Bulls are NBA title favorites

Thanks to spectacular performances by their respective Ds -- Chicago's defense and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki -- both teams with home advantage are off to a 1-0 start in this year's NBA conference finals. Home teams in this position have gone on to win the series 85 percent of the time, an impressively high number that seems to set us down the path toward a Chicago Bulls-Dallas Mavericks NBA finals matchup in 2011.

However, a smart fan would be wise not to jump to conclusions this year, as each of these two Conference finals series is more closely matched than usual. The top three ranked teams in the data-driven TeamRankings. com predictive ratings are now Chicago, Miami Heat and Dallas, respectively, with the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked sixth. Chicago stands only a tenth of a point higher than Miami, though, meaning it's essentially a two-way tie for best team in the league. What's interesting, though, is that none of these teams is a juggernaut from a historical perspective.

In fact, Chicago's league-leading power rating is the second-worst rating for a No. 1-ranked team in the last seven years; the 2011 Bulls even rate as a whopping 1. 6 points worse than the 2008 Boston Celtics. If Derrick Rose and company jumped in a hot tub time machine and traveled back in time to compete for an NBA championship, throughout most of recent history, they would not be the favorites to win.


Josh Turner Surprises Scotty McCreery During Hometown Concert

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An emotional day became unforgettable for Scotty McCreery on Saturday, May 14. The 17 year old kept his cool while fans screamed, cried and even proposed marriage during a media tour and promotional stops at local Garner, N.C. businesses. Taste of Country was there as the love shown by friends and family began to peel away the layers of his usually steady demeanor. The afternoon reached a fever pitch when McCreery’s hero Josh Turner walked out singing his hit song ‘Your Man.’

McCreery had just begun his “theme song” when Turner strutted out and picked up the next verse. “Oh my goodness!” McCreery shouted while waving off his band. It was the only time all afternoon he struggled to find the perfect thing to say.

“All these people are here for you,” Turner told McCreery. “I had heard you never sang this song with a band before and were a little bit nervous, so I decided I would bring a few of my guys in.” The duo picked up the song from the start, and traded verses and praise before going into Turner’s first radio hit, ‘Long Black Train.’

The high school junior showed incredible stage presence for someone who’s experience is limited at best. He was charismatic and funny, worked both sides of the audience, and even remembered to wave to the special fans in the first few rows. He hammed it up a little with Josh Turner, but never came off cornier than one would want. Amongst the songs he recreated for his fans was ‘Gone,’ ‘Letters From Home,’ and ‘The River,’ all tracks that were essential to his success thus far in the competition.

Hours earlier, during the parade leading up to the concert at Lake Benson park, fans watched as their native son buried his head in his hands and came up with rosy cheeks and watery eyes. Organizers expected 30,000 people despite the threat of storms. Fortunately, the only thing that got wet before McCreery finished was his sleeves, as he dabbed his teary eyes. Expect that scene to make the cut during this Wednesday’s episode of ‘American Idol.”

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May 21: End of the World, or End of Harold Camping's Credibility?

Camping also predicted the end of the world in September 1994, so while he has experience at this, his track record is not good. These messages always managed to circulate in the past, but I didn't even know about the 1994 prediction until yesterday. Thank goodness for the Internet and social networking. I can now find out about these things much more quickly. Seriously, though, this leads me to a few observations and questions about these predictions. Like the Washington Post's Jason Boyett, I worry about impressionable children who are exposed to this message and don't know to question what they hear from adults. It's tough enough being a kid without having to worry about the end of the world too. Don't get me wrong, I believe in God, I believe that Christ is our savior, I believe God does indeed work in mysterious ways, and I believe God has a master plan. What I don't believe is that The Bible is like a puzzle book that gives you all the clues to the end of time. Being trained as a civil engineer, I'm sure Camping is a very smart man. I don't believe he is smart enough to see into the mind of God. Which leads me to the point that Camping or anyone else predicting the end of the world will immediately lead me to question their credibility and character. The cynical side of me comes out and thinks this is all about fleecing the vulnerable and gullible out of their money. Whether it's a donation for a quicker trip to heaven or funding the advertising for the end of the world "message, " such as the unemployed woman from Colorado who used her part of her savings to advertise the end on a bus stop bench, it all sounds like a scam to take advantage of someone who trusts your judgment.


Atheists throw 'Rapture party' to raise charitable funds

I was tickled to hear about the Seattle atheist’s May 21 “Rapture party” [“Atheists counter prediction with ‘Rapture party, ’” NWTuesday, May 17]. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the group whose mission is in part to “encourage the public to look for credible evidence rather than superstition, dogma and the supernatural. ” But this isn’t just an event to poke fun at religious extremism, it is also a charitable fundraiser.

This is much more productive than picketing and foisting one group’s ideology onto another. This is a good reminder that “godless heathens” may indeed have souls, or at least great compassion. If the Rapture comes, the funds generated at the party will go toward “Rapture relief. ” If no one is raptured, the funds will be donated to Camp Quest, a summer camp that instructs children in critical thinking and fosters an interest in science.

This fundraiser should serve as a reminder that the kind of aggressive evangelism displayed by groups like Family Radio and Westboro Baptist Church (which really just seems like hate groups with tax-exempt statuses) are not productive. People of all creeds can find commonality under the banners of charity and volunteerism. Let’s help each other solve the problems of the here and now; the hereafter can wait.


Josh Turner Concert Turns Into California Lovefest

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Josh Turner played Cupid not once, but twice at a recent concert in Stockton, Calif., when two couples got engaged during the singer's show. Love was definitely in the air, as Josh stopped in the middle of his hit, 'Would You Go With Me,' to dedicate the song to couple Jeff and Alma, who had just taken the big leap. He even invited the happy couple to the front of the Bob Hope Theater, where he and his band were performing, to let the crowd in on their big moment.

"Just remember: Stay together, all right?" the Stockton Record reports Josh saying to the happy couple, giving them a quick lecture on keeping a marriage strong. The singer knows whereof he speaks: he and wife Jennifer travel together on the road and she plays keyboards and sings backing vocals in his band, the Tonkin' Honkies.

A few minutes later on stage, Josh was handed a note from Eric Nelson, another member of the audience. He promptly opened it, read it and told the crowd with a laugh, "I'm not one to do another man's dirty work." Josh handed the microphone over to Eric so he could propose to his girlfriend of two years, Jamie Gannon. After she accepted, Josh had the entire crowd remind Eric and Jamie of his previous advice to the first couple.

"You know the rule, right? What's the rule?" As the crowd chanted 'Stay together' loudly, Josh turned to his fiddle player and jokingly asked, 'You don't have anybody you want to ask, do you? It seems to be contagious!"

The crowd at this particular show was apparently in a much better mood than the audience at a show several nights earlier. According to Josh, that night's concertgoers were more about punching and beer slinging rather than kisses and lovey-dovey marriage proposals. Josh told the audience that two girls at that show had been swinging and throwing beer at each other, "but tonight, we have just the opposite. We have people who love each other."

As the father of three healthy kids himself, Josh is always willing to lend a hand to children's causes, and he and several other artists, including Darius Rucker, Rodney Atkins, Little Big Town, and Heidi Newfield have teamed up with Nashville's Iroquois Steeplechase for a horse-themed fundraiser that will benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Josh and the other artists painted miniature wooden horses that will be auctioned off online through May 15. For more information on the auction or to make a bid, check out the Iroquois Steeplechase website.

The Iroquois Steeplechase horse race, which takes place May 14, is a longtime Music City tradition, currently in its 70th year in Nashville.

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How Much is Alanis Morissette’s Louis Vuitton Diaper Bag?

Alanis Morissette was out and about with her hubby, her son and her diaper bag. And this just wasn’t any diaper bag, in fact it’s not a diaper bag at all. Alanis opted to use a very versatile tote as her diaper by the very high brand Louis Vuitton. What is she carrying and how much does one of these carryall cost? Here Alanis uses the aptly named Neverfull GM, a large flexible monogrammed canvas tote. It’s large enough to carry pretty much everything you need for an afternoon outing (with or without kids) but is sleek enough to make lugging around your stuff easy. Alanis isn’t the only celebrity mom to have her big designer bags do double duty, Jessica Alba was known to use a Large Fendi purse as a diaper bag.

Haley Reinhart sings Alanis Morissette's 'You Ought Know'

The judges picked Alanis Morrisette's You Oughta Know for Haley Reinhart. "I'm digging it, " she says. "I love her, she's awesome. " But from the start of the song, it looks like we might be watching Haley in reverse this week. Where for the past two weeks, she improved dramatically between her first and last songs, she obviously struggles with this one. The band's anemic arrangement doesn't help her, but she struggles with the wordy B section, which isn't in her comfort zone, range-wise at all. Fortunately, she rescues the performance with two stellar choruses. This was almost a great choice for her -- but she and Jimmy Iovine did better than the judges. "Those were some amazing choruses by you, " Randy says, though he acknowledges that she had rhythmic problems with the verses. Yeah, and Randy has vocabulary problems with the judging. "There's nobody that can match you" in the choruses, Jennifer says. "I think we all heard the same thing in the middle parts. ".


Disney Cruise Lines Offers Fun for the Whole Family

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Have you heard of the Disney Cruise Line? Here are just some of the thing they offer: live Disney shows, “meet-and-greets” with the Disney characters, children’s clubs and adults-only spots as well. None of those sound good? Okay, fine. How about first-run movies at the theater onboard?

Are your kids looking to get away from their geeky parents? Not a problem. From a Little Mermaid themed daycare to Vibe, a place where 14 to 17 year olds can chill out and listen to music, watch TV or play the latest and greatest video games, kids should be able to find whatever it is they’re looking for, regardless of their age.

I read about the Disney Cruise Line on the Telegraph, and I must say, it sounded quite impressive. I mean, the only thing missing I could think of was Zach and Cody, though as much as Disney offers? I wouldn’t be so quick to rule them out, either.

Each Disney Cruise has roughly 950 employees who represent over 60 nations and you can rest assured that you’ll be well taken care of because there’s a Disney associate for every three passengers. There are several cruise lines from which to choose. The Disney Dream might be a good choice for those of us in the U.S. as it sets sail from Florida. It also offers the AquaDuck waterslide which is billed as the first “water coaster” ever on a cruise ship. It sounds like a blast as it offers those brave enough to partake all kinds of twists and turns as it eventually extends beyond the actual ship itself (whoa) and culminates in a four-deck drop. (I’d recommend that one before lunch, for what it’s worth.)

So would my family and I enjoy such a cruise? Tough to say. I’m certain my 9-year-old would be all about it. She watches a fair amount of the Disney Channel and given all that the cruise lines offer, I bet she’d find real value in it. My wife and I?

While I’d never say never, we’re not really cruise people. We like a little more control over our vacation. Though Disney would offer us the gamut of family-friendly choices, I have a feeling we’d get cabin fever.

Having said that, I’m fully aware that there are many folks who love cruises. If you’re one of them, and you’ve got a big family vacation planned this summer, you should really consider looking into the Disney Cruise Lines. Who knows? You just might wind up having the time of your life. (Assuming you don’t get kidnapped by Captain Hook.)

To learn more, go do DisneyCruise.com. Warning, not exactly super-economical. But, again, if you’re looking to blow the bank on a big family vacation, this just might be worth looking into.

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