Friday, March 31, 2006

Quick! Ship this package with my PIN number to the ATM Machine!

I'm typing a list of companies for work, and I just had to type "FedEx Express." That's the actual name of the division of the company that delivers packages. Federal Express Express???? Does this drive anyone else absolutely crazy??

Um, hello?

Anyone?

Okay, so it's just me. They should still change it. Redundant bastards.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Continuing Adventures in (Bad) Customer Service

I am so pissed off right now. On Monday night, I ordered something from Amazon, and it's not really urgent but I wanted to have it this week so I can use it for work on Monday. So I did something I never do if I can help it and I paid for shipping. Specifically, "Two-Day Shipping." Amazon's checkout page is pretty well-designed and nicely interactive, and when I clicked the shipping button the bottom of the screen updated and said, "Guaranteed delivery date -- get it Thursday, March 30! -- if you complete your order in the next 4 hours and 12 minutes" (or whatever the time was).

So it hasn't come yet and it's not really a big deal, but I went online and now Amazon says it's coming tomorrow, and there seems to be a problem with the UPS tracking. So, just out of curiosity, really (the righteous indignation came later), I called them. (Or rather, they called me -- they have this creepy new thing where you type in your phone number and the phone rings immediately and connects you to the customer service system. The woman on the phone kept trying to tell me they don't guarantee delivery dates, only shipment dates. Trying to be the nice customer, I figured I had, in fact, read it wrong, but I was curious so I started a fake order. And there it was again. So I said, "Actually, if you select one- or two-day shipping, you do guarantee delivery dates," and we actually got into an ARGUMENT about it. I told her what steps I was taking on my computer and read her exactly what it said on my screen, and she continued to insist that they don't guarantee delivery dates. Lady, I'm LOOKING AT THE WORDS ON YOUR WEBSITE. She tried to deflect by saying that if I placed the order Monday night it would have shipped on Tuesday, and I was like, "Riiiight, and today is Thursday, which would be the second day after the day it shipped. Hence 'two-day shipping.'" Brilliantly, she couldn't actually get on to Amazon herself because they were doing "system maintenance" or some shit, so she couldn't even place a fake order like I was doing to prove that I was right. But like, a) know how your own product works if you're in customer service, and b) trust me when I tell you I'm READING TO YOU OFF YOUR OWN WEBSITE. "We don't guarantee delivery dates." Then why am I looking at the words "guaranteed delivery date" on my fucking screen right now???

So now I'm waiting to call back in the hopes the maintenance will be over and I can get someone on the phone who's not a complete moron. And in the meantime, I clicked on the link that says "details" next to the delivery date, and it says, "If you choose One Day or Two Day Shipping as your shipping speed and your order contains items eligible for guaranteed accelerated delivery, we guarantee that your items will arrive on or before the delivery dates shown at checkout. This means we will refund shipping fees associated with your items if they are not delivered to their destination on or before those dates." So bite me, bad customer service lady, and give me my ten bucks back.


Update:
Victory is mine! My shipping charges have been refunded. The new customer service lady still tried to give me the runaround, and said that she'll have to call tech support because the site's not supposed to guarantee delivery dates for anything other than one-day shipping. And I'd almost buy that if it didn't say all that stuff about it where they explain the shipping policies. She at least was willing to take my word for it, and get on Amazon to do a mock order herself. I tried to register a complaint about the first person I talked to, and she sort of shut down, and was rude and abrupt even after I thanked her profusely for her help and for being so friendly. Bitch. Whatever, her job sucks and I won.

It just gets better

Okay, I just got a follow-up email from one of my intern candidates, and he definitely misspelled his own name! Good thing I'd already decided not to take him or I'd be really upset.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another burning question...

...for the powers that be at New York Sports Clubs:

Why the hell are the locker rooms carpeted?? Because you know what people do a lot of in locker rooms? Walk around wet. And you know what carpets do? Retain water. So now my socks are wet. And sure, everyone loves the feeling of carpeting on bare feet, but not so much other people's runoff.

And another thing: I've revised my fitness goal. I no longer want to reach a certain weight or be able to wear certain pants; I just want to wrap one of your stupid tiny towels around my waist comfortably.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What did I JUST say?

Okay, it's bad enough this entire episode of Lost is in Korean so I can't do other things during it because I have to sit here and read the damn subtitles (I mean, really, can't they just adopt a convention that Jin and Sun speak English in their flashbacks? Sayid's wasn't all in Arabic.) but the fucking subtitles just said "you're" when they should have said "your!" ARGH!!

How Not To Get A Job

My most time-consuming pre-season duty for Undisclosed Location Summer Theater is hiring all the interns for my department. This means reading a lot of cover letters and resumes. And nothing's more fun than destroying the dreams of a budding theater professional with a few strokes of a red pen.

Now, I've been called a grammar Nazi, and I don't think that's fair. As you know if you're reading this, I try to write fairly conversationally in general. I am very casual in email and even more so in instant messages. I often don't capitalize, and I will use a common messaging abbreviation like "u" for you or whatever. But I also know there from their and they're, and hear from here. The friend who's called me a grammar Nazi for correcting her IMs does not. It's one thing to be casual, another entirely to just misuse the language. I may be a rude bastard for correcting her over IM, but that's another story.

I read a couple of blogs (which shall remain unlinked to protect the guilty) whose authors can't get their homonyms and apostrophes straight and it drives me insane. The occasional typo is to be expected, but dude, you're publishing something for strangers to read, get your yours right! Unfortunately, while it's rude of me to correct my friend's IMs, it would be even worse to comment to people I have little to no relationship with, so I suffer in silence.

But I digress, as usual. I'm not talking about blogs here, I'm talking about documents designed to introduce you to someone in a professional setting, and convince that someone to consider hiring you for a job. There are some good arguments in the cut-them-some-slack department: These kids are mostly undergraduates, and chances are no one has yet taught them how to do this. They're also stage managers, which means, unlike corporate types or even actors, there's absolutely no standard format for our resumes. I'm not hiring writers, copy editors or graphic designers.

All of that's true, and it means that I'm not going to deny someone an interview simply on the basis of a poorly-written cover letter or an ugly font. But...well, see above: They're also stage managers. One of our main jobs is creating paperwork of various kinds: schedules, prop lists, cue sheets, contact lists, and scene breakdowns, just to name a few. Much of this paperwork gets shared with a lot of people. And because, as in any work environment, a decent number of those people are probably dumb, it all has to be as clear as possible. There is also always the chance that you'll (as we tend to say far too often) get hit by a bus and someone else will need to pick up your paperwork and immediately understand it so that the show can go on.

Then there's the rehearsal report (and later the performance report), a document that, at a large institution like Undisclosed Location Summer Theater, gets sent to dozens of people every day. Its purpose is to communicate what went on that day to all the people who weren't in the room but need to know such things, from producers to designers on down. It's where you ask for things you need and tell, for example, the people building the set that a 200-pound actor needs to be able to lean on that wall without it falling down. It's a very important document, and in a rep theater people have many of them to read every day while both getting everything they need (and you need them to get) from it and not wanting to shoot themselves.

Nowadays making these forms requires at least a passing knowledge with Word and Excel, and graphic design does make a difference, at least insofar as the document must be clear and easy to read. Ditto basic writing and communication skills. There's no one right way to do it, because every person and every show are different, but there are many wrong ways. You can always steal a good format from someone else and plug in your own information (my colleagues and I share like this all the time), so if you can't do at least that much with your resume, I am unimpressed.

Now, again, the interns are coming to us to learn while they work, and they will not be generating huge amounts of paperwork themselves. But in a way, I am hiring writers, copy editors, and graphic designers, and I tend to think that someone who doesn't have it in him to proofread his own resume (or give it to a friend like me who will) probably also isn't very detail-oriented, able to multi-task, and always aware of everything going on around him when he's on the job, lest he (or an actor who thinks the SM is looking out for her) get hit in the head with a piece of scenery.

Maybe I'm being overly judgmental (what, me??) but when I'm slogging through 100 resumes for 7 positions, I have to make some decisions based on rash first impressions. So then what am I to make of the astonishing number of resumes I've received in which people misspell the names of shows and theaters they've allegedly worked on or at, or schools they've attended?? Last year, one person misspelled the name of our theater in the heading to her cover letter! It was a typo, obviously - "Undiscolsed" - but, I don't know, proofread maybe? Look at the squiggly line Word helpfully puts under it? (Incidentally, it's very unsettling writing this post on a Canadian computer, because I know I'll be ripped apart in the comments if anyone catches a mistake (and rightly so, given the subject matter), but Word keeps squiggling "theater" because it wants it to be "theatre." Let's hope I have no reason to use "favorite" or "color.") Because I only skim the cover letters myself, I didn't notice it until I was on the phone with her, conducting our interview, and I couldn't very well say, "Oh, actually, never mind, you're out." I had to finish the interview as if nothing had happened. (This year I'm reading the letters more carefully.)

I think the best ones are the people who've misspelled the names of schools they attended. I've got people who went to "Tische" and "Masson Gross." Seriously?? Isn't it written everywhere you look on campus? We had university logos on our dorm trash cans, for god's sake. I can almost accept a mistake on Juilliard, because Microsoft actually has "Julliard" in its dictionary and won't catch that the extra i is missing, but still, if you work there....

Then there are the titles of plays. It's astonishing, really. On the same resume I had someone spell Falsettos with an apostrophe and You Can't Take It With You without one. Now, apostrophe misuse is of course rampant in this country, but if you stage managed (Word wants a hyphen there, I disagree) the piece you presumably spent many days looking at the script. One assumes there were posters and programs of some sort. How did you manage to screw that up? There's another young'un who worked at "Queen's Theater in the Park." I might not have caught that one were I not on their mailing list. It's in the borough of Queens, not owned by the Queen of England. And again...program? Pay stub? Letterhead? (And yes, nitpickers who follow the link, they spell it "theatre," but that in my opinion is overlookable, because every theatrical institution in this country spells it differently.)

Here's a minor one but it bugged the hell out of me: L'Avare: The Miser. How do you lose your italics in the middle of a line? A favorite is A Midsummer's Night's Dream, because it's technically grammatically correct (the dream belongs to the night and the night belongs to midsummer), but not the title of the play. Apparently not a lot of people do know what the title is, because another one had Mid-Summers Nights Dream. I'm holding out hope that that one is some sort of deconstruction based on Shakespeare.

Apostrophe problems really are rampant. Hence Krapps Last Tape. One applicant either worked on two different productions of A Doll House or held two positions on one. In any case, the title appears twice on her resume: once spelled correctly, and once as A Doll's House. That's a very common mistake I wouldn't have even noticed if you hadn't pointed it out to me yourself!

For sheer stupidity, this one takes the cake, from an emailed cover letter; I think it speaks for itself: "I saw you post on playbill.com.... I will be attending SETC this year. i would love to get the chance to meet with you there. I am attaching my resume and head-shot to you."

Well, I'm attaching my rejection letter to you. With a pneumatic nail gun.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Puzzlement

Because my diet is clearly working in an overall sense, and I'm in pretty good shape and getting muscles where I didn't know I had them but still can't manage to drop a damn waist size to the size I was at for years, not some unreasonable anorexic goal, I'm thinking about going on Atkins for a couple of weeks to do exactly what critics of that diet say is bad and kick start my body into doing what I want it to do.

I also have this somewhat inexplicable urge to bake cupcakes from scratch.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I really hope this isn't real

Okay, so on 24 CTU can lock the freakin' conference room with an air-tight seal, but there's no way to reverse the ventilation system in case of, I don't know, a weaponized nerve gas attack? I mean, I've worked in theaters that have emergency exhausts in case of fire, don't you think a highly sensitive government agency would have that technology??

Rise of the Machines, Part 7: Technological Ramblings and Watching TV in the Stone Age

It's not my week for technology apparently. The DVR's hard drive has mysteriously kicked the bucket, wiping out our recorded shows and turning the Explorer 8000 Home Entertainment Server into a regular old cable box. I'm trying not to get worked up about it. I'm caught up on all my "important" viewing, so all that was lost were a couple of movies and some new sitcoms I wanted to check out unenthusiastically and a few episodes of The Boondocks, which I like but can certainly miss. Boy lost the season finale if Battlestar Galactica, but Jenn was good enough to put that on tape for him while she watched it over the weekend.

The most annoying thing about it is that I don't know when Boy or I will have time to deal with getting a new box, and I've forgotten how to watch live TV. I'm not one of those people who time-shifts everything just so I can skip the commercials, but I was doing other things during The West Wing last night and wanted to rewind to catch something complicated I'd missed and I couldn't. Boy's phone rang and we couldn't pause to wait for him. It's become such a natural part of how I watch things, it's weirdly disorienting to not have it anymore.

I also no longer have any idea when anything is on anymore, since once the DVR is set I can generally forget about the schedule. Sometimes I'll not be watching TV at all and see the little "record" light is on and bring up the list to see what's "taping." It may take months to rebuild the list of series recordings, since you can't type in a title, you have to find it in the guide. This is frustrating because one of my favourite things about DVRing is setting it to automatically record new episodes of something forever, so I never need to stay on top of when my shows are coming back from hiatus (in the near future, Alias, Everwood and Robot Chicken). Very annoying.

This has all got me thinking about how dependent most of us are on devices that are becoming increasingly fragile. It's amazing how weird it's been for me not having an iPod remote. I've completely taken for granted the ability to change my volume on the fly, such a simple thing. As everything gets increasingly portable, and increasingly part of our normal routines, we treat it far less preciously, and of course some delicate piece of it is eventually going to break (though that doesn't explain the death of the DVR, which sits in one place at all times).

A brief digression here: Why do people get so worked up over the Mac/PC debate? With very few exceptions, in this age of cross-platform everything and PDFs, someone else's choice of computer affects your life not one little bit. I'm not saying I'm completely immune - I've definitely been known to get a little smug when friends with Windows have been crippled by viruses, or met the blue screen of death, or had a hard time doing something that's easy and intuitive on a Mac. But those people also have plenty of good reasons to use that platform. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that their computers cost a hell of a lot less. Whatever the reason, it's a matter of preference and choice. I've never heard anyone get into big arguments over Coke vs. Pepsi, or Nike vs. Adidas or whatever. We're not debating abortion or gay marriage here, just use the computer you want and calm down!

But I have friends who are rabidly pro-Mac to the point where they get upset and can barely function if they have to work in an office with Windows (um, welcome to reality?) which, when it comes to basic tasks isn't really all that different or hard to figure out. And I have friends who are the same way in the Microsoft camp. Robert commented last week about my broken remote, "what? a shitty Apple product??? you don't say! i can't believe it!!! that's just crazy talk!" Well, you know, it does happen occasionally. I'm also writing this in a perfectly lovely Microsoft product. That happens too. The iPod remote might work great for some people, but it's not well-designed for how I use and abuse it. I love the new Zen Vision and the adorable little MobiBlu, but the iPod is for me. Can't we all just get along?

When my iBook crapped out a few months ago, Robert made a similar sarcastic comment about Macs (in person), and I responded, "It's not a brick, it's a laptop." And this is bringing somewhere back towards my original point. I'm completely dependent on these highly sensitive pieces of equipment, and I toss them in my bag and my cargo pants and I squish them onto crowded subway cars and throw them in the back seats of taxis and let the TV schedule fly right out of my head. I could become a Luddite, I suppose, but I'd still be the type-A person I am (maybe A-) and I'd have to write everything down, and what would happen if I lost my DayRunner? Or if I got caught in a rainstorm and it got soaked through? At least now my laptop and my Palm and my cell all talk to each other, and the odds of losing them all at once are VERY slim, so I always have most of the important data somewhere.

Now if only someone could invent a device to help me come up with endings to rambling blog posts.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I love this town

Since, as a stage manager, I spend so much of my time working in dark, windowless places, there was something very exciting about working on an event at the Rainbow Room on a day like yesterday. I don't think I'll ever get tired of looking at New York from high up.

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I wish I had known this earlier in the day (look closely at the daytime pics for reflections), but, surprisingly, the windows on the 64th floor actually open!
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Monday, March 06, 2006

This can't be legal

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So, um, after you do that, how are the rest of us supposed to know there's a fire?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

You Had Me At "I Will Not Condone A Course Of Action That Will Lead Us To War"

I've never liked Natalie Portman. I've seen her on film and on stage, and I've read interviews with her, and I think she's a terrible actress and kind of a moron. The only thing I've kind of liked her in was Garden State, but I wanted nothing more during that movie than to reach through the screen and slap her character, so really it was just another form of hate.

Meanwhile, Saturday Night Live, while better the last couple of seasons, hasn't exactly been genius television.

So what the hell happened last night? Portman was entirely charming, game for anything, and damn funny. It was the first episode all year where I didn't fast forward through a single sketch. Even in the bad ones, I couldn't wait to see what they'd throw at her next.

My world is turned upside-down.

(Post title lovingly ripped off from here.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar the Grouch

I am completely uninterested in the Oscars this year. If Jenn weren't throwing a party, I'd TiVo the show and watch it the next day, fast-forwarding to see Jon Stewart and any particularly embarrassing musical numbers.

This isn't really a new issue for me. Since I tend to see very few films in the theaters, and my Netflix queue is hopelessly backlogged, and the Academy tends to nominate movies that feel like school that I don't really want to see anyway, it's rare that I've seen many of the relevant films. But I can usually get it up for the show, with all of its spectacle and absurdity, and even the occasional genuine moment.

This year, though, I'm already Oscared out. Like Christmas, awards season seems to start earlier every year. I really feel like the Oscars happened about two months ago, since every awards show has had pretty much the same nominees. I didn't actually watch any of them either, but like it or not I know who won, and thanks to the power of the Internet I've seen highlight clips that took a minute of my life instead of three hours.

I think my Oscar apathy is just a symptom of some sort of celebrity critical mass this year. Seriously, is it me, or has it gotten worse lately? Maybe the fact that there's so much terrible stuff going on in the world but Brangelina is still the top story is just making it seem worse. But even without ever turning on Entertainment Tonight or opening a copy of Us Weekly, I know more than I need or want to about Paris, Britney, Tom and Katie. And really, seriously, WAY too much about Scott Stapp and Kid Rock. It's unavoidable. At least here in New York, where my walk from subway to work takes me past three newsstands from which Jessica Simpson eyes me seductively, and my otherwise classy morning news radio includes an entertainment report with all the dish on her divorce proceedings. And, pop culture sponge that I am, I retain this information, and here I am squeezing it out in my blog, playing right into it. (But hey, I'm not proud, I'll take those Google hits for "Kid Rock Scott Stapp sex tape." No, you won't find a clip here, but stick around - you might like us and I assure you we're far less icky.)

I think I started to turn last year when Brad and Jen (as if I know them) split. I won't pretend it wasn't interesting, but after a while I just felt like our interest was wrong. Yes, they made a choice to live in the public eye, but it's their business, leave them alone. For god's sake, maybe she just doesn't like children! And from there were got Brangelina, and TomKat, and JessiNick, and Flavor of Love, and when is it going to stop?? So Britney's a bad mother. What did you expect, she's dumb as a box of hair! And she'll always have more money than you, so really, why does it matter?

I'm not saying I'm completely immune. I read The Fix in Salon, which distills a bazillion gossip sites into three or four top stories per day, and is usually humorous. Best Week Ever is always good for a laugh. I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, but that's more behind-the-scenes and news than gossip. I guess, mostly, I want my gossip with a heavy dose of irony. I also don't want it to take up much of my time.

Maybe that's the key: I've been oversaturated. An occasional snippet of celebrity dish, designed to make us feel jealous or smug (preferably the latter) is fine, but a year's worth of mind-numbing, unavoidable detail about people I don't even watch, let alone know...well, I resent it a little. I resent that it takes up my time and space in my brain and I really didn't ask for it. I want to just enjoy Desperate Housewives without wondering if the women get along in real life, but in some way that's been taken away from me. I might want to watch the Oscars, except I feel like I've been watching them for months now. Aren't they over? There can't possibly be more Brokeback Mountain jokes to tell, can there? Instead of fueling my interest, the media has made me over the event before it's even begun.

But I'll watch, and I won't even blame Jenn's party. I'll take responsibility for my role as a cog in the machine. And I'll pray to Jon Stewart to deliver us from mediocrity and tedium. And for some really ugly gowns.

Friday, March 03, 2006

iPoo

No, I haven't defected and given up my brand loyalty. But I did have a very bad day with Apple customer service.

My first iPod, a second-generation model, came with a wired remote, which I immediately got hooked on. Since the controls of an iPod, unlike, say, an old Walkman, are tricky to operate if it's inside a pocket or hooked to your belt (even more so if it's in a case), and since the bulk of my iPod listening happens on the street or the subway or other places where I want to frequently adjust the volume because of changes in ambient noise, or I listen on shuffle and often want to skip a song, the remote, clipped to my jacket or shirt, quickly became an essential part of my "digital life," as Apple's marketing folks would say. So I was pissed when my iPod disappeared and I had to get a new remote separately from the replacement.

The remotes actually have one glaring and not very Apple-like design flaw. Unlike most modern headphones, which have L-shaped and/or flexible connectors, the top of the remote's connector is straight and rigid. Normal wear and tear from carrying it in a coat pocket, or opening the cover of many cases, will cause the connector to bend and eventually break. Mine seem to last me about six months. The first time it happened I just went and bought a new one. I got a new case too, thinking I could do more to avoid the problem. When it happened again, I realized the thing had a one-year warranty, so I went down to the Apple Store with my receipt and the were kind enough to give me a new one, no problem, along with a new receipt for the exchange.

So I didn't freak out when that one gave out this week, I just headed down to Soho. Problem: Though it's still on the website, they don't actually sell the old remotes in the store anymore, since the new line of iPods doesn't have a remote jack, and they just released a whole new one that plugs into the dock connector. So I asked them what I should do, and they gave me the address of a website where I can go process an exchange by mail. I was cranky that I had schlepped all the way down to Soho and left empty-handed (they were out of the new ones, or I might have just bought one), but it seemed I at least had a solution.

Until I got home, and discovered that the website wouldn't let me do anything until I entered my iPod's serial number, so they could make sure it was still under warranty. But my iPod is fine! And I know it's not still under warranty! I called Apple, and got transferred around to four different people before getting cut off completely. I decided to try putting in my serial number to see what would happen, and sure enough once I got through there was a pull-down menu to describe my problem, and one of the options was "Repair iPod Accessory." And on the next screen was stuff about the remote.

Great, right? Wrong. Because the serial number I entered isn't under warranty anymore, I had to fax them documentation showing why I believe I'm still covered. So I had to drag out the all-in-one printer (which got stored away because it no longer prints, but it still scans) then go to the kitchen with my laptop and unplug the phone so I could send a fax. And now I have to wait and see if they decide to send me anything. I guess the way it supposedly works is they send me the new part, and then I'm to put the old part in the same box and send it back. So they've taken my credit card number so they can charge me if I don't send the broken remote back in a timely fashion. And that seems totally fair, but I'm also very nervous now that some ridiculous charge will show up.

I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but a) I feel sort of naked without that remote clipped to me, and b) it's a matter of principle. Don't make a shitty product. I guess I rarely have much need to interact with their customer service and tech support folks, since I generally know what I'm doing, but I'm just used to things from Apple being so easy! I was really surprised by this. And I'm fighting the idea that the clear solution is just to treat myself to a Video iPod with one of the new remotes!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dunkelmaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!

I hate that I'm watching American Idol again. It's all the Olympics's fault. We flipped it on one night last week when there was just nothing else on. Damn you, curling!!

Right now I'm just doing one of the 17 weekly airings, since I have no interest in the girls, and I can find out who won online without having to suffer through the results show clip-fest.

I tend to only half-watch the show, and Boy, who's never shown much interest before, is better at picking up on weird ironies and unintentional funnies. Sure, we all thought it was, um, queer, when Ryan started to undress the kid who looks like exactly Peter Brady, but it was Boy who picked up on Ryan calling the other 16-year-old "chicken." And he rewound the DVR and made me come into the room to see why you should never sing "Last Dance" on the show, just in case you get voted off. Forcing the loser to sing on the way out is humiliating enough, but it's so much worse when the cut in your song beings with "And when I'm bad I'm oh so bad."

It's true that the talent has improved over the seasons. Even the worst male semi-finalist this year is better that pretty much all of the boys from Season 1. Still, it's pretty sad. Nothing can save even the best singers from coming across like bad Karaoke. It's just the nature of the format. And I just feel bad for the ugly 16-year-old who's not very good, and the freaky 29-year-old (or is it 49?) who's not much better. Maybe there's something happening live that we're not seeing, and I know all about people having unrepresentative good and bad auditions, but surely they could have found better people than this for the finals?? Then there's "the crooner". Yes, he's cute, yes he can even sing. But aren't you looking for a pop star? This kid needs 20 years to grow into his voice and even then we're not talking mass appeal.

That said, I actually find many of the boys inexplicably likeable. Like seemingly every other gay blogger, I'm all about Ace. I like that he can actually sing, and that he's going for pop star, not "rocker." Not like the world needs another Nick Lachey (oh wait, I said he can actually sing), but it's nice to see AI veering away from high school musical kids and oddly-facial-haired "rockers" and "country...ers." Though I do really like rocker Chris, clearly one of the most talented guys this season, even if it's not my style. On the other hand, even if I liked country music, I can't take anyone named Bucky Covington even a little bit seriously. I'm actually quite fond of Will, the aforementioned Peter Brady lookalike. I'm looking forward to watching him grow into full on gaydom. In the meantime, though, who told a 17-year-old that it was a good idea to sing "Lady?" Creepy, kid. Cree-pee.

And speaking of creepy... everyone else. Seriously, where did they find these guys? Karaoke bars, I guess. I know it's not a beauty contest, but I do want my pop stars to have a smidgen of charisma, or at least not be completely fuck weird.

And the girls? Eh, whatever. I can live with myself a little better if I only watch once a week. I'll wait until they've whittled out the especially bad ones.

One more thing -- what's happened to Ryan? He's always been smarmy and annoying, but I feel like he used to be a little bit cute. His mouth seems to have gotten wider, threatening to take over his entire face. And he's all scruffy. Don't they have stylists over there anymore? It's like he's getting shorter, turning into some sort of little gay troll.