Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big Break? Update!

UPDATE #2: With apologies to's Bill Simmons, for Round 2 I kept a running diary of the night's events. Here it is:

Round 2 - 6/26/06

7:00pm - We arrive at Duffy's Tavern, later than last week, so there's no tables available. I take that as a bad sign.
7:01 - We grab two seats at the bar. They have little flat-panel TV's which allow you to change the channel and watch what you want. I take this as a good sign.
7:06 - Monique discovers that her shirt is on inside-out. I take this as a bad sign.
7:12 - I have 4 baseball games and 2 World Cup soccer games to choose from on my little TV. I know this is a good sign.
7:13 - Italy and Australia are tied 0-0 in the 25th minute.
7:22 - In a moment ironic to no one attending this American Idol-wanna be program, a Taylor Hicks Ford commercial comes on the big screen.
7:24 - Getting hungry, we order some "sliders". They're White Castle-esque burgers but in size only. The meat is much more real, and they look less greasy. They're on special for $.50! We order six.
7:34 - Other contestants are milling around. One in particular walks by in 2 layers of tank-tops and a banana clip in her hair. I check my watch to see if A) it's a Swatch Watch, and B) if it's 1982.
7:41 - The music they're playing in the bar prior to the competition starting is apparently "Jock Jamz 4". I don't get it.
7:44 - They announce it's 1 minute til start! Where's my food? Twenty minutes for some mini-burgers? Really?
7:45 - We're under way. Not before the playing of a recorded Michael Buffer, who is imploring us to prepare for an apparent rumble. It's a singing competition, not Ultimate Fighting. I have to wonder if this is this really rumble-worthy. At least tonight, unlike last week, the host is going to introduce the judges. Oh, nevermind. It's a guy from some local band, and 2 others whom I can't understand due to mumbling into microphones. It was better when they went unannounced.

Singer #1 - I swear to God she is introduced as "RahRah".
Singer #2 - Some chick who sings (poorly) "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls. I think this is a sad attempt to woo the judges, since the rules clearly state "no flashing". This is, in her mind, the next best thing.
Singer #3 - sings some song I've never heard of. It sounds like Fiona Apple, only more boring.
Singer #4 - not memorable. that's not a good thing.
Singer #5 - Sarah? I can't understand, so I'm not sure. She sings "You're No Good". Sarah, you're right.
Singer #6 - sings "Over The Rainbow". Now, doesn't she know that since this is clearly an American Idol ripoff show, everyone here has seen American Idol? Does she think she's going to do this better than McPhee did? She's not even close. Stupid choice.
Singers #7, 8, 9 - eh, not bad. Some decent ones, actually. We get our second Alicia Keyes song in just 9 attempts, that's got to be some sort of record.
Singer #10 - My "favorite". The pretentious girl from last week who sang her original song is back! Tonight this idiot is singing a song in Spanish. I can't make this up. Way to let the judges really get to know you. She's not Hispanic, trust me. I say it's in Spanish, because the few words that are in this song are in Spanish. Mostly it's a bunch of "la la la". What?
Singer #11 - A bizarre, jazzy version of "Play Misty For Me". Really? This is so strange, and ALL over the place melodically. What a strange choice.
At this point, the judges and host have to ask the bar to respect the singers and keep the talking down. It's unreal. Everyone attending is somehow connected to this singing competition, but everyone is so chatty. Rude and annoying.
Singers #12 and #13 - blah blah blah.
Singer #14 is Mo! - She sings "When I Fall In Love". It sounds great. To be honest, I think she sounds better than she did last week, but of course I'm biased.
Singer #15 - I think named Kelly. Starts off great, sounds terrific, gets too comfortable and impressed with herself, starts to "show off" at the end, oversings it, ouch this sounds horrible. Wow, it's less than 3 minutes she goes from "shoo in to the next round" to "home".

8:15 - The first break. I gotta take a leak. I walk in right behind another guy, and this dude breaks one of the cardinal rules of the men's room. There are 3 urinals in there, and they're all open for business. Well this idiot walks right up to the middle one, leaving me no choice but to use one right next to him. If there's an option, you MUST leave a free space in between. Come on, man!
8:25 - We're back. The host thanks his sound guys for, and this is a direct quote, "making the singers sound fantasmo!" Yes, he said "fantasmo". Really. I'm unfortunately too far away to throw something at him.

Singer #16 - Some guy sings a bizarre slow and low arrangement of "Walking In Memphis". The most bizarre part? He spends an inordinate amount of time before the song starts getting the microphone into the holder on the stand. The host has to help. It's borderline uncomfortable watching him struggle with such a simple task that he's turning into his own personal Rubik's Cube. OK, he finally gets it set so that....wait for it....2.5 seconds into the song he can do a dramatic pull of the mic off the stand! Are you kidding me? I struggle to stilfe an audible laugh.
Singers #17-#23 - not bad, nothing too ridiculous.
Italy and Australia still tied 0-0 in 42nd min of 2nd half. Good game going on.
Singer #24 - I don't get this guy. Are you street? Are you diva? It's sort of a "gay thug-life" thing going on. I'm confused.
Singer #25 - Megan steps up to the mic, saying with attitude that she's "gonna rock". Alright! She launches into some Black Crowes, and rocks! If by "rocks" you mean "sings quietly and not to the tune of the original", that is.
Italy has a bicycle attempt on goal in the 44th minute! Just misses! Holy crap, so close.
Singers #26-27 - nothing much going on here.
Singer #28 - dude, you're gonna sing a U2 song? Bye.
I now get to do the stare down after throwing some "shut it" comments to some annoying bitch 3 seats down from me at the bar who keeps yelling to her friends, so she can be heard over the singing. Monique has to keep me in line, but I'm getting good laughs from the people around me, so it's all good.
Singer #29 - chick sings the Theme from The Jeffersons. While holding a beer. If Mo doesn't win this thing, I want her to. I need to set her up with a single friend of mine so I can hang out with her. OK, this is getting uncomforatble.
Singer #30 - guy is very good.

Time for another break, and we take off. I just can't take 20 more of these. It's too hard to tell how Mo is going to fare. There is a lot of crap on stage tonight, but also quite a few good singers. Plus, by leaving when we did, I missed the controversial end to the Italy-Australia game. Dammit!

And apparently the bad signs outweighed the good signs from earlier in the night. Monique got "The Email". Sorry, but you're not moving on. Thanks for playing.

So, no Big Break for Mo. No flat-panel TV and elimination of credit card debt for me. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, right?

- Corey

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Briette!!!!

Whoo Hoo! You're 21. Today's the day that you can finally drink alcohol. Man, I hope it was worth the wait.

Anyone reading this, tonight, toast to Brie. While you'll be having a nice, normal Wednesday evening. She'll be puking her guts out!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sketch Show Closes

Sunday afternoon was my last performance of "Don't Quit Your Night Job". It was a sketch show that I was cast in, and I had a great time. It was a cool experience to create a sketch show almost entirely through improvisation, with a group of people that I had just met. It was a very funny show, if I do say so myself, even if it was a little long. The 7 person cast was chosen from an audition, so we had no group dynamic from which to start. Through the reheasal process we became a pretty tight-knit group, and though I enjoyed the show immensely, I'll miss hanging out with the cast the most. I'm pretty sure that I'll see some of them in another project or at the main improv hang-outs of Chicago, or just hanging out socially. I'm glad I had this opportunity to do something a little different, performance-wise, too. I've been doing strictly improv since getting to Chicago, so this was a nice change of pace. We'll see, the show may not be done forever, either. The directors are going to submit it to various venues and festivals, so we may reunite the group together again for a revisit.

- Corey


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Big Break? Update!

UPDATE: Monique has made it to Round 2. She got the email today. Round 2 happens on Monday, June 26.

There were officially 360 contestants in Round 1, it's now down to 100 for Round 2. The odds of me getting that flat screen TV just got nearly 4 times better.

As per the rules, Round 2 works like before in that the singing is a capella and considered by the judges only. No audience voting yet. Also, contestants cannot sing the same song twice in the competition, so the search for Round 2's song has commenced. Feel free to post your suggestions in the comments here.

I'll be back with an update on Monday night or Tuesday morning. Or Tuesday afternoon. Get off my back!

- Corey

How to become popular

It's official, Comcast are dicktugs. Eventually we got fed up with their shenanigans and decided to go with DirecTV. DirecTV is the opposite of Comcast. They're not dicktugs, they're... what's the opposite of a dicktug?

Anyways, we're hoping they will be awesome, they're coming to install on Saturday. What we're most excited about: NFL Sunday Ticket baby! When the cost is broken down, it'll actually be cheaper than going a bar to watch the Chiefs play, like we used to have to do. So Sundays will be chips, beer, chili, taco soup or other delicious wintry football foods in our new awesome place with

We'll be the coolest house on the block. Finally, we'll have friends!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Big Break? what way?

Monique entered a singing contest. It's called "Bar 1's Big Break". It's basically a local American Idol type copycat. Except for a few major differences. One, there are a lot less contestants. This contest has about 400 entrants. Two, this contest is all held at a bar. With food, booze, and smoking. A perfect set up for a singing competition. Three, this contest has a grand prize of $10,000. Not a bad sum for the winner, but certainly a far-cry from the huge payoff/free car/endorsement deals/record deal/etc. that you get from winning American Idol. Four, this contest is only being held in this one location in Chicago, and not in multiple stops throughout America and televised worldwide.

Did those differences stop many people at last night's First Round of competition from acting as if this was American Idol? Of course not. Our world has become "American Idol-ized". The popularity of that show has changed the way people act at competitions, karaoke nights, open-mic's etc. Now don't get me wrong, Monique sounded great and I completely encouraged her to enter this thing. The $10k payoff is incentive alone. It's free to enter, there's nothing to lose. And if Mo makes it past the first few rounds and it starts getting serious, I have no problem changing my whole tune on this thing. (See what I did there? Change my tune. That's great.)

Last night was pretty ridiculous. They break the first rounds up into seperate days of competition. About 60 people sing each night. Last night Mo was #10. Now keep in mind, this is not karaoke. Lord no, the contestants sing a capella the first rounds. Much more difficult, but certainly seperates the haves from the have-nots. Of the 20 or so we witnessed last night, about 3 were "have's". The females way outnumbered the males in the competition. And of the men, only 2 of th 5 we saw sang songs by men. One dude sang Tracy Chapman's "Gimme One Reason (To Stay Here)". I saw no reason. Certainly not the nasal stylings reminiscent of a Junior High School production of "West Side Story". Another guy sang some Fiona Apple song. Not even a well-known one. Seriously, a big guy singing Fiona Apple. Next!

99% of the contestants fell into one of two categories. Category One was the Zero Stage Presence group. It was like I was attending "Zombie Idol". Just stand there and sing. Don't smile. Don't engage your audience. And for the love of everything holy, don't move! Category Two was the I'm Taking This Thing Way Too Seriously group. These people were acting as if this thing was televised, that the judges were celebrities (who, by the way could have been. I'll never know. There were three - a la American Idol, with 1 female judge between 2 male ones - sitting with their backs to the crowd, and were NEVER INTRODUCED. And their credentials for being the judges are...?) , and that this was the most important thing they had ever done. People, it's ROUND ONE! Even if you make it through, there are like 5 more rounds to go! You don't need to bring your whole family tonight. There's no audience voting yet. You didn't get SELECTED to perform SIGNED UP! So your friends can stop holding back the tears of pride and enough with the overdramatic hugs once you've finished your poor rendition of a boring Sarah McLachlan song. And please, girl who sang her hello's to the judges, you're not on TV. There are no record producers here, certainly not tonight, one of several Round 1 nights. So singing your original song that you wrote a few weeks ago was not impressive, it only came off as pretentious and smug. For that crap alone you should be eliminated. Thankfully, Monique has been on stage enough to know to just have fun and not take things too seriously. After all, this is really just good audition practice, especially if you have the right attitude going into it.

Speaking of no record producers there, why is this competition called "Big Break"? Read the contest info. The winner gets cash. A nice chunk of cheese, sure, but how is that considered a "Big Break"? There's not promise of a recording contract or of radio play or even a meeting with a producer or anything. It should be called "Chicago Idol" or "Big Money Sing-Off" or "10 Grand Talent Show". Maybe a name that's a little less misleading, no?

That said, I'm obviously biased, and I make no bones about that, but Monique did great. She sang "Killing Me Softly" in the style of The Fugees. She was smiling and warm and got the crowd into it with the "one time, one time" stuff. It was fun to watch. She finds out if she made it to Round 2 on Thursday or Friday. I'll keep you posted. If she makes it to the rounds where audience voting starts happening, you'll definitely know so you can come help. At that point, it's like the real American Idol and it's just a popularity contest. However, that close to $10,000 and this becomes the most important contest ever.

- Corey

Friday, June 16, 2006

Elvis hasn't left the building!

Work is finally getting done around our place. We found out that our neighbors were having just as many problems with getting work done around their condo as we were. Mostly they were small things like getting a key to the main door, or lights in the foyer, but there were some bigger issues as well. Things escalated and got to the point that we all had to call our lawyers... really it was a precaution more than anything, just to make sure we were covering all our bases. Well what do you know? That must of scared them enough. Next thing we know, we're given a new contact name..
Elvis! Yes, really. In fact, that's how he introduces himself, "Hi, my name is Elvis, yes really." Turns out he's the builder's son. All of the sudden things are getting done. Within 1/2 a day, we got a key to the front door, our shower door is being installed on Wednesday, the cable's ready to go and we have a light in the hallway. Maybe when they start working on the landscaping, they'll bring in John Wyane.

On another good note, I realized how much I love this blog! A few months back, our computer crashed. We lost everything, most upsettingly, our pictures. I didn't even think of it until now, but I went back through the archives and saved a bunch of pictures from here back on to my computer. I'm so happy that I didn't lose all the pictures from Vegas or of KC visits, parties or other any of the other stupid pointless stuff I like to take pictures of.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

You're welcome to stay too!

Just like when we first moved to Chicago, Dan Walsh was our first out of town guest in our new place . On Monday he was in town on business, so unfortunately it was a short visit. A couple of beers and off to bed. At least we got to enjoy some time with him. I had already left for work, before they got up, but I'm sure he enjoyed a nutritious breakfast with Corey.
I love having guests! Even if it meant them seeing me with bedhead. Who's next?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Take A "Brake" For Some Education

My brake pads were starting to wear out yesterday. They were making that squealing sound that lets you know, but you forget that they're supposed to do that, and instead you freak out a little that your car has suddenly turned against you and major problems, equalling a major pricetag, await.

So Mo and I take the car to the service station a block from home, and for probably the first time ever, I'm able to pull right up and into the garage. The mechanic gets the car up on the rack, takes a quick look, and tells me (through his thick Greek accent) that it's just the brake pads. He then informs me that he can replace them but he'd have to order the parts, meaning leaving the car there for a day or two, inconvenient but taken care of, etc. OR I could just walk the 4 blocks up the street to an auto parts store, buy the brake pads myself and bring them back and he would install them that night. Yes, you read that correctly. A mechanic was suggesting a way I could get my car fixed, for less money, and sooner. A mechanic!

So that's what we do. Four blocks up to the parts store. $18 for brake pads. Four blocks back. It's about 7pm at this point, and Nako (the Greek mechanic) tells me he'll take care of it, "give me 30 minutes" he says. I told him there's not a huge rush, we're hungry and want to grab some dinner, so I ask about the 9pm closing time which is on their sign. "Give me 30 minutes!" he yells back in his Greek accent. OK, off to dinner.

We come back well fed, and Nako hands us the bill for the labor, we thank him and go inside to pay. Inside is where we get our educational lesson for the day. I ask the cashier guy about our mechanic, how to pronounce his name, etc. The guy says in a scruffy voice "Oh yeah, that's Nako (pronounced nay-ko) he's my best guy. He's from Mastadonia, you know". I say, "Really, Macedonia?" trying to subtly correct the guy. He doesn't hear me. He follows with this gem: "Yeah, you know why it's called Mastadonia? It's because of the mastadons, those prehistoric elephants, like mammoths? They're called mastadons because that's where they're from -- Mastadonia."

Of course they are.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Want My MTV!

We found out this weekend that Comcast won't be able to hook up our cable until at least the end of July. End of July? That's ridickle-dackle! Given their track record on timeliness and promise keeping, this means we can safely estimate that we'll be able to watch TV just in time for "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

We could read, but all that the gossip magazines talk about is what's going on in the entertainment world which I've been deprived of for over 2 weeks now. I could try a book or newspapers, but too many words. We could play a game, but come on isn't that what we're already doing in this thing called marriage? We could go outside and enjoy the sunshine, but I try to reserve that strictly for when I'm forced to, such as walking to the El for work or when I lock myself out of the house.

Now we're stuck TALKING to each other. Ugghhh. I didn't plan on doing that until we were in our 80's and the conversation would be centered around stool-softeners, the rising price of bread and "those damn neighborhood kids!"

Comcast can suck it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Happy Birthday Emily!

Though her b-day isn't technically until later this week, the celebration was Saturday. Karaokee at The Brickhouse! Man, I do a mean rendition of "Hello" by Lionel Richie, complete with choreography.
Aww, Em as you turn 23, your wisdom and maturity continues to blossom. Take for example the other night. Emily, Amy and I had girls night. I was coloring their hair when we decided that we NEEDED some wine. Since I was still working on Amy's hair, Em was elected to make the wine run/bike. She didn't want to embarrass herself by going to the store with foil in her hair, so she figured this look with a towel would be better. The Curious George bookbag was so she'd have something to carry the wine back in. It's the only bookbag I had around (that's not true I have another more normal bag, but don't tell her... this was funnier). The best part was her trying to explain to the barely English speaking clerk at the liquor store that she didn't have cancer. "I'm dyeing my hair."... "Oh - you die - you have cancer?"... "No, it's hair dye! Hair dye!"

Monday, June 05, 2006

I love new stuff!

This weekend was jam packed with running around, plus the sketch show Corey is in opens in 4 days. This is the stage where it seems like the show will never come together, you're exhausted, sick of everyone around you and ready for it to be over. Not that he's complained to me, that's just the way any scripted show goes. We moved last Sunday and pretty much said goodbye to each other until Saturday. He's had rehearsal every night until 10pm or later. Since Saturday was our only day off together, we got as much done as possible. We ran all over town, spending money on stuff for the home, including another closet system from The Container Store for the pantry. Man, that place is awesome. I don't know why organizing makes me so excited, but I could spend all day in that store.
The fun "toy" that I'm the most excited about is my new salon chair. What a strange coincidence that my friend Emily happened to have an old barbers chair that she found in a dumpster outside her apartment. She needed a vacuum, I had a vacuum and so once again the barter system prevailed. It's pretty awesome in my "salon" room. I'd post a picture, but we still don't have internet at home.
Emily also sold me a bike. I've been wanting one for quite a while now. She gave me a great deal. It's practically new, came with a ton of add-on's, a lock and a helmet. I went on my first ride last night to Blockbuster. You know riding a bike really is just like riding a bike! I haven't been on one for years and somehow it was second nature to me. What isn't second nature to me is riding on the scary-ass streets of Chicago. Since you can't ride on the sidewalk, you have to share a lane with cars that just zoom past you and don't leave you much room. I tried to be a good biker and follow all the rules. I just couldn't remember my hand signals for turning. I tried to remember back to the Berenstein Bears book where Papa Bear taught Brother Bear the correct way to ride, but alas it's been too long and the only thing I remembered was how Papa Bear rode on the wrong side of the street and ended up in a tree.