Thursday, May 31, 2007

Escape from L.A.

When I was a kid, my father had season tickets to the Dodgers every summer. Four tickets to twelve games that usually fell on weekend afternoons where the temperature would climb into the 90s. Our seats on the field level got progressively better as the years passed, inching from the foul pole over toward the first base line, but in my eyes, we paid dearly for our excellent view since the seats were never, ever in the shade. Mandy got my father's bronzed skin in the gene pool lottery, while I would be slathered in SPF 50 and buried under hats and long sleeves so I wouldn't be carted back to West L.A. the color of a lobster. Most of the time, the sun would beat on me so badly that by the fourth inning, my mother would need to walk me upstairs to the shady area behind the seats and put wet towels on my head. By the sixth inning I'd be ready to pass out and thus began the terse negotiations with my father as to when to leave the ballpark. We rarely made it to the seventh inning stretch.

Further complicating matters was the fact that my mother, an east coast transplant, was a die-hard Yankee fan and my father, a native Angeleno, was through and through Dodger Blue. Each managed to get one daughter to root for their team. I was brainwashed early, during the 1981 World Series when my mom bought me a Yankee doll. My father came home from work one evening and saw me carrying it around the house, saying "Go Yankees! Booo Dodgers!" He was naturally horrified and tried, in vain as the years went on, to get me to root for my hometown team. But it never stuck. So he worked on Mandy in earnest, and she's been a Dodger fan ever since.

Needless to say, my sensitive alabaster skin and I still prefer night games and Pauly took me to my first one in years on Friday night. The Dodgers played the Cubs and we had awesome seats on the loge level right above third base. Dodger games were and still are for me, primarily about food, and I got to enjoy a tasty Super Dodger Dog and down a few brewskis while peppering Pauly with stupid questions about baseball. Like why they watered the dirt on the field and how did they know where exactly to put the bases (little holes in the ground... who knew?) Unfortunately, the Dodgers eeked out a win in the ninth inning. Booooooo.

Sunday night, Pauly took me to the Palm for an early 30th birthday dinner. Yes, dear readers, I turn 30 on June 26th, smack in the middle of the WSOP. Since we'll more than likely be unable to celebrate on the actual day he thought ahead (sweet, thoughtful man that he is) and got us reservations. I ate a heavenly 14 oz. filet with a little bearnaise sauce on the side and had a glass of Shiraz. Pauly had the same, and (shock!) ordered a Caesar salad as an appetizer and even manager to finish half of it. Dessert was a sublime slice of key lime pie.

On Monday, my final day in SoCal for the next two months, we headed over to my parents' house for a BBQ. Mandy was going off to a location shoot in Mexico and would be out of town at the same time as me, so it would be the last time we could all get together before maybe August. Pauly had requested my father's signature burgers, and with good reason. They're thick, spicy, juicy, and never overcooked. As he took his first bite, a whole lot of that juice squirted out, all over his shirt, his jeans, and the tablecloth. Funny shit. I so wish I had it on camera.

A couple of weeks back, Pauly had sent me some photos of him from back in the day-- back in the frat day, back in the Phish-touring day, back in the long-hair day. It was my turn to compensate with some of my own humiliating photos. I took him on the photo tour of my parents' living room including a couple of baby pictures, my first communion photo, my high school graduation photo, and various shots of Mandy and I as little kids.

Finally it was time to pack. Make careful wardrobe selections for the summer and stuff it all into three small bags. Make sure all computer equipment was in working order and that all cords and chargers and drives and accessories were accounted for. Make sure I paid all my bills and left rent checks for Showcase and did the dishes in the sink. Because once we got on the 10 East the next morning, there was no turning back, at least until a new WSOP Champion had been crowned.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shoes and Such

Dear Otis,

Thank you for recommending ECCO shoes. I found a pair of black leather flats that at least somewhat resemble the trendy ballerina slippers I'm so fond of wearing. These ones, though, feel like walking on blissfully squishy little pillows and should serve me well during the WSOP. Though I'd be even happier if they came in pewter... or maybe bronze. Anyway, those Danes sure know how to make a shoe! My feet owe you an Arrogant Bastard at the Rio.

Love, Change

Dear Drizz,

I recently threated to disown my own mother in public because she showed up to lunch wearing pink Crocs. Crocs are everything that's wrong about America. They are loud and oddly shaped and will find their place in fashion history alongside horror-show footwear like Jellies and Tevas with socks. I cannot in any way condone the purchase or wearing of Crocs. If you buy Crocs, the terrorists win.

It's OK though. There's still plenty of time to reform.

Love, Change

Dear StB,

I will wear jeans and white sneakers at the WSOP for $200 per day... the same rate I offered Pauly for me to wear purple Crocs at the Langerado Music Festival.

Love, Change

Dear Carmen,

Believe me, I would never cave into bad WSOP fashion. In fact, my biggest worry about the Series is not the pressure or the long hours or doing my best to write well... it's that I'm going to have to wear some sort of black polo shirt that says "WSOP Official Media" or something to that effect every single day. It's virtually guaranteed it won't fit well. I've been having nightmares about the polo for three weeks straight. Pauly tunes me out when I talk about the polo. And when I do finally get my hands on it, I'm seriously considering getting it tailored. That, and changing clothes on dinner breaks.

Can't wait to see you. I still have to find some strappy heels for pre-Main Event parties. Might the Forum Shops be on our agenda at some point?

Love, Change

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays: Sparks Burn Beat-Box

I'm not sure Blake wanted to win. The first indicator for me was when he won the coin toss, yet elected to sing first in the finals. Singing first puts a contestant at a huge disadvantage on Idol, and with the exception of Ruben Studdard (who won by the slimmest of margins in Season 2), every Idol winner has sung last on finals week. For me, the show was a Jordin Sparks blowout victory and I could only wonder what might have transpired had Jordin faced off with Melinda, the seasoned pro instead of America's crowned price of beat-box gimmickry. Here's how they did:

Blake Lewis: "You Give Love a Bad Name"

The Showcase verdict: "He's confident, he commands the audience, and he's MUCH better than Justin Guarini."

Blake trots out a repeat of his best-received cover for his first song. Though in terms of sheer performance value, it was among his best efforts he was BARELY in tune throughout the song.
Randy (outfitted in one of the most hideous jackets ever photographed on Idol) agreed with me, saying "the singin' for me was just ai'ght."I will say...Blake wore a great outfit for this song. Loved the charcoal blazer-- very sharp.

Jordin Sparks: "Fighter"

Jordin countered Blake with a Christina Aguilera cover. It's about time she went for a Christina tune. On this song, Jordin could certainly handle the melody, but for me it's a hard song to separate from it's original artist. And Christina so oversings everything that it's become a hallmark of her style. It's hard to pull back a little on the Aguilera melodies because everyone's used to hearing them at an 11, and when Jordin comes in and delivers one at a 9? It comes off a little lacking.

I think Jordin chose this song for a reason. While all of her power ballads have gone over well with both the judges and the audience, I think Jordin felt the need to prove that she can handle the Kelly Clarkson-esque "strong angry vengeful woman songs" along with them.

Blake Lewis: "She Will Be Loved"

Awwww... it's Beat-Box's soft side, complete with argyle sweater. There really isn't a lot of difficult melody to this song and his delivery of it shined a big ol' spotlight on the weakness of his vocals and range when compared to Jordin. 80% of those falsetto notes were flat. Randy liked that he sang "naturally and pure." I disagree... as much as I think the beat-boxing is fucking retarded, I'd rather hear that than another crappy Maroon 5 song delivered by a completely average vocalist. Simon deemed the performance "safe" and wouldn't have chosen this song "because it doesn't make much of an impact." And he's right.

Jordin Sparks: "Broken Wing"

For her repeat-of-the-night, this was a great choice. It was squarely in her wheelhouse in terms of style and genre and she seriously laid the boom on Blake vocally with this performance. And it's not like she was going to bust out "You'll Never Walk Alone" again after all of Simon's "old-fashioned" comments. Randy said it was better than the original and Simon had nothing more to offer along with his trademark smirk other than a simple "now THAT was good." Now here's a case where, like Blake's affair with Maroon 5, I'm not a fan of the song. But Jordin's soaring vocals made me forget it was a cheesy Martina McBride ballad.

Blake Lewis: "This is My Now"

The Showcase Verdict: "America loves the obvious."

Onto the winner's single, which this year was selected via a nationwide songwriting contest. The winning tune was OK, I guess, for a milquetoast pop song and was a little more listenable than some of the atrocities forced upon the finalists in years past (shit-cakes like "Before Your Love," "Inside Your Heaven" and "Do I Make You Proud?") In his final performance, we got our second dose of the night of soft side Beat Box... and this time he wore an argyle VEST. Encrusted in SEQUINS. Blake's performance was pretty much a disaster. His voice is just not big enough for the song. It was perhaps his worst effort of the season. Of course, this style is not suited to him at all. I mean, you could practically see him cringing at the lyrics coming out of his mouth. Not exactly the final impression one wants to leave with the voting public. And the bouncy-dancing in the middle was the WORST.

Jordin Sparks: "This is My Now"

Well, she oversung it a little, but who doesn't oversing the winner's single? Simon said it all when he commented that Jordin had "wiped the floor with Blake on that song." Jordin Sparks, all of 17 years old, standing onstage at the Kodak Theatre singing about how her dreams are all coming true while wiping away tears from her eyes--well, that's American Idol in a nutshell, isn't it?

(Potential spoilers ahead! This is your warning!)

I think Jordin will win this by a sizeable margin and the geeks over at Dial Idol agree, showing Jordin ahead of Blake by over 15 points.

My only question left-- just how much Sanjaya will there be on tonight's finale? The 2-hour Idol extravaganza kicks off tonight at 8 with a half-hour red carpet pre-show at 7:30, wherein idiot entertainment reporters will ask all the arriving celebs "so who do you think is going to win?"

Jordin Sparks will. Bank on it. Good luck to all of you with action on tonight's results.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Poker Posts, Sneaker Shopping and Hollywood Kickball

I played a couple of sessions of live poker this week at the Commerce Casino and Hollywood Park. You can read all the gory details in these pieces I wrote for my PokerWorks blog:

The Jack of Nothing
The Slowroll

On my list of roughly three dozen things I have to accomplish before leaving L.A. for two months in Vegas is "buy shoes for WSOP." If I've learned one thing covering tournaments for the last year, it's that a pair of cute pointy-toe flats won't cut it when you're running around a casino 16 hours a day. I have to buy some sneakers. And I am not a sneaker person. At all. When I wear sneakers with jeans, I feel frumpy and unfashionable. And I'm not prepared to feel frumpy and unfashionable for two straight months.

I went to the Beverly Center yesterday to see if I could find a pair that didn't offend me. I looked at a few pairs of Converse tennies, but they never seem to fit me correctly. Everything at Sketchers was bulky and busy. And forget about Lady Foot Locker. You will never, and I mean never, catch me wearing white trainers with my dark jeans. I refuse to become bad WSOP fashion! One of the salesgirls could sense my growing frustration and told me to check out a couple of places on Melrose. So a trip up there will likely find it's place on my list of late afternoon errands, which include getting all my summer clothes dry cleaned, unclogging the bathroom sink that Showcase has left standing water in for three days now, and making a second attempt to screw my newly arrived license plates onto my car. This is one of those simple tasks I mentioned in #7 that I tend to fail at spectacularly.

I made some good karma with my weed dealer yesterday. When he paid me a visit, he was so stoned himself that he left an extra bag of product on my coffee table. I called him up to let him know what happened, knowing that there was a significant possibility that he'd be too lazy to drive back across town to fetch it. Sure enough, he said "it's your lucky day, I guess" and I scored a freebie bag of Juicy Fruit. He was also completely shocked that I'd told him about his mistake.

"You're an honest woman, Change. I appreciate that in a client." he quipped in his lazy surfer-speak.

Showcase is playing on a kickball team in Hollywood. His second game is tonight and I just may show up with a sign and some pom-poms. Last week, in the first out of the first inning of the first game of the kickball season, Showcase was standing out in left field when the ball was kicked high and long. It was coming straight at him. And he thought, "am I really going to fuck this up? On the first out of the first inning of the first game of the kickball season?" Is that my destiny?"

He caught the ball. And the crowd went wild. Well, not really but you know what I mean.

Showcase described it as the proudest moment of his athletic career. "It was the first time in over 10 years that I voluntalily participated in athletic activities and I didn't walk away wanting to cry. Which I usually do."

Unfortunately, the team lost anyway. But Showcase looked good in the process, which is really all that matters when the whole team is comprised of narcissistic Hollywood actors, D-people, and hangers-on. A certain sometimes-poker-playing C-list celebrity is on Showcase's team, but he didn't show up to the game. I wonder if they'll kick him off if he flakes again tonight or if quasi-celebrity status waives that rule?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Darfur Charity Tournaments

Cross-posted from my PokerWorks blog:

There are two major poker events on the horizon that will benefit the war-torn region of Darfur in the Sudan. Nearly half a million people have been killed there over the last three years including thousands upon thousands of children.


For those with smaller bankrolls, Poker Stars is hosting the Ocean’s Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament next Sunday, May 27th, at 12:30 PM PDT/3:30 PM EDT. Details below from the PokerStars Blog:

Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys

Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to June 5th premiere in Los Angeles plus 2 night’s hotel and $2k for travel/spending.
Top 18 receive autographed copy of “Oceans 13” DVD.

These tournaments are special re-buy tournaments - the entire prize pool will be matched by PokerStars and donated to the Darfur relief efforts. At the conclusion of the event the prize pool, which will be temporarily awarded to the 1st place finisher, will be removed from the 1st place finisher’s account.

The amount will then be matched by PokerStars and sent forward to the Darfur charity. Thank you for participating - go re-buy crazy! – it’s for a good cause. Good luck!

Proceeds from the PokerStars Darfur Tournament benefit Not on Our Watch.

If you can’t make the tournament, it’s still possible to donate funds. Simply make a player-to-player transfer to the PokerStars account “NOOW,” which is set up to take additional donations.

For players with larger bankrolls, Ocean’s Thirteen star Don Cheadle and WSOP bracelet winner Annie Duke have collaborated to raise public awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur with the Ante Up for Africa Charity Tournament to be held at the Rio on July 5 at 4 PM, on the eve of the WSOP Main Event.

The tournament has a $5,000 buy-in and will benefit the International Rescue Committee and The Enough Project. In addition to pro poker players like Duke, Erik Seidel, Clonie Gowen, Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, Joe Hachem, and Andy Bloch, actors and sports stars including Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jennifer Tilly, Matt Damon, and Charles Barkley are expected to play. A star-studded after-party will follow at the Voodoo Lounge at 10 PM for all tournament participants.

Please do your best to support these events and spread the word.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sweet Dreams, Melinda


I say booooo to you, America. Booooo because the beat-box will be record-scratching his way through the American Idol finals. While part of me shakes my fist at the sky asking "is this the best you can give us, America? Beat-Box Blake?" the rest of me begrudgingly understands that Beat-Box Blake is unfortunately what America likes and America wants and Idol's young, female fan base is much more likely to buy a Blake Lewis album than a Melinda Doolittle album. It's the young, female fanbase's moms and aunts and older sisters that will be lining up for Doolittle's (inevitable) disc and concert tour.

My own mother wrote me this morning so furious about the results that the email practically burst into flames. "If that beat-box idiot wins next week I am done with the show." she seethed.

There is one major upside to Doolittle's ouster. It means Jordin Sparks will win.

I've long thought that Jordin was the most "marketable" choice among the three diva girls, all of whom possess incredible vocal gifts. Jordin, though is the one that has the whole package-- talent, charisma, relatability, and style. And at only 17 years old, that core audience of young girls? They're her peers. She's both a contemporary and a role model to them. She's proof that someone just like them can go out there and make it. She'll inspire thousands upon thousands of tone-deaf auditions for seasons to come.

Enter the Hollywood machine. Showcase wants to make me a prop bet that if Jordin wins, she will lose at least 25 pounds within her first year off the show. I'm having a hard time picking a side, because I'm certain her dozens of new handlers will all but insist on it. So it's a numbers game, really. A sad certainty, because I think she's gorgeous the way she is.

Melinda will certainly cut an album and have a slew of doors opening for her in the music industry in the months to come. I just hope she's smart enough to hook up with some good producers who will encourage her to stay true to her Gladys Knight-inspired soul sound instead of forcing a more commercial pop aesthetic on her. I mean, has anyone heard Katharine McPhee's atrocious album that came out a few months back? Those achy-bluesy vocals I so loved from her on Idol have been replaced with slick harmonies and overdubs on dime-a-dozen pop tracks.

So we have only one week left of Idol before I'll have to get some new television obsession to fill the void until next January. And just in time for the World Series of Poker. I leave L.A. for a two month sojurn in Las Vegas in 12 days time. Showcase is already showing signs of serious anxiety over having no one to entertain but himself over the summer. I hope he figures out a way to take a few days off and get out there because it's been far too long since we got hammered and played blackjack all night at O'Shea's.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays: The Semi-Finals

I look forward to the penultimate episode of American Idol each season perhaps even more than the finale. Gone are the celebrity mentors and the "theme of the week" and we're left with three popstar hopefuls that are all likely on their way to record deals, regardless of whether they win or lose the competition's final vote. Last season's final three-- Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, and Elliot Yamin-- all currently have discs on the charts, and I don't think this season will be any different, with a final three that each can claim a strong, rabid teenage fan base.

The semi-finals can also be an excellent showcase of each contestant's range, with each Idol performing three songs: one chosen by the judges, one by the producers, and one of their own choice. This is IT, people! If there ever was a time to pull out all the stops, it's now.

So, what became of our final three?


Jordin Sparks: "Wishing on a Star"

Simon Cowell chose Jordin's song and I was temporarily excited about his choice... until she turned out a totally boring verse. Sure she can sing it, but we all know by now that she can sing anything. She sang Gloria Estefan and Bon Jovi for Christ's sake! Jordin redeemed herself on the bridge, but it wasn't enough for me. This was a very "safe" performance... and baby, we're done with "safe." Not to mention that for all the chirping Simon does about Jordin being "old-fashioned," well, this wasn't exactly a contemporary song choice, was it?

Blake Lewis: "Roxanne"

For me it was on the more bearable end of the continuum of Beat-Box Blake performances (and thankfully no Ro-o-o-o-o-x-a-a-a-a-anne beat-boxing) but still unspectactular. Paula made a pretty good song choice for him in terms of it being a recognizable, crowd-pleasing piece, but on the flip side, the challenging vocal only drew attention to the fact that he's by far, the weakest remaining singer. And that godawful vest he was wearing looked like one of those heavy bibs they put over you at the dentist's office when they take the x-rays.

Melinda Doolittle: "I Believe in You and Me"

The Showcase Verdict: " well, that was boring as hell."

I have to disagree. I mean, can anyone else in this competition build a song emotionally like Melinda does every single time she steps onstage? I love that Randy threw it at her for the extreme difficulty, just to see if she could handle it. While most girls would try to sing that song and end up looking like total impostors, for her it was simply effortless. It was moving, affecting, and a great way for her to start out the night.


Jordin Sparks: "She Works Hard for the Money"

I didn't like this song choice nearly as much as I liked her blue silk halter top. Yeah, Jordin put it out there with her always-spectacular vocals, but the aesthetic felt very karaoke to me. Perhaps that was just a product of the arrangement? Dammit I wanted Jordin to WOW me tonight. And I'm not wowed... when am I gonna be wowed?

Blake Lewis: "This Love"

Do I ever hate this song. It's pure schlock pop. One of the many reasons why I'm never going to be a Blake Lewis fan is that crap like this is squaIrely in his wheelhouse. I just can't stand that kind of music, and whatever the outcome of Idol, Blake's gonna make that kind of record. I hate the slip 'n slide wannabe Moonwalk dance moves too. And that white hoodie blazer thing goes on my don't list along with the x-ray bib vest.

Melinda Doolittle: "Nutbush City Limits"

The Showcase Verdict: "She literally needs to whip out her titty right now."

Shit like this is what Melinda needed to be doing for WEEKS to escape the whole "consistency curse." I thought it was the performance of the season for her. This is exactly her aesthetic. Positioning herself as a contemporary Tina Turner is what could make her a huge pop star and seriously separate her from the R&B pack. I mean, two bars in I knew this one was going to kick ass. Gave me chills. And, like we saw in Bon Jovi week-- it is far easier to put a pernsonal stamp on a song that is not an instantly recognizable classic. Melinda struck gold with this and I think it was her ticket to the finals.


Jordin Sparks: "I Who Have Nothing"

It's actually not that uncommon that contestants trot out a repeat on semi-final night. Katharine McPhee certainly did it successfully last season with "Over the Rainbow." This song was perhaps Jordin's season highlight. And just like the first time I heard it, I was completely rapt. So was Showcase. I don't think we said a single snarky word to each other during the song. And it takes a lot to shut us up! After two solid but unspectacular performances to start the show, I think Jordin knocked this one just far enough out of the park to earn herself a spot in the final two.

Then there was that weird banter about a Rolls-Royce and the 1970's at the end? Oh snap, that was Jordin giving Cowell some shit about his "old-fashioned" song choice for her!

Blake Lewis: "When I Get You Alone"

You know what? When all is said and done... at least Blake got to beat-box with Sir Mix- a -Lot. Am I completely tone deaf or did this song have NO melodic line? I don't know much about Robin Thicke's music, but if it's all like this... I'll pass. I lost a prop bet to Showcase on this one-- he said Blake would beat box again, I said no... and then he pulled it out in the final 16 bars. Bastard! Yeah, yeah everyone loved it and I didn't what else is new... more Melinda please!

Melinda Doolittle: "I'm a Woman"

Aiyah... badddd outfit. Haaaaate the vest and matching pants. But does it really matter? Like Jordin, Melinda went with a season-highlight repeat and she brought the house down with this Lieber & Stoller classic. We really got the whole "spectrum of Melinda" tonight-- balladeer, funk-soul goddess, R&B master. She took her game to a whole new level, and I think she's the only one who can sleep tonight knowing she's in the finals.

This week's Performance Rankings (week of 5/15):

1. Melinda Doolittle
2. Jordin Sparks
3. Beat-Box Blake

Overall Rankings:

1. Jordin Sparks (it's tough, but she juuuust edges Melinda overall for me)
2. Melinda Doolittle
3. Beat Box Blake

In trouble: Beat-Box Blake

Safe: Melinda Doolittle

Will be voted off: Blake will beat-box into the sunset and an inevitable record deal

Current Bodog odds on the remaining contestants:

Jordin Sparks: 5-6
Melinda Doolittle: 3-2 (a small edge, but a great line for all you degenerates)
Blake Lewis: 7-2


Idol spoilers below... consider yourself warned!)

10:38 AM - Dial Idol has our final three in a statistical tie with Melinda leading the pack. Jordin is second, but only separated from Beat-Box by 0.6%. It's gonna be a squeaker... but it looks like Beat-Box is on his way home.

7:12 PM - Just spoiled myself for the broadcast and all I have to say is this: you should always fade my picks. This is a dark day for American Idol...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Aaron Sorkin Mondays and Blood Boy

Two posts in one day from me-- aren't YOU lucky?

Everyone who follows television has suspected this for a while, but with the NBC Upfronts happening in New York today, it can finally be confirmed that Studio 60 has been cancelled. There will be no second season for Danny Tripp, Matt Albie, and Matt Albie's baseball cap wearing, pill-popping alter ego Tim Batale. They will live on, only on the inevitable DVD release and in the few remaining original episodes NBC has in the can, which will be burned off aired in the summer after the completion of May sweeps.

Say what you want about Studio 60... it certainly had its faults, but still, no working screenwriter in Hollywood can write dialogue like Aaron Sorkin. And I've read all those hacks. I guess now he'll have more time to work on that Flaming Lips musical.

In other semi Sorkin-related news, actress Melissa Fitzgerald, who played C.J. Cregg's assistant Carol for seven seasons on Sorkin's The West Wing, is seriously considering a run for Congress in her native Pennsylvania, where her family is heavily involved in politics. The Republican she'd be running against in the PA 6th recently had to fork over a $120K fine for misreporting campaign contributions, and only won his last election by a 1.2% margin. So between Fitzgerald, Al Franken, and potentially Fred Thompson, there could be a hat trick of successful TV actors on the '08 ballots.

* * * * *
Last night at Mothers' Day dinner (we went out for Greek food), my sister Mandy and I were discussing our favorite YouTube videos. Naturally, I told her to search the keywords "keno crayon" for 2 minutes and 52 seconds of pure viewing pleasure, but she alerted me to this gem. I laughed so hard I watched it twice.

Especially for Bad Blood, I give you "Blood Boy."


7 Things I Now Wish I Didn't Know About Bloggers

1. cc used to wet the bed.

2. Daddy sucked off a lonely truck driver last Tuesday night.

3. Lou Krieger threw a kid through a plate glass window.

4. Otis cries every time he watches the movie Rudy.

5. Waffles lost his virginity to a fat ugly chick who was on her period.

6. Waffles used to light fires as a child.

7. When Waffles comes his "whole brain explodes into a million bright fragments of light.. sort of like a seizure..." and then he falls asleep.

Friday, May 11, 2007

7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me (aka The Meme)

Weren't these things called "chain letters" a few year ago? Who came up with "meme?" Pretty g-h-e-y if you ask me. But since the Human Head tagged me, and you never want to get an ex-military conspiracy theorist with an unnaturally large cranium on your bad side, I'll play along.

1. When I was 16, I dinged Barbra Streisand's Rolls-Royce in a parking garage. It was huge, white, had vanity plates that said "Barbra" and was parked awkwardly in one of those tight spaces that say "compact" and are, you know, made for compact cars. I flung open the driver's side door of my VW Jetta without looking and it left a nice long scratch. I got the fuck out of Dodge about 15 seconds later, forgoing my planned matinee showing of "Forrest Gump."

2. The best job I ever had was as a singing cocktail waitress on a touristy cruise ship that docked at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. All of my co-workers were music theatre students (like myself) and out of work actors. We'd drink chardonnay and white zinfandel in the galley before our twice-nightly performances of "Get on Your Feet"-- a hideous disco medley interspersed with random Gloria Estefan songs. For the grand finale, we'd belt out "Proud to Be an American" as the ship cruised past the Statue of Liberty. Then, after 6 hours of seving Corona after Corona to soused corporate groups, we'd all go out and spend at least half our tips at a dive bar on Ninth Avenue called Wilson's. Still just about the best summer of my life.

3. Though I no longer consider myself a Catholic, non-practicing or otherwise, I was one of the first female altar servers in the Archdiocise of Los Angeles. There were protesters at the first mass I served at (how DARE anything with a vagina hold the big honkin' Bible for the creepy old priest) and I gave a quote to a local TV reporter as my father and I were walking out to the car.

4. I'm violently allergic to peaches. I haven't eaten a peach or peach product since I was a baby and my face blew up and turned the color of a strawberry after my mom fed me some of the canned variety. I don't even really know what they taste like... not that I want to find out.

5. The night before my interview with my first choice college, I got alcohol poisoning at a party in Malibu. At one point in my blackout I dropped to my knees, my eyes rolled back in my head, and I vomited into a bonfire. Or so I was told. I was drunk the next morning when I woke up and I was still drunk at the 2 PM interview. Which I totally nailed, of course.

6. In my pre-teen years I was such a dork that when my 7th grade class got an assignment to memorize a 10-line poem, I memorized all 108 lines of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" and delivered it in front of the class, complete with sound effects, props, a black cape and a fake bird. No wonder everyone thought I was a freak.

7. Furthering my dork cred, I was valedictorian of both my junior high and high school classes. This little piece of trivia has been a source of great amusement to Showcase for the last decade plus, especially when I manage to screw up something totally simple. Like changing a light bulb. Or making coffee.


Jen Leo
Amy Calistri
Poker Shrink
Miami Don
Pauly (because he needs to be tagged multiple times)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays: The Final Four

Disco week is usually one of my favorite stops on American Idol's musical genre merry-go-round. Not this year. I sat down last night with Showcase to watch our final four Idols attack the music of Barry Gibb and found myself jumping into a $2-4 limit game on Full Tilt midway through, just to ease the boredom. $2-4 hold'em > Last Night's Idol. Usually I'm stoked for the switch to two songs apiece from each contestant... but not when 7 of the 8 performances are barely cruise ship-worthy. This episode sucked donkey testicles, and I think we might be heading for a surprise elimination tonight based on the performances our three divas and one beat-boxer turned out. Let's see how they fared.

Melinda Doolittle:

1.) "Love You Inside and Out"

The Showcase verdict: "Yeah it was perfect, but like... whatever"

Melinda is always a consistent performer with perfect vocals, yada yada yada, but this was a little blah for me. Where's the wow factor? This is the end game people. STEP IT UP! Simon said it all for me- "I expect incredible... this was more of a backing vocalist's performance... you're better than that."

2.) "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"

The Showcase verdict: "Honestly, this is like Bar Mitzvah buffet music."

I agree with him on the first 3/4 of the performance, which was a total snooze. But she blew it out spectacularly in the end with her thrilling high belt. At this point, though "resident pro" Melinda continues to turn out sold performances each week, her consistency is actually getting a little boring. There's never an off-the-wall song choice from her, or even an unexpected styling choice. I think she needs to like, rip her clothes off or something to surprise these judges. Or come out in a pony-hawk.

Melinda also had a "bad draw" tonight... it's never an advantage to go first on Idol.

Blake Lewis:

1.)"You Should Be Dancin'"

The Showcase verdict: "This is HORRIBLE."

So, last week I was OK with the beat boxing. Blake abandoned it for just long enough to make the audience crave it again. This time, I thought it was gratuitous and misplaced. Whereas the timing and placement of the beat boxing was more appropriate last week, the "ehh ehhh eh eh eh ehhh" schtick in this performance sucked ASS. Adding the beat boxing to an already cheesy dance song= suckwad. Adding it to transform a Bon Jovi song= slightly more acceptable. The mandarin collared print blazer was tres ghey as well. Strike One for Beat-Box Blake.

2.) "This is Where I Came In"

The Showcase verdict: "THIS is the best male vocalist they could come up with on this show? Beat-Box Blake?"

This is the worst. A new beat-box low. I tuned out after the second or third record scratch. Terrible vocal, worse arrangement. Simon called it "completely tuneless." No shit. And that argyle sweater-shirt-whatever it is needs to be lit on fire. Blake deserves to be voted off after this disastrous turn-- unfortunately I think his droves of fans will keep him afloat into the semi-finals.

LaKisha Jones:

1.) "Stayin' Alive"

The Showcase verdict: "That was pretty good. And you know that's the first time I noticed that the 'K' in LaKisha is capitalized."

LaKisha took the tempo down a touch and got the crowd going with her rendition of this disco classic. I thought it was a great song choice for her... though on a week with stronger performances from the others, I just might have dubbed it bad karaoke. Her wardrobe was at a new low during this performance-- you don't put a plus-size girl in a black mini over cropped leggings in front of 35 million people unless you want to do some serious emotional damage to her confidence. I don't care how trendy it is. Leggings are BAD and they need to go back to 1987 where they belong.

Simon's take? "No kiss tonight, baby... you're back to the shouting again... you've got to bring it back on the second one."

I dunno. I kinda liked it. Am I in a minority of one?

2.) "Run to Me"

Snoooooooooooooooooze. At this point in the evening I was far more interested in my $2-4 table on Full Tilt on LaKisha's LITE FM snoozer. LaKisha turned out a forgettable performance when she should have been singing for her life. I will, however give her props for the best use of cleavage in an American Idol performance this season-- she looked so much better in that green dress than in the leggings nightmare. LaKisha is unfortunately the most vulnerable contestant this week.

Jordin Sparks:

1.) "To Love Somebody"

The Barry Gibb verdict: "I know a couple of hundred people who have sung this song, and there is no greater version than Jordin's."

When I think about which performances were truly memorable this season, almost all of them were delivered by Jordin Sparks. "I Who Have Nothing." "You'll Never Walk Alone." She just keeps knocking them out of the park. Jordin owned this song and in my mind, earned herself a lock in the final two this week. Her voice is stunningly mature for a 17 year old. I would kill to belt that high and with such clarity of tone. AND someone finally dressed her in a young, hip outfit that works for her body type! Weeeeeeee!

2.) "Woman in Love"

The Showcase verdict: "This show has SUCKED."

Jordin brings another BARBRA tune! (her first was "On a Clear Day") Ship it! This wasn't Jordin's best vocal or song choice, but it was still light years better than either of Beat-Box Blake's offerings. Simon called it "pageanty"-- I wouldn't go that far, but Jordin does have a tendency to go a little "old" on some of her song choices. The challenge for her is to stay in that power pop-ballad wheelhouse while still coming off as young, hip, and fresh. Melinda has the same challenge in the R&B/Soul genre. I think Jordin has the edge here, though with her young age and bubbly personality. Because come on... we all know they're gonna be the final two.

This week's Performance Rankings (week of 5/8):

1. Jordin Sparks
2. Melinda Doolittle
3. LaKisha Jones
4. Beat-Box Blake

Overall Rankings:

1. Jordin Sparks
2. Melinda Doolittle
3. LaKisha Jones
4. Beat-Box Blake

In trouble: LaKisha Jones, Beat-Box Blake

Safe: Jordin Sparks

Will be voted off: Gut says LaKisha, but I hope Beat-Box gets the boot, creating a 3-diva semi-final.

Current Bodog odds on the remaining contestants:

Jordin Sparks: 1-2
Melinda Doolittle: 6-5
Blake Lewis: 7-2
LaKisha Jones: 14-1

(Potential Idol spoilers below... consider yourself warned!)

10:27 AM: Dial Idol is predicting this morning that Jordin and Beat-Box Blake are safe, while Melinda and LaKisha will be the bottom two, their vote totals in a near-statistical tie. Aiii ya!!! Melinda being voted off in 4th place would be the Chris Daughtry-esque shock of the season, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Cardio Kickbox Class, Truckin', and Lucky You

I took a cardio kick-boxing class this morning. The only thing it kicked was my ass. I had a coupon sitting around for a free 2-week trial at a gym on La Cienega and decided that now was as good a time as any to put it to use. I don't weigh myself too often, because I hate having my self-esteem wrapped up in a number that doesn't really mean anything, but that number was on the high end of my "acceptable range" after I got home from this most recent 2-week stint in Las Vegas. All the walking I did was counteracted by breakfasts containing copious amounts of pork fat and hours spent at the poker and Pai Gow tables guzzling Coronas.

Back when I spent 12 out of every 24 hours in an office, I think I actually ate in a healthier manner because of the way my days were hyper-scheduled. I drank chocolate protien shakes for breakfast because I could down the whole thing inside of my 6-minute commute, and I'd be relatively sated for the first couple of meetings, during which I would drink anywhere from 1-4 cups of coffee. Lunch was always the same thing-- a turkey chopped salad with balsalmic dressing from the cafe downstairs, and dinner was either chicken and side dishes from Koo Koo Roo if I was going home or some sort of expense account drinks/dinner combo if I had biz plans. There was always bottled water in the fridge at the office, and I drank a lot of it. Probably 4-5 Diet Cokes a day as well. It's a miracle I didn't spend half the day peeing.

With the ability to make my own schedule while I'm at home, interspersed with all the traveling I do now, hope any sort of consistent routine has been shot to hell. I might get up at 7:30, I might get up at 11. Just like I might fall asleep during the Daily Show or at 4 AM. I might eat lunch at 11:30, I might eat it at 3. When I'm home, breakfast ceases to exist, and when I'm on the road it's a major meal. Back in my office days, I used to long for the flexibility of time. "If I could just come in an hour later, I could actually work out in the mornings without having to get up while it's still dark" was the refrain of every D-girl at the Big Man's. I don't miss the rigidity of a schedule, but without it, it's that much harder to self-motivate.

So I decided to take the cardio kick-box class. To attempt to inject a bit of routine back into my life. And to whip myself into slightly better shape for the long hours I'll be pulling at the WSOP. I want to be on my best game there. If Jen Leo can haul her ass out to Henderson at 5 AM for boot camp for Christ's sake, I can make it down the street to a few more of these (temporarily FREE) classes. There's a pilates one tomorrow at 4:30. Cyndy Violette swears by that shit.

* * * * *
Pauly is out with another outstanding issue of Truckin'. There are pieces by some new writers as well as Otis, BTreotch, and of course, Pauly himself.

Truckin' - May 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 5

1. 60 Hours in Amsterdam, Part I by Paul McGuire
I was worried that the Air France ticket agent in Nice was going to send my bags to Paris. He kept asking me if I was going to Paris and I responded with "Amsterdam" everytime he asked... More

2. Stuck in Monte Carlo by Otis Dart
It was actually the sea that I had stepped out on the balcony to see. I'd only been on the ground in Monte Carlo for a few hours. The moment I crashed into my room at the brand new Monte Carlo Bay Resort, I'd fallen into the most comfortable bed in the world... More

3. Emilio Estevez Loses His Tooth by BTreotch
Four minutes earlier, Emilio Estevez was beating his kid-brother Carlos while he was hog tied and strapped to the top rail of their swing set with cheap-itchy yellow rope... More

4. Confessions of a Man by Sigge S. Amdal
I should have asked her for a date. Any date at all. 4th of March, 6th of April, didn't really matter. As long as we could go and have a dinner, or see a movie or something. It's not like I'm craving a relationship, I've got too much to do already, but it stung inside of me knowing that I'd already lost a chance. A chance. Singular term. There could be more coming... More

5. A Grand Day Out by Susan Bently
On the other side of the road sat this German guy's car with a huge dent on the bonnet and his family sitting in the car, wife and children looking wide-eyed and pale. The bleeding carcass of a moose lay next to the car, dark patches of blood over the centerline... More

6. City of Sins by Clay Champlin
People head to Las Vegas for two reasons: salvation or condemnation. Those looking to be saved from their mundane Midwestern lives bask in the perpetual glow of the strip or gawk skyward at downtown's Freemont street experience... More

* * * * *
B.J. Nemeth is one of the most talented poker journalists out there and he hooked me up with a ticket to the "Vegas Premiere" of Curtis Hanson's long-awaited poker film, Lucky You up at Red Rock Casino last week. Check out the full review over at my PokerWorks blog. I'd been waiting a long time for this one.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Paris Hilton to Spend 45 Days in Jail; World to Temporarily Stop Turning

Socialite and object of papparazzi affection Paris Hilton has been sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating terms of her probation. Hilton was pulled over on Sunset Blvd. back in February and was charged driving with a suspended license.

When asked in court whether she knew she was not permitted to drive, Hilton said "oh my God like, my publicist like didn't like tell me I couldn't and I totally fired that ho anyway."

Paris wore a demure gray blazer and a preppy black headband accented with a black quilted Chanel purse. She cried as the verdict was read.

Paris has until June 5 to report for her jail time at the L.A. County jail facilty in Lynwood. We think that's vaguely near Cerritos. There is no word yet on whose bitch she'll be.

Over/under on FREE PARIS shirts for sale at Fred Segal: 60 hours

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays: Livin' on a Prayer

Whoooooaaaa we're halfway there...WHOOOOAAAA... livin' on a prayyyyerrr...

It's BON JOVI night baby!! And it actually featured all Bon Jovi songs, none of this crap like "artists that inspire Bon Jovi" (remember how The Cure allegedly inspired Gwen Stefani on Idol a few weeks ago? )

Going into the show, I thought this could really be Phil Stacey's moment to shine. He's the only guy left with the vocal chops to handle those power tenor runs that are a trademark of Bon Jovi melodies. The three diva girls would certainly be at a disadvantage this week, none of them exactly being Miss Rock 'n Roll, and Beat-Box Blake and Timber-Lite don't exactly scream "hair band" to me.

I immediately noticed that something was up with Paula's face tonight. Did all the Botox swell up her cheeks or something? She looked like someone with a nut allergy after eating half a pecan pie.

Phil Stacey: "Blaze of Glory"

"I was the kid who stood in the mirror and sang this with the comb in my hand... I've been singing this song for 15 years" said Phil. I guess that had to be back when he had hair. The words comb and Phil Stacey don't exactly free associate for me.

Phil blew. Me. Away. I was riveted. It might be the most fun I've had during an AI performance all season. It was a great vocal and the vocalist fit the song perfectly. Phil just might have saved himself. I don't know how could Simon go negative on that one. "I don't think you've done enough to last the week... you were like a bad actor playing a rock star." I thought it was his best yet. I would also like to thank Phil for hitting the self tanner this week in a major way. I no longer need to shield my eyes from the gamma rays reflecting off his dome.

Jordin Sparks: "Livin' On a Prayer"

When Jordin told America that her MOM grew up listening to Bon Jovi, I really felt my age. And I'm not that old. Put it this way: Livin' on a Prayer was recorded three years before Jordin Sparks was born.

You feel old now too, don't you?

So far, Jordin has been one of those contestants who can handle whatever is thrown at her. Well, perhaps until tonight. Though I didn't have as much of a problem with Jordin's vocal as some of the judges did (Simon said it was "verging on shrieking sometimes"), the performance was trying WAY too hard. Jordin is not a "rocker girl" so why go out of her way fake it? And badly? She knew she was in trouble from the first verse. Why not do the song the Jordin way instead? The girls are at a serious disadvantage this week given the genre-- so that's exactly why they have to choose a song and take it in a completely different direction. Jordin could have easily handled a spare, piano version of the song with a slower tempo, or even an "MTV Unplugged" style turn with just herself and an acoustic guitarist onstage. Re-imagining the original version of the song is so much of what made the performances later in the show work.

Now let's talk about the Diana Ross meets Chaka Khan fro. Bad idea. Just horrible. I didn't think that the 80's-inspired black babydoll-over-black-leggings outfit was that bad, though. Jordin dresses well for her body type, especially since the producers bound and gagged whomever put her in that cropped hoodie on Gwen Stefani night.

Since the scores are combined from last week and this week, I think Jordin might survive... but stranger things have happened.

LaKisha Jones: "This Ain't a Love Song"

"I've heard of Bon Jovi and seen him on Oprah, but I've never listened to his music."
-LaKisha Jones

With LaKisha, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. That top with the red cummerbund was horrid. Talk about not dressing for your body type. She clearly wasn't comfortable in it either. Luckily, her performance more than made up for poor fashion. LaKisha owned this song. She did everything with Bon Jovi that Jordin didn't do with her performance and blew the doors off the place. "LaKisha, I could actually kiss you after that." said Simon. And then, she did.

LaKisha is still quite vulnerable in tomorrow's double-elimination, but tonight's tour de force certainly puts momentum on her side.

Blake Lewis: "You Give Love a Bad Name"

"There's great... charm in it, but I don't know... this one is rolling the dice" said Bon Jovi, by way of introduction to Beat-Box Blake's performance. While Blake has never been my personal cup of tea, I really appreciated the ingenuity of this performance and actually welcomed back the beat boxing after it's long absence (was that his strategy all along?) Taking a risk like he did in this stage of the competition is a huge gamble, I mean like a 7-8 suited against pocket queens kind of gamble, but I think it paid off for him big time tonight. Talk about putting a personal stamp on the song. Not everyone is going to love Blake's style, but it was absolutely the right move for him at the right time.

Chris Richardson: "Wanted Dead or Alive"

Oh man... he forgot the lyrics in front of Bon Jovi! That's like, totally embarrassing! OK..I will never ever buy Timber-lite singing the lyrics "I'm a cowboy." Are you with me on that one? I think this is Timber-lite's swan song, so why not go out with a bang. This performance completely exposed just how thin and weak his voice is. It is now laid bare to the world. There is no power behind Timber-lite's nasal falsetto! Those backup singers were getting a serious workout on the choruses. I think Timber-lite is the only lock to go tomorrow night.

Melinda Doolittle: "Have a Nice Day"

Here's why every single performance by Melinda is in a class by itself. She connects with the song, with every word of the lyric. She really thinks about what she's singing, the whole meaning and emotion behind it. Simon said she was "like a young Tina Turner." Melinda's version of this song is a great example of how you can maintain part of the rock vibe-- a rock orchestration, a slight rock touch to her shirt-- but not go overboard to the point of being phony. Another thing that worked for Melinda (and this goes for LaKisha as well) is that the song she chose is not a classic. It hasn't been done at every karaoke bar in America. So putting her own stamp on it wasn't such a drastic change. Viva la Melinda, we'll see you next week!

Here's how I stand with our remaining contestants:

This week's Performance Rankings (week of 5/1):

1. Phil Stacey
2. LaKisha Jones
3. Melinda Doolittle
4. Beat-Box Blake
5. Jordin Sparks
6. Timber-lite

Overall Rankings:

1. Jordin Sparks
2. Melinda Doolittle
3. LaKisha Jones
4. Phil Stacey
5. Beat-Box Blake
6. Timber-lite

In trouble: Timber-lite, Phil Stacey, LaKisha Jones

Safe: Melinda Doolittle

Will be voted off: Timber-lite, and I think, unfortunately, Phil Stacey

Current Bodog odds on the remaining contestants:

Jordin Sparks: 10-11
Melinda Doolittle: 6-5
Blake Lewis: 5-1
LaKisha Jones: 12-1
Chris Richardson: 30-1
Phil Stacey: 40-1