There was an old "Saturday Night Live" skit where someone gets to heaven and asks God what was the grossest thing he ever ate without knowing it. Can't remember the actors in this scene, but I do remember the answer.
While I don't know what was the grossest thing I ever inadvertently ate, I do recall eating something pretty bad with full knowledge of what I was doing.
Remember those big SweetTARTS that were the size of a small saucer? They were as big as the palm of your hand and about a half-inch thick?
When I was about 5 or 6, I remember finding a partially-eaten jumbo grape SweetTART in the mud. I didn't have a lot of money for candy back then, and made an irrational decision.
I picked it up, brought it home, and ran it under steaming hot water for five minutes. I made sure it was perfectly clean, that every speck of mud was off it. The smooth disc looked like a polished seashell, a faded purple treat.
And I ate it.
Looking back, I'm not sure what would be worse. A partially eaten SweetTART or an earwig.
Ugh. This was "American Idol"? Thought almost everyone was bad, perhaps trying too hard. That's an hour I'll never get back. Night and day from last week. Here's the order of how the 10 finalists performed last night, with the odds of winning it all in May:
1. Taylor Hicks Best of the bunch. Liked his approach, just standing at the microphone and concentrating on singing. Actually showed decent vocal range. Don't think he's good enough to win it all, but will sail through with ease. Odds of winning: 5-1
2. Paris Bennett A beacon of light among a sea of sloppiness. Give her credit for originality. Kind of had a Salt-N-Pepa thing going on. The little derriere gyration was cute. Showed some personality and lots of spunk. Liked it. Odds of winning: 8-1
3. Chris Daughtry Last season Bo Bice sang Jim Croce's "Operator" and it won him a whole new fan base. Daughtry needs to consider this, singing something touchy-feely to convince mainstream America he's their guy. Thought the Creed vocal was excellent, but wasn't for everyone. Better than Scott Stapp. Odds of winning: 3-1
4. Lisa Tucker (bye, bye) The judges are killing her, and may have sent her packing considering she's been in the bottom 3 the last two weeks. Despite being one of the best singers in the group, she's struggling to connect. Kelly Clarkson song choice didn't help. Odds of winning: 15-1
5. Katharine McPhee Hated the song choice. Thought she was over the top and hit some bad notes. Slow, slow start and very boring. Background vocals swallowed her up at times. Still think she's a favorite to make the finals, but she has to do better than this. Odds of winning: 3-1
6. Kellie Pickler Really bad song choice. Prepping for the weekly square dance and cow-tipping isn't my idea of a good time. She actually has some decent pipes and she's cute, so she'll hang around for a while. Continually apologizing to the judges was lame. Odds of winning: 8-1
7. Ace Young (bottom 3) Very average. Just OK. Kind of hard to cover Patrick Monahan. Resorted to showing his scar and it initially came across as Tom Jones-ish. Agreed with Simon's karaoke comment. Needs to step it up, but really isn't good enough. Odds of winning: 15-1
8. Mandisa The most inconsistent in the group. After a good week, she resorted to overkill, as she was way over the top and out of control. Thought she was going to break out with "It's Raining Men." Too much power and not enough finesse. Like Daughtry, she needs to sing something mellow. Odds of winning: 8-1
9. Elliott Yamen He's an enigma wrapped in a Twinkie. Why do the judges love him and why does he have a fan base? He's not that good. Thought this was a really rough vocal with limited range and that his timing was way off, like the soundtrack to a bad B movie. Odds of winning: 15-1
10. Bucky Covington (bottom 3) No thanks to America, we had to endure another week of this guy. You could find this performance in any upstate New York bar on a Saturday night. Started out OK, but, as always, mumbled his way through it. Baffled why he's still here, but clearly has a fan base. Likable dude, but is not an American Idol. Odds of winning: 30-1
Since my office bracket imploded over the weekend, it's time to root for the most unlikely Final Four entrant since 11th-seeded LSU advanced to the Final 4 in 1986.
Should George Mason win it all, this would be the biggest ever Cinderella story in the NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship. The lowest seed to win the tournament was Villanova, an 8-seed, in 1985. That's when the upstart Wildcats shocked Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
George Mason has put together an amazing run, knocking off Michigan State, defending champ North Carolina, Wichita State and tournament favorite Connecticut.
This is why college basketball creates a lot of buzz this time of year.
As my basement groans from the result of my inability to browse a wine shop without buying two or three bottles, I thought it would be time to exercise my taste buds and sample some of my investment.
Over the past few weeks, I've poured some interesting wines.
Renato Ratti Colombe Dolcetta D'Alba, 2004 ($13.99) Dolcetta, called a poor man's Barolo, is grown in Italy's Piedmont region. This is a little on the light side for my tastes, with a subtle hint of strawberries and mild coffee. Works very well with pasta.
Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, 2004 ($13.99) This Sonoma white tastes excellent with steamers and lobster. Hints of nutmeg give it an exotic kick, yet the finish is clean and light. Definitely will have some on hand this summer for evenings on the porch, with or without food.
Celler Cal Pla Priorat, 2001 ($19.99) Primarily Grenache with a small blend of Carignane, this is spicy and dense. Enjoyed it, but it's clearly an acquired taste. Spain has come a long way in its wine-making techniques over the last 10 years, and Priorat is getting better and better. Best with a steak or burgers.
Novy Syrah (Page Nord Vineyard), 2000 ($28.99) This Napa Valley Syrah is superbly crafted, delivering a mouthful of dark cherries and blackberries with a long, long finish. Only 568 cases were produced, so it will be hard to find. Glad I have another bottle in the basement.
This is a good group, with perhaps the best depth at this point in five seasons. Thoroughly entertaining. Here's the order of how the 11 finalists performed last night, with the odds of winning it all in May:
1. Katharine McPhee She's impressive. Excellent range and conquered an Ella Fitzgerald song with a high degree of difficulty. Thought she was going to laugh at the beginning. But that's just her beaming smile. Should easily make the finals. Odds of winning: 3-1
2. Chris Daughtry Wow. This kid really can sing. He softened the angst rock and let his vocals come through. Loved his unique approach. Kind of reminds me of Live's Ed Kowalczyk. Very confident in his ability. Highly professional. Will likely battle McPhee in finals. Odds of winning: 3-1
3. Mandisa Powerhouse. Much better than last week. In tune throughout and had her volume cranked up to 11. Like a big, bold Cab. Thought it was her best performance to date. If she keeps this up, could challenge the front-runners for top honors. Odds of winning: 6-1
4. Kellie Pickler She gets better each week. Has a little Bonnie Raitt thing going on and is building mainstream appeal. Has kind of a ditsy look in her eyes like she doesn't know where she is. Doesn't measure up to the top talent, but she'll hang around. Odds of winning: 10-1
5. Lisa Tucker (bottom 3) Very good, as always, but something was missing. Thought she came across as childish, like she was singing with the Mickey Mouse fan club. With '50s music, that just doesn't work. Didn't like the arrangement. Having trouble connecting with audience. Odds of winning: 15-1
6. Paris Bennett Solid performance. Very likable. Loved the throwback hairstyle (looked '20s though, not '50s). Wasn't crazy about her rendition. Madonna's is much better. Mature, talented and clearly belongs here. Not good enough to win it all. Odds of winning: 15-1
7. Ace Young Much better than last week, but needs to step it up to be considered a true contender. Has a decent voice, but the falsetto is not enough to bail him out week after week. Could be the Constantine of this season -- has the look, falls short on voice. Odds of winning: 10-1
8. Elliott Yamen (bottom 3) Painful to listen to him enunciate "learn." Thought he hit several bad notes. Kind of has a Stevie Wonder quality to him. Did OK with a lot of runs. Difficult song to sing and he struggled with the low notes. Not convinced. Odds of winning: 15-1
9. Kevin Covais Clearly has the teenybopper fan base in his corner. How long will he last? Tough call. Just OK. Hit some bad notes, came in late on a verse. Hand in his pocket looked odd. Compare him to Daughtry and it's night and day. Brave little soul. Odds of winning: 20-1
10. Taylor Hicks Bad night. Like old friend George Huff, song choice will be key for him. "Not Fade Away" was a terrible choice. Hicks needs to showcase his voice, and this was not a vocal song. Simon's comments were dead on. He'll get a mulligan. Odds of winning: 10-1
11. Bucky Covington (bye, bye) Why is he still here? Country drab. Growled through it like he does week after week. Clearly the most dispensable in this group. Just doesn't match up to the talent here. Way, way out of his league. Thanks for playing, but time's up. Odds of winning: 50-1