The Appeal of "American Idol"

Recently, I've become a somewhat reluctant devotee of the hit TV show "American Idol". I say "reluctant" because, as with my very brief stint of watching "Desperate Housewives", I find the show clashing with some deeper-held values of mine, yet still having a magnetic attraction of some sort. I recently read somewhere that more Americans cast votes for Taylor, Elliot, and Katherine than they did for George W or John K. That says something, doesn't it? Something about the power of media in America and the pull of popular culture. I suspect that "American Idol" has the appeal it does because it captures the essence of the American Dream: that, in America, with enough hard work and talent, anyone can make it to the top. It seems to sprinkle in a blend of populism and the appearance of grass-roots democracy which tap our collective psyche. On a darker side, the show is brilliant marketing and unabashed capitalism. The cynic in me worries that the music industry is in cahoots with the network and producers to exploit the performers for skyrocketing sales ("exploit" or is it, "partner with"?). I'm not convinced that the winners of the competition are necessarily the most talented; I suspect that, instead, they may be those whose constituents and home-grown support are the most organized and willing to phone in their votes. The appeal of "American Idol" is a great snapshot into many aspects of our culture, including its less-appealing attributes: a tendency toward image, shallowness, and superficiality. At the end of the day, "American Idol" blends school-age popularity contests, campaigning for class president, and beauty pageants, which, come to think of it, are also products of our culture, aren't they? Could it be that the show's popularity is a sign of its conceptual savvy: it's an admixture of democracy, reality TV, entertainment, and American cultural values? What do you think?

Chiropractic of the Soul

I've had some serious TMJ dysfunction recently. For those of you not familiar with this, it's teeth-clenching. For the anatomists out there, it's Temporo-Mandibular-Joint dysfunction. In other words, gruesome dental grinding. It's stress-related and most of it's unconscious, done nocturnally. Mine has been so bad I've had daytime dizziness. Lots of it. Yuck. But what I find interesting is that TMJ dysfunction is not only widespread across America (and indeed, my doc said that 9 of 10 people who see him for dizziness have it), but that it has a direct relationship with one's pelvis. Yes, pelvis. You see, grinding and misalignment of the jaw directly transfer through the cervical vertebrae, down the spine, and to the pelvis, particularly the sacro-iliac joint (a.k.a. the SI joint). According to my chiropractor friend, this is so common it's got a name in the business: Category 2. I'm learning that the old song, "the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone" is good human physiology. Our bodies are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made" as the psalmist sang so long ago in the Bible. When one part of us is painful or misaligned, other parts are directly affected. How then can we possibly compartmentalize our lives? If one area is off--physically, emotionally, spiritually--surely it will ripple across through other areas of our life (and out to other lives with whom we're connected). The problem may appear in one place, yet have its source somewhere else. So let me ask you: How is it with the anatomy of your soul these days? Need an adjustment?

In the Pink: My First Rant

Yesterday, on my bike ride home from work, I saw a first (for me, at least): a bright pink Hummer. In light of skyrocketing prices at the pump, Iranian defiance, and the avowed Bush administration's pledge to wean America off its addiction to fossil fuel (!), a pink Hummer strikes me as a new low--in taste, environmental awareness, and societal consideration. I'll be honest with you: when I see something like a pink Hummer, I receive it as the automobile equivalent of an extended middlefinger. "Screw you," says such a choice, "I can afford to do whatever I want." In my book, a Hummer, especially a pink one, captures the worst of America: arrogant consumption, tastelessness, smug superiority, and a celebration of militarism. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for a free society and one in which someone can (if they absolutely must) buy such a thing and flaunt it accordingly; however, I don't have to like it and I will exercise my freedom to rant and blog at will!

What would've been even more ironic is if the pink Hummer had a Mary Kay Cosmetics sticker on the back...but I'll save that thought for another day.