Points of Ponderation…..Episode 12.17

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

I was never really a fan of the CBS series King of Queens, which originally aired from 1998 to 2007. However in the ensuing years I have watched it occasionally in syndication, and star Kevin James has gone on to a mildly amusing film career. So last year when James returned to television in a new series called Kevin Can Wait I watched a few episodes before quickly losing interest. I guess former King of Queens co-star Leah Remini did a guest spot on a couple of episodes of Kevin Can Wait near the end of Season 1, and the ratings spiked a bit…enough for the powers-that-be to offer Remini a permanent role. Okay, fair enough. But in order to accomplish this “retooling” of the series the producers decided to fire James’ new TV wife and kill off her character. I tuned into the Season 2 premier of Kevin Can Wait and have two observations. First of all, the once beautiful Remini has now apparently been frequenting the same type of Botox provider that ruined the formerly lovely face of Meg Ryan. Either that or she had a stroke that I didn’t hear about. Secondly, the way the departure of the wife was written…with a time jump and barely mentioning her “death”…was awkward, badly conceived & executed, and disrespectful to the actress. I had already become disinterested in the show because it was boring, but now I am actively cheering for its demise. Shame on you Kevin James, and shame on everyone involved in the debacle.

 

 

This is Liz Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Massachusetts. Ms. Soeiro recently rejected a book donation by First Lady Melania Trump, referring to works by Dr. Seuss as “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes”. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) died in 1991, so if he was a racist surely someone would have figured it out long ago. I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but Ms. Soeiro didn’t appear to have a problem with Dr. Seuss at the time. Perhaps it would be more accurate to surmise that her issue isn’t with Dr. Seuss at all, but rather with President Trump. Maybe the next time someone wants to donate books to the Cambridgeport school library they should send copies of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. They might be a little heavy for the children, but I have a feeling the librarian would enjoy them immensely.

 

 

Ten years ago I wrote a bucket list of sorts called 45 Things to Do Before the Age of 45. Then on my 40th birthday I did an assessment, at that point looking back on my intentions with a blend of bemusement & melancholy. And now, as I am on the verge of actually turning 45 years old, all I can think is how fast a decade has flown by. Goals change. Life happens. I’m glad I made the list. There are still things that I want to accomplish, but I realize that some of the stuff I wrote down while lying in a hospital bed all those years ago (though it seems like just last week) are largely unattainable for various reasons, and I think I am okay with that. God has blessed me. Oftentimes I am too stubborn to understand that, to my detriment. Some aspects of my life haven’t turned out the way I hoped they might back when I was in college, but that’s mostly on me. I kind of feel like Rocky Balboa in the first film. I might not achieve victory in the traditional sense, but I keep getting back up and have thus far remained in the battle. To paraphrase 2 Timothy, I have fought the good fight. The race isn’t finished, but I am determined to keep the faith.

 

 

One of my bucket list items…one that I have been fixated on for many years…is to visit Las Vegas. In light of recent events one might assume that those plans have changed…but they have not. Let’s be honest…ever since September 11, 2001 most of us have looked at the world a little differently. We exercise a bit more caution and maybe hesitate to put ourselves in certain situations. In some cases it might be excessive fear & paranoia, but mostly I think it is simply judicious restraint. That being said, we still have to live our lives. Take that vacation. Go to the concert or ballgame or wherever else large crowds gather for merriment. Have fun. Be smart, but don’t hide. Artistic types like the Hollywood folks you see on TV & in movies tend to be right brain dominant, meaning they react emotionally. They are the ones that want to spit all over our Constitutional rights every time something tragic happens, and are precisely the kind of keyboard tough guys for which Twitter was tailor made. More logical thinkers understand that evildoers like this guy that shot up a country music concert in Vegas are…duh…breaking existing law and would do so no matter how many additional laws were on the books. I don’t want to dive into conspiracy theories or break down details of the tragedy…this is not the time or place and I am not the right person to do that sort of thing. Neither am I suggesting that we sweep the situation under the rug, throw our hands up, & say “ah well…c’est la vie”. However, I do hope that all the facts come out, mature adults can have necessary discussions, and reasonable decisions are made based on logic & wisdom…not emotion.

 

 

Speaking of television…

A colleague & I were having a discussion about TV shows…specifically the recent trend of remaking/rebooting/reviving shows like Dallas, Full House/Fuller House, Will & Grace, American Idol, Gilmore Girls, Boy/Girl Meets World, & MacGyver. As we were talking we both stumbled upon a revelation about the sly brilliance of the Netflix business model. I had just binged watched the first half of Season 3 of Fuller House, and I was reminded of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, who once opined that “starting to watch a television show that might run for years isn’t a decision to take lightly”. Now I grant you, with DVR & other technologies things are a bit easier than when I was a kid. Back then if you forgot to set the VCR you had to wait for summer reruns to catch a missed episode. But the thought process is still accurate. Though television seasons seem to be somewhat shorter now than a couple of decades ago the fact remains that once one becomes interested in a show you are going to be watching it once a week every week for several months, and I’m not sure our collective attention span is capable of that these days. Netflix skips all of the hassle by releasing an entire season (or atleast a half season) all at once. I asked myself if I would have stuck with corny nonsense like Fuller House if it would have required a long term commitment, and I think the answer (based in part on how fast I lost interest in Girl Meets World a few years ago) is no. But binge watching a whole season during a sleepless night or rainy weekend…yes, I am glad for the short term distraction. Well played Netflix…well played indeed.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 8.17

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

 

I was never an avid viewer of Tim Allen’s popular TV series Home Improvement, which aired on ABC back in the 90’s. If my memory is correct I believe Frasier (which I adored) was on at the same time, and neither DVR nor streaming video were a thing yet. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed Allen’s movies a little more, especially the Toy Story and Santa Clause films. When his second television show, Last Man Standing, debuted in 2011 I didn’t pay much attention, but it has slowly grown on me over the course of time. As a diehard conservative I am aware of and sensitive to liberal bias in media & entertainment, which exists whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not. Having said that, I do believe that multiple factors led to the recent cancellation of Last Man Standing. I’m a big sports fan and compare Last Man Standing to an offensive lineman that gets drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, plays a decade in the NFL, doesn’t make any All-Star teams or get to a Super Bowl, but always holds onto his starting job and plays the position at a high level before quietly being cut by a team facing salary cap issues. Shows like The Big Bang Theory (love it) or The Walking Dead (never watch it) are like the star quarterback who gets all the glory & good PR. They create revenue for ownership and therefore enjoy a long lifespan. Conversely, shows like Last Man Standing are good but not great, so when it begins to get a bit too expensive its spot is given to a younger, cheaper alternative that might perform just as well. Do I believe that politics played a part in the show’s demise?? I can’t help but think that it was a contributing factor. Maybe if pop culture & the Hollywood left weren’t riding an anti-Trump wave Last Man Standing would have survived another season or two. At the very least it could have been moved to a different night. The fact that it was stuck in the traditional sitcom graveyard of Friday night indicates that it was never one of ABC’s top priorities. However, in a larger sense I think Last Man Standing is just one of hundreds of shows in the history of television that were slightly above average…good, but not good enough…and ended their run after 3-7 years. It is what it is, and it’s really not worth getting too worked up about.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I just look around my kitchen at the embarrassment of riches in my stocked pantry, full refrigerator, & packed freezer and it hits me how blessed I am in so many ways.

 

 

 



 

Speaking of ABC…

I have mixed feelings about the announced revival of American Idol. I ignored the show during its first season on Fox in 2002, until the finale in which Kelly Clarkson beat out Justin Guarini to claim the original crown. After that I was hooked for awhile, but for a number of reasons began to disengage and hardly watched at all during its final few seasons. Now, just a year after leaving, American Idol is coming back. I always suspected that it would return since it is precisely the kind of television show that can easily go away then be resuscitated. However, my gut tells me that it’s too soon, that we haven’t had time to really miss it yet or view it thru the prism of nostalgia, an angle that has led to second lives for many movies & TV shows in the past decade or two. There’s a fine line between tweaking a successful formula and tinkering unnecessarily, a difference that can be blurred more easily with the passage of time. It is rumored that Clarkson will be one of the judges, which is poetic. There are a plethora of semi-successful singers whose main claim to fame traces back to being an Idol contestant that could serve as judges and satisfy wistful cravings for those halcyon days. Another name that has officially signed on is Katy Perry, which, in my humble opinion, is a terrible choice. Idol always teetered on the edge of cool factor vs. credibility as far as judges go, with some working out better than others. If it were me I’d skew toward gravitas, which would necessitate not catering to millennials whose musical palates are decidedly unsophisticated. One constant will be host Ryan Seacrest, who may be a tool but is undoubtedly perfect for this particular gig. As much as I hate to say it, he really is like a modern day Dick Clark, with maybe a little Regis Philbin thrown into the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

Though I don’t actively engage in sociopolitical debates on social media anymore I still…lurk. Or observe. Or maybe you prefer the term troll. At any rate, I have been pleasantly surprised at my level of self-control when coming across utter stupidity & ridiculousness, which is basically almost every day. For example, a friend of mine recently posted a query asking why anyone is still out there defending “Four Five”, which is his lame nickname for Donald Trump (if I have to explain the moniker then just please leave immediately). His gaggle of sycophants responded heartily and with their usual level of hypocrisy. I could have easily written a cogent, logical, & concise response, but it would have ended up with me being attacked by people who don’t even know me, ridiculing my physical appearance and any other criteria they could glean from my Facebook page. Been there done that…these are not nice people, and obviously they aren’t capable of critical thought or intelligent debate. What I found really interesting in this particular thread was a comment from a person complaining about how others are always calling them names like “snowflake” or “libtard”, yet in the same thread those with whom these folks disagree (like me) are referred to as mean, hateful, & mentally ill. One egregiously despicable woman referred to a 90 year old relative of hers as “spiteful, racist, horribly rude, & obnoxious”. This elderly lady allegedly “always has something ugly to say about everyone” and is “a misery to be around”. The poster “literally wants to cut my own throat to end the pain of being near her” (her, you’ll remember, being a 90 year old woman). And yet these are the folks who are offended by being called a snowflake. I wish I could say something witty and caustic, but I am honestly at a loss for words and filled with sadness for humanity.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.16

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

So I guess the finale of the farewell season of American Idol has come & gone. I had planned on watching the last season just forAmerican-Idol old times’ sake, but that simply didn’t happen. My Idol viewership was hit & miss at best over the years, but like a lot of other folks I began to lose interest awhile ago, especially when turnover at the judges’ table started to be a bit much. As annoying as they could be at times, the lineup of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, & Randy Jackson had chemistry that was never as enjoyable with additions like Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and the last group of J-Lo, Keith Urban, & Harry Connick Jr. It didn’t help that the only two winners since 2007 that even came close to moving the needle for longer than 5 minutes were Jordin Sparks & Phillip Phillips…and I’m being rather generous to them. I suppose it’s possible that I’m just old, out-of-touch, & stuck in my ways, no longer within the target demographic that typically enjoys a show like American Idol.  I know what kind of music I enjoy & what performers I prefer, and that is unlikely to be impacted by the winner of a reality show who fades into oblivion not long after their made-for-TV victory. Having said all that, it is undeniable that for a brief moment in time American Idol was a pop culture phenomenon that gave us memorable stars like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, & Jennifer Hudson. One could even throw Cowell and Ryan Seacrest into that mix, although it is possible they may have found another launching pad to fame & fortune had Idol never existed. At any rate, a fond farewell to American Idol. Maybe we’ll see you again someday.

 

nc2There has been much controversy swirling about HB2, aka the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, that was recently passed in North Carolina. Essentially the bill…as I understand it…maintains the status quo and prohibits any special privileges for “the LGBT community”, especially “transgender” individuals seeking the right to use public bathrooms based on the sex with which they “identify” rather than what biology dictates. Bruce Springsteen is angry. Jimmy Buffett is as upset as a pothead gets. The NFL is unhappy. Everybody is throwing their weight around one way or another about the situation. I briefly pondered in-depth pontification on the issue, but I have decided it’s not worth my time or aggravation. I have my opinions. I know right vs. wrong. However I have been doing my best to back off certain hot button topics. I’ll live my life and let others live theirs. But let me offer one quick opinion. If this law stands (which is uncertain at best), I predict that in the next decade the state of North Carolina will experience faster economic & population growth than anywhere in the country. You heard it here first.

 

oj2Did you watch the recently concluded ten part miniseries American Crime Story: The People oj3vs. O.J. Simpson?? I had very low expectations at the outset and was prepared for a tacky yet entertaining cheesefest of epic proportions. However, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the writing and superb performances. How much of what was on my TV screen accurately reflected real life events?? Did attorney Robert Kardashian (sympathetically portrayed by former Friends star David Schwimmer) really have doubts about OJ’s innocence?? Is attorney Robert Shapiro (portrayed by the legendary John Travolta) really that much of an arrogant weirdo?? Did Marcia Clark & Christopher Darden really almost get it on?? I don’t know and neither do you, but who cares?? The show was fantastic and should end up winning multiple Emmys (especially for Sarah Paulson as Clark and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran). It is fascinating to think about how different things might have turned out had LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman not been involved in the case or if those infamous gloves (if they don’t fit you must acquit!!) hadn’t been introduced as evidence. Cochran’s strategy to utilize the “race card” may have been morally questionable and sort of a straw man argument, but it turned out to be brilliant. Clark & Darden were seemingly solid lawyers who just got outmaneuvered by more devious opponents. The really sad part of the equation from my perspective is the jury. Everyone involved expected them to deliberate for weeks…maybe even months. Instead they returned a verdict in just a few hours. The American system of justice is the best in the world and provides an opportunity for a defendant to be judged by a jury of his/her peers…but what if those “peers” aren’t up to the task?? O.J. Simpson benefitted from his celebrity and from a jury who was bored, tired, frustrated, easily manipulated by Cochran, & after a year in the courtroom just wanted to go home. That’s my take anyway…you’re mileage may vary.

 

The 2015 Sammy Awards didn’t happen because Your Humble Potentate of Profundity spent the last couple of months of 2015 inthumb a hospital. However, while doing some way too early prep work for this year’s presentation I took a look back at the 2014 Awards and was amazed. We hand out what I call The DB Cooper Award (For the Person Who Most Needs to Disappear). In 2014 there were 11 nominees. As of right now one of them retired from Congress, one acrimoniously departed from MSNBC, one had their reality show cancelled, and one is dead. Damn I’m good.

 

jfkI wasn’t quite as enamored with Hulu’s eight part adaptation of Stephen King’s 2011 novel 11/22/63 as I became of the OJ Simpson miniseries, but then again the book is so fantastic that it would have been darn near impossible to equal. Casting James Franco in the lead was a mistake in my opinion (I envisioned Josh Lucas in the role as I was reading the book), though it certainly wasn’t a fatal flaw. As with any book that is adapted into a film or TV series there were alterations & omissions, but nothing unforgivable. King’s works are notoriously difficult to translate from page to screen, but it was definitely a wise choice to make a miniseries instead of a feature film as was the original plan. All in all it was a solid effort, but it could have been far better.

Reality TV vs. The Pursuit of Excellence

Out of the two dozen couples who have gotten together on The roseBachelor and The Bachelorette in the past decade only 4 are still together. That’s a less than 17% success rate.

 

kcThere have been 11 winners of American Idol. Only two of them…Kelly Clarkson & Carrie Underwood…have achieved what one could subjectively define as a sustained level of prominence & achievement. That’s an 18% success rate, although to be fair when one throws in non-victors such as Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, rocker carrie-underwood-606011928Chris Daughtry, television actress Katherine McPhee, & (since I’m feeling generous) Clay Aiken and considers the fact that Phillip Phillips is fresh out of the starting gate the accomplishments of Idol alums looks a bit better. 

I am not ambitious enough to research the relative successes from programs like America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Last Comic Standing, America’s Next Top Model, The X Factor, Top Chef, The Biggest Loser, or So You Think You Can Dance, but who really cares anyway??  And we haven’t even mentioned shows where the winner merely receives a cash prize like Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, or Fear Factor.

I could belabor the point, but I’ll just cut right to the chase. Reality TV is, for the most part, stupid. It in no way reflects actual reality and really only serves two purposes…it entertains the dumbed-down masses and makes a lot of people famous who A) did nothing to earn it, and B) aren’t prepared to handle it. My low opinion of reality television is nothing new to citizens of The Manoverse, but as the old saying goes “it’s all fun & games until someone gets hurt”. Well now someone has gotten hurt. In fact someone has died.

Back in January I stated my intention to not watch MTV’s new show Buckwild, which is just another way for Hollywood to laugh at my home state of West Virginia. I must admit that I did end up watching it once…for about 15 minutes…several weeks ago. As I suspected it was idiotic and not worth my time. I also saw two Buckwild cast members being interviewed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon right before the show premiered. The young lady was articulate and quite lovely. The bwyoung man was the quintessential redneck hillbilly and embodied just about every negative Appalachian stereotype. That young man was Shain Gandee. A few days ago Shain Gandee along with his uncle and a friend, were found dead. Reportedly the men had been at a bar at 3am then decided to “go muddin’”. No one knows for sure what occurred, but the theory being floated around is that their truck got stuck in the mud with the tailpipe submerged and the three men sat there revving the engine until the fumes overtook them. It’s the kind of freak accident that one might see in those Final Destination movies, only this was all too real.

The reaction here in West Virginia has been mixed. No one is happy that these people are dead. Everyone agrees that the situation is sad & tragic. But some are acting as if it is a calamity on par with The Day the Music Died or when Dale Earnhardt got killed, while others have the “well that was predictable” attitude. Personally I come down somewhere in the middle, and it is precisely because Mr. Gandee was on an asinine reality television show that I feel the way I do.

My feelings about the whole thing were encapsulated perfectly by something I saw on Facebook and decided to repost (which I rarely bookdo). Essentially what was said in this meme was that we have become a nation that is entertained by watching people act like idiots. There are people that have figured out…as someone always does…how to make money from that fact. Thus the proliferation of TV shows about nothing but people acting like idiots. It laments the fact that we have gone from a nation that “used to celebrate brilliance & seek wisdom” muddinto a populace that makes Honey Boo Boo a star and enables the antics of drunken morons on Jersey Shore. One wonders how many people could tell you anything you need to know about Duck Dynasty or the adventures of the Kardashian clan but have never read Hemingway, enjoyed Shakespeare, or spent quality time with Chopin, Mozart, & Gershwin. The point is not that MTV or Buckwild killed Shain Gandee. He may or may not have died like this anyway. Only God knows the answer to that. The point is not that Gandee or the other two men deserved to die because they were dumb rednecks. Maybe there are some folks out there that feel that way but not me. The point is that the mere fact that this is a national story is a sad reflection of our society. These deaths should be properly mourned by the families & friends and their community of Sissonville, WV, but the fact that musicanyone outside of that town even knows about the situation is a direct result of our diminishing appreciation for excellence. The little ditty I saw on Facebook mentions the poor state of education in the United States in comparison to other more studious nations and assumes that in countries like Japan children aren’t “blowing off their homework” for the kind of idiocy of which we Americans have grown so fond. I don’t know if that is true or not because I don’t know what kids (or adults) in other nations do for fun, but it is likely a valid point. It also asks a rhetorical question about our lack of familiarity or concern for soldiers killed every day in the line of duty as opposed to our intimate knowledge of the most minute celebrity trivia. I didn’t take that inquiry to be a commentary on the relative value of one human life versus another, but rather an astute observation about skewed priorities.

Was this thing that I read, agreed with, & reposted a little harsh?? Maybe. Maybe not. Death is a sensitive topic, and the circumstances of this particular situation are so full of questions that no one will ever karknow what really happened. Is it proper to seize upon such a tragedy to rail against an ancillary issue?? In this case I believe it is to a degree. Two cast members of Buckwild have ended up in jail and now one is dead. The show has only been on the air a few months. Maybe it is time that we ask ourselves what is happening to our society. When did we become so voyeuristic?? The suits in Hollywood understandably like reality television because it is cheaper to produce and requires less effort & creativity. But when did we as a society segue from being entertained by professional actors who have been properly trained, work hard, and are well compensated to utilize their talent to portray characters in fictional stories that make us laugh, cry, and think to getting our kicks by watching a bunch of actual people that have allowed cameras into their “real” lives to capture their most intimate, embarrassing, and vulnerable moments?? I don’t know how much money reality stars Duck Dynasty  560make, but you can be sure that it’s a whole lot less than what your average actor in a sitcom or one hour drama is paid. And many of these “real” people aren’t mentally & emotionally equipped for the sudden fame & fortune…even though it is probably the whole reason they signed up in the first place. I admittedly cannot relate to that thought process because I make a concerted effort in my own life to keep to myself, fly under the radar, and not draw any unnecessary attention. The mere thought of cameras following me around makes me cringe. Your mileage may vary.

At any rate, regardless of whether or not there is any direct correlation between the existence of Buckwild and the sad death of Shain Gandee, I believe it is time to pull the plug. I did read that MTV is paying the young man’s funeral expenses and they deserve kudos for doing the right thing. But they need to take the next logical step and end this ridiculous show. Furthermore, we all need to reassess our priorities and possibly invest our time in better hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with a little harmless fun. We all need to chill out occasionally. I just think there are better ways to approach that task.

Superfluous 7 – Ways to Improve American Idol

Never fear American Idol fans. We may currently be between seasons, but I am here to provide a little midsummer respite for those missing one of your favorite guilty pleasures. I am normally a fan of the old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and since Idol is still getting good ratings and making mad bank some may think it isn’t broken. I disagree. I feel like there are things that need tweaking that would make the show fresh, and more importantly, better. Therefore, I have a few modest suggestions. So, for those of you who out there who have ever (for some mysterious reason) made an effort to see Bucky Covington at a county fair, and those who actually remember who in the heck Sanjaya Malakar is, I give you…..

 

 

a collaborative effort from the home offices in Intercourse & Climax, PA…..

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Ways to Improve American Idol:

 

 

7       Higher Age Limit

Right now Idol rules state contestants must be between the ages of 15 & 28. Originally contestants had to be from 16-24. I would change the rules again. This past season it struck me that my early favorite (before Haley Reinhart grabbed my attention), eventual runner-up Lauren Alaina, was only 16 years old and there were a lot of times when one could tell. I give the young lady a lot of credit…she handled herself well and maintained her composure under tremendous pressure, but is it really a good idea to put 16 year old kids in that position?? It just feels…wrong on some level. I also don’t believe that a person’s talent should be discarded just because they may not be young and tight and sexy anymore. I realize that the powers-that-be are marketing to a target audience skewing toward young teenagers, mostly female. But both from a business & creative viewpoint it would seem to make sense to open up the parameters a bit, and from a moral point of view it seems logical to me that contestants on a reality show should atleast be out of high school. So I would make the age range from 18-35. This would be an easy change to make and I really don’t think it would hurt the product much.

 

6       DWTS Scoring

One of my other guilty pleasures is Dancing with the Stars, and they do something a wee bit different than Idol. They let the masses vote, but they don’t let it become a complete popularity contest. The judges on DWTS aren’t well known personalities giving meaningless advice. They are experts in their field who give scores that are factored into the results. I am not sure how much weight is given to the judges scores versus public vote…it’s probably not 50/50…but it makes enough of a difference that someone who just cannot dance at all won’t be saved by their level of popularity, atleast not for long. Meanwhile, on Idol, if enough 13 year old nitwits think someone is “OMG HOT!!” it doesn’t matter if they sing like Roseanne Barr doing The National Anthem, even if the judges point it out. I say make the judges on American Idol useful. Let them assign some sort of score to each performance that is then balanced in some way with audience input. As frivolous as a show like American Idol is, the outcome does have a significant impact, both positive and negative, on contestants’ lives. I do not think it is right to leave those lives completely in the hands of children with unformed, unsophisticated, decidedly undeveloped musical palates.

 

5       Throw Off The Covers

Idol is so predictable when it comes to songs. Multiple people every season try to tackle Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion (almost always failing miserably). Contestants probably think they are being cute and impressing someone when they sing a Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson tune. I think they are probably wrong. Stevie Wonder gets a lot of play on the show, and one doesn’t really realize how awesome Lil Stevie is until some 17 year old kid with no soul butchers one of his songs. And here’s the kicker: When the lucky & talented winner reaches the end of a long and arduous road THEN they are forced to sing some crappy new song by some unknown songwriter that the producers are praying becomes a huge radio hit. It rarely works. I say let the contestants sing original material throughout the season. Whether it is something they have written themselves or a tune somebody else hooks them up with, atleast it’d be something different on occasion. The contestants that really stand out, like James Durbin or Chris Daughtry, are the ones who go out on a limb and give us a completely fresh take on an old song. All I am suggesting is that we take that a step further and allow the guys & gals to sing stuff we may have never heard before. Would it be a gamble?? Absolutely, which is another reason I really like the idea. But who knows?? Maybe…just maybe…the roll of the dice may pay off for the risk taker, and the audience might be spared from hearing the same dozen songs a hundred times.

 

4       Real Judges

I have liked every judge that has ever been on Idol. I did feel like Ellen Degeneres was woefully miscast in the role, and Kara DioGuardi, ironically one of only two judges who have been really qualified for the gig, seemed completely uncomfortable. Simon Cowell rocked but understandably got bored. That brings us to Paula Abdul and the current lineup of Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez. The prevailing thought process seems to be that a successful pop star is the perfect person to choose a new crop of pop stars. That logic is wrong. Look, I LOVE Steven Tyler, but as entertaining as he is, he adds nothing of substance. He gave no meaningful insight, criticism, or helpful advice all last season. Ditto for J-Lo, who is a carbon copy of Abdul in the sense that both seemed to balk at offering any kind of constructive critique. Neither want to be mean. Maybe this is really their personality…or maybe they don’t want to be perceived as bitches and hurt their own careers (insomuch as Paula Abdul still has a “career”). Which leads me to Randy. Randy Jackson, contrary to popular belief, is not one of the Jackson Five. No, his biggest claim to musical fame is being a bassist for Journey for about 5 minutes in the mid-80’s. Okay okay…I guess he is some sort of record producer too. But whatever his legitimate qualifications may be, he has pretty much made them irrelevant on Idol. In my opinion he is the most useless judge of them all, with a collection of catchphrases that substitute for genuine commentary on contestants’ performances. He, of course, calls everyone “Dawg”, but he also says things like “It was just aiiight”, “You worked it out”, “It was a little pitchy dawg”, and “He’s in it to win it!!”. What the hell do those things even mean??  I can predict almost exactly what Randy is going to say before he even says it, and his schtick has become tiresome. He did try to be more “Simon-esque”, i.e. sort of mean, this past season, but it generally fell flat. The show is supposed to be about the contestants, but unfortunately it has become too much about the star power of the judges. If I may, let me once again reference DWTS. The judges on that show are Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli (the excitable Italian), and Len Goodman (the stuffy Brit). Raise your hand if you’d heard of them before DWTS. That’s right…no one raised their hand. But all three bring genuine qualifications to their roles…dancer, coach, choreographer or even all of those things. They give great counsel that, if the celebrities follow, makes a noticeable difference. That needs to happen on American Idol but it rarely does. My advice would be to can all three of the existing judges and bring in folks who have the types of jobs that make or break young, talented singers. So what if the masses have never heard of them?? Atleast Seacrest is still there to be witty & charming. That and the singing should be enough.

 

3       Limited Voting

I talked to a friend during this past season who said she’d just voted (for whom I forget) 200 times. That’s right…two HUNDRED times. In one night. Besides being a sad commentary on the emptiness of that person’s life, it is just plain ridiculous and wrong. How come I can only cast one vote for my choice for President or Governor or Mayor but I can stuff the proverbial ballot box for Constantine Maroulis?? How about we give everyone 10 votes (per week of course)?? I am sure it would be easy enough to do from a technical standpoint. This sort of goes back to the age thing too. A prepubescent girl has a distinct advantage over an old(er) dude like myself when it comes to texting, so this would level the playing field a bit.

 

2       Random Song Choice

They mixed it up a little bit this past season, having record company exec Jimmy Lovine (who’d make a great judge – see #4) suggest songs to the contestants, and in the finale I seem to recall Alaina and eventual winner Howdy Doody/George Strait/Alfred P. Newman (I’ve forgotten his actual name already and I bet I’m not the only one, so good luck kid) were assigned songs by Lovine and the judges. How about we do more of that?? Put these kids on the spot. Make them pick a song out of a hat. If you really want to be a prick about it do it on the live broadcast and make them sing it within the hour with no practice, but I’d be okay with doing it earlier in the week and giving them a fighting chance to not embarrass themselves. You want fan involvement?? Okay…let fans vote on songs they want to hear from each contestant. There are so many ways to shake things up and make the show more fun & unpredictable.

 

1       Voting Age Limit

I know I seem stuck on this age thing. I don’t want to come off as some curmudgeonly old man who doesn’t understand what the kids are into these days, but maybe I am to a degree. However, I don’t think I am being unfair when I say that modern “music” can’t hold a candle to the great stuff I grew up listening to in the 70’s & 80’s. Even music before my time, tunes from the 50’s & 60’s, are tremendous, it’s just that I don’t have as much of an emotional connection. At any rate, I give Idol credit for not allowing crap like rap & hip-hop to soil the show, although how could they since it is supposed to be a s-i-n-g-i-n-g competition and I am sure Fox would balk at contestants jumping around yelling about killing cops, doing drugs, and smacking around their bitches & hos. Plus as previously mentioned there is always a copious amount of love given to great talents like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Mariah Carey, and Carole King. However, every time I hear someone do a great rendition of You’ve Got A Friend or Overjoyed  I just can’t shake that nagging feeling, pondering to myself “I wonder if the teeny boppers get it??” If Contestant A comes out and does a kickass version of Gershwin’s Summertime and Contestant B sings a Lady Gaga cover, which one will grab the attention of the youngsters?? Maybe I am wrong (it happens occasionally), but I think I know the answer and it’s not good. I humbly suggest setting an age limit of…let’s be generous and say…16. Because maybe…just maybe…someone that age has been driving a bit and accidentally stumbled upon a classic rock, adult contemporary, or other radio station with decent music that has somehow infiltrated their brain. Or maybe I’m being far too optimistic.

 

 

 

Fast Food, Dogs, and American Idol: The Embracing of Pop Culture Mediocrity

A few years ago before I acquired my beautiful puppy Rocco I did a fair amount of  research. I read about different breeds, what to expect from his particular breed, different training techniques and theories, etc. One of the things I learned was that, for various reasons, it is unwise to feed a dog “people food”. And more interestingly, I discovered that dogs are perfectly happy with their own food. Whereas we humans…theoretically…prefer variety (it is the spice of life), dogs couldn’t possibly care less…they just want fed. This has proven quite accurate over the years, as Rocco still gets as excited over the same food that I’ve been feeding him since early on. I did switch brands once, and we made the leap from puppy formula to adult dog food at some point, but essentially he’s been eating the same meal for three years and loving it.

 

Conversely, I recall a trip I was on with a group from my church. I don’t remember what city we were in, but we were going to grab some dinner before the conference we were attending. Conveniently there was a Ryan’s right beside our hotel. The majority rules and I am not one to make waves, so I went along with the plan to eat there, but to be honest I was disappointed. There is a Ryan’s 10 minutes from my apartment at which I can eat anytime I want. When I go out of town I like to try something different, whether it be a local establishment or a chain that isn’t available in my hometown. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself adventurous, but I do like to mix it up a little bit and venture out ever so gently onto a limb.

 

I realize that not everyone shares my quest for something unique. After all, one of the reasons chain restaurants and stores exist is because of their comfort and predictability. A Big Mac is the same whether you’re eating at a McDonald’s in West Virginia, Montana, New York, or Florida. If someone chloroformed a person and placed them inside a WalMart when that person woke up they wouldn’t immediately know whether they were in Washington DC or the state of Washington. This is convenient & reassuring, but it is also mundane & predictable. And I guess maybe that is what society prefers nowadays. Forget exceptional, eschew excellence, and shun singularity…just give us a tired retread of something familiar and comfortable.

 

This fact became crystal clear the past several weeks as I have been watching one of my guilty pleasures, American Idol. One by one the viewers have voted a person off until we finally got down to our final pair, and then the fans chose their champion. And in so doing the masses confirmed my suspicions.

 

Now let me be clear…I am well aware that everyone has different tastes in music, but that is not what this is about. I may prefer jazz, classic rock, and easy listening, while you may lean toward country, hip-hop, and gospel. That is fine by me. But that doesn’t mean we must settle for subpar quality within whatever genre we like. I love the fact that when I am listening to some of my favorite singers or bands I immediately know their sound. Whether it is Sinatra, Dean Martin, REO Speedwagon, The Eagles, Boston, Van Halen, James Taylor, or Garth Brooks even the most fair weather fans will instantly recognize those voices. Is there any singer in the world as distinctive as Bob Dylan?? Did Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks sound like any other band out there in the 70’s & 80’s?? When you hear a Barry Manilow tune do you have trouble putting your finger on who exactly the artist is?? Do you wonder for even a second who is singing that song when the local radio station plays something by Tom Petty?? No, no, no, and no.

 

One of the things I have had to endure while keeping tabs on Idol these past few months is the vitriolic animosity toward third place finisher Haley Reinhart. I chose Haley as my darkhorse awhile back, predicting that she could possibly make it to the final three. I was absolutely correct. She has a soulful, bluesy vibe and I would buy a record of hers in a heartbeat. But the drumbeat of the soccer moms has been that she screeches and growls, and the hatred for the lovely Miss Reinhart has been stunning to me. It is amazing how some folks wouldn’t know true talent if it fixed them breakfast in bed and drove them to work every day. Meanwhile hacks like Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry rake in millions of the public’s hard earned dollars by selling scrapple but convincing people it is filet mignon. It just doesn’t make any sense to this humble Potentate of Profundity.

 

I do not have anything against newly crowned Idol winner Scotty McCreery. He seems like a nice guy. He can sing. But when I close my eyes and listen to him I hear other voices…Clint Black, Randy Travis, George Strait, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and a plethora of other male country singers that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. It’s not that I completely hate country music…I don’t. I enjoy performers like Hank Williams Jr., Sugarland, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Travis Tritt, and Faith Hill. I like voices that stand out from the crowd. Scotty McCreery does not stand out from the crowd despite looking like the love child of Alfred E. Newman and Howdy Doody. I certainly do not wish any ill will, but I think I have food in my kitchen cupboards that may last longer than Scotty’s career. Meanwhile, contestants from this just concluded season like Lauren Alaina, James Durbin, Pia Toscano, Casey Abrams, and of course Haley Reinhart all have not only the tools for success but the extra…je ne sais quoi…to atleast carve out a worthwhile niche in the market. I may be wrong, I may be right, I may be crazy. Or I just might be the lunatic you’re not looking for.

 

At any rate, regardless of the long term prospects of American Idol contestants or even the questionable validity of the show itself, what I find thoroughly intriguing is how it seems to be symptomatic of an all-encompassing move toward mediocrity. Instead of quality we gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. Bookstores are filled with cookie cutter romance novels and uninspired mysteries. Our televisions broadcast dozens of copycat “reality” shows, cops n’ robbers stories, and blatant CSI ripoffs. Strip malls are filled with the aforementioned chain stores and restaurants. Movie theaters show an endless supply of sequels…even if the original wasn’t that good to begin with…because it is easier than coming up with an original idea. And rarely does a uniquely talented musician succeed unless they are willing to either conform or market themselves using some sort of gimmick, like Lady Gaga (who herself is just a Madonna wannabe).  I am honestly not trying to be critical. Live & let live and to each their own. But personally I will continue to look for new, interesting, and genuinely good things. If others are happy consuming the same old uninspired, uncreative, mass produced, bland “comfort food” every day that’s their prerogative. It seems to work for my dog.

 

 

Random Factoids, Or Getting To Know The Godfather of Cyberspace

I am not normally one to follow the crowd, but this seemed like a fun little challenge. It’s been a meme on Facebook for years, but my buddy Slack was my true inspiration. I’ve chosen 38 because that’s my age. This stuff may be interesting to only me, but maybe…just maybe…citizens of The Manoverse will enjoy getting to know your humble Potentate of Profundity just a little better.

 

 

 

1          I’ve never been to the beach or flown in an airplane. I hope to do both sometime relatively soon.

2          My guilty pleasures: Dancing with the Stars, professional wrestling, American Idol, and soap operas.


3          I went to a Starbucks once. That same day I rented videos from Blockbuster. I’ve never been back to either establishment. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good.


4          In 1977 I became the first “mainstreamed” handicap child in my county. However, the powers-that-be still made me attend both a “normal” kindergarten and a class for “special” children. On the 2nd day at the “special” school the teacher called to tell my Mom that I was not mentally impaired, to which my Mom replied “I know that, but try convincing the Board of Education”. Not only was I not impaired but a few years later I was found to be gifted. Unfortunately I’ve gotten dumber over the years.

5          My initials are my name – S A M

6          I rarely wear long sleeves, even in winter…except for dress shirts. Short sleeve dress shirts look tacky.

7          Both my father and a teacher in junior high told me I should be a writer. I regret not listening to them and following that path professionally, although I suppose The Manofesto is some small morsel of redemption.


8          I liked both incarnations of Van Halen, with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. I don’t really count the brief Gary Cherone era.

9          Zippers frustrate me.

10       I played trombone in the band from 6th thru 12th grades. I sold my instrument 2 weeks after graduating. I wanted to play trumpet at first, but because I am sitting down all the time in a wheelchair I couldn’t really get enough wind going, so my grade school band instructor suggested trombone. It was fun, but it’s not exactly a party instrument.

11       I know very little about cars except how to drive one, and I’m not especially good at that.

12       I was once defeated in billiards by a man who was legally blind. Seriously.


13       My preferred liquor of choice was always vodka. I was never one to drink anything straight, and fruity drinks like screwdrivers or sex-on-the-beach were more my style. I am a beer snob as well…no Bud Light or Coors for this guy. However, these days I can usually be found partaking of an ice cold glass of milk, a bottle of water, or a tall glass of iced tea.


14       I sang in two talent shows in grade school. In 2nd or 3rd grade (I don’t recall exactly which year) I sang Sandy from the Grease soundtrack. In 4th or 5th grade (that fuzzy memory again) I sang Love in the First Degree by country supergroup Alabama. I didn’t win either time…atleast I don’t recall if I did.

15       I rarely wear white because I inevitably spill something on it.

16       I was ambidextrous as a child but had a teacher that “broke me” of it, as if it were a bad habit like sniffing glue or watching Pauley Shore movies. I am now right handed.


17       The infomercial for SlapChop is hysterically funny to me.


18       I really love fantasy football. Fantasy baseball…not so much.

19       I never learned how to swim or whistle.

20       I don’t particularly care for coconut or sprinkles.

21       In college I took a Shakespeare class and really rather enjoyed it. Surprisingly I found it much more interesting than my Psychology of Sex class.

22       I own a Kindle, but I still prefer the feel of a good old-fashioned book in my hand.

23       Coffee doesn’t really keep me awake.

24       I adore everything about Christmas…the lights, the music, the movies, the smells, the food, the familial togetherness, the wistful nostalgia that makes me want to be a kid again, and of course, the fact that my Lord & Savior was born and eventually died and rose again to wash away my sin.


25       My paternal great grandparents…my grandfather’s parents…both came to West Virginia separately from San Giovanni i Fiore in Calabria, Italy in the early 1900’s. There is a rumor that my great grandfather killed a man in New York before coming to WV, but nobody knows for sure.


26       Thunderstorms scared the daylights out of me as a child, but now I rather enjoy them.

27       I have had 27 surgical procedures. The first when I was a newborn, the latest when I was 35 years old. Oddly enough I still have my tonsils though.

28       Inevitably after surgery I was placed on a liquid or semi-liquid diet. To this day I don’t really like popsicles or sherbet because they bring back bad hospital memories.

29       The best concerts I have ever seen: Boston at Star Lake Amphitheater in Pittsburgh, Van Halen at the Charleston (WV) Civic Center, REO Speedwagon at the Huntington (WV) Regatta, The Eagles at Polaris Amphitheater in Columbus, OH, and Kansas at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in Clarksburg, WV.

30       Grapes and grape products cause me…intestinal issues, as does anything with heat, i.e. peppers, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, etc.

31       I have a strange fascination with pens and office products.

32         Movies I have never seen: Citizen Kane, 2/3 of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, On the Waterfront, Schindler’s List, The Matrix, The Big Lebowski, and the Indiana Jones series.

33       I have an irrational dislike of the number 3 and its multiples.


34       My two dream vacations are Las Vegas and Italy. I once had a “Christian” friend say to me that “I don’t know if I’d want to be walking down The Strip in Vegas when Jesus returns”. He & I don’t talk anymore, because I may want to see Wayne Newton and The Fountains at Bellagio, but atleast I have never…well, you know what…never mind. Let’s just say I know my strengths & weaknesses, and I am quite comfortable with my choice of potential leisure destinations.


35       I am not a huge fan of most seafood, but I dig sushi.

36       Speaking of which, fishing bores me, as do video games.

37       When writing anything in the form of a question I use double question marks. It’s just my thing.

38       Little things that make me smile: Snuggling with my puppy…he’s so soft, warm, and cuddly. A glass of iced tea & a gentle breeze on a warm summer day. A big win by my favorite teams – Pittsburgh Steelers, Marshall Thundering Herd, & WV Mountaineers. The aroma of Italian food. A really restful night’s sleep, even if I have my usual Wacky Dreams. Puns. Getting really into a fun & interesting book. People who do funny spot-on impressions. Deep philosophical discussions with my brother The Owl. Anything with BBQ sauce. Nascar night races. What my pal Marc calls “sippin’ music”, i.e simple, stripped down jazz or blues without a lot of extra effects. When it’s still daylight at 8pm. Trivia. Laughter, whether it is my own or someone else’s. Dessert. Nakey Time at The Bachelor Palace…even if I’m alone (which is always). Taking a really good picture. A woman with a beautiful smile, regardless of whether or not she knows I exist (she usually doesn’t). Watching golf on TV, especially the final round of a major. Getting a haircut. Popcorn & chocolate covered peanuts while watching a movie in the theater. When a really kickass song comes on the radio while I’m driving.


 

American Idol: Separating The Contenders From The Pretenders

My friend The Owl and I created our own secret society in college called The FUC Club. I may expand on the particulars some other time, but suffice to say that the moniker stands for Fat, Ugly, & Crippled and is built around the basic idea that the world caters to The Pretty People. It is undeniable that…assuming all other factors are as equal as possible…a hottie will beat out an unattractive, overweight, or disabled/disfigured person the vast majority of the time, whether it be in the job market, in the romance department, or just general popularity amongst friends & neighbors. That’s life. This truth is especially prominent in the entertainment industry. Now I know one could come up with a fairly decent list of relatively unattractive individuals who have somehow achieved some level of fame & fortune, and that’s fine…there are exceptions to every rule, but the rule is the rule for a reason.

What I have decided to do is apply this logic to American Idol and give the masses a look ahead at what to expect on the show in the coming weeks. The great thing about this is, there is precedence. Idol is in its 10th season and has produced nine previous winners and a few non-winners that managed to not be forgotten within 10 minutes:


Kelly Clarkson – The original American Idol, crowned at the conclusion of the first season in 2002. Regardless of whether or not Kelly is your particular cup o’ tea she has had a nice career. She’s had a couple of platinum albums, won a couple of Grammys & various other awards, and has received a fair amount of play on the radio over the years. She’s also young & tasty (if you like the brooding, not-quite-goth Joan Jett wannabe vibe).


Ruben Studdard – Ahhh, The Velvet Teddy Bear. He sounds like Luther Vandross but looks like Fat Albert. I think I have more records on my iTunes playlist that Ruben ever sold. Do I believe there is a racial issue here?? No, not at all. I think the bigger problem is that Ruben doesn’t have “the look”. He’s just not the type of hunk that impressionable 13 year old girls…the kind that have made Twilight a worldwide phenomenon…swoon over. I am certainly not advocating the validity of the tastes of junior high schoolers, but they do seem to wield a lot of power in the marketplace.


Fantasia Barrino – Hands down the worst Idol of them all. She looks like a crack ho and has a stripper name. Her music career was DOA and she ended up doing a reality show. Coincidentally her actual life is like a bad reality show too…dating married men, drug overdoses, foreclosure, etc. Here’s the bottom line – everyone loves a good “they dragged themselves out of poverty and achieved something” story…on 60 Minutes. But other than that most Americans find that stuff depressing and just want to be entertained, preferably by someone they can fantasize about while making love to their spouse.


Carrie Underwood – I’m far too lazy to compare numbers and such, but I am calling Underwood the most successful Idol of them all, with respectful apologies to Clarkson fans. A blonde bombshell with a girl-next-door persona is the prototype American Idol contestant. It helps that she can sing, and it’s even better that she decided her niche was in country music where there seems to be more longevity and fan loyalty. She’s won Grammys, American Music Awards, Peoples’ Choice Awards, and just about everything available from the country community, including Entertainer of the Year. Carrie Underwood might be one of the biggest reasons American Idol is still on the air, because she embodies the potential mega-success that every contestant craves.


Taylor Hicks – Is a 30 year old with grey hair and a voice reminiscent of Joe Cocker cool?? Maybe to some, but not enough. I think he’s in a touring company of Grease these days, playing Teen Angel (made famous by Frankie Avalon in the movie). Does that entail doing anything more than singing one song and being on stage for 5 minutes?? At any rate, his music career is non-existent and I have no idea how this guy ever won the competition, seeing as how he beat out atleast 2 or 3 people who have proven to be more successful. Again, like Studdard, he just doesn’t have much commercial appeal to the target demographic. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it is what it is.


Jordin Sparks – Let’s give Sparks an incomplete. The youngest Idol when she won at age 17, she is still only 21 years old. She has sold her fair share of records, but to be honest her type of teeny bopper R&B-pop isn’t what I typically listen to, so maybe she’s more successful than I realize. Still, I’d be willing to bet that if a survey were to be taken asking people to name famous Idol alums the name Jordin Sparks wouldn’t roll off the tongues of most (even though it is a catchy name). Why?? I personally think she’s rather attractive…but…does she fit the typical mold of “hot”?? Probably not. She’s a little chunky, and probably still a little too…..girlish. But, as mentioned, the jury is still out. Give her a couple years to lose a few pounds and sex up her image and the American public will eat it up. Sad but true.

David Cook, Kris Allen, & Lee DeWyze  –

I think it may be a little too soon to thoroughly analyze the last three Idols. However, I will say one thing. My concern about all of them would be that they don’t stand out. None really fit into my original hypothesis, as they aren’t overweight, deformed, or empirically hideous in any way. However, decent looking 20-s0mething white guys who sing cookie cutter pop music are a dime-a-dozen and easily get lost in the shuffle. Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard may not fit the societal standard of beautiful but atleast they are distinctive and one can pick them out of the crowd.


Justin Guarini – The first ever runner-up, which for years has made him the butt of jokes. I didn’t start watching American Idol until the finale of that first season, but I have heard more than a few folks say throughout the years that Guarini was better than Clarkson and should have won. I became a believer a couple summers ago when he performed at a local festival in my hometown and I was quite unexpectedly very entertained. This dude can sing. And he stands out in the crowd with that geri-curled hair that makes him distinctive without having to be weird. I think Justin Guarini could have been a tremendous success, but for whatever reason he just hasn’t reached that level of fame & fortune. And if it hasn’t happened by now it is unlikely it ever will. I am tempted to blame that God awful movie he made with Clarkson, but it didn’t seem to have any significant impact on her fate. Maybe, despite non-existent record sales or commercial prosperity, the fact that we even still remember the guy that finished 2nd nine years ago is positive.


Clay Aiken – Let’s face it…Clay should have beaten Ruben. And for awhile it didn’t matter that he finished second. As a matter of fact, Justin Guarini, for a period of about 3 years, had to be wondering “What the hell did I do wrong that this dude did right??” Aiken has been much more of a success than Studdard and established the precedent that one need not win American Idol to ride the wave to stardom. And despite the fact that his 15 minutes are seemingly up, he has to be counted as one of the top success stories from the show. As far as how he fits into my theorem…well, he’s a flaming homosexual, so the traditional rules don’t necessarily apply, but women love gay men, especially if they can sing, and the only gay men that most straight men really respect are the ones who can sing, so Clay Aiken’s popularity makes sense.


Jennifer Hudson – Can you believe she finished 7th on Idol?? Hudson is a conundrum. In a way she has outshone them all, even the 9 winners. Because (with all due respect to Charlie Sheen), if your name is preceded by “Academy Award winner” you win. However, her success has come outside of the musical arena. She, like new American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, is more of an actress than a singer now. Hudson also is the obvious exception to my rule. Despite the fact that she has shed a bunch of pounds, is now super delicious, and shills for Weight Watchers, the bottom line is that her success came when she was overweight and not that pretty. Major props.


Katharine McPhee – Kat McPhee is quite possibly the tastiest morsel to grace an Idol stage other than Carrie Underwood. That should spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s, but has it?? She absolutely, undoubtedly, without question should have beaten Taylor Hicks. How in the name of all that is right & holy could this vision of loveliness be defeated by Jay Leno’s stunt double?? But despite her hotness McPhee has yet to become an established star. She’s released a couple of albums, dabbled in acting, and kept her toe in the shallow end of the fame pool. Like so many other Idol alums fans of the show know who she is and have kept tabs on her, but that doesn’t mean a connection has been established with the masses.


Chris Daughtry – Daughtry is right up there with Underwood, Clarkson, and Hudson on the Mount Rushmore of American Idol. Amazingly, not only did he also lose out to Taylor Hicks (and of course Katherine McPhee), but he was eliminated before Eliot Yamin. Really?? Eschewing an opportunity to become the new frontman for rock band Fuel, he instead formed his own band and they’ve had tremendous success. Does Daughtry (the band) cover any new ground not already done better by the likes of Bon Jovi, Creed, Soundgarden, 3 Doors Down, or Nickelback, among others?? Probably not, but they are a fairly enjoyable listening experience. And let’s give the man credit…he found the perfect platform to separate himself from the crowd. I’m a guy and therefore not a good judge, but I assume that most females would say Chris Daughtry is an attractive gentleman, so therefore he proves the theory.


Adam Lambert – I honestly didn’t pay much attention during season 8 of American Idol. I guess I just needed a break. But I paid enough attention to know that everyone…e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e…thought for weeks that it was a foregone conclusion that Adam Lambert would win. However, Lambert is the exception to a completely different rule than The Pretty People Theorem. Remember how I said America embraced Clay Aiken because women love gay men and straight men appreciate gay men who can sing?? Well, that all goes out the window when the person in question is an absolute weirdo. Despite the fact that Lambert didn’t “come out” or really let his freak flag fly until long after American Idol had wrapped, people aren’t stupid. If I’d actually watched much that season I could speak more eloquently on the subject, but there had to be some reason why America chose nondescript milquetoast Kris Allen over someone with far superior vocal talent, and if I may oversimplify just a wee bit, it boils down to little things like if you’re a man trying to win a popularity contest don’t wear eyeliner. Ozzy and Alice Cooper may have gotten away with it, but they weren’t trying to win American Idol.


Okay, so now that we’ve gone back in time and looked at what works and what doesn’t work, let’s take a peek into the ol’ crystal ball and see if we can narrow down the contenders from the pretenders amongst the baker’s dozen remaining in contention for the 2011 Idol crown. Keep in mind that it’s a given that all these individuals can sing, so talent isn’t a factor as much as likeability, charisma, and whatever else seems to make one person more popular than another.


Casey Abrams – Casey is the Taylor Hicks of this season. With his full beard and pudginess he sort of reminds me of John C. Reilly circa 2000 in The Perfect Storm, and maybe a little like Seth Rogen. He’s just the sort of underdog that might develop a following and end up in the top 3 or 4.


Naima Adedapo – This is Fantasia Barrino 2.0. She’s got a name no one will be able to remember or pronounce, and a…shall we say “exotic” look. Enjoy the ride while it lasts sweetie.


Lauren Alaina – The minute this girl came on screen she was my pick to win it all. She’s got the blonde hair, blue eyed All American girl vibe just like Carrie Underwood. If Simon were still around he’d undoubtedly say she is very “commercial” or “marketable”, and make no mistake…that’s what the powers-that-be are really seeking. The producers of Idol almost certainly hate when fans pull crap like voting for Eliot Yamin over Chris Daughtry or Sanjaya Malakar instead of…well…anybody. My concern about Lauren is that she is only 16 years old, which I think is far too young to be thrust into the spotlight. But I don’t make the rules. As it stands, if Lauren Alaina doesn’t atleast make it to the Top 3 I’ll be shocked.


James Durbin – Here is an opportunity for America to make up for Daughtry finishing 4th five years ago. This dude is like Daughtry mixed with a bit of Adam Lambert, which I mean as a compliment. I love the fact that he’s not your typical metrosexual pantywaist. He’s a rebellious rocker that is still palatable to the masses, and he is obviously having fun. My money is on him being there as the finish line comes into view.


Ashthon Jones – Is she a Beyonce wannabe?? Sure looks like it to me. What I am wondering is this – while I may not find such a ripoff appealing, am I alone in that opinion or will the populace lap it up?? Also, will she develop her own individuality going forward?? Will she be given time to do that?? My guess is that she’ll buy herself 3 or 4 weeks as long as her performances are decent, but she’s not a legitimate threat to win.


Stefano Langone – There were about 3 guys in the Top 24 that all looked the same…dark hair, vaguely Mediterranean, nice smiles. I couldn’t really tell them apart. Luckily for Stefano he’s the last one standing. I’m guessing the ladies will fawn all over him, and he may last a few weeks, but he’s not going to win.


Jacob Lusk – Does anyone remember George Huff from the 3rd season of Idol?? Jacob really reminds me of George. He just seems like a genuinely nice guy who is sincerely thrilled to have made it this far. Unfortunately I think he will be amongst the early exits.


Scotty McCreery – Has anyone called Randy Travis and told him we’ve located his love child?? I like Scotty. He’s just a good ol’ country boy. The thing is, at some point in the next few weeks he’s going to be asked to do something out of his comfort zone, like sing a disco tune or something by an 80’s hair band, and that is when I think he’ll falter. His niche is just too narrow to actually go that far at this stage of the competition.


Paul McDonald – Now here is the very definition of standing out from the crowd. This is my pick for this year’s Clay Aiken, meaning he won’t win but it won’t matter. He’s got a future in the music business. The oldest contestant left, he’s still just 26 years old. I cannot put my finger on who his voice reminds me of. Maybe some Rod Stewart with a little James Taylor mixed in?? He doesn’t sound like Michael McDonald but he does look like him a bit, and the two are similar in that when you are listening to Michael McDonald you KNOW who you are listening to, and the same can be said for Paul. Anyway, I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t among the last 3 or 4 competitors.


Thia Megia – Is she pretty?? Yes. Does she stand out from the crowd?? Not really. She might be the first elimination.


Haley Reinhart – This is my sleeper pick. She’s VERY pretty, and I think she’ll grow on people and begin to stand out more and more if given the opportunity. It sounds silly to say, but more than just about anyone I think the length of her “journey” will depend heavily on her performances week to week. She’s not gonna have a built in fan club of sychophants who’ll vote for her no matter how much she messes up, but if she rocks the house time after time folks will begin to take notice. Don’t be surprised if Haley is still standing amongst the final group of 3 or 4. You heard it here first.


Karen Rodriguez – Will the Latino vote keep her safe?? For how long?? Personally I have found her rather forgettable thus far, which is why I don’t think she’ll last all that long.


Pia Toscano – The judges dig Pia, I can tell. She does have a star quality about her. However, unlike Lauren Alaina or Haley Reinhart, who both come across as wholesome and family friendly, Pia reminds me of the villainous tramp on your favorite soapy drama, the one who goes around stealing husbands and letting her bitch flag fly proudly. Guys LOVE that kind of gal, but women are threatened by it, which is where I think Pia will fail. If she can soften her image, and if either Alaina or Reinhart exit earlier than I expect, then maybe Pia can sneak into that top 3 or 4. Regardless, she looks like a winner who may stick around in the public consciousness one way or another long after her Idol days are over.


So 2 months from now, as this season of American Idol hits the home stretch, I think the front runners will be Lauren Alaina & James Durbin, with Paul McDonald, Haley Rinehart, and possibly Casey Abrams & Pia Toscano still in the hunt.

The 2009 Year In Review

It’s that time again, when we take a trip down memory lane and remember all the highs and lows of the past 365 days. As always, while we pause to look back we also look forward, embracing each new day with renewed optimism. Each breath is a gift from God, and whether we are perfectly satisfied with the status quo or desire some semblance of change in our lives, it is up to us…not the government nor any other entity…to make the proper decisions that will facilitate our happiness.

 

Personally 2009 was a case of a few steps forward, a step or two backward…change but not necessarily progress. Transformation is slow, but I see the hand of God working within my life. I just need to get out of the way, something that I am not as good at doing as I’d prefer. The great new job I got near the end of 2008 lasted less than 6 months, as I was fired from Verizon in March. It turns out that they don’t necessarily give a damn about their customers, only the bottom line. If that means tricking folks into buying bells and whistles that they neither want, understand, or even realize they are receiving then that’s just dandy because it’ll be 6 months before most customers actually examine their phone bill closely enough to recognize they are being screwed and call in to cancel those services. If I seem like just another bitter former employee that is unfortunate because I simply speak the truth. I am not a salesman, and I am certainly not abjectly amoral. The day those wretched souls lowered the boom on me I could not stop smiling. Do I miss the $20/hour paychecks?? Of course. But I sleep at night and I can look at myself in the mirror. Anyway, after a couple months of down time I got a new job at a 24/7 abuse and neglect hotline where I am not paid nearly as well but I am much much happier and feel like I am actually doing something positive. So all’s well that ends well, as ol’ Will Shakespeare might say. This fall I traded in Big Red, my 13 year old Buick Skylark, on a truck (still unnamed at the moment). I bought an IPhone. Those events have pretty much been the highlights and lowlights of my year. I am not all that exciting…I work, I play with my puppy, I am active in church and with Literacy Volunteers, and I watch way too much TV and waste far too many precious hours on The Internet. That’s pretty much it. I am very aware of my shortcomings and as always look at a new year as an opportunity for positive transformation.

 

We started out 2009 by swearing in a new President, and the results thus far have been inarguably subpar. Anyone who disagrees has their head stuck so far…well, somewhere…that the jaws of life may not be sufficient to set them free.

 

Speaking of our socialist leader, he was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. No one seems to have a good explanation as to why.

 

The biggest story in 2009 continued to be the economy. I can’t add anything substantially new to the conversation, but suffice to say that I do not believe more government is the answer. The massive New Deal-esque bailout package has thus far been a flop with no signs of that changing. And no matter how much the “mainstream” media tries to twist itself into knots to paint a positive picture, the fact that there is no job growth is a sure sign that there is no economic recovery.

 

Many Americans were brought to their knees by something called Swine Flu, or if you prefer the PC term, H1N1. I’m undecided as to whether it is a genuine semi-pandemic or just unnecessary mass hysteria. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle…it is a legit disease with some rather nasty effects that affected millions, but I don’t think it really warrants comparisons with the bubonic plague.

 

Former comedian Al Franken was elected to the Senate from Minnesota. These are the same people who elected former pro wrestler Jessie Ventura Governor a few years back. Maybe we should consider selling Minnesota to Canada.

 

My Pittsburgh Steelers won their record 6th Super Bowl in extremely exciting fashion. I just wish the success had carried over into the following season. The Penguins brought yet another title to Pittsburgh by winning the Stanley Cup. Wherefore art thou Pittsburgh Pirates??

 

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues. No one seems to give a damn anymore.

 

Uber-successful TV drama ER ended its 15 year run. Having spent far too much of my life in hospitals and around doctors I never really made an effort to get into the show, but the few times I watched it over the years it seemed well written and acted.

 

Companies that went under in 2009 – General Motors, Lehman Brothers, Chrysler, Eddie Bauer, The Rocky Mountain News, Goody’s Clothing, and over 140 banks nationwide. I’m quite sure I am forgetting several notables.

 

The New York Yankees bought…ummm, I mean won…the World Series…again.

 

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic became a national joke after being thrown out of office for attempting to sell the available Senate seat of now President Obama. On the bright side he finished 3rd in the Grant Goodeve Lookalike Contest.

 

King of Pop Michael Jackson died. Parents of small children everywhere are breathing easier.

 

Sonia Sotomayor was voted onto The Supreme Court, a breakthrough for Latinas. The fact that Justice Sotomayor’s qualifications were quite suspect didn’t seem to matter. It’s all about being inclusive and multicultural these days.

 

A really cool video of a Minnesota couple’s…shall we say “nontraditional”…wedding entrance became a YouTube sensation. Redemption for Minnesota?? Maybe.

 

General Motors became Government Motors and Chrysler was forced to merge with Italy’s Fiat. Ford stands alone as the only remaining free market American car company. The Obama Administration has already begun using its takeover of GM as a way to further a radical global warming (or is it climate change??) agenda.

 

I’m not sure what the top grossing movies of 2009 were or what made the critics all tingly, but I went to the theater three times. I saw The Hangover, Star Trek, and A Christmas Carol. I quite enjoyed all three.

 

A Muslim extremist masquerading as a psychiatrist infiltrated the United States Army and killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. This should scare the living hell out of everyone.

 

Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Jessica Simpson all had a rather quiet 2009 by their standards, but the pop culture machine found new twits to waste valuable time on in Jon & Kate, The OctoMom, the Kardashian clan, and some guy who made the world think his 6 year old kid was in a runaway balloon when he was in the attic all along. Edward R. Murrow and Chet Huntley, wherever their souls reside these days, must cry a little every time they see Access Hollywood, Extra, and The Insider.

 

59 year old Tom Watson darn near won the British Open.

 

Pilot Sully Sullenberger became a national hero after saving the lives of 155 people on board a commercial airliner. The engines on the plane died and somehow the pilot maneuvered it so that it landed on top of the water in the Hudson River, not sinking until all the passengers had been safely rescued.

 

Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon took over Late Night, Jay Leno got his own show at 10pm, and David Letterman became a bitter old man who cheats on his girlfriend with members of his staff. America suddenly decided we needed more sleep and started turning off the TV earlier.

 

Tiger Woods was discovered to have been putting his balls into more than 18 holes. Idiot.

 

Microsoft, having realized that Windows Vista was a colossal flop, came out with Windows 7. I myself am still using Windows XP cause that’s how I roll.

 

Politically correct, racially sensitive types got their panties in a bunch when a white cop in Massachusetts arrested a somewhat well-known black Harvard professor who was being a jackass and deserved to be arrested. President Obama angered policemen everywhere by saying that the white cop had “acted stupidly”. Obama smoothed the whole thing over by inviting the two men involved to the White House for a Beer Summit. If only legitimately important issues were as easy to solve.

 

Paula Abdul left American Idol. Oh my God, how will I ever find the strength to go on??

 

Millions of horny teenage boys (okay okay okay…and grown men) got the opportunity to see ESPN sportsbabe Erin Andrews au naturel. Unfortunately the circumstances were so creepy that it had a negative impact on one’s enjoyment of the show. Not that big of an impact, but nevertheless an impact.

 

Speaking of creepy…Congressional ne’er-do-wells Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got really close to ramming a universal health care measure through, even though 60% of the American people are against it. This was made clear over the summer in a series of contentious town hall meetings in which many Congressmen were confronted by angry constituents that they theoretically represent but in reality could not possibly care less about. Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana proved themselves to be filthy whores whose votes can be bought. I suppose that shouldn’t shock anyone, but the blatant disregard for morality and the will of the people never ceases to amaze.

 

Michael Vick made an uneventful return to the NFL. Good for him.

 

Not even the combined magnetism of Obrahbama was enough to snag the 2016 Olympics for the city of Chicago. I blame Steve Bartman.

 

England’s answer to American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, produced an overnight sensation in 47 year old Susan Boyle. Because we human beings are shallow, belittling types the hosts of the show and the live audience immediately began to laugh at Ms. Boyle when she came onstage because she did not fit within the Barbie Doll parameters we all expect from our stars. Ms. Boyle shut the morons up rather quickly when she started singing, and it should have been a valuable lesson for all involved.

 

The Obama Administration showed early signs of stupidity back in April when it allowed Air Force One to fly low over Manhattan for a photo op…the same Manhattan that witnessed 9/11. You remember 9/11…when airplanes were flown into The World Trade Center?? Morons.

 

Alaska Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took a huge political risk by resigning from office. Most assume that Palin will make a bid for The White House in 2012 or 2016 (or both), and it is my opinion that she may have made a serious error in resigning. I’m not sure she’s electable anyway, but quitting in the middle of her term just gave her enemies on the left unnecessary ammunition.

 

Part of the government bailout that bears particular attention is Clash for Clunkers. Though numbers can be twisted in such a way that the program looks like it was a rousing success, those numbers are rather specious at best. And again, the whole thing was a not-so-cleverly disguised attempt to further an environmentalist wacko agenda.

 

RIP – movie auteur John Hughes, actress Farrah Fawcett…Senator Edward Kennedy…actor Patrick Swayze…Congressman Jack Kemp…sidekick Ed McMahon…actor Karl Malden…Golden Girl Bea Arthur…guitar guru Les Paul…boxer Arturo Gatti…wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano…infomercial king Billy Mays…Vegas headliner Danny Gans…funnyman Dom Deluise…actor David Carradine…King of Pop Michael Jackson…Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player Billy Powell…radio voice Paul Harvey…actor Ricardo Montalban…politico Robert Novak…comic Soupy Sales…NFL QB Steve McNair…former host of MTV’s classic game show Remote Control Ken Ober…newsman Walter Cronkite…actor/singer Al Martino (Johnny Fontaine in The Godfather)…sportscaster Harry Kalas…former NBA coach Chuck Daly…baseball player and famous brother Dom Dimaggio…actress Brittany Murphy…jazz saxophonist and former NBA player Wayman Tisdale…Cincinnati Bengals WR and former WV Mountaineer Chris Henry…evangelist Oral Roberts…and impressionist Fred Travalena

Random Thoughts 13

The funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy cost the city of Boston over $400k. Somehow that seems like a fitting tribute to his liberal tax & spend legacy.

I’ve just never been able to get into Canadian football…I don’t know why.

Is anyone really shocked that Iran is adding to their nuclear arsenal (besides The Obama Administration of course)??

Awhile back I wrote about my satisfaction with the current late night lineup. With all the pieces now finally in place, let’s take a quick look at the hits & misses. I’m not sure Conan has found his stride on The Tonight Show quite yet, but give him time…it took a few years for him to get into the proper comfort zone at 12:30, so the current situation isn’t a surprise. Leno at 10pm is okay. There are some kinks to work out, but if one found him funny on The Tonight Show he’s pretty much the same now. For those that find his humor too vanilla and crave the edgy stuff, you won’t like him any better earlier. Jay is built for comfort, not controversy. I honestly haven’t watched Letterman, Kimmel, or Ferguson all that much lately. Letterman turned me off with the whole Sarah Palin thing and it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Ferguson is occasionally a bit too…manic…and I have to be in the right mood. Kimmel hasn’t done anything wrong, but his odd timeslot and lack of promotion make him forgettable, which is unfortunate. The emerging star in my eyes is Jimmy Fallon. I know he annoys alot of people, mostly folks my Dad’s age or older. But I find him to be the best compromise amongst the group. He’s got Leno’s affability, Conan’s wackiness, some of Letterman’s subversive humor and is just edgy enough without coming across curmudgeonly and bitter like Dave. He connects with the audience and seems to genuinely be having fun, which is remiscent of Kimmel. If I owned Fox I’d throw a boatload of cash at Kimmel for an 11:30 show and then move heaven & earth to get Fallon at 12:30. It could be The Jimmy Late Night Connection.

So let me get this straight about the proposed government health care fiasco – If I choose not to buy it there is a $1900 fine, and if I don’t pay that I could get a year in jail?? When did I involuntarily move to Cuba or Russia??

Rachel’s Adult Night Club in Casselberry (FL) is giving out free flu shots to city residents.It is the sixth year in a row the club has held the promotion.Residents get free vaccines from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and senior citizens get free lunch.Non-Casselberry residents can also get flu shots, but they’ll have to pay $30.” – Needles at a strip club…..now there’s a good idea…*lol*.

One of the biggest problems in our world today is incompetence. People don’t care enough to even head in the direction of excellence.

Filmmaker Michael Moore is an embarrasment and a moron. This isn’t a new revelation, just something I like to reiterate as often as possible.

It’s “supposedly”, not “supposibly”. That drives me nuts.

Gadhafi was allowed an audience with The U.N.?? Are you kidding me?? And Ahmadinejad?? It really is like the cantina scene from Star Wars.

I’m okay with Ellen Degeneres taking Paula Abdul’s spot as a judge on American Idol. She’s not a music industry insider, so she can kind of be the voice of the fans. Plus she’ll be just as amusing as Abdul but the humor will be intentional and ostensibly not pharmaceutically enhanced.

Recent legit terror threats leave no doubt as to the brilliance of former President Bush and the bumbling ineptitude of the current buffoon residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We’ve gotten complacent in the years after 9/11, but GW and a few others always realized how foolish it would be to let off the throttle.

I can’t believe there are still people in America who willingly pay $50+ for boxing pay-per-views.