Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Take a sad song and make it better: Another American Idol post

Let's talk about Heejun Han for a bit. If you're not watching, he's the slightly kooky Asian guy on "American Idol." He started out as a fan favorite, but now he's getting a lot of negative stuff thrown his way, which is completely unfair.

At the beginning of this season, Idol used his humor and "fish out of water" act to "sell" him. His audition featured him blowing his nose and gently teasing Ryan and the judges, acting like he wasn't sure exactly what all this "American Idol" stuff was all about. During Hollywood week, he could be counted on to make dry, witty comments about what was happening all around him. Throughout the process, he's the guy who's been a step above it all, observing the crazy and shaking his head. And, until recently, the show seemed to turn to him for a break in the action or a bit of humor. But the show counted on Heejun eventually playing by their rules and it didn't really happen.

The past couple of weeks, things have started to turn which has more to do with Idol taking itself too seriously rather than Heejun not taking it seriously. Heejun was never going to be a traditional, pretty boy pop star. He clearly has no interest in playing that game. He's a guy who likes to sing and, if it turns into anything, that's a bonus. He doesn't need the judges or Jimmy Iovine to give him his sense of self-worth. He is singing to the kids he works with and to the people he loves. If he grabs other fans, it's a bonus.

The thing is Heejun is an adult. He's got a real job that makes him happy and has a family who clearly supports him. Heejun is happy with his life, no matter what happens. He's not one of those starry-eyed 16-year-olds who think that a singing career is about fancy clothes and cheering audiences. If this ends tomorrow, he'll go home and back to his life and look back on all of this and smile. I can't imagine he'll have a second of regret or "gosh, if only..." thoughts.

Heejun got a lot of heat about last week’s performance. If you didn't see it, he started out all serious, but switch to singing "My Life". He was dancing around and, while not the strongest vocal performance of the evening, it at least kept me awake. There was a lot of chatter about Heejun being disrespectful, but I disagree. He was sending a message, but it wasn't a negative message. He sang it: "I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright..." Unfortunately for Heejun, the Idol Powers That Be don't like a kid who isn't going to kiss up to them, so there was a lot of frowning and tut-tutting. 

I hope this doesn't change him, but I'm afraid it might. What Idol doesn't need is a(nother) boring kid who's just so excited to be here, but that's what Idol is demanding. Idol would rather having Tommy Hilfiger "style" the contestants into his idea of a "star" (by the way: good call taking Erika, who was already one of the least-recognizable singers, and making her completely unrecognizable.) Heejun pokes the Idol machine and they don't like it. Unfortunately, Idol will make sure Heejun toes the line, and then they will wonder why they are losing viewers. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dear Headhunter,

I know that you think in this economy, I should be excited to get a phone call and/or email from a headhunter. I get that this position you are dangling in front of me is just fabulous and, in your mind, I am a perfect fit. It is flattering. But the truth is, I get at least one call a week from you guys, and, I don't want to be burning any bridges, but some of you are just starting to piss me off. To make both of our lives easier, I have a few tips for you:

1) Unless I tell you otherwise, do not call me at work. Ever. I hope you can understand why that's not cool with me. Even if I were looking and wanted to talk to you, I wouldn't be doing it at my current place of employment. I work in a cube. I have no privacy at work. My boss (and plenty of other coworkers) just stop by whenever they wish. A VP's office is about four steps away. I do not want to be overheard discussing other opportunities, no matter how great they might be. If you found me on-line, please, contact me that way. I will get back to you if I'm interested. And, no, I don't think you're especially clever for contacting the front desk and getting through to my direct line. In fact, I think you are probably more aggressive than I am comfortable with. You do not get bonus points.

2) If you contact me and I email back a polite response that states "thank you but at this time, I am not looking for a new position," please, believe me. I'm fine with a response that states something like "if you change your mind, keep me in mind" or "good to know, but here's a couple of current positions I'm looking to fill that I'll attach, and if you're interested, just contact me." But that's it. Don't push for the reasons or a phone call. Truly, if this position is so incredible, the description will get me to contact you. Also, can we not be coy about location and details of the position? Send me that information right away.

3) Not everyone will drop everything and move across the country for more money and/or (possibly) a better title. Take me at my word when I tell you that I am happy in my current position at this time. I really have no reason to lie to you. This isn't a personal insult to you or a diss on this position; I have my reasons. I really don't have to justify this choice to you.

4) Please, take the time to read my LinkedIn profile. I know you did the keyword search, but you should look at the whole picture. I've lived mid-Atlantic East Coast area for 25 years. I probably don't want to uproot myself and move to California to stay in a similar position. Related to this, if we do talk, please listen to me. I know what I can do and what I want to do. I also know the things that are my deal-breakers and must-haves. I'm not teasing when I say that moving further south is not in my future, so I'm not going to take that job in Texas. I also am not interested in that position where I'd be making significantly less at a lower title. I don't expect you to know everything about every position, so I may see things that you do not. Trust me when I say "no."

5) If I decide to dip my toe in the water, I expect you to be an advocate for me. I've worked hard over the years and I have skills and education and I do bring something to a company. I need you to at least try to negotiate with folks looking to hire me. For example, if they want to set up an interview in two hours and I tell you that I would like it the next day, don't call me back and say, "so, the interview is in two hours!" (This is based on a true story.) If I ask you if this position could be a work-from-home position, don't tell me how great Boston or Phoenix or wherever is. Yes, you are "selling" me to a company, but you're also selling the company to me.

And on that note, if you hear something is not so great, be honest. Some companies kind of suck. Some positions are hard to fill because management is wacky. Help a gal out. I may still be interested. It might be that I'm desperate to get out of my current position, so I'll put up with a lot. Or maybe I'd be willing to put up with it because of a bump in salary or a step up to go to other things. But if you tell me that is a fantastic company that's growing like crazy, and, when I get there, a hiring freeze kicks in, I'm a touch annoyed. At you. And I will tell my friends. It's a small world, and when you play in a particular field, it gets even smaller. Believe me, there are loads of headhunters out there. We have options.

Here's the thing: a good headhunter is awesome. I have worked with some that have been just fantastic. If you do it right, we both walk away happy. Most of this is just being polite and professional.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Press "play"

My relationship with organizing is a weird one. I really want to be organized, but it's not my natural instinct. I go through periods of "love me: love my clutter" but then guilt overwhelms me and I go on a bit of a cleaning frenzy. (Unfortunately, I rarely have the energy to complete the task, so I rely on an old family technique called "The Bag Method." For those unfamiliar with this, it goes as follows: you put it all in a bag.) It's like I know that hanging with certain kids would be a good thing for me, but I'd rather just hang out with the stoners and laugh at their stupid jokes. I really, really would love to get my nonsense together and have some organization, but I end up watching old seasons of "America's Next Top Model."

Nothing shows off my mess more than the simple question, "Can you just print this out?" My printer is my walk of shame. In all fairness, I rarely print out anything at home, so I need my printer only about once a year. But when I do need to use it, it's a disaster. I actually have a nice location for it (there is space in a bedroom closet where it is propped perfectly on an old milk crate). I get it out and I think I'm ready to go, but then I realize that I need cartridges. Well, this isn't exactly true: last time I used it, I thought I only needed black cartridges (I had a box of color ones), and I actually remembered to get them the last time I was at CostCo. 

This morning I go to set up and pop in the new black one, and when it's adjusting, it's apparent that I need a color one as well. Turns out that box I thought was holding a spare color cartridge doesn't have any; the heft of the box is due to the free photo paper that was included. Of course, it wouldn't even mattered, as I realized I have no idea where the cord that connects the computer to the printer is. (I am sure it's in that bedroom but, as that room is the recipient of The Bag Method, that's not terrifically helpful.) I'm sure it'll turn up when I'm looking for something else and I'll be all,"I needed this for something..."

The good news is that I found other two things I've been missing, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. Maybe this weekend I'll tackle a couple of the bags up there.

Monday, March 5, 2012

This Is. American Idol. (Or The Voice or X Factor)

For someone who can't sing and doesn't really listen to pop music, I watch way too many shows about discovering pop talent. I watch the "big" ones, not religiously, but enough that I can hold my own in a discussion. (Not that it ever happens, but it could and I feel better knowing I am prepared for such an event.) I'm not sure why I get pulled into these shows. In some ways, I think it's a throwback to my love for "America's Top 40" that somehow, I made that hit happen. ("I bought that single and now it's Number One in the USA! I made it happen!")

All three have their pros and cons. Right now, it seems like "The Voice" is the closest to getting it right, although they have yet to produce a star. "X Factor" tried to have variety: they had groups, younger kids, older singers, but it struggled, and the winner, another belt-y girl. But I think that Simon Cowell can make it work, so I think it will get better, although I doubt it will be the mega-hit that "American Idol" was back in the day.

The "American Idol" season is kicking off, and most would agree that it's definitely missing something. Is it age of the show? Is it the vanilla that the judges are determined to bring every week? Is it that, at this point, it's all teenage girls and dialing robots that vote? (Remember when other people used to vote? Or was that just me?) I don't know why I care, but I just want to yell, "Be better!" There are so many things that need changing: the judges need to actually judge. I'd say they need to get rid of the audience. Sometimes the performance really is awful and if the judges say something, all they get is a bunch of boos. Yeah, they should have a thicker skin than that, but no one likes boos, so it's easier just to be all positive, which is just boring.

I'm always torn about how much say the judges should have. On one hand, it seems like America is, frankly, boring, and will vote for the same types, so maybe if the judges just pick the best ones, that would help. But, on the other hand, I don't exactly trust the judges. I kind of like the "So You Think You Can Dance" model: America picks the bottom three and then the judges pick who's going home. Actually, here's what I propose: now that we're down to the top 13, each judge gets to protect one contestant a week. This might force the judges to have actual opinions. After it gets down to, say 10, they get to protect two, then one, then America is on its own.

None of these will ever be early-season "American Idol." It's too diluted: by the number of seasons and number of other shows like it. But the current crop of "American Idol" judges just aren't going to generate any excitement, so I watch when I'm in the mood. I still have fun criticizing song choice or trying to see a kid struggle with songs they have never heard before it was theme week. ("Queen? What's a 'Queen'? Why are there men singing?") It's familiar, it's fun, but it's no longer must-see tv. These days, I'm more interested in Cee-lo and his cat. That cat is a star!