Trending Now on Yahoo 9:30 AM CST (February 10, 2011)

I will confess that after purging myself emotionally with the last post, and trying to prepare for the start of a permanent full-time writing and editing job (remember those?) that kicks off Monday morning, I am feeling a little short on creativity. But thank goodness I can always take advantage of the nation’s short attention span to mine material for pop cultural discussion. As my title suggests, I pulled this list from Yahoo a short while ago. When I woke up at 6:00 AM and turned on my computer, the navel gazing night shift was preoccupied with a whole different set of issues. If I want to stay relevant, I had better move quickly, so here goes:

1. Julia Hurley
I confess I did not even know who this woman was, but of course as she sits at #1 on the trend list, I figured it had something to do with sex, drugs or murder. Ding, ding, ding! Give Becky Sarwate a prize. Of course it the former scandal in play. Julia Hurley, a 28 year-old candidate for the 32nd Legislative District, according to an Examiner report, may or may not have been wearing pants in a photo taken back in 2005, when the would-be lawmaker was still a working model.

Clearly her constituents should take part in a real debate over whether an “artistic” picture snapped at 23 have anything at all to do with her fitness for office now (I would argue no). However, I suspect the reason Ms. Hurley sits atop the Yahoo search is because there’s a lot of pervy folks out there trying to locate the since removed pantless shots. They would like to assess her”credentials” for themselves.

2. Britney Spears
Ms. Spears is no stranger to trending high on search engine lists. She’s been doing her thing for well over a decade, a thing I confess I adore. Mercifully, after a serious 2007 case of personal and professional meltdown, Britney is back to getting the right kind of attention for her work. With a new album dropping at the end of March, a will-she-or-won’t debate over a possible Grammy performance and a smash radio single, “Hold It Against Me” on the airwaves, there are plenty of reasons everyone wants Brit.

3. Charlie Sheen
Sigh. Oh Charlie. What could possibly be left for us to know? We have been aware of you and your hard partying, hooker loving ways since the mid-80s. It’s as dependable as death and taxes. I will admit the smiling, toothless photo that circulated on TMZ before you went to rehab (smoke crack much?) was a surprise because I believed you to be vainer than that, but honestly after you have shot a girlfriend, held a knife to you third wife’s throat, and nearly burned down a hotel, nothing is novel anymore. Please go away and get healthy so that the rest of us who are not mystifyingly addicted to Two and a Half Men can love you again.

4. Jennifer Hudson
The extremely talented and resilient Ms. Hudson is garnering all sorts of media attention for her new Weight Watchers-induced sexiness, a pending album, and her participation in an all-star Grammy tribute to the legendary Aretha Franklin. There is talk in Hollywood that Jennifer may also play the Queen of Soul in a developing biopic. Make this happen! This woman has endured tremendous tragedy, but she is back with a new family, an inspirational attitude and a brilliant career. American Idol never knew what it had. 7th place? Bah!

5. iPhone
Wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T are finally going head to head to market and sell the mega-popular smartphone. Conflicting reports abound that Verizon service results in fewer dropped calls while Team AT&T purports to have the superior app functionality. You know what? I still don’t care and I never will. I just want to know if Steve Jobs is going to be ok. We need him – one of the last great rock star innovators of a generation.

6. Julia Roberts
The pretty woman and mother of three is bucking type to portray the “Evil Queen” in a version of Snow White that’s currently in production. Julia has played some morally ambiguous characters before, in movies like Closer, but this might be the first time she will let her unabashed villainess flag fly. Ms. Roberts has not produced a plethora of great movies in recent years (Eat, Pray, Yuck), so I am interested to see how this works out.

7. Elvis Presley Enterprises
The group is suing men in Florida, England, Wales, and elsewhere for infringement of intellectual property rights after the circulation of unauthorized box sets. Are you bored? Me too. Next!

8. Valentine flowers
With everything going on in my personal life, the advent of this Hallmark holiday nearly escaped me – nearly. I was about to write a legion of incredibly snarky comments but it seems American men and woman have taken to the Internet in the quest to find flowers for their loved ones. Only a real cynic could find fault with that part of the ritual.

9. Pepsi can
I am glad I held onto my snark, because I plan to make ample use of it here. The carbonated beverage company recently announced a redesigned Diet Pepsi “skinny can,” to pay ostensible tribute to “beautiful, confident women.” Ah yes – Pepsi gets us, don’t they ladies? The regular can of artificially sweetened syrup just does not allow a full expression of the self. However, skinny cans are only a short tangential walk away from the horror-inducing idea of skinny jeans; you know the ones that 98% percent of woman cannot fit into? I say if you want to pay tribute to yourself as the beautiful, confident woman you are, drink a glass of water instead – good for the skin, waistline, hydration and best of all, it will prohibit Pepsi from further lining their corporate pockets by trading in sexist bullshit.

10. Chipotle
And once you’ve finished that glass of water, celebrate your banging female curves by indulging in a giant Chipotle Burrito.

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My Big, Fat Greek Default (May 6, 2010)

Greece

Greece, that ancient land. What it giveth us culturally, it simultaneously taketh away.

They give us the philosophic wisdom of Socrates, but we must also accept Constantine Maroulis, former American Idol failure, and “star” of Broadway’s Rock of Ages.

They provide us with ouzo, so that we can comfortably endure the amoral, classless legacy of the college fraternity system.

They give us a beautiful vacation spot beloved by tourists for centuries, and then they go bankrupt.

They giveth….Ok, I’ll stop. You get the point.

By now most of us know about the great fiscal crisis currently abroil in Greece. Hitting a little too close to home, given America’s own balloning deficit, and the ’08 collapse of our banking system, it is impossible not to feel empathy for the Greek people. The picture above clearly demonstrates that they are mad as hell about their current fiscal situation. What to do?

However, my issue today is not with Greek folks, or even the nation itself. Instead, I want to talk about Germany and it’s blame in creating the mess that caused the Dow to fall a collective 347.8 points over the course of the day.

Germany, you ask? What does the land of beer and sauerkraut have to do with Greece’s current meltdown (full disclosure: Boop and Jen are half German by lineage)? Didn’t they just approve a bailout package for the struggling nation two days ago?

Yes, they did dear readers, but sadly this vote, which makes Germany look much the proactive benefactor, comes far too late in the game. In fact, the European Union has been aware for quite a long time that Greece was on the brink. And as recently as mid-February, the Germans did not want to do much of anything to help their “spendthrift” economic partners.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/europe/16germany.html

So two months of hemming, hawing, “not my problem” isolationism later, here were are. Greece is the new United States, and global markets are in a free fall. Obviously, given that our nation is still muddling through a way to figure out what the hell happened to our own economy, we have no space to start pointing fingers.

But I am not Barack Obama and I have no need for diplomacy. Germany, j’accuse!

The justification for waiting it out was that “Every country has its own debts.” Well yes, in theory that is true. However, when Europe decided to make it a coalition by creating the European Union, they implicitly resigned the right to keep their concerns within their own borders. If Germany is now second guessing the wisdom of the EU, formed during the heady, prosperous aughts, well they are not the only ones.

I realize that blaming Germany for this debacle does not determine its only cause, nor does it do anything to resolve the gigantic crater sitting in the middle of the Greek economy. But we must hope that Germany is paying attention now, and understands that it can no longer treat the Greeks like so many drunken cousins, whose life choices have no effect on its own fortunes.

Adam Lambert is Gay!…And? (June 10, 2009)

I know some of you will accuse me of having fallen off the back of a turnip truck. Although we are in the Obama era, all “Yes we can!” and stuff, I am aware that this country has a long way to go in terms of mutual acceptance of our brethren. Even so, it is still possible to surprise me.

That happened again this week with “news” that American Idol runner-up (it still irks me that he didn’t win) Adam Lambert has come out of the closet in the latest pages of Rolling Stone. There are a couple things about this which bother me. For one, I kind of figured out Lambert was gay the minute he came onstage during Hollywood week and sang a kick-you-in-the-ass cover of Cher’s “Believe.” My obvious question is: so what? Does that change the fact that the dude is a once in a generation musical talent? Unfortunately, Queen frontman and legend Freddie Mercury was forced to hide his sexual light under a bushel, but that was the 70s. I say that with a keen and painful awareness that we have obviously not come as far as I had hoped.

The Lambert/Mercury comparisons do not stop with sexual preference. Both men remain elecrifying rock performers. Through Freddie’s death, he has been relegated to hindsight, but it does nothing to diminish the powers of his gifts in the present day. I fully believe that Adam Lambert is capable of such greatness, with or without the Idol trophy. I look forward to many years of following his career and attending his shows.

The second part of the problem with this public media “revelation” is that it carries the implicit assumption that Lambert owes it to America to come clean, so to speak, about who he is. Again, why? Rock n’ roll has a long history of male whores such as Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Fred Durst, etc. They do not have to repeatedly reaffirm, with heads bent in shame, that they are straight. Boys will devilish boys, doing what is expected…..unless they choose to sleep with men after the show? Adam Lambert has a steady boyfriend, and is musically gifted. What else do we need to know? I would rather see Bret Michaels under the hot lights, grilled about the necessity of yet another season of VH1’s Rock of Love.

It is apparent that Lambert is not using his homsexuality as a marketing gimmick. I have the impression that he has only made this “announcement” because of relentless media speculation that he figured would be better put to rest. I suppose Adam wants to avoid the years of endless “Is he or isn’t he?” speculation that dogged Season 2 also-ran Clay Aiken.

Now that Lambert has given the vultures what they wanted, I hope we can move on. This interesting story from Reuters raises the inevitable specter that Adam Lambert lost the Idol competition to the wholesome Kris Allen, due to “Red State” disapproval of Lambert’s style:

http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSTRE5585FQ20090610

God, I hope not, but anything is possible. It is 2009 America. According to a number of reliable sources, 10% of the world population is gay. That means that roughly 1 out of every 10 people you encounter is homosexual. Shouldn’t we all be comfortable with this by now? If not, why?

Adam Lambert says it best: “I’m proud of my sexuality,” he said. “I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.” He seems to be a savvy gentleman with a healthy ego and a strong support system. He is not using his sexuality as a media tool, like say, Lindsay Lohan. Whether or not you are a fan of Lambert’s music, the decision should have nothing to do with what goes on behind closed doors.

My Name is Boop, and I am a Reality TV Junkie (June 3, 2009)

It is time to admit my problem. I am an addict. Though only recently I wrote this post excoriating the likes of AI and DWTS, recovery my friends is not a linear process. Just as I threw off the shackles of reality behemoth American Idol, I have succumbed to the latest reality drug. That of course would be fourth place network NBC’s reboot of I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here.

For those of you weary of the spring rain and cool temperatures as I have been, it is easy to fall down the summer crap TV rabbit hole. In years past, I am only mildly ashamed to admit having indulged in old favorites like the CW’s Beauty and the Geek, or the double threat of Fox’s Temptation Island and Paradise Hotel. Apparently there’s something about summer which enhances my appetite for watching “normal” Americans make fools of themselves. This festival of fun is only enhanced when those humiliating themselves are the semi-famous.

So it is with I’m A Celebrity. Intially I was very skeptical of NBC plans to air the program four days a week. I thought to myself, “Is four hours of Speidi really necessary?” Turns out it is, because I am hooked! To use a well worn euphemism, this program is more enticing to the eye than a 10-car pile up on I-94. Though I must warn you of the program’s one downside: If at all possible, record the episodes to your DVR before enjoying. That way you can skip through the painful intro segments and banter of hosts Damien Fahey (formerly of MTV) and Myleene Klaas. They are about as natural as rubbing vinegar in your eye.

If you can forgive NBC for their poor choice of emcees, the rest of the program promises to be a feast for the eyes and ears. See Spencer and Heidi threaten to walk off no fewer than three times! One of these attempts involved an actual ploy to make a run for it, Spencer trying to bumrush a line of angry producers like a playground game of Red Rover. During another of these attempts, he got on the horn with Ben Silverman, Co-Chairman of NBC Universal and accused him of using his “superstar status” to upgrade the cast of C-list losers. This tirade was filled with expletives. I marveled at the chutzpah. I would say that Speidi will not be invited back to appear on anything for the network, especially now that they have finally left. But how could NBC resist? I have never watched The Hills, and thus never understood the appeal of the Pratts (or the “Bratts” as they are known by the rest of the cast), but I do now. Spencer is a mastermind of self-promotion. In a cast that includes heavyweights no less than Janice Dickinson and Lou Diamond Phillips, Speidi completely stole the show. I am truly sorry to see them go and worry for the next three weeks. Rumor has it that alternate players will be introduced tonight, but if one of them turns out to be Daniel Baldwin as I have heard, well that’s just no substitute.

The second biggest surprise of the season is the mad jungle skills of Sanjaya Malakar. You may recall him as the mohawk wearing Indian kid on the 6th season of Idol. He finished his run in 7th place, far more than his talent warranted, and I prayed American had seen the last of him. And yet, I have been floored by his pleasing attitude, survival skills and frankly, his bad ass nature. For evidence, witness Sanjaya’s triumph over the likes of a former NBA great John Salley in the Trauma Tank of Episode 1. Little Sanjaya also swallowed a croc’s tail in one bite. Enough said. When Sanjaya decides to finally come out of the closet, he will be the skinny Rambo of homos. It will be great for his love life.

I almost forgot to mention this, but dare I leave out that Patti Blagojevich, disgraced wife of former IL Gov. Rowdy Roddy, is included in the cast?! You can’t make this stuff up people! Ok, so she is boring, and to my great annoyance, she had the nerve to come off as sympathetic when telling her story to Heidi and Spencer in episode 1. Then those two good Christian servants led Patti in a prayer for the “truth” to be revealed during Blago’s pending trial. Gag me with drama!

I am starting to pant again with excitement as I write this. Don’t take my word for it. Tune in yourselves. Then come back and post your comments. Let’s discuss.