Mike Huckabee: As "Silent Night" plays softly in background, the Arkansas governor says in honeyed tones: "Are you about worn out of [sic] all the television commercials you've been seeing, mostly about politics? I don't blame you. At this time of year sometimes it's nice to pull aside from all of that and just remember that what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ, and being with our family and our friends. I hope that you and your family will have a magnificent Christmas season, and on behalf of all of us, God bless, and Merry Christmas."
The spot has drawn flak for its heavy religious content, but Upfront respects Huck's sincerity and likes the warm and fuzzy tone. ★★★
Rudy Giuliani: The former New York mayor, in marked contrast to Huckabee, shoots for yucks - and misses. "There are many things I wish for this holiday season," says Giuliani, wearing a red sweater vest and sitting in front of a Christmas tree. "I wish for peace with strength. Secure borders. A government that spends less than it takes in. Lower taxes for our businesses and families. And I really hope that all of the presidential candidates can just get along." "Ho, ho, ho, ho," chimes in a white-bearded Santa Claus. "I was with you right up until that last one. Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho."
"Can't have everything!" Giuliani says.
Sorry, Rudy, Dave Letterman you ain't. Maybe it would've been funnier if you wore a dress. ★★
John Edwards: The former North Carolina senator takes a decidedly somber tone. Standing in front of Christmas tree in a rather dimly lighted set, he declaims: "One out of every four homeless people on our streets is a veteran. Thirty-seven million Americans live in poverty. Who speaks for them? We do. This is the season of miracles, of faith and love. So let us promise together: you will never be forgotten again. We see you, we hear you, and we will speak for you. In America, the chance to build a better life is a promise made to each of us, and the obligation to keep it rests with us all."
We like the populist message, but the delivery unfortunately is a snoozer. ★★★
Hillary Clinton: Even in a Christmas ad, the New York senator manages to come across as a boring policy wonk. Her ad shows a pair of hands putting cards on wrapped presents marked "Universal Health Care," "Alternative Energy," "Bring Our Troops Home" and "Middle Class Tax Breaks. Then Clinton says: "Where did I put universal pre-K? Ah, there it is. Happy Holidays." Sorry, Hill, this ad is tres lame. ★
Barack Obama: The Illinois senator's ad is the only real winner in the bunch. The whole Obama family is cozied up in front of a twinkling Christmas tree as Barack pronounces in his mellifluous baritone: "In this holiday season we are reminded that the things that unite us as a people are more powerful and enduring than anything that sets us apart. And we all have a stake in each other, in something larger than ourselves. So from my family to yours, I am Barack Obama and I approve this message." "Merry Christmas!" says 9-year-old Malia. "Happy Holidays!" chirps 6-year-old Sasha.
The message manages to be inoffensive without being too bland, Obama covers all the bases by wishing people BOTH Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, and you can't go wrong with two cute kids. ★★★★★
Looks like a lot of the shine has worn off the Golden State.
According to the California's Department of Finance numbers, 89,000 more people left California than came in from other states. The trend started in 2005 and is rapidly accelerating, in what the Los Angeles Times described as "a sharp turnaround from nearly a decade of sustained population growth."
The state's population did increase in 2007, but that was only thanks to births and an influx of more than 200,000 immigrants from other countries.
Department spokesman Howard Roth blamed the drop on the popping of the housing bubble and a general decline in jobs and economic opportunity. California added only 5,800 jobs per month in FY 2007, compared to 20,000 per month in 2006.
"If you've lost your job here and maybe your house, maybe you're thinking that there are better prospects out there in other states," Roth said.
That's okay, but don't come to Bend, folks - our bubble has burst too.
Celebrities Getting Knocked Up
The world, or at least that portion of it that cares about the sex lives of teeny-bopper idols, was agog last week that Jamie Lynn Spears, the kid sister of Britney Spears, is pregnant at the tender age of 16.
Jamie Lynn - who has her own show on Nickelodeon -revealed in OK! magazine that she's four months pregnant, and that the father is her boyfriend Casey Aldridge.
"I can't say it was something I was planning to do right now," Spears told OK!
As for her decision to keep the baby, she commented: "I'm the one who has to live with it for the rest of my life. I put myself in this position...so I have to act like an adult and take responsibility for what I did."
Meanwhile, there's speculation Aldridge could be in serious legal doo-doo. Fox News reported that he could be charged in Louisiana - Jamie Lynn's home state - with "felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile," defined as "sexual intercourse with consent between someone age 19 or older and someone between age 12 and 17."
But there's a dispute over Aldridge's age at the time he and Jamie Lynn did the deed. Moreover, criminal defense attorney Chris Darden told Fox that "unless the complaint is filed from the minor's parent, it is unlikely that this will be taken further."
In a further meanwhile, The Associated Press reported Thursday that Nickelodeon executives have made no decision about the future of Jamie Lynn's show, but are contemplating doing a special "about sex and love" for their young viewers.
"Role model?" What's a "role model"?
We'll Have a Blue, Blue New Year
The color of the year 2008 will be blue - specifically "blue iris," a very deep, almost violet shade.
So decrees Pantone Inc., the New Jersey company that developed the Pantone Color Matching System widely used by graphic designers, printers and other professionals.
Blue iris (the official designation is Pantone 18-3843 TCX, if you're taking notes) "brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast," according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. "Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic."
Eiseman said five people were involved in the selection process. "With blue iris, we felt that it answered several needs, hopes, desires, that kind of thing," she told the New York Times.
It remains to be seen whether the world will fall in line with Pantone's edict, but if past experience is any indication it doesn't appear likely. Last year's official color, for example, was "chili pepper."
"I respect Pantone a lot," said the creative director of one New York ad agency, "but I see them as a technical service. If [fashion designer] Helmut Lang were to make such a projection, I would listen."