Saturday, October 04, 2008

Palin Rally Photoblogging in Carson, California

Today my brother Richard and I ventured into Los Angeles County to attend the rally featuring Sarah Palin in Carson, California – not exactly a hotbed of conservatism. From our home in central Orange County, the trip took 30 minutes on the freeway, followed by 1 hour 30 minutes to drive 2 miles on the street carrying thousands of us to the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The rally was held in the tennis stadium, which was advertised as accommodating up to 15,000. Tonight the local NBC news estimates the crowd inside and outside the stadium at 20,000. The rally was supposed to start at 1:30pm, at which time we were still in a long line that wrapped halfway around the perimeter. Richard is deaf and we hoped there were still two seats left in the area reserved for the deaf. Alas, there was no ASL interpreter and no seats left to the general public period.

Ace of the infamous Spades liveblogged here, here and here from the press tables in the nosebleed section, which aside from the press was SRO. We watched the rally standing between the press tables and I probably missed my only chance to meet the wickedly funny Ace. Anyway, 1) I don't have a clue about what he looks like, 2) I didn't have a concussion that suddenly turned me into an extrovert, and 3) I don't have anything to say to him except, "I enjoy your blog, but clean up your language, young man." So it's probably just as well.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The line into the stadium ran parallel to a small but vociferous crowd of protesters, separated from us by temporary barriers and event Security on one side and salesmen hawking McCain-Palin merchandise on the other. I was wearing silver marcasite cross earrings and my current favorite Christian-themed t-shirt (seen below in blue, whereas mine is gray).


The McCain-Palin crowd in general was covered with patriotic apparel and accessories. However, my favorite shirt o' the day read "NOBAMA: Keep the Change."

Whenever I wear anything that identifies me as a Christian, I feel an even greater obligation to glorify God with my actions. To that end, I fully intended to smile benevolently at the nutroots wackos and hold my tongue. Really, I did.

But then they started singling me out for insults because of my shirt – and I suddenly remembered I brought my camera. I knew talking to them was pointless, but that didn't stop me.

At first I stayed in line, rebutting a JESUS WAS A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER sign from a shouting distance and advising another protester to fact-check her PALIN MADE VICTIMS PAY FOR RAPE KITS sign. When I turned the corner leading to the stadium entrance, I saw a long row of protesters bearing more signs and spouting slogans. I waved to them and said in passing, "You are all welcome here but, if this were an Obama rally, we wouldn't be welcome and we couldn't bring signs. Obama's the candidate with goon squads trying to stifle free speech, not McCain."

Some protesters were flat-out funny, unintentionally of course, like the woman wearing fuzzy leggings and dangling a stuffed animal who was protesting cruelty to polar bears. Then the woman holding the brown KEEP YOUR RELIGION OUT OF MY POLITICS sign called out to me, "Ma'am, ma'am, can I talk to you?" So I walked over while Richard kept our place in line. Brilliant idea, speaking truth to the truth-defying Obama goon squads who answered his call to "get in their [our] faces." He must be so proud.

Palin Protesters 1

"Ma'am, do you believe in evolution?" she asked me.

"Define evolution," I countered.

"You know, Darwin's theory of evolution," she offered, a bit annoyed.

"That's one theory," I said. "I believe that God created the world and gave us life. You might think that my belief in God is just a theory. But there's a difference. My husband committed himself to Christ after we found out that my cancer was spreading through my body. Then a miracle happened, the cancer disappeared and I have been in remission for two years. Tell me how evolution could have done that."

Her polite veneer vanished. "Well," she snapped, "I have nothing to say to you."

The woman standing behind her holding the OBAMA BIDEN '08 sign pushed forward. "As a Christian," she asked, spitting out the word like it was poison, "you are against war, right?"

"Only a madman wants war," I replied, "and only a coward wants peace at any price."

"But what about the innocent people who die?" she snapped.

"We try to minimize casualties, but it's a terrible thing," I agreed, "especially when terrorists deliberately kill innocent people. What about the innocent people who died on 9/11?"

"Do you think we're better than they are?" she screamed. "That's racist!"

The woman in front holding the green NO ON PROP. 4 sign interrupted. "War isn't the answer. Didn't you learn anything from Vietnam?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "Let the Generals and military experts run the war and let them try to win. And it's better to fight the war over there instead of here." The other woman called me a racist again.

You know that picture of Obama holding his head imperiously high? Green sign woman adopted that same holier-than-thou posture and said sneeringly, "There are no winners in war. Obama's going to use diplomacy."

By this time, I was looking for an exit strategy and wishing my husband Luis, who evangelizes almost every Saturday, had come to Carson to save some lost souls. "Diplomacy for despots? That didn't work so well for Neville Chamberlain, did it?" I asked rhetorically and pulled out my camera.

Immediately thereafter, we mutually agreed to ignore each other. This picture captures their end of the deal.

Palin Protesters 2

Meanwhile, a few crazies away Security had to restrain an angry protester in a blue hat and dark Obama shirt. I rushed over to photograph the fracas.

"Say 'Freaks'," I yelled cheerfully as I took this picture. That drew loud laughter from the McCain-Palin line behind me where many other normal Americans were mad as hell at the nutroots wackos and not going to take it quietly any more. The gentleman on the right holding the DOPEY GRUMPY sign obliged me with a good-natured smile.

Palin Protesters 6

Here are pretty nutroots wackos all in a row.

Palin Protesters 5

In case you were wondering, this is what nutroots wackos look like from the back.

Palin Protesters 3

I missed the speech by Dana Rohrabacher, my Congressman. For the first time ever, he actually faces a serious opponent in his re-election bid. She is Debbie Cook, the Democrat mayor of Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA. Cook is one of those anti-business, anti-drilling "progressives" who opposed both a Walmart and a desalination project in her town. She actually pushed the Walmart issue to a public ballot vote and lost. Vindictively, she was in the majority on the City Council that forced Walmart to pay for a completely unrelated railed sidewalk with handicap access half a mile away before they would let the store open.

Finally inside the stadium, we listened to the end of Jon Voight's speech as we jockeyed for a nearly bird's eye view of the stage. There were press tables to the left

Press Table

and to the right.

Press Tables Right

Ace, is that you?

The SoCal crowd was fairly, typically diverse. I tease my son, a college student, that when he and his friends get together, they sing We Are the World. I'm no proponent of a "big tent" party just for the sake of artificial demographic diversity. But this year it seems like a naturally occurring phenomenon – one that I welcome for however long it may last.

My conversations inside the stadium were a lot more polite and edifying than outside. I was encouraged to hear tales of traditionally Democratic voters – Hispanic and Asian Americans mostly – who support McCain-Palin, which reinforces my own firsthand experience.

Here are shots of the restive crowd, waiting for Sarah.

Stadium Right

Stadium Center

All eyes focused on the tunnel, waiting for Sarah.

Waiting for Sarah

While we're waiting for the Governor, let's enjoy this classic near-hit by the woefully underappreciated Jellyfish, Calling Sarah.

Gosh, I hope I don't get a cease and desist letter.

Finally, here she is shortly before 3:00pm. "Sarah! Sarah!"

Sarah Enters Stadium

Sarah! Sarah!

She's wearing a green jacket over a black skirt. The First Dude and Palin kids were absent. I missed Piper.

After an unexpected endorsement by the President of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, Sarah spoke for close to 30 minutes.

Sarah Speaks

She's that green-and-black speck standing behind the blue Country First sign surrounding the podium.

For the first time publicly, Palin mentioned Obama's friend, domestic terrorist William Ayers, by way of a direct reference to today's New York Times article and a roundabout slap back at Katie Couric.

Her speech was occasionally interrupted by protesters who were gently escorted out of the stadium, including a 9/11 truther. Earlier I joked with my neighbors in the Standing Room Only section that they could probably find seats after the Code Pinkos were ejected. How predictable these nutroots wackos are.

After a spirited finale, Palin stayed to greet fans adjacent to the stage. Immediately, it began to rain, so most of the crowd dispersed. Inside and outside the stadium, McCain-Palin merchandise was still available at tables and booths but at higher prices as supplies grew scarce.

Most of the protesters had dispersed by rally's end. Here are the leftovers relegated to the sidelines as exiting traffic whizzed by.

Post-Rally Protesters

Why did the nutroots wackos cross the road?

Because Security got tired of them, too.

There was one traffic stopper.

Free OJ


One minute later, the same gentleman, same sign, different side.



Hmmm. Didn't OJ catch a flight to Chicago right after Nicole and Ron Goldman were murdered? You don't think ... Nah.

ETA: I forgot to post this photo.

More Palin Protesters

See the sign on the left? It reads CHRISTIANS = PAGANISM = HEATHENS --> SWASTIKA at the top and BURN IN HELL in the flames underneath. Welcome to the Democrat Party 2008. Here's your sign.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Bad Blood Between Hannity and Ingraham?

During Sean Hannity's Thursday, September 4, 2008 radio show, his friend Mark Levin, whose radio show follows Hannity's in some markets, dropped in to break some news. Levin seemingly forced Hannity to admit for the first time publicly that he was given a list of prospective running mates for Senator John McCain, including Governor Sarah Palin, to solicit his feedback in advance of the Palin announcement last Friday, August 29th.

But that may not be the only revelation leaked to listeners.

Levin made a negative comment about an unidentified radio host whom Hannity described as a backstabber. Then Levin mentioned Laura Ingraham specifically by name.

Is the longstanding friendship between Hannity and Ingraham kaput or was Levin just joking around? If the former, perhaps the fracture occurred when Hannity was negotiating his recent three-way broadcast deal with ABC Radio Networks, his former syndicator, and Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks.

The deal, according to Brian Maloney of Radio Equalizer, "should put an end to efforts by Laura Ingraham and other hosts to move into slots that would have been vacated by a Hannity departure."

I cannot find any confirmation of this possible rift in the news or blogosphere, but it might explain Ingraham's absence at the May 2008 Hannity Freedom Concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fred Thompson: McCain's Cheney?

Hot Air posted a link to Wolking World's proposition that Fred Thompson should be John McCain's Vice President. I second the motion.

Senator McCain plans to roll out his running mate tomorrow on his (McCain's) birthday. My birthday was Sunday and my son turned 25 yesterday. Senator, you don't need to send us a belated card. Just select the best birthday present evah -- our very own Cheney.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jeff Buckley: Not the Last Goodbye

Today is the 11th anniversary of the shockingly premature death of Jeff Buckley. My dear friend A and I heard his Grace album fourteen years ago and fell in love forever with Buckley's voice, which held the poetry of Edith Piaf, the purity of Brian Wilson, and the passion of Patti Smith.

If Jason Castro did nothing else in his American Idol run, he introduced Buckley's music to an appreciative new audience that propelled "Hallelujah" to the top of the iTunes charts. As Jason said in his many post-elimination interviews, if viewers hadn't heard Buckley before, they needed to.

Castrocopia has posted a tribute of bootleg recordings and quotations about Buckley from his peers who describe his talent more effectively than I can. Better still, here is the talent of Jeff Buckley to speak for itself.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I Was Thinking Jason Castro. Yeah!

Last night I used my cell phone and my brand new Go Phone with unlimited texting (thank you, Best Buy) to vote for Jason Castro for two hours. I would have voted with my laptop, too, but even my computer genius son cannot figure out how to get Dial Idol to work with our digital phone line.

Even before I first read the play-by-play by those wonderful folks at Castrocopia who get to watch American Idol three hours before I do, yesterday was an usually long and stressful day for me. My handicapped brother who lives with us was sick with severe pain, a high fever, and blood coming from places that a sister just doesn't want to look at. Although he is sixteen years my elder, I feel almost maternal toward him and it hurts me to my soul to see him suffer.

But as I voted two-handedly with all the energy I could muster, yawning in solidarity with Jason, you know what I was thinking? I was thinking Jason Castro. Yeah! So I couldn't help but smile, a feeling of calm settling on my bruised heart, and I kept voting.

From his first televised performance, Daydream, until the last falsetto note of Mr. Tambourine Man, Jason has remained true to the heart of music celebrated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In choosing to honor two of its most daring pioneers, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, Jason was faithful to rock’s spirit of musical rebellion. Knowing that the PaulaGate 2008 firing squad would be locked and loaded this week, it would have been so easy and even tempting for Jason to pick two safe songs approximating the feel good, easy listening vibe of Somewhere over the Rainbow. Instead, he risked everything on I Shot the Sheriff, finally revealing and reveling in that music loving mojo on display in his pre-AI videos that turned new fans into devout followers. He stepped way outside his comfort zone and, arms outstretched, invited us all inside, even the firing squad. I would expect nothing less from a self-taught guitarist who earlier in the season was brave and ballsy enough to debut his one-week-old ukulele skills on international television.

Jason's stripped down Mr. Tambourine Man was just lovely, but he is not responsible for Bandzilla's desecration of what is arguably the seminal song that spawned a reggae revolution. It was grossly unfair but hardly surprising for the firing squad to blame Jason for the band's bluesy interpretation of I Shot the Sheriff. For a brief moment before Jason's vocal began, I could have sworn they borrowed the intro from one of Elliott Yamin's arrangements in season five.

If you think Jason doesn’t care about his performance any more or never did, you aren’t paying close enough attention. Jason’s nerves manifest in his falsetto and his vibrato. This week both belied his otherwise serene demeanor. The shaky falsetto finish to Mr. Tambourine Man in AI week 12 is reminiscent of the broken falsetto ending on Hallelujah in week 3. Those songs bookend a string of increasingly self-assured outings that featured a tamed vibrato and absolutely gorgeous falsetto, which suggests the confidence that imbued his renditions of Fragile, I Don't Wanna Cry and even Forever in Blue Jeans was shaken to the core. He was still as pitch perfect as ever, but his first lyrical lapse of the competition was further evidence of his emotional vulnerability to the AI mind games.

I've been doing some serious thinking. I don’t know Jason Castro and I am old enough to be his mother, but it hurts me to my soul to see him suffer. So why did I double my votes for him, knowing what it may cost him to stand before the firing squad another week? I was thinking Jason Castro. I want his ruby red slippers to take him back to Texas this week for the homecoming of a lifetime.

Which AI7 contestant shares my passion for music and respects its power to change lives? I was thinking Jason Castro.

Which contestant in this season of American Idol – heck, in the history of the show – best represents my musical sensibility? I was thinking Jason Castro.

Which contestant has treated American Idol with exactly the modicum of respect that a manipulative machine devoid of heart and real soul deserves? I was thinking Jason Castro.

Which contestant got me to purchase my first ever Mariah Carey tune and my least favorite Neil Diamond composition? I was thinking Jason Castro.

Which contestant inspires me to buy a Go Phone, revive my sleepy blog, buy singles on iTunes, and do whatever is necessary – raise money, start a petition, whatever – to get him a recording contract? I was thinking Jason Castro.

Which contestant will be entertaining his audience long after the American Idol franchise collapses under the weight of its own emptiness? I was thinking Jason Castro – and I bet I'll be thinking Jason Castro for years to come. Yeah!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vote for Jason Castro!

Vote for Jason Castro!

Vote by phone:



or text vote:

Text the word "VOTE" to 5703

Jason Castro: Show Us the Mojo and We'll Show You the Money!

As I write this on Tuesday, May 6th, rumors indicate that Jason Castro will be performing “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” tonight. Since these spoilers were first posted on Monday, a wave of negativity swept across the internet before Jason has sung a single note.

Sound familiar? It’s PaulaGate 2008 all over again!

How do you think this makes Jason feel? After realizing the judges are sharpening their long knives no matter how well you perform, just imagine how disheartening it must be to discover that your fans have so little faith in you.

If you have watched the You Tube videos of Jason performing "Santeria"and "Bad Fish," you already know Jason has a mojo for reggae and ska. When Jason threw himself into the cheesy Neil Diamond group medley on results night last week, many of us shouted, “Yes! Where has that Jason Castro been hiding? Give us more, please.”

We already know that Jason has such a heart for music that he can hardly contain it. He cannot help but sing along even when it’s not his turn or his solo, regardless how uncool he looks or how craptastic the song may be. We are hungry to experience that sense of abandon and surrender again. We want America to see the Jason Castro whose rendition of "Crazy" was so powerful and passionate that even cynical Simon Cowell became a convert.

Who cares what the judges and some critics will say? I mean, really! They don’t vote. We do. I even bought a “free” Go Phone from Best Buy yesterday.

If Jason brings the mojo tonight, he will deserve the top 3 and beyond. He will deserve fans – and record labels – that bring the money.

Are you with me?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What Does Katharine McPhee Have That Jason Castro Doesn't?

loose cannon
a dangerously uncontrollable person or thing

cannon fodder

an expendable or exploitable person, group, or thing


what happens when a loose cannon prematurely discharges the cannon fodder and it backfires

I am truly outraged by the flippant way that Nigel Lythgoe and the American Idol crew shrugged off any suggestion that they owe Jason Castro an apology for PaulaGate 2008. Clearly they figure that Jason was safe, so no harm, no foul. Right?


I remember that completely unnecessary mea culpa Simon Cowell delivered to Katharine McPhee two seasons ago strictly because she was one of Nigel’s favorites. Hey, Simon, would you apologize to Kat McPhee if she looked like Quasimodo?

I’m not ready to make nice.

As a Castronaut, I am furious at Paula Abdul for her callous treatment of Jason since she sucker-punched him right before his second American Idol performance Tuesday night. Not once in any of the post-PaulaGate interviews did Abdul express even the slightest concern for Jason’s feelings – and she is reputedly the kind, nurturing judge. Phooey. One day after the most notorious public lapse in mental clarity since the 1992 Vice Presidential debate, Paula showed up to work dressed appropriately enough for a remake of “Valley of the Dolls.” Nigel did learn his lesson, though. Before he dispatches his bus o’ death to take out Jason this week, the driver will have to pass a breathalyzer test.

American Idol has never been a fair contest on a level playing field, but somehow the show’s shenanigans are ignored by most of the press because the milieu is reality TV. Like their mainstream media brethren, in general entertainment journalists exhibit a “group think” herd mentality characterized by an absence of critical thinking, resulting in articles that hew closely to the official AI line with little or no independent reporting. Once again bloggers in pajamas have to do all the heavy lifting. No wonder the arrogant AI crew think they are untouchable.

Imagine a baseball game officiated by umpires who get their paychecks from the team owner. At the end of the season, that team produces their Most Valuable Player. Now imagine that the umpire behind home plate – the most prominent umpire who calls the balls and strikes – is collecting an even larger paycheck from a company that will own the exclusive rights to the season’s MVP. If major league baseball operated like American Idol, the owners, the umpires, and even the MVPs would be investigated by a Senate committee.

Simon Cowell and Sony BMG own the recording rights to every contestant in the worldwide Idol franchise that they choose to sign to a deal. In his March 18, 2007 interview with Anderson Cooper, Cowell explained, “My only interest was 'Idol' was a vehicle to launch records. That was the only thing I was thinking about. But, what we actually did, interestingly by doing 'Idol,' was I signed the biggest artist on the planet, and it's called 'Idol,' because every single 'Idol' winner is now signed through Sony BMG. And, this applies to all the countries we sell 'Idol' to, which is over 30 countries. So, there's probably now 75 to 100 artists all signed through this one center thing." Ka-ching.

So, if American Idol is just another moneymaker for Cowell and Lythgoe, that makes the contestants nothing more than this year’s widgets, right? They are looking for a specific widget based on an early 1990s prototype of pop, R&B, crossover country, or watered down alt-rock acceptable to top 40 radio, which is their concept of a current sound. To retain AI’s credibility as a talent show and talent scout for Sony BMG, the winning widget needs to be marketable according to their shortsighted expectations.

Every season the top 24 also include contestants selected by the AI crew for their TV entertainment value, hereafter known as cannon fodder, but not necessarily expected to be real contenders. As the contest progresses, the cannon fodder become expendable when they exhaust their usefulness and downright dangerous when they outlast some of the anointed favorites, hereafter known as TCOs (the chosen ones).

The Neil Diamond theme night and results shows offered a textbook example of how American Idol favors its TCOs and exploits its cannon fodder. After Carly Smithson, one of the crew’s favorite favorites, was eliminated the week before, Nigel admitted, "I was very sad. I think Carly is extremely talented, a brilliant voice. I was sorry to lose Michael and I was certainly sorry to lose Carly." He added, “Yeah, I was surprised. In my opinion, I felt that Jason [Castro] was the weakest in the bunch. But he’s got a following, a good following.”

Actually, Nigel, Jason has a great following that is loyal and getting larger. He may be the most appealing contestant in the history of American Idol and he is arguably its most entertaining. He is a folk rock revivalist who brought the artistry of Jeff Buckley and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole to a whole new audience. Jason’s studio recordings remain near the top of the AI iTunes sales charts. He never flubs his lyrics nor suffers from pitch problems. He is unfailingly polite and flat out funny. Despite all these admirable attributes, Jason is the AI crew’s worst nightmare and we are nowhere near ready for him to leave, so get used to us.

Anyway, Ryan Seacrest opened Tuesday’s show with a shout out to Carly. “We’re still reeling after last week’s drama,” Ryan began. “Carly is watching from home tonight. Say ‘hi, Carly!’” That's how AI treats its TCOs.

He also wondered aloud if anyone would lose their cool during the ensuing episode. Paula, misreading her notes again, thought Ryan was referring to her instead of Brooke White and, well, we all know what happened – PaulaGate 2008. And that's the way AI treats its cannon fodder.

First up, Jason performed a fairly faithful rendition of one of Neil Diamond’s fluffier pop confections, “Forever in Blue Jeans,” with the happy-go-lucky folk style he usually displays on uptempo numbers. During the song, Randy and Paula were seen nodding along rhythmically but definitely not taking notes. Afterward the camera panned to the judges' table where the grimacing Randy and grinning Paula fixed their eyes towards the stage. Simon was looking downward with pursed lips and a pissed off expression as though the clock had just struck midnight and that darn Castro kid wasn’t home yet with Cowell’s million dollar Bugatti Veyron sports car.

Fast forward twentysomething minutes to PaulaGate 2008, in which Paula told Jason that he didn’t used to suck, but he sucked now and was destined to suck in the future because her notes said so, and by the way she really meant that David Cook sucked except her notes said Cookie is fantastic and totally not sucky. Speaking on behalf of Castronauts everywhere, Paula, you are officially uninvited to the all-night luau.

Immediately after, as reported by eyewitness Adam B. Vary, “At the ad break, the judges were all whisked out of the studio, Syesha Mercado, David Cook, David Archuleta and Brooke White left waving to the audience, and Jason Castro was left on a stool, stage center, contemplating what, exactly, had just happened.”

Right after that commercial, Jason had to perform again without anesthesia and “September Morn” became “September Mourn.” Unsurprisingly, he appeared preoccupied and his tender singer-songwriter heart just didn’t seem to be engaged. But I’m sure being condemned to an eternity of suckiness by someone who pretended to be a supporter shouldn’t bother him one little bit. Then those shameless “store bought” (Neil Diamond™) judges had the colossal gall to criticize Jason’s subpar performance. They probably didn’t want to do it, but it was in their notes – well, except for Randy. I think he enjoys being mean to Jason.

At the end of the show, the top 5 were reassembled at the foot of the stage as the credits were about to roll. Normally this is when Jason does some of his best work twirling or mimicking Seacrest. But Tuesday night he looked forlorn and too defeated to muster a smile. We wuz robbed.

In contrast to his verbosity during Carly Appreciation Week, thus far Nigel has not commented publicly on Brooke’s elimination, Paula’s verbal faux pas, or its deleterious
effect on Jason. Lythgoe did tell Us Magazine, “There's no one more ditzy than Simon. Or more ass-y than Simon when he wants to be. Depends on the night.” Nobody more ass-y than Simon? I think we need a real judge’s ruling on this.

Thanks for caring about your contestants and your audience, Nigel. We feel so much better now. [/sarcasm]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jason Castro: Semifinalist or Scapegoat?

Disclaimer: I am not an actual American Idol historian, but I fare pretty well at those online trivia quizzes that test your knowledge of the show. Here are two questions to gauge how closely you have been paying attention to AI. Ready?

1. This contestant gave some of the most memorable performances of the season and brought a new musical genre to the show to the audience’s delight. He had such a mellow hippie vibe that rumors abounded about his alleged recreational drug use. The AI media openly speculated about whether he was really committed to the competition after his seemingly nonchalant reaction when he landed in the bottom 3. Can you name him?

The correct answer is Bo Bice from season 4. When in the bottom 3, Bo revealed casually that he auditioned for AI only because of a bet with his mom and, if eliminated, he could happily return to playing small gigs with his band. Bo survived until the grand finale when he was bested by Carrie Underwood, but his reputation for detachment continued after he wasn’t crushed by his defeat.

You answered Jason Castro. Sorry! Please try again.

2. This contestant became a polarizing figure among the AI media and other contestants’ fan bases, which expressed outrage when he was declared safe as a more popular contestant went home. During the shocking top 6 elimination episode, the camera kept catching him in unflattering poses. Can you name him?

The correct answer is Scott Savol from season 4. When Constantine Maroulis was eliminated before him, the camera captured Scott’s relief and he became a convenient scapegoat until he was expelled the following week.

You answered Jason Castro again. Obviously, those were trick questions. My answers were correct. So were yours.

How can that be? How can Jason Castro have so much in common with season 4 runner up Bo Bice and fifth place finisher Scott Savol at the same time?

Is Jason Castro a semifinalist or a scapegoat?

That, my fellow pitiless dreadheaded Castrocopian daydreamers, depends on how our favorite season 7 troubadour performs this week and how we the voting public respond.

As a close observer of American Idol since its debut in 2002, I have no doubt the same bus that took out Savol is gunning for Jason. While I do not believe that the AI crew has ever engaged in vote tampering, I do believe that they engage in every voter manipulation the FCC allows. For example, although we know that the eliminated contestant is always the lowest vote getter, we are never told the other contestants’ results except in the finale. But the vote rankings are implied by the order in which their safety is announced, although viewers have no way of knowing the actual rankings. By repeatedly bringing out David Archuleta and David Cook first, the impression that they are “winners” is reinforced. Likewise, the implicit “losers” are the last to be declared safe. The reality could be the exact opposite.

It is no random coincidence that the AI camera caught Jason yawning offstage as he waited with Carly Smithson or gazing sideways at the band instead of giving his undivided attention to bottom 2 performer Syesha Mercado during what could have been her swan song. It is no random coincidence that Jason – instead of Brooke, David the younger or David the elder – was in the last pair to learn their voting status. It is no random coincidence that Jason – instead of babbling Brooke, little David or big David – was placed and kept alongside Carly as her elimination drama played out. Every convincing tragedy needs a villain.

Not content to rest on his TV manipulations, Nigel Lythgoe singled out Jason as “the weakest of the bunch” in a media interview while admitting he was surprised and disappointed by Carly’s departure after her “fun” interpretation of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Maybe he was referring to Jason’s sickly condition before and during his live performance of “Memory.” Between Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s condescension and Lythgoe’s ham-handed machinations, poor Jason was dealt the worst one-two punch by the musical Cats since the Team America character Chris was violated by Rumpleteazer and Mr. Mistoffelees – not to be confused under any circumstances with these cats.

What other tactics does Lythgoe have planned for Neil Diamond week? Since AI history does tend to repeat as predictably as a Randy Jackson critique, maybe Nigel will give Jason a last minute lyrics change as he did to Clay Aiken – “Vincent” or maybe he will force Jason to substitute an entire song less than 48 hours before performance night as he did to Taylor Hicks – “Just Once” in place of “Try a Little Tenderness.” Perhaps Randy will use some Simon Cowell reverse psychology to disarm Jason’s fan base by being excessively complimentary in the hopes of lulling us into a false sense of security.

Those in the AI world who don’t appreciate the emotional power of Jason’s voice are quick to attribute his popularity to his good looks or his goofy charm. I firmly believe that Jason has earned his standing on American Idol on the strength of his raw musical talent. He has delivered two of the most unique, outstanding and memorable broadcast performances – “Hallelujah” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow” – in seven seasons of American Idol. Subsequently, beloved interpretations by the late Jeff Buckley and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole respectively were catapulted to the top of iTunes sales charts. The kid has an impeccable music sensibility.

Jason’s studio version of “Memory” is exquisitely sad and haunting while his lower register and falsetto are more assured than ever. When you listen to his recordings in chronological order, his growth in vocal confidence, range, and expressiveness are hard to discount. His fans include serious music aficionados such as Chris Sligh, John Norris, Michael Slezak, and me.

For Neil Diamond night, I hope Jason will perform “Red, Red Wine” UB40 style and accompany himself on the drums – standup kit, bongos, congas, I don’t particularly care which. “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” or “Solitary Man” would be excellent guitar strumming choices. However, Urge Overkill recorded a modernized version of the former and Cookie might already have dibs on it.

No matter what, under those flexible FCC rules, I will be voting for the entire allotted time period with both hands and maybe a modem, if I can figure out how that voting software thingamajig works with digital phone. I will cast my votes in honor of Chris Sligh, who was taken from us too soon. I will cast my votes to honor the AI rock pioneers who cleared a path through the musical wilderness overpopulated by pop singers and R&B crooners – Bo Bice, Constantine Maroulis, Chris Sligh, and maybe Jon Peter Lewis but I'm not sure. I will cast my votes to honor the great American tradition of singer-songwriters, most of whom are unknown by Simon and Nigel, to which Jason is an heir apparent.

Finally, I will cast my votes to hear Jason Castro sing the winning coronation lyrics about rainbows and dreams because he is the only American Idol contest authentic enough to make that syrupy drek palatable and he can play his ukulele again, too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yes, We Can! I Think We Can. And One of These Days, We Will!

Six questions, more or less, for Senator Barack Obama:

Q: Senator Obama, in your March 18, 2008 speech about race, you praise the “greatness and goodness” and “genius of this nation,” the only place on earth you declare that your “unconventional” success story is “even possible.” And yet, after fifteen years of marriage to you, your wife Michelle freely shares that, due entirely to your presidential campaign, for the first time in her adult life she is proud of "mean" America. Is your appreciation for America also recently acquired? If not, can you explain why the person closest to you in the world is so far apart from you on the issue that drives your candidacy? What does that failure to persuade say about the unifying message you embody that ostensibly compensates for your lack of experience to qualify you for the highest elective office in the world?

Q: Senator Obama, your speech cites the hunger of the American people for your “message of unity.” But after fifteen years of close association with him, why does your Pastor Jeremiah Wright remain “divisive at a time when we need unity” and “racially charged at a time when we need to come together?” What efforts have you made personally to help heal his racial wounds and share your hopeful vision of America? What leadership have you demonstrated at your church to address the “cruelty” and “shocking ignorance” you found there? What have you done to promote “the alliances it needs to bring about real change?” Your church preaches black liberation theology, an ethnocentric reinterpretation of Christianity that is expressly non-inclusive. Are you comfortable making your spiritual home in a church where your mother’s family might not be comfortable or welcome?

Q: Your speech describes the responsibility of parents to spend “more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism.” You now admit that you have personally witnessed Rev. Wright’s controversial remarks from the pulpit. Have you allowed your daughters to personally witness his “profoundly distorted” view of their country or his message “that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America?” If so, do you think those words from a pastor, whom you selected to act as a person of moral authority in their lives, makes your daughters more or less likely to succumb to despair or cynicism?

Q: You call Rev. Wright, the man you credit for leading you to God and strengthening your faith, a “Biblical scholar” after he sermonized that Jesus Christ was a black man and that blacks are God’s chosen people. Can you cite the Bible verses that support his claims? Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God? Does the Bible call us as individuals to serve others or does it suggest the government do it for us? Your speech and campaign employ fresh sounding rhetoric but prescribe the same old liberal, big government “solutions.” Your church fosters ministries for the sick and needy. Do you think the government can provide these services more efficiently and more compassionately?

Q: Is Tony Rezko, like Rev. Wright, merely another election year "distraction" that "breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism?" You keep hawking the Obama top secret formula for change that will magically teach children to learn, deliver health care to the uninsured, shower our homecoming soldiers with benefits, reopen shuttered mills, and solve the housing crisis. Didn't we get into this mortgage mess by extending credit to the unproven and unqualified while hoping against all evidence to the contrary that they would fulfill their promises? Why should we use the same faulty method for electing a president? If we accept the electoral choice as you frame it, we can 1) ignore the warning signs on the road to your enchanted land of change or 2) be doomed to an eternity of racial stagnation, illiteracy, poverty, war, and presidents who are not named Obama.

Q: You aspire to lead the free world for the next four or eight years. Reviewing your record of leadership (or absence thereof) in your family, in your church, in political office, I have one last question – what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hey, Kids, Let's Throw a Party - a Conservative Party!

In 1992, disaffected populists left the GOP to start the grassroots Reform Party. They're baaaaaaack -- but now, with their enemies lists and conspiracy theories targeting conservatives, they are hijacking the Republican Party that I love.

The Libertarians had their chance and the best they could muster is Ron Paul. So ... let's form our own party. A national conservative party.


We could call it the Conservative Republicans of America Party (CRAP). Or not. I'm open to suggestions.

Let's take back what it means to be a true conservative. We'll have an entrance exam -- and it will be in English. We will welcome all genuine conservatives, regardless of faith, heritage or gender.

And we will draft Fred Thompson as our first nominee -- if necessary, as a write-in candidate -- so that our country will have the true conservative alternative to the two Democrat parties in November 2008 that we all deserve.

Do I hear a second to my motion? Can I get an amen?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How Your Parents Ruined Conservatism

Once upon a time, children, there was a conservative man named Ronald. He had lots of wonderful ideas and he was very good at explaining them. Ronald spent many years telling people about his plans to make America better. When America got into trouble, people finally gave Ronald a chance to prove that his plans could work. Ronald was such a great leader and his plans worked so well that many of his conservative ideas were accepted by people all over the world.

After Ronald went away, some people tried to repeat his success, but they didn’t understand why he was so successful. Some people thought Ronald was just a good talker, but they didn’t follow Ronald’s conservative plans and they failed. Then a man named Bill came along. He was a good talker but not conservative. Bill became the new leader. When Bill got America into trouble again, Ronald’s conservative followers asked for a chance to prove they could make his plans work. The American people gave Ronald’s conservative followers a chance and their plans did work – for awhile.

After a few years, the followers forgot Ronald’s conservative ideas and why they worked so well. They stopped telling people about conservative ideas. They stopped making conservative plans. Other people who never liked Ronald’s plans lied about how successful they were. Americans started to forget Ronald’s conservative ideas and why they worked so well.

Then a man named George came along and he had his own ideas. Some of George’s plans were conservative, but some were not conservative at all. George’s followers told the American people that he was like Ronald, but George’s plans were very different from Ronald’s. People got confused about what it meant to be a conservative. George was very bad at explaining his ideas. America started to get into trouble again, but now there were very few conservative leaders left to turn America around.

There was a man named Rush who was one of Ronald’s smartest and most loyal followers, and he was very good at explaining conservative ideas. But Rush really liked his job and did not want to take Ronald’s job.

Ronald’s followers looked everywhere for a conservative leader, but nobody came forward. One day they found a man named Fred who shared Ronald’s conservative ideas and was good at explaining them. Ronald’s conservative followers begged him and begged him, and Fred finally agreed to try out for Ronald’s job as leader of America.

Other people were trying out for the job of leader, too, but Fred’s ideas and plans were the most conservative. Fred wanted to turn America around and knew he was the best person to do it, but he didn’t like some of the silly things he had to do to become the leader of America. He compared those silly things to a circus. Many sensible people agreed with Fred.

Other people said Fred didn’t really want to be the new leader. Some of those people didn’t agree with Fred or were afraid that he would be successful. They did not want another conservative leader like Ronald. They wanted Fred to stop trying out for the job of leader. But Fred kept trying and he kept explaining his conservative ideas.

Lots of Ronald’s followers agreed with Fred’s ideas and thought his plans would turn America around. But they did not support Fred and they did not help him become the leader. Instead, they supported others who were not very conservative at all. They supported others who pretended to be conservative. They supported some who had helped get America in trouble again.

Fred stayed true to Ronald’s conservative ideas, but Ronald’s followers did not. Then the followers blamed Fred because they did not have a leader.

Fred learned that you cannot lead America back to conservatism if conservatives will not follow what they know is right.

And that, children, is how your parents ruined conservatism. It will be much, much harder for you to turn America around, but you can start by reading about Ronald.

Next time I will tell you about the olden days when SUVs roamed the earth, the government had a pension program called Social Security, our private health care system was the envy of the world, and America was the most magnificent superpower mankind has ever known.

The End

Wednesday, January 16, 2008