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  • March 22, 2009

    (The return of) American Idol

    [Posted by ]

    So, I've been sucked back into American Idol. Oh sure, I watched some of Hollywood Week for the drama, but I didn't think I'd want to watch the show on a regular basis, much less write about it. But alas, this season features some truly polarizing and talented contestants and now that we're done to the Top Ten, it's time to take a closer look at them and what they need to do to win.

    Adam Lambert
    Positives: Great range, bold musical choices, doesn't take himself too seriously
    Negatives: Bad skin, "showy" style alienates older audience members.
    Should sing: "Whole Lotta Love", "Hungry Like the Wolf", "I Don't Feel Like Dancin', by Scissor Sisters, "More Than A Feeling" & "Don't Stop Believin'"
    Can win if: he can stay in the competition long enough to pick up all of the anti-Danny Gokey voters. Also, he really could win if he sings "Don't Stop Believin'". People love that song.

    Allison Iraheta
    Positives: Powerful voice, reminds people of Kelly Clarkson
    Negatives: Shouty, We already have a Kelly.
    Should sing: Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt "This Is Not A Test", by She & Him & Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"
    Can win if: all of the other contestants are eliminated due to incriminating Facebook photos.

    Anoop Desai
    Positives: Cool nickname, sings beautiful, long notes
    Negatives: Hasn't figured out a distinct style yet.
    Should sing: "You Found Me", by The Fray, Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" & "Don't Dream It's Over",by Crowded House
    Can win if: he becomes the "safe" (and straight) heartthrob that appeals to the young girls. As an aside, I think it'd be cool if an Indian American had that status, given that Idol has been rightfully accused of perpetuating the Asian men as geek stereotype before.

    Danny Gokey
    Positives: Wisconsinite, dead wife
    Negatives: Sings boring songs boringly, has been so pimped by the show that there's sure to be a backlash, comes off smug
    Should sing: songs about Jesus and dead wives
    Can win if: Oh, he's totally going to win.

    Kris Allen
    Positives: Cool first name, good looks, pleasant singer
    Negatives: Somewhat forgettable, not much range
    Should sing: "Tell Her This" by Del Amitri, "Always A Friend", by Alejandro Escovedo, "Soul Meets Body", by Death Cab For Cutie
    Can win if: Like Allison, he can't really win, but he can go further by singing some indie love songs that'll make him seem like a fresher, hipper contestant.

    Lil Rounds
    Positives: Cool nickname, amazing ass, "diva" type vocals
    Negatives: Her music style is falling out of fashion
    Should sing: I have no idea, R&B divas are so far from what I listen to.
    Can win if: she's the last lady standing and the polarizing men (Gokey & Lambert) split the vote.

    Matt Giraud
    Positives: Strangely sexy, passionate pianist and vocalist
    Negatives: Can't properly annunciate his words, very weak when he's not playing piano
    Should sing: "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, "Look After You", by The Fray & "Peace, Love & Understanding" by Elvis Costello (really!)
    Can win if: he really did sing "Look After You". Much like Adam and "Don't Stop Believin'", that song is his perfect moment.

    Megan Joy
    Positives: She's so beautiful she could be a part-time model (but she'd probably have to keep her normal job), unique vocal stylings
    Negatives: Huge, distracting tattoos, overly affected delivery
    Should sing: "1234", by Feist, "Here's Where The Story Ends", by The Sundays & "Foundations", by Kate Nash
    Can win if: she chooses songs with personality that will make her seem like a charming oddball rather than just a mediocre singer.

    Michael Sarver
    Positives: Nice husband & father, adequate vocals
    Negatives: Completely forgettable and already hated by the judges
    Should sing: good time music like Hank Williams, Jr., Jimmy Buffet, Lyle Lovett & Garth Brooks
    Can win if: he can't win, but he could be like a Phil Stacey and carve out a nice niche for himself.

    Scott MacIntyre
    Positives: He's blind!
    Negatives: bad personal style, dated song choices
    Should sing: more modern piano driven songs by people like The Fray (again, I know, but they're perfect for some of these people to cover), Ben Folds and, if he chooses to leave the piano, how about a "fun" 70s song like "Southern Cross". I also think he should sing "The Greatest American Hero", but I'm cruel.
    Can win if: the show is really just about rewarding the contestant with the saddest personal story and if that means that being blind trumps having a dead wife.

    Posted by at 10:39 AM | Comments (10)     
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    March 16, 2009

    Givin' 'Em The Brackets - 2010 Style

    [Posted by ]

    We're planning on hosting another NCAA basketball tourney pool. Look for more details early next week.

    Posted by at 09:07 AM | Comments (18)     
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    March 01, 2009


    [Posted by ]

    I just read Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers and my mind is still brimming with ideas. It really is fascinating to learn about the extraordinary chances and opportunities that contributed to the success of some of the world's most extraordinary people.

    However, one thing bothered me a bit about the book. Success was defined so narrowly. I think that's fine if you're comparing, for example, upper-crust WASPy New York City lawyers to Jewish NYC lawyers, but the definition gets a little muddled when you're comparing, as Gladwell does, Robert Oppenheimer to Chris Langan, an American with an IQ between 195 and 210. Gladwell's theory is that Langan's personal story is "heartbreaking" because his background of poverty and a broken home didn't afford him the opportunity to learn practical knowledge (basically, social skills). This lack of social skill prevented Langan from getting a college degree and a prestigious position with a university. But here's how Gladwell describes Langan's life now:

    Today, Chris Langan lives in rural Missouri, on a horse farm. He moved there a few years ago, after he got married. He is in his fifties but looks many years younger. He has the build of a linebacker, thick through the chest, with enormous biceps. His hair is combed straight back from his forehead. He has a neat, graying moustache and aviator-style glasses. If you look into his eyes, you can see the intelligence burning behind them.

    "A typical day is, I get up and make coffee. I go in and sit in front of the computer and begin working on whatever I was working on the night before, " he told me not long ago. "I found if I go to bed with a question on my mind, all I have to do is concentrate on the question before I go to sleep and I virtually always have the answer in the morning. Sometimes I realize what the answer is because I dreamt the answer and I can remember it. Other times I just feel the answer, and I start typing and the answer emerges onto the page."

    He had just been reading the work of the linguist Noam Chomsky. There were piles of books in his study. He ordered books from the library all the time. "I always feel that the closer you get to the original sources, the better off you are," he said.

    Langan seemed content. He had farm animals to take care of, and books to read, and a wife he loved.

    Wikipedia says that "articles and interviews highlighting Langan appeared in Popular Science, The Times, Newsday, Muscle & Fitness (which reported that he could bench 500 pounds), and elsewhere. Langan was featured on 20/20, interviewed on BBC Radio and on Errol Morris's First Person, and participated in an online chat at He has written question-and-answer columns for New York Newsday, The Improper Hamptonian, and Men's Fitness."

    Other than the reading Chomsky thing, that sounds like a great life to me. Maybe it's because I come from a long line of people with authority issues, but I know that some people aren't meant for institutions of higher learning and corporate America. I don't think that's a tragedy or heartbreaking. I think it's great. We're not all of the same. While some define "success" as having wealth or prestige, for others it's having a happy family and a good network of friends. I suspect that for someone like Langan, success is defined as doing exactly what you want.

    I sure people will think I'm lying, but I'd rather do exactly what I want than be Bill Gates or Robert Oppenheimer.

    Posted by at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)     
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