Farewell to America Idol.

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“American Idol” kicked off its final season this year and for many viewers it will not be missed. It’s really easy to make fun of “Idol.” No one knows the recent winners and the last few years the show has had incredibly low ratings.

But lost in all the derogatory comments is the fact that “Idol” is the last singing competition to truly celebrate amateur musical performers. I think this is one of the only positive outcomes of the reality TV explosion.

Today TV is filled with people showing off beginner talents, from cooking to landscaping, flipping houses to socialites pulling out each others weaves on the streets of Atlanta. Even in an era of YouTube sensations making it big, nothing compares with a real, live talent show. There is something magical about someone being plucked from obscurity with the chance to be an actual rock star.

Sure, unassuming contestants appear on shows like NBC’s hit “The Voice”  yet those programs recruit skilled singers to audition, so you already know the competitors are talented. Originally, this was a way to avoid the awkward, terrible tryouts that made “Idol” famous. I believe the contest is a lot less interesting when a potential winner has already landed a record deal.

The best “Idol” success stories have all been about normal, everyday people with real homespun backstories.

Stories like Carrie Underwood, the college senior who had never been on a plane. Kellie Pickler, the waitress on roller skates. Jennifer Hudson, the cruise ship singer. Clay Aiken, the special education teacher. and of course Kelly Clarkson, trying to be a singer while working odd jobs.

At at the end of the day, “Idol” is still the only show where your average person can simply get in line at a local open audition and have a genuine shot at making it to the big leagues.

One reason “Idol” endured for so long is because it banked heavily on its “anyone can be a star!” premise. No matter how cynical I have become working on the fringe of the music business the potential “rags-to-riches” story is an still an alluring concept for me.

As a marketing man I find even the business model of American Idol sheer genius. The show was the brain child of producer and creator Simon Fuller . I met Simon in Tokyo before season 1 when he was looking to agencies like mine for sponsorship. He knew then he had a great concept.

Idol was beyond a craze or a fad it was an extremely successful business model that specialized in market interactivity.

The formula for this business model was simple, imagine a product, create an audience for the product, make the audience feel responsible for the product, and have the audience create the product. It puts on new spin on the adage, “If they build it they will come.”

The American Idol formula eliminated much of the risk normally associated with putting new products on the market. When Kelly Clarkson won the first contest the show’s audience had, through the process of voting for her over a several month period, already found the star they wanted and decided on the appropriate style to match.

When her first single appeared shortly after she was elected, those fans were more than happy to make it a number one title because, after all, they had helped create it.

It’s not hard to invest in something that you were a part of all along. One season 95 million voters had a hand in the selection of David Cook basically assuring his first album would be a double platinum seller. And forgetting about the record sales imagine the ad dollars earned with that size of an audience, Coca-Cola, Ford and Apple iTunes, not to mention the voting process was a boon to the relatively new phone feature from AT&T know as texting!

Idol changed TV and the recording business forever and I will miss it.

Top 8 reasons why you should seriously consider dating a British girl.

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If you have always had a passion for meeting women of different cultures and nationalities, you may have wondered whether your fantasy date is a sexy Spanish senorita, an enchanting Thai girl, or even a sultry Ukrainian woman.  I suggest perhaps that you really must consider adding a proper British girl to the mix.

I only know a handful of British girls but after meeting a very lovely Brit named Beatrice recently I composed a list of my top 8 reasons why I think you should seriously consider dating a British girl.

First and foremost they have style.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      With world famous designers such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and Paul Smith Brits have got a style all their own. They always dress to impress and take influence from famous fashionistas such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and the latest royal trendsetter; Kate Middleton. 

They know how to dress whether it’s for a ball, the races, or a glamorous cocktail party, take a Brit with you and she will definitely know how to stand out from the crowd.

They’ve got class.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Having grown up with royalty all of their lives, one thing instilled in these girls from a young age is class. They are ladylike, they have good table etiquette, they are certainly well mannered and respectable. On top of this, they can speak to anyone and will cope well in any social situation. I dropped my new friend in the middle of a party of strangers and before the end of the evening she knew something about everyone there and they knew something about her.

They have great taste in music.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                                            They come from the country that produced The Beatles,The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Adele, and Coldplay – so it’s a given that their musical taste will be right on the money.

They have a great sense of humor.
                                                                                                                                                                        Britain is the land of Monty Python, Mr Bean, and The Office – dating English girls is not for those of us who don’t love to laugh, because you know she won’t take herself too seriously. They grew up watching comedy legends and they are known for their wit, their love of sarcasm, and their great sense of humor. If you want to have a fun time, you can be sure to have a good laugh with them.

They are very polite.
                                                                                                                                                                            Brits are generally very aware of others and incredibly polite. If she accidentally bumps into someone, she’ll say sorry without even thinking about it, it’s second nature. She will never forget to say “thank you” or “excuse me” and if forming an orderly queue (that is forming a “line” here in good old USA) was an Olympic sport, Britain would win gold! Rather than pushing past people, she will naturally stand in a line in any given situation – whether it’s at a bus stop, in a shop, or at an airport.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      These manners are something they have learned from a young age. They don’t like to “make a scene” so you’ll rarely see her complaining or showing herself up in public, she would rather stay quiet or say something very politely/indirectly yet succinctly to avoid embarrassment.

They are sweet, shy, and genuine.
                                                                                                                                                                            Brits are naturally reserved – she may not reveal everything and wear her heart on her sleeve the moment she meets you, but that’s all part of her charm. She guards her feelings like a family secret, and you can be sure that when she says something personal, she meant it. Even if it takes her a while longer to open up to you than other girls, you can be sure that if she says she likes you, it’s the real deal with a Brit. She rarely puts on an act or behaves falsely. Brits are as genuine as they come and you can trust what they say.

Britain is home to some serious beauties.
                                                                                                                                                                            The Spice Girls may have been your first crush, but it doesn’t stop there – the UK is home to Keira Knightly, Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz, Kate Beckinsale, Kate Moss, Elizabeth Hurley, and many more drop-dead gorgeous ladies. Who knows, your fantasy woman may be hiding in the UK?

Their accents.
                                                                                                                                                                            I’ve saved the best for last, I’ll admit it, I can’t resist Beatrice’s accent! Whether it’s the way she says your name,  “lovely” or “cup of tea” – I am happily entertained with all of her British idiosyncrasies. In fact I like her accent so much I want Beatrice to record a “proper” answering machine message for my iPhone.

If you are lucky, you may even learn some British slang. So if you’ve ever wondered what a girl meant when she said you were a “damp squib” or says what you just told her was, “a complete load of tosh” – everything will make sense if you date a British girl.

With style, elegance, and a cheeky sense of humor; British girls have a great deal to offer.

“Nanakorobi yaoki”- when life knocks you down, get back up.

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The “Daruma” doll has been highly valued in Japan through the ages as lucky charms that fulfill people’s wishes. The beginnings of the Daruma are said to be an imitation of the founder of Zen, Bodhidharma, in a Zazen seated meditation position. Bodhidharma was born in India, he later became a priest; the 28th generation to take over from the teachings of Buddha, and then he traveled to China.

Despite the many difficulties he encountered there, the indomitable spirit of Bodhidharma persisted. This captured the hearts of the people, and during heavy floods a devotee carved a statue of Bodhidharma, which is currently enshrined at the temple of Shorinzan Darumaji. After the temple opened, to provide relief for farmers hit by famine, the high priest allowed the farmers, as a side job, to make papier mache Daruma (imitations of Bodhidharma) and sell them at festivals, where they quickly caused a sensation.

The passed on prayer used nowadays of “make a wish to a Daruma and if you endeavor it will be fulfilled”, is derived from silk farmers praying for “silkworms to make good cocoons” whilst filling one eye with ink, and when this prayer is fulfilled the remaining eye is filled in with ink.  In Japanese the term “get up” is used to refer to the opening up of old silkworn shells, you are praying to the Daruma who stands for the Japanese proverb of

These days, Daruma are made in varous regions of Japan but the vast majority of papier-mache Daruma are made in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, location of Shorinzan Darumaji Temple, as well as the surrounding area, and are known as “Takasaki Daruma”.

There are many theories as to why the Daruma are painted red, but it actually derives from the clothing of Bodhidharma. Red also appears to be the color that was used for charms in ancient times. In modern day, apart from red, many other colors of Daruma have appeared, such as white, yellow and green. Not only do they also vary in size, there is also a white version used for weddings, and there are also ones where you can write on the torso.

My “New” New Year Resolutions

I have made countless New Year resolutions in my life and one thing is for certain unless I use them to set real achievable goals for myself by February 1 the resolutions are forgotten.

This year I will yet again have two sets of resolutions…one set of practical resolutions that will make my life richer or even easier in some cases. The other set are the resolutions that may be harder to accomplish because outside forces that I cannot control may get in my way.

Every year I set business goals but the economy often effects not only me but my clients as well. If they have a bad year no matter what I do I may find the going tough. I will keep this set as business objectives. My practical list seems easier to tackle anyway.

First, I will learn to type…sounds simple right? I set this exact same goal last year but this year attending a meeting at Intel I was embarrased as I watched all the execs typying their meeting notes feverously. I put my laptop away and just listened intently.

I am even now typing this and my other blogs using my patented “hunt and peck” method. I have had enough. I am the product of the “old school” Catholic school system.
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The boys took shop, the girls took typing…this made sense to the nuns. Why would a boy ever need to type and for God’s sake why would a woman need to learn to use tools? In my case the Sisters of Loretta added yet another wrinkle, the so called “smart” students should take Latin. They say that is helpful in learning other languages. I can tell you it has not helped even a “sukoshi,” a “nid noi,” or a “nemnogo”. If I had used those two years to learn more Spanish for example I would not be putting leaning Spanish on my “practical” resolution list.
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Second, lose weight. It has been a tough and challenging year…some folks don’t eat when they tackle stress, I binge. Comfort food has been the best way for me to cope in this tough economy. I believe that food beats Xanax but if I continue on this path I will be one ton by 20117. Pizza and Pasta are the trusted, “go-to” menu items for me and I will try to cut them from my roster.

I am sure exercise should be on the list but most people put that on their lists and quickly leave that resolution on the shelf. In my case I have joint issues as well so I would be dropping exercise like a bad habit first sign of pain.

Third, re-learn to play a musical instrument. I have tried a few instruments when I was a teen but now I really regret not sticking with any of them. I recently attended a holiday party and held a guitar in my hands the whole night and could only join in one old rock song, “Brown Eyed Girl” I think.

With Apple’s help it has become so much easier to learn instruments I will have little excuse to not at least give it a shot. This may be the toughest resolution on my list because it does require some musical talent as well as perseverance but I have produced a great deal of music in my career and I should at least know how to make some chords on the piano!  One stand-by song that I can call up at a party would be nice…”Stand By Me” perhaps.

This year is starting to shape up like Bill Murray’s experience in Ground Hog Day.
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The fourth resolution is one that I should be ashamed not to complete. In my career I have written countless scripts for TV commercials and short films but each one has been for a client or brand. Why I have not been able to write even a small script for myself is already a mystery. Knowing my career and history my colleagues have even urged me to take my shot at it.

With all my time abroad, in all of the exotic countries I have been posted I should have a wealth of material. The coups, natural disasters, jungles, cults, superstitions, and the sheer variety of cultures I have experienced will make a great backdrop for any story I choose to write.

All of the other resolutions should not even be on a list. They are all things we should be doing as good citizens of the earth and just good people in general. For example, I have a grand daughter and grand son. I won’t need a list to remind me to love them and spoil them any more than I already do…this comes naturally.

I do have one request for all my friends, be kind in 2016. We all need a little extra love and attention these days.

No holiday from e-mail…

Even on the cusp of this long Christmas weekend, there’s no rest for the weary.

The majority, or 59%, of working Americans check their work e-mails during Thanksgiving, Christmas and other traditional holidays, according to a survey by Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards), a Silicon Valley startup that organizes Microsoft Outlook inboxes and address books.

Of those who do check e-mails during the holidays, 55% said they do so at least once a day and 28% do so multiple times per day.

Workers feel compelled to check e-mail outside of work to keep up with their jobs, noted Xobni’s senior director of product management.

Forty-two percent of the respondents also said they believe staying up-to-date during the holidays eases their workloads after having time off. In addition, with the increased popularity of smartphones, it is easier to access work e-mail and be on call all hours.

“Especially with mobile devices and laptops, people are taking them everywhere,” he said. Jacobson added that he also plans to check his e-mail over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Still, getting work related e-mails over the holidays is not always well-received. Forty-one percent feel annoyed, frustrated or resentful about it.

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Others, however, are finding work e-mails provide a much-needed reprieve from family time. Fifteen percent of respondents said they feel relieved or thankful for having the distraction of getting a work-related e-mail from colleagues or clients.

Here is a helpful stat;                                                                                                         Five percent said they purposefully check e-mail to avoid awkward family commitments.

The Mystery of McRib.

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The McRib is back again? I first reported that is was back in 2012 and here we are three years later with the rebirth of a product probably not too different than BBQ Spam.

I am surprised that McD is actually saying on its radio ads that it is back by popular demand.

McRib is a product of “restructured meat technology.” Carumba, I can eat almost anything but I am not sure I would eat anything that uses restructured meat technology but hey baloney and McNuggets have been a staple of my diet for years.

Rene Arend, McDonald’s first executive chef and inventor of the Chicken McNugget, came up with the idea and design of the McRib, but it’s a professor from the University of Nebraska named Richard Mandigo who developed the “restructured meat product” that actually makes up the McRib.

Neither of these folks will be appearing on Iron Chef any time soon.

According to an article from Chicago magazine, which cites a 1995 article by Mandigo, “restructured meat product” contains a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs.

Can you imaging an ad that touts those ingredients?

Is the CIA Reading My Blogs? Maybe.

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America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon. Yikes I certainly hope not. In case they are, “good afternoon guys.”

In 2009, In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, put cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

At that time Visible Technology crawled over half a million web sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. It didn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, it does now.

Most people use social media like Facebook and Twitter to share photos of friends and family, chat with friends and strangers about random and amusing diversions, or follow their favorite websites, bands and television shows. But what does the US military use those same networks for? Well, no one can tell you…that’s “classified.”

One use that is confirmed, however, is the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online “personas” managed by the military. Recently the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called “persona management software.” Such a technology would allow single individuals to command virtual armies of fake, digital “people” across numerous social media portals.

These “personas” were to have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds, to make them believable to outside observers, and a sophisticated identity protection service was to back them up, preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. They even worked out ways to game geolocating services, so these “personas” could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events, even while the operator was not really present.

When the story was first reported on the Air Force contract for this software, it was unclear what the Air Force wanted with it or even if it had been acquired. The potential for misuse, however, was abundantly clear. A fake virtual army of people could be used to help create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social media to the point where valuable stories are suppressed. Ultimately, this can have the effect of causing a net change to the public’s opinions and understanding of key world events.

Perhaps even this blog was created by a fake persona…who is Jerry474 anyway?