February 26, 2009

American Idol: Group Two . . . Wrong Song Choices and Adam Lambert

You know, I thought last week's group was fairly dull and replete with wrong song choices. Compared to last night's episode, last week's contestants were on fire. And I say that with heaping sarcasm.

Just to shake things up a bit, I suppose, the judges have completely rearranged their order over in their Table of Righteousness. Randy is now on the far left, as opposed to Simon, Kara is to his left, then Paula and then Simon. Ryan makes some stupid remark about Simon needing better lighting (uh, he's not the only one, Seacrest), Kara says that song choice is important (duh), Paula echoes Kara, Randy says something of absolutely no consequence and Simon has absolutely no advice for the contestants because it's a little too freaking late for that.

With that, we're ready to go!

Unfortunately for her, because the first spot is usually the spot of slow, painful death, Jasmine is going to lead off the show. I like Jasmine, I really do. She's a very pretty girl, she seems nice and she sounded fantastic during her auditions and Hollywood week. She caused Bikini Girl to become roadkill and I will always be thankful for that. Too bad that she picked a very meh song - - "Love Song". She doesn't sound terrible but when you have the First Spot of Death you need to bring it in a blaze of glory (quoting Jon Bon Jovi) or you're sent packing. Randy starts off the judging by giving a shout out to Jasmine's home state of Mississippi, so you know this isn't going to be good for Jasmine. He thinks she was pitchy and maybe the song wasn't the best choice. Kara mourns the fact that Jasmine is so darn commercial (i.e., she photographs well and is good looking) but just didn't bring her A game tonight. Paula agrees with Kara (again) and tells Jasmine that she had good intentions of making "Love Song" her own but it caused her to go off pitch. Simon is disappointed because as good as Jasmine looks, she simply doesn't have the great voice to match. Simon is roundly booed by the audience. He doesn't understand why he repeats what RaKaPa have already stated and he gets booed and they don't. We love to hate you, Simon! Seacrest annoyingly asks Randy if Jasmine deserves a spot and Randy says "commercial". Does he mean Jasmine is commercial or is he trying to tell the director to go to commercial, pronto? Regardless, I don't believe we'll see Jasmine again in this competition.

Matt the Piano Dueler is up next. I remember his audition and I remember him from Hollywood Week because he gave a total badass performance of Ray Charles' "Georgia". Tonight, however, he tells us he's going to be singing Coldplay's "Viva La Vida". I'm curious to see what he can do with this because I'm one of the few people probably remaining that would admit to a healthy liking of Coldplay. Matt, however, is going to attempt to inject some soul into Coldplay. Should be interesting. It's actually pretty good and he has a really strong voice. He doesn't sound as good as he did during Hollywood Week but comparing Ray Charles to Coldplay is like . . . comparing Ray Charles to Coldplay. Kara is the first judge to crush Matt the Piano Dueler. She tells him his Coldplay Soul experiment blatantly failed. Paula misses Matt's piano and in her Vicodin/Vodka induced haze tells Matt that she thought his live performance was much better than his rehearsal. A ha! We always knew the judges listened to their rehearsals and based their reviews on that. Simon thought Matt's performance was horrible and the song choice did him in - - he should stick to his blues/soul roots. Randy tries to pacify the situation a bit by telling Matt that he is a much better artist than Chris Martin because Chris Martin couldn't sing Ray Charles if his life depended on it and Seacrest gives a faint little fan bleet to Chris Martin.

Someone named Jeanine is up next and I swear, I do not remember this girl at all. That cannot bode well for her. She tells us she is going to sing "This Love" by Maroon 5 because it's one of her favorite bands. So . . . Jeanine's performance is predictably bad. Karaoke level bad not Amanda Overmyer doing a hatchet job on Kansas bad. Paula is voted to start the critique of Jeanine and the first thing out of Paula's mouth is how hot Jeanine's legs are in her short shorts. Oi vey. If "I Heart Everyone!" Paula can only compliment you on your physical appearance during a singing competition, you're in deep, deep trouble. She also then inexplicably says "it's Season Eight". Well, that's inexplicable to us but to Paula and the Care Bears that come visit her it probably makes perfect sense as to how that's relative to critiquing Jeanine's performance. Simon says the performance was absolutely terrible although Jeanine does indeed have good legs. Randy agrees on the legs and sadly says that his favorite part was the end because it meant the song was over. Kara gamely tries to review Jeanine's performance but between Randy's interruptions and Simon's comments about Jeanine's lips, she's on a rapidly sinking ship. Yes, we know the producers didn't show you AT ALL during the auditions and Hollywood Week and that totally sucks but this is American Idol and the producers and judges have already decided on their favorites and you are simply fodder, Jeanine.

Nick Mitchell aka Norman Gentle is up next and this makes the entire night of brain numbing banter and "singing" worthwhile. Nick as Nick tells us that Simon's hatred for him is like a child having his lunch stolen. Nick as Norman will be performing "And I'm Telling You" with his contractually required shiny shirt, khaki golf shorts and a headband and wristband that he swiped from Olivia Newton-John's dressing room in 1981. Nick as Norman's performance is pure gold. It is the most energetic, exciting performance so far, certainly the most engaging, and Nick as Norman even fondles the American Idol logo sign before dropping to his knees on the stage and falling over. I can't forget the shoutout to Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie!") in the front row. Simon, as expected, finds that Nick as Norman or Nick as Nick gives him a headache. He fervently hopes that America in all its wisdom will choose to vote Nick as Norman or Nick as Nick off the show. I find that just more than a bit hypocritical since Nick as Norman and Nick as Nick is on the stage precisely because the judges, including Simon, chose to put him through. Simon believes Nick as Norman to be a horrific comedy act and in one of the best comebacks ever, Nick as Norman tells Simon "It takes one to know one, Sassy Pants!" You just know Seacrest is seething with jealousy over that line . . . and more than just a little bit fascinated. Randy found Nick as Norman entertaining and funny, Dawg, and Kara is in agreement. She states the obvious - - Nick as Norman is definitely memorable. Paula, too, finds him about as fun as a barrel of monkeys, which really is the only thing obviously missing from Nick as Norman's stage act.

So redheaded Allison is up next and she's ONLY SIXTEEN! Ryan does some talk thing with her in that reddish room off to the side of the stage but thank God for DVRs so I don't have to listen to some crap I could give a rat's ass about. I do stop fast forwarding long enough to hear Allison say she's performing Heart's "Alone". Really? Wasn't this one of "those songs" that the judges say should be off limits because Carrie Underwood blew everyone away with it? Do these people never learn? So she comes out and starts singing . . . and maybe I've been hit with tone deaf stick because I don't get it. I mean, her voice is okay. It sounds strangely like Velma, one of Marge Simpson's sisters. You know, the gravely 2 pack a day, weary of life voice which is strangeness in itself coming from someone who is ONLY SIXTEEN! I just think the choice of song is bad. Would Janis Joplin have sung this song? No! Would Nancy Wilson have sung it after a three day bender? Well, maybe in concert but not to record it. Anyhow, I fully expect for the judges to take Allison to task on her song choice but instead, they are worshipping at the Temple of Allison. What?? This is all strangely reminiscent to me of the judges wetting themselves in sheer amazement over the sounds of a mad Irish cow stomping around their stage and shouting at them. Whatever. It's obvious that Allison is one of their favorites and she could have run out on stage and sung the Lucky Charms jingle and Randy would have declared that some mad singing out of the box.

Kris Allen is up next and I truthfully do not understand why he was not showcased more during Hollywood Week because he is cute and sexy hot in a guy next door kind of way. Kris says that since the judges felt he didn't show a lot of confidence, he will be singing "Man in the Mirror". I suppose if you equate strange man-child with cosmetic surgery addiction and possible molestation addiction to "confidence" that all makes perfect sense. Not that I care really because Kris Allen can just stand there and look good and I'll vote him through. I'm really that shallow. Although I am not a big fan of the song, Kris does sound good. His voice is controlled and he doesn't seem to hit a bum note. Which means the judges will probably crucify him. Kara tells Kris that his song choice sucked balls and really didn't do much to showcase him. Not that we would know since they haven't really shown us what the guy can do. Paula disagrees and thinks Kris did wonderful things with the song. Surprise of all surprises, Simon agrees with Paula! He also thinks Kris did a good job and surprised the judges not only with his song choice but his confidence. Paula is so surprised (read: stoned/drunk/high) that she slaps a wet one on Simon. Simon does quantify that while Kris isn't the best singer - - according to Simon, Danny Gokey gets that honor - - he is pretty commercial. And commercially pretty.

Megan Corkrey is up next and I remember her audition but it seems like it was sooooo loooooong ago since we saw next to nothing of her during Hollywood Week. She will be singing "Get Your Records On", a song I will horrifyingly and forever associate with Antonella Barba. It's "a-ight, dawg" as Randy would say. Megan does sound strangely like redheaded Allison - - if she'd been on a 3 day bender. I still find her right arm tattoo disturbing and distracting. I also don't understand the weird spasms she's having while singing. Is it her white man's version of dancing? Or is the Puppet Master fucking with her? Paula compliments Megan on her choice of song as well as the delivery. In case the viewing audience isn't clear, Paula hearts Megan and says so. Simon thinks Megan is a "funny little thing" and thinks the first half of the song is better than the second. Kara says that Megan is a package artist, whatever that truly means.

Matt Breitzke is up next and I really like him. He's very "real", whatever that means. And yes, I'm quoting myself. He is singing "If You Could Only See" because the song is about love, which is pretty cool. Vocally, it's absolutely perfect. No pitch problems, no range problems. Matt may not be the most exciting performer and he is lacking in presence, but wasn't Cookie at this point last year? The judges, as predictable as always, berate Matt for song choice. Simon hates the song and is frustrated by Matt's choice. Matt disagrees with Simon, although he thanks him for his opinion, and you have to love someone who can stand up to Simon. Randy thought the performance was pretty boring. Kara is disappointed and Paula agrees. I really don't understand these judges. Even they admit that Matt technically was amazing - - great voice, great delivery, nothing wrong there. They don't think the song was the best though. Couldn't they have said the same about Allison? Her voice wasn't bad but I thought the song choice was horrendous. Yet they loved her and they are disappointed in Matt? I hope Matt goes through.

Next up is Jesse Langseth, another person who seems to have just wandered in off the street. And yet another single mom. This is the year of the single mom at Idol, is it not? So Jesse is going to be singing "Bette Davis Eyes", a song she thinks is one of the best ever written. Questioning that aside, her performance isn't bad. Strangely enough, she too has a smoky, gravely voice like Allison and like Megan. Randy thinks she was cool, but finds that sad. Jesse doesn't understand and asks him to elaborate on what exactly he wants from her. Because Randy pulled his usual "outside the box" commentary. He tells her to stretch her range which I find totally confusing because I didn't think "Bette Davis Eyes" had all that much range to it. Kara tells Jesse she's really digging her Flashdance inspired flashback sweater (remember the off the shoulder sweaters?) and says her range was good. Take that, Randy! Paula says that Jesse is "captivating" and memorable. Simon questions how memorable Jesse is and says she's too cool for school. Um, okay.

Kai Kalama is up next and I really liked him during auditions. He sounded good and I loved the fact that he wanted to win to help his ill mother. I'm a sap, what can I say? Kai will be singing "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and I'm sappy enough to probably like it. Kara likes his commitment to his performance but mentions pitch problems. Paula agrees with the pitch issues but thinks Kai is a great little performer. Simon believes it's like a wedding or hotel performance. Which isn't always bad, truthfully. Randy thinks Kai was playing it safe. Maybe too safe.

Mishavonna Henson, besides having a truly unfortunate name that cannot possibly be preprinted on pencils, keyrings, lunchbags or barrettes or anything cool like that, is another one of those Idolizers that I have not seen previously and must assume is in the competition only to be pink slipped early in the competition. She sings "Drops of Jupiter", one of those songs I have heard before but can't tell you who sings it and I don't care enough to go and find out. She doesn't do a bad job and refreshingly, she doesn't sound like the Marlboro Pack of Allison, Megan and Jesse. It's definitely a serious performance and intense. The judges, quite naturally, find Mishavonna too intense and serious. She's ONLY EIGHTEEN! and she's acting like she's fifty. Well, I suppose how a fifty-year old Mick Jagger would act because the only other fifty year old female rocker I can think of is Madonna and she would be humping the stage by now. Oh wait, is Joan Jett fifty? Because Joan Jett is intense and serious and wears black leather and Mishavonna is probably totally like Joan Jett was at eighteen. But I digress. Kara wants Mishavonna to lighten up beause Kara wonders exactly where Mishavonna fits in the music industry. Yeah, there's a few people in the music industry I have wondered about myself and it ain't Mishavonna. Randy shouts some inane nonsense about how Mishavonna made a solo song out of a band song. What the fuck? Did someone forget Randy's medication? Last time I checked Heart was a band and no one has gotten called out yet making "Alone" into a solo. Shut up, Randy. For real. Before she's hustled off the stage, Mishavonna stresses that she can be totally crazy in a bizarre attempt to garner the Tatiana vote. Interesting.

Adam Lambert has the pimp spot, thereby insuring that he will return. Adam is going to be less theatrical (no!) and has chosen a song by his mom's favorite band, the Rolling Stones. It's "Satisfaction" and I'm wondering if Randy is going to crucify Adam for making "Satisfaction" into a solo artist song. What an idiot Randy is. So Adam is decked out in black and starts "Satisfaction" kind of slow and maybe a little worrisome and then rocks it out in an Adam Lambert kind of way. He's prancing and he's preening and he's doing the eyefucking thing and I'm finding this all strangely attractive and addicting and I'm not quite sure why because when I honestly and truly think about it, Adam's hair reminds me of a Monchici after you've brushed it down nice and neat. Not that I mean that as an insult to Adam because I do like him and again, he's strangely addictive. Like the Edward Fucking Cullen of the stage. The only thing he is missing is the sparkle. So the audience is going crazy for Adam doing Mick Jagger as Edward Fucking Cullen because Mick Jagger only got laid so much because he was a rock singer and not because he looked like a byproduct of Claymation. Paula jumps out of her seat and says she has no words but quite naturally then finds a few and says she feels as though she was at an Adam Lambert concert. Simon found his performance crazy, but in a good way. Randy thinks Adam is Steven Tyler meets Fall Out Boy meets Robert Pattinson. Totally. I think this is the most intelligent thing Randy has uttered all night, if not in the last eight seasons. Upon hearing Robert Pattinson's name, Seacrest comes skipping out on stage and squees in glee over the iconic vampire. Seacrest is agape that Randy compared Adam Lambert to Edward Fucking Cullen and Adam is all "I know, right? Twilight is my favorite book!" Which is cool and all because I'm totally on the Edward Fucking Cullen love train but I'm having images of Randy, Seacrest and Adam in their jammie at a slumber party, squealing over Twilight and Edward Fucking Cullen.

So, in all, I found this a very strange episode. It seemed to go on forever. I think Adam Lambert has as much a chance of being cut as Tom Cruise does getting laid at a nymphomaniac convention. So he should pretty much wrap up the male vote (Adam, that is, not the Mighty Midget). Allison, in all likelihood, will get the female vote despite growling and hacking out one of my favorite Heart songs.

Who gets the coveted third spot? Nick Marshall as Norman Gentle is Vote for the Worst's pick. So it could certainly be him. Matt Breitzke is very likable and his performance was vastly underrated by the judges. Kris Allen turned in a good performance and brings the sexy pretty.

I guess we'll have to wait until tonight and suffer through 45 minutes of nonsense to get to the results.

February 20, 2009

Fatal Vision: My Journey from Probably Guilty to Possibly Innocent to Absolutely Guilty

Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald in 1967

Posting a remembrance of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald on Tuesday led me to think what a long, strange journey it's been for me since 1985, when I first saw the miniseries Fatal Vision and then read the accompanying book.

Both are about the 1970 slayings of Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald's pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters, Kimberley and Kristen, at Fort Bragg. The murders made big news back in 1970 because they happened only six months or so after the Manson Family murders and they seemed very similar, at least in brutality and the fact that both Colette MacDonald and Sharon Tate were pregnant at the time of their deaths.

The book and miniseries both came to the conclusion that MacDonald was guilty of butchering his family. After seeing the miniseries I believed that he was probably guilty; after reading the book, I felt he was probably still guilty but something about the case didn't sit right with me.

That feeling lasted a handful of years, during which I re-read Fatal Vision many times, also read Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer, which suggested that Fatal Vision author Joe McGinniss may have betrayed MacDonald and read Fatal Justice, which claimed to tell the entire story about what happened at Fort Bragg inside the MacDonald residence, complete with many examples of the government's misconduct and MacDonald's innocence.

Based solely on Fatal Justice, and my earlier feelings of unease about what I learned from Fatal Vision, I began to feel that MacDonald could be innocent of the horrible crimes he was convicted of in 1979 (and sentenced to three life terms) and, at the very least, did not get a fair trial.

During that time there was also a program called False Witness that supported MacDonald's account of that terrible evening back in 1970 and it seemed as though he was gaining more supporters and getting closer to a new trial and possibly freedom. I honestly began to believe this was a man who had suffered one of the worst injustices imaginable . . . convicted of a crime you did not commit.

About two months ago, I found a website hosted by Christina Masewicz, who had attended the 1979 murder trial where MacDonald was convicted. She had been interested in the case since 1970. She had posted copies of all the legal documents on her website, and she had written a lengthy book about the case, from 1970 until recently. She too had believed MacDonald innocent of the crimes, until she began reading the many documents connected to the case and the transcript of MacDonald's testimony during his Article 32 hearing, mere months after the murders.

Reading these documents myself on her website and in her book, my opinions toward the crime and, in particularly, MacDonald radically changed.

For example, MacDonald went on The Dick Cavett Show in December of 1970, ostensibly to ask the public for help in solving the murders. It had not yet been a year since his family had been demolished. He spent the majority of his time on air not talking about his loved ones and the terrible acts committed upon them, but about the injustices he had been forced to endure, complete with barbs and criticisms of the Army and making jokes about the Army. Truman Capote, who was in attendance that night, proclaimed him guilty of committing the murders himself. Dick Cavett later said that MacDonald's affect was all wrong.

When the crime scene was processed originally, investigators found a large urine stain on the bottom sheet of the master bedroom bed, which was determined to match the blood type of Kimberley, MacDonald's oldest daughter. MacDonald, however, insisted that it was Kristen that was in bed with his wife that night, forcing MacDonald to sleep on the couch. Even when confronted with the blood typing evidence, showing it was impossible that the fresh urine stain was made by Kristen, he continued to insist it was his youngest daughter. Why lie over something that seems, on its face, relatively minor? Perhaps because that fact isn't so minor . . . perhaps Kimberley being in that bedroom, or wetting that bed, is what started the fatal argument with his wife that night.

I have seen the autopsy reports and pictures from the autopsies, as well as crime scene photos. It was a horrifically bloody scene and all three family members were terribly brutalized. Colette had been bludgeoned so badly she was unrecognizable. Both of her arms were broken, one was broken in two places and she had suffered stab wounds to her chest and upper body from both a knife and an icepick. Kimberley had been beaten so badly about the head and face that bone actually protruded from her face and brain matter was found in the doorway to the master bedroom, where she was initially struck with a club. As she lay dying, or so near to death it was of little matter, she was stabbed 8-10 times in the neck with a knife. Kristen suffered more than 30 stab wounds to her upper torso and back, made by a knife and icepick. One of her fingers had a through-and-through slice where she had held her hand up, in an attempt to defend herself. Jeffrey MacDonald had a contusion (raised bump) on his forehead - - with no broken skin - - a cut or abrasion on his upper chest and an incision to his chest, which necessitated a pneumothorax. Which of these is not like the other?

MacDonald's head "wound" didn't even require a Band-Aid. His 5 year old daughter had brain matter left on the floor. His wife had her skin torn down to her skull. MacDonald's chest wound that required the medical attention was a single wound, a clean incision. Colette, Kimberley and Kristen all suffered multiple stab wounds. Kristen was only 2 years old and sustained more than 30 stab wounds.

Colette had initially been attacked in the master bedroom, had been rendered unconscious by one or two blows to the head by the club, but had then regained consciousness and had gone to Kristen's room, in an attempt to protect her, where she endured a horrendous beating.

MacDonald has always claimed that a band of hippie intruders broke in his house that night and slaughtered his family. If such people had been present and if such people would absolutely destroy small children - - who could not have identified them - - and if such people would bludgeon a woman 5 months pregnant in front of or over the body of her 2 year old daughter, why would they leave Jeffrey MacDonald with only a slight bump on his forehead? MacDonald claims that he was knocked unconscious from this blow. Why not finish him off? Why mutilate children but leave behind the sole person who can identify you? And how is it that Colette could have endured such a horrible beating and yet was still able to attempt to protect her family, while MacDonald, who claimed he only wanted to protect his family, went down with a relatively small blow?

MacDonald also claimed that he awoke on the living room sofa to Colette's and Kimberley's screams, to find himself confronted by four intruders, armed with at least one knife, an icepick and a club. Colette and Kimberley were both attacked with these weapons. If these weapons were in the living room, along with the intruders, who were they screaming at? Kimberley's injury from the club was so severe, she would not have been able to scream; it would have been so massive that she would have slipped into an immediate coma and death shortly thereafter. Further, if Colette and Kimberley had already been attacked, why was none of their blood found in the living room?

For these reasons, I have come to believe that Jeffrey MacDonald is indeed guilty of murdering his family. Such a revelation has left me feeling saddened for Colette, Kimberley and Kristen and angry with MacDonald. He had so much and he destroyed it. Colette, Kimberley and Kristen had so much to live for and they lost it.

They are the real victims in this case. Not Jeffrey MacDonald, who even 39 years after the crime, continues to insist he's a victim.
Colette MacDonald being walked down the aisle by her stepfather, Freddy Kassab, in 1963
Kimberley MacDonald, aged 3
Kristen MacDonald, 1968 or 1969

Jeffrey MacDonald is right where he should be. In a federal penitentiary.
The many faces of convicted triple murderer Jeffrey MacDonald:

American Idol: Group One . . . Bad Song Choices, a Subdued Tatiana and Danny Gokey

Season 8 of American Idol has now officially begun. It's 2 hours and it's live and Ryan is all jazzed about that, as if he's never gone on t.v. live before. He does his usual shtick with the judges and particularly with Simon and it's just as annoying as ever. Randy is a big bag of blah. Kara is all nervous. Paula is somewhere over the rainbow. Simon is bitchy. I love this show.

The set up is a little different this year. Instead of the bottom 2 vote getters getting shown the door, the top male, top female and the next top vote getter will be getting through. The rest of the contestants will be shown the door, unless they are granted one of the 3 wildcard spots the judges will be able to use.

Group sing. Does anyone care? I don't. Thank God for DVR and fast forward.

So Jackie Tohn is up first and I can pretty much guarantee before she even opens her mouth that she had better be praying for that wildcard spot because being the lead-off batter sucks. She is singing "A Little Less Conversation" - - and seeing as how basically annoying I found her during auditions, there might be a hidden meaning in this song title, Jackie. So she's apparently stolen Olivia Newton-John's black leather pants from the final scenes of Grease and she's added a hideous red or fuchsia belt to them and white high tops. I just report it, people.

She's all over the stage and very, very energetic. I imagine this is what Paula would be like if she switched her Vicodin for speed. Speaking of Paula, she is up and dancing to Jackie's performance. But remember, Paula is the woman who last season reported on Jason Castro's performance before Jason actually performed.

Randy praises Jackie on being energetic but says the singing itself wasn't really there. In case you didn't know, that's Randy code for "you sucked". Kara pretty much says what Randy tried to say - - Jackie is energetic but it probably isn't going to save her ass. Paula praised Jackie because, after a few Vicodin with a vodka chaser, Sanjaya would sound hot. Simon berates Jackie for playing the clown.

Next up is one of those mystery contestants that we really didn't see much of at all. This guy is named Ricky Braddy but I really want to call him Ricky Bobby. Ricky Bobby is fresh off a job serving chicken fingers and finding that perfect cardigan sweater. He is singing a song called "Song for You" and he's actually very, very good. He can definitely sing but Simon knocks him down a few dozen pegs by telling him he has absolutely no star quality. The other judges, however, absolutely loved him so it's anybody's guess at this point as to whether or not Ricky Bobby will live to see another day.

Alexis Grace is up next and after the judges told her to "dirty" herself up during the audition process, she has gone and added pink streaks to her hair. She is cute as all get out though and we are informed she is going to sing "Never Loved a Man" by Aretha. (If you've watched Idol long enough, you know that some people do not ever need last names. Aretha is one of them.) Girlfriend does an amazing job with this song - - because Aretha is never easy, you know. For such a tiny little girl she has a big voice in there. The judges are falling all over themselves to worship at the temple of Alexis Grace. Kara tells her the genie is out of the bottle - - hope that's not a sign that Miss Alexis peaked too early. Paula calls attention to the fact that Alexis is ONLY TWENTY! but Alexis corrects her and points out that she turned twenty-one. Simon gives her a backhanded compliment by telling her she's the best of the evening, but they have only heard 3 people at this point. Hmmm . . . Simon giveth and Simon taketh away. Such is Idol. He does compare her to Kelly Clarkson though and label her a "dark horse" of the competition.

Hey, there's Doogie Houser! And Ted Danson!

Brent Keith is up next and I vaguely remember him. He's going to be singing "Hicktown". As I don't care for country music in the slightest, his performance doesn't do much for me. Randy makes some weird comment about Brent performing at a chili cookoff, with Randy and Simon present and Simon is predictably and understandably confused as to what exactly a chili cookoff has to do with anything. That Randy! Simon, quite naturally, doesn't care for Brent's performance and disses him by labeling his performance "safe" and "boring". Seacrest, however, sticks up for Brent Keith and shows a little snotface to Simon by stating that country music fans won't find Brent boring or forgettable. I suppose we shall see.

Stevie Wright is up next and while I really liked her during her auditions, I absolutely detest what she's doing now. She's singing a Taylor Swift song that I don't know and that certainly does herself no justice. I suppose the judges told her she needs to sound more like her 16 or 17 year old self, and step back from Etta James' "At Last" (which I love, by the way, whether you're 17 or 70) but now she just sounds like a giddy teen doing karaoke. She is still smiley and basically adorable though, even as Randy proclaims her performance the worst of the night. (Note to Randy . . . you just wait). Kara and Paula basically try to soften the blow of breaking the bad news to Stevie, while Simon tells her flat out she sucked. I'm definitely feeling worried for Stevie Wright.

Anoop ("Anoop Dawg") is up next and I have to say, he is pretty much my favorite regardless of what he sings. Anyone who can proudly admit they wrote a thesis on the evolution of barbecue is okay in my book. Anoop is singing Monica's "Angel of Mine" and it's a departure from the Anoop we're used to, but a blazing hot departure, in my opinion. Anoop may look a wee bit uncomfortable up there but his voice sounds good. Anoop is the man. Randy reminds America that Anoop is Anoop Dawg and then says the performance was sharp. Kara wonders if it was a good song choice for him, that maybe he didn't have the depth for it or something like that. Paula tells us how much we love Anoop and compares him to Bryan McKnight. Simon wants to know why Anoop chose that song (it was the first R&B song Anoop really liked) and declares it too "old" for Anoop.

Casey Carlson is up next and she is tackling the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". However, she has changed the "she" to a "he" and completely jacked up the arrangement. Seriously, this version gives "hideous" a new meaning. Girlfriend sounds worse than amateur karaoke night and she's winking and gesturing horribly on top of that. Randy calls her performance some sort of weird karaoke. Kara declares the Police iconic (who knew?) and basically said Casey should not have touched that song. Paula tells her that she's a pretty girl that appeals to all the males - - which you know is a kiss of death coming from Paula. I believe Haley Scarnato heard this too before she was pink slipped. Simon tells Casey she was atrocious and that she should never have been allowed to sing that song. All in all, Casey looks screwed.

Michael Sarver is up next and he is going to sing some Gavin DeGraw song I don't know. But Michael sings earnestly and you just can't help but like him, even if he's not the best performer out there. Randy didn't really appreciate the song and thinks Michael should return to soulful roots. Kara thinks the song was a crowd pleasure but doesn't think it shows Michael at his best. Paula was freaked out by how many times Michael shifted the microphone between his hands. Simon actually gives Michael a bunch of compliments, between stating that he likes Michael and he hopes America will like Michael and push him through. Very un-Simon like.

Ann Marie Boskovich is next and she sings "Natural Woman" and does it very well, indeed. Ted Danson even gives her a standing O. Randy, however, complains about the song choice and says some crap about not knowing who she is as an artist (unlike Casey Carlson, I suppose). Kara applauds Ann Marie for coming out of her shell but didn't like the song choice either. Paula thinks A-M is courageous. Simon says that A-M sounds like a hotel singer and her voice wasn't nearly good enough for the song.

Here is Stephen Fowler. If you don't remember, he's the dude who forgot his lyrics twice during Hollywood week but still managed to get through because Simon's rule of "forget the lyrics and you're out" was total bullshit. Stephen is singing "Rock with You" and can I just say right now that if the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" is off-limits, Michael Jackson's entire catalog should be. The song is just kind of there, and Stephen's voice is okay but the song really didn't do it any favors. Randy hated it and hated the song choice. Theme of the night! Kara thought he was better when he forgot the lyrics because he actually had an emotional connection with the song. How the hell are you supposed to have an emotional connection with "Rock with You"? Paula thinks Stephen should have sang the Cookie song Stephen forgot the lyrics too, as it would have shown the judges and America why Stephen was given the pass. I think this is the first time tonight Paula has made sense. She also says this song is the kiss of death because only Michael Jackson should do it. Simon, predictably, knifes Stephen and says the last ten seconds were decent but the rest blew.

Tatiana Del Taco is up next and she will be singing Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You". Oh shit. Kill me now. This might be a good time for the audio to inexplicably go out on my t.v. But of course that doesn't happen because that only happens during one of my favorite shows, when something very important is being revealed. So back to Tatiana. Who actually can singing this effing song! I am floored . . . not only because she can sing but that she also chose a song by an artist that has been repeatedly proclaimed "off limits" for most Idols. It really isn't fair that such a lunatic can sing so well . . . although Tatiana is unsettlingly calm tonight. Randy is amazed, as well, that Tatiana can sing although he will only give her that she had "moments". Wow, he really doesn't like her. Kara thinks Tatiana is a firecracker but is scared by her. She wants to know exactly who Tatiana is in the industry. Yet another ongoing theme. Tatiana thinks she's a personality and a celebrity and pretty soon her head may be bigger than Simon's. Paula states the obvious, which is that Tatiana is very talked about but she, like Kara, wants to know who Tatiana is. Simon says that Tatiana is a drama queen, much like Paula. Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Cowell.

Danny Gokey gets the pimp spot and if you don't think Idol wants him to make the top five, at least, you're sipping out of Paula's cup. He is singing Mariah Carey's "Hero", yet another ar-teest that usually deemed "off limits". Danny Gokey sings his heart out and all of us eat it up because we're hokey and easy to please like that. Best friend Jamar is in the front row looking as if he's about to cry. The judges lose their shit over Danny Gokey. Randy says something completely inexplicable about Danny being the diva or demon. Don't get it. Kara thanks him for the hope he gives us all. Paula says he was stellar but then reverts back to her usual Abdulisms by giving him two words with a hyphen in them - - sold out arenas. Simon says he was good, he's likable and has a good voice but he's not buying the same drug Randy, Kara and Paula are. Simon is such a buzzkill.

So with the greatness that is my DVR, I was able to watch the performance show and the results back to back. The results show was basically a waste of 45 minutes. The results could have been read in 15 minutes but Idol will find a way to stretch it to an hour. And that includes bringing back Hot Michael and Plant Carly from last season to sing a duet. Hey, Hot Michael has an album coming out in May!

The long and short of it, basically, is that 3 people are going through. The others are back home, unless the judges throw them a lifeline at some point. Casey is the first one called to the stage so you know she's history, even without her shitastic performance. Bye Casey. Stephen Fowler is next. Alexis Grace is next called and you just know she made it. As an added bonus, Alexis gets to sing her song again! Just so we know why we voted her through, I suppose. Jackie and Ricky Bobby come out and both are sent packing. Sad for Ricky Bobby, because he can actually sing and was totally shortchanged when the auditions were aired. Anoop and Michael Sarver come down together and Ryan tries to make it all nervewracking but only looks like a douche. He states that only one of these men will be moving on and . . . it's Michael! Holy shit! Anoop didn't make it? What the truck??? I'm sure even the judges are shocked at this point. Michael is giddy with happiness and sings his song again and he really is likable. I think any level of suspense is gone, since we all know that Danny Gokey made it. Ann Marie, Stevie and Brent stand up and are shot down together. That leaves Tatiana and Danny Gokey. Tatiana attempts to place her arm on Danny's as a sign of support and togetherness but Danny keeps his arms locked behind his back. Ouch. Still no real suspense. Tatiana sung well but she annoys the shit out of everyone. Danny sung well but he gives everyone hope, so of course he's in! Tatiana crumbles and Danny lets out a whoop - - no handshake or hug for Tatiana. Wow, she isn't liked at all, is she? He gets to sing his song again but a great deal of the camera is focused on Tatiana getting weepy and then basically losing her shit and bawling.

Is this the last time we will see Tatiana? Will Anoop Dawg get a wildcard? Will Ricky Bobby? Was Casey Carlson wearing a strange hairpiece?

Group 2 will feature Adam Lambert and Norman Gentle, among others. Stay tuned!

When Did the Left Lane Stop Being the "Fast" Lane?

It's not like I just began noticing this past week that the left lane no longer seems to be the passing or "fast" lane, I just began wondering why that is.

I remember studying for my driver's license when I was 15 or 16 and on a two-lane road, you are supposed to drive in the right lane, unless you are passing someone. On the freeway, the general rule of thumb was always "slow traffic keep right". Faster traffic generally moved in the left lane.

That old rule of thumb doesn't seem to be around any longer. Whether on the freeway or on a two-lane road, there always seems to be those drivers that will just sit in the left lane, no matter how many vehicles pass them on the right, no matter how many people ride their tails or flash their lights at them.

Unless you're taking a left exit on the freeway, or coming up on a left hand turn you need to make (and by that, I mean a turn in less than five miles), why do people do this? Why don't people move over (if possible) if someone wants to go faster? This isn't personal. Really, it isn't.

Did the left lane being the fast lane go the way of using turn signals? I've noticed that fewer and fewer people use turn signals. Are we really so afraid of the next person knowing our move that we're not going to use them? Or have we gotten so lazy that it's simply too much work to flip that stick by the steering wheel? Perhaps we're too busy finding the right station on the satellite radio, lighting a cigarette or yapping on the cell phone to be bothered with using a turn signal.

Myself, I still use my turn signals. If nothing else, I consider it a little piece of C.Y.A. And I still move over (if I can) if I'm in the left lane and someone wants to get around me. I don't think I know the person in that car behind me and I don't think it's personal. Last I heard, it's not a race either. Although I will admit that the competitiveness of our society has gotten to me at times . . . I have caught myself speeding up when there is a break in the flow of traffic and cars waiting to merge.

Shame on me. And shame on the rest of us for (generally) not being considerate to other drivers.

February 17, 2009

Remembering Colette, Kimberley and Kristen

It was 39 years ago today that three brilliant flames of life were extinguished.

Colette was a caring and devoted mother, a loving wife who only wished for a happy family life. Kimberley was a little lady who loved to read and draw. Kristen was a tough little tomboy, fearless and curious.

They were taken much too soon.

Each year on this day, I stop to remember them and I hope you will as well.

February 15, 2009

Kenseth Wins the Daytona 500!

Yes, the rain was balls but my driver won! MATT KENSETH WON!!

And he won fair and square to all the whiners and complainers and naysayers out there. Any Nascar fan knows that once the race goes over the halfway point, it's pretty much official. And when there has been rain in the area, rain in the forecast and the skies are getting cloudy, you need to start thinking track position.

Matt did just that. Of course, he was also helped out by Dale Jr.'s wee collision with the back of Brian Vickers' car - - a bumper kiss that took 10 drivers with it, knocking out the race leader Kyle Busch. And opponent Kevin Harvick giving him a bit of a boost, as Harvick coasted into second place. Thanks, Kevin!

Way to go, Matt!! Your first Daytona win . . . and hopefully a sign of a winning season!
Photos: Motorsport.com

Psychotic Review: Taken

Taken, starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen) is exactly the sort of movie you need when you want entertainment, without goofy adolescent gags, sexual innuendo or anything too deep or thought provoking.

Neeson adeptly plays Bryan Mills, retired CIA badass, who has recently moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his teen daughter, Kim, and her incredibly bitchy and bitter mother, Lenore. He takes a one night job guarding a Britney Spears-esque pop singer en route to and from a concert and manages to save her from being dispatched into the after life by a psycho. This is our first sign that Neeson/Mills is not to be messed with.

He butts heads with Lenore, who wants to send Kim to Europe with a girlfriend to follow U2 around on tour, so that Kim can experience the world. Bryan is afraid of what Kim may see and reluctantly agrees to the trip . . . a decision he almost immediately regrets when Kim is kidnapped hours after arriving in Paris, and while on the phone with dear old dad.

Bryan comes to find out that Kim has been taken by a group of nasty Albanians who target young women traveling alone in order to abduct them and then sell them into slavery.

Hell hath no fury like Neeson scorned.

While not exactly a picture postcard of the wonderful things Paris has to offer, Taken is a guilty pleasure as far as action flicks go. Neeson, surprisingly, is wickedly on par with characters like James Bond and Jason Bourne - - smart, cunning, one small step behind the bad guys and can issue a thoroughly intense ass kicking. While the plotline is predictable, Neeson makes the movie enjoyable. Not only is he a deservedly well-respected thespian with serious credits like Schindler's List but he can easily add movies that were previously reserved for actors who had cornered the action flick market.

This is definitely a movie that is simply for entertainment value. And I one I would recommend.

Source of photos: Fandango

The Return of Cole Trickle

Hmmm . . any hope that officer is going to arrest the diminutive Mr. Cruise for assaulting us with Days of Thunder, Cocktail and Valkyrie?

If you're a fading movie star who is fighting bad publicity, a few bad film choices and realizing that you're aging out of the "action hero" box that used to be your forte, what do you do?

If you're Tom Cruise, you go where the action, the hype, the media and a shitload of testosterone is - - the Daytona 500!

Yes, the irrepressible Mr. Cruise returned to the roots of Cole Trickle - - that role where he not only met his future ex-wife Nicole Kidman but uttered a line that not only sums up the character of Cole Trickle but that of Tom Cruise as well . . . ."I'm more afraid of being nothing than I am of being hurt." Prophetic, isn't it?

The best part of Days of Thunder, in my humble opinion, was when Robert Duvall told Tom/Cole to hit the pace car because he's hit every other thing out there and he should be perfect. Classic.

So it's only fitting that in Tom Cruise's continued quest for attention and glory he should choose to ride in the pace car at the Daytona 500.

Can some entertainment idiot give this guy some sort of job so that he leaves my sacred Nascar alone?
Photo Source: www.laineygossip.com

Diane Downs: No Parole

I'm a bit late on getting this news but back in December, convicted killer Diane Downs was denied parole after serving 25 years in prison.

Downs was convicted of shooting her three children back in 1983, killing one. The prosecution claimed that she felt the children were in her way of a relationship with a married man, who broke off the relationship with Downs claiming he did not wish to be a father. Downs has always denied killing her children.

However, over the years her story of what happened that murder night has changed remarkably. Initially, it was a bushy haired stranger that flagged her car down on a remote country road and who then opened fire into the car and on her children. Then she claimed two men in ski masks were responsible. Then it was a man she stopped to smoke marijuana with.

As of her most recent parole hearing in December, Downs claims that she was dating a man who purported to be an FBI agent. She was allegedly driving to meet a man who had documents for an investigation. Further, she brought a book to her parole hearing in which she claims the murder of an uncle and some connection to the State Department.

I wouldn't classify Downs as unhinged but I would say she's wildly fantastic. One of the best accounts of Diane Downs' life and her crimes is Ann Rule's Small Sacrifices. A read of that book will clearly demonstrate how narcissistic and ultimately self-destructive Downs was and is. It seems her lies and fabrications continue today and she is right where she should be and where she should remain.

Source of Photos: shotsmag.co.uk

February 12, 2009


Anonymous wrote:



Dear Anonymous:

I respect your right to an opinion; however, hasn't anyone told you about the ALL CAPS rule? That's like shouting online. You don't need to shout. I can read perfectly fine in normal type.

I find you very interesting. Why? Well, besides the fact that you read my blog, you start your comment "In defense of the Manson Family". Who does that? Do you honestly want to defend a group of vagabonds who delighted in butchering human beings? One of that group, Susan Atkins herself, stated that she experienced a sexual orgasm while stabbing and the more you did it, the more fun it was. According to the late Colonel Paul Tate (Sharon Tate's father), while his daughter's last moments were being described to the court, Atkins was snickering, giggling and laughing. I don't know that I would want to be defending anyone like that.

And yes, the murders happened in the past. Nearly 40 years, to be exact. But I will venture to guess that if you spoke to any relatives or loved ones of the victims their pain will still be evident. The passage of time doesn't lessen the brutality of what was done.

Frankly, Anonymous, I have no idea what is or has been painted on the floor of the killers' cells, pentagrams or not - - which is irrelevant. Satanism had nothing to do with the crimes. A flagrant disrespect for life and an innate lack of conscience and wrong had everything to do with the crimes. I'm sure Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, John Wayne Gacy, et al. did not have pentagrams in their jail cells, nor did they sit around chanting but that didn't lessen what they did, nor did it justify any type of early release. They were imprisoned (and in some cases, executed), exactly as they should have been per the justice system. And exactly as the Manson Family murderers have been.

For the record, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, supposedly on orders from Manson. I would consider that antisocial behavior. Sandra Good, another Manson Family member, not only threatened to kill people responsible for "killing trees" but sent threatening letters to executives, which later earned her a prison term. I would think that considering killing trees evil but murdering human beings acceptable is a fairly accurate sign of antisocial behavior.

Regardless, I believe that whether or not Atkins or any other member of the Manson Family has found God, become a better person, even been a model prisoner, they owe a debt to society for the crimes they committed - - that debt being their life in prison.

I think Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel best states my point. Krenwinkel, who personally took part in both murder nights, told Diane Sawyer in 1994 "I wake up every day knowing that I'm a destroyer of the most precious thing, which is life; and I do that because that's what I deserve, is to wake up every morning and know that."

American Idol: Joanna Pacitti this season's Carly Smithson?

When I was originally starting this post it was basically to bitch about how American Idol didn't learn anything from last season and the entire Carly Smithson debacle. I couldn't stand Carly, mainly because it didn't seem right to me that someone who had already had an album produced and even a music video made should be taking the place of some smalltown Joe Blow, whose only chance at singing for the masses (outside of karaoke) would be a show like Idol. After all, wasn't that the original premise of Idol? To pluck some unknown out of obscurity and make them into a star?

So it appeared that Season 8 was duplicating that horrendous formula, only Carly Smithson 2.0 (otherwise known as Joanna Pacitti) has 2 albums, previous contracts with Geffen and A&M, music videos and even appeared on a reality show. Hardly an unknown. Even more infuriating is that, once in Hollywood, Joanna Pacitti went down in shitacular style.

Simon decreed that "you forget the lyrics, you're out!" Obviously he forgot a tiny little footnote - - unless the judges really, really like you and/or you're Joanna Pacitti. Because Joanna Pacitti not only forgot the lyrics but her singing was so craptastic you just had to wonder how she got past the auditions. Oh yeah, connections . . .

So last night she inexplicably (connections, connections) made the Final 36 cut - - complete with Simon defending her once again, by telling Kara that Joanna Pacitti will quit sucking balls once someone gives her a chance. Because I suppose two previous record labels and music videos really isn't giving a girl a fighting chance.

This morning, Fox announced Pacitti was getting the royal boot by stating "It has been determined that Joanna Pacitti is ineligible to continue in the competition." Yep, that's it.

I seriously doubt that the Idol producers just now realized Pacitti's connections. More likely, Star breaking the story took further credibility away from a show that is already struggling with being considered "reality" t.v.

I, for one, am glad that Idol won't force us to watch Pacitti perform and the judges lavish her with mostly undue praise, a la Carly Smithson. I'd much rather use my energy comparing the crazy levels in Tatiana Del Toro, Crazy Headband Loving Nathaniel, Norman Gentle/Nick Mitchell and Paula.

February 9, 2009

When Did the Public School System Become Taxpayer Funded Daycare?

I could go on all day long about the many, many shortcomings and outright failures of our public school system.

I'm sure some of these problems aren't new. They have probably been around since I was in school. However, I will say without reservation that the public school system when I was attending school is miles ahead of the system we have today.

I understand the concept behind No Child Left Behind. Probably ever since the school system came into being there have been students that have graduated from school with a remarkable low level of education. When I was in school, it was generally some of the athletes or the "stoners". That problem needed to be addressed and corrected. But I don't think No Child Left Behind is correcting it. In fact, I think NCLB is creating a whole barrel of other problems.

The biggest problem with NCLB, I believe, is that by not allowing advanced or remedial students their own classrooms, and by segregating everyone into one classroom, the teachers are being forced to teach and educate at the level of the slowest or least motivated student.

Think about it. Who is going to be most affected by that? Certainly not the remedial students in question. In all likelihood, they aren't going to learn any quicker or better. If anything, they may be mortified that the teacher is being forced to spend an inordinate amount of time geared toward them. Not the advanced students because, chances are, they are highly motivated to begin with. It is a bit unfair that they won't be allowed to move faster, and they may be bored, but ultimately, they will be okay.

It's the middle of the road students, the average ones, the majority of students in the classroom today. They aren't necessarily motivated to go above and beyond the assignments and the current pace will probably be too slow for them.

And by "dumbing down" the curriculum, the resulting grades are not a truly accurate measure of what the students are learning. For instance, if the slowest student in a 6th grade classroom is operating at a 3rd grade level, the rest of the class should be scoring very high on tests and papers. Because the class isn't being taught at the appropriate grade level.

Due to the "dumbing down" of our educational system, I have noticed that my son has an inordinately low level of homework. If and when he does have homework, it's no more than 15 minutes a day. And this is the grade, we were told, that was the "hard" grade. Like "hard to fail" maybe?

Now I hear that various school districts throughout the country are toying with the idea of no homework, period. I have heard the stories of some children having hours of homework a night. I don't agree with that, any more than I agree with my son maybe having homework and that homework being filling out a photocopied page from a workbook. Where are the writing assignments? Where is the studying? Where is the research? Where is the legitimate learning?

I think our problem is that we try too hard to be politically correct. We worry about children not getting everything they can out of our public school systems, but then we allow the most vocal parents have the majority say. Think carefully - - who are the most vocal parents, generally, in the classroom? The parents that have the motivated student without behavior problems? No. They are usually the parent or parents of the child that has behavior issues, that acts out in class or has grade problems. These are the parents that are responsible for the "dumbing down" of our educational system. These are the parents that create a fuss over segregating the classrooms, so that advanced students can take advanced courses, remedial students can take remedial courses and the average students can learn at an average pace.

What is so wrong, anyhow, with dividing up the children this way? I understand that the remedial children might be embarrassed by being put into remedial classes but, in the end, doesn't it help them to learn what they need to, at their pace? And kids with behavioral problems, real behavioral problems, shouldn't be allowed in the classroom, period. Teachers have enough to deal with - - supposedly more to teach, less time to teach it - - without having to put up with any type of harassment.

I feel for the next generation. We are doing nothing but giving these kids a sense of entitlement, that they should be commended for simply existing, we are teaching them no sense of responsibility, no sense of real pride. If we set the bar so low, how are they going to become functioning, productive adults? How will they survive college or the workplace?

Changes need to be made and fast. We need to take the entire population into consideration and not just the few who make the most noise. We need to remember that the schools are supposed to be buildings of learning and not a place to park kids while we're at work.

February 7, 2009

Shame on Texas

Timothy Cole
Source: CNN
We could berate Texas for gifting us with the unique presence of the Simpson sisters (Jessica and Ashlee) and maybe, most particularly, for their overbearing pop, Joe. Or even go political and harp on the Bush brothers (George and Jeb) and even their father.

But today I'm talking about Timothy Cole.

Back in 1985, Timothy was a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He had finished two years of college previously and had just completed a two year stint in the Army before returning to school. Also in Lubbock was a serial rapist, known locally as the "Tech Rapist", who had attacked and brutalized four women before 20 year old Michelle Malin, also a student at Texas Tech, was attacked, abducted and raped by the perpetrator. When shown a photo array of possible suspects, Malin chose Timothy Cole from the selection, stating he was her attacker. She later identified him in a physical lineup.

However, even from the beginning, there were problems with Timothy Cole being the Tech Rapist. For instance, Malin told authorities that the man who attacked her was a smoker, and smoked "the entire time" he was in her presence.

Timothy Cole was not a smoker. He had suffered from severe asthma, requiring daily medications.

That fact, apparently, didn't dissuade local law enforcement from arresting Timothy and a jury from convicting him, nor a judge from sentencing him to 25 years.

Timothy was given a plea bargain offer, which would have put him on probation and he declined. Later, after being convicted and incarcerated, he rejected an offer of parole that would have required him to admit guilt in the crimes.

Timothy's mother told a local news station that her son's greatest wish was that he be exonerated and completely vindicated.

Well, Timothy. It looks like that day is finally here.

Jerry Johnson, a convict who himself had been in prison since 1985, serving a 99 year term plus life on two convictions for sexual assault, wrote a letter to the Cole family in 2007. In that letter, Johnson confessed to committing the rape of Michelle Malin and stated that he had been trying to contact the Cole family since 1995. Johnson wished to pay for his crime and allow Timothy Cole his freedom and his vindication.

What Jerry Johnson didn't know was that Timothy Cole already had his freedom, if not vindication. Timothy Cole died in prison on December 2, 1999 from heart complications due to his asthmatic condition. He was only 39 years old.

Yesterday, a judge reversed Timothy Cole's conviction, nearly a decade after he died, nearly 25 years after he was falsely convicted and after DNA tests verified what Timothy Cole had told the people of Texas repeatedly - - he was innocent.

There are so many things about this story that anger me. Convicting an innocent man of a crime he did not commit is one of the worst miscarriages of justice imaginable. I know that it happens but how did it happen in this case? DNA samples were evidently taken from Michelle Malin's rape. Science has come a long way, even since 1985 but surely the state would have done a DNA test at the time they arrested Timothy Cole. If they didn't, should anyone be convicted of such a crime, and sentenced to such a term, when witness identification is the only basis of conviction? I don't fault Michelle Malin. She went through a traumatic experience - - witness identification is notoriously sketchy and questionable when your witness isn't the victim. But when DNA is available should any person be convicted without a DNA test, done by two separate, unrelated labs, verifying the right person is in custody?

I know mistakes happen. I know police departments are overworked. But it seems as though the authorities made up their minds that Timothy Cole was their man, despite no DNA match, despite the fact that Timothy was not a smoker, could not smoke due to his medical condition. Due to that shortsightedness, Timothy was convicted. Wrongfully and falsely convicted. And he would never have another day of freedom in his life. He died behind bars, still labeled a rapist by the justice system that should have been in place to protect him.

Rest in peace, Timothy Cole. I hope that where you are, you know that your name has been cleared and you have been vindicated.

And I hope that the State of Texas learns from this tragic, overwhelming mistake.

February 6, 2009

Spotlight On: Author Brandon Massey

Source: brandonmassey.com

I cannot recall where I read about Brandon Massey but I'm glad I did because it pushed me to borrow his book Within the Shadows from my public library and it's a read that is well worth your time and energy.

One of the things I liked best about Massey's book was that his hero, Andrew Wilson, wasn't a moron. Sounds ridiculous, but think of how many mystery/suspense/thriller books you've read where the hero or heroine does something completely banal and idiotic in order to advance the plot or inject some thrills or chills. An example would be a town that is currently under siege by a serial killer and our genius hero/heroine decides to go for a walk, alone, late at night, in precisely the area where the victims are being plucked, to think. I cannot tell you how many times I have read instances like this, and in books by well-known and respected authors. These type of things just boggle my mind. No one with an ounce of common sense would do something like that and it can very nearly ruin the book for me.

Mr. Massey, however, stayed away from such clich├ęd situations. While the overall arc was nothing new (man stalked by obsessive female), the background of the story, as well as the resolution certainly was.

I liked Andrew Wilson. He seemed like a good guy, a smart guy, who made a mistake. A terrible mistake, sure, but a human mistake.

I found Within the Shadows a relatively quick read and a pleasing one. As an Atlanta native, I enjoyed seeing restaurant and street names that I recognized and I could tell from Mr. Massey's writing that he actually visited Atlanta before writing about it. (In fact, he resides in Atlanta). And while Within the Shadows had a strong element of the supernatural, it was believable.

I will be adding Mr. Massey to my "must read" list and I encourage you to do the same.

An Open Letter to TLC and Any Other Companies Who Want to Pay Nadya Suleman

Dear TLC and/or any other company or entity who wishes to pay Nadya Suleman for her selfishness and stupidity:

I realize that our society has gotten incredibly self-centered and materialistic over the last few decades but have we really come to this?

It's frustrating enough when our government will "reward" the population with increases in amounts of welfare or other government/state assistance dependent upon the number of children in the household but now we are going to make a "celebrity" of a 33 year old single woman, already a mother to six children under the age of eight, who knowingly and willfully allowed herself to be impregnated with eight embryos, all of whom survived and were born last month.

What has this woman done to warrant a reality show, endorsements and financial gifts? If she is currently on government assistance, she has drained the State of California for her existing six children, nevermind the eight she just had. And if she has indeed been living off the generous support of the taxpayers of the State of California, who exactly funded her in-vitro fertilization? And what medical professional would agree to a single woman with six children, who is living off government assistance, being implanted with one embryo, much less eight?

Please do not reward this woman for her selfish, self-serving and unbalanced behavior. By doing so you will be sending the message out to all young girls and women everywhere that they too can become famous, celebrated and wealthy by merely bringing children into the world.

In short, Nadya Suleman needs a mental health professional, not a reality show.

Update on Susan Atkins

It was last summer that I wrote about Manson Family killer Susan Atkins' attempt to con and bully the State of California even further by obtaining a "compassionate" release due to her brain cancer. Today I thought about that and wondered if the Earth had become a better place, due to Ms. Atkins' passing.

While I don't see that Ms. Atkins has left our world, I did find that she was transferred to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla in September (she had previously been incarcerated at a facility in Corona). I also read that in July of last year, it was estimated that Atkins' medical care had cost the State of California $1.15 million and the cost of guarding her was $308,000. Well, no wonder the state is broke. Between paying living expenses for people like Nadya Sullman and providing a cold-blooded, unrepentant murderer like Susan Atkins with treatment, medication and comfort, it's amazing California can still afford to pay its state employees.

This is my solution. Give Atkins an aspirin every 4-6 hours, make sure she stays hydrated and call it a day. In all honesty, this is what the military does if no limbs are missing or bones are broken. Susan Atkins butchered a woman who was nine months pregnant. I have no compassion for her whatsoever. Let taxpayer money go to provide medical care for someone who is deserving, someone who has worked to make our world a better place, someone who has contributed positively.

Do the Hudson River Crash Survivors Deserve Compensation?

I was very disappointed to hear of this story. Apparently some of the survivors of the US Airways Flight 1549 feel that US Airways are giving them the shaft, at least as far as the airline's treatment of them goes.

The passengers claim that the higher ups at the airline are too busy congratulating themselves over the miraculous landing and zero loss of human life to care much about what the passengers suffered. The airline has offered the passengers free upgrades, when available, to first class on domestic flights for one year, along with one upgrade to Europe or Hawaii and priority check-in. But the passengers believe the airline is being stingy by giving them a one year expiration date and not making the upgrades a lifetime perk.

The airline also (quickly) mailed each passenger a $5,000 check to cover belongings that were lost when the plane went down in the Hudson River, which is very generous considering that most people probably don't have $5,000 worth of goods or merchandise in their luggage or carry-ons.

However, this hasn't stopped some of the passengers from contacting attorneys to discuss their right to sue the airline.

This is what disappoints me.

Shouldn't these people be grateful they are alive? Shouldn't they be grateful to pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger that he kept his cool and managed to make a water landing with a commercial airliner with no casualties?

Legally speaking, I don't believe they have much of a case against US Airways. They would need to prove negligence on the airline's part, forcing the water landing. As the Canadian geese who allegedly flew into the plane's flight path and caused the engine failure did not provide their schedule to US Airways, I don't see how the airline could be held responsible for what essentially is an act of nature. To me, this would be akin to suing the county that maintains the freeway you were driving on when you ran over that nail that caused a puncture in your tire and created a blowout.

I'm not saying that I don't sympathize with the passengers. I can only imagine how traumatic a crash landing in an airplane would be and I doubt many of them will be hurrying back to the airport anytime soon. Perhaps US Airways was a bit insensitive in their letter to the passengers stating "We would very much like to see you on a future US Airways flight soon". However, several passengers were interviewed by local media in Charlotte and stated that the airline was bending over backwards to accommodate them, offering to pay any medical and/or psychological treatment that necessitated out of the crash.

How much are we going to expect from US Airways, or any airline? It sounds to me as if they have done everything they could, and should, do. Not every passenger, but certainly a few of them, seem determined to make money off this event. And that's sad.

February 4, 2009

The First Family of Fakery is in Brazil

Tom is really trying hard to stay relevant, isn't he? When is the last time you heard about him attending a movie premiere in Brazil?

Crickets chirping

Exactly! So with no new projects planned for 2009 so far, and with the so-called pregnancy speculation he drummed up by placing his hand on his alien bride's stomach over as quick as it started, Tom is desperate to stay in the headlines.

He's packed up the First Family of Fake and they are currently terrorizing Brazil. Tom, of course, is in his element. Soaking up attention, courting the press and going out of his way to be friendly, polite and accessible. Absolutely no talk of Xenu, apparently.

But Tom isn't really the story here. Let's dish on the alien bride.

What the fuck has happened to Katie? It looks like in addition to 20 or so pounds she lost, her breasts have also hit the highway. Is it just me or is she the most androgynous looking contract bride/beard on the planet? Lack of makeup is bad. Chopping off hair is bad. Head scarves are bad. Grandma-style bathing suits are atrocious.

And this girl dares to call herself - - or allow Tom's people to call her - - a fashion icon? Bitch, please. Barbie has better fashion sense than you do and even Barbie knows you need bust support, whether you have perky ones or ones that tickle the old belly button (yes, that was aimed toward you, Katie).

As far as all this pregnancy speculation goes, I'd be willing to bet the farm the only thing she's expecting is a big, fat paycheck for the horrendous acting job she's given the last (almost) four years. Okay, so she may have a bit of a tummy. Girl has horrendous posture. Always has. And heck, maybe she actually ate the day the picture was taken.

But let's talk serious for a minute. Katie is allegedly due to start filming a movie in New York next month. She's also allegedly in talks to appear in the stage version of Finding Neverland. This is the hottest Katie's professional career has been since she took up with Tom. Is she really going to ice it down by selling another of her eggs and renting the space in her womb? My guess is no. She cannot afford to. Her career is already perilously close to Celebrity Rehab levels. She would be lucky to get a Lifetime movie, where stellar acting skills aren't a requirement, just an unexpected bonus.

Frankly, Tom can't afford for Katie to take time off right now either. He has no projects in the pipeline and once Valkyrie goes to Movie Purgatory, he really will have no legitimate excuse for photo ops. Yeah, sure, he can drag Suri out for some imaginary play date or dance class or whatever other bullshit his people tell People magazine, but the facts are clear that Suri does not like the publicity. How long before she suffers a huge public meltdown?

So Tom needs for Katie to work, so he has an excuse to keep his name out there, while he visits her on set and visits her on Broadway. (Carrying the little Scientology pamphlets, I'm sure).
Images Source: Just Jared

Who Peed in Stephen King's Wheaties?

Image: www.stephenking999.com
I love reading. To me, it's one of the greatest pleasures known to man. My idea of heaven is to be surrounded by as many books as I could possibly read, beachfront. Margarita optional.

Because I love to read, I have read many, many books throughout the years by many, many authors. I respect anyone who can get a book published. Heck, as a struggling writer, I respect anyone who can finish a novel. That being said, there are some authors out there that I just don't get. I don't understand their popularity and I don't get into their books. (Jodi Picoult, I'm talking to you).

Apparently Stephen King has this problem as well. The difference is that King gave an interview to USA Weekend and did a hatchet job on some of his fellow scribes, including current "It" author Stephenie Meyer.

Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real
difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t
write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
But then King recalls that when his mom was alive, she read all the Erle Stanley Gardner books, the Perry Mason mysteries, obsessively when he was growing up. “He was a terrible writer, too, but he was very successful,” King says. “Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe
joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and
it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of
the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her
forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for
girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal
with yet.”

While I would hardly consider Stephenie Meyer worthy of Shakespeare, Austen or Steinbeck, to be fair, she is a great storyteller. Very entertaining. And isn't that the point?

Obviously King and I disagree on Jodi Picoult. I think she's tedious, stereotypical and soapy in her writing style. I have only read one book of hers (Nineteen Minutes) but it was enough. I have no desire to read another.

And I have read a few James Patterson books. Again, he's not claiming to be producing works of mind altering literature. He writes books that are entertaining.

I am a fan of Dean Koontz. And while it is true that Mr. Koontz has turned out a few books that I was less than thrilled with (and he more often than not turns out a fabulous piece of work), I think the same could be said for Mr. King.

Can Mr. King be so critical of his fellow authors when each and every one of them could conceivably say the same about his work? I'll be the first to admit that I have not read each and every one of Mr. King's books but the vast majority of them seem excessively page happy. And I'm sure there are people out there that just don't find Stephen King, his books and his subject material their cup of tea.

But for Mr. King to take one of the most popular authors today and state his highly subjective opinion that she simply cannot write sounds more like sour grapes than any deep thought process.