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In Memoriam: Paula Abdul, A True American Idol

Today, we bid a final farewell to Paula Abdul, 47: beloved American Idol judge, compassionate music producer, and shining example of what drugs can really do to a person.

americanidolAbdul has been with American Idol since its auspicious start in 2002, back when Simon Cowell was still an unknown British crank, and Ryan Seacrest was just the spiky-haired sidekick to Brian Dunkleman.  Throughout the years, Abdul has established herself in Idol circles as the “caring” judge: one who rarely insults, and who always offers an encouraging smile (aww, shucks).

While Abdul has often been criticized by critics for not being critical enough, this criticism is ultimately flawed (just like this sentence).  Although Abdul’s contribution to the judging panel may be limited, I truly believe that her presence has transcended American Idol.  With Paula, she’s not just there for the music.  Instead, she is so much more.  She has brought critical issues to the forefront, opened dialogue on everything from healthcare reform to prescription drugs, and spearheaded long-needed change to America.

Some examples of her most important work:

A Shout-Out to Healthcare Reform: In 2005, Abdul landed on the cover of People Magazine, detailing her “Medical Nightmare.”  In the article, she discusses the chronic pain from an old cheerleading injury that had led to some of her bizarre Idol behavior (eg. slurring her words, falling asleep, clapping as if she had flippers instead of hands).  Although she didn’t say it explicitly, Abdul was making an unmistakable call for  reform.  After all, if one of the wealthier women in the country can’t get adequate care, then how is Joe the Plumber going to survive?  Plumbing is more taxing than cheerleading, you know.

An Example of Feminism: Controversy arose when dismissed season 2 contestant Corey Clark claimed that he had a 3-month affair with Abdul during the show’s taping.  His book, “Sex, Lies, and Paulatics” not only stretched the homophonic properties of the English language, but also exposed a potentially sordid side of Idol.  However, (if true) the affair only reveals that Abdul used her power to lure young men to her britches.  She is just following the timeless example of men who have used their influence to get women.  If powerful men do it all the time, then why can’t powerful ladies get in on the fun?  Thus, Abdul’s only transgression is that of being a cougar with bad taste.  To this, we say, you go girl!  Get that nasty creep!

Serving as an Economic Bellwether: paulamoneyAbdul reportedly turned down a $5 million+ deal to return to Idol… though, of course, her rejection may just be a clever negotiating tactic to get more cash in her clunker (we’re waiting for Idol reps to tweet back).  With such a move, Abdul has clearly proved to economists that the recession will continue as long as buffoons are still being offered ridiculous amounts of money.  I mean, I’d be happy to bank $5 million for getting drunk and making nonsensical comments.  I often do it for free.  So, thank you, FOX, for subverting the principles of economics and showcasing America’s finest.  No wonder NewsCorp. lost $203M last quarter…

I think I have proven my point: Paula Abdul is so much more than a singer, dancer, choreographer, serial divorcee, and American Idol judge.  She is also a true humanitarian.  As she would say, “You’ve got a sensitive side of you… got, uh, total, uh spicy side of you… You are real.  You’ve… got… to keep going.”  Ditto, Paula.  We feel the same way.  We will miss you.

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Semi-Serious Ideas in Entertainment

singled-out1. MTV FOR OLD PEOPLE: With a rapidly aging population and a surplus of baby boomers who still want to stay hip, I propose the creation of a new TV network for the older demographic. Like its teenage counterpart MTV, FOP (“For Old People”) could feature variations on popular shows. There could be FOP versions of classic MTV hits, like Singled Out: Octogenarians, My Super Sweet One Hundred (Esther gets a new motorized scooter!), or True Life: I’m a Denture Capitalist. Some other ideas for FOP programming: Survivor: Nursing Home, Are You Smarter Than a Senile Old Coot, and The Amazing Race to Heaven.

 

madoffd2. RENAME PUNK’D: In our new recessionary era, Madoff’d is the new Punk’d. The pilot episode could feature a $65 billion bonfire, with Bernie lighting up dollar bills while Alan Greenspan roasts marshmallows over the flames. Then Kutcher’s lackeys can go around to all of Madoff’s former investors and give them their pile of ash, along with a S’more. You just got Madoff’d! This can be followed by a new Publishers Clearinghouse show, where we watch Ed McMahon as he goes into people’s houses with a big camera crew and, “Surprise!” — forecloses their homes.

sesame

3. MODERNIZE SESAME STREET: With these hard new times, let’s see the effect of unemployment on the Street. Are Bert and Ernie worried about paying bills? Does Big Bird look extra-frazzled? Is there a surplus of unemployed day laborers in the neighborhood? This is a great opportunity to get toddlers thinking about the impact of credit default swaps on their cookie jar. “A is for AIG, B is for bankruptcy, C is for collateralized debt obligations… and F is for failure.” And speaking of cookies, maybe we can also encourage the Cookie Monster to watch his waistline. Yogurt Monster might not be as fun, but he’ll probably live longer.

gladiators

4. AMERICAN GLADIATORS MEETS C-SPAN: Every few years, we deal with the same drama in House, Senate, and Presidential elections. There are counts and recounts, hanging chads and run-off votes. There are promises and lies, hacks and phonies, Joe the Plumbers and Sarah Palins. (No wonder there’s political apathy in this country.) What if there was an easier way to decide it all? Why can’t we just run all our politicians through the Eliminator? (Junior Senators and House reps can opt for the easier Aggro Crag on GUTS instead.) The real decisionmakers, though, must perform Gladiator-style. They must face ‘roided up men and manly women. They’ll joust with Justice and try to deport Helga. The Eliminator will test their physical strength and mettle, and all of it will be shown on national TV. Then after the competition, Ryan Seacrest will announce the winner: “America, you voted… The new President of the United States is… Find out after the commercial break!”


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Random Thoughts on… Comedy

A Consultant’s Interpretation of Comedy

consultingmatrix

A Layman’s Interpretation of a Consultant’s Matrix

STARS: These jokes have the potential of getting big laughs from a widespread audience. Classic bathroom humor, fashion faux pas, Amy-Winehouse-style cocaine addiction, and making fun of Ryan Seacrest? …Topical, relevant, and always hilarious.

CASH COWS: These are the jokes that just fall into our laps… they’re still crowd pleasers, but there’s not much else to say. We’ve already tapped everything Britney has to offer, and Sarah Palin has been completely comedically vetted, from her grandma hairstyle to her moose-skin Timbs. And even though we’ve heard the same Ohio jokes over and over, it’s still easy to enjoy making fun of the state’s finest: undecided voters, Cleveland, and Joe the Plumber.

QUESTION MARKS: There’s a lot of comic potential here, but will people actually find it funny? With all the layoffs, is it too painful to joke about the recession right now? Is it too soon to make fun of our golden boy president? And is Helen Keller permanently off limits? Say it ain’t so, HK… or, well… never mind.

DOGS: Death, funerals, and killing of cute, cuddly animals (like penguins) is generally not funny. And while Jersey has seen its cash cow heyday in the past, it’s not the butt of all jokes anymore… Well actually, that’s untrue: the only reason why the dirty Jerz is in the “Dogs” quadrant is to place it near the pictures of the gun and the funeral. Naturally.

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2008: The Race That Was

We’re five days away from November 4th, and it kind of feels like summer camp is ending. I’m a bit sad, but I’m also excited that it’s finally over. After the 4th, there will be no more political ads, no more pandering for votes, and no more McCain-Obama melodrama… something we can all look forward to. To me, election day is almost like an early New Years: I expect that everything will turn out fine, but I still have a little pocket of dread that Y2K will hit, the country will be catapulted back into the dark ages, and Joe the Plumber will become Secretary of State. And so, with the upcoming end to a tumultuous campaign, here is our requisite look back at what we’ve learned in 2008, The Race that Was.

  • If you want to be President, start vetting your acquaintances. If someone you know ever did or said something crazy, you’re on the hook by association. It doesn’t matter how well you know them: if you have an acquaintance who eats babies, you’re a baby eater too.
  • If you want to be Vice President, shoot some moose, drop your g’s, and wink a lot: Vettin’ is not necessary. Neither are press conferences, direct answers, or substance. Simply put on $150,000 worth of designer digs, and tell people that the other presidential candidate eats babies. And if it doesn’t work, well, there’s always 2012. By then you should be able to handle a press conference or two.
  • Tina Fey should send Sarah Palin a Christmas card. With a picture of her in a black power suit, surrounded by the pile of money she’s made.
  • Once again, Ohio and Florida decide. And we shall find out if they are “pro-America” on November 4th. If they are not, we should consider seceding them to Canada and Mexico, respectively.
  • The economy is like an ugly stepsister. When you’re in the family, you don’t want to trot her out at the risk of repulsing other people. So, you dress her up, throw on some lipstick, and try to divert all attention to the pretty, wink-happy stepsister instead. When you’re outside the fam, you take one look at the atrocity, say, “holy crap,” and schedule an emergency extreme makeover.
  • The focus of this election being the economy. Back in 2004, the election focused on terrorism and Iraq. In 2000, social issues like gay marriage and stem cell research were at the forefront. It’s interesting to see how priorities change… Thanks, George.
  • Joe the Plumber has come to symbolize middle America. But, he owes back taxes, he’s not actually a plumber, and his real name is Sam. And if he’s making $250K+ a year, middle Americans should probably look for a better spokesperson… like Phil the Pharmacist or Martha the Schoolteacher.
  • There is still racism in this country. Not just the black-white kind, but also based on religious beliefs. (Colin Powell said it best on Meet the Press: “Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”) You’d think that by 2008, we would be better than this.
  • Democracy can sometimes be scary. They are predicting that McCain only has a 4.3% chance of winning, but I’m still scared about Y2K.

November 4th… VOTE! And even though this post is biased, you can vote however you like.

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Thoughts on the Final Presidential Debate

Some thoughts on last night’s debate:

On Taxes: John McCain definitely had a clear mandate for this debate: make Barack Obama seem like a tax-crazy, big-government socialist.  Invoking Joe Six Pack’s cousin, Joe the Plumber, McCain tried to portray an Obama administration as one that would force “Joe the plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business.”  In the following exchange, Obama admitted that he disliked paying taxes.  McCain’s response?

Senator Obama: Look, nobody likes taxes. I would prefer that none of us had to pay taxes, including myself. But ultimately, we’ve got to pay for the core investments that make this economy strong and somebody’s got to do it.

Senator McCain: Nobody likes taxes. Let’s not raise anybody’s taxes, OK?

Instead of offering that cheeky response, McCain could have said, “True, nobody likes taxes, and true, some taxes are necessary for the infrastructure of America.  BUT, the fundamental difference is that you believe the government can best grow the economy, and you have to pay for your big government through raising taxes.  On the other hand, I believe that the American people and the free market can best make those core investments and rebuild our economy.  By taking money away from the people, and putting it into the hands of the government, you’re sacrificing efficiency and growth, and that is not what we need.”  That would’ve been a better response for a conservative Republican than, “Well, no one likes taxes, so I don’t want to raise them.”

On Negative Ads: McCain started out strong, even with his frequent references to Joe the Plumber.  But he really got sidetracked with Bob Schieffer’s question about negative ads: it was pretty clear that this question favored Obama.  After all, Obama’s references to McCain (“erratic,” “out of touch,” “lie,” “angry,” “losing his bearings”) were softballs compared to the extremely negative stuff that the McCain campagin was hurling at Obama: “disrespectful,” “dangerous,” “dishonorable,” “he lied,” “palled around with terrorists.”  McCain did himself no favors by bringing up the subject of his highly-publicized rallies, where crowds were calling Obama a terrorist, yelling “kill him”, and shouting racial slurs.  Obama, to his credit, mostly deflected attention off the negative: 

Senator Obama: The important point here is, though, the American people have become so cynical about our politics, because all they see is a tit- for-tat and back-and-forth. And what they want is the ability to just focus on some really big challenges that we face right now, and that’s what I have been trying to focus on this entire campaign.  We can have serious differences about our health care policy, for example, John, because we do have a difference on health care policy, but we… (gets interrupted)  But when people suggest that I pal around with terrorists, then we’re not talking about issues.

…So, naturally McCain brings up Bill Ayers. 

If you were watching on CNN, viewer reaction from the focus group in Ohio was immediately negative.  McCain would have done better had he delivered this criticism via rap with Flo Rida: “Oh hot damn / This is my jam / Keep my campaign going til the AM / Y’all don’t understand / Make me think all day / About Bill Ayers, Ay-Ay-Ayers.”

On Their Behaviors: Much was said about Gore’s performance in the debates in 2004–sometimes the way people look leave more of an impression than what they say.  During last night’s debate, Obama appeared calm and respectful.  Even though he had the chance to blast Palin, he exercised full restraint and just praised her skills as a “politician”.  John McCain, on the other hand, could not stop blinking, released a couple of audible sighs (perhaps remorse over missing bingo night), gave some awkwardly smug smiles, and looked almost like he was going to throw in a wink á la his running mate.  Some of the split screen shots showed McCain’s evident distaste for what Obama was saying.   

 

In  the end?  McCain did better than he did before, but we saw the biggest margin of victory for Barack Obama in a sampling of national polls.  In CNN’s poll, 58% said Obama won, versus 31% for McCain, the largest margin of victory in the CNN poll for any debate (it was 51% Obama/38% in the first debate, and 54% Obama/30% in the second).  Similarly, in the CBS poll of uncommitted viewers, 53% said Obama won, while only 22% said McCain won. 

This was McCain’s last stand to either make himself stand out, or goad Obama into doing something stupid.  Neither happened.   And so in the words of “Lolli Lolli” by Three 6 Mafia: “Like Barack Obama said / Yeah it’s time for a change.”

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