Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Motivational techniques, by Goofus and Gallant

Remember them? From Highlights Magazine at the pediatrician's office? For the uninitiated, they were a pair of cartoon boys who would teach morality. Goofus would forever be doing something wrong, and Gallant would continually be a paragon of model behavior. Of course, being a morality play aimed at kids, it tended to leave the subtlety at the office door:

"Goofus drinks the blood of babies.
"Gallant donates half of all his internal organs to needy children."

I had one particular boss who was so unashamedly corrupt that a co-worker and I used to make up Goofus and Gallant-style morality lessons about him:

"Goofus sneaks inside information out to major shareholders in exchange for lucrative kickbacks.
"Gallant always shreds confidential information to prevent insider trading."

I thought that, when I left behind that executive, and that co-worker, I'd have to leave behind that particular joke, too. But then I found a new manager who seemed to have a knack for choosing the "Goofus" route when it came to motivational techniques. So, I'm pleased to present a few examples that I've observed in my time with said managers:

On the manager's first arriving at the office in the morning

Goofus answers the employee's "Good morning" with "Yeah, yeah. I'm parked down on P2. Can you go move your car next to mine so nobody scratches it?"

Gallant brings Dunkin Donuts for the employees without even worrying about spilling coffee on the vinyl seats of his '87 Taurus.

On creating an annual budget for the first time in both the company's and the employee's history

Goofus says, "I can easily divide our income and expenses by twelve in my head to come up with the information these spreadsheets show. You haven't done anything here."

Gallant says, "This is a good start, but we should redistribute income and expenses to more closely reflect when we think they'll occur. Also, we should include more gifts for the downtrodden under 'expenses'."

On meeting with an employee to ask him to take a temporary pay cut in order to help offset the company's lack of fiscal responsibility

Goofus says, "Normally, we'd just fire you and figure out how to do your job ourselves, but we don't think we need to do that yet."

Gallant says, "You are a valuable employee, and not only will all the executives reduce their own salaries by an amount proportionally greater than yours, but we will give you a promissory note for the salary you are deferring. The executives will also begin selling blood as often as the Red Cross will take us, even forging fake IDs if necessary to donate more often."

Isn't it fun, kids? Try a few of your own!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Vital Idols

Back by popular indifference, I will attempt to show that I have my EKG on the pulse of the heartbeat of FOX's producers by guessing the order in which the remaining American Idol contestants will be voted off. Last year, I was right about Gina Glocksen going home at #9, and nothing else, so this year I'll start with the Top 8. If I'm right about any of these, maybe I'll start from that place next year, or maybe I'll just get a life. I could go either way.

As the watermarks indicate, all photos ripped shamelessly from American Idol's site.

8. Kristy Lee Cook

Ah, Kristy, we've had quite a journey together. I remember seeing your audition and thinking, "Wow, what a babe! I hope she makes it to Hollywood!" Then I saw you in Hollywood, and thought, "OK, she can pretty much only sing 'Amazing Grace', but what a babe! I hope she makes it to the Top 24!"

And now? Well, Kristy, I'm starting to feel sorry for you. You approach every week's results show with all the enthusiasm of Drew Carey upon hearing he has four and a half years left on his Price is Right contract. (I was always waiting for Bob Barker to snap and recreate his fight scene in Happy Gilmore after the 4,000,000th time a contestant looked out into the audience for help.)

At any rate, you can't lust after someone you pity, so I'm ready for you to go home. Thank you, Kristy; you've taught me that looks, indeed, aren't everything. And yet, because this is "Idol Gives Back" week, the theme is Inspirational Songs. Which means...that's right, ladies and gentlemen, "Amazing Grace"! Again! And while I would appreciate the hilarious irony of Kristy getting voted off after her best performance of the show, I don't think it will happen. So...

8. Jason Castro

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer got behind the medical marijuana movement and got the issue onto the ballot, only to space out on the day of the vote? I've been waiting for that to happen to Jason's fans all season. An excessively long inspirational episode might just do it.

7. Kristy Lee Cook

Unless you wanted to leak a sex tape to try to hang on for another week? No? OK, then, we're done here.

6. Syesha Mercado

Her ability to imitate a baby's cry narrowly edged David Cook's revelation that he's a "word nerd" as the Biggest Waste of an Opportunity to Win More Fans this season. So far.

5. Brooke White

I think--

"It's OK. It's OK. No, it's fine."

I mean, I really--

"It's OK. No, really, it's OK. That's fine. OK."


"Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks. No, it's OK."

Brooke White, ladies and gentlemen!

"No, really, it's fine..."

4. Michael Johns

I'm going to buck my own "Someone always goes home too soon at #4" rule, partly because I don't think either David is ready to go home yet, but mostly because Michael Johns really bothers me for some reason. He strikes me as the kind of guy who would steal your girlfriend, then cheat on her with your mom. I can't really justify my dislike for him, but it bothers me that I've let him get this far. This is where it stops.

3. David Archuleta

At some point, you have to be able to do an up-tempo song without looking like you missed your ride to the "Up With People" revival. I haven't seen it. On the plus side, he'll always have his Star Search victory to fall back on.

2. Carly Smithson

Note that this assumes that the wardrobe department doesn't get even with Simon's criticisms by dressing Carly in progressively more and more hideous outfits. ("No, feathers are making a comeback this year...you'll look great!")

Which leaves us with...

1. David Cook

Let's review the necessary qualifications:

1. Talent - Check.
2. Southern roots - According to wiki, he was born in Texas, a native of Missouri, and working in Oklahoma before Idol. Check.
3. Consistently chooses the right songs - Check.
4. Experience and stage presence - He used a vocoder in a performance for crying out loud. Check.
5. Nothing about his personality that could turn the viewers off - Check--almost too much, actually. Let's elaborate:

Ever since Simon's "I don't think you're as good as you think you are" comment, David's been very careful to not look too full of himself during or after a performance. Let's call it believably humble; not the "Aw shucks, really?" response to every compliment, from first to four millionth, that got old with Melinda Doolittle last year. David's is more of an "I'm letting my singing do my talking for me" attitude. It's polished and professional without coming across as slick. I love it.

But what really sold me on his self-awareness was last week's performance. The two biggest criticisms out on the Interwebs were: 1) "He's getting credit for his originality when he's really just copying other people's covers of the songs!" and 2) "He's sharing barbers with Michael 'Pay No Attention to my Baldness' Bolton!" So what does he do? Gets a new hairstyle and actually creates an original arrangement. Bam. That is someone who knows his perceived weaknesses and, just like the Dutch boy in the story, puts his finger in the duck before the leak turns into a flood.

Is he essentially Chris Daughtry II: The Christening? To some extent, yes. But he has the advantage of having the way paved for him by Daughtry's success, just as Chris had Bo Bice's coattails to rock upon. Will that be enough for him to win? Well, since I don't feel like rewriting everything above, I'll say: maybe.

Bonus question: How much longer do you think the producers of American Idol will put off the inevitable "Billy Idol" week? Two seasons? Three? As long as it takes for everyone to forget his Wedding Singer cameo?