For those of you who have read Saturdays with Stella, you know what a treasure she is to us. And, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that, just over a year ago, we inherited another dog...Joe. Joe belonged to my father-in-law, Wayne, and when Wayne passed away last year, Joe became part of our inheritence. He is, in many ways, like Wayne. Gruff and stubborn, he moves around with a distinctive limp. When we first brought Joe into our household, I admit I was less than enthusiastic. My standard line was this: "The bad news is, he weighs 85 pounds; the good news is, he's 13 years old."
In recent weeks, though, Joe's health has taken a sharp decline. He's obviously in a great deal of pain. In fact, he moves only from the door, to his big pillow, to the food dish, and back. His evening walks are little more than a few steps out of our alley gate, and he returns from that exhausted. He's relentlessly incontinent, and intermittently aggeressive. So, it's time.
It's a huge, grave, daunting responsibility to hold the life of another creature in your hands. Dog or not, Joe embodies a lifetime of memories with us. I remember his puppyhood--even though his "puppy" size was enough to knock over my then-toddler sons. I remember him running head-first into the van door when I shut it against his invasion. Tiny little dent, there--in the door, not his head. I remember him running through cattle fields on my inlaws' land, tearing down the drive to usher in the visiting family (I was always terrified we'd run him over). Most of all, though, I remmber the days and weeks and months after my mother-in-law, Jean, died, and Wayne would walk for hours and hours with Joe at his side. He loved that dog, and when Wayne went into the hospital, Joe was left at home alone for a while. Nobody knew Wayne wouldn't be coming home from that visit, but I think somehow Joe knew. When we brought him to our home, he had large patches where he'd worn his fur clean away--great big bald patches the vet said was due to stress. And, I believe, to sadness.
And so, on Saturday, Joe and Wayne will be reunited. I'm a firm believer in animals in heaven. Scripture assures us that the new Earth will have all the creatures that the old one has. Joe is God's creature, and he was Wayne's best friend. I have the most beautiful picture in my head of Wayne in Heaven, turning around, and having his already-complete joy doubled over at the sight of Joe--fully restored--bounding across some patch of paradise to meet him.
...that's right. Idols. With an "s," because this year, it's a Sophie's Choice kinda vote. Do we stick with the girl who seemed destined for confetti since auditions, wobbled a bit in the final rounds, and came out a-swingin' and a-singin'? Or, do we put our money on the dark horse who kept a steadily increasing pace--even if he choked a bit on the last stretch?
I'm at a loss.
Often, when we get to the final two on American Idol it comes down to two ends of a spectrum. In season 1, we had your basic guy vs girl in Kelly and Justin. (Then we had the horrid experience of reuniting the two on film in From Justin to Kelly. I'd give a quick review of it, but my therapist advised me to never speak of it again.)
Season 2: Old soul (Ruben) vs. Old style (Clay)~~historically, I believe, the closest final vote.
Season 3: Fantasia Barrino vs. Diana DiGarmo~~kind of like pitting a vocal powerhouse up against a couch. No contest there.
Season 4: Bo and Carrie~~ Round 2 of girl vs guy: Southern rock vs Country. Bo never had a chance, though I admit to rooting hard for him to win. Carrie never did a lot for me, and this was my first major AI disappointment. Now, she's sold more records than practically all other contestants combined. So what do I know? And then...
Season 5: I picked Taylor Hicks to be in the top 3 at his audition. I just adored him. My quibble here is that it should have come down to Taylor and Elliott Yamin. Katherine who?
Season 6: Blake (beat box) and Jordin (teen queen) -- I wasn't surprised that Jordin won, but I remain surprised that Blake has gone absolutely nowhere. I mean, if Ace Young can be on Broadway, just sayin'...
Season 7: Battle of the Davids...and I couldn't make a call. I pretty much disliked L'il Archuleta with every cell within me, but he seemed the sweet-cheeked answer to continue the reign of Sparks and erase the stain of Hicks. But few people screamed more when Seacrest said, "Cook!" No prediction there.
Last year, of course, Glambert and Kris Allen. By the way, somebody should probably poke the producers and remind them that Kris Allen won, because I don't think his name was said out lout 3 times this season, even though Lee's trajectory clearly matches his own. BTW, I totally picked Kris to win.
So...I have a pretty decent track record. But coming into tomorrow night...I'm clueless. Really. My heart wants Lee; my head wants Crystal. And since both of those are pretty vital elements, I guess I'd be happy either way. I've said several times that I don't think either's career will be any more or less of what it would have been regardless of the outcome of the vote. Crystal clearly out-performed Lee tonight. She wants it more. That leads me to think she deserves it more. And, I kinda think the vote will agree with me here. Will I buy Lee's CD? Yes. Crystal's? Yes. Am I glad they don't have to release an cringingly awful cheese-fest of a first single? Oh, yeah.
I'm an unashamed fan of the Idol journey. Really. And I have my favorite seasonal landmarks. Hollywood Group Sing week. The last week of semi-finals when the final top 12 are sent on. Then, it's sing, sing, sing, blah, blah, blah. And then it's the top three, and the judge's pick the song! Yay!!
I can't help but sense just a twinge of producer favoritism here. And, yes, I'm an American Idol conspiracy theorist at heart. But, really. Somewhere along the line they "discovered" Lee, and while I adore the guy, he's been given a blind ear to a lot of bum notes over the past couple of weeks. Crystal, meanwhile, seems to be diminishing bit by bit. And Casey, well, isn't he adorable?
So, when Kara and Randy chose a John Mayer song, I was a bit puzzled. Hasn't the guy spent all season being the country/blues/bluegrass/heartland boy? Funny how their pick for him was infinately better than the song he picked for himself. I think that's Casey's problem. He's like an artist who thinks he knows who he is, but maybe doesn't have a clue. Maybe he and Katie Stevens need to get together: "No, I'm a Country artist." "No, I'm a Country artist." "No..." But, really, by the end of the night the poor guy looked like the friend of a friend of a friend who got invited to a party and found himself all alone at the punchbowl.
Ellen's choice for Crystal was a bit of a head-scratcher, too. She, too, seemed to pick a song that played opposite to Crystal's wheelhouse, and I loved Crystal's voice. But, really, she's not the dramatic-sit-on-the-steps type. I thought she looked extrememly uncomfortable during the entire performance. It might have been nice to find a Paul McCartney song where she didn't have to repeat, "Maybe I'm a man..." over and over again. Maybe "Live and Let Die?" Hmmm.
Then, it one of Idol's less subtle manipulations, we have Lee, dressed in white, bathed in light, surrounded on all sides by a gospel choir singing "Hallelujia." I mean, like I said, I've always been the guy's biggest fan, but even I was a little overwhelmed. I'm a little surprised Simon didn't run on stage and pull a pocketful of confetti out and dump it on the Lee's head. So while it's great to see the judges come alongside my season favorite, I just feel a litle bad for the others. Does that make me a wimp?
It seems superfluous to speculate about who will go home. I've been wrong more than once this season, but honestly, if it isn't Casey, I'll hang up my Idol hat.
Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked with most of my best friends. We all taught at the same school, just a few lockers between us. Now, one is retired, I have resigned, one still slugs it out, and two have moved two towns over. So, we try to schedule regular dates at an in-between location. Just a quick check-in. Lunch at Mamacitas where we each get our favorite half-order of nachos, and a movie. It's a date we put on the calendar, pre-booked before we part. Sometimes the movies are great (The Blindside), sometimes they're awful (The Invention of Lying). Last Saturday we saw Robin Hood, and it falls somewhere in the middle.
My friend Raquel referred to the film as "Robin Who?" on her facebook update, and I think that kind of sums up everything. Now, first of all, I have to say that when I first heard that Russell Crowe was set to play the iconic character, I had two distinct reactions: "Russell Crowe...yummmmmmm" and "Russell Crowe? Really?" To me, casting RC to play RH is kind of like casting a beefsteak to play a green bean. I've always thought of Robin Hood as being light, lithe, sneaky and quick. Russel Crowe is muscle and power. I just couldn't get the image of green tights out of my head, and somehow the thought of that big hairy gorgeous man in green tights wasn't appealing. Go figure.
But there were no green tights in this rendition. Lots of leather, armor, chainmail, more leather, maybe some linen. No tights. Anywhere. This film focuses on creating the origins of the man who would become the myth. An archer in the king's army--tough and disgruntled. A rebel with one cause: his own skin. Disillusioned by the brutality of the Crusades, a trickster in a three-cup hide-and-switch game, noble and honest, but not fun. This is not Errol Flynn winking and swinging through the trees; this is not a red-faced fox with a feather in his cap. This is not a 12th century Bon Jovi video in which our hero sports a perfectly blow-dried mullet. It's raw and gritty, bloody and dark. Great action, good acting, the perfect touch of romance...
So what sat wrong with me? Much the same as what other reviewers have noted. I don't know if I need Robin Hood to so steeped in politics that there's no room for merry men. I don't need him to be the spokesperson for religious tolerance, democracy, socialized medicine, and what--to those not in the know--could be the very first "don't ask, don't tell" military moment. I think I might have enjoyed the movie more had it not been "Robin Hood" ... like, if this were just some other guy. I guess that's my fault for coming in with such expectations, but, really, those expectations come from nearly 800 years of telling and re-telling. I sat waiting for Little John to lift him over his shoulder and drop him in the river. (I don't think this Little John could...), waiting for a show-down between him and the Sherrif of Nottingham (a totally underused character...), waiting for him to triumph in disguise.
Oddly enough, what I'm really waiting for is...the next movie. This one totally sets up for a sequel--but then, maybe we're supposed to look at the plethora of tellings and re-tellings to be the sequel.
All in all, though, it's totally worth robbing your piggy bank to give to the poor guy at the ticket counter. Perfect date movie, safe for the kiddos who won't be freaked out by the violence, (there's actually more blood in the final credits animation than in the film), or even a nice, solitary get-away in the afternoon. Just go and have fun...no need to take this film as seriously as it takes itself.
(Due to travel schedule and lack of wi-fi, I didn't get an American Idol rund-down posted. But, let me assure you, I was right!)
Three facts that pretty much sum up my mother: She watches Fox News, she takes pictures of special occasion cakes, and she's the wisest, godliest woman I know. This story tackles two of those three issues.
For the most part, it's pretty cool that my parents have a television in their bathroom. I love to turn on a late-night episode of the Golden Girls, run a bubble bath, and just escape. So, while home to visit the folks and speak at my mother's Christian book club (Chick-Lit--2nd Thursday of the month; there was a cake; Mom took a picutre). I came to the end of a long busy, busy day, and after watching a movie with mumsy (Have You Heard About the Morgans), she was off to bed. Since she was going into the bathroom for one last visit, I asked if she would mind running a bath for me. Even at 40+++, I like a little pampering. A few minutes later, there I was, immersed in deep, thick bubbles, kicked back, ready to fire up the old BlackBerry and catch up on emails that I couldn't get to during the day. Are you sensing the disaster? It's two-fold.
First came the awful, frightening, blathering noise coming from the TV. Mother had left it on, tuned to Fox News. And, not just any Fox News...Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck telling me what Jesus would have to say about global warming and environmental initiatives. I've never spent more than 5 mintues with GooBer invading my brain, and I wasn't about to let him ruin a perfectly good bath. So, I'm getting up to reach for the remote to find a Golden Girls re-run (according to hubby it's always on...), and I hear a sound even worse than the idiotic rantings of Glenn Beck. A splash, then a soft thud. Yep, my BlackBerry hitting the bottom of the tub.
Now, I don't know many people more attached to their phone than I am. It's more than my phone...it's my connection to so many people, so many ideas and things and...I'm without words. Literally. I realized--I couldn't call anybody on any other phone, because their numbers exist in my phonebook, not in my head. I have people I ONLY communicate with through text. I had a million insanely clever facebook updates left un-posted due to the dismal computer situation at my parents' house. Oh, sure, have a TV in the bathroom, but NOT wireless internet? Who does that? Yeah. People who take pictures of cakes.
So...here starts a new little chapter, because bopping down to the phone store to get a new one just isn't do-able right now, and genious here (I'm pretty sure) declined the warranty.
But, here's the upside. I'm driving back home with my parents, which means 12 hours down I-10. Normally, I'd be glued to that little screen, texting and updating and emailing. But, instead, I was listening. I learned my great-grandmother's first name was Zenobia. I learned back-stage Peyton Place secrets of my growing-up church. I didn't have one buzz, one ring, one anything to tear my attention away. It was a sweet and glorious day. Maybe I needed it? I dunno...but there's still no excuse for Glenn Beck.
It was a great idea, a great honor, a great movement...all of that. I was among the throng eager to have Betty White host on SNL. Excited enough to set my DVR. Got myself all set up with my post-shower ice water and wet-to-dry straightener and make a night of it. And the monologue was hilarious--funny send-up of the facebook campaign (back in my day we used to "poke" each other, but it was something you did on a hayride under a blanket). See? That's the kind of just-under-the-radar sweet-n-slightly-dirty persona.
Then came the first sketch. A too-long rundown of a baked-good vulgarity. A little later a strange piece with a mononym punchline ("Lesbian") repeated over and over. The MacGruber pieces were clever, until she dropped a bleeped-out F-bomb. The digital short featuring the cast singing "Thank You for Being a Friend" showed some promise, until Betty put on a mask and screamed and, well, got disgusting.
The census-taker skit with Tina Fey was old-school hilarious, though. And it was dead last. Almost worth wading through the rest. Almost. At least I got my hair done.
I think the writers (and, sadly, Betty) forgot the words of Anthony from the latest season of Project Runway: "Being a lady never goes out of style."
Really--I hope all the facebook users who supported this appearance need to settle down and watch a Golden Girls marathon (or Netflix some Mary Tyler Moore) and see this woman at her finest, with dead-on delivery and a wicked-dimpled grin. I've seen her on episodes of Password where she was more engaging, and Humane Society PSA's that were funnier.
I still loves my Betty, but I think I'll stick with Rose.
So, I have to admit I was a bit distracted during last night's Idol...packing for a trip to Chicaco...and I'm writing this Wednesday morning in the airport trying desperately to remember any of the performances in any detail. I remember Aaron being lost and overwhelmed, Casey being (sorry) terrible, Crystal being beautiful, Big Mike being obnoxious, and Lee just making the previous 50 minutes all worthwhile. I'm still maintaining that this is the weakest group ever--gone are the days of looking at the final 4 and thinking "Wow, you all deserve this equally..." If it's not Crystal or Lee in the final 2, then I'm moving to Denmark. I will not live in a country who would claim Casey James as its idol.
Actually, my favorite moment of the night came when the Sinatras gave Simon one of "Daddy's" monogrammed hankies. I loved how Simon couldn't wait to open it! I think that's the most human we've ever seen...
OK--not that it's nearly as much fun anymore, buy my desire for bottom 3 is--Aaron, Casey and Mike, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a shocker and Crystal's there, too. We are a fickle people.