Thursday, March 29, 2007

Every Generation Sends A Hero Up The Pop Charts

Sanjaya has survived yet another week on American Idol. What is America thinking?

Good Question. There is something going on beyond limited singing skills and a devotion to seemingly more and more bizarre hair styles at each performance. What drives the Sanjaya Machine?

A few educated guesses...

1. / His story is endearing. He's a 17-year-old who somehow made it to the hottest TV show in North America. He was devistated when his sister failed to make the cut, but has continued in competition. By becoming the lightening-rod for criticism on his performances, he has carved out the obvious "underdog" role among this year's competitors. And, let's face it; Among this year's crew, he may be the only one with a story.

2. / He's cute, in an "odd" sort of way. When I watch Sanjaya sing, he seems like a living caracture in action. His mouth and eyes in particular seem exagerated, as if drawn by a sketch artist(I suspect that a young Jerry Lewis [mid- to late-1950's era Jerry]clone could do some serious damage on the show. Especially if, unlike the real Jerry, he could actually sing...). And that hair! Early on, Sanjaya must have realized that the viewing audience would need some kind of "hook" to remember him by (Unlike Blake Lewis, who uses his "human beat-box" routine in almost everything he performs, he picked a constantly changing hairstyle.If you realize that you may not be the strongest singer, an Idol entrant can do worse than using his or her hair as a weapon...). The total package is memorable [think Rings Starr or, for children of the 80's, Boy George].

3. / He's non-threatening. This may be his strongest advantage. Ever since Lisa Simpson was first seen reading an issue of "Non-Threatening Teen Boy Idols" magazine, it's become obvious that appealing to the "tween" market [girls 8-14] is just good business. Sanjaya comes off as a "buddy", a "pal", not the teenager to start the "dangerous" hormones that scare most parents half to death.He's polite on TV, taking even the worst criticism from Simon Cowell in a respectful manner [Simon seems to have thrown in the towel on the Sanjaya Phenomonon; His most recent critique was along the lines of 'It doesn't matter what you sing, nobody really cares anymore, anyway'. And, in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that Sanjaya does seem to be improving from week to week. Or are we just getting, like Simon, more accepting of the Phenomonon?].

4. / His [Apparent] Fan Base, the already-referrenced "tweens" and Grannies, kept John Stevens on the show much longer than his talent should have allowed. John Stevens grew up, and still lives, as far as I know, just outside of Buffalo, NY, our home base. He is, by all accounts, pleasant and gracious. But there was NO WAY he should have lasted on Idol as long as he did. There seems to be much of the Stevens Factor about Sanjaya.

Could Sanjaya Win It All? In a season when there seem to be no compelling options, maybe. Will he have a career? He wouldn't be the first "low talent, high attraction factor" performer to do so, if he does...

Quoting Jim Morrison, "...the little girls understand".

-Mike Riley

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cats In The Cradle

In case you haven't noticed, many, if not most, people are crazy about their pets. If you want some idea of HOW crazy they are, do a search on "pet toys". Given my residence's frame of reference, I limited my check to just "cat toys"; the computer gasped once or twice, as if straining under a heavy load, then came back with a mind-boggling 27 MILLION references! The on-going tainted pet food crisis has led to many uneasy households here in North America, as well as real sorrow in the homes where a pet fell victim to the bad food. Yes, it's safe to say we love our pets. And why not? For many people, they offer companionship, happiness and, yes, entertainment [if all those features on "America's Funniest Home Videos" is any indication].

If you've actually gone as far as to click on the link to my place of employment [see below], and even further, checked out my bio there, you know that the Woman I Love and I are cat owners. It's not that we dislike dogs; we just don't have proper room for them in our apartment. So we have cats. We started with three: Scoot Anne, Adios Andrew, and Get Away [Gettie, to her small circle of friends]. We loved and cared for them until, sadly, they all passed away, over a period of about 18 months. When we were down to our last feline [Scoot Anne, for the record], TWIL was adamant that she didn't ever want any more cats, no how no way. Then, we heard from a friend, who volunteered at the SPCA. There was a cat their, about a year old. While the other cats would perk up when people came to look, he sat quietly in the back of his cage. He ate, and seemed healthy, but he had lost the will to, well, be cat-like. For a cat, there could be no greater loss. Our friend described him as "despondent". Well, that was a word the two of us could understand!

When we saw him, we were entranced. He was white from head to foot [paw, really]. We had him taken out of the cage, and brought to a "meeting room". He was a little more playful than he had been in the cage, but he still seemed sad. Then again, WE could be sad on certain days. After a very brief conference [more like looking at each other and nodding], we decided to adopt him. I forget the name he came with, except to remember it was unimaginative. He soon became Malachi, named for the author of the last book of the Old Testament [I later found out the name is not uncommon among men in Ireland. Works...].

Part of the reason we adopted Malachi was a belief that Scoot Anne, bereft of her original companions, might have been lonely. It turned out that nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, for the too-short remainder of her life, she frequently was tormented by Mally's desperate attempts at "making friends". Then again, she seldom attacked him, settling instead for a deep, womanly growl to keep him in his place, and out of hers.

After Scootie left us, we were glad we still had a cat. Malachi grew in age, in girth, and in love for us.Then. last year, TWIL met a woman while volunteering for Meals On Wheels. She had a beautiful black, white and grey long hair, name of Webster. We agreed that, if anything happened to her, we would take care of Webster. You can almost predict what's going to happen next, can't you? That "something" happened, and we became Webbie's adoptive "parents". After a surprising short period of adjustment, the two became like brothers. They'd spend their mornings [after breakfast, of course] watching the pigeons outside the window in our living room [here is one of the few times I really wish I could add pictures. The view of them, tails flicking as they watched "Must See Pigeon TV", is something to marvel at]. They raced around the house, looking for all the world like two cats in an animated cartoon. We took to calling them "The Brothers".

Just this week, though, the picture changed again. A long-time friend of the family needed someone to take care of her cat, at least temporarily. This boy is also black and white, with his white patch looking for all the world like a shirt under a tuxedo. His name is Mister Buddy. He's still a little scared to be around the brothers; they, for their part, are taking a magnificent air of indifference to the new family member. TWIL keeps saying, "Three cats. And you [pointing at me]. Oh, no!"

But, for the record, I think she'll get over it...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Get It Right The First Time

Blogging being mainly a "young person's sport" [with many notable exceptions], many of you probably aren't in the habit of reading newspapers [Given the state of newspapers lately, I see why...]. This is, as you'd expect, a matter of some concern to newspaper owners and publishers [by no means usually the same person. Check a masthead sometime and you'll see what I mean. If you don't know what a "masthead" is, do a little research.], especially since the average newspaper reader is old enough to "haze" incoming members of the AARP [see entry "(I'm An) Old Man, Take A Look At My Life". It's in the archives somewhere...].

Anyway, one typical feature of a newspaper [along with the masthead] is a section usually headed "Corrections", or something similar. Most days, if the paper is paying attention, the space is filled with a statement along the lines of, "This paper will correct substantive errors when made aware of them.", along with some means of contacting it.Such a phrase, or at least an effort to be as accurate as possible, should be a major part of any non-fiction blog. I mean, rumors are the BIG FUN on the blogosphere. But they should at least be identified as such. People have a nasty tendency to trip and stumble over such thickets on the Information Superhighway.

Case in point: your humble author. Yesterday, I wrote a wide-ranging [all right: rambling] entry. In it, based on an item I spotted but didn't read in another blog, I mentioned that the new US $1 coins were NOT stamped with the long-time slogan "In God We Trust" [Bonus Question: Why is the phrase on US money, and when did it begin to appear? A good Google search should answer that one...]. I have since seen a photo of a stack of the new coins. Stamped on the edge is "In God We Trust", along with the national motto, "E Pluribus Unum", a phrase which appears on the $1 bill.My apologies to, first, my blogophiles, then to the US Mint [I said in the entry that I was "Bothered" by the phrase's exclusion], and then, I guess, to anyone else who feels they need an apology [Wouldn't you really rather have a hug? Almost everybody likes hugs...].

That's it for now. Have a nice reading opportunity...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Do The Right Thing

Warning: this is a "variety" posting, with thoughts on several different subjects. If any of them bore you, try another one. If they ALL bore you, try one of the many fine sex-oriented sites that are a proud part of our blogosphere...

I don't know how other bloggers run their sites. I can only speak from my own experiences. But something tells me that many bloggers have the same problems, concerns, etc, when it comes to their sites. We all want to be read [otherwise, this effort is equal to a certain sexual act specifically criticized in the Old Testament (see the story of Onan for further details)], we all want to be a "Blog Of Note" [and who do you have to know for that to happen?], and we all want those counters we got as html code from other sites to move upward, dammit!

And yet, how many of us do the right things? Not me, bucco! I read the advice blogs [who, by the way, made these people "experts" (except, of course, for the technical sites, which usually are really written by experts)?], and they suggest things like "write new entries daily". I don't know about you, but I can only really write when I'm enthused, annoyed, or amused by something. One of my favorite writers, Dorothy Parker, once said that only the truly mediocre are at their best each day [I guess I don't think I'm mediocre. I may not be good, but I'm not mediocre. Maybe that should become this site's new slogan...].

They also suggest putting photos on the site. Well, I STILL don't have a digital camera, or a scanner, so adding illustrations is out for now [Boy, this is turning into a real "pitiful me" session. Maybe I should add a music html, so this page could play weepy music when you read it. I am such a wuss...].

So, I try.I go to other people's blog, looking for ideas. (Most of the ideas are unsuitable for a family blog. I've got to stop going to those sex blogs. Then again, most of them DO have pictures, and update themselves daily. You don't suppose the topic has anything to do with their success? Nahhh...) I'm not going to give up. I'll just push "quality" over "quantity" [This should not be taken as criticism of those sites that have both. I don't need any more enemies.].

Random news items that got my attention in recent days:

- a survey notes that, by the year 2015, 60 percent of couples will sleep in separate bedrooms [Who knew The Woman I Love and I would be trend-setters?]

- NASA announced that "seas" of methane or ethane may exist on Saturn's largest moon [I was hoping for Diet Pepsi, but I'm no scientist...]

-Haliburton, the company connected with vice-president Dick Cheney, has decided to move its headquarters to Dubai [Great, now we won't even be able to get the money back in taxes!]

- The new $1 US coins do not have the long-time slogan "In God We Trust". [It really bothers me, but, since the government of the moment doesn't seem to live by that principle, I guess it's only fair.].

Well, that's all I've got. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow...

Maybe not.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Dark Side Of The Moon

Snow, moon, bitter cold.
Dull grey orb in winter sky
Searching for some fire.
I've been writing so much about winter, lately, that I thought I could at least do something a little creative with it. That image, by the bye, was what I saw outside the Rand Building when I came to work.
(For non-Buffalonians: the Rand Building is an old-school skyscraper, dating to the late 1920's. White stone, broken up by mostly dark windows [at least this time of night], it rises 26 stories, topped by a gigantic radio pole antenna. It's named for an executive of the bank that built it, and somehow survived the Depression that followed its construction. [It thrived well into the second half of the last century, in fact, before being absorbed into a Hong Kong-based holding company. Sic transit gloria mundi...] There's a rumor that it was designed to facilitate radio broadcasting. I don't know if that's true, but there has always been at least one station based here. It was the home for the Buffalo Broadcasting Company in the 30's, an early example of the kind of station grouping that's now common in this industry. WJYE, and its ancestor stations, has always been located here.)
If you've never experienced an American Midwest winter [I firmly believe Buffalo is the real beginning of the Midwest], around now is when some of us begin to think God has abandoned us to the fate of Perpetual Winter. (Some persons, skiers mostly, wouldn't be terribly upset by that sentence. Myself, I like to see Spring and Summer. Call me Ishmael...) The cold, the snow, and the ice seem to be establishing property lines, and looking to run phone, electric, and cable lines as well.
Then again, there is a sense of beauty in the whole thing. Tonight, I saw the flurries lit up by street lights and headlights. They looked like confetti dropped by a reassuring sky, trying to remind us that, yes, this Winter thing seems to be going on forever but, don't forget, better, or at least more interesting things are coming. Not that the snow flakes weren't interesting in their own right. The Moon, shining behind a gauzy curtain of clouds, looked mysterious, foreboding, and yes, sultry, all at the same time. I'd never seen it in quite this way before. I wish I could paint or draw, to give you a view of what it all looked like [I suspect it was too dark for a photograph.].
And the silence! If you're not from here, this part of the city is deserted when I come to work at night. (Don't mis-understand: I love adding music and words into the Void. But how often, in our busy everyday lives, do we really get to Just Enjoy The Silence? We need more of it, more of that lack of aural pollution.)
Please: when you leave your home, or school dorm, or whatever today; look around you. There is beauty in even the most plebean of scenes. Keep a mental picture to sustain you, to remind you that Life has its moments.