Thursday, March 06, 2008
The Cynicist Manifesto: American Idol Edition
It's been awhile since I've done one of these, so I figured maybe it was time to once again run down a few random thoughts that don't merit a full post. The specific topic today: American Idol. For the most part, I've managed to avoid bringing up Fox's adamantium-hulled cultural juggernaut -- the one exception being last year's extended piece on the whole Sanjaya thing (One Little Indian/5.5.07). But like everyone else in the contiguous 48 right now, I can't help but be drawn in as this year's crop of innocent and fresh-faced gay strippers, internet porn stars, ex-professional singers and high school mattress-backs are molded, right before our eyes, into the ex-professional singers of tomorrow. And so now, some thoughts on this year's competition (a wholly owned subsidiary of Coca-Cola and Ford Motors).
Bet on Black
I'm going to get something out of the way right off the top and save the easily offended the trouble of reading any further: Are there any black girls who can't sing? That sound you hear is probably my inbox being flooded with hate mail; but really, aside from the shockingly self-confident 600-pound street trash the show invariably plays for laughs during the early "weeding out" stages of the competition, the black girls who make it to the final 24 are never just good -- they're spectacular. While I really hate to generalize, it almost seems unfair that these girls are somehow so damn talented; if you go strictly by vocal virtuosity, the only reason not to just hand a young black woman the prize right now would be the sudden decision to bring in one of Mitt Romney's kids to sing Our God is an Awesome God.
By the way, the fact that everyone pretty much expects a black girl to kick ass -- and admit it, you do -- is why her career will tank two days after winning. (See: Fantasia, Jordin Sparks)
Speaking of racially insensitive comments, would someone please tell the Jason Castro kid that he's white? It takes a hell of a lot of self-control on my part to keep any conversation about the White Dreadlocks phenomenon from turning into a fusillade of obscenities, but there's honestly nothing more ridiculous. Nothing. Look man, I get that you're rebelling against the corporate oppression of daily showers, but do you have any idea what those damn things smell like? Sprinkling patchouli all over your head doesn't make the stench go away, it just means you now smell like both a sewer rat's nest and patchouli. A good rule of thumb: When something works for Marley, it'll probably look really stupid on a white guy from Texas.
Oh yeah, and don't cover Cohen/Buckley again -- ever.
Straight Up and Dirty
Now it can be told: When Paula Abdul stopped by American Morning last year, chaos ensued. It wasn't because her legion of fans clamored for a chance to meet their favorite American Idol judge or because there were technical difficulties at CNN -- it was because Paula Abdul is fucking insane. Just before she was scheduled to be interviewed live on the air, Paula had one of her now-legendary freak-outs. She locked herself in a bathroom, where she could be heard crying and ranting, and had to be coaxed out at the very last minute by a team of handlers that may as well have been armed with a net and a tranq rifle. While Paula's (allegedly) drunken and (allegedly) drugged-up exploits are by now the stuff of legend, there's really no substitute for seeing her in her natural habitat -- live, on-air. It really is a magnificent sight. Every episode of Idol sends me reaching for my Retard-to-English dictionary, in an effort to translate Paula's cryptic gibberish. And that, my friends, is what the show is all about.
The Foreigner Belt
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the two big words written in neon above the stage are American Idol, right? There's already an Australian Idol competition and I'm sure there's an Irish Idol that involves a bunch of guys trying to see who can drink the most Guinness and still stand up after taking a barstool to the side of the head. So why is there a contestant from each of these two countries vying for the coveted Idol title here on U.S. soil? Is this what our brave men and women are fighting for on the other side of the world? Do they put their lives on the line so that foreigners can come over here, sing Heart's Crazy on You and be granted an audience with music legend Randy Jackson? Have we not learned the lessons of September the 11th, 2001?
I for one am disgusted.
What do you suppose the chances are that Danny Noriega will have turned David Archuleta by the end of the competition?
There's a great line in the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang that has Robert Downey Jr. rightly deriding the tendency of women in Los Angeles to spell even the most common names in unusual ways. He says that if a woman's name is Jill, she'll spell it J-Y-L-L-E. Thankfully, the parents of this year's crop of female Idol meat apparently had the forethought to bestow upon their kids sufficiently unusual names long before feeding them to Hollywood. Over the past couple of weeks there's been Kady and Alexandréa and Syesha and Alaina and As'ia'a'h''' and Ramiele (who bears more than a passing resemblance, unfortunately, to Tila Tequila). On the guys' side meanwhile, there's of course the singularly named Chikezie (who bears more than a passing resemblance, unfortunately, to Gary Coleman).
Yeah I know, I'm one to talk about names -- but I don't live in L.A. anymore, so suck it.
The Cook is Rocking
Last year I wrote this:
"I've never been a fan of the way Simon, the drunk to his immediate right and the black guy from Journey tend to Breakfast Club the contestants -- sizing each one up in an instant and branding him or her with one of a handful of generic and recyclable designations. ('The Soulful One,' 'The Little One with the Big Voice,' 'The Modern One,' 'Justin Timberlake,' etc.)"
And no label is more irritating than "The Rocker." Every year, one contestant from each gender group is invariably pegged as that season's "Real Rocker." Last year it was Gina Glocksen -- who was admittedly bounced prematurely. The year before it was that preening idiot Chris Daughtry, who went on to prove that high school football fans in Texas and gas station attendants in Ocala, Florida hold a lot of sway over the playlists of Clear Channel America. This year, the state-sanctioned rock gods are David Cook and Amanda Overmyer. As it turns out, regardless of what you call them, they're two of the best contestants on the show. Somehow, each manages to ride the razor-thin line where having a healthy dose of musical integrity and being on a show like American Idol meet. Cook took a God-awful song like Lionel Richie's Hello and did astonishing things with it and also happens to look like his future after the show won't just involve offers to sing for Fuel; Overmyer moves like she's constipated, but she can sing like a motherfucker and it's obvious that she's uncomfortable with the whole Idol thing in the first place. They don't stand a chance of winning, but they represent the kind of musical soul that's usually sorely lacking on the show.
Remember kids, underachieving beatboxer Blake Lewis performs tonight on Idol!
And now, just for the hell of it, a compendium of past Cynicist Manifesto entries.
This is Just a Tribute
I believe that there's little more unintentionally hilarious or deserving of public ridicule than the act of memorializing dead friends or relatives by going down to the mall and having t-shirts made with their high-school pictures emblazoned on the front. Just as funny are rear window decals proclaiming Chuchito 1988-2006, R.I.P. It was stupid when you did it for Tupac, it's just as stupid when you do it for Chuchito.
I believe that A Prairie Home Companion provides a form of entertainment which harkens back to a simpler time in America -- when Tom Joad was forced to sell his family for food and Central Park was known as "Hooverville."
There's a reason this kind of crap went the way of the Edsel -- and it's not just because the sound of Garrison Keillor's voice alone makes me wish I'd been born deaf.
I believe that the only thing more mind-numbingly boring than Garrison Keillor is watching people play poker on television; whether they're B-list celebrities or guys who look like Skynyrd's road crew. This fucking fad can't end fast enough.
Where Intelligence Goes to Die
I believe that it's somewhat ironic that the state of Kansas itself manages to disprove both evolution and intelligent design at the same time.
There Can Be Only One
I believe that while it's human nature to seek out a group with which to belong, the rarest commodity is always the most precious and should therefore be held in the highest regard. The individual is that rarest of commodities.
You can call yourself a man, a woman, a Catholic, a Jew, an African-American, an Asian, a frat brother, whatever -- just remember that by lumping yourself in with any group and choosing to unquestioningly adhere to its accepted standards, you're tacitly relinquishing your respect for the most invaluable object in the world: you.
Once You Go Black...
I believe that MTV should've kept the promise it made back in the early-80s -- that it would never play Soul or R&B. If it had stuck to this pledge, it would've never made the leap to playing Hip-Hop which would probably mean that right now, millions of kids -- black and white -- across this great land of ours wouldn't be illiterate idiots who refer to their teeth as a "grill" and dream of one day living the American dream: dropping out of school in the 5th-grade and getting a record contract, 83-inch spinning rims and a yacht because they can rhyme two words.
Basically, (this) would never have happened.
I look at Hip-Hop the way my parents used to look at Rock n' Roll: it peaked early and for the most part hasn't been good since.
By the way, I also believe that if you think I'm a racist because I say any of this -- you're probably an ass.
Dylan McDermott Mulroney
I believe that it's easy to confuse Dylan McDermott with Dermot Mulroney, and that neither should ever be cast in another movie again regardless.
Fuck You Atari
I believe that Magnavox's Odyssey and Odyssey-2 game systems were far superior to the infinitely more popular Atari. My loyalty to the Odyssey without a doubt set the tone for my lifelong tendency to always back the underdog.
Why Be Normal?
Because your life is easier. Despite all of my individualistic bluster, it's always in the back of my mind that it would be nice to have been able to turn all this insanity off a long time ago. I believe this wholeheartedly.
I believe that somebody should be shot for making not one, but several sequels to The Crow. Hell, Brandon Lee was, and that's more than likely why such a sad and cynical money-grab was launched in the first place.
In Her Web
I believe that there has never been a more perfect woman than Charlotte A. Cavatica, of the original animated version of Charlotte's Web. She has been and always will be my dream girl.
The Pop Culture Babysitter
I believe that it's asinine to put the blame for school shootings and the breakdown of America's youth on people like Marilyn Manson and Eminem, but it's equally asinine -- and wholly irresponsible -- to think that pop culture's constant onslaught can be stemmed by even the most attentive of parents. Denying the invasive, round-the-clock influence of movies, music, television and advertising on kids makes you nothing short of delusional.
Life Isn't Fair... and Neither is Death
Jeff Buckley and John Coltrane die prematurely. Celine Dion does not. I believe there is no justice in the universe.
Live and Let Die
I believe I have a question that I want answered: if Randall Terry, George Bush and his dimwitted brother Jeb, and every other Evangelical Christian believe in a glorious life after death at the card table of the Almighty -- then why the hell would they possibly be so cruel as to want to keep Terri Schiavo's soul locked in the prison of her own broken body? Why fight so hard to save a life that was painfully tragic, when they believe the alternative is so fucking dandy?
I believe that there's something disconcerting about Mark Klaas and John Walsh turning up all over television news shows everytime a child goes missing in this country. I realize they can speak from experience, but something about it seems and has always seemed nothing less than exploitative.
Liberty Mutual Masturbation
I believe that the scariest and most disturbing movie ever made is The Firm, simply because it features Wilford Brimley talking about sex -- in particular delivering the line, "intimate acts -- oral and such."
I believe that Carlos Mencia should be the most popular morning DJ in El Paso, Texas -- and nothing more.
War is Hell
I believe that the term "War on Terror" alone ensures that we don't stand a fucking chance of winning -- because it proves that those fighting it haven't got a clue what kind of enemy they're up against. Terrorism doesn't have an army, it's simply a methodology -- and what's more, it works; just ask former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who was run out of office for supporting the war in Iraq not long after a series of devastating train bombings in Madrid.
Saying you're fighting a "War on Terror" speaks volumes about the futility of such an endeavour; it's like saying you're fighting a "War on Tragedy," or a "War on Chagrin."
Duck and Cover
I believe that I'll eat foie gras whenever I damn well please, regardless of what the nut-balls at PETA or the City of Chicago has to say about it.
Rx Are for Kids?
I believe that America is overmedicated and that all you have to do is turn on the TV to grasp this. Pharmaceutical companies create phony diseases for which they then offer unnecessary cures.
F.S.A.D. (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder) is not a disease, nor does it become one just because you've slapped the word "disorder" in its name. If you suffer from this, you don't deserve to be given the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act or be mentioned in the same breath with real diseases -- you should be called what you have been since the dawn of time: frigid.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Stomach-ache.
Acid Reflux Disease? Heartburn.
Restless Legs Syndrome? Oh fucking come on.
I also believe that American pharmaceutical companies delight in drugging the hell out of kids, which is ironic because I firmly believe that kids shouldn't take drugs because they haven't earned them.
Get a mortgage, a job you can't stand and an ex-wife who hates you; then you can do drugs.
Jesus Saves (Just Not Your Career)
I believe that no interviewer should ever ask Stephen Baldwin the laughable question, "Aren't you afraid that your Christian beliefs will get you ostracized from Hollywood?"
No you fuckwit -- Biodome got him ostracized from Hollywood. If he wasn't spouting off about Christ, there isn't a chance in hell you'd be talking to him on the Today show -- unless he accidentally got blown up in a suicide bombing at the Jack in the Box where he happened to work.
I believe that says it all.
I believe that the funniest two-word phrase in the English language is "Assless Chaps." I challenge you to even think it without laughing.
Like you, I could care less whether or not Kevin Federline lives to see tomorrow morning. Still, of all the vitriolic ridicule slung at K-Fed over the past year, at least one criticism has always left me a little confused: the notion that his music sucks. Don't get me wrong -- as anyone with ears would likely tell you, Federline's ego-fueled bluster laid overtop of the same monotonous, unimaginative beats displays not a single drop of noteworthy talent. Here's the thing though, the exact same thing can be said -- but strangely isn't -- about 90.7% of the illiterate troglodytes currently assaulting the masses on Urban Radio, MTV2's Sucker Free Sunday, and from the booming speakers of every idiot in a low-rider from here to the corner of Florence & Normandie.
I'm not talking about Mos Def, or Common, or Nas, or producers like Danger Mouse; I'm talking about dime-a-dozen self-parodies like Lil Boosie, Yung Joc and Chamillionaire -- guys whose names alone tell you everything you need to know about their complete lack of any discernable contribution to decent music.
Yet there are millions of supposed rap connoisseurs who draw some sort of distinction between the simplistic, bombastic buffoonery of Juvenile and the equally clownish verbal and visual molestation perpetrated by Federline. These people will invariably drag out impressive-sounding words like "flow," "cypher," and "technique" in their beat-down of K-Fed, as if most of what passes for hip-hop these days is a fine wine, whose intricate subtleties are to be gently pulled apart -- layer by precious layer -- and appreciated with the utmost respect for, and admiration of, craftsmanship.
It doesn't take talent to be a borderline retard with a gold chain and the ability to rhyme two words. Say what you will about K-Fed -- he knows that.
The Life of Your Child: Priceless
Mono-monickered singer Brandy gets into a car accident. Brandy kills a girl. Police aren't even done working out the potential charges to be filed against Brandy -- but guess where the family of the dead girl turns up almost immediately?
If you said, "Why, they're in civil court hoping to turn the death of their loved one into a fortuitous windfall by suing Brandy to the tune of fifty-million-dollars," hey, give yourself a gold star.
The real tragedy is that these people weren't in the car with their kid.
Another Fine Meth
It's no secret that America is basically one giant elementary school class where the teacher is always willing to punish everyone for the antics of one or two class clowns. Our society is expected to be politically correct, child-proofed, family-protected, health-conscious and sin-free -- usually at the imposition of government; always at the expense of anyone with a thimble-full of common sense.
You've already found yourself victimized by the lowest-common-denominator when it comes to fast-foods -- and you've probably noticed the same kind of chilling effect moving to the cold care aisle of your local drug store. The FDA now requires pharmacies to keep Sudafed and other pseudoephedrine-based decongestants behind the counter. That means that it can't be purchased after hours at all, and can't be purchased during business hours without identification, a signature, an authentication code, one of two security keys, the staff of Ra, the eyeball of a dead scientist at the end of a pen-knife to fool the retinal scanner, and Jack Bauer pointing a loaded gun at the clerk, screaming, "GIVE ME THE COLD MEDICATION!" If Drugstore Cowboy ever gets re-made, the Matt Dillon character is going to by-pass the Dilaudid and go right for the Claritin.
The reason for all this hysteria of course is that pseudoephedrine -- in astonishingly high quantities -- can be used to make meth, which as we know from government and media reports is the deadliest substance known to man and the force behind an epidemic which threatens the life of every man, woman and child in America. Your kid is on meth. Your mother is on meth. The lesbian lover your mother met during a psychotic meth binge is on meth. You may be on meth right now and not even know it -- it's that wily.
In an effort to make sure that the anti-meth paranoia doesn't hurt what's really important -- the bottom line -- pharmaceutical companies have begun replacing the pseudoephedrine in many decongestants with phenylephrine. It can't be used to make meth. It also doesn't work.
The end result is that -- as usual -- to stop one drug addict living in a trailer in the middle of Riverside, California, you'll be made to suffer through cold and flu season without a remedy that actually helps you to feel better.
But at least you'll be safe from that terrifying meth epidemic.
I'd say "Fuck you, FDA and drug companies," but I'm so goddamned congested it'll come out sounding like, "Fubk ou, FD (cough) ed dug cubpaddies (cough)."
Burn, Hollywood, Burn
It's one of the universe's most puzzling conundrums: HBO's Entourage bills itself as a comedy, and yet is never funny. Never. Like, not even once in awhile.
I'm not entirely sure who the core audience is for this show, but after much internal debate I think I can safely say that America's collective IQ could be raised substantially in a very short amount of time if these people were forced to register with the government for immediate relocation to offshore internment camps. It's simple conditional science really: if you watch Entourage because you think it's funny, you're either hopelessly deluded or just incredibly dumb -- since it's not -- and are therefore a prime candidate for the camps; if you watch Entourage because you're truly fascinated by the day-to-day triumphs and tragedies of four vapid, over-indulged and underworked assholes whose lives revolve around bedding girls you can't have, making money you'll never see, living a life you'll never live and buying $300 t-shirts at Fred Segal then discussing how they look in them -- once again, you're perfect material for the camps; if you watch because you'd like to in some way emulate the aforementioned assholes -- off to the camps; if you watch because you work in Hollywood and either hope you might see yourself on TV, or simply think that the life you lead is so goddamned amazing that, well, everybody wishes they could be a part of it, right? -- fuck the camps, you get a beating at the hands of ten Brooklyn teamsters who've been told that you're a gay athiest who raped a ten-year-old boy from the neighborhood.
Given that America is inundated with the idiotic real-life antics of young, spoiled Hollywood every day from every conceivable media outlet -- why the hell would anyone possibly choose to suffer through an unfunny TV comedy about said same?
Hug this out, bitch.
Can Hollywood please declare a moratorium on dance movies?
Between Dirty Dancing and the Forbidden Dance and Saving the Last Dance and Stomping the Goddamned Yard and Breakin' and Taking the Lead and being on Center Stage and Your Getting Served -- there's nothing more ridiculous than an entire movie focusing on bunch of dreamers who adhere to the moronic assumption that music is only worthwhile if you can shake your ass to it.
Seriously -- go listen to Black Flag and set something on fire, okay?
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
A note to all managers -- no matter your particular profession: please refrain from ever attempting to correct an employee's work by looking at him or her in a condescending manner and uttering the words, "Well, don't you think it would work better if..." The only proper response to this -- besides a vicious beating in the face with a boot -- is to say, "No you fucking idiot -- if I thought it worked better that way, I obviously would've done that from the beginning."
There is no clearer or more insulting proof of management's complete lack of faith in you as an employee than the presence of self-flushing toilets in your office bathroom.
Pull the Plug
There is no worse idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas than the following two words: "Korn: Unplugged."
Nom de Douche
Never trust anyone with three first names. Ever.
Hey, Denny's Actually IS Racist
I miss Sambo's restaurants. The place got a bad rap because of the name. I'd knock a few years off my life just for one more bite of their kick-ass French Toast.
Sixx Sixx Sixx
Mitt Romey is the Anti-Christ. Tell me he doesn't look like Damien Thorn in The Final Conflict. Plus, he has a son named Tagg -- which leaves me wondering if he didn't name his other kids Hitt, Buntt, Runn and Free-Agentt.
Save the Date
Match.com is now offering six free months of service to any subscriber who hasn't found a compatible partner within an allotted time period. This is worthless; they should pay for someone to come to your house and perform oral sex on you.
"Secret" anti-perspirant/deodorant is advertising a "clinical strength formula" version of its product. If you feel that you require this level of wetness and odor protection, please do the world a favor and don't ever leave your fucking house.
Fortune Favors the Fool
Supposedly, one of the most popular shows on Iraqi TV right now features a fortune teller who claims to be able to predict the future of those who call in. Exactly how hard can this be? "Tomorrow, you're gonna be blown to pieces -- thanks for calling."
Does every woman in America have a long-running dysfunctional relationship with her mother? If not, for Christ's sake, why do all chick-flicks not falling into the "implausibly fairy-taleish romantic comedy" category seem to deal with adult women coming to terms with the latent resentment of their mothers for the lifetime of insecurity the elders instilled in the younger? There are millions of men out there still nursing physical and mental scars inflicted upon them by their fathers -- you don't see them bitching about it and longing to revisit the trauma while curled up on the couch with a box of Kleenex.
Buck up ladies.