Idol Eyes: Top 10 Usher in the Soul

Two hours and 10 contestants give Ryan Seacrest plenty of time to talk with Usher about his new album. Which would be great if I were bulimic. So let’s just try to muddle through somehow.

Siobhan Magnus
Siobhan picked a song that I can’t remember ever hearing and I don’t want to hear again. I know Chaka Khan is supposed to be this goddess of soul, but I don’t know too many of her songs that deserve air time in the 21st Century. She’s just not one of my favorite soul singers. Come to think of it, I don’t even count Chaka among my top 5 favorite Khans (Cobra, Genghis, Kublai, Shere, and Ricardo Montalban). “Though the Fire” burned with not-goodness. The only thing worse than the garbled, funky mess was the 10-minute judges’ review. Ugh^10.
Odds of going home: Nah. There will be much more suck to follow.

Casey James
It’s time for the guitar to say goodbye. At least it will be next week. But to be honest, Casey could just go up there and smile, and a billion people would text “vote” to 5702. Crap, I think my wife just caught me staring dreamily at the screen. Time to wrap up. Uh . . . yeah, he’s talented, and he doesn’t need this show anymore. He really doesn’t fit the mold of AI.
Odds of going home: 300 to .0036

Michael Lynche
Big Mike picks good songs and performs them well. He hits his notes. He connects with his audience. He doesn’t have an off switch. I love that he was positioned behind the judges’ table. It was like he was saying, “Forget you four, I’m singing to the people.” He’s really something.
Odds of going home: not if there’s anything right in the world.

Didi Benami
Didi broke down performing for Usher, which I find fascinating. It had me looking to see if she could display just enough of that emotion to make us feel with her and not so much that we feel for her. But in all that, I think she just missed the rhythm of the song a bit. She wasn’t nearly as bad as the judges made her out to be (which they have made a habit with Didi), but she’s not doing incredibly well.
Odds of going home: 5 to 1

Tim Urban
Tim, a dud with hair, sings Anita Baker, maybe the best ever at blowing people’s minds with understated soul. This has all the makings of a snoozapalooza. Somehow, the song seemed to suit him. But it still made me yawn at the innermost part of my being. Randy outsinging him woke me up a bit. Ellen saved the segment. She’s perfect. The whole round of critiques was absolutely brilliant.
Odds of going home: 1.1 to 1

Andrew Garcia
I’ll give Usher this: he’s giving some really good advice to these people. He may have just saved Andrew’s season, because this thing sounds good. Yeah, there it is kid. He’s still not the best singer on the show, but he finally did something exciting with a low-key cover. Very nice. Prediction: 7 mentions of “Straight Up.” (Shockingly, they all made an obviously intentional effort not to refer to it. Only Ryan called the song by name.)
Odds of going home: 11 to 1

Katie Stevens
Katie < Aretha is the biggest mathematical understatement in the history of numbers. Even comparing Katie’s version of “Chain of Fools” to the one from School of Rock is off-base. The judges can love it all they want, but Katie should not be singing Aretha. And none of the judges seem to notice how close R&B and Country really are to each other . . . or how far apart Katie is from Aretha.
Odds of going home: 6 to 1

Lee DeWyze
“Treat Her Like a Lady.” Okay, Lee, what do you got? I’ll tell you what he’s got: an innate ability to make old songs sound not as old. Maybe not 100% fresh, but day-old, and I’ll eat that for a dollar. Even if he is wearing a Members Only jacket. Lee rocked that one out, and it made my wife cry a little bit.
Odds of going home: that really shouldn’t happen.

Crystal Bowersox
Based on the trailer, Heather really wants to see Knight & Day. I say that because I’m sure this is gonna be great with no need for commentary. But what-what? She’s singing Gladys Knight? Just let her sing people . . . shhhhh.

Chills. Man, I knew she could sing, but that was amazing. She showed she’s better than what I thought she was. It doesn’t hurt that “Midnight Train to Georgia” is a top 10 song for me. Amen, Crystal. Amen.
Odds of . . . no.

Aaron Kelly
Ah, the obligatory “Ain’t No Sunshine” performance. He sounded better with Usher. Meh.
Odds of going home: Justin Bieber to 1

Who’s in the Bottom Three? Didi, Katie, and Tim, who really must go.

Adding Insult to Insult

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The ex-Cub the media just won’t leave alone is back in the news today. That’s right, Ronny Cedeño finds his name in ignominious headlines because of the Pirates’ latest batting order decision.

Poor E6 (as my friends at LOHO like to call him). Last year he was made expendable by the acquisition of fellow light-hitting utility infielder Aaron Miles. As if that weren’t enough, this year Pirate manager John Russell had decided he’d like his pitchers to hit ahead of Ronny and his much-maligned tilde, according to the Bucs’ website:

Russell said that Andy LaRoche’s plate patience makes him a good fit to hit seventh, one spot in front of the pitcher. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno will then slot into the No. 9 spot, effectively making him the leadoff hitter after the first go-through of the lineup.

“Cedeno is going to see better pitches to hit,” Russell said. “It frees Ronny up to be more aggressive.”

Still, Cedeno will have to show an ability to consistently get on base for this lineup to set up well for the top of the order. Cedeno is a career .240 hitter with a on-base percentage of just .280.

Spin those facts and quotes however you want them, but the only way I know how to react to it is with a big ol’ “Ouch.”

Maybe Ronny can take some solace in knowing that the man who once replaced him, Aaron Miles, not only returned to the NL Central via an ever-so-brief stint in the AL West, but he also knows how it feels to bat behind the pitcher. Miles has started 41 games in the number 9 hole (all of them in the NL). So for the 16 times the Reds and Pirates square off, Ronny has a chance of not being the worst hitter on the diamond.

Hang in there, Ronny. We’re pulling for you.

When Did Wrigley Become the Star?

Over at ACB, they were discussing the Cubs’ ability to draw fans regardless of the state of the team due to the tourist attraction status of Wrigley Field. My comment ballooned into a blog post. I posted it over there, but I figured I’d include it here too given the week-long posting vacation I’ve been on.

I don’t think the team officially started exploiting the Wrigley advantage until 1998. I remember because I was trying to break into advertising in 1997, and part of my makeshift portfolio was a proposed campaign for exploiting the Wrigley advantage since the team sucked so bad yet never really promoted the uniqueness of the stadium. But the real reason the focus had never been on Wrigley as a place was because the Cubs had been a personality-driven franchise. The centerpiece personality was Harry Caray.

Harry joined the Cubs for the 1982 season and became, more or less, the instant face of the franchise. Not all that coincidentally, John McDonough joined the Cubs as director of sales and promotion in 1983, and moved steadily up the Cub corporate ladder, incorporating the broadcasting division into his official responsibilities in 1991.

During Harry’s 16 seasons with the Cubs, the key marketing advantage was not Wrigley Field, it was the national audience (radio & TV) for each and every game with Harry as the featured star in both media. You may have heard Mark Grace tell of Harry’s ability to draw crowds of fans away from Cub superstars like Grace, Sandberg, and Dawson, leaving them alone to marvel at his vastly superior fame.

I guarantee you, John McDonough is a smart guy, and he capitalized on and did everything he could to encourage Harry’s fame. Harry Caray (or the unabashed homer image he projected) was the focal point of Cub marketing and promotion throughout his tenure with the team.

When Harry died before spring training of 1998, that’s when the Wrigley experience took center stage. His passing was sad for all of us, but the timing of the marketing transition could not have been better.

The culture was primed for it. In 1989, Field of Dreams became a hit, and it swelled in popularity upon its release on home video. “If you build it, he will come” became the meme that wouldn’t die. The importance of baseball in familial relationships and the culture of America took on mythological status on a mass popular level. And the movie may have been centered around a bunch of dead ballplayers from the South Side, but the idea of a ballpark lost in time conjured images of Wrigley for every Cub fan.

The next year was the last season every played at Comiskey Park, the oldest functioning park still standing at the time. And in 1991, the New Comiskey opened its gates to people generally disenfranchised with its modern look, despite the plethora of outstanding amenities. Boo for progress.

The next year, 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards turned the inner harbor into a baseball time machine. It was the anti-Comiskey despite the fact that the same company designed and built both parks. But with Camden’s old-world (yet amenity-rich) feel came a newfound appreciation nationwide for the parks that already carried a sense of nostalgia.

New parks continued to spring up (the Jake, the Ballpark at Arlington, Pac Bell, Coors Field, etc.) in attempts to marry the classic Americana vibe with the modern cry for additional attractions. But the baseball stoppage of 1994 cost the league a World Series, and it broke any illusions fans may have had about Major League Baseball’s quaint sense of history.

When Harry died in ’98, baseball was still recovering from the aftermath and fans were still disenfranchised. But instead of marking the demise of baseball as we know it, Harry’s passing turned Wrigley Field into a shrine to everything baseball was meant to be, at least in the eyes of the fans.

The tradition of the 7th-inning stretch being sung poorly continued. Homages to Harry popped up around the neighborhood. In a single game, Kerry Wood struck out an Astro for every year of his life. Sammy Sosa hit sixty-effing-six homers for the season. Ron Santo cemented his place as the slight reincarnation of Harry Caray (Noooooooooo!). The Cubs made the playoffs in as dramatic fashion as fans could possibly dream.

Wrigley became . . . magical. It was no longer Harry Caray’s personal stage. It had become his own small section of heaven.

That, my friends, is when Wrigley Field itself became the center of the hype. At a distance, it’s easy to see that the talk of magic and curses and overwhelming sentimentality is a bit of a crock, but in the moment, it all just seemed too perfect. Even looking back now, I get a little wrapped up in the emotion of it all.

Still, the storybook drama has worn off. I’m not alone in wanting to move on from the nonessential drama and just win a championship already. The thing is, I think the Cubs as an organization have moved on, too. Turning Wrigley into more of a place of business and less of St. Harry’s Cathedral might help all of us step into a new era: the age of winning.

Idol Eyes: Top 11, The Number Ones

Paige. Buh-bye.

When Ryan said the Top 11 were about to get the best of both worlds, I thought it would be hilarious if they all had to pick Miley Cyrus songs. But no, they have to pick #1’s on the Billboard Hot 100 charts throughout history. And yes, Miley F. Cyrus is the first mentor of the season. I won’t say I’m in heaven. But I don’t always share things like that. So let’s move on.

Lee DeWyze
Lee’s singing “The Letter,” and he’s performing like he’s trapped in the dirtiest phone booth in the history of enclosures. Don’t be afraid to touch the walls, pick up the phone, maybe even step outside a bit, yeah? His singing was alright, not great. I think he played with the song a bit too much to where it was all riffs and no rhythm. The judges loved it (except Simon) and I think a lot of people like his Joe Cocker sound and Tom Jones outfit. I think he’ll get there eventually.
Odds of going home: 15 to 1

Paige Miles
Ms. Miles is going where Phil Collins and Mariah Carey dare to tread. She might have worn a castoff from Whitney Houston’s wardrobe from 1988, but she sounded like . . . Whitney in 2010. Girlfriend just had nothing. That was hard to watch. Tim Urban could go out there and hum a Gregorian monk version of George Michael’s “Faith,” and still not go home.
Odds of going home: Infinity

Tim Urban
The least crazy person in America is singing “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in true church musical fashion. That’s the thing with this dude, he just can’t make the jump from boy choir to boy band. It’s like Michael Bublé without even that mild sense of understated flair. He’s Michael Blasé. But as kill-me-now boring as it was, it was still a gazillion times better than Paige.
Odds of going home: Can we send America home for leaving so many lousy people here while infinitely better contestants got sent packing?

Aaron Kelly
Oh, poor Aaron. He’s saying he has laryngitis, but we all know it was only a matter of time before his voice changed. I just didn’t expect it to happen this year. Maybe it will add a Steven Tyler-esque crackle to his rendition of “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” Maybe? Yeah, actually. This was the perfect song for this kid, and if he could have staved off puberty for another week, it could have been his defining performance. As it was, it was good enough to get him on tour.
Odds of going home: Not now.

Crystal Bowersox
Finally, Crystal sang a Joplin song. Obviously it rocked. She is a bit understated, and Ellen (as usual) nailed the criticism. Crystal does seem the slightest bit guarded. She seems afraid to be too good. For the first time, I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next from Crystal rather than just being content to know it will be typically good.
Odds of going home: Seriously?

Michael Lynche
Big Mike does not have a problem connecting. He really didn’t have to perform after his little Miley interview segment, but I’m glad he did. One thing I love about Michael is that he doesn’t take a single note off. He understands he’s performing, and I don’t know that he stops performing . . . ever. He can also sing real good.
Odds of going home: If home is the top 5, 3:1.

Andrew Garcia
Andy “Heard it through the Grapevine” that he had a free week, so he phoned in a Marvin Gaye cover. I don’t see how Andrew can remain in this thing very long, because he doesn’t seem interested in letting us know he can sing. Maybe he can, I don’t know. But that was a yawner. I also think the dude might be stone-cold drunk.
Odds of going home: Soon.

Katie Stevens
Fergie. Hmm. Seriously, I got no idea how this song ever reached #1 on any nonsarcastic list. I just can’t listen to that. It wasn’t good. It did feel like Karaoke as an institution went back to high school.
Odds of going home: How long is this freaking show?

Casey James
Unless Casey goes up and sings the national anthem Roseanne Barr style, I don’t know what he could do to leave the show. Huey Lewis? Okay. I’ll skitch along behind that jeep. Actually, that’s pretty much what Casey is doing: biding his time and hanging on for the ride. Judging by the quality of this week’s performances, he can get by doing that for another four or five weeks. But sooner or later he needs to do something different and lose the guitar.
Odds of going homo: Wait, what?

Didi Benami
People, come on! Do not sing songs with names like “You’re No Good”! Challenge me! The obvious name jokes aside, the song is hopelessly dated. Who in this millennium would want to listen to something like that if they hadn’t made an unwritten/unspoken commitment to write some kind of review about it? Gag.
Odds of going home: Paige to 1

Siobhan Magnus
Siobhan meets Stevie and dresses like Sheena Easton. I dig. If Adam Lambert was a shy, awkward girl with less makeup, we’d have Siobhan. As usual, she broke glass near the end. But it might have been her worst performance, just because it was entirely too lighthearted and meaningless. Still, why not? She’s Siobhan.
Odds of going home: Granola

The bottom three ought to be Paige, Paige, Paige, Tim, and Paige. And Andrew. But Paige must go.

My Name is Adam and I’m Here to Say . . .

I like to make up freestyle raps about my kids. I perform them as first-person narratives from their point of view. “My name is Addison, I rock the mic. Lego Star Wars is what I like.” Or, “I’m Colin James, and I’m livin’ large. Don’t mind Charles ‘cuz I’m in charge.” That kind of thing. When Addison joins in, it can get pretty funny. Here’s how we broke it down this morning:

Me: “Addison Michael, that is my name. Be-ing awe-some is my game.”
Addison, without missing a beat: “And I like to lion tame!”

Then he adds, “I don’t really. I just made that up because it rhymed.”

Unpublished Poem

This one’s untitled. And I have no idea . . .

So another star learned to say, “I love you.”
So two more people fell into the heat
So magic feelings brought them together
And the credits rise across the screen.

But the love child has to keep on growing
His teeth tear through the ground of his mouth
And he doesn’t understand except to cry
The raw screams of growing fill the house

And love’s leaves fall to the cold, cold ground
And the trees stand naked reaching for the sun
Because August didn’t say that January

Maybe it wasn’t finished? I dunno.

Excerpt from an Unpublished Screenplay

I found this in an old notebook I had lying around.


Well, you probably won’t see me too much on the weekends. My girlfriend lives in the ‘burbs.


So you mean we’ll never see you on the weekends or during the week.


That’s not true.


Well you’re not gonna bring her to this dump.


Come on, this place could use a woman’s touch.


I could use a woman’s touch, but you won’t see anyone bringing their girlfriends over to help me out.

Cubs’ Deal with Toyota Won’t Slow Down

Whoa!!! Cubs wanna advertise! Photo: Crain’s Chicago Business
Not satisfied with one extravagant multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract with brake problems perched in left field, the Cubs have filed an application with the city of Chicago for the rights to slap a Toyota sign in the bleachers of the landmark in which they play baseball. The good news is this deal will make the Cubs money. Probably not Soriano money, but maybe something in the Theriot neighborhood. The bad news is the Cubs need approval from the city of Chicago, which will also probably require half of Carlos Silva’s contract, food allowance, and a third round pick.
The sign, an illuminated, insignia-shaped billboard towering 75 feet above Waveland Avenue, isn’t the slightest bit objectionable to those who don’t own rooftops with Horseshoe Casino painted on them. But it’s also not a video replay board, and the Horseshoe/Budweiser/WGN Radio rooftop looked to be the most promising destination for something of that nature. Actually, the spot the Cubs management picked for the Toyota sign ain’t a bad place for such a thing. 
The question is, should we consider the ongoing lack of a giant replay board  (and the semi-permanent billboard in its most suitable future home) a matter of good news or bad?
I have heard both sides of the argument. The main pros are: 1) all fans really want to see replays when they’re at the game (admit it); 2) a JumboTron could bring in a lot of advertising revenue. How much? Does it matter? I’m sure it’s plenty. 
The cons are: 1) Wrigley is supposed to transcend time and provide an escape from the flashy, sensory overload, “Make Some NOISE!!!” brand of baseball featured at other parks; 2) a video replay board would distract from the existing, manually updated scoreboard; 3) a JumboTron could obscure the view from the rooftops as well as spoil the neighborhood skyline the fans currently enjoy.
The pros and cons have their problems, though. I agree, part of the charm of Wrigley is the time-warp feel of the place. Logic be damned, who knows how much of Wrigley’s timeless value (or, more accurately, the value of Wrigley’s timelessness) would be lost if modernization became pronounced in hi-def over drunken heads of the bleacher bums. Would enough Cub fans feel so jilted as to withhold their cash and offset the financial gain from selling Wrigley’s soul? I don’t know. That’s kind of dramatic, even if you think a JumboTron would murder the Wrigley brand.
Business matters aside, I wonder what it would do the experience at Wrigley. Despite my rage-fueled yearning to see video evidence of just how safe Kosuke Fukudome was on that force play at second, I know it’s good for me to be forced to enjoy the game as it is sans screen. I don’t care if they put a James Cameron 3D IMAX screen in left, there’s nothing like taking in the spectacle of the real thing on one take. Adding a giant video screen tends to draw the eyes of the crowd, any crowd, more than the event itself. Here’s an example.
I used to work at a college with it’s own coffee house. It was more of a coffee section really, but it carried the atmosphere of a coffee house. Indie music. Disaffected college students. Coffee. And you couldn’t help but get ensnared in great conversation while waiting for your non-express espresso. 
One year, the senior class of the college chose as its gift to the school a large-screen plasma TV for the coffee place. They turned the volume down and kept it tuned in to a news channel, but the lively conversation that once owned the place all but died. Worst gift ever.
I hate to tell you this, JT* haters, that ship has sailed. Not only have the Cubs announced plans to add WiFi to the stadium so fans can watch replays and get stats on enabled phones, but . . . well, people have their phones. Everybody’s got a phone. There’s no end to the texting, the looking down, the basking in the glow of the wireless mosaic tethers. The conversation hasn’t died, per se. It’s gone online and relies on the opposable thumbs of the users, but face it: our eyes aren’t on the game. 
There is no time travel. The friendly confines are body surfing on the sore-thumbed hands of the Wrigley faithful helplessly, for better or worse into the 21st century. Blocking the installation of a mega-sponsored video replay board won’t change that. Putting one up probably won’t even accelerate it all that much.
The modernization of Wrigley is like a runaway Toyota—you just can’t stop it.

Idol Eyes: Top 12, The Rolling Stones

Idol is down to 12, the absolutely wrong dozen contestants. America didn’t get all 12 wrong, but they let enough losers through that we’ll have to watch some pretty awful performances of otherwise good songs, beginning with the Rolling Stones songbook.

Michael Lynche
“Miss You,” is barely recognizable in Big Mike’s hands, although in more of a Witness Protection sense than in an OMG, Britney Shaved Her Head kind of way. He’s definitely creating his own sound, and I don’t think any performer is going to step on his territory: very important, as we probably learned from Lilly’s blend-in-with-the-alt-rock-folk early exit. Not a memorable performance, but not regrettable either.
Odds of going home: 13 to 1

Didi Benami
Weak start. Pay attention, Idol contestants: you cannot wait for the big notes to sing well. If your song starts out soft, you still have to sing strong, on-key, and passionately. If you don’t, you’ll miss the emotion, and you might (like Didi did) forget the words. You are, forgive me, “Playing with Fire,” and Randy is smokin’ weed. She forgot the words. She missed the biggest note and all the small ones. Boo.
Odds of going home: 5 to 1

Casey James
Aw, we get a look at the family of hotness. We also get to hear Casey open up his vocals a little bit, and he sounds his usual awesome self. Again, he’s not blowing you away with how good he sings, but he’s still performing like a rock deity. He sounds like Bob Seeger (again) and looks much, much better.
Odds of going home: 1 in a million

Lacey Brown
“Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday,” . . . always a risk to sing a song that features the word goodbye too prominently. Lacey is so odd in her performance because I can’t really tell if she’s missing the notes on purpose. The line between jazzy and sloppy is fuzzy. Speaking of jazzy, sloppy, and fuzzy, those seem to be the three outfits she couldn’t decide between. Someone should really make her pick just one before going out on stage.
Odds of going home: 9 to 2

Andrew Garcia
Andy’s pops thought he’d be a custodian? Let’s hope he can clean up the mess the last couple weeks have become. Don’t shoot me, this thing feeds on word play, sometimes I have to give it junk food. He’s singing “Give Me Shelter,” and not in his typical, Hey, I’m gonna turn this into an impromptu coffeehouse acoustic track style. The good news, he finally did something with his voice we hadn’t heard yet. The bad news, I kind of miss the wannabe “Straight Up” performances. But it was alright.
Odds of going home: 7 to 1

Katie Stevens
I thought Katie deserved to go home last week, and the producers certainly didn’t do her any favors assigning her the Rolling Stones. I like her choice of “Wild Horses,” though the irony could come back to bite her. Or drag her away. But at least she got the chance to justify her choice before singing. And look at that, she gave her best performance EV-er. I don’t know if it’s enough to save her (again with the rough beginning) but I think people will remember her enough to call a little bit.
Odds of going home: 347 to 46

Tim Urban
“Under My Thumb” goes reggae? I would normally scoff at this from an Idol contestant, but I give Tim credit for playing with the arrangement that much. His vocals are still so gosh-darn stinkin’ golly straight-laced, I feel like the Men’s Choir sent their vice president to reggae night at . . . church. I don’t know. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the complete train wreck I expected it to be. Still, it didn’t scream, “Bring Tim Back!!!” Or even whisper it all that briskly.
Odds of going home: 4 to 1

Siobhan Magnus
“Paint it Black.” I want Siobhan to stick around as long as possible just to give me a chance to figure out what the rock is going on with this girl. Just as I try to compile some kind of formula on her, she sings one of her amnesia notes and I can’t remember the rest of the song or the previous half hour of my life. She’s like the film, The Red Balloon. What’s going on? I don’t know. I can neither remember it nor forget it.
Odds of going home: Grey

Lee DeWyze
I feel cold and soulless, but these stories mean nothing to me tonight. His performance of “Beast of Burden,” is pretty good, though. He’s got me debating which is tougher to cultivate: singing the right notes or singing with that sandpapery, hey, sweetie, the coffee’s brewing texture he’s got going. It was funny how they cut from a shot of Randy saying “dope” to one of Lee’s gaping mouth. With Ellen on here, I feel like I’m wasting my time. That song almost came together like a hospital gown . . . priceless.
Odds of going home: 13 to 1

Paige Miles
We now reach the hardcore fraud part of the evening. Or so I thought. Paige’s elimination-defying votes came on a massive debt of ear-worthy notes, and I think she covered the balance tonight. She did strike out on the opening phrase, and she wasn’t consistent, but she finally showed she can sing a little bit. I don’t like the laryngitis shtick, but here we are.
Odds of going home: 7 to 1

Aaron Kelly
He’s adopted. Okay, this story found what’s left of my soul I think. He’s singing, “Angie,” and he’s got a fauxhawk going on, like when Jonathan Taylor Thomas wanted us to take him seriously. I can’t do that for this performance. I wish this kid would lose the sweet, simmering romantic act and bring some energy, because I just can’t buy this little boy as a serious, brooding love song singer.
Odds of going home: 6 to 1 (Honestly, it’s probably closer to 1 trillion to 1, because this kid is getting Justin Biebered.)

Crystal Bowersox
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” plays regularly in my house to curb little-kid whining. I say that because I don’t have much to say about this one. Crystal was her typical rocking self. She’s good.
Odds of going home: Ohio

Are we just saying goodbye to one this week? I guess I expect Andrew, Tim, and Didi to be our bottom three, and Tim has reggaed his last rolling stone.

Write Like a Popsicle

Popsicles were invented and named by accident.
Invert your popsicles while eating and you'll never spill a drop.

I used to get so jealous of sick kids. When my brothers, sisters, neighbors, or friends would fall ill (in the way that brought the risk of dehydration . . . you know what I mean), they would get to load up on Gatorade and Jell-O to get their necessary supply of carbs and clear liquids. I was never so fortunate as to get Gatorade, and Jell-O was reserved for special occasions and in small supply. But these puke-a-holics were getting both served up as often as they could throw it down. They were so lucky.

This past weekend I had the distinct displeasure of being introduced to a third delicious treatment for staving off dehydration that would have made my 7-year-old self insanely jealous of my good fortune: Popsicles. Allegedly, the glacial pace at which a Popsicle melts accommodates the sensibilities of a digestive system in distress. Having tested the theory, I can now vouch for it to some degree. I’ll just leave it at that.

As I was mildly enjoying my middle-of-the-night frozen treat, I realized that writing about delicate topics is a lot like feeding a sensitive stomach. It’s best to make your points in small doses. Let your audience sip the truth instead of forcing them to gulp it down like a frat boy at your kegger of wisdom. We all know the latter scenario ends with someone braving the jaws of the porcelain lion, and no one wants that. So on the commercial front, it behooves you to approach unsettled readers with soothing logic (but please, for the love of all that is holy, make it true).

On the literary or public discourse fronts, however, this advice is garbage. If you’re trying to send a message with no concern for how many customers you lose, by all means, make them vomit. I quote the inimitable Flannery O’Connor:

When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock, to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.

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