Thursday, May 31, 2007

Giving the Sexy Beast the Diploma

On May 26th, 2006, I attended the first graduation I'd been to in 7 years, watching my little sisters Kourtney, Kandice and Jaci, among others, grow up and move on. I was also introduced to one of the top five names ever, that being Sammy Funkhauser.

Well, last week I went this time to Spain Park High School's graduation, witnessing my bro-in-law Tyler "The Sexy Beast" Campbell walk and get his diploma. I also proudly watched my friends Garrett Cheney, Steven Hunt, Alan Renfroe and Trey Cartledge and a few others get a pass into college life... and like last year, I figured I'd talk about it...

And since most of you don't know any of the people I'm talking about, I'll try to make it entertaining.

Held in the Wright Center Auditorium of Samford University, the night started eventful as I arrived with the Lovely Steph Leann, and meeting up with the Campbell Clan. Everyone was there except, of course, for Tyler, who had taken the wrong exit and was downtown in 6pm traffic... mind you the Wright Center is in the same city that Tyler has grown up all his life.

Then, the even better news came when it was discovered that Tyler, in all his genius and wisdom, left his cap at home. His cap, as in, "cap and gown". The one with special tassle, because he's Salutatorian (unlike last year at Oak Mountain High's 133 valedictorians and 132 salutatorians, there was only 2 and 1, respectively, at Spain Park).

Somewhere, someone had an extra cap and correct colored tassle, so all was well, but not before Mama Campbell made a few threats she'd never carry out for fear of a future Cold Case Files being based on her life.

First up was the Senior Class Chaplain, which shocked me because... well, they had a chaplain. This guy actually prayed. To God. And not only called for a moment of silence for lost classmates, but actually stretched that moment to like, 30 seconds.

Next up was the principal. Spain Park's Principal? Billy Broadway. Good ol' Billy, a country boy with a country accent. He gave an amusing little speech on the graduates, and had me on his side until he said something like "'ll be facing the problems of tomorrow, like global warming" I missed the next few lines because I threw up in my mouth, but was fine after that.

Then, the speeches. There were four, from the Senior Class President, the Salutatorian, and the two Valedictorians... I rate them as follows:

President Addison Leigh Ragsdale gave a charming little speech on life, and how the graduates were seemingly playing a real life game of Monopoly. First as Frosh, you'd run that first strip where all the crappy properties were, by the time you're a Junior, you're driving (hence, "Free Parking") and the Senior spot is Broadway and Park Place, you get the drift. It was short, it was light, and it was entertaining. I was going to give her a A-, but when she was done, someone in the back gve her a slow-clap... warranted a step up. Grade: A

Salutatorian Ronald Tyler Sexy Beast Campbell spoke next, and though I can't remember much of his speech beyond the Teddy Roosevelt quote he gave, I do remember liking it. He spoke way too fast at the beginning, which was a shame, because he tossed out a few jokes that would have gotten some laughs, but his speed caused most people to miss 'em. Grade: B+

Valedictorian James Robert William didn't start out too well, as a few jokes were mumbled and missed due to speed of speech, and the ones that did come out clearly fell completely flat. I was worried we might be looking at a "C" grade speech, but he saved it quickly... he made a crack about Hoover High School (football rivals across town) and MTV's "Two-a-Days". When the thunderous applause at the Hoover jab simmered, Jimmy Robby Willy had everyone in his hands. He made several great pop culture references, and ends up with a A-

Valedictorian David Marshall Harris ended up with 38 scholarships to colleges across the country. Thirty eight. I'm not sure there were half that in my senior class combined. And when he walked up, I thought to myself, "he looks like he earned 38 scholarships", cause... well, he did. His speech revolved around the premise of Forrest Gump, and how life truly is a box of chocoates and so on, made a great nod to Indiana Jones, and made us laugh here and there. But, overall, I'd put him with a B-

Then, Billy B'way started handing out the diplomas. The mandatory "please hold all applause until everything is done" was given, so the first dozen or so graduates (smart kids first) got no love from the audience. Then, you hear a slight clap here, a small "wooo" there, and when Billy B'way doesnt silence them, it builds. The audience tests the waters little by little, until finally, every kid is getting cheers and affection. Typically, it happens when a disabled kid graduates, and so when Laura Lee Hughes walked across, it was over. All the grads and the entire audience roared as she used crutches to get her diploma, and it went from there.

Since I don't know 98% of these kids, their names are fair game, as far as I'm concerned...

**I sorta wanted Kendall Leigh Frazier to trip and fall, just so I could shout "Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!" (instead, Andrew Chabert Ogle had the honors of stumbling on stage, though he didnt fall)

**I was curious how many of the mafia attended Frank Robert Gambino's graduation. He is family, ya know.

**Don't tell me that the nickname "Beer" has never been used for Robert Alan Heinke

**If I'm James Tyrone McWain, I'm calling my dorm room "The McWain Center". Seriously.

**I wonder... if Christopher James Taylor truly has seen fire and has seen rain, or just those sunny days he thought would never end.

**Mary Katherine Wackenhut. Too... many... jokes...

**It's gotta be good to be Parker Louis Holt. I mean, come on... he can't lose

**If I'm buddies with Elijah Chai Ngaruiya, I'm calling him "Soy"

**I've seen the future for Jonathan Austin Brook... he looks like a starving artist

**Names that make me think I've watched the future computer engineers graduate tonight: T'Chandria ChiMaine King, Laith Al Hundeidi, Manika Iqbal Issa and my favorite "I'll Never Say This Name Cause I'll Muck It Up" Name, Heber Arauso Viana Paiva. And Taylor Jones too.

**Porn name of the night? Caleb Zachary Bedgood. Runners up? Rizwan Amin Poonawalla. Somewhere, Brock Landers and Chest Rockell are looking for successors.

**"...don't come around, uh oh...Randall Otto Paul der Kaemmerer's in town, uh oh..." Okay, I reached. Sue me.
**William Quinton Gurley and Austin Nash Priddy. Gotta be tough. One's a Gurley Man and the other is a Priddy Boy.

So now, we wait for next year's class, sure to be full of more strange names and bad jokes...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Destin-nation Pirates (completed)

For those of you who read the first update, there are actually four parts to this post, so make sure you scroll down for what you might have missed!

So, here I am, blogging from a laptop, placed atop a dining room table in a home in Destin Florida. The lovely Steph Leann had three best friends in high school... DeLisa, Lesley and Suzie. All three are now married, with DeLisa & Nick living in Birmingham, and Lesley and Jason living in Crestview, Florida.

This past Tuesday, I looked at the new schedule and realized that I was off work on Sunday, Monday and even Tuesday, a great three days off in a row, which is very scarce. I called up the lovely Steph Leann and said, "Hey, let's go somewhere. I mean, get out of town. Atlanta, or Nashville or wherever, let's just leave town on Sunday morning and stay gone for 24 hours."

She agreed. That evening, she suggested coming down to Destin, where Susie and her hubby Mike live. We stayed here MLK weekend, and thought it would be nice to just come visit. I worked it out at the store where I could be off work on Saturday at 1230pm or so, so we left yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and traveled to Destin.

First stop was dinner... we ate at Captain Dave's seafood house, which wasn't bad. Every year we leave with the Campbell family for a week at the beach during Thanksgiving, eating one really nice dinner before we come home--one year was Captain Dave's. I remembered it being very, very good.

Truth is, perhaps they've lost their touch. Perhaps they were so busy the food quality suffered a bit because of this Memorial Day weekend. Or perhaps it just tastes much better when someone else is paying... I had the Seafood Platter, complete with scallops, fish (today's was Mahi-Mahi), crab, and a candidate in the Food Wing of Dave's Hall of Fame, fried shrimp. The lovely Steph Leann ordered a plate of crab claws.

The food arrived, and I looked on the plate to see two... 2... TWO... fried shrimp. This plate costs me $22, and all I get is two shrimp? Come on, you have to be kidding me. The food was decent, it wasn't bad, don't think it was gross or anything... but it wasn't great. It was just good. If I had paid $15 for the food, I might have been a little happier, but as it was $7 more than that, I was a little disappointed.

The lovely Steph Leann's crabclaw plate was $18. And she, too, was disappointed. Again, if it had been an $8 plate (it was an appetizer, mind you), it might have been better. So, our bill was a little over half-a-hundred, which in itself is okay, because we don't eat out like that very much. Once in a while is nice, though. But we would have liked to be more satisfied with it.

And it gave me acid reflux.

Random note... I just checked my myspace page, and I had a message from Kaci & Jojo. I thought I would mention it.

More on the weekend as the weekend progresses.

Been out this afternoon. The lovely Steph Leann and Susie and I went out to the Destin outlet mall, where I dropped the girls off and headed off to find lunch. After driving down Hwy 98 a bit, I decided on Whataburger! for my meal of choice, enjoying a big burger, friends and a really big Pibb Xtra.

Fox News was on in the restaurant, and I watched a bit of a special on Natalee Holloway. You know, her mom comes in Starbucks at Cahaba Heights? Like, I've met Beth Holloway, she knows my name, its almost surreal.

Been a slow day, really, nice and relaxing. I went to The Destin Commons to pick up movie tickets for Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End, which we'll all go see tonight. Then, I went back to the outlet mall, just to look around.

I stopped by Bass, where I went in to find some sandals. My feet are a little wide, which means most shoes that fit me perfectly length wise are too narrow to put on. If the shoe doesn't slip on with relative ease, I've learned that the shoe will be uncomfortable.

Led to this exchange:

Saleschick: Hi, can I help you find anything?
Me: Yeah, I'm just trying on sandals. My feet are really wide, and your selection of wide shoes isn't very large
Saleschick: Yeah, my father has that problem. He has wide feet.

And then, she walked away. Without a word. Sigh. And when I went into Timberland, they didn't help me... of course, Timberland never helps me.

Stopped by the Disney Store outlet, picked up a great sweatshirt for $15, went to Rocky Mountain Chocolate and had some strawberry cheesecake ice cream and... Coco-Fizz Chocolate Soda. The girl said it tasted like a carbonated tootsie roll... and she was right. It was weird, but in a good way. Perhaps its the McGriddle Effect.

Then, I went to the Starbucks there. Apparently, a Pizza Hut burned out, and Starbucks bought the building and turned it into a coffee shop. A very, very large coffee shop. Possibly the biggest Starbucks I've seen yet.

And I sit again here in the dining room, on the laptop, waiting for dinner to finish (bbq chicken, baby) and then we'll head to the movie!

More later

Dinner last night? Ah, BBQ chicken, baked beans, baked potatoes covered in onions, and somewhere in there, Susie made some biscuits. Wow that was some good crap.

Between last night and this morning there's nothing to really speak of, other than perhaps that weird dream I had while sleeping on the Temperpedic sleeper bed system. Its the one that you can jump on, while there is a glass of red wine on the other side, and the glass won't fall over. And that's because the bed itself is as hard as cement. I expected to sink into it, which I did... about 3/4s of an inch.

Anyway, I dreamed I was in a hotel somewhere, on some sort of big group trip. I know that there were tons of random people (only in dreams like this do friends from this area of your life meet friends from that area of your life), but the only people I remember were Paula Maddox and Melissa Robillard, sitting at a patio table having drinks, encouraging me to go jump in the pool because it was refreshing. I mean, any dream with Paula and Melissa in it can't be all bad, right? I'm sure Prince was around somewhere.

The night before I had some other weird dream that I can't remember, though I do recall in the dream I woke up and told the lovely Steph Leann about the dream. I woke up for real not too long after that, Steph and I laid there and chatted for about half an hour, then I went back to sleep, only to have my dream pick right back up where it left off. That ever happen to you guys? I've actually had some dreams take place over three or four nights, like its a mini-series. I need to start writing this crap down.

So, we saw Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End last night... and I really, really liked it. Contrary to the second one, Dead Man's Chest, this wasn't convoluted, confusing and too long. Well, AWE was long (157 minutes after previews), but it didn't feel that long.

The story goes that Barbossa, Will Turner, Elizabeth and the weird African voodoo chick are all going to find Jack Sparrow, who was killed in the last one. It seems he's trapped in "Davy Jones' Locker", which is some area between the real world and the all dead world... perhaps he's "mostly dead", which, according to Miracle Max, is not all dead, he's still some alive.

I thought it funny they were trying to bring him back to life, because all at one point had tried to kill him already (and Elizabeth did), but you find out quickly they aren't trying to save him just because of his winning personality. Everyone has a motive--which might get a little tiring, as Barbossa, Will Turner, Elizabeth and the weird African voodoo chick all have their own agenda, which sets up at least four subplots, but unlike Spiderman 3 which had waaaaay too much happening at one time, they all wind together nicely.

There still are a few unanswered questions I have, including what happened to Calypso, and where were the other ships when The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman were in battle in the maelstrom? The maelstrom scene, by the way... number one, baby. Absolutely terrific all the way around.

Possibly one of my favorite parts of the movie is Geoffrey Rush, who plays Captain Barbossa. From the very beginning, you can tell he is having the time of his life playing this character. I mean, the man has played major parts in "Les Miserables", "Quills", and "Munich"... he's had very little chance in his career to just let loose and go crazy with it--and here he absolutely does.

It's not the greatest film of all time, but its the best movie I've seen in a while--I recommend it on the big screen.

We're about to pack up and go get some breakfast... the lovely Steph Leann is craving Magnolia & Ivy, so I'll probably take her there because I'm such a good husband.

Oh, and who is going to watch Pirate Master on CBS? Raise your hand? Just me? Hmm.

And finally...

...I'm here on Tuesday morning, awake and refreshed from a great weekend, great because it was out of Birmingham, great because I enjoy long car trips with the Lovely Steph Leann, great because we spent some money that we could afford, didn't go overboard, ate great, saw a great movie, laughed alot and made some fun memories...

We left Mike & Susie's around 10am... off to the tea room for Steph Leann, and to find something more manly to eat for me...

A few highlights (and lowlights) from the trip back:

**Stephanie had breakfast at the Magnolia & Ivy Tea Room, started by two older Christian chicks who felt that this business was a great way to minister. She goes there with the women in her family each year on our annual jaunt to the beach for Thanksgiving--as it stands now, though, we'll be at Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving, so I wanted her to go this weekend because she might not get to go
**As feminine as the place is, the scones are freakin' awesome. So what if they are cut in the shape of a heart. Eat two sides and you can make it look like a dinosaur claw.
**It's located at Baytown Wharf, a huge condo, golf and shopping community there in Destin. You really could do almost anything there--buy groceries, eat out, play tennis, play golf, swim, whatever. I'm sure its as expensive as crud to live there, though.
**I had a $5 ham/egg/cheese croissant from the Village Deli there in Baytown Wharf. Steph had encouraged me to get a 'to-go' breakfast from The Broken Egg Restaurant, then meet her on the patio of Magnolia & Ivy to eat. The Broken Egg had a 45-minute wait, plus they don't do to-go orders when there's a wait. So I went to the Village Deli.
**Took me 30 minutes to get my croissant. Only two people working there, and lots of people in line. The lady at the register would take about five or six orders, then run out all the prepared food that had been gathering right in the back. I was sitting in the cafe with my number, 31, next to a guy, #20, who's brother was buying a Mini-Cooper today, and needed to talk to a British guy named Kevin (568-8692) because Kevin owned one and could discuss it.
**I could see directly into the kitchen area, and could see when the food was placed there to be taken out... and could see baskets of food sitting there for ten or fifteen minutes before Register Girl could get to it. Number 20 and myself chatted about the lack of help, when 20 minutes later, we got ours. It had been sitting on the counter about five minutes.
**The trip back was quiet. We listened to Dave Ramsey on podcast. The only commotion was when we were slowed on the interstate due to a small fire that had broken out in the dry median. Steph was angry that some stupid person probably threw their cigerettes out.
**Lowlight of the trip... stopping at a gas station to use the facilities, walking in the available stall only to realize that A) there's not a lock on the door and B) because of A, there's nothing to prevent me from walking in on a really fat guy taking a slam. I only mention this because if I have to suffer, so do you.
**Other lowlight, stopping in Clanton's Shell station to again use the facilities (I have a woman's bladder, I tell ya) to realize that the men's room was out of order. So I stood in line like a chick. Finally got in, debated on whether to actually move the seat up (which means I'd have to touch it) and then to put it back down (didn't want the next people to think the smell was from me). Kinda weird walking out and seeing about five women in line for the room I just came out of. It's like I'm back at Troy State's Alumni Hall, standing outside the room of Roberto the Guatemalen Love Machine (this guy really existed, and there's not one shred of irony in his name, trust me)

It was nice getting home and sleeping in my own bed, though the weird dreams continued. John Travolta made it to my mental REM state last night, though I don't know how.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Plausibly Live American Idol Finale Running Diary

Just like last year's blog, I've got a running diary for the finale of American Idol...

940pm... Alrighty, Steph and I had to go to church for a meeting earlier. Then we went to Taco Casa, and over to Breuster's Ice Cream for dessert. Somehow, we managed to not find out who the Idol winner is... we've had an American Idol winner now for 41 minutes, but I don't know who it is... so roll the tape!

941pm... Teri Hatcher's in the hizzy... she's hot. Not too far under Ashley Judd for "goddess" status. And there's Jeff Foxworthy. Definately much, much farther down the list.

942pm... Blake and Jordin singing "I Saw Him/Her Standin' There". The version done by Tiffany back in 1989 spent about four weeks at the #1 spot on Dave's Favorite Song list. Jordin dwarfs Blake. Oh, and by the way, I have to open the store in the morning, so there will be lots of fast forwarding tonight.

943pm... Gwen Stefani, via satellite, singing her new single "Four in the Morning". From the neck up, she looks fabulous. Her outfit? Steph: "Why would you want to wear that?". She whispers it, as if Gwen is in the next room and might be offended.

946pm... Well, heck, its The Hot Girl Parade tonight... Teri, Gwen, Steph's in the room here, and now Kelly Clarkson busting out with her new song "Never Again." I'm sensing that all of these artists agreed to come on earlier in the season to be able to perform in the season finale, watched by like, 160 million people.

948pm... Apparently, the Matrix is going on on the screen behind her. Binary codes dropping like crazy. Kelly seems bitter. This is her Now.

950pm... Here comes a great segment, when Ryan totally makes fun of the bad idols. Like Panther. And now they've added sound effects. None of which helps his singing.

950pm... Oh, its the fat chick cowboy who sounds like she's... well, enjoying herself. And there's the chick in yellow. The big chick from... you guessed it, Birmingham. Good times. Holy crap, she's in the audience. With the yellow outfit. And fur. And wig. And she just kissed Ryan Seacrest. I think I just threw up in my mouth. So did Ryan.

952pm... Random celebrity sightings: Michael Chiklis and Jerry Springer and David Alan Grier.

954pm... Here comes the Top 6 Guys, including... yes, Sanjaya. There's C-Rich, Sligh, Brandon Rogers, Phil Stacey, Blake and Sanjaya. And now introducing... Smokey Robinson. Looking (and moving) like he's 142 years old. He's singing "Be With You", which Steph likes (so I can't fast forward) but we agree on one thing... he beats Barry Gibb.

1001pm... Blake is now performing with one Doug E. Fresh, legendary rapper and beatboxer. Steph says "So, is the fresh guy a big deal now?" Yeah about 18 years ago. I forget the guy in the back doing the turntables. He used to be a big deal too.

1004pm... More "Golden Idol" recap moments. Oh, is Nicholas Zittsman... he did the Righteous Brothers, with the big eyes and weird teeth. And now its Sandy Chevez, singing something that we haven't a clue what it is. And Sholandric something... murdering Peabo Bryson. And for best vocal, its Sholandric something. I was rooting for The Zitts, man.

1007pm... Here come the Top 6 Chicks, including Jordin, my girl Gina, and Steph Edwards, Mindy Doo, LaKisha and Haley, with the shortest dress up there. And here comes Gladys Knight, sans Pips.

1009pm... I'm sure Mindy Doo and LaKisha, perhaps even Jordin is honored to be singing with Gladys Knight. Whatcha wanna bet Haley didn't even know who she was.

1012pm... Ah, its David Hasselhoff. He has a book out called "Don't Hassell the Hoff". No joke. I wonder if he's going to cry over McPhee tonight. And look, its Gollu... er, I mean, Constantine. Steph: "He probably doesn't have anything else to do"

1013pm... Fast forwarding through Tony Bennett. Yeah, legend, star, blah blah, its late. Fast forward. Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson in the hizzy.

1015pm... "Best Buddies" in the Golden Idol Awards. There's big guy and the bush baby. And here's Amanda and Antonella. And more gay jokes from Simon and Ryan.

1018pm... Its not right to make fun of retarded people. Its not right to make fun of retarded people. Its not right to make fun of retarded people. Its not right to make fun of retarded people. Its not right to make fun of retarded people. Its not right to make fun of reta...

1019pm... Mindy Doo is now singing with B.B. and D.D. and R.R. and L.L. and S.S. Winans

1023pm... Ryan presents Jordin and Blake each with a brand new Mustang. And now its Carrie Underwood, whom I like very much, singing a great version of "I'll Stand By You", which was feature on Idols Give Back a few weeks ago and now has been released as a single. Steph: "So that's who that was singing that on the radio. I would have liked to have heard that other song [meaning "Before He Cheats"] She has a very bizarre top on."

1025pm... I've seen David Alan Grier three times already. He must have a new show coming up. And this corpse being wheeled onstage is Clive Davis, mentioning how Daughtry has dominated the charts over all the other Idols, and pretty much everyone else so far this year. He even mentions how McPhee and Taylor Hicks may do better, but Daughtry is killin' 'em all.

1029pm... Clive is giving special recognition to Carrie Underwood for selling 6 million copies of her very good CD. Factor 7 has almost sold that many. Steph: "That's just a totally whacked out outfit."

1033pm... A funny little segment about Sanjaya, leading up to him onstage with Aerosmith's Joe Perry. Some things shouldn't be allowed. So, here's what I envisioned a few weeks ago:

Nigel, AI Producer: Hey Joe, we'd like you to come and perform
Joe Perry: Really? That would be great. With who?
Nigel: Well we want to put you onstage to rock out, to jam, like you do in Aerosmith.
Joe Perry: Cool! (hangs up phone) Hey Steven! I'm going on American Idol. Maybe I can jam with Blake!

If only he knew.

1035pm... That song was terrible, and it even had the crying girl in the audience. Joe, walking back stage: "That sucked. I'm going to kill my agent for that.

1036pm... Its Green Day. They were totally overrated until they did that anti-Bush, anti-American stuff. Now the media loves them.

1038pm... Ah, Taylor Hicks comes out. Has there ever been anyone who became so relevant, and then so irrelevent so fast? Steph says "I would say that's more true about Bo Bice". Totally agree.

1040pm... We've covered 90 minutes of the show in an hour. Go us! Hey, its Ruuuuuben and Jordin busting out some Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye, with "You're All I Need (to get by)". Its getting shorter between commercials... you know we're closer to the end!

1044pm... Bette Midler. Singing "Wind Beneath My Wings". Horribly. Paula and Randy are dancing. Horribly. Already had a random Brad Garrett sighting. And Jerry Springer is pulling a Hasselhoff and crying, even before the ending.

1046pm... Joe Perry gets redeemed, jamming with Kelly Clarkson--who you can bet does NOT want to be here tonight. Whether its contract (which you would think have expired by now) or guilt, she's here. This is a "Sgt Pepper" tribute. Here's Taylor Hicks again. And Carrie Underwood in a much better looking dress. And Ruben Studdard, whom God did not design to sing Beatles songs. And here's Sligh and Gina and the rest.

1053pm... Ryan has the votes in his hand. Randy predicts Jordin. Paula tosses sunshine. Simon predicts Jordin. I pick Jordin. So does Steph. Here we go.

1054pm... and... the winner of American Idol is...

1055pm... the tape is only two hours long. It just stopped. No kidding.

1057pm... Jordin Sparks is your winner. Apparently, God watches out for us, because she sang "This is My Now" again, and we didnt have to hear it. Yay God!

Okay... the bed is my now.

It's a Heckuva Thing, Huh?

Its hard sometimes, being in my job. Not only that, its hard sometimes to know what to say about my job. Normally, I could journal in a book to my hearts content, discussing issues and problems and various other things that no one would ever see. Here, however, its the open media. Say the wrong thing, type the wrong words, post it and the world is your audience.

Now, on "Clouds On My Coffee", here, I'm not so arrogant to assume that anything I say will be picked up by the wrong person, but the same blog is posted onto MySpace and onto Facebook. So, I'll spend the next few minutes typing just my thoughts and frustrations, and then at 7pm, start a new post for the American Idol finale.

I got a call today from our District Manager. I'm not the manager at Cahaba Heights, and won't become so when the current manager leaves in June. Was I angling for it? Yes. Would I like the store? Most definately. Does it destroy me that I didn't get it? Not necessarily... what is killing me, though, is that I'm not sure what to do now.

The job of ASM traditionally is about a year or less, really just to train to become a manager. I've been an ASM for 13 months now. I was told earlier who the new manager for the store will be, and it almost made me laugh... I was over her a year ago, as an ASM, and now she becomes my boss. And this makes the second time I've been "passed over" for a store.

Part of me feels like I've been given a raw deal on a few instances, but truly, I can blame everyone and no one at the same time. Its my fault, but then it isn't.

It's a heckuva thing, huh?

Starbucks is all I know. At this point in my life, its almost all I know to do. If I left the company, I don't even know where I would go. And I dont mean that I would start applying for other positions, I mean that I don't even know where I would apply.

Bottom line is, its a pride thing as much as it is job insecurity. I'll be 32 this summer, and here I am vying for a job I know I can do but not been given the opportunity to do it. I know of managers that fix the numbers a wee bit to look good, I know of managers that no one in the store likes, I know of managers that... well, make me think "How the heck did you get this job?". And I'm not given the chance to try at it. A little maddening, really.

Now, in addition to the question "When you gonna get a store?", I've now got to answer the question "Why didn't you get Cahaba Heights?". (If you see me, please don't ask me those questions. I grow tired of those questions, and am just too nice to not answer... truth is, I don't want to lie to you, and I don't want to answer them.)

Of course, I'm sure there are things that I'm just not doing right. My guess is there are a few red flags that have popped up that given the decision making gurus pause when thinking of me running a Starbucks.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon feeling sorry for myself, feeling worthless, feeling like I have no talent whatsoever... so, I've got my sorry-time in, I'll pack up and move on. I was watching "Follow That Bird", the 1985 Sesame Street magnum opus featuring Big Bird getting shipped to Illinois and walking back to his home (which is in New York--did you know that?) and the subsequent search for said Bird by all of his friends, including Bert, Ernie, Super Grover, The Grouch and his human buddies.

Anyway, Waylon Jennings appeared in a cameo as a turkey truck driver, and they ended up singing a great little ditty about moving on, and following your beak. Had to laugh. It was as if God Himself had given me that little song at that moment.

So, God... tell me what to do. You have a plan for me. You promised me, in Jeremiah, that You do. Is Starbucks what You want from me? If so, I'm gonna need some help here. If it's not, then... well, I'm gonna need some help here too. I praise You, because I know all things are done for the good of those who love You (like me and Steph) and for Your Glory. Thank you for being awesome.

Still... it's a heckuva thing, huh?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is This Jordin's Now?

657pm... It's Idol time. The final two, and honestly, I'm trying really, really hard to care. I mean, last year, you knew that Pickles, My Girl McPhee, Daughtry and even Elliott Yameen would be just fine... and this year? You know Mindy Doo will be okay. LaKisha will find an R&B career. And no matter who wins, Jordin and Blake will both have at least-mediocre selling albums (Diana DeGarmo anyone?). But I'm still having to force myself to care about this finale.

701p... excuse me, I have to order a pizza

706pm... can I just say I love Papa John's Pizza... but their website SUCKS. Pizza Hut has the absolute easiest site to order from. And while I was ordering, I've missed Ryan's cursing, Paula's broken nose and Randy's "Glory" outfit. Back after getting the pizza done.

711pm... Here's Blake singing first, after winning the coin toss. He's re-doing "You Give Love a Bad Name", which brought the house down a few weeks ago. Is there any question he'd do this again if given the option?

713pm... So, like, I felt like I was watching the videotape from a few weeks ago... of course, I know that I'm not, because I recorded over it. Before Steph saw it. And she's reminded me of this over and over and over and over...

714pm... Randy liked the beatbox, but not the singing, Paula liked the whole thing, and Simon says what I've already stated--Blake isn't the best singer. But he's the best performer.

715pm... Jordin is busting out some Xtina, with "Fighter", one she hasn't done yet. Wow... look at JS with the straight hair. Looks great. And this is a great "I am woman, and I'll kick you in the face you stupid boy" song.

717pm... Okay, got the pizza ordered. Large, pepperoni and extra cheese, with black olives and mushrooms on one half. That was a great song by Jordin, by the way. Randy, in his Robert E. Lee outfit, says "Brilliant". Paula has a five gallon bucket of sunshine, and its on tap. Simon liked the song choice, but the vocals were shrieky. He calls Round One to Blake. Paula can't pick. Randy gives performance to Blake, vocals to Jordin.

719pm... Its official. Paula Abdul is an absolute train wreck.

720pm... leading the way into Dave's Top 100 Coolest Things of 2007 is the Cingular commercial where the girl is talking acronyms to her mom about her texting, telling her mom TISNF (that is so not fair!) when she's grounded from texting, only to have the mom go "This bill, that's what's N... O N... Yes Eff.." Hilarious.

723pm... Fox's new show "Back To You", with Kelsey Grammer and the older-but-hot Patty Heaton, about newscasting, looks promising.

724pm... Blake is singing "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5. They just had a new CD come out, which I only know about because Starbucks sells it. I can't decide if Blake's sweater is a Cosby sweater (a cozz-bee sweatah!) or a Kris Dekker sweater. Nope, its not turtleneck, so it's not a Dekker.

726pm... He actually sounds just like Maroon 5 (is it Levine? Adam Levine? Did I just pull that name out of my belly button?). Randy liked it.


Paula liked it. Blake, I mean, though she probably wants Rick too. Simon didn't like the song choice, though he thought it was pretty good.

732pm... Jordin is telling us about when she was 12. That was in 2002. I was 26. Just saying.

733pm... She's throwing down on some "Broken Wing" by Martina. She's really into these Women Empowerment songs tonight, ain't she?

735pm... That song reminds me of playing tennis. If you make certain shots you look amazing, if you flub up said shots, you look like a moron. Same with a Martina song, especially "Broken Wing". You nail it, you are amazing. You flub it, you look stupid.

736pm... Randy declares it better than the original (I don't know about that, though Stephanie was talking to me about the upcoming Star Wars convention so I didn't hear it all). Paula loved it. Simon said "Now THAT was great".

739pm... Pizza is here.

739pm... Fine, I'll admit it. This finale has made me care again.

741pm... Because the previous songs performed in the finale have blown soooo badly, they had a song writing contest to get a better song. This song is called "This is My Now". As long as the words "Do I Make You Proud", "Inside Your Heaven" or whatever that Kelly Clarkson song was are not in it, then great.

743pm... I swear Ryan said the song was co-written by some guy named Scott Krippayne. Isn't he a Christian artist?

744pm... Is it just me, or does Blake sound awful on this song? Flat or something. Yeesh.

744pm... Randy says "Decent", Paula's pouring sunshine all over him, while Simon said "Odd". This is not Blake's kind of song.

746pm... "For A Moment Like This". That's the name of that crappy Kelly song. She rocks now.
750pm... Ryan in the crowd, schmoozing. He's telling me I can download the winning song. No thanks.
751pm... (actually listening to the words of the winning song, as Jordin sings it)
752... Steph, upon hearing Jording struggle with it like Blake did: "Maybe its just the song. This song sucks". I love my wife.
753pm... Haley Scarneto in the audience. We agree she's thinking "wow, I'm glad I'm not singing this".
753pm... I swear I just heard Jordin sing the line "Do I make you proud that I'm flying without wings from inside your heaven for a moment like this". No joke.
754pm... Randy is desperately trying to cover the fact that song blew chunks. Paula is crying. She just said "frickin'". Flake or not, I still love Paula.
755pm... Simon says he was wrong, and that she's good enough to win. He says "you just wiped the floor with Blake on that song." Steph: "Well... yeah."
756pm... No, no, not yours. This is MY now. MY NOW.
757pm... The recap shows that Blake did well again on "You Give Love", and really well on the Maroon 5 song, but wow was he terrible on the ending song. Jordin did a great "Fighter", an even better "Broken Wing" and managed to make that crap at the end bearable. For the record, I've been calling Jordin "Your Next American Idol" for a month now.
758pm... Randy gives the night to Jordin, Paula is absolutely goofy, and Simon gives the "individual performance" to Blake, but the night to Jordin.
8pm... Hey, its Daughtry! While we watch the recap of the season via video.
803pm... Ryan is acting like this is his now. We know better. MY NOW.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Heard It From a Friend Who...

You know the feeling.

It's late, or maybe early. You haven't slept much, or perhaps you just woke up. Either way, your eyelids are heavy, your head feels like a one-ton weight, and at any moment, you get the sense you could just lay over and fall right asleep where you are.

But you can't. Because inches in front of you is the steering wheel. Your hands are on it. Your feet are on the pedals, or close to them if you have the cruise control. You are tired, you are sleepy and you are driving.

Its time for the driving anthems. Lean over, grab that CD, or maybe that iPod, or even that cassette tape you bought at Wal-Mart for $3.99 in the big wire rack. You know, the tape that says R-E-O on it.

The guitar strums, then...

"...heard it from a friend who... heard it from a friend who... heard it from another you been messin' around..."

Some of you are smiling right now, because know exactly what I'm talking about. Its not just the wagon, its the Speedwagon. The REO Speedwagon (and for those of you 20 and under, its not "Oreo" or "Rio", its pronounced like its spelled.. Are-Eee-Oh)

"Take it on the run baby, if thats' the way you want it baby, then I don't want you around. I don't believe it... not for a minute... your under the gun so you take it on the run..."

Some music isn't about whether its good or not... some music is just fun. Some music is made to be sung loudly, off key, and to have the entire room--or car--singing with you.

I had to make several trips last week on the road (hence no posts until today). I drove from my apartment to the Birmingham International Airport and Dance Club, picked up family, drove three hours to Dothan Alabama, stayed 45 minutes, then drove back to my apartment. All in one night. Left our door around 620pm. Got back around 3am. Yawn.

On the way back, I could tell The Lovely Steph Leann was dying to go to sleep. She wanted to lay her head back and just doze soooo badly, but she didn't. She stayed awake, talking to me, making sure I was okay as I drove. I had actually opened the store that morning, so I had been up since 4:30 that morning, so for me, it was a 23 hour day. "23 hours? Please. I stay up that late". Well, try running a Starbucks for nine hours, getting home, eating, cleaning up the apartment, then spending 7 of the next 9 hours driving.

To stay awake, I put the iPod on the dock in the car, and turned on "Steph's Playlist", which is a list that I created that includes all the stuff that we both like, including some Broadway, some country, mostly soft rock, pop and Christian... no hip hop (which I like) and no Barbra (which she likes). And REO Speedwagon's "Take It On the Run" came on. Within the first verse, we were both singing along, and by the second verse, we were both singing loudly. How can you not?

Some of you--Paula, NYC Jenni, perhaps Wendi Miller--are humming the tune to yourself right now, I'll bet.

That got me to thinking... anthem songs. Songs that make you sing them loudly. I think there are some, like "Take It On the Run" that are universal. There are probably some that are individual. What makes an anthem song for me is this:

1) You know all the words. You have to be able to sing along to it. This pretty much takes out "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard... most people only know a few phrases... "you got the peaches, I got the cream... um... take sugar, one lump or two?" This also excludes "Hip Hop Hooray", because lets face it, the only words anyone besides Treach knows to that song are "hip", "hooray" and "hop".

2) Has to be a fun song. Nothing too serious. This takes out everything Seal, Sting or The Police.

3) "Anthem" does not mean your own personal soundtrack... "anthem" means it loud, its stadium worthy. This eliminates most Christian music

4) When caught singing it, most people won't make fun of you, they'll probably sing along. This cuts out most boy bands from recent years, though "Hangin' Tough" might get you some people singing... the words are obscure on that one, though (see Rule 1)

5) Has to be family friendly, at least to a point. At some parties I'm sure busting up with "Pop That Cootchie" from 2 Live Crew might make some people dance, but this isn't something you'll want to be singing at a church outing. So, this does cut out most hip-hop and rap, though "Baby Got Back" might be an exception. This might exclude Prince, though you have to determine if "Little Red Corvette" is appropriate for your audience, or if you are Paula Maddox.

Besides "Take It On the Run", here's what I came up with, for me at least...

"Keep On Loving You" by REO Speedwagon
Kinda the same sound, but different. "And I meant every word I said, when I said that I loved you, I meant that I'll love you forever... I'm gonna keep on loving you... cause its the only thing I wanna do... I don't wanna sleep... I just wanna keep on lovin' you" If Steph ever said that to me, I'll know she's hard core faithful, because she loves to sleep. No joke.

"Makin' Love Out of Nothing at All" by Air Supply
This song is really stupid, when you really pay attention to it. Its 4 minutes and 51 secondsof the pansiest, wussiest love song you'll ever hear... and its great. He's singing all these things he knows how to do, like whisper, cry, find the answers, lie, fake it, scheme, face the truth, dream, where to touch you, when to pull you closer and when to let you loose. He's never gonna tell you everything he's gotta tell you but he knows he's gotta give it a try. BUT... but... he don't know how you do it, making love out of nothing at all.
When the first verse is over, that's when the singalong begins. Then, when the instrumental is over, oh boy, let's go crazy... "I can make the runner stumble, I can make the flying block, I can make every tackle at the sound of the whistle, I can make all the stadiums rock!" Yes, this is a love song, not a cheerleading choir.

"Separate Ways" by Journey
Conventional wisdom will tell you that "Don't Stop Believin" is the way to go here, but for my money, there are few song openings better than the keyboards that start "Separate Ways". Steve Perry is in all his "I'm trying to be bada** gangsta, but we all know I'm not" glory. For the longest time, though, when he sings "Here we stand, worlds apart, hearts are broken in two", I thought he said "Here we stand, Rosa Parks broken in two", and I could never figure out why the civil rights pioneer was mentioned in a Journey song. "Someday love will find you, break those chains that bind you, one night will remind you, howe touched and went our separate ways... if he ever hurts you, true love won't desert you, you know I still love you, though we touched and went our separate ways!"

"I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi
A charter member in the "Stephanie Firth Club", Jon Bon Jovi sings this anthem and I immediately go back to 8th grade when the most beautiful girls in the world were Claudia Sorrells and Nicki Vann, and my biggest problems were that I ran for student council and lost. Again. (never fear, I won 4 years running starting in 9th grade)
"Baby you know my hands are dirty (woman, you know my hands are dirty), but I wanted to be your valentine, I'll be the water when you get thirsty baby, when you get drunk I'll be the wine..."

"Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
How can you go wrong with this one? I mean, its one of those songs that if someone asked you how the second verse started, you'd have to go through the whole song to get to it... if its the regular boring radio version, its "every now and then I know you'll never be the boy you always wanted to be ". If its the true, full version, its "every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild"
We did a drama to music to this a few years ago. It was interesting... not sure I'll ever do it again, but I thought it was awesome. I love how Bonnie screams "WE'RE LIVING IN A POWDER KEG AND GIVING OFF SPARKS!!!" and two lines later, she's lightly singing "...nothing I can say, a total eclipse of the heart". And the big bass drums in the instrumental... just cool.

"Fergilicious" by Fergie
Just kidding, just kidding. Wanted to see if you were still with me.

"End of the Road" by Boyz II Men
Unfortunately, we just don't hear the Boyz anymore. Obviously, they aren't on mainstream pop radio now, but even on our soft rock stations that play classic Bryan Adams and Phil Collins and old Sheryl Crow, no Boyz. Its a shame, really, because they had a good thing going for a while.
My favorite B2M is "Motownphilly", which is probably the same for most, but 90% of you don't know the words to "Motownphilly"... but you do know the words to "End of the Road". It was the class song for the Samson High Class of 94 (mine was "Its So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" in 93... a B2M song about death, followed up by a B2M song about a broken heart. Go Tigers!)
What's interesting about the Boyz is they started the deep voiceover trend... you konw, instead of a bridge, its Nate, Mike, Shawn or Wanya, whichever has the deep voice, talking, saying "baby, I love you baby, come back to me, I'm sorry baby, etc". They did this on most of their stuff, including "Water Runs Dry" and "On Bended Knee", and the trend carried onto Boyz II Men wannabes like 4P.M. and All-4-One.

Other Anthems That Probably Only Me Appreciate:
"Say Say Say" by Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney
"Sweet Child O'Mine" by Guns N Roses
"Blaze of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi
"The Longest Time" by Billy Joel
"When Doves Cry" by Prince & the Revolution
"Sin Wagon" by The Dixie Chicks

I am leaving out a bunch of stuff. Later today, perhaps five minutes after I post this, I'll think of four songs that should have made this list... and hopefully, you'll comment and tell me what either keeps you awake or just makes you happy to sing loudly and shamelessly.

Until then, just one command... Turn around bright eyes. Turn around.

ps... as I was posting this, I randomly turned on Oasis and started belting out "how many special people change, how many lives are living strange, where were you while we were getting high?" at the top of my lungs. Sigh. I love music.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Idol Final Four

Funny... I go a week without blogging, the I post twice in 12 hours. Anyway, iIn case you missed it, the review of Spiderman 3, among other things, was posted on Monday so just scroll down!

Before we begin, let me say a quick Happy Birthday to my favorite Funk, that being Sammy Funkhauser... I actually got to meet her the other night. Could she have been any cuter and Funky? Don't think so.


Tonight's guest "mentor" is Barry Gibb, that of the Bee Gees. That's one of those groups that, no matter your taste in music, you probably like or at least think some of their songs are fun... classic are "Staying Alive" (which makes you want to do the finger pointing up and down), "More Than a Woman" (used in a disturbing robot-Ally Sheedy love dance scene in Short Circuit), "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (the Al Green version is far, far superior) and "Islands in the Stream" (the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers version is, again, far superior).

In case you didn't figure it out, with four, they each do two songs tonight, and yes, they're doing the Bee Gees collection.

For her first song, Mindy Doo is doing something called "Love You Inside and Out", though I'm not sure I know this one. Actually... I do know this, only I'm familiar with the Feist version heard at Starbucks. Its a hip song, really, that sounds like it could have been from the 70s. And guess what? It is! I rule.

It's actually pretty good, and suprisingly, Mindy looks really cool and not frumpy tonight. I'm going to download this song from iTunes tonight, I think.

Randy says "another solid performance", while Paula finds it hard to critique Mindy. So, here's the sunshine. Blow away. As for Simon, he wasn't impressed by it--he said she sounded like a back-up singer vocal
(Mindy is a former backup singer)

Blake's first song is "You Should Be Dancing", which is quite a fun song... very, very 70s. And he's going back to what he does best, beatboxing. It killed last week, let's see this week...

Right out of the gate, he's got his falsetto on, he's got his moves, and he's tossing in the beatbox. Once again, not just a song, a performance. I think the one problem with a Blake Lewis album is that you don't want to hear him... you want to hear AND see him. Only hearing him is just no fun.

Randy didn't like the beatbox at all, saying it was corny tonight. Paula said he was "pitchy" (which is funny, because she was standing up clapping). Simon says "unique", but thought it was absolutely terrible. Humph. I liked it.

LaKisha is actually busting out with "Staying Alive"... a chick doing a song made famous by a dude who sang it like a chick. Hmmm...

So Kiki is putting some Soul Glo on Bee Gees. Wow... I think its pretty good. And, it actually helped me decipher some of those words in the first verse.

Randy didn't like it. Paula didn't like it. Simon says "no kiss tonight", calling it almost scary.

Up next is Your Next American Idol, Jordin Sparks. She's singing a song called "To Love Somebody", which was originally done by Nina Simone, but made famous by The Bee Gees, and then brought back by the legendary Michael Bolton in the 90s.

If there's a chance to impress, its this song, because its not a song done by a guy in falsetto, its a song originally done by a soulful jazz singer. Strange... I've heard all versions, but can only think of Michael Bolton.

Randy says it was the best vocal so far (which is not alot, because no judge has really liked anything). Paula agrees. Simon agrees.

Before we get to the second set of songs, can I just say how hard this much be? I mean, two black chicks, a mixed chick and a white dude who likes to beatbox black are trying to cover songs that were made famous by a very white band who sang it such high pitches that you'd think there were crotch vises installed. Bad times.

As guilty-pleasure inducing as "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" might be, it makes me angry that trife like that would still be on the air, and "Drive" was yanked due to low ratings. Again, bad times.

Mindy Doo is doing "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart", which, as stated before, is better when Al Green is singing it. When that song comes in in Notting Hill, my favorite chick-flick of all time, its magic.

She's doing a good job with it... which leads me to recognize this really is a good song. I mean, really. And hard to sing. The "sha-la-la"s alone would kill me--or you, if you were listening to me.

Mindy ends with the big, big notes that draw huge applause. Randy liked it alot. Paula liked the vocal too. I'm not really sure what Paula just said... and Simon says "Melinda, you don't understand a word of what Paula just said, do you?". He then adds "The second half of that song put you into the semi-finals."

Blake is singing another song I'm not sure I've ever heard. It's called "This is Where I Came In". Barry Gibb is very proud, because its an obscure song, and he says "maybe it can be a hit... its been waiting to be discovered".

You know, if I wore a vest to Samson High like Blake is wearing, Drew King and Shane Gillis probably would have beaten me up. I've noticed the voice flutter that he added to the song in the video with he and Barry Gibb has now been taken out--possibly due to the harsh... never mind. He just added it back.

Randy says "This is better, but still not the best... you don't have to beatbox every time. We know you can do it. It gets old". There it is. Paula is just rambling. Simon thought the song was completely tuneless, and that Blake has not had a very good night.

In the random D-list celebrity department, Judge Judy is in the audience. What show is she plugging? We know thats why celebrities appear on American Idol.

LaKisha is singing "Run To Me", which is not the same as Whitney's immortal "Run To You". Or Bryan Adams adultary anthem "Run To You". Or Del Amitri's "Roll To Me". Or Solomon Burke's classic "Cry To Me". Or Collective Soul's "Run". (I'm playing this fun game because this song is totally boring, and I'm trying not to stick my iPod charger in my eye).

Randy, Paula and Simon all say it was better than the first, and Simon adds "LaKisha, you and Blake are vunerable tonight".

Random--I have four versions of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" on my iPod. Why? I don't know. Jewel, Burl Ives, Ella Fitzgerald and... Mickey Mouse. My life is sad.

Another random note--The Mac and PC commercials starring Justin Long might be the best ad series on tv that doesn't involve a Caveman.

Jordin is doing a Barbra Streisand/Bee Gee tune called "Woman in Love". Oh Barbra. Steph loves her. We can't all have good taste, I guess.

Wow, Jordin is good looking. Seriously. Seventeeen yes... 16? Still.

Randy says "pitchy", but gives props to Barry Gibb for having good songs. Paula only kinda liked it. Simon says it was "pageanty". And they are totally running out of time, as Ryan is speeding through the information.

After turning off the tape and rewinding, the channel is on E!. And the Saved By The Bell: E! True Hollywood Story is on. Did you that Screech is on Vh1's Celebrity Fit Club? I need to go to bed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bryce Dallas Howard (and other reviews)

As I sat in the theater, watching Spiderman 3 at midnight on Thursday night, my emotions went from happiness to frustration to bewilderment, and back again. And, at 245am, I strode out of The Rave Motion Picture Theater at Lee Branch with only one thought on my mind... I wanted it to be better.

Before we get going, let me answer two questions that will pop up... yes, I am a comic book geek, which includes several Spiderman titles. And no, I don't get angry when movies stray from the comic book vision of a character, as long as it makes sense.

I've been trying for several days to pinpoint exactly what it was that made me not go crazy over this film much as I had after Spiderman 2 and the original. Maybe its a "3" thing... X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman III, Lethal Weapon 3, Police Academy 3, all inferior to the first two that make the series so great... I paid 8 bucks for it, and yeah, I'm okay with the fact that I did, but I wouldn't see it a second time.

The easiest way to do this is just list it... here's what I didn't like:
--It took forever to get to Venom. This was proably the most anticipated villian in a comic book movie in a long, long time, and though the payoff was great, the wait was maddening.
--Kirsten Dunst looks... well, crappy. Playing the gorgeous Mary Jane Watson, she comes across as someone who always has just rolled out of bed. She's sad, she's angry, she's impatient (yes, rightly so, but still). I file Kirsten under "The Angelina Jolie Memorial Chicks Who the Whole World Thinks Is So Hot But I Just Don't Get It Club"
--Harry Osborne is a dork. Plain and simple. The set-up from the last movie is that Harry wants to kill Spiderman for the murder of his father (who was also the Green Goblin). The payoff is like being teased with a steak from Outback and getting a hot dog from Sneaky Pete's.
--Another part that had the potential for being out of this world was Venom taking over Peter Parker. Venom, really an alien symbiote, is aggressive, and makes its host just as aggressive. Peter could have been vicious, crazy, out of control, almost like the Bad Superman vs Clark Kent kind of battle in Superman III (about the only decent part of that wretched piece of bile). What happens is he turns into a joke. Watch the dance scene, tell me I'm wrong.
--Emo Peter Parker. Read the above paragraph.
--Can we have one bad guy who isn't a result of an alien or an experiment gone wrong? Anyone?
--How 'bout they crammed what seemed like 1,633 subplots into this movie... you had Uncle Ben's death revisited, Flint Marko's dilemma, Eddie Brock, Peter loves Mary Jane, Peter likes Gwen, Harry is ticked off, Spidey vs. Venom, Spidey vs. Sandman, Spidey vs whatever Harry Osborne was calling himself (cause it sho' wasnt something cool like the Hobgoblin). I kept wondering if this is secretly a Robert Altman film and no one wanted to admit it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Oh look, its an excuse to post a picture of Bryce Dallas Howard.

That being said, here's what is right about the film:
--Topher Grace, leaving all shades of Eric Forman behind, as Eddie Brock. Eddie is a journalist who is humiliated, and seeks revenge on Spiderman, and Topher plays him to the hilt. Even when he becomes Venom, Topher is totally cool and mean in the character. --Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen Stacy. She wasn't really given enough to do in this movie, but she was... uh... well, she's quite the attractive young lady there.
--The effects were astounding. I mean, just simply great. The final battle is pretty wicked-bad too.
--Character actor JK Simmons is perfect as J. Jonah Jameson, and I now cannot imagine anyone else playing the part. (speaking of JK, its surprising how much stuff you'll see him in... Steph and I watched the last 30 minutes of a underrated Kevin Costner movie, "For Love of the Game", only to see JK onscreen as the manager)
--Thomas Haden Church was also perfect as Flint Marko, who ends up being The Sandman. I kinda like how he wasn't played evil, just forced to do bad things to help his family. Reminded me of Ahnold as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. Okay, well, anything that reminds me of Batman & Robin probably isn't that good.
--Bruce Campbell plays yet another small cameo part. Bruce, a buddy of Raimi's, starred in Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead series, and pops up here and there in various flicks. How can you not like a guy who is starring in a movie called "Bubba Nosferatu and the Curse of the She Vampires", and its not even a porn flick?

Should you go see it? Yeah, probably. I'm not telling you the movie is terrible, because it's not. It's actually pretty good. Not great, not very good, not amazing, just... pretty good. And that hurts me to say it, because when I come out of "Bug", the new Goddess & Global Ambassador Ashley Judd film, "pretty good" is a very good thing to say about it. For something like Spiderman 3, "pretty good" is a disappointment. I hope Harry Potter fares better.

By the way, it might have been only the midnight showing special, but we saw trailers for "Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End" (there's that "3" thing again), Live Free or Die Hard, Transformers, the new Harry Potter flick (you were right, Nikki), and The Bourne Ultimatum. All look great.
Just finished a book called "Cell" by Stephen King. Now, you may not know I used to be an absolute Stephen King Junkie... I joined the "Stephen King Book Club" when I was a junior in high school, and every six weeks, I'd get a new book in the mail. By the time I left the club some five or six years later, I had about 30 of his books, and had actually read several of them... I enjoyed the heck out of "Pet Semetary", "Cujo" and "Christine", all keenly superb to the movies that tried model them. "The Shining" is perhaps the scariest book I've ever read, and my favorite turned out to be "It". Don't judge book by the silly miniseries.
The reason I say "had" 30 of his books is that I put them in The Deuce storage unit, and the Honorable Rev'rn Ty Coffey put two plastic bins of clothes atop of my book boxes, causing the closed box to rip and open... thus a year later, I've got 30 books covered in funk and mold. Thanks Senator.
I have yet to tackle the Dark Tower Series... frankly, it intimidates me. If I have trouble starting "The Stand", I know all seven volumes of The Dark Tower will kick my buttocks. And the only movies I can say are better than the stories that tell them are "Stand By Me" based on "The Body", and of coure "The Shawshank Redemption", based on "Rita Hayworth & the Shawshank Redemption". Both are from the King book "Different Seasons". Close, however, is "Misery".
Anyway, "Cell" tells the story of a man named Clay, who is estranged from his wife, but has good news to tell her--he just signed a comic book deal with Dark Horse Comics, and on his way to tell her the good news, stops off at an ice cream truck in Boston's Common area for a tasty treat.
A few minutes later, a "pulse" happens, though you don't know that's what it is at that second. Everyone who is or was on their cell phones at the time of the pulse goes crazy... they start killing people, biting into necks, running around grumbling gibberish. All this part I knew going into the story... I was not expecting the story that came to be after it, however.
Clay joins forces with a stranger named Tom, and together they work their way to the safety of a locked up hotel. Along the way, they meet and grab Alice, a 15 year old who had seen her mother get "pulsed" and go crazy, trying to kill her.
Clay's main concern is his son, Johnny G, who happens to own a cell phone, and the group sets off to work ther way up to New Hampshire, where Clay's residence is. Along the way, they make some startling discoveries... for one, the Phone-Crazies, as they are soon to be called, don't come out at night, only during the day time. Early in the morning and late in the evening, they are seen "flocking" in the same direction, all in lockstep with each other, all clearly moving with a common purpose. Another thing Alice picks up is that the Phone-Crazies are getting smarter.
Though never fully explained in detail, the cause of the pulse isn't as supernatural as you might think, and overall, the book is a fantastic story. There is an "out of the blue" death in the last 1/3 that left me rather empty, but after all their travels and meetings with strangers that become instrumental in what they are doing, the book draws to a satisfactory end.
It's classic Stephen King, with words written in such a manner that you can not just picture every character, but also the details of their face, the body langauge they give off and the personalities that you begin to either loath or enjoy, but at least you care one way or another.
I've just started reading "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", and it's not bad so far either... but I can definately recommend "Cell" to anyone who's thought about buying it. Go for it.


Watched a great flick called "The Holiday" last night as well... I've heard alot about this, reviews were pretty good, word of mouth has been good--and after seeing it, I can say it earned its praise.

Iris (the wonderful Kate Winslet) is an editor at a magazine, and she's been in love with her ex, Jasper, for three years. He has just become engaged to the girl he cheated on Iris with, and didn't even bother to tell Iris, even though they work in the same building.

Five thousand miles away, we meet movie trailer editor Amanda (a surprisingly cute Cameron Diaz), who is throwing her shoes at her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns). It seems Ethan has been out until 3 in the morning frolicking with his secretary. Amanda kicks him out, and now we have two miserable girls.

So Amanda gets online, discovers this "Exchange-a-Home" program, where you change homes (this type of program actually exists, by the way), cars and lives for 2 weeks with someone... and the house she finds is owned by Iris in England. They agree, they swap houses, and we watch two stories unfold... Amanda meets Graham, an charming Englishman played by Jude Law, and they begin a whirlwind romance, while Iris is trying to over Jasper (who keeps calling anyway), and ends up meeting Arthur (Eli Wallach), an elderly legendary movie director, and strikes up a meaningful friendship... then she meets Miles, a movie score composer, played by... Jack Black.

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Kate Winslet was my excuse to watch this movie, and lo and behold, I enjoyed it

I really liked this film. It was fun, it was funny and it was sweet in all the right places. All four leads--Winslet, Diaz, Law and Black--were perfect in their roles. The romance between Amanda and Graham is believable, and honestly, I haven't seen Cameron Diaz really attractive in a role since she was Kimmy in "My Best Friends Wedding". The romance between Miles and Iris is more subtle, and for good reason... who wants to see a love
scene involving Jack Black?

Anyone who reads this knows I hold Kate Winslet with high regard, and it was awesome to see her play a modern day Englishwoman... no corsets, no American accents, no sinking ships, just... her character was just average, which made her gorgeous.


The Amazing Race ended on Sunday night, with a whimper really. It's been an awesome season, mostly because of the teams that annoy everyone, that being Rob & Amber (who were booted in episode 5) and of course, Mirna and Charla, also known as Team Bats***.

Remaining was the aforementioned batty team, Eric and Danielle, and my reality show hall of famers, Dustin and Kandice. A few weeks ago, I was reading the review of the episode on Entertainment Weekly's site (one of many tv and movie sites you can find by going to the side links on the right -->) and for whatever reason, scrolled down to read some comments. There was some jerk who said something like "I read that Eric and Danielle win, D&K come in 2nd, and Mirna and Charla are in 3rd".

So with this in the back of my mind, I kept waiting for Team Bats*** or Eric and the Boobs to get eliminated (but of course, not Dustin & Kandice) just to prove the poster wrong, but when these made it to the final three, I knew who would win. Darn it. Darn it darn it darn it. I am the guy who actually will read the last chapter of a book before I start the whole thing, and sometimes will find out how a movie will end before I watch it, but darn it, let my Amazing Race unfold.

I wasn't alone though... here's what EW's Josh Wolk said to open his review: So the insistently rude spoiler posting on this site was right: Eric and Danielle won. Somewhere out there, our little suspense obliterator was grinning happily as the platonic duo hit the mat first, pleased with himself that this was no surprise to anyone. Now that it's over, how will he spend his summer? Attending birthday parties and shouting out what's in each present just as children are about to unwrap them?

Anyway, I almost felt bad for Team Bats*** in the end, because two of the last three challenges were so physically exhausting, there's almost no way to beat Eric & The Boobs, and even Dustin & Kandice. And they didn't, the poster was right, and I was left feeling let down, after all the good build up, I wanted a better finish, and I felt... well, like I was walking out of Spiderman 3 all over again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I'm Going Out in a Beatbox Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory

With everything that is going on in the world, we can take comfort in one thing... the Sci-Fi Channel is taking care of us. They have made and are premiering "Lake Placid 2". I'm excited.


Last week, they didn't let anyone go... but tomorrow night, two people go home. I was at a guy's Bible study earlier, and I walked in as they were watching some of Idol, so I know that the guest "mentor" this week is Jon Bon Jovi.

I also know that Chris Richardson takes on "Wanted Dead or Alive". And as I was on my way home to watch, and blog, this very show, my sister Ashley texted me to say "BLAKE WAS AMAZING!" So, we know some things going in...

Jon Bon Jovi, again in that select group of people that if asked "Would you leave your husband for him?", Steph would say no only after a few seconds hesitation. Let's call this group the "Stephanie Firth Club".

Last week, "Idol Gives Back" raised almost $70,000,000 for various charities around the country and Africa.

Bon Jovi has on a shirt that says "Philly Soul". This is a reference to the AFL team that Jon bought a few years ago and...



...Phil Stacey? Blaze of Glory? Right out of the gate, Phil is taking on my favorite Jon Bon Jovi song, "Blaze of Glory". This song is just ubercool. Let's see how he does...

...not bad, but that stupid jacket is throwing me off. Its grey with some sort of felt/vinyl skull markings on it. Actually, Phil is doing the song justice, and I'm kinda surprised.

Randy threw out the coveted three words: "Best performance ever". Paula actually reached into her bag of sunshine and tossed out "the best opening all season long". Simon just "ehh, okay."

Phil's ears look like he's a descendant of the Vulcan tribe. And Jordin is going to tackle "Living On a Prayer". I will now fast forward in equal excitement and horror.

Hey, its a Gina Sighting! I missed her. She woulda rocked this week. And Jordin is telling Jon Bon Jovi how her mom loved the group. Jon is laughing with this "dude, I'm not that freakin' old" laugh.

Your Next American Idol Jordin has got the big Bon Jovi hair. Her voice is wavering a bit, but she looks freakin' awesome. I may be tone-hard-of-hearing, but I'm not picking up perfect pitch in this song from Young Jordin.

The thing about the later weeks of the show is that you get longer performances with 6 than you do with 12. Like, two verses,or a verse and a bridge, and pretty much at least two or three choruses. I was not impressed with any of the verses tonight... Jordin, you failed me.

Randy tells her that the chorus was good, and the verses were rough. Paula's sunshine says the same thing. And here comes Simon... "out of control, verging on shrieking at times... terrible, to be honest with you". He did recognize that Jordin (and the other girls) were given a guy rock band song catalog to sing.

I'm actually pretty excited about Disney-Pixar's new film, "Ratatouille". It falls behind "Harry Potter" and "Spidey", and just ahead of "Pirates 3" and "Oceans 13" as most anticipated for the summer. Not much fanfare so far, though... of course, "Cars" didn't get much fanfare initially, but it was a fantastic film that made lots and lots of money.

LaKisha is going to be, in her words, "giving y'all a little sumtm-sumtm". She's actually singing an obscure track called "This Ain't a Love Song". Kiki just said "I've heard of Bon Jovi, and seen him on Oprah, but I've never listened to his music."

By the way, the tape I used is old... and now I'm having to go back and forth between the living room, where the TV is, and the bedroom, where the computer is, just to blog about this show. Mark my words, when the show is over, I'm going to take great pride and pleasure in slamming this tape down on the concrete patio as hard as I possibly can.

Jon Bon Jovi said "I'm not a betting man, but I'd bet money that LaKisha won't go home this week after singing this song." Ah, does he remember she kinda sucked last week, and that last weeks votes and this weeks votes are being added together?

That was... that was really, really good. I mean, really good. Its a song off of the Bon Jovi album "These Days", and when a performance makes me want to get the original (which Steph has, natch) you know its good. Wow.
Randy loved it, Paula loved it, and Simon said "LaKisha, I could kiss you right now...", to which Ryan led her down and they had a quick, uncomfortable lip-peck, to which he said "You were so good!".

As happy as I am about the new Disney-Pixar movie, am I the only one who just doesn't find Shrek all that funny? I mean, 1 and 2 were good for a few laughs, but I'm not really all that pumped about Shrek the Third. Perhaps at the $1 theater, maybe. Or maybe not.

Blake Lewis, whom Lil Sister Ashley just told me was amazing via text, is up next. He's going to be doing "You Give Love a Bad Name", which is huge, because that's one of those much beloved 80s songs that you don't mess around with, like "Pour Some Sugar On Me" or "Hungry Like the Wolf". Its immortal, really. And... apparently, he's going to be amazing in that he's doing a different interpretation on it, or "rolling the dice" as Jon Bon Jovi says to him.

Okay since the tape is in the other room, I watched the whole thing just now. Wow. Holy crap. Blake Lewis may not be the best singer on the show, and he may not, nay, probably won't win American Idol. But he is hands down, bar none absolutely the best performer on this show, and is the best that has been on it in a long, long time.

So he comes out, does a voice and physical imitation of a coin going in a jukebox, you hear the crackle of the "record" playing, and he launches into it... and the beatbox, for the first time in weeks, almost as if he were afraid to use it before, is in full effect. He sings great, beats great, then has a beatbox/percussion battle with the solo drummer right next to him for about 16 beats. That was amazing. THAT was not just someone singing well... that was a PERFORMANCE.

With good reason, all three judges liked it... all commented on the fact it was a huge risk (it was) and it paid off (it did). In fact, I might go watch it again.

I just watched it again, and that just cemented it as one of my favorite Idol performances of all time... along with George Huff's "Take Me to the Pilot", Amy Adams "Sin Wagon" and Ruben's "Kiss and Say Goodbye".

Now... poor Chris Richardson. As he sits talking to Ryan, before he goes on to sing "Wanted Dead or Alive", you know he's got to be thinking "Oh crap... nothing I do will be remembered after what Blake just did."

When Jon Bon Jovi is talking to the camera, discussing what Chris is doing, and how he's doing, he doesn't have the same twinkle or glee he had with Blake. With Blake, it's like he wanted to smile big and say "love it or hate it, you have to hear this". With Chris, it was more like a "oh geez..."

It's not bad, I mean, its in tune and all. But if Lance Bass put on a muscle shirt and said "I'm gonna rock tonight!" and started this song, you'd get the same effect. Chris cannot rock. He can sing 98 Degrees songs, or ask us to "quit playing games with his heart" but when he says "I've seen a million faces, and I've rocked them all", the fact he put the stress on"all" and not "rock"... well, he's not a rocker.

Randy and Paula liked it, while Simon liked it, but doesn't think it was good enough. I thought it was screechy.

And finally, Mindy Doo comes onstage. She's singing "Have a Nice Day", one that I'm not a real big fan of... but she gets her rock on, and sounds like a young, attitude driven Tina Turner. Most people only know Tina from "Whats Love Got to Do With It" 80s, but back in the 60s and 70s, she was a bad rocker chick. Seriously.

Anyway, Mindy Doo does well, all three judges like her, and I'm tired now. Going home should be Phil & Chris, but I'm afraid it will be Phil & LaKisha... we'll see.

Update here tomorrow night