How to pronounce McMansion (courtesy of YouTube)

The Internet might bring some wonderful things but it can also make you scratch your head. Here is a YouTube video for how to pronounce McMansion. The video doesn’t exactly have a lot of views – 1 after I watched it! – and comes courtesy of

Two quick thoughts:

1. I admit that I have looked up pronunciations through online dictionaries and had the site read to me. This can be a very handy Internet tool.

2. The next video YouTube plays after this one is the song “Jesusland” from Ben Folds. This is one of the few pop songs I know that mention McMansions and, fitting the common use of the word, Folds uses it as part of this critique of Middle America. Here is the portion of the song where it comes up:

Down the tracks, beautiful McMansions on a hill
That overlook a highway with riverboat casinos
And you still have yet to see a soul

Not too different from those depictions in Gone Girl

Why I can watch the Sing-Off and never watch American Idol

I have been watching the most recent season of the Sing-Off on NBC. Here are some reasons why I am willing to watch this but have no interest in viewing American Idol.

1. The Sing-Off is only five episodes. Short and sweet. This doesn’t require much commitment on the part of viewers and it leaves them wanting more. In contrast, American Idol seems to go for ever and involves lots of weeks with minimal talent.

2. The Sing-Off seems a bit quirkier (perhaps that is the nature of people trying to make accapella music look cool?) while American Idol seems contrived. (This may be the result of time – it’s hard to remember an era when American Idol was new and exciting.)

3. I like Ben Folds as a judge. Since I enjoy some of his music, it is interesting to watch his comments and actions. I get the feeling that he really like this gig – he gets to be the nerdy judge who compliments the all-important rhythm guy or girl behind what the rest of the group is doing. And whenever he finishes his comments, he immediately sits back, crosses his arms, and smiles.

4. The group aspect is appealing. These are groups that don’t often get the same sort of attention lavished on rock stars. They seem to really enjoy what they are doing and just like having some people pay attention to them.

5. I like the song selection better on the Sing-Off. The songs picked for American Idol seem to be arranged for middle America – hinting on edgy but never really straying from the middle of the road. How many times do we have to hear something like “Bridge Over Troubled Water”?

6. The host battle is a toss-up. Nick Lachey has very little personality while Ryan Seacrest is a bit too smooth (unless he is fighting with Simon).

My prediction at this point: it comes down to Committed or the Back Beats with Committed winning America’s vote (though I think Back Beat would get the judges’ votes).

Ben Folds + Nick Hornby = new album

Time reports on the collaborative efforts of musician Ben Folds and novelist Nick Hornby. Here is a description of what the creative process looked like for the album that was released September 28:

For Lonely Avenue, Hornby e-mailed lyrics to Folds, who turned them into songs. “The process almost goes against what I’ve learned, which is that songwriting should be a labor,” says Folds. “I find it so easy this way. It’s natural and quick.”

Well, not that quick. The songs on the album took several months to produce, with Hornby writing lyrics in London and sending them to Folds, who arranged and recorded the music in Nashville. An e-mail between the songwriters, reprinted in the liner notes, illustrates the complex process of turning one man’s words into another man’s music. Hornby wrote a song called “Belinda,” about an aging rock star who has to sing his big hit, a love song about someone he no longer loves, at every concert he plays. “You’ve quoted the chorus of this fabled hit song in the second line of the verse,” Folds says to Hornby in the e-mail, before going on to explain the difficulty of writing a song about a song, and the placement of the fake chorus in between the real one. “It was like a hell [of a] crossword puzzle.”

I am going to have to go to Amazon and listen to the song clips right away. To me, Folds and Hornby operate in the same creative genre: tales of sad sack, hipster, occasionally endearing, 20 to 30 somethings. So if the two are put together, will we get an extra heavy dose of sad sack hipsterdom? Or will they create something new?