Die-hard? No. Smarter than a hammer? Yes

I have watched only one episode of "American Idol" this season, and that was because my mother-in-law was in town and she never misses it. In the past I have been a bit of a fan because I like listening to good music, plain and simple. I can take or leave all the hyped-up junk that comes with it. Be that as it may, I could not bring myself to watch yet another season of the show, which more often than not gets it wrong (actually, the voters get it wrong but "American Idol" is the vehicle for their poor judgment and my frustration).

Even after one show, I'm keen enough to know the wrong guy with weird hair got booted last night.

No, I'm not going to say the name of the androgynous-looking, vocal chops-deficient boy who didn't even make it into the bottom three ... he is EVERYWHERE right now. Which is probably why people can't stop voting for him, however undeserving. But the one time I saw Chris Sligh perform, I liked him. He reminded me of a lot of the talented guys I sang with in high school choir. Plus, he covered D.C. Talk once and that didn't hurt my soft spot for him.

Anyway, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "that's all I have to say about that." And with any luck -- knock on wood -- there'll be no cause for me to muck up my personal plot of cyberspace again with "AI" nonsense.

Thomas the Tank Engine and one of life's great pleasures

If you've never taken the time to let a 3-year-old tell you a story about trains, you really should.

Last weekend, W (the nephew, not the president) entertained me with a delightful bed-time tale about Thomas and Gordon on a special mission for Sir Toppenhat to deliver delicious beverages. Usually it's a member of the W fan club/family who does the story telling, but that night was a restless one and I think the boy would have told me a story about anything to stay "up" for a few minutes more.

And this boy is particularly bright (a first born of two first borns, surprise surprise). I listened intently as a sudden cargo spill left orange juice and hot chocolate all over the tracks. Can you imagine something more amusing in the mind of a young boy? I was impressed at W's train of thought (no pun intended) for a 3 year old -- chronological and completely practical.

He even thought to include a third engine in his story, an engine I had chosen out of all of them to play with just an hour before. It's not one of his favorite engines by a long shot, so I know this inclusion was meant purely for me, which I found quite thoughtful. Of course I can't remember the name of this train, but it's not the narrative details of the story I'll remember.

The parts worth remembering were his eyes growing larger upon description of the chocolate-covered tracks and his excited stuttering at a plot progressing in supremely silly ways. There is a "feel" to a night like this that's hard to put into words. It involves a child's small, outstretched fingers, moonlight, soft breathing, and virtual silence every place in the world except right where you are. It aches a little to leave a moment like that, but you walk away sighing with a 60-minute smile (at least) stuck on your face. If you don't believe me, try it some time.

"They will not be the same next time. The sayings
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in
the more securely to the worldly buzz
of television, alphabet, and street talk,
culture polluting their gazes' dawn blue.
It makes you see at last the value of
those boring aunts and neighbors (their smells
of summer sweat and cigarettes, their faces
like shapes of sky between shade-giving leaves)
who knew you from the start, when you were zero,
cooing their nothings before you could be bored
or knew a name, not even your own, or how
this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye."

-John Updike


My knowledge of the cartoon "South Park" is limited to what I read in headlines and a few scenes I've caught over the years. I do know that shock value is paramount to its creators, even if it means sacrificing cleverness or originality at times.

Last week's show apparently featured more than 40 uses of the "n-word." And a lot of viewers applauded the episode.

I'm sure there's some great moment of satire I don't know about (because I didn't and won't watch it), but still -- hasn't that card been played by "South Park's" creators about a thousand times? You know, the gag where they take some pop-culture controversy and beat it to death?

Yes, it may have been funny and even insightful, but should this show still be making headlines after 11 years when there really are no new tricks up its sleeve?

Um ... what?

In this story, sent to me by one beloved aunt, a woman is suing doctors and Planned Parenthood for a failed abortion. She wants help with child-rearing costs. Yes, I understand she paid for a "service" that wasn't properly performed, but I've got some questions here: For how many years of child rearing would these folks be paying? And, more importantly, why do people always seem to forget about adoption?

The reason the 45-year-old woman gave for terminating her pregnancy was not rape and not for her own health; she did not have enough money to raise a child. So, who was forcing this woman to raise the baby to begin with, or who is forcing her to raise the child now? Again I'm befuddled by the only TWO options there seem to be for unwanted pregnancies on TV and now in the real world -- raise the child or abort it. There is yet another option in which more parties win. Or maybe there's something I'm just not getting...