Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Sing Off and V. Important X-Factor News.

In Idol News, er X-Factor news -- rumour has it the Judging panel has been chosen for Simon Cowell's import. Joining Cowell are Nicole Scherzinger (she's on the Sing Off right now), Cheryl Cole (trying to break into America, since Girls Aloud isn't going to come over here), and....Will Smith. Are we serious, X-Factor? It's a rumour, unsubstantiated, but we will see.

Now, the main event.
The Sing-Off
Premise: 10 a capella groups compete for a prize of 100,000. & a recording contract.
Hosts: Ben Folds, Nicole Scherzinger, Shawn Stockman (If you don't know what bands these people are from, shame on you. Or not).

Wait, so this is hosted by Nick Lachey? Or his brother Drew?
Eleventh Hour (Kettering [OH] HS)
Stret Corner Symphony (Nashville, TN)
Committed (Huntsville, AL)
The Backbeats (Los Angeles, CA)
On the Rocks (University of Oregon)
Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town (Oakland, CA)
Pitch Slapped (Berklee College of Music) (Lead singer is wearing shorts and tights. No.)
Groove for Though (Seattle, WA)
The Whiffenpoofs (Yale)
Men of Note (Cherry Hill, NJ) (Colin's town Representing) (No they are not guidos.)
And already this opening number group singalong is miles, MILES, MILES ahead of any group sing on IDOL ever. (Mental note: stop comparing this show to Idol. Or do.)
Oh, Nick Lachey is hosting. I was right, it was a Lachey brother. Is he the one that married Jessica? Why do I not even remember?
Each group gets to choose a song, their signature.

If you didn't meet in the detention hall, how can you be like the Breakfast Club? I thought that was the whole point.
Signature song: Baby (Justin Bieber)
I like this girl's facial expressions though. And a capella music can redeem the Biebs, I think. My experiences with a capella are usually all male groups, so I'm enjoying the women taking lead on the song.
I think I love the fact that Ben Folds actually talks about the music and the singing notes and such. I also like the fact that he picks out things that they did vocally that worked and pointed out things that didn't quite work. It's refreshing to see an actual CRITIQUE.
Okay, so Glee reference out of the way. It seems like Nicole is the Paula of this show. No critique from her.

On the Rocks
"the Singing Fraternity" who sang the Bad Romance clip that went round YouTube.
Signature Song: Bad Romance
Very Gaga-esque start. They've got a lot of the video down. I feel like the background singers are overwhelming the lead singers. Maybe not the third guy, I take that back, I barely hear him now.They sound good other than that, though.
I'm just waiting for Stockman to say "You worked it out."
And I thank Ben for clarifying the musical faults of the band -- I heard it a little off too.
Nicole is still trying too hard.

Groove for Thought
Signature Song: I Wish (Stevie Wonder)
Stevie is often the kiss of death for Idol contestants. Little bit more cheese than the last two contestants put up, and I'm not sure this will work in their favour. They're good, but it just kind of falls flat after the first two performances. (Who is Take Six?)

Pitch Slapped
I hate their name. They're from Berklee College of Music. Who had an Idol contestant last year. Not the group, but the school (Ashley Rodriguez). I am already annoyed by these guys. They know they're good, but it's like they're snobbish about it. IDK.
Signature Song: Good Girls Go Bad (Cobra Starship)
Alright, props for the Cobra Starship. Also that girl's glasses are irritating me. I'm trying to like them but it's not working. They can sing, but ugh. DNW. And the faux-Timberlake stare of the lead singer dude? Fuggedaboudit.
Ahhh, an actual critique out of Nicole. Even though she made the Pussycat Dolls joke.
Oh, nice -- five go, they eliminate one, and then the next five and eliminate one. I kinda like that -- then you don't forget about a group through the middle of the show.

Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town
Jerry Lawson was in the Persuasions, and he came back to singing after hearing the group he joined. They were a Persuasions cover band ;)
Signature Song: Save the Last Dance (The Drifters)
Expertly covered by Michael Buble, but not in a capella form. This is a polished act. And as we all know, suits make the men. No gimmick outfits for these guys, just a neat, polished look. And the music is expertly handled. I think I have a new favourite. (Sorry Kettering.)
Shawn loves these guys. Actually, all of the judges agree. "You just can't buy class like that." - Nicole. So much truth.
My guess at elimination: Groove for Thought. There's no way that they're gonna eliminate Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town.

Elimination time! Yay the kids and the Old Fogies are safe! They get to sit in the Opera Boxes of Awesome. On the Rocks are safe, because they don't suck. Actually to be fair none of these groups suck. OH SNAP they sent the Berklee kids home. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
Time for another five groups!

The Whiffenpoofs. These are the Yalies. Apparently they invented the thing. They suit up, and they mean it. Of course they all golf.
Signature song: Grace Kelly! (Mika)
Slow opening, but I am really enjoying this. These guys really know what they're doing. A New England school does it right. And the falsetto, damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn son. They look ridiculous, but I love it. And that, friends, is a capella.
Lachey....really? A GWB joke? Was he a Whiffenpoof? (I just love typing Whiffenpoof) And I love that Ben says he can't unsee that. And Whiffenpoof Penguins is a going to be a great Band Name someday. And Shawn is actually hilarious.

Men of Note
Hey it's Colin's hometown. So they stalk the ladies at the mall. Classy. I like that they play lacrosse though.
Signature Song: For the Longest Time (I do love me some Billy Joel)
I feel like this song was always a capella. It's kind of a cheap out, but I do love this song. It sounds like a capella paint by numbers, but I do like it. What was the "brrrrring" about at the end?
Nicole thinks that there was something missing, and I am inclined to agree. Shawn says they were nervous and tight at the beginning, and warmed up toward the end. I like Ben. He's nice about his critiques, but still makes a point to tell them that they're going to have to work to make their arrangements complete their set of singers.

Street Corner Symphony
Are they really doing a Johnny Cash song a capella? That's crazy. I like that they "unpractice."
Signature Song: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
Wow, someone actually almost sounds synthesyzer esque! And the lead guy is really channeling the original without making it a copy. I kinda wanted a bit more Southern countrified sound to it, but I can work with this. I like the slowed down effect at the end. OH he looks like Gary Levox. That's who he reminds me of visually.
"Play Freebird." - Ben Folds. (Well, he didn't say it but he implied it).

OH LACHEY, you just said my catchphrase. "We will see who will GO BIG, and who will GO HOME."

The Backbeats
They took some from a group that performed on last season's competition. Let's see how they do.
Signature Song: If I Were a Boy (Beyonce)
I like that we have such a deep voiced female singer as a leader. She's got a powerhouse vocal in there too. She needs to work on enunciation though, she's difficult to understand at times.
It wasn't a competition before, Nicole? She's not wrong, the lead singer definitely "Shut it down." Shawn, you are also right. It is so impressive how she could go up and down several octaves without even trying. And this is a group that came together just last year!

Never really sang pop music before. And kinda dissed the UO guys ;)
Signature Song: This Love (Maroon 5)
There's a song I thought would make a great a capella song when I first heard it. A little excitable for the lead singer, but they're getting into it. With a beat like that, you can't sit still. The second singer nearly matches Levine's intensity in the original. I think I would have just let the beat drop at the end, I don't think it needed the little extra harmony at the end, but I liked it.
Sing Off is the best "shew" for displaying talent. Voices of butter. It's got Shawn broken. (What's a bell tone? I like that they use terminology that I DON'T know).

Elimination guess: (Easy.) Men of Note. It's not really fair to those guys, but their bracked was full of intensive and amazing competition.
Elimination time! Easy calls, for both Committed and The Backbeats. And we knew the Yalies schooled everyone, so they were in. It comes down to Jersey v. Tennessee. Gonna go with the Southerners taking the box. Yep. Streetcorner Symphony was more polished than Men of Note.
See, unlike Idol, the ones getting eliminated were actually really good. It's hard to say goodbye to these groups even though we didn't have a lot of time to get attached to them. Except the Berklee group. I hated them from their package. (That's what she said).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


As I was in transit on 1 November and getting into the swing of things at my new job, I never got round to posting the new series of book reviews. So here goes!

Katherine, Anya Seton.

The story of Katherine Swynford, the mistress of John of Gaunt. Seton heavily researched all of her novels before writing and you can clearly see it in her writing. A lot of it, as the introduction says, is Freudian theories applied to their relationship, but for the purposes of the story it works. While I had read Alison Weir's sparkling biography of Swynford previously, I definitely enjoyed the story that Seton told. It fleshed out Katherine in a spectacular way. She's a woman who grows, learns, loves, and lives her life, as best she can in the time period she was born into. Definitely a must read for those who love romantic stories or those who love well written historical fiction.

Silver: My Own Tale As Written By Me With a Goodly Amount of Murder, Edward Chupack.

I was whelmed by this novel. It had such an interesting premise -- it's Long John Silver's rendition of his life, before and after he met Jim Hawkins. There were parts that were vaguely interesting, but I didn't find it as good as the book jacket made it sound.

Storm Front, Jim Butcher.

Book one of the Dresden Files and I was hooked. I was a little annoyed at how Harry had to over explain that he was such a NICE GUY and chivalrous and all that. But it was a cute and enjoyable story with an interesting narrator. So I read the next two books in the series, and accidentally absconded with Candice's copies.

Fool Moon, Jim Butcher.
This was pretty darn good, I kept turning the pages and not sure what was going to happen next except that Harry would get grievously injured. It just ain't right.

Grave Peril, Jim Butcher
The cliffhanger at the end of this book wasn't as intriguing as it should have been, and I saw the major twist coming with the fairy godmother and the vampires at the end. I'll read book four though, as soon as my to-read pile drops

Cleopatra's Daughter, Michelle Moran.

This is the story of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony's children, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios. Once I got over the presumptious narrator, who keeps reminding us that she is so smart and all that because she was raised to be a queen at a young age and therefore we can't judge her for being so rational at the age of 13. And the predictable ending of who she ends up with, even if it was historically accurate, was a little over the top. But you know what, I genuinely did end up caring about her, and I set out to read more about Cleopatra Selene. She was an amazing woman in her time, making sure as Queen of Mauretania that her family and culture were not lost.

I think I'd try reading something else of Moran's later on.

Sex with Kings: Five Hundred Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, Eleanor Herman.

I read Sex With the Queen and I loved every glorious, gossipy moment of it. So I figured SwK would be just as good, right? Oh it has plenty of gossip, and it's all dirty and devious, like Mme de Montespan getting witches' potions to poison the king with to keep his attention. But I just got so tired of reading about the same four French mistresses. Yes,they were incredibly devious, deadly, and difficult, but I could have used different people. I kept in mind though, Herman wrote this book first. SwtQ came much later and she had access to better material. So if you can only read one, do SwtQ.

Shadow Gate, Kate Elliot.

This world is still as turbulent and crowded with characters. And of course we're introduced to MORE new characters. To be fair, Elliot does kill off a few. And I did enjoy Cornflower's backstory, which was nice although a bit disconcerting. I am a little tired of her making sure that everyone has a TRUE LOVE that they are pursuing or protecting. And I am a little dismayed by what Mai became in the 2nd book. All they keep saying is how good she is at negotiating but we don't see much of it at all in this book. She sits around being rescued by people the entire book. But I look forward to the conclusion.

Heat Wave, Richard Castle.

Anyone who watches the show Castle will enjoy this book. It is a Castle episode in book form! Completely adorable and fluffy and mindless. Just like the show!

A Lion Among Men, Gregory Maguire.

I really didn't care for this book as much as I did Wicked. But it was marginally better than Son of a Witch, even though there was about the same amount of moping. I like where Maguire is headed with this series, but I am not that excited to rush out and get it when it inevitably comes out.

The Electric Church, Jeff Somers.

Set in a post-apocalyptic New York City, this is a dirty, gross, and murderous book. It is dark, gritty, the best type of noir. And yet there's something about this book that I couldn't quite swallow. I don't really know what it was. I think I'll keep reading the series, because seeing Cates become kingpin of NYC is a really intriguing prospect.

Soulless and Changeless, Gail Carriger.

While the author's "about me" irritated me and struck me as pointlessly pretentious, I ignored that and concentrated on the important bits: vampires, werewolves, Victorian London, and steampunk, oh my. These books are delicious, fluffy bits of cute adorable Anglophilia love. And tea. Don't forget Alexia's tea.

Right now I am currently reading the third book in the Parasol Protectorate Series, Blameless.
I started Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I couldn't get into it. The same for The Queen's Lady, by Barbara Kyle. I'll come back to both when my to-read pile is empty.

Hey CDTA. What the fuck.

So the Capital District Transit Authority is installing a new express bus thing called BusPlus. It will start in 2011, and the line that would be most relevant to my interests is the one from Schenectady to Albany, as it goes right past my home stops and my work stops.

This is the BusPlus program's primer.

This is a great idea, and I am all for things that make our bus system more efficient. Those of you who read my twitter know how irritated I can get with the delays and minor problems with the bus system. So any way of improving things is just dandy with me.

My problem with this BusPlus idea is simply this: Someone did not think out the timing of replacing the stops involved. They replaced shelters at the spots along the BusPlus route. One of the drivers explained how it works: it goes from downtown Albany to downtown Schenectady and doesn't stop at every stop -- just the silver and red BusPlus stations (IE North Allen & Central, or Westgate Plaza). It will stop at all of those. They replaced all of the ones in the Albany section, as far as I can tell. I cannot vouch for Schenectady, as I do not live there.

They fixed all the Albany stops except one. Colonie Center, Northway Mall.

Guess when they decided to redo these stops? Anyone? Bueller?
Yeah, mid-November. I asked another driver how long that they planned to work on it, and he said it would be finished after Christmas. In the meantime, they completely tore down the old shelters and moved a stop.

First of all, there are at least three reasons why doing it now is a TERRIBLE idea.

1) It is the stop for the MALL. At peak holiday shopping time. You turn it into mud farmer central and demolish the stop, and make it increasingly difficult to get on or off at the stop. With larger amounts of traffic -- pedestrian, bus, or motor vehicle - it is not safe to do that.

You moved the stop going down to Albany, so now it is located across Central Ave, by the dry cleaner's. It's well lit, which is great, but the problem there is you have to cross both the entrance and exits to Northway Mall. Which, might I remind you, has shops in it that people will be going to, doing their holiday shopping. Large amounts of pedestrians in an unregulated driveway + large amounts of traffic + buses = problems.

2) It is NOVEMBER. And there is no shelter at the bus stops. Sure, most bus stops don't have shelters. But they also don't have a lot of people using those stops. And it's cold. Today's weather is the perfect example. The wind was outrageous, the rain was drenching, and there is no shelter for these people who are waiting for their buses. There are parents with small children who are exposed to the elements here.
Wait til it starts snowing. Class act.

3) Okay, I kinda combined 1 and 3. My point remains that it is a ridiculous time to redo this stop. I am really irritated by this. Especially as the later hours the mall has, the fewer buses run. So you have more crowded buses, more really cold people waiting to go home, and it's not a good scene. I just cannot imagine how this stop wasn't redone in August or September instead of now.

One other thing: I was quite fortunate to have, the night before they tore the shelters down, to have seen a sign tacked up in the shelter explaining that starting the next day, 14 November, they would be redoing the stops. Having been there at that same stop the day before, I distinctly do not remember seeing the sign. Great way of communicating something that important, CDTA.