In the Final Four: thoughts on the Tournament so far

So, Kansas made it into the Final Four.  Barely. ((We won 59-57 versus a talented Davidson team that deserved more than a 10-seed, if I do say so myself.  Here’s a good summary of the game.)) It has been an entertaining tournament so far, though there have been few bright spots.  In fact, Kansas is responsible for snuffing one of those bright spots out, the Davidson team was a Cinderella for the ages in the making.

But now that all the #1 seeds have made it to the Final Four (for the first time, ever) we should have a lot of competitive basketball to watch next weekend.

Here are a few of my thoughts so far.

  • I’m wearing my Kansas shirt for every game.  It’s not that I’m superstitious, but just in case.  Plus, Russell Robinson, one of our seniors, asked the fans, “we need you to wear your lucky socks, wear your lucky shirt … whatever you do to help us win the games, you’ve got to continue to do that the rest of the season.”  So I am.
  • I’m doing a lot of laundry, as a result.
  • I’m thinking about buying a flagpole and a flag, too.  Bandwagon!
  • My sports year continues to be charmed.  The Red Sox win the World Series.  KU’s football program goes 10-1, then wins the Orange Bowl.  The Patriots make it to the Superbowl.  And now KU makes it to the Final Four.  I should clearly enjoy it now, as this will never happen again.
  • I see Steve Alford got a contract extension (to the 2015-2016 season) at New Mexico.  And they are welcome to him.  “Until the walls and rafters ring! Go Hawks!” ((That’s from the Iowa fight song.))
  • We (KU, that is) played pretty badly in the last game vs. Davidson.  The pundits said the team was “tight.”  I say they were bad.  Except for the big Russian.  Go Shaka Kaun! ((Yes, that’s a joke, his name is Sasha Kaun, but the announcers tested calling him Chaka Khan for a while.  It flopped.))
  • I’m afraid North Carolina is going to crush us.  We can beat them, but we have to have a perfect game.  At least it should make good Tv.  News articles have been calling it Roy Williams’ nightmare. ((Because he coached KU for fifteen years before jumping to UNC, his alma mater.))
  • This article at ESPN.com on possible scenarios for the Tournament is a fun read now that it is almost over.  It helps if you’ve been watching, of course.

Your thoughts?  Are you even watching basketball, or are you all “Iron Chef is the best, man!”  ;)

WordPress 2.5 brings hotness, possible breakage

Nothing like messing with a perfectly working blog. I’ll be upgrading to WordPress 2.5 later today. The blog might break. My apologies. For whatever that’s worth.

Update: No breakage involved.  Had to refresh my included images a couple of times, but other than that, everything went smoothly, like a point upgrade should.  Your mileage may vary.

What drove you from local news?

I don’t watch the local news on television. I don’t know many people who do. If I happen to flip to local news, I might watch if the weather is on, but I will never go find it. Why is that? Because one day in winter I saw a news story so dumb, so asinine, that it forever turned me off of local news.

It began with promos appearing during commercial breaks in a show I was watching. (This was before TiVo.) “Hidden danger on the roads!” it said. “Breaking news you need to know first before you drive!” they cried. After several drubbings of this I actually thought maybe I’d stick around and watch, to see if I had anything to be concerned about. Maybe it was serious, a toxic tanker had spilled its load. Maybe it was tangential, invading Japanese weeds were choking out native plants along the highway. Maybe it was topical, massive potholes along the route to work.

So I stayed.

And the news started. And they built it up, and up, and up, and they went to their man on the street, and he turned to a typical car, just like one that could be owned by you or me, and he crouched down and the camera zoomed in and he showed us… the danger that roadway salt could pose to our cars. Rust! he exclaimed! Rust could eat away at your car! Beware!

Oh, and be sure to wash your car regularly in the winter. With that undercarriage setting.

I was so dumbfounded I think I actually watched the rest of the news broadcast. My last local news broadcast.

So. What drove you from local news?

Song choice derails the Chikezie! Express, on American Idol

For this week of American Idol the singers got to choose songs from the year of their birth. It’s like Eighties Nite all over again, only with fewer songs to choose from. Which was probably a good thing.

Randy was a little harsh this week, and Paula was wearing some weird armwarmers with diamonds on them… I think. Her sense of style clearly stayed in the Eighties with her career. There seems to be a flu bug or something going around, though Ramiele hurriedly discounted that as having any effect on her (bad) performance.

I got to thinking, while watching the show, about which of these singers could get me to part with actual cash for an album of theirs. Of these ten contestants, I would buy albums from Brooke (she’s my fave!), and David Cook. That’s it. Carly has an outside chance, if she gets herself together after a couple of bad weeks (nothing a producer couldn’t fix, but I’m not sure what her musical style would be). Turns out they actually do full-length, studio recordings of their songs (as they showed us during the results show iTunes promo). I might actually buy one or two.

Performance of the week (of the season?): David Cook absolutely knocked it out of the park with his Chris-Cornell-inspired version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Wow. We went and found the Chris Cornell version later, and if they post the studio recorded version of this song, I will most certainly buy it. It’d be infinitely better than the Cornell version (and it already was a lot better than the original, sorry Michael). Considering that of the absolute standout performances of the season so far, Cook already has two… the judges may be right that he’s the odds-on favorite now. Also of note, Chris Cornell called, and he is adding himself to the David-Cook-covered-my-song fanclub, joining inaugural member Lionel Richie. Speaking of the favorites: Two weeks ago I listed my final five or six, and since then some of them have had a rocky road. Carly got Bottom Three’d for her clothing, Chikezie went back to Luther and punted, Brooke fumbled her second Beatles song, and Jason disrespected the gravitas of Idol (I know, I know, what gravitas?). The only two to have risen since my pronouncement are David Cook and Australia, and Australia seems to have a penchant for gimmicky arena rock. The new order is Cook, Australia, Brooke, Carly, and Jason. Sorry, Chikezie. God Bless the USA: Kristi Lee Cook, in a desperate bid to avoid going home, pulled out all the stops in her song selection routine. She went for Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” It was a judicious, canny, insightful, clever, totally annoying, perfect choice. Which means someone else must have chosen it for her, right? She did a passable job, but she draped herself in the flag to try and pull votes from all the patriots out there (not to mention Amanda’s Southern-country crew, now that she’s out). That, and Lee Greenwood’s blessing, took her over the top (into fourth from the bottom?).

The Bottom Three this week were:

Chikezie, falling off his own bandwagon. We were all on the Chikezie! Express: young, hip, energetic, and fun, and then he went back to the Luther Vandross well, and it sucked. The song (“If Only for One Night”) was terrible, though the singing of it may have been fine. I couldn’t tell over the sound of his career shattering into a million pieces. Syesha, who reportedly sang well (“reportedly” because the judges apparently heard something I didn’t) but chose yet another R&B tune (once sung by Gladys Knight), which just doesn’t fly with today’s youth. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a Motown theme night this year. Jason, who has indeed been coasting since “Hallelujah,” and pretty much coasted all the way to the Bottom Three, eliciting a bored “meh” from me with his Spanglish version of Sting’s “Fragile.”

I was hoping Syesha would be the one to go, because she has done nothing but bore me to tears, but Chikezie took the hit he deserved. You don’t turn your back on who brought you, and Chikezie did more than that, he took all the fans who voted for him because of his previous two performances, and he spat on them. Too harsh? I don’t think so.

Next week we’ll have guest mentor Dolly Parton. Should be another banner week for Kristi Lee Cook, as she rides the country music bronco all the way to the bank. I’m expecting a train wreck from most of the others.

The Beatles giveth, and the Beatles taketh away, on American Idol

[Actually last week’s episode, but it was Spring Break, so sue me. Danny.]

If the first night of Beatles (really the Lennon-McCartney Songbook) was a glorious showcase of all things good on American Idol, then the second night of Beatles (actual songs the Beatles recorded) was just the opposite, a flop-heavy collection of mediocre performances and dubious talent. Even the judges were off by a country mile, as one of their few picks for best song of the night was dumped into the Bottom Three by the unwashed masses.

The contestants didn’t help themselves much, with a series of strange decisions: Australia chose his song because it was a dead friend’s favorite (beautiful sentiment but stupid); Brooke let out a whoop! on stage, and then did an awkward hippie dance; Cook used a voice box (like a fancy kazoo?); Carly wore the most horrid thing ever (see below); Jason giggled through “Michelle”; Chikezie played the harmonica; and Ramiele chose a song called “I Should Have Known Better.” Really, guys.

By far the best single moment of the entire week was the iPhone/AT&T/Coke promotion in the middle. Ryan sees a “random audience member” with an iPhone and asks to see it. She gives it to him and he stands up there with it, extolling the virtues of Idol partner AT&T, while behind him on the megaplex-screen there are videos of the iPhone in action. Meanwhile, Ryan is pressing and swiping on his “audience” phone, which is off. Completely dead. Blank screen. And after this bit of forced promo-play, he turns to the judges and says, “Cheers, judges!” and the camera turns to them and they all have their bright-red Coca-Cola cups up in the air, with great big promotional smiles plastered on their faces. It was funnier than it sounds. If only that were available on iTunes.

Best sartorial performance of the week: In lieu of good singing performance (since there was none) this week I’m handing out the best clothing award to… Syesha’s boobs. Not that the competition was challenging here, but the dress she chose in which to sing “Yesterday” was quite clearly design to point out that she has boobs. And she does. Quite. At the other end of the spectrum were Brooke’s hideous flower-child-meets-flapper sunny dress, and Carly’s maternity rose-collar, red silk gunny sack ensemble. Oy. Best song choice: Amanda actually chose the song best suited to her, “Back in the USSR,” though it apparently did her little good. Australia sang “Day in the Life” which is one of my all time favorite Beatles songs, and while the judges panned his choice, I loved it. But I have to give the award to Little David, who chose “The Long and Winding Road” for his treacle-smeared ballad-happy fans. It was the perfect song for him. Worst way to pick a song: Kristi Lee Cook actually admitted in her video clip that she chose her song because she liked the title. She had never heard it. She didn’t ask to hear it. She picked it, without hearing it! I think, just maybe, she’s not even trying any more.

This week’s bottom three were:

Carly, who wore the aforementioned smock from the discount rack at Burlington Coat Factory but did a passable job on “Blackbird,” so I have to think it was everything but her singing that brought her this low. Kristi Lee Cook, always a bridesmaid, but never booted off the show, she gave a boring, wooden, uninspired rendition of “You’ve got to hide your love away,” that caused the judges to yawn and elicited the deadly “this is the best you’ve ever looked” from Paula. Amanda, who did exactly what she had done every week prior to this, singing her song like she was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd in some arena in Arkansas. Simon warned her that she needed to branch out, and she publicly dissed that notion from center stage.

And it cost her. Amanda was the contestant with the fewest votes (Kristi Lee Cook escapes again!) and seemed perfectly happy with that result. I don’t think she was all that excited about being an Idol. And she just missed the indentured servitude of the Idol tour, too. After her sing out, when the contestants storm the stage in a group hug, she looked decidedly uncomfortable with all that closeness.

No, he’s not running for Vice President

Last Friday, Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama for President, over his long-time ties to Bill Clinton and the Clinton maquina. A lot of the sour grapes being hurled at Richardson by the Clinton team/mates are along these lines, “He’s just gunning for the Vice Presidential spot now,” accusing him of disloyalty (loyalty being the most important thing to the Clintons). I have just one thing to say: no man with facial hair will ever be elected to High Office. Though, interestingly, I think it makes him look more Hispanic than he ever has.

Lawrence has been Street Viewed!

So, Google, purveyors of “what computers were supposed to do for us,” have this Google Maps feature called Street View. Cars with cameras on top cruise around the country, taking pictures of… well, of everything. Then they load them up online, and when you visit Google Maps, you can see actual pictures of the location you’re looking for.

They started with five cities, broadened that to fifteen, now they are up to something like thirty (Wikipedia says 35). While Kansas City got Street Viewed a little while ago, I was resigned to never getting it in Lawrence, a town of only about 140,000, for goodness sake.

I was wrong.

Looking for directions to my tax attorney today, I discovered that Lawrence had been Street Viewed. Apparently Lawrence was included in the KC update this past February, though I distinctly remember looking for it when I heard it came to KC, but whatever. Take that, Topeka! And it is awesome. Scary, but awesome. If you know where I live, you can go look at my house! (Please don’t be creepy.) The picture is from last summer, judging from the plantings and the rock in the driveway.

The wife, when told of this Intarweb coolness, gave a little bit of a shriek (okay, it was more of a polite murmur) and immediately pointed out what this would do for Real Estate… not that we’re looking mind you. And she was right.

Has your street’s privacy been invaded yet?

I’m already standing in line for an Apple DVR

This patent application by Apple regarding their research into digital video recorder (DVR) technologies has me salivating. If you know me at all, you know how much I love my TiVo. And yet, were Apple to build a DVR, I would happily back over my TiVo on the way to the nearest Apple Store. I’m just saying. In case Apple is listening.