Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In a Pickle

I voted yesterday. Actually, I tried to vote twice, which isn’t all that uncommon in Chicago politics.

I cast my first ballot in the Illinois primary election, where a good number of the candidates were running unopposed. But I wanted to show my support for our incumbent congressman, Rahm Emmanuel, former Clinton adviser/attack dog and overall burr in the Bush Administration’s saddle. And while I have no idea what the job of Cook County Board President actually entails, I thought it should go to someone (Forrest Claypool) who didn’t suffer a debilitating stroke last week (John Stroger). Not to appear utterly heartless, but it took Dick Clark a year of intensive therapy to work himself up to “Happy New Year.” You don’t elect a man to office just because you feel sorry for him—that’s why Hallmark invented “get well” cards.

Mostly I walked the half a block to the polling place because it was on my way to the produce market and I actually like to vote. It’s like taking a multiple choice quiz where there’s no such thing as a wrong answer. Our new simplified ballots (kiss those hanging-chad-prone butterfly versions goodbye) even looked like a standardized exam, what with the instructions to fill in the circle or mark clearly with an “X.” I was very good at taking tests in school and felt equal to the task.

I even studied a little beforehand, checking endorsements for judicial candidates. But I forgot to take my cheat sheet with me to the polls and did my best to recall from memory. When in doubt, I opted for the female on the slate. Because, you know, I am one.

I remember a particularly dull seminar course in college on “gatekeeping” of the news. I don’t know how this subject cropped up, but our professor wondered why women, being more than 50 percent of the population, couldn’t get their act together and elect a female president.

Well, Dr. Krompak, we are awfully busy thinking about shoes. Of course, the answer is that women voters aren’t ruled by gender so much as issues. Yes, I checked off female judicial candidates because they were women but also because they’re Democrats. Over on the Republican side of the ticket, Judy Baar Topinka earned the right to challenge Rod Blagojevich for the governorship. She would be the first woman to hold that office in Illinois. I would love to see that happen—if she were affiliated with a different party. I won’t be voting for her in November, although I would be happy to help her choose a hair color found in nature.

I tried to cast my second ballot for Chris Daughtry, who’s running for American Idol. Between 9:10 and 10:33 p.m. (Central time), I placed five calls to 1-866-IDOLS-04. The line was busy every time. Clearly I need to work on my dialing technique.

“Idol” is the sort of show I could take or leave and I haven’t followed it with any particular interest since Season 1. I find the whole concept of a musical “idol” irksome. Do we need another Madonna, with her limited vocal range and dreams of world domination? Fans of Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, J. Lo and Beyonce seem to think so.

Me, I’m not so interested in this constellation of star power, with their bootylicious dance routines and Red Carpet mannequin poses. I’m not looking for an untouchable god or goddess, I want someone real. When I first moved to Chicago, I fell asleep every night listening to Shawn Colvin’s “Steady On” CD. I was homesick, lonely and heartbroken. Shawn understood. She had been there too, and I found comfort in her words.

Last night’s guest svengali, Barry Manilow—not an idol. But he knows how to connect with his audience. The same can be said for Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and Carole King—none a vocal powerhouse or conventional good looker but superstars all the same.

I’m not saying Chris Daughtry is of this ilk. But he strikes me as someone more interested in becoming a musical artist than a designer of perfume fragrances and clothing lines. I can not say the same for the others.

Not to name names, but Kellie Pickler. This girl has some singing chops. But not much else.

Ryan Seacrest to Kellie: “So, what’s new this week?”
Ryan: “Anything going on?Kellie: “Look, it’s a pickle,” gesturing to sign in the audience.

Get it, “pickle/Pickler.” I’m not so sure she did. I got the feeling that if you unscrewed the top of her head and looked inside, you would find the cast of “Lost” staring down a bottomless hatch hole.


Luminous Sightings

The New Yorker, March 20 issue, pg. 150, “Mysterious Skin” by Paul Goldberger: “I was glad I wasn’t behind the wheel when I rode in a car to the arena at night, since I couldn’t take my eyes off its luminous form and unsettling monumentality.”

Television and online ads for Maybelline’s new Superstay Lipcolor: “16 feel-good hours of luminous color.”


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