Blogs > In The Mix

Reporter Shaun Byron and Video Editor Andrew DuPont sound-off on whatever is on their minds, from politics to pop-culture, from movies to the main stream media. Local, national, world-wide? If it's in the media mix, these two are sure to have an opinion on it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Best and Worst Career Moves of 2009

Yikes, I have not posted a new blog in a while, so I guess I should make this one an extra large entry to make up for lost time.

2009 is almost over. This year saw some major changes for celebrities and politicans alike, especially in the areas where the line between the two are heavily blurred. It's amazing how quickly things can change for some people, either by accident or as the result of years of planning. Even though there is a still a month to go, I am pretty confident that these four people have made the biggest changes in their careers this year, for better or for worse.

The Best Moves

WHO: Sarah Palin
BEFORE: Governor, VP candidate,
AFTER: Pundit, "Author," Celebrity
WHAT HAPPENED: First off, I'm certain anyone who has read this blog before is shocked to see me list Palin on a positive note in any way, but hear me out. While I generally don’t think highly of Palin, but she made one move that for her (and likely everyone else), was the best thing she could have done: she quit politics.

Her meteoric rise in fame in the national political scene was only marginally hindered by her and John McCain's massive loss to Obama in the 2009 election. Palin quickly polarized people's opinions of her, with adoration turning into idolization from her fans and general dislike turning into outright hatred from her detractors.  Palin's fame came with a major drawback, however. The more attention she got, the more people lost confidence in her ability to be a political leader.  Not to mention, ever aspect of her personal life was scrutinized in the public forum, every dime she spent was analyzed and her lack of knowledge on certain subject matters were considered major problems.

In the world of politics, 59 million people can vote for you and you can still go home with nothing at the end of the night, but in the world of entertainment, only one million can buy your book and you're considered a rock star.

Palin made the right move for her career. She had the name recognition and media attention she claims to hate and could obviously read the writing on the wall as far as her future in politics was concerned. Though she continues to say she hasn't ruled out future political office ventures, it seems like an obvious attempt at superficially connecting her new career to her old one for life support. A recent pole show more than 70% of Americans now think Palin is unqualified to be President. Though that number seems to grow the more time goes by, it now means nothing to Palin's future plans. The 30% who do think she is qualified are more than enough to keep her career outside of politics going.

 If Palin admitted she would never run for office again, it's likely her fame would fade quickly as speculation about her 2012 plans and beyond would stop being fodder for the 24 news networks.  Her supporters continue to champion her as a role model and someone they would like to see as President, so it's very unlikely she'll outright dash those hopes when they are what keep her supporters (and critics) interested.

WHO: Conan O'Brien
BEFORE: Host of Late Night with Conan O'Brien
AFTER: Host of The Tonight Show
WHAT HAPPENED: This was years in the making.  Jay Leno's contract with NBC expired, and the network decided it was time to move on to a new host (though they did not let go of Leno). O'Brien has enjoyed immense popularity in the late night slot for years and his ability to draw younger viewers made him the most likely choice to succeed Leno. Though the Tonight Show is no longer the rating juggernaut it once was and David Letterman is now leading in the ratings, it's not really a problem for NBC or O'Brien. NBC has much bigger issues to be concerned about right now, like the horrible ratings and reviews for Leno's new show, and even though O'Brien now attracts fewer viewers than Letterman, he dominates in the younger demographics NBC was hoping he would.

The switch from Leno to O'Brien signifies a massive shift in the Tonight show dynamic. Leno was as traditional of a comic as they come, where as O'Brien's approach is decidedly a more post-modern approach, where the scripted jokes themselves are often not the primary source of humor. Rather, O'Brien calls attention to the formulation of the jokes and the show itself for humor, often mocking himself, the (purposefully, I suspect) poor production value of some of the show's skits or mistakes that others shows might edit out before airing.

Not surprising, some of Leno's older viewers likely jumped shipped to Letterman, who has gotten a ratings boost in recent months, in part, due to two controversies (a poorly worded Sarah Palin joke and an alleged blackmail scheme). Nevertheless, Conan's younger viewers seem to like him, and he is following the footsteps of Johnny Carson, which, even when ratings are down, is not a bad job to have.

The Worst Moves

WHO: Rod Blagojevich
BEFORE: Governor of Illinois
AFTER: Reality TV "star"
WHAT HAPPENED: It's incredible how far and fast Blagojevich fell from grace. After Obama won the presidential election, his seat in the Illinois Senate was scheduled to be vacated and Blagojevich could fill the opening. Though he did fill the seat, it wasn't without a massive amount of controversy. Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges stemming from accusations that he was seeking personal or financial gain in exchange for filling the open seat.  In short, he's accused of trying to sell a seat in the state senate. Well, he was removed from office in Jan. 2009 and is awaiting his 2010 trial, but in the meantime, Blagojevich is not shying from the spotlight. Most disgraced politicians seem to avoid drawing further attention to themselves, but Blagojevich is different. Over the summer he tried to be a contestant on "I'm a Celebrity... Get me outta here!" but was reminded by the courts that the show was filmed outside the country and leaving the US is a big no-no for people facing political corruption charges.  So.... his wife Patricia went instead, because apparently she's a celebrity.  Apparently the Blagojevich family is hard up for money after being booted out of the governor's mansion, so these ventures into reality TV are their only way of making money. Though he was spotted making appearances at office parties for money singing Elvis tunes with a Fabio impersonator. You can't make this stuff up, it's just too sad.

 Now Blagojevich is set to be a contestant on the new season of Celebrity Apprentice as his career, and apparently his self-respect, have all but vanished. And just think, at this time last year he outranked Obama.

WHO: Kanye West
BEFORE: Hip-hop star with a knack for AutoTune and an ego the size of the moon
AFTER: "Jackass"
WHAT HAPPENED: Like you don't already know. Country singer Taylor Swift won her first MTV Video Music Award in a category where she was competing against Beyonce. During her acceptance speech, West, as he has done in the past, decided to steal the spotlight. He jumped on stage, grabbed the mic out of her hand and said " Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!" To which everyone in the audience, including Beyonce, responded to with shock and horror. Booing ensued, and a seemingly defiant West shrugged, flipped off the crowd, and walked off stage.

Within a mere minutes the incident set the blogosphere on fire. Wests antics have annoyed some in the past but most people brushed it off. This time, however, it looked like he amused nobody. It didn't help his image when Beyonce, who later won a different award, and in classy move gave up her mic time and called Swift back out on stage so she could finish her original speech.  West apologized the next day via his website, but it didn't stem the backlash against him. He would later go on The Jay Leno Show and apologize again. For the first time in his career, West actually appeared humble for a moment. But it didn't matter.  The media, like always, fueled the flames by asking everyone they could what they thought, from rock stars like P!nk to President Obama himself, who was recorded calling West a jackass in what was clearly meant to be an off-the-record moment.

West has since canceled most of his plans and is said to be taking some time off to reflect. No doubt he is hoping the storm he created blows over, but it doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon. Not surprisingly, "Kayne interrupts.../ I'mma let you finish" has become one of the fastest growing and most widespread Internet memes of all time.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Obama inspires Independence Day 2?

In a bizarre bit of news, director Roland Emmerich has said President Obama has inspired him to make a sequel to his Sci-Fi/Action film Independece Day, which starred Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum facing off against an alien invasion.

The reason he gave... the country needed a President that could be made into a "king" for the film, and "It was not thought that George W. Bush would have made a great king. Now with Obama, it's another story."

SPOILER ALERT Not to mention all the aliens are killed at the end of the first film and their mothership is destroyed by a nuclear weapon, so I'm not even sure how Emmerich sees a direct sequel making any sense. This is just weird. Of crouse it's all still in the planning stages, and it's not even confirmed that the film will get enough funding. Here's hoping it doesn't, as it sounds like a terrible concept already.

Read the full article here



About 5,000 people joined Michelle Bachman and other GOP speakers at what was officially called a "press conference" outside the Capital Building yesterday. The group was a mix of anti-abortion activists and Tea Party protesters voicing their disapproval of the health care bill schedule for a vote tomorrow.

The protest was similar to others though this one had the official blessing of the GOP.  The Washington Post reports, however,  a total of five people needed medical attention during the event, all of whom were treated by government health care workers.

The details of only one incident are reported:

"a man standing just beyond the TV cameras apparently suffered a heart attack 20 minutes after event began. Medical personnel from the Capitol physician's office -- an entity that could, quite accurately, be labeled government-run health care -- rushed over, attaching electrodes to his chest and giving him oxygen and an IV drip. This turned into an unwanted visual for the speakers, as a D.C. ambulance and firetruck, lights flashing, pulled in just behind the lawmakers. A path was made through the media section, and the patient, attended to by about 10 government medical personnel, was being wheeled away on a stretcher just as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) stepped to the microphone. "Join us in defeating Pelosi care!" he exhorted."

Read the full article here

Two groups of people were arrested during the event, one was a group of protesters staging a sit-in in Pelosi's office while throwing crumbled pages of the proposed bill around. The other, oddly enough, was a group of Code Pink (a liberal, anti-war group) protesters who were staging a similar sit-in... in Joe Lieberman's office.

One a side note, Bachman is getting high praise from tea party activists for organizing the event, and many want Bachman as the face of the movement, a move that Democrats think is a great idea.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Commerical Teardown: There's a lawsuit for that

AT&T has their fair share of stupid commercials, but their not the only ones, and this time Verizon has them beat. So much so that AT&T has filed a lawsuit against them. No, not because AT&T has stupid commercials trademarked, but because they say the recent "There's a map for that" ad by Verizon are misleading about AT&T coverage compared to Verizon's.   In case you haven't seen the ad, here is the first one they ran:

The ad plays off the popular iPhone "there's an app for that" commercials. AT&T is the exclusive service provider for iPhones.

Here's the problem:

While the map clearly states it's showing 3G coverage, there are some "fine print" details AT&T feels need to be mentioned as well:

- AT&T customers can still use their phones for voice and data just fine outside of the areas colored in blue on the map because AT&T has a large data network. The map of which takes the steam out of their comparison.

- Verizon does not have anything besides their 3G network, so the bare spots on their map are spots where your phone won't work at all.

Are these details really lawsuit worthy? AT&T thinks they are, but for customers I guess it depends on where you live. People in the Metro Detroit area aren't likely to be effected by it one way or the other, but strangely enough there are parts of Texas where AT&T offers 3G and Verizon doesn't have coverage at all.  Details, details. Of course, Verizon was trying to make a dig at iPhones prior to the release of the Droid phone, and the ad would not have as much impact if it showed maps comparing total coverage areas.

Nevertheless the ad has already been changed with footnotes reflecting that voice and data are available outside of the blue areas on the AT&T map. Odds are the ads won't be around much longer anyway. The Droid phone comes out tomorrow and Verizon is already touting it as the iPhone killer, so I would expect to see these ads replaced by adds comparing the phones themselves in the near future.

For what it's worth, I've always felt marketing products as the killer of another wildly popular product is a bad idea. Verizon may want to compare maps now but they're certainly not going to be calling a lot of attention to their apps. While they claim the Droid will have about 10,000 apps available at launch, the iPhone currently runs 96,845 apps, a number that almost doubled in the last 4 months and is showing no signs of slowing. So, while the Droid is getting good reviews so far, Verizon has lot of ground to make up before they can start really touting the killer status of their new product line.

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Spinning the results of the 2009 election

It wasn't surprising to see how quickly both sides tried to spin the results of the 2009 elections in their favor. While conservatives were touting the gubernatorial results in Virginia and New Jersey, liberals were celebrating the two-seat pickup in the US. House, especially the NY-23 victory.

It's both funny and sad that both sides are so predictable in their spin but neither is likely to be an accurate interpretation of the results.


The SPIN: Republicans winning two new gubernatorial seats is a clear referendum on Obama, and this spells doom for the democrats in future elections.  Even L. Brooks Patterson called it a backlash against Obama, saying “That’s clearly what it was...It speaks volumes."

The REALITY: It really doesn't mean that at all. Gubernatorial races don't give much, if any indication of how a state will vote in national elections. Patterson should know this since even our own state's local history shows it to be true.  Despite electing Republican John Engler three times as Governor, Michigan went Blue in every following Presidential election. California has a Republican governor and is considered a democratic stronghold in presidential elections. Likewise, Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, another "safe" blue state.

Virginia is different though, and to an extent I have to agree that some votes there were likely votes against Obama. However, I strongly disagree that it's statistically significant or will play a role in national races in 2010 or 2012. Virginia's gubernatorial races are odd for several reasons, primarily:

1) They are held in an "off-off" year where no national races are held in the state.
2) Incumbents are legally prohibited from seeking re-election (though they are permitted to run again in the future)

So having to choose between two new candidates in off years likely leads to much lower voter turnout than you would get in other states.The elections always follow the presidential election by a year, and who is more likely to turnout to vote, the party who won or the party who lost the last election?  With low voter turnout, the shift in attitude from the previous election can have a major impact, and in Virginia, history seems to show it does have such an impact. Someone on was nice enough to compile this list, so I copied it here for you to see.

1976: Carter (D) elected President
1977: Dalton (R) elected Governor of Virginia

1980: Reagan (R) elected President
1981: Robb (D) elected Governor of Virginia

1984: Reagan (R) re-elected President
1985: Baliles (D) elected Governor of Virginia

1988: Bush I (R) elected President
1989: Wilder (D) elected Governor of Virginia

1992: Clinton (D) elected President
1993: Allen (R) elected Governor of Virginia

1996: Clinton (D) re-elected President
1997: Gilmore (R) elected Governor of Virginia

2000: Bush II (R) elected President
2001: Warner (D) elected Governor of Virginia

2004: Bush II (R) re-elected President
2005: Kaine (D) elected Governor of Virginia

2008: Obama (D) elected President
2009: McDonnell (R) elected Governor of Virginia

History has been following a pretty simple pattern in Virginia for the last 8 election cycles... so while it may be fair to say Virginia gubernatorial races reflect animosity toward the sitting President, it would be equally fair to say they have been doing it for some time now and are not indicative of larger movements in the national political scene. Three of the six Presidents listed above won reelection despite the Virginia results, so to suggest this one election spells doom for the democrats is beyond stretching.


The SPIN: Bill Owens (D) winning NY-23 over Doug Hoffman (C) destroyed the Tea Party movement.

The REALITY: The Tea Party movement isn't going away any time soon. A democrat winning over a third party candiate is hardly Earth-shatting. The only reason the congressional race in NY-23 got any attention at all was because it was a rather slow news cycle for an election and Sarah Palin decided to throw her celebrity behind Hoffman. While NY-23 was considered a Republican stronghold prior to the election, Democrats picking it up won't change the overall course Congress is heading down at this point, and Owens' victory is more a reflection on a growing divide within the Republican party than an overall rejection of the Tea Party movement.

Owens was not expected to win the district in the original showdown with Dede Scozzafava (R), who was classified by critics and supporters alike as fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. Sarah Palin decided to endorse 3rd party candidate Hoffman because he was more conservative, and other big name Republicans followed. The problem was Hoffman was not a very charismatic candidate, especially when under the tight gaze of the national media, he did not live in the district and was quickly criticized for showing a lack of understanding of the issues facing the district. Scozzafava withdrew from the race and, likely feeling rejected by her own party, threw her support behind her former opponent.

In short, Owens won because the Republican stronghold was divided between conservatives and moderates, not because of backlash against the Tea Party movement.  It was a poorly planned move by Republicans that backfired.

Of course, there are still some who touted Hoffman's loss as a "win" for the movement because it was a close race. But it shouldn't have even been close. Scozzafava was heavily favored to win and polls taken prior to Palin's endorsement of Hoffman showed her with a significant lead over Owens. Republicans had the district locked up, which is probably why some saw it as an opportunity to shift the party in an even more conservative direction. Even after withdrawing, Scozzafava still received 5.5% of the vote, while Owens bested Hoffman by only 3.5%.

This was not an uprising of Democrats trying to send a message to Tea Party activists, this was a house divided that, clearly, cannot stand. However, it does not mean the end of the Tea Party movement. If anything, it means Republicans will have to work to bridge the gaps between the conservative base and the party's moderates leading into the 2010 elections.

A lot has changed in the last 12 months and it's likely a lot more will change in the upcoming year that will influence the next election. Trying to predict the results based on what happened in four local races this year is a waste of time.