Monthly Archives: January 2007

Behind the American Idol curtain (2006)

Leah and Brooke Barrettsmith

There is no doubt that Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith of Spring Grove had the adventure of a lifetime competing on Fox’s megahit TV show American Idol. Before we explore their experiences, here is a short description of how the show works in case you’ve never seen the show.

Before getting a plane ticket to Hollywood, a contestant must first endure three days of grueling auditions in one of the major U.S. cities chosen to host the preliminary auditions. The producers of American Idol are well aware that the success of the show is based on people without talent as well as those who have IT. Many people tune in just to see the judges ridicule a contestant to the point of tears or to watch the contestant’s angry reaction to being sent packing. For example, in this year’s show two male twins are feature because they are very outspoken about the judges and verbally protective of each other. Another contestant called “Cowboy” jumped on the judges’ desk to sing part of his song.

The camera is focused on the expressions of the American Idol judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson as much as on the contestants.

Cowell’s scathing comments are now ritual and crowd-pleasing. Abdul and Jackson regularly criticize Cowell. At times the contestant’s talent is so obviously second rate that all three judges can barely contain their laughter.

Contestants must be U.S. citizens and between the ages of 16 and 28. This year 16 year-old contestant Kevin Covais revealed that talent transcends age. At the opposite pole is prematurely gray 28 year-old Kevin Hicks whose unique voice might carry him to the finals.

The top 24 semifinalists are removed from public contact much like a secluded jury. The must take drug tests. Some contestants have been disqualified during the show for failing these tests. All contestants must sign a contract that prevents them from using cell phones except for family calls and emergencies and the Internet where they might discuss the show in a chat room. They may not watch TV news shows or listen to radio shows or read the newspapers. TV fans take over the voting on the phone at this point. The judges are consulted and make comments on performances but they no longer vote at this level.

The “finalists” are the last 12 contestants. The drama heightens after weeks of further eliminations until a single contestant is chosen as the winner

The adventure of Brooke and Leah Barrettsmith began on a cool day inSeptember, 2005. They arrived at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago at 5:00 am escorted by their father, Rev. Scott Barrettsmith. “We needed to bethere early enough to get a good place in line,” said Brooke. Nearly20,000 contestants auditioned in Chicago that day. Some of them were fromNew Orleans because that city was picked as an audition center but it waswashed away by Hurricane Katrina.

Contestants were led into the Soldier Field in groups of 300. Brooke andLeah wanted to audition together so they held hands. “Don’t separateus!” they said to American Idol employees.

Only 300 hopefuls survived the first day. Brooke and Leah were relievedto be one of them. “There were thousands of totally depressed peoplethere,” said Scott. The Barrettsmiths spent their nights at a nearbyhotel. “We literally got the last available room,” said Scott.

Days two and three were as hectic as the first. American Idol executiveproducers told the Barrettsmiths the “needed personality” to move on.
“I had no problem showing personality,” said Brooke. Brooke befriended Mandisa, a semifinalist from Tennesse. “I can tell you are a Christian,”said Mandisa. “Girl, let’s pray!” When told that Leah planned to sing a Christian song called “Blessed” the producers said they preferredsecular songs. “They did not want to show favoritism,” said Leah. During the audition, though, Leah sang “Blessed” anyway. “I was havingtrouble with my first selection and just stopped and switched,” said Leah.

“We asked to go into the audition together,” said Brooke. In anunusual move the producers permitted that. In an televised interview Leahsaid, “I believe in my sister and she believe in me just as much so I love
her and we are going to do this together as much as we can.”

For the first time Brooke and Leah confronted the now famous AmericanIdol judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

Brooke led off and sang a short section of her Shoop Shoop song. ThenLeah sang. Randy said to Leah, “I like your voice I think you are good. Iwould say yes to Leah.” Paula Abdul said, “I think you are both talentedand different in your own ways, so I’m either going to say ‘yes’ toboth, or ‘no’. Simon said, “Well, I would say ‘no’ to both of you.” There was a short silence. Then Randy said, “We have a quandary,
judges.” Simon said, “I am going to apply Randy’s ‘yes’ to both ofyou, so now it is down to Paula.” Paula said, “I love my sister. I love the fact that you are here together supporting each other. I think you both
need to work, but you can do that and come back to Hollywood.” Brooke andLeah reacted with happy exclamations and a big hug. Meanwhile Randy said,
“Welcome to Hollywood, sisters, sisters!”

Brooke and Leah told the producers about the Richardson corn maze. Sensing a good story the producers sent a camera crew to Spring Grove to
film the sisters playing in and around the corn maze. “The filming took about 10 hours including dinner with the crew,” said Brooke. “All thatfor a two minute segment.”

In Hollywood

The next stage of auditions began on December 4th in Hollywood. “About 200 people out of tens of thousands made it to Hollywood,” said Brooke.
Brooke and Leah made the trip without parents or relatives. They spent the first day touring Hollywood with half of the contestants while the other half went through auditions. They wore distinctive American Idol tags to promote the show in Los Angeles. They stayed in a hotel, two to a room.“The show did not skimp on the accommodations,” said Leah.

Both were successful in their first audition. In the second auditionRandy said to Leah, “You didn’t bring it today. It’s the end of the road.”

Leah was surprised by the action. “What you see on television is not always the way it actually happened,” said Leah. “They do a lot of editing to make the show more dramatic. When I was singing, for example, it
appeared that the audience was bored and quiet on TV. Actually the audience was cheering and clapping while I sang. They were yelling ‘let her through!’ “ At another point you see Leah looking startled on TV as
though she was reacting to the negative decision. “That shot was totallytaken at another time and edited into the space,” said Leah.

The show puts the contestants into small groups for one segment. “I don’t know why they make us sing with a group,” said Leah. “It really has nothing to do with why we are there. I think they are trying to put a
lot of stress on the contestants for the TV cameras. They are very strict. You better not be a minute late for a meeting. They treat you like dogs.”

Brooke backed up Leah’s concerns. “They love the crying and thedrama. They love to frighten you,” said Brooke. “Sometimes the judges are totally acting. They seemed to be faking.”

“I think they are pushing for a guy to win this year,” said Brooke.“They are focused on guy talent.”

American Idol rules say that a contestant cannot be signedprofessionally. The show makes the contestants sign a contract that restricts their professional activity for one full year. “We are locked up until August,” said Brooke.

Leah will soon be moving to Nashville to continue her singing career.“I will be doing more mainstream music,” said Leah.

Brooke is committed to remaining in the Christian music scene. “Christian music is much more relevant now,” said Brooke. “My careerhas taken a turn for the better. God used American Idol to change me. I am
now even more into music ministry.”


Greg Cryns is the founder of
McHenry Online. He is also a local correspondent for the Richmond Report in northern Illinois and the founder of – Wahm Search Engine.


Turn A One-Night-Stand With Google Into A Long-Term Relationship

brought to you by Wahm Search Engine

Turn A One-Night-Stand With Google Into A Long-Term Relationship
Copyright (c) 2006-2007 All rights reserved under U.S. and international law.
Written by: Diane Metz
Crown CD Duplication

Google is like a girlfriend who won’t talk. You’re dying
to woo her, but when you ask her what she likes, she bats her
eyelashes and keeps quiet.

Now of course, Google isn’t going to talk anytime soon about
what goes into (and comes out of) its notorious algorithm — its
proprietary secret formula for calculating which pages will get
listed when someone types in a search phrase.

Ah, but we SEO specialists and experts have our ways of figuring
out what that seemingly fickle gal named Google likes and what
she could care less about.

And, ahem, things have changed since 2001.

Google seems to be a lot more subtle and isn’t charmed by
obvious overtures like:

* Keyword stuffing — Yes, an alarming number of webmasters
still do this and think they’re getting away with something.
If you haven’t been penalized yet, it’s because
you’ve moved onto other tactics that your competitors are
also employing. But it’s only a matter of time before what
separates you from the competition will come down to keyword
stuffing”�and guess who ain’t gonna get asked to dance
anymore? Hint: It’s spelled Y-O-U.

* Reciprocal linking campaigns — If you’re still relying on
this, trash it right now. You’re wasting time, money and
server space. And you’re spamming. You’ve probably got
hundreds of worthless inbound links from PR0 sites. And Google
will (if it hasn’t already) recognize the “�footprint’ or
template left behind by your link exchange software. Maybe you
think you’re being creative by naming your link pages
something like “Cool Stuff I Really Like.”� But once the clothes
come off and Google inspects the actual page, that savvy
gal’s gonna know she’s seen this one-trick pony before.

* Article exchange programs — Strip it down and what you’ve
got is a ramped up link exchange program, with a bunch of extra
words around the links. Keep chasing this one and you’ll end
up right back where you started when mass link exchanges started
to crumble. Yeah, Google’s been around the block before on
this one. Think you can fool Google by doing 3-way linking, 4-way
or even 5-way linking — if you can manage it? Don’t take
this the wrong way, but Google is smarter than you. By a

* Article and content spinning programs — If you think software
that spins articles into “�unique content’ will fool Google,
keep dreaming. But please, keep your fantasies to yourself. The
idea of writing just one article, popping it into a software
program that will generate new phrases and shuffle around
paragraphs, then spit out 100 versions of the same article”�well,
that’s a brilliant idea. But Google is even more brilliant.
Check out anything written on the shingle theory and you’ll
know that Google is no dumb blonde. Shoot. There’s nothing
more deadly than a desirable female with brains, is there?

So what’s left? Well, in today’s competition to seduce
Google, the web sites that radiate natural charm and staying
power will win in the end.

Natural charm means that you appeal to both visitors and spiders.
This isn’t a new idea, but it’s more important than ever.
Because while the search engines get savvier and savvier, so do
Internet users and shoppers. And there are plenty of sites out
there who deliver the best user experience while attaining high
search engine rankings.

You can — and should — do the same. Instead of spending 3 hours
trying to adjust your title tag just so”�why not write one so
that people who are looking at a search engine results page will
actually click on your link. That is the first of many obvious
goals, isn’t it?

There’s also a lot to be said about staying power. After all,
you are in this for long haul, aren’t you? If you’re
looking for a short-term relationship with Google, there are
plenty of tricks to get ranked fast and then drop like
yesterday’s drawers.

But staying power”�ahhh, that’s what Google is really into
these days. Register your domain for more than a year or two.
After all, if you’re planning to be around for a while,
you’re going to want your domain for a long time.

Of course, we now know that Google likes combing through domain
registration information. And we really think that certain
subtleties like age of domain are becoming not-so-subtle factors
anymore in the race for first-page rankings.

Finally, think about all that time you’re investing — I
mean, wasting — on tactics like article exchanges and linking
programs. Instead, spend that time hunting down sites that will
actually want to do one-way links to you. They do exist, but you
have to find them yourself, not with a program.

Yes, this will take a little bit of work, and you may actually
have to pick up the phone to negotiate with a real person. But a
one-way link from even a lowly PR2 site or page will carry more
weight than 5 dozen 2-way or 3-way links from PR-whatever pages.
Trust me, those pages that are involved in mass linking programs
— I mean, schemes — will eventually drop to PR0 if they
haven’t already.

So that’s it. Be honest, charming, hard working and stick
around for a while. You’ll win the girl — er, Google —
every time.

Author & SEO specialist Diane Metz writes about website
marketing and development. Her sites include Crown
CD Duplication (, which also offers
CD replication (
for online and offline marketers.

How To Buy Books and CDs Online Without Getting Burned

How To Buy Books and CDs Online Without Getting Burned

You can save a bundle by buying and selling books, CDs, and DVDs online. Two of the largest sites are and The way the websites work is that people list their books, CDs, etc. and state the condition, other important features (cover missing, pages dog eared, or highlighting on pages), and the price. Buyers find the item they need and decide which one they want – the brand new one or the used product. The buyer clicks on the chosen one, pays by credit card and waits for the item to arrive by mail. The sellers pay a very modest fee, computed by the selling price, for this service only when the product sells.


The Secret Affiliate Weapon

Ewen Chia is someone to listen to in Internet Marketing.

Ewen has sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of productsas an affiliate. Now he is willing to show all of his toolsand techniques in one great book:

The Secret Affiliate Weapon.

Click here!

Here is a sneak peek at the many awesome things Ewen
offers in his membership:

1. “Instant Traffic Package” that sends 500 laser-targeted REAL visitors to your website

2. Ewen tells you his best tips that he uses to sell more
affiliate products than anybody else

3. You will immediately receive his rebrandable reports
that you are allowed to sell with 100% profit.

4 Secret Affiliate Weapon Live Database
Live Affiliate Marketing Database Updated In Real-Time
With Profit-Pulling Secret Programs, Tips, Tactics And Affiliate Money Kits!

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Earn Unlimited Commissions On THREE Different Levels
At The Same Time Automatically And Instantly!

In my mind, the “Instant Traffic Package” alone is worth the cost of the membership.

Of course, Ewen is not giving away his tips and secrets at no cost. But wait until you see the price!

Are you ready for the price? Okay, here we go..

The price for Ewen’s Secret Affiliate Weapon is..


Yes – I did put the decimal point in the rightplace. You get instant access to unlock Ewen’sentire Secret Affiliate Weapon package for theminiscule price of NINE dollars and 97 cents:

Enjoy the profits!

Click here!

Thanks for looking!


Greg Cryns

Wahm Search Engine – Wahm – Wahm

Check out the new way to market yourself!

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” – Wayne Gretzky

Britney Spears Likely To Be Paid A Visit By Chihuahua Welfare Services

The New York Dog and The Hollywood Dog magazines have named their worst celebrity pet owner of 2006: Somewhat fittingly, the honor bestowed upon Paris Hilton last year goes to her partner in cooch-flashing, pooch-neglecting crime, Britney Spears: