We Americans can dislike China for their commie ways, but -- besides making cheap products for U.S. consumers at rock-bottom labor prices and some amazing cuisine -- they also have some good ideas about how to make American Idol more palatable (or, better yet, make it disappear completely). Beginning next month, China debuts Happy Boys Voice, a spin-off of the wildly successful Idol-esque Super Girls Voice, which drew over 400 million viewers. The Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television sent a notice to the show's producers that said the show can contain "no weirdness, no vulgarity," feature only "healthy and ethically inspiring" songs and that producers should "avoid scenes of screaming fans or losing contestants in tears." Judges must also refrain from "mocking or humiliating contestants." We're all for free speech and freedom of expression, but in this case, we say bring these guidelines to the U.S., pronto. American Idol would be cancelled within seconds.
Surveillance Run Amok
One of the many things about the Patriot Act that has many clear-thinking individuals crying foul is its insinuation that people deemed troublemakers by the administration can be lawfully spied upon without proper cause.
The current administration has already admitted some domestic phone calls have been listened in on (by accident, of course), and now it appears they've been keeping an eye on the real enemies of America's freedoms musicians? Lawyers for the New York Civil Liberties Union are up in arms after a report found by The New York Times revealed that the NYPD used undercover agents to spy on protest groups during the 2004 Republican National Convention, including musicians and supporters of the "Bands Against Bush" (Sonic Youth and many others participated) concerts and rallies in New York and four other big cities. It is alleged that NYPD officers traveled to those other cities to case potential RNC protestors up to a year before the actual convention. The obtained secret report from the oxymoronically named "R.N.C. Intelligence Squad" said, "Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda." Well, hell, lock 'em all up then! The NYCLU is considering legal action, saying the actions violate a 1971 court order that prohibits spying on legal political activities. Again, this begs the question: What the hell else is our government doing that we don't know about? Just to be safe, we're working up a coded language to use when we go to Michael Stipe's dinner party this weekend. Given the gov's proven ineptitude, maybe Pig Latin will suffice.
Lord of the Bling
Hip Hop is a very competitive business, understandably, given the braggadocio of most mainstream MCs' lyrics. Having a No. 1 CD, of course, offers bragging rights for an artist, but things like bullet holes (50 Cent seems very proud of his) and bank-account balances can often seem more important than say, artistic merit or cultural relevancy. In the new Rolling Stone, it was reported that rapper Lil Jon has a new accomplishment to put on his résumé. The Guinness Book of World Records has verified that Jon's five-pound, 73-carat bling necklace -- which reads "Crunk Ain't Dead" and looks bigger than your average neon beer sign -- is the largest piece of gaudy jewelry in the universe. It would seem like it would take a diamond-encrusted Buick to top the record, but we have another, simpler suggestion for the Yin Yang Twins or any other rapper looking to break the milestone weight. Use proper English and get Jon's jeweler to make you a "Crunk Is Not Dead" pendant. You'll be up one whole letter on Jon's neckpiece -- that's gotta be worth another half pound and at least 15 more carats.