Archive for April, 2009

Idol: Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

It’s suits night on American Idol, where all the men wear suits! Awe-inspiring. Officially, they’re calling it ‘Rat Pack’ night, because swing was very in years and years ago when they started doing this, and somehow the show never got over it. Once again, no modern, relevant music for these aspiring modern, relevant performers!

Before we get to the songs; iTunes accidentally revealed the sales figures for Idol downloads in their chart last week. Of the seven most popular Idol tracks, six were by Adam Lambert (which, at that time, was all the available songs by Adam Lambert). Kris Allen had three of the Idol top ten (including number two). That left Danny Gokey with one entry at number nine. Allison and Matt’s highest entries were outside the top ten and safely out of the Adam Lambert zone.

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So, if iTunes is a reliable yardstick, we’re probably looking at an Adam/Kris final, which would be a surprisingly good result for a top 12 that was bogged down with crap like Megan, Scott and, well, Matt Giraud. Last week they sent home Lil and Anoop. I’d be perfectly happy if they sent home everyone else this week and we just cut to the chase.

Just so we’re clear; Adam Lambert is now a bona fide cultural phenomenon. He doesn’t have to win this thing (though he almost certainly will); he’s already a star. How it happened, I don’t know, but there are widespread reports that he’s a favourite of the grandparent set, who regard him as something of a throwback to the golden age of rock ‘n roll, while he’s simultaneously winning big with Twilight kids, and he’s even the most popular contestant in places like Arkansas, Utah and Oklahoma, according to Google Trends - and they can’t all be hoping to hunt him down and burn him. (Even in their home states of Wisconsin and Arkansas, Danny and Kris are getting fewer searches than Adam. Only in his own home town is Kris more popular than Adam.)

As the theme is the Rat Pack, the mentor is… Jamie Foxx. The first person you’d think of. As Ryan Seacrest explains, “like the Rat Pack, Jamie Foxx has gone on to break the boundaries of the entertainment industry”. Thanks Ryan.

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Wearing a suit first tonight is Kris, whom Jamie identifies as his favourite. He’s my favourite too, Jamie! Apart from Adam, of course. The song is Someday, and it’s a little low for our perfect package pop-star, and there’s not much for him to do with it other than add some runs and hit the end-note. A workaday performance, but who cares? He’s adorable. (Randy calls it Kris’s best performance to date, but remember, Randy didn’t like Kris’s actual best performance to date, which was Falling Slowly.)

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Allison is not wearing a suit. She’s wearing a lampshade. Her song is the Gershwins’ Someone to Watch Over Me, and it’s a great choice, because all through the competition Allison has been showing how good she is at rock vocals, but she’s never shown her softer side. This is a tour de force performance that, for the first time, let’s us hear some softness and emotion in Allison’s voice. It would be a real shame if she went home after a performance like this one.

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Matt is wearing a suit and another from his collection of too-small hats! It now occurs to me that he’s been wearing hats all the time so we couldn’t see the witch’s nipple on his forehead. Matt says this week is his week. His My Funny Valentine gets off to such a flat, shaky, unconfident start that I’m not sure he believes that. It’s a horrible exercise in tortured vowel sounds. Simon is bizarrely nice about it, and I’ve no idea why. I don’t know why he gave Matt a wildcard slot, I don’t know why he gave him the judges’ save, and I don’t know why he’s being nice to him now. I can only theorise that Matt has some incriminating dirt on Simon that he’s holding over his head. Literally nothing else makes sense.

Danny is wearing a dark suit and dark-framed glasses. His song is Come Rain or Come Shine. He sings it the way you would expect him to sing it. I have completely run out of things to say about Danny Gokey. I don’t even have the will to insult him anymore, he bores me that much.

Finally, the man you all came to see; Adam Lambert. And of course - of course - he’s doing Feeling Good, and I don’t know if he’ll be doing it Muse or Nina. Oh, and he’s wearing a white suit. He wears shiny suits a lot already, so there’s no way he was going to just wear a suit today; it had to be a white suit. This may be his most dragalicious cabaret performance yet, but of course it’s a tremendous display, and the last notes are showstoppers. Simon actually mocks Randy for calling it theatrical - this is how Adam Lambert has changed the face of this world.

It’s obvious that Matt should go home this week, and I still think he actually will, but I’m entirely open to the possibility of an early exit for Danny Gokey. The world demands a Kris/Adam final!

The Pink Side of the Force

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Homosexual! Gay! Lesbian!

“[T]hese are terms that do not exist in Star Wars”, according to Sean Dahlberg, message board moderator for the Star Wars game The Old Republic. These words were banned from the message boards, and conversations about characters’ sexuality were closed.

Cue kerfuffle.

And cue backtracking by the game’s publisher, BioWare. The closed threads have apparently been reopened and the offending words have been unbanned.

homotrooper

Now, I sort of understand where Mr Dahlberg was coming from here. Homosexuality is a modern concept. Same-sex relationships aren’t, but framing it specifically as ‘homosexuality’ is anachronistic, and after all, Star Wars did happen a very long time ago. (Or not at all, depending on your grip on reality.)

It is not unreasonable to suggest that people in the Star Wars universe had no concept of homosexuality, even though it’s been demonstrated in a couple of Star Wars licensed properties (including BioWare games) that same-sex relationships do exist in that universe. (Not in George Lucas’s own work, of course; he only has camp comedy characters.)

That said, there are other concepts that don’t exist in the Star Wars universe that seem perfectly acceptable to talk about on the same message boards. Like, for example, Star Wars. Or XBox. I suspect that, even within the game, people can probably get away with mentioning these things.

The question is, should players be able to identify themselves within the game as gay when gay people don’t exist in that setting? And the answer is; it’s a game, for God’s sake. It’s just a game. If someone wants to identify themselves as gay - or Asian, or Jewish - in a game that doesn’t recognise those concepts, it is not going to unravel the essential verité of an artificial world where people fight each other with lightsabers while communicating via keyboards and headsets.

pink-stormtrooper

One suspects that “these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars” was a bit of a figleaf explanation. Discomfort with homosexuality seems unusually prevalent in geek culture.

Back in 2006, games maker Blizzard booted a gay player group from World of Warcraft, leading to a similar outcry. They backtracked too. XBox Live recently caused problems by banning users who identified as gay, claiming that this was “sexual innuendo”. They later adjusted their position to say that they were trying to ban people who were using words like ‘gay’ perjoratively. Even that is a figleaf; a blanket ban that destroys the visibility of the group you’re claiming to protect is clearly not a sensible solution.

Sensitivity to gay issues in the gaming world may be some distance behind that of other entertainment media. In gaming, there may still be a widespread misconception of sexuality as a depravity, rather than as a valid part of a person’s identity that might form the basis of a sense of community.

Among the comments from gamers on one message board discussing the Old Republic incident were these gems:

“There will be children playing as well do you intend to flaunt your sexual preference in front of them?”

“I don’t mind the fact that someone’s gay, but whining about it every single time something doesn’t recognize gay people is just ridiculous.”

“Does homosexuality seriously have to infiltrate every facet of life until they force it in your face and make you accept it? And if you don’t really care for it, you’re called homophobic and a bigot. It’s REALLY getting annoying.”

Uh-huh. I can only imagine how annoyed you are, you poor dear.

The Ten People You Meet on Twitter

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Oprah Winfrey is the most important person in the world. It says so in Time magazine. They put out special editions just to say how important she is. She’s like Jesus, but with syndication. And without the fasting.

And Oprah twitters. This means Twitter is now officially important. If Oprah does anything, it’s important. She was Barack Obama’s kingmaker, you know. She single-handedly reintroduced the concept of books. She is the reason we even have an Africa.

Oprah has only been on Twitter a few days, and she already has hundreds of thousands of people following her - and that’s without entering into any Ashton Kutcher-style popularity contests. Yet Oprah only follows ten people. Given how important Oprah is, it logically follows that these ten people must be the ten next most important people in the world.

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So just who are these ten people? Well, Ashton Kutcher, of course. Ashton Kutcher is now a career twitterer. He’s better known for twittering (I refuse to call it ‘tweeting’) than he is for… whatever it is he used to do before he started twittering. Wearing trucker caps, I think. His wife/owner Demi Moore also makes the Oprah 10. She’s best known for being married to the world’s second most famous twitterer.

Completing the Holy Trinity of twitterers is Evan Williams (pictured, above). He’s not actually important, he’s just one of the founders of Twitter. I thought this might be like the insecure MySpace founder guy who automatically makes everyone pretend to be his friend that everyone be his friend, but no, Oprah has chosen to shine her beneficent glory on Twitter and say that it is good. Or possibly he made her add him when he was on her show, and now she’s too embarrassed to take him off again.

There are two other people in the Oprah 10 who you might never have heard of. One of them is Sheri Salata, a producer on Oprah’s show, who probably set up Oprah’s Twitter account and then added herself. (How Oprah managed to get ‘oprah’ as her Twitter handle, I don’t know. It seems like someone else would have grabbed it first, doesn’t it?) Then there’s Gayle King, who is the editor of Oprah’s magazines and Oprah’s very close personal friend. Very, very close.

That leaves five spots, four of which go to the other members of the Oprah Illuminati; the secret cabal of talk show hosts who sit above in shadow. They are Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, and prettyboy political pundit George Stephanopoulos.

And finally, legendary baseball player Shaquille O’Neal. He is John the Baptist to Oprah’s messiah. His role is to lay a path for Oprah in this new world, and to correct her when she forgets proper netiquette.

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There you have it; the ten most important people in the world - after Oprah. Demi and Ashton? They Rule You. Barack Obama? Nowhere to be seen.

Though I am not one of the Oprah 10, I am on Twitter. You can catch my erratic electronic diarrhoea several times a day at http://twitter.com/Wheeler.

Idol: Feed A Fever

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

It’s disco night. Must we?

Last week the public decided it was sick of Matt Giraud and said could we please not have him and his Davros mole and his sickly rictus on our screens anymore? After all, he was a wildcard contestant; the public didn’t want him there in the first place. And what happened? The judges saved him. They used their one and only veto on that.

Did Matt deserve a third chance? Of course not. He’s always been a terrible, mewling, miserable streak of piss. But the judges were running out of chances to use their special save, and if they didn’t use it at all, it would suggest that the idea was a bad one, and they couldn’t have that. So for the third time, Matt Giraud was forced on a public that didn’t want him. Thankfully, he’s about the least disco person imaginable, so he has little chance of surviving this week, where two acts will now be sent home.

The first to sing tonight - and very probably the other person going home - is Lil Rounds, busting out of a black catsuit and singing I’m Every Woman. Lil’s cavalcade of dead ferret wigs must finally be exhausted, which means her time is through. I was once sure Lil would make the final three, but she’s made bugger all effort to impress and given every impression that she thinks she should get through on brass balls alone.

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Kris Allen has picked She Works Hard For The Money, and a loose white t-shirt. Both odd choices. Wouldn’t a tight white t-shirt have made more sense, dinky little sex-smurf? He’s reimagined the song as a Santana number. (I’m very annoyed that Paula has said exactly the same thing, which makes me fear for my sanity, but she then went off on a rant about men in women’s clothing, so no-one will remember that.) I think we’re going to see a lot of un-disco tonight, which is just as well. I actually like disco. But I like it done well.

Danny Gokey is singing September, by Earth Wind and Fire. And isn’t he looking chunky? Every week, there’s a little bit more of him to be bored with. This is one of his least comfortable performances, but it doesn’t matter; there’s no accounting for the appeal of Danny Gokey. Maybe it’s because he’s a good church-going boy? Maybe it’s still sympathy votes for his dead wife? Or maybe people just like safe and dully consistent? If we get the expected Danny/Adam finalé, it’s going to be very interesting cultural schism; the dependable holy widower versus the flamboyant godless homosexual. Porridge versus popping candy. And then Danny will win, because America is a soulless place.

(You’ll note I’m finally calling him Danny, not Downey. I know the joke wore thin about two months ago, but I just genuinely have trouble remembering that his name isn’t Downey.)

Allison Iraheta’s hair this week is styled in the fashion of the Cowardly Lion, and she’s wearing a PVC and rhinestone emo bee costume. It’s all very bold. The song is Hot Stuff, with rocks on - Donna Summer is this week’s Bryan Adams. It’s not Allison at her finest, but I think she now has some momentum behind her.

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Adam. The pattern says that Adam should go for something stripped down this week, and that he’ll have his hair swept up away from his face, but can he do ’stripped down’ in disco week? He has got the hair back in the pompadour, so the signs are good. The song is If I Can’t Have You, and - shock - he is sticking to his pattern. He is not going for 12-cylinder disco. He’s singing a Bee Gees song as if it were an emotional ballad. Not as good as his Mad World or Tracks of my Tears, but he’s still outsinging the competition and cementing his place in the hearts of grandmothers everywhere.

Ryan Seacrest looks hilariously tiny next to Adam’s hair.

Matt Giraud is singing Stayin’ Alive, because you really want to be doing another Brothers Gibb number after Adam, oh yes. Bad falsetto, a hectoring pace, and appalling sub-Timberlake shuffling. Did we really deserve another week of this guy and his supermarket fish counter hats? Why? What did we do wrong?

The one good thing about saving Matt is that they can’t save Anoop, who is last up this evening. I’ve learned that Anoop’s fans love him because of the R&B timbre of his voice. And also because they want to hump his cartoon eyebrows. They don’t care about his limited range! They don’t care about his lack of vocal control! They don’t care that he’s been in this contest three months too long! They lurve him. The song is Dim All The Lights, by… Donna Summer! Simon gives it the worst comments of the night; he has decided that Anoop has got to go. I can’t disagree.

Two people go home this week, which changes the voting dynamic quite a bit. It ought to be two of Lil, Matt and Anoop, and any such result would make me perfectly happy, but after last week’s reprieve, I’m very keen to see Matt kicked out of here. Go home, Frankenstein!

Idol: Goes To The Movies, Talks All The Way Through, Spills Kia-Ora All Over The Seats, Probably

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

This week on Adam Lambert and friends; Quentin Tarantino and songs from the movies. But first; the reality show contestant people have been talking about this week is not La Lambert, but this lady, Ms Susan Boyle.


Susan Boyle Sings on Britain’s Got Talent 2009 Episode 1 @ Yahoo! Video

You’ve probably watched that clip at least a couple of times before, but you probably just clicked play again anyway, because it’s fully awesome.

Reality show audiences have been conditioned to expect terrible things from their freak-show contestants. These unglamorous, socially inept weirdoes are put on the stage because the show wants us to laugh at them, like the braying subhuman bastards that we are.

With her melting chins, her bushy brows, and her confession that she has ‘never been kissed’, Ms Boyle seems the definitive shat-upon auditions outcast; she’s putting her heart and hopes on the line for one last shot at public acceptance only to be turned into an object of national ridicule. We expect this woman to fail because we’ve been told that these people will fail. So it’s a moving moment when she transcends and ridicules our prejudices and breaks out a set of pipes that are very nearly ready for the stage. Life has handed Susan Boyle a shitty hand, yet suddenly she’s a star.

Of course, her success will empower even more freaks and weirdoes to take to the audition stage in the delusional belief that they too are Susan Boyle, and the intellectual cesspool of the audition rounds will have enough putrid meat to feed another season.

Enough of this jollitry! On with the motley, Madam Lambert! On with the show!

As mentioned above, the theme is movie songs, and the guest mentor is shambling palsied homeless guy Quentin Tarantino, the king of the mixtape! Amusingly, they show a filming clip from Inglourious Basterds, but Ryan Seacrest refuses to say the film’s name.

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Allison Iraheta is singing I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, because, being 16, she knows exactly what it’s like to be Liv Tyler’s decrepit drug-addled father. Allison is in constant danger on this show, having been at the bottom twice, so tonight’s woozy, flailing performance (complete with a ‘fighting my way out of this black plastic bag’ punching dance) could leave her in trouble.

Anoop Desai is singing Jai Ho from… oh, OK, no, he’s doing Everything I Do, the first of two Bryan Adams numbers tonight. Quentin has asked Anoop to rough it up with a big vocal, and since Anoop can’t do rough or big, it’s clear Quentin hates Anoop and wants him to fail. Hurray for Quentin Tarantino! But Anoop isn’t listening, and is doing the song so sedately that he’s managed to make the original sound jazzy and peppy. Big key change? Not for Anoop. Anoop has fewer keys than a jailer at an open prison.

Adam Lambert never saw a ridiculous song choice he didn’t like, so of course he’s doing Born To Be Wild, with leather jacket, chains, and all the guyliner you can eat. This is a song that allows Adam Lambert to be fully Adam Lambert, and it will change absolutely no-one’s minds about him, but this is the clever game Adam is playing; one week he’s celebrating being him. The next he tones it down and wins more converts to his cause. At this stage America is eating out of the palm of his bedazzled gay hand. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters all love this ‘mo, and mo’ power to him.

Miserable Matt Giraud is often compared to Justin Timberlake, seemingly for no other reason than he sometimes wears Justin Timberlake’s hats. His song is Bryan Adams’ When You Lurve A Wurman. Some people actually like Matt Giraud and his scowling arse of a face and his whiny, leg-shagging voice, which just goes to show, there’s no accounting for people being morons.

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Downey Gokey - formerly Orm of Orm and Cheep - gets some interesting advice from Quentin; keep your hands still so that the emotion comes through your eyes. It sounds like bullshit, but at least Quentin is giving this mentor thing a shot. The song is Endless Love. Downey hits some bum notes, and I’m damned if I can sense any emotion streaming out through his wife-murdering gimlet piss-holes, but it’s competent, in a samey, Downey Gokey way. (Note: He didn’t really kill his wife. He did kill JonBenet Ramsay, though.)

When I heard Kris Allen was doing Falling Slowly, the beautiful Oscar-winning song from Once, I thought his would be the breakout song of the night. Short of tripping over Ricky Miner and skewering himself on the band, Kris ought to be delivering a knicker-twisting rendition of this song. Unfortunately it starts too low for him, and it’s not a home run, but I don’t think it will matter; this is the song every Kris Allen fan wants to imagine Kris Allen singing to them. The votes should flow like adolescent liquids.

Finally, Lil Rounds, the girl no-one gives a damn about anymore, because she has staunchly refused to live up to her promise. Simon has written her off, and so have I. She needs a solid gold diva performance to turn things around. Her rendition of Bette Midler’s The Rose isn’t quite it, but when she goes gospel there is a spark of the Lil Rounds I used to get excited about. It’s Lil’s best performance in months, but it may be too late, and that last note wasn’t right.

As Kris failed to fully deliver, the night is sadly without a standout performance. It’s also without any standout disasters, but I’d like to think Anoop and Matt are in trouble, even if only on aggregate.

Idol: Adam Lambert’s Year

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Dedicated followes of this blog (and, I suppose, Idol) will note that I’m a day late with my comments this week. This is an unavoidable side effect of getting drunk and eating a pound and a half of buffalo wings. There can be no blogging after that much chicken.

Still, Idol does not sleep, and I feel duty-bound to put my thoughts out there on last night’s show before tonight’s results roll in.

Before I get to the performances, I’m going to offer a few words on America’s new gay hero. I’m beginning to feel quite emotional about little Madam Glambot. Latest bookmaker’s odds actually have Adam as the favourite to win the competition. I want that to be true, but I don’t honestly believe it can happen. Still, the fact that he’s the favourite right now is a victory in itself. Adam Lambert is not just gay; he’s ultra-gay. He’s camp, theatrical and unapologetic. He performs like a gay man who wants everyone to know he’s a gay man - and his song choices are almost always about being an outsider. Even after photos of him kissing other men appeared on the internet, he stayed on top, and anecdotal evidence suggests that he’s a favourite of mothers and grandmothers across America. Even Bill O’Reilly said on his show this week that, if Adam is the most talented, he should win. The rise and rise of Adam Lambert may mark a cultural breakthrough. He’s America’s queer messiah. I suspect he’s almost entirely responsible for the decision to allow gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont

On with the show. Downey’s song is Stand By Me. The theme this week is ’songs from the year you were born’, so apparently Downey is 48. Or he’s a great big cheater. Downey offers a bold reinterpretation of this much-loved soul standard, giving it the feel of a combine harvester crashing into a late night jazz club, killing seven and injuring dozens. The judges lavish the same generic praise on the smug Gorg that they give him every week, which is apt, as he gives the same tarmac-constipated performance every week.

Last week Matt Giraud sneered from the crowd. This week pocket cutie Kris Allen is thrown to that same crowd, where the maddened front-row swayers tear him limb from limb in a Bacchanalian orgy of blood. But like Orpheus, he keeps singing. Well, sort of. All She Wants To Do Is Dance isn’t much of a song, and he offers a slightly spluttery performance, like he’s singing with the microphone down his throat.

I’ve had enough of Lil Rounds and her high-power hose of a voice. She still hasn’t had a single good performance, and this week’s mauling of What’s Love Got To Do With It was a hollering embarrassment. I feel her time has run out, but I suppose we do still have Anoop, Scott and Matt to cull, so she’ll get a few more opportunities to hang herself with her own larynx.

Speaking of Anoop, we’re due another shaky, tin-eared caterwaul from the man who puts the ‘dork’ in ‘Anoop Desai is an utter dork’. His version of True Colors is less Cyndi Lauper, more Hindi pauper.

It’s crap sandwich time, as Anoop is followed by Scott MacIntyre. I wonder what Alexis Grace would be singing right now if she were still in this competition? Something awesome, I expect.

Allison Iraheta has fabulous big hair again this week. Allison is very young, so I half expected her ’song from the year you were born’ to be something by Lady Gaga. Instead it’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, and as I’ve come to expect from Allison, she sings with remarkable confidence and real heart. She’s been in the bottom three at least twice now, so she’s obviously not reaching the viewers, but she deserves to go much further than Lil Rounds, and I’d easily take her over Gokey.

Ladies and gentlemen, the smooth jazz stylings of Matt Giraud. Today’s pizza special is the Venezia, and there is an additional five penny surcharge on your bill which goes towards local heritage restoration projects. Please remember that it is apparently 1985, so try not to run over any Sinclair C5s on the way home.

Finally, Adam Lambert, doing Mad World, but secretly the Donnie Darko version, not actually the version from the year he was born. I like Adam even when he’s strutting and wailing and wearing all his make-up - he’s like the brilliant Azerbaijani angel from last year’s Eurovision - but some people find that terrifying, so he scores higher when he shows a little subtlety. This song allows him to show off his two great talents; vocal control and emotional intensity. Simon Cowell gives him a standing ovation, and it’s deserved.

Most weeks I’ll try to predict who’ll be in the bottom three. This week I have the advantage that the figures from Idol predictor site Dial Idol are already in, and it’s looking bizarrely bad for Kris Allen, who wasn’t great but was far better than Anoop, Scott, Matt and Lil. I hold out hope that it’ll be Anoop that goes home, but I think Kris has proved himself enough in this competition that the judges could actually use their save if he is in last place.