Olympic memories

This is the extent of my Olympic watching this year …

After catching the Olympic fever -- bad -- a couple weeks ago, I made a quick recovery … and thoughts of the Olympics went by the wayside.

Other responsibilities got in the way. I spent Thursday night driving; I spent last weekend packing boxes. The Olympics became the furthest thing from my mind. So goes the state of things in my life right now; there’s more important things to do …

I missed Evan Lysacek winning gold. I missed Lindsey Jacobellis's latest gaffe. I missed all but Apolo Ohno's first race, and thus his record-breaking performances. I also missed Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn; I missed Joannie Rochette and the women's figure skating.

But I made a pact today that I was going to relax and watching the gold medal hockey game between the U.S. and Canada …

What. A. Game.

When Canada went up 2-0 in the second period, the game looked all but over. But the U.S. got on the board midway through the second … Things got tense …

When Zach Parise scored the tying goal -- seemingly out of nowhere -- with 24 seconds left in regulation, I flew off the coach and nearly broke my hand slapping it on the coffee table in celebration.

Then, I reached for my laptop, posted the word “Scoooooooooooorrrrrrrrre!” on my Facebook and Twitter and joined the jubilation that was lighting up the social networks … I’ve said it before, and I’ll said it again: I love that! Nothing like watching a game virtually with dozens of friends across the country.

Unfortunately, the jubilation turned to dismay when Sydney Crosby scored the winning goal for Canada in overtime.

Doh. Canada … At the least, I’m happy for the Canadians winning it on their home turf.

But, man, it would have been sweet to see the U.S. win that game …

The intensity and excitement of the game reminded me repeatedly of my hockey-watching glory years during the late ’90s and early 2000s, following the Colorado Avalanche and living with a roommate who was a die hard Detroit Red Wings fan. Good times.

Sure, I'll watch the closing ceremonies tonight. But right now I'm feeling like this afternoon offered all the Olympic memories I need.


The music in my head

So Janell Wheeler got the boot tonight from 'Idol.' … Seriously, America? More of you voted to keep Haeley Vaughn!? And Lacey Brown!? Seriously!?

If Didi Benami had gone, too, America, you would have had some 'splainin' to do.

Um, Ashley Rodriguez, Tyler Grady, Joe Munoz -- it was sort of fun. Best of luck.

* * *

I'm addicted to Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone" lately ... Her vocals on "The Pharaohs" are so angelic and ingrained in my head that I've been hearing them in my sleep. "I'm An Animal" has just as tight of a hold on me.

I also can't seem to get enough of Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson's swell "Break Up" concept album. It's an absolute pleasure to listen to from start to finish -- although "Relator" (I'm totally taken by the video) and "Shampoo" seem to be getting the most plays on my ipod.

Check it out ...

* * *

There's a group making waves on Facebook lately called "When I was younger I would record my favorite songs off the radio onto tape."

The tagline ...
Back before you could get your hands on CD's there were these things called tapes... remember?

Sitting by the radio waiting for your favorite song, then quickly hitting the record button when it came on.

Of course I joined it!

As a kid, I'd play Nintendo games with the sound turned off just so I could have a radio going next to me on the floor, a blank cassette tape in the deck, just waiting for my latest and greatest favorite song to be played.

Then, at the moment I heard the first notes, I'd make a dive for the record button (Maybe that's how I got so good at pinpointing songs after hearing just a couple notes ...). If I was successful, I'd dance around the room in a celebration of securing the song to a cassette tape that I could play over and over and over ... If I missed the song, I'd lament the notion that I might never have the opportunity to hear the song again. (Thank you iTunes and YouTube. Because of you, I can play songs like this favorite on demand.)

Or I'd blame the DJ for blabbering too long and preventing me from getting a song's signature opening. I particularly remember -- while making a radio mix tape of favorite "oldies" -- having a fit over missing the beginning of The 5th Dimension's "Aquarius" and asking my mother whether she thought I should keep the recording or dub over it and hope for another chance.

Many, many nights of doing homework at the desk in my bedroom and then tripping over my chair and bed to get to the radio's record button also come to mind.

I recorded songs off the radio into my college days. And to this day, I still have boxes full of those tapes.



'Idol' thoughts

Let me start by saying this: If there’s one reason I keep watching “American Idol” this season, it’s to see what Andrew Garcia will bring each week.

I've never declared myself a fan of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Going Down.” But Garcia’s acoustic take on it tonight was sweet music to my ears -- much like his much-talked-about Hollywood Week performance of “Straight Up.” I wholeheartedly disagreed with the judges on "Sugar," and I was completely surprised to hear all four of them say they weren't impressed with the performance. (Simon: "Not original enough" ... Have you heard the original!?)

Up to the moment Garcia started singing Wednesday night, I’d been thinking I was thisclose to being over and done with “American Idol.”

Not one of the 24 Idol wannabes gave a performance that had me feeling so giddy I’d risk -- quoting a recent description of me from my friend Tom -- “passing out from a music-euphoria-induced coma.” And believe me folks, I can be a sucker for some pretty raunchy music sometimes … (Now I’m starting to wonder if I'm crazy for liking Andrew Garcia’s “Sugar” performance as much as I did ...)

Maybe it’s that I’ve got so much going in my life right now to care. Maybe it's that there’s a dozen other things I could be doing than wasting two hours, three nights a week, watching what feels more and more like a karaoke singing competition.

Maybe it’s that I’m not feeling the kind of attachment to any of the contestants this year that I remember feeling during past seasons for a Chris Sligh, a Gina Glocksen or a Brooke White ...

Maybe it's that I've been watching "Idol" for too long and the novelty has worn off for me.

Wednesday night’s guys night performances were dreadful. Aside from Garcia, none of them made an impression on me.

I haaaaaated Todrick Hall's performance of “Since U Been Gone.” Sure, I give him props for changing it up and taking the kind of risk the judges lust for. But I haaaaaated it.

Jermaine Sellers (“Get Here”), Tyler Grady (“American Woman”), Lee DeWyze (“Chasing Cars”) and John Park ("God Bless the Child") -- I couldn’t wait for their performances to finish.

I’ve never understood what the judges see in Tim Urban and was utterly dismayed when I read the judges had decided to bring him back to the competition. Interestingly, everything Simon said in his critique about Urban’s performance was what I’d been saying during his previous performances.

And Kara’s flirt fest with Casey James was just wrong, even if his rendition of “Heaven” was decent.

Ok, Michael Lynche’s smooth rendition of “This Love” made a slightly more positive impression on me. The judges were just lukewarm on Lynche’s take, too, even though he did a commendable job of making the song his own without “murdering it” (ahem, Todrick).

For the girls on Tuesday night, I had higher expectations than the boys. But all the girls offered were two hours of mostly bad song choices, terrible runs and forgettable performances.

Haeley Vaughn? Have I mentioned I don’t understand what in the world the judges hear in her voice? Truth be told, her version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was better than I could have predicted, and it might have been her best performance to date. But seriously, she’s like a little school girl wailing off-key in the shower. She’s gotta go.

And Lacey Brown made a valiant effort trying something different on “Landslide,” but there’s no lying -- it was awful. Like Simon, I was ready for it to end after about 15 seconds. Haeley might actually be safe, thanks to Lacey. And thank you, Randy, for reminding the younglings that Fleetwood Mac made “Landslide” famous, not the Dixie Chicks … And Kara, pulling out the references to Sixpence and The Sundays -- nice!

I had seen Janell Wheeler and Katie Stevens as frontrunners until Tuesday night. Now, I’m not so sure. And I’m not getting the "dark horse" fuss about Siobhan Magnus.

As for my bright spots from Tuesday night?

Didi Benami stole my heart singing Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.” My thoughts about Miss Ingrid are no secret, and I thought Didi‘s version was a charmer. I totally disagreed with Simon; I get a strong Brooke White vibe from her, which might be good sign that Didi could go far. That’s not so good for winning the whole thing, though, and I get what the judges meant about her being too sleepy.

Crystal Bowersox, I thought, was the best of the girls with her coffeehouse take on Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” -- one of my all-time favorites. Loved her vocal, loved her acoustic guitar, loved her harmonica-playing, and I’d totally download her version from iTunes. I’ll bet Crystal is in the top 12, easy.

Here's a good read from The New York Times: On ‘Idol,’ Shifts in Power, Not Talent


I shall believe

I’m home again. The one in The ‘Ville …

Part of me is happy to be back here. The other part of me is wishing I could be in two places at once … I got to spend five nights and four days with Kates and Pheebs. Two extra nights and two extra days than what I had planned, which made it that much harder to leave them.

The original plan was to spend Friday driving there and Monday driving back. But I was granted an early leave Thursday afternoon, and as it turned out, I got out just in time because The ‘Ville got walloped with another snowstorm Friday morning … Then, as I was preparing on Sunday night to begin my drive back, winter weather was still affecting The ‘Ville, and the forecast for K-Town was just as foul. As emails flew among my colleagues and I on Sunday night, I was all but advised to stay put.

I didn’t argue. We were having a good weekend being a family …

* * *

When I arrived late Thursday night, of course, Phoebe was asleep, and I’d have to wait for Friday morning to see her reaction to me being home … Before I awoke, Kates started the morning routine, getting Phoebe dressed and ready for daycare. Then Phoebe got her morning milk and plopped herself on the couch to watch her Elmo video.

Around that point, I walked down the hallway and appeared in front of her … But she didn’t even flinch. Didn’t even miss a gulp of her milk. Instead, her little eyes just peered at me over her bottle, as if to say, “What’s up, Daddy.” Even as I took a seat next to her on the couch -- nothing.

It wasn’t until Kates and Phoebe were about to leave for the daycare that Pheebs’ true emotions started showing. In one of her signature signs of affection and trust, she grabbed my hand and pulled me to the back door, saying, “Daddy, come.” I obliged and helped her to the door before handing her off to Kates, who led her out the door … Once Kates and Phoebe were outside, and I began to close the door, Phoebe realized I wasn’t going with them, and the waterworks began. She did not want to let me out of her sight.

As Friday continued, I worked from home. Hundreds of miles from my office, it never ceases to amaze me how mobile our society has become … I also joined some old newspaper friends for lunch at the iconic Coffee Pot. Before that, I went to the News to meet my friend Laura, and stepped inside the newsroom for the first time since leaving two months ago. It was wonderful to see some former colleagues. I relished the notion that I’m in a better place now.

On Friday afternoon, Kates was running late on her way to pick up Phoebe and called me to go and keep Phoebe company at the daycare until she arrived; I would have picked up Phoebe myself but I no longer have a car seat in my vehicle … When I arrived, Phoebe ran to me and jumped into my arms like never before. And she stayed there for the duration, showing no intentions of letting go. Every couple minutes she just stared at me, eventually catching my eyes and giggling like she couldn’t believe it was really me.

Back at the house Friday evening, I found myself on the couch watching Barney with Phoebe -- something I wouldn’t have been caught doing dead a couple years ago. And yet, I realized, in those moments, I couldn’t have been happier.

The other highlight was playing blocks with her. She’d dump her blocks onto the floor and command me to join her on the floor: “Daddy, sit down!”

Her personality is showing more each day, and she’s learning words by the minute. Say something out loud, and she’ll repeat it. She learns the words, and she remembers it. Her memory is getting sharper by the day, too.

To cap the night, Kates and I ordered campfire-style patty melts from one of our favorite take-out joints. We played with Phoebe. We read stories on the “big bed,” we rocked together and put her to bed.

Then Kates and I fell asleep together on the couch, trying to catch up on our TV shows.

* * *

Saturday began around 7 a.m. with Phoebe calling “Daaaaaa-dy … Daaaaaa-dy … Daaaaaa-dy” from her crib across the hall. It was amusing because -- even when I’m home -- the first person Phoebe wants in the morning is always Kates -- “Maaaaaa-my” -- and no one else. … So I -- somewhat gladly -- got out of bed to tend to Phoebe while Kates basked in a few extra minutes of bedtime.

By mid-morning, I was in our basement den, and the packing had commenced. The top goal for the weekend was to gut the den of all its clutter, close my beloved baseball museum and reduce all our displays and belongings to a pile of boxes … By 11, our realtor had arrived, and Kates and I were signing paperwork to sell our house. It went on the market Monday morning.

As Kates and I packed things away, and the boxes started mounting, it was hard not to wonder what must be going through Phoebe’s head …. Throughout the day, she galloped among and between the boxes. She sat among the virtual forts, playing with some of my old business cards. And every once in awhile, she’d convince Kates and I to stop packing so we could dance and jump around with her. Phoebe delights in jumping and dancing …

And there was Phoebe’s fascination with the packing peanuts. We probably spent most of the morning doing this …

* * *

I wish I could say Sunday and Monday were as enjoyable …

My parents came Sunday afternoon to help with the packing operations. Mother-dominated conversations turned to Kates’ job prospects. And the sale of our house. And the purchase of a new house. And closing dates. And moving dates. And vacation visits. Things that, in my mind, are months in the future.

I listened as politely as I could … Until eventually, I snapped. “I can’t think about that stuff right now!” I shouted at my mother.

Looking back on the exchange now, I can only reason that this whole moving thing and the finality of leaving our house -- the beloved house in which we’ve lived and improved and made our own during the last 5 ½ years -- is starting to hit me. There were some weird feelings bubbling inside me over the weekend, as we decluttered and packed. The walls are mostly barren now and we’re missing many of the family photos that added charm and personality to our home. Phoebe’s toys have been mostly packed away and relegated to our basement rec room. Worst of all, my baseball museum has been reduced to a coordinated stack of boxes, and I’m fearing I might never recapture its grandeur.

I’ve made a lot of big moves in my life, and I’ve always been an independent person. I can fend for myself.

Still, never before has my life felt so upside down as it feels right now. I’m living in two totally different worlds. I feel the pull of my world in The ‘Ville, to be there and work and do what’s best for my career.

And yet I have my two wonderful girls in K-Town, who I long to be with, dine with, laugh with and experience life with. I want to run and play blocks with Phoebe. I want to watch TV and hold Kates. I want to work on our house, in our yard, take walks around the block.

I just have to be patient … No one said this would be easy.


Rock 'n' road trip

It's been a mentally-tough, draining week ... But I'm with Kates and Phoebe now, and all is well.

My week included a lobbying trip to the capitol on Tuesday that started with myself, about 35 students and a few colleagues boarding a bus at 3:30 a.m. ... Old Man Winter hasn't let up on his grip ... And the distance separating Kates and I has started to rear its ugly head ...

I had planned to return to K-Town this weekend -- the first time in more than a month. The downside, however, was that this trip had to be a drive, not a flight ... I hadn't planned to leave until early Friday, but as I laid in bed Wednesday night I could only think about hitting the road when I finished work Thursday afternoon. I know the route well; if I was on the road around 5, I could be there by 2, I thought ...

Still trying to make a decision, I gathered some belongings and packed my bags before heading to the office Thursday morning ... But my mind was made up shortly after I arrived in the office yesterday morning and a couple key afternoon meetings were cleared from my schedule ...

I was on the road around 3:30. Navigated rush hour traffic in Des Moines around 6. Stopped for gas and a quick supper at Arby's around 7. Hit Illinois around 9, Wisconsin around 11 and our house around midnight ...

I had been running on adrenaline and my need to be with Kates and Phoebe all of Thursday.

But the extra umpf I needed came from the 135 songs that shuffled through my iPod during the drive ...

For your reading fun, I give you the soundtrack of my four-state road trip, from Bowling For Soup's "Almost" as I left my apartment parking lot in The 'Ville to Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" as I pulled into my garage in K-Town ...

Almost (Bowling For Soup) / Lucky Love (Ace of Base) / Brand New Day (Sting) / Jennifer Eccles (The Hollies) / Pig (Dave Matthews Band) / Viva La Viva (Coldplay) / Follow You Down (Gin Blossoms) / No Matter What (Badfinger) / Cheap Guitar (Richard Julian) / Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me (Robin McNamara) / Mr. Lee (The Bobbettes) / Make Me Smile (Chicago) / Braided Hair (Speech) / Red, Red Wine (UB40) / Get Back [The Love Album] (The Beatles) / Bruised (The Bens) / My Maria (Brooks & Dunn) / Superman (Lazlo Bane) / Hound Dog (Elvis Presley) / Laughing (The Guess Who) / I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (The Jayhawks) / Girl, You Shout! (Dressy Bessy) / Black And White (Three Dog Night) / Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) / Apologize (OneRepublic) / Dialogue Part I & II (Chicago) / Having A Party (Rod Stewart) / Crush (David Archuleta) / You Belong To Me (Taylor Swift) / Cotton Eye Joe (Rednex) / Stand (REM) / Just Another Day (John Mellencamp) / Runaway (Avril Lavigne) / Last Train to Clarksville (The Monkees) / Who Did You Think I Was (John Mayer) / Love Story (Taylor Swift) / It’s My Party (Lesley Gore) / Dance To The Music (Sly & The Family Stone) / American Girls (Counting Crows) / We Both Go Down Together (The Decemberists) / Bread (Stone Jack Jones) / Nobody Knows (Keaton Simons) / Ooh La La (Goldfrapp) / Fighting For Your Life (David Mead) / Hey Girl (OAR) / My Happy Ending (Avril Lavigne) / Be OK (Ingrid Michaelson) / Band of Gold (Freda Payne) / I Got A Woman (Ray Charles) / The Best of What’s Around (Dave Matthews Band) / Short Skirt-Long Jacket (Cake) / Listen to the Music (The Doobie Brothers) / Stand By Me (Ben E. King) / Galileo (Indigo Girls) / Holiday (Green Day) / Runaway (Del Shannon) / Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley) / If I Had $1,000,000 (Barenaked Ladies) / Feelin’ Stronger Every Day (Chicago) / No Better Place (Fountains of Wayne) / Revolution (The Beatles) / Shine On (Eric Bibb) / Theme from The Monkees (The Monkees) / Wonderful (Everclear) / Come Back Down (Toad the Wet Sprocket) / Surrender (Cheap Trick) / Knock You Down (Keri Hilson) / Shut Up And Drive (Rihana) / Cheerleader (The Four Bitchin’ Babes) / Norwegian Wood (P.M. Dawn) / Smile (Lily Allen) / Seventeen Dirty Magazines (Modern Skirts) / He Wasn’t (Avril Lavigne) /
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2) / My Girl (The Temptations) / Take It Easy (The Eagles) / Gitarzan (Ray Stevens) / Jim Dandy (Black Oak Arkansas) / Whispering Bells (The Del Vikings) / Put Your Records On (Corrine Bailey Rae) / Monday Morning (Fleetwood Mac) / Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is (Chicago) / Yakety Yak (The Coasters) / Loose Lips (Kimya Dawson) / Hey Girl [Live From Madison Square Garden] (OAR) / We’d Be Good For Us (Jon Troast) / Clocks (Coldplay) / Going To California (Led Zeppelin) / Doctor My Eyes (Ben Folds) / Landed (Ben Folds) / White Collar Boy (Belle & Sebastian) / Party in the U.S.A. (Miley Cyrus) / Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac) / Meet Virgina (Train) / Walk Away (Kelly Clarkson) / Summer of ‘69 (Bryan Adams) / Toxic (Brittany Spears) / ABC (Jackson Five) / Jump (Van Halen) / New Shoes (Paolo Nutini) / Give A Little Bit (Supertramp) / Mercy (Duffy) / I Get Around (The Beach Boys) / Slide (Goo Goo Dolls) / Pills For Sara (Winterpills) / If I had No Loot (Tony Toni Tone) / Streetcorner Symphony (Rob Thomas) / Learning to Fly (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) / Hooked On A Feeling (Blue Swede) / Windy (The Association) / Sick of Myself (Matthew Sweet) / Along Comes Mary (The Association) / Upside Down (Jack Johnson) / All The Small Things (Blink 182) / Walkin’ On The Sun (Smash Mouth) / Summertime (The Sundays) / 1234 (Feist) / Speed of Sound (Coldplay) / Say Hey (Michael Franti & Spearhead) / Sacrifice (Rachael Sage) / I Wanna Be Rich (Caloway) / Misty Mountain Top (Led Zeppelin) / Should I Walk Away (Summercamp) /
Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)


Happy Valentine's Day


Six weeks in and I think some of the loneliness and frustration of being away from Kates and Phoebe has taken hold …

You could say my feelings are amplified today because it’s Valentine’s Day, but I’ve never been one to get overly lovey-dovey on this day. Sure, I’ll do the greeting card thing; maybe we’ll have a special dinner. But -- at the risk of sounding corny -- I prefer to express my affection for loved ones all-year round.

Last year, Kates and I spent Valentine’s Day doing our taxes -- although I’ll remember Valentine’s Day 2009 most as the day Phoebe started crawling.

Today, it didn’t dawn on me that it was Valentine’s Day until the pastor mentioned it in church. The highlight of my Valentine’s Day this year will be attending a celebration this afternoon for our national championship football team.

Our Skype chats remain a fixture of our nightly routines, but doing it every night might be causing Skype’s shine to tarnish a bit. The background noise that sometimes clouds the connection gets so bad it sounds like an airplane is flying just a few feet over the house. And then there’s this pinging that sounds like we’re aboard a submarine … Still, I have to remember: It’s better than having to hold a phone to my ear, and at least I can see them.

Still, just the sight of them can frustrate … When I catch the twinkle in their eyes, I feel my heart melting and all I want to do is rush in and squeeze them. Instead, the only thing I can do is smile at my computer screen.

And I’m helpless when it comes to aiding with the household chores. Now Kates must take out the trash, and clean the dirty dishes each night -- in addition to filling Phoebe’s needs. Every time she complains about it, I only feel guilty about taking this new job.

The first month, we dealt with it … but things are getting increasingly tougher and frustrating as time passes.

The last couple weeks Kates and Phoebe have been dealing with illnesses, and I was frustrated I couldn’t be with them to care for them and help around the house.

Keeping our finances in check has been a test in patience. Now we’re managing two bank accounts and having to keep each other updated on the activity associated with both of them.

I keep trying to tell myself that we'll look back at all of this in a year and laugh. But right now, I'm not so sure.


OK Go strikes again

Check this one out -- the latest from OK Go, "This Too Shall Pass," featuring the Notre Dame marching band ...


And for old time's sake, let's all take another fun-loving look at OK Go's treadmill video.


I've got the fever!

I was so busy this week I barely had time to think about anything outside my work. Messages to pump. Faculty awards to celebrate. Emergency plans to discuss. Social media to facilitate ... By Wednesday, I was feeling like it should be Friday; I felt as though I'd already completed a week's worth of work. Then again, that's one of the things I'm enjoying about my new role -- I'm being challenged and feeling like I'm producing in ways I haven't in a long time ...

Suffice to say, the Olympics were the furthest thing from my mind.

But tonight, I arrived home in time to catch the Nightly News -- NBC, of course, touting all things Olympics ... And I caught the Olympic fever again. My friend Tom tweeted at me, "You might want to get some antibiotics or something ... don't let it spread."

Too late. As I caught up with my Facebook friends, it appeared a lot of them were getting the fever. And then I gave it to Kates when she met me for our nightly Skype chat. Phoebe, it appears, is still young enough to remain immune, but I suspect in a few years she'll be prone to catching the fever every two to four years also.

I kept seeing the commercial featuring amazing British Columbia landscapes and bright, shiny Canadian celebrities telling me "You gotta be here." And I kept shouting back at my TV, "I know! I wanna be there!"

I watched in horror as the news recapped this morning's tragic luge accident that killed Nodar Kumaritashvili and showed the clip of the crash one too many times. The obvious questions, as the report noted quickly, are why are there steel supports so close to the track and why weren't they padded!? ... It was a terrible, terrible accident.

Once the opening ceremony started, I couldn't look away from my TV ...

Certainly, the commentators couldn't resist wondering how Vancouver's opening ceremony would compare to the ceremony to open the Beijing summer games in 2008. But I'm thinking Vancouver held its own pretty well ...

The special effects illuminating and rising from the arena floor were magnificent! Icebergs sliding across the floor ... Water rippling ... Whales swimming and water sprouting from the floor with them ... Combine all of that with the aerial acrobatics ... All of it was jaw-dropping cool!

Even with the unfortunate malfunction, the lighting of the cauldron was pretty dang cool ...

Yep, I'm going to be dealing with this fever for a couple weeks ...

UPDATE 02.13: EW's best and worst of the Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony

* * *

As for the premiere earlier tonight of the remade "We Are the World" ...

Eh. There were some nice modern touches -- pretty much just the hip hop beat -- but Celine Dion's garbled singing is hardly understandable and I can do without Wyclef Jean's wailing toward the end. The new version may grow on me, but my first thoughts are that it doesn't touch the emotion and rawness -- or even the star power -- of the original, setting yet another example that the magic of such a project is rarely recaptured ...


Aerial photos show World Trade Center collapse

From the Chicago Tribune this morning: Police aerial photos show World Trade Center collapse

View the photos here.


Once again, I started my morning with “Fireflies.” Started my car and the song was playing on the radio.

For weeks now, any day I’ve heard that song, it knocks out all the anxiety of this uprooting / confusing / new adventure -- if even for just a few minutes. Better yet, there have been a few days recently that have started with me hearing the song on my drive to work -- and again during my drive home. I won’t deny the song is overplayed …

But I was mesmerized the minute I first heard the song, seeing the video on VHI. Laughing and dancing (and jumping, really) around our house with Phoebe as we listened to it. And now, months later, I still can’t get enough of that song.

I’ve since added Owl City’s “Maybe I’m Dreaming” and “Of June” albums to my collection, and I’ve been listening to all of them regularly … Sure, the songs are frothy and caked with Auto-tune -- which, understandably, might drive some listeners crazy … But the music also has a dreamy, whimsical quality that will suck me in every time. “The Saltwater Room” and any other song that features Breanne Düren only enhances the experience. And there’s no denying Adam Young has some creative chops -- even if his music sounds an awful lot like Postal Service.

Every time I hear “Fireflies,” it gives me just the kick I need to get through the next project. Like a Mountain Dew. Of which I had two cans today. I’m reverting back to my college tendencies. Maybe that comes with working in the college environment. I’m so bad.

Perhaps I’ve fallen so hard for the song because it reminds me of the plethora of fireflies that dance through our backyard every summer night. I’d never seen so many fireflies -- consistently -- in one place; I could sit on our deck for hours just to watch them flicker in every corner … And believe it or not, that -- of all the things -- is one of the things I will most about our little house.

The little things in life.


Idol thoughts

So I've completed my first week of “American Idol” for the year. I'm now invested in Season 9, whether I wanted to be or not.

Ryan Seacrest told me at the beginning of last night's "Hollywood Week" that this is the event I’ve been waiting for … We’ll see about that. Thank goodness it was only an hour; otherwise I’m not sure I could have handled it.

I will say this, though -- almost immediately I got a different, more civil vibe from “Idol” last night, and I liiiiked it. For once the judges didn’t appear as though they were trying to upstage everyone else in the theater. Ellen Degeneres’s presence on the panel was a breath of fresh air and a welcomed exchange for Paula’s incoherent critiques. Yeah, so I wasn’t so sure about Ellen joining the Idol panel either -- and we’ve still got a long way to go. But even Kara seemed more restrained, more credible, just because Ellen was sitting next to her …

Slezak, I’m so glad to get reacquainted with your commentary. Preach it …

"... Season 9 of the nation's favorite talent competition was suddenly getting strengthened from root to tip. It was clear we were benefiting from a much-needed infusion of Ellen DeGeneres (the judging equivalent of jojoba or cocoa butter or some such rich, restorative ingredient) ... Because on a night — and to be honest, in a season — where her addition to the judges' panel was The Story, the comedian/talk-show host seemed to take a deliberate back seat to the contestants. Eyes forward, focusing on the performances. Expression serious, reviewing her notes. Demeanor firm, sending contestants home with constructive advice that could serve them well if they return for season 10. And never once stirring up contrived drama/chumminess/ hijinks with Simon, Kara, and Randy in an effort to make sure all cameras were on her."
So with two shows under my belt for Season 9, I’ve already got some clear favorites I’ll be looking forward to seeing …

Katie Stevens sang “For Once In My Life.” Great natural talent. Loved her tone.

Andrew Garcia singing Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” was straight up sweet. He made it all his own. And, dude, if it were available on iTunes, I’d download it right now.

Michael Lynche sang “Waiting For the World to Change,” with his fellow Idol hopefuls singing the background vocals from their seats. I loved his soulful take … But missing the birth of his first child to do audition for “Idol” -- there’s no way I would have done that.

I’m also placing my bets that Janell “Easy Yes” Wheeler, Mary “Sober” Powers, Lilly “Lullabye of Birdland” Scott and Crystal “Natural Woman” Bowersox will go far …

I’m not going to waste my time on the bad auditions -- because they were bad. … Haeley Vaughn must’ve sounded really good in the theater to deserve all the cheers coming from the seats, because I was caught by surprise when the judges kept her.

And Skiibobs -- he was destined to get the boot from the moment he started pimping his dumb nickname. Ellen called him out for being just plain creepy.

As for tonight’s group performances, the drama was sky-high as usual … But the bulk of the show was a let down. I was disappointed that so many of the performances seemed to be cut ... And none of the performances even came close to achieving legendary status.

Then again, if the bulk of the performances were anything like most of the ones we saw tonight, the producers were doing viewers a favor. I didn’t like either of the “Bad Romance” performances and was surprised all of the hopefuls who participated were passed to the next round. The groups that tried to do “Sweet Escape” were dreadful, too.

Idol reading ...
a DeGeneres judges herself as honest in 'Idol' debut
a A low-key debut for Ellen DeGeneres on 'American Idol'

Quaking news

I was wishing I was back in K-town this morning just to experience the earthquake.

For the record, Kates didn't feel it ... And it's hard to say I would have felt it if I were there. When a similar quake hit the Chicago area in the middle of the night a couple years ago, I didn't feel that one.

But if not being there for the quake also meant missing the 13.5 inches of snow that fell overnight there, I'll take being where I am.

Bless our neighbors for shoveling our property, so Kates didn't have to.


The Saints' Super Sunday

As I watch Jim Nantz interviewing the great Drew Brees and New Orleans celebrates, some quick thoughts on the Super Bowl …

Wow, what a game. … I went in rooting for Peyton Manning and the Colts. No one gave the Saints a chance except for Phil Mickelson's little let’s-see-which-golf-ball-I-can-drive-the-furthest stunt just a few minutes before the kickoff (I couldn’t help but wonder: If Tiger Woods’ image hadn’t suddenly crumbled, would he be appearing in that bit?)

But the Saints fought. And played hard. And didn’t give in after going down 10-0 … They recovered the onside kick to open the second half. The defense kept the pressure on Peyton. And when Peyton threw that interception, it was over.

I was sorry to see the Colts lose … But so happy for the Saints and the city of New Orleans, and Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. They’ve done it with a lot of class.

Some good pre-Super Bowl reads ... The story has changed now, hasn't it?

a Peyton Manning’s Case for Being the Best Ever
a Peyton’s place: At the top
a The way this is going, it’s hard to stay stuck in neutral

* * *

As for the commercials …

I was a little disappointed. Over the years, I think we’ve been so primed to expect the funniest and wildest commercials, and the Super Bowl ads just haven’t measured up the last couple years. Of course, the economy hasn’t helped advertising budgets this year, either, and it showed.
My favorites included …

Budweiser: “The Bridge is out

Cars.com: “Timothy Richmond

FloTV: “My Generation

Google: “Parisian Love

Kia Sorrento: “A Departure From the Expected

And any of the Doritos commercials: “Dog puts collar on man,” “Tough kid,” “Man’s last dying wish” and “Gym Ninja.”

Among the worst ...

GoDaddy: As usual. Sex doesn’t sell when the concept is so dumb.

E-Trade: The new baby doesn’t hold a candle to the original little dude.

Any commercial that involved slapping. There were way too many of them this year, and there was nothing funny about them.

Fox Sports has all of the commercials here.

* * *

The halftime show, featuring The Who

There was no aspect of the Super Bowl that I was looking forward to more. My expectations were high. The Who is one of my favorite bands.

So I was left fairly disappointed.

The Who boys -- only Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are left, although that kid playing drums was doing a decent job of channeling Keith Moon -- weaved highlights of “Tommy” among “Baba O’Riley,” “Who Are You,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

But their age showed throughout the performance, and most of the time the light show that enveloped their stage was more exciting than the music. Only “Won’t Get Fooled Again” came close to vintage Who.

Worst of all, they didn’t play “My Generation,” which I had pegged as a sure-opener.

Some good reads about The Who ...
a When Generations Collide: The Who at the Super Bowl
a The Who, and the Super Bowl’s Evolving Halftime Show

UPDATE 2.08.2010: Post Super Bowl reads ...
a Super Bowl Dethrones ‘M*A*S*H’ as Most-Watched Show in U.S. History
a Hardly easy, but victory sure was big
a Playing Precisely, Brees Answers Critics
a How Jay Leno, David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey's stunning Super Bowl ad came about
a Everything was upside down for this year's Super Bowl commercials
a In Super Bowl Commercials, the Nostalgia Bowl
a Super Bowl halftime review
a In Halftime Show, the Who Exhibits Flashes of Age and Familiarity
a Pete Townshend: Nice to be part of spectacle

Yeah, right

I stopped my Sunday Reading posts long ago ...

But these were too good to not post them here ...

First, from The Boston Globe ... Do we need a new punctuation mark?

Then, there's this one from John Feinstein -- about a proposal that deserves one of those SarcMarks. Feinstein makes an excellent case against a 96-team field, which, unfortunately like everything these days, is being fueled by money.

The 64-team field (Seriously. The 65th team is not part of the field ... ) is one of the most perfect numbers in all of sports. Adding more teams, which would mean more games spread over a longer period, would only dilute the tournament and turn off viewers. The notion of ESPN seizing the tournament and likely moving a chunk of the games to cable also would limit the scope of fans that make the tournament such a national event -- on CBS!.

Hey, I love Big Monday on ESPN ... But the notion of cable television's version of the New York Yankees owning the tournament makes my skin crawl.

I'd rather not imagine a tournament without Jim Nantz and Billy Packer calling the games. Or a tournament with ESPN replacing the sweet "One Shining Moment" montage with some god-awful super-charged montage -- that moves so fast it hurts your eyes -- set to a Rihanna song.


While I'm at it, here's the "One Shining Moment" video from 2008 -- after one of the greatest games ever! ... It still brings tears to my eyes.


Still 'Lost'

I’m still processing last night’s mind-blowing season premiere of “Lost” … The final season (insert dramatic music here).

I had been looking forward to it for weeks, months … Ever since the intensity of last season’s finale seemingly blew up and faded to white when Juliet set off the bomb.

I got positively psyched for the new season when my friend John visited a couple weekends ago and we watched the first few episodes of season one. I had been reading all of the news articles that popped up in my e-mail (though I refuse to read anything with spoilers). And I was up until 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, re-watching the finale on my laptop, laying in bed before falling asleep.

I was so pumped. The working hours couldn’t go fast enough on Tuesday.

And when seven o’clock rolled around, everything else stopped. My computer got turned off. My work was put away, and I was cemented in my chair to watch the premiere event … “Lost” is one of the rare television shows that gets my full attention that way.

I was practically giddy when the series recap concluded with the final scene of last season’s finale, and it rolled seamlessly into the premiere episode. My heart was beating hard with anticipation.

When Jack appeared on the plane to Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but smile at the wonder of it all -- his plan somehow working, the survivors being transported off the island, and the crash never happening (Check out this video of a side-by-side look of the plane scenes from the pilot and last night’s episode.)

… And yet, I sort of squirmed at the scene of Desmond -- who hadn’t been on the original plane! -- not remembering Jack. It felt so wrong for them not to recognize each other!

When Kate woke up on a tree limb, the distorted sound made me think something was wrong with my TV. I grew frustrated and was ready to turn the channel before realizing the distortion was actually a device to simulate Kate’s ringing ears in the aftermath of the explosion … All I could think then was “What is going on now!?”

For the duration of the two-hour episode, I sat mesmerized, trying to process everything that was happening …

And when it was over, my initial reaction was disappointment …

Which, after thinking about it, is more likely a branch of my utter confusion. Which -- as frustrating as it can be -- is what makes “Lost” so gripping.

I have sooo many questions …

Like why was the island under water?! … Who is fake Locke!? And why does he turn into the smoke monster!? … Why was Desmond on the plane? (I, too, wondered about Penelope) … How did Sayid come back to life!? … How did Juliet know “it” worked!? … And why were there so many dang commercials!?!

To pull from the EW recap of the episode, which recapped everything swimmingly -- as usual -- I was looking for some continuity with the past. “Clean slate castaways would have negated our (five-year) investment in their redemption.”

It turns out we got a good dose of continuity and another side of questions.

Other impressions from last night's episode …

I thought the first hour was better than the second hour. I was bored with the second hour -- although I did appreciate the scene with Jack and Locke "meeting" in the airport and bonding over their lost luggage.

It struck me as I watched the scene at the temple -- specifically when the new others found the cross in the guitar case -- that anyone watching for the first time might think it’s really cheesy. That first scene at the temple almost had me laughing. To quote EW’s recap again …
I can't imagine anyone who stopped watching after season 1 or 2 coming back to the series with this episode and not thinking, ''Temples? Magic springs? Circles of ash that keep smokey demons at bay? What the hell happened to this show?!''

Here are some good “Lost” feeders …

a The Washington Post
a EW’s Totally ‘Lost’

Here's some other good reads, a couple of which are holdovers from the end of last season ...

a Near the end of 'Lost,' what's been found along the way
a ‘Lost,’ Nearing End, Nods to the Beginning
a Believe it or not: ‘Lost’ has embraced its over-the-top implausibility - and so have we
a 15 Must-Answer Mysteries
a Pre-Season 5 ‘Lost' Finale Q&A With Show Runners Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof


Grammy night!

... So I wasn't sure last night that I would write, as has become my tradition, a minute-by-minute blog post of the Grammys (See: 2009, 2008, 2007). But when the show got underway, I couldn't help myself ...

I've waited until tonight to post so I could throw in some related links -- like these interesting inside looks from the Associated Press and from The New York Times ...Enjoy.

I still can’t stand Lady Gaga … Then again, the dancing during her “Poker Face” performance wasn’t half bad, and the vocals were pretty decent too. Maybe I’ve heard Gaga so much and become so tired of the ogling over her that I’m numb to her.

Her piano duet with Elton John, however, and that mash-up of “Your Song” was pretty sweet.

I’m liking Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue … “Ran into the Jonas Brothers. Or maybe it was just one of them three times.” … The bit with his daughter isn’t working though.

Song of the Year. I’m rooting for “Single Ladies” … I’m so sick of Kings of Leon … Nice. It’s “Single Ladies.” Taylor Swift FINALLY got beat on something.

Love, love, loving! the performance of “21 Guns” with Green Day and the “American Idiot” cast. I much prefer this version over the Green Day album version. Where I can download it!?

I’ve got a major crush on Kristen Bell

Best Country Album … Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” is the only one I’ve heard, let alone heard of … Not surprisingly, Taylor just won … I do give her major props for writing her own songs.

Beyonce. Troops marching in behind her and she’s looking like she wants to tear someone apart … She’s singing “If I Were a Boy.” Not liking it at all. Come to think of it, I didn’t like the song when it was on the radio, either.

Is she really covering Alanis Morissette!? … Just did an Internet search for it. Looks like Beyonce’s done it live before. Still, that just doesn’t seem right. Like Madonna trying to cover “American Pie.”

I think I’ve got a little crush on Pink, too. … Don’t know what she’s singing, but I’m really liking it. She has one of the greatest pop voices of our time … Whoah, she just stripped down in the middle of the arena … And now she’s twirling and doing a Cirque du Soleil thing. Very, very cool! … She’s dripping with water. Where’s that water coming from!? It’s like a fountain … Visually, a dazzling, stirring performance! Wow, so cool! … The crowd is applauding and looking about as breathless as I am.

Best New Artist. I’m totally rooting for the Ting Tings! Or I’ll take Keri Hilson … Ugggggg. It’s Zack Brown Band!? Who the heck are they!?!

Commercial break. It’s kind of nice to be watching the Grammys live for once and not on delay with the DVR … Just checked Twitter. Apparently Pink performed “Glitter in the Air.”

Target commercial with the Black Eyed Peas. So cool.

Oh boy. It’s Miley time … The rings on her fingers are almost as big as her hands. … Bring on the Black Eyed Peas!! They’re dressed like something out of a futuristic version of the “Wizard of Oz,” starring Will.I.Am as the Tin Man. What up!? … Yeah. Not liking the song. … All right, now we’re rocking. “I gotta feelin… !” … The backing band is dragging. … Not the best performance I’ve seen of “I Gotta Feeling,” but the song still rocks.

Jonas Brothers presenting. Overrated. Glad to see Nick going out on his own … Lady Antebellum is my new favorite country band. So glad to see them doing well, and banging my head for not willing myself to see them at Summerfest a couple years ago when I had the chance. I’m loving “Need You Now,” on the radio and this performance tonight.

Add Kaley Cuoco to my celebrity crush list … Best Comedy Album. Not sure I care.

So glad to see Shiny Toy Guns performing on the Lincoln commercial … Still wanting to see them live, too.

Norah Jones and Ringo Starr. What a pairing. Norah Jones = yep. Crushing. … Record of the Year. Rooting for Black Eyed Peas. Definitely not Kings of Leon or Lady Gaga … Ugggggg. It’s Kings of Leon. Pleeeeeease.

Opera. I’m turning out … Jamie Foxx? Now, I’m really tuning out.

All I know is somebody’s wailing on a guitar. I just looked up and it was Slash. I’m so not paying attention to this. Back to Twitter.

Best Rock Album. Rooting for Dave Matthews Band … Annnnnnnd it’s Green Day. Ok, fine. … I hadn’t heard about that Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood live album. I’ve got to check that out!

So this is the Zack Brown Band? I’m feeling like I should be paying attention … But I’m tuning out again.

We’re halfway through. So far I give the show a C- … Performance of the night easily goes to Pink.

Bring on Taylor Swift. Ryan Seacrest's introduction of her made her sound like some kind of legend. C’mon Ryan, Taylor’s accomplished a lot already, but let’s not throw her in the Hall of Fame just yet… Ok, I admire Taylor for who she is and what she represents. But I seriously can’t stand watching/listening to her live. Never have. …

(... I'm going to interupt my play-by-play here to refer to a commentary from the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot this morning that was spot-on! ... Yes, I do remember her duet with Miley Cyrus at last year's Grammys, which helped form my first impressions of Miley and Taylor, and it was awful! ... And yes, Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone" deserves a place among the pop albums of the year. It's been at or near the top of my playlist for weeks ...)

Glad to see Stevie Nicks on stage with her, but Taylor’s definitely not adding anything to “Rhiannon” either. … Ok, this musical arrangement of “You Belong To Me” is pretty cool. Where’s the rest of Fleetwood Mac when you need them!? … I give that “You Belong To Me” diddy the second best performance of the night, a distant second behind Pink.

This Michael Jackson tribute better be good. … I’m really wishing I had a pair of 3D glasses. Unfortunately the nearest Target is 45 minutes away. … Really, really liking it so far. Celine Dion and Usher are great. Just wish it wasn’t hurting my eyes. Maybe I should have driven those 45 minutes … Getting chills. Jennifer Hudson. Celine Dion. Smokey Robinson. Usher. Carrie Underwood. Singing MJ‘s “Earth Song.” THAT is one heck of a grouping.

Applause, applause. Don’t tell me this is it (Ha. Now on DVD and Blu-ray!) … Hey, it’s Prince and Paris. … Um, Ok. Commercial, go. I'm dissappointed there wasn't more to that tribute. I would have prefered a medley of MJ songs featuring several different artists.

Leaving Las Vegas” is playing. That must mean Sheryl Crow is coming on. Yep, there she is … I think she’s introducing Dave Matthews Band? Nope. Bon Jovi. … Seriously. I appreciate the effort, but they’re reaching Rolling Stones status = aged and no longer relevant. I’m also not digging the country vibe.

I didn’t vote for the third Bon Jovi song, but I was really hoping it would be “Living on a Prayer.” Now THIS is Bon Jovi.

Best Rap Collaboration. Totally rooting for “Knock You Down.” … It‘s “Run This Town.” Blech. I have about as much patience for Rhianna as I do for Lady Gaga.

Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige on “Bride Over Troubled Water.” Very cool.

Starting to get bored. Let’s wrap this thing up with a bang, folks.

President of the academy. Blah, blah, blah.

Adam Sandler. Nice Usher quip about the jacket and the guy in jail. … He’s introducing Dave Matthews Band. Aw yeah. … So great to hear the band sounding like their old selves again. R.I.P. LeRoi. … Wow, check out that backing choir! Sorry Taylor, your performance is now a distant third! DMB, your performance is now a close second in the rankings, behind Pink. I was totally bouncing around my living room. That rocked!

Best Female Pop Vocal. Tough choices … Hmm. Beyonce’s “Halo” wouldn’t have been my first choice.

LL Cool J is introducing another lifetime achievement winner. Losing interest. Tuning out …

Time for the tribute montage for those who have died in the last year … So many greats gone this past year. … Les Paul, legend.

Hellooooooooooo Lady Gaga has the Statue of Liberty (or something like it) sitting on her head. The woman gets weirder and weirder every time a camera sets its sight on her.

Loving the Les Paul tribute. Rock on, Waukesha, Wisconsin! … Seriously, this is so cool! I’m thinking it gets a tie for second-best performance of the night with Dave Matthews Band.

Quentin Tarantino. A hip hop performance. Tuning out again …

The hip hop performance is still going. Gah! Turn it off! All the muting to cover the bad language and that stupid siren they’re playing are driving me crazy.

Album of the Year. Bring it on. … I’m rooting for Black Eyed Peas or Dave Matthews Band. It better not be Lady Gaga … The Grammy goes to Taylor Swift. Wow. As if that girl’s year couldn’t get any better. I really admire her for staying true to herself. Good for her.

This just in from one of my Twitter feeds …
The Kanye watch is on ... Album of the Year is ... Taylor Swift! A Beyonce upset? Nice.

Kirk Hinrich, the 'Glue guy'

The Chicago Tribune asked this morning: If Hinrich is the Bulls' 'glue' ... then why is he always at the top of the list of trade rumors?

My thoughts exactly. Being a Jayhawks fan, I've long been a Kirk Hinrich fan, and I loved that I got the chance to watch him in Chicago, too ...

The Bulls would be sorry to lose him.