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  • February 28, 2006

    Amazing Race 9 Recap-The Premiere

    [Posted by ]

    The beloved Amazing Race is back! Phil gets ready to send the 11 teams of two off on their race around the world. Is it just me, or did Phil really emphasize the word "world"? In other words, "please watch, this won't be anything like the crappy Family Edition!"

    The race starts outside Denver at the famed Red Rocks amphitheatre. I don't see U2 anywhere, but you never know where that Bono will show up next! While I already made some snap judgements about the teams, the video intro for each team adds a little more info. Of note, Lisa and Jonie are whizzes with the Beadazzler (no, really), Fran had a beautiful wedding dress and Wanda & Desiree think the other teams might call them "hot little tamales". But that's enough of the pre-Race festivities. As Phil and his eyebrows say, "The world is waiting for you." GO!

    The first clue sends teams on their way to Sao Paolo, Brazil. Teams have to get on one of three flights. On the way to the airport they engage in one of my personal favorite Race activities: nicknaming the other teams. Dani & Danielle are, rather predictably, referred to as "The Pinks" or "Double D". David & Lori are "Einstein", Monica and Joseph christen themselves "Team Mojo", but they're perhaps more accurately described as "Ken & Barbie". My favorite nickname comes courtesy of John & Scott, who decide to call the bottle blondes Lisa & Jonie the "Frosties". I love it.

    Once in Sao Paolo, teams have to go to the rooftop of the Hotel Unique. As Phil sets the scene I notice that he seems to have gotten a haircut (a very bad haircut) somewhere between Denver and Brazil. What can't you get at airports these days?

    Anyway, delays cause the planes to arrive in a different than expected order, but the first two flights end up being bunched pretty close together. Teams go to the Hotel and get a clue directing them to a bridge. Traffic in Sao Paolo is a bitch and while the tasks so far aren't particularly hard, it is hard to get to them. Once at the bridge, teams hit their first Detour. A detour is a choice between two tasks, each with its own pros and cons. In this detour teams either find a building in a pilot's guide and take a helicopter to it or assemble a motorbike. Okay, I can't believe any of the teams did the bike. Are they crazy?

    Even at this early point in the Race, you can start to tell what teams are strong and who is weak. Fran & Barry (who finished 8th) had a horrible leg. They couldn't find the clue box on the bridge, they picked the motorbike detour and then stayed too long and counted on other teams to help them finish it before they aborted that option and did the helicopter task. They were very lucky to avoid Philimination. John & Scott, on the other hand, weren't so lucky and were the first team to be Philiminated. They were behind the entire leg and because they were impatient sitting in traffic they left their cab and basically wandered the streets of Sao Paolo looking for the bridge.

    On the other hand, Eric & Jeremy (1st), BJ & Tyler (2nd) and David & Lori (NERDS! in 4th) worked well together and got through everything with a minimum of difficulty. Wanda & Desiree (3rd) did a great job and were definitely helped by their language skills. Notes on some of the other teams:

    Lake & Michelle (5th): I hate Lake. He marginalizes his wife and is way too hyper. They're the team that's going to lose simply because they failed to read a clue.

    Monica & Joseph (6th): She's the female Lake. She almost cried when they didn't get on the first flight and then moments later she's jumping up and down and "woooing" over something else. I don't think she's emotionally prepared for this.

    Ray & Yolanda (7th): They were barely in the episode, but I was impressed by how calm they were when they were putting together the motorbike in a very uncomfortable position as hordes of Brazilian men gathered to lear at Yolanda.

    Dani & Danielle (8th): They were smart to abort the motorbike detour, but probably stupid to try it in the first place. I like this team a little better than I thought I would.

    Frosties (10th): Screechy. They're like last season's Godlewski sisters with an extra 10 years and 6 inches (they're both over 6 feet tall).

    Overall, it was a great start to the new season. Right now I'm rooting for David & Lori, Wanda & Desiree and Ray & Yolanda. Well, I'm rooting for them and for next week's episode to have some wacky animal hijinks. Nothing beats wacky animal hijinks!

    Want more? Check out Viking Pundit's recap.

    Posted by at 10:24 PM | Comments (2)

     

    American Idol - Top Ten Women

    [Posted by james]

    Spooky Stevie and Boyish Becky are gone, leaving 10 mostly mediocre women to compete for the final 6 spots. Seriously, this gaggle of girls is so middling that I'm wondering why I even bothered to tune in. Other than Paris and Lisa, this season's girls would have a hard time getting jobs as lounge singers.

    Hey, maybe it'll be loudmouthed Brenna's last performance - and maybe she'll cry when she gets the big boot. That's something to look forward to, right?

    Katharine McPhee is kicking off the night with a little Stevie Wonder. Last week, I wasn't very impressed with wanna-be-Babs, and this week is no different. She is terrible - her voice is scratchy, the pitch is all over the place, she sounds whiney. It's just "ok" for Randy. Paula agrees with Randy and chalks it up to song choice, yet calls her "brilliant." huh? Simon also hated it. Seriously, this McPhee has to be the most overrated contestant in Idol history. I don't get why people think she's moderately good, let alone "great." D.

    Kinnik dons a cowboy hat and tells us that she loves country music, and that to "represent" she's going to do some Gretchen Wilson. Sky may be "here for the party" but her performance is definitely forgettable. Still, it was eons better than McPhee's. I feel like the show is just getting started. The judges all tell her that the song choice was poor. I think it's more that the girl just ain't a star. Good performance though. B.

    Lisa Tucker does the Jackson Five's "Who's Loving You." At first I thought "huh?" but have come to see why she picked it - the song lets her show off her incredible range. No, this isn't a great song for Idol, but she sounds great. Randy doesn't like it. Paula loves it and can't understand why Lisa doesn't have a recording contract yet. Simon predicts that she will "sail through" tonight. B+.

    Melissa "Rita Cosby" McGhee does "Why Haven't I Heard From You." This woman's voice bugs me so much that I can hardly listen to her sing, let alone talk. Jackson likes it, and calls her "smokey" voice "hot." Ick. Paula agrees. Simon also likes the voice. Has the world gone mad? C+.

    Heather Cox is doing "Hero" by Mariah Carey. Yaaaaaawn, I'm already falling asleep. The singing isn't "bad" per say, but it's dull. Mediocre. Forgettable. And what's up with the faces that Heather makes while singing? I haven't seen faces that frightening since Becky. And there's something very weird about the way this girl conducts herself. I think she's probably batshiat crazy in real life. Look out for your bunnies while she's around, men. The judges don't like the performance. Neither do I. C.

    Brenna is up next, which means that I'm hitting the tivo-skip button a few times. Get off my screen, witch. F.

    Paris "the only reason Tuesday-night-Idol is worth watching" Bennett is up next with "Wind Beneath My Wings." WTF is up with that song choice? She messes up the words and sings "Did you ever know you were my hero." Twice. Good singing, poor song choice. Boring. The judges are similarly underwhelmed. Maybe Tuesday-night-Idol isn't worth watching anymore. B-.

    Should I even bother finishing this show? I honestly think that I could never watch this season's women sing again and be better off for it. I'm going to have to hope that my dark horse bracket-buster pick Mandissa comes through and makes me feel like I didn't just waste an hour and a half of my life.

    Ayla is singing some Celine Dion - it's almost as if Idol is engaged in a night long conspiracy to put America to sleep. Maybe they're trying to impact Boston Legal's ratings or something. Boooooring. C+.

    Pickler's doing Bonnie Raitt, but first we have to gag through a backstory about how delightfully naive she is. "I had my first squid - I guess they call that 'kal-eee-murh---ee?" Pickler's overall performance is among the best of the night, but that's really not saying much. Still, not bad. The judges all love it, and Simon even says that he found the calimari part "delightful." Gag. A-.

    Mandissa is performing "Cry" by "Faith Hill." Easily the best vocal of the night. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - keep an eye on Mandissa. The judges mostly agree that it was pretty good. I give it an A.

    Best of the Night:
    1. Mandissa
    2. Pickler
    3. Lisa

    Predicted departures:
    1. BWitchy Brenna (please, America)
    2. Heather Cox

    Posted by jkhat at 08:34 PM | Comments (8)

     

    Happy Mardi Gras!

    [Posted by Laura]

    Six months after Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is much diminished, but not destroyed. The same sense of humor that helped us enjoy a Blue Roof Christmas and enabled us to chill with our homies in Chocolateville, brought us the most political Mardi Gras ever. Here are some floats from Le Krewe D'etat.


    The Corps of Engineers, aided and abetted by decades of political corruption, let us down badly, given that sustained winds in the city of New Orleans were only category 1 strength. If the levees had not broken, things would have been back to normal around here after the downed trees had been picked up and roof damage repaired, flooding would have been minimal.


    Aaron Broussard, my Parish President, personally provided an estimated $3 to 5 billion dollars worth of flood damage with his decision to leave the pumps unmanned. He followed that up with a shameful, dishonest performance on Meet the Press. There is now a recall effort to get him out of office.


    There is also a recall effort to get rid of Governor Kathleen Blanco, who would probably make a fine second grade teacher but not much more. And the contenders lining up for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's office seem limitless.


    What would a post-Katrina parade be without a looting reference? This resident probably enjoyed that float the most.

    You can see the entire photo album for this parade here.

    I heard on talk radio today that some idiot named Star (perhaps that was redundant) complained about us having Mardi Gras on whatever useless talk show she's on. Aside from the fact that an essential part of the character of our city is such that we NEED to laugh at tragedy, we also needed the revenue - an estimated $170 million dollars that was honestly earned, not redistributed tax dollars. It will take time, but we will rebuild. This is just one more step toward getting back to normal, and it's a very welcome one.

    Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!


    Added: Paul from Wizbang, another NOLA local, has some excellent commentary on this year's Mardi Gras:

    I didn't want Mardi Gras this year at first. Not because I thought it was a bad idea but because I just didn't feel like it. Thankfully, people with a larger view of things were making the decision. Because Mardi Gras is more than parades and beads, Mardi Gras is political speech. It has always been the way we in New Orleans lampoon the ruling class. And this year -much more than most- we have plenty of lampooning that needs to be done.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 12:26 AM | Comments (8)

     

    February 26, 2006

    What was America's Darkest Hour?

    [Posted by ]

    Right Wing News posted an interesting list of the darkest moments in American history. Naturally, I have my own opinion. Even though I don't agree with RWN's list, I do agree that it's a fascinating topic. And hopefully, an intriguing poll question.

    As always, if you think I left something out, let me know in the comments section.

    Posted by at 02:28 PM | Comments (11)

     

    Amazing Race 9 Preview

    [Posted by ]

    My favorite show, The Amazing Race, starts up again this Tuesday at 9 pm (8 pm Central Time). In addition to our weekly recaps, I also thought I'd break down the teams before the race starts.

    Team Relationship For Against

    Lake & Michelle
    Married parents They already work together, so they're aware of each others style. Also, I admire her attempt to bring back 80s hair. Type A husband and laid back wife means that this team will probably bicker their way around the world. And what kind of a name is "Lake" anyway?

    Danielle & Dani
    Childhood friends Staten Island natives. Staten Island has already produced beloved teams like the Frats and John Vito & Jill. Their stated plan is to rely on their good looks. They're not that good looking.

    BJ & Tyler
    Best friends This duo already has a lot of world travel experience. If they try too hard to be wacky they're going to end up being incredibly annoying.

    Ray & Yolanda
    Dating Numerous personal accomplishments make them sound like a formidable team. They rip on each other in their bio, what will they be like when they're in an uncomfortable situation in a foreign country?

    John & Scott
    Lifelong friends They sound like they're in the race for the adventure, not to find out if their relationship will work out. Thank God. John is afraid of flying. He does realize that this isn't the Amazing Race Family Edition, right?

    David & Lori
    Dating Nerds! Everybody loves nerds. Lori's job as the assistant manager at Pizza Hut is a refreshing change from most reality show contestants David is afraid of heights. Bring on the bungee jumping! Also, David's in a band and it's possible that that band sucks.

    Eric & Jeremy
    Friends These former track stars should shine when it's literally a race to the finish mat. Pretty boys have won too often. It's time for the old, the ugly and the nerdy to win.

    Fran & Barry
    Married 40 years I drew this team in my office pool. She's an accomplished mountain climber and he was a surgeon in 'Nam. They seem spry and all, but the older folks on this show just don't remember how to hurry. 

    Lisa & Joni
    Sisters These Amazons are each over six feet tall. They describe themselves as loud and rambunctious. The female Frats? They're on the race to "reconnect" with each other. Is a high pressure race the right place to do that? Shouldn't they just go out to brunch?

    Joseph & Monica
    Dating They're so pretty. Plus, Monica is doing to the Race to try to pay off her student loans. Heh, you gotta love that. At least from their bio, there's nothing really interesting about them.

    Wanda & Desiree
    Mother and daughter Part of the reason they're racing is to experience other cultures. Good for them. Desiree describes her mom as "overprotective". How expected. How about a cautious daughter and her wild mom as a team?
    Posted by at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

     

    February 25, 2006

    Sex Sells to Kids?

    [Posted by ]

    I'm a pretty tolerant and irreverent person. I don't get all bent out of shape over violence in video games or the adult bookstore down the street. I do, however, firmly believe that adult content has its place. You should have to seek it out. Adults (and especially kids) shouldn't be "accidentally" exposed to truly racy material. People can push the envelope all they want, but at the end of the day I get to decide whether to open that envelope.

    One place I think we all can agree should be family friendly is an airplane. But check out what a friend of mine found in an ad in his Sky Magazine on a flight earlier this week.

    Yeah, you don't put those cards together accidentally. Someone did it on purpose to be cute or to make a joke. It's especially disturbing when you realize the ad is for children's flashcards. It's one thing to be suggestive in an ad for men's perfurme, it's quite another to use sexual innuendo to sell something to kids.

    I hope Namits, the company who makes the cards, really enjoyed the joke, because the next ad they run might have to feature phrases like "Poor Sales" or "Outta Business" or even just "We're Sorry".

    Posted by at 09:16 AM | Comments (8)

     

    February 23, 2006

    About that Dubai Port Deal

    [Posted by ]

    Democrats and Republicans alike are in a tizzy over the proposed sale of shipping operations of six US ports to Dubai. I'm in a tizzy over the reaction to this proposed sale. I'm amazed that people who piss and moan over the injustice of "racially profiling" young, male, Arab non-citizens at US airports are suddenly willing to racially profile an entire country. Politicians and the press have turned this deal into nothing more than another joke at the President's expense.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion of selling port operations to any country, but I'm not any more concerned with Dubai taking charge than I would be with Great Britain or Poland, for example.

    The political spin on this story is that it's just more evidence that Bush is an idiot. Unfortunately for the spinners, all they're doing is exposing themselves as idiots who know absolutely nothing about Dubai. I think most Americans think Dubai is just another Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. They couldn't be more wrong. Dubai gets only 6% of its revenue from oil. The country has made a concentrated effort to move from an oil-based economy to a trade and tourism-based economy (check out the Palm Islands or The World Archipelago).

    While Dubai is a Muslim country, it's a pretty secular Muslim country. You can find a seven star hotel, incredible shopping, Hindu shrines and even Catholic churches inside its borders. Dubai has been a trading center for centuries, so it's no surprise that the country would excel in shipping operations. It's what they do. Dubai isn't led by some fat pasha, but rather by the dynamic and visionary Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Sheik Mohammed, it's worth noting, donated $5 million immediately, and later, the winnings of his horses in the Breeders Cup races in NYC a couple of months after 9/11, and he publically denounced the attacks. Sheik Mohammed's second wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, is interesting in her own right. Rather than being just some harem hottie, she's an Olympian equestrian. Dubai's leadership isn't sitting pretty in their oil money and letting the rest of the country fester resentment. They are trying to build something better and more sustainable for their nation. Dubai is type of Muslim nation we should be building relationships with instead of throwing a potential partner away.

    Dubai isn't a western nation and it isn't perfect, but to act like it's Iran or something is completely ridiculous and is just another example of the way both parties and the press and bloggers ignore simple facts and shun deeper analysis when there are political points to be won.

    Posted by at 09:56 AM | Comments (22)

     

    February 22, 2006

    American Idol Semis-Week 1-The Guys

    [Posted by ]

    Wednesday is Guy's Night on American Idol. The top 12 will sing, we'll vote and then tomorrow two will be gone. In the words of Project Runway's Santino Rice, "Let's get it on!"

    Patrick: starts the show off singing Melissa Etheridge's "Come To My Window". Normally, when I hear a Melissa song, I change the station. Tonight I'll suck it up for all of you. Luckily for me, Patrick's take on this song is a little more melodic than the screechy, shouty original. Praise the lord. Patrick strikes me as someone with the potential to be the next king of wuss rock. He's like a young John Waite or Richard Marx. The judges desperately want Patrick to get back in his ballad box, but I liked this. I give it a 6.

    David: the crooner from Illinois sings "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". He's so fun. I'm really enjoying this performance. Randy, however, hates him and thinks the performance is a joke. Paula and the rather disgustingly named "Kitty Pound", on the other hand, love him. So do I. I don't think it was a joke, I think he was trying to show the audience a good time. If he must get more serious, then I'd like to hear him try some early Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. I'm giving David an 8.

    Bucky: steps up to sing "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. If the southern rock wasn't enough to remind us of Bo Bice, everything else about Bucky is. Except that Bucky mistakes growling through a song as singing with passion. Plus, he's so not sexy. He's a gross poseur. The judges like him and seem to think he's some kind of authentic rocker. The judges are off their rockers. I hated Bucky tonight and he gets a 1 from me.

    My darling Will is the next to hit the stage singing "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5. This is a bad song choice. Will is so a Brady Bunch cast member trying to sing real music, at least tonight. Simon is right, this is completely average. I think he can do much better. Sadly, tonight Will gets a 4.

    Sway will sing "Reasons" by Earth, Wind & Fire. Hmmm, that's kind of interesting as are Sway's pimpy white pants, velvet jacket and white hat. Call me crazy, but I kind of like his falsetto and his white dress shoes. This is cracking me up, in a good way. He showed lots of range, but Simon doesn't like him and thinks he was pimpy. He definitely was pimpy, but in this case it's not a bad thing. I give Sway a 7.

    Chris sings Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive". Woo! I was just thinking earlier today that 80s hair metal is primed to make a comeback. Anyway, the first thing I notice about this performance is the cheesy flaming screen saver background. Nice! Anyway, I love Chris. He's got a great voice and adorable sparkly eyes. I think he sings with passion. Paula & Randy love him and while Simon thinks he's really good, he doesn't think Chris has charisma. I completely disagree. I think Chris has a little something that women like, but other guys don't get. I give him a 9. Katharine's song last night was the only better performance so far.

    The tender young Kevin has the unenviable task of following Chris. He'll sing "One Last Cry" by Brian McKnight. Ouch, this is terrible. The nerd lovers of America are going to have to work the phones overtime to keep Kevin from getting the boot tomorrow night. There's no life and no melody to this performance. Randy loves him. Huh? Are the judges deaf? Kevin might be a sweetie pie, but he's a sweetie pie with a very average voice. Luckily, Simon isn't afraid to crush his dreams. Sometimes I just love Simon. Kevin gets a 2.

    Gedeon is going to sing "Shout". I like this song but it's kind of an easy choice, don't you think? This might be the first time I've heard this song outside of a wedding reception. Excuse me while I dance around the living room. Okay, that was really fun. It wasn't exceptional, but it was fun. A 7.

    Random thought from the commercial break. You know that Coke commercial with the roller skaters? Does anyone else really hate the long denim shorts the main girl is wearing? They're hideous. Why not just put her in jams? She's a cute girl with a cute top and then they make her wear those nasty shorts. I just don't get it.

    After Gedeon's song choice, is it too much to hope that Elliott will sing the Hokey Pokey? Heh, Elliott rips on the Brittenum twins in his intro reel. Awesome! I can't get enough of ripping on those damn twins. No Hokey Pokey, instead Elliott will sing "If You Really Love Me" by Stevie Wonder. I hate to sound like Paula, but Elliott is making this song his own. He's kind of a throwback to non-sensitive 70s singers, like the lead singer of Looking Glass ("Brandy"). Paula says he's effortless and I agree. Simon thinks he's potentially the best male vocalist the show has ever had. I think that's a bit much, but he was good tonight. An 8.

    Bobby (who?) will sing "Copacabana". Oh dear, how can this not be too karaoke? This song defines karaoke. Bobby brings the fun, but this really is just a joke performance. I mean, he's not as bad as Bucky, but he sure ain't good. I give Bobby a 3.

    Ace hits the stage with a rendition of "Father Figure" by George Michael. Shockingly, Ace sounds almost exactly like George Michael. We make fun of George Michael now, but the truth is that the guy could sing. And so can Ace. Damn, he's really good and he's managed to pick the perfect song. The judges think he's a star. I think he gets a 9 tonight.

    Finally (thank God), Taylor closes the show with "Levon" by Elton John. I'm underwhelmed. I appreciate that Taylor is different, but this song doesn't do anything to highlight his vocal abilities. I think the judges kind of agree with me, but they know that there's no way Taylor is going home tomorrow. He gets a 6 from me.

    My rankings:

    1. Chris
    2. Ace
    3. Elliott
    4. David
    5. Sway
    6. Gedeon
    7. Taylor
    8. Patrick
    9. Will
    10. Bobby
    11. Kevin
    12. Bucky

    For the most part, the guys were way better than the girls. They could eliminate about 7 of the girls tomorrow and I wouldn't care. On the other hand, I'd be willing to give almost all of the guys another week. That said, I predict that Bucky & Bobby will be given the boot tomorrow night.

    Read more of our American Idol coverage.

    Posted by at 08:53 PM | Comments (7)

     

    February 21, 2006

    American Idol Semis-Week 1-The Girls

    [Posted by ]

    The top 12 girls hit the stage tonight. They'll sing, we'll vote and in three weeks we'll be down to six. And sometime in 2009 we'll crown a new American Idol ;-)

    It's time for some old familiar places as the girls get ready to perform in the round while the guys sit in the wings, er, the Dawghouse (ugh, couldn't that tired thing die off?). Paula looks kind of old, Ryan looks like a doofus and Simon is clad in his customary black. All's right in the world. Here we go.

    Mandisa: comes out in a red satin lingerie top and jacket. And friggin' short pants. HATE the short pants. Mandisa is a strikingly beautiful woman from the neck up. She does kind of remind me of the dark-haired Wilson sister from Heart, whose "Never" she'll sing tonight. Mandisa is strong in the chorus and does the "shouty" parts well, but she's weak in the verses. She can belt with the best of them, but I don't know that she can really interpret a song.

    Randy: showed lots of personality, but a bit sharp at times
    Paula: magnificent, singing Heart is a big challenge
    Simon: bad in the middle of the song, but your personality will carry you through to the finals
    Kris: I agree with Simon. I give the performance a 7.

    Kellie: acts like a dumb hick. I think she's kind of big 'ole faker. I just don't like the girl. She's singing "How Far" by Martina McBride for her jailbird Daddy. Kellie is very weak in her lower register and hits some very ugly notes along the way.

    Randy: not very enthusiastic and didn't hit the high notes
    Paula: unpretentious, but bad on the verses (WTF? Paula is making constructive comments??)
    Simon: likeable, sincere, has the potential to have a good voice.
    Kris: notice how they didn't really comment on her voice? There's a reason why. It sucked. I give her a 3.

    Becky: sings "Because The Night" and makes some weird winking faces the entire time. She needs to look in the mirror when she's practicing or something. It's very distracting. Of course, maybe that's her evil plan so we don't notice how bad her voice is. She just doesn't have a very melodic voice, although she could easily be the hot lead singer of a punky band.

    Randy: loved it, but admits she doesn't have the best voice. In other words, Randy thinks she's hot.
    Paula: she has "pixie dust" and so it doesn't matter that the notes were off. Huh?
    Simon: didn't expect much but she's hot. Overall, her voice probably isn't good enough.
    Kris: she's a beautiful girl, but this is a singing contest, not a pageant. I give it a 1.


    Ayla: is the resident jock. The basketball player is set to sing "Reflections" from the Mulan soundtrack. I'm not a fan of Ayla, but then she starts to sing and something happens. I respond very well to her broadway rendition. She's Broadway Ayla to me and I like it. I don't know why, but I do.

    Randy: like me, he's pleasantly surprised
    Paula: an ambitious choice, but she "made it her own" (aw, there's the Paula we know and love!)
    Simon: pushed the limits of her voice and showed some emotion
    Kris: I agree with Simon, she was a little softer and feminine tonight and that really added something to her performance. I give it a 7.

    Paris: will sing "Midnight Train to Georgia". She's as cute as a button in an adorable little denim outfit. Paris is almost too much of a performer. She's got a great voice but she reminds too much of Fantasia tonight with the bouncing around and the "yeah yeah yeahs". God, I hated Fantasia.

    Randy: blown away
    Paula: a little firecracker
    Simon: so confident and didn't play it safe
    Kris: despite my other criticisms, there's something about Paris that makes me not want the song to end. I give her a 9.

    Stevie: is going to sing Josh Grabin's "To Where You Are". She goes in and out of a falsetto and is all quiet and weak. She's got a decent range but she's so damn breathy.

    Randy: different, but boring
    Paula: ethereal and intimate
    Simon: like being at Sunday lunch and suddenly a child stands up and starts singing badly.
    Kris: heh, Simon is exactly right. Stevie is just weird and doesn't make up for it with exceptional talent. I give it a 2.

    Brenna's: intro reel reveals a sweeter side to the sassy diva. She loves her Mommy. Awwww. Brenna sings Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" for her mom. This arrangement is way too slow and Brenna is way too busy trying to perform. When she just forgets about that, however, you can see that underneath it all her voice is good. It's just hiding.

    Randy: she got out of her box. get back in the box and deliver your songs with attitude.
    Paula: revealed a sensitive side
    Simon: likes her sass but not this tame peformance
    Kris: I'd rather she concentrate on singing rather than being sassy. I give this performance a 5, but her post-critique diva tantrum shows that she'll go back to being a brat with an okay voice instead of trying to be more than just a character. It's too bad because I think she has potential.

    Heather: insists on torturing me by singing "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" from last season. NO!!!! Anyway, when Heather isn't getting lost in the parts of the song, she's okay. She has a nice country flavor to her voice without the annoying twang of Pickler.

    Randy: boring
    Paula: started rough
    Simon: forgettable, played it safe
    Kris: I hate the song but I kind of liked her performance. A 5.

    Melissa: sings "When The Lights Go Down" by Faith Hill. Apparently this is some well known song, but I've never heard it before. To me, it's just another ballad. I don't feel any energy in this performance, it's shouting masquerading as power and energy.

    Randy: rocky but she worked it out
    Paula: a shining moment. she's got a sexy and sultry voice
    Simon: she's lifeless while she sings
    Kris: I totally agree with Simon, when she sings there's nothing in her eyes. After she's done, she reveals that she has a very appealing personality. She's okay, but she needs to bring that personality into her performances. For now, she gets a 5.

    Lisa: the 16-year old phenom comes out to sing Jennifer Holiday's "I Am Changing". Lisa has got a knockout voice, but she's so damn professional and poised. There's no sense of fun with Lisa. She's too young to be so serious.

    Randy: impressed
    Paula: a precious little gift that lights a fire inside my heart (Paula's drinking during the breaks, isn't she?)
    Simon: made some of the others look ordinary
    Kris: An 8, but I want to see a different side to her.

    Kinnik: comes across as very articulate in her interview. She sings "Get Here" and has some seriously bad notes at the beginning. She does get better and knows how to sing with emotion.

    Randy: nice ending. a 6
    Paula: powerful, but had some sharp notes
    Simon: she's old and there are younger girls who are much better
    Kris: she's seems like a lovely woman, but nothing about her is exciting. A solid 5.

    Katharine: sings Barbra Streisand's "Since I Fell For You". Oh wow. I almost get a shiver when she starts. She's got a nice, bluesy feel and she's so connected to the music.

    Randy: love her
    Paula: greatness
    Simon: the best of the night
    Kris: I wanna vote for her! A 9.

    My rankings this evening:

    1. Katharine
    2. Paris
    3. Lisa
    4. Ayla
    5. Mandisa
    6. Brenna
    7. Melissa
    8. Kinnik
    9. Heather
    10. Pickler
    11. Stevie
    12. Becky

    I predict that Stevie and Heather will be shown the door on Thursday.

    Posted by at 09:01 PM | Comments (7)

     

    American Idol Recap - The Women Perform

    [Posted by james]

    Mandissa kicks off the show by rocking out to Heart's "Never." Wow! She's really good. All of the judges are impressed, Paula much more than that others. I'm pretty impressed, too.

    Unfortunately for Kellie, she has to follow Mandissa. She's doing a Martina McBride song, which she explains is supposed to be a love song, but she's singing it for her incarcerated father. Ummmm... ok there. Whatever. And unfortunately, she's terrible. TERRIBLE! Cute girl, but apparently tone deaf. I'm afraid that I previously overestimated Ms. Pickler - by quite a bit. The judges don't rip her as bad as I would, that's for sure. Simon even says that he thought she did "really well." hmm. Shows what I know.

    I'll tell you one thing, though - if I have to sit through a season of hearing Kellie share her "story" over tears and moans, I'd rather see her get voted out tonight.

    Becky is up next doing "Because the Night." There is something about her singing that I really, really dislike. Her voice is too throaty and a few octaves too deep. And she makes these weird faces like she's in constant, writhing pain. I'm in pain just having to listen to this. I'd definitely give her a "D" for this performance. Randy "loved" the performance. Paula says "there were notes that were off." Gee, understatement of the evening. Comeon Paula, just come out and say it - it was terrible. Simon says that her voice isn't that great. I guess the judges are playing with kid gloves tonight.

    Ayla is singing "Reflections," and she explains that it's because the song reminds her of playing boy's football. Or something like that. Um, ok, whatever. She hasn't even started singing yet and I'm already sick of her. Boo. Her performance is, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Cowell, "forgettable." She isn't good enough to be in this competition. Randy and Paula like it - they were both "very pleasantly surprised." Simon also has positive things to say, and that "she did good."

    Paris (aka future finalist) is up next doing "Midnight Train to Georgia." Good song choice. I think she does a pretty good job of singing, but I'm a little put off by all the bouncing around she does on stage. Randy says she was amazing and can't stop talking about Ann Nesby. Paula says that Paris is her Idol. Simon's also very impressed.

    The girl named Stevie is up next, doing what she says was a originally an opera song later re-done by Josh Grobin. I have no idea how this girl even got invited to Hollywood, let alone made the finals. Here she goes. She's singing soft. She's not hitting the notes. She's infusing an opera falsetto voice. (EARTH TO STEVIE: THIS ISN'T "OPERA IDOL.") I don't like her at all. Randy: "Wow, that was definitely different." Simon: You completely and utterly messed that up. "It was like being at some horrible Sunday lunch and some child getting up to sing." Bingo.

    Attitude impaired Brenna is up next. I hate almost everything about this woman. So much, in fact, that I'm not even going to watch her performance. Bye honey, I'm sure this will be your last night.

    Heather Cox is up next singing "When you tell me that you love me," a song that was "made famous by the Idol finalists from last year." Bad idea honey - the judges will only see how you don't do it as well as the finalists from last year. This has to be the worst song choice in the history of the show. Terrible performance, too - it's like it's open mike night. Randy says it was boring, pitchy and off key. Paula agrees with Randy. Simon: it was forgettable. Horrible.

    Melissa is identified as being a "beauty contest contestant." I guess she would have to announce that, because to look at her, you certainly can't tell. She must not have won very often. She's singing "When the Lights go Down" by Faith Hill. I don't know that I've heard the original, and if it's anything like this performance, I think I'm fortunate. I thought it was terrible. Randy didn't think it was amazing. Paula thinks it was great, a "shining moment" for her. Paula tells her she has a "sexy, sultry voice." WHAT? She sounds like a freaking man! There is nothing sexy about that.

    They must have spiked the hotel water with testosterone this year.

    I've been picking Lisa Tucker to finish in the top 4 based on her previous performances - we'll see what I know. Tonight she's doing "I'm Changing" by Jennifer Holliday. A song I've never heard by an artist I've never heard of. Great. Good voice. She's hitting the notes really well. Kind of a boring song. Good ending, though. Yep, I think she will be in the top 4 or 5 for sure. The judges seem to agree.

    Kinnick Sky does another song that I've never heard, "Get Here" by Alita Adams. Good voice, but I'm not "wowed." I don't know what it is - some contestants have "it." She doesn't. Randy gives it a 6. Paula liked it. Simon thinks it was cabaret.

    And the final performance is by Katharine, the contestant who did "God Bless the Child" in her audition. Tonight she's doing "Since I fell for you" by Barbara Streisand. She says that she really idolizes and wants to be just like Babs. Oy vey, let's hope that she doesn't go any further than tonight, the world doesn't need another opinionated clebrity squwak box. Her performance is pretty good, though. One of the best tonight, I think. The judges seem to agree.

    My top four:
    Paris
    Mandisa
    Lisa
    Katharine

    My Bottom Four:
    Brenna
    Brenna
    Brenna
    Brenna

    Posted by jkhat at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

     

    February 20, 2006

    American Idol Season 5 Preview-Part 2-The Guys

    [Posted by ]

    I've covered the girls, now it's on to the guys, who will perform on Wednesday.

    Contestant For Against


    Ace Young

    The little girls will love his wild, untamed hair, while the slightly older women will dig his generally good voice (his vocals on "Emotions" in the Hollywood rounds were fantastic). Hmmm, he reminds me of someone. Could it be...Constantine? American Idol wasn't so kind to Constantly-Dirty. Is there any reason to think Ace will do better?


    Bobby Bennett

    Looks like he might be fat & funny. America loves fat & funny. I can honestly say I have no idea what he sounds like. Isn't that important in a singing competition?


    Bucky Covington

    Bucky! If you want to be a Badger then come along with me... Wait, you mean he's not a lovable mascot, he's a Kurt Cobain lookalike? Well that's a disappointment.


    Chris Daughtry

    Best singer in the competition so far, and he has a good backstory. One of the favorites. He's not very cute. He's attractive, but not cute. Cute gets votes.


    David Radford

    Old fashioned crooner may get a lot of votes from Moms and Grandmas. The crooning will get old. Plus, the segment of viewers he appeals to goes to bed too early to vote.


    Elliott Yamin

    Excellent voice and a likeable personality. Anyone who foiled one of the Brittenum twins is bound to be a fan favorite. He's a little plain and a little ethnic.


    Gedeon McKinney

    As one of only two black guys in the competition, he may be one of the only contestants to bring the funk (or the soul or the R&B). Who? He's had virtually no airtime.


    Jose "Sway" Penala

    Could appeal to the Latino segment of the AI audience. Doesn't have an appealing personality (of course, neither did Savol).


    Kevin Covais

    America loves nerds almost as much as it loves the fat & funny. Nerdishness can take a contestant to the finals, but even if he makes it there he won't last long with a relatively weak voice.


    Patrick Hall

    Tons of airtime so the audience is already very familiar with him. Middling performer with a scary-huge Adam's Apple.


    Taylor Hicks

    "Grey Leno" is on the express train to the final. He's immediately recognizable, talented and just different enough to get votes from people who don't want the same old-same old. Simon doesn't like him and the audience could eventually be influenced by his negative comments.


    Will Makar

    Cute as a button and he has a great voice. I get serious shivers the first time I heard him. Teenyboppers will love him but folks who consider themselves more serious music fans may be turned off by his Donny Osmandness.

    My very early predictions for the Final 12.

    Girls: Paris, Kellie, Mandisa, Becky, Lisa & Stevie
    Guys: Taylor, Will, Chris, Ace, Patrick & David

    Posted by at 12:14 PM | Comments (24)

     

    February 19, 2006

    American Idol Season 5 Preview-Part 1-The Girls

    [Posted by ]

    After what has seemed like about 32 weeks, American Idol is down to the final 24 contestants. Starting Tuesday, we get to vote for our favorites. Of course, since the producers would rather spend time on people like the vile Brittenum twins than on the talented kids who actually made it this far, I have almost no idea who my favorites are yet.

    Since I have yet to hear most of the constestants sing for more than a few seconds at a time, it's hard to judge them. But judge them I will. First up, it's the girls, who will compete on Tuesday.

    Contestant For Against


    Ayla Brown

    She's really tall. As Presidential elections often show, Americans like to vote for tall people. She kind of has a bitch face, doesn't she? Plus, her biggest obstacle is "Overcoming people's incorrect assumptions about me." Oh get over yourself, sweetie.


    Becky O'Donohue

    She's really gorgeous. Damn! She's really gorgeous. Bitch!


    Brenna Gethers

    This diva received plenty of airtime. During that airtime, she acted like a brat who couldn't sing that well.


    Heather Cox

    People might mistake her for the much-hyped Kellie Pickler Who? At this point she's an unknown who has barely been seen on screen.


    Katharine McPhee

    Good singer who has received a sympathetic edit so far (she was the one who was critical of some of the judges' other cuts) She was critical of the judges until they put her through, then she was all smiles. That's a touch hypocritical, don't you think?


    Kellie Pickler

    Tons of hype throughout the show. Too much like last year's winner, Carrie Underwood.


    Kinnik Sky

    Cool name. Another "who?". She'll have to knock it out of the park to make it past the first cut.


    Lisa Tucker

    Okay singer, lots of early praise. Had a great audition, but I haven't thought much of her singing since.


    Mandisa

    Great voice and the audience will feel sorry for her because Simon made fun of her weight. She really does, as Bart Simpson might say, have a "Hugh Jazz". When it comes down to it American likes their female Idols a little skinnier.


    Melissa McGhee

    She's a shoo in for the "guys who like boobs" vote. They won't notice if she can sing or not. She and Katharine McPhee seem like almost the same person, don't they? I doubt they'll both make it through and Katharine has received more airtime.


    Paris Bennett

    Fantastic audition and has been edited to be a real sweetheart. Her Hollywood performances were a little subpar. Plus, she might lose votes because of her industry connections (people will think she doesn't need to win to have a career).


    Stevie Scott

    Quirky girl is different from the rest of the bunch. Time and time again, America has shown it doesn't like its Idols quirky.

    Stay tuned for a preview of the guys and all of our American Idol coverage this season.

    Posted by at 07:26 PM | Comments (6)

     

    February 18, 2006

    Top Ten Excuses for American Olympians

    [Posted by ]

    With a few bright exceptions, the US Winter Olympic team has been a disappointment: the Swedes performed their own "Miracle on Ice" by defeating the women's hockey team, Bode Miller hasn't come close to the podium, Michelle Kwan (KWWWAAAAAAN!) is gone, Johnny Weir choked and Lindsey Jacobellis snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a little hot-dogging in Snowboard Cross (which, by the way, is very fun to watch) yesterday.

    While Weir cleverly blamed his poor performance on his aura (as an aside, I think that'd be a great band name: "Johnny Weir's Aura), other American athletes haven't been so creative. That's why I'm here to help them out. Without further ado, I present:

    The Top Ten Excuses for American Olympians


    10. "Medals? I thought they were just giving away CDs. Aw, crap!"

    9. "I was really upset by what happened to those Brittenum twins on American Idol."

    8. "I decided to no longer pursue a gold medal, but rather to pursue that Danish cartoonist. A million dollars is better than a gold medal."

    7. "What do you mean I didn't win a medal? I was taught that we're all winners. Isn't there a gold medal for perfect attendance or something?"

    6. "Dick Cheney shot me too."

    5. "We just couldn't stay away from those Jamaican bobsledders. Hey, anyone got any Cheetos?"

    4. "I wanted to avoid any jingoistic displays of American flag waving."

    3. (for two-man lugers only) "We were really, really sick of all the 'Brokeback Mountain' jokes."

    2. "I heard Wayne Gretzky's wife bet against me. Let me tell ya, you don't want to mess with Janet."

    1. "Maybe if King George and his neocon associates had signed Kyoto I would have had some frickin' snow and ice to train on."

    Posted by at 10:37 AM | Comments (3)

     

    February 16, 2006

    Snow Day

    [Posted by ]

    Madison is getting hit with its first big snow of the year today. Here's what it looks like from my backyard:

    Picnic tables are great for entertaining and they're also a useful tool to measure snow accumulation:

    I went to work this morning, but after a couple of hours of staring out the windows, we decided to call it quits. Snow day! I feel like a kid again. Of course, kids don't have to worry about digging their car out of the snow tomorrow morning. But then again, kids also aren't still getting paid while sitting at home ;-)

    So I'm settling in for some lunch and perhaps a beer and then thinking about making some snow angels or cross country skiing around the neighborhood. It's too bad NBC is too stupid to show the Olympics live during the day. Their ratings would skyrocket in the upper midwest. Speaking of the Olympics...

    I care, but I'd care much more if I didn't know the results of everything before I see it.

    Posted by at 12:06 PM | Comments (44)

     

    February 15, 2006

    I could, but why?

    [Posted by ]

    Ever since my radio station changed formats to "Star Country" (translation: crappy country), I've been listening to Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio. Today's topic, inspired by one of Mike Greenberg's columns, was whether it's ever okay for men to comment on attractive women in the presence of their wives or girlfriends. The final word on the topic came from a listener who said, "I could, but why?"

    I could, but why? I love that phrase. I can think of hundreds of ways to apply it to myself and others. I could, for example, plaster my car with dozens of bumper stickers that support my political viewpoints, but why would I? Sure, I'd be exercising my right to free speech, but is it worth it to needlessly tick off other drivers who might disagree with me?

    On the other hand, Danish newspaper editors might well say that it absolutely was worth it to publish the Mohammed cartoons. They could do it and it was worth doing if for no other reason than to expose Islamofascists for what they are and to reinforce the notion that Danes live under Danish, not Sharia law.

    In both our personal and political lives, I think weighing the consequences of our words is just a damn good idea. Words have power. We should carefully consider how and when to exercise our right to free speech, just as we carefully consider how to utilize our right to bear arms or to "take the Fifth". I don't think there's any particular virtue in free speech for the sake of free speech.

    I get sick of reading about how political dissenters in America are so "brave", as if the simple act of expressing disagreement with the government in a free country is some noble thing. While Al Gore, for example, certainly has the right to fly to Saudi Arabia and "deliberately underminine the United States during a time of war", why would he? Aren't some things more important than the words you want to say?

    Don't get me wrong, sometimes expressing your opinion with all the passion in your soul is perfectly appropriate. Most of the time, however, you're probably better off playing the silent coyote.

    Posted by at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

     

    February 14, 2006

    Dick Cheney Answers the Press

    [Posted by Laura]

    Scott McClellan advises the White House Press Corps that Vice President Dick Cheney will now answer questions about the quail hunting accident. Oddly enough, there were no more questions.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 06:16 PM | Comments (2)

     

    February 13, 2006

    Peace & Harmony at the Olympics

    [Posted by ]

    Some things call for an old fashioned fisking. This is one of those things. Madison's own Capital Times has published perhaps one of the most obnoxious editorials I've ever read. Where do I begin? In this case, at the beginning:

    No one who was paying attention to the opening of the 20th Winter Olympics could have missed the none-too-subtle message that was sent with regard to the Bush administration's foreign policy.

    While first lady Laura Bush sat in the stands giggling with Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair the Olympic flag was carried into Stadio Olympico on Friday evening by actress Susan Sarandon, one of the most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq. Joining Sarandon to lift the corners of the flag were a group of prominent women that included Chilean writer and activist Isabel Allende, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and Cambodian human rights activist Somaly Mam.

    Speaking of "none-too-subtle messages", what's with the insulting language used to describe Laura Bush here? She's "giggling"? I love it when liberals, who are so concerned about the rights of women, use demeaning words to minimize women they disagree with. So Laura Bush "giggles" and Condi Rice "simpers". Once again, negative stereotypes are used against women and minorities who dare to have conservative opinions. The "right to choose" never extends to the right to choose to be conservative. Drat.

    Moving on:

    The neoconservatives who guide public policy in the United States, and their apologists in the media, may have been offended by the showcasing of Sarandon and other women who have challenged this president's misrule of the United States and misguided approach to the world. But American citizens need not be.

    The global rejection of the Bush administration's military misadventures abroad, its opposition to environmental protection initiatives, its corporations-first approach to global trade, and its disdain for democracy in the United States and abroad is not a rejection of America or Americans. It is a rejection of a president who has insulted American values and ideals as well as the broader spirit of international cooperation that defines the Olympic tradition.

    Funny, I haven't read any official American outrage about the inclusion of Susan Sarandon from our neoconservative overlords. Have you? Didn't think so. In any case, if the Olympic Opening Ceremonies were meant as a criticism of United States policy, then American citizens certainly should be upset and insulted. Despite what this nameless editorialist thinks, American citizens, not some shadowy group of neocons determine American policy. Americans approved our actions in Iraq (and elsewhere) with their votes in 2002 and 2004. And speaking of Iraq, the spirit of international cooperation that supposedely defines the Olympic tradition is alive and well in Iraq where the Olympics' host nation, Italy, provides 2,600 troops to support the establishment of a democratic country.

    To me, the message, if there was one, of the Opening Ceremony wasn't anything specific against the United States, but rather a mundane generic message in favor of peace.

    As Marco Balich, the creative director for Friday night's opening program for the Olympics, explained, "We wanted to make a strong statement of peace tonight."

    And so they did, with their choice of flagbearers, and with the surprise appearance of Yoko Ono. The artist and widow of John Lennon opened the Winter Olympics with a soft-spoken, yet stirring plea for peace. "Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world," Ono told the crowd of about 35,000. "Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think."

    If it only it were that easy, Yoko. And hey, I didn't see you spouting off about peace when you were breaking up The Beatles! Anyway, peace is all well and good, but this insipid message makes me wonder if these people think that anything is worth fighting for? Peace is no virtue when you're faced with hateful, irrational enemies that will do anything to destroy your way of life. Yoko Ono is welcome to visualize world peace, but I'm going to go ahead and visualize a free and prosperous world that is willing to fight to stay that way. Sometimes I wonder if peace activists even understand their own message. I don't think this editorialist does.

    Ono was joined by British singer Peter Gabriel, who sang an inspired version of Lennon's "Imagine." The lyrics of that remarkable song speak to the spirit of the Olympics "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one; I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will live as one" but they also speak for the great mass of Americans who want very much to be part of the world community.

    Given the events of the world today, why would someone think this message is directed at America? Perhaps the more timely lyric is "imagine no religion". It's not American imperialism that is putting the peaceful people of the world in peril. It's misguided religious fervor as epitomized by the Islamofascists that would cut off the heads of cartoonists exercising their freedom of speech. I like Peter Gabriel, and I'm sure he's just another squawking liberal singer, but I'd like to think that at least he's smart enough to get that.

    Of course, I'm no true patriot. If I were a true patriot, according to this editorial, I'd be simultaneously hanging my head in shame and hanging up my "Impeach Bush Now!" sign.

    The United States is a good country badly led. Those who recognize that fact, and who act to change the circumstance, are the truest patriots. And just as we look forward to cheering for our Olympians in the days to come, so we look forward to the day when this country will have leaders who recognize that America can and must be an honest player in world affairs.

    How far off is that day? Let us hope that, when Olympians meet next, in Beijing in the summer of 2008, this country will be well on its way to rejoining a world community in which it really is possible to "Imagine all the people, living life in peace."

    The "truest" patriots are those who think the country is badly led. The "true" patriots are those who dissent. Huh? Why is dissent the default patriotic response? That notion is such a relic of the 1960s. The assumption is that your country is wrong and only the brave, impassioned dissenters can right the ship. Sometimes the dissenters are wrong. Sometimes, believe it or not, your country is doing the right thing. Of course, that's just my opinion. I'd like to think that "true" patriots can exist on both sides of an issue.

    To me, the Olympic ideals are not all about peace and harmony. They're about striving to be the best in the world. The motto of the Olympics is "swifter, higher, stronger". You can sit there and urge us all to think about peace or you can get off your rear end and do something to really make the world a better place.

    Posted by at 12:27 PM | Comments (5)

     

    February 11, 2006

    The Winter Olympics-We Need A New Enemy

    [Posted by ]

    The Winter Olympics are suffering from a severe lack of buzz. In a year when many American athletes are expected to dominate, no one's talking about the Olympics. What gives?

    The problem is that our enemies aren't any good at sports. When Americans and Russians faced off in the Olympics, it was also a good matchup between Communism and Capitalism. For all of communism's many, many flaws, those Commies could sure build a great sports system. Or, alternatively, they gave their "women" some really powerful drugs.

    Islamofascists, on the other hand, don't have much of a presence at the Games. To be fair, Islamofascists don't actually rule very many countries and in general, Islamofascists live in warmer climates. But aren't those just excuses? Maybe if Islamofascists want to prove to the rest of the world that their way of life is superior to ours, they should try to do it on the snow or ice or track.

    As with everything worthwhile, this would require some serious sacrifices for our peaceful friends. First, they'll have to prove their superiority without the help of their women. While this obviously means that Islamofascist men would have to pick up the slack medal-wise, it also means that it'll be much harder to find an appealing, friendly face of Islamofascism. As the Cold War started to thaw, Commie hotties like Katarina Witt and Ekaterina Gordeeva highlighted the softer side of totalitarianism. I don't know if there's an Islamofascist man out there who can fill their, uh, skates.

    Second, and this is a key, young, athletic men will have to give up their pursuit of 72 virgins and pursue gold instead. Perhaps the technical ability to produce effective car bombs can instead be channeled into producing faster bobsleds. Instead of spending years learning to fly a plane, Islamofascsist youths can learn to fly through the air in freestyle skiing.

    Sadly, this is one impossible dream that won't come true. They'll be no Islamofascist "Miracle on Ice". Their backwards view of life has never, and will never, produce anything worthwhile, whether it's great art, science or athletes.

    Posted by at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

     

    February 02, 2006

    The State of the Packers

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    The Packers season has now been over for a month, and I find Iím finally able to write about it with without too much disgust, and with some objectivity. Thatís probably a lot harder for the younger of us who donít remember a time when the Packers stank, but for those of us who can still picture Lindy Infante, Randy Wright, Brent Fullwood, Perry Kemp, Ed West, Vinnie Clark and a host of others, itís really not all that difficult. The worst part of it all is the prospect of Favreís retirement and the years of truly terrible football that could quickly ensue. The season was horrible, but the one positive was that the injuries and losses gave us a chance to see who really belongs on the team and who needs to go. So without further ado, hereís my take:

    Coaching:

    The Packers fired head coach Mike Sherman and for me it was two years too late. Lots of people think the firing was unjustified, and lots of others think he should have been fired after the 4th and 26 debacle. Iím from the school of he should have been fired DURING the 4th and 26 debacle. The Packers lost that game because they tried to run out the clock starting with the second half kickoff; and that sums up Shermanís coaching style nicely. Sherman never learned to be aggressive, he never learned to pile on the points when you have a team down, and he never learned that you have to take risks to win. The Packers would never have won the Super Bowl with him. Mike McCarthy is the new coach, and it remains to be seen what he will do.

    Offensive Line:

    The unit that took the most blame for the Packers fall from grace was the offensive line. Management was blamed for letting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera go, but some poor personnel decisions from the past really made it impossible for the Pack to resign them. At guard, Will Whitticker, a rookie 7th round draft pick, was widely condemned for being the worst of the bunch, and while I thought his play was spotty, he got better towards the end of the year. If he continues to improve, he could become a solid starter. Those wishing for the return of Wahle and Rivera might remember their first couple of years in the league. As a rookie, Wahle was the worst offensive lineman Iíve ever seen. The Packers tried him at tackle, then on the bench, and finally at guard where he eventually became a good player. Rivera sat on the bench his first few years as a Packer. Blaming the offensive linesí woes on a seventh round draft pick is unfair. The other guard was Grey Ruegamer who has been in the league for several years and should obviously no longer be starting. Replacing him needs to be a priority.

    At tackle, the Packers were supposedly set with starters Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, and backup Kevin Barry who comes in for the U71 three tackle formation. While the guards took all the heat for the linesí poor play, Clifton was quietly having his worst season as a Packer. He consistently missed blocks, especially in pass coverage where ends and linebackers frequently went around him. With the Packers constantly behind and not running the ball, saving Barry for the special formations meant that he played hardly at all. Tauscher had another solid season, but was hardly a dominant player. If these guys donít return to form, the offensive line could actually be worse next year.

    At center, Mike Flanagan returned from an injury and did not play well. His replacement, Scott Wells also was unspectacular. One of these two will have to step up big time for the Packers to have any chance in 2006.

    With the quality of the starters, it goes without saying that the team has no depth at all on the offensive line.

    Running Backs:

    The only thing consistent about the running backs was that they couldnít play three games without getting hurt. The Packers went from Ahman Green to Najeh Davenport to Tony Fisher to Samkon Gado and finally to Noah Herron. Green is a free agent and while I would be hesitant to sign him for big money because of the injury, heís been so good over the years and I hope the Packers find a way to bring him back. When heís healthy, he is obviously the Packers best back. Najeh Davenport has been hurt every year as a Packer, and as an unrestricted free agent should be let go. Tony Fisher was average as a pass catcher, ineffective as a runner, and useless as a blocker. As a free agent he should also be let go. Gado was the revelation of the year for the Packers. While he needs to learn a lot, he was smart and showed improvement in the few games he played. If Green canít go, Gado will be the starter and I think he will work out. Herron was OK and will probably stick around, if only as a backup and special teams player.

    At fullback, William Henderson is on his way out. While he might return next year, heís obviously not the player he once was. He had a lot of good years as a blocker for the Pack and his level of play is missed. The unfortunate part of Hendersonís decline is that replacement Vonta Leach is nowhere near the player Henderson was. If Wisconsin's Matt Bernstein is healthy and available in the middle rounds, I hope the Packers draft him.

    Receivers:

    The Packers paid big bucks to bring back Bubba Franks at tight end, and that was a mistake. At his best, Franks is an above average tight end. At his normal level of play, he is a below average tight end. Having made some bad personnel decisions in recent years, the Packers can no longer afford to pay above average salaries to below average players. Late in the season a TV announcer actually said the Favre was missing one his ďweaponsĒ when David Martin was hurt. In 59 games, Martin has caught 66 passes for 568 yards. That works out to an average of 1.1 catches for 9.6 yards per game. Its time to admit the David Martin experiment was a failure. If the Packers can find a promising tight end in the draft, they should take him.

    With Javon Walker and rookie Terrence Murphy out with season ending injuries, 2005 was a chance for the rest of the receivers to show what they had. Donald Driver, who was my least favorite of the Packers receivers, had his best year in the league. He got open despite being constantly double teamed and didnít drop an excessive amount of passes. Robert Ferguson was a huge disappointment. With an opportunity to start he did nothing and should be gone next year. Antonio Chatman is at best a 4th or 5th receiver. Were it not for his return skills, he too should be gone next year. There is, of course, no depth to the receiving corps.

    Quarterbacks:

    Brett Favre looked liked he was a rookie again, and thatís not good. Favre routinely threw some god-awful passes into double and triple coverage and it hurt the team at times. While all the injuries to the offense certainly hurt his play, he made more bad decisions than is acceptable. If he returns next year and the Packers are healthy, he will need to step up his play. The big question, of course is whether Favre will return. While he can certainly still play, Iím not sure heís really into it anymore. There were times last season when he looked like he didnít really give a damn. If thatís the case he should retire. If he does retire, Packer football will be boring to watch for a while. The only reason I watched some of the games the past couple of seasons was to see Favre. We all knew the day would come eventually, but the prospect of watching the Packers without Favre will make it easy to find alternative activities for a Sunday afternoon. Aaron Rodgers could find himself starting next season, and he is, of course, a completely unknown quantity.

    Defensive Secondary:

    Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson, Mike McKenzie, Chris Akins, Gary Berry, Marques Anderson, Chris Johnson, Ahmad Carroll, Joey Thomas, Nick Collins, Marviel Underwood, Mike Hawkins. If you still donít know why the Packers secondary stinks, that is a list of all the DBís and safeties the Pack has drafted since 1999. That list gets even more depressing when you realize McKenzie was traded to obtain the pick used to draft Collins. If you still need a reason to cheer Mike Shermanís departure, look no further than Ahmad Carroll. Had my father lived to see Carroll play, he would have concluded that Carroll must be the bastard son of Terrell Buckley. Changing Carrollís name and number might eliminate a few of the penalty flags thrown against him. Nothing can be done about all the TD passes thrown against him. The new regime will have no loyalty to Shermanís old draft picks, which means Ahmad Carroll can finally be gone. In addition to Carroll, Mark Roman must also be replaced. Iíve said before that a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood stood upright anywhere in the defensive backfield would defend more passes and make more stops than Carroll and Roman combined, and I stand by that claim. The other half of the secondary is actually good. Al Harris is the Packers best defensive player. Without him, this team would have struggled to win two games last year. Rookie Nick Collins played well his first year, and actually looked like he knew where the ball was most of the time. Not since Leroy Butler has a Packer safety shown that ability. The only thing we know about the backups is that they couldnít beat out Carroll or Roman.

    Linebackers:

    No unit is harder to judge than the linebackers. There are times when Nick Barnett and Naíil Diggs look like All-Pros. There are other times when they you donít even realize they are in the game. 2006 will be a make or break year for these two. If they donít become consistent performers, the Packers will have more holes to fill. Paris Lenon and Robert Thomas also started, and the Packers will probably have to replace them before another playoff run is in the making. Once again there is no depth to the line backers.

    The ongoing theme of a lack of depth to this team is a direct consequence of the Packers love of drafting by position. Ron Wolf was great in the later rounds of the draft by not drafting by position. (Although, truth be told, he stunk in the first two rounds of the draft by drafting by position or supposed ĒneedĒ.) When you draft by position, you miss out on all the diamonds in the rough that wind up becoming good players 2 years down the road. You also make stupid decisions like the one that led to the trading of Hasselbeck and subsequent drafting of Jamal Reynolds. (Thanks for the going away present Ron). Only by trying to improve the team everywhere will the Packers once again compete.

    Defensive Line:

    The defensive line showed a lot of promise this past season. Aaron Kampman greatly improved, was a good against the run and provided some pass rush. His resigning should be the Packers number one free agent priority. The Packers used a committee at defensive tackle consisting of Grady Jackson, Corey Williams and Colin Cole. All these players played well for the entire season. The ability to get Jackson off the field at times was probably the biggest factor in his staying healthy all year. As a free agent, he will want big money. The Packers will be careful not to overpay for him, so donít be surprised if he winds up elsewhere in 2006. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was the big disappointment on defense. He is a liability against the run, and his pass rushing days are over. Donít believe me, believe the rest of the league. Nobody playing the Packers saw the need to double team Biamila. Instead they were careful to put a back, tight end, or tackle/guard double team on Kampman, making it obvious who they perceived as the real threat. Cullen Jenkins and Michael Montgomery also saw quite a bit of playing time on the defensive line and the level of play did not drop when they were in the game. All in all, this is probably the Packers best unit, and the only one that has significant depth. On the other hand, a big defensive end to replace Gbaja-Biamila would be the player who could most quickly have an impact on the team. If a large, fast defensive end is available, donít be surprised if the Packers take him with their first pick.

    Special Teams:

    The Packers had the worst special teams in the NFL last year. With Sherman gone, punter BJ Sander will also be gone. The only thing worse than trading up to draft him was playing him long after it was obvious he shouldnít be playing. The magnitude of this debacle can be summed up in the fact that when Sander got hurt at the end of the season he was replaced by a guy the Packers picked up in a bar. For those who care, note that Josh Bidwell, the punter Sander was drafted to replace, was 3rd in the league in net average last year. Sander was 30th.

    At kicker, Ryan Longwellís (Shortbad to those who watch him) days are numbered. His kickoffs are sub-par and his 6-10 on field goals from between 30-39 yards was awful.

    For returns, Chatman returned one punt for a touchdown. The Packers also had the lowest kick return average of any team in the league.

    So thatís the state of the Packers; lots of holes, no depth. What will 2006 bring? The first step is the draft. The Packers need help everywhere, so trading away their 5th overall pick might be a good idea, especially if Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart or Vince Young is still available and some team is willing to trade the farm for them. After that, the Packers need to go for the best player available regardless of position. The second step will be the free agents. Aaron Kampman and Ahman Green need to be the big priorities. If the Packers can sign them, they should step back and see what offers their remaining free agents get before making any decisions. The last step will be convincing Favre to come back for another year. If Favre returns, and players are healthy, the Packers could make the playoffs. Also, one more year on the bench would probably benefit Aaron Rodgers. If Favre retires the Packers will be lucky to break 4 wins, regardless if everyone is healthy.

    Finally, my prediction: Seattle 31 Ė Pittsburgh 13.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 01:08 PM | Comments (3)

     


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