A mix this week of the national and the local, the hoity and the not-so-toity:
* "American Idol" is about as appealing this season as a pickle sandwich made with bad pickles. I know, I know. Year after year I mumble this and that about how they don't make contestants like they used to. And wonder if Ryan Seacrest is really made out of plastic. Why the ensemble vocal numbers are so egregious. And if Simon Cowell were to stumble upon the cure to cancer, would he bestow it on a grateful world or chew it up and swallow it out of spite?
But I keep watching, mostly because "AI" is a must-see in my household, and I guess something in me is drawn to the creaky, ritualistic inevitability of it all.
Still, can anyone out there really make a case that this season isn't the worst ever? This past week, as the Top 11 candidates got winnowed down to 10 -- that all-important core of contestants that gets to romp around the country on the "Tour," an honor invoked in breathless tones suitable for a cabinet-level appointment on a résumé -- I couldn't help but think that I'd be hard-pressed to pick five that actually deserve the honor.
Lee DeWyze? Good voice, but he always looks uncomfortable in his skin, like he's about to cry. Andrew Garcia? I must have missed his "knockout" performance, because every time I hear him sing I wince. Aaron Kelly? Nice kid, but he looks like an 13-year-old reporting for junior-high gym class. Crystal Bowersox? Like a sedated Joni Mitchell.
Then again, it struck me this week as I watched Miley Cyrus and Joe Jonas/Demi Lovato stumble their way through lackluster performances, that it isn't easy to sing live on national TV. Perhaps a Carrie Underwood or an Adam Lambert is harder to find than we think.
Or it could be that the judges just picked really badly this year.
Please, "AI," get better. Or else it's going to be a long, long season.
* Just to show that I do more with my off hours than count how many times Randy Jackson says "pitchy," I report with pride that last week I finally finished David Foster Wallace's mammoth 1996 book "Infinite Jest," one of those Books I Always Meant to Read And Never Got Around To. Took me six weeks of heavy-duty reading, and I got sucked into the sprawling, engaging, infuriating story of a disturbed high school tennis star and a reformed drug addict living in a near-future world in which each year is "sponsored" by a corporation. (Hence, one could be born, say, in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.)
Wallace had a legion of fans, and his suicide in 2008 at age 46 was a shock. I find that I'm conflicted about the book, on one hand loving the startling yet meandering prose and on the other annoyed by its postmodern disdain of narrative flow. Any other "Infinite Jest" veterans out there with whom I can commune? Check out fresnobeehive.com for the relevant post.
* On a local note: The beleaguered Fresno Art Museum has gotten a lot of bad press lately -- with a leaking roof, a wave of layoffs and fiscal woes making major headlines.
It's nice to note, then, that the museum is making an effort to return to normalcy.
On Saturday it opened an exhibition titled "Ansel Adams: Passion in Photography" that runs through Aug. 15. The show is guest curated by Steve Dzerigian, who worked with Adams on a special assignment in 1981 and spent nearly a decade of working for The Ansel Adams Gallery Workshop Program.
And if you're looking for some fun kid stuff during spring break, in fact, the museum has plenty of options. Spring ArtCamp, held 8:30-11:30 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, includes sessions on pop art, mixed-media sculptures and Frida Kahlo-inspired self portraits. Fee per session is $50 for members, $60 non-members.
Details: (559) 441-4221, ext. 101.
The columnist can be reached at dmunro@fresno bee.com or (559) 441-6373. Read his blog at fresnobee hive.com/author/donald_ munro.