Knickers on the Line

Notes from a Magniloquent Mama

Why I don’t watch American Idol…


Yes, my last post was about not watching TV and this one is too- get used to it!

I wanted to comment on the phenomenon that American Idol has become and why I just can’t get into the show. The few times I have watched this show, I see young hotties with very little real-world music experience trotting around on stage to the delight of the audience. These young people, some of them not even in their 20s, are singing songs usually from another era- and I hope I’m not the only one to realize this, but their renditions don’t reflect an understanding of the spirit of the music. Maybe these young people have OK voices, or maybe they just have “Star Quality”, but it isn’t enough!

The reason I am ranting a bit about this is because I have long taken issue with the American Idol requirement that contestants be under 26. The fellow with the grey hair was lying, I’m sure- but this requirement is pure ageism in a culture that reveres youth. By having this requirement, the show is almost guaranteeing that they will have  contestants whom they can package, brand, mold and market to the US. But what about the people we miss out on hearing because they are too old to be on the show? 

A wonderful case-in-point was recently made on the UK version of American Idol, Britain’s got Talent. In the UK there is no age requirement for the show, and a 47 year old woman managed to get on the show and sing for Simon Cowell (who is spot- on with his critiques most of the time). Susan Boyle blew the audience away with her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Le Mis. As she took the stage, there was obvious disdain for her even being there. Who was this frumpy old housewife? She proceeded to wow audiences with her singing and even Simon was humbled. What was the public response to this woman’s talent? Well, her video on Youtube has had over 19 million views, and she has been offered a record deal in the UK. But some think that we shouldn’t go to such lengths to recognize the talents of older folks. Here’s a direct copy of an article in Entertainment Weekly regarding Susan Boyle’s sudden fame:

Not to be a grump, but am I the only one who finds this a little over-the-top and, frankly, a little condescending? Plenty of big-voiced PYTs sing their hearts out every week on American Idol (not to mention onstage in Broadway shows) without getting this kind of reaction. But Susan, because of her looks, because of the fact that people were snickering at her before she opened her mouth, becomes a sensation simply by being able to carry a tune. She has a decent voice, sure. But let’s not get carried away.


The writer seems to suggest that we shouldn’t pay any notice to 47 year old women and instead should concentrate our attention on the PYTs that American Idol trots out each week. That to me is like saying, “You don’t need to eat triple cream cheese, we have all the Kraft American slices you need right here!”. He also suggests that people are wowed by her because she is the opposite of the hottie Idols. I completely disagree with that assessment. This woman can interpret and deliver a tune in a very special way.

I hope this wonderful woman gets her chance to sing her song for many years to come. Perhaps her arrival on the international Idol scene will make people stop and think about all the older folks who have within them the power to move people through their music. Everyone deserves a chance to be heard- and you can’t judge a book by its cover.

So Sing, Susan, Sing!


Public Enemy #1?….



How’s that for an intro? 

I’m reading a book for my bookclub that has squarely pinned the blame for social isolation and decline in community involvement on *The Tube*. The book, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam is a total bear to actually read- but he makes some compelling arguments about the role that TV viewing plays in our culture, and why it might not be helping us build stronger communities, or relationships with each other. Here are just a few of the points that made me say WOW.

* Heavy viewing began in 1970s and was accompanied by a dramatic decline in civic and social involvement. Persons who watched more than 1 hour per day of TV were significantly less likely to attend meetings, sign petitions, invite friends to dinner,or serve in local organizations.

* Psychological studies involving persons who view several hours a day of TV reveal that heavy viewing is associated with loneliness and emotional difficulties including economic anxiety, social disconnection, and difficulty in making decisions about other activities. Metabolic rates in children plunge significantly while watching TV- adding to problems of weight gain in children.

* Young adults who watch more than 1 hour of TV a day have great expectation of being able to secure a high paying job that demands little from them and offers great vacation packages. Young adults who do not watch TV do not have this expectation of their future career.

* Families that agreed to watch 1 less hour per day of TV reported higher academic achievement for their children.

* When a private research group offered families $500 to turn off their TV for a month, only 5 families out of 220 were willing to go without Television.

The research covers much more- but the main point is that as we look at a society where people are increasingly disconnected from their community- several trends emerge. This book painstakingly wades through data collected on civic involvement, media consumption, and technology interfacing since the 1970s. It’s 400 pages of stuff you wouldn’t want to be assigned for a college course- but reading it has really made me think about how I can raise children who are active ,concerned, and overall engaged citizens. 

I dare you to turn off your tv for a week. Get your news from the radio, or online. Spend less than 40 minutes a day with the internet. Do you think  you can do it?

Road Trip Fantasy vs. Road Trip Reality


We made it to Condon, Oregon after a few adventures and mis-adventures. On the trip from Eugene to Bend, we encountered a late-season snow storm and had to drive through snow with no chains in a station wagon that, while it looks good, handles not so well in snow. We made it safely to Bend, and spent a lovely evening hot-tubbing and looking at the snow capped mountains surrounding us.

Yesterday was our big road trip day. We left Bend late morning and headed North. Unfortunately, we missed the turn and ended up going too far north- finding Maupin- which was apparently “Closed for the Winter”. So much for lunch! We back tracked and found the turn, and stopped in the town of Shaniko- which is also closed for Winter. I asked the woman at the Beer&Ice store what our prospects were for lunch- and she said, “I dunno- I think Antelope and Fossil are both closed on Monday and Tuesday”. We ate sunchips and cheetos, and drank our water- and hit the road.

I had to laugh about my road trip fantasy and my road trip reality. My fantasy had us eating lunch in a small town cafe and chatting with locals- who would be endlessly fascinated about who we were and how we ended up out there.  My fantasy had us singing songs and tra-la-la-ing down the road. The reality was not so different, but my children don’t know the same songs I know- or their music teacher- whom I find very suspect, has changed the words to songs I knew and loved. All in all though- we had a great day, wrong turns and all.

Antelope was fascinating- but the really amazing thing was the Lava Bed monument at John Day. What an incredibly gorgeous area. I took many pictures and we wandered around- Sonja picking up rocks for her “collection” (which I will end up vacumming out of our car in a few months).  This drive is incredible for a photo safari- there are beautiful old buildings, ghost towns, rusted metal things, and incredible rock formations. It was amazing to me to think that people had to build roads out here- what was that like for them?

Condon is a really cute town- and huge in comparison to places like Mayville and Clarno. I’m excited to explore today and see what this little town is like. The era in which it was built up was the early 190os, so the houses are incredible. The downtown has a real main street- it’s a great little town.

The Nusser family has moved into THIS century and now has DSL- it will be waiting for me when we get home next week- so I may even start posting pictures  from this trip.

My April Horror-scope…


Usually horoscopes make me look forward to the month to come, or make me laugh at their outrageous predictions. Yesterday, my horoscope for the month of April made me indignant! Here it is, you’ll see what I mean:

Venus, your elegant ruler, goes retrograde mid-month causing your life to drag even more than usual. Bad hair days abound, as does an irritable vagueness in your love life. Even social gatherings lose their verve for you. But never fear, the pace picks up again on the 25th.

Whuh? I’m left wanting to stomp my feet and yell, “No Fair!”.  Life becoming a drag is bad enough- but to sentence me to a month of  Bad Hair Days- it’s like the cosmos is conspiring against me to make my life a vale of tears! I can’t even enjoy being social? That is totally pathetic!

Not being one to take this kind of life-sentence lying down, I am launching project ” In Yo Face, Cosmos!” in April 2009. I intend to have fabulous hair, enjoy parties (maybe even throw a few), and not have a drag of a life. I hope you will all help me in making this project a huge success.

Si se puede!

Remember Car, that you are “pimped” and unto pimps you shall return…


(Did you get the Ash Wednesday reference?)

We woke up this morning at 5am to find that we are, once again, a 1 car family. Jim’s “Pimp-mobile”, named as such because we got a heckuva deal on it at repo-auction, was stolen under the cover of darkness from in front of our house. It shouldn’t be hard to find it though- it’s a 96 low-rider honda with tinted windows and a moon roof-and a 6 CD changer in the trunk with speakers under the seats. It looks like something a pimp would drive.

Those of you who know us well might say, “Now wait a second! Wasn’t your truck stolen twice already? What the hell kind of neighborhood do you live in?”. I think we have a pretty quiet neighborhood here, but you never know- there might be some 80 year old man (or woman) with a heart of darkness and a penchant for hot-wiring cars. As X-Files reminds us: Trust No One.

I’m not heartbroken about the car being gone- and getting all dramatic is a waste of time in my view. I’m pretty sure the car will be recovered. I *AM* bummed that most of the music I listen to that I can’t play around my kids, is in that car. You know, the good stuff with the expletives and sexist lyrics. *Sigh* I may have to get in my extremely respectable looking station wagon and drive to CD world to get some more Kanye West and stuff. 

The police officers who came to take the theft report were really nice and recommended that for older cars people consider using one of those club thingees. Jim recently told me that a guy at SAiF managed to drive one of their work pool cars with the club attached to the steering wheel because he didn’t know how to get it off. Now each of the state pool cars has directions for removing and reattaching The Club. It’s baffling, truly- these are the people who are running things!

Have a great day , everyone! I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wish you a Happy Ash Wednesday, or not! I guess I could say something like, don’t forget to remember that you gonna die someday.