Monthly Archives: April 2009

All Gaga for Obama

In celebration of Obama’s first 100 days, and also given the popularity of Lady Gaga, I decided to try a bit of songwriting for the President.  The following should be sung along to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (play the song in a new window – with lyrics | instrumental):

Barack (0:24):

I gotta clean up what they did back in ’08
Corrupted and got busted with a messed up SEC (Oh Dubya)
So now the country’s sufferin’ and the times are hard
With Ponzi schemes and broken dreams and guys without a job

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get it right, or we’ll pay the price
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll go at it hard, show them who’s in charge

obamaeconomy

With Larry
And Timmy
These are the
Obama days
(Gotta stop the Dow from dropping)
Plus Citi
Bernanke
The Fed completes the
Obama days
(Government is going shopping)

Chorus (1:12):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (1:21):

I’m gonna roll with Joe a hard pair we will be
Republicans can teabag all they want with Dick Cheney
Afghanistan will see me coming on the front,
And baby when it’s war if it’s not rough it isn’t fun,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh
I’ll get Iraq, show them what I’ve got
Oh, oh, oh, oh, ohhhh, ohh-oh-e-ohh-oh-oh,
I’ll get a bomb, show them that it’s hot

karzaizardari1With Karzai
So close by
These are the
Obama days
(Karzai is grumpy, likes nobody)
Talking peace
Zardari
These are the
Obama days
(Waterboarding’s not his hobby)

Chorus (2:09):

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

Barack (2:24):

gm-ceoI’ve got my hand in GM’s pocket
Squeezing hard to keep ’em knockin’
‘Cause I’m trying
To go on and end this downspin we’ve been rockin’
With my bailouts and my guarantees
I’m fixing these securities
I promise this, I promise this
I’ll bring back life to AIG

aigsoccerWith swine flu
Coming through
These are the
Obama days
(Bacon’s not for everybody)
Arlen who
S’my new boo
These are the
Obama days
(Specter’s got a new buddy)

Chorus (2:59):

gagaobamaCan’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(He’s got me like nobody)
Can’t beat my
Can’t beat my
No one can beat my
Obama craze
(Eight more years of peace and harmony)

— Repeat x2 —

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Obama days

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I’m Obsessed… So Bad That It’s Good

obsessedDespite terrible reviews, the #1 movie at this weekend’s box office was Obsessed, which raked in a shocking $28.6 million.  The movie, starring Beyonce, Ali Larter, and little-known Idris Elba, is about a crazy white woman (Larter) intent on seducing her boss (Elba).  Beyonce plays the wife in this Fatal-Attraction-esque film, which was described by one critic as “a tepid, sexless, thrill-free melodrama“.  Apparently the movie’s only redeeming scene is the gripping catfight between Beyonce and Ali Larter at the end.

It’s not often that a moderately low budget film like Obsessed takes #1 at the box office, and it’s even more unlikely when that film gets reviews like, “Obsessed makes an inadvertent argument for the monastery“.  But Obsessed, with its $20 million budget, has made the most out of being really, really bad.  stateofplayIts $29 million opening weekend dwarfed the critically-acclaimed State of Play, which has earned only $25 million at the box office over two weeks… this despite a $60 million budget and an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

What’s so intriguing about Obsessed is that it really does look awful.  The previews look awful.  The title is awful (although it is reminiscent of another campy cult thriller with a duh! title, Snakes on a Plane).  And the critics say it’s awful: its 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is even worse than Fast & Furious 4 (27%), the franchise that has historically defined awful.

So what is it about Obsessed that are making moviegoers, shall we say, obsessed?  It’s probably the same phenomenon that makes you cringe at the tackiness of the previous sentence.  ghosts_of_girlfriends_pastIt’s the cheesy, tried plotline, the bad dialogue and the forced puns.  It’s so bad it’s good, and interestingly, its badness outshines the goodness of serious movies like State of Play.

That being said, I know what I’m going to see over the weekend.  Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and reviews look promising (“unsavory”, “rote”, and “witless”).  Thus, I’m predicting that it will unseat Obsessed atop the box office this weekend, with, let’s say $25 mil.  We’ll see how Beyonce and Ali Larter fare when Jennifer Garner gets in on the catfight.  May the best worst film win.

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Conformist Without a Cause

When I was twelve, my mother told me that no matter what, she would always love me.  Of course, she went on to say, this was contingent on whether or not I ever got a tattoo.

tattooMy mother hates tattoos.  She hates them with the same passion that other moms hate child predators, cigarettes, and violence.  However, unlike pedophiliac smoking guns, there is no serious rationale behind my mother’s aversion to body ink.  While she is somewhat worried about the threat of disease in shady tattoo parlors, she has always been more concerned about how they actually look.  “It just seems like you’re dirty all the time,” she says.

And yet, even with such flimsy reasoning, my mother manages to vehemently hate tattoos to the point of absurdity.  Throughout my life, I could fail out of school, steal a car, or even prostitute myself on Craigslist, and my mother would still support me.  But if I ever got a tattoo?  Cut off.  Disowned.  I’d be fending for myself on the streets, with my stolen car and lost dignity.

Naturally, my mother’s severe distaste for tattoos made my twelve-year old self want to get one even more.  I would come home from school with pen drawings all over my arms, just to gauge  her reaction (I’m lucky I still have both arms today).

“Why do you want one?” she would bark at me, eyes glaring.

“I don’t know,” I’d say.  “Just because.”

jamesdeanHowever, as the years went by, my resolve to get a tattoo weakened.  I got good grades and stayed off the police bulletin, earning a spot in the boring, pedestrian, non-rebel camp.  While I fantasized about living a life of Orwellian-like rebellion, I could never convince myself to just do it, just rebel a little.  And it wasn’t even necessarily about a tattoo, or my mother’s threats.  Mostly, I just felt that as I got older, the risk-taker in me died.  I reached the point where uncertainty and permanency alone were enough to scare me off, notwithstanding my mother’s promise of dismemberment.  I’d developed my own flimsy reasoning for not changing, and for not wanting to change.

So the closest I ever got to true rebellion was wielding a Sharpie at age twelve.  And I’ve also chosen not to get a tattoo.  Why?…  Just because.

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Breaking Down the Professional Learning Curve

When you start a new job, you’ll always have a learning curve. For the  most part, regardless of where you work and what you do, these curves take on the same trajectory:

This is HR.

This is HR.

Orientation: On Day One, you’ll fill out paperwork, watch a company slideshow, and get welcomed by smiling, amiable HR representatives.  Orientation is always full of enlightenment surrounding arcane company policies and sexual harassment no-nos.  Example: Hugs and kisses in the office are generally discouraged, although exceptions can be made for foreign clients and the CEO’s hot secretary.  Handshakes and man-on-man butt slapping are OK.  Catcalling and outright groping are cause for termination, except when it happens during sales meeting at Flash Dancers (then it’s just good business practice).

High on acronyms, integrity speeches, and excitement/nervousness for starting a new job… Low on actual learning

monkey

This may be you.

The Grace Period: In the first few weeks on the job, you’re allowed a certain grace period to become acclimated with what your role actually entails.  This may involve learning about VLOOKUPS in Excel, copying and pasting charts in Powerpoint, or working the coffee machine in the kitchen.  In some cases, you may think a trained monkey can do your work.  In other cases, perhaps a fifth grader with terrific Powerpoint skills would suffice.  Either way, by now you’ll be able to tell whether you’ll like your job, or if you’re going to hate your life.

High on Microsoft Excel/Powerpoint/Outlook, subtle recognition of official company colors and fonts, becoming acquainted with IT, and finding where the best lunch place is… Low on actual thinking

Settling In: It’s been a few months now, so you’ve become supremely aware of what your company actually does.  You’ve learned the acronyms, discovered the fastest way to the office, and categorized your co-workers: who is good at their job, who is bad at their job, and who will likely become the new sexual harassment case study for HR.  You’re working hard and hustling: it’s about getting noticed, getting praised, and getting paid.

High on productivity, systems and processes, boss’ personal history… Low on time spent with family and friends

buttslapSettling Down: By now, you’ve slogged through the 100-hour weeks, impressed your boss several times, and likely violated an HR policy during a company party gone bad.  You’re accustomed to all the random nuances of your day-to-day activities, allowing you to spend more time thinking about networking, promotions, and your next career move.  Or, for the less-ambitious types, this time affords you greater opportunity to procrastinate, go to happy hour, and talk about what happened on Lost.

High on drinking, Hulu, and visits with HR… Low on excitement

Once you’ve reached this stage, some might be content to stay in their current role, stake out a comfortable seat on the company org chart, and tuck in for the next 35 years.  Others may want to get a new job, get a new challenge, and go through this whole cycle all over again.  Personally, with my career schizophrenia and general aversion to settling down, I’m more inclined towards the latter right now.  I’d like to play the field, because I want to keep learning, keep hustling, and keep getting butt-slapped.  After all, it’s good business practice.

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Teabagging With the Republican Party

MSNBC’s David Shuster on Republicans “going nuts”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on teabagging John McCain

CNN’s Anderson Cooper on talking while teabagging

Ironically, all this talk about American teabagging may be overshadowed by…who else? the Brits.  This clip of Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent has become a viral YouTube hit.  Suffice to say, the 47-year old unmarried woman (who lives with her cat, Pebbles) has never tea-bagged before.

Britain’s Response to Teabagging Americans

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Will Today’s ‘Stupid’ Become Tomorrow’s ‘Smart’?

Back in November, both presidential candidates acknowledged that we had to reform our education system. Like most everything else, Obama and McCain naturally disagreed on how to solve this issue. Perhaps we need to pay teachers more and get the best-qualified educators to head our classrooms. Perhaps we need to have more vouchers and charter schools to foster competition. Perhaps we just need parents to get more involved in building shoebox dioramas and helping their kids with algebra problems.

Or, perhaps we’re just getting dumber. (After all, we elected George W. Bush twice. Enough said).

Now that Obama’s education team is in place, here is my billion-dollar proposal: tell smart people to start making babies. Seriously. Set up some mood music in grad school dorms, dim the lighting in the labs, and arrange for some conjugal visits at the space station. Let’s do everything we can to encourage reading and breeding amongst the nation’s intellectual elite.

Why? Consider this: over the past few decades, we have seen significant declines in the birth rates across the country. As more and more young people started going to college, and women became more prevalent in the workplace, births in the U.S. have naturally declined. With that, the composition of mothers has also changed:

“Fertility tends to decline as education level increases. Women may put off marriage and children to further their education, then to get established in the labor force. Women age 40 to 44 with no high school education had about 2.5 children in 2004, compared with 1.6 children among women with a graduate or professional degree.” – Mary Kent, Population Reference Bureau

So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following charts from the National Center for Health Statistics, which show the birth rates by state in 2002.

In this graphic, the blue states are the most fertile, while the green states are the most sterile (somewhat ironic).  We can see that the states with the highest birth rates are typically in the Midwest and South, whereas East Coasters and Californians are apparently too busy to procreate.  The state with the highest birth rate was Utah (20.9 for every 1,000 people), which may not be all that surprising. (Go to full report)

Now here is a graph from a U.S. Census report, on the percentage of college graduates by state:

So it looks like the states with the most college grads are also the states which tend to have the lowest birth rates.

Hmm…

Consider if this trend continues: the least-educated areas of the country are popping out babies like hotcakes, while the sterile Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast are busy trading mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Thus, the composition of the American population is skewed towards those with parents who are less educated. One may argue about the degree to which parents’ educational attainment affects their children’s test scores, but there is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. And while Texans and Idahoans may rightly argue that causality cannot be determined by a few colorful graphs, the data is in line with what we know: women who attain less education have more babies. There is a greater likelihood then that their kids will get less education than children born to snooty PhD candidates in Washington. And their kids will have more kids and more kids, while the slice of snooty intellectuals gets smaller and smaller.

So what can turn this around? In the end, we need to build a universal culture that values learning, instead of a dumb-is-cool culture that values a self-righteous idiocracy. We need to get students excited about education, and close the achievement gap that too often divides along racial and socioeconomic lines. We may need to rehaul our schools, implement student incentive programs, or pay our teachers more…

And we could also start encouraging smart people to make some babies, too.

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Rising to #1 on the Billboard Charts: TARP Commentary from Flo Rida and Britney Spears

Throughout the history of music, we’ve always had a knack for uncovering subliminal messages hidden in our favorite songs. Sometimes the discovery was subtle and unexpected, like playing the Beatles’ record backwards to hear “Paul is dead.” Sometimes the messaging was not as subtle, like hearing Britney Spears beg for someone to “If You Seek Amy” in her new salacious (and radio-censored) song.

Most of the time, pop music is like Brit-Brit: it’s quite literal. Thus when the pop diva asks us to satisfy her penchant for four-letter words, we know what she means. When Beyonce implores the male species to “put a ring on it,” she’s giving our deadbeat boyfriends a pretty clear directive. And when Lady Gaga sings “Just Dance”, well, we…just dance. But for every straight shooter in the music business, there’s always someone out there who just wants to if-you-seek-ay-with our heads.

The following are some examples of masterful, even Shakespearean, trickery; behind the poppy lyrics and tempo beats, we have discovered their true intentions:

volcanoBurnin’ Up (Jonas Brothers): “I’m slipping into the lava / And I’m trying to keep from going under / Baby who turned the temperature hotter / ‘Cause I’m burning up, burning up”

  • Take it literally: The musically-gifted but awfully-coiffed trio is on the precipice of an exploding volcano. An exploding volcano of love.
  • Think about it: If the brothers were to actually slip into lava, they would immediately die. So this song isn’t about love at all; it’s about an extreme fear of love. After all, who wants to burn to death in a pool of flaming magma? Not anyone I know.

akonRight Now (Akon): “I wanna make up right now na na / I wanna make up right now na na / Wish we never broke up right now na na / We need to link up right now na na”

marketcrashRight Round (Flo Rida ft. Katy Perry): “You spin my head right round / Right round / When you go down / When you go down down”

  • Take it literally: So yeah, it sounds like he maaayy be talking about fellatio… Or stripping.  Either way, adult activities.
  • Think about it: It’s a recession, people. And Katy Perry clearly has a thing for girls. So what else is going down down, and making our heads spin right round? Of course… the stock market. The Dow just can’t keep it up, and with all the painful pullbacks, it’s been one wild ride on the Street. There’s nothing sexual about it. And if you seek proof, just ask for Amy.

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