Thursday, March 27, 2008

The First Elimination

I am sorry to report that I wasn’t able to see all the DWTS in its 2-hour entirety the other night. I had a friend who was preparing for an interview so I was catching what I could while talking to him and folding clothes. But here are the highlights as I saw them:

Kristi blew it up again, scoring her second 27 out of a possible 30 points. She is going to continue to lead the field for a while, barring her tripping and falling on the ground at some point.

Jason Taylor shook his groove thang and managed to match Kristi’s 27. It’s looking like a race between these two as far as who is going to get the first 10, and who will steal the first perfect score. But don’t sleep on Mario. With a strong 26, he’s going to be right on their heels. And I still contend he and his partner are a little more than strictly partners.

Adam Carolla, Penn Jillette, and Monica Seles still struggled. Steve Guttenberg was also among the lower scores, but personally, I think he was hosed a bit. I thought he made improvements from his first performances, but the judges didn’t see it that way.

Ultimately, there were no surprises when the eliminations were handed down, excusing Monica and Penn. I think that Monica’s nerves proved to be her undoing. She never seemed to be able to relax at all. And Penn didn’t do poorly, but he’s just so big and his partner so small that it just never quite reached a synergy.
As for next week, the people who aren’t getting their game up to par, and quickly at that, are going to show up as glaring under qualified. This isn’t necessarily because they’re that bad, but this season the field is just that good. Since next week they are going back to eliminating a single couple at a time, my bet is we will be sending off either Steve or Adam.

For a Friend...

Last week my wife had a minor car accident in the lot of our condo complex. It was nothing major. No injuries or tow truck needed. She came back in to wake me up, and tell me what happened, and admittedly, I was not thrilled. As it turned out, an honest, slow moving “oops” cost a few hundred bucks.

I had plans that day. I had just accepted my new job the afternoon before after months of looking. I was going to sleep in, go get my drug test done, hit the grocery store, and then go have a look at a few new car options. My drug test took almost an hour, not to mention I had to go home and come back again to prove that I was actually on a medicine I claimed to be on. Traffic sucked all four times I made the drive. I didn’t get to the grocery store. In the midst of all this we had to drop off the injured car for repairs, which called for me to borrow one from my mom. Needless to say, there was a lot of shuffling around and tedious work getting done. And I didn’t get to do hardly anything on my list.

About mid-day when I realized I wasn’t going to get to do anything I planned, I was pretty much mad…just flat out mad. Then I got a call from Vanik.

Vanik left me a message that I couldn’t hear very well. I was driving and distracted so I wasn’t concentrating too hard to be honest. But there was something about someone who we (static) deals with in the past (static) Paula died last night (static) and so on. I only knew one Paula, and we had just spoken the day before. She wasn’t sick or hurt or anything…no chronic illnesses. So I didn’t think anything of it, and finished errands. Once I was finished, I stopped by my office to talk to Vanik for some clarification, and was instead greeted with a slew of questions about Paula. The same Paula I knew. The same one I had worked with and been friends with for nearly 3 years. It was at that point, that it had dawned on me that this was not a coincidence. My friend, Paula, the one with whom I had exchanged countless real estate oriented pick me ups, the one who had called me on the morning of my wedding to say hello and she was thinking of us, the one who I had spoken to literally 24 hours prior to share my good fortune of my new job, and the one who excitedly congratulated me on my position was now gone. No symptoms, no signals, no history of anything adverse. No warning.

I called Trina. I never call Trina and she never calls me. We only talk on the phone about 6 times a year, if that, and those are in cases of emergencies. Of course she assumed I was calling about the total on the car repairs, and I gave her the number. And I quickly followed it with saying clearly that I didn’t care. Our cars are my babies. For me to not care about what happened to them or what it would cost to have them fixed was serious. I told her what had happened, and immediately she was ready to leave work to come be with me. I told her to stay, thanking her for the concern. But said again that I didn’t care about the cars. That’s all I could think of. I don’t care about the cars.

Reality became very clear to me that afternoon, and I sat down in the middle of my living room with my dog in my lap and lost it. I just cried for about 20 minutes. Then I composed myself, sucked down 2 beers back to back, which is something I never ever do, and lost it again for a few more minutes. Okay, so reality wasn’t so clear just then, but once I got myself together the second time, this is what came out…
I measured my bad day in dollars and cents for the most part. That, and in time lost as well. My day was wasted, I have nothing to show for it, and I was $900 poorer. And it didn’t matter because Trina was going to be home in a few hours. She was going to come in, and hug me, and see how I was, and we were going to get our car back, and have some sushi that night, or whatever. I thought I had a bad day? No…Paula’s fiancée Steve had a bad day. He would’ve wasted an afternoon and a sum of money to have her come home that day.

I don’t agree with the “live like you were dying” principle. I think that it gives people a license to live like an idiot because “who knows, you might die tomorrow”. Yes indeed you might. I would rather assume the role that I am going to live. If I’m ever injured in an accident, I want the docs to operate on me with the knowledge that I plan to live. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else around you feels the same way. Live like you are living, not dying. Love the ones your with. See them often. Don’t leave them angry.

As for Paula, if you knew her, you loved her, and that’s all there is to it. You couldn’t know her and not like her. She touched a lot of people after knowing them even if she knew them for a very short time. Her smile and happiness were infectious. The world is a lesser place with her loss. But rest assured she’s busy where she is making sure everyone she knew is as safe as she can make them

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DWTS pt.2

Last night the 6 competing women took the stage, and while amateurs themselves, made the men look particularly weak.

Shannon Elizabeth got things started for the ladies dancing with retruning professional, Derek Hough. Shannon looked the part in her outfit, and didn't do too badly all in all. She was a little bit stiff at a few points, and apparently not all that flexible of a girl which was made evident at a few points in her routine. Of course, it's not really her fault that Derek chose to have her do moves that required a certain level of flexability, but it didn't help her cause a great deal. Meanwhile, Derek's grin through the highlights of their training said without words "I've seen you naked in a move...I've seen you naked in a movie." She isn't a strong choice to win, but she'll hang around for a while.

Grand Slam tennis champ Monica Seles was set to perform with last year's professional finalist, Jonathan Roberts. Unfortunately, she struggled. She tried her best, but she was so nervous she was almost shaking at one point and nearly crying at another. She was awarded stright 5's, and while I don't think she'll be around much longer, she was MILES ahead of Adam Carolla who received stright 5's the night before.

Marissa Jaret Winokur was clearly vibrant and full of life. But she is, I'm sorry to say, on the larger side, and I think that will only allow for a certain level of grace. Honestly, while she was sweet and bubbly, it got a little old rather quickly. Again, she won't bring it home, but she'll compel the others around her to be better.

Priscilla Presley was rather impressive, if you can put aside the fact that her face is starting to look like Michael Jackson. She was very composed and elegant. Her partner, Louis van Amstel, did a great job with the routine's choreography allowing Priscilla to dance within herself the whole time. We'll be seeing her for a while.

Oscar winner Marlee Matlin was amazing. She dancing a very smooth routine, easily as smooth as the rest of the women, and lest we forget that she's deaf and can't hear the music. Carrie Ann made it clear that they were going to remove as much passion for her situation as possible to try to judge purely on talent. Fair is fair, but I think the judges over compensated a bit by giving her straight 7's. She deserved and 8 in there somewhere.

Kristi Yamaguchi brought the house down. Maybe she has an advantage being a figure skater, but don't forget, she never skated with a partner. She was elegant, smooth, confident, and enjoyed herself. She got straight 9's, outscoring everyone in the field regardless of gender. The judges even admitted as much as they had to really look for faults in order not to score her a 10. Like Mario, she may have set the bar a little to high a little too fast. But she is going to do some real damage to the field in short order.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Battle of the Reality TV Shows (not stars...shows)

Reality tv shows are rampant at this point in history. It makes sense on a lot of levels. It's cheaper to have one person win a hundred thousand life-changing dollars than to pay a cast $100k a piece per episode. Or in the case of a blockbuster hit like Friends or Seinfeld, several million per.

Does anyone really remember the first one? The show that started it all? I have asked this question of a good many people. I have gotten a good many responses. The one that seems to stick in everyone's head is Survivor. But if you think back a bit farther, you may remember a show about seven strangers picked to live in a house together and see what happens when people stop being nice...and start being real. The tagline went something like that, and the show was MTV's The Real World.

We love reality shows as a society. If you disagree, you're not paying attention. American Idol has been so successful, that before the start of the most recent season, ABC, NBC, and CBS got together and offered Simon Cowell $20 million to just walk away from Idol. They dominate the ratings. Look on the brightside; eventually, we will all have a shot at a grand prize on a reality show, or producers will run out of cast members.

MTV now has the Real World/Raod Rules Challanges where past cast members face off in various battles. People are eliminated in vaious ways according to different stipulations and rules which change season to season. There is always some backstabbing, various alliances, cheating and so on. They're entertaining as hell if nothing else. But with so many shows about the same topics to say nothing of the blatant rips offs, who knows what about anything?

My favorite blogs to write are the countdown-style ones. I have a number of them in my archives, and it's just a format that I like. So here now is my countdown of the Reality TV show Battles I would like to see the most.

5). The Real Housewives of Orange County vs. The Real Housewives of NYC: I saw the commercials for OC, and I thought these women were vile. I was convinced they were all talk, big-spending trophy wives. This is true to a point, but the richest women on that show make their own cash. Their husbands are living off them. The NYC crew is much more petty, with a debutant's sense of entitlement. I think the women in OC win this round.

4). Ghost Hunters vs. Paranormal State: I like both of these shows a great deal. There is a cetain level of requirement to suspend your disbelief in both cases. Ryan and Grant with the TAPS team (GH) presume all supernatural experiences to be false until proven true. This level of skepticism lends credibility to their investigation. Ryan and the Paranormal Research Society (PSU) does very introspective background research into the history of a scenario. What they uncover can be absolutely chilling. Fascinating, but chilling. While I really enjoy both shows, I like the tinacity with which Ryan's team approaches their investigations. PSU wins, but just barely.

3). Deadliest Catch vs. Ice Road Truckers: If you've seen Deadliest Catch even once and aren't addicted to it, you either watched the wrong show, or are lying. I love the peril, the attitudes, the tempers, and the payoffs. Ice Road Truckers, likewise dangerous. But with all due respect to those guys, it doesn't stack up to the possibility of being swept over a rail or crushed by a swinging pot. (A crab pot, not cooking utensil) Both groups of guys have guts, no doubt. I couldn't do either job I don't think. But the edge in danger along with the massive payoff for the crab fisherman gives them the win.

2). Top Chef vs. Hell's Kitchen: I love to cook, so this is a showdown I have to see. I would love to see Chef Tom Collichio grab 1 contestant from each season, and Gordon Ramsey do the same. And then, have a cullinary throwdown Iron Chef style to determine who's the best. As for the shows, let's see now; I like the real cooking scenarios provided by Chef Ramsey in Hell's Kitchen. But I enjoy the creativity that is used by the contestants on Top Chef. Tough call... but I think I like Top Chef a bit more.

1). Human Weapon vs. Fight Quest: What better way to celebrate the posturing nature of Americans by sending a few guys around the world to get an ass whupin' laid on them by guys half their size? By starting the show Human Weapon where Bill and Jason try to learn a martial art in a week's time and then fight someone who's been doing it for years. And what better way to assure continued immaturity? Grab Jimmy and Doug and do it all again on Fight Quest. The shows are a virtual cloning of one another. Human Weapon came first and examines some of the physical properties of what key moves work so well in different disciplines. Fight Quest, however, makes both guys fight at the end of the training. I'd love to see a 4-man battle royal to see who comes out on top. They have all been a party to the same styles, so they can agree on one and have at it. Ultimately, because it came first, Human Weapon has to have the edge. But the knock out punch is that Human Weapon not only has someone battle it out, but shows why everything works the way it does.

Have a look at any or all of them.

I'm out...

Dancing With the Stars

I decided at the end of Dancing With the Stars last season, that an on-going introspective, regular Joe's anaylsis of the dancing would be something entertaining for me to put together. It keeps me involved in a running project and gives me a creative outlet. Since I didn't get to see all of last season, I'm going to break it down this season for as many of the episodes as I can keep up with.

So here it goes...

The first thing I have noticed about this season, and to a degree last season, is that the stars are becoming more and more famous. Originally, there were some people they had to pull from the depths of virtual obscurity. But as the seasons have progressed, more current stars seem to have taken an interest.

Last night the 6 male contestants took the floor for the season opener. World-renowned magician, Penn Jillette led of the night with his partner, Dancing With the Stars Veteran, Kym Johnson. I can appreciate the physical difficulty of making your body do something it doesn't normally do. And I support the effort to overcome the mental difficulties of putting yourself in a position that isn't somewhere you're used to being. That goes for all the contestants. And Penn has the added difficulty of being easily a foot taller than his deminutive partner. Still, he looked particularly awkward and uncomfortable. The judges gave him some grief for his posture, but come on...it's like Shaq out there.

Christian de la Fuente was paired with 2-time DWTS winner Cheryl Burke. Historically, the latin men have always seemed to have some manner of innate ability to pick up the dances and move seamlessly. Not so much for Christian. He was okay for his first night out, but looked like he was slouching all night...a common theme amongst the men. But while the other pros watered down their moves to accommodate the novice level of their partners, Cheryl just kept right on spinning like a top with sharp and complex motions which succeeded only in making him look worse.

Funny man Adam Carolla was partnered with the other 2-time winner, Julianne Huff. I guess the producers decided that 2 wins were enough for her.

Actor, Steve Guttenberg had a wonderful first show. His dancing left a bit to be desired, but he really embraced the wholesome and entertaining nature of the program. He was gracious about the critiques that were offered to him, and his enjoyent of the evening was apparent all night.

NFL superstar Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins really took a chance by being a part of the cast. Ofcourse, he's going to catch three kinds of hell from his teammates for ballroom dancing in the off season, but he was flat out good. Like Penn, he's a particularly big guy. Shocker...a football player is big. But he moved very well and was well received by the judges and audience alike.

But the night belonged to R&B signer, Mario. At 21, he is the youngest competitor on the show, and he has been paired with Karina Smirnoff. Karina, for those of you not keeping score at home, was the pro who managed to take another Mario, Mario Lopez, all the way to the finals a few seasons back. Mario was smooth, graceful, and personable, a true triple threat to all contestants. While the men generally were scoring in the mid to upper teens, Mario started his conquest with a solid 24. Last season, Sabrina Bryan started off in a similar manner only to be ousted in what most fans considered to be borderline unacceptable. Hopefully this won't happen here. His biggest issue, however, may be that he set the bar too high too fast for his future performances. But unless one of the woman does something spectacular, he should run away with it.

The women perform tonight at 9. Let's see what they have to offer.