The Faithful Hound

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rally the troops!

I realize that I sometimes come across on this blog as a crotchety old bastard who steers clear of popular culture and television, but I do have one large weak spot in that department - American Idol.
The show completely fascinates me. Not so much the later, music focused rounds, but more so the initial weeding out segments that seem to draw out America's neurotic, psychotic, delusional and (I have to say) endearing fringe from under their rocks and into the glaring spotlight of public scrutiny and humiliation. For a few minutes they drop their inhibitions and parade their flaws for our amusement, while we mock them and crush their dreams before relegating them back into the shadows. I watch these early episodes with a mixture of amusement, embarrassment and pity. Sure it's entertaining, but should I really be laughing as a pompous British millionaire ridicules a clearly mentally challenged child for "looking like a bush baby"?
So it was a couple of days ago that I settled into my couch, dinner plate in hand, to watch the Idol juggernaut roll into what the host, Ryan Seacrest, called "the talent vacuum that is Seattle." The usual gang of misfits were present; the wannabes, the posers and the dead-enders. And then I saw them...
Shyamali and Sanjaya Malakar, siblings of Indian origin and offspring of a classically trained Indian musician. Waif like, vulnerable and completely adorable, they shyly introduced themselves to the camera while their proud parents watched from the sidelines.

I cringed as they walked into the audition room, feeling that familiar empathetic nervousness I undergo when a fellow desi walks into the spotlight. Indians, as a people, are awkward on the public stage and only one of our countrymen has ever really made it on national television - Appu, of The Simpsons fame.
But the Malakars had moxie, and more importantly they could sing! Both have mellow, bluesy voices and share an unassuming, almost timid, self confidence on the stage. They were both liked by the judges and were selected to move on to the next round.

So here's my plea. A couple of years ago a talentless Hawaiian girl, Jasmine Trias, stumbled into the final rounds of American idol on questionable merit, but was buoyed from one level to the next based on the sheer volume of call-in votes from the Hawaiian community who wanted to see a fellow islander do well.
It's time that we desis got our act together and rallied around our own. Rumour has it that at least one of the siblings has already made it through this pre-recorded contest and is in the final group that depends on audience votes to move on. If that is true then its time that we dropped our disdain for our Bharatiya brethren (and sistren) and jammed those phone lines with our votes.
How large is our diaspora in this country now? At least a couple of million? If even a few hundred thousand of us phone in repeatedly we could generate enough traffic to create our Indian-American Idol. Now wouldn't that be something?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The fascinating Orient

These two posts were taken from this week's News of the Weird

Scamming the Horny Panda: One trick that zookeepers have used to get male pandas interested in mating with dowdier females (according to a December dispatch from Sichuan, China, in Australia's The Age) is to let an attractive female roam around a pen, leaving her scent, and then, in darkness, with the male in the pen and frisky at the scent, to introduce the less attractive female into the pen, back-end first, so that the pre-excited male will quickly begin copulating. Said zookeeper Zhang Hemin, "When the males find out (that they've just mated with unintended partners), they get very angry and start fighting the female. We have had to use firecrackers and a water hose to separate them." [The Age (Melbourne), 12-17-06]

Recurring Themes: News of the Weird has previously mentioned how difficult some Japanese and Singaporean people find it to smile, even when their jobs depend on it, and Chinese people preparing for the 2008 Olympics are having similar problems turning Beijing into a "city of smiles," as the campaign is called. Said one man attending a class on smiling: "At first, I thought (it might be) difficult to smile after you became tired. But later I realized if you don't treat smiling as ... work ... you may find it very easy to smile all the time." (In popular literature in China, people who smile frequently or for no particular reason are often regarded as either silly or devious.) [China Daily, 11-24-06]