American Idol this time around

Yes, I’m following American Idol again, despite the way some of you have been giving me a hard time about this particular guilty pleasure.  Last night the 13 finalists were selected.  I would just like to note that I picked every one of the male performers and voted for four of them.  The one female contestant that I was pulling for, Naima Adedapo from Milwaukee, did not get enough votes from the public, but the judges put her back in as a “wild card.”  My favorite and the one I’m predicting to win is Jacob Lusk.  As Steven Tyler said, we need his kind of singing again, a strong, jazzy, standards-kind-of-voice.  Naima is much the same way.   These are adult voices.  It’s time adults made music for adults, as opposed to kids making music for kids, or kids making music for adults.

A feature of “Hollywood Week” was a plump baby-faced 15 year old with an angelic voice getting thrown out of a group by, in effect, some mean cool kids.  The mean ones were all voted off, except for country-singer-with-a-deep-voice Scotty, who tearfully repented.

Also, I will say that the new judging team of Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and veteran Randy Jackson has, to my surprise, done a good job.  I had assumed the dark lord Simon Cowell would be missed, but the more positive panel has worked well.

This new crop of finalists is very strong, surely one of the best.

With twist, `American Idol’ down to 13 contestants.

So if any of the rest of you are following the show, I would welcome your assessments and your predictions.  (If you aren’t and if your comment would just be something on the order of “why would anyone watch this show?” you can keep that to yourself.)

Humans tie with computer in Jeopardy

The computer could not defeat humanity in Jeopardy, at least in the first round.  They tied.  The showdown between “Watson,” a specially-programmed computer from IBM, and Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The show is syndicated and is usually on at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Man matches machine in Jeopardy! showdown • The Register.

So even if Watson wins, will that mean that computers have a greater mental capacity than human beings?  I would say not at all.  The human mind is infinitely more than logic and information retrieval.  Calculation like that takes up only a miniscule part of our consciousness.  There are also feeling and perception and memory and fantasy and moral reactions and personality and will.

HT:  Webmonk

Adult culture

Picking up from the music posts last weekend. . . .

Country music draws from the world of adults:  marriage, family, work, church, but also alcoholism, adultery, divorce.  (Country music is not intrinsically more wholesome, though.  It is very frank about sex–premarital, extramarital, but also marital–and is full of bad examples.)

The other popular musical genres–indeed, virtually all of pop culture, including television and the movies–draws from the world of young people:  dating, singleness, play, undefined spirituality, drugs, premarital sex, romantic love, fantasy.  (Notice that on television, virtually everyone even in ostensibly realistic dramas–NCIS, Law & Order, Bones, etc.–is single.)

It was not always this way.  The blues draws on the adult world.  Folk music.  Jazz.  Standards.  The American Songbook.  Classical music back when it was contemporary was made by adults for adults.

It is surely one of the oddest of our current cultural dysfunctions that our popular art and entertainment are largely made for young people.  To be sure, adults own the studios, run the industry, and make most of the money.  But the content and the target audience are largely oriented to adolescent children and single people in their lower 20’s.

One might say that this is just economics, that the entertainment biz caters to whoever will spend money on the product.  But adults, who have far more disposable income than those just starting out, do buy music and other kinds of entertainment.  But they  buy either what the young people are listening to or watching, or the music, styles, and artists they enjoyed when they were adolescents!

Whatever happened to adult culture?

SuperBowl had most TV viewers in history

There was a time when there were only four networks and the whole country came together to watch programs, like the last episode of MASH, in a vast communal experience.  Now with cable, satellite, and scores of narrowcasting networks, that time is over.  Except that the nation DID come together to watch the Super Bowl.  These two small market teams attracted the most viewers ever to a TV show:

History was made last night on FOX when Super Bowl XLV became the most-watched U.S. television program ever, and FOX became the first network ever to exceed 100 million viewers (100.9 million) for a night in prime time, according to fast-national ratings released today by Nielsen Media Research. The game, the outcome of which was in doubt until the final seconds, saw the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to capture the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl Championship.

FOX Sports’ broadcast of Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers and is the most-watched television program in U.S. history, obliterating the prior record of 106.5 set last year during Super Bowl XLIV by 4.5 million viewers and the 106.0 million for the series finale of M*A*S*H, which held the viewership record from 1983 to 2010.

via Super Bowl XLV Breaks Viewing Record, Averages 111 Million Viewers.

Why do you think the game scored such huge numbers?

News we can choose

Old school journalist Ted Koppel lambastes both MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, concluding with this:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

via Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

One could argue that Ted Koppel himself was not completely objective and that his pioneering night time news show tended to tilt to the left.  And yet, if it is impossible to be objective in the news business, doesn’t that mean the postmodernists are right when they say that every group has its own “truth”?

Isn’t there a danger in only hearing what we want to hear?  Maybe conservatives should listen to MSNBC and liberals should listen to Fox.  Do you have any other solutions to this syndrome?

Taking Jon Stewart’s rally seriously

Jon Stewart keeps insisting that his “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” that he and Stephen Colbert are putting on next Saturday is not going to be a liberal or progressive partisan event.  It sounds designed to be more like a postmodernist-style meta-rally, a rally making fun of rallies.  And yet lots of liberals and progressives are taking it seriously.

Arianna Huffington is offering free transportation from New York to her Huffington Post minions.  Oprah Winfrey is paying for a bunch of her followers to be there.  The Democratic Club at the University of Pennsylvania is busing in college students.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be there in force. So will the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  President Obama has been pushing the event and might show up.  More than 200,000 people have posted on Facebook that they will attend.

Never mind that the weekend before the Tuesday election is the most important time for actually campaigning for the people you want elected.  From the Washington Post:

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for the “tea party”-affiliated Freedomworks, is a fan of Stewart’s show and recently appeared on “the Colbert Report,” but he said he will be in West Virginia on the day of the rally, knocking on doors for Senate candidate John Raese (R).

“I’d rather have as many liberals in D.C. that weekend as possible, because I don’t want them out doing the phone calls and get-out-the-vote,” Steinhauser said.

via For liberal groups, “Daily Show” rally on Mall, not just for laughs.