Monthly Archives: February 2009

Where Have All The Good Times Gone?

Last summer, we were just coming to the realization that the economy might be in some trouble… Bear Stearns had fallen, oil prices were skyrocketing, and George W. Bush was still President. It wasn’t a good time.

We started 2009 thinking that the bad karma in ’08 was all in the past… but a quick comparison suggests that it may be rougher now compared to back then:

YOUNG LOVE
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
Nick Jonas breaks up with Miley Cyrus over the phone Chris Brown breaks Rihanna’s heart… and her nose Obviously Chris Brown… you don’t send your girlfriend to the hospital, ever
POLITICKIN’
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
Sarah Palin campaigning for the Vice Preisdency Tim Geithner campaigning for $789 billion Sarah Palin by a wink
CHEATING
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
A-Rod and Madonna A-Rod and a syringe Almost a toss-up between infidelity and ‘roids, but the juice is illegal… so it’s got to be worse
FAVRE ME
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
Brett Favre un-retires Brett Favre re-retires Un-retired Brett Favre… the last month of the season counts
BABIES R US
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
Angelina Jolie has twins! Crazy Angelina wannabe has octuplets! Crazy woman… Angelina only has 6 kids compared to her litter of 14
POOF!
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
$11 billion (August market cap of soon-to-die Lehman) $50 billion (Bernie) Yup, a vanishing $50 billion is worse…
THE DOW
Summer 2008 Winter 2009
What’s worse?
Down 9% from June to August, finishing just over 11,000 Down 10% year-to-date, clocking in under 8,000 Help.

Final count of crappiness? Summer ’08: 2… Winter ’09: 5

So, things are definitely not getting any better in 2009. In fact, they’re really spiraling more and more out of control, towards utter despair and desolation. But… at least we totally kicked last summer’s ass.

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Diversity in TV Shows Today… Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Update 4/7/09: Well, there goes another one.  Goodbye to Kal Penn’s Dr. Kutner.  He’s moving on to another House, one of far greater prominence.

Update 2/18/09: Yesterday’s article in the LA Times reports on the diversity phenomenon in television… While the Times may have a different definition of “lead character” than I do, the message is still the same: Diverse characters just aren’t found in scripted programming these days.

On my way to work on Monday, I told a co-worker that I had seen He’s Just Not That Into You over the weekend. “It looks cute,” my co-worker said, “But I don’t want to see it on principle… it’s too white. Where are all the minorities?”

Let’s see: in the movie, all the primary characters were… white. All the couplings… white. All the love connections… white. There were a few gay men who were minorities, and Justin Long did make out with a black girl, but other than that, the movie was one long, bad, whitewashed chick flick.

Strangely, even as a minority myself, I didn’t notice that the cast was all white before I went to the theater. However, my co-worker’s stand resounded with me (she, by the way, is white). Our country is supposed to be a “melting pot” — our minority populations are growing — and oh, our President is black. So why is Hollywood so white?

Entertainment Weekly ran a story a few months ago about diversity in entetainment: “Why is TV so white?”

There was a time when diversity seemed to come naturally to prime time. The social consciousness of the ’70s spawned successful sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son; the ’80s brought living-in-harmony comedy Diff’rent Strokes and the ultimate breakthrough TV family on The Cosby Show

After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles.

So I decided to take a look at the current TV lineup to see just how white it actually is. I went through all the network shows in primetime, excluding all reality/news programming. For the shows that I didn’t personally watch, the litmus test was whether the show’s website included pictures of diverse characters on their main page.

From there, I color-coded all the shows that featured the following:(1)

minorityreport

Based on thorough scouring of show websites, and operating under the assumption that some cartoon characters were meant to be white, what I found confirmed the EW report and my co-worker’s concerns.(2) (Of course, I don’t have 90 hours a week to carefully watch each show for its contribution to diversity, so feel free to email me with anything I’ve missed or gotten wrong.)

Out of 90 hours of primetime programming per week, there are 32.5 hours dedicated to reality TV, news, or Sunday night movies. Of the remaining 57.5 hours of scripted series:

  • Shows with ANY minority primary characters: 13.5 hours (Heroes, Scrubs, 90210, Law & Order, Lost, 30 Rock, ER, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, My Name is Earl, Friday Night Lights, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game, Desperate Housewives, The Unit, The Simpsons)
  • Shows with MULTIPLE minority primary characters or leads: 6.5 hours (Heroes, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, ER, Private Practice… and this is counting ABC’s double-airing of Lost on Wednesdays)
  • Shows with a LEAD minority character: 3 hours (Ugly Betty, The Unit, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game)

tvmatrix1

So, out of the 57.5 hours of scripted programming, 76% of this programming features all-white leading casts. Only 4 shows have minority lead characters, and two of them air on Friday nights on the CW.

Finally, just some parting thoughts on diversity in entertainment:

  • Derek and Meredith, Jim and Pam, Kate and Jack/Sawyer… We’ve seen interracial couples flow seamlessly through the Grey’s Anatomy plotlines, but how many other shows have done it? Even in the diverse ensemble casts, why does the main love story/central relationship in the show always feature only one race? I’m not talking about flings, I’m talking about the Ross and Rachels… makes me wonder.
  • The lack of diversity isn’t limited to network TV either… some of the hottest shows on cable (Burn Notice, Damages, The Closer) and pay TV (Entourage, Californication, Big Love) are lily white.
  • A show featuring a minority family has not earned broad mass appeal in more than a decade. Has something systemically changed in our audience today? Are we more or less racially polarized? How would the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show do today? How would The George Lopez Show or The Bernie Mac Show have done then?
  • Will we ever see a show with an Asian lead on network TV?

(1) Lead character(s): The main storylines are centered around this/these character(s). They serve as the face of the show, and are featured in every episode. With a show like House, the lead character would obviously be Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House. In Grey’s Anatomy, the lead would be Meredith Grey. Even though it is an ensemble cast, she provides the voice-over and has the sickeningly cute doctor-boyfriend. Similarly, in The Office, it would be Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott… in 30 Rock, Tina Fey… etc.
Primary character(s): Not every show has primary characters who are not leads. Primary characters are mostly part of an ensemble cast where their characters also have a backstory that is shared with the viewer. Examples: Jenny in Gossip Girl, Hurley in Lost, Jim and Pam on The Office… etc.
(2) In this exercise, I did not look for minority secondary characters because I figured that most shows did have diversity in this sense, per the EW quote above.

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And Best in Show Goes to… Mr. Bojangles!

Tonight marks the 133rd annual Westminster Dog Show, held right here in New York City.  On such an historic occasion, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this time-honored tradition: 

In truth, I’ve always thought that the dog show was a precursor to the modern-day beauty contest.  Given that the Westminster Dog Show began more than 40 years before the first Miss America pageant, our favorite scholarship program could easily have been inspired by canine divas.  Indeed, there are many parallels between high-maintenance pups and beauty queens: There’s the nipping and tucking.  The barking and biting.  The long-haired, pampered bitches.

  alldogs

I often wonder how different our beauty queens would look if they were treated just like the Pomeranian: poked and prodded by discerning judges, felt up for unnatural enhancements, and stared down while striding along the catwalk.  Was she overly bouncy in her walk?  Were her teeth a bit off-center?  Did she look too much like a malformed inbred?

beautydogI’m sure there are quite a few people who look down on dog show followers, putting them in the same category of weirdo as Trekkies or stamp collectors.  Others may think that this kind of showmanship is overly cruel to the animals — I mean, how degrading would it be if we made humans strip down to their skivvies, parade around a stadium, and get scrutinized by millions?

…Oh, right.

Well, here’s to Miss South Carolina winning Best in Show tonight at the Kennel Club.

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With $700B, I’d Like to Buy Belgium, Greece, and Ireland, Please

UPDATED (2/5/09): First, the government decided that “bailout” wasn’t all that PR-savvy, so instead, $700 billion became part of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). TARP then went to Wall Street, where it funded employee bonuses and baseball stadiums. Instead of creating liquidity in the markets, the Wall Street banks hoarded their TARP money, perhaps to save up for corporate jets, Vegas getaways, or 19th-century credenzas. Now, with a new year, a new president, and a new bailout package, we’re hoping for a different result. With BusinessWeek already deeming the original bailout a “bust“, I’m looking back on what I wrote when the TRAP (sic) was first proposed. After all, with $825 billion or more at stake, a call for prudence may find a receptive audience today.

ORIGINALLY POSTED (9/25/08): By now, most of us know that our economy is struggling. Credit is scarce, banks are teetering, and President Bush finally came out of his batcave on Wednesday to make a sobering speech. Giving a concise summary of how our economy began its precipitous freefall, the President conceded that this doomsday had been building “over a long period of time”… meaning, before his eight years in office.

However, as much as I found myself agreeing with some of the President’s assessments, I could not help but feel disturbed by the hastily-constructed $700 billion rescue plan, and the President’s intentions of pushing it through as soon as possible. Haven’t we heard the same act-now-or-forever-lose-your-peace spiel before (cough, cough: Iraq)? Except this time, instead of peace, we’re losing our houses, our money, and our material possessions. I could not help but be amazed at the President’s staunch conviction: warning of imminent recession and homelessness, he appealed to the same sense of urgency with which he implored Congress to start the war five years ago. “Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold. More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet….Millions of Americans could lose their jobs….And, ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession.”

But, isn’t this the administration that gave us the Patriot Act, a trillion dollar oil quest, and an economic stimulus check that was supposed to prevent things like this from happening? Needless to say, the President has not had a favorable track record in times of crisis (or, for that matter, in times of peace). And the impact of this decision has consequences not only for our country now, but globally for years to come. So instead of a call for action, this should be a call for prudence. Instead of asking for our money, the President should be asking for our patience. Economists demand it. Congress needs it. Everyone knows that we can’t prolong the decision on this bailout, but we can’t just pound it out in less time than it takes to buy a ficus from Amazon.com.

In the end, the Bush administration’s proposed $700 billion plan may be the best way to get us out of this turdburger. But if that’s the case, I hope that our lawmakers will have come to their conclusion after setting emotions aside and considering all other options. After all, $700 billion is a lot of money: that’s 778 Big Macs per person, 4 brand new Mac laptops per household, or 833 million Maxim yearly subscriptions for life. And so if this bailout goes through, and Americans are forced to give up either food, computers, or our trashy magazines, whoever wins the upcoming election will have to deal with some pretty angry (and hungry) constituents.

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Oh, Womanizer, Oh, You’re a Womanizer Baby

Over the years, we’ve always had a soft spot for the bad boys, the jocks, the rebels, and the reformed. There was something about the guys’ guy that whet our appetite for a challenge. The reluctant hero beguiled us, and the tortured soul tugged on our heartstrings. The ultra macho he-men made us want to watch Bowflex commercials on repeat. These are the men who made us laugh, made us cry, and made us want to take them home. They compelled us ladies to demand nothing less than a great sense of humor and an eight-pack of abs.

Of course, even if we didn’t have AC Slater’s pecs, we made up for it with Pacey’s charm. Or Dylan’s earnestness. Or Ryan’s from-the-streets sensibilities. Either way, the heartthrobs from 90210, Saved by the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, and The O.C. refined our collective taste for good men. If guys wanted a lady in the street but a freak in the sheets, then girls wanted chocolate bonbons: hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.

badboys

With all their personality, charisma, and good looks, our favorite bad boys always got the girl in the end. Dylan finally reconciled with Kelly, Slater stuck with pill-poppin’ Jessie, Joey chose Pacey, and Ryan… well, that show crashed and burned after season 3, so it’s fair to say that barring car chases and death, Ryan got Marissa.

greysgeorgeconquestsgreysgeorgeBut nowadays, a new group of men have replaced the earnest anti-heroes of the past. Our enigmatic soul searchers have given way to male characters who, well, just can’t keep it in their pants. There’s George (T.R. Knight) from Grey’s Anatomy, the awkward, bumbly intern at Seattle Grace who has inexplicably slept with more female leads than the character they call McSteamy (Eric Dane). Three to two, Dr. Sloan. Then there’s Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), the feel-bad-for-me rich kid from the Upper East Side, who has slept with all three of the teenage female leads on Gossip Girl… and there are four in total. Don’t feel bad for little J, though — she made out with Nate earlier this season (Jenny’s brother broke it up before they could get too serious). Now that Nate’s 4/4 with the young girls, we’ll see if he moves on to the mothers soon… If you watch the show, you know that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

ggnatesconquestsWith George knocking boots with half the female doctors in Seattle, and Nate batting 1.000 while still in high school, it got me thinking… what happened? Is it a sign of the times that we demand philandering doctors and promiscuous pretty boys? Does the 18-34 demographic really want to see these guys rotating through the female leads like cowboys at the rodeo?

Perhaps our standards have loosened. Or maybe we’re just championing a character that we haven’t quite embraced before. Indeed, nothing deifies a new persona like a Britney Spears song…

It seems womanizers are the champion of the new young and hip generation. But personally, I’m not ready to let go of my chocolate bonbons yet — I’d rather stick to the hardened softie, the one-woman Ryan Atwood, over the womanizing polygamist Nate Archibald.  Because if you trade in a good thing for a mystery box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…  what disease, that is.  XOXO.

Daddy-O / You got the swagger of champion
Too bad for you / Just can’t find the right companion
I guess when you have one too many, makes it hard / It could be easy
Who you are, that’s who you are, baby

Womanizer, Woman-Womanizer / You’re a womanizer
Oh womanizer, Oh / You’re a womanizer, baby
You, you, you are / You, you, you are
Womanizer, womanizer, womanizer

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Peaking Along the Career Parabola

A few weeks ago, I was writing an email when I caught myself mixing up “their” and “there”. Not only that, but I’d also misspelled two other words and left one sentence incomplete.

Well, this is it, I thought. I’ve finally hit the wall. Burned out. Peaked.

This past week, a college friend and I reminisced about our school days: working hard, playing hard, going out every night, and still finding a way to pass our finals. “We were so smart back then,” she sighed. And so energetic. I went home that evening and crawled into bed by eleven, the new default bedtime for my elderly, depreciating self.

workgraphSo, yes… two years out of college, at the ripe old age of 23, I am now officially over the hill. In the parabolic chronology of life, I’ve already surpassed the tangent point, the point of no return. Just a few years ago, I was juggling five classes, two extracurriculars, a term-time job, and an active social life. Now, I have one job, no classes, and a schedule interspersed with lengthy midday naps. Gone are the days when I could forgo the spell check and formulate coherent sentences on the first try. I can’t quite remember the quadratic formula and I definitely don’t know how to graph parabolas anymore. All I know is that I’ve passed the peak. Pretty soon I’ll be forgetting my own name and calling people “loosers”.

Sadly, we all must go the way of old geezers a la John Madden. (A gem from last night’s Super Bowl: “If you can become a head coach at any age, you can coach when you’re young.” Thanks, John.) A friend recently sent me an email about “Kitchenheimer’s“, the phenomenon “when you’re in the kitchen going around in circles because you can’t remember what you were doing there.” In the email, he wrote, “I bet this happens to you all the time.”

It does. In my defense, I’ll pull an anti-Benjamin Button and blame it on accelerated aging. But for everyone else, I hope you fare better than me. Here’s a roadmap to what the future holds from a work perspective, as you traverse across the x-axis through the parabola of your long and storied career.

workgraph1

.

(1) Hustlin’: Young, eager, energetic, and bright… full of vitality, ambition, and grandiose ideas.

You are still in this phase if you can do any of the following:

  • Make it through a week of work without drinking coffee
  • Get really excited about networking, company dinners, and conversations about “synergy”
  • Need less than 6 hours of sleep to function
  • Start a foundation to save polar bears in your free time

(2) Peaking: Slowing down, spacing out, and taking more bathroom breaks… The only hope is to hover around the top before the rapid freefall.

You may be peaking if you do any of the following:

  • Consider work with a combination of bemusement and utter apathy
  • Spend at least 15% of your time at work on fantasy football/eBay/Perez Hilton
  • Take more than 20 seconds to remember the work you did yesterday

(3) All Downhill From Here: Lethargy, complacency, and embracing monotony… Work has become as exciting as pressing a button every 108 minutes. Boop.

You may be on your way to sloth-ville if you do any of the following:

  • Volunteer to be laid off even though no one asked you
  • Think daily about pulling a Milton from Office Space
  • Derive your greatest joy by stealing something from the office every day

Now, this same graph can be applied to other aspects of life as well: for example, that loving feeling. Just like productivity, acuity, and energy, our loving aptitude should decline as we age. Then again, with technology these days, a trip to the pharmacy can extend the hustler stage and keep you at your peak for much longer… (pun intended).

So, will there ever be such a development for our work lives as well? Can I come back from futility and rid myself of spell check dependence once again? Will the Type-A ambition return? Will quadratics be superseded by cubics? (If you get the last reference, then be assured that you are definitely still hustlin’.)

I’m hoping yes. Forget about Kitchenheimer’s… If John Madden can make it work, then I should at least be able to save some polar bears before it all goes downhill for good.

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