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American Idol: Everything That's Wrong With America

The new season of "American Idol" did the impossible last night: Showed more scenes of torture than "24."

The judges and the viewers were tortured by contestants whose delusions of grandeur and hegemonic vanity had led to them to think that they could sing. Simon and Randy responded to the appalling performances with the kind of nuanced reviews and hand-holding you would expect Jack Bauer to offer a terrorist. Paula seemed rather out of it, as though weighing the option of passing out. Even she was more animated than the guest judge, Jewel, who seemed to be following someone's advice to just sit there and be as blonde as possible. [Actual quotes and names of contestants and stuff like that can be found in the excellent piece by Lisa de Moraes.]

Collectively they told the majority of contestants that they were putrid, and that, as Simon put it at one point, their futures would not involve singing. This came as shocking news to many contestants, who, demonstrating one of the core weaknesses of American culture, had been told again and again that they had a talent that they in fact lacked. What we saw was the self-esteem movement exploding on prime-time television. We saw young people raised in the Everyone Gets A Trophy culture being told the truth for the first time in their lives. Gosh it was painful to watch, unless, of course, you're a sadist, in which case it was hilarious.

"American Idol" is, on many levels, a catalog of all that is wrong with our country. First you have the pathogen of overkill, which infects all creative ventures these days and manifests itself on this particular program as extremely dramatic singing. Imagine "Over the Rainbow" sung as though it's the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Everyone wants to sing so loudly and with so many warbles and yah-yahs and pulmonary flourishes that the judges are blown against the back wall by the shock wave.

More broadly, you have celebrity worship merging with individualism to create the delusion that no one is allowed to be anything other than exceptional. Everyone must be a star. We saw all these people of ordinary talent declaring that they would become the next American Idol because they were "unique." These people had dreams, but some no longer had jobs -- they had quit their employment in order to travel to Minneapolis to make fools of themselves. The gleeful producers milked their humiliation for all it was worth; the camera did not flinch as a contestant, shattered by the news that he couldn't sing, wept outside the audition room, saying he had never been so insulted in all his life (even as Simon, as sensitive as a shark, said cheerily, "I think he took that well").

Also, the show is on Fox, which is arguably another thing wrong with America, but that's a screed for another day.

[More Idol mania here.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 17, 2007; 12:04 PM ET
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Laughing at the sixteen-year-olds, yes, that's a little cruel, but the older folk should know what they're signing up for. I don't think you have to be a sadist to find it hilarious.

Satire begins with other people's delusions.

Posted by: MT | January 17, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm a sadist, because while I didn't find it hilarious, I thought it salutary that people were being told the truth. I wondered whether a lot of them weren't acting their disappointment; surely nobody could so lack any objective knowledge of their own weakness that it came as a shock to be told he cannot sing when, in fact, he cannot sing a note?

I wonder whatever happened to the idea that most of us just sort of muddle along in the middle of the road, good at one or two small things, competent at others, and bad at many. Why on earth would everybody want to be famous? Did you hear the insulted one saying "I want to be famous" and his mother assuring him that he would be? Um, not likely.

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

For the second day in a row, Joel picks a pop cultural phenomenon that I have been studiously avoiding. The whole televised talent show thing is just painful. We already have a process in place to manufacture stars and it has given us Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Fifty Cent. If the work of hundreds of entertainment industry minions can only come up with that, what can a surly Svengali, a wash-up 80s dancer/singer, and a, ah, whatever Randy does, hope to accomplish.

After five years, American Idol has given us Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and William Hung. Not exactly a barn burning resume.

I have a maxim that unrewarded talent is ubiqitious. Anytime I see a local production or an unsigned band, I think "Gee, these people are just as good as the ones making millions. How can this be just?" It isn't and it can't be. There are highly competent but under-recognized perfomers nearly everywhere. Everywhere it seems except the green room of American Idol auditions.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 17, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm a sadist too because I did laugh a bunch. The Cowardly Lion woman was beyond belief. Can someone find the clip of that? I'm on the Hill, pretending to be a reporter.

Posted by: Achenbach | January 17, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

And, yes, I vow that to make up for the descent into pop culture I will blog tomorrow about something highfalutin like the latest biography of Proust.

(You know: Proust, the runner-up in season two of American Idol.)

Posted by: Achenbach | January 17, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

my first (nonsensical) thought when i read the kit's title was "is this what joel's covering from the hill?" then i started imagining tryouts by various senators...

Posted by: L.A. lurker | January 17, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

But the Post's Stephen Hunter called Timberlake's acting in Alpha Dog "so good I won't even get snarky about 'N Sync."

Then again, a reviewer at a prominent paper compared watching the movie to the pleasures of watching monkeys fling stuff at each other at the zoo.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I cannot watch 'American Idol'. For me it's like an agoraphobic being forced to take a stroll in an open field. As soon as the first delusional singer appears I find myself driven from the room. Despite being descendant from Romans, I cannot enjoy these televised visits to the Coliseum. And I sometimes wonder if future historians will view 'American Idol' with as much damnation as we do that whole "virgin and ravenous tiger" bit.

My distaste for the process is mixed with my disbelief that such embarrassingly poor singers actually think they are good. I find it hard to comprehend that anyone could really be that naïve. Perhaps they are just putting on an act? I mean, it is true that we live in a society in which self-esteem is viewed as a birthright instead if a prize to be earned. Yet surely these people must have at least one honest friend.
Or electronic recording gear.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"What we saw was the self-esteem movement exploding on prime-time television."

/That/ would be a great headline.

Posted by: wiredog | January 17, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Proust. Wasn't he an offstage character in "Little Miss Sunshine?"

How about a kit on Stendhal syndrome, the one where middle aged male tourists faint from seeing too much Great Art? I wonder whether American tourists sometimes collapse when visiting Ryoanji temple in Kyoto, the one with the most famous gravel-and-stone garden. They walk right past a magnificent small lake and a lovely moss garden, and sit transixed by those stones.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "of a prize"

And I should point out that this aversion to 'American Idol' is a reflection more of a personal hang-up of mine than an indictment of anyone who enjoys the show. I am just hyper-empathic. I can't even listen to talk radio. I simply cannot stand being a passive observer of someone humiliating him or herself.
Which is why I stopped watching the President speak years ago.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

My reaction to AI is very similar to RDP's.

My reaction to JA's comment about "Proust, the runner-up in season two of American Idol" is to think of the Python sketch, "Novel Writing," live from "Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new novel The Return of the Native on this very pleasant July morning."

Posted by: byoolin | January 17, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: byoolin | January 17, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

What RD said.

Been too swamped (to use a nautical term) to boodle lately. Also, sorry that I can't make the next BPH. My wife has to have some grueling dental surgery done then (root canal and other painful stuff), and she will need some TLC. You want to see something painful? Put her on American Idol, in the dentist's chair. Like Dustin Hoffman in "Marathon Man". eeewww

Posted by: Don from I-270 | January 17, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

RD, I'm withya on that. That's why I couldn't watch those I Love Lucy shows where she's messed up bread baking or candy making (so you can tell this hyper-empathy goes back a long way). I just couldn't stand watching her get into trouble, and I KNEW what getting into trouble was like.
Watching the reactions of the judges is almost more painful than the contestants' self-delusional performances. They have to be civil and professional, unlike the teeming hordes of viewers who laugh at another's humiliation.

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I also have not watched "American Idol", but I heartily applaud the truth-telling. I'm afraid it is all too plausible that these contestants have made it this far without realizing they have no talent. If lots of people tell you you're good, then it is easy to disregard the one who disagrees. One can even rationalize a bad (that is, true) recording, since many people barely recognize their own voice when it is recorded anyway. Also, alas, popular music culture paints "talent" with such a broad brush that some people may not realize they often really do want some modicum of ability along with style and attitude. One of the salutary things about the music school I attended is the administrators were honest. If you hadn't heard the truth about your performing abilities before, you heard it there.

The whole "self-esteem" culture is doing our children no favors. [I've already done my Barney rant, so just insert it here.] Despite pressure from school and organized activities, we've always told the boy that, in some endeavors, people win, people lose, and not everyone deserves a trophy. It helps that he's been around auditions from an early age.

Hey, Fox carries The Simpsons. That is almost enough to absolve its many sins.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 17, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I have never watched American Idol either.
Is it just pop singing that they do or do they cover all genres?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 17, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't think people with real talent head for that show, only those who come close to real talent which could be turned into passable brands (Like Madonna, like Brittany Spears).

Except for possibly Fantasia Barrino in an episode where she sang an old standard barefoot in a pink dress. That is the only Idol I ever really watched, and for one song she was brilliant. Fantasia needs to sing what her voice was meant for, sort of like how no matter the talent Beverly Sills has, singing rock and roll was just wrong.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

From the film "Highway 61":

Little girl, part of a travelling singing group: My Daddy says that I'm pretty and when I grow up I'm going to be a beautiful lady.

Mr. Skin: No. You're going to be an ugly lady. You'll probably be fat and work as a cashier and no one is going to want to marry you. You see, parents aren't allowed to tell the truth about certain things.

Posted by: byoolin | January 17, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't know, dr. In the past you had "American Bandstand", TV variety shows, performing artist music shows - everything from Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton to Lawrence Welk. There were also local and regional versions of talent shows, and touring bands. An aspiring performer had several avenues to find an audience. The music business has changed, and it is harder to get known. Here is a shot at a nationwide - what, worldwide? - audience. I could see braving the possible humiliation and baggage associated with the show, for the chance to be instantly known and acclaimed. With the vicious critiques which Simon can give (I may not watch the show, but I've heard about it), even a "not bad" ought to get you somewhere.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 17, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

ahhhhhhh american idol - joel - i heart you!! yes, i'm an american idol junkie (having been in the entertainment bizness for most of my life - but you guys already know that...) i watch it and cringe... i developed HORRIBLE stage fright towards the end and just cringe when i watch someone bottoming out... i had a conversation with my mother about ai last nite - she was sympathyzing with the parents/friends of the rejected and i was like "well, i think it's important that the parent be BRUTALLY honest with themselves - does my child REALLY have talent? or do i just think he does?" i mean, we all think our children are the best/brightest/most beautiful - but you are sending them into a room with simon cowell - is this something you really want to set your kid up for if they really can't sing???

Posted by: mo | January 17, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I reckon that anybody who would line up for days to get a chance at an audition on Idol has watched the show, and presumably knows exactly what he's in for.

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Speakin of Proust and Little Miss Sunshine:

Georgetown prawf [professor] Rosa Brooks's recent LATimes op-ed overlooked this movie when discussing the spate of causes underlying the robust sexualization of young girls. Brooks thinks corporate America is going soft on family values. She writes:

In a culture in which the sexualization of childhood is big business -- mainstream mega-corporations such as Disney earn billions by marketing sexy products to children too young to understand their significance -- is it any wonder that pedophiles feel emboldened to claim that they shouldn't be ostracized for wanting sex with children? On an Internet bulletin board, one self-avowed "girl lover" offered a critique of this week's New York Times series on pedophilia: "They fail, of course, to mention the hypocrisy of Hollywood selling little girls to millions of people in a highly sexualized way." I hate to say it, but the pedophiles have a point here. There are plenty of good reasons to worry about children and sex. But if we want to get to the heart of the problem, we should obsess a little less about whether the neighbor down the block is a dangerous pedophile -- and we should worry a whole lot more about good old-fashioned American capitalism, which is busy serving our children up to pedophiles on a corporate platter.

Posted by: Loomis | January 17, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I once ranted at a grade 5 teacher who gave one of my kids a two percent mark on a paper and noted it as good effort. What she did not expect was that a parent was taking her to task for not valuing HER own time enough to mark it a 0, which it strongly deserved. I took it to the pricipal. Strangely enough as the marking became more demanding, the output and the grades dramatically improved.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

and for what it's worth - i'll bet a LOT of those singers could sing better IRL than in their audition - you'd be surprised how EASY it is to tank an audition due to nerves... but like paula said (in one of her lucid moments last nite) (paraphrasing) "a professional will be able to bring it on no matter what the circumstance"

joel - i'm still looking for the clip of Trista Giese as the cowardly lion - fox is really good at policing video that gets out...

Posted by: mo | January 17, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The worst part about American Idol is that it spawns offspring all over the world. So we have the putrid American Idol, the vile Canadian Idol and the Québec specific and absolutely foul Star Académie. And yet a poll conducted among the very young (primary school) revealed that the single most common career goal for the little girls was to win Star Académie. Being a celebrity was right behind. Yikes.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | January 17, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse


Alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction, gun addiction, sex addiction, war addiction, shopping addiction, religion addiction--rather like the MOD squad in "Thank You for Smoking."

MOD translates to merchants of death--those (public relations?) lobbyists in the film who represent the alcohol, tobacco and firearm industries.

Posted by: Loomis | January 17, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I know that this is typically Achenfan's department, but...

"What we saw was the self-esteem movement exploding on prime-time television."

Shouldn't that be "imploding"?

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I was doing things around the house last night, the older two kids were ensconced in front of the TV, carrying on a running critique of the contestants, the judges, and Ryan Seacrest.

As I passed by the TV, I stopped and watched a few contestants, noted the lady that sang "Somewhere" like the National Anthem and a few other oddities, felt like I was rubbernecking at the scene of an accident, shook myself, and moved on.

Ok, Fox has NFL Football, American Idol, 24, NASCAR, House, American Dad, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Nanny 911, Trading Spouses, and the Simpsons. Oh, and MADtv, the soon-to-be-gone OC and Hell's Kitchen.

I think that speaks for itself.

Wow, I think I suffer from Stendhal syndrome mysellf aftr rdg ths kitnb dlle uh o

Posted by: bc | January 17, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Ditto Padouk: the show is completely unwatchable. Joel is correcta that it represents the very worst aspects of American culture (of which there are many)--which is reason enough to shun the damn thing right there. And I'm with Cowtown: never liked "Lucy" for the same reasons either.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 17, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt said: "There are highly competent but under-recognized perfomers nearly everywhere. Everywhere it seems except the green room of American Idol auditions."

Would that also include a certain oval-shaped office?

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, you are correct. I just don't think Idol is a true talent search.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

dr - i dunno - i mean, look at jennifer hudson - she was a finalist on american idol (albeit not the winner) and ended up getting a supporting role in dreamgirls! that's practically unheard of! and she blew it outta the park (winning several awards including a golden globe). in her case, she was a diamond that just needed to be mined... and was thanks to american idol (even she acknowledges that...)

Posted by: mo | January 17, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Well hey, I sing along to songs all the time...

With headphones on...

At high volume.

I'd never have da noive to get in front of a panel of judges.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 17, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the cult of self esteem can easily cross the line into narcissism - if not borderline psychotic behavior. That said, I think that the "self-esteem" movement arose quite appropriately as a response to older techniques of education and child rearing based upon humiliation. I do not want my daughter to be taught that she is the Uber-Princess of the Americas, yet I would also get just a little steamed if a teacher made her sit in the corner with a "dummy" hat on. It's all about balance.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Then again, perhaps all this "self esteem " overkill can be blamed on mental manipulation by the malevolent media. Consider the potentially pernicious effects of the following odious quote:

"That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Yes, it's all Garrison Keillor's fault.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm happy for the success of Jennifer Hudson (I only know about her because of the unavoidable hubbub surrounding Golden Girls), but what bores me about the show as that the "idol" they're looking for is a strictly R&B singer. R&B is great, mind you, but someone with a simple but strong voice (like Chris Isaak or Rufus Wainwright) who's voice doesnt' "fit" the genre just won't cut it. There should be an American Garageband competition. I could audition. Then I'd be famous. Finally.

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I do not want my daughter to be taught that she is the Uber-Princess of the Americas...

NYT had a big feature story within the past month on the huge focus recently on everything "princess" for young girls, but when trying to access it, I'm getting a message that their server for their archived articles is down. Heck, tree limbs in our own yard are down.

Posted by: Loomis | January 17, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Our phone went dead yesterday and we were told this morning that it would be a week before it can be repaired. Time Warner coax is working but SBC is phhffttt...

Posted by: Loomis | January 17, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Not that singers aren't "musicians", but the majority of them are not worthy of the title. As a guitar player who's been around the block a few times (and who also sings, though in a gravelly Tom Waits style), I can say that the general opinion of "those who play instruments" is that the majority of "those who do nothing but sing" are not worthy of the tag "musician". Anybody can screech and some can even hold a tune, but not many have the patience or dexterity to master the art of making an inanimate object sing, which could also include their vocal chords.

There are more than a few exceptions to that rule, but really...

Most of the popular singers today couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Take away their studios and they're nothing.

If you strip out all the digital effects and enhancements (like "automatic pitch adjustment", which is a polite and very popular method of forcing your tone-deaf abomination into key), these people would be booed out of an elementary school concert.

Hair, smile, figure, marketing. That's all that matters anymore.

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

LindaLoo - Kinda makes a joke out of all those SBC ads where men with hard hats and cherry-pickers are on the lines 24/7.

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Watching those guys screw up, I'm always half tempted to audition myself, I mean, I can't be worse than those guys. That MIGHT be the driving motivation towards those people showing up to blow the auditions. Sometimes fame does arise from sucking-- look at William Hung (and it's sad I know about him).

That, and as Mo says, people can suck major wind due to stage fright when they normally sing better than that. I also wondered if having to project their singing into a mike might also throw them off.

I don't like the show very much. Either you can sing or you can't, so I don't really see how "competitive" the show can be. I don't see any voice coaches massaging those performers or anything.

Now, I like those dance shows better.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 17, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

In my little town, there's a guild of guitar player songwriters. They sponsor a kind of open-mike show at a local restaurant once a month. It's such a pleasure to watch people who work hard to polish their talents in three fields (guitar, voice, and song writing). Some of these musicians are pleasant amateurs who are sharing a good time, and a few could be famous someday. Much, much better than AI. Plus, they have good beer.

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Just to complete the string, my last post was to follow Martooni's post of 3:36. Anyone remember Joe Jackson's "Pretty Boys?" "Those baby blue eyes / somebody else's wit."

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Since I am a few boodles behind, I wanted to throw out some random comments.

1) As for Mudge-- "Bite me, scurvy dog." would be appropriately nautical. I don't really know where that expression about "bite me" comes from, anybody got a clue?

2) What Martooni said. It is smart to be nice to others unless you directly need to confront them in self-preservation, such as somebody trying to gyp you out of your money, girlfriend, home, life, or liberty.

I like John Donnes' Mediation XVII. It's often quoted in bits, but the entirety rarely read.

3) Yes, everything is oversexualized in America. But I heartily disagree that it excuses pedophilism in any degree.

That's the classic "blame the victim" ploy abusers use when they don't want to take responsibility for their actions.

This attitude makes me angry everytime I read it, because it's so prevalent in American culture and it MUST be fought.

There. Is. No. Way. A. Young. Child. Is. To. Blame. For. A. Pedophile's. Sexual. Fanasties.

Who is to blame? The very people who taught the people concerned that sex with young children is okay-- their own abusers.
It's a cycle of abuse, always has been long before American culture became sexualized, and it has sometimes been legitimatized by religions or cultural customs.

Disney has many faults, including saccharine sexism, but they are NOT to blame for sexualizing children inappropriately.

I want to see some insightful personal opinion and contributions, not trite repetition of nonsense from elsewhere.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 17, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

actually cowtown - they aren't looking for r&b singers - they are looking for "pop" singers. which is one thing that really ticks me off cuz they took edgy rocker chris daughtry and "popped" up his music for his first album (someone mentioned something about the crap contracts that the winners - and maybe even the finalists - hafta sign after the show). i think his first album coulda been much better if it hadn't been watered down. but, if it gets the talent into the mainstream so they can flourish from there (unchecked by the greedy hands of pop producers) than i'm all for it!

Posted by: mo | January 17, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

CowTown... that sounds like the Wednesday night "open mic" in my neck of the woods. (if I can squeeze in a nap after work, might actually make it tonight)

But even under those circumstances you get your share of "divas" (I like "divas" even less than I like neo-con Republicans).

I think that's what turned me off of AI... they're all divas in a hyper-promoted karaoke contest. So what if you can sing someone else's song? As far as I'm concerned, you get no respect unless you also sing your *own* songs.

That was one of the things I liked about "Rockstar: SuperNova". The ones who made the cut and lasted into the finals often performed their own material. Of course, it didn't hurt that the cover tunes were much cooler than AI fare.

It also didn't hurt that they actually got to *act* like rockstars and get drunk, get naked and swear -- on camera, no less -- and not be disqualified.

Not to dredge up the Disney topic, but AI is nothing more than Disney Radio. I guess Beavis and Butthead were wrong -- you *can* polish a turd.

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, here's a marriage (OK, then, a marriage proposal) made in hell: "McCain Says He Hopes to Mend Ties With Christian Leader
Associated Press
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; Page A02

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 16 -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he hopes to patch things up with conservative Christian leader James Dobson, who said last week that he would not support the lawmaker's presidential bid "under any circumstances."

At least ONE of them has some integrity, anyway. It's just not the one running for office.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 17, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm kinda so-so on the audition shows for AI. I mean, how many times can you watch someone's bubble burst? Once they're in the Final 12, then I can get interested (providing there's some real talent there, like Chris).

Posted by: Raysmom | January 17, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

What. We can't be trite anymore? C'mon, trite is what we do! Trite, and frivolous, sullen, mocking, sardonic, sarcastic, verbose, obtuse, vacuous, brilliant, clever, honest, reverent, empathetic, or just plan pathetic. We're a clearinghouse of ideas, some well-polished and some rough-hewn. And sometimes we're just silly. It's all good.
By the way, if you want sardonic. Find a copy of Nellie McKay's "Get Away From Me" CD and listen to "Won't You Please Be Nice."
That is all.

Posted by: CowTown | January 17, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

When martooni said "the general opinion of "those who play instruments" is that the majority of "those who do nothing but sing" are not worthy of the tag "musician" I am betting, or at least hoping, that you refer to run-of-the-mill pop singers, and not people who do nothing but sing in general.

It would be a sad reflection on those who play instruments if they don't recognize the artistry of fine singers whose voices are their instrument. Nobody can tell me that Fischer-Diskau or Fleming or Norman are not artists, at least not without getting a 'bite me' in riposte.

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, perhaps I'm just too prone to trying to see the good in people. McCain extended what looked like an olive branch, and Dobson refused it. Doesn't that make McCain look like a big man and make Dobson look petty? The question, is, how far is McCain willing to go to try to reconcile with Dobson and his ilk? If it's any farther than what you quoted (that is to say: lip service), then he will, indeed, have sold his soul. But if McCain can continue to bait Dobson with a desire to "reconcile" but not actually do anything substantive enough to satisfy an ideologue like Dobson -- why, then, it allows Dobson the opportunity to demonstrate himself as a mulish and intractable blowhard and to alienate his own people.

Posted by: Tim | January 17, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I certainly got the impression that Martooni was leaving room for what we might call "real" singers -- singers who actually are musicians. I saw his critique as being for singers like, for example Shania Twain -- I really have no idea if she is any good as a singer, because her public image and (what I've caught of) her performance are so strongly geared towards interesting a region of my anatomy that does not include my ears. Dang, she is a fine-looking piece of human-flesh. But I have no idea whether she could even sing a good version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I've always been, um, distracted.

Posted by: Tim | January 17, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

yoki... I did throw a disclaimer in there that should exempt the voices you mention from my blanket statement.

But there really is a tendency among "players" to poo-poo "non-players". I know that there are some who sing who truly "play" their voices and do incredible things with it. But even among those, the ones who have taken the time to learn to play something else (whether it be a piano, guitar, kazoo, whatever) seem to draw more respect from those who play instruments.

I'm not knocking vocalists... not intentionally, anyway.

Maybe it's because they are the ones who insist on nothing but *green* M&Ms and get them, while the rest of the band (the ones who actually wrote and play the tunes) get stuck having to sleep on the bus.

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, love the meditation. I always found English Renaissance prose difficult to read. The run-on sentence style isn't easy. Like Shakespeare's verse, it's meant to be heard out loud. But Donne's right, of course, about our connectiveness.

Posted by: Slyness | January 17, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I will put my umbrage back where it belongs. Be assured, however, that I would leap to same passionate defence of any one of you, if I thought you'd been slighted.

I like Donne's meditation too, though I disagree with Slyness (about run-on sentences, not about reading aloud). I like it when the measured cadences, which are built in part by those long sentences full of parallel structure and layered images, of Milton, Drydan, Pope and the other great Restoration poets, get inside my head.

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

It seems that the report from a few days ago about an NPS ban on discussing the age of the Grand Canyon was false:

Posted by: Dooley | January 17, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see you back, Yoki. How're things?

Posted by: TBG | January 17, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Imagine people whose sole purpose in life is to stand out from the crowd, to call attention to themselves and their "talents". They seek only to demonstrate their alleged superiority over their fellow citizens and go to great lengths to offer such demonstrations.

I, on the other hand, merely type a minute here to state that I have seen no more than 60 seconds of American Idol in my life.

Now I guess we know who's truly superior.

Posted by: kindathinker | January 17, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Hi TBG! I'm OK. I was down for the count with a migraine the last couple days, but I'm back (be afraid, be very afraid).

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

A brief stopping in to comment on yesterday and today's kits. Used to watch 24, first two seasons, and got way tired of the holes in the plot and Jack's daughter who obviously inherited none of his brains. I have never seen AI. Feel the same as Mudge and RD, my heart hurts for and I am embarrassed when I see people making total fools of themselves.

Ok, gotta go search online for a good restaurant that my diet can handle. It's my birthday, the really really BAD one, and we're going out. Big celebration with family will wait 'til a week from Sunday when #2 daughter is back from Costa Rica.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | January 17, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

No, Yoki, we're always glad to have you around, not afraid! Good to hear you're feeling better.

Posted by: Slyness | January 17, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The results of a study seeking explanations for why Danes are so content:

"Danes have consistently low (and indubitably realistic) expectations for the year to come. Year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark."

(The Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal also had a study of sword swallowing and its side effects. They also have a research piece concluding that "Higher scores for IQ in childhood are associated with an increased likelihood of being a vegetarian as an adult."

However, those Danes seem to drink, smoke, and even eat butter.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday Bad Sneakers!

Posted by: Yoki | January 17, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Dave of the Coonies said: "However, those Danes seem to drink, smoke, and even eat butter."

They also tend to lean on you when you scratch their heads and they leave huge piles of guano in the back yard. I don't know if it's common to the breed, but my ex-wife's Dane was all bark and no bite. We used to get lots of Canadian geese congregating in our back yard, which drove that Dane nuts, so I let her loose on the buggers one day. She charged out the door, they honked at her, and next thing I know she was desperately scratching at the door to be let back in. The Dane's reaction was similar. ;-)

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

People Who Wouldn't Make It Past the First AI Audition:

Bob Dylan (then, now, or at any point in between)
Everly Brothers
Tom Waits
Bruce Springsteen
Luciano Pavarotti
Eartha Kitt
Leon Redbone
Joni Mitchell
Elton John
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Ladysmith Black Mombasa
Kate Smith (OK, this one's a lousy example, but still...)
Tiny Tim (OK, another bad example...)
The Lovely Lennon Sisters
Snookie Lanson (don't ask...)
Mick Jagger and/or the Rolling Stones (oh my god...)
Ringo Starr (and probably not George Harrison)
Clarence "Frogman" Henry (one of my faves)
Ima Sumac (another "don't ask"...but also a fave)
Edith Piaf
Roy Orbison
The Singing Nun
Hoagy Carmichael
Gene Autry
The Cranberries (rightly so)
Sting (if he sang "Roxanne")
Muddy Waters
Louis Armstrong
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (aka Iz, aka Bradda Iz, aka that 750-lb. Hawaiian guy who did the "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" cover you hear all the time)
Spike Jones
Buddy Holly
Alan Sherman
Dooley Wilson
Art Garfunkle
Buffy Sainte-Marie
Arlo Guthrie
Woody Guthrie
Huddie William Ledbetter (aka Leadbelly)

Of course, 95 percent of these people/groups wouldn't WANT to go on AI, but still...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 17, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe people get so worked about the *bad* performaces on AI. Those people have been selected months in advance purely for the *S&M entertainment* values. They have been through several layers of weeding out to make it front of the live camera. They know they are bad and they perform just to get their 3 minutes of fame. Last year AI had auditions here in Medford, OR months before the show. Three levels of auditions were held to windrow the aspirants down to one that was sent on to LA where she was eventually elimated before the show began. And she had some talent

Posted by: bh | January 17, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey Bad Sneaks - Happy Birthday. Not a bad day to be born I guess. Lots of people have probably broken their New Year's Resolutions by now and are willing to throw you a serious party.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Martooni's last reminded me of a Bobbi McFerrin. A small sample here.

I knew nothing of Bobbie McFerrin until I saw him on tv performing at an outdoor Bach festival. His voice was the best Bach I have ever heard. This man is an instrument.

Mo, your 3:55 is exactly why I don't think of Idol is about talent. I have not seen Jennifer Hudson perform vocally or in the movie, but I have heard some very good reviews about her performance.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

dr - My wife and I once took our daughter to see "Wizard of Oz on Ice" in which nearly all of the voices and sound effects were done by Bobby McFerrin. He's a genius.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Yoki, for coming to the defense of "real" singers. I actually didn't take offense at Martooni's post, since to me the people he describes, though they may front a band and sing, are not singers. Where I come from, nobody who needs a microphone to perform is a real singer. Of course mics are handy sometimes (say, in a big stadium) but the point is you should be able to sing from a concert stage without amplification, even over an orchestra. All the time you hear people say that anyone can learn to sing. It isn't true.

I'm amused by the instrumentalist's common prejudice that singers aren't real musicians. That's because they don't know how hard to master real singing is. However, having your body as your instrument is very handy. We have to take care of ourselves, but we don't have to tune up, worry about broken strings or valves or fingers, don't have to carry our instrument in a case, and don't care if the amps go out. We get out of marching band. Also, if you get formal training anywhere in the country, a singer has to learn to play an instrument too (usually piano).

This is probably another reason I don't watch American Idol. By and large, those people aren't singers. I absolutely agree the show is not a talent search.

RD, you're right about the self esteem thing. I don't want a return to the mean days of yore either, but I think we've gone a little far the other way.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 17, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I noticed most of the contestants seem to view singing as a sort of athletic event.

Can't say I agree with that.

Posted by: Jumper | January 17, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm torn.

All this talk of AI and music and whatnot has me in the mood to sneak out tonight with my guitar, but work kicked my butt today. I'm afraid if I take a nap, I'll sleep right through until morning. But if I don't take a nap, there ain't no way I'm going to last until it's my turn at "open mic night".

Crazy musicians.

They don't even get the show started until nearly 11:00pm. Back when I was single and childless, that would have been considered "early", but now... 11 o'clock means local news and then zzzzzzz....

What's really killing me is knowing that I don't have to be at work until 11:00am tomorrow, so I *could* stay out half the night and still be in decent enough shape to make it to work on time and sling some code.

What's further killing me is that Mrs. Martooni wouldn't mind one bit.

I gotta have a talk with that woman. She's using reverse psychology on me and I know it (and she knows that I know it), but it's *still* working, even though I know and she knows and I suspect even Little Bean is in on it.

As I said earlier today, "I'm doomed."

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

The Everly Brothers? But they had such good hair. They would have made it for that alone.

"Dominique -nique -nique s'en allait tout simplement"

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge has Brudda Iz on dat list. Dat's da kine, brudda!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 17, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

And he correctly spelled " Kamakawiwo'ole ". Verrrry impressive.

"Maui, Hawaiian Supaman."

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 17, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Martooni...I'm a big fan, really, but I can't resist.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 17, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

martooni, nothing wrong with choosing home and sleep even when you *could* go out.

Hungry, eat. Tired, sleep.

Posted by: Error Flynn | January 17, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod writes: I want to see some insightful personal opinion and contributions, not trite repetition of nonsense from elsewhere.

No. My argument is not that Disney causes pedophilia, or Disney causes child rape, or that the wearing of thongs is inherently harmful, or more harmful than anything in particular. My argument was rather modest: simply that the nationwide hysteria about pedophilia rings a little hollow in a culture where marketing "sexy" clothes to toddlers is big business for mainstream corporations.

Posted by: Rosa Brooks | Aug 29, 2006 1:00:52 PM

Rosa Brooks clarifies her statements in her op-ed. I can't put the whole darn blog that contained the discussion here.

So let's ask the questions, O.K.? What percentage of pedophiles were abused as children? Can one be a pedophile without having been previously abused? Is pedophilia inborn or learned?

How about the other excesses I mentioned? Are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics the children of alcoholics? How about chain smokers? My hubby grew up in a household in which both his mother and father were heavy cigarette users, yet hubby and his brother won't touch the things. They lived the tragedy of their parents' habits in later years.

How about food abuse? Bringing home extra bags of French fries is hardly similar to the loaves and fishes parable. For one, fish and, in all likelihood, unleavened bread, would be low in calories. The whole point of the parable was that the food was shared amopng others, not taken home as leftovers. When a person weighs far more than he or she should, what induces her or him to pour even more food down their gullets?

When Mudge sent me his first behind-the-scenes e-mail to me, the differences between us were striking, but I chose at the time not to point them out. He discussed Sunday drives. His emphasis at the end of his e-mail was how his mother would fix a big fancy meal, yada, yada yada. Our own family was so worn out from being outdoors and swimming or hiking, usually it was a simple supper of sandwiches when we got home. The empahsis was not on food or food prep, table settings, etc. Soupcon was not part of our vocabulary. I remember Mudge how you wrote a response for me with that very word to kurosawaguy. Never again shall I be so manipulated.

Amd I'm curious, Wilbrod, since you're back on the Boodle--and it's a question that's been on my mind for some time, when you travel to India (and obviously you have the money to do so), do you ever feel bad about paying the Indian women who alter your clothes a measly $10? Where does love of money come from?

You may be interested to learn, Wilbrod, that there are Fabindia stores on the East Coast, which might be able to save you the cost of the trip, operated by an individual who is related to the CIA Bissells:

Posted by: Loomis | January 17, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - I agree the "self esteem" movement has gotten a little out of hand. I mean, when a society tells its children that each and every one of them is the most important person on the planet, it is hard to be too shocked when they grow up to be adults who act as if each and every one of them is the most important person on the planet.

I guess I have just seen both sides. My son has no shortage of self esteem. My challenge with him is getting him to accept that he isn't always the smartest kid in the room.

My daughter, well, let's just say she needs as many "atta girls" as she can get.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Linda, I cannot begin to tell you how I would like to respond to your post in detail, but I am sure you do not want my concern. So how come you want to fight today? What's up?

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Consarn it, the schools are closed tomorrow as well. We finally got whole sections of our driveway scraped clean, and if it reaches 40 degrees (F) as predicted tomorrow, the ice on the secondary (read: most of them) roads should melt. I suppose I should be relieved that the school system is being prudent with the lives of our children, but it's been ALL WEEK. Plus half of Friday. And the weekend. Maybe the Boy can go teach with Ivansdad tomorrow and I can work from work, instead of from home.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 17, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom... Like I said, I wasn't knocking those who take their voices seriously.

I used to work (as in make music) with a dude who I'll call "Very Large Black Man Who Sings Opera and Jazz" who took (and still takes, as far as I know) his craft very seriously, and was therefore taken seriously by those he worked with. He was like a cross between Pavarotti and Ice-T, and a dream to play with. This guy toured throughout Europe (jazz and opera are much better draws there than here in the U.S.), and I have to say that as long as I knew him and worked with him, he never missed a beat or sang off-key. He didn't go for the fancy "tricks" of the vocalists' trade -- when he sang, he sang. Trills and falsettos and other vocal gymnastics were kept to a minimum. But holy sh... his voice just boomed and bloomed in the most beautiful ways. I particularly remember him singing "Stormy Monday" one night... when he got to "the eagle flies on Friday" part, I literally ducked because I thought the roof was going to come down.

For the record... I appreciate and respect anyone who can make music -- *real* music, that is -- whether it be by mouth or by steel/wood/bamboo/plastic or some combination. My negative comments were directed toward those "singers" who want to be called "musicians", but think their craft is more about presence than substance.

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Martooni, I'm with you. As a serious musician, I respect the same in all musical forms. I distrust anyone who says they want to sing to be on TV, or in the movies. Of course, you can be a real singer and still be dubious as a musician. "Very Large Black Man Who Sings Opera and Jazz" (jeez what a handle) sounds like a real singer to me, and a real musician to boot.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 17, 2007 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday, Bad Sneakers! This only seems like a bad birthday right now. Ten years from now you'll be amazed how young you were today.

I hope you have a great celebration! Many happy returns of the day!

Posted by: kbertocci | January 17, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I find that the way to deal with the Cabin Fever brought on by extended school closures is to share amusing anecdotes of my youth with my children. This usually encourages them to find *something* interesting to do.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Checking in for the first time in a looooooooooooooooooooooooooong time. Haven't even lurked.

Saw bits of AI last night, but tended to mute out the embarrassingly humiliating parts. Ended up changing the channel. Won't even go there tonight. The "auditions" just feeds into sick people's schadenfreude, and I ain't playin'.

I'm a real Eva Cassidy fan (hand on heart for her and our loss). I suspect that even *she* wouldn't have made it to the end, as her immense talent would have threatened the s-word out of the panel of judges.

Very, very few (count on one or two fingers) of any of the contestants who have made it into the finals really have nice voices or can actually sing.

I do, however, enjoy the dancing show that comes on in the summer (not the "dancing w/ the stars" thing, though).

Back into work-related hibernation (and, yes, it's a good thing).

Toodles. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 17, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Ditto Eva Cassidy, hand on heart as well.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

You are so right kbertocci. Birthdays are sorta like the world as seen by "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Loomis... you're definitely on a roll.

btw... France called and said they would like their umbrage back.

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Martooni..I went to send you an email, tell you the link was for how bad it could be (and you obviously have it pretty good), and then realized...I don't have your email address! I do hope no offense was taken.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 17, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I must admit I had no idea who Eva Cassidy was, but a quick search yielded this site:

I can see how she touched so many.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I watched a little of AI last night, only because Joel blogs about and because mo likes it. I hate the humiliation part - especially when it goes on for so long, with the crying, the parents, etc. MTV rapid editing would work better for me. The guy that had to sing an ABBA song was funny, I thought. Don't forget, tonight the auditions are from Seattle - supposedly no one in the *entire city* can sing!

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 17, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Linda, a great number of Americans have the money to travel to India if they choose to go and make the sacrifice.

I seem to remember mentioning that my friends paid for my trip for their wedding... not me myself.

You need to stop copping an attitude to everybody on this blog. You have no conception whatsoever of the incomes and standards of living in India. You should be highly ashamed of yourself by making cheapshots based on what people have said in the past.

India grows the majority of its own food, they import very little, yet have a thriving industry. Real estate is skyhigh in India, as you would expect from 1 billion people in a country 1/3 the size of america. Your average house in America is an mansion in India.

A friend of mine grew up in a family of 6, sharing an apartment that is the size of an luxurious american bathroom, next to an open sewer. At night roaches came out and bit him. He loves money and he will admit it anytime. He never wants to live that way again.

Now, let me explain this: $10 in India would buy 10-100 decent meals, which is a pay rate I wouldn't mind for a little sewing myself.

$10 wouldn't buy a phone, electricity, a car, or many of the luxuries that Americans take for granted are necessities.

In India it is possible, in fact, often necessary to live without those "necessities". Accessibility for the disabled is dismal.

Again, I'm here on this blog for humor, some light talk, and some deep discussions.

People who buy those clothes for toddlers are the ones you should be targeting, not the people who "market" those clothes.

The simple fact is that little girls always want to dress like bigger girls, just like little boys want to dress like men. It's called role modelling. It's up to parents to control how their kids dress up to a certain age.

The hypersexualizing of women is bad, I do agree. But pedophila has always been around. Psychologists believe the predominant cause of pedophila is pedophila.

There is also some evidence that brain damage can also cause pedophila, based on a case of a guy who exhibited pedophilic fanasties after a brain injury.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 17, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Eva Cassidy... oh, man... talk about a singer. I know she was more of the jazz vein, but that girl rocked. And not to be punny, but she had one of the most haunting voices I've ever heard (and I mean that in a good way).

As another singer/songwriter/storyteller once said: "Only the good die young"

Posted by: martooni | January 17, 2007 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I like Shania Twain - and she writes many of her songs. This is the one that hooked me (she wears a leopard-skin jumpsuit in the video):
"That Don't Impress Me Much"

I've known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you've got being right down to an art
You think you're a genius-you drive me up the wall
You're a regular original, a know-it-all
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're special
Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else

Okay, so you're a rocket scientist
That don't impress me much
So you got the brain but have you got the touch
Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright
But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don't impress me much

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 17, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Sneaks is finally old enough to order a drink? I had no idea! Happy Birthday!!!


Dooley, thanks for the update. I found it curious that NPS hadn't already responded to that, but it's good someone tracked down the truth.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 17, 2007 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday Bad Sneakers!

Celebrate tha-- and the end of your nasty temp job. At least you found out you don't want to work for *that* company.

Posted by: TBG | January 17, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Yes! Finally The Onion on DC street corners. But this headline is pretty surreal...

The Washington Post to Partner With The Onion
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 6:32 PM

The Onion, the Gen-X satiric newspaper, is coming to Washington and will partner with The Washington Post, which will produce and print the paper and sell local ads.

Posted by: TBG | January 17, 2007 7:18 PM | Report abuse

That's very exciting news TBG! Certain articles from The Onion have been known to mysteriously appear on the bulletin board at work. And now I won't have to print them out anymore!

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 17, 2007 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I like Shania Twain too, but she is so overproduced and marketed over the top. I'd rank her with what martooni describes as a singer rather than a to the bone musician and artist. Her stuff is great, but not deep.

And she is Canadian.

Posted by: dr | January 17, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

>Certain articles from The Onion
I sent my boss (a Giants fan) an article about Bill Parcels. I had to tell him later they were a joke site. :-)

Posted by: Error Flynn | January 17, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't have time to laugh at the idiots on American Idol because I'm too busy laughing at the idiots at the local karaoke joint. Drunks singing for other drunks engenders a sense of community that TV just can't emulate. Picking a fight with a really bad singer and giving him a good thrashing is a much stonger disincentive than Simon is allowed to dish out.

Posted by: Boko999 | January 17, 2007 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the birthday wishes. Just had a nice meal and stayed on my diet, except for one bite of a great flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream and raspberry sauce, I made "S" order it and he truly suffered to eat it all himself, ha. And Kbertocci, are you ever correct, I remember each decade birthday and can only wonder what I was so upset about at the time. I just never thought I'd be this old. Inside I'm still 18.

On the subject of singers, different types of music require different kinds of singers. I don't know what type of music needs the type who make Over the Rainbow sound like the national anthem. Randy Newman doesn't have a great voice but he sings his own songs very well. Diana Krall interprets what she sings beautifully. What I'm getting at is that I like singers who pay attention to the words they're singing and don't get all showboaty. Of course someone like Patti Labelle has a huge voice and she's great, same with Aretha. It's all about matching songs, styles and voices, or something like that. I can't explain it any better right now, I'm old and tired.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | January 17, 2007 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers... I like to think of you as young and tired.

Posted by: TBG | January 17, 2007 8:15 PM | Report abuse

dr, it's been happening for weeks, not just today.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2007 8:16 PM | Report abuse

no bad sneaks - you are young and fabulous! and don't you ever forget it! (i agree with you - i've never been much of a singer, i mean i can sing - at least my mum thinks so - but i love singers who have a different something.... like portishead or elvis costello) even tho i'm an ai junkie, i'm not a big "pop" music fan...

Posted by: mo | January 17, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, Happy Birthday!

Posted by: mostlylurking | January 17, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Eva Cassidy was extraordinary. She seemed so comfortable in whatever style of music she sang. As Waylon Jennings said, you want to sing a song so that people will think you wrote it. I believe the "Live at Blues Alley" disc has in its liner notes an article Richard Harrington wrote about her for the Post magazine after her death. Reading the article will just break your heart. I'm sad that I never saw her or Danny Gatton perform.

Happy birthday, Bad Sneakers!

Posted by: pj | January 17, 2007 8:29 PM | Report abuse

When I was a kid, I thought Bob Dylan was a good songwriter whose terrible singing was tolerated only because of the songs.

Now that California's frozen, I'm eyeing with greater enthusiasm the few oranges on my backyard tree, which is making an unexpected recovery from a bad insect pest. Maybe planting some avocados nearby provoked its resurrection.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Bob Dylan is so easy to lipread compared to other singers. So he has a raw voice.

There're tons of pretty singers, but only one Bob Dylan. (Which may be a very, very good thing).

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 17, 2007 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else notice that "American Idol" led straight to a discussion on pedophilia? Whereas "24" led to a discussion of "24". Maybe there's something socially redeeming about those reality shows after all!

Posted by: PositiveThots | January 17, 2007 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I heard a feature tonight on NPR about a band called the Dresden Dolls. The clips of music they played were great.

It was a good lesson on how much money musicians and bands actually make unless they "make it big." Most of these lower-tier bands, who are good and have a following, spend more money on road crews, equipment, etc than they make themselves.

This band, for example, pays themselves a salary of $1500 a month. They have opened for Nine Inch Nails. When a band like this opens for a huge name, they likely only make less than $1,000 for the night -- if that much.

Lead writer/singer/pianist Amanda Palmer said the reason that t-shirts are so expensive at concerts is because the venue takes such a huge cut. The band only makes money on a CD after the record company has made back all the expenses in releasing it--often more than $100,000 or so. Even then, the band only gets $1 for each CD sold.

I think I see a visit to iTunes in my very near future.

Posted by: TBG | January 17, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday, Bad Sneakers. Glad you enjoyed your day and outing.

Oh no, Mudge, you included Muddy Waters on your list of no-singers!

I don't watch AI, never have. I agree with RD, just can't watch it, and I don't like watching the President when he's on television. I'm uncomfortable watching him because he seems uncomfortable.

Time to turn in, real cold here, and the weather person is calling for ice, and perhaps snow, but more ice. Just a little tired and sleepy. Good night, all.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 17, 2007 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Just got caught up, Martooni, your comment about musicians and singers echos a show I heard on the radio recently. I have been travelling so much in the car lately that I flip the stations constantly, no one particular genre. In a moment of jazz, I was listening to the DJ speak about one of the great Female Jazz artists of all time (who's name I have forgotten sadly). He spoke about her voice being and instrument and stated that particularly in the Jazz relm the musicians did pooh-pooh most singers.

I do believe that when someone can truly sing and that is mixed with passion and emotion their voice becomes an instrument. The DJ played a song by this woman, her voice was husky and unique and something about it hit you.

Mo I too watch AI, also Canadian Idol (I actually like Canadian Idol better as to me is seems to allow a larger diversity of musical genres). Why do I watch who know, but I am a sucker for underdog stories so that may explain it.

Bad Sneakers - Happy Birthday!!

Yoki glad you are feeling better.

Posted by: dmd | January 17, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

More from Loomis:

The Washington Post has a series of photos on Camp Casey and Camp Qualls at Crawford, Texas in its online edition today. I would like to comment:
Camp Casey II:
... I am to the left rear in the photo in the blue top, ... I see that I should spend less time on this blog and concentrate more on Sally Squires Lean Plate Club.
Posted by: Achenbach | August 26, 2005 11:38 AM

Tried to find the archived picture - doesn't seem to be available. I do remember it, though. Perhaps people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?

Posted by: Wheezy | January 17, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Dave of the Coonties -- you mean that isn't why Bob Dylan was tolerated as a singer? I thought that was fact.

Here in my central California coastal yard, I have two wonderful orange trees that usually provide fruit for ourselves and six neighbors. (Plus those that are stolen.) The trees are distressed, despite lots of water every couple of days.

Also have many mature jade plants (now deceased) and 40 feet of now brown sword fern, and across the street my neighbor's jacaranda went from green to brown overnight.

I've lived in California (off and on) for more years than Mudge has been alive, and never seen anything like this.

Posted by: nellie | January 17, 2007 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Happy birthday, Sneaks, and many more happy ones!

nellie, that sounds terrible. Hope things recover.

Posted by: Slyness | January 17, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm reading horror stories from California palm enthusiasts at

I guess there could be a silver lining if the California Native Plant Society can rush out a propaganda campaign for the state's wonderful flora.

Meanwhile, New Scientist has a story breathtakingly titled "Cheap, Safe Drug Kills Most Cancers"

They cite a paper in the journal Cancer Cell. The summary is pretty arid reading.

Not to mention it isn't the most popular article at the journal.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

"They" tell us, Slyness, that the trees and mature plants will probably live, but it will be a year or more before we get fruit on the citrus --- blossoms killed by this freeze should be next years fruit.

And we have some three or four really cold nights ahead of us.

No fun!

Posted by: nellie | January 17, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Bad sneakers, all the happiest. Yoki, Wilbrod, it is so good to see you again!
Cassandra, is NY coming up? Wheezy, . . . props. Martooni, thanks for the great (Dane) laugh.

I've never watched AI, it always sounds like some Springer spinoff. And when they've touted the close scores, I wonder if their hardware has just been brought to its knees. Actually, I bet any number of people here could write 5 lines to do exactly that.

Can we discuss *The Closer* someday? I watch that.

I'd hazard that anyone who lives near a pedophile and has children would disagree with the thought that the real threat is marketing. Theory is cheap, IRL isn't always.

Posted by: dbG | January 17, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh my Oh my Oh my. After reading Joel's infomercial today I just had to watch American Idol. It is hilarious and yet also sentimental. A rainbow coalition to be sure. Only in America...still the greatest country in the world. Thank you and good night. :-)

Posted by: Random Commenter | January 17, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

You might have misunderstood my list, Cassandra--Muddy was on the list as a great singer but one who the judges on AI would have blown out on the first round. Most (but certainly not all) of my list were great (or at least successful and well-known) singers of one kind or another, but who the AI judges (more likely the producers) wouldn't accept. The premise of my list was, imagine you'd never, ever heard of this singer before; he or she was a total nobody. Then he or she comes on stage and performs a fairly typical song. Would the judges buy that person's act? No way.

(Oh, and add Randy Newman to that list).

Wilbrod, I'm sorry you've never heard Dylan. It isn't only that his voice is raw--he often mumbles, is hard to understand, has a nasally, whiney voice, is often flat, etc. As a performer, especially in the early years, he also had a fairly strange and often surly attitude. He is/was just about the most anti-AI performer imaginable from just about every point of view. So what does it say when one of the greatest singers of his generation couldn't make the first cut on AI?

I get a kick out of thinking about what it would be like if Leon Redbone came out. Tall, stringy, ugly older guy, funny mustache, straw skimmer had, impenetrable sunglasses, sits down, starts slowly strumming a guitar and in this horrible reedy nasal twangy voice slowly sings "Goodnight, Irene." (I say this, but I like Redbone a lot--but that's one pretty bad voice he has, you gotta admit.) Furthermore, the man has ZERO stage presence and communication with the audience. Simon Cowel would be throwing tomatoes at this guy.

This is a true story. I was editor of a small local paper in the DC suburbs a decade or so ago. One day a middle-aged man comes into the office and asks to speak to the editor or a reporter. Somebody shows him to my desk in the three-person "city room" (read: sty).
"What can I do for you," I ask politely.
The guy hands me a couple of cassettes. He says they are casettes of his daughter, who he says was a terrific singer, a local girl from this area. She isn't famous, but would have been, he says, only she died recently. Perhaps I was interested in doing a story about her?
I look at the casettes. Picture of a pretty girl on it, outside somewhere, leafy green background, grass and trees. Girl in a summer dress. Never saw her before, never heard of her.
I don't want to hurt the guy's feelings, but he's from a town just a few miles outside my paper's general coverage area. The girl's been dead a year, so no "news" there. Just a dead girl, with a grieving father with some vanity cassettes of her singing songs I never heard of (no "covers," that I'm aware of), stuff she seems to have written herself. Very sad. I tell him I'll listen to the cassettes and think about a story, and will get back to him. But I was busy, and put the tapes in a drawer. And for several years I never listened to the cassettes, and of course never wrote a story about an unknown local girl with the grieving father who had a couple of vanity cassettes of her singing. I walked the guy to the door and said, "Thanks for coming in, Mr. Cassidy."

Dooley, that was a good catch on the Grand Canyon correction. Thanks for linking it. The original (bogus) story was e-mailed to me by a friend at the EPA.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 17, 2007 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey y'all, just dropping by, doing my drive-by posting, as usual. Back at school, classes start tomorrow. I live in one of the oldest dorms on campus, so we get really crappy TV reception (cable? what's cable?") and thus, I will be missing out on the wonderful world of American Idol. Alas, woe is me. Maybe I'll just put the time into Mozart's "Requiem," which my choir is singing in a month. Now there's some music for ya, (but a real pain to sight-read, esp. as I'm out of practice.)

Posted by: Tangent | January 17, 2007 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I'll probably regret this, but I'm just wondering... What does leavening bread have to do with its caloric content? As best I recall, the standard leavening agents (baking powder, yeast) are pretty low-cal! On the other hand, I seem to recall that bread in general is fairly calorie-dense, compared to many other foods (compared by mass, anyway. I suppose that leavened breads may come out fairly low-cal by volume, but that definitely blows the unleavened-bread-low-in-calories hypothesis).

["For one, fish and, in all likelihood, unleavened bread, would be low in calories."
(posted previously)]

Posted by: Bob S. | January 17, 2007 11:43 PM | Report abuse

participating in the choir for verdi's requium in college was my only minor brush with real singing, which i cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to do. (kyrie eleison)

Posted by: L.A. lurker | January 17, 2007 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, please tell me you did finally listen to those tapes, even if there was no story whatsoever in them.

Yeah, my dad would probably put Madonna on that list too. He once said, watching Madonna do "Like a Virgin" or some other video, "medicore voice, big sell."

And yes, he can sing. Not professionally, but it's genetic apparently; one brother had opera training and does lovely singing in church, another has perfect pitch, sings pretty well but plays woodwind.

Makes one wonder what could have been... of course, my mom isn't musically inclined, and it'd be my luck to wind up like her instead anyway.

Posted by: Wilbrod | January 17, 2007 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Just a thought, Bob, but when you put leavening in bread dough, it is in the form of yeast. And to give the yeast something to "eat," you give it some sugar. So leavened bread has more sugar--and therefore more calories.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 17, 2007 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Or, as a long-ago chalked graffito in the stacks of Duke's biology library put it: rana eleison. Frog have mercy on us. Was someone kept awake by a night chorus?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 17, 2007 11:55 PM | Report abuse

'mudge, it's not a bad theory, but, alas, fails in practice. French bread, for example, is required (by law, no less) to contain no ingredients other than grain flour, water, salt & yeast (unless labeled as something other than standard bread).

Posted by: Bob S. | January 18, 2007 12:00 AM | Report abuse

There's plenty of sugar floating around in milled flour to keep yeast happy for a while. Getting the little buggers to produce significant amounts of alcohol, well, now, that's a whole different can of microorganisms!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 18, 2007 12:04 AM | Report abuse

The above-referenced law is/was, of course French (not unlike the German "Reinheitsgebot" for beer which mandated only water, hops, barley, and yeast. This, you will have noted, also precludes added sugar), and is relevant only because it's a good example of the more general case that simple breads usually don't have added sugar just to facilitate yeast activity.

Posted by: Bob S. | January 18, 2007 12:21 AM | Report abuse

OK, OK, I'm over the stupid bread thing. I did some baking the other day, I guess it was just fresh on my mind!

Posted by: Bob S, | January 18, 2007 12:23 AM | Report abuse

L.A. lurker - I was in choir in eighth grade (for obscure reasons, which were related to the fact that I also can't draw!), and performed at a statewide concert-contest-holiday show-thingie, and enjoyed it all thoroughly. I learned a lot of old tunes (Yup, we did the "Requiem", too!) and a lot about how a choir ought to be run. But I certainly couldn't really sing (then or now), and the choir-commandant (actually, she was a nice lady, but brooked no nonsense at practice or performance time, and kept her rather dry sense of humor under wraps most of the time) had the good sense to make sure that I was never allowed near any vocal part which might allow my voice to be distinctly heard!

Posted by: Bob S. | January 18, 2007 1:39 AM | Report abuse

nellie, good luck with your plants.

i just found out there was snow in some parts of west l.a., including santa monica and westwood, in addition to places like santa clarita and malibu.

prices for oranges and some other produce have already started to climb rapidly in farmer's markets.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | January 18, 2007 1:39 AM | Report abuse

hi bob s.!
sounds like a pretty serious choir for 8th grade. i seem to have blocked out most of the memories of the chorus i was in during junior high.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | January 18, 2007 2:04 AM | Report abuse

I am *not* here.


Posted by: martooni | January 18, 2007 4:01 AM | Report abuse

Of course not, martooni... :-)

And all this sugar talk has sparked a tune cootie...

"Yeah, in the daytime I'm Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I'm a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me"

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2007 4:06 AM | Report abuse

This is a hopeful sign, although it would have been hopefuller months ago...

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2007 4:24 AM | Report abuse

This quote from the Onion article, however, not so much... *L*

"Ma oversaw the 2003 launch of Express, the free Post Co. tabloid handed out in the Metro system, and said he sees a crossover readership between Express and The Onion."

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2007 4:44 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, we saw Leon Redbone perform a few years ago in a small venue, about 300 people. Yes, he's very low key but he did interact with the audience in his deadpan way. At one point, after audience members had been taking pictures during the performance, Leon whipped out a disposable camera, aimed it at the audience and motioned for everyone to move closer so he could get everyone in the shot, it was a perfectly Leon Redbone thing to do.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | January 18, 2007 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for posting that 11:17 last night.

That moved me, you #$%@&.


Posted by: bc | January 18, 2007 7:31 AM | Report abuse


In the late 80s-early 90s, a group of us ran a coffehouse in a church basement on Route One in Mt. Rainier. The name changed a couple of times but the best one was "St. James's Infirmary."

When you open such a venue, within two months the entire Eastern Seaboard of musicians will send you mix casettes.

Most are earnest; some fine; a few are hideous (yet earnest!). One homemade tape was a gem: particularly haunting was a Sting song, Fields of Gold, that made the Sting version substandard.

Eva Cassidy sent a tape. We tried and tried (x 20 or so times) to get her to call us back. I reached her mother in Bowie -- German accented -- who told us Eva was very shy. We might run into her Behnke's Nursery where she propagated plants.

Never heard from her. Never saw her at Behnke's.

Posted by: College Parkian | January 18, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. I may see some of you later this evening, I'm not sure how it's going to work out yet. K street, right?

Posted by: Bob S. | January 18, 2007 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. We have ice this morning mixed with rain, and some other stuff. Just a mess. I don['t have to go out, and I'm happy to stay inside.

Ivansmom, I hope you and family can get out today.

Thanks for explaining, Mudge. I kind of like Muddy Waters, the singing that is.

dbg, my family, the aunts, wanted to make that trip to New York, to take my dad, and the rest of us. My dad does not want to go. He's says it too long for him to sit. We're going to get together sometime this month, and I will see if everybody is still interested. My father does not go far, just around here in town, and he doesn't do much of that now.

Loomis, you are part of this cyper-family, and your contributions are just as important as the rest of ours are. And because many of us consider this a family, anyone that doesn't show up or gets missing for awhile, we are concerned about. I think everyone in their own way makes this blog what it is. I thank Joel for allowing us to participate and to embrace this as a family. As in families sometimes, hard words hurt, and so it does here too. I am not offended by you, or anyone here, most of the time. I am human so my feelings get hurt sometimes. We hope you will stick around, we enjoy your information, and you certainly bring a personality that cannot be replaced. That's just my two cents worth. Peace.

Prayers have been said, supplications laid at the cross. God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 18, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra good morning and once again I would like to state what an amazing person you are, bless you.

Posted by: dmd | January 18, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod -- You may not see this up in the Northern Climes, but today's "KidsPost" in WAPO features a story about service dogs.

Posted by: College Parkian | January 18, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! Hey Cassandra!

Wintry mix here. Hubby is out of town, so I had to go get the paper. Rain, but ice forming on the mailbox. Streets and sidewalks wet, I hope it will stay that way!

A week into retirement I got a call from a friend who wanted me to help with a project he hadn't had time to do. So I'm writing up case studies of firefighters who were killed as they were working at incidents along roads. The most recent was last January, when an Ann Arbor, MI female firefighter died when she was hit by a pickup sliding on black ice. Depressing stuff. I'm also supposed to write standard operating guidelines on protecting firefighters at incidents on highways.

So much for taking life easy!

Posted by: Slyness | January 18, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Can I ask a really stupid question?

What does BPH stand for?

Will someone be taking pictures?I would like to match the face with the names.

I live a couple of hours away and have to work this evening,but may try and make it to a future BPH.

Thanks for the info

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 18, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

greenwithenvy, not a stupid question at all, and there are probably a lot of people who are grateful to you for asking it. Answer is: BPH stands for Boodle Porching Hour. Bigger question, "Why?" and I'm not up to it, but here are more clues about arcane boodler vocabulary

Posted by: kbertocci | January 18, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

AI is the only TV show I watch. It's kid friendly and I like the idea that a simple music audition format can make a star out of a common person.

Maybe it's my enthusiasm for the show when I watch it with my kids, but they will do over a half hour of housework for the priveledge to watch the show.

I also like to think that everybody has something that they are best at.

Posted by: Pat | January 18, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Kbertocci,that is very helpful.I will keep it handy when I am lost.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 18, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Bob, think of cooking as chemistry. When you mix things together and add heat, things change to other things. So it is with yeast and flour, warmth and moisture.

Posted by: dr | January 18, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

The death of Art Buchwald has been reported, apparently for real this time. What a life.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | January 18, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Got 2 minutes before the boss comes to my cublicle to discuss something:
1. Curmudgeon, that story was AMAZING. I had to print it out for my wife (we're both big Eva Cassidy fans).
2. Cassandra, thanks for being a good boodle citizen. You help keep us together.
3. Bad Sneakers, Happy BD, young kid.
4. Watched AI last night (had to, wife had remote). It's very painful to watch these poor people humiliate themselves. I was not entertained, and it gave me a stomach ache. I'd even watch "24" than endure this.
Later. Peace out.

Posted by: CowTown | January 18, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Very busy this morning, but...

I do have my trusty camera, so there will be BPH pics of tonight.

But not before the event, of course.


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 18, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! Happy belated birthday, 'Sneaks!! Just ducking in to mention that as Cassandra and Slyness have alluded, winter has finally arrived in Dixie. We've been busy enough that I haven't had time to watch anything but the Barrett-Jackson auto auction for twenty minutes of so before I hit the rack. The auction folks at that site strike me as being eccentric in the way of dog show folks or Deadheads. BTW, martooni, singers that are also musicians bring folks like Mssrs. Dylan, Weir, Springsteen, Prine, Guthrie and Mmes. Raitt, Mitchell, Collins, etc. My daughter came down to say good night shaking her head and muttering"...Idol was BAAAAD tonight...BAAAAD..."

Posted by: jack | January 18, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I neglected to include Frank Zappa as a singer/musician. I may be totally wrong, but I'm a fool......

Posted by: jack | January 18, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Hey - total switch of topic, has anyone read the book 'Aristotle's Children' by
Richard E. Rubenstein? I started it last night and am already in awe. It reminds me a bit of "Coming of Age in the Milky Way " by Timothy Ferris in that you have to put it down every few minutes to really absorb the implications of what you are reading.

Basically, the book is about the worldwide repercussions when the writings of Aristotle, which had been lost to the West for a millennia, were rediscovered in Moorish Spain during the middle ages. Already I see that this book is going to force me to confront more than a few historical canards. I know it sounds really dry, but trust me, it reads amazingly well - almost like an adventure novel.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, all. I like Muddy, too, Cassandra.

Yes, Wilbrod, I finally listened to the Eva Cassidy tapes-- but it was a few years later, when she had become somewhat well-known, and people were talking about her. And the name rang a bell, and I thought, "Jeez, I think I have two Eva Cassidy cassettes in a box somewhere." And so I did. I now deeply regret not having written a story, of course, but who knew? On two other occasions I've written stories about local singer/wannabes, one of them a female C&W singer/Shania wannabe who did an opening act for Kenny Chesney [before he became very well known] at the PG County Fair one year. Neither went anywhere or became famous, and in fact the C&W woman wasn't very good at all --and was fairly dishonest to boot. So you can never tell.

The story I was doing on her was a sort of behind-the-scenes local-struggling-single-mom-wants-to-be-a-country-star profile, and so had gotten a backstage pass at the fair to follow her around. There were a couple trailers behind the stage for the talent, and there I was hanging out with my reporter's notebook and camera around my neck, etc.--obviously some sort of working reporter. At one point the door to one of the trailers opens and three or four "cowboys" come out, and one of them is a short guy (my height) wearing a 30-gallon cowboy hat, and he sees me and marches right up to me and says, "Hi, I'm Kenny Chesney" and sticks out his hand to shake.

I don't follow C&W music (and don't like it), and had never heard the name Kenny Chesney in my life. I was focused on my profile story, and had no idea who the major star of the show was--coulda been Gina Lollabrigetta for all I knew or cared. So there's this guy with his hand out, and I shook it and said, "Hello." He looks at me expectanly, like he's waiting for a reaction, or for me to ask him a question or interview him or ask for an autograph, or whatever. And all I know is there's this five-foot-nuthin drugstore cowboy looking at me and I got nothing to say. So he finally says, "Nice meetin' ya," and he and his entourage walk off. And I'm left wondering, basically, "Who was that [un]masked man?"

I never wrote the profile on the gal singer/songwriter because she was (a) not very good, and (b) dishonest, and I never wrote anything about Kenny Chesney because I was ignorant of who he was (and couldn't have cared less).

Oh, damm1t. Just saw that Art Buchwald finally died. Just had to love that guy. What a role model for terminal illness. I hope I have even half the class and sense of humor and love of life he had when it's my time. Tonight at the BPH we have to raise a glass, guys.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 18, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I hope Joel has some words to say about Art Buchwald. I love this quote from the current front-page story...

"I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies," Buchwald told his friends, Bradlee said.

Posted by: TBG | January 18, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, you're an inspiration. Thank you again.

Posted by: Error Flynn | January 18, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

New kit!

Posted by: TBG | January 18, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Health Alert: BPH also stands for "benign prostate hyperplasia" so today's soieree may be a good occasion to remind the gentlemen to get their prostates checked. This can be a great ice breaker, yes?

Posted by: CowTown | January 18, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

It's a shame Buchwald had to pass, but he sounded grateful that he had a chance to put his house in order and to leave some thoughts on the topic (and many, many others over a long career). I started reading his stuff when I was about 10, and continued to read it off and on over the years. I always enjoyed him.


Posted by: bc | January 18, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Joel is dead-on about American Idol. But I think some mitigating factor in the issue of these supremely untalented young people who THINK they are talented is . . . think about the crap that passes for popular music these days. Timberlake, that Aguilera person, Mariah Carey, etc. etc. They ALL do that emoting, and that hand-wiggling warbling and excruciating "singing" to a point where you can't find a melody in there. It's no wonder the amateurs think they can be stars. The "stars" are godawful.

Posted by: Stephen | January 18, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

After watching the Seattle Idol tryouts this week, you can be sure that I will not watch that train wreck again.

That was, without a doubt, a display by Simon, Paula and Randy of three mean, egotistical, insulting adults acting like high school bullies that think it's fun to sadistically verbally hurt anyone that isn't, what they consider, of their "superior stature". When in reality, those three showed themselves to be nothing more than bottom feeders.

Do those judges think they are so perfect that Simon felt it necessary to insult Kenneth Briggs because he happen to be born with looks that weren't his idea of the "beautiful people" and Paula and Randy cracking up hysterically from his remarks?

Is that kind of behavior necessary to keep the ratings up? By bringing people with dreams to their knees with insults and degradation, to me is an unmistakable sign of entertainment in decline.

Posted by: K.B. | January 19, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

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