March 14, 2013
Question: Was Michelle Obama's embarrassing appearance at the Oscars – which demeaned both the presidency and the art of film – the first step in launching the never-proud-of-America first lady on her own run for the White House in 2016?
Then we could have 16 years of Puritan Leftist government-by-decree to punish anyone who dares to oppose "Fairness."
Here are the signs. She'll start by wearing only dresses with sleeves, to show she's serious. Then she'll get even more serious by wearing business suits. When she starts being given actual government projects to oversee, we'll know she's almost ready …
But it's Lurleen Wallace all over again. We know who'd really be running things, and feminists will keep their mouths shut about it because it's the Beloved Leader who'll still be in power. Like Putin – boss no matter who wears the hat.
American Idol – is it still on?
Yes, and still top-rated, too, though it has slipped since the glory days. Still, we have to conclude by now that Idol was no flash-in-the-pan, like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which dominated – for what, a year, maybe two? – and then plummeted to syndicated television.
As judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are gone, and they'll be missed; Randy Jackson remains, and his judging gets clearer and stronger every year.
Three new judges bring the total to four: Randy, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.
I had never heard of Nicki Minaj; I don't listen to her kind of music, apparently. I only knew of Mariah Carey because of tabloid fame and a few songs early in her career.
What matters here is that the producers seem to encourage the two ladies to show a little resentment toward each other. Is it manufactured, like the supposed quarreling of Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell? Or is Nicki Minaj really the rude, prickly twit she seems to be?
I'm not sure it matters – not when I have a fast-forward button.
When it comes to the actual judging, Nicki Minaj is Simon Cowell, but better. She's the one who says the outrageously candid things, only she never seems to say it out of meanness, the way Cowell sometimes did. She's not always right, but she's always sincere in what she says about the singing, and most of the time what she says is smart.
Mariah Carey, though much sweeter and less obviously temperamental, seems to float above everything. She isn't trying to be Paula Abdul's replacement, bestowing sweet encouragement. It's more like she listens to the singers and says to herself, How can I talk about myself while pretending to say something about their performances?
But the prize of this year's judging – sensible, widely educated in music, aware of the actual techniques for producing different vocal effects, with a deep understanding of the many ways to approach a song – is Keith Urban.
Australian, and therefore "country" by adoption, Urban is unfailingly kind, always helpful, clear and smart. There has never been a judge better than he is.
So it's especially amusing when Nicki Minaj makes faces or nasty comments about his judging. Most of the time, it's not only obvious that Urban is right – Minaj herself goes on to say pretty much what he said, only in different words.
Of course, nobody is right all the time (gosh, not even me), which makes the judging more interesting than it has ever been before. Except that we've learned to fast-forward through Mariah Carey's comments, not because she's annoying, but because she's pretty much an empty balloon.
Or pair of balloons, judging from some of the outfits she wears.
They've made some changes this year. For instance, on group night in Hollywood, they didn't let the contestants form their own groups. The staff divided everyone into groups, announced them – and allowed no changes from their decisions.
They should have started doing this long ago, since some contestants every other year have spent the first few precious hours of that crazy night begging some group to take them in.
However, the staff were extraordinarily cruel when they put the two most flamboyantly effeminate singers with the two most downhome country boys. Everybody tried to be tolerant, more or less. But how could they possibly have found any song that would suit all their voices, let alone their styles of performance? Not possible.
It was, in a word, mean. The country boys were doomed and they knew it. And I think the flamboyantly effeminate singers may have guessed they were being exploited in order to make "good television."
To their credit, American Idol has finally stopped showing us the train-wreck auditions. Those were always about mean-spirited staff work – after all, they could weed out obviously delusional "singers" and send only the best to the judges. They exploited people who, often, were only marginally sane.
Now, we get almost none of those. Instead, the staff created their own train wrecks.
The most painful to watch was the transgender girl who began life with a Y chromosome. Everyone dutifully went along, using the feminine pronoun and putting her with the women who had been born female. The trouble is that nothing about her voice had changed. She tried to act female, but she still had male hips; she tried to sing as well as she could, but her voice was not in the normal female range.
Nobody should be weeded out because of their sexual preference. I mean, who cares, if they can sing? k.d. lang's voice is gorgeous; who cares whom she sleeps with or how she cuts her hair? And American Idol is right not to weed out people who make no effort to disguise – or who openly flaunt – their gender placement.
But the transgender contestant is a different matter. It's worth remembering that there are absolutely fabulous female-impersonator singers. Some of them have had various operations to take them this or that distance along the road to physical transgenderdom.
However, is American Idol really the place for a contestant who has not mastered the technique of singing as a woman though born a male?
So I began to suspect that this kid, too, was being exploited for "good television." The American Idol producers were saying, She really can't sing all that well, but see how tolerant we are? And isn't it amusing to watch the other girls try to work with this very ungirly girl? Isn't it good television?
Not really. It was more like a sideshow. In the name of tolerance, they were anything but kind. And the result was, as expected, a train wreck.
Then we come to their handling of the top 40 – 20 girls and 20 boys ("girl" and "boy" are the words they use; it's a long industry tradition). For the semifinals, narrowing down the list to 10 girls and 10 boys, they did something weird and deceptive.
They dealt with all the boys in the two shows of one week, all the girls in two shows of the next. But they divided each group in half, 10 a night, and then at the end of each night, they announced their decision about which five would go on to the finals.
So let's see. You're the producers and/or the judges. Do you just randomly divide the 20 boys into two groups of 10, and then take the best five of each group?...continued on page 2