Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coming Soon -- Two New Books from Rebel Press

Rebel Press is pleased to introduce the latest in its publishing rebellion, two new titles by rebel writers Susan DiPlacido and Donald Capone.
Available soon at Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com) • Amazon.com • Booksamillion.com

ENTER the world of AMERICAN COOL, where risk, rejection, and romance are played to win. When characters meet every roll of the dice with grit, humor and determination, is it enough to change the stakes? AMERICAN COOL is Susan DiPlacido's first collection of short stories.

DiPlacido is the author of three novels: 24/7, Trattoria, and Mutual Holdings. Her short story, “I, Candy” won the Spirit Award at the 2005 Moondance International Film Festival ("I, Candy" is included in American Cool). Her novel Trattoria was nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Small Press Romance. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Erotica 2007, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica vol. 6, Caramel Flava, and Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction. Visit her online at susandiplacido.com and susandiplacido.blogspot.com.

WHEN a thirty year-old bachelor disguises himself as an old man to live in The Sunset, a retirement community, will everything go as smoothly as planned? Of course not! His elderly love interest becomes suspicious of his under-cover-of-darkness-only lovemaking, his neighbor wants to experiment with Viagra®, the head of security is more interested in extortion than security, and the woman who runs the community may be on to his scheme. Can Wayne survive old age?
INTO THE SUNSET is Donald Capone's first novel.

Capone's stories have appeared in Edgar Literary Magazine, Word Riot, and Thieves Jargon, as well as the anthologies See You Next Tuesday and Rebellion: New Voices of Fiction. Visit him online at donaldcapone.blogspot.com. Contact him at don(at)rebelpress.org

Read the prologue to INTO THE SUNSET

MY NOTE: I've read Into the Sunset already and LOVED it. It's funny and heartfelt and a little wacky, with terrific characters, and a truly fun plot. Excellent summer reading.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Funniest moment of American Idol 2007

The following is an actual screencap taken from Tuesday night's performance show. This is an audience shot from when Jordin was performing "This is my Now."

Definitely the best moment of the season. Please, don't just focus on Melinda giving the stink eye to Jordin on stage. Also take in Chris's unimpressed, nasally grimace. Phil's inability to muster enthusiasm. Sanjaya's boredom. Sligh completely ignoring it all. LaKisha "pffting" the antics. J. Peterman hanging about in the middle of the kids. And Haley -- ENJOYING the song!

THAT was the Now.

This Is Our Cow

Randy would like everyone to know, in case they weren't aware, that's SHE'S ONLY SEVENTEEN, Y'ALL!

American Idol wrapped up its sixth exhausting season last night, and Jordin took the big prize. It had basically the same level of suspense as watching a two year old eat a bowl of Cheerios. There were a few charming and cute moments, but it was also messy, and a couple of people got wet gooey crap flung at them, but eventually everything was consumed, one way or another.

The first hour of the show was passable, what with Ryan getting dry humped -- by a woman -- in front of millions. And Smokey Robinson swooped in at the last minute to take this year's "too much bad plastic surgery" crown. But here's what else happened: Yelly Clarkson returned and she was in fine Yelly form, Tony Bennett basked in the love, Gladys Knight sang, Blake beat boxed it up with Doug E. Fresh, they gave out the obligatory "we humiliated this person the most" awards, the African children's choir sang to remind us about how generously wonderful it was for Idol to take a night to save the world, Jordin did a duet with Ruben, and, best, Boomie returned!

You know, just in case it wasn't obvious enough that this entire season was geared from the start as an atonement round for the Oscar winner not winning the first time through.

The second hour is when things started cooking though, because we entered the "Jesus Take the Money" section of the program where they allow that crass old fuck Clive Davis onstage to brag about how much money the albums from the show make. They do, wisely, never mention the advertising revenue from the show, instead having Ryan ad lib disgustingly truthful lines such as "this is a low budget show." Low budget and high grossing don't really work together, so they don't flaunt those numbers.

I'll give them credit, they did carefully prepare Clive this year and must have rehearsed him using "albums" instead of "units." Because although he obviously stumbled and struggled to pull the word "album" out, he did make sure that "units" was banished from his vocabulary. So he briefly apologized for Taylor Hicks's poor sales while simultaneously sticking it to him because his next single could still help him sell. Same for McPhee and Fantasia. But -- DAUGHTRY! You see, DAUGHTRY is what it's all about, because his shitty, talentless, insult-to-rock album is selling LOTS. No word about quality of the music, just how much it sells.

He took a brief moment to take a pointed jab at Yelly and state how her album "Breakaway" was successful because other people wrote it. (In case you don't know, Clarkson just won a huge battle against Davis, who wanted to shelve her new CD, because it was written by Yelly and Clive says that "young women shouldn't write their own songs.") And then he gave us the formula for how to manufacture regurgitated crap like Carrie Underwood's album and gave her a special award because she's now sold over 6 million uni... ah, albums. Carrie came out, wearing something she clearly rummaged from the "bad, discarded ideas" dumpster from Project Runway, and thanked everyone at Idol profusely.

The redeeming and entertaining portion of this segment? Was when they cut to Simon's reaction to it all. Even for him, the scowl and look of disgust on his face was harsh.

Also in this second hour, we got to see the true Idol star of the year perform. His name in lights, wind machine blowing around his hair, pulsing lights, and little girls crying. It was the return of Sanjaya!

And he brought Joe Perry with him! Even the freight train that is Idol can't derail Joe's cool. Though, he did pull out his old trick of subversively sounding shitty on his solo. Remember when Aerosmith remixed with Run DMC? Joe did it, alright. He'll take the cash. But he sure as fuck isn't going to play WELL.

Oh yeah, speaking of strange partnerships, Green Day came and sang John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." I suppose I could bust on Billy Joe, but, fucking, why? It's not like he ever was a paragon of integrity. Besides, I like 'em. Fast pop-punk. I still listen to "Dookie." Make fun. I don't care. I've admitted I love Joey Fatone, how much pride do you think I have left?

Anyhow, the Perry-Malakar thing was all good, and I don't blame Joe for kinda-sorta tanking it a little. Why should he be expected to blister out a solo when the winner can't even sing in tune? Anyone care to make a prediction about Sanjaya? Do you think he's the Daughtry of this season? I think I heard he already has his own reality show. It'll be funny if he sustains celebrity. If he overshadows Jordin, Idol season 8 will be forced to trot out six effete, teenage Indians with long hair to try and jump on the gravy train and apologize for their mocking. I really hope it happens.

Speaking of overshadowed winners, Taylor came back! Boyfriend's been laying off the ribs lately cause he was all trimmed down and tuned up in his bad-ass paisley jacket. Toxic Twin Joe Perry stayed backstage, laughing his ass off, thinking how the collective audience had to have been more wasted than he ever was (though still not as wasted as Paula on a typical Tuesday) to have given him the crown. Fuck 'em! I loved having Taylor back!

And Taylor, God love him, he knew the score, and when he was dancing around, coming down the stage into the audience past the judges table, he took those steps really carefully, wary of Simon sticking out a leg to trip him.

Then there was a strange little medley of Beatles tunes. Can someone help me out? Who is that needs the cash? Did Paul McCartney finally allow the rights to help fund his divorce from the one-legged, dancing golddigger? Or did Michael Jackson give the permission for the songbook to bankroll his legal fees and attempt to purchase Jackson family memorabilia?

All the past Idol winners who were there came out and sang a little song, and fuck me all over again, cause I liked Taylor's! Check out this cap of the finale though. It's all fuzzy because the camera was doing a fast pan, but you can see cool Joe grinning like an idiot.

Do you know why he's smiling? He's not smiling. He's laughing. He's laughing because he put in the effort to do all the drugs to like, really get "Lucy in the Sky," man, and now it's being carelessly flung around the pop stage like some cleaned-up, cutesy charm. It's all so ridiculous, how can you not love it?

But that wasn't the best. Oh no. They didn't have Prince. They had Bette Midler. HA HA HA HA! She was their Big Star for the night. And, maybe it's something on the stage, because she couldn't sing in tune either. I hear she'll be taking over for Celine at Caesars Palace. Niiice. They better give out two free drinks with the ticket just like they used to at Siegfried & Roy shows. But you gotta love Bette, because she gave us a couple classic moments as she butchered her trademark song, "Wind Beneath My Wings."

First, Randy helped Paula fly. Not like he could get her as high as what was in her Coke cup, but it was a gesture. But check out Ryan in this picture. See his expression? You know it's been a long season when Ryan lets his guard down and allows the genuine weariness to seep through.

But better, as she finished, we saw Jerry Springer in the audience, all fucking misty.

It's unclear at the time this article went to press whether Jerry was truly emotionally moved by Bette's performance, or, if, since unleashing his "soft" side on DWTS he's simply become a pussy.

So that brought us to the end of the program, with nothing left to do but finally announce that YES, Jordin DID win! Blake spoke to Jordin just before the name was read, and it was reported that he told her that if in some unlikely circumstance he won, he wanted her to sing the song as a duet with him. But he didn't need to worry. He lost. The reaction:

What do you get from that picture? I get Jordin thinking, "I'm the Idol, troll!" And I get Blake swooning with relief, thinking, "I don't ever have to sing that bitch-ass song again!"

Reactions all around were totally classy. Not a Peisha McPhee in sight. Damn. And yes, they even trotted out The Hoff again, who gave his approval.

He, unlike Springer, kept his shit together and didn't cry this year.

So that was it. Fireworks went off, and Jordin sang her amazingly horrible, self-congratulatory coronation song, "This Is My Now." Can you believe it? A nationwide contest to try to find a better song and they STILL end up picking a saptastic, cheezy, off-putting piece of shit like that song? Of course you can believe it. It's what makes Idol Idol.

Here's hoping you sell lots of uni...ah, albums, Jordin!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How to enjoy Idol, season 6

Marlee Matlin was in the audience last night.

In an earlier post on here, I'd made a joke about how even Marlee Matlin could tell that the contestants aren't very good singers. After this twist, does anything else about this season really need said?

I do, however, hold out hope for a raucously jovial finale tonight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sequins and Skin

Let me count the myriad ways Dancing with the Stars owned Idol this year.

Number one: The Judges

First, if we're going to compare the cranky, older, British judges, Len has it all over Simon. Simon was simply a rehash of all the things we've heard before. Things to him are either karaoke, cabaret, or cruise ship worthy. Sometimes things are ghastly. But that's his repertoire and he stuck to it this year. On the other hand, Len gave us such quote-worthy phrases as someone being a "gnat's scrotum" away from elimination and the time he told Joey that he has "what everyone else has, but yours is bigger." Turns out, he was talking about personality.

Then, when it comes to alcohol-enhanced judging with a penchant for histrionics and passionate-if-addled reviews, sorry Paula, but you've been way too tame this year. Even a last minute broken nose won't help you reclaim the title of outlandishly, absurdly lovable, gushing twit this year. Whether he's telling Billy Ray that his dance was crap or giving the one arm fist-pump as he shouts TEN or is laying himself across the table as he raves about the delicious sexuality of a dance, Bruno Tonioli has been the sparkle of the showroom this year again.

Oh, also? Carrie Ann is prettier than Randy, even if they are about equally as useful.

Number Two: The Band.

Perhaps a bit unfair to compare, as DWTS does have the advantage of having singers that actually sound good. But the music on Dancing ranges from camp to classic to corny-chic. Whereas most of the music on Idol this year was just corny. But beyond that, simply put, Harold Wheeler knows how to conduct a band and arrange music. I'm still not convinced that Ricky Minor does.

Number Three: The Fashion

Okay, Idol had Sanjay's hair and Haley's legs. And there were a couple of atrociously inappropriate choices at a few junctures this season. But nothing can compare to the gaudy, glitzy excess of Dancing. The glitter lotion, the fake eyelashes, the sequined bras! (Of course, I'm talking about Joey Fatone here.) The Mystic Tans on all of 'em. I kid you not, this is an actual screen cap of Cheryl & Ian:

And taking the prize for best dressed Star this year is definitely Laila Ali. I adore her. I can't imagine a cooler, classier, prettier woman. And she rocked flats out on the floor! Whether she was coiffed like Cleopatra or parading in tap pants, she turned it out. I thought it couldn't get any better. Then, last night, this happened:

Oh yeah! She ripped the shirt off her lava hot partner, Maksim. Now that's entertainment! Sure, Maks has a propensity for occasionally being a preening, temperamental jackass. But that's part of his fun! Last night, when Laila knocked him in the noggin, he got pissy and sputtered that she's one "big ass chick." Watching him simmer with frustration when the judges have something unkind to say about his choreography is choice. And when he gets lippy and talks back is even better. But he also showed he's a gentleman when it comes down to the wire, because the judges really laid into a few of his dances and he took it like a man, only to have Laila confess backstage that the criticized moves were her input, which he then brushed aside and told her she was great.

Number Four: The Competition

Last year, we all knew Emmitt was going to win. This year, even though it looked like Joey Fatone was going to sashay off with the mirror ball trophy fairly easily, Apolo Ohno stepped up and started sliding, gliding, and vying for the title. He's good, that Ohno. And even though he took top scores over Joey last night, can you really dispute this?

Here it is, the sentence I never really thought I'd ever say: I LOVE JOEY FATONE! He's goofy, alright. But holy shit is he hot! (He can leave the shirt-shucking to Maks, though.) But still! I have the most ridiculous crush on Joey Fatone! Every single female in my office has a ridiculous crush on Joey Fatone. That's why this column is late going up. Because we spent an hour and a half rewatching his dances on YouTube. You're thinking I'm crazy. Have you WATCHED that clip up there? Watch it. I'll wait.

Well? Isn't he just...HOT?

The finale is tonight, and we'll see who ends up taking home the trophy. But either way, let's calculate the score for this season. Add them up: 1 for the judges plus 2 for the band plus 3 for the fashion plus 4 for the competition equals a (Bruno voice here, with a one-armed fist pump) perfect 10!

Monday, May 21, 2007

He's a sociopath, but he's OUR sociopath

The Second Coming

By William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all around it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

My only question about The Sopranos last night is this: How do these guys pull this off? To have AJ reading such a potent passage, and then to have such a seemingly heavy hand with all the loaded symbolism sprinkled throughout. To have such paralyzingly depressing storylines and then make dark jokes throughout them. To depict such grotesque, brutal violence that so effectively creates a schism between the enlightened, reasoned mind and the emotional, primal psyche.

It's all just too good. Just way too good.

Carmela has been so calm and so reasonable for such a long time, but it was completely expected to see her revert to her coozelike tendencies to blame Tony as soon as AJ went off the rails. Honestly? I don't think I could've made a go of a marriage with that woman. But I love Tony throwing up his mother's defense for it all: "Poor you."

And how about that AJ, making the rope too long? Tony's reaction to it with Melfi was priceless. Her: It could be a cry for help. Him: He was crying for help! But that little talk about Iran and viewing the Al Jazeera website? Along with Agent Harris making an appearance this episode, is it all just a red herring amidst the asbestos piling up in the Meadowlands?

And Melfi! After her talk with her own therapist, who basically told her that she's not helping Tony, but merely enabling him, because he's a sociopath, she adopted her sideways "pissed-off" posture for her session with Tony even though she tempered her words. Frankly, I still think they need to fuck before this is all over.

Is Tony a sociopath? I know David Chase has said time and again that he is. His seeming lack of emotion over killing Christopher certainly points to some serious depravity. But I don't think he really fits a textbook sociopath, either. He tries to sublimate and repress his guilt, but he never gets it all the way shoved down, which is why he hates himself with such fiery intensity. Which is exactly why Carm's words to him, blaming him for AJ, sting him -- because deep down, he believes it is his fault.

If the first season was a modern Hamlet, with Tony's mom and uncle trying to off him, Tony's near-fatal flaw that season wasn't Hamlet's indecision, but his split in his moral code, and his indecision about which path to take. Half of Tony is a violent thug when it comes to business. And the other half wants to respect and love his family. It's a divide he's always tried to keep.

I mean, yeah, sure there was that nasty business when he tried to smother his mom after she took the shots at him. (Him yelling, "Back off George Clooney!" to the paramedic was the ultimate cherry on the sundae of that scene.) And he's finally cut Uncle Junior from his life. But he never did physically hurt the old son-of-a-bitch.

Business has bled into his personal life before, with Tony being forced to kill Meadow's ex-boyfriend, his own cousin, and also the murder of Christopher. And while he wanted to smash Carmela's face in when she admitted she was in love with Furio, that all ended with a fizzle when Furio packed up his ponytail and went back to Italy. So it's never really intersected with his immediate family before.

But last night, when Phil's man Coco verbally insulted and somewhat threatened Meadow, Tony's business persona and his personal one collided and unleashed a King Kongesque, alpha-male retribution upon Coco. For the first time in a long time, Tony lost his cool in the business world and lashed out, without thinking about the ramifications. He's done it before, like when he put his hands on Ralph Ciffaretto. But that was a member of his own crew. This is Phil's guy he just fucked up, and certainly, the cost will be greater.

He tries, oh lord, Tony tries. He tries to reach out to Phil on his "human" level, but gets totally rebuffed for it. And it's looking like Tony's going to have to make the same choice as he did in the first season: Finally, Tony Soprano may be forced to decide what kind of man he is. Last night, he said it to Melfi in a streak of self-pity: "I'm a good guy. Basically." (that's a paraphrase, I don't recall his exact quote.) But it was also laced with a touch of sarcasm.

Tony wants to be a "good guy." And sometimes, he really is a very good guy. His initial reaction to AJ's attempted suicide is to throw down his sandwich in disgust and whine with annoyance, "What the fuck, AJ?" But when he finally "gets it," he dives in the pool. First pissed, he then cries and comforts his son. And really, is it shocking he'd react how he did to Meadow's insult? Meadow can pay lip service to AJ, telling him that he's the Italian son, which makes him more important. And there most certainly is a fundamental hierarchy of gender at play in this season with AJ's storyline. But Meadow? She's always been Tony's pride, joy, and love. Of course he'll annihilate at her behest.

And good Dr. Melfi? Her most pivotal experience with Tony was back in season 3, after she was raped. It's the only time she ever referred to Tony as a sociopath. She dreamt about a vicious rottweiler protecting her and knew he'd exact revenge for her. But she sucked it up and held it in and didn't tell him about the incident, refusing to unleash the monster to keep her own moral code in tact.

Tony can't articulate it anymore, whatever enlightenment he attained out in the desert, under the influence of mescaline. And when he got back to The Bing, didn't the place seem smaller, almost claustrophobic? And he almost, for a minute, tried to explain. Prescient Silvio sat reading How to Clean Up Almost Anything, while Paulie told about his acid experience, and Tony let it all go, realizing it was worthless. And by the end of this episode, he can't even completely keep his mind wrapped around it.

But he still knows there's something...more. So as the faceless voice of Phil shouts from above, calling him a cocksucker (been watching Deadwood reruns, Philly?), asserting his authority, Tony doesn't look pissed or even disgusted so much as doggedly resigned and bone-tired.

This Phil problem, it's really not going away. One way or another, this has to be dealt with. And really, there's only two ways to handle it. Tony can be a good guy, or he can go psycho on Phil's ass. So which path is Tony going to choose? Or, like Hamlet, will he wait too long and be unable to decide who he ultimately has to be and let things happen to him?

Friday, May 18, 2007

GUD Magazine

Check out the premier issue of GUD magazine, featuring fiction by such talents as Darby Larson and Jordan Rosenfeld.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Simon's Bad Day

Wow. So once again, the best singer goes out at number 3 on Idol. Poor Melinda. Has anyone so highly pimped ever gotten such a boot before? She sang last and Simon pleaded for our votes. But to no avail.

And didn't it look like she knew it the whole show? Seacrest made an unfortunate comment after they'd shown Jordin and Blake's homecoming package. Before going to a break, he said, "After the break, Melinda goes home." We knew he meant that they would show her homecoming montage, but just the way it came out and the way Melinda reacted to that comment was very telling.

As for her montage? Well. Blake got 10,000 screaming fans and had special seats with stickers saying "Reserved for a Blaker Girl," and then sang at a Mariner's game. Jordin had a packed school and filled outdoor concert and everyone had carefully made signs adorned with pretty glitter saying "Jordin Sparkles!" Melinda, she got a "parade" through her school's campus where ten people showed up and used lipstick to messily write the letters of her name on their stomachs, and then they didn't even bother to line up in order! Fucking pathetic showing, Nashville. Pathetic.

In other news, Elliott returned, and even though it looked like he'd dipped into Blake's ugly pants closet, had mugged the Doobie Brothers for his fuzzed-out hair, and was wearing Matt Dillon's prosthetic teeth prop from "Something About Mary," he still looked and sounded better than Maroon 5's Adam Levine. No shock on Elliott sounding better than Adam, but it was a bit startling just how fucking squeaky Levine sounded. Who knew? Considering their current single is number one, I guess nasally is a form of singing. Apologies to Chris Richardson for cracking on him earlier this year for that lame comment. I guess I'm just not hip enough for all these new-fangled styles and innovations.

Now let's talk for a minute about that unfortunate haircut Adam had. Looking like Billy Bob's stand-in on "Slingblade." Is this another new, hip style? Elliott should've donated some of his extra waves to the cause. But even better hair wouldn't have helped him pull off that womanly suit ensemble. You know the saying there's no such thing as being too rich or too thin? I think Paris Hilton has proven that there is, indeed, a too rich for your own good. And Levine trying to rock that suit proved there is such a thing as too thin. For crying out loud, he had an hourglass figure! That's supposed to be attractive? Screw that. I'll still take Elliott, even if he now looks like the love spawn of Fozzy Bear and Orin Scrivello. (<--that's arcane, yes.)

As for the contestants, they really are the afterthought of this year, aren't they? Jordin and Blake couldn't have been any classier in their victory, though. Seacrest had a good night, welcoming back Elliott and then hugging Adam, so good for him.

The judges? Simon seemed genuinely pissed about Melinda leaving. Fuck him, you know? Ha ha ha! First the Sligh Teletubbies dig, then the whole Sanjaya business, don't forget about shipping him off to Africa for a day and a half, and now Melinda tanking it. If ever there was an argument for instant karma, this season, for Simon, is it. THIS is what happens when you create a monstrous mutant like Il Divo, asshole.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mother Love by Gwendoly Joyce Mintz

Mother Love, a chapbook by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is now available.

To order:
1) Go to Paypal.

2) Send $8 (numbered/autographed copy) or $6 (non-inscribed copy) to gjmintz@yahoo.com; postage paid for 1 copy, any more add $1

3)Sit by your mailbox, wait anxiously and expectedly for your copy of "Mother Love"

I'm off to order my copy right now. GJM is one of the most talented and moving writers I know, so I'm sure this will be a wonderful investment.

You Bark, I Bite

I should've written that send-off for Chris Moltisanti. I'm having one of those days where I'm just bitchy and annoyed. And that sort of restless mood reminds of Chris's attitude and lightens my mood. Sure, he was impulsive and violent and an addict and selfish. But at times, all those things came together to create comedy gold. Remember when Chris was writing his Hollywood manuscript, You Bark, I Bite, and we all snickered at him typing up dialogue such as "I can manuge that."

But then, only an episode later, we saw him in acting class and got a startling glimpse of just how brilliantly talented Moltisanti could've been as an actor? That was a weird, heartbreaking scene.

And then, only days later, back in the acting class, when they were doing the A-B exercise? You remember that? That's still, without question, my favorite Chris scene. The two actors are supposed to have a conversation with each other and they're only allowed to say "A" or "B". So Chris's partner shakes out his arms and cracks his neck and looks Chris square in the eye and adamantly declares, "A!"

And Chris socks the guy in the jaw!

Holy shit. One of the best scenes ever. Chris was laying for the guy anyhow, harboring some embarrassment and anger. And everything about the way that guy said "A" was just cocky and confrontational and begging for a punch in the mouth. And Chris did it!

Of course, it's terrible behavior and the whole class shunned him for it and he had to drop out. But onscreen? It was a total scream and it actually endeared Chris to me a little.

Haven't you ever had one of those days when someone barked at you and you wished you could bite back? Moltisanti, he always did. He didn't care if you were a bakery clerk or Ben Kingsley. He'd shoot you in the foot or bitch slap you or take back his fruit basket. Tony Soprano, even he didn't escape unscathed -- Chris got his retaliation by making an entire revenge movie that ends with Tony's head chopped in half!

When I have one of those angry, ugly days where people are just pissing me off, that's what I think to myself: "Say 'A' motherfucker. Just go ahead and say it!" And eventually, they don't exactly say 'A', but they say something that just fries my ass. And instead of punching them out, I get a visual of Chris knocking that guy out. And I know people think I'm psycho, because then I'll laugh as the response to the infuriating thing they've just done or said.

Maybe it's not the healthiest way to deal with anger, but it's a lot better than actually punching out the person who's pissing me off. Sometimes, I'd like to bite, but instead, I'm calm, knowing that Chris is out there, my own little patron saint of aggravation and frustration, and knowing that he'd have kicked their ass is good enough to keep my response at a slight bark.

AI recap this week

I didn't write a review for last night's Idol. I might do one tomorrow after the elimination show, time permitting, because Elliott is performing tonight.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The child has grown, the dream is gone.

Holy Shit! Christophah!

You know, in Italian, Chris's name, Moltisanti, translates to "many saints." I guess he ended up one short though, didn't he? Maybe I should write a eulogy of sorts for Chris, but as ever, the show was much more about Tony than it was about Chris. Last week was, essentially, Chris's downfall and swan song, and this was just the garbage removal of the whole mess that ended up his life. And I'm hoping we haven't seen the last of Michael Imperioli; maybe he's written one of the final episodes.

If there was ever any doubt that David Chase had created the story and character arc of The Sopranos as a complete drama from the very start, all those questions should be vanishing. The recalls back to the first season just keep piling up as things come full circle, even if it did take an extra couple of seasons to get there.

This season, we've seen Tony adopt one of his mother's traits that used to annoy the piss out of him -- talking about children's death. At least three times this season, Tony has worked some gruesome and depressing stories of infant carnage into otherwise normal conversations. Back in the first season, Livia Soprano had an alarming propensity for derailing polite conversation with such morbid topics. But this episode, "Kennedy and Heidi" (<--I get the Kennedy part, what with Kelly Moltisanti looking like Jackie, but can someone please explain Heidi to me? or the title as a whole? ), written by Mathew Weiner and David Chase, saw Tony using the trick as a piece of retro-fitted, deflective camouflage -- both for the sake of others and his own mental equilibrium -- and it goes over about as well as it used to for Livia.

Back when Livia used the trick, she was plotting the murder of her own son. In this episode, Tony suffocated Chrissy in cold blood, and then made multiple allusions to the shattered child seat when telling people about the car accident. Tony was both justifying his actions in his own mind and secretly trying to turn off their grief by making Chris the villain of the situation, but no one wanted to hear about it.

Tony's reaction to Chris's widow at the wake was also no surprise. He suddenly found her incredibly attractive, and then later spied her breast-feeding her infant daughter, a visual callback to the "Isabella" episode where he was on a Lithium bender and manufactured the mysterious beautiful woman and had dreams of her tenderly breast-feeding a child.

As if that wasn't enough -- again, with the fucking ducks. Did you just love that at the end, when they started dumping the asbestos trash into the pristine waters, the ducks were quacking off in the distance. Tony's adopted family, once in his own backyard, the little water fowl that introduced us to this whole crazy circus in the first place, now getting poisoned even though they're out of sight, lost to Tony. As poor AJ sits with his therapist, his taste for violence already making him depressed and unsatisfied.

Tony always has had a sixth sense about impending danger, and though his instincts in this episode were deadly accurate, he's also always had at least a shred of humanity in his reserves for his family. But his decision to snuff Christopher's life came quickly, and with seemingly no remorse. While even Carmela and Paulie grieve and suffer remorse for the way they'd treated Chris in the past, Tony justified and then even reveled in his victory. It was, for me, the moment of pure evil finally bubbling to the surface of his conflicted soul.

Though the routine is well practiced, the way he so efficiently turns the tables on his victims and is able to allocate the blame on them, there's always eventual repercussions upon his peace of mind. But this time, all those repercussions seemed to be external. He couldn't stand it that he couldn't admit the truth to Melfi, though he took as much pride in it as he could, saying that he'd finally corrected the biggest error of his career. He tried to get Carmela to admit to some relief at the news of Chris's death, revealing his own emotions and seeking a conspirator. But he found nothing there, either. So what's a guy to do when he just gets away with murdering his surrogate son, to whose child he's Godfather, and yet everyone mourns the kid's passing? Well, he goes to Vegas, of course!

Seeking solitude and a subconscious desire to slip into Chris's skin, Tony jets off to wiseguy's paradise. Caesars Palace. Slurping wine at Guy Savoy, sunning himself at the pool, playing the existential game of roulette (seriously, it is existential, just ask Dostoyevsky), getting acquainted with Chris's stripper friend, and, ultimately, having a revelation on peyote.

It was more than a glimmer of jealousy I had for the second half of this episode. Disturbing as Chris's murder was, that's fiction. But the reality is this: James Gandolfini was tromping around Caesars Palace for probably at least a week, and I wasn't there. The fuck? That's MY place -- Caesars. That's my man -- Jimmy G! Oh, it just made me so mad. I remember back when they were shooting "Ocean's Eleven" and I stalked Andy Garcia for two weeks. It was the time of my life! The fun I could've had leering around corners and lingering in front of elevators, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Gandolfini the Great? FUCK!

But even though I didn't have my fun, Tony Soprano had his. He's at an impasse with Phil Leotardo on the asbestos disposal, so he eats peyote with a stripper and after Tony literally "sees the light" (harkening back to his time in Indiana as Kevin Finnerty) they hit the casino. He lingers briefly before a slot machine with the face of a devil on it, but even that doesn't freak him out. But it sure did remind me of another scene from the first season, back when Chris got shot and had a near-death experience on the operating room table. Remember how freaked he was when he became conscious again? Remember what he said? He said he went to hell. He knew it was hell because "Every day was St. Patrick's Day. Forever." And he shot dice, and "the Irish were winning every roll." The devil image on the slot machine is a bit more straightforward than that, but it does all tie together somehow. When Tony was trapped in his coma, he was "Kevin Finnerty." Clearly, the Irish play a large role in the afterlife of this crew. Paulie has seen glimpses into his future in hell. And now, it suddenly looks like Tony's the demon that's sending them all on their merry way?

I'm not sure. But I do know that once again Tony proved why he's top dog, because he handled that shit without even blinking. Five seasons ago, he'd have passed out. But now, drooling on himself and out of his mind on mescaline, he's not even fazed.

Even better, Tony's gambling luck has suddenly changed, as he hits a 35:1 payoff three times in a row. It's a tour-de-force in his own mind, and he cracks up. Instead of remorse, utter relief and even some joy bubbles out of him as he falls on the floor laughing and says, "He's dead." Lucky for Tony, he's a rich bastard so this outlandish behavior only gets slightly raised brows from the staff. Then, as the over-the-top topper, just as the toxic trash is fucking it all up for the ducks back in Jersey, Tony sees a brilliant flash of light in the desert landscape and stands up and declares, "I get it. I get it!"

So I guess he's got it all pieced together. Maybe all his existential angst has finally congealed into an inky black nihilistic outlook where he's ready to embrace his evil.

I don't quite get it. But for the first time, I got an inkling of a strange possibility for Tony's fate. When it comes to mob morality tales, we've seen almost all of it before: they turn rat or they get murdered or they go to jail. Over the years, Tony's survived and thrived because although he's uneducated, he's also got supreme intuition and cagey intellect, combined with a ferocious survival instinct. This was, for all intents, his greatest victory. But it was also, up to this point, his greatest tragedy. And for the first time, he was unable to see the tragedy in it all. It's no accident that the song "Comfortably Numb" keeps repeating through the episodes this season. Maybe this reaction to Chris's murder is like a temporary anesthetic that'll wear off over the remaining episodes, and the devastating effects will finally cripple Tony. Or, maybe Tony will be able to survive this season, somewhat in tact. And maybe that's the most blood-curdling possibility of all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Is this all there is?

It's getting ugly on The Sopranos. The dread seeps everywhere.

This week, it was a hissy-fit between Chris and Paulie as the centerpiece of the episode. In the past, they've given us some of the best moments of the show, and what still stands as possibly the best episode ever, "Pine Barrens." The contempt they have for each other these days makes me wonder how Chris ever considered getting wings in his hair.

This week, the rage on Paulie's face as he ripped his Caddy across Chris's lawn was one for the ages. But even while that crazy scene was going on, the dread for the ultimate payback was mounting. Both Chris and Paulie love and worship Tony to a fault, which is exactly why Tony always disappoints them and hurts them so severely. They are, to him, "family," but he, to them, is family. Particularly, he's the larger-than-life general-patriarch, and one who has too little compassion and too much discipline for their tastes.

Normally, when I see Tim Daly appear onscreen as JT, I get a little tickle of delight. I'm at first stunned and then I sadistically giggle as Christophah verbally knocks him down, screws him over, and then slaps him around. But in this latest episode, "Walk Like a Man," written by Terrence Winter, JT hears a late night knock on his door and gets up and hovers for a second before opening it.

And I knew. And I thought, "Oh Tim. Don't open that door." Because, yes, I can separate fictional characters from the actors that play them, but sometimes choose not to. And even though I know Tim is going to be just fine, because I've already watched him in that new Grey's spinoff, and even though I've laughed at JT's writerly indignities, I didn't want major damage to happen to him. But Tim/JT did open the door and let Christophah into his apartment. Liquored up and irate about the recent kerfuffle with Paulie, Chris started spouting off really terrible things. Talking about going to the Feds and looking for sympathy. JT tried to shut him up and didn't offer enough pity. So Chris shot him in the head.

It was dark and ugly, one of Chris's worst moments in an already perfectly vicious existence, and an action that both drew startling parallels and highlighted a key difference between he and Tony.

Of course, nasty as that cold-blooded murder was, it was still touched with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, as JT had just told Chris that he was up late working on a script for Law & Order, which is a show that Michael Imperioli frequently guest stars on. So in the meta-world, if JT was writing an episode that featured Detective Nick Falco, Christopher just committed the ultimate act of career suicide.

But my point is really this. Chris behaved so much like Tony did in the previous episode it was almost spooky. Spooky because the writers so perfectly capture the restless frustration and inappropriate venting that even us non-sociopathic personalities can relate to. When Tony's deep in a funk in his own self-loathing and pissed off about other people he owes money to, he goes into a cruel rage against Carmela. And when Paulie tripped Chris's triggers, Chris turned around and lashed out at JT. They know who the beta dogs to them are, and they immediately seek out confrontation with them and then punish them.

Even more eerie and appropriate, they both blame their genetics for it all. Christopher laments his addict tendencies to Tony, telling him it's in his blood. Because although Chris's father Dickie is Tony's hero, he was also a junkie. Tony, of course, tells Chris this is bullshit and he just needs self control. But then he turns around and sits in Melfi's office and gives her nearly the same speech he had back in the first season. Back then, he told her that his business and his lifestyle was in his blood, that he was born to it. This episode, though, he's talking about his son AJ's disposition and is disgusted because he passed along his shitty genes to AJ which make him prone to depression and general misery.

But just to pile on the human irony, though Tony despises himself and despises seeing his worst traits in AJ, the other half of him also can't stand to see weakness in his son. Tony puts it mildly to Melfi, telling her that at least he can handle his gloomy outlook, but AJ probably can't. So he "fixes" the situation and remedies AJ's depression the only way he knows how: He hooks AJ up with another wiseguy's son to go out to a party. But we all know that it was more than just a twinkle of jealousy in Tony's eye as he listened to his paison talk about his son and boast about how well his bookmaking business was going. So even though Tony will swear he never intended to get AJ into "the family business," it certainly wasn't a random act on Tony's part that set AJ out that night to hold down another college student who'd welshed on his loan as the bookie dumped sulfuric acid on his foot.

But there comes another key difference between the three men: Chris, Tony, and AJ. While Chris is prone to outbursts of violence and is generally vicious and cruel in his selfish myopia, and while he never even registers a ping of regret about his own actions (other than to blame Tony for his choice about Adriana), it's also never really seemed as though Chris took a perverse pleasure in the violence. For him, it was just accepted as his way of dealing with things. Both he and his often-nemesis Paulie sometimes take boyish, mischievous glee in the hell they wreck, and they arrogantly delight in their own power, but that's where it ends. (the dead waiter comes to mind here.)

In contrast, Tony lives for his power and ability to dominate, but when it comes to the really grisly shit, he not only doesn't take delight in it, he wrestles with it to an antagonizing degree. Nightmares about Big Pussy, feeling an inner victory when he didn't kill the child-molesting soccer coach, the disgust he cultivated toward Ralphie and his violence to women and animals. For as ugly as Tony gets with Carmela, he's never been able to physically attack her yet. Tony would rather kill than be killed, but he always does it with a heavy heart.

And now we have AJ. AJ sat in therapy just like his dad and started taking medication just like his dad, and we already know he's prone to passing out just like his dad. But though there was some of Tony's trademark reluctance when it was first suggested to AJ that he come along to rough up the welsher, he took to it as quickly as Chris would have. But then, wasn't there something a little beyond Chris's twisted sense of humor as AJ watched them pour acid on the kid's foot? Didn't AJ look, well, excited by it all?

Normally, after a particularly rough episode, Tony would slog home and settle himself at the kitchen table and Carmela would hand him a plate of ziti. It wouldn't be much, but it'd at least be enough. Tony would catch his breath and things would calm. This week, for the first time, both Meadow and AJ joined them for the late-night private soiree. And while Carmela looked content and Tony sighed at his children, there was no relief. Earlier, deep in the throes of his existential angst, he'd asked Melfi "Is this all there is?"

Sitting at his table, surrounded by his family, Tony should be comforted by his loyal daughter's presence and his rapidly maturing son's rebound from depression and his wife's continued support. If this was all there is, he would probably be a very thankful man. But he's now put AJ squarely in the middle of the landscape where he never wanted him. And Chris and Paulie are fuming, both of them potential rats. The Feds creep closer. In New York, the danger heats up as Phil Leotardo is still simmering and wanting a piece of Tony's blood in revenge for his brother's murder.

Poor Tony. Unfortunately for him, this most certainly is not all there is.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How Can You Mend a Bored Heart?

You know what this season of Idol is like for me? A romance turned bad marriage that I'm not ready to divorce yet. Previous years had courted me with flowers and candy: the crazy Clay-Ruben showdown, Quentin Tarantino as a guest judge slobbering his love all over Jennifer Boomie Hudson, and Constantine skeeving across my screen. But last year cemented the deal in a whirlwind honeymoon of wallet chains, on-stage seizures, soulful singing, bitchy asides, and revelry in delightful fluff. But this year? The carefree romance is gone and I wake up and realize I'm committed to someone who slides by on good looks and immature charm (Jordin), dresses poorly (Blake), doesn't listen to a thing I say (LaKisha), and who's much too old for me (Melinda.)

But I'm here. I'm this deep into it. I can see a trial separation looming where I can try out other potential suitors and see if anyone captures my fancy, and then maybe I'll appreciate what I had and tune back in next January and see if we can rekindle some of the spark. But to up and cut ties now would be like filing for a messy divorce when there's a baby (the winner to be crowned) due any week now.

So here we are. Going through the motions, with a weekly side tryst (guest mentors) as the thing that gives us the energy to get through the whole rest of the routine.

This week's tryst was Barry Gibb, and he seemed genuinely flattered to be there and he was nice to everyone. He particularly loved this year's chosen one, Jordin. Fitting, since she's the baby of the bunch they'd most wish to birth her as the winner of this year's declining show. Barry said he expects her to become a superstar, and for her part, Jordin then proceeded to fuck up all the hype by actually coming on stage and singing. She came out and bored the shit out of us with "Woman in Love," wearing a dress somewhat reminiscent of Kat McPhee's blue dress from the final three, except Jordin's was reinforced and fitted to her ample proportions so instead of looking sexy it was like something a Bromdignagian would wear if trying to look sexy standing next to the Lilliputian beat boxer. The best part of it all was that Simon was having none of it. He let Randy chug the Kool Aid and toe the company line by telling her it was alright even though it was pitchy, but Simon totally punished the kid and told her it was all pageanty and old and he was right.

It was refreshing to hear Randy and Paula at least admit that she was pitchy. I mean, come on. Throughout this competition, Jordin's passed off more sour notes than a tenth grade cheerleader who's just been dumped by her football-playing boyfriend as she sits in study hall with the rest of her shocked clique. I guess in the long run it doesn't really matter, as a recording session can fix all kinds of vocal sins and that'll be Jordin's bread and butter. But onstage, if we're judging the performances? She's got more keys than a locksmith and she uses them at the wrong times.

The good news for Jordin is that Blake and LaKisha sucked out twice as hard as she did. Blake got his falsetto on for "You Should Be Dancing," but he just couldn't shut down the beatboxing, either. There were shades of Elliott in Blake this week. Not because he sang so well, oh, hell no! But because he seemed downright insistent on picking a song he was warned against and that most people don't know and he had to keep his "artistic integrity" by doing it his way. Artistic integrity. The ONLY things "artistic integrity" and "American Idol" have in common are the initials. But Blake was clearly riding the high of last week's beat box victory so he decided to scratch out a "contemporary" version of "Dancing" and the little heard "This is Where I Came In." At least, I think that's the name of the song. I hadn't heard it before and I didn't write it down, so I'm referencing a spoiler listing right now.

Granted, I gave him mad props for last week's Bon Jovi remix, but how fucking old are these judges? Since when is beat boxing "contemporary"? Wasn't that popular around the time Run DMC re-did Aerosmith's "Walk this Way"? But he keeps rocking his sweater vests and homemade pants, looking like Vanilla Ice and Mike Boogie's love child. (I hadn't mentioned the pants before. You all did know he makes his own pants, right?) But he might have just sc-sc-scratched his way out of the competition.

LaKisha picked a monster of a Gibb song with "Stayin' Alive." And, as has become her custom, she plasters on a fake smile and nods and sweetly accepts the mentor's suggestions on how to help her out with her song. But she's either the bratty child in this dysfunctional family or she's the once-heralded prodigy who's turned out to be a one-trick pony. My suspicion is that she's a little of both.

I don't mind a one-trick pony, but that trick had better be damn good and he'd better pull it off every time. KiKi doesn't. She couldn't go up an octave to sing the song and she also had to slow it down to suit her normal tempos, and it was all fucking stupid and pointless. She got loud at the end and who cares anymore? Even though she's slimmed down considerably, she's still the big girl with the big voice, but she's got a limited range and like Blake when his beat boxing doesn't hit the mark, she doesn't have much else to offer to entertain.

In an interview, I know she said she picked "Stayin' Alive" because that's what she's trying to do in this competition. And that's exactly the problem. She's not trying to grow or learn or expand or even really win. Much like I'm no longer committed to the marriage with this show and I'm just riding it out because the alternative is worse, she's just trying to scratch out survival.

So, as usual, that left Melinda. She's going to be the winner? Last year's heady romance ended with us having a nasty hangover in a cheap hotel room in Vegas, blinking our eyes unbelievingly as we gazed at Taylor Hicks hunched over a decimated plate of last night's ribs. He greeted us with a perky "Wooo!" and we looked at the ring on our finger and said, "What the fuck were we thinking?" It seemed like a really good idea at the time, caught up in our excited jubilation. But immediately after we had thoughts similar to those of Grey's Anatomy's George when he woke up with Callie as his wife. Which I suppose would make Daughtry Izzy. Fitting, as they're both bitches.

Anyhow. Melinda. They made the unfortunate error of calling attention to Melinda's age last night when they asked her what the first CD she ever bought was. And she said she'd bought a tape, because she's a little older than the other contestants. Yeah. Andrew "Dice" Clay worked a little blue. Roger Clemens is a little overpaid. Karen Carpenter was a little thin. They aren't shitting me with this twenty-nine bullshit. She said she'd bought Michael Jackson's "Bad." Supposedly, she's have been nine years old. I don't buy it. I never believed the single bullet theory, and I don't believe this shit. (and Melinda's probably plenty old enough to understand that reference.)

Anyhow, Melinda did "Love You Inside Out" -- only after being assured that it wasn't as overtly sexual as she was thinking it was -- and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." She didn't hit any bad notes, she wasn't dressed in clothes as ugly as Blake's (though, granted, the pearl necklace wound around the area where her neck should be was a bit distracting -- it's like when someone tries to camouflage a zit by putting too much makeup on it and it only draws your eye to it more), and she showed her range and versatility. She's just never bad.

But last night, she just wasn't great, either. She certainly didn't get me drunk with happiness and make me want to run off to Vegas to seal the deal and renew my vows all over again. Instead, I just sit around thinking about that big schlub with the bad shirts and jiggy-jaggy moves and the beautiful bitch and that sweet little Keebler elf and yes, that bald asshole with the wallet chain. I pine for the days of wine and roses -- mostly when Paula was still drunk on the wine and Ryan was absurdly handing out roses to Teri Hatcher. And then I wonder when we decided to settle down and make this all so fucking sensible and normal.

Monday, May 07, 2007

One Year Anniversary

And it's still pretty funny.

Wallet Chains Forever!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Here's the whole problem with Idol this year: Last night was supposed to be double the pleasure with a double elimination. And though both Phil and Chris got booted, I didn't really take any joy in it. They weren't that great, but both seemed like normal, decent guys, so it lacked the schadenfreude factor. It's like they went out of their way this year to get a cast that was blandly likable. And then, they've kept the personal profiling on each of them to a bare minimum. Usually by now we've had lots of behind-the-scenes glimpses and more talk time with the kids. But if they don't let the kids talk, they can't say anything to make us hate them or resent them. So they've accomplished getting a "wholesome" cast out there, but it's made for a shit year. TV contests without a villain suck. Idol with Paula sober sucks.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Jon Rocks

It was Bon Jovi night on Idol, which meant I was going to be squeefully happy no matter what, because seeing Jon brings back memories of my happy youth: puffy hair, first crushes, acid-washed carefully ripped jeans, fast cars, slow summer days, my best friend doing unspeakable acts with roadies to get us backstage, and plenty of eyeliner. It's basically my own private VH-1 "I Love the '80s."

I love Bon Jovi and I'm not saying that ironically or bashfully. Go ahead, make fun of me. I bought "Bounce," fuckers, that's how serious I am, okay? If this world can have people who listen to Il Divo, I can have Jon and Richie. That's just how it is.

And just after the opening credits ended, I knew my expectations wouldn't be in vain, as I was treated to an audience shot of that hot little Jersey number named Barba who kept me interested way back at the start of the season before the ill-advised booting.

Oh. Yeah. He brought his slutty daughter Antonella with him, too. Seeing them next to each other, I guess we really don't need a DNA test to confirm paternity there, huh? Just look at this guy. Guinea gorgeous, that's what he is. Looking like he'd just as soon slit your throat as say good morning. He inspires me to want to sing love songs. "Oh Mr. Barba, these five words I swear to you. I would kill for you."

Though he disappeared back into the crowd all too quickly, there was plenty more to come to give me fodder for making bad puns about being Slippery When Wet, because Jon showed up. Still trying to work that carefully ratted hair look, babbling for a full minute and a half some airheaded nonsense about how he doesn't know what's going to happen -- it almost played like an interrogation scene where he was going all Verbal Kint and over-denying. Or maybe he'd just been around Paula for a while. But it's all forgivable because he's still a cutie.

I thought he did a good job coaching the kids. I was a bit disappointed that no one was willing to tempt fate by singing "Who Says You Can't Go Home." But Jon put in the effort of trying to slightly tailor the different kinds of rock songs to the contestants. Soulful for LaKisha, going for the gospel touch for Melinda, bluesy for Chris. And just as there are different flavors of rock music, there are different kinds of Idol Rock Conestants: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic. (for real, stay with me on this one.)

Phil went first, singing "Blaze of Glory," and he's definitely a sedimentary. He's smooth and been around a little bit, but he's not too deeply embedded and the winds of viewers' whims could blow him off the stage any day now. Jon had a charmingly contradictory monologue about Phil's performance, saying that the most important thing for everyone to do was to make the song their own. Then Phil sang and Jon thought it was the shit because it was "just like on the record!"

Though it's not quite as prescient as "Can't Go Home," "Blaze of Glory" is still fairly fate-mocking with its lyrics. I didn't change the channel and was struck by a disconcerting similarity.

Do you see it? I went to see Nic Cage in Next last weekend, and he's gotten veneers and is going bald. Picture it that way. But, see, Nic has Valley Girl and Moonstruck on his resume, and even though that was twenty years ago, he's still able to skate by with me because of those past creds. I'm not sure Phil has the cred to stay around any longer with this being a double elimination, and Simon bluntly told him so.

Jordin went next, and she's definitely an Igneous in this competition. She was hot as lava for a few weeks, but last night she cooled way down really fast as she utterly mutilated "Livin' on a Prayer." Nevertheless, she's crystalized and is pretty well embedded even though she totally screwed the pooch last night.

She looked horrible and sounded like hell. Though she's hit plenty of bad notes before, this is the first time they've really called her on it and she had to suffer a bout of de-pimpage from the judges. Frankly? It's probably for the best. I doubt she'll be voted off this week and it probably slows the eventual backlash against her.

KiKi went next, and she did well. She made Jon smile, which makes me happy.

Yeah, that picture was gratuitous. I'm still unapologetic and unashamed. Jon played nice with Kisha, and their interaction sent an embarrassing stereoptypical "rich white guy trying to relate to a poor black girl" moment flinging across our fiber optic wire in the guise of mentoring when he told her to imagine her man was "going to walk out the do'!" Ahem. Nevertheless, he was useful in helping her get the hang of "This Ain't A Love Song," and she was, indeed, back in form. I liked the performance and she sounded good and she tried fairly unsuccessfully to show a little personality. But here's the thing. She sounded good and did a good job on that song because it was exactly in the LaKisha wheelhouse and exactly what she's done well before. Talk about range? KiKi is extremely good at what she does, but she's got the versatility of a diamond tiara. It's breathtaking and rare at first, for sure, but you're just not going to put it on for daily use. Then again, what the hell do I know? Celine Dion is a superstar, and it's the same thing.

Lakisha did give us some of the best moments of the show, though. It's very obvious that the producers had a very serious talking to with Paula earlier this season when she was all in the news about how she's never been drunk. And they've consequently sucked a whole bunch of fun out of this season by keeping her fairly sober for the shows. Instead of her being shot full of ketamine she's just been shot full of ennui. But LaKisha did bring out a "proud Paula" moment, complete with moist eyes and seal clapping, which thus far has been sorely lacking.

As if that wasn't enough, Simon was so pleased with the performance that he said he could kiss her. So Seacrest the instigator made it happen. But, of course, Ryan couldn't contain his jealousy and even in the midst of LaKisha's loving moment, he had to get handsy with Simon, so it all played out like this:

It remains to be seen if that display and her heartfelt vocals last night will pull her through. But that was enough crushing pressure to change her dynamics in this competition and make her metamorphic if she survives.

So, next was Blake, doing the mother of all Bon Jovi songs, "You Give Love A Bad Name." This had all the earmarks for a replay of last year's Queen-Ace Young scandal when Ace changed Queen's anthem "We Will Rock You" into a lullaby. But Jon was cooler than Queen about it. He kept saying he's not a gambling man but this is a risky move, but you could tell he was kind of amused by it and he worked with Blake on it.

And Blake thus earned himself this:

Quite literally, this is the ONLY single performance so far this season that I'll remember. Sure, the judges have previously salivated over Jordin and lied and said she had a "moment." But Blake's beatboxing dance hall remix of "Bad Name" was the only performance this year that's managed to transcend the show. Blake's had some bad weeks, and for a while he was flattening everything out, which is basically his vocal "style." But overall, Blake has more musicality than everyone else combined. And he wasn't so much a rock as a diamond in the rough for this performance.

I still think he resembles an inflatable sex doll much of the time.

But overall, I think Blake's around for a while longer. He also gets props for getting Paula to put on her "serious" persona. You know, when she's really enthused and wants to make sure they don't cut out her mic or Simon doesn't knock her away, so she grabs hold of it and gives her impassioned speech? This happens a couple times a season, and it was brought to us courtesy of Blake last night.

So then it was Chris's turn. It appears as though the producers are finally willing to let this guy go. And, as affable and sometimes scared as he seems, it really is time. Ryan irked him by calling him Justin Timberlake and then they showcased Chris's lack of articulation by asking him the tricky question of what he thinks about before going on stage. He fumbled with saying "Have fun" for a good four or five attempts before they cut to his mentoring session. As for that, here's how Jon thought he'd do with the song:

Yeah. Surprisingly, Chris wasn't that bad singing "Wanted Dead Or Alive." But after Jordin's bloody awful display, there wasn't really any lower to go. But his nasally form of singing was kept at a minimum as was his timberfakey prancing and he did a decent karaoke version of the song before Simon gave the audience the not-so-subtle clue to kick this kid off. Because, you know, we were rebellious little scamps earlier in the season with that whole Sanjaya business, but now that that's behind us, Simon knows we'll fall back in line and heed his ultimately most reasonable commands because how can we possibly disagree with the mastermind producer of Il Divo?

Anyhow, it appeared that even Seacrest felt Chris slipping away from him, his once rock-solid foundation turning to sand, ready to be blown off stage forever. I know Ryan sensed this, because he got more handsy than usual and Chris took it like a man must. With horror.

So that left us with Melinda, who got saddled with singing the "new" Bon Jovi song. You know, the song they have to perform out of courtesy to him to pimp his Cd but which is a major handicap because no one's heard it? Add on to her troubles that she claims to not know how to sing rock music at all.

I find that difficult to believe, because I think Melinda's old enough to have been around when rock was first invented. Come to think of it, I think she's old enough to have been around when rocks were invented. Which is precisely what makes her the strongest, most stable rock left in the competition. She's been around and under heat and pressure and never once cracked. She just got stronger and harder and no matter what they throw at her, she's virtually indestructible. So she sang "Have a Nice Day," which features lyrics about shining like a diamond and that's what she did. Not a young, unpolished diamond in the rough, but like the old seasoned pro out doing her thing. (And yes, I know that technically diamonds aren't rocks, but can you please let it go and let me have this metaphor as this is the first recap this year that I've gone to the lengths of having a theme?)

The judges had the balls to compare her to a "young" Tina Turner. Young? Ahem. Nevertheless, she made them Keep the Faith and showed that even These Days a New Jersey guy can develop a Crush on an Idolette and that when the heat was turned up (to about 7800 Fahrenheit) she could Bounce back after being at the Cross Roads of having the younger Jordin pimped over her and that she won't "Runaway" from the challenge. (yes, gratuitous, hacky, and juvenile trick there. What can I say, I give blogs a bad name.)