Friday, January 30, 2009

The NYC/San Juan Idol Auditions

The blogs have come fast and furious this week, with lots to say, and remarkably some time to write... in case you missed it...
A post on the lost importance of Miss America... The 100 Coolest, from 40, then from 30.... Idol from Jacksonville and then Idol from Salt Lake City... and of course, this chick.

I just got home from The Happiest Place in the Mall... I'm tired, I'm bleary eyed, I'm worn out. I don't have to work again until tomorrow afternoon, though, so I do have a chance to sleep in--though I am, by virtue of 31 days in January and my last name starting with a "D", being forced to visit the tag office tomorrow to get new stickers for Toni Rocki Honda and Honda that The Lovely Steph Leann drives.

For a few minutes, I've debated... I came in, checked the email, checked the blog site, checked Facebook, surfed the quick headlines on ESPN, Drudge, Fox News, The I Love Obama site, checked a bid on eBay, and then leaned back.... do I watch Idol tonight or tomorrow? Its going to be a busy weekend, so I likely won't have much time on Saturday or Sunday... and perhaps I could do it on Friday, but there is the tag issue, plus I really need a haircut... then again, I haven't actually seen The Lovely Steph Leann since Tuesday morning... but you and I both know right now, she's dead asleep...

Oh, roody poo...




Two cities, one show. San Juan and New York City. Not sure if this is one city per hour, or two cities per hour, but we'll see what happens! I've never been to Puerto Rico, though my friends The Hawbakers, winners of the 2009 Hannah Pruitt Eternally Cool Award, have been a few times and seem to like it. I was called a Puerto Rican once. It wasn't very nice.

I've done missions several times in NYC, and I do know there is a huge Puerto Rican population, especially around Brooklyn and Coney Island... first up, someone with a thick accent who quit their job to come to audition. She's been compared to Mary J. Blige... Adeola is trying "I Am Telling You", and I am telling you, she shouldn't have quit her day job. Literally.

Right now, in The Cabana's upstairs master bedroom, The Lovely Steph Leann probably has a blanket on her head. Terrible. She is asking for one more chance (Adeola, not The Lovely Steph Leann) and when told "no", she sings anyway.

Whoever told her she was good enough to quit her job should be smacked in the face... if I were this chick, I would be mad at my friends. Simon is on the phone with Adeola's boss, asking for her job back--and gets it.

Now Jorge is... wait, did we just switch cities? Is this how we're gonna roll tonight? Alright, Jorge is in San Juan and is "ready to rock America". He's singing something in Spanish. I think he just said "Paul is dead". Paula says, "Nice. How do you sing in English?" And he answers that question by singing very well. Paula just slipped him her room key.

And he makes it.

Jessika is from Michigan and is 19... wait, 20. She made that mistake on the air. She's a former "Most Beautiful Baby" contest winner, so come on y'all--respect the flava!

She's bragging that she has won many singing contests, and belts out "I Surrender" by Celine Dion. And when I say "belt out", its like sticking your head out the door and yelling as loudly as possible. She's done this her whole life, this is her dream, this is all she's ever wanted, she's nervous, she can sing... they should give her another chance, because this is an impassioned plea I've never heard before!

She gets a "no" from everyone. But she knows they are wrong. She's going to keep going. Just like the next few girls they show who know they are going to make it, who needs American Idol! They aren't looking talent, they don't want good singers!

I'm sitting here wondering if the next young lady is voluntarily bald. Wait, excuse me...



Sorry about that. I just heard this chick say, "I'm happy when I dance naked in my room... I feel like my soul just releases", and I had to go set myself on fire. The only thing keeping this wretched image out of my head is that I now have 3rd degree burns on 91 percent of my body. But it still might not be enough. Oy. I'm dry heaving because her soul isn't the only thing that I'm sure is releasing everywhere. Oy.

She wants her voice to uplift humanity. At this moment, I would say "no" right there. We are then subjected to a rather uncomfortable exchange about whether Melinda wants to be naked now, which is a no, but only if you all were, which leads to Simon telling her to imagine Randy naked which makes me reach for the lighter again.

Melinda is going to try to sing "Feelin' Good", by Nina Simone, one of the sexiest, funkiest tunes ever... and I'm sure she's going to be great, and I'm sure she's going to Hollywood and I'm sure I'll have to experience Melinda again.

My life rocks, about 99.9 percent of the time. Melinda is that .1%. And she is going to Hollywood. Make it .2%.

Jackie Tohn is a rocker chick. A slight backstory, and for the first time, the back story makes me interested in her. She's going to sing "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. She is so-so, and they stop her and ask her to sing something that will show off her voice more. Its kinda raspy, but kinda fun... I like this chick, don't ask me why.

Randy likes her. Kara says yes. And as Simon begins to talk, the glassy plastic screen behind them collapses. One of those scenes that Fox keeps showing, and then when it happens, you say, "Really? That was it?" Four yes votes, and Jackie is off.

In San Juan, I hear the familiar tune of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game", as they showcase some terrible auditions, including one guy who says "Please" after every "no way" sentence Simon utters.

And more terrible auditions, this time with yelling, dancing and breakin too (electric boogalu). In San Juan, we have this really stupid dude, I guess trying to be the Puerto Rican Johnny Knoxville or Tom Green... and not doing it very well. He walks in with a large iPod frame, and then murders "To Be With You" by Mr. Big. Great song. But not by him.

Though I actually enjoyed "Just Take My Heart", their underrated follow up just as much, if not more. I have the cassette single, and the single version has the slow guitar pick lead up and I only talk about this to avoid paying attention to this schmoe. Seriously, I didn't laugh one single time.

In New York City, here's another goofy guy named... Norman Gentle? Nick Mitchell? It doesn't matter. They trade insults, they make a few gay jokes and it falls apart. He finally sings "Amazing Grace", and shockingly doesn't do too bad... until he gets past the first couple of lines.

Simon says no. Kara says, "You don't have a shot in hell, but yes." Randy says... yes. And he's another guy who will end up being the one to screw over whoever is in his group--and seriously, I hope the judges take that into consideration.

Now we get to see a few people who actually have good voices. Kendall Beard. Hot. Dude with big 'fro. Cool.

And now, the bad auditions. I think its kinda cool that Idol is going toward showcasing the good voices over the bad, but let's face it, the bad auditions is why many, many people watch the show.

So, this next chick is bringing in her little 9 year old brother who it seems that everyone just finds adorable. Quite a ploy. He brings in a seashell for the judges. Monique is the sister, the one who is auditioning. I would give aaaannneee-thing to hear this kid say, "Did you know that bees and dogs smell fear?"

Monique is trying out The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love". Not an astounding audition, but pretty good. Her 2nd song is "I Turn to You" by Xtina. So, in my humble opinion, Monique is good enough to make it to Hollywood, but would never make it past that round. Randy says no. Kara says no. Paula says yes. They claim that she's just not ready yet. Simon says yes. Monique is on to Hollywood.

And coming back from last year, Alexis Cohen, a terrible rocker chick that was terrible, and then flew off the handle, with colorful phrases and telling Simon he's #1 and all that. But now? She's changed! She clean up a little, though still... not... pretty... at all...

"Like a Prayer" is her song. This is my favorite Madonna song of all time, and let's face it, I can sing this song better. And I have, at least in the car. Simon and Kara both think she's gotten worse since last year. And Alexis gives him the #1 sign. And more language.

"I've had thousands of people across America supporting me. I just choked in there." I think she's lying. Through her crooked teeth.

Back to San Juan, Patricia is here to sing Whitney's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". She even has the same hair (wig?) that Whitney had in the video. Whitney was so amazing back in the day, pre-crack. I mean, throwing down on "I'm Your Baby Tonight" or busting out with "I Have Nothing"... I mean Whitney was great... until Bobby. And crack.

They tell her it wasn't good enough, and offer her another chance to sing something. She sings in Espan-yola. Randy says yes. Paula, showing some spine, says no. Apparently Kara and/or Simon says yes, because she has a golden ticket.

So... finally... its off to Hollywood. There were 26 from NYC, and only 9 from San Juan to head off to Cali.

Sunday night... The Annual Super Bowl Blog!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mormon Idol!

The final night of audition episodes... next week starts Hollywood Week, one of the most exciting weeks in television--or at least the most exciting weeks in Idol, anyway. But first... we have to get through Salt Lake City, home of Young Archuleta...



I'm going to the Dollar Theater (it costs a buck to go in, not an actually theater here at The Cabana...) to see "Role Models" again with Mikey at 10pm, which means I leave here around 930, so we'll try to knock this episode out quick enough.

A bajillion people surround the arena hoping to make the Hollywood Round. No doubt many are married. Multiple times. Ha! Bigamy jokes never get old.

Once again, The Lovely Steph Leann miss Idol, as she's in Atlanta again, coming back tomorrow.

David Osmond is the son of Allen Osmond, the oldest of the Osmond Brothers group, from the old school days. And yes, Donny Osmond is in there somewhere. I think I used to have a crush on Marie Osmond for like, a day or something. Anyhow, toss an Osmond on the screen, and you have a backstory, this one being about how David has multiple sclerosis, and used to be in a wheelchair. Dad is on screen, almost in tears about how proud he is of his boy. Yikes. This is a heart breaker completely.

"Something Within Me" by Take 6 is his song. He sounds pretty good--I can't imagine him not making it, after all that kind of backstory. Paula gets onto him for not picking a song that he could sing solo, instead of the group song he picked.

Holy crap... they are actually leading us to believe he may not make it.

And he comes out with a golden ticket. Whew.

Time for the next audition, and we have Tara Mathews, who proclaims herself as Salt Lake's only goth chick. She's one of those people who should not be wearing what she's wearing. Look, some of us are blessed with figures that great clothes flatter, some of us don't. Just accept who you are. And dress like it.

She says she as ESP. She's singing "One Day I'll Fly Away" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Simon says, "Does it tell you you're going to win?" and she says, "I don't know, but I think so." And then she starts singing. Or howling. Or screeching. "One day I'll flyyyyy awaaayyy..." and Simon says, "I hope pretty soon."

All around the venue, contestants are practicing, and some sound terrible. Like the one trying to destroy "Last Night" by Carrie Underwood, or the chick yelling, "I'm gorgeous" or the welfare Kenny G singing something Motown. He's cross eyed and he licks his lips. I just threw up in my mouth.

So this guy is handing out with a friend in a pink bunny suit. A guy. In a bunny suit. The guy, Chris, comes in wearing a Simon shirt, holding a Simon sign/fan. Greg the Pink Rabbit comes in. Chris Kirkham does, "Roll to Me" by Del Amitri, and really, its not that bad. The judges stop him and make Greg the Bunny leave the stage. He starts two notes of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", and the judges stop him and tell him no.

I think that it might have actually worked if not for the Greg the Bunny thing going on.

Alrighty... that last line was written at 903pm. In between then and now, which is 1214am, I ended up in a conversation with a friend of mine, then I realized it was 930, so I had to race out the door and down the road to the dollar theater to meet up with Mikey for the movie that I mentioned earlier... sheesh...

Well, now, I'm back. And...




I figure its a show from Salt Lake City, so why not have 2 parts to it, instead of just 1? Hah! Bigamy! Its all the rage in the comedian circles!

Here's the montage of "No" and "No way" and "terrible" for our viewers. Lots of people who graciously bow out with a "thank you", and exit. Very nice. Because its going so "nice" for people who aren't making it, Seacrest encourages the crowd to not take no for an answer. Oh, Seacrest, you pot stirrer.

Single mom Frankie who was "definitely born to do this". Aren't they all? She's been "visualizing it, and am pretty sure I'm going to go through". Of course, she's been singing all her life. There is nothing else she'd rather do. And... Very, very good. Very sultry, very crisp. I don't know "crisp" even means, but it sounds good, just like her. I have no idea what she's singing, cause she mumbled through the song title... it might be Amy Winehouse? Yes, I just googled the lyrics, its "You Know I'm No Good" by Winehouse. Only Frankie doesn't have the disgusting beehive, eye shadow and drug issues. Frankie goes to Hollywood, relax.

Megan has a backstory, an arm full of Carly Smithson tattoos, a 2 year old named Ryder (?!) and now an ex-husband. She even gets a "World I Know" Collective Soul tune over her video. She looks like her arm fell into an ink blot. She's going to take on "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine", whoever sings that.

I think I like Megan better than Frankie. Two in a row, go Idol! Randy kinda likes her, Paula likes, borderline loves her, Simon says she's original and loved her. Kara says she glows, and is all about some Megan.

There's a hot streak now, where one contestant after another heads to Hollywood... that ends with Andrew Gibson's bad bass and terrible high note. He's got a soul vibe and a bad acne issue. It's a big no.

Austin Sisneros is the Riverton (Utah) High School senior class president. He's planning for homecoming. He's auditioning to inspire people. Aw, the problems of the young. We even see a video of him walking the halls with his four wives-to-be (its good he didn't marry them, cause they are in high school... he's just dating them) "When I Look to the Sky" by Train is his song. He does so-so, and offers up to sing Raffi's "It Takes a Village". I thought Hillary Clinton wrote that song.

Randy likes the voice, but doesn't like the song choices... but says yes. Kara says yes. Paula believes in him. Simon just says, "You're going to Hollywood with four yes'".

Seacrest is standing on a ridge, pointing out the filming site of High School Musical, full of joy and happiness... and then we see the Montage of Tears. The Montage of "I Should Be the American Idol". The Montage of "They Don't Know What They are Talking About".

Jarrett Burns takes on Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Record On", which is a billion times better than the next three or four people they quickly show.

Next we have a chick who's 5'11 flat footed, over 6 feet in heels. She's an Amazon! A Glamazon if you will... her name is Taylor, and she's from Utah, and Randy says she reminds him of Jordin Sparks. She takes on "Joyful Joyful" and hey, not too bad. Reminds me of Lauren Hill's version in "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit", in one of the greatest musical scenes ever.

Great musical number...

They love her. Welcome to Hollywood. She's actually tall enough to be two wives for some Utah guy.

And the end of the show backstory (there always is one, usually a hardship story involving tears) belongs to Rose Flack, 17, from Rathdrum, Idaho. Rose is living with her friend's family, because her dad died years ago. She holds a pic of her dad up, and... tears. You knew it was coming. A few years later, Mom dies in a car wreck... holy crap, Idol, what are you doing here? Geez...

She's really pretty, in a Gwen Stefani sort of way, like funky hippychick cool. I'm hoping she's good... she, of course, says this audition is the "determination of the rest of her life". That's lots of pressure.

"I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King is her song. And she's good... thank you! She smiles like Keira Knightly, but ten times better because I don't think Keira is all that good looking--Rose is very cute.

Paula says to work on the vocals, but yes. Randy says she has a cool vibe, so yes. Simon says it wasn't the best audition, but she was memorable. Kara says yes too, so Young Rose is off to Hollywood. I hope they build you a strong ship, Young Rose.

A dozen people are headed to Hollywood from Salt Lake City, and as far as we know, none are married to each other.

Wait, what? What? Tomorrow night? New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico in another Idol show? What the...? Holy crap... I have to blog another night about Idol this week? Well, Mindy D'A demands it, so I guess that's a yes.

I love the previews for Hollywood week... its always the "most tense week ever", and "some will fight, some will fall, others will rise" and "but to survive Hollywood Week, they'll have to survive each other!"

And we end with Simon looking at some notes and simply saying, "Didn't like you then, don't like you now..."

The 100 Coolest Things of 2008... 30 thru 21

So, if you are on Facebook, the numerous videos are not going to show up. Click on over to Clouds in My Coffee, then bookmark the page. Then check it daily. You never know what might pop up.

The Introduction and Recap
The 100th thru 91st Coolest Things of 2008
The 90th thru 81st Coolest Things of 2008
The 80th thru 71st Coolest Things of 2008
The 70th thru 61st Coolest Things of 2008
The 60th thru 51st Coolest Things of 2008
The 50th thru 41st Coolest Things of 2008
The 40th thru 31st Coolest Things of 2008

30. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
As this movie approached, I heard lots and lots of people, mostly churchy folk and older friends of mine, excited about seeing it. I, however, didn't care. Seriously. I went to see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe", and it was great. This one, though, I wasn't too excited about.

So, when it was released, I went to see it which I probably wouldn't have done unless it was with a group. And... I loved it. I absolutely loved it. "Prince Caspian" is an amazing film... its full of the action that the first one had, its got a great story line (I believe it combines a couple of the Narnia books) and who knew that Susan Pevensie would get so hot?

The first 9 minutes of the film, courtesy of YouTube.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people felt like I did about the movie, at least initially, but they never went to see it. Made for about $180 million, it only brought in about $135. The differential was great enough that Disney took a step back, reviewed the deal and decided they were done with Narnia movies. Walden Media has been shopping around for a deal to make the next one, though nothing has been settled.

I have this button on my facebook page, somewhere, with Anna Popplewell's picture on it, and the caption reads "Archers Are Hot!".

That's right, Disney. Get rid of great family fare like Narnia, so hopefully we can have Space Buddies 2, or perhaps Bevery Hills Chihuahua 2: Chihuahuaier.

29. Samantha Brown
I am all about me some Samantha Brown. She's one of the hosts on TLC, and typically the only reason I watch TLC. Usually when I'm flipping channels, I check the programs on several different ones, and if Samantha Brown is on TLC, that's where I go.


Right now, I'm watching her on "Passports to Great Weekends" where she's in Austin, TX. Up next, she'll be in Cabo, and you know that means? Samantha Brown in a swimsuit. Um, I mean, uh, it means we'll see the beautiful landscape that God has created and... well...

She's got a job that I can only envy. She gets paid to travel the world, spending days, nights and weekends in places like Rio, Boston, Berlin, Wyoming and everywhere in between, plus, she's done at least half a dozen Disney specials. Two words: Dream. Job.

Here's a video combining three of my favorite things not named The Lovely Steph Leann... Disney World and Samantha Brown and Christmas!

Anyway, I'm hoping one day she'll do "Passports to Great Weekend: The Cabana".

28. My Nintendo DS
My Christmas list wasn't extremely long, at least by other years standards, but on my list was a Nintendo DS, a small handheld game system. I wanted to have this with me to help pass the time when I'm... waiting in a lobby for my/her car to be fixed... waiting in traffic with the prospects of going nowhere... sitting in the back seat on a long car trip... sitting in a cramped airplane seat on a long flight... wherever I might need to pass the time.

I'm a natural fidgeter. I cannot just sit still, unlike The Lovely Steph Leann, who, if she has a book, she can actually be motionless for up to 38 hours, with only her fingers turning a page every few minutes. Its almost scary.

Anyway, imagine my happiness to peel back some wrapping paper and see the logo for Nintendo. Its bright blue, in a carrying case that looks like a purse, and came with the game Brain Age. My first Brain Age? 72. However, a day later, I got down to 33, so I chalk up that first one as an anomaly of not knowing exactly what I was doing. Currently, my brain is 21 years old, and getting younger. I rule.

27. Getting a Wii
After we moved in The Cabana, I asked The Lovely Steph Leann if we could get a Wii. After all, she got furniture, she got to paint, she got shutters--and while she'll say, "We both got those things!" you understand that as a guy, I'm not fazed either way. So, she relented, and the hunt for a Wii was on.

I went to Wal-Mart around midnight one night, knowing this was the time to get them. They had been delivered the night before, and sold out. There was a worker though who told me that there was a guy who worked there who had a Wii, practically new, and five games to go with it, and was on sale for $350. She gave me his number.

The next day--well, actually, about 12 hours later on that same Saturday--I called up J Rob and asked if he wanted to join me. He did, so J Rob and I called this guy and we agreed to meet him in a Wal-Mart parking lot to view his merchandise. I felt like I was on a drug deal.

We did meet him. The old guy rolled up in a beat up pick up truck, and seeing a modern device like a Wii in a truck like that, in the possession of a guy like that, would be like watching your mom on Facebook--its just weird. J Rob gave good advice, being a Wii owner himself. The guy had all the necessary cords and such, and the games, though none struck my interest, could be sold for extra money. I told the guy we'd let him know, so J Rob and I began to tour Targets, Best Buys, Circuit Citys and Wal-Marts all over Birmingham.

We even visited the mall's game stores, and we were given the same response at all the above places... "You won't find one."

I finally called the guy, left a message and said, "I've made a decision. Call me back."

J Rob had mentioned that it was getting later in the afternoon, and his woman, KT, was expecting him home, so I said, "Let's go to Game Stop here, by Target, then I'll take you back." He said he was going to wait in the car and make a quick phone call, so I went into Game Stop and asked the question, "Do you have a Wii?". As I asked the question, I was already turning around, ready to leave, knowing the answer was "no."

"Yeah, we have two."


I froze, then finally said, "Hold one for me, for the next twenty seconds." I dashed outside, knocked on the window to get J Rob's attention, and when he looked at me, I exclaimed, "They've got a Wii!" Quickly, the decision was made to purchase the brand new one, not the one from the Old Guy at Wal-Mart, and we were both ecstatic. I purchased the system, an extra controller, a couple of games and went home to play my little games. It ruled.

26. Rick Burgess
I received a phone call last January from The Rev'rn Ty Coffey. He informed me that Speedy, the producer from the Rick & Bubba Radio Show, went to his church, and had called him earlier to tell him that Bronner, the toddler son of Rick--half of the Rick & Bubba show hosts--had just died in a terrible drowning accident in their pool.

What followed in the days to come was one of the most amazing displays of faith I've ever seen.

The show the next day, and several days after, was very subdued. They took callers who shared their sympathy and cried along with Bubba and Speedy, while they talked to Rick a few times here and there. It was just... surreal... when James Spann, noted weatherman here in Birmingham, was on the air and broke down in tears on the show.

And after all this, here's where the "cool" part came in. The faith gloves came off. Instead of Rick and his family asking, "Why us, God? Why did you do this to us?" they completely turned it around. Rick began to speak openly--even more openly--about his own faith in Jesus Christ. He began to challenge every Christ Follower out there to be more visible in their faith, and essentially told those who sit and whine "Is there really a God? If there is, He doesn't love me because this happened!" to sit and shut up. It was awesome.

It was revealed that the guy who put in the pool was a Christ Follower (he called in, also in tears) and the Burgess family had prayed with him that the pool would be used for God's glory, not just for a good time. And who knew that this is what would happen.

Rick, speaking at Bronner's memorial service. You can see part two here, and part three here. Don't watch any of this unless you want to be challenged.

Bronner's death is a tragedy. However, what The Enemy thinks is going to be bad is always turned around for God's glory--and this case is no different. Thousands of people heard the message of Christ, thousands more were challenged in their faith and really, its about as cool as you get.

25. Melanie Zarzaur
Melanie is a local mom of three, married for 20 years to a CPA, living in a humble home in Hoover. I met Melanie when she was a customer at Cahaba Heights Starbucks (grande raspberry white mocha) and we became friends. I told her all about The Lovely Steph Leann, my love of Disney, and life at Starbucks, I learned about her family, her kids and so on.

A year later, in the middle of 2008, I was considering leaving Starbucks. I called a few people to get their perspectives on things--she was one I called. I finally left to go to The Happiest Place in the Mall, and later on, I got her a job there. It was great--I had already gotten Jennifer Smith hired, as my plan was to hire all my friends there, so in case I wanted to stage a coup, I would have loyalists.

Melanie also joined the Starbucks team down at the 280/119 store, so that gave us two jobs in common. I enjoy chatting with this chick, and we became good buddies, sharing two working fields. Anyway, I think she's great. So, she's on the coolest list.

24. Survivor: Fans vs Favorites.
Several years ago, "Survivor" did an "All Star" edition... favorite castaways came back to go one-on-one, including Bahstan Rob, Amber, Jerri, Rupert, Ethan and so on. It made for an excellent season, which can't be said for many seasons--like the most recent edition, in Gabon, Africa. I actually just woke up from that. The fact that it had the hottest Survivor--Sugar--since Elisabeth in Season 2's Outback only mildly helped.

Anyway, in early 2008, we had "Fans vs Favorites", which brought back Jonny Fairplay, Yau-Man, Ami the Lesbian Barista (also very hot), Penner, Ozzy, Parvati, Amanda, Eliza, Big James and Cirie, and put them against newbies who, for some, idolized the former Survivors. And the season was brilliant. Jonny Fairplay bowed out early, which was fine by Jeff Probst who had gone on record and said he didn't like him, and didn't agree with Fairplay being on the show. A let down was when Jonathan Penner, another likable villain, was injured and had to be carted out of the game. But overall...

The reward/immunity challenge from Episode 2. Note the brilliance of Chet. And the Manimal that is Ozzy.

"Blindside" is the word of the year in this show, as one blindside after another felled former champs and Survivor hopefuls... Ami the Lesbian Barista? Blindsided. Ozzy? Blindsided. James? Blindsided. Stupid Stupid Erik? Blindsided. It was awesome.

And, as far as the upcoming season is concerned, I found out that a guy I know... well, the little brother of a girl who I graduated with, will be on Survivor: Tocantins, in Brazil. So, let's root for JT.

23. "Hey, I Read the Blog!"
Nothing thrills me more, or makes me smile bigger, unless it has something to do with The Lovely Steph Leann, than to hear someone tell me they read my blog. Especially when its someone that I didn't even think would know I had one. The day Emmy Turnbow told me "I read the blog the other day", I was like "...really...?" I was thrilled.

I was talking to my friend Staceyfran the other day, and we were discussing blogging. I told her, who had just started a blog not too long ago, that she should write to be read. My point, essentially, is why put in on the interweb if you don't want people to read it? You would just be journaling in a book if it was private. Granted, there are people who blog who feel it doesn't matter if alot of people read what they write, but they still would like people to read their thoughts. That's why you post it.

But Clouds in My Coffee has grown over the last two years, especially in the last 12 months. I do keep an eye on visitors, and I enjoy looking at stats to see not only where people are viewing it from (over a hundred people have the site bookmarked) but also what keywords are used to find my site, plus how many countries stop by. Its kinda cool.

I have discovered that there's a link to this blog on several different sites that I didn't even know existed. And I appreciate it.

Yeah, maybe its a pat on my own back, but I work hard on Clouds, and I'm glad people are enjoying it. And if you are reading this and have never mentioned to me you read it, let me know. I'd like to hear that.

22. Antjuan Marsh
He's a minister and a speaker, and I consider him not only a friend, but a friend from way back, having attended Troy State U with him. Yep, "I knew him when."

He is a member of Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), and I list his website link alongside my other favorite ministry links on the right side (facebook readers will not see this). Along the same lines as #23 above, here is what he sent me that makes this list at #22:


I’ve been meaning to tell you thanks for your support. A guy who played football at Troy for a short time called me out of the blue. At the time, he was not a believer. Now a believer, he wanted to contact me. He was able to locate me after viewing your website. During our phone conversation, he mentioned I was listed as a top ministry site for Dave Ramsey. Well he meant David Dollar. After seeing what he was talking about, I was highly encouraged. Thanks for that posting and of course your kind words both spoken and written.

How 'bout that? I feel like I was used for something good. Always a good feeling.

21. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
I loved this movie. From front to back, top to bottom, all 3 hours of it, I thought this film was amazing. Brad Pitt has a disadvantage of being such a "pretty boy" because it sometimes takes away from what a great actor he has morphed into. He's funny in films like "Oceans 11-13", he's crazy in "12 Monkeys" and "The Fight Club" and he's just great in "Se7en", and in this movie, he shines.

You probably know the plot, where Benjamin was born as an old man, and progressively grew younger and younger. The film makes no attempt to explain this phenomena, it just uses it and tells the story of Benjamin's adventures.


As his love interest, Daisy, Cate Blanchett is bee-yoo-tee-ful (say it slow to appreciate how gorgeous she is in this film). Daisy is a little girl when Benjamin meets her, and over time, they end up "meeting in the middle". Its a movie I want to see again, I can hopefully pick up on Blu-Ray when it comes out, and I'm hoping it will stand the test of time and become a classic. Loved it.

The film's website is here, but its a little arduous to navigate.

Coming in a few days.... the 20 Coolest Things of 2008... What's the best movie of the year? What's the best song of the year? What was the best trip of the year? Find out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kip Comes to Jacksonville's Idol

Welcome to another late night of American Idol... I is your host, d$, here at The Clouds in My Coffee Blog, ready to give you the running tally of winners, losers and those off to Hollywood. Tonight, we broadcast from Jacksonville, Florida... do you know that per area, Jacksonville is the largest city in America? From what I've heard, its also one of the most boring, but I've never been there (seen it as I drove around it on the interstate). Anyway...




We see a flashback to the band Journey, showing Randy Jackson onstage... Paula Maddox would be proud, Steve Perry lover that she might be. Or is. Of course, the Journey song they choose to play over the video is "Don't Stop Believin'". My personal favorite? "Separate Ways". "Some day love will find you, break those chains that bind you, one night will..."

Wait, we're starting!

Here's a guy, up first, who is proud of being compared to Justin Giarini. Guarini. Whatever, who cares. He's going to take on Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On". Joshua is the guys name, but it doesn't matter what his last name is, cause he sucks. Entirely.

Got a note from Mindy D'A who told me that some guy on this show reminds her of Kip from "Napoleon Dynamite", so I'm looking forward to that!

And... he gets a yes. What? What? He will be that guy that screws up the trio performance and blows it for two other people.

Sharon Wilber brought her Shi'Tzu dog, Sasha. Sharon is a looker... she passes off the dog to Simon, and will sing "Superstar" by The Carpenters. If The Lovely Steph Leann were here, she'd be on alert, as The Carpenters might fall into her Top Ten Of Freakin' Everything, if she had such a list.

She sounded a little like Britney Spears on that audition, Simon and Randy say yes, Paula and Kara mock kiss each other, Kara pulls up her probably-too-low-but-not-really-for-me-okay-yes-too-low dress, and Sharon goes through. Welcome to American Idol, Season VIII.

We go off to break, and we come back from break... Ryan Seacrest is touring Amelia Island, just outside of Jacksonville, in a golf cart, he says, "While I'm fighting gnats, Dana Moreno is fighting a losing battle with Chaka Khan."

Oh, how right Seacrest is... this chick just hit some notes that actually cause some of the paint in the living room of The Cabana to peel back. How will I explain this to The Lovely Steph Leann? Wow. Simon gives her some direction... out of the room.

Anita Baker's "Rapture", a tall order for 16 year old Kaneswa Finnie, but she's full of confidence. And from the first "bum bum", you know... its terrible. Idol was actually building her up to be pretty good... and wow. I almost grabbed the blanket and held it over my own face, in The Lovely Steph Leann's honor. That was simply terrible.

Simon calls Kaneswa's mom in, and drills her about how bad her singing is. Simon is wrong, of course. Mom says, "She's my American Idol!" And she can have her.

Julissa is Miss Florida Latina USA. I wonder if they have Latina USA contests in like, say, North Dakota, or Idaho? If I'm a 19 year old Latina hottie with aspirations of being in Miss Latina USA, I'm totally going to Montana, where there can't be that many (legal) Mexican hot chicks. The competition is probably a lot less fierce than, say, Texas or California. And yes, I just typed "If I'm a 19 year old Latina hottie..."

Anyway... Julissa is taking on Whitney's "I Have Nothing", one of those that you should never, ever, ever, never sing. And she doesn't do too bad... but her laughter? Awful. She has this gawd-awful heh-heh-heh going on. Paula gets offended at Simon and Randy, Paula walks out, Kara looks on in confusion, she comes back, Julissa reappears, Randy says yes, Paula says yes, Kara says yes, Simon reluctantly says yes. And everything that I typed just now was happening right as I was typing it. My fingers are out of breath.

Darin Darnell, a perfectly goofy stage name, is all about dancing, meeting people, bouncing around the room and is being built up to be...well as this show is progressing, who knows. When Darren's friend gets cut, he suddenly is unsure of everything. Confidence is gone.

Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye" is his song... aw, its my class song. A song about death. Darin just took a song about death, and killed it. Is that even possible? If Nate, Mike, Shawn and Wanya (the members of Boyz II Men, to those of you under 25... you know, ABC, BBD, the East Coast Family... three points to whoever can tell me ABC and BBD stand for!)

Oh, they cut Darin.

Here's the montage of tears. Naomi Sykes is the final contestant of Day One. I like that name, Naomi. What about Naomi Dollar as a 2nd daughter's name? Naomi goes on and on about her best friend who wants to meet Randy, the friend comes in, and she ends up sitting on Randy's lap. Naomi is going to sing "Loving You" by Minnie Riperton, known for a high note that has, at last count, killed 32 dogs over the decades.

Seacrest is in Kara's lap, Paula is in Simon's lap and Naomi just kicked Minnie Riperton in the face. Seriously. Naomi says the immortal line, "Everyone tells me I'm great." When Simon says, "Are you serious?", she cries. She then laments, outside, that she doesn't know what she did wrong. How about muck up a song that was already bad enough?

Nine people get golden tickets on Day One.

We move to the next day, and 16 year old Jasmine comes in. She hails from Starkville, Mississippi, and is going to take on "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie. Rock it baby, rock it... she did really great! Does it tell my age that when she said she was singing "Big Girls Don't Cry", I automatically thought of Frankie Valli's version in "Dirty Dancing"? Oh, Jasmine gets through.

George Ramirez is an FSU student who is studying physics. He must be smart to study physics, but he goes to Florida State, so he can't be that smart... ha! Jokes!

This might be the guy who Mindy D'A has compared to Kip. And she's totally right. He really should be singing "Yeees, I love technology... but not as much as you, you see..." George admits he has never sung in public, just around his friends. That was a strange, strange audition.

Anne Marie Boskovich flatters Kara by telling her how much she loved her singing. She sings a little bit, and they tell her to come back later and be "another person", or to be herself. They don't feel like she's a superstar just yet.

TK is back from last year's audition, ready to try again. "Imagine" is a hard to sing, but TK pulls it off. And he's putting his own spin on it, which is always good (see: Cook, David) and doing quite well with it. They tell him he was a little over the top, but they send him through by a 3 to 1 margin, with Simon dissenting.

There's a great montage of various family members, telling the cameras how great their own kids are. Michael Perrelli has a backstory, something we didn't have much of tonight! He learns that he can't play his guitar in the audition, and starts crying. Literally starts crying.

"Jumper" by Third Eye Blind is his song of choice. He doesn't do a terrible job, but not great. Simon says that Michael would struggle in the competition, and Kara nails it--she knows he needs the guitar.

Simon tries to tell him to start a band, be better, and when he starts crying, Simon says, "You're getting on my nerves". Tough times! And outside, he's still crying. Holy crap. Have a spine, suck it up.

Anne Marie comes back, has better hair, a new outfit, found a makeup artist. "Bubbly" is her song, and she does great with it. Randy says yes. Kara says yes, Paula says yes, Simon sends her to Hollywood.

Sixteen tickets came out of the Jacksonville auditions, meaning only 7 made it on Day Two. Wow, harsh judges!

Montage of everyone, good and bad, trying to sing "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves. Even Kip, er, George, sings a little bit.

What's amazing to me is how there is an entire stadium of people try out, and SEVEN make it.

Tomorrow night, I think it might be the last of the audition episodes, this time from Mormontown USA, that being Salt Lake City! Make sure you read the blog to see who makes it, who doesn't, and if Simon or Randy pick up a few wives each!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The 100 Coolest Things of 2008... 40 thru 31

Tell me what this Clouds in My Coffee junk is about... Click here to find out what the heck this is all about.

The Introduction and Recap
The 100th thru 91st Coolest Things of 2008
The 90th thru 81st Coolest Things of 2008
The 80th thru 71st Coolest Things of 2008
The 70th thru 61st Coolest Things of 2008
The 60th thru 51st Coolest Things of 2008
The 50th thru 41st Coolest Things of 2008

40. "Bolt"
I'd been seeing the previews for this movie for a while--Bolt was a television dog, owned by Penny, who somehow is abandoned, or gets out of the studio lot or whatever. He seeks to find his owner, and ends up being accompanied by Mittens the cat and Rhino the hamster. The fact that it was in 3-D made it even better.

After working a while at The Happiest Place in the Mall, the anticipation was even higher, as I saw the preview twice an hour, up to eight hours per day. It seemed like it would be a pretty good film, with the voices of John Travolta (Bolt) and Miley Cyrus (Penny), but the scene stealer appeared to be Rhino, the hamster in the ball who was nothing but a fanboy and Bolt geek.

I laughed, lots. It was well written, well done, and really, it was just a fun movie. Would easily watch it again--looks to be on DVD and Blu-Ray in the Spring (April, maybe) and will pick up... and I recommend you do the same.

39. Getting a Blu-Ray Player
Speaking of "Bolt" on Blu-Ray... we wouldn't be getting it on Blu-Ray if we didn't have a Blu-Ray player, which we do now. The day after Thanksgiving, after spending Black Friday at The Happiest Place in the Mall from 1am to 10am, I ambled on over to Best Buy. Dreary eyed, blurry sighted, foggy brained, I was looking for a Blu-Ray.

The Lovely Steph Leann and I had already discussed it, of course... we had a limit, and the goal was to find one that came under--hopefully well under. And what better place to find one than Best Buy, what better time than the day after Thankgiving. I found our Sony Blu-Ray with all the bells and whistles, upgradable software and BD Live capabilities for just around $200.

And I'm watching the 8th episode of LOST on it right now.

38. The Chipotle Mexican Grill
I had first eaten at a Chipotle around the mall--at the old place, The Casa de Pesos, we lived very close to it, and one day, decided to give it a whirl. Fantastic food, by the way. Had the tacos, with meat and cheese only, topped with sour cream, soft shell please.

When we moved to The Cabana, across town, we moved away from the Chipotle. So, imagine my wonder and happiness when, right across 280, perhaps a mile (if that) from where The Cabana sits, they turned an old Captain D's that had closed down into a Chipotle Mexican Grill. For their "grand pre-opening", they were giving away free food to anyone and everyone for two straight days.

I had Chipotle for lunch, then dinner, then lunch, then dinner. And it rocked.

In fact, The Lovely Steph Leann just came in, and asked me what I wanted for dinner. I think I know the answer.

(That last sentence was written about an hour ago. In the time between typing "...know the answer" and "That last sentence...", We went to Target to get some groceries, then ended up at Chipotle Mexican Grill. The music overhead was some strange tune I'd never heard, sounding like a Mexican Beck. Beckez? Becko? Anyway, I usually go for the chicken soft tacos, tonight I was daring and did the carnitas. Not a fan.)

37. ESPN's The Sports Guy
His name is Bill Simmons, and he used to write as "The Boston Sports Guy" before he was incorporated into the wide band of ESPN columnists. He's actually been there for 9 years, and I think I've been reading him for just that long, even back on ESPN's old site and his first book is just great. And The Sports Guy just gets better with age.

He's funny, he's irreverent, and he does what most columnists do not--keeps politics out. Granted, he's made illusions to not necessarily being a fan of Dubya (but then again, neither is Brad Latta. Or NYC Jenny. Or J Rob. But I love ya, Dubya) but he's never let that really intrude on his topics, nor does he ever make that the focal point. No, his topics range from the Celtics (his NBA team who won a title) to the Red Sox (his MLB team) to the Patriots (his NFL team) to favorite movies to whatever else happens in pop culture. Its also no secret that sometimes I borrow phrases from him here and there.

One of the great things this year too, though, was the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons, the ESPN Podcast... just like his columns, he'd have great shows discussing all the aforementioned topics, but this time he's also got guests with him--Chuck Klosterberg, Michael Lombardi, Cris Collingsworth, NBA Commissioner David Stern, SNL star Seth Myers and so on.

36. "Moratorium" by Alanis Morissette
I've never been this accountable-less and within
I've never known focuslessness on any form
I've never had this lack of ache for dalliance
To let go and let god in ways I have never even imagined

I declare a moratorium on things relationship
I declare a respite from the toils of liaison
I do need a breather from the flavors of entanglement
I declare a full time out from all things commitment

I've never let my grasp soften fingers like this
I've never been careless other... less like autonomy's twin

From the album "Flavors of Entanglement", the excellent newest release from Alanis Morissette, and one of my favorite songs of the year.

35. Dr. Earl does Dinner Theater
Got a buddy of mine who is a doctor, we like to call him Dr. Earl. Well, the Good Doctor has come along in his acting performances over the years, joining Impact, the adult drama team for Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), and this year, he was cast as "Gabriel", in the modern retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus.

The Good Doctor and Yours Truly over Christmas

The Good Doctor had the majority of the lines, and was in about 90% of the entire show... don't get me wrong, Rhett Barnette (Joseph) and Lisa Whaley-Bowen-Whaley-Owens (Mary) were great, and those who had smaller parts were great too, but for my money, The Good Doctor Earl stole the show. Good job, Earl. Good job.

34. McQ Writes a Book
Got another friend of mine, McQ, who runs the Strength In the Struggle blog. She is alot like me, as in, she likes to write alot. McQ is funny, she's got a contageous laugh and now... she's an author.

She started working on this book early in the year... well, I take that back--she's been working on the book for years and years, but she started compiling her writings to turn into a book. Taking the title from her blog, she calls it "Strength in the Struggle" (you can also order the book from this site) and its a pretty good selection of writings. The photography is also taken by McQ from her adventures around the country and is excellent.

Mostly, though, what's cool about it is that she's achieved a dream that not too many people can say they have done... published a book. Self publishing is something I've already considered.

33. "Role Models"
Here's what I wrote on December 17th...

As a follower of Christ, we are bound by the law of what is good and what is right, as listed in the Word of God, telling us be careful what we see and what he hear, be cautious of what we put before our eyes and in our hearts. I say this to head off anyone telling me this exact thing, Amy McL, because I have to say, for me...

...this movie was absolutely hysterical. I mean, unbelievably funny, to the point I was cracking up every few minutes. The plot is a little contrived--two guys get into trouble and are sentenced to work with some troubled kids at a center. Of course, it goes without saying, the ending will be that, though they hate the kids at first, they end up loving the kids, and the kids, though hating the two guys, end up loving the two guys. Duh. That's how movies like this are supposed to end.

That being said, this movie is driven by Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, two extremely funny and talented guys. Their timing and delivery of what might be unfunny dialogue turn this from cliche to completely a riot. I like Paul Rudd anyway, for his work in the little-seen-but-very-funny "Wet Hot American Summer" (directed by David Wain, as is "Role Models"), the slightly overrated "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and of course, my 91st Favorite Movie of All Time. Seann William Scott, who will forever be known as Stifler, is also emerging as a great go to guy for silly, stupid comedy, and in the case of genius like "The Rundown" (also on The Dave100), smart, sharp comedy.

Anyway, if "Superbad" offended you, or "Knocked Up" got under your craw, stay away from "Role Models". Its got language, its got unnecessary boobage and its got boy potty humor... but man, its funny. And its great to watch Fogell emerge as a decent actor.

Thinking back on the movie, and all it contained... I still feel the same way.

32. Brad Latta
The Lattas have turned into quite a large group... the youngest, Scott, one of The 100 Coolest Things of 2007, is about to get married to his love, Jessica (Scott says, "That should rank among the Top 20 Coolest Things of 2008, right?") in April, so I figured it was about time that eldest brother Brad found his way amongst the blog.

I call him the Clouds Ombudsman, as he likes to give many times a different viewpoint on what I have to say here... and this was a good year for it--the election gave plenty of debating material for sure. He's not a fan of the former president and isn't exactly a huge supporter with the current one, and his law background gives him good insight on what is and is not concerning many, many topics, including politics and even Constitutional law.

Every now and again, when I know I've written something perhaps a little controversial, or tossed out a viewpoint that I know will be unpopular, I cringe thinking of how Brad will respond--then I look forward to it. If there were such a thing as "Coffee Drinker of the Year", he'd be nominated.

31. The Apple Store
Early in December, my iPod started dying. Wouldn't hold a charge, had to plug it in to the computer or the wall to listen it, and so on, and I had to take it to the Apple Store... here's what I wrote on December 3rd:

Adam the Apple Guy called for me, and I told him of my ills. He was impressed that my iPod battery had lasted almost 4 years (March would make it 4, methinks) and I told him how bummed I was that I was going to be without it for a few weeks.

Adam the Apple Guy said, "Well, that might not happen. If we have them in stock, we can give you a refurbished one, just trade them out. The battery and casing will be new, the hardware will be refurbished. Is that a solution?"

You mean I can walk out with this thing tonight? All bright and shiny? Heck yeah!

Adam the Apple Guy even did the registration online for me, with the new serial number and everything. And the price? Not the $80 or 90 I was planning on... but it was $59.99, plus tax. Total cost? $64.20. Love it.

I'm a PC guy, and will be one for a while, mostly because I can't afford to be an Apple guy... but their customer service? Primo fantastico. Those guys rocked that night.

Note on the Pruitt Cool Awards
After further consideration, I have decided to award only one of these per year... I had 3 more recepients in mind, but I am going to wait. This should be more of a "lifetime achievement of coolness" award... so, James & Jessica Hawbaker will remain the sole Pruitt Award for Coolness winners... until 2009.

Coming soon... we dive into the 30 Coolest Things of 2008, with some Rhett, Rick, Rush and "Hey! I read your blog!"

Who Is Miss America? Who Cares?

It's a Sunday Afternoon, I'm half reading "The Appeal" by John Grisham, and half surfing the interweb, and I came across this little ditty from and I'm posting it, because The Lovely Steph Leann and I just were discussing this a few nights ago... its really sad, too, because I remember when I was all about some Miss America.

The article says:

And the winner of the 2009 Miss America Pageant is...

Do you really care?

Actually, there was a time -- not so long ago, really -- when Americans did, tuning in in record numbers. It was like the Super Bowl with evening wear. But in 2009, the thought of seeing 52 young women (the extra two are for Miss District of Columbia and Miss U.S. Virgin Islands) awkwardly prance around in bikinis and high heels (there's a look you see in real life a lot) and showing off their hokey "talents" like tap dancing and belting out their rendition of "Home" from The Wiz, seems not just like bad programming, but embarrassingly out-of-step with the times. And the fact that the mirrored stage made the whole thing look like it was being broadcast live from the Champagne Room at Cheetah's, didn't help matters either. Watching it, you couldn't help thinking that every 10 minutes of air time set the women's movement back another decade -- a sad situation that even host Mario Lopez, jockeying to become the poor-man's Seacrest, couldn't right. What, was Joey Fatone busy?

Let's be honest, if these young women (most of whom looked well beyond the 17 to 24 age limit thanks to their knack for applying make-up with a trowel) really had any discernible talent beyond spouting rehearsed platitudes about how they plan to improve the state of the world with a tiara on top of their Texas-sized hairdos, they would have already signed up for Top Chef, Project Runway, or American Idol instead of slumming it on this low-rent cavalcade. Not that TLC didn't try to get with the times. This year's "updated" Miss America format included a lame, lead-up reality TV series that had the gals fighting for wildcard spots in the big event. Not a bad idea, in theory. But a pageant that requires that much commitment from viewers is doomed when there are so many better things on like, oh, I don't know, Howie Do It. And the addition of a loser's lounge, where the freshly eliminated had to sit, stew, and shoot dagger-eyes at the contestants who were still standing, was an uncalled-for extra helping of humiliation. Actually, that part was kind of fun.

Still, you can't blame the producers of Miss America for wanting to hip things up a bit. After all, there's nothing in American popular culture that's as hopelessly square as this wheezy old soap opera. But adding Lopez (whose smarmy ad-libbing was excruciating) and some weak reality challenges was hardly a step in the right direction. Then again, what do you expect from TLC -- the network that's currently running the creepy JonBenet Ramsey-style show, Toddlers & Tiaras?

Maybe the only honest moment in the show came when Miss District of Columbia admitted to the camera that she was only in it for the scholarship money and to get out of debt. Wow, was she really just allowed to say that? Naturally, she didn't make it to the Final Five. So, who did walk away with an armful of long-stem roses and the rhinestone crown? Well, if you read this far, I suppose you've earned the right to know: that would be Miss Indiana.

Go Hoosiers!

Congratulations, Miss America 2009. We'll all be paying rapt attention to your first 100 days in office. For now, be gracious and leave the whole world peace thing to our new president. Instead, how about making your first official act as the reigning queen to put this dated contest out of its misery once and for all?

What did you think of Miss America...that is, if you're brave enough to admit you watched it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

LOST again

LOST's fifth season started tonight. When the show was first being teased, in the Spring of 2004, I was soooo pumped. They were advertising these two new shows, "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" to premiere in the fall, and both were on my list to watch. "LOST" looked very promising, and "Desperate Housewives" has Teri Hatcher, one of the goddesses of my youth.

At that point, The Lovely Steph Leann and I would flip through the television guides, sometimes the actual TV Guide--which, if you haven't heard, is on the brink of bankruptcy, mostly because... well, they completely suck.

They used to be this great, digest sized magazine that had three sections, the color pages of TV articles, the black and white TV grid, and the pay channels guide at the end. Oh, and the crossword at the end. A few years back, they went and changed it all up. The magazine went to a regular sized edition, they reduced the grids, the articles went from informative to US Weekly type glam crap, and the whole magazine just tanked. Things have gotten so bad there, the company was sold for a single dollar last year to a private company. Read last week that they ended up dropping The CW and MTV from their program listings. Heck, Mom was a subscriber for about 15 years... and she dropped them like a bad habit. No muss, no fuss.

Where was I?

Yes, The Lovely Steph Leann and I would flip through previews of the upcoming shows, and would pick out shows we wanted to see. Sometimes this worked great, like LOST and Desperate Housewives, other times it didn't work out so well. See "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "Miss Match". Or heck, you might not.

So when LOST premiered on September 22nd, 2004, I was there in front of the television. And it was amazing. It was absolutely incredible, like nothing I had ever seen. Jack, Charlie, Kate, Michael, Locke, Hurley, Claire, Sun, Jin, Sayed, Sawyer, Shannon, Walt, Vincent, Boone... this was my show. This was a keeper.

...from the first five minutes, ever, of LOST...

So, as the weeks went by, I watched it more and more, week after week. In 2005, it was the 3rd Coolest Thing of 2005. As soon as the first season DVD came out, I bought it on release day. My intentions were to watch it again, to catch up on what I missed.

Well, season 2 started, and so I put season 1 on the shelf, and absorbed myself into season 2. By season 3, however, I ran into a problem. This show was becoming so complex, so involved, it was harder and harder to keep up with. I hit a wall, life was coming at me faster and faster and darn it, I missed an episode here, an episode there. No worries, right? The Lovely Steph Leann and I still had a VCR, three of 'em to be precise in Casa de Pesos, our apartment. Stacks of shows, though, were building up. "ER", "Desperate Housewives" and... "LOST".

Somewhere around February of season 3, right after Sawyer and Kate did the deed and Juliet's backstory was told, we stopped watching. I didn't want to. I really didn't. Somehow, all these people I knew were all about the show, the show that I felt like I discovered, cause darn it, I was raving about it for months when it first came on, and everyone was saying, "Haven't seen it", or "I heard about that show" or whatever.

So now, I sit on the couch in The Cabana. The first time in five season premieres that I didn't watch the season's first episode. It came on tonight, and I didn't even DVR it.

Do I want to? Absolutely.

But first, I have some catching up to do. I popped in Disc One of Season One about thirty minutes ago. I'm going to watch the show's pilot episode tonight, and do all I can to shoot through the seasons in the next few months. I'm going to see the story from the beginning.

What's funny about watching this is knowing now what I know about these characters. Its great when they show a scene of the plane and its passengers, and you can pick out just about everyone--something you couldn't do when you first watched it, because you didn't know who these guys even were.

And... the captain of the plane just got snatched up by whatever that monstery thing is on the island.

We don't do the VCR thing anymore, not with DVR. And we don't flip through TV show previews anymore to find shows we want to watch. I learned that lesson with Fox's "Drive", an excellent show that was cancelled after four episodes. I wanted to watch "Pushing Daisies", but I wanted to make sure it would last before I got involved. It reached Season 2, and I ordered it off of Netflix. I got it in the mail the day I learned that "Pushing Daisies" had been cancelled. So, without watching it, I sent it back, even though I love me some Kristen Chenoweth.

Currently, the only shows that The Lovely Steph Leann and I watch together, other than the random episode of "Clean House" on Style, is "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Grey's Anatomy". For the most part, she and I have seen just about all of those episodes together. We started watching "Heroes", and both loved the first season immensely, and bought the second season pretty quicklike. However, we've both heard the 2nd season is terrible, so that hasn't made us rush to watch it yet.

Anyway, I'm rambling, as I tend to do... bottom line is, I'm re-watching LOST and all its splendor. And I'm excited about it. I just started Pilot-Part II,with a lovely Shannon laying on the beach in a bikini, as Boone rolls his eyes.

Here's a LOST recap, everything you need to know from Season One to Season Three, all in 8 minutes and 15 seconds

Fear is sort of an odd thing... terror is just so crazy, so real. I made a choice. I'd let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing. But only for five seconds, that's all I would give it. So I started to count. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Then it was gone. -- Jack

Off to the Idol Races!

First and foremost... CONGRATS to Paulie Walnuts and his wife Sammi, who just had their baby daughter this evening around 5pm.

Say hello to...

...Catherine "Cate" Claire Carby. Weighing in at 12 pounds and 8 ounces. That is not a typo.

Okay, here we go...

Another night, another Wednesday, its episode 4 of the 6 audition episodes of American Idol. We're here at The Cabana, The Lovely Steph Leann has a blanket, ready to cover, and KT and J Rob are in the house, eatin' fresh, ready to watch...




Ryan opens the show at Churchhill Downs, in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby. As the show comes on, all four of us are in discussion about delivering an almost 13 pound baby. Some procedure involving cutting, and e-pees-all-on-me or something. Gross. Glad to be a dude.

Some mom is pointing to her daughter "Right here, the next American Idol!" but I am captivated by her arm dangle.

The first contestant is Tiffany Shedd. KT says she's pretty, but she looks fresh from The Waffle House. Her eye shadow is about six inches tall. J Rob points out the Breast Mole. And Tiffany aims for Mariah's "Hero". It makes KT laugh out loud, and The Lovely Steph Leann covers her face right off the top. "Make it stop!"

Simon says, "Putting into horseracing terms, imagine 22 horses, and a donkey." This makes myself and J Rob laugh out loud. She was terrible! She tries singing outside, and her mom is bobbing her head and saying, "She is the next American Idol! They messed up!" Then Tiffany does the old tradition of, "This show sucks! I'm never watching it again!" We can only hope.

Joanna Pacitti is here with a backstory. I think she's pretty until I really look at her. Kara recognizes her as a signed A&M Records artist that didn't work out. "We Belong" by Pat Benatar is her song, and hey, she sounds great. I think she'll make the semi-finals, the Top 36. All four say yes, and Joanna goes on to Hollywood.

Mark Mudd Jr shows up, wearing a bolo tie, thick Kentucky accent, and J Rob thinks he's awesome. His great-great-great-infinity grandfather is Samuel Mudd, the guy who treated John Wilkes Booth after he jumped down and broke his leg following Abe Lincoln's getting shot.

He's singing "White Lightning" by George Jones--I daresay I am the only one in this room that has heard this song in its entirety. This guy carries his phone in a gun holster. He sounds terrible, they all say no and says "Be careful". They take it as a threat, which The Lovely Steph Leann pipes up and says, "In the south, everyone says 'Be careful'." Then she adds, "after all those commercials, that was a little bit of a letdown."

Brent Smith is throwing down on some Bad Company, and does a great job. Randy, Paula and Kara liked it, Simon didn't like it at all. Simon still says yes. Then there are jokes made on the show that, being boys, J Rob and I both laugh.

Here's a terrible chick named Irene. I mean, bad. The Lovely Steph Leann pulls the blanket. Another chick named Obianuju kills it (J Rob demands a rewind to fully appreciate what just happened), while Wil crosses his eyes while destroying Soft Cell. White Big Poppa does a bad Michael Jackson (crappy bad, not Sam Jackson bad) and some guy does a terrible song dressed as a zebra crossed with Ace Frehley in full costume.

Backstory! Matt Giraud sings Gavin DeGraw, and KT predicts, before the song, that with this backstory, he'll make it. They tell him to get his swagger on and send him on his way to Hollywood.

They've been previewing this guy, a nerd, if you will, Ross Plavsic. He smiles and J Rob says, "He's been eating gravel!" He has learned Chinese or something, he's dressed in a business suit and when asked, "Why are you here?" he says, "I enjoy singing!" He has this bad deep voice singing some song I've never heard by Jay & the Americans, I think. Paula offers his some water and he... goes up and actually drinks from Paula's drink. She's completely offended.

"Love Me Tender" is his next song to sing, and Simon says, "This isn't getting any better." The Lovely Steph Leann yells, "Eww! This is grossing me out!" On the way out, he sings something about "my best wasnt good enough."

"Good stuff," J Rob smiles.

As we come back from the break, we see a hillbilly shout, "I tell ya I'm the next 'merican Idol, I tell ya that right thar". The Lovely Steph Leann says, "Yeah, maybe not."

Emotional backstory! She's a stay at home mom who had her baby at 19, with a baby daddy in Pensacola, in military school. The daughter is Ryan, who is cute as a button. "Dr. Feelgood" by Aretha is her song, and it seems a little shouty, but not bad. Personally, when she said "Dr. Feelgood", I was hoping for Motley Crue. She's off to Hollywood!

They tell her to work on stage presence, "dirty up" a little, and Kara says, "Go home and make love to your fiance!" Hey now!

Another bad montage! And here comes Aaron Williamson, who is ready to do his stuff. I bring this up because he's peppy beyond measure. He's yelling, representin' and shouting. The Lovely Steph Leann whispers, "Oh dear... I'm slightly worried..."

He's here to be the American's Next Top Idol, singing Creedences Clearwater's Revival. He shouts. Loudly. Very loudly. KT collapses into J Rob's arms. The Lovely Steph Leann bites her nails. Ryan Seacrest, on the outside, peers inside and whispers, "What the hell...?"

The judges are egging him on, which is kinda funny in itself. He's still smiling.

Rebecca Garcia is in line, ready to go... a reporter asks her, "How you gonna dazzle them today?" and J Rob whispers, "With my big horse nose." And that joke has a purpose. She is taking on Carrie Underwood, "Before He Cheats". The Lovely Steph Leann covers half her face with the blanket, KT giggles and J Rob laughs. Rebecca has a wristband on with the words... and when she forgets the line, Kara says, "Check your arm."

Kara laughs, and says, "That was good! That was funny! She was voted 'Most Humorous' in high school and..." She looks up and sees Rebecca's face, and realizes that this audition wasn't a joke. It was genuinely terrible.

This exchange:
Rebecca: Should I give up?
Rebecca's Mom: No, of course not
The Lovely Steph Leann: Heavens yes, please.

Its always refreshing to see a montage of great voices, and we have one with several contestants that get through.

At the end of every episode, there is a touching backstory, and this one is no exception. Leneshe is 18, from Cincinnati, and has a hard life. But now that Obama is president, that should all change, right? She's a single mom, has lived in shelters, so on and so on. Are we watching Americal Idol or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?

I want her to be terrible, so badly, especially singing an original song... and you know what, she's pretty good. I somehow thought she would be. Simon loved her. This is an unusual step, because normally people who do their own stuff are terrible. Paula loves her. Kara loves her. Randy loves her. She's going to Hollywood--like I knew she would.

Nineteen contestants are heading to Hollywood from the Louisville auditions. But wait, Coffee drinkers--next week, its onto Jacksonville, Florida!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Left My Idol in San Francisco

Though I didn't plan on watching any of The Messiah's coronation, I DVR'ed it... you know, in case anything happened. No, no, I wasn't hoping for something, I wasn't wishing for a big whatever to happen, but I wanted it on tape in case... well, things went bad.

I got home from a full day at The Happiest Place in the Mall, and also a shift at Starbucks, and before I watched American Idol, I figured I would flip through some of the inauguration ceremony. After throwing up in my mouth twice, peeling back three fingernails and getting a migraine from rolling my eyes during President Obama's speech, I decided it was time for something else.

Just so we're clear... Condi Rice, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell paved the way for our first Half-Black President... and they were skewered in the media. They were slaughtered in the papers. They were called "Uncle Toms" and "Whitey Lovers" and more. So... Barack Obama doesn't impress me. Furthermore, I've tried to root for him. But I cannot. To root for Barack Obama to succeed means wishing that all he stands for will succeed. And I want everything he stands for to utterly fail. Because if he fails, that means conservatism, and America, will succeed. I wish the man well, I hope our country doesn't fall apart, but I cannot and will not cheer for the accomplishments former (very few) or future of President Obama, not because he's black, but because what he stands for is wrong.

Sorry. I had to rant for just a minute. Whew.


Is American Idol!

Here we are in The City By the Bay, that being San Francisco! Already, the previews look less than promising, with a silly laughing girl, another struggling to get out "larynx" and still another heartwarming (re: sob story) tale of a guy who "needs this!".

But, on the flip side... McPheever started here in San Francisco. Kat McPhee, one of my favorite idols. She's no Pickles, though. I love Pickles!

Randy, Simon, Kara and Paula are ready, and here comes said silly laughing girl, in a silly flowing dress with a Mexican accent. Her name is Tatiana. She just saw a psychic who told her that she would make it to the Top 12. And they play her laugh over and over... its pretty bad.

"I desire to be the American Idol more than anyone wanted anything," she says. Thats a pretty broad statement. I mean, I am sure Erin the Marine Wife wants her husband home, I'm sure KT would love to NOT be at work right now (I'm assuming that is when she's reading this), I'm pretty positive that The Lovely Steph Leann would rather be asleep... and I had Zaxby's for dinner, so I'm pretty sure I would like to visit the bathroom, all more than Tatiana wants the Idol crown. Where was I even going with this?

Tatiana comes in and hands off her portfolio photos and music. And she's taking on Aretha. The way the show was setting this chick up, I expected her to be terrible... and she's actually not that bad. However... Simon doesn't like her--and so without another word, Tatiana starts singing Whitney. Simon starts talking again, and she starts singing again. Paula pipes up to say yes. Randy says yes. Kara says no. Paula says yes, Tatiana gets the Golden Ticket. And she laughs on the way out. That's quite annoying, actually.

Nick, a bad beatboxer (and I mean bad like really crappy, not bad as in early Michael Jackson), totally bombs out. Dean Anthony Bradford, a self proclaimed "failed entrepenuer", is wearing this gawd-awful jacket, hoping to impress. He seems like a funny enough guy... but can he sing? Let's find out!

The answer? No. The Lovely Steph Leann is actually upstairs asleep right now as I watch this on DVR, so I will reach over and grab the blanket and cover my own face. The judges show mercy upon America and reject DA Bradford.

Jesus Valenzula is up... I mean, his name is Jesus! Hay-suess is how we Mexicans pronounce it, though. Though it might be cool to see him get through to the Top 12, just to see people hold signs that say "Vote for Jesus!" He comes with like, 27 people, which I'm sure all are in the same car... hey, hey, yes, I made a joke... I'm half Mexican, so I can riff on the stereotypes, okay? But YOU can't. So there.

Simon says no way. His kids come in with him at the request of Paula and Kara, and one of them is holding a sign that says "Make No Excuse, Its Hollywood for Jesus!" That's kinda funny. Randy, Kara and Paula send him through. He doesn't make it past the Hollywood round, that's my prediction.

Dalton has this talent for doing the Rubik's cube really fast. Bailey Turnbow, the son of The 47th Coolest Thing of 2008, can do it better. I've seen the kid in action. He actually showed me his Rubik's Steroid Monster last week, its like a 12 sided cube that...

Oh, so Dalton is doing his Rubik's thing, and finishes in 24 seconds. I used to peel off the stickers to impress Janet, the cute girl that lived upstairs in our Austin, TX, apartment building. She was a year older than I, and I haven't actually seen her in about 27 years and I'm saying this to distract myself from the butchery of "Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Wow. Terrible.

Another bad voice, with one guy who keeps going after everyone tells him to stop. Idol now shows us clips from The Summer of Love, 1967, how San Fran played a big role in the music scene.

But now... here in San Francisco, Simon and Kara go at it like Simon and Paula. Aaaaaand here comes Akilah, who has a folder full of papers showing training plans for singing, maps and charts of the human vocal system, which includes "the lar-nax" and the "tray-chee-uh". Or "tray-she-uh". And there is a "distinctive sound to my voice". This will be frightening. I feel bad for the pretty blonde sitting next to her in line.

These are moments that I want The Lovely Steph Leann next to me on the couch. Her reaction right now would be priceless.

Akilah has an original song called "Make Sweet Love". Okay... um... I'm going to take an entire paragraph to try to relate what I'm seeing, but here goes... so you know, in the movie "The Ring", this underrated horror flick from like, 2002, where Samara the dead girl is coming out of the television... she does this weird stop-motion kind of walk thing, like they removed the frame of film between this step and that step, so its not a fluid walk, its like she immediately moves from one step to the next... Akilah's jaw is doing that. Its weird.

Like, I want to laugh, but at the same time, I'm terrified. What if Akilah's jaw comes out of the television and renders me dead like Samara did with that Noah guy? The song "Make Sweet Love" is terrible... and she's not really all that bad... until she does "Natural Woman". Aretha belongs up there with Whitney, Mariah and Stevie. Don't. Just don't.

They shut her down, she begs for more music, and Akilah's jaw begs for help. The charts don't help, and apparently her lar-nax is not helping her tray-chee-uh. Please, for the love, get her off the screen! She tries to sing another one!

Akilah's jaw just said, "I shouldn't have let Simon, Paul and Randy, and Kira, though I don't even know Kira, whoever she is, I shouldn't have let Simon, Paul and Randy era... era... e-rack-ti-tate me." Eractitate. I don't know what that even means, but I think I'm going to use that. She wasn't being "true to my own true self".

Finally! They show someone good... singing Stevie! Another good one, singing Aretha! Another good one, digging on some Dusty Springfield! Yay!

Annie Murdoch is trying on "Summertime" from "Porgy & Bess", a show I know very little about. But to all you aspiring Idol'ers... you should never, ever, never, ever sing this song. You will ALWAYS be compared to Fantasia's performance in Season 2. Of course Annie is just terrible so it doesn't matter.

If David Cook and Rob Thomas had a love child together, it might be this kid coming up, Adam Lambert. He's singing "Bohemian Rhapsody", and nailing it. Randy likes him. Kara likes him. Paula likes him. Simon likes him. Off to Hollywood for Adam Cook Thomas.

Oh geez, backstory. Here's Kai Kalama, the last of the day. He works as a musician at night, because he takes care of his mom during the day, his mom being afflicted with a seizure disorder. Mom feels a little guilty because Kai is sacrificing, and in the background, we hear Israel Kalawoeaookale'loeoalleo'owele's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Tears all around.

Kai is going to sing The Platters' "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"... and predictably, he's good. I couldn't imagine, after that story, this guy sucking. The judges tell him a big yes, but tell him to work on showmanship and be more confident.

After all that, only 12 get the Hollywood call... and tomorrow night, its off to the races as Idol, and Clouds In My Coffee, goes to Churchhill Downs, Kentucky, home state of The Goddess!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The 100 Coolest Things of 2008... 50 thru 41

NOTE: If you are reading this on facebook, click here to see the videos (they will not appear in facebook notes)

What the heck is Clouds in My Coffee? Click here to find out what the heck this is all about.

The Introduction and Recap
The 100th thru 91st Coolest Things of 2008
The 90th thru 81st Coolest Things of 2008
The 80th thru 71st Coolest Things of 2008
The 70th thru 61st Coolest Things of 2008
The 60th thru 51st Coolest Things of 2008

And now... we begin the Fifty Coolest Things of 2008

50. The SEC Championship Game

Go Gators! Go Gators! Go Gators! Go Gators!

49. Kourtney Kelley
This kid is just amazing. She's 21, one of the WalkAbout Hall of Famers (fyi, for the new coffee drinkers, WalkAbout is the name of the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) middle school drama team that I've been honored to lead for almost a decade), and I've been amazed at her faithfulness for many, many years. Kourtney has two sisters, also WalkAbout alumni, but Kourtney is the one that I've ended up being the closest to over time.

Heck, I remember the day, when she was an 8th grader and she told me of how she planned on doing mission work with her life. Years later, she's a student at Carsen-Newman College and is planning on doing just that very thing... mission work with her life. And of course, at 21, she's still got the goofyness and silliness that comes with being just that old--and that's what makes her endearing.

She's easily someone you can use as a role model, and I'm only hoping that in however many years, The Lovely Steph Leann and I can have a daughter like the Kelley girls.

Hope she's okay with the fact she's one rank below...

48. "The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment" on DVD
It's no secret that I have a mancrush on The Rock. He's the man. He... well, he rocks. I mean, I guess you could say he's my favorite actor, though I've never thought too much about that part, though I look back on his days in The WWE. My. Favorite. Wrestler. Ever.


So when this DVD was released, a 3 CD bastion of his greatest matches, greatest interviews and greatest moments in his WWE career, how could I turn that down??? I didn't. I went out and bought it the day it was available, and through my limited time, I watched a match here, a match there, and enjoyed every second of Thheeeeeeee Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment...

Listen up Jabronis...

That's right... an actual match, on Clouds in My Coffee. The Rock, the People's Champion wearing The People's Elbow... vs. Triple H, from April 30, 2000's WWE Backlash. For the WWE Championship.

And here's Part II of the match.

For the record, I can respect and understand why Dwayne Johnson would eventually want to drop "The Rock" from his name, and just be known as Dwayne Johnson. However, I think he totally should be Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Seriously. He'll always be The Rock.

He's actually only done ten or so movies, with a few more in post-production, according to his IMDB page. Here are three you should see...
1) "Walking Tall". Its a remake of the Buford Pusser (one of the greatest dirty sounding clean names ever) bio film, but its better, cause it has The Rock in it.
2) "Be Cool". Its a sequel to "Get Shorty", sort of, with John Travolta being funny, and The Rock being funnier.
3) "The Rundown". On the Dave100, and it stars The Rock. 'Nuff Said.

47. Jason & Emily Turnbow
When The Lovely Steph Leann and I were looking for a Sunday School class... excuse me, a LIFE CONNECTION class (you're welcome, Pastor Calvin)... we ended up in an "older" married class. I say older, because they had us by about four or five years, and they all had kids, and they were all in a stage of life we couldn't relate too, especially having been married only a year by then. We got wind of a "newly married" class starting up, so we joined. A year later, we, as a class, transitioned into the "young married", and our new leaders where this couple that I had seen before, but never met... he seemed cool enough, she was very pretty and seemed nice, and they had kids.

Who's luckier? I say he is. The Lovely Steph Leann may disagree. The real answer? I am. Ha!

It was then that Jason and Emily entered the life of The Lovely Steph Leann and d$. And we are forever blessed for it. They are a family that loves Jesus and lives fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator, and one of the things that I think I love the most about the Turnbows is how much they love each other. You can tell easily that Emily is all about her some Jason, and Jason in turn honors and respects Emily ultimately.

Anyway, it was this year I really felt like I wanted to mention them in the Top 100 Coolest... because they truly are two of the coolest, greatest people I know.

We'll be back to our Hallmark Channel special presentation after this break

46. Re-Reading "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King
Actually, it was listening to "Salem's Lot". I remembered really enjoying the book last year--in fact, it made the Top 100 Coolest Things of 2007 at #51. Truth be told, I don't look at last year's rankings when I make this years standings, but there is a reason it ranks higher the second time around...

I was listening to the audiobook, read by Ron McLarty--its very, very true that a good reader can make an audiobook, a bad reader can destroy one--who is an excellent reader. And the best part about it was... I was driving Toni Rocki Honda (my little car) down to Panama City Beach Thanksgiving week, overnight. And there aren't many things creepier than listening to a good, solid vampire story while driving in the middle of nowhere (try south of Ponce de Leon, Florida) in the middle of the night (try 2am).

By the way, "Salem's Lot" ranks right up there as one of my favorite novels by anyone.

45. Matt Halpert
There are many readers of Clouds that live in the area, and that know names I mention here and there--people like KT, J Rob, Paulie Walnuts, and so on. And there are those who read the blog--Mindy D'Andrea and Dixon come to mind--that don't have a clue what I'm even saying when I say "Matt Halpert", so its my job to make it real to those people.

Simply put... Matt Halpert is the 2nd funniest guy of 2008 in my humble opinion. Or not so humble, however you look at it. I know Matt mostly through his wife, The Dainty Steph Halpert, who is a friend of mine, and a good friend of The Lovely Steph Leann. The Dainty Steph Halpert teaches the youngsters and also works with me at The Happiest Place in the Mall, but Matt is the funny one. Not that she's not funny, but Matt has this dry humor that is just splendid.

Case in point... a group of us went to the drive-in a few years ago to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Matt and The Dainty Steph Halpert rode with The Lovely Steph Leann and I down and back. After the movie, I asked Matt how he liked it... now you have to understand, the guy is a scientist who works on mice at UAB, and he goes on this hilarious (to us, perhaps not to him) rant on how wrong the science was in the movie.

"They became superhuman because their molecules changed? That's ridiculous! I mean, what does that even mean?"

Here's a snapshot of Matt, Mickey and The Dainty Steph Halpert. Matt is the one on the far left.

Sometimes he would come into Starbucks and start talking about his job, and I think he was making jokes, because he would say stuff and then laugh... I would laugh too, though I would have no idea what he was talking about. Later, The Dainty Steph Halpert would tell me she felt the same way. He's just a funny, funny guy.

fyi... I had a hard time with Stephanie Halpert. I mean, I had called her My Friend Stephanie, but no one remembers that band, so the humor is lost. And S'halpert didn't really work either. So, I thought about her for a moment, and didn't want to use an adjective greater than "Lovely" to describe her, because in my eyes, there is none Lovelier than Steph Leann. But I will tell you want Steph Halpert is... dainty. I looked it up. It means precious, it means delicate, it means... well girly. And to me, that describes Steph Halpert. Thus, a nickname is born.

44. "For Better or For Worse"
Some of my favorite comic strips nowadays include "Pickles", "Zits" and "Mother Goose & Grimm", but when I think back to growing up, my favorites then (and now, really) were "Garfield", "Peanuts"... and "For Better or For Worse".

It was started in September of 1979, centering around a family in Canada, the Pattersons. John and Elly were the parents, and when it started, Michael was around 5, and Elizabeth was 2 or 3. And, the story unfolded in real time. The strips were funny each day, but each strip built upon the last, and when I started reading it, somewhere in 1988 or 1989, Michael was a teenager, Elizabeth was on the verge, and a few years later, April was born.

It was a comic about a family. And it aged in real time. The kids grew up, just like I did. Babies were born, people graduated high school, people graduated college, people got married... just like I did. It was great.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the strip had ended... Lynn Johnston, the strip's cartoonist, decided the story had gone far enough. And the very next day, the papers began to run the first strip from 1979.

Lynn Johnston's final original strip

Johnston's plan is simply to re-run the old strips in order, tweaking and fixing things along the way. And I'm looking forward to catching up and growing old with the Patterson Family... all over again.

43. "The Gingerbread Girl" by Stephen King
The final appearance of author Stephen King on the 2008 Coolest List is really just a short story. It appeared in the July 2007 edition of Esquire magazine, and now is among the stories in the "Just After Sunset" collection released this year.

Emily is a runner. She wasn't, until her baby suddenly dies, and her marriage falls apart, but now, running seems to be the only thing that soothes the pain. She's running down a lonely stretch of Vermillion Key, Florida, on the beach when she stumbles upon something she shouldn't have... and the runs into someone she doesn't want to run into.

And the story takes off. Its simple, really. Some of King's best work is not supernatural, its just good people taking on bad people, and sometimes the bad people win. And sometimes they don't. I read this story early in 2008, and it stuck in my head all year. Excellent.

42. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Early in 2008, I finally got a Wii. And with the Wii, I got the game I really wanted... Star Wars Legos. And for over 75 hours (not straight), I sat with Wiimote in hand, chopping up bad guys with my light saber. Its a great game, as it takes you through six missions per Star Wars Episode, gaining characters and ships all along the way, earning credits, earning Gold Bricks, completing side missions and so on.


Its a fun little game, really... you're a Lego man. Or chick. And when you die, you fall apart like Legos do. Everything around you, save for the ground and sky, is made of Legos. Even the boulders that come after you have little studs and brick shapes all over them. The ships have those familiar snap-circles on the underside of them... and its a fun game to play, too.

Of course, imagine my surprise when I find out a few weeks ago that my game, with was almost 80 hours into and 98.4% complete had been erased. Instead, it said "Game 1: 2.4% complete." Seems like my wonderful little niece Madeliene, High School Music lover that she is, wanted to play Star Wars Legos. And she somehow saved over my game. Oh, to have the problems I have.

41. Sarah Palin
Ya know, I could go on and on about the things I like about Sarah Palin, and I could on and on about how stupid the McCain camp was by not just turning her loose and letting her be who she is, but I won't.

I really, really like Sarah Palin. And she gives me hope for the future, especially when President Obama gives me nothing close to resembling hope.

And Finally...