Saturday, May 17, 2003

IT'S ON: Andy Lloyd of the always-excellent Pathetic Earthlings blog challenges my prediction that Clay Aiken will win the American Idol competition "because he's white, and so is the majority of the teenyboppers calling in."

Two ways to illustrate the thesis:
The Early Ousters: Whether Tamyra Gray before Nikki McKibbin, Christina Christian before R.J. Helton, Trenyce before Josh Gracin, or Charles Grigsby and Rickey Smith before Carmen Rasmussen and Kimberly Locke, the AI voting has consistently protected mediocre white singers while eliminating more-talented African Americans. Now, some (like my wife, okay) would argue that McKibbin and Gracin were supported because of their compelling narratives (the ex-stripper/single mom, the Marine dad), not their race, but, c'mon -- how else explain Goat Girl?

The Top Dogs: Neither Kelly Clarkson nor Clay Aiken were ever in jeopardy during the competition, not once falling in the bottom two or three. No matter how mediocre their performances were -- even when Clay sang "Everlasting Love" and enunciated every syllable like he was the official pronouncer for the National Spelling Bee, or sang Billy Vera's "At This Moment" without a shred of the desperation or sadness needed to sell the song. Girls and geeky guys just love that goofy-looking elf. Clay's like the dream camp counselor everyone wanted growing up -- and, indeed, he works at camps for special needs children.

At the same time, non-white front-runners Justin Guarini and Ruben Studdard each had an elimination scare despite singing well during the week in question. Now, look: Ruben's as non-threatening and teddybear-like as they come, but while he's making adult hearts melt, I don't think he connects with kids the way Clay does.

So, I'm predicting Clay will win -- Tuesday performances unseen, and Andy will ride the Ruben 205 Express. Loser buys the next dinner for the four of us -- if it's in California, at Postino, home of some blessed truffled macaroni and cheese -- and if in Pennsylvania, I think it's time to introduce the Lloyds to some authentic Italian cooking.

So, Andy, how can Ruben win this thing?
YES, BUT WILL HE TALK ABOUT PRACTICE? The bad news: the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs last night.

The good news: that means that the annual Allen Iverson end-of-season press conference is only a day or two away . . . .
MCNOWN NO LONGER PERSON, PLACE OR THING: San Francisco 49er quarterback Cade McNown, 26, was released from the team today, possibly signalling the end of his brief, forgettable NFL career.

After bursting through as a rookie with the Bears in 1999 (don't worry, non-sports fans, this is headed somewhere), McNown's career took a downhill turn in Chicago in 2000, separating his shoulder against the hard Veterans Stadium turf in a game I attended, and downright plummetted with his trade to Miami the following season. Indeed, he has not thrown a pass in the NFL in the past two years.

What happened to his career? Justice happened.

Y'see, McNown committed a cardinal sin in The Book Of Guys: he stole another man's girlfriend. Not just any other man, but Cleveland starting QB (and fellow 1999 first-rounder) Tim Couch. And not just any girlfriend, but 1999 Playmate of the Year Heather Kozar.

How did he do it? Couch introduced Kozar to McNown, who then started calling her constantly, sending Kozar flowers, and, the ultimate wooing technique (take notes, guys), sent her his new Porsche to enjoy. With that move, McNown completed the interception, and Kozar was his. For a few months, anyway.

McNown's other transgressions have included stealing one of Hef's girlfriends too, getting him banned from The Mansion, and illegally using handicapped parking placards and spaces while at UCLA, despite never, of course, being handicapped.

So McNown goes home alone, while Tim Couch is set to earn $6.2 million this season as the presumptive starting QB for the Cleveland Browns. Heh.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Within a half hour yesterday, both How Appealing and this blog invoked the band EMF, the Epsom Mad Funkers of one-hit wonder fame.

Go figure. A comeback is inevitable. First EMF and Jesus Jones, then we'll see newfound appreciation for US3, Digable Planets, P.M. Dawn . . . I mean, I loved the 80s and all, but isn't it time for early 90's nostalgia already? Let's just skip right over the Richard Marx/Michael Bolton/Taylor Dayne late 80s and dive into the good stuff. . .
SHE ONLY HAS EYES FOR YOU: As a followup to my pre-baby inquiry, several helpful readers scoured the web and assembled the data demonstrating that Sandy Duncan does not, in fact, have a glass eye. What is true is that she has no vision in her left eye, as a result of a 1971 operation removing a tumor near her optic nerve.

For more, see any of the following sites: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Thanks to all the readers who pitched in.

Friday, May 16, 2003

ITEM! Some summary thoughts on the cultural week that was, before normal blogging resumes:

Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass: Can I just suggest the oddness of the synchronicity here? Blair gets caught with fabricating tons of articles, the Times is hit hard from all across the media for its lapses in allowing him to remain at the paper despite complaints, and yet, at the same time, many of these same publications and outlets are providing free publicity to Glass, already caught for his lies, as he tries to promote his new novel.

It strikes me that a Son of Sam law -- or if not "law", then at least attitude is required here. Neither Glass nor Blair should be allowed to profit off their infamy through their stories. These men committed fraud on their readers. We readers are entitled to restitution. Before Glass made a time off his book deal, every New Republic reader should've received a dollar or two as compensation for the time that was stolen from us.

Meanwhile, that Jayson Blair committed fraud does not mean that all attempts to ensure newsroom diversity are misguided. A good newsroom is one that understands the issues affecting all its readers, both existing and potential. Blair's journalistic crimes impugn all diversity efforts only as much as wayward college football player taints all intercollegiate athletics.

It's hard to screen for integrity in advance. But when a fabricator has been caught, cast him out of decent society. Pay him no more attention than the man who has stolen from a bank, for he has stolen from his employer and all his readers. Ignore him.

Survivor 6 (and the impending all-star Survivor 8): Wow. Great season. Great final episode. Seasons like this one make me want to see more of the unaired footage afterwards, all the conversations and plotting we didn't see because it would have given too much away.

As far as Survivor 8 is concerned, I'm excited. I'll post my wish list later on.

The Center City Bicycling Groper: Is anyone else blogging about this local story? I only mention this because of Jen's dream headline for the guy: Philadelphia: The City That Loves Your Backside.

American Idol: Well, I called it back when ten remained:
Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard will be the last two men standing.

As I predicted, none of the flawed women ended up in the finals. Yawn. I can't diss Clay more than I already have -- he's so Broadway, not pop, but he's going to win because he's white, and so is the majority of the teenyboppers calling in. If they haven't seen through his smarmy crap yet, they won't on Tuesday. Like Kelly Clarkson, he has never been in the bottom three, and won't lose the finals, regardless of merit.

If there is a room in pop for Clay Aiken, it's as the leading interpreter of Jim Steinman's songs. The wordy, melodramatic bombast is right up his alley.

(Go Ruben!)

Man, I feel old: It's not just being a parent. It's that Terrence Trent D'Arby (excuse me, "Sananda Maitreya") and Arrested Development are playing club shows in town in the next few weeks.

Shit. Does this mean that my long-anticipated Jesus Jones/EMF comeback tour is no longer far away at all? Are Soul Asylum, Seal, 3rd Bass and Color Me Badd just waiting for the phone to ring?
I'M GONNA WATCH YOU SHINE: While I don't intend for this weblog to being a diary of new fatherhood -- I'm not that good with personal writing -- I'd feel silly to not say anything at all about how wonderful this roller-coaster of Lucy Jane's first week has been. Truly.

Sure, there's the sleep deprivation (12a-2a is prime cryin' time) and the distinctive smells of young excretion, but, gosh, it's just so extraordinary having this precious young lady in our home. She smiles. She sleeps. She feeds. She is warm. She enjoys laying on top of me. It's all good. She is healthy, happy and home.

We're slowly developing our Why Is She Crying? checklist: was she fed recently? does she need a burp? is she cold? warm? does she need a diaper change? did she hear Adam Duritz's pathetic cover of Warren Zevon's "Carmelita" on WXPN recently? is it too dark? too bright? should we walk her? should we put her in Old Sparky? Or are we just dealing with an irrational system, and should we just be patient and let her cry until she's done?

Oh, Lucy Jane, Lucy Jane, you vex us so, sometimes. And we will love you so, always.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME: I am thrilled to announce that our daughter Lucy Jane was born at exactly 9:00 am on the morning of Saturday, May 10. Both Jen and Lucy are doing great.

I will have a lot more to say and share in the coming days. It's all pretty wonderful and extraordinary right now.