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American Idyll

Okay, I know I'm supposed to be above it all, what with the many important things going on in the world and such, but still... you know what's really great about "American Idol"?

It's a genuine meritocracy.

I can't watch the early shows with all the lunatics auditioning and people making asses of themselves. It just seems cruel to me, showing all those delusional fools thinking they can actually sing. The genuinely crazy people are the worst. I think, "Jesus, how can they put these poor people on T.V.? It's like taunting the mentally disturbed."

Still, even though it is cruel and hard to watch, it's also proof that just about anybody can get in through the front door -- as long as you aren't packing a gun or a pick-axe, I guess. And, if you have the chops, or the makings of chops, from there you can go on through to the final rounds in Hollywood.

Okay, so maybe that isn't a worthy goal. Frankly, I don't really care.

I just find it refreshing to see people having a crack at something based soley on their gifts and abilities. No money greasing palms. No familial or corporate connections opening doors for incompetents like Bush. No suspicion of steroids. It's just one person standing up there and making the best of his or her gifts. It's the America we want to believe in but can't anymore.

Sure there are plenty of other paths to meritocracy around. Maybe you are a good writer. There are lots of good writers around. You checked lately how many blogs there are? You just know there's some really good writing going on out there that's being swallowed up by all the noise. Maybe you get a book published and you don't happen to get picked by Oprah to be on her show. Most of the country will never hear of you. Maybe you are a brilliant filmmaker. All you need now is a few million bucks to make your movie.

"American Idol" is like your school talent show writ large. You're in high school there, your school has a talent show, anybody can try out, one of the kids plays the ukulele really well and tells funny jokes, and boom, he's a celebrated locally for his gifts. Maybe he was a nerd or a jerk before, but now people see what he can do up there on the stage all by himself and they are impressed. This offers hope to the rest of us, those of us who harbor a secret faith in our as yet undeveloped gifts. Jeez, maybe if I got up off my ass and tried my best, I could change my life too.

My ambition, as it happens, is of the Zennish sort. I aspire to living my life in a manner that pleases me and does as little harm to others as possible and maybe on occasion actually eases someone else's way. Still, I am impressed by people using their natural talents to reach for something higher. It's fun to watch people doing well, based solely on their efforts expended and their "god-given" gifts. There are references in all that to a cosmic justice we all want to believe in, but most of the time don't.

"American Idol" works for two reasons: it really is wide-open to anybody, and it's big -- as in, national. Apparently the show has the highest ratings of any show in the entire history of the televised universe, or something. That's important because it means we aren't talking about a small group of fans admiring the gifts of an obscure writer. It isn't just a fawning art-house crowd worshiping at the feet of a cinema-phenom. It isn't even the little-watched and generally boring Olympics. It's a national talent show, one performer at a time up there matching his or her talents not just against the other performers but also against our tribal judgment. You suck, you're gone. You rock, you stay. It's pure and it's tribal and it's us.

I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be a fan of the show, but I am in fact a Major Fan. My brother and I hold lengthy, long-distance conversations about the latest round. Every year I find myself pulling for particular performers and hoping others will go quickly. This year there are two I'm really impressed with. Chris Daughtery (sp?) and Elliot Yumin (?). There are others I like, but those two are my Main Men. The female group, so far, has been less impressive, but I do look forward to hearing that big girl go for it, Adisa or something, whatever her name is. Anyway, the big girl. If you watch the show, you know who I mean.

But, you know, to be honest, I don't pay much attention to the winners after the competitions are over each year. It's not really my taste in music, after all. I'm just not that much of a pop music fan. It isn't that I am "above it" or anything, it's just that not very much of it actually captures my attention. So I just don't care that much about their subsequent careers. I care about the struggle.

The thing about one performer up there on the stage doing his or her thing is that it's pure. If you got it, you got it, and if you ain'ts, you ain'ts. But whenever I think of somebody admiring something for its purity, I'm reminded of that moment near the end of "Alien" when the big black guy has knocked the head off the android and there's milk-blood everywhere. Ripley accuses the 'droid of admiring the monster. The 'droid stares beheadedly off into the middle-distance: "I admire its purity..."

So maybe this is me admiring the monster's purity. But hey, it's not like it's ripping anybody's throat out or impregnating any victims with its disgusting face-hugging spawn or anything.

But maybe you think it is promoting false and disgusting values? Making a god of celebrity, or what-all?

Not me. I don't see anything wrong with paying homage to our tribal beliefs. I don't see anything wrong in buying into the America I still want to believe in. I don't see anything wrong in reveling in a genuine meritocracy, as opposed to wallowing in the filthy and corrupt aristocracy my country is becoming. For me, the show keeps alive an important tribal value: advancement based on merit alone.

All right, I'll just say it. Being an "American Idol" fan is a progressive political statement.


But then there is this to say, too, in my defense: I've never text-messaged my vote in.

I might be a sap, but I ain't that much of a sucker.


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Ha. Even if you have the millions to make the movie, if you don't get the distributors you are SOL.

There is a movie called "The Hiding Place". It has profesional production values, reasonable actors with names that are recognizable. It's about Alzheimers's. It never got a US distributor, though it was distributed in France.

You won't see it here, oh no.

Hmm. You're right. I thought I could find it at my artsy-fartsy video store but I can't. Can't even find it at Netflix (though there is a film by that name but it looks like an Anne Franky type thing).

Nevertheless, I'll keep an eye out for it, in case it ever shows up on DVD.




I know. He's become one of my faves, too. If he's not careful, he might just win.

It's a really good batch this year, but I wish to hell America would dump that twit Kevin. I can't stand that guy. But every year there's one like that... somebody who should clearly go before other non-front-runners, but who hangs on and gets more and more arrogant. People surely like underdogs, I like them too, but I like talented underdogs, or underdogs that actually have a chance of pulling it off.

And, also: xoxoxox (coming to NYC soon?)

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