Thursday, March 31, 2011

Idols Sing Dame Elton John

In one of the weirdest, craziest, most dramatic ever (sounds like I'm talking about a Rose Ceremony on The Bachelor) elimination shows last week, Casey A was eliminated... voted out by America... saved by the Judges Save before he got one line into his song... then did a collapsing all over the room, on his parents, on the judges, on the Idols, on Seacrusty...

...but that means, no more second chances.  The Judges Save has been used, is gone and is no more.  What America wants, America will get, which sometimes means America does dumb stuff without knowing what they are doing (Obama?)... Now, its over.  The Top Eleven compete tonight, and tomorrow night, TWO PEOPLE get booted.




Seacrusty comes out, and The Lovely Steph Leann pipes up, slowly... "Ryan got... a new do... he got... his hair after all these years the same... now its different... I think... I think... I don't know... I dunno..."  Leave it to The Lovely Steph Leann to keepz it realz.

Tonight, its the music of Elton John, a true legend, and one of my Top Ten Artists of All Time.  I mean, he's an idiot now, he's a little bit crazy, he's got anger issues... but he's fantastic. 

1) "Tiny Dancer"
2) "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (The Lovely Steph Leann's favorite Elton tune)
3) "Your Song"
4) "Take Me to the Pilot"
5) "Rocketman"
6) "I Guess Thats Why They Call It The Blues"
7) "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
8) "Something About the Way You Look Tonight"
9) "Daniel"
10) "Philadelphia Freedom"

Its a little odd when Uncle Steven and J-Lo are looking at someone bigger and more important than themselves... Dame Elton John.

First up, Deep Voiced Scotty.  He's singing "Country Comfort" a song that is a little obscure, but was chosen because "it has the word 'country' in it..."

Once again, I'll say its not exceptional, but good.  He's seldom exceptional, but he's always really good.   And Uncle Steven says he's very good.  J-Lo says he was awesome.  And Randy the Dawg says, "I feel like I'm at your concert!  You have seasoned so fast on this show!"

Up now, its Niaba Beibaha doing something, as Seacrusty put it, "with a reggae twist".  And I just groan.   She's doing "I'm Still Standing", and so instead of groaning, I'm kind of excited... this might be the train wreck that gets her booted, with no Judge Save!

She says, in bad Jamiacan, "Dees on goes ot to all the peeples of tha worl who are sufferin..."   She sings her reggae swag, and J-Lo says, "I love you" about nine times, and then says she's not sure that this song is good for a reggae turn.  Randy the Dawg agrees with J-Lo, and though he loves reggae, he says the song itself came off corny.   Uncle Steven says, "boom shacka lacka lacka baby..."  He just says "good for you for picking a song that fits you...."  That's like someone wearing a horrible shirt, and having someone say, "You wear that well."

Okay, so when I typed those last words, "...wear that well..." it was 815p on Wednesday night.  I had to leave The Cabana and head over to The Deucecast Studios to do... a podcast.  Our podcast.  Yes, my buddy Mikey, Shawn and Tommy Mac, and also, from C'nooga, Matty R, are doing a podcast called The Deucecast.  We've been taping a few shows over the last few weeks, "test" episodes.  Our first real show is next week.  You'll hear more soon...

So every thing you read following was started on Thursday, 540ish, broken up again by having dinner with Melanie and the family at Pablos...

And we're back...

Up next is Pauly Mac... he's doing Elton John's "Rocketman", a song that he says his band covered before.  With a "How y'all doing this evening?" he strums his guitar, starts softly and dives into the rich, beautiful song.  The only thing more distracting than Pauly Mac's glistening, white teeth is that rose embroidered jacket.  He's one Bedazzler away from being the second coming of Porter Waggoner.

I really enjoy how subdued this cover is.  This would be great in a coffeehouse, as would his entire set.  Randy the Dawg called it a "quiet comfort", that was a bit pitchy, but overall good, but he and J-Lo both think he's holding back a bit.  And I just noticed that his pants match the jacket, with roses up and down.  Steven Tyler comments on this, and I'm really not sure exactly what he just said. 

And now, its Peepee Tuscany with her version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me (yeah!)", probably the one Elton John song I'm apathetic about.  I don't hate it, I can listen to it, but its not anywhere on my Elton playlist.  As a matter of fact, when I think of this song, I don't even think of Elton singularly, I think of his collaboration with George Michael (ladies and gentleman, meestah elton jahn!) and how huge that song was back in the 90s.

Peepee was told not to do another ballad, but Jimmy Iovine, the mentor/helper/producer/guider guy tells her if she can do it well, then do it.  And she does.

She walks out in a sparkly dress that most Disco Balls would be quite envious of.  Gotta tell ya, though, Peepee has a great, great voice.  Maybe her personality is not as cool and fun as Casey A or The Straight Adam Lambert, but her voice might be the best in this competition, if you are talking pure vocal talent.  And she gets hotter every week that goes by.  Just sayin'.

Crazy Creepy Uncle Steven loved it.  Ballad or no balled, the judges love her.  J-Lo hollers her praises.  Randy the Dawg defends his "no more ballads" comment, saying "You sing ballads and you slay them, but I want you to switch your gears... you were unbelievable!"

Sometimes songs transcend music alone, and becomes pop culture icons themselves, anthems if you will... "Tiny Dancer" is just that song.  Along with "Your Song", its probably the most popular Elton song you'll ever hear, and its an amazing song.  Everyone knows it, everyone can sing it, and its my 3rd favorite musical scene in all of music when its featured in "Almost Famous", which you read about here.

Stefano Italiano steps up to take on the behemoth that is "Tiny Dancer", a task equal to doing "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney, or "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine.  You do it, you had better get it right.  With Stefano, not so much.  Annie Barrett from said it best:  "Counting the headlights on the highway is really not as traumatizing as Stefano made it look". 

And at the end of the song, he walks to the judges and does some weird hand extension move to the judges.  What? 

J-Lo said it was really good. Randy the Dawg loved his connection with the audience.  Steven Tyler loved it.  Me?  Not at all.  It was... well, corny, and if Simon were here (and I don't necessarily miss him that much) he'd say the same.  

Howie Mandel in the house!  He's sitting next to Pahpah Italiano, which sounds like a pasta restaurant.

For each Idol, they are doing a "makeover" video, with EW's photo shoot, and America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina gets hers.  And wow she looks good.   Hold on...

(answers door.  Chris Hansen.  He asks me to sit in a stool.  Dang it.)

...and she's singing "Candle in the Wind", a song done for Marilyn Monroe, and then rewritten for Princess Di after her death, a song that was performed one single time by Dame Elton John.  He then swore he would never perform the song again publicly, unless requested by a member of the royal family.

America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina looks, like, fine.  (peer over and see Chris Hansen with a transcript in his hand)... I mean, looks cute.  She cleans up nice. 

Randy the Dawg says it was one of the greatest America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina's best performances so far.  Steven Tyler says, "America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina, I've loved you since the first moment you laid eyes on me..." and then creepily comments on her short dress.  I think its an awesome dress I think its way too short.  J-Lo sings her praises as well. 

And now, The Straight Adam Lambert is ready for fighting... as in, "Saturday's Alright For Fighting".   Ya know, his vocals aren't that great, but he's doing something that many Idols forget to do--entertain.  He's not just singing, he's performing.  Starting in the audience, he is all over the place, running up and down the steps, tossing his mic stand, standing atop the piano, jumping off said piano, then having the piano catch on fire.  That was pretty awesome. 

Steven Tyler yells out, "The Straight Adam Lambert!  You brought the heat!"  The Straight Adam Lambert's hair looks like he did that whole finger-in-a-light-socket thing.  J-Lo loved the performance, and Randy the Dawg loves the fact that The Straight Adam Lambert enjoys himself while singing.  It was a great performance.

The Straight Adam Lambert mentions that with the amount of hairspray in his hair, he was afraid of a "Pepsi Moment" (when Michael Jackson lit his hair on fire in 1985 due to an accident in filming a Pepsi Commercial).   Seacrusty is quick to respond, "This show brought to you by Coca-Cola!" and when they go to break, its a Diet Coke commercial.  Coincidence?  Nah.

Young Thiamegia is going to be singing "Daniel", and the youngling is wearing a dress far too short (settle down, Chris Hansen, I'm being serious) and that camera angle almost gives us more Thiamegia than we could ever ask for.

So, her vocals sound better than The Straight Adam Lambert... but he entertained.  This is rather boring.  Peepee Tuscany just stands and sings, but does is 1000x better than Thiamegia.  So, as great as it sounded, it wasn't entertaining, it was just... a good song.

J-Lo calls it a beautiful moment.  Randy the Dawg says he liked that it was very relaxing, though a little pitchy, and safe, while Steven Tyler loved it.  He loves alot of the songs.

The Safe Casey A is going to have to do alot to redeem himself.  Jimmy Iovine said it best:  "The Safe Casey A went from killing it every week to last week, where he killed himself, and now he's got to come back."  And one of the producers tells him to trim and/or cut the beard off. 

And here he is, the newly shaven, or at least, beard trimmed way down, The Safe Casey A sits on a stool and sings.  It sounds great.  I don't know if this is quite good enough to save him again, because I don't know America's sentiment, but this is possibly the best way he could come back.  Good times.

Steven Tyler loved it.  Randy the Dawg thought it was great.  J-Lo says she doesn't regret bring him back to the show.  Personally, I thought it was the best of the night.

Seacrusty promises us a softer, gentler The Soulful Jacob Lusk, which makes me wonder aloud, is there any other kind?   He's got his pimp suit on, looking like he's joining Nate, Mike, Shawn and Wanya in Boyz II Men, though he could be the fourth member now, because Shawn Stockman left (to do what, you ask?  exactly).

Back to Annie Barrett, via, she tells that she figures out who
The Soulful Jacob Lusk reminds her of.  Hil-arious.
The Soulful Jacob Lusk is doing "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word", but Jimmy Iovine tells us, "When The Soulful Jacob Lusk does that over-dramatizing thing he does in his songs, he blows the whole thing."  TSJL does well here, though, by not going to crazy.

Steven Tyler loved it.  J-Lo loved it, and the arrangement.  Randy the Dawg loved it, but wanted one spot in a song that has him go all the way up. 

And somehow, Haley Reinhart gets the Pimp Spot.  Maybe the Idol Producers felt that they needed "sexy" on the show, and that would be all Haley.

Fortunately, Haley Reinhart is in another tight dress, laying on a piano.  Unfortunately, she's singing on of my least favorite Elton songs, "Bennie and the Jets".  You know the dress has a plunging neckline when not only can you see the space between the cleavage, you can see the space below it.  Hey, just sayin'.

Haley Reinhart in the sexy dress, in The Pimp Spot, and
atop the piano.
I would love to tell you she sings this song well, but I hate this song.  So, while she sounds good, its a terrible song.   J-Lo loved loved loved it, telling her this was her night.  Randy the Dawg loved it, calling it the best performance of the night.  Crazy Creepy Uncle Steven says it was a well placed chorus, and that "you... sing... sexy..." 

Strong night for the Idols, this Elton night... The only two I truly didn't like was Stefano Italiano and, of course, Nomfoofoo.

The Safe Casey A... The Straight Adam Lambert... Pauly Mac... Peepee Tuscany... The Soulful Jacob Lusk... Deep Voiced Scotty... Haley Reinhart... Thiamegia... Stefano Italiano... Noxema Agralatte


We open up with a quiet piano tune, and clips of our Idols getting makeup, hair, getting ready for their night.  But because Casey A became The Saved Casey A last week, we are reminded for the 34,022nd time that TONIGHT IS A DOUBLE ELIMINATION!!!





Tonight!  Two People!  Eliminated!   Casey A became The Saved Casey A last week, and so tonight, two people will go home, eliminated.

We scan the stage, and on stage left, we see The Comfort Couch, while ominously, three glistening, doom filled Silver Stools of Suck await on stage right.   Seacrusty reminds us that last night, 98 billion people voted for their favorite Idol, a new record.

Tonight, among what we'll be fast forwarding through tonight, besides the group song and Ford commercial, is a performance with Will.I.Am and Jamie Foxx, and also Fantasia.   But, they are mixing it up a little, on an Elton John themed Idol, we have Deep Voiced Scotty and America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina singing a duet to... "I Told You So" by Randy Travis and Carrie Underwood.  Wait... what?

Seacrusy pulls them to the middle of the stage after their excellent duet, and dim the lights!  After the nationwide vote... both of them get another chance next week, both are going to The Comfort Couch. 

Back from break, and fast forwarding through the Ford Commercial, Seacrusty is talking to the Idols again.  Deep Voiced Scotty and America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina are so relieved.  Seacrusty tells us that the Idols get alot of fan mail, and The Straight Adam Lambert shows off what he got... a replica WWE Championship Spinner Belt with the name "Crazy James" on it.  Cool.

Now, Naima Agrhabobo and The Soulful Jacob Lusk come out to sing Ashford & Simpson's "Solid as a Rock" (fast forward) and then come to center stage for the results.  I'm predicting that The Soulful Jacob Lusk is safe, and Noxamia is in the Bottom Three.  And I would be... right.  As usual.  He goes to The Comfort Couch, she heads to The Silver Stools of Suck.

Back from break, Fantasia. Fast forward.  Home girl has an Elliot Yahmean grill going on, post-Idol!  Braces for the diva!  Her lips may be big, but her talent is bigger.  Wait, who's at the door?  Reverend Al Sharpton?  Dude, she said it, not me!

Now, its a rendition of "Teenage Dream" from Peepee Tuscany, Haley Reinhart and Thiamegia.   The Lovely Steph Leann looks at me and shrugs, telling me, "Why are you watching?  Fast forward."  I do, and now the results.  I predict Peepee and Haley are safe, Thiamegia is in the Bottom Three.  And I would be... right about Peepee Tuscany, as she goes to The Comfort Couch.  And now, we find out that... Thiamegia is in the Bottom Three. Right again!! 

Wait... Seacrusty tells us we lose two people?  When did this happen?

A video clip shows the Idols in different celebrity settings, meeting Kelly Clarkson and Reba McEntire, and then we see the Idol Mansion that's got a leaky roof.  We see America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina taking a tumble down a few steps, and the Idol producer that helps her up has a butt crack showing.  Eewww.

We see footage backstage from after last week's results show, where he's crying in the hallway and then hugging all of them in the room.   Kinda sweet.  So is Haley's dress.  What?  What? 

And let's fast forward through Pauly Mac, The Safe Casey A, Stefano Italiano and The Straigh Adam Lambert singing a song that I really hate... "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney and Wings. 

Results!  First, The Safe Casey A... and he's safe.  And now, The Straight Adam Lambert, who is... safe.  Leaving Pauly Mac and Stefano Italiano, and I'm predicting Pauly Mac heads to The Comfort Couch.  And I would be... Pauly Mac... Wow.  Well, I'm 2 and 1 now, so I don't feel so bad.

We fast forward through two commercial breaks and a performance by Will.I.Am and Jamie Foxx.

Back to results... who is safe?  Pauly Mac is safe!  And Naimeah Agrolabobo and Thiamegia are OUTTA THERE.   The camera cuts to America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina, who is now bawling. 

Okay, so now, it gets hard.  I like all the other Idols quite a bit, in different ways.  Well, I guess we can get rid of Stefano Italiano, but The Lovely Steph Leann protests, because she loves his abs.  Or something.

So, thats the show! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Animal Days and Hollywood Nights (2011 Disney Part II)

Where we left off--we've made it to Disney after driving most of the night, only to find out the room isn't ready... finally, we get to our room, get settled and lay down for a little nap...  read Part I here.

My new Disney World tradition... I get into
the room and turn on Stacy.  Wait... that
didn't sound good...
Well, The Lovely Steph Leann is comfy, under the blanket and snoozing away.  I am laying next to her, relaxing, watching Stacy on "The Top Disney Must Do's!" on the Disney network.  If you ever turn on a television in any Disney Resort room, no matter what channel it was on when it turned off before, you'll be on Channel 18 (17?  19?  something like that), and you'll see Stacy Aswad, who is in a 20 minute special telling you about the Disney Must-Dos, and the show loops over and over... so over the course of the ten days we were there, I watched this 20 minute show at least a dozen times.   It got to the point where I was quoting the lines... "Pirates!  Aargh!" and "Scratchy scratchy!" and "Sorry Mickey!  Sorry Mickey!  Sorry Mickey!" and "Crocs!  Rawr rawr!"... what can I say?  I dig me some Stacy!

I did end up drifting off to sleep for a little while, but when my alarm beeped around 545, it was time to get up, and get her up.  Still a little tired, but more rested at least, we got ready and left our room, headed for dinner.  I would love to tell you that we went and ate at some fancy schmancy restaurant, but no, we just went back to the Sassagoula Food Court there at French Quarter... The Lovely Steph Leann ordered hers and got it pretty quickly, and I ordered the chicken alfredo and waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

I actually noticed there was some chicken alfredo in a big bowl on the counter, behind the glass, and thought to myself, "Well, if thats the alfredo, why don't they just dip me some out of that?"  And about ten minutes later, they did just that.  So, it was a little lukewarm, but it was fine.  Unless I'm at Flametree BBQ at Animal Kingdom, Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios or Pecos Bill's at the Magic Kingdom, my bar for counter service food is not very high.

Fire engulfs the water and the Villains seek
to destroy Mickey's dreams.  But Mickey
isn't going to take it!
Our ultimate goal for the night is simply to see Fantasmic!, and not to do much else when we go to Hollywood Studios, because we had planned to hit the ground running the next day.  We decided on the 9pm show, which gave us time to walk around the park some, and mostly to trade pins and spend money.  We wanted to make the Finale Show of the American Idol Experience, but it was at 630 or 7, and Fantasmic! was at 8, so we'd never make it to both.

Fantasmic! is a water based show set in a huge amphitheater at Hollywood Studios.  The premise of the show is that Mickey Mouse's dreams come alive, first filled with magical images projected onto water that shoots high into the sky, with everyone from Jiminy Cricket to Simba making an appearance, with riverboats featuring princes and princesses like Belle and Beast floating around the mountain facade that is the setting.  Then, suddenly, the villians creep in--Jafar, Hades, The Queen, Ursula and more, led by the evil Maleficent, and try to overtake Mickey's dream.  We have a shoot-out between John Smith and the bad guy whatshisname (I've never been a fan of Pocahontas), then the villains come full force.

This is all well and good, but if you are looking to take small children, have them prepared.  At some point during the show, The Chernabog's image is seen, and he's a big, hulking, black demon, and then later, a large snake weaves its way around the mountain, then a huge, huge dragon comes out of the mountain, breathing fire and smoke, and taking on Mickey Mouse.  As an older child, this won't be that big of a deal, because the appearance of Mickey seems to be a calming effect... but we've been to this show where there are kids screaming, scared out of their minds because of this big dragon... so prepare your punkins for what is to come if you take them to Fantasmic!

The show was great as normal, though we did notice it was a different dragon.  Of course, we haven't been to the show in a year, so they might have changed Maleficent a while ago, but we noticed this night.  Normally, the later show is always the lesser attended show... and this might have been the case when we went, but that would have meant the early show was standing room only, because the later show we went to was jam packed. 

As the show ended, we made our way out of the park, walking slowly, taking in the sights and sounds, breathing in the Disney air, loving the fact we are here at last.  Back to French Quarter, we finally settled in for a good night's sleep.  Well deserved, I would say.  By the way, while it was something like 59 degrees and clear in Orlando, apparently it was an ice storm back in Birmingham, getting to about 17 or so.  We won.

Animal Kingdom awaited the next morning, and it is our typically Disney tradition for me to leave the room a bit early, grab some breakfast for me, and something to eat for The Lovely Steph Leann, and today was no different.  I dashed down to the Sassagoula Court, bought and wolfed down a cheese danish and a bowl of Rice Krispies and milk, then bought The Lovely Steph Leann a croissant... total cost?  $8.39.  Yay Disney!

We have discovered that driving to the parks is actually quicker and easier than taking the buses.  Don't get me wrong--the bus transportation system is great, and if you don't mind waiting sometimes 10 minutes for a bus in the morning, or up to 20 in the rest of the day, its relaxing to just park your car and leave it for a week, leave your keys in the room and not worry about it.  But, we have learned that its just quicker to drive, if you don't mind the drive, which is typically less than 20 minutes through traffic from any one point in The World to another.  Sometimes its about five.

We parked at Animal Kingdom in the misty rain and walked to get in line.  I am so used to going to the far right turnstile, the "Cast Member Entrance", it was difficult to restrain myself from going that way.  Around 845, we saw the usual pre-opening show, with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy riding out on the other side of the rope in a big safari vehicle, doing a "checklist" for the day... "Camera?  Check!  Sunscreen?  Check!..."  I looked around behind us, to see the line to get stretching back 20, maybe 25 people.

If you have never been to Animal Kingdom, visualize this--as you walk up towards the gates of AK, you walk over a large open area, a gift shop on either side (natch), and you run into the baggage check.  as you approach the park, you'll see the ticket/will call booths.  Pass by those, and you'll see a smaller open area, partly shaded, with about ten or so turnstiles ahead of you.  AK, like the other three parks, open at either 8 or 9, typically the latter, but between 830 and 845, they will allow people to start entering the park, through the turnstiles, with your tickets.

Once you walk into Animal Kingdom, you pass through the land known as The Oasis, and you cross a bridge onto Discovery Island (its so huge, you barely notice its an island), where you can see The Tree of Life, this huge hand crafted, animal carved tree.  Once you walk down this little incline, you can veer left or right, entering the main part of the park--but before opening, they usually have a rope across the path.  This is to prevent backflow, especially on busy days, to allow the crowds to fill the paths, and on those busy days, they cram up to that rope, back through that path, out through the turnstiles, and into that main open area.

Today?  The line at the turnstiles were about 20 people deep, not even enough to pass the ticket booths.  This is a glorious, glorious day, as is any day where the park is practically empty.  The rope is actually just past the turnstiles, something I've never even seen, so when it drops at 9a, The Lovely Steph Leann and I are headed into Animal Kingdom with full run of the park.

Like most people, we head straight for Expedition Everest, we get Fast Passes for it, and jump in the line... the line that really isn't there.  We spend the next ten minutes walking slowly through the empty line, with The Lovely Steph Leann taking pics of the scenery, and myself taking pictures of Hidden Mickeys throughout, and there are lot.  We get straight on, sitting in the front after a long, long two minute wait, and we ride. 

After we get off the ride, which The Lovely Steph Leann claims as her very favorite roller coaster, we take some pictures around, and I get a great shot (right) of Expedition Everest in the fog, with barely a soul in the frame.  That's a rare, rare shot.

We headed over to the Finding Nemo show, which was the whole reason to come to Animal Kingdom... actually, in the interest of full disclosure, seeing the Finding Nemo show was the whole reason to come down on Thursday, instead of the original get-up-early-Friday-drive-arrive-mid-afternoon- plan.  See, we had so much planned for our week, for our vacation, so many dinners and trips and shows, we realized that we couldn't squeeze in Finding Nemo: The Musical.  What do we do?  Add a night, get there earlier.

Finding Nemo: The Musical was awesome, as usual, and we began our usual tour of the park, knocking out one attraction after another.   We had lunch at The Yak & Yeti, and began a walk to Africa.

Along the way, I noticed a sign on a wall that I'd seen before, but never paid much attention too:  Flights of Wonder.  Now, Walt Disney World is filled with dozens and dozens of attractions and shows, some being hugely popular, others that are often overlooked, and this one was one that we always walked by... but this time, we thought we'd try it out.  And we are glad we did.

In a small, covered amphitheater, the audience is facing a stage that has a small area of grass, with a large wall on the back, made to look like an old ruin, or something to that effect.  One by one, birds come out, do their fancy tricks and disappear into holes in this wall.  And like everything in Disney, they don't just say "Hey, look at these birds!", they tell you a story.  There are two hosts, one being the Bird Keeper, the other a loud and boisterous "tour guide" who gets lost, and ends up helping to showing off the birds.

The Bird Keeper tells the audience about the birds, and they follow his command, answering questions by moving or squawking or nipping or whatever--then he tells us the secret behind the training (visual clues).  And, I was able to go onstage once, as they asked for volunteers--of course, I raised my hand. 

This was me, looking through my lens, trying to see the big bird.

There was this huge condor/eagle/hawk/monster bird that had flown and was perched in the very back.  My instructions, and the instructions of the chick next to me, also called onstage, was to look through the lens of our respective cameras and, when the bird took flight towards the stage, try and get a photo of it.  And neither of us could, because that bird was extremely fast and was whizzing by my head in a second or two. 

Look in the middle, then to the slight right, and look for the guy in the
red.  The bird is right above his head.

Flights of Wonder was alot of fun, really funny and fascinating at the same time--I recommend taking 15 minutes out of your go-go-go and see the show.

The rest of the day was your typical Animal Kingdom day, with the crowds building over the course of the day, but never getting overly crowded.  We went to ride Dinosaur, then headed over to do Its Tough to Be A Bug, which is always fun (thought Hopper wasn't working--I feel bad for those who have never seen it, because Hopper is an incredible audio-animatronic figure).  We headed out, and ended up at Epcot a little later on that evening, finally ending up at The Rose & Crown restaurant in the Britain Pavilion of the Epcot World Showcase. 

Getting there a little early, we checked in, and then sat and relaxed in the Britain garden, watching a British Invasion tribute band aptly called The British Invasion.  Our meal was great, starting with a fruit/cheese plate, filled with craisins, grapes, apple slices and toast, along with mushroom brie, aged cheddar and Stilton cheeses.  Stilton is the absolute strongest cheese I've ever had in my life.

Except for the umbrella, located on a level below me
that I couldn't get to to move it, my view was pretty

The entree had me going for the standard fish and chips plate.  For whatever reason, our server brought another fish and chips plate, after I already had one.  So she left it, with me having about six or seven huge pieces of fish in front of me... this means I ate about a 1/4th of what was in front of me.  The Lovely Steph Leann loved her food as well, and it was time for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the water parade and fireworks show. 

Though we were sitting outside, our table was near the front of The Rose & Crown, and the prime place to be was near the back, by the waterside, for prime viewing.  I kept my eye on a table in the back corner, close to the water, and when it came free, I asked our server if we could have that table and eat our dessert--she said absolutely, so we moved down, and had a great spot.  Of course, I did have to reposition myself a little to see better around a column.
The fireworks show was great, as always, and we ended the night riding a few rides like Test Track, Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth, finally getting back to the room a little later.  Our vacation had begun with full force, and it Day Two had already gone by so fast.

Tomorrow, the pin event at Epcot, our first such event ever. Full coverage, pics and our review of the day in the next installment of The 2011 Disney Vacation. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Fall of the Mega Powers

If you are reading this on Facebook, click on over to The Flagship Station, because videos are an important part of this article...

For the record, I didn't write this, I only copied and pasted without permission (but linked to the original) because it was awesome.  For all you wrasslin' fans out there...

WRESTLEMANIA XVII is next Weekend!  And I'll be there!  So, here's something I stumbled upon--a great article called "The Fall of the Mega Powers"

Valentine’s Day is here and I want to use this opportunity to help my fellow man by examining one of the true tragic love stories of the modern era; while lifting the lid on schemers.

All too often, I watch young men too afraid to express their feelings to women and in turn, develop into a schemer.
What is a schemer exactly?

Webster’s Dictionary offers a concise explanation:
A person who is involved in making secret or underhanded plans.
Translating this into relationships, these are people who secretly plot your demise while even perhaps doubling as your friend.
We will examine one of the great schemers of the modern era, WWF champion and pop culture icon Hulk Hogan, and his involvement with the universally beloved 1980s tag-team called the Mega Powers.
Before I continue, a disclaimer of sorts:
While professional wrestling is painfully fake, there are several teachable elements that can be attached to everyday living. Alas, the tale of the Mega Powers will be used to show how men sometimes secretly plot the demise of their own friends.

Let’s introduce the players….
Hulk Hogan – former WWF champion and one of the most popular figures not just in wrestling, but at the time, the world. To this day, he remains the only professional wrestler to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Randy Savage – the wild and crazy WWF champion, who was now a fan favorite despite months earlier nearly maiming the uber popular Ricky Steamboat with a bell during late 1986.
Miss Elizabeth – The loyal and trusty manager of Savage. A rarely heard from (and rarely allowed to utter more than three words) but radiant figure.

(Once Elizabeth enters, listen to Vince McMahon’s reaction. He acted as if he had never seen a woman before. Well done Vince.)

The fall of the Mega Powers taught us some fundamental life lessons:

Let’s go back to the fall of 1987.

Ronald Reagan ruled the country; Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers began their road to repeating as NBA champions; the NFL was still recovering from using replacement players during a strike; and Michael Jackson was set to release another masterpiece, Bad.

In the WWF, the formation of a unit called the Mega Powers sent shockwaves through the wrestling world.
The tag team consisted of then-WWF champion Hulk Hogan and new fan favorite Randy Savage. The latter was led to the ring by a lovely woman, his manager, Elizabeth.

The trio first combined on Saturday Night’s Main Event during the fall of ‘87 when Savage was under attack by the Hart Foundation and the nefarious Honky Tonk Man, an Elvis Presley knock off, who enjoyed swinging his guitar like an axe at his opponents on occasion.

Worried her man would not survive, Elizabeth hustled to the dressing room and came back with HULK HOGAN. As a precocious eight-year-old kid, I nearly passed out when I saw him walk out of the dressing room.

(And no, at this point in time, I had no clue wrestling was fake.)

Hogan walked in the ring and cleaned house. Savage, grateful for Hogan’s help, shook his hand and alas, the Mega Powers were formed.

Moving forward to the summer of 1988, our tale of woe begins.

Savage, now the WWF champion, feuded with Andre the Giant and the evil Million Dollar Man. The dastardly duo, known as the Megabucks, accepted a challenge from Savage for a tag team match at Summer Slam.  The new face of the WWF tapped Hogan as his partner for the special event to be held at Madison Square Garden.

Leading up to the match, Hogan and Savage cut bizarre promos where they promised to deploy their secret weapon, Elizabeth.  One of which (later shown in this post), Savage mentioned his curvy manager wearing a bikini and heels ringside for the match. Not to be outdone, Hogan went into more detail stating that Elizabeth would pull down the zipper on her skirt and take it off to reveal a bikini bottom.


No problem though. We’re all friends here. They would never follow through with that right?
Indeed, Summer Slam ‘88 rolled around and sure enough, Elizabeth climbed to the apron, unzipped her skirt and ripped it off, shocking 20,000 fans in Madison Square Garden.  Hogan and Savage used this devious but clever tactic to win the match.

During the celebration to follow, Hogan was so happy with a victory that he grabbed the still semi-clothed Elizabeth and twirled her around while he received the audience’s adulation.  Jesse Ventura, the match’s special guest referee, happily pointed out this infraction to Savage, who was busy celebrating.  The champ shot Hogan a befuddled look but eventually went about his business.

(For further Hogan hi-jinx, check out the look he shoots when Liz bends over at the 7:05 mark)


The slightly gullible ex-champion was still in the clear though publicly. He was asked to do a job and he did it successfully.

Summer turned into fall for the Mega Powers. Their collective attention turned to a set of burly rulebreakers known as the Twin Towers. No, not the Houston Rockets duo of Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson but an “ex-cop” from Georgia called the Big Bossman and a 400-pound caucasian man named “Akeem”.
Once known as the One Man Gang, Akeem went on a trip to Africa with his manager Slick and came back to the homeland with jive as his new language.

(Now, nine-years-old, this only seemed natural to me. I still had no idea wrestling was fake)

The Twin Towers challenged the Mega Powers to a series of matches during the fall and winter including their first big battle at the Survivor Series.  During a ten-man tag match at the Survivor Series that featured both teams, once again Hogan saved the day.  Savage, who took a beating during the match, fell backwards into a tag and his partner quickly went to work.

After scoring the pin, Hogan once again hugged the red-dress wearing Elizabeth and spun her around in celebration as she yet again played an important in the team’s victory.  Meanwhile, the team’s other-half collected himself in time to see Hogan’s grandstanding.


By this point, Savage caught on to what Hulkamania was putting down. In his view, Hogan was trying to run a backdoor play on Elizabeth; using his “sisterly” love of their manager as a front for secretly lusting after her.
Like any good soldier, Savage pressed on though despite Hogan “accidentally” knocking him out of the Royal Rumble and continuously robbing the Macho Man of the spotlight.

Finally, on the night of February 3, 1989 in front of a national television audience, Hogan committed the final and ultimate foul in our tale.  The Mega Powers took on the Twin Towers in a tag match held at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Midway through the match, Savage landed on Elizabeth, who was knocked unconscious by the fall.  Hogan, concerned for his manager, left the match to take his fallen manager back to the medical room for first-aid.

Once the “Luster” (as named by Jesse Ventura) returned to the ring, Savage slapped the taste out of his mouth.


As seen below, the champ had every right to go upside Hogan’s head with the title belt in the first-aid room.
Instead of waiting for help, Hogan carried her into the bowels of Milwaukee’s Bradley Center while Savage had two 350-pounders tap dancing on his skull.

In fact, Elizabeth had to remind Hogan to go back and help Savage. Some friend he turned out to be.
The lesson of never leaving a wingman was introduced into pop culture during the 1986 film Top Gun.
Three years later, the lesson was re-introduced to the American public.


Savage’s anger was well-directed. Ultimately, he expressed displeasure over Hogan’s dishonesty.

Here is where Hogan and most of the male gender seem to error in relationships. When confronted by the Macho Man about whether he wanted the title and Elizabeth, here is what Hogan’s response should have been:


That’s it.

Just declare what you want, especially if you’re called out on it.

Sure, Hogan was going to get his head beaten off either way but he would have been better served in the long run.

On a quick side note, how believable was Hogan playing the role of the “platonic friend”?  The guy slammed Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 people two years earlier. Now, he was trying to subtly steal away Elizabeth and the WWF title.  He could have scored her without all of that trouble right?
But I digress…

Alas, the Hogan/Savage feud split the Mega Power ranks including the managerial duties of Elizabeth.
Prior to the duo’s breakup, Elizabeth managed both men. When it was announced that Savage would defend the title against Hogan at Wrestlemania V, Elizabeth had to make a decision.  Hogan or Savage?

Of course, she picked neither, citing to be in a neutral corner at Wrestlemania.

The sheer foolishness of both men caused Elizabeth to choose indifference.

That’s not what you want in life, boys and girls.

Even if it’s the wrong one, make people choose a direct side.

Life is just a lot easier that way.

Thus, the Hulkster “loved Elizabeth like a sister” for months and it basically got him a healthy dose of indecision at Wrestlemania.

April 2, 1989 found Hogan and Savage vying for the WWF title with Elizabeth watching in a “neutral” corner during Wrestlemania, which brings us to one of my favorite moments of the feud.  Late in the match, Hogan held up Savage on his shoulders outside the ring, ready to send him head first in to the post.

Elizabeth blocked his path and as he tried to convince her to move, Savage pushed him into the post instead – as Liz finally got out of the way.  Eventually, she was ejected from ringside.

Who can blame her though?

Her choices were a crazy, verbally abusive boyfriend and a creepy, balding guy, who just happened to be one of the biggest celebrities in the world.  In the end, Liz’s indecision perfectly illustrated the problem with the Hulkster. He never placed his cards on the table.

Once again, reacting and not acting got him a face full of steel.  Sure, Hogan won the battle and the belt – but he lost the war in the storylines.  Elizabeth married Savage two years later.  Even though what played out in the ring and on TV was probably decided in a dark room by the WWF’s creative team, it serves as a very useful tool.

Learn from the Hulkster’s mistakes. If you like someone on Valentine’s Day, tell them.

Don’t be like Hulk.

Be better than him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

That Idol Motown Sound

Every year, Idol has some sort of classic R&B type episode, and it usually centers around Motown... and tonight is that very night... and they kick it off, as per usual, with the Barry Gordy story, and how Motown Records came to be... then they show clips of The Temptations, Little Stevie Wonder, Martha & the Vandellas and so on.  This is always one of my favorite weeks, because I love Motown music, I love the Jackon Five, I love the Four Tops and Temptations, though I can't tell them apart, and of course, Marvin Gaye.

So, while I watch this years version of the Motown History video, I can type:



Liv Tyler sighting! 

First up, its Casey A, doing "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", with his beard shining and his hair slicked back.  Tricky song, and like last week's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", he has a scratch to his voice that sounds good, but if he's not careful, he can over-do.  The Straight Adam Lambert has worked hard to master his screech, so Casey A needs to watch the scratch.

He kinda sounds like a less-refined, if thats possible, Axl Rose.

J-Lo's makeup is horrifying. 

Crazy Uncle Steven Tyler loves Casey A's performance, J-Lo calls him an original, and Randy the Dawg concurs.

Thiamegia is finally doing something thats not a ballad.  She tells the camera about "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas, that it was released in 1963, and a little about the song, information that I'm almost positive that she got about 45 seconds before saying said info on camera.

Personally, I'm a "Nowhere to Run" fan by Martha and the Vs, but this one is good too.  The Lovely Steph Leann watched this show last night (and is finishing up her work day as we speak/read/type) and I'm sure she was clapping and moving the entire time.  Like myself, she loves Motown.

J-Lo loves Thiamegia, and wants to see more fun from her.  Randy the Dawg really liked it, but wants more.  Steven Tyler says same.

And next, there's no reason why The Soulful Jacob Lusk shouldn't blow this away, because he's full of soul.  He's doing '68's "Your All I Need (to get by)" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and I gotta tell ya, I'm excited about there this one.  This is one of my favorites from that era.

Rockin' the pink cufflinks and pink shirt and tie, TSJL is bringin' it, like I knew he would.  Fabulous.  A quick pan to the judges and you can tell they agree, as they rock and bounce and point.  This is one of those type performances where the other Idol contestants go, "Oh crap." 

Steven Tyler physically gets up, walks to The Soulful Jacob Lusk and hugs him, shouting "Baby Luther!' into the mic.  Randy the Dawg says, "Barry Gordy is somewhere sayin' 'oh my gahhhhh!'"  Steven Tyler and J-Lo burst into a Paula Abdul type gushing.  And well deserved.  That was fantastic.

Seacrusty then invites the entire front row to come up and give The Soulful Jacob Lusk a hug.  What?  What? 

America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina is doing 1966's "You Keep Me Hanging On", one of The Lovely Steph Leann's favorites.  I don't know who did the chick makeup this week, but not only does J-Lo looked like a Paas Easter Egg coloring kit threw up on her face, America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina looks like she didn't put on makeup, she installed it. 

Let's be honest, America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina has a great voice, and she's doing a great version of this, even with the twang on "There ain't nothing I can do about it", the spoken line in the song.  Nothing out of this world, but she's getting the job done and shouldn't have a problem sailing into next week.

Steven Tyler said she ripped that song a new one, and was awesome, while J-Lo loved the head bobbing and sass.  Randy the Dawg said last week America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina brah it, and this week, she's brah it again.

I read about this earlier, how Stefano Italiano's mom brought some pasta for everyone, and Seacrusty brings it to the stage.  Apparently, he lets Gordon Ramsey, who is in the audience and looking like he would rather be anywhere than there, try it, and Gordon Ramsey wasn't a fan. 

Anyway, Stefano Italiano is about to undo every good thing he's brought to this show in the last few weeks, that being "Hello" by Lionel Richie.  I don't know if I mentioned this last week before my interweb crashed, but "Hello" is one of those songs you don't touch on Idol anymore.  You just don't.

"Alone" by Heart, then done by Carrie Underwood... "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, then done by Fantasia... "Takin' It to the Streets" by The Doobie Brothers, then done by Taylor Hicks... "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi, then done by Blake Lewis... and, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, then done by David Cook... those are definitive versions done on Idol that will get you not only compared to the original artist, but to the version done by the Idol before you.  And Stefano Italiano is about to learn this lesson the hard way.

This song blew chunks.

The judges go on about how great he sounded, but he needs to have a better connection with the song and the audience.

Whatever.  It was awful. 

They cut to Gordon Ramsey trying Mama Italiano's pasta, and when asked how it was, he says, "Its fine."  Cut to Mama Italiano's face, and she forces a smile, the audience goes "awwwww..."

And now, Haley Reinhart is doing Smokey Robinson and the Miracle's classic "You Really Got a Hold on Me", a song that I've never really cared for that much, but hopefully she'll give me something.

In what looks like 28 inch heels, she works her way down the stage, and she's wearing what looks to be short shorts, but it might be a belt.  Put it this way, if at 15 or 13 or 17, Lorelei Addison comes down the stairs of The Cabana Plantation wearing those shorts, she's going to march her little fanny upstairs and put on a burka, and if she slips out of the house and you see her, give me a call. 

That being said, I can dig the outfit on Haley Reinhart.  Her song is a little screamy for me, but its pretty good.  I find her strangely attractive, but I like her spin on this song. 

Randy the Dawg includes the name "Janis Joplin", and even sends a sentence with the word "Yo".  Steven Tyler says, "you don't look a day over fabulous..." and loved the music.  J-Lo calls her the most soulful chick in the competition.  The Soulful Haley Reinhart?  Not so much.

And here comes the first big speedbump for Deep Voiced Scotty.... he's so good at country, but now he's got to not just step, but jump and run out of his comfort zone... but he's going to turn Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" into a slightly country version. 

Who knew a Stevie Wonder could have a song that sounded good with a harmonica?  Holy crap, this sounds awesome.  You can tell he's a bit uncomfortable with the material, but he's doing it!  This sounds good enough to be played on country radio stations, like, right now.  Fabulous.  Stevie Wonder would be proud.

Crazy Creepy Uncle Steven says what I was thinking, "Just like Glen Campbell and Harry Nilsson!" which is a great compliment.  J-Lo says it was a great version, saying it wasn't his best but it was great.  No, it wasn't his strongest, but he did a great job with what he had to work with.  Randy the Dawg calls him a lady-killer.

Keeping with Stevie, Peepee Tuscany is doing a song that I just don't know, one called "All in Love is Fair", from the album "Innervisions" in 1973.  I've heard people talk about how beautiful she is, and... I just don't see it.  Oh, don't get me wrong, she's pretty and such, but I'm not all like "oh she's so hot" and all that.  She's cute.  She's not beautiful, she's elegant.

Her song is slow and melodic, and its sung really well--she has an awesome voice.  But she has to be careful to not to be boring, because like Thiamegia, she keeps doing the ballad thing... but she's better looking and more talented.  Her dress is

J-Lo compares her to Celine Dion, but wants to see other stuff besides ballads.  Randy the Dawg says the same thing.  Creepy Uncle Stevie says she's the closest star in the Idol Universe right now. 

Next up, Pauly Mac, doing some "Tracks Of My Tears" by Smokey.  Apparently The Unambigiously Gay Adam Lambert did this in his season, but no one remembers that now.  With guitar in hand, he's going to do a Jack Johnsony kind of version on the song. 

So like, since Ashthon Jones would benefit from being a ProActiv spokeschick, I think Crest White Strips should put Pauly Mac as their poster child, because wow doggy does this cat have some white teeth.  He's like an Orbitz Girl, but a boy, and not a girl. 

Song was great.  Randy the Dawg gushes.  J-Lo gushes.  Steven Tyler gushes. 

You know, I am just going fast forward through Nixa Armania, because... well, I just don't like her.  I'm sure personally, she's fun and nice and sweet and all that, but I don't like listening to her sing, and I'm still afraid when she gets booted, she'll be saved.  The Lovely Steph Leann walks in and asks me how I can blog about a performance when I don't even watch it.  I smile and say, "Watch me."

I did back up a little and watch the dancing I had heard about.  Or two seconds of it.  I saw that at The Festival of The Lion King at Animal Kingdom, so I wasn't impressed. 

And finally, with the tail back, The Straight Adam Lambert comes out to "Living For the City" by Stevie, once again.   He does a little quirky dance step on the stage walk way, and does a better job that his previous Idol performer did on hers. 

A little too much "yaaaaa!" for me, though.  Cut to the judges, and J-Lo is clapping, Randy the Dawg is bobbing, and Uncle Stevie is barely moving. 

J-Lo says "Oh my gah!" about four times in a crazy, Valley Girl voice.  The crowd goes wild for a minute or so, and J-Lo has to wait to talk.  She says he's an incredible thing to watch, leaving her speechless.  Randy the Dawg thought it was a little rough at the beginning, but got it right at the end of the song.  Steven Tyler says, "It takes a little being crazy to make a difference in this world..." and says the song was perfect--for The Straight Adam Lambert's voice.

My favorites:
The Soulful Jacob Lusk (tie) & Deep Voiced Scotty (tie)... Peepee Tuscany... Pauly Mac... Casey A... Haley Reinhart... America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina... The Straight Adam Lambert... Thiamegia... Stefano Italiano...  Noxama Agrabah

My Bottom Three predictions.. Stefano Italiano... Haley Reinhart... and Naimath Armstrong.  And unfortunately, I think Haley might go home tonight. 


In a brief recap of Motown, plus tossing in clips of our Idols, our show begins.   Seacrusty comes out to tell us that approximately 74 billion people voted last night, from 1,344 different countries and 5 different planets... its time...


Our Top 11 come out dresed to the 9s, and guess who has the plunging neckline?  Haley Reinhart.  She's got boobies and she's proud of them. 

We see a quick clip of the Idols learning about their pitch problems from none other than Mr. J-Lo, Marc Anthony, who looks really thin and emaciated.  Maybe he's sick, or maybe just broke after being married to J-Lo.

We fast forward through most of the Group Song, but I stop when I see Stevie Wonder onstage... I imagine the Idols are going nuts right now, performing with Stevie Wonder, in front of Steven Tyler.   After "Signed Sealed Delivered", Stevie calls out Steven, and sings a big birthday song to Steven Tyler. 

The Idols bring out a cake and a big card and all... this now sets the bar for The Lovely Steph Leann to make my own birthday bigger. 

Later, we get Oscar Winner and former Idol Jennifer Hudson, and a performance by Sugarland, but now, the results...

America's Darlin' Lauren Alaina, Deep Voiced Scotty and Peepee Tuscany come out to center stage.  The Sofa of Safety awaiting those we are safe, the Silver Stools of Suck awaiting the losers.  Seacrusty pulls a fast one again, saying, "Because of the outcome... you'll all be packing your bags... to go on the summer tour!"

With the 13 Idols, only 10 get to go on the summer tour, and tonight's Idol Elimination will be the final one that we'll never hear from again--anyone else eliminated after tonight will at least get to go on the summer tour.

Sugarland is up now, singing "Stuck Like Glue", which we hear half of it before we fast forward.

Then we get to the video of the Idols as they talk about The Straight Adam Lambert's obsession with wrestling.   Seacrusty comes back and says, "The Smackdown continues with the results..."

The Straight Adam Lambert and Pauly Mac now come to center stage, with The Silver Stools of Suck awaiting a butt to fill them.  Seacrusty talks about each one, and tells us, "Both of you guys are really not safe tonight..." and as their faces drop, cue Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and the stage opens up... Hulk Hogan comes out, saying, "The both of you are safe!"   The Straight Adam Lambert is about to pass out. 

Then Hulk Hogan does a fake hit to Seacrusty, who falls into the audience and... well, commercial.

Back to results... Thiamegia, The Soulful Jacob Lusk and Stefano Italiano come out.  The Lovely Steph Leann predicts that Thiamegia will be Bottom Three.   I think it will be Stefano Italiano.

Seacrusty tells The Soulful Jacob Lusk to head back to the Safety Sofa.  Back to Thiamegia and Stefano Italiano... after the nationwide vote, Thiamegia heads to The Silver Stools of Suck.  And then, Stefano does the same.

Next, its Haley Reinhart, Nemoa Apebogbo and Casey A.  I would love for Neaixma to be Bottom Three, but I'm afraid its Haley.  And Seacrusty sends Noxema back to the Safety Sofa, and she's headed on Tour.  Yippee.

And out of Casey A and Haley Reinhart... and Casey Abrams heads to the Silver Stool of Suck.  We were told by Ryan Seacrest that tonight's results will "Shock you", and it is a mild surprise.

We fast forward through Jennifer Hudson singing, then catch Thiamegia getting sent back to the Safety Sofa.  Now, between Casey A and Stefano Italiano, one will go home.   Honestly, I can't imagine this season's Idol without Casey Abrams!

The person with the lowest number of votes is... Casey Abrams.  I'll be honest with you, I wasn't expecting that at all... and none of the other Idols were either, as all have opened mouths.  They cut to Randy the Dawg, who's jaw is on the floor. 

And as Casey starts to sing, the Randy the Dawg just waves his hands and says, "Stop! Stop!"  The music stops, Seacrusty is confused and Casey is bewildered.... Randy the Dawg says, "Dude, stop singing.  We know who you are, you don't have to sing."

Steven Tyler says, "Man, this is crazy wrong, there's no reason you should be going home, we are going to use the Save, you are staying here."  Casey A practically collapses and starts shaking uncontrollably, and runs down and hugs the judges and then hugs the parents and then collapses on Seacrusty again and the Idols on The Safety Sofa are crying and cheering and the audience is chanting "Casey!  Casey!  Casey!" and Steven Tyler shouts out "Listen to J-Lo for a minute!" and she tells Casey A that he needs to get back to his roots and be who he is and not try to be all crazy and such with the faces and scratchy and such and Casey A says, "I didn't think you would use the Save right now because there are 11 people here and this early I didn't know and..." and Seacrusty yells out that next week, two people will be eliminated and that it was already pre-determined that if something like this happened that there would be 11 people on the Summer Tour and not just 10 and...

And that was the craziest Idol elimination show finish I've ever seen.  Best.  Season.  Ever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Chicken Dinner

For those people who might be new, or fairly new, to read this here websity bloggy blogger site of mine, there are a couple of things you should know about me... well, there are a dozen things I could tell you about me, but most are uninteresting... however, for the purposes of this little jag, know this--I don't like spicy foods.  I don't like fried chicken white meat, but I do love dark meat chicken.  And bad customer service annoys me.

On Monday, The Lovely Steph Leann left town for a couple of days to do work in the A-T-L, leaving me to my own devices, not only for entertainment but also for food.  And on Monday evening, I had a hankerin' for some fried chicken.

There are three main chicken establishments within a reasonable distance from The Cabana, that being Bojangles, KFC and Popeye's Chicken n'Biscuits.  Bojangles is a little far to drive, and the two times Ive been there, I haven't been wildly impressed.  There are two KFCs that I know of, one on Green Springs, which is on the edge of ghettoville, and the other near enough, but its attached to a BP station.   Of my few rules of things that you do and don't do, one of them is "Never eat at a fast food franchise when attached to a gas station."  

Sometimes, you can find some great food at a local gas station, because many times its cooked there, and kept hot and fresh.  They have names like "Mama Nell's Diner" stuck on a Chevron, or "Billy Jack's Pizzaria" sharing a hallway with a Shell.  But when its a McDonalds on a Marathon Station, or a Subway on a Amoco, or a KFC on a BP Station, the answer is no. 

The other chicken choice is Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits, though in some places its called Popeye's Louisiana Grill, which I've noted before is a bit presumptuous.  Anyway, its the closest, and normally its a good meal.  I go in, order, sit and eat my chicken, listen to whatever on my iPod, refill my Co-Cola and then leave. 

On this Monday, a few days ago, I went in.  I noticed that they had a $3.49 special that included three, count 'em three, pieces of dark meat--a wing, a drumstick and a thigh--on a plate, along with one of them delicious biscuits.  Drink was extra, but overall, I got the meal for about $5.50. 

I ordered that very meal, mouth watering with anticipation of deep friend chicken, grease dripping off and eating through the tray, steam rising from the crispy skin, and that biscuit, oh that perfectly round, semi-flaky biscuit that is never hot, but just warm enough to enhance the butter flavor, the imitation butter flavor, and when Sabrisha turned her back to me to put those pieces on my plate, I was just so happy, knowing the chicken would be in my hands in seconds, in my mouth and gut in minutes and...

" okay with a breast piece?  We outta thighs," she said, uninterested.
(cue record screeching sound, like the needle just slid off the vinyl LP)

"I'm sorry?"
"I said we outta thighs."

Now, to her credit, Sabrisha offered me a piece of fried chicken that most would consider equal or higher value, but the problem is, I don't like white meat on fried chicken.  I find the breast piece to be a little too dry for me, so I was sorely disappointed when the thighs were gone. 

"Can I get another drumstick instead?" I asked with a sigh.  Sabrisha didn't bat an over-sized eyelashed eye, she just tossed the piece on there and handed me the tray.  It was good.  Should have been a little more food, but I dealt.

So, Tuesday evening rolls around, and I'm thinking about going to the movies.  The Lovely Steph Leann won't be back until tomorrow night, so again, I'm seeking some entertainment.  Of course, I dilly dally around and by the time I get up to go to the theater, for a 5:10 show, its already 430.  I'm kinda hungry, so I'm thinking I'll just pick up something on the way really quickly, then get some popcorn at the picture show.

What's on the way?  You got it.  Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits.

The Lovely Steph Leann has this thing where, if she has a certain type of food or a certain restaurant one day, she's good for a few days.  She doesn't want to replicate for at least four or five days.  Me?  If I like it, I'll dig in several days in a row.

As I pull into the parking lot, my dear, beautiful, wonderful friend Melanie rings me on my celly, and I end up sitting in the parking lot talking for about fifteen minutes.  The time is now 4:50, and I'm not making a 5:10 movie, not when I haven't even eaten, and not through traffic.  Tis okay, I can save the money--at least I'll get the fried chicken, and hopefully they will have thighs!

Nicole is this blonde chick behind the counter, and let me tell ya, she loves her job.  I mean, she loves being there, and you can tell she is so jazzed that she's having to work now.  Sarcasm is free.

I again order the $3.49 combo, and can see across the counter into the chicken bin where there are piles and piles of chicken thighs. 

"Mild or spicy?" she asks me.  I tell her "mild" immediately.  She punches it up, tells me my total, I pay Nicole, and step to the left.  LaKwanzah puts my chicken in the basket, tosses it on a tray and hands it to me.  As I step away, I notice the piece of breast meat sitting in the basket.  I turn back and simply say, "LaKwanzah... I'm guessing you are out of... wings?"
"Would you mind, can I get another thigh piece instead of a breast piece?"

Rule of thumb... when a restaurant, fast food or otherwise, has its food leave the counter and goes into the customers hands, if said food is forced to return back across that counter, then said food is disposed of.  This is actually going through my head as I watch LaKwanzah grab the tongs, pick up the breast piece and toss it back in the chicken pile.  She then tosses a thigh into the basket.

Smiling to myself at the ridiculousness of LaKwanzah's chicken toss and Nicole's apathetic ethic, I get my sweet tea and sit in the corner.  I chomp down a huge bite of my thigh piece she just gave me, and immediately, my mouth burns.  I just open my jaw and a half chewed chunk of dark meat falls out on the tray.  A few gulps of the sweet tea, and I take my tray back to the counter.

Nicole sees me, and her face says, "What now?"
"Excuse me," I smile, "I hate to be high maintenance, but the piece that you gave me--its all kinds of spicy.  Can I get a mild piece?"

LaKwanzah looks at me, confused.  "You wanted a mild piece?"
"Yes ma'am."
"What did you order?"

Uh, common sense would tell you that if I bring back a piece to you that was spicy, and am requesting a mild, then I probably ordered mild.  Just sayin'.

"I ordered mild."
"Well, cause all them pieces is spicy."
"Well," I say, having a harder time holding in my impatience now, "I ordered mild.  I can't do spicy."  I look over at Nicole, who just shrugs.

I got my chicken right, finally, and though it was good, and hot out of the oven, just something about the whole experience just hindered the taste of the meal. 

What happened to pleasant service?  The customer is always right?  Working in a retail food establishment, I can tell you, the customer is NOT always right, and in fact, many times the customer is a putz.  But, that doesn't mean that you, as the representative of the business you work in, the face of the company you are employed by, can just... well, not care. 

And yes, I just spent an hour typing (and you spent fifteen minutes reading) about my chicken dinner.   Why use 500 words when 2,000 will do?

And though I can't be sure, out of the three pieces I brought back to the counter, covered in spicy spice, one half-chewed, I think two of them went back into the chicken bin for later sale. 

Ah, Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Free Will via The Adjustment Bureau

With the 31,173 verses in the complete Word of God, there are a handful of verses that most people reference... and Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those.  The NIV states, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Personally, I'm a The Message fan, and it says, "I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future hope for."

As its documented on this here very blogsite, I'm a Christ-Follower, and I fully believe in The Word of God as infallible, unbreakable and perfect, as inspired by God. 

Having said that, we saw a movie yesterday that gives an interesting perspective on those plans that God has for you. 

The movie is called "The Adjustment Bureau", and it opens on a Congressman named David Norris (Matt Damon), and a troubled bid to be a New York Senator.  Things get really crazy when there is a chance encounter with a lovely young lady (Emily Blunt) in a men's restroom... and after the election, he wasn't supposed to meet her again--but he did.  And thus lies the problem.

There is a group called The Adjustment Bureau who watch over everyone and everything, and makes sure all goes according to plan... be it His plan or his plan, they call the big boss "The Chairman".  As the movie progresses, you will find they never are very specific about who or what The Chairman is, and probably that's on purpose so The Chairman can stand for whatever the audience may believe is in charge.

We discover the mystery girl's name is Elise, and she and David fall in love quickly... but at every turn, their romance wasn't supposed to happen, and The Adjustment Bureau does all that it can to stop them and split them up. 

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt... will she reach The Goddess or Amy
Adams (whom I'm in love with) status?  Probably not.  But she is growing
on me.
Overall, the movie is quite good, and at its heart, takes a deep subject--God's purpose and "free will"--and turns it into somewhat of a sci-fi/action/romance flick.  Matt Damon has managed to transformed himself into an incredible versatile actor over the last decade, and in "The Adjustment Bureau", he's completely believable as David Norris, while Emily Blunt is someone I've really taken a liking to over the last few years, first noticed in "The Devil Wears Prada" and shining in 2009's "Sunshine Cleaning", alongside with Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with). 

The movie has a stellar supporting cast as well, which includes John Slattery from "Mad Men" (I kept expecting him to light up a cigarette) as Richardson, one of the Bureau, character actor Anthony Mackie (he played Tupac in Hurricane Rhett's favorite film, the Biggie bio "Notorious") as Harry, the main "caseworker" with David and Elise's case, and Michael Kelly as Congressman Norris' campaign manager.

The action is great, the special effects aren't heavy but they really don't need to be, and the story itself is quite a premise... its that God... or The Chairman, as they call Him, has a certain plan in place, but if the caseworkers (or "angels" as someone calls them in the movie) aren't doing their jobs, things can go awry.  

This begs this question... We know that God is in control, we know that He knows our past and our future, but does He change His plans for us based on our reactions to what we are in the midst of, or does He ultimately have a desire for us to follow one path, but has another laid out before us because He understands that is the path we will take?

And that brings up the subject of Free Will itself.... or rather, Free Will vs. Predestination.  Okay, okay, let me give you full disclosure here.  I want to be honest with you and tell you... I don't really give a rip.  I mean, maybe I should.  I gave my heart and soul to Christ in January of 1995, and whether I chose Him freely or He had pre-determined that to be, doesn't matter to me, I am completely confident in my decision and stand by it.  So does He.

In the movie, David Norris confronts one of the higher-ups in The Bureau, and is told that they control everything, and what The Chairman wants to happen will happen because of their Chairman-directed guidance.  When Norris asks, "What about free will?", Thompson (Terence Stamp in a brilliantly played bad guy who is only bad because he's doing his job) essentially tells him, and I'm paraphrasing here, but says, "We were in control through the cro-magnon age and brought you into civilization, then let you have it.  You gave us the dark ages.  We took control again and brought you the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, and then gave it back to you in the early 1900s, and in fifty years, you gave us two world wars, the depression and the holocaust.  We felt like we needed to step back in."  I'm sure that monologue itself is full of Biblical inaccuracies, but it was well written.

I was actually surprised about how much I liked this movie, and how well it handled the subject... there was a lot of room for error, and a lot of room to be offensive and polarizing to people of various faiths (mostly Christians), but it handled it well, only briefly dipping into the answers to those Free Will questions, but instead making the questions themselves the focus of the movie. 

Anthony Mackie (far left) walking next to John Slattery, from the Sterling
Cooper branch of The Adjustment Bureau.
Now, I will say this... I didn't like the very ending.  The movie was solid, the build-up was solid (if not a little predictable at points) and the climax was riveting... but the denouement was a let down.  Its a play on words to say "deus ex machina" but that's kinda what it was.  Actually, that's exactly what it was.  I also felt like they left a few unnecessary loose ends... at the end, I turned to The Lovely Steph Leann and said, "Poor Adrian.  What happened to that guy?"

Overall, most of the secular world will find it a pretty good film, perhaps a bit forgettable in the long run.  For those with belief in God, and His plan, I think you'll find it more interesting, if not thought provoking and worthy of discussion.  However, if that's not what you want, I don't think it will be deep enough to force that upon you.  Worth a matinee.

The language is minimal, though there is an F-Bomb in there, and the violence is also minimal.  There is a gettin' it on scene between the two main characters, though nothing is shown save for passionate faces.