Monthly Archives

March 2009

AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Grand Ole Opry Night

As someone who has very little love for country music, I was not looking forward to tonight’s episode. Two hours of twangy songs about people whose wives/girlfriends/husbands/dogs/kids/mothers have left them? Surprise! It was better than I thought it would be. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations, but I was glad I wasn’t driven to throw myself out the window from boredom.

I liked Randy Travis as a mentor. He was skeptical of all the contestants until he heard them sing and then gave them useful criticism. My favorite comment of his was about Adam Lambert: “I just don’t know what to say about this boy.” That sums up how I feel about Lambert, too, but let’s start at the beginning.

Michael Sarver went first and sang Garth Brooks’s “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).” He looked like he was having fun but the performance was just okay for me. I thought the dude playing harmonica was more interesting to watch. And, like Simon, I couldn’t understand a single word Sarver sang. He said “country folks” understood him so I guess I’m not country enough. He also talked back to all the judges tonight. He kept a smile on his face the whole time but I thought, “What is going on?” He’s usually so humble.

Allison Iraheta went next with Patty Loveless’s “Blame It on Your Heart.” Whee, doggie, she rocked it out! I love how she made it more rock than country. She also looked hip and edgy tonight, not awkward like in previous weeks. 

Kris Allen was third, singing Garth Brooks’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” The stripped-down arrangement showcased his vocals, which were surprisingly strong (I hadn’t pegged him as one of the better singers).  This performance was also not very country, with only piano accompaniment, and I was grateful for that. I like how he changed things up by not performing with his guitar tonight to show that it’s not a crutch.

Lil Rounds sang Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.” She was a little wonky in the beginning with a couple low notes but I like how restrained she was. My problem has always been how she wails on every single note instead of giving them nuance and moderation. She really tried to “honor the country” and for that, I was impressed and completely disagreed with the judges when they said she should’ve given them more of her usual sound. Random question: Didn’t she look like she was going to cut Simon when he repeatedly called her “Little”? 

Adam Lambert performed a sitarific version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” If you’re a regular reader here, you know I have no love for this guy. But I have to give him props for tonight’s performance. He took a huge risk in doing that arrangement, previously done by Dilana on CBS’s Rock Star: Supernova. I still can’t stand how Lambert thinks he’s being seductive by following the camera around with his eyes and he oversang the song as usual but hey, I got to listen to exotic Indian-flavored music instead of a country song! 

Scott MacIntyre sang Martina McBride’s “Wild Angels,” cementing his position as a one-trick pony. It’s the same every week: He plays the piano and gives decent but forgettable vocals. Paula spoke my thoughts out loud when she suggested he changes things up because the piano was interfering with his ability to connect to the audience. I do like how he replied, “We can move it a little closer!” 

When Alexis Grace appeared talking to Ryan, I thought, “She looks a lot like a young Dolly with that hairdo.” Lo and behold, she announced she was covering Ms. Parton’s “Jolene”! This girl went so far as to style her hair to fit this week’s theme! Alas, her performance wasn’t one of her best. She’s a gritty, dirrty, bluesy kind of gal and I don’t think country suited her. But she’s still got a lot of talent to show us so I hope she sticks around.

Danny Gokey, wearing a white parka fit for South Pole livin’ (odd fashion choice considering it was 87 degrees today), sang Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Wasn’t one of his best performances, either, but still solid. Like Alexis, he’s got a soulful voice that’s incongruous with country music.

Anoop! He sang a lovely, heartfelt version of Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind.” I already love the uptempo Anoop but he showed he was just as compelling taking his time, singing each word like he meant it, unlike what he did with last week’s “Beat It.” Anoop is back and here to stay!

My girl, Megan Joy, picked Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” and gave it her usual funky retro touch. I know some people can’t stand her but I root for her because she’s so unique. If I were station-surfing on the radio, I’d recognize her voice instantly and would stop and listen. Sometimes it isn’t about perfect vocals but more an attitude or personality that comes through. Bob Dylan and Tom Petty would never win any singing contests but there’s no mistaking their sound. Megan’s entertaining and gorgeous to look at and she’s a trouper for performing while sick.

The last spot tonight went to Matt Giraud and he didn’t disappoint. He sang Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” with only his own piano accompaniment and thankfully uncountrified it. This guy is growing on me, as long as he picks the right songs and keeps up that bluesy sound. Random question: When Paula told Giraud, “There’s nothing small about you,” did anyone else think, “How does she know?!”

I ended up voting for Megan, Anoop, Alexis and Allison. I think either Michael or Scott should go home. Who’d you vote for? Are you glad country music night is over?





Congratulations to Viktoria of North Hollywood, CA, who won the black tour T-shirt and tomato seeds from the Angel Corporation! Viktoria sent along these pictures of her wearing the shirt and, um, the ketchup she made from the homegrown tomatoes. 😉

The contest question was “If you had a splat gun, what would you fill it with and why?” Viktoria’s response was: “I would fill my splat gun with either a forget charm or truth serum depending upon which I need more at the time.”

Viktoria was randomly selected from all subscribers who submitted answers. Thank you to everyone who participated and keep your eyes peeled for future giveaways!


Audrey Niffenegger's Second Novel Coming Out in September 2009!

niffeneggeraEarlier this week, we discussed the upcoming movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Now, the New York Times reports that Audrey Niffenegger’s next novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, will be coming out late September! [UPDATE: The book’s pub date is September 29.]

This is a description of the book in Niffenegger’s own words on her website:

“The novel concerns a pair of mirror-image twins, Julia and Valentina Poole. The twins are young, sheltered American girls who inherit a flat on the edge of Highgate Cemetery in London, bequeathed to them by their recently deceased aunt. Julia and Valentina are inseparable, and function almost as one being, although in temperament they are opposites. As the story begins, they arrive in London to live in their aunt’s apartment.

Their presence disrupts the lives of their upstairs and downstairs neighbors. Martin Wells is a translator who never leaves his apartment and struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Robert Fanshaw works as a guide in Highgate Cemetery and is devoted to all things associated with death. Julia takes it upon herself to “cure” Martin; Robert falls in love with Valentina and begins to pry her away from her twin. Valentina starts to crave autonomy. Julia becomes more demanding and possessive. Things get out of control, as you might imagine.”

Here’s an article in the Camden New Journal about Niffenegger’s inspiration and research for the new novel.

Does this sound interesting to you? Will you be buying her next novel? I’ll try to get my hands on an ARC when they become available and get you some scoop! (UPDATE: Read my review of Her Fearful Symmetry here.)


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First 2 Finalists Cut

Kelly Clarkson was back in the house! She rocked it hard! Usually when previous contestants come on, they put me to sleep so fast I wonder if I have narcolepsy. But Kelly belted out “My Life Would Suck Without You” with such awesomeness, I shuddered thinking about how Justin Guarini almost wrested the Idol crown from her. Our lives would suck if she’d never been allowed to unleash her power on us.

OK, on to the business of eliminating people. Ryan revealed the new rule called the Judges’ Save, which can only be used once to save one person from elimination if they think America got it wrong that week. The choice has to be unanimous and can only be done up until the top 5 round. 

It was obvious the judges would save their Save and not use it tonight. They wouldn’t just neuter themselves by giving away their new veto power so soon. So Jasmine Murray and Jorge Nunez were out of luck, though each sang their hearts out as if they even had a chance of convincing the judges to overrule America’s decision. I completely agree with Jasmine going home, but not sure it was Jorge’s time. C’mon, Michael and Scott were way more boring than the Latin crooner.

Speaking of boring, next week is “Opry Week.” Translation: country music. My right eye is starting to twitch just thinking about Scott doing “BBQ Stain” or some mess like that. 

Did you agree with the public vote? Should the judges have saved Jasmine or Jorge? Comment away!


Rupert Penry-Jones Coming to America!

When I heard a couple years ago that Rupert Penry-Jones was leaving the superb British series MI-5 aka Spooks (Netflix it immediately if you’ve never seen it), I was crushed. I adored RPJ as the dashing yet troubled Adam Carter and wondered how they’d do without him. Admittedly, I wondered the same thing when Matthew Macfadyen abandoned ship and RPJ took over and did just fine, if not better. In an early interview not long after starting work on the series, RPJ had said he was grateful to be there and had no plans to go anywhere. So when I heard he was quitting, I thought, “Why?! Don’t be a David Caruso!”

rupert-runningTurns out he had a good reason. According to the Hollywood Reporter, RPJ is coming to America to work for Jerry Bruckheimer! Whoo! He’ll play a former cop leading a bunch of amateur detectives in an ABC pilot. Sounds like he’ll get to do some of the action stuff he was very good at on MI-5 and I’d imagine the pilot has a good chance of getting picked up since hit-machine Bruckheimer is behind it. (For an update on the show, click here.)

While RPJ was on MI-5, I always had to wait two frakkin’ long years after the episodes aired in England before the DVDs became available here. The thought of possibly being able to see him on the tube every week is quite exciting for me. And he’ll join my other favorite guys on TV right now, all of whom just happen to be from overseas: Hugh Laurie (House), Damian Lewis (Life), Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy), Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords).

Who’s your favorite foreigner on TV right now? Vote in the poll below!


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 13 Compete

I went into Michael Jackson-theme night with high hopes because whatever you may think of him as a person, the guy’s had tons of good catchy hit songs. But does that mean the contestants chose those good songs? No. Some of them chose such dreary, obscure ones that I was sure Barry Manilow wrote Scott MacIntyre’s selection, “Keep the Faith.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break it down.

  • Lil Rounds, aka Loud Rounds, started the night with “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I like the energy and the song but every note was sung exactly the same way—loudly. The way she made me feel was to turn down the volume. It’s too much of a good thing. The girl’s got pipes for sure but some moderation and variety would be nice.
  • Scott MacIntyre accompanied himself on piano while singing “Keep the Faith.” Which? Yeah, I didn’t know it, either. That’s because it was never released as a single and there’s good reason—it’s utterly forgettable. If you offered me a new Buick to hum it right now, I couldn’t. It’s awesome how well Scott can play piano and overcome his visual impairment but I realized tonight that every performance will probably be exactly the same because it’s not as if he could do an uptempo song and dance around. He could still have a career as an Elton John-type of artist but he’s not the kind of “package” performer the producers are looking for.
  • Danny Gokey. Ooh, I was scared when he did those slow runs at the start of “P.Y.T.” I thought, “Please, no, don’t put me to sleep.” But then he ripped the mike off the stand and funked it up! He sang the crap out of that song! The dance moves made him look like a spastic chicken but I didn’t mind because he looked like he was having buckets o’ fun. 
  • Michael Sarver went next, showing his sensitive side with “You Are Not Alone.” Well, I can’t be alone in thinking the performance was completely vanilla, right? He’s got a solid voice and seems like a stand-up guy (reminded me of Josh Gracin from season 2) but has no star quality.
  • Jasmine Murray. That girl sure is pretty and her sisters are gorgeous, too, but her cover of “I’ll Be There” was safe and unspectacular. I was just thinking how she came off a little Stepford-ish when Simon said, “You’re a little robotic” and I freaked. Simon’s inside my head! Jasmine needs to show me more of her personality before I can get more excited about her.
  • Kris Allen. I like this kid with his guitar! Makes him so much more interesting to watch. “Remember the Time” is not the most riveting song but he made it more fun by John Mayering it up.
  • Allison Iraheta, doing another obscure song, “Give In to Me.” She’s got such a great, gravelly voice, though, that she managed to rock it out. That little girl’s a powerhouse! But she’s got to stop making those goofy, awkward faces while listening to the judges’ feedback. Put on a game face and own it, girl!
  • Anoop Desai, bravely taking on “Beat It.” I was excited when he announced this song choice but oops, what happened? The vocals weren’t great. That song needs a whole lotta ‘tude and Anoop didn’t quite bring it. I dig the makeover, though, and still want him around for next week.
  • Jorge Nunez sang “Never Can Say Good-bye” in a cheesy, ’70s-style arrangement. But his vocals are consistently passionate and if you close your eyes, he sounds just like Marc Anthony in places. My favorite comment of the night came when Jorge said he wasn’t going to sing “Bad” and Simon retorted, “You sort of did.” Ha! 
  • Megan Joy Corkrey. She sang “Rockin’ Robin,” which is a really quirky choice but perfect for her persona. She’s so wacky and fun and retro and Duffy-ish with the funky dance moves and I love her. Not the best singer but my favorite entertainer. And her mom is stunning! No wonder Megan’s gorgeous.
  • The Hellmouth aka Adam Lambert tackling “Black or White” in a bombastic, seizure-inducing manner. He’s got an impressive falsetto but I can’t deal with his shrieky style. He’s never met a note he didn’t want to kill, and I don’t mean that in a cool, slangy way. Judges loved him. Even Simon betrayed me. Sadness.
  • Matt Giraud, playing the piano and singing “Human Nature.” It’s an underwhelming performance but the song is underwhelming. The guy is talented; I think it was just a matter of bad song choice here.
  • Alexis Grace. Her baby said, “Seacrest. Out” in the video package! Cutest. Thing. Ever. (The baby, not the catchphrase.) I thought Alexis shredded “Dirty Diana.” She was a little bit dirty and a lot hot mama as she slinked across that stage in her shorts jumper and high heels and confidently belted out the song. I was completely confused by why the judges thought she oversang it when they praised Adam Lambert for being over the top. 

Random thought apropos of nothing: Did Paula have some kind of plastic surgery gone wrong? Her face looked different tonight, like a younger Joan Rivers on bronzer. Something was too sharp or too tight or something. 

Anyway, I voted for Megan, Anoop, Danny and Alexis. I think bottom two will be Michael Sarver and Jasmine Murray.

Who’d you vote for? Who’s saying buh-bye tomorrow? Discuss!


When Will TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE Travel to Movie Screens?

2008_the_time_travelers_wife_006A source of mine sent me the following e-mail after attending a test/preview screening of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Please keep in mind this isn’t a formal review. The movie is still a work in progress and may differ greatly from the final cut.

Having said that, there’s a huge bunch of people rabidly anticipating this movie and I’m near the head of the line. I read Audrey Niffenegger’s magical book when it first came out in 2003 and promptly forced it onto any and all unsuspecting victims within reach. I made my sister stay up all night on a weeknight to finish the 525-page tome and she has a job.

At any rate, what my source reports is promising:

2008_the_time_travelers_wife_004“It’s a testament to the quality of the story and Rachel McAdams’ luminous talent that this movie is as moving as it is, considering how wooden Eric Bana is as Henry. He’s really stiff, not quite a romantic hero. Someone like Colin Firth would’ve done a much better job. At least McAdams is well-cast. She carries this movie with her longing eyes and expressive face. This woman is a Movie Star. The actresses playing 10-year-old Alba and 6-year-old Clare are also very good.

rachelAmazingly, the complex novel has been compressed into a well-paced movie that’s only about an hour and a half. The first scene introduces Henry’s time-traveling right away without much preamble, which is good, since it grabs you instantly, even if you haven’t read the book (I have). Obviously, details have been left out but the movie covers all the important themes—free will, destiny, true love, life and death, etc. The ending, at least in this version, is different from the book but keeps the spirit of what Henry was trying to tell Clare in the novel. It’s effective and satisfying and if it doesn’t make you cry or at least put a lump in your throat, you’re a heartless jerk.”

Whoa! Who’s excited with me?! (UPDATE: Read my exclusive interview with the young actresses who play Alba here.)

IMDb still lists the release date as February 2010, but does this report help you any? Does it make the wait easier or do you wish you could travel to next February? Leave me a comment then bookmark this site ’cause I’ll keep you updated if I hear anything else, i.e. info about Niffenegger’s new novel or when the trailer comes out.

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white-witch-black-curseAre you a fan of Kim Harrison’s the Hollows series? If yes, you’re gonna like some cool stuff I’ve got to give away to tie in with the recent release of book #7, White Witch, Black Curse. (If you’re not familiar with the series, click here for more info and here to read the first two chapters.)

The first item is a black, medium-sized T-shirt with a white handprint in front and a list of cities on Ms. Harrison’s book tour on back. It’s very rock ‘n’ roll. But that’s not all. I’ll also throw in a couple of T4 tomato seed packets from the Angel Corporation so you can grow your own mass-murdering tomatoes at home (insert evil laugh here). The contest closes Friday, March 13 at midnight PST, the perfect time to start planting your seeds of evil. One person will be randomly selected to win everything.

Requirements for entering:

1) Be a subscriber (see upper right-hand corner of page).

2) Post a comment here answering the following question: If you had a splat gun, what would you fill it with and why? Leave as many answers as you’d like, but make each its own comment. They will count as separate entries and increase your chance of winning.

3) Live in the U.S. I apologize to my international subscribers! I make no money from this blog and have to pay for shipping myself.

Good luck!





CD Review: Kelly Clarkson’s ALL I EVER WANTED

kelly-clarkson-all-i-ever-wantedOne of my pet peeves is driving along next to someone who’s got their stereo cranked up so loud, I can feel the sound vibrations thumping through my chest wall, jacking my heart into a near-attack. I mean, does anyone need to listen to music that loudly? Well, yes, if it’s Kelly Clarkson’s new CD. Listening to All I Ever Wanted (dropping March 10), I just wanted to open the sunroof, turn the stereo up to 11 and go roaring down the freeway, pumping my fists in the air and hollering, “Hell, yeah, she’s back, baby!”

I’m not going to rehash all that business about her feud with Clive Davis over the direction of her last album, My December. All you need to know is that this one is chock full of catchy hard pop songs that you’d need a lobotomy to get out of your head, even after one listen. Kelly’s having fun here and it’s evident throughout, starting with that cover art, which sets the tone for the collection—it’s bright and bursting with color.

My favorite cuts: “I Do Not Hook Up,” the ridiculously catchy anthem for abstinence, co-written by Katy Perry and Kara DioGuardi, that manages to be both tough and sweet; the funky title track with the thumping beat, R & B feel and searing chorus; “Long Shot,” a staccato-rhythmed cut also co-written by Perry, and the be-boppy, ’60s girl-groupy “I Want You,” where Clarkson is all bouncy bubble gum and not the least bit moody or angsty. It’s a different sound for her but it’s fun and it works.

There are a couple of pretty ballads, too. “Cry” is reminiscent of “Breakaway” and “Already Gone” slightly echoes Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Less talented singers sometimes bore me when they slow things down because they end up revealing the shallowness of their vocals. Clarkson has no such trouble. Slowed down, funked up, stretched out, whatever—her blazing voice can do pretty much whatever she wants it to.

Lyrics-wise, there’s nothing groundbreaking here. Most of the songs deal with relationships—pining for a guy or trying to get over a guy. But hey, Clarkson’s not going for songwriter of the year (she co-wrote some of the songs). What she proves with this album is that she can enjoy herself while still giving the public what it wants.

Nerd verdict: All you want in a Kelly Clarkson album


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8's Top 13 Finalists!

Tonight’s wild card show went mercifully fast, with a lot of business wrapped up in an hour instead of stretched out to two. Eight wild card performers competed for the remaining three spots in the top 12 and after a commercial break, the judges, who obviously had their minds made up before the show, announced who should go through. They threw in a little twist by picking four people instead of three but I say “little” because there really wasn’t any chance they wouldn’t put Anoop through after all the superlatives they threw at his “My Prerogative” performance.

The other finalists selected tonight were Megan Corkrey (yay!), Matt Giraud and Jasmine Murray. Those are pretty good choices but I’m sad my girl Jesse Langseth didn’t make it. As usual, she was smoking hot (singing “Tell Me Something Good”), the performer with the most confidence and stage presence. Somebody needs to snap that girl up for a recording contract.

Which rejected wild card contestant did you think should’ve advanced to the next round? Vote below and see if others agree with you!

[polldaddy poll=1429873]


Reviews of New Movie Trailers

These movies won’t be out for at least a couple of months but trailers are available so I thought I’d review them. Trailers are an art in their own right—they only have a few seconds to grab you by the throat and make you want to start saving up for that $12 ticket and $10 bucket of corn. Take a look by clicking on each title and let me know if they succeeded.

2009_public_enemies_0013Public Enemies — July 1. The trailer just became available and it looks slick and sexy. Johnny Depp as John Dillinger is being chased by Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis but makes time to flirt with the slinky Marion Cotillard. Somewhere admidst all the gunfire Dr. Manhattan—er, Billy Crudup—shows up, too. Rating: Hot.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past — May 1. Why do people continue to give Matthew McConaughey leading roles? When was the last time he made a good movie and/or showed any kind of acting chops? Failure to Launch? Ha! Fool’s Gold? Please. Here, he plays a womanizing jerk who’s about to ruin his brother’s wedding until ghosts of girlfriends past pay him a visit to teach him about true love. Oy. The beautiful and talented Jennifer Garner is too good for him. I’d be watching the movie, yelling, “No, Jen, move along! He’s an idiot!” so what would be the point? Incidentally, many years ago, Disney almost made this movie with Garner’s hubby, Ben Affleck (Garner wasn’t attached), but then pulled the plug on it. New Line probably should’ve let Ghosts stay dead. Rating: Sucks Dirt.

2009_funny_people_wallpaper_001Funny People — July 31. The Apatow Dumpling Gang is all here—wife Leslie Mann, kids Iris and Maude, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill—in Judd’s third feature as director. Add Adam Sandler as a stand-up comic who learns he might be dying. Unfortunately, I feel as if I’ve seen the whole movie from the trailer and wasn’t that amused by it. Apatow said he wanted to make a serious film “that is twice as funny as my other movies.” I think he succeeded with the serious, but the funny remains to be seen. Rating: Okay. (UPDATE: Here’s a pseudo-review by a source of mine who attended a screening.)

Angels & DemonsMay 15. Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon with only slightly better hair. I thought The Da Vinci Code was unwatchable but this trailer looks kinda tight. Rome is one of my favorite cities so seeing it used as a backdrop increased my interest a little (didn’t read Dan Brown’s book; don’t plan to). Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard and Armin Mueller-Stahl also pop up, looking very intense and/or evil. Rating: Good.

b-pittInglorious Basterds — Aug. 21.  I thought this trailer was hilarious and am not sure whether Tarantino intended it that way. But watching Brad Pitt say, “I want my scalps!” in his Southern accent and then Hitler throwing a fit, yelling, “Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!” made me laugh. I’m not sold on what seems to be an ultra-violent movie (I ran screaming from the room during the ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs) but the trailer was amusing. Rating: Good.

The Taking of Pelham 123 — June 12. John Travolta’s baddie and Denzel Washington’s good guy go head to head in matching goatees, with Travolta taking hostages on a subway for ransom. Looks like lots of action, which is expected in a Tony Scott movie, but it all looked generic. Nothing stood out as awe-inspiring like, say, last year’s Wanted trailer, which showcased craaazy, mind-blowing stunts with Angelina Jolie in a red sports car and a guy who jumped out a window at the camera, his face a mask of broken glass pieces. Rating: Okay.

So, you excited about any of these? What are you saving up your loose couch change for?


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Group 3 Finalists & Wild Card Contestants Revealed!

Here’s what you want to know: Scott MacIntyre, Jorge Nunez and Lil Rounds were voted into the top 12 by the public. After that was settled, the judges picked 8 previously rejected contestants for the Wild Card round, which takes place tomorrow.

All my faves were given another chance—yay! I’m talking about Anoop, Megan Corkrey and Jesse Langseth. I was so psyched even the selection of Tatiana was only a minor damper (though my mouth did drop open and my chicken almost fell out). Gross, I know, but so’s having that girl forced upon us again.

I’m keeping this short so I can go do my finger-stretching exercises to prepare for some furious dialin’ action tomorrow night. ‘Noop, Meg and Jess have got to advance to the next round. They’re the most unique from this bunch so c’mon, America, don’t let them down again! If you vote Tatiana through, I will hunt you down!