Kristy Lee Cook's run on American Idol has finally come to an end, outlasting many critics' predictions as she survived the bottom two week after week.
Since the contest was down to seven finalists, host Ryan Seacrest played a familiar mind game. He divided the finalists into two groups of three: one consisting of David Cook, Kristy Lee Cook and Brook White; the other of Syesha Mercado, Carly Smithson and Jason Castro.
As the audience tried to figure out which was the bottom three, Ryan threw in another twist, switching David for Syesha, which created groupings that made more sense.
Then he put poor David Archuleta in a difficult position, telling him that he was safe and then asking him to join the group he thought was safe. This was an awkward position for Archie, especially since the finalists have become friends. So instead, he sat down on stage until Ryan finally nudged the top group, of David, Carly and Jason, to join him.
So the bottom three, as I predicted, were all women, although viewers had placed Syesha in the bottom three, rather than Carly. Still, the end result was the same, since Syesha was sent back to safety on the couch. You could see the anxiety on Brooke's face, who must have thought she was about to fall victim to the curse of standing next to Kristy in the bottom two.
But Kristy's lucky streak ended, and while she's always faced the elimination process with a sense of humor, she teared up while watching her good-bye montage.
The question isn't why she's going home now, but why she stuck around so long. Many people hadn't even expected her to make the final 10. So what was her secret? I believe that her wholesome, pleasant, girl-next-door quality appealed to viewers. More importantly, she's been really smart about her song choices. She figured out what sort of people were voting for her: primarily country fans and middle class, rural Americans. She chose songs they would enjoy, and while she didn't always impress the judges, she improved from week to week. Despite her efforts, though, she simply didn't improve enough to surpass her competition or to attract new fans outside of her voting bloc.
Ironically, as she sang Mariah Carey's "Forever" one last time, the lyrics seemed appropriate: "These days of love are gone / Our time is through / Still I burn on and on / All of my life / Only for you." She sang the first verse directly to Simon, sitting on the judges' table, as if saying good-bye. Like I said, she's a very smart performer.
I agree with the judges that country music is her wheelhouse, and if she's smart, she'll spend some time working on that genre, sticking to simple melodies. She's no diva, but she understands her audience, and that bodes well for her. After all, she wouldn't be the first attractive blonde with dubious talent to succeed in the music industry.
Along with millions of other Americans, we filed our taxes this week. This was our first time filing a joint return as a married couple, and I took care of the paperwork.
I fully expected we'd have to pay something, because as a self-employed person, I generally do have to pay. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, instead, we would be getting a refund. That hasn't happened to me since my undergrad days.
I don't know precisely what the magic formula does. Maybe it's how The Gryphon has his withholding structured, or perhaps I'd overpaid my estimated taxes. Maybe it's just a special formula that kicks in for married couples with a combined income equaling ours. To be honest, I was just happy to be getting some money back.
This means that I paid my first quarter estimated taxes out of money I'd set aside for the 2008 filing, leaving extra money to pay my monthly bills, rather than waiting for another paycheck.
The refund is especially welcome news since The Gryphon is still job searching and will soon be going on unemployment, unless an opportunity pops up. Hey, every little bit counts.
Knowing your audience can get you far.