether it's tenderness toward his neighbor, or, for example, his disdain for Al Brooks' character upon meeting him the first time.  Anytime he's on the screen, I am just mesmerized. 


{Insert profound subject line here}

I just noticed that this is my 800th post.  800 posts in exactly six years and four months.  I went back and read my very first post, from June 27, 2005.  I was reminded of a trip to NYC with my sister where we saw the crew from the Da Ali G Show filming something in Central Park.  Of course I realize now, that we were watching Sacha Baron Cohen's character, Borat.  It's interesting to go back and read the older posts to see what was happening in the entertainment world, and where my thoughts were.  I don't get too many comments these days, so I don't even know who's reading, but whoever you are, I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

Now, that out of the way, here's what I really came to write about.  I saw this question posted on Twitter:

Link to Christy Lemire's list
I got to thinking about this and came up with my own Top 5.


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A NovelCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another of those "liked it, but didn't love it" books.  The story is about Larry and Silas, who first meet as kids in the 1970s in rural Mississippi. (Larry is white, Silas is black.) The two bonded for a short period of time, but then had a falling out. Then, Larry takes a girl on a date, and she's never heard from again. Her body was never found, and Larry never confessed. The people in town believed he was responsible and ostracized him.

The story jumps back and forth (rather haphazardly!) between the 70s and present day, when Larry is suspected in the disappearance of another young woman. This time, Silas is a police officer and becomes involved in the investigation.

The book is described as a murder mystery, but there wasn't too much mysterious about it. It was actually very predictable. What kept me reading, however, was the excellent writing and character development of Larry and Silas. I was curious how their relationship would evolve.

It was a quick read and cost only $2.99 for the Kindle. I guess I got my money's worth. I'm not sure I'd recommend this to anyone though, unless it's someone who's more into language and character development than they are plot.

View all my reviews


American Horror Story

I decided to tune in to American Horror Story simply because Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott star (it was mostly because of Connie Britton).  The show, essentially is about a haunted house and the family that moves in.

Now, generally, I'm not a big fan of the horror genre.  I don't like to feel scared. But, I thought maybe it would be campy like True Blood, which I love.  I should've known better.  I mean, just the commercials for the show were pretty creepy.

I went ahead and watched the pilot episode and, holy shit.  It freaked me the F out!  It was almost too scary to be watching by myself.  It makes me think that the mind of Ryan Murphy might be slightly demented.  And I couldn't help but wonder how that mind got from Glee to AHS.


Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

MaineMaine by J. Courtney Sullivan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I wanted to love this book. One review I read said to make it your final summer read. I'm a little beyond summer, but that's neither here nor there.  I was expecting something fun and light, but there was nothing fun about this book. Once I realized it wasn't the light read I thought it was going to be, I just went with it. The story is told from the points of view of four women who cover three generations: Alice, the matriarch; Kathleen, her daughter; Ann Marie, her daughter-in-law, and Maggie, Kathleen's daughter. None of these women is likable. Alice is a racist piece of work. But despite that, at least Alice had an interesting back story involving the death of her sister years before. I would've preferred the whole book was about Alice. I enjoyed the writing, but the plot was very slow. There's a LOT of buildup to these women finally coming together at the family's summer beach home (2/3 of the book), and then....not much happened. I felt let down and then just plowed through to finish. If it weren't for the pathetic ending, I might've given it three stars just for the writing, but the ending was so rushed, I just felt annoyed that I read the whole thing.

View all my reviews

'Nuff Said.

That's a tweet from Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. He's become my favorite TV reviewer.


TV Roundup

Some observations after catching up on Tivo.

  1. I love, love, LOVE Parenthood so much.

  2. Homeland is going to be a great show.  So much happened in the first two episodes.  If you haven't seen it yet, try to do so.

  3. Amazing Race - the snowboarders HAVE to win.

  4.  Amazing Race - Cindy has GOTS to go!


iPod Top 15 - October 2011 edition

It's been awhile, but today I listened to my "Top 25 Most Played" playlist on the iPod. I always find it interesting to see what I've been listening to the most. I can't remember when I last reset the count...I'm guessing it's been almost a year. Below are my Top 15 Most Played. (No need to do all 25.)
  1. Rolling In the Deep, Adele (123 times)
  2. Rumour Has It, Adele (110)
  3. Love On Top, Beyoncé (109)
  4. Turning Tables, Adele (102)
  5. Price Tag (feat. B.o.B), Jessie J (100)
  6. Don't You Remember, Adele (96)
  7. Man Down, Rihanna (96)
  8. Party Rock Anthem (feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock), LMFAO (93)
  9. Set Fire to the Rain, Adele (90)
  10. Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys), Jay-Z (90)
  11. He Won't Go, Adele (88)
  12. Fool of Me, Me'Shell Ndegéocello (85)
  13. Free, Zac Brown Band (84)
  14. My Body, Young the Giant (82)
  15. Teach Me How to Dougie, Cali Swag District (81)
Interesting combination. Where'd that country song come from? Clearly I love Adele's 21 album. I'm resetting the play count now, and if I actually remember to do so, will report back in a couple of months.


Yay! Another list for me to cross things off of.

Jeff O'Neal at Book Riot came up with a list of The 100 Greatest American Novels (1891-1991).  (Check that link to read about his methodology.)  As soon as I saw the list, I knew I'd have to see how many of the books I've read.  I'm crossing off those books that I read in their entirety.  If I only read a portion, it's marked with asterisks.  Just for kicks I've also noted the books I already own.  One of these days I'll knock those out and then get to the rest of the list.

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892) 
  2. Maggie, Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane (1893)
  3. The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (1896) 
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899) 
  5. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903) 
  6. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904) 
  7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905) 
  8. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906) 
  9. Three Lives by Gertrude Stein (1909) 
  10. My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918) 
  11. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (1918) 
  12. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919) 
  13. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1920) 
  14. Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson (1921) 
  15. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923)
  16. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) 
  17. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dresier (1925)
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926) 
  19. The Bridge of the San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927) 
  20. Home to Harlem by Claude McKay (1928) 
  21. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929) 
  22. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe (1929) 
  23. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930) 
  24. Flowering Judas and Other Stories by Katherine Porter (1930) 
  25. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (1931) 
  26. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (1934) 
  27. The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934) 
  28. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara (1934) 
  29. The USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos (1936)
  30. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936) 
  31. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937) 
  32. Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West (1939) 
  33. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939) 
  34. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939) 
  35. Native Son by Richard Wright (1940) 
  36. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940) 
  37. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943) 
  38. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)  [own]
  39. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946) 
  40. Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener (1947) 
  41. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (1948) 
  42. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1948) 
  43. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (1949)
  44. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951) 
  45. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952) 
  46. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin (1953) 
  47. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953) 
  48. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) ** (assigned in high school; couldn't finish, got by on Cliff Notes)
  49. Andersonville by MacKinley Kantor (1955) 
  50. On the Road by Jack Keroauc (1957) 
  51. Gimpel the Fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1957) 
  52. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (1957)
  53. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1958) 
  54. The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud (1958) 
  55. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (1959) 
  56. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (1959) 
  57. The Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley (1959) 
  58. Browngirl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall (1959)
  59. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) 
  60. Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960) 
  61. The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth (1960) 
  62. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (1961) 
  63. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)  [own]
  64. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961)
  65. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962) 
  66. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)  [own]
  67. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter (1967) 
  68. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (1967) 
  69. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick (1968)
  70. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut (1969) 
  71. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (1969) 
  72. them by Joyce Carol Oates (1969) 
  73. The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford (1969) 
  74. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1970) 
  75. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971) 
  76. Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed (1972) 
  77. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1972) 
  78. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
  79. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow (1975) 
  80. JR by William Gaddis (1976)
  81. Roots by Alex Haley (1976) 
  82. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (1977)
  83. The World According to Garp by John Irving (1978) 
  84. Airships by Barry Hannah (1978) 
  85. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980) 
  86. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)  [own]
  87. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982)
  88. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982) 
  89. Cathedral by Raymond Carver (1983) 
  90. Love Medicine by Lousie Erdrich (1984) 
  91. Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984) 
  92. White Noise by Don Delillo (1985) 
  93. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985)
  94. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985) 
  95. City of Glass by Paul Auster (1985)
  96. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
  97. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989) 
  98. The Shawl  by Cynthia Ozick (1989) 
  99. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (1990)
  100. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (1991)
So, I've read 17/100.  Not great, but I am curious about a lot of these titles (many of which I've never heard of) and look forward to crossing them off some day.


Just random

Here's what's on my mind:

  • 50/50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen - I loved it. Go see it.

  • The Sing-Off - I'm loving Urban Method and Afro Blue (who are from Howard U. I wanna root for the local kids, and they make it easy to do because they're awesome.)

  • 2 Broke Girls - I'm gonna drop it. I just can't stand the laugh track. The show is just not that funny.

  • 60 Minutes - I enjoyed Morley Safer's interview with Andy Rooney, as well as Andy's last bit. But what was really amazing was the kid who climbs cliffs WITH NO ROPES. Holy crap. I was on the edge of my seat.

See? Random.


TV pulse check

I've made a few decisions about the news shows I decided to check out this season.  The results:

  • Unforgettable - I was originally intrigued by the fact that the main character has the ability to remember every day of her life, but the show wasn't unique or original. It's just a typical police procedural and for me, her memory isn't enough of a twist to keep me coming back for more. I much prefer The Mentalist where you have Simon Baker's charm and intuition.
  • Free Agents - didn't expect much & I was right.

Too Soon to Tell
  • 2 Broke Girls - I hate comedies with canned laughter telling me when I'm supposed to be laughing, but I do like Kat Dennings, so I'll give it a couple more weeks.  Can't quite figure out why Entertainment Weekly had this as one of the Top 5 to watch.
  • The X Factor - this merits another blog post in and of itself...stay tuned. I want to see what happens after auditions are over and then I'll make my decision.

  • Revenge - this will be a fun guilty pleasure.
  • Up All Night - makes me laugh out loud.
  • Person of Interest - intriguing.
  • New Girl - Pilot episode was fun.
  • Prime Suspect - Maria Bello is great in this. Love her.


Rambling thoughts on the Emmys

The Emmy's ended right on time--the Oscar producers should take note.

Just some thoughts:
  • I'm happy with Modern Family winning just about anything it was nominated for.  Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Best Comedy, Director, etc., etc.  So well deserved.

  • Also happy with Mad Men's win for Best Drama.  When's that damn show coming back anyway?


In Honor and Remembrance - 10 Years Later

Photo credit: Derek Jensen

Pentagon Memorial - Photo credit: marabuchi on Flickr.com

United Flight 93 Memorial - Photo credit: Paul Kubina

It's TV Time!!

I love this time of year. I get my Entertainment Weekly Fall TV Preview issue and pore through it, figuring out what my TV schedule is going to be. Here's what I've come up with:

According to EW, shows marked with the are the Top 5 "must-watch" shows of the season. Note that EW's list of the Top 5 isn't always reliable. If I remember correctly, one of the shows on this list last year was canceled after only two episodes. Still, I'm willing to give these a try.


A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story follows the lives of Bennie, a musician/record executive and Sasha, his assistant, as well as various characters that pass through their lives at various times. Much like The Imperfectionists, each chapter features the story of one of these characters. The stories are told in first, second, and third person, and one chapter is even told through a slide presentation, and each takes place during a different period of time--past, present and future.

For the most part I liked this book (didn't love it), but there were two chapters I totally hated, one of them being the final chapter. I got through it, but found myself skimming quite a bit. I just didn't really care about the character featured in that chapter, which ultimately ties all the other stuff together. For me, though, it was a disappointing ending.

View all my reviews


The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

The Redbreast (Harry Hole, #3)The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed emotions about this book. I was drawn to the main character, Harry Hole, and I really liked the author's writing style. It's very descriptive, and it often reads like a movie plot. For example, in one part there's a phone conversation where the reader only "hears" Harry's side of the conversation, just like you might in a movie.

However, I didn't care for the plot that much...it just wasn't that interesting to me. It was a revenge plot that went back and forth between present day (well, the year 2000, really), and the early 40's during WWII. All that back and forth required a lot of concentration. It took me a while to get through this book, because every time I put it down and picked it back up, I had to flip back several pages (or even chapters) to remind myself what was going on.

I understand that Harry appears in some of Mr. Nesbø's other stories, so I do look forward to trying the next in the series. Hopefully the plot will be a little more captivating.

View all my reviews


For Kerri - Our Idiot Brother

My friend Kerri commented on another post that I should see Our Idiot Brother. Well, Kerri, I saw it on Friday night and really enjoyed it!

I don't think it will win any awards, but Paul Rudd was wonderful as he always is. I especially loved the scenes involving his dog, "Willie Nelson." For those who don't know, the movie is about Paul Rudd, a sort of free-loving hippie who's never held a job for very long, and his three sisters, each with issues of their own. After he does a stint in jail, he bounces around between his mom's and his sisters' homes, affecting them all in different ways. The movie is sweet and funny.

I also saw Midnight in Paris last weekend. For the first several minutes, Woody Allen shows various scenes of Paris that were SO beautiful. The movie is about Owen Wilson, a screenwriter who's trying to write a novel. He and his fiance (Rachel McAdams) are in Paris with her parents. He's in love with Paris and nostalgic for the Paris of the 1920's. His fiance and parents couldn't care less (man, they really got on my nerves!) Owen wanders off on his own, and something happens at midnight that transports him back to the 20's, where he comes across Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Picasso, and many others. The movie is VERY charming and made me realize that I need to get back to Paris sooner rather than later.


A very special episode...

Just finished watching "Louie" on F/X which stars and is written and directed by comedian Louie C.K. F/X didn't advertise this particular episode as "very special" in the treacly way ABC or NBC would've done, but this episode actually was special.

The show is usually 30 minutes, but tonight's show was an hour. Louie travels to Afghanistan with the U.S.O. after a night of taking care of the ducklings his 5-year-old daughter's teacher sent home with them. When he gets to Afghanistan, he discovers that his daughter packed one of the ducklings into his luggage for good luck. (Not sure how the duck went unnoticed through military security or how he survived in luggage for a flight from NYC to Afghanistan, or how Louie's clothing wasn't covered in duck poop, but that's not the point! Just go with it.) I read that Louie based this episode on his personal experience with the U.S.O., and it was interesting to see how that whole process worked.

There's a scene toward the end where the helicopter carrying the U.S.O. performers has mechanical trouble and has to land in a remote area. While they're waiting for help, a group of Afghan people approaches, some of them armed. The U.S. troops yell for them to put their guns down, the Afghan men protest and things get really tense. Louie's freaking out, drops his bag, and puts his hands over his head like he's under arrest. When he drops the bag, the little duckling crawls out. Louie goes to catch him, and trips and falls. There's a moment of silence and then everyone just starts laughing. The Afghan men shake hands with the troops and take turns petting the little duck. A good time is had by all, and when the backup helicopter arrives, Louie ends up giving the little duck to a young girl that was with the Afghan group. There's a sort of "can't we all just get along?" message there, but it wasn't pounded over your head.

I know that sounds so sappy and unrealistic, but it was so well done, and what really hooked me is that at the end of the credits, there's a note that says the story was inspired by Louie C.K.'s six-year-old daughter. How sweet is that?! Great show.


Just for the funk of it.

I was watching the Ricky Martin Behind the Music, and when it got to his breakthrough performance on the Grammy awards in 1998 (the one where everyone was like, "who is that guy?!"), it got me thinking about some of my other favorite live performances. One of my all-time favorites featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Parliament also on the Grammy awards. It was a hot, funky mess on stage, but so much fun.

And here's Ricky's performance:

Oh! Here's another favorite. Aerosmith doing Dream On with a full orchestra. I'm a sucker for rock or hip-hop performances backed by an orchestra.


Mark this day.

Something very unusual happened today.  It only happens once in a great moon, and heck, maybe it happened because there is a full moon tonight.  I can't believe I'm going to write these words:


I've mentioned on this blog repeatedly that country music just doesn't float my boat, but I've acknowledged that every once in a while, there will be a song I do like.  But even when there is, I don't usually put it on my iPod...I just enjoy it when I happen to catch it on the radio.  Well.  The Zac Brown Band was on The Today Show this morning.  They sang "Free," and I was like, "Oh damn.  I like this song."  I waited several hours, listened to it again on iTunes, and then went ahead and purchased it.  it is a good song though.

My dad's a country music fan, and when I called to tell him the news, he went on about how much he likes the ZBB.   They do seem like cool guys...I love that in addition to performing their songs on Today, Zac and his chef also did a cooking segment with Natalie Morales.  They use one of their tour buses to serve food to their fans at their shows.  That's pretty cool.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Three weeks, four movies.

So, I love movies and I love going to the movies, but until recently, I hadn't really been in the mood for it. Part of it was that there was nothing I really wanted to see, but it was more of a feeling that I just didn't want to bother.

When we were in Omaha, my sister and I found ourselves with a few unplanned hours, so we decided to see Crazy, Stupid, Love, which was so great. We loved it. And we LOVED Ryan Gosling and his sexy self. I can't wait to see it again.

And the winner is....


Although I was pulling for Sasha to win this season of SYTYCD, I wasn't unhappy about Melanie's win because I loved her too.

The show was kind of anti-climatical, probably because there wasn't a lot of suspense, but I enjoyed the tap routine, and I loved seeing two of Sasha's best performances again (the ones with Kent and Twitch). I also loved seeing the one with the Big Kiss from Melanie and Marko again.

Good season--I look forward to next year.


SYTYCD finale

No recap tonight because Blogger was down when I was ready to start, and now I need to run to the grocery store, but I just wanted to say that my vote tonight is for Sasha. This is based on her first performance with Mark (the two of them seemed to be made for each other performance-wise). Plus when they ran through her highlights, I was reminded of her piece with Twitch, as well as her incredible performance with Kent last week. She's an incredible performer and I'll be pulling for her to win tomorrow.

Also? No one except Nigel bothered to give any real critique tonight. Katie Holmes, Kenny Ortega and Mary LOVED everything. (Well, except for Tadd and Sasha's routine--Katie was the only one who praised that.)

We'll see what happens tomorrow!


2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this tale of the future from actor Al Brooks. I've always been impressed with his imagination (particularly because of the afterlife world he created in the movie Defending Your Life), and after reading this book, I'm even more impressed.

There are multiple characters and story lines, but one of the main themes is that in 2030, cancer has been cured and people are living longer than ever. AARP is one of the strongest lobbies, and younger generations have come to resent the "olds" because of the strain they put on the system. I don't want to say much more than that--you just have to read it.

2030 was very thought-provoking. Any time I had a conversation with someone about the current state of affairs in the United States (such as the debt ceiling debate or healthcare), something from from the book would come to mind and I'd bring it to the conversation. I believe that a lot of Al Brooks' "predictions" will truly come to fruition. Some of those predictions I will welcome--such as a car that drives itself, and others I fear. (Again...you'll just have to read it. No spoilers here.)

For example, I was visiting my aunt and uncle who have been taking cruises annually for the past 15 years. They said that on their last cruise, they met a lady who essentially lives on cruise ships. Turns out this was cheaper than her moving to a retirement home. Well, in 2030 the retirement homes are cruise ships. They just move from port to port. See what I mean? My aunt and uncle met one lady already doing this--I'm sure there are others. A full retirement home ship can't be far behind.

In any case, I would recommend this book to everyone. It definitely makes for interesting discussions.

View all my reviews

Update (8/7/11):  One of the headlines in Saturday's Washington Post was: "China bluntly tells U.S. to end its ‘addiction to debts’."

And, on page 170 in Al Brook's book, when the U.S. tries to borrow trillions of dollars from China, China officials tells the U.S.: "As you know, your debt to us is bordering on fifteen trillion dollars [remember, this is the year 2030], and yes, you pay back with fair interest, but you are a bottomless pit and we no longer feel comfortable feeding it." And later, on page 197: "We feel, as I'm sure you do, too, that your debt is already too high, certainly regarding money you have borrowed from us."

Hmmm....can we say prescient?


SYTYCD's Final Four

The final four were announced tonight, and I believe America got it right.  We have Marko and Tadd and Melanie and Sasha.

I love all these dancers, so it's difficult to choose my absolute favorite.  I'd be thrilled for any of them to win.  But...after Sasha's performance last night, deep down inside, I'm pulling for her.  Looking forward to the finale next week.

In other news, Pia from American Idol performed.  She's still really pretty, the song was decent, and she's still got that walk-walk-bend-knee-walk-walk thing down pat.  She still needs to get some personality on stage though.

Whew. Catching my breath.

I was out of town last week and didn't get to see either SYTYCD show.  Tonight I've had a "Dance" marathon and watched both of last week's shows, and am now watching tonight's show.  That's a lot of dance, and I'm not really in the mood to blog the whole thing, but can I just say that I could barely breathe after watching Sasha and Kent's routine?  It was, well....breathtaking.  

Tyce Diorio choreographed it and said it's about two people who've hit a wall in their relationship, and it's all the emotions you go through when someone does you wrong.  Just as Sasha and some of the judges revealed, I've been there too, and could really relate.  It just brought it all back for me.  And the song, "Fool of Me" by Me'shell Ndegéocello...ay yi yi.  Those lyrics: You made a fool of me.  Tell me why.  I could've written the words myself.

Anyway, here it is.  Sasha's best performance of the season, as far as I'm concerned.


Okay, so I'm late.

It was a busy week last week and I didn't get a chance to see SYTYCD until now.  I decided not to do a rundown of the show since it's so late, but holy shit.  I just watched Sasha and Twitch and had to post this.  Their hip-hop routine to Dorothy Moore's Misty Blue was FANTASTIC.  I love that Christopher Scott put the hip hop to an old 70's R&B standard.  This was truly amazing.  My favorite of the season so far.



Who are the Top 10?

It's late and I'm tired, so this will be a quick summary of tonight's SYTYCD elimination show.   Next week, the dancers will pull a name of another contestant, AND they'll draw a name of an all-star.  Wait...that's 20 performances!  Too much.

The All Stars will be:
Meloday - Season 1 (don't remember her)
Allison - Season 2 (love her)
Pasha - Season 3 (LOVE Pasha!)
Twitch - Season 4 (YAY!)
Comfort - Season 4
Chelsie - Season 4
Brandon - Season 5
Kathryn - Season 6
Robert - Season 7

They asked Alex Wong to come back as an all-star, but just this past Saturday evening, he injured himself.  The same injury he got during SYTYCD, this time on his left foot, instead of his right.  Man, poor guy.



This is the last week the couples will be performing together on SYTYCD.  And tonight they'll each be dancing two routines.  After tomorrow we'll have our Top 10, and next week, they'll be dancing with the All-Stars from previous seasons.

The guest judge tonight is Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a.k.a. Mitchell from Modern Family.  Love him!  Glad he's on.  Jesse said he did some Broadway, and three years of "theme park," so he really knows his way around a jazz square and a Grand Battement.  (I totally had to look that up--it's pronounced "grond-bot mon", and it is a big kick where the working leg is raised into the air and brought down again while both knees remain straight.  I'm picturing the Rockettes.)  Anyway, choreographer Sonya Tayeh is also on the panel tonight.  And of course we have Mary and Nigel. 


SYTYCD top 14

Man, a week goes by quickly.  Hard to believe it's already time for SYTYCD, but alas, here we are.

There are four judges again this week.  Nigel and Mary, of course, and with them: Carmen Electra and Travis Wall.  Travis!  Carmen Electra actually has an interesting dance background--she started dancing when she was five.  In school she majored in ballet and modern dance.  She won Miss Dance Ohio, and then she moved to L.A., where she worked with Prince and Jamie King (I looked it up--he's a concert director), and most recently, the Pussycat Dolls. 


Why you should be watching Treme

Time to update your Netflix queue!

"How Treme Found Greatness in Ordinary People and Counterintuitive Storytelling" by Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd really like to give this book 3.75 stars. I came across it at Barnes & Noble under their Discover Series and was drawn to it because the author, Rainbow Rowell, is from Omaha, Nebraska. My parents are from Omaha, and I've gone there once a year my whole life (40 years) to visit family.

The story takes place in 1999/2000 and is about an IT guy named Lincoln who works for a newspaper. Lincoln's job is to monitor employee e-mail messages that have been flagged for violations such as bad language or inappropriate subjects. E-mails from Beth and Jennifer are frequently flagged, but as Lincoln reads their messages, he finds himself intrigued by them and the stories of their lives.



I was going through some (way) older posts on my blog, which I discovered I've been writing since 2005. (That actually kind of surprised me...really?  Six years I've been doing this?)

Anyway, I came across a post from January 9. 2006, where I wrote:
I only have a few minutes, but wanted to post about the funniest commercial on TV right now. Clearly it's the spot for Sprint Nextel where the guys are "dancing" (if you want to call it that) to Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It." This commercial makes me Laugh. Out. Loud. every time I see it. If I'm in another room and hear the song playing, I'll run in to see the commercial. This the funniest ad that's been out in a while--we have to enjoy it while we can. It's hysterical!
As I was reading that tonight, I was thinking, what the hell was I talking about?? 


Bad summer TV

= Necessary Roughness on USA.  I'm sitting here watching the pilot episode.  Terrible.  It has these dramatic scenes interspersed with light quirky music like it's telling you that now this scene will be funny--and then it's not.

Bad, bad TV.


And then there were 7 (couples)

Didn't get a chance to post about SYTYCD last night, but here's a very quick rundown:

Group dance - Song: 'The Incredits" from The Incredibles soundtrack.  Choreographed by Michael Rooney.  I gotta say...this might be the first time I didn't think a group dance was great.  They were out of sync, I didn't care for the music, and it seemed to go on too long. 

Bottom three couplesAshley & Chris, Miranda & Robert, and Caitlynn & Mitchell.

Guest performance #1 from AXIS, which is a dance company that features performers with and without disabilities.  In the performance, the male dancer was in a wheelchair.  It was such a beautiful and moving performance.  Song:  "Partita for Violin Solo No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: V. Ciaccona" performed by Janine Jansen. 


SYTYCD top 16

I almost forgot SYTYCD was on because I was watching The Voice finale.  My man Javier did his thing and won.  I love him, and his duet with Stevie Nicks tonight was oh so good.  I'm happy for him.  And yay Adam Levine for picking the winner.

So, we've got 8 couples dancing tonight.  Kristin Chenoweth is the guest judge.  Lil C is on the panel tonight too, as are Mary and Nigel.

Something new...there are group performances tonight.  The judges won't be critiquing these performances, but they will take them into consideration tomorrow night when they're deciding who should stay and who should go.


Summer TV

Despite most network shows being on summer hiatus, I'm still watching plenty of good TV.    Here are the shows I really look forward to each week:


SYTYCD - 4 are eliminated

I'm late watching this week's elimination show, but somehow have managed to get through the whole day without hearing who was eliminated.

The show opens with a group dance to "Sinner Man" by Nina Simone.  There's a section in Alvin Ailey's Revelations that's performed to that song.  (In fact, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performed it on SYTYCD a year or two ago.)  Now it's interesting to watch very different choreography to that music after seeing Revelations so many times.  This looks like it may have been choreographed by the guy from Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.  It was interesting, but the group wasn't completely in sync the whole time, and they seemed a little off.  Oh, it was choreographed by Dave Scott...I was wrong. 


The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this in anticipation of the movie coming out this summer. I really enjoyed the story and found it to be a true page-turner, especially the last third of the book, which kept me up until 1:30am to finish it. The story takes place in 1962 and is told from three points of view: 1) Miss Skeeter, a young, affluent white woman; 2) Aibileen, an older black maid, who works for one of Skeeter's best friends and is devoted to the white children she's raised over the years; and 3) Minny, another black maid, who speaks her mind, and often finds herself in trouble for doing so. Skeeter wants to be a writer and convinces Aibileen, Minny and several other black maids to discuss their experiences (good and bad) working for white families for a book, to be published anonymously. The maids do this despite the risks of unemployment or even violence because they recognize their chance to have a voice in midst of the racial injustices of Jim Crow Mississippi.

Each character was strongly developed and each had such a distinct voice. I was a bit uncomfortable at first reading the so-call "black vernacular" as written by a white woman, but I ultimately thought she did it well. I was impressed that I could read each chapter and know who's telling the story, just because of how it was written.

Definitely recommend this one.

View all my reviews


SYTYCD Top 20 dance again!

If you'll recall, no one was eliminated last week, so we get to see all 10 couples perform again tonight.  But....tomorrow night, four, count' em, FOUR, people will be eliminated.

Our guest judge tonight is Debbie Reynolds.  They showed a clip from Singing in the Rain...I might have to watch that this weekend.

The first couple to perform are Ryan and Ricky (whose real name, we learn, is Roderick).  (The dancers had to reveal something embarrassing about their partners--Ryan's leg hair grows fast.  You're welcome.)  This week they're performing a Mandy Moore jazz routine.  Ricky says it's X-rated.  Mandy says it's a sexual-tension-filled routine.  Song:  "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer.  They were very good.  Not sure I felt the sexual tension between them, but they looked great.  And I think Ryan outperformed Ricky this week.  Nigel said it was "sensational." Mary said they were so strong.  Debbie said she's never seen anyone perform sexier.

Caitlynn and Mitchell are next.  They're doing a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine about a relationship coming to an end, at least in her mind.  Song: "Turning Tables" by Adele.  (LOVE this song!)  Wow.  That was amazing.  I loved when she ran and leapt from the chair and flew into his arms.  I felt the tension between this pair, unlike the first dance. Caitlynn was bleeding by the end...Mitchell accidentally hit her.  I watched again, but couldn't tell when it happened.  It was some time early on though.   Anyway, Mary said it was flawless.  Debbie said they were so beautiful and so dramatic.  Nigel said it was remarkable...not just technical, but there was so much turmoil.  He said "Dance is the language of the soul, and that's what came across tonight." Lovely quote, Nigel.

Missy and Wadi are dancing a cha-cha choreographed by Jean-Marc Genereux.  (Where's his wife?)  This is a new genre for both dancers.  Jean-Marc says this routine is the most difficult he's ever done for the show.  Song:  "Cannibal" by Ke$ha. They did a nice job, but it was kind of boring.  I also didn't feel any chemistry between these two--the routine should've been hot!  Debbie said "Muy bueno."  Nigel critiqued Wadi's technique and said there was a lot missing.  He said Missy was very, very good.  Mary got more technical with Wadi, but said it was respectable.  She said Missy is the Cha-Cha Queen.  She said it looked like Dancing with the Stars tonight, with Missy as the professional and Wadi as the student.  Debbie said Wadi can cha-cha with her any time.  Aw...poor Wadi.  Cat said "You made Debbie's night, I think," and he said, "Well, at least I made someone's night."  He seemed so dejected.

Next are Iveta and Nick, doing a Bollywood number by Nakul Dev Mahajan.  Song: "Baawre" from the Luck by Chance soundtrack.  They did a good job.  the routine was very fast.  Nigel said they did it with such panache tonight.  Mary said they were super entertaining.  Debbie loved it and told Nick that as a tap dancer, she would've freaked out doing this routine. 

Miranda and Robert get to do a NappyTabs hip-hop routine about woodpeckers.  Woodpeckers?  Really?  (In case you're wondering, Napoleon looks cute as ever.) Robert is the old and wise woodpecker and Miranda is the young chick.  Robert says it's a "coming of age story" (said tongue-in-cheek).    Song: "Break Ya Neck" by Busta Rhymes.  Robert's fantastic in his style and Miranda held her own.  It was fun to watch.  She seemed to fall in the routine after doing a back flip--but he caught her and going with the theme of the routine, it kind of looked like it was meant to happen--but I don't think it was.  Mary said that considering Robert is a free-styler, he did an amazing job with the choreography tonight.  She said Miranda was amazing tonight.  Debbie said they were fabulous and that she was mesmerized by them.  She then did her imitation of Woody the Woodpecker!  She's a bet kooky, I must say.  I don't know what Nigel said because I started looking at something else on the Internet and didn't feel like rewinding.

Next are Clarice and Jess.  Stacey Tookey's back to choreograph a contemporary routine.  She says it's a love story about a prince, and she's just married into royalty.  Song:  "Cathedrals" by Jump Little Children.  That was lovely.  Jess' personality gets on my nerves, but I love to watch him dance.  Clarice looked beautiful.  Debbie said they touched her heart.  Nigel said he enjoyed parts of it.  He loved the work they did separately, but when they came together, it felt uncomfortable.  He said it just didn't look right.  I can see what he means...part of it is probably that Clarice is about three inches taller than Jess.  Mary said that Jess' emotions were perfect along with his great dancing, and that he had so much control.  She added that Clarice is stunning. 

Jordan and Tadd are next.  Doing a Viennese Waltz by Jean-Marc.  Uh-oh..I worry.  Song: "Fade into Me" by David Cook.  I didn't have to worry--they were great.  Nigel said it was absolutely beautiful.  He told Tadd, "I need to remind you that you are a b-boy."  And that it's the best he's seen a b-boy dance something like the Viennese Waltz.  Mary said Tadd is the biggest surprise of this season.  She said that Jordan has transformed herself into one of the most beautiful ballroom dancers.  Mary's bursting with pride.  Debbie said they reminded her of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charise.  Wow--quite a compliment. 

Melanie and Marko perform a Mandy Moore jazz routine.  Song: "Sing with a Swing" (Raf Marchesini Radio Edit) by DKS.  Uh-oh, Marko lost his hat during the routine.  Beyond that though, they were great.  I really love this couple.  Mary said, "Everyone has a voice when they dance, and you guys are speaking LOUD and CLEARLY."  Debbie rambled on about something.  I guess she said they are stars, because Nigel concurred with her. 

Seems like a long show--there are still two routines to go!

Sasha and Alexander do a NappyTab hip-hop about a soldier coming back from Afghanistan and seeing his wife for the first time.  Song:  "Coming Home" by Diddy-Dirty Money & Skylar Grey.  
I loved it!  Very emotional.  Sasha was so into it.  Alexander held his own--and I loved when he did a headstand over her back into a flip.  Debbie loved it.  Mary's in tears and said it's a story that hit home for her, and she hopes everyone gets to come home soon.  Nigel found it ironic that we're 10 minutes late tonight because the President announced that we'd be withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan.  He said they showed all the emotion and passion that will come from those reunions, and they danced it so well. 

Last up are Ashley and Chris.  They get a jazz/Broadway routine choreographed by Spencer Liff about a woman visiting her man in jail.  They dance the whole time with a row of bars between them...Spencer points out that a routine like this has never been done on the show.  Song: "Please, Mr. Jailer" by Rachel Sweet.  That was great....very unique.  I think it was better to see it on TV than if you were in the audience since the cameras could show all sides of the jail bars.  Nigel said we just saw another hip-hop boy do a wonderful jazz/Broadway routine.  He hopes Chris is here for many weeks to come.  And Nigel wants Ashley to visit him the next time he's in prison.  Mary put them on her Hot Tamale Train.  Debbie said they were sensational. 

Good show.  My favorite performances were Ashley & Chris, Sasha & Alexander, Melanie & Marko, and Jordan and Tadd.  Oh, and Miranda & Robert.  And Caitlynn & Mitchell. 

Hmm....maybe it would've been easier to say who I didn't love:  Missy & Wadi and Iveta & Nick.  It'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow, but these are the four I'd send home.


2 of the Top 20 are eliminated on SYTYCD

The group dances kicks us off.  They're wearing black post-apocolyptict type costumes.  Music:  "XR2" by M.I.A.   This has to be a Sonya routine.  Yep, I was right. 

July 30 will be the National Dance Day.  They will put three routines (easy to hard) online and then people can do flash mobs all over the country.  That would be fun.

Cat brings out the first three couples for results.  Melanie and Marko are safe.  Of course they are, after this beautiful performance: 

Missy and Wadi are safe.  Iveta and Nick are safe too.  Missy and Wadi are the only ones I would've put in the bottom, so now I already know I'll be disappointed to see whoever winds up there.

WTF?!  Jordan and Tadd are in the bottom three, while Ashley and Chris were safe.  Jordan and Tadd were one of my favorite pairs.  Well...it'll be good to see their solos.  Clarice and Jess are in the bottom three.  Caitlynn is safe.  We already know that Caitlynn's partner, Mitchell, will also be in the bottom since he was unable to perform last night.  Doctors, however, have cleared him to dance a solo tonight, so we'll get to see something.

Keri "Don't Hate Me 'Cause I'm Beautiful" Hilson sings lip synch's "Lose Control." 

Ryan and Ricky are safe.  Miranda and Robert are in danger.  Sasha and Alexander are safe.

So the bottom three couples are:

Jordan and Tadd
Clarice and Jess
Miranda and Robert

Tadd, Jordan, Jess, and Robert should not be in the position to have to dance for their lives.  They're all excellent, and were great last night.  That leaves Clarice, Miranda, and don't forget Mitchell.  Based on last night, I'd send Clarice home mainly because Jess really made their routine--she was just a supporting act.  That leaves Mitchell for the guys--it's not fair since I haven't seen him yet, and the poor guy is injured, but the other guys were so great last night. 

Mitchell does his solo to "Say" by John Mayer.  Wow.  He's a gorgeous dancer.  Tough decision.

Jordan does "Hot Like Wow" by Nadia Oh.  I love how she pirouettes on one foot while her other leg is straight up in the air.

Tadd does his hip-hop to "Jump, Jive an' Wail" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Awesome.

Clarice is up.  She dances to "Glam" by Christina Aguilera.  Great leaps and leg extensions.

Jess dances to "Mr. Bojangles" by Robbie Williams.  He's great.  I suspect an annoying guy to be around, but amazing to watch.

Miranda dances to "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Leona Lewis.  She starts right off with a leap and a forward aerial.  But, after that, and compared to the performances before hers, this one was a little dull.

Robert the Woooo Man, dances to "Electric" by Omarion.  He is just so much fun to watch. 

We get an exclusive look at Gaga's new video, "The Edge of Glory."   Also, we learn that she'll be guest-judging later in the season.  Hey, Clarence Clemons is in the video.  I wish him well. 

Before the judges get to their decision, Nigel ask for thoughts and prayers to go out to Clarence. 

And now, the judges ask Mitchell and Robert to dance again before they make their decision.  Man...talk about pressure for the dancers.  Maybe they'll keep everyone and eliminate two teams next week.  The guys perform again, but then they bring the ladies back out for their decision first.  Nigel gives comments to the girls, but then, no decision.  Then he brings out the guys for their comments.  Hurry up Nigel...my Tivo's going to cut this off!  Stop talking and get to it!  And ta-da!  They're not letting anyone go home.  I knew it!  But...four people go home next week.  I knew it.

I think that was a good decision.  First time they've done it in 8 seasons. 

Looking forward to next week.


SYTYCD first night of competition

The Top 20 will perform tonight. Two dancers will go home tomorrow based on America's votes. Three pairs will be in danger, and I imagine as in previous seasons, the judges will decide who to save.

The Top 20 are:

Ashley (contemporary)
Alexander (contemporary)
Caitlynn (contemporary)
Chris (hip-hop)
Clarice (jazz)
Jess (a guy - broadway)
Iveta (ballroom)
Marko (jazz)
Jordan (jazz)
Nick (tap)
Melanie (who looks like Ginnifer Goodwin - contemporary)
Ricky (contemporary)
Miranda (contemporary)
Robert (hip-hop)
Missy (jazz)
Tadd (love! - hip-hop)
Ryan (a girl - contemporary)
Wadi (a guy - hip-hop)
Sasha (contemporary)

Tonight on the judges' panel is Nigel, Mary, and Megan Mulalley. Megan Mulally? What's she doing there? Well we learn that she was a ballet dancer back in the day--she's also done some Broadway shows. And, she's seen every episode of SYTYCD.

I wasn't counting the dancers, but one dancer was missing. Mitchell injured his elbow and doctors have advised him to rest. He can't perform tonight, and he's automatically in danger of elimination tomorrow. Poor guy--he's sitting in the audience with tears in his eyes. That has to suck.

First couple up are Jordan and Tadd--yay--my two faves (so far). They'll be dancing African Jazz, choreographed by Sean Cheesman. He says the piece is inspired by the lava of a volcano. Music: "Riding the Waves" by Afro Celt Sound System. They were awesome! So much power. Nigel said it was tremendous. Mary expected Jordan to knock it out, but she was sensational. She was worried for Tadd (the B-boy), but that went away after two seconds. She says he emerged as a star. Megan complimented the precision and power, and brilliant choreography.

Next up are Sasha and Alexander. The two contemporary dancers get to do a contemporary routine choreographed by Travis Wall. Travis says the routine is about Alexander's conscience coming back--he did something wrong in a past relationship, and the conscience has come back to tear him to shreds, the way his ex was torn to shreds. Music: "Stupid" (Mark Bell Mix) by Sarah McLachlan. Wow..she ran and jumped into his arms with one leg over his shoulder, the other at his waist. Very cool. Another great pairing and another great performance. That was fantastic. Mary said it was another great routine by Travis. She said that Sasha is so strong, dynamic...she has power, stage presence. Mary didn't feel connection between the two from Alexander. Megan loved it. She said Sasha came into this as a favorite and that isn't going to change any time soon. She also felt the disconnect from Alexander. Nigel loved it. Said he needs more emotion from Alex and that Sasha was outstanding.

Clarice and Jess are paired next. They'll be dancing Broadway--good for Jess since that's his specialty. Tyce DiOrio will be choreographing. Jess has been on Broadway three times. Music:  "Me and My Baby" by Liza Minnelli.  Cute routine, but before I watched it, my sister commented on Facebook that Clarice's black undies were peeking out from under her costume, so that was all I could see. Megan loved everything about it. Nigel said Clarice is a beautiful girl and beautiful dancer, but she'll need to work hard to keep up with Jess. He says he can tell that Jess is going to be one of his favorites this season. Mary said it was an amazing celebration of dance.

Ryan is paired with Ricky. They're dancing Lyrical Hip Hop, choreographed by Christopher Scott from the League of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD), who are AMAZING (see below). Music: "Ain't No Sunshine" by Lighthouse Family. Ricky is a great dancer--his moves are so fluid and smooth. Ryan holds her own, but looks a bit jerky, compared to Ricky. Good routine. Judges liked it, though they were a little confused by the story. Megan said it was beautiful.

League of Extraordinary Dancers

Next is Caitlynn is paired with Mitchell. But gosh, we already learned that he's hurt. They will be dancing one of Sonya Tayeh's jazz routines. Since Mitchell's not dancing tonight, Caitlynn dances with Season 7's Robert. Music: "In for the Kill" (Skream's Let's Get Ravey Remix) by La Roux. Great routine. Caitlynn held her own against Robert who is SO talented. Mary said Caitlyn's legs and extension are spectacular and that she was luck to have Sonya as a choreography. Mary said, "You. Were. Brilliant." Judges loved it. (I'm multi-tasking here and don't have time to record all the judges' comments.)

Miranda is partnered with Robert for a jive routine by Jason Gilkison. Music: "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars. Robert channeled his inner Urkel and was so much fun to watch in this routine. He was the nerdy guy going after a girl way out of his league. Megan said you'd have to be in a coma not to like that. Nigel dinged Robert for not pointing his toes. And asked for more confidence from Miranda.

Next are Missy and Wadi for a jazz routine by Sean Cheesman. This one is about Pandora's Box and sexy demon clones being released. Music: "Judas" (R3hab Remix) by Lady Gaga. Hmm...not sure how I felt about that one. They didn't seem to have much chemistry and it's like there were two separate performances going on. Nigel loved it. Mary loved it. Megan loved it.

Melanie is paired with Marko for a contemporary routine by Travis. Lucky for them since they both dance contemporary. The story is: two separate statues come to life at night, and the male statue wants to become one statue. Music: "Turn to Stone" by Ingrid Michelson. Wow. Exquisite is the word that comes to mind as I watch this routine. Both Melanie and Marko have such grace and control. Beautiful. Mary has tears in her eyes and said, "every once in a while a number comes along that is so magical and everything happens like one with the universe. There's this perfect partnership, this amazing chemistry, this amazing technical level of dance, there's this amazing artistry...and amazing, amazing choreography....It's just breathtaking. Megan had tears too. She said "It's one of those special ones." I agree. Nigel said this is the first night, and this could be the first Emmy-nominated routine. He thinks Melanie is the best female dancer ever on the show.

Ashley and Chris are next. They're taking on hip-hop (convenient for Chris since that's his style) choreographed by Chris Scott. A couple discovers they're cheating on each other. Chris has an emotional moment during practice because he was cheated on once before. I feel ya, Chris. Music: "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green. Cute routine--but Ashley looked a little too happy throughout, considering the story. But they did make up in the end, so that deserves a smile. Nigel thought it was a fun routine. Mary said it was pure entertainment. Megan loved it.

And finally, it's time for Iveta and Nick. Iveta didn't seem too excited by her partner. They're dancing ballroom (the quick step) by Jason G. They say she's 30 years old, but I think she looks much older than that. Did anyone check her long form birth certificate? Music: "Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet. I always look forward to Mary's commentary after the ballroom dances. It looks good to me, especially for a quick step, but what do I know? Well, Mary and the other judges gave a standing "O" so I guess that says it all. Oh! Iveta better have done well--she's the world champion of the quick step! Nigel said Nick "came up to scratch," or in other words, held his own. Mary read off a checklist of what a quick step is supposed to have, and this routine had it all.

Whew, this is long. Thanks for hanging on if you made it this far.

The only routine I didn't really enjoy was Missy and Wadi. The teams are very strong this season, and this was a great show. It'll be hard to see anyone leave.


SYTYCD and The Voice

I just finished watching the Top 20 dancers revealed on SYTYCD.  (I fell behind last week preparing for a yard sale on Saturday--not sure all that work was worth the $105 I made....)  ANYWAY,  as I noted in my post on June 2, it's usually not worth it to start rooting for dancers during the tryouts because you may never see them again.  Against my better judgment, on June 5, I posted five videos of the auditions I liked.  While all these videos are worth watching, of the six contestants I really enjoyed, only two of them made it to the Top 20: Jordan Casanova and Tadd Gadduang.

It looks like a good group this year. There's a terrific group of hip-hop dancers, include Tadd. American Idol needs to take note of how this kick-off show was done. Instead of a full hour or two of contestants walking down the long hall to receive their news, the news-giving was interspersed with performances of the Top 20. Much better approach.

This year, the Top 20 will perform in pairs. Once they get to the Top 10, the SYTYCD All Stars will be introduced. I look forward to that too. Should be a good season.

Now, to The Voice...just a couple of comments. First, Adam Levine's team's group sing was MUCH better than Cee Lo's. I enjoyed Javier Colon's solo from Adam's team as well as Vicci Martinez' performance from Cee Lo's team. I didn't really love anything else--so, based on the performances last week and this week, Christina and Blake had the stronger teams.

Also, I really disliked* Curtis Grimes' (from Cee Lo's team) country rendition of Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love." Ew.

*I say "disliked" because my sister hates when I use the word "hate."

I missed the first 20 minutes of the show, but it turns out that American saved Beverly (yay!) and Christina saved Frenchie.  Those were my faves, so I'm happy.

At the end of the show, we learn that America saved Dia from Blake's team.  Not sure I agree with that.  Remember, I was annoyed by all the accolades for doing something original, when it had really already been done before?  Anyway, Blake makes the decision to save Xenia, who I loved!  Awesome.  Blake said he can't affect change with Jared or Patrick like he can with Xenia.

Next week we'll find out who goes through from Adam and Cee Lo's team. 


The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great MigrationThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating read about the Great Migration of millions of Black people from Jim Crow south to areas north and west during the period ranging from 1910 to 1970. Isabel Wilkerson is a wonderful story teller, and she brings history to life through the story of three people who left the south (Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana), at different time periods (1937, 1945, and 1953) for different destinations (Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles), and for different reasons (to get out from under sharecropping, to avoid being killed, and the hope of better opportunities).

I really grew to care for these three, and couldn't help but wish my grandparents were still alive so I could ask what prompted them to leave the Louisiana/Texas area and wind up in the Midwest.

The personal experiences of these people in the south were heartbreaking, disheartening, and sometimes made me feel sick to my stomach. Their resolve to get out of their respective situations to try to find something better for themselves is absolutely inspiring. It was also interesting to read about how their final destinations weren't necessarily the places of freedom they were expecting. They still experienced racism in Chicago, NYC, and L.A., it was just different.

This is an enjoyable and educational read. It's an important book that I'd recommend to everyone.

Next up is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I figured it's a good time to read this since 1) the movie's coming out soon, and 2), I just read the truthful account of Jim Crow Mississippi which will help put this fictionalized account into perspective.