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dear Paula:

I like Blake. You like Blake. Let's call a spade a spade, though. This week, he was not original -- yet you praised him for his originality and for making the show "cool." You do realize that most of his performances are very-circa-1980's, right? You probably don't remember the 80's very well, because it was during the height of your career and all, but it may surprise you to know that the whole synth-rendition of songs is not actually a new thing. Beat-boxing and break-dancing are also from the era that our dear Blake seems to champion. Last night, he sang Love Song without any real variation to the original Cure version nor the 311 version. There was nothing "Blake" about it and there was a lot of Robert Smith in it. Am I the only one to notice that this is the second 311 song he has covered from their Greatest Hits album? I just am so befuddled by Blake being original in your eyes, when others are not. (I am also a little afraid that Blake might think that 311 is the original artist, given that he was 6 or 7 when The Cure debuted this song on the Disintegration album.)

In fact, other than a select few performances, everyone sings their songs almost exactly like the original. I fail to see where this imaginary line that one might cross over is located. Most of the time when Idols do their own rendition of song - you, the judges, hate it. You tell the contestants to take risks and be original, yet crucify them for doing just that -- with the exception of Chris Daughtry's Johnny Cash song last year.

You tell people to branch out of their comfort zone and then tell Gina she's not being true to herself when she does. However, when LaKisha and Melinda continue to pick predictable songs from artists that are completely in their comfort zones - you praise them. Lakisha was entirely boring last night -- sure, she has an amazing voice, but only with the same exact kind of songs. I mean they BOTH chose Shirely Bassey songs the week of British Invasion, which could only be considered loosely related to that genera. (My good friend Jackson was right, Lakisha is starting to annoy me. Her best performance, so far, has been her first.)

What a hoax your judging has been! Do you guys even listen to yourselves? Half the time you just mimic what the guest-performer has to say or what Randy just said. The other half of the time, you are all over the place either physically or figuratively. I suggest that you, the judges, start to take your own advice and start being original, yourselves. Consistent would be an improvement, too. I'm as bored with your comments as I am with Simon's t-shirts. I mean, seriously, why doesn't he dress-up a little?


brown paper packages tied-up with string

Lately some of my favorite things to buy for my business are from See Jane Work. Jen mentioned them in her MySpace blog a while ago and I fell for their hilarious, yet stylish organizational items, labels, cards and folders. I can't wait for my CD Labels and envelopes to get here!

In January I discovered another store: Knock Knock. They kill me. I originally found some stickies titled "Complaint" and "Great Job On" for funny little notes to J. or my vendors. I just toured their site and litterly fell out of my seat laughing at some of their brilliant note pads, like this Cell Citation:

If you're going to take a Knock Knock tour, be sure not to miss out on the New Parent Checklist and the Parking Citation.


Stephanie gets voted off, but Phil and Sanjaya stay?

I love American Idol. I admit it. I am not ashamed. There are worse things in life. It's my thing - leave me alone.

I just don't get it, America. I really don't. Why vote off Stephanie Edwards and keep Sanjaya and Phil Stacey? The reason these two remain in the finals is because they make for good TV. (I added Chris Richardson above, because his boy-band style REALLY bugs me.) Phil has a good story with his military background and Sanjaya is... Well, he auditioned with his sister and that makes him special because... Because he hulas badly? I really don't know. It's obvious that the producers have strategic placement of good and bad singers. If the powers that be only chose good people to battle it out, that wouldn't make for very good television, would it? Duh! There has to be drama and there has to be debate over who should win. So the real question is: are we all minions playing into the hands of some very talented producers?

If I had to guess I would say that Doolittle has it in the bag. The judges have never had a negative comment for her and she's obviously the prize they want to win. And she would deserve it. Her voice is smooth and flawless. HOWEVER, with the way things are going we could have a finale with Sanjaya singing some rendition of a "Do I Make You Proud" song while the victorious confetti gets caught in his long locks... And poor Chris Sligh will have to watch as David Hasselhof crys to Sanjaya's singing and not his, as he once dreamed. Oh, the horror!


not a three-star hotel

Beware, my traveling friends. Beware of the Blake Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. Do not be fooled by the hip and trendy appearance on their website. There is a reason why most of those photos are various angles and chairs in the lobby and the finished section of the guest rooms. Notice that there are none of the exterior part of the hotel nor are there any of the bathrooms. When you're looking at 3 photos of a lamp on a bedside table, you've got issues. There is a reason, a very, very good reason, why this hotel chooses their photos carefully.

The Blake Hotel is quick to tell its guests to "excuse our mess" during the renovation. Their low-rates reflect this inconvenience - sort-of. They do plenty of apologizing for their poorly remodeled rooms, pointing the finger at their contractors. However, it is not the contractors that release the rooms to the public, dear readers, it is the responsibility of the management.

This is a section of the email I sent to the management detailing what went wrong with out stay:

I left a comment card upon our departure on Thursday, March 15. I have to tell you that I applaud your service-level. It exceeded my expectations. However, your hotel is far below the three-star rating hotels.com and expeida.com give it. I know you are under construction. I was aware of that before we arrived. It took us 3 rooms to find one that was acceptable. By acceptable, I mean that the room contained a smoke detector that was not hanging from the ceiling by wires, phones that worked, outlets that functioned, air conditioning that didn't sound like a jack-hammer coming through the wall and lights that turn off and on. The room we ended-up in (320) was severely unready for guests. There was construction dust in the corners of the floor and under the sink area in the not-too-clean bathroom, the tub was blackened and the mold/mildew in the grouting of the tile was displeasing, the carpet seemed to need another pass of the vacuum, the surfaces were dusty, the towels had mysterious stains on them and then the real problems started. I found nails and screws on the floor, the bed leg was not attached when it was assembled so when we sat on the bed it caved-in in the middle (we had to fix it ourselves, because at that point we were too tired to function), 3 of the outlets were not functioning, the pipes started rattling loudly about 10 minutes into the shower, the very nice flat screen TV channels were fuzzy and only functioned if you entered actual channel numbers (the up and down did not work), the sheets were scratchy and stained and the mirror over the dresser was still being painted - complete with wet black paint and masking tape. Any one of these items would not have been a huge deal (save for the bathroom), but combined together and considering this was room number 3 really made for an unpleasant stay. Your excellent service-level did not make up for the sub-par rooms. Even the hallways were incomplete and on the scary-side - they reminded me of an abandoned building that transients had taken over. I am glad that we got the room for a mid-week special price, because I cannot imagine how upset I would have been if we paid your weekend rates.

There was more to the letter, but I saved the good stuff for you. Please, take my advice - do NOT stay there! Perhaps things will turn around if and when they ever finish their remodel, but I won't be taking my chances when I'm in the area, again.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO BRAVE THE BLAKE: Be aware that the parking garage is on the shady side. It's poorly lit, in an inconvenient location and it's privately run by the businesses next door. They will charge you for in and out privileges. I still don't understand why an entire empty parking lot to the right of the property belonging to the Blake is chained-off from guests, but I assume they have their reasons... They do have a shuttle that runs on the hour until 11:00 PM - it will take you to any downtown location for dining and entertainment - a pretty good perk for putting up with their horrible hotel.


Are you kidding me? Sanjaya?

One of my guilty pleasures is American Idol. I am addicted. I watch. I vote. I get anxious if I feel like TiVo is going to let me down on one of the recordings. This all drives Justin nuts, because he passionately loathes the show.

If it isn't obvious to American Idol viewers at this point, a girl is going to win this year. Their talent outstrips the guys' by light years. Millions of light years. With, perhaps, the exception of the Beat-Boxin' Blake. Blake is still out sung by the top three divas, but is more original than most of the remaining 12.

For those of you watching this week, we are now into top 12 - meaning we get to see the Idols work with stylists (which can be hilarious) and various professional musicians. I STILL cannot believe that Sanjaya is in the top 12. Of all of the contestants EVER in the top 12, I think he just might be the most unworthy. Perhaps our friends at Vote for the Worst are making headway, but Sanajaya wasn't their pick when he made it into the top 12. I think he's worse than Kellie Pickler. At least Kellie Pickler had some personality - this guy sings OK, but he's so vanilla (and I'm not talking about ice cream flavors, Simon). He's so unimaginative and strange - he sings as though he's whispering through a bad lounge act. Plus, he's really on my bad side for massacring a John Mayer song. You just don't do that in my world. After his performance on Tuesday I wished it were possible to negative-vote. He literally made me cringe.

Keep your eyes on LaKisha and Melinda. If the world is fair - those 2 will battle it out for the crown. I mean, seriously, what must it be like to be the other 10 contestants going up against the polished, honey-coated voices of those two? They are both amazing. But what do I know? I thought Mandisa would end up in the top 3 last year...