Scene & Herd - Ironic crotch

... and mall idolatry

The success of "American Idol" and its U.K. predecessor, "Pop Idol," has spawned at least 30 imitations and spin-offs all over the globe. India has "Indian Idol." Australia has "Australian Idol." Croatia, of course, has "Hrvatski Idol." And when they're not removing hair from their privates, Brazilians love to relax with an "American Idol"-like show called "Ídolos."

Add another to the list. North DeKalb Mall has an ongoing series of contests called — I'm serious now — North DeKalb Mall Idol.

The setup for North DeKalb Mall Idol is quite similar to the TV show. Singers accompanied by backing tracks perform pop songs for a panel of musically employed judges. Singers are eliminated from the competition week after week until a winner is chosen. The primary difference between North DeKalb Mall Idol and "American Idol" is visibility. "American Idol" can be seen in nearly every living room in America. North DeKalb Mall Idol can only be seen in the food court, between the International Buffet and Sbarro.

Saturday afternoon was the final contest of the latest round of North DeKalb Mall Idol. The contest opened with a performance by a "professional recording artist from Austin, Texas," who went by the name Pamela. No last name, just Pamela.

Pamela sang Mariah Carey's "Hero," dedicating it generally to the hero that she says lives in everybody, and specifically to the couple in the food court celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.

The first contestant to take the stage was Curtis Williamson. A preppy-ish young man with an enormous voice, Williamson continued with the hero theme, firing off a version of "Wind Beneath My Wings" that makes Bette Midler's version seem understated. The judges were impressed. One said he'd clearly brought his "A-game" to the competition, while another judge, wearing sweatpants with a piano keyboard pattern printed on the legs, complimented him on the unique timbre of his voice.

The other contestant was a young lady named Rebekah Stark. She sang Alicia Keys' "Lovin' U." Despite a large cheerleading section in the food court, she stunk it up and everyone knew it. None of the judges went Simon on her, but their comments sounded more like support than praise.

Both contestants sang another song each, but it was no contest. Williamson was the winner. He goes on to the Mall of Georgia Idol competition. If he wins that, then it's on to Mall of America!

Actually, that's a lie. He won some money and studio time. The mall's next competition, for 29- to 49-year-olds, starts April 1.

Wow!: After "Idol"-ing, I drove to the Soul Vegetarian Health Complex in the West End for the "Channeling Creative Energy for Relationship Enhancement" seminar, presented by a group called Women of Wellness.

I arrived during a presentation by L'dia Men-Na'a. Men-Na'a promotes the health benefits of aromatherapy and meditation to health. While lowered stress levels are proven to improve health, at times Men-Na'a implies that her system isn't just supplemental for traditional health care, but a superior alternative. She suggested at one point that aromatherapy could cure cancer, a proposal that would kill anyone who took it literally.

She suggested that people who advise women with HIV/AIDS not to breastfeed are doing so in an effort to "wipe us out." By "us," I'm assuming she means people of color. The World Health Organization disagrees with her.

Next up was Yirser Ra Hotep. Hotep teaches Kemetic Yoga, an Egyptian yoga discipline. Hotep said, "All yoga is African," to which the guy seated in front of me replied, "That's right!" Hotep ended his presentation with a brief yoga routine that earned him a standing ovation.

After yoga, the men and women were divided, with the men going downstairs for a presentation called "Iron Crotch Healing Qigong." Instructor Amensa Shep Teker explained that, like yoga, Qigong is an African concept that people falsely assume to be Asian. Iron Crotch Healing Qigong uses the principles of Qigong to promote sexual strength and stamina. In addition to genital weight-lifting, diet and "seed" retention are also crucial. Spread seed too frequently and you drain your body of its life force. According to Teker, to produce one drop of semen, your body spends 44 drops of blood. That's on top of what it spent on dinner and a movie.

What else: On Thursday evening, Ted Kooser visited Oglethorpe University for a reading and signing. Kooser is the poet laureate of the United States. Being poet laureate of the United States has privileges (Kooser is legally permitted to break Jewel's fingers if he ever gets the chance), but it also has responsibilities, namely promoting American poetry.

He seems to be doing a fine job. It wasn't technically sold out since admission was free, but every seat in the university's Conant Performing Arts Center was taken and there were people standing in the back.

Kooser is known and (justifiably) loved for poetic ruminations on everything from the students at the university where he worked, to rain, to the spiral notebook on his desk. He's also quite fond of peonies, mentioning them in three of the poems he read. The most beautiful poem he read was an elegy to his mother, thanking her for his appreciation of life. It was loving, sentimental, and not once trite.

Finally, on Saturday night, I joined the Chardonnayed masses for the Art Papers Art Auction, the annual gathering at Mason Murer Fine Art that sees hundreds of artists donating some of their best work to raise money for Art Papers magazine. What a great setup — artists donating their work to raise money for art critics. I need to set up a Scene & Herd auction.

For more of Andisheh's outings, visit Scene & Herd at andy2000.org.

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