Idol Eyes: Motown

Motown week on American Idol is always a mixed blessing: it’s both an opportunity to hear some great songs and an occasion for slaughtering great songs. Hopefully the music wins out over the carnage. Let’s get right to it.

Matt Giraud
His version of “Let’s Get It On” unquestionably beat the last version from two years ago when a contestant dedicated his performance to his mother (eww!) but I’m not sure I feel a whole lot more comfortable hearing a guy dressed like Ward Cleaver croon his way through a song about bumping uglies.
But it was still good. Tough song, he did well with it. I just don’t want to see his thighs hugged that tightly by a pair of slacks again anytime soon. Matt can breathe easy (which is more than I can say for his thighs).
Kris Allen
I know the ladies love him and his rendition of “How Sweet It Is,” but . . . well, the ladies love him. I still can’t get past the notion that David Archuleta went through puberty and returned for another round. In the end, I don’t think he’s that great a singer, and his guitar playing continues to be completely inaudible. I’m glad he feels comfortable with a prop, but if the competition ever forces him to leave the comfort of his college quad, I don’t think he’ll be up to the challenge. But hey, Jason Castro got by for a long time on similar talent (but a lot more coolness). Kris ain’t goin’ anywhere.
Scott Macintyre
I don’t think I’m in the majority here, but I’m liking Scott more with every passing week. I like his voice more now than I did at the beginning, and his nerves aren’t as shaky. But for some reason I feel like Chandler in the episode, “The One with All the Resolutions,” in which he screamed, “Somebody please comment about the pants!”
Scott is wearing pink pants. And it seems fairly obvious that all of the judges have made a solemn pact not to comment on his clothes because he’s blind. Isn’t it insensitive to not comment on the pants? My theory: the judges are compensating for the no-pink-pants-comments restriction by being extra harsh on his vocals. No, he is probably not as good of a singer as the two who went before him, but he’s better than a lot of performers who have made it much further in years past. Still . . . Scott’s in danger.
Megan Corkrey
Before Megan even started singing “For Once in My Life,” my wife reminded me not to look at her. Too late. At first I really liked her outfit . . . and then I realized I wasn’t on a  Carnival Cruise and Kathie Lee Gifford isn’t the woman she once was. But she’s feeling better, so that’s good. As Paula said, the camera loves her . . . but the microphone does not. The thing about being quirky is, if you’re not quirky enough, you’re just bad.  I actually didn’t think she was as bad as the judges did, but . . . yeah. Not quirky enough. We may have seen our last Megan “Corkscrew” dance of awkwardness.
Anoop Desai
Anoop just gave Smokey a look that clearly said, “Who are the Miracles?” And he’s dressed up as Richie Cunningham, which would officially make him “Anopie.” But his vocals are, in a word, hot. Too much breathing and P-pops into the microphone, but he definitely did well. I think Anoop has some legs in this competition. Kara is connected to Anoop’s chest, I think. I’m not sure she’s comfortable being a judge yet. She needs more work than Anoop’s eyebrows. All in all, the judges are delivering some long-winded speeches. Where is the Oscars orchestra when you need ’em? Anoop risks the “Anoops! We forgot to vote” dismissal.

Michael Sarver
This should be Michael’s bread and butter, because he rode the funky groove of Rhythm and Blues all the way to this stage. He’s left that country for the last few weeks . . . let’s see if he follows Smokey’s advice and belts it out. Um . . . a little bit. I think he’s got to elevate his performance a couple of notches if he wants to make it to “I want to vote for him,” instead of “I want him to sing at my wedding.” And it kinda crashed at the end in Oceanic 815 fashion. I’m being harder on him than I was on Scott. Holy moly, he made Paula cry with his mediocrity. And Kara is wasting our time. Yikes.
Lil Rounds
Lil got her “Heat Wave” goin’ with a loaner from the set of Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” video. She looks the best she’s looked so far, but her sound was . . . off. I think her big problem was similar to Michael’s in that she doesn’t have to try hard to sing, but she did. It just reeked of trying too hard. There was a classic moment when Paula was standing up, shaking her booty while Kara was sitting down shaking her head in stunned silence. The judges . . . man, I’m so sick of them suggesting songs. They tell her one week that she could sing the phone book—the next they tell her she chose the wrong song. So . . . I guess she should have sung the phone book. Lil . . . You shouldn’t be goin’ anywhere, but you might.

Adam Lambert
He ditched the dead crow hairdo in favor of an Elvis ducktail. Um . . . Smokey Robinson and Barry Gordy gave him a standing ovation. What else do you say? (He looks like Kurt Russel tonight, and he’s better than everyone else and can no longer be considered a one-trick Broadway show pony. I might buy that track off iTunes if I can. He’s so good, his iffy notes make you question if he’s singing off key or if you’re just not artsy enough to recognize his nuance . . . that’s what else I say.)
Danny Gokey
Um, Danny? You didn’t follow Smokey’s advice, bro, what gives? He is a good singer, and it was a good vocal. But being from Wisconsin does not excuse being that cheesy with the dancing. Paula rhymed! And I really like it when the judges are to-the-point. Why can’t someone remind them to do that all show long. For the first half hour of the show, only two singers performed. In. Ex. Cusable. And so was that dancing, Danny. And, yeah, I know you’re a youth pastor or whatever, but you can still sing “make love to you” on Idol. If you can’t, pick a different song, dude. Don’t make the judges use their save this early. They won’t need to, though.
Allison Iraheta
I wish they would show Allison’s middle name, because I feel the need to use it in mock disciplinary fashion. I’ll assign her one for the time being: Allison Michelle! Dang! If we hadn’t already met him, I would have thought for sure Allison’s papa really was a rolling stone. That may have been Allison’s Jordin Sparks moment. That girl, Danny, and Adam are making the first several performances of the night look like total crap. Wow.
Okay, after hearing the first view back again, I’m embarrassed by my leniency on the first half of performers. My predicted bottom three (and Heather agrees): Scott, Megan, Michael.

March 25, 2009 question

Get Over It
Making it through weeks one hump at a time
It’s hump day. But why do they call them Speed Humps when you’re supposed to go slow over them? Shouldn’t they be Slow Humps? Or Slow Bumps?

Today’s Question
What element has the highest melting point?

Tuesday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Nobody got this one exactly right ($15,140) but Nancy K (the K stands for Kinda Close) was within 1K with her guess of $15,700. And since I didn’t stipulate Price Is Right rules, she’s our winner.

The Real Job

This is a lot closer to what the real Job sounded like. In chapters 27 and 28, Job continues his most lengthy proclamation by far. It’s really something, and I’d recommend reading it through in its entirety . . . but it’s just too much to dwell on deeply in one sitting (at least for someone with the attention span of a . . . ha, I love parentheses).

But in these two chapters, I really felt Job returning to the man he was before he lost everything. He was by no means the same, but the despair seems to have diminished from a raging inferno of pain to a quiet acceptance. Job came through believing not only that he was righteous but also that his allegiance to God was worth it.
This segment of Job’s message builds in a steady crescendo from his version of the penalty awaiting the wicked to his appraisal of the value of wisdom. He paints a masterpiece of word pictures to describe the elaborate extravagance of wisdom, but he sums it up with this simple description of its nature:
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
It really makes all the commentary I could provide seem like rambling. So I’ll just ponder it for a moment and go to bed.

Man Chair? (and other assorted musings)

Don’t worry, American Idol recaps are coming (but not for another day . . . I forgot Obama grabbed a mic of his own), but I have just a few random updates.

1. I finally have a man chair. It’s the recliner no wife really wants in their living quarters (but Heather has grudgingly graciously welcomed into our abode). It’s leather. It’s old fashioned. It was free. My parents had three too many chairs, and they only have room for two too many. So as of Saturday afternoon, the armchair is mine. Er, ours.
The only problem is, it’s now the boys’ new favorite. As you can see from the picture, Colin is quite literally getting lost in its cavernous luxury. I mean, seriously, where is his head? I took this picture, and I don’t know the answer. So what seemed destined to be a harbor of manly respite, a leather-clad fortress of solitude, is now just a swiftly tilting playground.
2. Speaking of things that turned out to be more youthful than one might have thought, Heather had an interesting encounter at Fair Oaks Farms. She took the boys to see the cows and the asundry other lactose-related wonders, and some guy (any non-blood-relative male who speaks to my wife instantly becomes some guy to me) mistook Colin’s Elmo shirt for a Bob the Tomato shirt. The conversation continued like this:
H: Oh, we love Veggie Tales, but it’s not a Bob the Tomato shirt, it’s actually an Elmo shirt.
SG: Wow, well, not a lot of people know about Veggie Tales. I guess you have to be from our era.
H (not associating her era with that of SG): Oh, well I think I’m a bit older than your era.
SG: Well how old are you? I mean, I’m 20.
H (quite happy at this point): Oh, you’re so nice.
3. Colin has now taken to playing Ring Around the Rosie by himself. It’s slightly less dangerous than mixed martial arts, but every bit as entertaining.

March 24, 2009 question

$1 Trillion
Next up: bailout infinity
$1 Trillion. One trillion dollars. Stocks surged when the news of the one-trillion-dollar stimuluscious banking bonus was announced from the White House (aka the North Pole). For those of you unfamiliar with life in the trillions, let me break it down this way:

It’s a one. And then a zero. Then another zero. Then another zero. After that comes another zero.  Followed by a zero. And then a zero. Next we have a zero. And a zero after that. Okay, here’s another zero coming up. Next up in the sequence: a zero. Ditto on that last zero. Finally, we round it out with another zero. It’s that many dollars. There are also four commas in there to break up the monotony. If it’s easier to look at it as digits only, try this:
If you’d like to type that number out at home, I offer this tip: To save time, I cut the first comma and the next three zeroes and then pasted that series three times, one right after the other. Still not grasping the immensity of it all? I understand. I’ll use a comparison to make it clearer:
One trillion has more zeroes in it than my savings account has dollars. That help? Or you know how when you’re playing Monopoly with someone, and the banker is losing really bad, so he starts putting all the money in the bank in the middle of the board, hoping he lands on Free Parking? It’s like that, but with the banks of 49 million Monopoly sets.

Today’s Question
Sports & Leisure
How much money came in a standard-issue Monopoly bank before the 2008 version increased the bankroll to $20,580?

Monday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
The correct title of option C, Life of Pi, has no the. Nobody knew. But just to keep trivia morale up, I hereby award you all with one trillion trivia points to divvy among yourselves. Enjoy!

March 23, 2009 question

Why were we ever born?
If you haven’t conversed with anyone yet, allow me to sum up every conversation taking place in every office everywhere: How are your brackets? Are they ruined? Did you check your brackets? You gotta look at my brackets! Guess what? I totally stunk up my brackets. My brackets rock! Are your final four still intact? Mine are. Mine aren’t. I’m so gonna win. I need coffee.

And that is what they call a gross generalization.
Mondays kinda suck. And that is what they call gross reality. But you know what? There’s always the distraction of the so-called trivial.

Today’s Question
In which of these novel titles is the word the errantly included?
A. The Catcher in the Rye
B. The Kite Runner
C. The Life of Pi
D. The Secret
E. The Shack
Friday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first presidential face to grace the screen of a television (and the breaking news is that there was a show on last night that actually did not feature Obama’s face . . . finding him on TV is starting to become like finding Hitchcock in his own movies). Here’s who knew:
Steve J (the J stands for Just Kidding . . . There Weren’t Any Obama-Free Shows. I Kid, Barack, I Kid!)

Great work, all of you. Now get back to your Monday!

Whispers and Thunder

Job chapter 26 begins in similar fashion to the beginning of Job’s other rebuttals: he sarcastically tells his friends they give rotten counsel.

But then Job goes into describe how unfathomable the power of God is, and it’s one of the more beautiful passages of Scripture (although it does contain some references to near-Eastern mythology involving the slaughter of Rahab the serpent worthy of Jethro-Tullian rhapsodies . . . but I digress).
I included the above picture because of its title: “The Last Sunset of August 2007 – with lightning,” which seemed to suit Job’s description of God. He shows His power in nature in a way that should leave our jaws unhinged. But we so often talk about Him as if He’s law or math or a Mr. Wizard experiment.
God is God. And in case you haven’t noticed, His power is beyond our comprehension.
One thing I love (in a sarcastic kind of way) about science is how people throw around the term scientific fact. The great scientific minds (the real ones, not the ones I refer to as great in pitiful irony) will tell you that certainty is the stuff of fools. Too often scientists set their powers of observation above the grandeur of the wonders they observe. When they do that, their pride allows them to accept as fact things that are far beyond their comprehension or their limited scope of observation. They see very small fragments of the picture and proclaim, “Eureka!” when the full story would make them pee their pants and scream, “Eek.”
Which is why I love (sans sarcasm) lightning. Scientists have a hard time studying lightning. They can’t bottle it (hence the cliché). They can’t recreate it. And when they try to study it up close, their equipment gets fried, or they die. Naturally, then, determining what goes on in a lightning bolt includes a fair amount of guesswork. I like lightning because it is a humbler, a truly awe-striking phenomenon. You can study it, but few people live to tell the stories of how they underestimated it during their lab work.
Job has a lot of respect for God, and it’s very real. That gives me a lot of respect for Job. I’ll end without any attempt at deep revelations, just a quote that really makes me think:
How faint the whisper we hear of [God]. Who then can understand the thunder of His power?—Job 26:14

Overheard, Maybe it was the music?

We’re driving home from my parents’ house tonight, and “Rocky Mountain High” is playing in all its Jon Denver-ness (thanks to an iPod genius mix based on Rob Thomas & Willie Nelson’s version of “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys”). All of a sudden, Addison quietly but confidently blurts out this little gem:

“I’m always gonna be with God.”
Yes, Addison. Yes you are. But where in the world did that come from?

Short and Salty

Job chapter 25 isn’t long, but it has all the potential to start an incredibly long discussion. That’s because B. S. (Bildad the Shuhite) offers up a tiny nugget of false humility that I’ve heard echoing off the vaulted ceilings of churches and chapels all my life (particularly in prayers, for some reason). It’s also a very popular theme in Oswald Chambers’s writing.

I’m not saying I don’t believe in the depravity of man; I do. And I’m not saying I disapprove of Ozzie Chambers; I don’t. But I do think people take depravity too far in a couple of directions.
The first mistake we make is ignoring the past—God created us in His image. Obviously that’s been corrupted, but it hasn’t been lost. So when people say mankind is nothing but a bunch of worthless, dried up, pieces of decaying flesh, I think they’re missing the fact that God loves us.
The other mistake is to abandon the future. Bildad asked the rhetorical question, “How can a man be righteous before God?” It’s a good question, yet it has had an answer to some extent ever since God accepted Abel’s sacrifice (Jesus called Abel righteous) or at the very latest when He credited Abraham’s belief as righteousness. Why? Because Abel sacrificed by faith. Abraham followed by faith. By faith, a man could be righteous before God. Praise Him for that.
But there’s a third mistake as well, and that’s the depravity shield. Sometimes, people like Bildad proclaim the utter worthlessness of all mankind in an attempt to establish their own righteousness, thereby shielding themselves from the “depraved” label. Doesn’t work like that. The so-called humble are quite often guilty of the most dangerous kind of judgmental arrogance.
And I think I may have just committed a bit of that brand myself. 

Diction Wars: Regardless vs. Irregardless

From the Word Nerd Mailbag:

Dear Word Master (oh please, you’re too much . . . but I’ll allow it),

What’s the difference between regardless and irregardless? I hear people use both in the same contexts AND my spellchecker doesn’t recognize irregardless. What’s going on here? Which one’s right??

Spellchecked in Spokane

Dear ‘Checked,

The great Cub slugger Sammy Sosa used to say, “Irregarless of wha’ever happen.” And I used to laugh at him with fiendish glee.

But irregardless is a word, just not a very good one. I checked out what Merriam-Webster had to say about it, and they suspect it to be the love child of irrespective and regardless. The thing I love about it is that it manages to bring a double negative into a single word.

The prefix ir- denotes the negative of the root to follow (irrational is not rational), while the suffix -less indicates the complete lack of the preceding (Larry Bird, the chinless wonder, has no chin). So irregardless should technically describe a state of not being without regard for something, a watered-down version of regardful, that is to say, not completely without regard, but perhaps not entirely overwhelmed with regard either. (Ironically enough, regardful gets flagged by my spell checker, while irregardless roams free.) But, alas, people still use it in place of regardless, so the short answer to your question is . . . no difference.

The simple fact of the matter is, people use irregardless quite commonly and have for about 100 years. That’s what I love about language, the democracy of it all. The authority of the rules of grammar is granted by the consent of the governed. We agree to sit through English class, but we reserve the right to rise up, make new words, change the rules of usage according to the styles that we deem fit, and there is absolutely nothing the grammarians can do except issue their haughty tsk-tsk‘s and resign themselves to chronicling the new rules as they evolve.

Language is alive. It grows, changes, aches, and adapts. It still deserves our respect but will continue to flourish irregardless. . . . But you should still probably use regardless.