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Here's to our yodeling, voice-throwing Miss Arkansas.

START ROOTING NOW: For Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady.
  • START ROOTING NOW: For Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady.

Life has not been a dream for beauty pageants of late. ABC booted the pageant world's grand dame, Miss America, from network TV in 2004. Miss USA doesn't seem to be able to crown a winner who doesn't have a sex tape or a pole dancing past (maybe that's by design). The only real memorable contribution the pageant world has offered culture lately came courtesy of Miss Teen USA 2007 contestant Miss South Carolina, a bottle blonde with glistening chompers who served as a tidy encapsulation of pageant vapidness when she offered the most hilariously incoherent response to a question on national TV this side of Sarah Palin. It was about Americans' inability to identify the US on a map: "I believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps. I believe that our education, like such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere, such as ..."

It's really got to be seen to be believed.

But now, snarky, dark-hearted haters like me have a reason to care again (or for the first time), beyond the fact that ABC will once again air Miss America next year: Alyse Eady, crowned Miss Arkansas last weekend, is awesome. The 22-year-old Fort Smith native has all the requisite qualities: She's strikingly pretty; she advocated, in the Miss Arkansas pageant, for a good cause, the Boys and Girls Club; and as a recent OBU grad, with a major in communications, she's not likely to call Iraq "the Iraq." But most of all, her talent is a YODELING, VENTRILIQUIST RENDITION OF "I WANT TO BE A COWBOY'S SWEETHEART." That's right, an African-American pageant contestant is yodeling and singing one of Arkansas's greatest contributions to country music (the song was the first million-copy seller for a female country artist for Arkansas Ozarks native Patsy Montana in 1935) — and she's doing it without moving her lips! And she's actually really good at it, or at least she was in 2004, when she appeared as Miss Teen Arkansas at Miss America, in a performance you can watch on YouTube.

Though Eady's talent is sure to stand out at Miss America in January, there is precedent. Eady's favorite Miss America, Vonda Kay Van Dyke, was crowned in 1965 — incidentally by Arkansas' only Miss America, Donna Axum — after she used ventriloquism as her talent.

In the meantime, Eady will be busy kissing babies and cutting ribbons across the state. And she's already worked up a good line about her path:

"I would really love to be Miss America, but I'm just so happy to be Miss Arkansas. And whether or not that works out or not, I know I've got a great state to come back to and I can't wait to travel to all corners and meet the people who live here."

If you read the inside section of the Democrat-Gazette's Sunday Perspectives page, you're no stranger to wingnuttery. But last Sunday, columnist Mike Masterson took a break from cheerleading the Tea Party to delve into semantics.

His column, "Running hot and cold," opened with an Andy Rooney-style gambit, the tried-and-true, "I'm old and I don't understand anything." Masterson's confusion? The way his teen-aged daughters use the word "hot" to describe boys. Kids and their lingo today!

"Ask how to define a boy's hotness," Masterson writes, "the girls usually roll their eyes and remind me that I'm old now and can't possibly grasp the deeper aspects of existence. But I do want to know what makes one human being hot while others apparently are only lukewarm or cold. Is it the way his nose is arranged on his face? His eye color? Perhaps the youthful definitions of his bodily mass?"

More than a little doddering with extra points deducted for being completely put on, but so far, not terrible. Teen-age love and its mysteries. No matter that it's outside Masterson's typical scope. What makes him often so compelling is that his crazy knows no bounds.

"From all I've seen," he continues, "the late Theodore Bundy had an appealing face, so much so that he was able to use his apparent hotness to lure innocent young females into his Volkswagen. He killed several dozen.

"I suspect there were lots of physically attractive Nazis back in the late 1930s. Were they considered hot? No doubt there are a few hot guys residing inside our national, state and local penal systems. Is Mel Gibson still hot?"

Stay vigilant, girls.

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