Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The LifeTime of a Deadline

Something fantastic happens on my television during the weeks between Thanksgving and Christmas. The screen fills with B-List actresses--Jennie Garth, Jennifer Grey, Nancy McKeon, the oldest Full House sister, Tori Spelling--each with her own harmlessly hunky guy. They put on quirky hats and frolic in HollyWood snow. Suddenly, Cananda becomes Seattle, Colorado, New York, Michigan, and even California--all blending together as the backdrop where attractive people fall in love and discover The True Meaning Of Christmas with the help of a mysterious Santa/Angel/Tree/Star/ or homeless person who is actually an Angel/Santa/Tree/Star. (OK, few homeless people actually end up being trees).

Honestly? These are my favorite, favorite, favorite movies.

In years past, I did something right, because I've always been pretty free during the LifeTime Christmas Movie Season. Deadlines were either right behind me, or far enough away that I could indulge in hours and hours of harmless Canarican drama. But not this year. Eve's Christmas? Comfort and Joy? A Very Married Christmas? All are tucked away in my DVR to be doled out 30 minutes at a time during my daily lunch hour, or in that hour between 11 and midnight if I decide that I'd rather watch Jennie Garth uncover a Secret Santa than read an actual book. A dear, sweet friend of mine actually sent me the DVD of my most favoritest of the genre, If You Believe, which I have actually hidden from myself. I don't get to touch it until I type "THE END."

So, who knows? Maybe I'll be ringing in the new year with Susan Lucci's Ebenezer Scrooge. Or, I might be celebrating Valentine's Day with Olivia Newton-John and Tom Wopat. I may have to cheat a little and watch Tony Danza and Leah Thompson, because that kiss in the snow in front of his truck makes me melt, but the others are just the tasty carrot I'm dangling in front of myself to keep me going.

It's a most wonderful time of year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Warning: Mixed Metaphors Ahead...

Failure is a big word. And, so final. You can't be in the midst of failure, because it's final. You never know until the buzzer's buzzed. Up until then, you keep going, right? Think about the last two games of this past World Series. Game 6: back-and-forth, extra innings, tie it up and move ahead. Not until the 3rd out in the bottom of the 10th did we know who failed. (Rangers, sigh). Game 7: it was pretty apparent by, oh, I dunno, the 4th inning that the Rangers would fail. I knew it, they knew it, the announcers biding their time with useless trivia knew it. Failure loomed. But, the Rangers couldn't just say, "Hey! We're doomed to fail, so we're taking off now..." Of course not. Because the minute you stop trying, you fail. Why not extend that hope as long as possible?

All this to say...I totally failed my writing goal from last week. Like, not even close. Like, negative numbers due to some random computer glitch that probably boils down to my forgetting to, um, save. (and, yes, I've tried everything to retrieve those lost words)

So, I won't be spending this week just hanging out and relaxing with the family. I mean, I'll be hanging out, because we have plans. But relaxing? No. I'll be tapping my fingers calculating word counts, Googling for a good San Antonio-based hypnotist to help access those last words. As we travel over the river and through the woods (a.k.a. I-35 North to Austin), I'll be mentally fleshing out those last few plot points.

Here's the good news, though. Unlike my beloved Rangers, for me, failure is not an option. I simply cannot. Sure, I might fall a little short on some self-imposed inning, but that has nothing to do with the big game. The bottom of one inning leads to the top of the next, right?

I'd be totally remiss (and possibly un-American) if I didn't end this message with some acknowledgement of What I'm Thankful For. It's easy. I'm thankful for the next inning, the next game, the next season, the next at-bat. I'm grateful for a God whose mercies are new every morning. I'm thankful for tomorrow, and when it's here, I'll be thankful for today.

P.S. I'm only half-kidding about the hypnotist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deadline Dinner

I had to have "the talk" with my sons this week. No, not that talk--Miley Cyrus and 6th grade Health class took care of most of that. This was the one-month-to-deadline talk. It's the talk where I inform them that, for the next couple of weeks, dinner is what it is, and we're all pretty lucky to be eating anything at all. So if I say I'm making spaghetti and we end up having elbow macaroni mixed with a can of diced tomatoes, well there it is. I didn't go to the grocery store. I'm on deadline. Menus have been planned and abandoned. Lists have been written and left in the car. My head is too full of the next chapter, the dropped character, the ever-looming word count. Me? I could live on frozen waffles, Nutella, coffee and Yoplait Lemon Cream Pie Yogurt. Oh, and Diet Coke. Lots and lots of Diet Coke. The family, however, has grown accustomed to eating a quasi-balanced diet on a semi-regular basis. For now, if I can keep us from digging dinner out of a greasy bag more than twice a week, I'm feeling pretty good!

And, yes, the picture is a spaghetti taco. Don't judge me...

So. This week's challenge? A week off for Thanksgiving, so I won't be the only person in my family working! It'll be a week to prepare and freeze some dinners to get the whole Pittman family through those last few chapters. Feel free to leave me a comment with your best suggestions for make-ahead meals. We can only eat so much chilli...

By the way, for those wondering, I did reach last week's goal, resulting in a lovely body of Caress silky ribbon body wash. Nothing like a nice, candle-lit bath at midnight after a long day's writing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The End" is Near

Only an author would take comfort in such words. And for me, if all goes according to plan, in about six weeks I should have all the little bits of my current story all spelled out, ready for the triumphant "THE END" at, you know...the end. Yep. December 15--marked on every calendar I own with a big, red "D."

It's not going to be pretty.

Traditionally, for me, that long, long journey to "The End" takes place in a house full of pizza boxes, where children slide school papers under a closed bedroom door, and a husband wonders why his wife is taking beauty tips from Howard Hughes. OK, I exaggerate a bit. Sometimes we have hamburgers.

Right now I'm optimistic. The unwritten chapters are quite clear in my head, and as soon as I figure out exactly how the story's going to end, it should be easy-cheesy. (Speaking of cheese, I'll probably have entire meals made of those tasty orange squares!) Of course, that's what I thought a few months ago when I opened the first Word document. For me, really, ending a book is never easy. Never pretty. And sometimes, it's downright stinky. Some authors claim to have fallen so in love with their characters they hate to say "Good-bye." In my case, I'm pushing them toward the door, suitcases in hand, out to the taxi I ordered sometime last summer.

But the prize! Ah, the prize. One hundred thousand words piled high upon each other. Words that never before existed in just that pattern before. Brand-new sentences molded into dialogue spoken by newly minted people. Right now, though, I'm still Dr. Frankenstein, rummaging through the graveyard looking for those final scraps of inspiration. Finding bits and pieces every here and there, with no idea if they'll work together when I flip the switch. And, really, you can't flip the switch until you get to "The End," can you?

It's going to be a long six weeks, for me, and all who know me. I'll need tons of patience, prayer, and, quite possibly, a good shampoo.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Have a Book Signing on Saturday

This weekend is LifeWay's Fall Fiction Event, where Christian ficion authors all over the country will be sitting just inside the doorway of LifeWay Christian stores all across the country signing their latest release. And I'll be one of them.

Before my first novel, I--like most pre-published authors--dreamt of The Book Signing. Hordes of people lined up at the table...outside the door...around the corner...down the block. Never once did I imagine huge blocks of time punctuated by strangers trying desperately not to make eye contact with me, steering their children away, suddenly needing to be somewhere else--anywhere else. Like, over there, the spinning rack of tiny, blank cards.

I've had some disastrous signings. The one with the hurricane, where the brave employess of LifeWay and I watched shopping carts go blowing by against the back-drop of an ever-blackening sky. Or the one scheduled on Texas' Tax-Free weekend, where the brave employees of Family Christian Store and I watched shoppers scurry in and out of Old Navy with passles of restless children and cranky teens. Or the one at the little store when no.bo.dy. came.

So, am I plagued with doubt, trepidation, insecurity and fear? Nope. Because, really, it's all still very, very cool. I have a fabulous, highly-anticipated, amazing book, Forsaking All Others. And I am so blessed to represent my strong, faithful team at Tyndale. There'll be a table and chair (chairs if I have a friend come hang out with me), a bottle of water or cup of coffee or both! I'll sit behind a gi-normous stack of my books--the final form of the story God gave me.

Saturday, from 11am-1pm, I'll be exactly where God has brought me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'd Like to Thank...

Tomorrow night, instead of sitting around the big square table with my Monday night writers group, I'll be sitting at a big banquet table with my husband, my Tyndale House editors, and a slew of writing industry Who's Whos at the Christy Awards. By the time the evening is over, I may or may not be a Christy Award-Winning Author. So...last week, I got an email saying that all winners would be given about a minute to make a speech. Two thoughts came to me: (1) I'd never be able to say all that I need to say in a minute; (2) I might not be able to say anything at all.

Since the idea of actually winning a Christy Monday night makes my heart feel full and my stomach feel tumbly, I thought I would take a few minutes here to say all that I might not get a chance to. What follows is not an acceptance speech, because I've nothing to accept other than the grace of God who has allowed me to take this amazing journey. If I am grateful for anything, it is the life I have in Him, the truth by which I live, and the story I live to tell over and over. Beyone that, what follows is simply--as I look at my suitcase wherein lies a pretty, pretty dress--a recording of my gratitude.

I'm thankful for my loving, supporting husband--Mikey--who has been willing to sacrifice so much. Too often, my head is as full as my calendar, and deadlines turn me into a fuzzy-legged ogre. That's why I'm so glad he's heading off to Atlanta with me--to the Varsity!! To the Vortex!!

I'm thankful, too, for my sons who are growing up to be amazing young men, and I'm so glad to have had the past few years with a schedule that allows me to be a bigger participant in their lives.

I'm thankful for Bill Jensen, agent extraordinaire, who has brought me through some pretty stressfully sticky situations... What's next?

I'm sooooo thankful that Jan Stob and Karen Watson didn't forget about me.

I'm thankful to have won a copy of Eve's Daughters at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference all those years ago. Reading it made me want to be a fiction writer. So, being nominated alongside its author is pretty amazing.

And, finally, I wouldn't be here without the prayer support of my amazing Monday night writers group. I miss very few meetings--but I think they'll forgive me for missing this one!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Very American American Idol

I am not a person without opinions. I'll fight to the death to defend my peanut butter (Jif Natural), will mercilessly mock Lady Gaga, and there's a certain well-known, well-loved novel floating around out there with a title I can't pronounce without a sneer. Seriously, don't get me started. And yet, here I am, watching the last two Idols standing, and I just...don't...care. Scotty and Lauren. Oh, ok. I christened Scotty "McCheesy" in the first week, and never did get around to creating a nickname for Lauren. (I briefly toyed with Kelly Underwood, but that seemed too literal.)

Anyway, this is what America, in its 10th attempt at creating a star, has given us. Those of us who have been around for all 10 seasons might recognize this dynamic. It's season 1's Justin and Kelly. (Raise your hand if you saw the movie From Justin to Kelly. Just me? I had to bribe my then seven-year-old sons to go with me. They were supposed to get a puppy. I welched.) Now, Lauren is nowhere near the vocal powerhouse that is Kelly Clarkson (Kelly performed many a number with a "blown-out" voice), and Scotty could sing oddly to-the-left-listing circles around Justin, but if this were a contest about vocal ability, we'd be watching James and Pia right now instead of the best acts available at the Corn County Fair. Really, is there ever a point in the serious world of music entertainment that calls for a ballerina skirt and cowboy boots? I wore that same outfit when I was 4.

My esteemed editor (and not just because there's a certain book I really, really want to write...) referred to this as the Very Brady American Idol. Clean, pure, harmless. No fire, no sexiness. Beloved by mothers and grandmothers (who wouldn't want their child to come walkin' up the front porch with one of these two cutie-patuties?)-- but they've been singing the SAME SONGS for 3 months. No surprises. They've brought nothing new to the stage--nothing new to the muscial landscape.

Taylor Hicks may have dropped to small-club obscurity, but he was interesting. We'd never heard a voice like Fantasia's before. Even Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice at least set up a nice dichotomy. As did Blake and Jordan. Adam and Kris? Please--downright good vs fabulous. And last year? Didn't you spend the whole season just wondering what Krystal would do? On the bright side, with songs about dreams and moms--can you imagine a more Republican finale?

And, so...it's Scotty and/or Lauren. And of the two, I--like Steven--am giving it to Lauren. I'll never understand the Scotty appeal. (or, uh-peel, as he would say...).

Now, to re-watch David Cook.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stretch and Strategy

It's the point where really, any sane person should be able to see justice and reason in the victory of any one of the remaining four. Unfortunately, sanity isn't always the ruling factor for the average Idol fan--myself included. But here we are in the final stretch, and now it's all about strategy. Not talent, not future career, not defining yourself as an artist, but what is it going to take to win. To have your name seared into the confetti that will be dropped over the heads of all. And, clearly, some of the remaining singers have a stronger grip on that concept than others.

Raise your hand if you knew James was going to sing a Journey song at some point during the competition. Personally, I'd stopped believin' that his rendition was ever going to end. This was a song choice meant to garner votes. We love Journey. We love that song. Fox television loves that song, because Glee does that song. It's an anthem for a generation, so for me, it was a totally ho-hum choice. Now, "Love Potion #9"--that was cool, unexpected. Overall I left thinking that James is much more suited, though, to front a band rather than embark on a solo career. Just a thought. If Journey (or some other 80's revival band) finds themselves trolling through YouTube videos looking for a new lead singer, maybe James should get a shot. He has kind of an old soul for that. Like, can't you hear him singing "Juke Box Hero?"

The case for Haley--she, obviously, gives neither a hoot nor a holler what we're going to think. Every other singer last night showed such obvious strategy. And when she sang the Michael Jackson song I'm too lazy to Google and look up, she took a risk. There was a time when Idol rewarded risk. And I can see nailing her if she hadn't sung the unknown song well, but to blast her for not choosing something the audience knows? Nothing wrong with a little stretch in the home stretch, Jennifer. Well done you, Steven, for staggering to her rescue. I must admit, though, given Haley's hair style, I half expected her to bust into "Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you..." If Haley goes home, chalk it up to America's fear of the unknown. What in the world would we do with her? We can't bang our head, or dance a two-step, or reach into a cooler filled with Mike's Hard Lemonade with her voice in the background. We'd have to listen and absorb. Perhaps be bemused and entertained. NEXT.

The two sides of Scotty--slow country and fast country. One video with slow-motion black-and-white cornfields, the other "concert" footage with girls in tight t-shirts storming the stage. We love the familiarity of Scotty. We want him to grow up and marry Lauren in a sweet Country love story kind of way. (like Faith and Tim, not Vince and Amy) We've been listening to his voice since the crackling days of RADIO. He and James are nostalgia...Scotty is lucrative nostalgia. No matter who wins, I'm pretty sure he's the only one who will carve an actual career in the industry.

And Lauren. Oh, I love Lauren--and I'm only the tiniest bit weirded out by how much Steven Tyler loves Lauren. Here she is, the embodiment of sweet, innocent, pure-hearted teen-age girl. Like a Taylor Swift who can sing on key. How cute that our giggly girl didn't want to sing a lyric that said she was evil. How sad/odd that choosing a song without that lyric didn't occur to her. But, that's strategy. That's wanting to win--so, so bad. My heart will break if Lauren goes home tonight, and I will be haunted by Lady Ga-Ga's perma-goosed eyes.

So, no prediction tonight. With Jacob's final note wafting somewhere beyond the final planet, I'm content with the singers at hand. No single one of them deserves it more than the other. Clearly, the judges and producers want to hand it to James (probably because they're still stinging over Adam's loss); Lauren and Scotty are loved; and Haley just refuses to go quietly into that dark night. No prediction, but a bit of hope that the under dog will live to growl another day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Songs Too Many

Knowing I'd have the house entirely to myself for the first hour of Idol, I treated myself to Hostess Cupcakes--you know, two-to-a-package, chocolate iced cakes with sweet cream filling and a little swirl of white on top. It seemed fitting, given the theme of the evening. Two cupcakes, two songs. A treat for tonight--a treat from my (not-so) long-ago childhood. I guess I could have had Zingers or Twinkies, but I tend to reserve Zingers for those times when I watch airings of Charlie Brown Holiday specials, and I never have cared for Twinkies. In fact, I doubt I've had more than 3-4 Twinkies in my entire life. Anyway, I settled in my new leather chair with 2 cupcakes and a ginormous glass of milk. My plan was to nibble throughout the hour, but I sort of scarfed them down before Randy finished his initial "inittowinit" missive. The milk I saved, planning to take a sip everytime Randy said "inittowinit." Like a non-intoxicating drinking game. Because, if it were an intoxicating beverage, I would have passed out before Jacob Lusk took the stage. Sigh. I miss my drinking days sometimes...

OK, I'm stalling, or maybe I found my trip down snack cake memory lane so much more satisfying than most of what happened on the Idol stage last night. So, clinging to my cupcakes serving as a metaphor they were never meant to be, here's my take on last night.

James--you are that kind of crusty, endearing stale-ness that assures me the cakes have been on the storehouse shelf a wee bit too long. Don't get me wrong, I still think the guy is more than marginally talented, but last night was an "off" night for him. Even flames get old, dude. And, sorry, inittowinitRandy, I don't buy the concept of being emotionally in tune. If that were the case, my weepy rendition of The Winner Takes It All would have earned me a shelf full of Grammys. (Grammies?)

Scotty--you are the cupcakes themselves. Yes, in this world of fancy-pants pastries and tiny gourmet desserts, the humble Hostess cupcake prevails. I am the first to admit I've never been a Scotty fan (past posts will confirm), but I was won over last night. Maybe it's the way he finally straightened out his microphone. Maybe it's the fact that he didn't fall on his Wranglers after leaping the steps toward the judge's table during his first song. Maybe I didn't vote for you quite as often as I could have, but you were always on my mind...

Lauren--you are the sweet, creamy center. A little hidden treasure. True, a few close-ups during her second song made me think I'd lived through a time warp and was actually watching an old episode of the Mandrell sisters, but chalk that up to the hair. "Unchained Melody" is famously Simon Cowell's favorite song, and she sang itwith such vulnerability and softness, he might have cried like James.

Jacob Lusk--you are the nutrition label. Your performance is the equivalent of the nutritional value of the cupcakes. Yikes! BOTH cupcakes (because the serving size is 1). Lesson: if you're 1 person, don't sing songs recorded as a duet. If you don't have 1 Nazareth song on your ipod, don't sing their iconic hit. If we're only sending 1 contestant home, please let it be Jacob.

Haley--you are that distinctive little swirl on top. Nobody knows quite what to make of you. Without the swirl, the cupcake would taste the same, but would just be "off." Personally, I thought she stole the show, giving James good reason to cry.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Idol High School vs. Voice Vocational

Remember when Tuesday nights belonged to Idol? Then, a little show named Glee came along, featuring young talent that deserved a clear 24-hour separation from the amateur hopefuls nervously grasping for glory in front of millions of judges plus three. This week, we had he premier of The Voice. Only those who watch absolutely NOTHING on NBC are ignorant of the show. Even if you didn't tune in on Tuesday, you've been inundated with advertisements, snippets and previews for months. I, of course, tuned in. I'll say this: I don't think anybody on the Idol stage would merit a chair spin. Oh, Blake Shelton might have fallen for the country tones of lil' Scotty, but only because those roots run deep. Everybody else-- my beloved James and Casey included--would spend three minutes looking at the back of those big, red chairs. But face it--Idol's never been about a Voice. No winner has ever come close to matching Kelly Clarkson vocally. (Notice I say no winner.) The only other winner to match (and exceed) Clarkson's success is Carrie Underwood, and her Cover Girl good looks might have a wee bit to do with that. Idol is all about presence and popularity--just look at all those cheeleader-worthy, swirly-letter signs in the audience. It's perpetual high school. Don't bother running for Student Body President if you don't already know a few hundred kids who will vote for you, no matter how strong your platform of healthy lunch options and SAT tutoring. You won't win.

Good grief. Scotty just might.

So, inspired by Guidance Counselor Randy's awesome cardigan sweater, along with hot Spanish teacher Senora Lopez and whacke-out English Lit hold-over Mr. Tyler (he insists the kids call him "Steve"), let's roam the halls and look at last night's show.

Jacob Lusk: (Glee Club, Men's Choir, Madrigal Singers, Show Choir, HOSA, FHA, Social Studies Club Historian) Sorry, I actually didn't hear a word he sang due to bow-tie distraction. Leave a comment if I missed something wonderful.

Lauren: Is there any doubt at all that this girl dots her i's with hearts? Seriously adorable, and I'm such a huge fan. Did anybody else want to smack Miley Cyrus? Like, would you let your teenage daughter take advice from Miley Cyrus? I'd ten times rather let the girl spend Seven Minutes in Heaven with the anonymous 19-year-old than Five Minutes of Straight Talk with Miley Cyrus.

Hottest couple: Casey and Haley.

Most awkward performance: Casey and Haley.

Scotty McCheesy: (FFA) Most likely to fund a great musical career after the blue-ribbon sale of his prize lamb. Now, while his performance wasn't unpleasant, there's something a little bit locker-stalker when he sang "winter, spring summer or fall...all you have to do is call...and I'll be there" that would make me want to change my Math class and go the other direction during passing period.

James: This is the guy who, when it's time for the mid-term recitation of a Shakespearean soliloquy, would show up wearing a cod piece, brandishing his own sword. It's also the only assignment he's ever completed. But, thanks to a great pep talk from Guidance Counselor Randy, he's turning his life around.

LUNCH--just a time to observe that "Steve" doesn't know what bowling is.

Cutest Couple: Lauren and Scotty. Yes, even this calous old heart melts a little when they sing together. Their voices blend beautifully, and I can just look at Lauren.

Casey: Wore that exact same outfit to prom. Hat and all.

Haley: Effort Exceeds Expectations

Now, was anybody else dreading the inevitable Jacob/James duet as much as I was (besides James, I mean...). Wow. It's like the moment when you realize you'll need to cast a girl to read Romeo because none of the boys will volunteer.

So, who's being expelled? I think Jacob, Haley and hm...maybe Casey will be lined up outside the principal's office, but it'll be Jacob calling his mom to pick him up.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Idol Post-Pia & Paul

Hey, y'all! Yes, I know, I haven't re-capped the past two weeks because I've been a traveling girl. Arlington, DisneyLand, New Mexico--planes, trains, automobiles...all that. So I've been living off re-caps myself, though I did manage to catch last week's results show that sent Paul packing. In fact, I watched at my sister's house, in the company of my adorable nephew Bryan who is a huge Scotty fan. Little Bryan so touched my heart, I vowed to myself that I would vote for Scotty this week even though he is is a disturbing mix of country corn-n-cheese. But, more about Scotty later.

Hey! It's the 21st century! How's that for a nice, narrow little category. And we'll start it off with a resounding group sing by all the ousted ladies. And Paul. You'll never convince me that the producers didn't fully expect Haley to be in her own little black dress wriggling through the Pink song. Paul joined the ladies with all the natural flow of a goat stomping through a flock of baby chicks. And, you know how in church, every now and then you have to listen to the children's choir sing? Not the adorable 4-and 5-year-olds, but the 4th and 5th graders, and you're listening, and all of a sudden there's this voice that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the song the other children are singing? And you're thinking--whose kid is that? And silently feeling a little sorry for the parents who have to claim such errant tones? Yeah, that was Paul. His is not a talent that can easily mesh with budding pop princesses. Poor boy looked so lost...

Now, back to Scotty and the promise I broke to an adorable 8-year-old boy. Because, honestly. You have any song from the 21st century--a time when Country music really took on so many new flavors and crossed into pop charts (not that it wasn't doing perfectly fine in its own charts...) and you pick "Swingin'" by--hold on, let me Google it--John Anderson? And then you hold your microphone all sideways and sing all smarmy like you know the song isn't really about swingin' but you're a teenager so that's creepy too... Even if you do a career-altering switch-up by ending the song sitting on the steps--sorry, McCheesy. You should never, ever, ever sing a song with the word "lover" in it. Cringe. Bad choices all around, and kudos to the judges for finally calling him out on some of this nonsense. So, sorry Bryan. I could not vote for Scotty, but you know legions of people will.

Then James, the over-achiever of the bunch, wearing his jodhpurs and brandishing the microphone stand like a rock-n-roll ringmaster. Who's the poor sap who has to follow that? Oh, yeah...Haley, looking cute in a red dress, but it seems like a spark is missing. She was so amazing in the duet with Casey last week, but she looked a little defeated as the judges drizzled out tepid praise.

Wow! What a shiny suit Lusker van Dross is wearing. Next...

Casey sang a Maroon 5 song. I have a Maroon 5 station on my Pandora, so I was equal parts thrilled and apprehensive. Apparently, so was Jennifer Lopez. And her handlers. But, really, I thought he did an awesome job and has learned the lessons that only a judges' save can teach you. And, it bothers me greatly that Jacob wouldn't wear the fake Casey beard during the "dish on your competition" segment.

Looks like Stefano has finally learned to keep those big brown eyes open, which is a good thing if you're going to run all over the stage like that, given the OSHA hazard of unleashed red suspenders. The man gave us a performance worthy of high school talent shows everywhere. And, you know all the girls were just-a-swoonin'. (take that, John Anderson)

Finally, my sweet song bird Lauren, who had my own high-school sons swooning. (rather the 21st century swoon which consists of saying "she is so hot" through a mouthful of hamburger and cheetohs) I love Lauren. The mother in me wanted to add about an inch to her skirt (my sons heartily disagreed), and I secretly love that they think she's cuter than Haley. But, it's time for her to believe in herself a little bit. To quote the much less talented Miley Cyrus: "If you believe in yourself, anything is possible." Wow, maybe that girl can't sing, but she is deeper than deep. Here are a few more gems.

Bottom 3? This stage of the game is tricky, but I'm thinking Haley, Stefano and...(hate to say it) Lauren. I dream of Jacob in a thin silver chair, but alas, 'twill be a dream deferred another week. Going home? Haley.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Somewhere, Stefano is moping, because he totally wanted to set a tiny ballerina on fire, but the producers wouldn't let him. But that's just another piano burned behind us, so let's move on...

Last week I made the case that Motown week generally made for good performances, because the songs are good. Same goes for Elton John week, but with kind of a rhinestone twist. Motown hits were manufactured--written to be hit dance and radio tunes. Elton is a different kind of artist, so his songs are a bit more complex. More complex melodies, and deeper lyrics. So, while we can smile at the insecure "HEATWAVE!" delivered with a cute little hop, it's harder to excuse a teenager's attempt to access the emotional complexity of "Daniel."

All in all it was a pleasant night, though. Wonderful to hear Casey actually sing--my favorite EJ song, no less, though my favorite rendition will always belong to Ewan Mcgregor. Saving him last week was an absolute must--not only because he's superior to some of his current competition, but because it was kind of a wake-up call to Casey himself. There's a time to set aside the self-indulgent love child of Joe Cocker and Will Ferrell. Here's hoping America learned its lesson, too. We'll see tonight.

There aren't enough words for how much I loved Lauren's performance, though I would have suggested one slight lyric change: (regarding Marilyn Monroe's life) "Would've liked to have known you, but my grandma was just a kid..." I mean she got to change "cling" to "clang," so... I actually adored Haley this week, too. Hm. I'm worried that a one-off from her will send someone else home, though.

There also aren't enough words for Naima, and since my mom taught me to say nothing if I can't say something kind, well, I'll just move on to Scotty, and let my rebellious nature take over. This kid bugs me. Seriously, from the hundreds of songs you chose the one that allows you to give a shout-out to your GRANDMA? No excuse. None. I don't understand why the judges aren't calling him on his one-note, cheesy, single-cheeked performances week after week after week after...oh, nevermind.

Due to Casey's save, two contestants will go home tonight, and that's a tough call. But, I'm thinking it's time for Paul to pursue his career as a White Noise recording artist (think about it--on your alarm clock you could choose Rain Forest, Ocean Waves, or Paul whispering all the hits from the 70's). Joining him in the upside-down martini stools of doom should be Naima and Stefano.

B-b-b-b-b-bye now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gimme mo' Motown!

There's exactly one reason why this week's show was miles and miles beyond last week's.

It's not because Paul busted out his guitar, finally setting free the invisible marionette he's been walking around the stage. (oooh, is that it? behind your couch? chilling thought...)

It's not because the A.I. stylist worked magic with the straightening iron. (Haley...Lauren...Casey...)

It's not because the musical world finally got to use the phrase: "Legendary bass player."

It's not because Scotty gave us a sneak peek into his future Vegas lounge act. (well, maybe not Vegas, but definately the Steak-n-Ale in Laughlin, NV)

It's not because Haley gave us a sneak peek into her future Vegas "dance" act. (just add pole)

It's not because Jacob Lusk proved he's the go-to guy for a one-man duet.

And...it's not because Jennifer Lopez's laugh makes puppies happy.

Nope...This week was better than last week because there's no such thing as a bad Motown hit. These are good songs. Period. Given the broad category of "YOUR BIRTH YEAR" led to a lot of silly, sentimental, sensless song choices. Sing them well and sing them true, and we're entertained. Add a little dance (Naima) and the perfect dress (Thia, Pia) and we're good to go. Just stay out of the eighties and leave a lingering bit of soul. (Sorry Stefano...)

Still, I think Stefano will safely open his eyes to see the stage again. Bottom 3 is a hard choice this week...I'm thinking Paul, Haley and--maybe Lauren. Going home? Haley.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To the tune of..."Wild Thing" (from my birth year--1966)

Wild thing

(ba-da-ba-da-da) That's the song I'd sing

(ba-da-ba-da-da) Like Paul, I'd make it all...groovy

Wild thing

So, this week the Idol hopefuls sang songs from the year of their birth, and no other single television broadcast makes me feel so old. This is the first year when some of the contestants are actually younger than my oldest child, thus marking the time when my grasp on all that is cool slowly began to loosen. I think 1993 was the last year I could both name and sing just about every song on America's Top 40 (remember that?).

Not sure if this week's performances deserve the same detailed break-down as last week, because really, the Lusky Stank seemed to permeate most of them. (And, sorry Jacob, refuse to use the word "stank" in any positive context.) Seriously, up until the moment Stefano sang, I was wondering if something hadn't gone horribly wrong with the Idol sound system. I once had to sit through a 4th & 5th grade talent show that included no fewer than 4 10-year-olds singing Rihanna songs, and it was measurably more pleasant than half of the performances tonight. Naima, Karen and Lauren were pitchier than Roy Halladay on a Sunday afternoon.

Instead, I'll leave you with questions to ponder and--if you wish--discuss in the comments below:

1. Did anyone else get hints of Heat Meiser in Casey's performace?

2. Did it seem like Pia really cared where broken hearts go?

3. Is there any doubt--any at all--that Thia sang that song in at least one middle school talent show?

4. Don't you think that side of Scotty McCheesy's face would get tired after a while?

5. Would luminol illuminate Paul's invisibl marionette? How creepy/cool would that be?

Bottom three: Karen, Lauren, and...Paul(?)

Going home: Karen--I have a feeling her performance will lead her back. Home.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lucky 13

This is my first blog of this AI season--for lots of reasons. First, I never invest much thought until after the semi-finals. And second, I've found myself a million times more excited about the judges than the actual singers. Really--if I could choose where I could spend the next 2 hours, it would be either (A) sharing a taco salad with Steven Tyler or (B) brushing J Lo's hair. I didn't know if I could enjoy the show without Simon, and I haven't given him a thought until...well, now.

That said, I think the judges have a few kinks to work out, based on tonight's feedback. They were a bit too easy on the early singers. Randy kept it pretty real (dawg), but Steven and Jennifer seemed determined to keep it all positive. Until poor Thia. I guess by then they were just worn down, and after Ashthone-deaf and Pawful left a sea of broken notes across the stage, well, J Lo and Steven learned a new word: pitchy.

These are the hardest weeks on AI, waiting for all the chaff to clear and make way for those who are capable of providing actual entertainment along with the thrill of competition. Did the show seem endless to anyone else besides me? Being Baptist, I'm denominationally obligated to have some church activity on Wednesdays, so Idol's messing with my life by having a Wednesday performance show (thanks a lot, Glee!), so I get to watch the whole thing later in bed. The good news is I can fast-forward through the dull parts. Tonight, that meant much of the performances.

Still--I have my favorites: Casey, Thia and Naima. Going out on a limb this first final round and saying all three will be in the top five.

In case you want to spend a minute or so in my head, here's a brief re-cap of my percpetions of the night's show. The * notes who I'm predicting will be in the bottom three, with Ashthon as my pick for who should go home. (And, really, wasn't tonight proof that we should stick with 12 finalists?)

Lauren: Should have sung any song but that one.

Casey: Gettin' by with a little help from his friends (and a lot of help from back-up singers)

Ashthon**: um...awful...Jennifer said Ashthon should sing songs we can sing along with, which would be great, because then I could hear me instead of her.

Paul*: (to quote my husband from behind his Stephen King novel) "This is not good."

Pia: "Happy International Woman's Day" indeed. I feel bad, though. I didn't get my cards sent out...again.

James: I love James' voice. I just can't get past the fact that he looks like the kid who has a 3-episode story arc as the Canadian bad boy on Degrassi Jr. High. But, really...he's growing on me.

Haley*: Not sure if she's on the stage for American Idol, or Southeast Kansas Corn Queen--either way, am I the only one who thought, "Who is that?" before, during, and after...and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jacob: I, too, believe he can fly.

Thia: Really, one of my favorites--And, might I say, way underpraised.

Stefano: Giving us a glimpse of what the world would be like if the Jersey Shore had talent.

Karen: Every now and then, I get this vibe that Karen answered J.Lo's ad for a roommate...SHF

Scotty: McCheesy

Naima: Very cool--like, that crazy cool. Like, the finale from "The Wiz" type cool. Breathless, but cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Face = Off

I didn't really intend to take a week off facebook. It sort of took a week off me. All this past week, I've been nose-to-the keyboard with a grace-time deadline extension, and one day, no wireless on my laptop. That meant no more checking in every paragraph or so to be humiliated by my fellow writers' progress. No more snippy snippets about life's irritations. No funny little jokes that might lead to a couple-dozen comments--each one popping up with that cute little flag on the minimized tab. Oh, the productivity! I wrote and read and wrote some more, giving into my fbf (face book fix) only by choosing the logest line at the grocery store and scrolling through status updates on my phone, treating myself to the occasional comment.
Of course now, I have a ton of friend requests to confirm, and a slew of private messages from people who probably think I hate them. What's bugging me most, though, are the host of undocumented status updates that have been ringing in my head. Yes. I'm haunted by unposted statuses. (stati?) So, to regain peace in my mind, here they are:

  • $16 for entire family to eat Sunday lunch from Subway. Yay!!!

  • Ice on windshield this morning. An excuse to use my credit card again!!!

  • Perpetrated a terrible injustice on my son. To make it up to him, I said he could choose what we have for dinner. He chose Panda Express. Now I know why I love him!!

  • Heard an expert say it's good to go 2-3 days between shampoos. Love it when experts back my laziness.

  • Let's see...watch Obama or walk dog? Hmmm...it's 40-something degrees, windy, and I'm exhausted. Where's the leash?

  • Ugh. Totally got my Wednesdays mixed up. Missed an important rehearsal. Gotta find my way out of this hole.

  • Spent my lunch hour with the gang from 90210. Story line? An abusive ex-boyfriend named Diesel who plays key-tar in a band called Walking Garbage. (played by a young David Arquette). Ain't no drama like the 90's drama.

  • Steven Tyler--where have you been all my life? I want him to kiss my hair.

  • Am reading 5+ chapters of my novel out loud because I no longer trust my eyes. The cats are sooooooo annoyed.

And now, to post!!