Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Hard Out Here For The Pimped

Okay. So this week wasn't the uber-celebration of awful and boring that last week was for the guys. It still wasn't what I'd consider a crazy good time, but it's starting to fall into a bit of a groove, as evidenced when Seacrest gave us his Cowell impression.

Ryan wasn't the only one finding his rhythm again. Randy still babbled meaningless trifle, but my girl Paula is starting to hit her loopy kind of off-balance equilibrium again, no doubt because the props guy adjusted the amount of ketamine in her Coke. Instead of the rigid demeanor she had last week, she dusted off some of her greatest hits in go-to moves. In order below, we see her Oscar highlight reel, showcasing first her misty-eyed gaze of adoration, then her ebullient, gesturing pose, and then, finally, once the ketamine takes over, her head-holding, room-is-spinning slump of desperation.

Welcome back, Princess. Your crazy ass was missed over the winter. She even mixed up her commentary in patented Abdul fashion, sometimes shockingly conveying relevant, coherent thoughts, and then other times babbling shit like, "No one can tell you how it feels to dedicate something to someone inside your heart and I can feel your heart and America will know that." When called on it, she then explained to Simon: "You don't know what I'm trying to say." And I think we'll just leave that quote as is as it doesn't really require commentary.

The performances were markedly better. Phil Stacey can sing, but so far he's shown a penchant for treacly songs, like last night's "Missing You." I don't really love Phil, but I do feel a little sorry for him, as the interwebby peeps have taken to comparing his looks to Nosferatu.

But, come on now. Stunning similarities and cheap giggles aside, let's be honest with ourselves. Phil does not look like a monster who creeps into people's bedrooms in the middle of the night and feeds from their jugulars. Sundance looks like a monster who creeps into people's bedrooms and feeds from their jugulars... and their bodies... and their appendages. And then sucks their marrow. And then raids their fridge... and their pantry.

That was mean and uncalled for. But my excuse is simple: I don't like Sundance. I don't hate him, but I think he was horribly over-pimped and even though he sang fine last night, he's not winning me over.

Also still not winning me over is Brandon "I sang backup for Xtina" Rogers. He pandered for the Grandma vote last night and sang a lame-o "Time after Time" that never went anywhere. Just like Sundance, he was fine, but nothing great. I think he thinks he's going to skate by on his pre-pimpage and winning smile.

He IS foxy looking and has a decent voice, but he's also a whole big bundle of blah.

Also raising the bar on blah is Nick Pedro, who sang a nice version of "Fever" while making sure to dedicate the song to his girlfriend so that he wouldn't be mistaken of being part of the gay brigade. I'm still not sure that'll be enough to keep him from getting picked off tonight, though.

Bravely leading the cast of the gayest crop of contestants ever is my man, AJ Tabaldo. And last night, even though he tamed things down a bit, he didn't put the fire out. If he was any more flaming he'd have spontaneously combusted on that stage.

God, I love him. He proved he really can sing, too. Even Simon had to grudgingly give him that it was "almost really good," and then doubled down on the backhanded compliments by adding that he looked "strangely comfortable" on the stage. Let me translate that for you. What Simon means by that is that AJ looked openly gay and completely at ease and normal with it. Simon's had a hard time with the gay contestants over the years, and I think (hope) part of that is because they never looked comfortable. Much in the way that the Claymates so rightly insist that Aiken is heterosexual -- blatantly heterosexual! -- any gay guy on Idol seemed like he was struggling with his own self-realization or was closeted while on a stage in front of millions.

AJ? Not so much. AJ is darling. AJ is fabulous. I still have a sneaking suspicion that Simon is going to keep sticking the pins in him, but it should be interesting to watch.

But, speaking of awkward, effete, or not-yet-self-realized, Sanjay needs to fucking go. He makes me squirm, and not at all in the good way. He sang "Steppin' Out" in tune and with a jaunty hat, and I'm sure he'd love to be compared to a young, wiry Michael Jackson and that it'd be healthy for him to stick around backstage and have some "self-realizing" experiences where he can grow into his tendencies under the tutelage of AJ and Blake (and maybe Brandon?) or learn convincing ways to deflect suspicion from other cast members (like by dating Teri Hatcher). But it's really time to roll out the voting equivalent of euthanasia and send him home to his family in peace. I don't want to see him get brutalized by the judges and I don't want to keep making fun of him. But if he stays, that's what'll happen. Maybe the grandmas want to keep him around so that he can have one good performance and go out on a high note. Stop it. Fucking, enough already.

Blake grooved some Jamiroquai, and it was pretty good. He's definitely the stand out among the boys already. The two interesting things about his performance were:

1) Simon made a complete ass of himself with his critique. Usually, even if Simon's being purposely assy there's some truth to be found in what he's saying. But he was self-contradicting by telling Blake he was a copycat in the performance even though the middle was unique. You know we've hit a milestone plateau on Idol when Simon makes as much sense as Pauler. Let me translate what Simon was really saying to Blake for you: "You're the most unique person we have this year and everyone will enjoy watching you, but even though you're hip and cool the queeniness seeps through at unexpected times and it makes me uncomfortable."

2) Regarding the middle portion of his performance, Blake said there was some vocal entendre going on.


Ryan ran with it and repeatedly called it "entundry." So, I'm now coining "entundry" as the new euphemism for "gayness" this year. Ryan is great at this shit. (Remember last year one night when Pauler was skunked out of her gourd and Ryan called her "compassionate?") I have a feeling that this year, we'll be using "entundry" quite often, friends.

Even more publicly embarrassing, Simon doesn't think Blake is all that original, but yet he has the unmitigated suckitude to say -- out loud, and on tape -- that Chris R. is. Who does he think he's shitting? Every calculated move this kid makes has already been patented by Justin Timberlake. (But again, we get this sort of tease, and yet no "Dick in a Box." I guess we should be happy that he doesn't pull Pauler onstage with him and then suddenly rip off part of her shirt and expose a nipple clamp.)

Yeah, yeah, Chris was able to avoid stumbling over the words to "Geek in Pink" but I'm still not buying it. His voice is thin, man, thin. His moves are calculated, and he really does love himself. Look at him fucking the camera here:

My God. He contorted himself nearly as badly as Simon contorted his verbalizations about Blake. He's like Ron Jeremy on Viagra the way he works over the camera.

Speaking of the hedgehog, anyone else think that snarky Chris must have something in common with him to land a woman that looks like his wife? Me too. He sang alright, doing Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble." But there was a noticeable absence of snark and for those who'd hoped that he was there to mock the whole thing have to now accept that he's been assimilated.

Who else? Oh yah. Jared performed and made a strange facial move.

Randy made a big deal over it, thinking it was sexy or whatever. Whatever. I think he's probably gone this week, and quite likely my boy AJ with him. (sob!) Because although it's hard out there for the pimped to live up to their exposure, it's still more difficult to slide by at this stage without it. But you never know. If there's justice, Nick will go and the fabulous entundry will live to sing another day.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rescue Them

I watched an insipid new show last night, The Black Donnellys on NBC. What a piece of shit this thing is. When I started watching it, I didn't realize it was made by Paul Haggis (Crash) or else I'd have known better and not even bothered. Much like he did in the manipulative, obnoxiously obvious, and grotesquely over-rated Crash, Haggis is using his shortcut tricks instead of ever bothering to storytell.

And that is my primary problem with the show -- his utter lack of craftsmanship -- although the added bonus is the numbingly simplistic race portrayals used in place of actual drama.

It's going to be either serendipitous or disastrous for this show that it debuts right on the heels of mob-master Martin Scorsese finally taking home his long overdue accolades. It could be fortuitous for this show, because it can capitalize on the success of Irish mob-drama Best Picture winner The Departed. But if you've seen The Departed or Goodfellas, what the fuck is the point of watching this sub-par rip-off? I mean, unless you're so in love with the Goodfellas scene where Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro kick the everloving shit out of a fellow wiseguy on the floor of a bar. Granted, that is one of the most viscerally evocative scenes in film. And Haggis certainly knows this, because the fucking hack duplicated the scene not once, but twice in last night's premier -- right down to the famous freeze shot of DeNiro mid-kick.

I cringed for poor Kirk Acevedo. I bothered to watch this show because he was in it. (Well, him and the potential for some dreamily rough-and-gruff Irish thugs to set my pulse racing.) Just like Hot Bobby Cannavale, Kirk is one of my favorite actors, but unlike Hot Bobby, who at least landed "The Station Agent" and occasionally manages to steal small scenes in larger movies, Kirk never gets his break or a meaty role (other than in indie films) that's worthy of him. Instead he gets the unenviable task of refilming -- and then refilming again -- the DeNiro kick scene in a pale, middling television show. I felt like I was trapped in The Matrix and the deja vu cat kept walking by. Fucking ghastly, it really was.

And it pretty much sums up the simplistic, condescending approach to television we're seeing in this new drama. I have three nephews, so I understand the current struggle to make constant-action "dramas" to keep those short attention spans watching. The rapid-cut, punch-a-minute, shock-is-entertainment generation really does get bored easily. And so do I. But a turbo-charged voice-over and frenzied spiral into bodies-in-motion just doesn't work to create "drama." Haggis was somehow able to master all the shortcuts of color and scenery-chewing and music and over-the-top rapid action -- combined with incredible, outlandish contrivance and coincidence and reliance on dues ex machina -- and cleave them into an amalgamation of stereotypes screaming at us that racism is bad, and therefore earn himself an Oscar because Crash was apparently an important, liberal message movie.

Let me make it clear -- yeah, racism is bad. And oh yeah, I do think there are heavy and obvious race problems out there, not to mention much more insidious and subtle race problems in our society. And now I'm talking not about "Crash", but about "The Black Donnellys." I grew up in a neighborhood that was Italian-Irish infested, and even now I live in the same kind of mix. There is without question a rivalry between the two cultures, and it's storied and rife with history, but also loaded with nuance. It's probably a big reason why I have such an attraction and weakness for the bad Irish boys. I'm sure it's a product of my upbringing, but it's so entrenched it feels as though it's hard-wired into my DNA.

But that's a subtle, personal innuendo of Italian-Irish race relations. But it's also that exact subtle kind of touch that Haggis's cardboard figures won't ever be able to grasp or portray. And that's because they're figures, not characters. I know it was only the first episode, but in a good drama, the first episode sets the tone and we have to at least get a sense of what these *people* are like. But there are no people here -- only conceits.

As for those studly Irish thugs I was hoping for? I caught glimpses of their faces as the voice-over told me what they did, which is what passes for defining them in this plot-at-all-costs non-melodrama. We then saw two-second shots of them being that thing: The one draws. (He's the thoughtful one -- Mike) The one limps. (He's a hothead asshole -- Sonny) The one makes out with chicks. (He's adorable and dumb -- Fredo.) And one poor brother? They didn't even take the time to give this fucker a shortcut schtick, let alone a whole identity! I guess they wanted there to be four of them so it wouldn't be so obviously a knock-off the Corleone crew, but they were too stupid to figure out how to pigeonhole the fourth one. Idiots. Haven't they ever seen Entourage or Sex and the City to figure out which archetypes to use when the cast is four deep?

It figures that Haggis would want to appear to be distancing himself from the Godfather formula for brotherly love while blatantly ripping it off. One of Haggis's conceits is that the Irish revile the Italians and vice-versa. What he's throwing up on the screen in this show isn't what I'd consider vile stereotypes or even remotely offensive. It's just way too idiotically over-simplified. But it's also much easier to portray when you have to keep everyone moving and punching and shooting and pointlessly crashing into each other.

You want some good Irish drama? Stick with Rescue Me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Save the Fabulous, Save the World

So the whole huge scandal with the sleazy Antonella Barba pics? Yawn. But there are some interesting angles to it, in that it was huge news on the 'net, and pretty much not even a blip in traditional media. Plus, I know the show generally makes Ryan address these sorts of interwebby uproars on the air by having a chat with the contestant to clear them up. But I just can't imagine how that conversation would roll. And how would her father react to it?

Madone. I just love this guy already.

But, the scandal's been good all around. It kept everyone talking about Idol, and as a bonus, it's given everyone the opportunity to reminsce and talk about Frenchie again. (You know, Frenchie's in Rent.) Also, maybe Toni can capitalize on Taylor's success by naming her fans the "blow patrol."

Seacrest was cute doing the red carpet chit-chat with the Oscar arrivals last night though. Particularly as he chatted up Ann Hathaway and then, before she even got out of earshot, how he looked up to Julianna in the booth and said, "I love her and she's beautiful but I don't like her dress at all."

Anyhow. I might be tied up tomorrow, so I wanted to make sure and put a plea out to everyone to remember to at least watch AJ Tabaldo tomorrow night. I'm telling you. Once this whole psuedo-porn scandal-thing cools down, we'll still need something to make us giddy, and AJ is our man. I can feel it. How can you deny this fabulousness?

And yes, I DID just learn how to make animated gifs. But I only have a 15 day trial on the software so don't worry, I won't be going apeshit with them for too long.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Oh, and...

He's still an asshole. I never thought I'd miss "Bad Day."

Aria di Sorbetto

No big surprises for the results show last night. But that's the joy of Idol -- even as the main drama is slowly building and failing to hit a crescendo, there are various other sub-plots and scandals to distract and enlighten -- and gossip about during the breaks. From the opening overture of the baroque auditions, the show unfolds almost like an Italian opera in its enormous scope, showcasing gaudy sets, plenty of loud singing, bad costumes, and final curtain calls for those who tragically die along the way.

The big moment of the show this week wasn't when anyone got eliminated. It was fairly expected when the strange-face-making, "too urban of a song" singing Nicole got the axe along with another chick -- and it's not only her name I've forgotten, but also her face. And for the boys, Paul Kim learned that stepping in Sundance's sweat wasn't enough to propel him forward and the first of the gay guys was unceremoniously plucked off. (I knew that target on the shirt was a bad omen.)

But the real drama ensued during and intermezzo, when Chris Sligh publicly and willingly emasculated himself in front the nation. I told you it was a dicey proposition to tangle with Simon so early. Those of us who keep our theatre binoculars close at hand to painstakingly detail every minutiae of the show know how the chorus of the audience can swing unexpectedly and swiftly. The producers, too, know this of the fickle audience. Chris ran the risk of looking like an ungrateful smartass by doing it.

Ironically, I don't really think he did come off that way. It seemed as though he had effectively garnered attention with that comment, with 1/3 of the viewers thinking he was pretty ballsy to even attempt it and getting firmly behind him because they felt he was somewhat mocking the whole proceedings instead of bowing to it. 1/3 got a chickle from the banter, but thought he looked slightly bad because the original insult (the Il Divo and Teletubbies dig) seemed premeditated and that he'd whipped it out prematurely in the competition. And 1/3 did think he was a bit of a smartass who'd overstepped.

So, by apologizing so publicly, I'm afraid poor Chris now runs an even bigger risk: he appeased the 1/3 who thought he was a smartass, but he's somewhat alienated the 1/3 who were giving him props for being ballsy and smartass by backing down and groveling. And the other middle 1/3 are probably put off by another premeditated maneuver.

However, there is one very positive thing that happened because of this whole kerfuffle. Simon's chiropractor got a well deserved day off, because for a change, Simon didn't have to break his back to kiss his own ass because Chris did it for him.

Dear Simon. Our own Sad Clown. Or nasty clown. Whatever. (And yes, all my knowledge of opera does come from Seinfeld episodes.)

But that was only a small interlude before another aria. So Fantasia performed, showing us once again that she can wear heels that'd intimidate even Carrie Bradshaw while singing a song so shot full of boring it makes "Do I Make You Proud" seem like Bizet's "Carmen" by comparison. Poor Fantasia. Won't someone ever write something decent for this woman?

In the best news, I've decided to hand out my heart again this year. It's rough this year so far -- so full of ennui and...more ennui. Last season was the charming, first-date equivalent of when Richard Gere took Julia Roberts to the opera -- unexpected in a delightful, charming, refreshing way that just made me get caught up in it all. Whereas so far, this season is the first-date equivalent of when DeNiro took Cybill Shepherd to the porno movie. It's unexpected alright -- but in a depressing way that just makes me feel dirty. (and not dirty in the Constantine way) But, just like Cybill did, you end up saying what the fuck and rethinking the whole thing and giving crazy old Travis Bickle another shot because what the hell else is there? Every day can't be the fucking opera.

I'm glad to see everyone pulling for Melinda. But here's the thing -- she's got everyone's love, so she's not an underdog anymore. Don't get me wrong, I still dig her and I'm behind her. But I need someone with nearly-hopeless odds and yet a spark of life. Someone I can make my project. Someone to be my Cinderella that I can root for to become a full blown princess. My own little Prima Donna.

I've found him. AJ Tabaldo is my princess. (please keep the obvious cracks to yourself -- lest I label you a homophobe)

I resisted him the first night. He with his arms in the air dancing and knowing smile. But when Lakisha performed on girls' night, there was a brief, cutaway shot of him going nuts, arms in the air, cheering on her money notes. I smiled. But then last night did me in. Look at him:

It's my mission to make sure this boy makes it to the Top 12. Work with me, friends. We can do this. And it will be worth it. This boy deserves to interact with diva Diana Ross. And we deserve to sit back and watch every second of it. Let's give this season some meaning and elevate it from the seedy, dirty secret to operatic levels of indulgence.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What A Diff'rence A Day Made

About last night's Idol, what's to really say other than the obvious? So I'll say the obivious -- the skinny white chicks can't sing. The black chicks can sing.

So let's get the cannon fodder out of the way immediately: Alaina, Amy, Haley, Leslie, Nicole. I think it's pretty obvious that a couple of these girls paid attention during the Hollywood rounds and realize that they're toast. I mean, seriously. These girls couldn't be more obvious future casualties if they were the official cast of "Saw 4." I think a couple of them are still fighting that notion and are bound to be a bit too upset when they take barbs or get dumped. (Alaina getting pissed for Simon telling her that she's got good looks but doesn't sound so good? She should've taken the compliment about her looks -- which aren't so fabulous in comparison to Toni's -- and shut her mouth.) Then there's Gina Glocksen, who definitely thinks she's got a shot and she's bubbly and outgoing and got a big voice. The problem with Gina is that I already mildly dislike her. And this I know -- I'm not unique or original. My tastes are as mainstream as it gets. So she may squeak into the top 12, but not much further than that.

The only skinny white chick who stood out was Antonella. And she stood out because she was, without question, the suckiest of the mediocre white sucks who ever sucked. I mean, Toni sucked with the force and reliability of a clog-free Dyson. Here's the problem: Even with her Eva Mendes looks, the odds of her recovering from that performance unscathed seem about as likely as Meredith Grey surviving that drowning fiasco without at least severe brain damage. And there's the grotesque beauty of TV -- we all know Mer is going to wake up tonight and she'll eventually be fine. And Toni? She'll be singing again next week.

But it's cool. Because she did give us the best unintentionally funny line of the week: "What can I do better?" I forget what non-sensical bullshit the judges mumbled to her, but here's the real answer: Sing in tune, bitch!

Also, it was endearing to see her gumbah pop giving the maloccs to Simon as he told her that she sucked. And by endearing, of course I mean funny as shit. (there will be screencaps in the future!) If this chick would stick around I have a feeling that father would be just as entertaining as Kat McPhee's misty-eyed dad -- but with a whole different Joisey vibe. And believe me on this -- she's going to be here a couple more weeks at least. Just like Sundance, and lingering yeast infections, that pre-pimpage will keep her past her welcome. But never fear. She's no Jamie Lee Curtis -- she will be part of the delightfully senseless carnage of this season.

So that brings us to the other half -- the half that didn't bore or suck. The black girls. And that immediately sets this season up to be a rewind of season three with the powerhouse divas. The memory of Boomie still looms large around the Idol sets, especially these days as she's on her way to pick up an Oscar and releases interviews that talk about how Idol was emotionally abusive (bad Simon!). And don't forget the memory of when the three divas landed in the bottom three and the racist card was tossed out as an explanation. Hang on, because that's likely to happen again.

How can it not happen if Toni skates through and one of the black chicks who can sing gets cut? Because they all can sing -- good and loud. Stephanie and Sabrina got it rolling with powerful, lively vocals. They're good. But I don't expect them to last too long, because their vibe is a little bit -- fucked. Sabrina has a bit of a Cher thing going on, but um, not quite. She's also got a bit of a drag queen thing going on. And Stephanie is just kind of bland. She's young, but not young enough to pull off the sweetie-pie Jordin Sparks kind of thing. Jordin is, without question -- adorable. And she can blow. I think she'll stick around for a while, but I don't think she's the idol. Right now she's perched in the perfect personality zone between Mikalah and Diana: not too obnoxious and not too boring. But it's balancing act that I don't think Nadia Comenici would be able to pull for an entire season.

But then there's Melinda Doolittle. Melinda is definitely my girl this season. She can sing and she's adorable and completely lacking an ego. There's a huge difference between her and the other background singer on the boy's side -- Brandon. Melinda has a natural charm and she doesn't even know she has it. Seriously -- all she has to do is refrain from saying anything grotesquely offensive and keep singing and she'll go far, riding that underdog wave of love deep into the competition.

And then, there's Lakisha. I can't even tell you why, but this girl gives off the most mournful vibe I've ever seen on Idol. It's almost uncomfortably out of place -- like she should be singing back in the day with the great Billie Holiday -- that's the kind of vibe she's got working. It's a quiet, sorrowful beauty about her, and then she opens her mouth and that voice, my god, that voice just blows all others away. After last night, she sure looks like the obvious Idol already, doesn't she?

I just have one question about her though, which the remaining weeks will answer -- can she be quiet? Everything we've seen so far of Lakisha, I love. But it's also all been in the exact same forceful, powerhouse area. That's what wows. It gets people to sit up striaghter and lean forward and snaps them out of the flat-screen induced, somnifacient boredom. It's what will get you extremely far on Idol.

But it's very rarely where the real magic it.

The quiet is where it is. It's the whisper that gives the shout meaning. The loud songs and glory notes get everyone dancing and clapping -- but the softer ones are what get people connected at that intimate level.

Lakisha has that soft-spoken, natural melancholy about her personality. I'll be waiting to see her channel that through a shiver-inducing, sublime song. And that will make all the diff'rence in the world to set her apart from the pack for good.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You've made it uncomfortable

Well. The auditions are over, and last night the top 12 boys all sang on AI. What a bunch of shit, huh? Pfizer couldn't have come up with a more effective sedative than that 2 hours of television. By the time it was over I was pissed off that I'd missed "Bam's Unholy Union" and mildly embarrassed that I'd become unguilty about having such an affinity for this show in the past.

With the exceptions of AJ (who'll be gone soon anyhow) and beatbox Blake, everyone looked scared and tried to play it safe. Not cool, guys. Not cool. Especially considering that it's really not a 50/50 shot for most of them. There aren't 12 guys competing for 6 spots. At this point already, there are 8 guys competing for 2 spots.

Why? Because barring some horrific meltdown, Blake, Brandon, and Phil are probably going through. And Sundance and Chris Sligh are probably going through -- at least one of them for sure is.

We can see that even though he's sucked for a while, Sundance is a judges' darling, and even the camera crew did its damndest to zoom in tight on his face to reduce the wobbly-arm effect he was putting out there. Remember in "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie's little brother Randy got all bundled up in his snowsuit and he couldn't put his arms down? Yeah. Sundance's movements last night were reminiscent of that.

Chris Sligh knows he's been set apart by being a funny guy -- but both of his attempts at humor last night bombed: When he called the other guys pretty, Ryan -- fucking SEACREST -- had the audacity to make a vaguely homophobic remark about it, asking him to stay on a separate couch. Then, after Simon gave him crappy feedback, Chris tried to be witty and stick it to Simon by saying that he's singing contemporary stuff -- not Il Divo or Teletubbies. And, of course, Simon cut him right back down to size by saying that he could do the latter.

Oh Chris.

It's always a dicey proposition to tangle with Simon, and especially dangerous this early in the competition. If you can't take a little negativity from Simon -- especially when he's correct -- it makes you look petulant and bratty. This is a shortcut to stardom, but you still have to pay your dues. And the dues are taking shit from Simon on national TV. If you've taken the barbs from him for a while (like Taylor) and know for sure you have the fans behind you, you can get away with finally standing up for yourself and saying something in retort, but it had still better be worded properly or you run the risk of having Simon still get the last cutting word -- as he did here. So you not only ended up looking smarmy, but also like a failed smartass. Not pretty.

I believe it was at this point that Simon told Seacrest that he'd made it uncomfortable for everyone, which was pretty funny. Translation -- he'd made it uncomfortable for Simon, because Simon's impulse to snark back got away from him and his comment was a bit more bruising than he usually is. But it's all good. Somehow Simon kept his mouth shut about how Paula has now definitively crossed the invisible boundary of looking like a caricature of herself and into the uncharted territory where she looks like a drag queen version of herself.

She was all puffed up herself, last night. It could be from "medication" or water retention, or just that awful puffy shirt she had on, but her hair was lightened and poofed into a farrah-like atrocity, but she still gave us the only charming moment of the night when she gladly massaged her own chest as she tried to give Sundance stage-presence lessons. Yes. She of the egg costume handing out advice on how to move when you're egg-shaped. Fitting, I suppose.

Anyhow. My point is this -- playing it safe with songs right now is a very bad thing, but it is wise to play it safe in overall comportment for now.

Playing it too safe was, well, everyone else. Brandon Rogers is quickly becoming a one-note wonder when it comes to personality. I want to like him, and I have the feeling he can charm me, but he's just not doing it yet. He needs to stop reminding us that he was a background singer because that really doesn't qualify as a "sob story" and he needs to step it up. Beatbox Blake sung well and got nice purple-pink backlighting to show off his tats, and I have little doubt he'll be going far, but even his song was really blah. Phil Stacey is sticking with the bald look, and instead of drawing Daughtry comparisons his head reminds me of Uncle Fester's and he's shown an affinity for really crappy music so far. But I think he'll pull his shit together.

Effectively blowing his chance last night was Jared Cotter, who sang a song that involved counting. Right now, the only song with counting that people are into is "Dick in a Box." So it just left me wishing he'd sung "Dick in a Box." AJ Tabaldo was fun, but it came too late in the show after too much depressing shit, so it was kind of like flat champagne. Sanjaya absolutely butchered "Knocks Me Off My Feet." But old ladies will like him and he's so sweet and innocent that people will possibily vote him through to be "nice." Bad move. Bad, bad move. He doesn't have a prayer's chance and at this point a mercy killing would be kinder than dragging him along week after week so he can do his best fierce catwalk and simpering Michael Jackson shy-boy routine while Simon eviscerates him and Pauler talks about his gentle soul and Randy says whatever.

I was fully prepared to be a Pedrophile if Nick was going to stick with crooning and modernizing shit like "Fly Me to the Moon." But he didn't. He looked only slightly less terrified than the Runaway Bride and sang something -- I don't even remember what he sang. But it bored me. He felt good about making it through Hollywood, but now he's like Sonny Corleone at the tollbooth. Paul Kim is depending on his bare feet to be enough of a gimmick to get him through, but I think pretty soon he'll be singing "These boots are made for walking" as he trots right off the Idol stage. I don't know what the fuck Rudy is thinking, picking that "Free Ride" and wearing a shirt with a target on it. But it would be impossible to intuit what he's thinking anyhow as not a single emotion registers across his preternaturally smooth skin

And that leaves us with Chris Richardson. You know I've got it in for this fucker already, right? You know why, right? Oh yeah, I may be miffed at Yamin right now for letting me down, but still. I was willing to let it go that this Virginia boy came in with a buzz cut and green shirt and auditioned with "Song for You." But that was enough. Now he's just getting cocky about it -- prancing around stage with his good teeth and healthy blood sugar and two good ears while he Timberlites his way through "I Don't Wanna Be." Oh, it makes me so mad! Look at his official picture:

So smug with his bland, adolescent-girls-love-him good looks and melismaing his way through songs like a vocal Olga Korbut. Yilch. Also, he loves the camera, this one. Loves it.

I pray he sticks around. I really do. That glint of annoyance is something I can work with -- a small spark of emotion among the otherwise boring wreckage of a catastrophically, uncomfortably boring premier.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doing It Properly

Rome marches on, sanguinary as ever, with the pivotal Battles of Philippi and triumvir proscriptions this week. I suspect that the drama and suspense for the rest of the season won't be quite so political and more on the personal level, considering that at this point in history Octavian and Antony had taken all the power to be had, and all that's left is for Antony to trot off to Egypt.

I like how they worked Pullo in to being the soldier who slays Cicero.

Poor tormented Pullo -- tormented because all he wants to do is be a soldier and tear people limb from limb, but yay for him becoming a happy daddy! I just love how the writers -- and Ray Stevenson -- so effortlessly pull off his character.

I'll miss Cicero. He was a bit smug and definitely a snarky little bastard -- but that's what I really liked about him. He was one of the greatest speakers and writers of all time because he could inflame passionate views and change opinion, not because he was polite. He wrote philippics, not poetry. And his most vicious attacks were upon a man who was not to be trifled with -- Mark Antony. Antony was an easy target because he was a drunk, a gambler, and a whore, but he was also a powerful general with loyal men. Cicero just happened to make a fatal tactical error by politically underestimating the prowess -- and coldly ruthless nature -- of Octavian.

Cicero never bargained that Octavian and Antony would reconcile and align and that Antony would have his revenge. Cicero could see the grand sweep and understood how to plot and machinate and sway, but he missed those simple details about Octavian. Those few little details ended up being the death of the republic, and of the man.

The real Cicero was mouthy until the end, reportedly glibly declaring, "There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.”

They didn't go balls over the falls with Cicero to make him a bitchy queen, which is why he worked on this series. A little more dastardly quotient could've made him a bit more delicious, but it would've detracted from the historical significance of the man and wouldn't have rung quite true. The little bit of restraint shown made him work quite well onscreen. And really -- no one gets mouthy with Titus Pullo - it's just uncalled for.

Another character, now vanquished, that I thought they did a good job with was Brutus. Brutus is generally portrayed as either noble and sympathetic (Shakespeare) or as a disgusting traitor (Dante). Though I tip less to the "Sic semper tyrannis" view of him and a bit heavily toward the traitor side, the show did a great job of showing him to be the complex bag he must've been and not really casting judgment. With a mom like Servila, who wouldn't be all fucked up? But, screw him anyhow, you know? He's gone now and an empire is born.

When Antony and Octavian were watching the legendary battle from their horses, was that really popcorn Antony was gleefully munching? So very Paulie Walnuts to Octavian's Tony Soprano. (Except Tony wouldn't have had the look of utter fear in his eye, and I highly doubt Augustus Caesar would have, either.) Such a light, little touch, but it really nails Antony's character. It's the kind of detail that all the high-budget sets and costumes and extras and blood can't overshadow. And it's those little details than can make or break a series like this. And, as usual, HBO keeps nailing those details, and doing this series properly.


The new issue of elimae is up, and it features some great flash stories by Myfanwy Collins and Alicia Gifford.

Monday, February 19, 2007


The final 24 for American Idol is set, after the blazingly boring "chair episode." Really, the only interesting part of that episode came in the last five minutes, when we watched Antonella Barba beat out some chick whose name I've already forgotten, even though the chick was a better singer. The other chick was upset and peeved and they made a big deal of how she was robbed. But really. Who stood a chance against the Eva Mendes lookalike who's already got a topless and toilet shot floating around the 'net?

This chick is Idol gold. All the teenage girls are probably already fantonellas because she's pretty and got so much screen time and her outrageously bitchy friend ("God likes good people") got cut and we can't wait to see if Toni is gonna be able to muster the same sort of spectacular, bitchy diva-ness to entertain us.

The only other chick I'm into at this juncture is Lakisha. But I'm into her in a whole different way than Toni -- I actually like Lakisha and her singing and it seems like she can entertain. So I'm hoping she avoids any fatal missteps early on and think she's got a shot at hanging around a good long while.

I fully predict the first girl gone will be that redhead who looks a lot like that chick from Studio 60 that I can't stand, because it doesn't matter how good she sings, the only time we saw her was sitting in the chair looking like that chick from Studio 60.

Unlike the girls, a bunch of other guys have hit my radar: the incredibly cute Rudy, the psuedo-studly Nick, the baby-birth misser, the wryly funny Chris Sligh, the barefoot Paul Kim, and that black guy with the curly hair whose name I don't know even though I think he's going to win it all. Brandon, maybe?

The other interesting couple minutes of the chair show was watching pre-pimped Sundance (real name Jason -- though he complained about "Sundance" we know he used it intentionally to get more notice) go Heads up with that other guy whose name I've already forgotten. I've forgotten his name, because it wasn't something ridiculous like Sundance, but I do recall he was both more charming and had a more interesting voice than Sundance. But he got it stuck to him and got cut in favor of what appears to be another case of more instant recognizability.

Also, much in the way that Lakisha fills the big, black belter slot this year and Toni fills the gorgeous girl (and hopefully irrepressible bitch) slot, Sundance fills the fat fuck guy slot. (Hereafter to be called, in Sucks tradition as FaFu.)

The best part of Sundance beating out the other guy? The uncomfortable elevator ride where the other guy flipped the double bird to the camera and Sundance sweating and smiling while trying to fake-act at least a little chagrined. And then, instead of shutting up, blurting out, "If I hit it big, I'll make you my bodyguard." And then, instantly realizing what a fuck-up that statement was! Tossing on the uncomfortable explanation to a jaw-dropped Seacrest, "Big guy."

I wonder if Sundance ever thinks about Robert Redford as he daydreams about being crowned AI 6 champ, humming "Do I Make You Proud," with visions of the original Sundance Kid shaking his hand and getting teary-eyed a la The Knight Rider. Something tells me he's going to fall a little short of his goal, here. And, sadly, though he's a husky fellow, he's even shorter than Seacrest so I don't think he can fall back on dreams of being Brandon's bodyguard.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy (early) Birthday Dennis

Tomorrow is Dennis Mahagin's birthday!

Check out the latest issue of Frigg for some great poems by him.

Bitter -- Sweet!

I'm single and in my 30s. So I hate Valentine's Day. But my bitter bubble was burst when I got a phone call today from the candy shop I frequent. I entered the annual drawing for a big box of chocolates and I won! Free chocolate takes the sting away.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Birthday

To my pal, Don Capone. He's not only a great guy, and a year older, he's also author of the fantastic short story collection Stories from Sunset Hill.

Serious Sugar Rush

I like Grey's Anatomy just fine. But I love The Office and 30 Rock more. Nevertheless, half the fun of TV is talking about it the next day. So I record the Thursday funnies and watch Ugly Betty and Grey's the night they air so that I don't miss out on the Friday morning discussions at work.

And since I do enjoy the show, I almost hesitate to bother venoming about this development today. But. Sometimes nothing lets off a bunch of McSteam like a pointless rant, so, here goes.

First, I want to say that I realize that viral marketing and blogging and working the fans into a lather in off-air ways is just as important as the TV show itself anymore. The more chatter about the show, the better to get people to tune in. So I can't entirely blame Shonda Rhimes, creator and writer, for this blog entry. In fact, the better part of me applauds her for doing what's necessary to whip the fans into a frenzy and keep the chatter about the show going now that Isaiah and Heigle have shut up for a few days.

And, given that everyone in my office had the same reaction to the supposed "stunning" episode last week -- that reaction being "meh" -- she seriously needs to stir the pot to keep people tuned in for what the network has promised us is TWO more of these episodes. Seriously. I really don't think my whole office is skewed far from the masses when it comes to our reason for interest in the show. We watch it to see attractive people flirt and fuck. Period. It's a good enough show, but the main draw is that it can be a silly show with a high heat factor. McDreamy and Meredith are doing it and calm right now, but we're relishing the imminent Addison/Alex hookup.

And what does the show give us instead? A bloody, mournful episode about a giant tragedy on a ferry boat. Meh. Seriously? Seriously. Who the fuck needs that? We're not watching this show because it's a great drama. When I want that, I'll turn to HBO. But trust me, Ms. Rhimes. If your previous resume of "Princess Diaries 2" wasn't a clue to you, at least take a cue from the press and realize that no one's creaming over your heavy, angsty bullshit. It's all about McDreamy. It really is. Seriously.

And that's where the blog entry just increases the pain. If Rhimes is just stirring the pot and hyping speculation, fine. But, to me, it seems like she's really taking herself a bit seriously here. Seriously seriously. Talking about how ferries are metaphors for Meredith and so is a lost little girl and how she's not writing a normal TV drama and blah blah blah. Bitch, please.

Number one: You're NOT writing a normal TV drama. When you're at your best, you're writing an hour long romantic comedy. When you're at your worst, you're stretching the patience of your primary viewers by trying to force more serious shit upon us that we don't want. Anyone remember the show Third Watch? That was such a good show when it first started. It was a bunch of hot, young dudes dressed in tight cop pants running around New York. Then it got all self-important and preachy and totally jumped the shark by killing off the hottest of the hotties, Bobby Cannavale, better known around my office as simply, but appropriately, "Hot Bobby." It went downhill from there, and limped along for a few more seasons but steadily lost viewers. Shonda, don't get all self-important and pull a "Third Watch" here, okay?

Number two: Don't talk about your metaphors. First of all, the little lost girl was obvious. Embarrassingly so. Seriously? You don't want to be calling more attention to it and acting like it was a stroke of writerly genius. It's hack, Shonda. The thing is -- we don't care. We can overlook it as long as Addison keeps dreaming about Karev -- especially when she's boffing McSteamy! THAT is your money-shot, Shonda. Don't shy away from it. Don't make the mistake of suddenly thinking you're fucking Balzac and writing "Lost Illusions" just because 30 million people watch your show. We're watching it for the soft-core fucking. Seriously.

Number three: Don't tell people how you lay on the carpet and worry you can't write. Because although you'll trick the 13-year-olds into sympathizing with you and thinking it's so cool how you suffer for your art and all, there are even more frustrated 30-somethings out there watching the show for the sex scenes and to see just how beautiful Sandra Oh's hair looks and who get a little miffed when you try to flex your writerly muscles in the first place and foist this overblown shit episode on us. And then there are even nastier, not-very-successful, jellus h8er writers who know just how you've hit the goldmine and we don't want to hear a single word of your deep explanations regarding the utterly trite shit you write. And we'll call you out about it.

Number four: We get it. You think Meredith is dark and twisty. Now you need to get it: We'll tolerate you thinking that and we'll tolerate all her scenes were she talks about it. But she's dark and twisty the way a slinky is. It's twisty alright. And the metal color is dark. But it's still a whimsical little toy. Now matter how badly you want Meredith to be your Hamlet, she's still Cinderella. Okay? She's wispy and lispy and adorable and sunny. Get over it. You don't write "Six Feet Under," Shonda. Meredith is not Brenda. You really want to see dark and twisty? Check out Atia from Rome sometime. She'd eat Meredith's angst and grief for breakfast and not even shed a drop of Ox blood to cleanse herself of it.

In summation: Get the fuck over yourself. The show is riding a wave of success and a rash of free publicity. Please don't get all self-important-twat on us and start fucking with the format and thinking you can write some heavy shit. Maybe you feel compelled to prove you've got some serious drama chops. But this is a medical show, and it's been so successful because it seemed like you knew the oldest adage in the book: A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. We'll take our medicine from you, Shonda. But only because there's so much wonderful sugar surrounding it. Sugar like Addison/Alex sex. Seriously.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I'm fascinated by Anna Nicole Smith's death and the surrounding circus. I feel a little bad for Anna. Not just because she's dead, but because she loved being famous, and now she's hit the zenith of her fame, but she's not here to revel in it.

I can't wait to see who's going to claim paternity next. Keyser Soze?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Best American Erotica 2007

I'm not sure I can explain to you how stoked I am about this next bit of news. The Best American Erotica 2007, edited by Susie Bright is now available.

When I first started writing, I decided to that I wanted to do with sex on the page what Tarantino did with violence on the screen. You know. Make it like, real and in-your-face and something that was truly felt again instead of being sanitized, commercialized and desensitized. And I really only had one benchmark: To someday get a story into a BAE collection. Well. I've failed miserably with the Tarantinoish thing. But! A story of mine is in this year's BAE collection. So there you go.

Susie Bright is a legend and an inspiration to me. So I just feel so lucky and honored. As an extra bonus, my story in the collection earned a few nice words in this review from Kirkus.

I've got a couple of contributor copies of the book, and it's really quite amazing this year. The full lineup features stories by: Matthew Addison, Vanesa Baggott, the late Octavia Butler, Marie Lyn Bernard, Alexander Chee, Dennis Cooper, Jessica Cutler, Susan DiPlacido, Alicia Erian, Daniel Duane, Lauraleigh Farrell, Sera Gamble, Shanna Germain, Kathryn Harrison, P.S. Haven, Trebor Healey, Nalo Hopkinson, Nicholas Kaufman, Tsaurah Litzky, Peggy Munson, Nikki Sinclair, Susan St. Aubin, and Kim Wright.

Right now, my favorite is Dennis Cooper's story, an excerpt from his novel The Sluts.

Of course, I'm celebrating in a couple of ways. I have a few extra copies of BAE 2007. So if you'd like a copy signed by me, drop me an e-mail. I'll collect the names and then pick three winners and mail a copy of it off to them. Also, I'm running a sale on my super-sleazy novel, Mutual Holdings. I'll send you a copy of it -- including postage -- for just $3. You can't beat that. Three buck fuck fiction. Full details and a paypal link are available on my website, right here.

Full Idol Recaps

Aw, damn. I thought I had a treat for you when my friend Don sent me a You Tube link to a video of The Panther. Alas, it has since been removed. But he was also kind enough to send me this picture, which I think speaks for itself.

And I also wanted to direct everyone to a great source for full, funny recaps of every American Idol episode. Fans of Reality TV has them up fast, and they're fantastic. A friend of mine is doing some of the recaps over there, and both of the ones she's done so far are awesome. So far, she's done the premier and Birmingham.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Idol Worship -- redux

American Idol is back in all its glory this year. From headlines of Paula making promotional appearances while being ripped out of her mind to Paula rumoredly getting replaced by the even more fucked up Courtney Love to Paula claiming she's never been drunk in her life to Paula seal-clapping and slurring during the shitty audition rounds, (honestly people, that's mainly the work of expensive and possibly illegal prescription barbiturates, not something as pedestrian as vodka!) the news, set-up, and format doesn't really change. Just the faces and voices of the contestants. While even they get molded into the gloriously well-worn yet still workable archetypes we want and expect.

Of course, all of these finalist hopefuls get their first couple minutes of valuable exposure sandwiched between all the awful, supposedly funny, terrible auditions. And there's no shortage of the weirdos, freaks, and marvelously horrible voices this year. But I'm jaded, and most of the freakishly bad pretenders come across to me about as sincere as Mel Gibson taking a day off to observe Rosh Hashanah. They know they can't sing, but they're putting on a show -- trying to be so weird or awful so they can get their shits and giggles and make it onto TV for a minute. And that's fine. But for most of them, it takes the shock value away. I mean, Zitsman? C'mon. That had to be put on. And Orgasm Girl? Her audition wasn't nearly as convincing as her Meg Ryan in Harry Met Sally routine probably is to fragile-egoed lovers.

But I do have to give credit to one guy. Cat-Man-Don't. You know, the Panther dude. I think he was for real. Or, at least, I want to think he was for real. All that bizarre and arrogant strutting and slashing through the air with his paw. Eccentric! It's guys like that who give true flavor and meaning to Ambrose Bierce's definition of self-esteem as "an erroneous appraisement". He was worth watching.

Next week they'll show the Texas rounds, giving one last chance for some lucky souls to make such complete assholes of themselves that 37 million people can snicker about them the next day. But then it's off to Hollywood, where the hopefuls will group-sing and argue in snippy voices and then wait in rooms to see if they're in or not.

Who can we expect to slide effortlessly into the Top 24, or even top 12? Well. For starters, they've already filled the impossibly cute boy role this year with Jenry. You know Jenry. He's sixteen, looking like he's going on 23. This will officially be the last time I even mention Jenry, lest I end up with Chris Hansen and a camera shoved in my face.

We've got a couple of contenders for the Kellie Pickler "scholarship fund for sob stories" to slide you through when your voice is kind of weak. I was doubting the hardship levels suffered by young women these days when they tossed out budding drama-princess Sarah onto us. You know her. She's the one who sobbed and sobbed and sobbed about her dad not supporting her and how mad he'll be when he finds out she came to the audition. Then they put her through, so she called him, her heart beating out of her chest as she sobbed some more. Even Seacrest patting her shoulder couldn't calm her as she just kept repeating, "Dad, don't be mad at me." And her father, that rotten fucking bastard, he said, "Who is this?" Yeah. That was fucking funny. Of course, he wasn't pissed. The whole thing was such a kerfuffle over nothing that I was half-hoping she'd go home and he'd give her a sound beating behind closed doors so she could show up in Hollywood with a black eye and milk her pain for a further ride on the Idol cruise.

But Sarah has some stiff competition from that blonde girl. What's her name? I already forgot her name. But you know the one. She sings all nasal and she's real pretty and her story is how her dad is paralyzed due to a crime-of-passion murder-suicide gone awry! (Oh yeah -- he's not the victim, he's the murderer-suicider.) All's I know is Sarah's pop better step it up a notch and be a really ornery bastard if she hopes to compete with this girl's shit.

Who else we got? Oh yeah-- that smart-ass Chris Sligh. He's the mop-topped one who said he wants to be an Idol because he wants to make David Hasselhoff cry. Just like this:

Yes. I love Chris Sligh. Plus, he can sing. Who else can sing? Sundance Head. And you know he's going to go far because his name is unforgettable. Plus, he's different. I already forgot this other guy's name, but there was that one fellow from LA, the backup singer for Christina Aguillera. He was good. He'll go far.

The girls seemed mostly forgettable. With the exception of the two Jersey chicks. You just KNOW there's going to be a blowout -- east coast style -- out in Hollywood when the taller, prettier one does better than her friend with the "trained" voice. What other girls do I remember? CrackBaby. I know about her. And that one "edgy" chick who showed up with her pants exposing her coochie. If she's willing to hammer herself into some semblance of blandness while retaining her uniqueness, she'll go far. (Yes, I'm aware that sentence is a hot mess of a contradiction. But admit it, it makes perfect sense.)

It remains to be seen who'll really get under my skin and piss me off this year. But I'm quite certain he's out there. Probably looking in the mirror right now, not-ironically giving himself some sort of amped-up, rocked-out, Stuart Smalley pep talk about how awesome he is. I look forward to seeing him emerge.

And who will I love this year? Ah. I thought I'd backed a winner last year. But boy was I wrong. McPhee is on Ugly Betty and has her slutty CD cover all over the internet. Taylor's gone platinum. Friggin' Wallet Chain has sold a gazillion units. Even Kellie Pickler is still making a splash on the country charts. But it seems like my darkhorse just wants to fuck models, alienate fans, and dilly about with a self-produced album. From cupcake to fuckcake in less than eight months.

I'll be watching and waiting for someone to root for this year. Sandwiched between Simon's fatuous smirk and Paula's fabulous incoherence and Randy's "pitchy-dawg-worked it out" bullshit, beneath the toe-curling layers of processed cheeze, and over the airwaves to unite all us office-workers with water cooler talk, someone will put the olive in my martini. (Yes, just pedestrian vodka for me. Mostly.)