Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

A Little Ethics Before “West Wing” Ends

posted by doug howe

“The West Wing’s” great run is on its last leg, but producers are making a run to the finish, which will include special guest appearances (Jon Bon Jovi’s on next week) and cameos from the show’s former stars. I was also glad to see—at least for one final time—”West Wing” return to its roots of leveraging its political plotline to engage in the kind of moral and ethical dilemmas that should always matter for a spiritual seeker. When Ron Silver’s character Bruno (who advises Alan Alda’s Arnie Vinick in his presidential campaign against Jimmy Smits’s Matt Santos) finds Santos’s briefcase with damaging information inside, he confronts Vinick with the opportunity to take Santos down with the information inside.

“It will make you President,” he says.

Vinick’s absolute resolve to “give it back immediately” turns into “I don’t wanna know anything about it” to “let’s sleep on it” to “keep it,” as he becomes aware of the secret hidden inside. This, I believe, is the kind of moment that defines the true spirituality of any person: Can we do the right thing, even when it may keep us from achieving an ambition or living a dream? Vinick eventually chooses to give the briefcase back, but there’s still room for the secret to get out.

I’m curious to see what they do with this one, and will tune in for the kind of typically bold writing that often marks a show’s final weeks. And even if it’s lame, I’ll at least get a Bon Jovi song, some reunion cameos, and the memory of a show which often moved past politics to ask the significant questions of life.

For the Wives, “Big Love” Falls Short on Love & Respect

posted by donna freitas

Now we are beyond the second episode into the premier season of HBO’s new family drama “Big Love“–and I am disgusted. I blogged earlier about my concerns for what looked to be “Big Love’s” attempt to “normalize” a polygamous relationship–and after Episode 2, my fears have been confirmed.

Poor, poor Bill Hendrickson! He’s popping the Viagra to keep up with all three of his wives, who are just dying to bed him as he makes his nightly rounds. And though Barb, Nicki, and Margey bicker and fight over who gets him when and how much, they still submit to what Bill calls “the principle” (polygamy within their breakaway version of Mormon faith) and his God-like rule over the family finances, home life, and sex schedule.

Whether it’s Carmela’s staying in a seriously problematic home life on “The Sopranos” or the three “Big Love” wives who negotiate whatever power they can grasp, TV’s message about women and religion lately seems to be: Just do the best you can with what you got! Grin, bear, and work with it.

I find that seriously depressing and unsatisfying. While I cringe at times watching Carmela’s sacrifices, Barb, Nicki, and Margey just take the cake on “Big Love.”

Jesus Walks the Carpet

posted by burb

We all loved “Walk the Line” and Reese Witherspoon’s Tennessee-belle acceptance speech at the li’l ol’ Oscuhs. And we hated to see Dolly Parton’s “Travelin’ Thru”—the only Best Song nominee to mention Jesus–get passed over in favor of some rant about pimps.

So if you’re like us, set your Tivo now for the Academy of Country Music Awards, which announced its nominees last week and will be televised from Las Vegas on May 23. Three of this year’s Song of the Year nominees make a big deal of faith: “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” which recently got bucked out of first place on the Country charts by fellow nominee “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Brad Paisley’s duet with Dolly; Brooks & Dunn are also nominated for their “Believe.”

We’re feeling like Jesus is a lock—and if He wins, we’ll celebrate by throwing on Alan Jackson’s new album, “Precious Memories,” a collection of gospel favorites (he reportedly recorded the album at his mother’s urging), including “Washed in the Blood of the Lamb,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Matisyahu: Too Big for Gratitude?

posted by

The Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu is everywhere these days–Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, record store displays, iTunes most-downloaded lists–but the phenomenal, and surprising, success he’s found doesn’t seem to be enough for him. The New York Times reports that, on the eve of the release of his new album, “Youth,” Matisyahu called his longtime managers–and fired them.

Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris, the young men who founded the nonprofit music label JDub, had the foresight and creativity to look at a bearded, black-hatted Hasid and see his star potential. They nurtured Matisyahu’s career and shared the glory of his rise to fame–only to be dumped as his career began to really take off. “He said, ‘I don’t know if you guys are old enough or have enough experience,'” Bisman told the Times regarding Matisyahu’s reasoning.

Being the hip but squeaky-clean Orthodox Jew singing about God, the messiah, and values is a major part of Matisyahu’s appeal. Along with catchy tunes, his personae is his appeal. It’s hard to reconcile the idea that this Hasid would fail to show the basic Jewish value of gratitude by sticking with the managers who were responsible for his success.

Not surprisingly, some of his most strident supporters are shocked at the betrayal. One of the bloggers at jewschool.com describes his own longstanding efforts at pushing Matisyahu’s career forward in every way possible, and then comments on this week’s news:

The last three years for Matisyahu have been nothing less than miraculous. He has gone from playing half-empty nightclubs in New York City to playing for sold-out crowds at Madison Square Garden, and headlining with his own musical heroes like Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Bob Marley’s backup band, The Wailers….

While I marvel at his success, and wish to be proud that I had some part in making it happen, I can only watch in horror and disappointment as he presses a knife firmly into the back of the man squarely responsible for his stardom — the man under whose chuppah I once watched him sing: Aaron Bisman. What should be a time of simcha [happiness] and pure joy is now overcast by the shadow of gut-wrenching heartbreak.

That same blog posting quotes a Rolling Stone profile in which Matisyahu makes his naked ambition clear:

[W]hile the 26-year-old artist is devoutly religious, he is not letting that stand in the way of getting his music heard. “Who doesn’t want success?” he asks. “There’s some artists that say they don’t, and they’re not looking for it, but I’m not one of those artists.”

In the end, I guess it shows that even the most pious among us are suceptible to the seductions of fame and fortune. I am not one of those people who holds someone to a higher moral standard because he wears a yarmulke and only eats kosher food, but putting profit before people and money before ethics is not kosher in anybody’s religion.

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