Wednesday, March 24, 2010

American Idol Season 9: Bowersox and Magnus Highlight Worst. Episode. Ever.

If American Idol was a poker tournament, this week would be the money bubble. Of the 11 remaining contestants, 10 will make the American Idols Live summer tour and guarantee themselves a payday in the $200,000 range. While it's not exactly a sum to retire on, it's a huge boost for a struggling musician and it could go a long way toward financing their art over the next several years if they spend it wisely. Simon Cowell started the show with an ominous warning, telling his little lambs that "it's absolutely the worst night to go" right as they're lead to potential slaughter. If there is a God up there listening, please let it be Tim Urban or that little gay kid.

The Idols also met their first professional "mentor" tonight. And those honors went to... Miley Cyrus? A twelfth-grader fond of flashing her underwear in front of her iPhone camera and dressing like a hooker? What, the Jonas Brothers weren't available?

In a departure from last week's downright specific theme (sing a Rolling Stones song), this week the contestants had all 116 years of Billboard #1 hits at their disposal. Despite the range and depth of song choices available to them, most of the Idols completely whiffed on song choices, turning this week's two-hour performance episode into a never-ending set at some horrifying karaoke bar. Yes, this could possibly be the Worst. Episode. Ever. and if it weren't for Wookie Girl and that little wail-in-a-box Siobhan Magnus, I might have flipped over to the new episode of 90210.

Lee Dewyze "The Letter": I totally didn't get the Rat Pack direction he went in tonight. Why not stay with the rootsy style that was working for him? Dewyze has great vocals and should have picked a song where they could shine instead of crowding the stage with a horn section and a trio of backup singers. Throwing up all these other stage elements to take the focus off himself is totally counter-intuitive at this point in the competition. Does he think he needs some flash to make up for his lack of charisma? Ding ding ding! Dewyze needs to find some panache in a hurry if he's really going to make a go of a career. Although, American Idol has certainly launched bores in the past. Carrie Underwood anyone?

Paige Miles "Against All Odds": Honey I'd be worried about those heels too. And I'd be even more worried about your song choice. A sleepy 80's ballad sung seated on the stairs? This was one of the most off-key, utterly tone-deaf performances in the last few seasons. Miles has this lovely mezzo belt-- why pick a song that falls right in its break? I was looking for the fast-forward button by the one-minute mark.

Tim Urban "Crazy Little Thing Called Love": Wow. I didn't think anyone could stink up the joint any worse than Paige Miles did, but Urban came close. This was Cheesy Dated Teen Idol Crap. Going out into the audience to be surrounded by one's adoring fans is so incredibly presumptuous at this stage. Vote for the Worst is going to have a field day with this one (and apparently a few got in to the audience).

Aaron Kelly "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" :Oh, sweetie. Your "crush" on Miley isn't convincing any of us. And she only dates 23-year old underwear models anyway. Performances like this one are the moments on American Idol that make me want to shoot myself. It's not camp, it's not good music, it's bland poppy shit that teenage girls like. Even if we're talking about him in the context of that genre (and unfortunately, it is a genre), Kelly's high notes are nowhere near anything Clay Aiken or even David Archuleta can do.

Crystal Bowersox "Me and Bobby McGee": Wookie Girl unfortunately ruined her street cred when she had Miley Cyrus sign her guitar. She's gonna catch some shit for that. Hey, I have that dress. And I like her hair up. As for the song, well, I think she should have trusted her instincts and left it in the lower key instead of listening to Miley Fucking Cyrus. But it was a great choice for her and firmly in her wheelhouse. Keep bringing it, Wookie Girl! Hey, she's got a carpet! Just like Phish. Hey Seacrest, sit down. Wanna smoke a bowl?

Michael Lynche "When a Man Loves a Woman" Another snoooooozy song that is noooooot contemporary and sooooo cruise ship. I really want to like this guy but gah, I'm so sick of the lame, familiar song choices. This dude is an R&B beast-- find some freakin' deep cuts or you won't be able to compete with this bunch.

Andrew Garcia "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" Jesus Christ. Another cheesy, loungey arrangement. Shoot me now. Andrew, don't take advice from Miley Fucking Cyrus. Keep that guitar in your arms. This kind of shtick doesn't work for you. After tonight, I'm even more confused about this guy. I also told myself that I'd take a bong hit if any of the judges invoke his performance of "Straight Up." Gah! Kara just said it!

Katie Stevens "Big Girls Don't Cry" Was I hallucinating that she had a bigger voice than what I've hear so far from this girl? This was pitchy all over the place, completely oversung, and... yeah, basically nails on a chalkboard. This wasn't a preview of a hot new recording artist, its was more like a high school talent show performance from the head choirgirl. And I used to BE the head choirgirl. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Casey James "The Power of Love" OK...was it a requirement that a minimum number of contestants utilize the sunglassed horn section? I usually say that everything is better with horns, but in this case, it totally cheesed up the arrangement. This was nothing but bad 80's cover band shizzle. Seriously, can any of these kids pick a song?

Didi Benami "You're No Good" I love how Didi pronounces like four out of five vowels on each syllable. Her high notes were a bit sharp, but at least the arrangement wasn't the bad lounge act like some of her competitors. She took their note about creating drama a bit literally and guess what? Now the judges want her to go back to being "herself." But... they thought that what she did before was boring? See how easy it is to lose your mind?

Siobhan Magnus "Superstition" I laughed out loud when Magnus said"I think it's wicked cool she said my voice has swagger!" when talking about meeting Miley. But gurrrrrl, WTF is with that outfit? Unlike you, I was actually alive in 1984 and that was almost too authentic. Now, a word about her "wail-in-a-box." You know, that obscenely high belt/scream. I get Cowell's point about the high G's and A's. You can't trot that shit out every time. And you shouldn't. You can't hit those things every day of your life at 100% or your voice will be shot in five years. It's still goddamned impressive, though. I'm not knocking it. Just let it be an element of surprise rather than an element we expect every time.

Please, please stay: Wookie Girl, Wail-in-a-Box

Go away. Now: Tim Urban, Paige Miles, Katie Stevens

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

American Idol Season 9: Rolling Stones Week

This is your Top 12, America. How could you?

Last night on American Idol, the Top 12 took on the music of the Rolling Stones. Are these kids even old enough to know who the Rolling Stones are? As I sat there, waiting for the first teenage train wreck to take the stage, I told Pauly that I thought this choice for theme-of-the-week was both good and bad. We were going to hear good songs, even some great songs, but whom among this bunch could even come close to the swagger and drama of Mick Jagger? Could any of these girls turn in a cover of "Paint it Black" that would even come close to the neighborhood of Grace Potter's electrifying version?

Well, I'd be right on one account and wrong on the other. Let's look at last night's performances:

Michael Lynche, "Miss You": Lynche may have stage presence to spare and an easy engagement with the audience, but the vocal on this was so sub-par, punctuated with gasps and hoots straight out of thfe Michael Jackson playbook. The judges jizzed all over it,fff but thankfully Cowell got real and called him out on the "corny" dance moves and affectations.

Didi Benami "Play with Fire": This was a very good song choice but such a strange lyric for Didi, because she is anything but fiery. Didi is more like a lemon tart or some sort of delicate dessert. She did get to open up her vocals big-time in this performance and it was something she really needed to do in order to pick up some votes. The vocals were there, but unfortunately the emotion was only at about half-speed. Oh, and Didi? Struggling for four years in L.A. is NOTHIN' kiddo. Nothing at all. You're here four years and you're aleady in the Top 12 of American Idol? You are fucking blessed.

Casey James "It's All Over Now": I liked the guitar riffs and the blues sound he brought to the song but I'm not gaga over this dude. It was fine enough, and you know he'll move on to next week but... meh? Holy shit, is Simon wearing a cardigan?

Lacey Brown "Ruby Tuesday": Wait a minute. This chick is still on this show? And her parents are pastors? And I've so heard a cover just like this on YouTube hundreds of times. Hold on... why is she sitting down on the egde of the stage? Did she hurt herself? This was a very one-note performance for me. In terms of the arrangement, we needed to see more dynamics and range from her, not just the cutesy lilting vocal shtick that has carried her this far. Still, this was probably her best performance since Hollywood Week. Can you feel the warmth from me for this girl?

Andrew Garcia "Gimme Shelter": Moreno Valley Gangland Boy still hasn't delivered since his genius cover of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" and...wait a minute... Randy Jackson is wearing a cardigan too? A lavender one? I liked his intentions with the arrangement which took the song an unexpected pop direction, but despite what I truly believe were his best efforts, Garcia just couldn't pull off this vocal. I mean Christ on a cracker, that thing is a mountain to climb.

Katie Stevens "Wild Horses": Oh, heavens. How is this sweet little underage thing going to sing the Stones? And why in God's name did she pick the song Simon just recorded with that batshit crazy Scottish chick who won Britain's Got Talent? And why is her interpretation of "be young" a floral tea party dress and pearl-accented jewelry? Stevens' performance was so high-school talent show I wanted to turn on some Ani DiFranco and self-mutilate. Seriously, this chick and not Lily Scott, America? You're all on crack. When your chosen ingenue is completely outdone by a 48-year old virgin with a monobrow, something just isn't right.

Tim Urban "Under My Thumb": Oh fuck. This kid's still in it too? The reggae-inspired arrangement did nothing more for me than make me want to smoke more marijuana than I'd already consumed in the seventy minutes I'd been watching this drivel. I didn't get it either, Randy.

Siobhan Magnus "Paint it Black": So one of the girls did take on "Paint it Black" and thank you Jesus for letting it be Siobhan. I love this girl. She's like, a total home-schooled freakshow artiste and it's amazing. This was a standout moment for her-- a gutsy, rangy performance that didn't compromise her personal style. This performance was kind of like what would happen if Bjork and Aretha Franklin's love child sang this song. I loved the quiet, waltz-y string intro, and I loved the drama she brought to the climax with that insaaaanely high belt.

Lee Dewyze "Beast of Burden": If you close your eyes, this could have been a Jack Johnson or Dave Mattehews Band single. Dewyze delivered with a contemporary, acoustic take on the song with poppy vocal riffs. This shit is a lotta people's cup of tea and I think Lee knows it. Sure it was a safe choice, but he's not in a situation right now where he really needs to take a risk in order to pick up votes.

Paige Miles "Honky-Tonk Woman": Are you serious? This chick is still here too? Tonight we heard some of those vocals that got her this far, but Paige is still wayyy too cruise ship with her performance elements. She has a voice that deserves a place in the Top 12, but completely lacks a style to go with it.

Aaron Kelly "Angie": Why do I get the impression that the only Angie this kid is ever going to get close to has a penis under his skirt?

Crystal Bowersox "You Can't Always Get What You Want": I don't know what the judges were smoking, but I thought Wookie Girl blew the doors off the place. Coming into this week she was (and still is) one of the clear front-runners, but I have to believe that the judges' critiscism was something akin to a teacher grading an "A" student even harder, just to push her to her potential. This performance, along with Siobhan's are the only ones worthy of downloading this week IMO. I also love that Wookie Girl exchanged hippie gifts with Lily Scott and has her feather attached to one of her dreads. Gah, Lily could have killed a Stones song!

Please please stay: Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, Didi Benami
Go away! : Tim Urban, Katie Stevens

I'll leave you all with Wookie Girl's performance from last night, which starts around the 0:36 mark:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Out With the Old

Pot Committed 1.0, July 8, 2005-March 10, 2010

From the minute I put it up over five years ago until about 2:00 this afternoon, I always thought my site was ugly. Cluttered. Hard to read. A blight on the internet, really. About a year and a half ago I first thought about changing it up and I commissioned a logo and everything, but my (extremely) limited technical skills always stood in the way of an overhaul.

But then Pauly started renovating his own sites. And he showed me how easy the new Blogger templates were to manage.

"Easy enough for an idiot like me?"
"Yes, easy enough for an idiot like you."

So with thanks to him for getting me started and to Mookie for the logo, welcome to Pot Committed 2.0. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I am the whitest, blondest girl you'll ever meet. I don't spend enough time outdoors and if I did, I still wouldn't tan. My skin is practically reflective, my eyes are blue-gray when they're not bloodshot from smoking and I blend in far better on the streets of Copenhagen than Punta del Este.

Why then, did every Uruguyan railbird choose to come up to me in media row and start rattling off questions en espanol, rather than the ten or eleven other people who fit a Spanish-speaking profile far better than I?

It boggles the mind.

* * * * *

I spent the last week covering the LAPT Punta del Este in Uruguay. It's a journey that requires about 24 hours of travel on each side and a six time-zone shift eastward. I don't know if I'm just getting old or what, but this was one of the more exhausting tournament trips I've had in recent memory. Never underestimate the extra sleep one acquires when staying at the venue rather than commuting.

On the morning of the final table, I woke up and went about business as usual. Shower, wrestle with hotel hair dryer. Attempt to look presentable. Hit up hotel breakfast buffet. As I came out of my room, PokerNews' Eric Ramsey was passing by on the way back to his own.

"8.8 earthquake in Chile. Ray's watching CNN in his room."

Holy mother of God. 8.8. I still can't fathom what that feels like. Well, maybe I can. It has to feel like the end of the world. I've been twenty miles from the epicenter of a 7.1 and that felt like a bullet train passing through our living room. Windows blew out. The chimney of every house on our block fell into the street. Anything glass-- gone. The refrigerator detatched from the wall and fell flat on its face in the middle of the kitchen. Mariniara sauce everywhere. We were cleaning up for days.

We didn't feel a thing in Punta. Not even the smallest rattle. Then again, we were more than 1,000 miles from the epicenter. That's greater than the distance from Denver to Los Angeles.

Still, I knew my mother would be freaking out. I checked my email and sure enough there was a frantic message waiting in my inbox. I assured her we were fine, that we didn't even feel anything, and we'd be fine getting home.

I watched as the disaster-mongers on cable news waited with baited breath for the resulting tsunami, almost as if they wanted it to happen. Cameras were poised everywhere, waiting to capture the destruction. It sickened me, and thankfully only mild surges lapped over the shores of Hawaii and the west coast. Later, the scene on TV switched to the looters, many of whom were ordinary Chileans who could afford their groceries and wanted to pay for them, but were driven to desperate measures.

"I think we'd better get some more canned food when we get home," said Pauly.

Both of us are supposed to be headed to Chile in two weeks for the next LAPT tournament in the coastal town of Vina del Mar. Naturally, that event is now up in the air. I was in Vina last January and remembered marveling at the houses built into the hillsides that were literally standing up on sticks, much like they do in the canyons of the Hollywood Hills. The mountains are back only a few kilometers from the sea and in the flatter part of the city, massive apartment buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass windows line the streets.

A view of the hillsides in Vina del Mar, Chile

An apartment building two blocks from the beach in Vina del Mar

Canal-side buildings in Vina del Mar

Sign for tsunami evacuation route

My to my mother's delight, we got home without incident. We took a short hop from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, where we both scored business-class upgrades for our long leg from EZE-DFW. After hundreds of thousands of miles of bad beats, we finally sucked out.

Of course, I immediately sat down in 9E and broke the seat, requiring the assistance of flight attendant Tom to get it back in its upright and locked position. Flight attendant Tom also helped close the sticky handle on my wheelie and put it in the overhead for me. When it appeared not to fit vertically, he just shrugged and stuck it in sideways. Such a violation in coach would get your luggage angrily gate-checked and lost on the ground in DFW. Instead I got two full meals, three glasses of wine, a loaner pair of Bose headphones, enough room to stretch out and sleep comfortably, and most importantly, treated like a human being instead of cargo. Usually my emails to American Airlines are filled with venom about my last travel experience. This time, I got to write one about how courteous flight attendant Tom was to us. I hope he gets a bonus or something.

As we deplaned in Dallas, one of the other flight attendants got on the PA and shilled for votes for Alex Lambert on American Idol. Apparently his mom works for the airline.

And speaking of Idol, I have a lot of catching up to do before tonight's episode. Uruguayan TV aired the Olympics, but not Ryan Seacrest & co.