No, ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ Just No! (February 12, 2011)

Please don’t do this to me y’all. I have watched every episode of every season you have ever had. I have stuck with you through Tom Bergeron’s multiple co-host changes (and sorry ladies, none of you can ad-lib your way out of a Smart car). I have suffered through Bristol Palin and feared your casting team could go no lower than Evander Holyfield, but now you are thinking of doing this? Does my loyalty purchase no gratitude?

Rumor Mill: Brett Favre to Join ‘Dancing with the Stars?’

I knew it. I was finally lulled into the belief that I might be free of seeing this grizzled old drama queen wince his way across my TV screen. I swore that after a highly publicized episode of texting his pee pee to a female employee of the NFL, after leading the Minnesota Vikings to a horrendously disappointing season, promising once and for all to free the league of his divatude, he might take his millions and crawl into a pop cultural cave for a spell. But no, the ultimate media whore has decided instead to give ballroom dancing a whirl.

Though a loyal fan, I have never cast a vote for a contestant of this show before. However, if the rumor pans out and Favre does compete on the 12th season of the program, I will start my own robo dial campaign – for everyone but him.

Go away Brett!

10 Unusual Things For Which I’m Thankful (November 25, 2010)

1. Getting Fired

Yes, though I remain out of work and the unemployment experience is often panic-filled and emotionally draining, I am grateful to have been let go. That’s because the job I worked, under the thumb of an arbitrary and capricious narcissist, was wrong for me and my long-term goals in just about every way. But because I will often continue to push a boulder up a hill even after my back gives out, I’m not sure anything short of termination would have allowed me to look beyond my immediate surroundings to strive for something better.

2. Bristol Palin Finishing 3rd on “Dancing with the Stars”

This bit of justice served demonstrated to me, on a microcosmic level, that the rational middle can band together to combat the hysterical and determined fringe, if only their organizational abilities are channeled in the right direction. All that remains is to inspire people to vote for their national leaders and the direction of their children’s future with the same enthusiasm. Maybe one day we can vote for President via 888 number, text and email?

3. Tendonitis

When a recurring case of deep tissue tendonitis on the underside of my right foot ended a burgeoning running career, I felt despondent. Forced to sit on the sidelines for eight weeks until I could consider cardio again, I felt like the oldest 32 year-old in the world. But then my friend and trainer Rob repaired my old bicycle and a new world opened. I have covered the entire North and West sides of my beloved hometown of Chicago on a trusty Schwinn, and I have people watched until the eyes literally stung. And my problematic thighs and rear end have never looked better. Boo ya injury!

4. My Father’s Final Break With Reality

Tragic and more painful than there are words to describe, but also oddly transformative and liberating at the same time. For the first time in 32 years, I am not living anyone else’s life or paying for anyone else’s mistakes but my own.

5. My Husband’s Anxiety

My nickname for Eddie is “Aunty,” because in many areas of his mostly together life, he carries himself with the needless worry of an old Indian woman. I tell him often that he loves to conjure crisis where there isn’t any. But in one particular case, when he fretted for naught this year that he was about to be let go from his contract position at work (instead, they wanted to offer him an extension), his jumpiness paid dividends. He now has a permanent managerial job with a huge and stable company – with plenty of room to grow. In a year plagued with my own employment instability (see #1), there is something to be said for insurance.

6. The BP Gulf Oil Spill

Of COURSE I wish this catastrophe had never happened. So much coastline, so many animals, jobs and resources destroyed by the carelessness and greed of a government/corporate dynamic. Horrifying. But since the tragedy did occur, I learned a lesson, one I am afraid much of America has not yet received. We MUST liberate ourselves from clutches of oil consumption. It is bad for our environment. It is bad for our nation’s security. It is bad for our economy. We need a plan, and we need lawmakers who aren’t more interested in lining their pockets with Big Oil slush funds.

7. Mayor Daley’s Resignation

Ding dong the witch is dead! Whatever the King’s reasons, I could not be happier to rid this fantastic City of his corrupt ass. The sickening property taxes, the astronomical cost of housing, the horrendous parking meter lease, the Chicago Olympic never-should-have-happened bid. Waste, graft. Rarely have I seen a lawmaker so overstay his welcome, although John Boehner has been House Majority Leader for like 10 minutes and I’m already past my limit. Anyway, Daley’s departure also opens up one of the most wacky and exciting populist contests to hit the Chicago machine since I don’t know when. Rahm Emannuel, Roland Burris, and Carol Mosley Braun? Nuts!

8. The Finale of Lost

Thank you Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for teaching a control freak such as I that it is possible to be utterly mystified, vexed and awed and still love every moment of what I am seeing.

9. Brett Michaels

The former hair metal hasbeen taught me this year that it is possible to cheat death twice (major stroke, hole in the heart) and still come back to win Celebrity Apprentice and bust up Billy Ray Cyrus’ marriage. Inspirational middle finger to the Grim Reaper.

10. Nicoderm CQ

For saving Eddie’s life.

Dancing with the Stars Gets Palined (November 18, 2010)

man-shoots-tv-over-bristol-palin

I am simultaneously awed and repulsed by former Alaskan Governor and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s sway on the voting public. The former emotion is influenced by the undeniable statistics that underpin Palin’s track record. Six of the 11 total Senate candidates that Palin backed in this month’s mid-term elections won their seats. And of the five that didn’t emerge victorious, two of them, former Nevada assemblywoman Sharron Angle and Alaskan attorney Joe Miller, were defeated by a hair despite being two of the most dangerous candidates on any ballot anywhere.

Those who dismiss the real power of Palin do so at their own peril, no matter how vile I find the woman. I was quite sure in late 2008, after Barack Obama handed John McCain a resounding defeat that crossed party lines, that Sarah Palin would retreat to the Alaskan wilderness she calls home, living out the rest of her life as a political afterthought, a wacky footnote in Presidential election history.

But while Palin may not be able to recall books or magazines that she reads, the woman is a publicity machine virtuoso. Somehow, by freeing herself of the shackles of her elected office, a move many of us never saw coming, she has grown only more politically powerful. She’s like a Gremlin that someone fed after midnight. The woman is everywhere: Fox News, reality TV, candidate meet and greets. She also seems to genuinely hold together a close knit family, raising a special needs child and servicing her backwoods hottie of a husband, Todd. She somehow appears to get more attractive with every public appearance, like a rifle-toting Dorian Gray. It’s challenging at times not to admire the lady. As something of a multi-tasking wunderkind myself, I must begrudgingly hand it to another.

However, that does not mean I like her personally. I absolutely abhor her politics and just about everything she stands for: pro-life, pro-guns, anti-regulation, and many times, anti-sense period. She is equal parts fascinating and nauseating. As a card carrying liberal who worships CNN and avoids Fox and other GOP media arms, it has up until recently, been fairly easy to limit face time with Sarah Palin.

But then ABC announced its cast for Dancing with the Stars Season 11 and I knew my luck was about to end. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s 19 year-old daughter and a successful “teen activist (cough)” was chosen as one of the “celebrity dancers (double cough).” What were the odds that Sarah Palin, a nearly unparalleled media whore, would pass up the opportunity to support her offspring on TV’s #1 show?

I must admit, at first I sort of clapped my hands together with glee. What a train wreck this would be! Bristol was going to suck! And initially, I was not disappointed. Witness the mid-October routine in which Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas donned gorilla suits to dance the jive accompanied byThe Monkees theme song. Horrifying. Deservedly so, the teenager found herself at the bottom of the leader board and on her way to elimination.

Not so fast…

I realized to my horror, and all too belatedly, that Sarah Palin’s continuous presence in the audience, and inside the packaged clips that precede each choreographed dance routine, might be something of a motivator for the show’s audience, which skews older and Republican. As a contestant’s final standings comprise an amalgam of judge’s scores and democratic viewer votes (dammit!), week after week, the teenager has escaped certain death.

As the show lurches toward next week’s finale, the bodies of far better dancers whom Bristol has knocked off lie in its wake: Audrina Patridge, the talented, if vacant former star of MTV’s The Hills, Rick Fox, the sexy and suave retired L.A. Laker, and just this past Tuesday, the most shocking defeat of all. R&B singer and actress Brandy was eliminated despite receiving a perfect score of 30 for her engaging Argentine Tango.

What the hell gives?

Although violence is never the answer, I find myself sympatico with viewer Steven Cowan from Vermont, Wisconsin, a man so incensed with Bristol’s triumph over Brandy that he shot his television. New York Times’ columnist Gail Collins writes this morning:

“According to a police report posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Cowan became so upset by the political implications of Bristol Palin’s continuing victories on “Dancing With the Stars” that he shot the family television, precipitating a 15-hour standoff with local police. The complaint notes that Cowan did not think that Bristol ‘was a good dancer.'”

Although I did little more than launch my remote across the living room on Tuesday night, I sympathize with Cowan’s rage. We have come to begrudgingly accept Palin’s influence in the political arena, but please Tea Partiers, leave the integrity of Dancing with the Stars untouched.

Too late I guess. At this point, it seems inevitable that Bristol Palin will walk off with the coveted Mirrorball trophy next week. Our only hope of salvation is the mobilization of the Jennifer Grey/Dirty Dancing/ Ferris Bueller lobby. Get out the vote! The future of reality TV is at stake! Maybe the pending miscarriage of justice will spur Democrats more than minor issues like war, tax reform, health care and the economy were able to on November 2.

God bless America.