Wednesday, September 22, 2021

NFL 2021 Week 3

 NOT PREDICTIONS


Overall Results: 14-18 (44%) 

 

1. Panthers (2-0) at Texans (1-1)

2. Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)
3. Falcons (0-2) at Giants (0-2)
4. Chargers (1-1) at Chiefs (1-1)
5. Bengals (1-1) at Steelers (1-1)
6. Bears (1-1) at Browns (1-1)
7. Ravens (1-1) at Lions (0-2)
8. Saints (1-1) at Patriots (1-1)
9. Cardinals (2-0) at Jaguars (0-2)
10. Washington (1-1) at Bills (1-1)
11. Jets (0-2) at Broncos (2-0)
12. Dolphins (1-1) at Raiders (2-0)
13. Seahawks (1-1) at Vikings (0-2)
14. Buccaneers (2-0) at Rams (2-0)
15. Packers (1-1) at 49ers (2-0)

16. Eagles (1-1) at Cowboys (1-1)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

NFL 2021 Week 2 Results

 NOT PREDICTIONS

Week 1 and Overall Results: 7-9 (44%)
 
1. Giants (0-1) at Washington (0-1) W 1

2. Patriots (0-1) at Jets (0-1) L 1
3. Broncos (1-0) at Jaguars (0-1) W 2
4. Bills (0-1) at Dolphins (1-0) W 3
5. 49ers (1-0) at Eagles (1-0) W 4
6. Rams (1-0) at Colts (0-1) L 2
7. Raiders (1-0) at Steelers (1-0) L 3
8. Bengals (1-0) at Bears (0-1) W 5
9. Texans (1-0) at Browns (0-1) W 6
10. Saints (1-0) at Panthers (1-0) L 4
11. Vikings (0-1) at Cardinals (1-0) L 5
12. Falcons (0-1) at Buccaneers (1-0) L 6
13. Titans (0-1) at Seahawks (1-0) W 7
14. Cowboys (0-1) at Chargers (1-0) L 7
15. Chiefs (1-0) at Ravens (0-1) L 8

16. Lions (0-1) at Packers (0-1) L 9
 
Week 2 Results: 7-9 (44%)
Overall Results: 14-18 (44%)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

NFL 2021 Week 2

 NOT PREDICTIONS

Week 1 and Overall Results: 7-9 (44%)
 
1. Giants (0-1) at Washington (0-1)

2. Patriots (0-1) at Jets (0-1)
3. Broncos (1-0) at Jaguars (0-1)
4. Bills (0-1) at Dolphins (1-0)
5. 49ers (1-0) at Eagles (1-0)
6. Rams (1-0) at Colts (0-1)
7. Raiders (1-0) at Steelers (1-0)
8. Bengals (1-0) at Bears (0-1)
9. Texans (1-0) at Browns (0-1)
10. Saints (1-0) at Panthers (1-0)
11. Vikings (0-1) at Cardinals (1-0)
12. Falcons (0-1) at Buccaneers (1-0)
13. Titans (0-1) at Seahawks (1-0)
14. Cowboys (0-1) at Chargers (1-0)
15. Chiefs (1-0) at Ravens (0-1)

16. Lions (0-1) at Packers (0-1)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

NFL 2021 Week 1 Results

Week 1
(0-0) 
 
1.  Cowboys (0-0) at Buccaneers (0-0) L 1
 
2.  Jaguars (0-0) at Texans (0-0) L 2
3.  Chargers (0-0) at Washington (0-0) W 1
4.  Seahawks (0-0) at Colts (0-0) L 3
5.  Jets (0-0) at Panthers (0-0) L 4
6.  Vikings (0-0) at Bengals (0-0) W 2
7.  Cardinals (0-0) at Titans (0-0) L 5
8.  49ers (0-0) at Lions (0-0) W 3
9.  Steelers (0-0) at Bills (0-0) L 6
10. Eagles (0-0) at Falcons (0-0) L 7
11. Browns (0-0) at Chiefs (0-0) W 4
12. Packers (0-0) vs Saints (0-0) in Jacksonville W 5
13. Broncos (0-0) at Giants (0-0) W 6
14. Dolphins (0-0) at Patriots (0-0) W 7
15. Bears (0-0) at Rams (0-0) L 8

16. Ravens (0-0) at Raiders (0-0) L 9

Week 1 and Overall Results: 7-9 (44%)
 
The Bears are tied for First Place

Monday, September 13, 2021

California Governor Recall Election

California Governor

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2020 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

When all is said and done, this feels like a bit of a waste to have to right about. For sure political entertainment purposes, this show looked like it had the potential for extreme drama and a potential political cluster-something of all time about a month and a half ago. The circumstances have calmed however, and by late tomorrow night, it should be clear that Democrat Gavin Newsom will not have to vacate his office.

Recalls are a weird political animal. In American history, two Governors have been recalled, one way 100 years ago in North Dakota and famously, 18 years ago in California, which saw an unpopular Democrat recalled and celebrity Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger emerge among a large and colorful figure, in which his main opposition was the sitting Democrat Lt. Governor. Nine years ago, Democrats in Wisconsin had high hopes of ousting GOP Governor Scott Walker early, but he became the first state chief executive in history to survive. All the money and energy helped him win another term two years later (but ultimately did little for his Presidential ambitions.) When Walker sought yet another term in 2018, he was turned aside by the voters.

Relatively few states allow for Gubernatorial recalls. In principle, I think they are a bad idea. For the most part, voters should live with the consequences of their choices. There is always another election on the horizon, as will be the case next year in California. In extreme circumstances, public pressure for resignation or the impeachment process should be used, as it was in my state of Illinois several years back, or most recently against the disgraced Andrew Cuomo of New York who eventually resigned.

Governor Newsom easily won his office in 2018. While the state has a somewhat unique electoral system that could easily produce two members of the same party facing off in a general election, he was lucky enough to face a weak Republican in an overwhelmingly and increasingly blue state. Newsom looks like a tv show version of a politician and came into office with an ambitious liberal agenda. There has been much dissatisfaction with him though, at least in some parts of the state, regarding water and fire issues and the feeling that Newsom was overly arrogant. This problem increased after the Coronavirus pandemic emerged as the biggest issue facing government. The Governor enacted tough shut down and distancing measures, but was caught on film flaunting all of them, maskless, and with a large crowd of wealthy elites at a very expensive restaurant. Newsom would apologize for this lack of judgment but the damage had been done and he looked very much like a hypocrite.

The ability to get a recall measure on the ballot in California appears to be pretty easy, and perhaps overly so. A judge extended the deadline to gather signatures because of the pandemic and Newsom's Republican critics were able to get the measure on the ballot. To some, this felt like an exercise in futility, as most at first though there was no way that Newsom would actually be recalled. Like what happened in Wisconsin, his survival might make it more difficult to target him in the regular 2022 election. However, the unique circumstances of the recall statute pretty much gave Republicans their best hope for a fluke victory.

Elections are all about turnout and motivation. The energy to recall Newsom on the right was clearly higher at first than the desire to save him, where even many Democrats were disappointed with the Governor or took his beating back the recall for granted. Polls showed that with a low turnout, it might very well be the case that a majority of Golden State voters in this election could do to Newsom what had been done in 2003 to Gray Davis.

Here is where things get even more interesting. If the question on recalling Newsom were to pass, the person among 46 qualified candidates who received the most votes, no matter how low a percentage, would become Governor. Unlike 2003, Democrats chose not to have an insurance policy of a credible candidate in case the measure passed. Instead, they would basically take the chance that the office would go to a Republican or some sort of gadfly Democrat that the party would really want no part of. Not too long ago, this looked like a huge potential problem for Democrats, but now, it seems like the lack of any sort of viable Democrat option is a major contributor to why Newsom is likely to survive on the first question.

Scores of candidates lined up to run, from both major political parties, and Independents .There would be no primary process to weed out the contenders. Headlines were made when former Olympic champion and reality show transgender trailblazer Caitlyn Jenner announced her plans to run as a Republican. While Jenner had been critical of Donald Trump, mostly on LGBT issues, she amassed a campaign team of former Trump staffers and seemed to take positions inline with the Trump base. She also left the campaign trail for some time to do a tv reality show in Australia. Ultimately, Jenner was never able to make any sort of case for running other than the need for personal attention and is polling at a very low number.

More serious Republicans entered the race, which I suppose would probably have to include  John Cox, the only time perennial candidate from Chicagoland, who lost in the general election to Newsom three years ago. His gimmick was to campaign with a large bear, that managed to not maul him on the trail. Doug Ose, a relatively moderate former Congressman was in the field, but dropped out not long ago after suffering a heart attack. Other GOP candidates include a conservative State Assemblyman (whose campaign website seems to contain a virus warning) and a more moderate and wonkish Board of Equalization member.

When this race first came into focus, many though the strongest possible Republican candidate would be Kevin Faulconer, a moderate who had served recently as Mayor of San Diego. After all, he was one of the few big city GOP Mayors left anywhere in America. If this were a true one on one race against Newsom, he might actually have a chance, but that is assuming the political world is sane. Faulconer is way back in the polls because he is considered boring and has garnered little in the way of media attention.

A late entrant to the field who has easily gained the most attention and is heavily favored to finish first among the 46 candidate field is Republican Larry Elder. I do not really understand it but that is the political reality that we like in. Conservative activist types in California like the combative and conservative long time Los Angeles talk radio host who has had somewhat of a national profile over the past 25 years or so. 

Much like Trump, Elder is someone who loves to say controversial things and never apologizes for doing so. He has stood by Trump's claims that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen from him and even before the first vote is counted in California tomorrow, seems ready to claim that the contest is being stolen from him as well. Elder, also like Trump, has questions about past personal behavior. His former fiancee/radio producer claims he used drugs, harassed, and abused her during their relationship.

Elder is most identified though because of his identity as a black conservative. He has pointed to his success in life from very humble beginning as proof of the American Dream and has consistently taken on the left in regards to "systemic racism" or the need for large government programs. As talk radio hosts are known to do, he has often said very provocative things such as musing that slave holders would have been more worthy of reparations than the descendants of slaves. Last week, a left-wing activist (assuming it was not a self-staged event) put on a gorilla mask and threw eggs at Elder. There is no excuse for that anywhere in the political sphere. Only also has to realize that had this exact thing happened to an African-American Democrat, it would have received massive news coverage. When it happened to Elder, it was barely, if at all mentioned, outside of Fox News or right-wing media. This definitely speaks as an example as to why left-wing media bias is real.

To reiterate, back in July and August, the polls on the recall question looked to be very close and inching away from Newsom. It was clear that those who wanted him gone were more motivated than those who wanted him to stay. Then, it appears, enough Democrats got scared into taking this thing seriously. In early August, a SurveyUSA poll came out showing that there was a majority now in favor of the recall and that the replacement would come down to Elder and a virtually unknown YouTube figure, running as a Democrat, in favor of the recall, and whose campaign platform sounded more like a Trump Republican. I was very surprised to see this poll. The possibility of this out of nowhere Democrat potentially becoming Governor just because he was running with a D next to his name seemed even crazier than Larry Elder becoming Governor. It also appeared somewhat suspect because that Democrat, Kevin Paffrath, was the only one included in the poll. That would make the situation even more promising for Elder, and for a time, Republicans across the country felt like Elder was headed to victory. During this time, I wondered if there would be an opening for the moribound Faulconer campaign to warn voters that the recall was going to pass and that Democrats should join his Republican backers in supporting him on the second question as the only mainstream hope to be Governor.

As Lee Corso might say though in regards to a college football game, not so fast. SurveyUSA's next poll had very different results and they basically said their previous poll was crap. They had not previously had a good polling reputation in the state. While Elder is going to win the most votes tomorrow, and while it is true that there might be a surprising number of Latino voters especially who have turned on Newsom, the polls now show that "No" is likely to beat "Yes" by a very solid margin. There is still enough unpredictability though in regards to the makeup of the electorate that I cannot call this "Safe."

National Democrats, including Joe Biden, have rallied to the cause of saving Newsom. It would be a tremendous embarrassment if they lose and that is unlikely to happen, especially in a place like California. Enough of the state's Democrat base have been convinced to vote apparently and thus, that will be the end of this chapter. The race is nationalized to the extent that actions by Republicans in Texas have enough Democrats in California scared enough to save their Governor (as if there would be any chance that abortion restrictions could pass in California.) There might also be a more realistic concern that even a temporary Republican Governor could make many appointments and even potentially replace a Democrat U.S. Senator should a vacancy occur. By the same token, actions by Newsom and California Democrats are probably going to help Republicans in Texas and other red states next year in these very polarized times.

Soon enough, it will be time to look towards the regular Gubernatorial election in California. It is very clear that for all his political problems, Newsom will be running for a second term. Many of the figures from this recall contest are likely to try also. The top two candidates, regardless, of party, will advance, and advance alone to the general election. The big question will be if a big-name Democrat steps up to challenge Newsom, and if they can manage to get him into an all Democrat final contest. Of course, any Democrat running would most like to emerge against a Republican in November like John Cox or Larry Elder.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Generation Removed

I have been going back and forth, right up to this point, as to if I wanted to make a post today. If I did make one I was not sure what to title it or what the tone of it would be. I guess I will be figuring that out as we go along. I will not be proofreading so this may wind up somewhat disjointed and rambling, but putting ones thoughts on "paper" can be a helpful thing.

Today is a somber day. I find it very hard to believe that it has now been twenty years since September 11, 2001. The events of that day have been seared in my memory. I can only imagine how much more so that is for those who were close to the attacks or suffered loss directly. After the initial shock and horror of that day, there was a very comforting feeling of national unity. Congress joined together, Democrats and Republicans alike, to sing "God Bless America" on the Capitol steps that day, and our then President, whose election had been controversial, rose to the occasion as a leader in the aftermath in a way that even his harshest critics gave him credit.

To paraphrase a famous television sitcom theme song, "we could use a man like George W. Bush again."

Today, America feels as divided as ever. The people most vocal about politics are firmly divided into tribes. We still face the damage of a global pandemic. Just a few short months ago, there was the belief that it was all but over, but people are continuing to die every day in numbers comparable to the lives lost on 9/11.

Innocent victims met their fate that day and while we should certainly mourn the loss of any American, those that are dying of Covid are almost all unvaccinated. It is hard to understand why so many people continue to be so stubborn and so foolish. Politics plays a part for some, but not all. Many on the left seem to embrace the narrative of thinking that all the vaccine resisters are Trump supporters. Yes, many are, but certainly not all. This feels more like a political football for them then genuine concern over their fellow man and that is sad as well.

Last year, late in the game, I made the decision to vote for Joe Biden in the Presidential general election. I knew that I disagreed with him on a ton and that I would almost certainly oppose many aspects of his Presidency. However, he was running against Donald Trump. Needless to say, I do not have one milligram of regret for not voting for Trump. He was and remains a cancer on our nation and civilization. There are literally not enough words to convey how terrible he was for America and how dangerous his influence remains both for the country and for the political party I was once proud to belong to.

Nonetheless, I now feel I was wrong to personally vote for Biden. It will not be a mistake I make again. I gave him a chance in his first few months in office and did not have too much to complain about. His actions this past summer though have profoundly disappointed me. I thought he understood that he became President, simply because he was not Donald Trump. His charge was to try to unite the country as much as possible and above all to defeat the virus. He was very lucky to be President, after nearly 50 years of seeking the office to some extent. It is clear that Biden, even at his advanced age, thinks of himself as another FDR.

He has overreached on domestic matters and social issues which did not come as too much of a surprise. I suppose I should be glad he has not attempted to pack the court or support eliminating the filibuster.. at least not yet. That is pretty much par for the course though. He got way out ahead in declaring victory over the virus and leading us intelligent vaccinated people in tossing away the masks that we wore without complaint before vaccines are available but now feel suckered into having to wear again. The failure to lead a successful campaign to get more people vaccinated is not all his fault, but the messages and tone of his Administration contributed to this loss. In particular, the push for masks again I believe hurt the efforts to convince holdouts to get vaccinated. 

I completely relate to and understand the frustration that so many Americans are feeling about the dangers the unvaccinated are putting people in, especially children too young to have been approved for the vaccine. The speech given a few days ago by Biden was nothing short of chilling though as he announced plans for sweeping mandates on people and private businesses.

Again, let me be clear. Anybody eligible who is not vaccinated is a huge part of the problem but this is still a free country. Authoritarianism was wrong under Trump and it is wrong under Biden, even as the tribalists cheered it for both men. Private business should have every right to impose vaccine requirements on their employees and anything else they feel is necessary to properly conduct their affairs during a pandemic. The federal government should not have the power to force private businesses to do that though. It seems a simple concept that anybody with a basic understanding of the Constitution should understand. Politicians on both parties are playing a dangerous game regarding masks and vaccines. These decisions, if they have to be made by government at all, should be done at the local level, in cities, towns, local school boards, etc. Preening Governors and flailing Presidents should stand back.

The overall tone of Biden's speech this past week was terrible and divisive. It is going many people to dig in and fight even harder about getting themselves or their loved ones vaccinated. Some may now get the shot under pressure or fear of losing their job, but there will be court challenges, and these mandates are quite unlikely to be held up. People on the winning side will declare victory and people on the losing side will complain. Those that applaud Biden for pushing efforts that they believe are for the public good but deep down realize are likely Unconstitutional are wrong, just like the people who supported Trump were.  I remember how loud some people were in opposing the Patriot Act and other measures after 9/11. Somewhere, consistency and principle have been lost.

I could go on at great length about Afghanistan and how our recent failures there lead to this anniversary of 9/11 being all the more somber. I believe it was wrong to leave Afghanistan and allow the Taliban to take over and exert their brutality over innocent men, women, and children. I can understand though that there are those who disagree and that sort of debate is what we honor as Americans. Trump was gung-ho in getting us out of Afghanistan and wanted to bring the Taliban to Camp David last year on September 11 for a photo-op. Those who now vocally complain about Biden and Afghanistan who supported Trump on this really have no room to talk, unless they are willing to admit they were wrong. There are only a handful of consistent people in politics these days who have spoken out against Biden's recent actions, since as Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger who have the legitimate right to claim their principles have not wavered on this issue just because of partisan politics.

Ultimately though, the tragedy was not so much about leaving itself but by the botched and disgraceful way we left. There are valid debates to be had about the macro policy but there should not be any argument that what happened in Afghanistan in recent weeks should not have happened the way it did. Biden and his backers have continuously tried to change the subject towards the broader issue of "forever wars." It boils down to the fact that Biden ignored sound military advice, ignored our allies, and stubbornly embarked on a course of action he felt was right, going back to his private disagreements with Barack Obama, while Biden was Vice President. When conditions on the ground in terms of American allies and citizens changed in regards to the immediate need to get them out of Afghanistan, Biden pushed ahead with a failed strategy, instead of admitting wrong and changing course. It reminds me so much of Trump failing on Covid just to save his political narrative. In many ways, Biden has proven himself to be way too much like Trump.

Of course, Biden claims he had no choice but to leave Afghanistan in this way because of Trump's "deal." Of course he did. He beat Trump and became Commander in Chief. He is undoing (for better or worse) many other things that Trump Administration put into effect. Trump loyalists and the disgraced former President himself hypocritically try to use this debacle for America to their advantage. Things might have gone better in terms of getting our people out under Trump but they might have gone even worse too. Wrong is wrong and bad is bad either way. Biden is President now, not Trump, and he should be taking responsibility for this national embarrassment. Even more surprising to me is the way the famously empathetic political figure seems to have so little regard as to what will become of the Afghan people or how this all feels to our veterans who served there going back 20 years. He is stubbornly focused on his narrative of everything have gone as well as could be expected.. just like Trump acted.

America will endure though and there will be future elections. I do not know how much the American people truly care about foreign policy matters and the War on Terror after the years of Obama, Trump, and now Biden. Many people expect the GOP to have a very strong 2022 midterm election. That remains to be seen. Trumpism is still a very politically dangerous thing for Republicans to embrace in many parts of the country, and for good reason. I wish there was a better alternative but that is not the case in today's Democrat Party either. Many people like me held our nose and voted for Biden, simply to be rid of Trump. We got what we wanted in that one regard but are also getting far from what we expected. All I can do now is hope that Republicans like Cheney and Kinzinger find a way to stay in office and help lead the GOP back to sanity. I can also hope that Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema are not totally ostracized from their party.

Through it all I will choose to be optimistic on 9/11/21 that we have not had a "lost generation" and that America is still great, even when it feels like it is coming apart at the seams. I only caught a few minutes today of the speech given by President George W. Bush at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I know that so many tribalists on both the left and the right have no use for him these days or attempts to bring about unity or civility. His message stands in stark contrast to their agenda, mostly seen in angry online Tweets, comments, and posts where the only objective is "owning" the political opposition.

GWB made note of this division today in his remarks. He said he had no explanation or solution. I admire the candor and cannot help but find it truthful. He looked back on what happened in America on that fateful day a generation ago, when we as a people did come together, for at least a short time, amid the greatest single tragedy we had ever faced. The man who was President on that day spoke in honor of the heroes of Flight 93 who at the cost of their lives, won the first battle in the War on Terror. Twenty years later the pride is still immense in hearing their story and how their resolve and courage surprised and scared their killers and prevented far more destruction from occurring.

President Bush spoke of this "random group of Americans" on Flight 93 and how our enemies never expected them to band together in such a way. Today, the enemies of America, still feel that way, and after our disgraceful exit from Afghanistan, orchestrated not by our brave and noble military, but by misguided political figures from both parties. 

We need to hope and pray that those enemies are wrong though and that when faced with a similar set of circumstances, any random group of Americans would act with the same determination and unity. Long after Trump and Biden and all of us are gone from the scene, America needs to survive and endure, like we did after a September day a generation back.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

NFL 2021 Week 1

As is the case every year, this is just a spot for me to list the games each week and which team I *want* to win. These are NOT predictions. 
 
Diversions, such as sports, from all the serious and emotion evoking things going on around the world, historic anniversaries, or the state of politics today, in addition to day to day personal or health-related matters and challenges are always a good thing. Delving into political matters online seems increasingly pointless, but I am sure I will get back to it eventually in this spot, likely when discussing future elections, and especially the next Presidential contest. That is if I still want to do so. For now, I am looking forward to the NFL season kicking off tomorrow night, now for the first time with a 17 game regular season, which was probably unnecessary. 

While it may not be apparent this season, there is reason to believe that the Chicago Bears are on the right track. The countdown is already on as to when rookie Justin Fields will take the reigns at Quarterback. 

Week 1
(0-0) 
 
1.  Cowboys (0-0) at Buccaneers (0-0)
 
2.  Jaguars (0-0) at Texans (0-0)
3.  Chargers (0-0) at Washington (0-0)
4.  Seahawks (0-0) at Colts (0-0)
5.  Jets (0-0) at Panthers (0-0)
6.  Vikings (0-0) at Bengals (0-0)
7.  Cardinals (0-0) at Titans (0-0)
8.  49ers (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
9.  Steelers (0-0) at Bills (0-0)
10. Eagles (0-0) at Falcons (0-0)
11. Browns (0-0) at Chiefs (0-0)
12. Packers (0-0) vs Saints (0-0) in Jacksonville
13. Broncos (0-0) at Giants (0-0)
14. Dolphins (0-0) at Patriots (0-0)
15. Bears (0-0) at Rams (0-0)

16. Ravens (0-0) at Raiders (0-0)

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Texas 6th District

 Long time no post. Looking ahead to the near future, I will have full analysis and predictions ahead of September's California Gubernatorial Recall show as well as regularly scheduled elections for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia.

I always like to own up to any incorrect electoral predictions though. Technically, I do not have an incorrect one in the 6th District of Texas as I predicted that a Special Election would be "Safe Republican." However, it was an all Republican runoff, and my May 31 prediction of "Likely Susan Wright" would turn out to be wrong. The widow of a Republican Congressman who had succumbed to Covid related complications was defeated by Jake Ellzey, who is now the newest House Member from the Lone Star State.

Late in the game, I knew that the race was closer than originally anticipated, but I decided not to change my prediction to favor Ellzey or was otherwise too lazy to make an altered post. This result has to be considered at least somewhat meaningful. Of course, by no means is Ellzey any sort of "NeverTrump" Republican. He ran as a vocal Trump ally. However, the endorsement of the perma-angry former President had gone to Wright and he exerted much effort to try to help her via robocalls, etc. It did not work. Ellzey had other GOP endorsements, raised far more money and conducted a more active campaign. Trump alone could not deliver the victory for the candidate he had endorsed. Since this result on Tuesday night, he has not made a peep about the outcome, not even to claim the election was rigged or stolen.

It is worth mentioning that a Democrat had hoped to advance to the runoff in this suburban district that Trump had won only narrowly, but failed to do so. Most in the party said that both Republican advancees were too far to the right and it was not even worth voting. However, it looks like some Democrats did vote anyway and went for Ellzey. Their anger towards Trump has not abated and potentially, it could have made a difference in the outcome.

In his victory speech, from what I have read, Ellzey made no mention of Trump, but spoke of being a "Reagan Republican" and also said voters had chosen to vote for a "positive message." Could that have been subtle shade at Trump? I do not think he would have dared said that before the runoff. Instead, he was issuing emails that kept showing up in my spam folder. When I looked at one, Ellzey warned that his runoff defeat would signify "complete surrender to the socialist agenda of Nancy Pelosi and the end of the American Dream" or words to that effect. So much for a positive message! Of course, what was unsaid in this email to Republicans across the country (which I was once proud to be) was that he was running against a fellow Republican who had been endorsed by Trump. Inside the district though, Ellzey's people quietly let word go out to Democrats that his opponent was Trump's choice, and he was not.

I can only hope that this might be a small sign of the GOP turning back to Reaganism and away from Trumpism. To at least some degree, this runoff showed political weakness for Trump and should be a message to all in the party not to let him dominate the entire thing as we move ahead towards the 2022 midterms and the next race for President in 2024. Since 2016, Trump and those associated with him have suffered many defeats at the ballot box and Republicans should keep in mind that his "complete and total endorsement" comes with a lot of risks.

Monday, May 31, 2021

U.S. House Special Elections

Back on March 19, I correctly predicted the ultimate result of two special elections in Louisiana, in easy to determine districts. However, I will note that I was wrong that Republican Julia Letlow could win without a run-off. Indeed, she did and was immediately election to Congress.

Tomorrow, a special general election will take place in New Mexico, and later this summer, a run-off between two Republicans in Texas. The other vacancies will either formally be filled in November or next January, so I will be holding off on predictions for now.

New Mexico 1

vacant upon resignation of Deb Haaland-D
(won by Biden with 60% of vote)

Likely D

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Texas 6

vacant upon death of Ron Wright- R
(won by Trump with 51% of vote)

Safe R- Likely (Susan) Wright

Saturday, May 29, 2021

American Idol Finale

It has now been nearly a week since I watched the finale of the 2021 season of American Idol live on Sunday night. Since then, it has been a busy and challenging week, so I am sort of feeling the need for this final wrap-up as a sense of obligation. Nonetheless, this was an impressive season for the franchise, even if the Finale had the wrong result, albeit an incredibly unsurprising one.
 
Let me first say that Chayce Beckham is very talented, came across as a likeable, genuine person, and absolutely had one of his finer nights of performances on Sunday. That being said, he still should have finished third among the trio. However, I was pretty convinced he would win and that Grace Kinstler would finish third and Willie Spence would be the runner-up.

So, nothing happened on Sunday to surprise me, but at every turn, the results were upside down from what they should have been. I will be doing this all from memory, so this will at least be thankfully short.

I only "judged" the performances in which the finalist, still alive in the competition at that moment, was part of a number that had all having at least one solo. So, thankfully, I did not have to judge some group numbers, such as the rooftop taped performance with Macklemore to start off the three-hour spectacular, but hey, the ceiling couldn't hold them.

Songs picked by judges:

1. Grace Kinstler- "All By Myself"

They really tried to make her go the Kelly Clarkson route here. As expected, Grace sang it excellently. This contestant is from Chicagoland where we know how to vote early and often. Of course, I did not vote this entire season because I would not even understand how to do so.

2. Willie Spence- "Georgia On My Mind"

This was an homage to his home state, although it appears his family members may have relocated to Riviera Beach, Florida. As expected, Willie sang it excellently and I was genuinely torn as to which contestant to rank higher at this point. Willie needed to hope that there would not be any fraud in the Georgia vote, along the lines of what caused both Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump to refuse to concede.

3. Chayce Beckham- "Blackbird"

He is from California where people needed to start voting just after 5 pm. It probably does not matter for him though and I am certain he was dominating in the voting for a few weeks at this point. This Beatles' song was a different kind of pick by the judges, and nowhere near the kind that shows off a big voice like Grace of Willie, but Chayce sang it very well and sounded quite professional.
 
I believe this was the portion of the evening when the usually unflappable Seacrest made one of his biggest ever gaffes by telling recovering alcoholic Chayce that any finishing trip with Luke Bryan would have to involve beer. How could Seacrest have missed Chayce's entire story this season.

Ranking: 

3. Chacye
2. Willie
1. Grace

________________________________________________________________

Hometown Songs:

1. Grace Kinstler- "I Have Nothing"
 
As soon as they said it would be Whitney Houston, I predicted this song before the break. We see Grace return to Lake County (it looks like she lived in a very large house) but she also visited whatever they are calling the home field of the Chicago White Sox today. The Sox may be in first place at the moment but perhaps this association cursed her. After all, they have not won anything since 2006, the year Taylor Hicks took the title home. If only she were a Cubs fan, maybe she could have done better. The Cubs are nearly in first place now too.
 
Anyways, Grace did the big ballad justice. It was interesting how she seemed to take the key down a bit at the first chorus and then soared on the second one.  

2. Willie Spence- "A Change Is Gonna Come"

As soon as they said it would be Sam Cooke, I predicted this song before the break. Willie returns to his home in small town Georgia, and that house also seems fairly big, with a lot of land around it. The crowds that show up to see Willie also appear to be larger than what Grace drew in Illinois.

Anyways, Willie did the big ballad justice and once again tonight, and for the second week in a row, i was finding it hard to determine who was better vocally between Grace and Willie.


3. Chayce Beckham- "Fire Away"

Before the break, they said it would be Chris Stapleton, and I cannot name a single one of his songs, so I have no idea. Back at home, Chayce shed more tears than either Willie or Grace did. That has sometimes counted in Idol history. His past with the drunk driving incident, just a little over a year ago, was also touched on and he had some sort of odd reunion at a junkyard with his totaled vehicle.
 
I do not remember at this point how this song goes, but I thought Chayce sounded pretty good. Just not as good as the others.
 
Same rankings as before:
 
3. Chayce
2. Willie
1. Grace
 
Time for the first elimination was here. It should have been Chayce, but I predicted it would be Grace and indeed it was. She did not seem remotely surprised. It is hard to  believe that such a purely talented vocalist, who never had anything close to an off performance could finish with the bronze. Even as she clearly had the intention of bringing vocal fire in her performances, at all other times, she came across as humble and laid-back. She may never be a huge pop star, but could make a name for herself in the Adult Contemporary world with the right material.
____________________________________________________________________________
For the next while, there were a lot of celebrity performances and group numbers, some live and some taped. I am pretty sure the Billboard Music Awards, airing at the same time on NBC, was drawing more viewers. Some finalists returned and some were missing. We noted that Graham DeFranco, who was not even a Finalist technically, was sure getting a lot of screen time and even had a duet slot with Sheryl Crow. Did Idol feel justifiably bad about making Beane a wildcard over him or did Graham have naked photos of someone to use for blackmail? Apparently, there was some drama right before the enigmatic "Arthur Gunn" was supposed to sing with Ms. Crow, and he bailed on the show that brought him back, citing personal morals or something like that.
 
This development almost seems fitting this season. The talent was strong, but there were some weird things going on behind the scenes, from Luke Bryan's quick bout with Covid, to the mysterious dropping out of Wyatt Pike to the cancellation of teenager Caleb Kennedy going basically unmentioned, along with any formal recognition of the reigning winner "Just Sam", Idol's first ever Latina and openly gay title holder.

Celebrity Duets:

1. Willie Spence- "You Are The Reason"

Here, Willie sang along former X-Factor UK star and U.S. one hit-wonder from 13 years ago Leona Lewis. I remember virtually nothing from this performance but Willie sounded very good of course.

2. Chayce Beckham- "Forever After All"

Chayce was paired up with some country singer named Luke Combs whom I had never heard of and who frankly looks like a school bus driver who might possibly have a record that should not allow him to be a school bus driver.

Clearly, Idol is now pushing Chayce as a country artist. He sang his part pretty well, I think. It's been a long week.

Obvious for me ratings:
 
2. Chayce
1. Willie
 _____________________________________________________________________
 
Reprisals:
 
1. Chayce Beckham- "Afterglow"
 
Everything feels very anti-climactic and already decided at this point. I do not even remember exactly when Chacye sang this Ed Sheeran song earlier in the season, but it definitely sounded like something he would have done. I am sure he sounded good the first time, but probably sounded a bit better even this time, accompanying himself, as always, on guitar.
 
2.  Willie Spence- "Stand Up"

This felt like quite a moment a few weeks ago when Willie first sang it. It was hard to forget. This time, for whatever reason, it seemed a bit muted to some extent, but still a great job of course. As this was his final performance, it has to be mentioned how talented Willie is and how much anybody should want to see him succeed as a Gospel singer or whatever else he may want to do.

Obvious rankings again:
 
2. Chayce
1. Willie
 
Who should have won American Idol (since Grace Kinstler was already cut earlier in the show): Willie Spence
 
Who I predicted would win American Idol: Chayce Beckham 
 
Who won American Idol: Chayce Beckham
 
So, that was that. Chayce seemed to be the least surprised and least emotional in the winning moment since perhaps Taylor Hicks back in the day. Without his guitar, he performed his original song "23", which represents the low point of his life last year. At the age of 24, he sure has gotten a great opportunity. Hopefully, whatever fame or fortune awaits him for his talent and strategic success on American Idol will keep him grounded and sober.
 

Monday, May 17, 2021

American Idol- Top 3

Tonight, the penultimate episode of this season's American Idol competition aired, and as is typically the case, I will be watching a recording from earlier and live-blogging.
 
Soon after the show begins, Seacrest casually remarks that Caleb Kennedy is no longer in the competition and it is down now to a Final Four. It is very much a cop-out not to say anything in regards to why, and a lot of viewers were probably quite confused, and many disappointed.
 
Of course, I saw this all go down in the news a few evenings ago and it seems like a very unfortunate situation all around. I ended my blog last Sunday by saying how surprised, yet pleasantly so, that as the show was ending, a genuinely surprised to survive Caleb, was seen hugging Willie Spence, a somewhat not overly masculine African-American fellow contestant. It even looked like Willie offered his hand to Caleb to shake in congratulations and Caleb hugged him instead. For weeks, I had sort of had a low-key suspicion that perhaps the "outlaw" Caleb, a country boy from South Carolina might be a bit racist. I did not say so directly on the blog though and felt a bit guilty for thinking such. After all, how would we know? I did not want to give in to anti-southern stereotypes, but let's just say that in the aftermath of the rise of Donald Trump, I am a bit more cognizant of these things .So, Caleb being willing to hug Willie made it seem like my suspicions were unfounded.
 
Now though, Caleb is off the show, because there was a brief video of him, purportedly from when he was just 12 years of, of him sitting next to a friend, who was wearing a KKK hood. Caleb took to Instagram to say that he was sorry, it did not represent his beliefs, and he was off the show. We may perhaps not know for sure if he was quit or thrown off, but I would bet heavily that Idol wanted him off. Perhaps they even feared he could win in two weeks. Caleb's mother has said something about how this was about imitating something they had seen in a movie and was not even about the Klan.

Nonetheless, Caleb is of the show, while a similar incident, from many years earlier, of the current Virginia Democrat Governor, when he was in medical school, never resulted in official consequences. (Perhaps also Caleb is the first ever Kennedy to be officially punished for misconduct.)
 
Clearly, posing with a Klan hood was a dumb idea. The contestant was not the one actually wearing it though. Was there something else in the video that has not been widely reported? Again, this supposedly happened when he was 12 years old, which was not all that long ago, but still, kids are kids. This is clearly 2021 "cancel culture" at play. As has been the case with many other examples, all sorts of young people are going to learn that there are consequences to dumb decisions made on social media, even going back to extremely young ages. I believe this story first appeared on TMZ and I wonder if American Idol itself was responsible for planting it. Years ago, it was very evident that Idol had a  back-channel to TMZ and  used it to try to discredit contestants such as David Archuleta.

Hopefully, Caleb, an aspiring country singer and songwriter will not have his life or career ruined over something that happened when he was 12. Clearly, even the appearance of racism is a bigger deal to American Idol than a fairly recent drunk driving episode in the past of the older Chayce Beckham.  If he was racist then, hopefully he is not now. Many things in life can be learning experiences but this whole episode feels dirty.

Anyways, on with the show. The Final Four will first be mentored by music producer Finneas. All I know about him is that he is Billie Elish's older brother.

1. Chayce Beckham- "Colder Weather"

For this first round, the contestants are apparently singing a song from a personal Idol. Chayce has picked something from the Zak Brown Band and going in a country direction off the bat may be smart now that Caleb is out and the other three are most certainly not even close to country artists.

Chayce tells Finneas he is thinking about now playing guitar for this performance, which would be the first time not doing so. It is agreed that he would be a good idea, but lo and behold Chayce is strumming the acoustic guitar as usual. Vocally, he sounded good like he always does, but nothing resembling a wow moment. Chayce is consistent and somewhat safe every week and this song seemed very mainstream country with a touch of folk to it.

2. Casey Bishop- "wish you were gay"

I suppose one can tell from the lower case letters, this song is one of Billie Elish, the still teenaged sister of Finneas. I had no idea this song exists. A few years back, this being sang by the 16 year old Casey would have been very controversial. I doubt a right-wing group will even send out a press release now though. I can only surmise from the lyrics that the song is about a girl liking a guy and wishing she did not like him so much and that would be easier if he were gay. I mean, at least that is how I interpreted it. I thought it would more often by the other way around. Just ask Adam Lambert's fans.

Anyway, Casey is a talented young singer but I am not into Elish music and was not really into this. I do not even know how to categorize it. It certainly is not rock. We already know Casey can sing ballads expertly. I suppose this was current and all but I could not get into it musically.

3. Grace Kinstler- "A Moment Like This"

Before Grace sings the winning song from the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, we have a brief appearance from 2019 winner Laine Hardy. The show has not this season formally recognized last year's stay at home winner "Just Sam" in any way.

Grace tells Finneas (I refuse to type it as FINNEAS as the official episode description labels him) she looks up to Kelly because like her, they do not fit the music industry mold. Back in 2002 though, Kelly looked a bit different. Tonight, Grace resembled a mermaid. Still, there is no doubt that both women can sing, even if one sort of rolls their eyes at the song choice itself.

Grace's take on this Idol moment was certainly not as emotional as when Kelly first sang it when she was the same age Grace is now, but let there be no doubt of course that Grace can belt and captivate the audience with her voice at any given moment. It is too bad the website "What Not to Sing" is no longer scoring every Idol performance and I am sure Grace's score would surpass that of Kelly from 2002 (plus the attempts of Justin Guarini and Amber Holcomb.)

I will briefly mention that my mother called me after she finished watching the episode live and said she needed a half hour to get over her emotions from watching it. She said every one of the four was good and it is hard to pick who should be the American Idol. I wonder if this means she was also disappointed with whom was cut, but she said I should mention on here that she has now managed to
"get over" the elimination of Madison.

4. Willie Spence- "Glory"

At first I thought this might be a song he already did, but that was a different civil rights tinged song from a different movie. This was the Oscar winning song from John Legend, making it the second straight time a current "The Voice" judge was chosen as an American Idol contestant's personal Idol. No such luck though for Blake Shelton or Nick Jonas.

My goodness, Willie is a vocal powerhouse, and absolutely captivating, at least for one song at a time. This was probably his best performance. He probably even outbelted Grace. I now think it is possible that he could win next week (as could Grace or Chayce.) Whatever happens after that, he definitely deserves to be signed as a Gospel artist and to perform for huge crowds in the post-pandemic era we are entering.

Round 1 rankings:

4. Casey Bishop
3. Chayce Beckham
2.  Grace Kinstler
1.  Willie Spence

______________________________________________________________________________


1. Chayce Bechkam- "23" and "You Should Probably Leave"

It looks like this next round will be a mini-set consisting of the "single" they have recorded in the studio for this show as well as a reprise of something done earlier in the season.

The first is a song written by Chayce himself, that is not an homage to Michael Jordan or President Benjamin Harrison but instead another song about his alcohol addiction. He talks about how he was a complete drunk at age 23 which necessitated the need for him to become sober at 24. Again, I salute him for turning his life around. The song felt very similar in some ways to what he sang last week, even with a nearly idenitical "I'm sorry Mama" line in it. I think last week's original song was better.

Then, he did something he did on Hollywood Week, which once again felt very radio friendly country. As always, Chayce never hits a bad note. He is polished as a vocalist and performer, at least for those people who like the kind of music he does, but as a television performer, he seems incapable of making the same kind of impression that Grace and Willie regularly do and that Casey is capable of with the right material.
 
We learn that Chayce's single is currently number one on the Country ITune Charts. Yeah, he is probably going to win the show. 

OMG. Casey is going to do Motley Crue? Just when I was counting her out. I hope she tempts the fate of the elimination gods and sings "Home Sweet Home." Maybe "Without You?"  It would be pretty awesome though if she could nail "Dr. Feelgood." I think I remember now, she did Motley Crue during the audition rounds, but cannot quite remember the song....

2. Casey Bishop- "Love Me, Leave Me" and "Live Wire"

At first her original song sounded very much like she was being pushed into a Billie Elish direction, but then towards the end, the song got a bit heavier, complete with images of burning scaffolds behind her.

"Live Wire" is not one of the better known Crue songs perhaps. I would have loved to hear her doing something more familiar, but on this, she likely rocked out more on a single performance than any female on Idol history. On both of the two songs, the vocals had a couple shaky moments, but most of it was very good, and what she was able to accomplish was extremely impressive. Out of anyone left on the show, she may be able to demonstrate the most vocal versatility (though I perhaps would not rule out Grace being able to sing anything.) It is sort of weird though. Casey should either sing big old-time ballads or do Hair Metal (and she definitely has the hair.). She is better at both of those genres than 90s grunge rock.

3. Grace Kinstler & Willie Spencer- "What They'll Say About Us"

The ranking system will get a bit complicated here, because this "round" will end in a duet, as I imagine the next one will as well. I think the duets were late additions to take up for the two songs that Caleb was supposed to sing.

This was an emotional ballad written by Finneas having been inspired by last year's Covid death of Broadway actor Nick Cordero. Grace and Willie sound great individually and they sound great together. I do not know what else I can say. It was really hard to even determine which one was better in this duo. They easily deserve to be the Top 2, based solely on vocals. We can be sure that there will not be a beach themed"From Justin to Kelly" type movie though
 
Since everyone sang once, Round 2 rankings:
 
4.  Chayce Beckham
3.  Casey Bishop
2.  Willie Spence
1.  Grace Kinstler
__________________________________________________________________________

1. Grace Kinstler- "Love Someone" and "Father"

These vocal snippets from the "singles" are fairly short but Grace is unsurprisingly in fine voice. It really did sound like Kelly Clarkson meets Adele. What was Grace doing as a teenager (not long ago at all) that did not cause her to pursue a record deal more seriously? In any event, this exposure on national television has been great for her.

Next, she reprises "Father" which Demi Lovato wrote after the death of her father. We learned during her audition that Grace's father died unexpectedly in February of 2020. She and he may not have had as complicated a relationship as the lyrics portray in this song, but the emotions were likely similar and to nobody's surprise, she sang the heck out of it. 

2. Willie Spence- "Never Be Alone" and "I Was Here"


What is even the point of a Casey and Chayce duet up next? Just crown Grace and Willie as co-Idols. Naw, there has to be one eventual winner, like always. Those two may want to make people gain weight!

I really am sort of out of superlatives. Usually, I hate all the original Idol "singles" the first time I hear them, but Will(ie) and Grace seem able to sell anything. His take on the Beyonce number next was also captivating. I hope he does "Halo" by Beyonce next week. Whatever kind of music one has as their favorites, how can somebody not appreciate the vocal skills of the last two contestants? Extremely tough to choose between them. I had to try my best not to consider Grace's Chicago homecourt advantage for me.

 3. Casey Bishop & Chayce Beckham- "Break My Heart Again"


Apparently, Finneas has this whole career and a bunch of songs I had no idea about. I am pretty impressed. I was also impressed with this duet by the two CBs. Both contestants sounded better here than they had all night. This was especially striking for Casey, whom I felt nailed her portions She may be a good rock singer but she is a terrific ballad singer. This duet would indeed be something of an "Idol Moment" if they did not happen to have to share the stage tonight and this season with Grace and Willie.

Rankings- all were great here:

4.   Chayce Beckham
3.   Casey Bishop
2.   Grace Kinstler
1.   Willie Spencer

Cumulative: 
 
4. Chayce Beckham
3. Casey Bishop
2. Grace Kinstler
1. Willie Spence
 
Virtual ties between 4 and 3 and 2 and 1, but not exact ties.
 
I am almost afraid to see what happens next.

Who should be eliminated: Chayce Beckham
Who I predict will be eliminated: Casey Bishop

Who was eliminated: Casey Bishop

I am relieved it was not Grace, who will now apparently get an Idol Homecoming visit not too far from where I live. I thought these would be the Final Three over two weeks ago, so there are not a lot of surprises here. I do not think Casey's "wish you were gay" song won her any new voters.

It seems likely that there will be somebody cut during the middle of next week's show and then a "Final Two" winner announcement at the end. Based on everything thus far, Chayce should be the first to go, but I will be surprised if that happens and he is not at least Top Two. That being said, I think a case can be made for any three of them winning it via the votes.

As it will be a three hour Sunday Night Grand Finale next week, I likely will watch it live, and then blog about it on Monday night or perhaps even later in the week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

American Idol- Top 5

It is now about 10 pm on Monday evening and I am about to watch a recording of last night's American Idol broadcast. I suppose I can pretend this all did not happen more than 24 hours ago.

On this show, the Top 7 will first be mentored by Coldplay, a group with just two songs I think are decent to good, with all the rest being horrible. Then, there are of course Mothers' Day Dedications, so I expect I will be averaging two rounds together.
 
I have mostly been able to avoid spoilers, but did see in local media, that local contestant Grace Kinstler has made the Top Five. I am not too surprised by that. My mother watched the episode last night and said it was so good she watched it again today. While she said everyone was "good", she also claimed to have predicted the two that were eliminated. That leads me to believe that they may be the ones she does not like, although I think there are four of them she may not like that much..

1. Casey Bishop- "Paradise"

I still hate this song. I suppose Casey did with it what she could and showed off once again her younger "rocker" side. She was able to hit some big notes, but at the beginning, was drowned out a bit by the band and parts of the vocal sounded a bit shrill. As good as she might be, she is better at ballads, but that would get too boring and predictable if she did say "The Scientist."

2. Chayce Beckham- "Magic"

Chris Martin of Coldplay seems taken with Chayce's hair, which does seem to have a bit of a Proud Boys look to it. Nonetheless, this contestant is not storming the Capitol but taking the Idol stage where he did a perfectly competent version of a song that suited him well. Of course, it was also a little on the boring side being Coldplay and all. Nonetheless, Chayce seemed to hit every note how he wanted to, while also playing the acoustic guitar, as he always does. As an Idol contestant, he is very much a more refined version of Lee DeWyze.

3. Willie Spence- "Yellow"

Another one-world Coldplay title, but despite it, Willie wore blue on stage. I have to say his soulful take and booming voice made this dreary song tolerable. It almost feels like I underestimate him as a singer a bit every week I do not think Willie is likely to become a mainstream star, but he definitely has a great voice and seems determined to showcase it appropriately. 

4. Caleb Kennedy- "Violet Hill"

First of all, did he get some sort of horrible above the mullet haircut? I think he may be keeping the hat on for good.

I definitely have mixed feelings about this performance. I have never heard this song before and at first, I thought Caleb's arrangement was really good. Then, something happened that threw him and his pitch off. He regained momentum later on but teetered a bit and seemed distracted. It almost had a metal power ballad vibe to it which I appreciated though.

5. Arthur Gunn- "In My Place"

The title of this song sounds like something he could have sang from home last season. Also,does he refuse the television makeup?

I have to say that I really did not dig Arthur on this performance. It just felt completely like a jam session on a song that we were told had the melody taken out of. He was like even trying to meekly interact with the audience via spoken word in a somewhat awkward way. I have the hunch, not for the first time in Idol history, that Arthur is a contestant who sort of wants this experience to be over or is resigned to it. Perhaps he wants to take a cue from Chris Martin's former marriage to Gwenyth Paltrow and "consciously uncouple" from Seacrest and the judges.

6. Grace Kinstler- "Fix You"
 
I first realized a short while ago that Grace and Casey are now the sole remaining females this season. That seems very "off." Generally speaking, the girls were stronger than the guys vocally this year. I definitely expect (certainly after hearing my mother predicted the results) that there will be two males going home at show's end.

Another truly dreary song but Grace's voice brought something new to it which has to be appreciated. The package was set up as if she were unsure which Coldplay song to sing and was reluctant to sing this one, but I think this was her plan all along. She has several times already shown her vocal power in a confident diva-ish sort of way, but this allowed her to show off a more vulnerable side. I think she knows exactly what she is going.

7. Hunter Metts- "Everglow"

So, no "Viva La Vida" and no "The Scientist." What was the point of a Coldplay round?

Well, these songs may not be my favorites but they did allow at least most of the contestants to showcase themself in a positive way. I could have pictured Hunter attempting the latter but definitely not the former.

The fact is that Hunter sometimes hits some off notes, but there is something about the tone of his voice that is very impressive and the payoff on the good notes has a bigger impact. That was at hand in this performance. I do not know this song but I feel like he almost certainly made it more interesting than the original. In contrasting him with Chayce in regards to my standings, I realize that Chayce may do a better job at avoiding any sort of vocal misstep but that Hunter seems to be taking more chances and perhaps that needs to count for something.

Rankings:

7. Arthur Gunn
6. Casey Bishop
5. Caleb Kennedy
4. Chayce Beckham
3. Hunter Metts
2. Willie Spence
1.  Grace Kinstler

________________________________________________________________

1. Casey Bishop- "Ironic"

Mothers' Day round and apparently no video packages with the kids reading love letters to their maternal units but right into the music.

This performance is introduced without any context as to why Casey has dedicated it to her mother. What is freaking "ironic" though is that she is the one singing this song and it's not the now already forgotten Alanis Sophia who was named after Alanis Morrisette by her Alanis obsessed mother. This is sort of an in your face savage move by Casey. Can you imagine that mother and daughter duo watching this live at home? Was there some backstage drama between all of them?

Basically though, Casey looks far more like Alanis Morrisette than the other girl does and sang this as if she were imitating the original nearly note for note. It was fairly decent vocally but actually seemed too copy-cat.

2. Chayce Beckham- "Mama"

No emotional letter or card readings this year, so Chayce used an original song to express those words and feelings. The lyrics included a part about being sorry that his mama had to pick him up from jail. It is unknown whether that was related to the DUI incident or something else, but he expressed his desire to change for the better in order to honor "the lady who gave me my name." (Is it possible she was a poor speller?)

This will likely get him a ton of votes. It was quite compelling emotionally and he of course sang it very well. The Idol voting bloc of women old enough to be Chayce's mama (and then some) is of course huge and he likely pulled on a lot of heartstrings.
 
A question though about the "voting." Chayce lives on the West Coast and are the people in California and elsewhere actually getting to watch this show live in late afternoon/very early evening while the voting window is open, or do they have to vote without even seeing the episode until hours later? I think that might actually be the case, and it makes the entire system even more questionable. Those who do not even get a chance to watch the show live have to vote pretty much based on the previous week. Some state legislature should hold an audit on that.
 
3. Willie Spence- "You Are So Beautiful To Me"

Of course, an emotional ballad dedicated to his mother. This is continuing to make Casey's song dedication all he more questionable, but of course Willie sang this very well. With minimal musical accompaniment, he put a Gospel twist on a well-known Joe Cocker song. Older fans will definitely like it, but I almost wonder if there was another similarly themed song, perhaps by a black artist, that would have made more sense strategically.

Also, one day I hope and pray that someone on Idol on Mothers' Day will do LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out."

4. Caleb Kennedy- "Mama Said"

He is not wearing a hat for this performance and the haircut is not too horrid, but I definitely noticed the eye thing he is self conscious about.

Here, we have another original song, with "Mama" in the title. Many props to Caleb for being such a prolific songwriter at a young age. It definitely felt very "country" and he sang it well and was connected to the message. Two people have to go home tonight. I have, to my surprise, already ranked him above Casey in both performances, so it probably should not be him, but I think it might be nonetheless. There was also a bit of video playing on the screen behind Caleb briefly that I think was in error. Earlier, I caught several other Idol production errors in this episode.


5. Arthur Gunn- "Simple Man"

This is only like the eight time this song has been done on Idol. Usually, it is a good moment for the dude who sings it. Exactly one year ago, I wrote that I liked what Arthur did on Mother's Day on the song "Hey, Ma." 

This performance was clearly better than the first round but it still feels like something is a bit off with Arthur tonight and perhaps since he "returned" to the Idol stage. It was a nice vocal but he was deliberately talking to the audience or to the Idol band in a way that did not need to be done. I have heard better covers of this song. (We saw a glimpse of Caleb on the couch singing along, which did not seem like something he would do.)  Afterwards, Dibesh's mother is seen wearing a Sari, for I believe the first time. This might be appealing to the powerful Hindu vote, but I have a hunch this might be it for "Arthur."
 
6. Grace Kinstler- "When We Were Young"

Seacrest tells us this fairly recent song was chosen because it is one of Grace's mother's favorites. That may or may not be true. I think Grace just wanted to get her Adele on.
 
 Perhaps this was not Grace's best performance but it was still extremely good. I have a hard time even finding a minor detail to ever critique her on vocally. In this performance, she sang in a a bit of a restrained way but then completely opens up and belts when the song calls for it. Each and every week, she is a definite pro and has perhaps already dominated this season.

7. Hunter Metts- "The River"

We are told that this is an original song written by Hunter, although the song title is definitely not unique.

All in all, it was pretty good, but sounded like a Coldplay song. The things that are there to like about Hunter's voice were still there but perhaps it was a tad too whiny.

Round 2 Rankings with only a slight deviation from Round 1:

7. Arthur Gunn
6. Casey Bishop
5. Caleb Kennedy
4. Hunter Metts
3. Chayce Beckham
2. Willie Spence
1. Grace Kinstler
 
With the tie-breaker
 
7. Arthur Gunn
6. Casey Bishop
5. Caleb Kennedy
4. Hunter Metts
3. Chayce Beckham
2.  Willie Spence
1.  Grace Kinstler
 
Who should be eliminated:  Arthur Gunn and Casey Bishop

I can say that I do not think Arthur is as good as the other kids left this season (or a few that are already gone.) I think Casey is extremely talented but did not think she had her strongest night. The Coldplay song is just a terrible one to sing, at least to my ears, and while she did an impressive Karaoke version of Alanis Morrisette, I do not understand why she picked that song. As they said on "Sesame Street", one of those songs was not like the others.

What will happen? It feels almost pointless to worry about a prediction for something that happened newscycles ago already. I already read that Grace advanced, and I am not surprised about that. This was the Mother's Day episode, and because my mother went out of her way to tell me that she predicted the eliminated two and I think that also means she would have ranked them at the bottom (although again, she said everyone did a good job on this episode.)

So, I am pretty sure that two guys are leaving, but it will not be Willie.

I know my mother has not really been a fan of Arthur, Caleb, or Hunter, the last of which I said was my early pick to win it all. She has perhaps been a bit iffy on Chayce too.

I feel like Arthur is probably out for sure, and then this is really tough. I think Chayce and Hunter are kind of in a competition with each other, and thus both really at risk at this point, but either leaving would be a surprise. Chayce's original Mama song might have saved him. I also am keeping in mind that Caleb sort of has the red state/country base to himself.

Who I am predicting will be eliminated: Arthur Gunn and Caleb Kennedy
 
Who was eliminated: Arthur Gunn and Hunter Metts
 
The "conservative" base may have saved country boy Caleb but not a Gunn nor a Hunter.

I stand by ranking Hunter above Caleb this week (and all season) overall, but frankly, it was somewhat close on this episode. With Hunter out, I now think Grace will probably win, although Chayce cannot be counted out. I think Willie is the most likely person to make the three way finale, which would indicate that time next week may be up for Casey and Caleb.

As for tonight, Arthur did not seem very surprised and Hunter seemed quite at peace with it. I was a bit surprised to see Caleb, who comes across as pretty surly, hug Hunter as he walked back to safety and then I was really surprised to see Caleb and Willie embrace at the couches. A very positive surprise though.... at least assuming everyone is vaccinated.


 





Sunday, May 02, 2021

American Idol Top- 7

Tonight, we saw the Idol Class of '21 head to Florida's Disney World, where capacity is limited, and somehow Bobby Bones was conspicuously absent. We did however have a guest mentor in John Stamos, ABC's very own "Uncle  Jesse" from "Jesse and the Rippers."  After tonight, it would not quite be a Full House on Idol as three contestants would be eliminated. Yes, a "light will be waiting to carry them home." Have Mercy...

It occurred to me that if only the girl whose mother named her after Alanis Morisette were will around, she could demand an audience with Dave Coullier instead.
 
 Once again, I am going off of memory, as I watched the show live earlier this evening. I never really like the songs done on the mandatory Disney Night, but there are usually some good vocal performances and I was expecting the same.

First, we need to know which holdback from last season would awkwardly join the crop this year in the Top Ten, even though they missed out on the trip to Disney World and a chance to lip synch to "A Whole New World" with some other singer at the top of the show.

Who should have been put in the Top 10 based on the very subpar show two weeks ago: Makayla Phillips
Who I predicted would win the more aptly named Arthur Gunn Invitational: Arthur Gunn
Who won the Arthur Gunn Invitational: Dibesh Pokharel (aka Arthur Gunn)

Well, that was easy enough, despite the producer push for Louis Knight/ He seems to have zero rapport with any of the other kids. I guess they were not mesmerized by his iPhone run to second place in 2020.

These recaps may be brief. At least I hope so.

1. Caleb Kennedy- "Real Gone"

There was a hint of humanness to outlaw Caleb when his Mama "surprised" him at Disney World and he got slightly emotional. Obviously, none of these kids have seen the past Disney Night episodes. I believe Caleb was the only contestant to refuse to wear any sort of Mouse ears.

I do not know the song he sang, but it was a fast paced country-rock number that seemed to be the perfect choice for him on this night. I can barely remember how it goes, but he performed it quite well. He is always consistent but also has not had anything resembling a "moment" on stage.

2. Willie Spence- "Circle Of Life"

I think this song gets done on Disney Night every week, but it hard to find a version that will compare to Jennifer Hudson's most shining Idol Moment back in 2004, That being said, Willie likely sang it the best by far of anyone since. Stamos tried to make the connection of the song's theme to Willie and his recently deceased grandfather, who has now been referenced multiple weeks. 

Willie seems more and more comfortable on stage and there is no denying that he knows how to pick songs that suit his voice. The act has not gotten overly predictable yet.

3. Deshawn Goncalves- "When You Wish Upon A Star"

For weeks now, I have predicted Deshawn would be eliminated, yet he has hung on. I certainly can see he is talented, but have not really gotten too enthused about anything he has done on the Idol stage. This jazzy arrangement of this song from Peter Pan (or whatever movie it was in) left me even more underwhelmed than usual. I am sure Deshawn can make a living doing music in the future, but the entire history of American Idol has not been kind to those who try to sing "jazz."

4. Casey Bishop- "When She Loved Me"

Two weeks ago, I talked about how Casey's strong night likely caused the eliminated of the much buzzed about Ava August. This was another stellar vocal. We were introduced to Casey as a wannabe rocker, but rock music is not really a big thing these days, and clearly, Casey has been singing ballads since she was a little girl. I do not what this might mean for her commercial future, but she is better at doing the old fashioned stuff and while she should probably switch it up a bit next week (Mother's Day Dedications and Coldplay), I think she is appealing to the older Idol audience both by her vocals and by the way she presents herself on camera. She is a very smart competitor.

5. Chayce Beckham- "Baby Mine"

I do not know this song, but I likely have not seen "Dumbo" since I was five, despite years of allegiance to the GOP Elephant. 

Chayce sang it pretty well in his usual Eddie Vedder meets Bruce Springsteen way, but it was just boring. The song did not really go anywhere. No judge will ever point something out like that though in the current version of Idol. It was funny to see Graham DeFranco, apparently continuing a couch surfing tour of the dudes who beat him out, by appearing with Chayce's family. They said they were in Oklahoma though. I thought Chayce and his family and dog were supposed to be in California. That is interesting. I noted last week how contestants from the West Coast are at a disadvantage during "Live Coast to Coast" voting. (Not so fun fact: both Chayce and John Stamos had a drunk driving episode)

6. Alyssa Wray- "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes"

During her audition, it seemed like the Idol Powers were presenting her as the person they envisioned as the ultimate winner and a future star. I think Alyssa bought in as she seems pretty comfortable talking about herself (not in a bad way I think) and how she wants to sing, act, and do it all. It is possible that some voters may feel she has gotten a bit too full of herself.

Also, despite being just 19, she has for weeks now, appeared in a sparkly shiny dress and sang some sort of older song. That might have been the way to go for a female on Disney Night, but had Alyssa gone to the same well too many times?

I do not care for this song at all, but Alyssa sang it extremely well, and really let loose at the end. She can definitely sing but is not the only very talented big voice lady in this competition. Her hair tonight was totally Whitney Houston 1987.

7. Arthur Gunn- "Remember Me"

Clearly, there is irony in the song choice, given the return situation the Idol voters put him in. Did his fans get notice in advance that he had made it (despite the fact I thought it was obvious.) Would they be tuning in to vote.

When he is not singing, Arthur seems uncomfortable around people,which is not something he had to contend with during the "live shows" last season. The producers are also now giving him subtitles at times when he speaks.

Vocally, the performance exceeded my expectations a bit. I think he proved he was worthy of the slot, of those that attempted last week. The judges remarked that he reminded them of Dave Matthews. Of course, it is more accurate to say he sounds like Phillip Phillips sounding like Dave Matthews.

8. Cassandra Coleman- "Go The Distance"

Honestly, I could go without hearing this song again on Idol or frankly elsewhere either. Like Deshawn, I have also wrongly predicted Cassandra being eliminated a couple of times previously. I really liked her vocal from two weeks ago though.

Tonight, parts of it were nice and she seemed confident on stage (and it was cool to learn that she is a lifelong Star Wars nerd.. clearly preferable than being a Trekkie) but I also detected some mild pitchiness when she tried to hit some high notes.
 
9. Hunter Metts- "You'll Be In My Heart"
 
During an earlier commercial break, I genuinely forgot his name and could not remember it. My father was the who one remembered it was Hunter. At least his name is not Hunter Gunn or there would be some major protests. He has a couple fairly misguided tattoo choices as well.

The big pressure on Hunter this week would be to remember the words and to not break down and cry like he did the last time. The Phil Collins song choice was a smart one. It also seems like all of the white guys (plus Arthur) are going to be playing the guitar with every performance this season. 

Vocally, there were some imperfect moments, as there usually are in a Hunter performance. However, has has such an earnest manner when he sings and "current" tone that sells the performance for him in a way that others may not be able to get away with. It is as if his vulnerability is by design.

10. Grace Kinstler- "Into The Unknown"

I would say it is quite known that if they picked her to go last, it was expected to be a powerful vocal.

During her session with Stamos, her practicing of the song from "Frozen 2" sounded like she picked a truly horrible song. Nonetheless, when she sang it on stage, Grace blew it out of the water as usual. It is almost as if she is in another league from the others in some ways. She comes across as very down to earth and humble when he is not singing, but when she is, you can almost tell that she believes she is already as good as Adele. Luke Bryan said in his comments tonight that she came out with a look in her eye like she was going to slay the others and I have had the same thought before and likely typed it here. Grace's consistency is amazing. Is she almost "too pro" to make to the end? Of course, it would be another Idol highlight for the Chicago suburbs. In my view, she is far better than Lee DeWyze or Haley Reinhart though.

Rankings:

10. Deshawn Goncalves
 9. Caleb Kennedy
 8. Cassandra Coleman
 7. Chayce Beckham
 6. Arthur Gunn
 5. Hunter Metts
 4.  Willie Spence
 3.  Alyssa Wray
 2.  Casey Bishop
 1.  Grace Kinstler
 
As a disclaimer, nobody was "bad" tonight. In fact, I found my Top 9 to all be "good." The Top Four I have were All-Star caliber vocals though and it would be disappointing to see any of them among the three that were about to be eliminated. Apparently, Idol was supposed to air on Mondays this Spring, but low ratings have changed ABC's schedule, so this will continue to be the only way to get results.

Who should have been eliminated: Deshawn Goncalves, Caleb Kennedy, Cassandra Coleman
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Deshawn Goncalves, Cassandra Coleman, Arthur Gunn

Caleb has the country vote so I figured he would stick around. I did not know if enough people would have known to watch tonight to see Arthur and while I predicted he would go, I also remarked to my disbelieving mother that perhaps Alyssa might be at risk.

Who was eliminated: Deshawn Goncalves, Cassandra Coleman, Alyssa Wray

No issue with two of those. Goodluck to them. It is though very unfortunate to see Alyssa get cut. Arthur was the one cast as the last one picked though perhaps he did not have the fourth lowest number of votes. Alyssa kept a smile on her face, but the tears fell quickly. She definitely expected to be in the Finale and in terms of pure vocal talented, probably deserved to be. For a variety of reasons, her gameplay strategy did not work out as intended.

In the last round, Casey caused a "shock eliminated" of Ava in my view by beating her one on one at the same style of song. This week, the songs were a bit different styles, but in a diva competition, Grace took out Alyssa and probably has a bit of a clearer path in the weeks ahead.