Thursday, April 27, 2006

Apology & Vindication

Well, I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. American Idol opened last night with Ryan proclaiming that tonight would be a show first. Simon was actually going to apologize to one of the contestants for being too harsh. Simon then proceeded to say how sorry he was for being too harsh on Katharine. He said he had watched the tapes after the show and realized that she wasn't that bad. I don't think he actually said it was good, but I think that's the best apology anyone was going to get out of him. Even Randy jumped in there saying they were too harsh and it wasn't that bad.

So, I can't help but wonder if someone, perhaps the show's producers, had a little chat with the judges about their sacred cows, or if the judges had a genuine change of heart. It hardly mattered as far as the votes were concerned, as Katharine was not in the bottom two this week. If she had been, I think it would have been quite the scandal.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

American "Don't sing Whitney" Idol

I've been watching American Idol since the first season. As a musician, there is enough about the show to keep me entertained on a number of levels, including the obvious drama of each week's voteoff. Of course, you gotta take the good with the bad, and there are enough contestants to keep you coming back either for the great performances or the comedy of the delusional.

But for the first time tonight, I actually found myself upset at the judges. After 5 years, I finally have a genuine beef with those idiots who sit behind the table and give their criticism. Yeah, sometimes they say really stupid stuff and you wonder if they were watching the same show. Randy has an ego problem and has no qualms about talking about all the stars he's worked with, and you'd think that would give him some perspective on who's good, but even he gets cranky sometimes and just doesn't like anything. Don't even get me started on Paula Abdul...hell, why not? That no-talent hack was a good dancer but was never a great singer and God knows why or how she landed the role as a singing judge. Yes, we all know she has back pain, but between the drugs and botox she is out of her head and it takes a rare extremely bad performance for her to say anything negative about anyone. Not to mention she is smitten with every good-looking male contestant. And everybody hates Simon. Actually, I find myself agreeing with him more often than not. People say he's rude, and I think he's the only judge who is honest about his appraisals. I would stand up and cheer if just one time he said, "Wow, that sucked." instead of making some terrible comparison to lounge singers and cabarets.

In spite of all that, I can still enjoy the show and for the most part I ignore their comments. But there is one consistent theme this season, and that is that if there is one unforgivable sin a contestant can make, it's to sing a song by Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, or Celine Dion. The judges whine on and on about taking a huge risk in them making a comparison against the original and how the contestant can't possibly measure up to that standard. Well, I call bullshit. This show, by its nature, is one giant karaoke contest, not an original song contest. All of the contestants sing all songs that are unoriginal, and nearly all of these songs have been performed by professionals with great reputations. To single out a song because the original is so lofty is hyprocritical and narrow-minded. It places certain songs on a pedestal such that any contestant foolhardy enough to attempt it is certain to draw the ire of the judges no matter how well they did. Tonight was a prime example of this bad behavior by the judges.

Now before I continue, I will admit to being somewhat biased about what I'm going to say next. I've already gone on record with friends that I predict that Katharine McPhee has the best shot at winning this year, and I'll be really surprised if she doesn't somehow make it to the final 3. I will also admit at being a bit smitten by her great looks, but I think I can say with some objectivity that she has the best voice and the most talent hands-down. So take the rest of this with a grain of salt.

Tonight, Kat gave the performance of a lifetime singing Whitney's "I Have Nothing". Her performance was nearly flawless, full of range and dynamics that truly showed her ability as a singer and a performer. But even during the performance, I could already see the scowls forming on the judges' faces. Randy interrupted the standing ovation because he couldn't wait to tell Kat how much he hated it. He admitted freely, that even before she started that he was "worried" about her doing a Whitney song. Rather than commend her on doing an oustanding job, he told her she could never be as good as Whitney and shouldnt' be singing her song. Positive Paula, the eternal optimist, changed her tune and jumped on the "don't sing Whitney" bandwagon. The only positive thing she could say was that Katherine looked hot. Simon couldn't wait either to make the comparison either, and told her it was a bad choice. They had made up their minds about the performance before the first note was sung. As for the rest of the contestants, they all got some kind of positive feedback, with the exception of Pickler. (She's getting voted off next. Yup, that's my prediction.) The rest ranged from good to great, but had nothing on McPhee's performance, in my opinion. She simply chose to violate the number one rule of American Idol judges, and got ripped a new one on TV because of it.

I hope Americans will see through the obvious contradiction and vote for the best performance and the clear winner from tonight's show. Vote for Katharine McPhee!!!

Maybe we should start calling him Simon "Sacred" Cowell.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Kayaks at night

Originally uploaded by Dan Bailiff.

I took advantage of the clear, warm night after the Red Sox game and got some night photos. Night photography is something that I've been experimenting with ever since I got a digital camera. There's no film to waste, so these tricky exposures are no longer a risk. I just do it until I start to get something I like and learn a lot in the process.

These kayaks are part of rental place in Newton on the Charles river. I've actually been out there before to go boating - it's good times. I was actually hoping for no artificial lighting at all at the pond, but got stuck with the porch light from the house on the docks. The light was actually a good thing as it lit up the colored boats nicely to give this pic some extra zing. Click the picture to see more of them on my flickr account.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Duck Season

I still can't sleep so I've decided to continue my diatribe against Christianese. At least maybe Andrea will get off my back now about not updating my blog. This should at least get her through Friday morning before she emails me again about having seen the entire internet and needing more entertainment from me.

Another Christianese word I've come to loathe is the word "anointing". In Pentecostal circles, this word is used to describe some special spiritual property of a person such that when they are "anointed" they are endowed with God's power beyond normal means. This term is flexible enough to cover many ideas, anything from natural ability to superhuman prowess, but is most often used to describe approval by church leadership. It's that last one that makes me ill. Too often, I have seen the term bandied about to denote someone who has found favor with the pastor or some other church leader. Rather than saying "good job", a lot of hoopla is made about how someone is "anointed" in their "ministry". Even worse, the word is used to promote people who are not the best person for the job, as this is the trump card of spiritual qualifications for ministry. More than likely, they are the only person the pastor could find that was willing to work for a pittance, little gratitude, and with a "I won't rock the boat" attitude. Too often logic and good sense go out the window when this word appears. That's not to say I don't believe in the sovereignty of God or the Holy Spirit in choosing people to do His work. I just think too often it is used as an excuse for a lack of judgment.

One of the problems with this method of church leadership, is that it creates an environment of "haves" and "have nots". If you don't have the anointing, then you don't receive the same affirmation by leadership that the "anointed" receive. The seemingly arbitrary use of the word has led a friend of mine to call it the "duck duck goose" method of church leadership. Everyone sits in a circle trying to be as pious as possible in the hopes that some church leader will tap you on the shoulder and say "Goose!" - er, I mean "anointed!" Some people never get to be geese in these environments, and ultimately it stunts their spiritual growth and hurts the church. It would be better to enable every person to function in the gifts and abilities as God has given them, and thus benefit the whole body of Christ.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1 Cor. 12:11,12

This post brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department

Lately I've been considering things that Christians say that, in my opinion, fall under the category of "Christianese". You know, that stuff that only religious people say and only they know what they are talking about. More and more these kinds of things get on my nerves. It's become so prevalent, that it is expected in Christian circles. Even worse, it seems to add credibility to the speaker when one uses such a turn of words or a phrase. As if using such an arcane dialect somehow makes one more pious or "spiritual" and that certain words grant you an unearthly aura that can only be attained through careful study.

What should be obvious, is that there is a major downside to this kind of speech, and that is that it alienates those who don't speak it! Rather than conveying a clear message of what we are saying, we confuse the listener. At best, the person can guess at your meaning, but at worst, they can be turned off by your rhetoric. Some phrases are worse than others, and I have a few favorites.

The latest one that is bothering me is the term "intercessory prayer". This term has become rather popular lately in Pentecostal circles, spawning new meetings, clubs, and even conferences. It's a freakin' movement. I'm all for prayer, but I wish they'd stop calling it that name. Again, it's a gimmick that seems to add greater meaning or weight by adding the two words together, when in fact, it is no more special than just "prayer". The users of this phrase are trying to create a distinction between intercessory prayer and vanilla prayer, as if the former is somehow more credible or powerful. In my opinion, the phrase is redundant. "Intercession" is the act of pleading with one person on another person's behalf. Isn't that what prayer is? The act of going before God and asking for his favor on someone's behalf? Even if that person is yourself? Somehow, this phrase implies that there are other kinds of prayer. If there are kinds of prayer that don't involve some type of intercession, then what does that look like?

It might seem to you I'm picking at semantics, and I'll admit I am somewhat. This is actually one of the lesser offenders. Perhaps I'll talk more soon about some of the more egregious examples.

Cherry Blossoms

2005_14_04 021
Originally uploaded by Dan Bailiff.

I took this pic while on a walk with Mom through some cherry trees in Vancouver, WA. I've been taking pictures of these trees for several years, and I think I have shots of every season. Some are unscanned film, so I'm not sure if they'll make it up here, but these were definitely worth sharing!

I blame insomnia

I've always been a night owl. Probably since my early teens, I've been the type who stays up later than everyone else. I used to save my homework for late hours, simply to have something to do. During the summers, I would typically stay up until 2 or 3 am and sleep until 10 or 11. I can still do this on the weekends, although it takes me a little longer to recover.

Then there's nights like this one. I was tired all day long, feeling like I hadn't slept enough. I couldn't wait to get home and just take a nap. I slept for about a half hour and woke up still feeling groggy. But now, it's after 2am and I am still wide awake. Around 1 I gave up trying to sleep and decided I might as well do something. I'm currently uploading more pics to my flickr account. I'm finding that I've taken a lot of pictures that are just crap. Some are interesting to me and family because of the people, but the rest are just crap. It's a good thing I don't have to pay for film anymore. I'll make another post when they're done. Hey, good timing! They're done!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Cloisters, NYC

Originally uploaded by Dan Bailiff.

I've updated my flickr pages with photos that I took in NYC last spring at the Cloisters. This is a separate campus, but part of the Met Museum of Art which showcases Medieval art. Most of the rooms, including the walls, tiles, and stonework were taken from buildings in Europe and reassembled here to create the Museum itself. Located in Fort Tryant park, it's a cool place to visit on a spring day!

The Cloisters web site

If March goes out like a lamb, then why is April so fierce?

There's the old saying, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb." And vice versa. So what does it mean when March was relatively mild and during the last week we got temps as high as the low 70's, only to have snow the first week of April?

Yes, you heard me right. It was snowing on my way to work this morning. It's not quite cold enough to stick, but it was coming down hard in big fluffy flakes. As I was leaving my house, I heard the sound of bagpipes droning "Amazing Grace". The catholic church across the street was holding yet another funeral. I think there's one there at least once a week. Between the snow, bagpipes, and the churchbell, it made for a rather somber beginning to my day. I certainly hope that's not an omen of how the rest of the day will go.

Update: It's almost noon and the snow doesn't show signs of stopping. I took a picture with my cameraphone looking out the office window.