Idol Eyes: Top 20, the Girls for Real

Crystal Bowersox is back on her feet again. Kara has a major case of fountain hair. Ellen is still hilarious. And I’m a little disappointed I have to wait another day to see some bad singers sent home. Here we go . . .

Crystal Bowersox
Apparently there was a major soul memo sent around the AI office, because Crystal picks up where most of the guys left off. Her CCR homage, “As Long as I Can See the Light,” was pretty smooth, nothing mind-blowing. But I liked listening to it. Is that enough? It works for me. Randy is channeling Paula with nonsensical philosophizing about truth and reality and unicorns, I think.
Odds of Going Home: 200 to 1

Haeley Vaughn
If your smile is surgically affixed to your face (and Haeley’s is) you want to sing more Miley Cyrus than Kurt Cobain. That said . . . whoa. That was awful. She sang “The Climb” as though she were actually in the middle of scaling a mountain. The Big Rock Candy Mountain, maybe, but still it was painful. I just think you’re supposed to hit notes and she didn’t. And she’s still smiling, even after Simon told her the deep dark nasty truth.
Odds of Going Home: 3 Heel Clicks and She’s Gone

Lacey Brown
Oh, Lacey, you and your colors. It’s like Tammy Faye Baker and Las Vegas had a baby girl. She took Kara’s advice as literally as she possibly could, and she sang her cute little alt-pop ditty. Randy and Kara are infuriating me with their “do something with the song” garbage. She sang a nice song and didn’t suck. That’s all she really needs to do at this point. She doesn’t want to be that poor guy whose best performance is probably going to be his “Straight Up” cover he did in Hollywood week.
Odds of Going Home: 9 to 1

Katie Stevens
I’m a little concerned that Katie and the others are falling into the classic trap of confusing her desire to please the judges with the need to wow America. The judges give you advice to help you be impressive, but basing your entire performance on their 30 seconds of criticism will suck the life out of your songs. Katie’s definitely ensnared in that. The other trap: taking a cool, smooth song like “Put Your Records On,” and thinking you can snooze your way through it. Corinne Bailey Rae flirts and teases her way through that song. Katie just sort of yawned. And NOOOOO! They’re telling her to sing a song by someone her age just so they can tell her she’s being a copycat next week. DON’T DO IT!!!!
Odds of Going Home: 7 to 1

Didi Benami
Oh, good, another soul song. “Lean on Me.” And Didi changed the melody a bit, just like we all do in the shower. Her voice sounded pretty good, but her dancing-ish kind of thing felt like she was being jostled around by invisible cattle. Why cattle? I’m just trying to distract from the vicious critique from Kara. She probably said “that was not good” four times in 15 seconds, which is pretty rough. It was nowhere near as bad as what the judges are saying, but they seem to think this contest is half over. Guess what, judges 4: no one emerges as an artist in week 2.
Odds of Going Home: 5 to 1

Michelle Delamor
Girl’s doing Creed, which frees her from any copycat, playing-it-safe accusations. It also precludes me from calling it awesome. Without a commercialized Eddie Vedder impression, “With Arms Wide Open” just doesn’t sound like a good song. The person having the worst night: Randy. He keeps saying “do something with it,” when he means, “Sing better.” Michelle, take my advice: Sing better. Funniest moment: Michelle’s fans don’t even buy Kara’s praise of the song.
Odds of Going Home: No. As bad as that was, people will remember how she looked more than how she sounded.

Lilly Scott
Sam Cooke might be the most generous musician of all time. His songs are more prone to reinvention than Madonna. You can’t go wrong with Sam, because it always sounds new. Lilly did a fantastic job, especially at the outset. The beginning was so good I didn’t even mind when the ending unceremoniously unraveled. But yeah, Lilly did her thing. She’s letting people know who she is, and that confidence will take her a long way.
Odds of Going Home: Given the certainty of her continuation on the show, I want to take this opportunity to point out how strange it is that there’s such a thing as even odds. Odds are usually odd, except when they’re even. But I digress . . . 

Katelyn Epperly
The Scientist? By Coldplay? Okay, Mall Chick, let’s hear it. Hmm. There’s really no excuse for missing your opening note when you’re sitting at the piano, except for that little fact that millions of people are watching. The big mistake Katelyn made with this was not stripping away the alternative feel. If she changed it up into a bit more of a pop song, it would have been outstanding. As it was, it was plodding and mournful, but not enough to be her funeral march. Kara is impressing me with how annoying she is.
Odds of Going Home: She’s just too pretty not to be buried in votes.

Paige Miles
I was thoroughly disappointed in Paige last week, so if she underwhelms this week I’m sticking the fraud label on her. She picked Kelly Clarkson, which is a good move; she has good songs that aren’t death-defying. But man, it wasn’t great. I did see that her voice is strong, but her energy lacks a bit. And when she goes high? Yikes. I won’t say she’s going home this time, but I don’t see how she can win big on this show.
Odds of Going Home: Thread

Siobhan Magnus
Siobhan having a mohawk is the least surprising piece of news I’ve heard since Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids. Her choice of Aretha’s “Think” was more of a stunner. It wasn’t perfect. Aretha has hats that could have done a better job. But still, it was a showcase. I don’t ever want to hear that song again, but I still think she deserves enough votes to sail through. The review is spraying awkward all over the stage, and it’s delicious.
Odds of Going Home: America, please don’t let that happen. Please. Siobhan promises great television for months. Don’t let me down. 

Who’s Going Home: I’m disagreeing with my own odds, Haeley Vaughn and Lacey Brown are going home.

Cubs WOO Cast WOO

This week I had the distinct pleasure of joining Lou and Sheps for an episode of Cubscast. For them it was the 599th installment of the podcast, but for me it was my first podcast appearance. I’ve been listening to Cubscast for years, so I was thrilled when they asked me to come on the show.

I had a great time despite some technical issues on my end (and despite the fact that said Esmailin Caridad was all but guaranteed the right-handed closer job . . . I meant setup man) and I hope I can do it again some time in the future. The guys are great, the show is a lot of fun, and I promise I’ll do better next time.

You can download the episode here or on iTunes.

Idol Eyes: Top 20, the Gir…no, wait

Crystal Bowersox is hospitalized. Ellen is hilarious. Kara is wearing a bathrobe and a brass chandelier chain. This . . . is American Idol.

Michael Lynche
This dude is his own episode of Glee. He’s going to take on James Brown, which I think is a great move if it works. Let’s listen . . . it’s okay. He’s playing it really mild, especially for a song punctuated with long instrumental interludes. You really have to tear through that with a voice like thunder, not pad it with velvet. We got the ginormous Velveteen Rabbit. Randy loved it. I just kind of liked it.
Odds of Leaving: 5 to 1

John Park
I like “Gravity.” I’m not sure he’s got the soul to deliver it. He does, however, have a wardrobe Simon can be proud of. This is really a duplicate of the first performance of the night but to lesser effect. He sang it so nice and melodious, but that song should rip a little. Maybe the problem with it is that the song is really a song John Mayer sings to himself, and Park was trying to sing it to . . . someone, I don’t know.
Odds of Leaving: 3 to 1

Casey James
Casey bought and restored his own house? And he can play guitar well? Unless the secret inside the box is Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, I don’t see how this guy doesn’t cruise to the top 5. I’ll just say this: I think my wife is more jealous of how I feel about Casey than she’s ever been about a female. Pretty funny watching Kara give him her Charlie’s-flight-review-of-Maverick routine. She sees real genius in his performance, but she can’t show that in there or everyone in that room will know that she’s fallen for him. But I’m sure her critique was right on in her opinion.
Odds of Leaving: No no.

Alex Lambert
This kid is “Aw Shucks” personified. And he’s the third of the first four to go really soulful . . . but he’s the very first to absolutely nail it. He mulletized John Legend to perfection. Oh, man, this is the first performance of the season that I’ve actually been excited about. His voice sounds unique and strong and smooth. Very cool. Standing, snarkless ovation.
Odds of Leaving: Holy crap, I hope not.

A brief intermission here. I miss Paula. She’d be crying and standing and rambling.

Todrick Hall
Todrick’s asking the Turneresque question about what love has to do with it, and the answer is . . . not a whole lot. I’m not in love with a performance that takes an extremely catchy song and turns it into a greased pig. I just now listened to this guy sing, and I can’t even remember how it sounded.
Odds of Leaving: 5 to 2

Jermaine Sellers
Wow, who proclaimed this soul week? And who scalped Bobby Brown and put his hair on Jermaine? And what psycho, bow-tie-wearing fool coached Jermaine to butcher the arrangement of “What’s Going On?” I’ll tell you what’s going on, Jermaine, you sound like you’re auditioning to be the crown prince of elevator music. I’m actually too bored to yawn.
Odds of Leaving: Really, really good

Andrew Garcia
Who knew Andy Garcia was a breakdancer? Anyway, he’s singing a James Morrison song, and I have no idea how it normally sounds, so the changes mean nothing to me. But I do like how it sounds. Although he lost the energy for a little while, he still seems to have a good sense of what he’s doing up there. He’s a great singer, but . . . I don’t know. I was a bit bored by the end of it. Kara’s advice is no advice, which is massively annoying. Dude just needs to pick a good song and sing it well. Not rocket science.
Odds of Leaving: 15 to 1

Aaron Kelly
Will this show never end? Aaron’s growing a facial hair. He’s singing rather well about his girl, but I don’t believe for a second that he has a girl or that he’s ever so much as faced a temptation. The performance is a waste because it’s nothing. He’s just singing. And who knew the Vienna Boys Choir kid would have trouble with the falsetto?
Odds of Leaving: 8 to 1 and in bed by 9

Tim Urban
Tim’s singing a song that I like so much, I hesitate to even listen to him sing it. But he’s not bombing. I just can’t imagine this guy making it very much farther. I also can’t get over how much he resembles Rod Blagojevich if he were a Brady. I think that might be the best he can do. The problem is, it’s not a very challenging song to begin with, and he dialed it back from the original.
Odds of Leaving: I don’t know. Do people think he’s cute? Is he the Vote for the Worst guy?

Lee Dewyze
I don’t really want to hear a guy sing about an “angel” who makes him want to cheat on his wife. That doesn’t make me want to vote for him. It makes me want to punch him in the face. He sang well. He needs a belt. Whatever.
Odds of Leaving: Meh.

Okay. I think John and Jermaine are going home.

Permission to Speak?

I don’t care to start a blog war or even a twitter sissy slap party, I really don’t. But something I read this morning really struck a nerve. As fashionable as it is for blogs to blast other blogs, I’m not going to deride BCB or its author for annoying the crap out of me. He has that right. I do, however, want to obliterate the ridiculous sentiment behind the post.

It’s difficult to say this without being hypocritical, because the essence of my argument is that allowing people to think, speak, report, blog, comment, and tweet freely is important. It’s more than important. It’s essential to the integrity of society. So far be it from me to undercut anyone’s First Amendment rights as they relate to the Cubs blogocracy or the free world in general.

On the other hand, part of the freedom of speech is the freedom, nay, the responsibility to freely point out when an idea is a crock. So, my fellow citizens of Earth, the value of truth compels me to say, the half-baked notion that Twitter is ruining spring training is a simmering slow cooker full of fecal matter. But don’t let me tell you what to think.

Here’s all you really need to read to understand the post:

In general, I believe the relentless, breathless nature of Twitter is spoiling one of the best things about spring training:


To show this isn’t a personal attack, I’ll try to give his overall point a fair summary. Journalists disseminate updates via twitter at a breakneck rate, feeding rabid Cubs fans insatiable appetite for knowledge and triggering explosive and irrational reactions throughout social networks of all stripes. The trend has turned Cubs fans from hopeful, optimistic sunbeams into mopey, whiny, dark clouds of humbug. If the journatweets were more selective about their updates or fans were more patient in their thirst for and reaction to said info, we’d be much happier people.

None of this is worthy of Bill of Rights-grade outrage, but the fundamental argument behind it is: people can’t be trusted with facts; withhold information until it can be sanitized and spun; wait for the team management to disperse their version of the truth before you go drawing your own conclusions; it’s not journalism unless it passes the desk of an editor; if it’s important enough to affect the entire season, you can wait a few hours or until the next day before you hear it; leave the critical thinking to the experts.

I’d expect as much from the Cubs’ PR machine. But to espouse that nonsense as part of a free society is downright irresponsible.

I don’t care if you hate Twitter. Hate it. Don’t use it. Register and block everyone out of spite. I really don’t care. Twitter is not in your face. It’s a way that some people choose to communicate. That’s it. If a beat reporter uses it to communicate news to a lot of people, great. If a serious journalist refuses to use it, awesome. Take your time and write your dissertation. I might read it. But if people just stop communicating and opt instead to withhold breaking information for more prudent times, the only winner is ignorance.

If Starlin Castro gets hit in the butt with an errant Marmol fastball, I want to know. If some dude in his mom’s basement thinks that spells the end of the Cubs’ World Series hopes, I want him to say it. Smart people, dumb people, pessimists, and optimists, I want them telling whoever will listen what they know and what they think, because that’s how people learn. I hope the right people correct the wrong people and the optimists cheer up the pessimists and the ignorant listen to the informed and the irritable ignore the annoying.

There are few things more bothersome than people who would rather put a damper on truth than change the way they think and feel. If your optimism depends on the restriction or suppression of information, your optimism is stupid. The same is true of pessimism. And realism. And socialist fascism. As much as I’d like to tell people to shut up, I don’t really want them to. I mean, they should take the time to listen occasionally, but come on. Communication is good.  Do it more, not less. And if you believe in willingly constructing a false sense of optimism for the sake of tradition by withholding the truth from the masses, feel free to do it somewhere else.