What Rhymes With Scowl?
Appearing on "American Idol" has never been for the faint of heart. After all, the show gained acclaim, in part, because audiences tuned in to hear Simon Cowell's harsh comments about contestants.
But have the judges crossed the line this year? Some claim that the judges' attacks on this year's contestants have become too personal, and downright mean.
The tryout of Jonathon Jayne, a Special Olympics athlete, drew heated criticism on TV after Cowell criticized his appearance, in addition to his performance. Cowell said another contestant looked like a creature from the jungle — a "bush baby."
For its part, Special Olympics International told the Washington Post that "American Idol" should be commended for giving one of their former athletes the opportunity to be seen on national TV.
But the blogosphere wasn't as understanding. But many bloggers question why contestants want to go before the judges — never mind the cameras — if they clearly lack real talent.
"Unfortunately for the vast majority of them, they are either not taking it seriously or are extremely delusional about their talent," Jimmy Moore blogs.
Some attribute it to the quest for stardom, at any cost. "The deluded, painfully untalented true believers in skills they don't possess are matched by the attention-seeking dolts who simply can't have imagined that they ever had a chance of advancing," David writes at Resurrection Song.
"Still, it was hard to not feel a twinge of pity when the first wannabe fell into racking sobs and despair when she embarrassed herself in front of her favorite singer (the guest judge, Jewel) by performing a terrible impression of the famous singer."
And what does it say about our society that audiences like to watch people being mocked on national TV? This season has drawn its most viewers. "When did our culture become obsessed with making fun of one another? Isn't that what this show really is, anyway?" Ashley Graffeo writes at Pretty Boring.
"We're just making fun of all the people who actually have the guts to wait on day-long lines in order to sing in front of three famous people."
But a blogger at The Rosewater Chronicles makes the point that perhaps the people who are being mocked aren't even aware. "It's clear some of these folks are incapable of discerning the social cues — incapable of understanding how they are being humiliated. Does humiliation require self-awareness?" the blogger writes. "Regardless, because the producers prey on ignorance, American Idol is a mean show."
Game Imitating Life?
One of the most controversial video games out now is the Super Columbine Massacre Role Playing Game. The game has come under fire since it was released in 2005, but it garnered even more attention this month when the alternate media festival Slamdance took the game out of its annual Guerilla Gamemaker Competition.
The game was created by Danny Ledonne of Colorado, and it lets players take the roles of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the game, you can wander through the hallways of Columbine, surrounded by victims crossing your path.
On its Web site, Slamdance said it withdrew the game, in part, because the organization "does not have the resources to defend any drawn out civil action that our legal council has stated can easily arise from publicly showing it."
But those who have tried the game say it is actually a serious game that makes you think about the Columbine tragedy. "What I found was not a shallow, uninformed and deliberately insensitive creation, but something that I would shelve in the realm of 'Serious Games'; games designed to teach, to describe, to instruct and to provoke thought," Playgirlz writes.
Wired's Clive Thompson also tried the game and agrees it falls in the category of Serious Games. "Ledonne (the creator) has done a surprisingly good job of painting the emotional landscape of the pair," he writes. "... You certainly can't argue that the game merely trivializes the killings, or voyeuristically revels in them," he writes.
"Super Columbine Massacre RPG! may not be the most high-tech affair ever made, but it appears to present another perspective on the most infamous school shooting incident in U.S. history," James at Geek.com adds.
Many say that Slamdance's stance was contrary to the spirit of its mission to support independent gamers. "It is our belief that the removal of Super Columbine Massacre RPG from the festival finalists, while within the rights of the organizers, was short-sighted and detrimental to the overall project of supporting independent game makers," Tracy Fullerton writes at Ludicidal Tendencies.
Perhaps the Slamdance organizers have simply attracted more attention to the game. A blogger at Kokatu puts it best: "Pulling this game certainly has created more fuss than leaving it in would've."
Law Hits Home
A California assemblywoman is set to introduce a bill this week that would make her state the first to make the hitting of a toddler or a baby a crime, the Los Angeles Times reports. And by "hitting," Democratic Rep. Sally Lieber includes spanking a child younger than 4 years old.
If the bill were to pass, the punishment could get you a misdemeanor, which would be punishable by up to a year in county jail. Lieber told the Los Angeles Times she's confident she would win Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's support. But, she has many detractors online.
Lieber has said such a law is needed because spanking victimizes helpless children and breeds violence in society. But many bloggers take issue with this.
"Leaving aside the debate about corporal punishment, it's clear that there's a difference between spanking and child abuse," Doug Mataconis writes at The Liberty Papers. "Child abuse is already illegal, as it should be. Ms. Lieber seems to be saying that any form of physical punishment, no matter how mild, should be punished by the state."
"This woman, Sally, sounds like she does not have children or has never spent half a day with a toddler," a blogger at A Few Of My Favorite Things weighs in.
Others say it's not the state's role to regulate such matters. "Nanny state ... a swat on the butt could now be punishable with up to a year in jail! One has to wonder if all these legislators do is sit around and listen to the sound of their voices reverberating in the rotunda ..." Eric Jay writes at Neophyte Pundit.
A blogger at Red County, California agrees. "I do think that Ms. Lieber should keep her nose out of raising other people's children. Parenting is a great enough challenge without unwarranted government intrusion," she blogs.
But bloggers who agree that spanking is child abuse had much to say as well. "It seems barbaric. It seems to me to enforce the idea into a child's head that it's ok to use physical violence against people when they make you mad," Rick writes at Bent Corner.
What is Joost? The creators, who are also behind the Internet telephone service Skype, call their service "a new way to watch television." It's a free global TV distribution company that combines aspects of file-sharing software and regular broadcast television. Basically, it promises to make watching television on the Internet easier and more accessible.
While Joost isn't available yet, those who have tested it are early fans.
"Boy, does it sound cool ..." Peter Black writes at Freedom To Differ, a sentiment most bloggers share. "I find it fascinating, and truly believe we are on the verge of a major disruption to broadcast and cable television," Ed Holloway, a Joost beta tester, writes.
"It is an important, and disruptive development, because the emergence of high quality television distribution over the internet via services like Joost threatens the hegemony of existing television networks," Sam Rose writes at Social Synergy.
Many have faith in the product because of the success of the founders' other work. Skype was sold for $2.6 billion to eBay Inc. in 2005. "These guys have hit home runs with these every time. I'm willing to bet this one's out of the park, too," Zane blogs.
Mark Evans agrees. "I also think Joost will be another entrepreneurial success for Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friss, who appear to have the Midas Touch in the wake of Skype's sale to eBay," he blogs at Hey We're Talking Tech.
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By Melissa McNamara