Wednesday, September 12, 2007

weeds: season one

Andy: "How can you be so blindly pro-Bush?"
Doug: "I like his wife Laura; I used to buy weed from her at SMU."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

californication (first thoughts)

I was initially a little hesitant to watch David Duchovny's return to television. The reviews were rather unspectacular and frequently referenced Duchovny's character, Hank, as a misogynist. While Hank could certainly be called an asshole, he hates himself far more than anyone, let alone an entire sex. I believe Hank's self hatred makes the opening scene where he receives a blow job from a nun humorous instead of offensive.

One episode in, and I'm intrigued. I gasped in shock and laughed out loud. Raunchy, dark humor that doesn't offend this feminist is often hard to find. The wackiness balances the raunchiness and brings a more human element to it. Hank is a troubled man, but he still has some semblance of humor. Californication is a delicious union of low-brow deviant debauchery and high-brow intellectual dialogue.

Bonus points: Fantastic soundtrack, without beating it into the ground Grey's Anatomy-style by ending each episode in a poignant montage to a great song.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

gossip girl

I am a longtime devotee of Go Fug Yourself, and I maintain it is some of the best pop culture writing. Jessica posted my favorite fug so far this week. I, too, cannot wait for Gossip Girl the television show. I have become borderline obsessed with the books this summer. I do manage to alternate Gossip Girl/not-Gossip Girl books, but I still will finish the series before the tv show premieres. These books are teen soap opera gold. With One Tree Hill not back until January, the world of television needs some quality teen drama.

I've got my champagne flute ready...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

mtb4

Despite the fact that several episodes in to Puffy's latest ego fest of a reality show that really has very little to do with him, there are once again twenty hopeful young men, I can't stop watching. Not surprisingly, the greatest hits of Boyz II Men (and the occasional Stevie Wonder tune) provide a touching backdrop to the rarely portrayed world of male bonding. This week's episode featured two goose bump-inducing twenty-young-men-strong renditions of "End of the Road". I doubt I will ever tire of a group of talented, grateful, young men on the verge of either tears or rage coming together, from varying backgrounds, ages and regions, to sing the hell out of a song. It's a surprisingly moving program, and I keep falling for the success of more of the aspiring singers. I'm still on Team Dan (and Team Donnie - seriously, this guy is meant for boy band fame), but Team Carlos is creeping up on me, and surprisingly, Team Michael.

If you haven't seen Making the Band 4 yet, and you enjoy the music of Boyz II Men, watch it. It's surprisingly touching and a little too nerve-inducing. Granted, Diddy did a great job with Danity Kane, and he doesn't by into the one-elimination-per-week model. So far, so good. When you're a fan of the show, and you develop more feelings for more contestants week after week, it's an emotional roller coaster to never know how many you'll lose within the hour. Thankfully, MTV replays this program incessantly, so their Boyz II Men renditions will live on.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Big Brother 8 (First impressions)

Earlier today, as I was trying to explain my unending fascination with Big Brother to nomadreaderboy, my best guess is the ever-changing strategy. The show continually provides the unexpected. There are no judges to do the right thing and eliminate the appropriate people; the viewers don't get the power of calling into vote (after season one). Each week is a constant power struggle. Players can form all the alliances they want to, but depending on who wins Head of Household and the Power of Veto each week affects the game. The producers can try to meddle all they want to, and the result is usually good. I enjoy when evicted houseguests come back; I especially enjoy it when the viewers vote one evictee back in.

I realize the drain Big Brother viewing can have on an individual, even in the summer. The show itself is on three times a week. For a rather meager fee, one can watch four camera feeds 24 hours a day online. This season Showtime will show the live feed three hours each night, during the prime shenanigan time of midnight to 3 a.m. Eastern. Big Brother happens in real time; producers need not worry about Las Vegas odds makers spoiling the winner. No million dollar contracts require contestants to keep quiet. The players have no contact with the outside world; it's boredom and strategy all day and all night long. It's the ultimate voyeuristic experience; Big Brother can absolutely consume a person's time for three months.

I sat down hopeful and giddy for a good season. I've watched six seasons without missing an episode (Season 5 - Project DNA bored me for reasons I can't recall). Although after the constant replays of Nakomis' genius move that season, I wish I would have stuck around to see all the strategy smartly play out. Season six brought the series back to its peak. There were two distinct teams for the most part, and I loved every minute of it. All-Stars was a thrill for me, largely because of those cast.

I enjoy the premise of BB8: some houseguests have a rival, enemy, or someone with unfinished business in the house. Unfortunately, this season, there are only three counterparts (or six of the fourteen). Does it really require three adjectives for three pairs? I am curious how the producers decide which counterpart became an original 11 member and which was sequestered upstairs for most of the opening episode.

My first thoughts are that this season has a lot of young people. There is one 44-year-old, a very-young looking 37-year-old mother of three teenagers, and the the other twelve are 30 or under.

It will be interesting to see how the "original eleven" last. Eleven is far too many for an alliance, and I imagine some of the three will stick around. I'm already a huge fan of Carol (a Kansan!) and Dustin (not one of the O11). Dustin lists one of his three favorite movies as Troop Beverly Hills. After reading Daniele's biography page, I am also on team Daniele. Team Dustin, all the way. He appears to be a class act, unlike his crazy ex Joe who decided to speculate Dustin will be one of the surprise players and starts screaming about how he gave him gonorrhea. (For the record, I believe Dustin's side of the story). When Dustin came in, he went around the circle of couches to shake hands and introduce himself to everyone. For bonus points, he already knew their names. Joe ignored him and pouted. Drama queen will breakdown in less than three weeks.

I enjoyed flamboyant Joe's antics early in the episode. He made multiple references to Daniele resembling Anna Nicole Smith. It was funny when he squealed, " Oh, look, it's Anna Nicole's ghost!" as Daniele peered through the distorted glass window in between the bedrooms.

I'm not sure how I feel about America's vote as Eric. Viewers have the power to tell him what to do, if he does it, he gets paid, if not, it's unclear. It is a unique twist; if he's popular with fans, one would imagine America would look out for him. If not, I hope the viewers turn on him and make him do ridiculously stupid strategical moves so he's voted out quickly. Seriously, I hope one of our first tasks requires voting off his nipple rings; I simply cannot take him serious with two nipple rings in. Eric does seem to be a fan of reality tv, and I hope he's excited about this opportunity. Otherwise, his speech seems slightly sleazy.

I think we're in for an entertaining season Big Brother. I only hope I hold out and refrain from reading the recaps of the live feeds and don't feel the need to order Showtime. I will give you three hours of my viewing time each week, Big Brother, and I will give you one more on the world wide interweb, but I refuse to give you the rest of my summer.

Happy viewing!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

my ongoing love affair with degrassi

As the N begins airing the latest installment of season six of Degrassi: The Next Generation, I racked my brain to decide if any other teen drama has seamlessly made the transition from high school to college. Season six features part of the cast in college and part of them still in high school. Largely, I believe, due to the format of the program not following the same characters in each episode, the show is able to change settings. There are a few students who are at the local college, of course, so they're free to drop by the high school still, but there are still many once tried-and-true main characters who are more recurring guest stars. It takes powerful writing and an amazing ensemble cast to make these transitions possible. The writers are astute; even when characters aren't seen for weeks at a time, their names are mentioned. They maintain off-camera contact through email and the phone.

It's no secret that I think Degrassi: The Next Generation, in fact all shows Degrassi, are among the best ever produced for television. I think the continued success of season six provides a beautiful showcase for this point. It's not a show driven by a handful of actors or characters. The cast has grown and morphed over the past six seasons as the actors themselves have grown up. I am eagerly anticipating the summer release of The Kids of Degrassi Street on dvd and the fall release of Degrassi High. With all four series soon to be available on dvd, I hope more people will take a look at the amazing body of work created over the past thirty years. It's beyond unprecedented; it's inspired storytelling that only improves with time as it builds on its rich history and brings more characters and fans into its world.

For those of you who are too impatient to wait for The N to air the newest episodes in this country, CTV offers Degrassi on demand viewing online.

As an added bonus, you may rest assured CTV won't edit out objectionable subject matter, so you know you're seeing the entire episode, as it was intended.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

(2 stars - liked it)

Indridason's first Icelandic mystery, Jar City, is a gem. I eagerly awaited the follow-up, Silence of the Grave, but it took me over a month to actually finish the not-quite-300-page novel. It's a good book, but it's not a great book. The characters remain darkly real and conflicted with life and the case, but the mystery at the center of the book is not terribly riveting. I do look forward to the third book being translated from Icelandic to English.

Friday, June 8, 2007

the closer: a love affair

It is not a secret that I have become completely enamored with The Closer. It is one of the best written and best acted programs on television today. I am quickly making my way through the second season on dvd in preparation for the June 18th premiere of season three.

Blessedly, season two takes the strong characters carved out during the first season and takes them deeper. Frances Sternhagen as Brenda's mother is brilliant. Whoever cast her and wrote that two episode arc deserves a raise and an Emmy. The interplay of Sternhagen and the sublimely good Kyra Sedgwick (seriously, I didn't believe she had it in her until I started watching) managed to parallel their actions and words in a beautiful ode to the sometimes strained Southern mother and daughter relationship. I wasn't sure Sternhagen could outdo her rendition as Bunny on Sex and the City, but she is even better in this role. I hope she's back during season three.

If you haven't seen The Closer, get the dvds of the first two seasons. Start watching the reruns on TNT. There's a reason this little show on TNT wins Golden Globes. TNT chooses to only air it once a week, unlike most of the other cable channels who don't actually have to compete with scripted broadcast television when the utilize incessant reruns. It's good enough to go against any show on television. I am totally and completely in love with The Closer.

pirate master

I absolutely adore the concept of Pirate Master, and I'm thrilled for Christian Okoye to get another few moments in the spotlight, but after watching the first two episodes, I'm slightly bored. This program has all the right pieces of good reality television, but it falls flat. After two episodes, I still only know three of the pirates by name. I don't even know the name of the chesty blond who has her bathing suit top blurred out by the censors during most of the second episode.

The actual search for the pirate treasure is the weakest part of the program. From my limited understanding of the Survivor formula, it's quite similar. I find people traipsing around the wilderness quite dull, and it's most of the reason I've never managed to get into Survivor. Still, the power of captain and the possibility of mutiny should lead to intriguing strategy. Despite the weak attempts at mutiny so far (although the compass part was quite brilliant in the first episode), no one is really doing anything but playing it safe. I watch Big Brother religiously. That show has nothing going for it except constantly evolving strategy, which I find riveting. If the pirate wannabes could muster a little bit of strategy, the show could be saved. If everyone just keeps complaining and lying in wait, I won't be watching when the season concludes.

It was especially painful to see clips of Janelle in the Big Brother 8 ad during the program. Even just one Janelle, or Dr. Will or Danielle would get every pirate's mind churning and strategizing. When does Big Brother premiere?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

tidbits of late

In the midst of my move, blogging fell by the wayside. I've had time to enjoy my fair share of television, movies, and I even read a few books. The brief recaps and ratings follow:

Knocked Up - (2 stars - liked it) - I made it to see Judd Apatow's eagerly awaited comedy on opening day. I was underwhelmed. There were countless funny parts of the movie, but as a film, it didn't work for me. It felt like the funny dialogue was many improv versions away from the script. Although the story flowed, the spirit of the story didn't flow for me. It was too often immature teen drug-focused comedy with a few sprinkles of mature, relationship melodrama. Katherine Heigl was superb, as was Paul Rudd. I'm normally a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I found his performance to be rather elementary. He and his friend pandered incessantly to trite drug humor. Are there any original or even funny marijuana jokes left? It's definitely worth seeing for the funny parts, and I even enjoyed the sappy last twenty minutes, but the film as a whole was disjointed and dragged at times. I'd prefer to watch it again with the 45 minutes or so that I laughed out loud pulled out.

Half-Nelson (3 stars - loved it) - I'm a huge Ryan Gosling fan, and his performance was fantastic. The movie was slow, deep and disturbingly realistic. It was refreshing to see an accurate depiction of a how a functioning drug addict exists. It was a beautiful film.

The Holiday (2 stars - liked it) - This film surprised me immensely. The first thirty minutes were quite dry as the stage was set for the two women to switch lives. We all saw the thirty second trailer and understood the premise. Still, as the film went on, it kept getting better. The characters were quite well developed, and all five of the major roles were stellar. It was a little hokey and over-the-top predictable, but it still had heart. I did groan aloud when Kate Winslet asked Jack Black if he composed the music in the scene they were in. Let the characters stay inside the film, please. It's worth seeing for a light-hearted film. I'm also a little bit of a sucker for most movies set around Christmas.

American Dreamz (1 star - eh) - I wanted to liked this movie; I love the idea of this movie, but it was not good. I spent the whole film wondering if it wasn't funny because it was too close to reality or too far from reality. I never figured it out, but I still want to believe in the concept of this film.

Friends with Money (1 star - eh) - How can a film with Frances McDormand (I heart F McD), Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and even Jennifer Aniston be dull? Not much happens in Friends with Money, but the action does increase as the film goes on. It has a few nice moments, and I thought the characters were finally being developed and it was getting interesting when the film abruptly ended. I'm still a little bewildered.

Bobby (4 stars - life-changing) -Bobby blew me away. The ensemble cast was fantastic, but the three best performances were: 3. Nick Cannon - I didn't even realize it was Nick Cannon until the closing credits. 2. - Demi Moore - I never had a strong opinion on Demi's acting abilities, but she was outstanding. 1. - Shia LaBeouf delivered an Oscar-worthy performance; he was unbelievably good. The last thirty minutes of the film are absolutely breath-taking. Estevez sets up the final scene, one in which everyone surely knows what happens, so poetically that one realizes he's been quietly preparing ever character and detail throughout the entire film. Admittedly, the first hour of the film was above average, but not incredible. I enjoyed some story lines more than others, but when I realized how all the parts perfectly fit into the whole film, I was mesmerized. I have not stopped thinking about this film since I watched it. The Screen Actors Guild got it right - this cast hands down gave the best ensemble performance of the year, and the film deserves far more accolades than it received.

The Da Vinci Code (0 stars - don't bother) - I enjoyed the book, although not nearly as much as Angels and Demons. I didn't find the book earth-shattering, but it was entertaining. It became clear to me in the first twenty minutes of the film that what was enjoyable about the book was that the reader participated in figuring out the clues; as a reader, I had time to think about what they meant. The movie moved so quickly it was dull; there was no mystery or intrigue.

The Guy Not Taken (stories) by Jennifer Weiner - (2 stars - liked it) - Weiner provides stories she's written from high school to the present, and it was a fascinating collection. I've read her other books, and two stories offered early insights into her beginning ideas for two of her novels. The collection was a fascinating look into the way a writers thinks and sees the world over time. Her themes are the same, but her angle shifts throughout her life as a writer. Some of the stories were better than others, but the only one I did not enjoy was the idiotic title story (Naturally, that story has been optioned for a film). It's a good collection, and it's worth reading.

Hidden Palms (the premiere episode) - Summer television is here, and the CW has brought me a teen soap opera from Kevin Williamson. I was underwhelmed by the premiere, but I enjoyed it enough to want to watch more episodes. I appreciate that the teenagers look shockingly young by television standards and are probably actually teenagers. I enjoy that the adults have as many juicy story line options as the teens; multi-generational soap operas are so much more entertaining. The jury is still out on this program, but in the heat of summer, I do love teen drama.

Sunset Tan - I cannot explain my fascination for this program, but it is divine. It's what reality television should be. At the heart of its likability is the realness of most of the characters: these are good people with actual life struggles trying to make the best choices for themselves. Despite the irritating presence of the Olly girls, the rest of the staff seems genuine, and there is certainly a lack of honesty in reality drama these days.

The Next Food Network Star - I love it! This season is the first one I've watched, but I commend the producers for a three-part opening challenge. The contestants are quite good as well. It's of the same vein as my beloved Top Chef, which premieres next week, and my one complaint is that these dueling networks schedule the seasons to air at the same time. I imagine more tv viewers would watch both if the seasons did not overlap. Still, TNFNS is a little more lowbrow: Bobby Flay sends the contestants squealing and makes them starstruck. I must be a food snob, but I couldn't stop giggling at their excitement.

So You Think You Can Dance - I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying this program. I've never watched it before, but the premise is the same as American Idol. I am not by any means a dancer, but I appreciate the blending of styles and genres and the sheer ability of the dancers. I may tire of the dancing by the end of the season, but for now, it's a lovely summer indulgence.

So Notorious - On vacation, I watched the entire season of So Notorious in a single sitting. It is hysterically funny and smart. You won't believe it until you watch it to, but if you're a television fan at all, you will adore this satirical scripted reality show. The cast is exquisite, and the humor is non-stop. Even the skeptical nomadreaderboy fell in love with it within five minutes of viewing.




gossip girl

After the stress of packing and moving across the country, I was in the mood for a lighthearted read. I opted to finally get around to reading Cecily von Ziegesar's famous Gossip Girl series. I still enjoy children's and young adult literature, and I am already ridiculously excited about Josh Schwartz's upcoming television version of the series. As much as I love to read, I admit the trashy teen genre is best served on the screen.

I adored the first Gossip Girl novel. It's definitely on the Cruel Intentions level of risky teen behavior, and the puritan part of me wishes that the characters were not grounded in any one's actual high school behavior. Responsible adolescence aside, the book was endlessly entertaining, and the characters are well-developed. I reserved the next few books in the series already. I imagine with Josh Schwartz's able hands, he can use these fantastic characters to transcend the success of the books and produce a television series with more than a season and a half of good episodes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

is it fall yet?

All of the networks have now announced their fall television schedules, and I'm more excited about pilots than I've been in years. Thankfully, for once, there are rarely more than two shows I want to watch scheduled for the same time. Laurel's TV Picks has a fantastic (Central time) grid for each day of the week.

There are good-looking new shows, the return of almost every show I like (goodbye, Jericho) and an ingenious plot development for One Tree Hill. The senior class of main characters will graduate from high school this spring. When One Tree Hill returns in January, our gang will be out of college. Gone is the awkward transition that has killed far too many teenage-based shows. It's a win-win situation. The stars get to be their own age on screen. I think this development is brilliant, and if it's successful, I daresay other shows will follow-suit.

I also hope CBS and the other networks have learned their lessons with quality new shows like Jericho. When you take shows off the air for two months, people will likely lose interest. Story lines fade in one's memory. When you take a show off the air for two months, don't bring it back during American Idol.

Hurray up, fall, I'm ready for the new tv season already. I hope the summer fill-ins will keep me occupied in the meantime. Hello, Pirate Master and season three of The Closer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

acm awards

I absolutely enjoyed last night's Academy of Country Music Awards. I have a love for country music that I cannot explain, but I do believe the new crop of stars are improving modern country music. Although the new crop are still ridiculously attractive, most of them are writing their own songs. I often disagree with politics of country music, but I do enjoy the camaraderie of the genre. When someone accepts an award, he or she usually goes to shake hands or hugs the other nominees on the way to the stage. The awards shows are quite meaningless, but they're a fun outlet for the stars to perform and all be together in one room.

The performances were especially strong last night. It did strike me, however, that although country singer-songwriters are emerging, the genre still lacks any back-up musician who is female. If they're out there, I want to see them. Perhaps it's not just country music, but I have far less experience with other genres. I'm sure there are talented women out there who will play guitar for a living. If not, let's start a reality tv show for a back-up female guitarist!

My favorite moment of the night was when Carrie Underwood won her first award of the evening, she stood up, hugged Tony Romo and handed him her purse to hold while she went on stage. When she won the second award, she took her clutch on stage with her. Ah, country music.

dancing with the stars

As I boycott the long-winded results show for Dancing with the Stars, I did a quick Google news search to find out who was voted off last night. I happened to pull up CNN's story on Ian Ziering's demise. They casually threw in "The 43-year-old actor...". Ian Ziering is 43? After a little research at imdb, I was still flabbergasted. Immediately, I had to find out how hold Gabrielle Carteris is (she's 46!). I remember being aware that the stars of 90210 were not high school age, but somehow my youthful mind couldn't grasp the fact that they're all much closer to my parent's age than to my age. No wonder Luke Perry is looking so rough these days (he's 42). What I find even more odd now is that Gabrielle Carteris is eleven years older than Jennie Garth. It's one thing when all of the actors are too old for their roles, but how oblivious was I to not realize that the faux high schoolers were from different decades?

Monday, May 14, 2007

ashley parker

As the faithful readers may recall, I have an odd fascination with Ashley Parker Angel. I admit to watching O-town videos, although I always drew the line at listening to the music in a purely audio format. I revered his reality tv show, There and Back; I'm still holding out hope for a second season. Wouldn't it be fun to see Lyric grow up and realize he has an even more feminine name than his father? Am I the only one who wonders how Tiffany handled the model to mom transition? What ever happened to her mother? I would love to see backstage at Hairspray.

I digress. My beloved New York Times had this fantastic piece on Ashley Parker Angel by their writer Ashley Parker. This guy remains endearing; it makes me wish he would be a star.

the business of books

Yesterday's New York Times offered this fascinating glimpse into what makes a bestseller these days. A snippet:


Eric Simonoff, a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, said that whenever he discusses the book industry with people in other industries, “they’re stunned because it’s so unpredictable, because the profit margins are so small, the cycles are so incredibly long, and because of the almost total lack of market research.”



The inevitable follow-up question: how to you factor all the readers at libraries? Are we as irrelevant in the minds of moneymakers as DVR watchers?

oh, venice

The New York Times has this article about Venice's first female gondolier today. I adore Venice, and as a normally rather observant feminist, I was shocked to realize that there has never been a female gondolier. It surprised me to learn that it was only eight years ago a woman was first permitted to wait tables in St. Mark's Square. I was relieved I never deigned the Florian with my money or presence, as they still only allow women to wait on tables indoors, not on the piazza itself.

Perhaps I was too blinded by the beauty of Venice on my vacations there to stop and notice the rampant sexism.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

the first sentence

I've just started reading Arnaldur Indridason's follow-up to Jar City (loved it), Silence of the Grave. It's hard not to love a smart Icelandic mystery, and after finishing Jar City, I promptly made my father and nomadreaderboy read it. I imagine I'll continue to read Indridason's wonders as quickly as they're translated into English.

I only had to read as far as the first sentence to get my first treat in this novel.

"He knew at once it was a human bone, when he took it from the baby who was sitting on the floor chewing it."

It's simply divine.

the life and times of the thunderbolt kid by bill bryson

1.5 stars (between eh and liked it)


I really wanted to love this book. I'm a Midwesterner who loves autobiographical tales of life in the Midwest. It had certainly had some good moments, but it had more than it's fair-share of bad-teen-comedy-stomach-curling-gross-out tales too. It's part personal childhood history and part history. I can't quite figure out why it was such an unsatisfying read, but the more I read, the less I seemed to care.


My favorite paragraph:
"I used to give X-ray vision a lot of thought because I couldn't see how it could work. I mean, if you could see through people's clothing, then surely you would also see through their skin and right into their bodies. You would see blood vessels, pulsing organs, food being digested and pushed through coils of bowel, and much else of a gross and undesirable nature. Even if you could somehow confine your X-rays to rosy epidermis, any body you gazed at wouldn't be in an appealing natural state, but would be compressed and distorted by unseen foundation garments. The breasts, for one thing, would be oddly constrained and hefted, basketed within an unseen bra, rather than relaxed and nicely jiggly. It wouldn't be satisfactory at all--or at least not nearly satisfactory enough. Which is why it was necessary to perfect ThunderVision(TM), a laserlike gaze that allowed me to strip away undergarments without damaging skin or outer clothing. That ThunderVision, stepped up a grade and focused more intensely, could also be used as a powerful weapon to vaporize irritating people was a pleasing but entirely incidental benefit." (63-4)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

ah, the flint hills

How did I miss Friday's New York Times travel article about Kansas? The dear Flint Hills get the star treatment, and with the exception of the kind words for Wichita, the article nails the simple beauty of the prairie.

mst3k lives...sort of

The New York Times highlights the next best thing to MST3K coming back: Mike Nelson recording the commentary for anyone to play along with the movie. RiffTrax are available for $2 or $3, which seems to be a fair price. Because this newfangled form of commentary exists free from copyright infringement, all movies are fair game. I'm most tempted by the Lost pilot episode and Crossroads (the Britney Spears movie Shonda Rhimes never mentions that she wrote).

reading stack

This fabulous community combines my love of books/reading with my voyeuristic nature. I'm currently practicing immense restraint with checking out books from the library, and instead I'm keeping an elaborate set of Google spreadsheets, which are not quite as pretty as the lovely stacks of books on bedside tables.

the world news

Rekha Basu, a gifted writer, consistently raises consciousness about national and world matters to her readers. She writes for the Des Moines Register, however, so many are not aware of her intuitive powers. Sunday's column examines the way U.S. news outlets cover foreign matters and celebrity news, both here and abroad. Here's a taste:

"Our kind of coverage seems intended to enforce America's cultural and political isolation, designating us as a unique breed and foreigners an alien species, not people we might admire or learn from. That mind-set, I suspect, helps drive us to war instead of diplomacy when the going gets tough."

I probably would not have discovered her columns if I had not spent time in Iowa, where one can still read the local paper and feel informed. For the past eight years, I've been reading her columns, as well as her late husband, Rob Borsellino. I remember the giddiness I felt when I discovered my two favorite columnists were married. I'm a sucker for literary sexuality and the closeness of wordsmiths.

Each time I email her when a column especially moves me, I always receive a warm, sincere response. It's delightful when the brilliant and talented are also among the kind and welcoming.





pretty, pretty dresses

The annual Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala was last night, and the stars turned out in gorgeous dresses (except for Kirsten Dunst and my beloved Julianne Moore who made an unfortunate fashion decision.) New York magazine has an amazing slide show of the gowns.

on romance and the bachelor

When I settled in last night for the home visit episode of The Bachelor, I was expecting awkward moments and scandal. Instead I was subjected to four women who all have severe emotional attachment for the same man, who claims to have true, intense feelings for all of them. It was depressing and slightly tragic; it was not its usually escapist reality television.

It also brought me to a startling, perhaps partially wine-induced conclusion: I believe in romance too much to care about The Bachelor. Sure, The Bachelor is filled with roses, diamonds, sparkling wine and dates designed with carefree abandon, but it's all one large choreographed illusion of romance. I don't care for roses or diamonds.

I'm not doubting that there are real feelings involved, but part of me loses faith in Andy every time I see him proclaim his feelings, seemingly sincerely, for more than one woman. By the third woman, I'm rolling my eyes, and by the time the fourth woman appeared, I just felt sorry for all five of them.

Whether it stems from my notions of romance or my belief in monogamy, I can't buy into having so much love for so many. I might concede to having strong feelings for two, and perhaps the producers and editors are prodding Andy into creating more drama by caring for all four. It doesn't really create more drama; every episode, the audience hears that Andy will propose in the finale. It does create more heartache. Granted, the women are all participating voluntarily, but after watching this show, I remain dumbfounded how women can sign up for this much heart wrenching emotion. It's bad enough in life, but to go through it on national television? A man handing you a box of diamonds to wear for one night is not romance. Nothing on this show has been romance. It's a cookie cutter version of what might be easier to believe in. The tokens lose meaning when they're not genuine. True romance lies in the things two people share; it's remembering something mentioned off-hand and surprising the other with it later.

I still want to believe in love without question. I want Andy to give out the number of roses he wants to rather than the producer-mandated number. I want him to stop and say, "She's the one, unequivocally, and I'm done looking." Granted, I still don't buy into finding the love of your life by going on The Bachelor, but I'm enough of a romantic to believe it might happen. True love happens whenever and wherever.

While I still can, I want to believe true love stops you in your tracks and transforms not only your heart but your mind so you'll do things you used to think were crazy or plain stupid to keep that person in your life every moment you possibly can. I want to believe in love that doesn't question what you're doing as long as you're together. I want to believe that when one falls in love, finding unrequited love is not an option. The cynical part of me knows my ideal of romance and monogamy is just as much an illusion as The Bachelor, and I struggle with the partial understanding of why seemingly intelligent and well-adjusted women like Bevin and Tessa would go on this show. It may seem silly and improbable, but you can't always just listen to your head. When your heart stops believing the improbably, then romance really is dead. A heart without hope and a heart that futilely hopes are the most tragic relics of romance.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

the one where brittany loses it

Wow. Brittany has gone from front runner to laughing stock in only a few weeks. In the beginning of the episode, I thought the editors had turned on her. By the end I realized she just went crazy. The editors did a brilliant job of cutting the tirade scene to show that it was, in fact, Brittany's fault, and I thank them for not making me rewind to find out. The reaction shots of the inside of the room as they listened to her yell and curse were priceless. Naturally, Natasha takes the line of the episode crown again, with her calm, soothing wisdom she dispensed to Brittany, "I just want to tell you that some people have war in their countries." Suddenly, Jael's absence can hardly be felt.

The other highlights, courtesy of the surprisingly more and more endearing Jaslene:
"My strategy is to be cool, calm and collective."

"Brittany, why you put up these excuses and make yourself look bad?"

i heart inn love

I am in the midst of a spring love affair with Tori & Dean: Inn Love. Despite the fact that last night's episode was rather staged, it was immensely enjoyable because Dean and Tori are genuine, funny, incredibly in love people. Unfortunately, they often must deal with silly situations. Last night's episode alone featured:

1. The first two guests (two foreign-accented elderly ladies who took it upon themselves to explore and jump on beds) arrived two hours early when nothing was ready. Believability - initially high, but deteriorated considerably as their visit went on.

2. The next couple arrived with a two-year-old they didn't mention they were bringing. Believability - moderate. When Dean asked them if their son had any dietary restrictions, they said, "Well, we're vegetarians, and we don't eat wheat or dairy, but don't worry yourself over it." Believability - none. If you expect people to feed you, tell them you don't eat hardly anything. Seriously.

3. The gay couple showed up after they cancelled (they denied cancelling). Tori and Dean seemed genuinely shocked, and Tori says someone called her back to cancel. (Oh, meddling producers). In the morning, one of them walked around in his skimpy underwear, coming all the way into the kitchen to get coffee. Believability - none. People wear clothes in public in real life, unless they're pathetically posturing for the camera.

Despite the silliness, it was a fun episode, and baby Liam is almost here.

Best Tori quote of the episode: "I'm sleeping for two." Can I claim this as my morning excuse when I'm not pregnant?

Bonus points: Dean made a joke about Gunnar and Matthew Nelson!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

reading in bed

This lovely device would appear to make reading in bed a much more pleasurable experience. FYI, my birthday is in August.

pirates!

CBS has announced the contestants for Pirate Master. I was scrolling through a standard reality contestant list of receptionist, make-up artists and bartenders when I stumbled upon CHRISTIAN OKOYE, or my favorite running back ever. I promptly and proudly updated his wikipedia listing. Now I only hope he will make me proud. I wasn't sure I could more excited about this program. Watch out, Big Brother, you may competition for my summer reality tv crown this year.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

toast

Because nomadreaderboy loves toast more than I ever imagined possible, and he also loves words, I now believe this invention might have an audience greater than one.

gawkerology

Reason #137 I heart Gawker:

Their take on Danny DeVito releasing his own brand of limoncello following that unforgettable November 2006 appearance on The View:

"We're not sure, but this may have been one of the most intricate attempts at raising brand awareness that we've seen to date."

television gadgets

It's probably a bad sign that I find this new invention cool and not disturbing.

i heart bevin

Yes, I am still watching The Bachelor, despite its Dancing with the Stars mandated longer than an hour length each week. I'm holding out for the final four, which means hometown visits. I find the "meet the parents" visits to be fascinating and often awkward. This episode is usually the season's best, although tequila baking might take the dishonor this year.

The lowlights:

Manners inquiry: when on a one man, three woman date, is it more awkward to be the woman who picks something out of the man's teeth or be one of the two who didn't mention the object?

"It's hard for me to date a guy who's dating so many women. I deserve better; I deserve someone who just wants to be with me." - Bevin, I'm trying hard to still love you. Have you ever seen The Bachelor before? That's exactly the premise. I don't think Andy has the option to give out fewer than the required number of roses in a rose ceremony. Although we might all benefit if he hurried the process along.

Andy's date with Stephanie Kansas might be my dream date. They were able to mix their own bottle of wine and body paint the label. Hot.

Back to dear Bevin crying, "The guy that I'm dating right is dating so many other women. It totally makes me feel so desperate. For someone who's 23 [Amber!] to be doing this, I understand, but at my age [28], it's like, I feel ridiculous. Why am I putting myself through this when I could be at home just dating a guy who's just gonna date one person. I feel like an idiot because the chances are it won't be me." Now pardon the hopeless romantic about to come out in me, but I appreciate that Bevin is an otherwise sane and intelligent woman who now regrets her decision to participate in this preposterous charade of romance on reality television. Bevin, you've clearly developed intense feelings, and if it's love, you fucking fight for it. Love makes one feel ridiculous enough at times without being on a silly tv show. Has someone made Team Bevin t-shirts yet?

Andy and four bachelorettes partnered with the Hollywood Beautification Team, which has nothing to do with socialites and everything to do with building community and helping the environment. They do good work, but their name makes me giggle at the poetic irony.

"There's no better date than to really get a sense of how they feel about community and about family and about children." -Andy. Seriously, Andy, you would take manual labor, even for a good cause, over making wine and body painting your own label? Seriously? Clearly, I am in the minority as all five agreed at the end, "It can't be topped." Amazing experience? Absolutely. Amazing date? No! There are still four women for one man (and no lesbians present). Good group date? Sure, there was no jealousy, which was quite refreshing to watch.

"I need all the time I can get to talk to Andy." - Danielle. Perhaps the sentence went on, "about something besides my college boyfriend who died while in bed with me."

Misnomer of the day: "Seeing Andy with those kids reassured me that he can be a good father and that he is ready for marriage." -Tina. Dear Tina, goofing around with children does not directly correlate ready for marriage. Sincerely, DFACS.

"I think it's every girl's dream to like be brought over diamonds and then brought to a dress store to pick out anything you want." - Tessa. Please knock sense into me if my dreams ever approach that.

One benefit of those silly doors on Andy's car: because they open up instead of out, they provide an extra layer of panty protection from paparazzi.

"I do truly believe that you can meet someone you're meant to be with in the craziest and most amazing of circumstances." - Tessa. While The Bachelor is indeed crazy, I do not believe appearing on a reality program with the goal of finding love to be such an experience. Rob and Amber meeting on Survivor, sure. Sean and Rachel meeting on the first Real World challenge, sure.

After this episode, I am no longer rooting for Tessa.

"Tessa hasn't told me yet that she's 100% in, that she's willing to go the distance with me." -Andy. Dear Andy, you are technically only 16-17% in right now as you are dating six women. Aren't you being slightly hypocritical here?

Warning - nomadreader's off-color comment of the day: "This is the biggest regret of my life." - Tina, the medical student. Should someone tell her she might kill accidentally kill a patient one day? Or do I just watch too many medical dramas and believe all doctors kill a patient one episode or another?

I'm actually rooting for Bevin, even though I think she's far too good for Andy. Seriously, she was the far and away winner of the tricycling race. How cool is she?

Monday, April 30, 2007

some good bad tv news

Thank you, CW, for giving my favorite bad tv show, The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll live on. The CW is now casting for Season Two. While my favorite dramas and comedies may be dropping like flies, reality tv lives on, for better or worse. Do you think Robin will let Melissa S. compete again? May I submit an application on her behalf?

it must be in the water

The comics are good today! Non Sequiter follows suit.

mission accomplished? (part two)


A fitting gem from Mike Luckovich.

mission accomplished?


Ann Telnaes has another gem today.

nerdy cakes




I love cakes. I love frosting more. I love elaborate, frosted theme cakes most of all. Geeksugar has pictures of nerdy cakes. My favorite is the Super Mario cake. Fantastic. I wonder if the creators could make a Cheer Bear frolicking in Care-a-lot version for me!

random guest appearance

Billie Jean King guest-starred as a judge in last week's Law & Order. I have no idea what actually happened in the scene because I was transfixed by her presence. Shouldn't she get a special guest appearance credit at the beginning to forewarn me? It was a great episode, although rather reminiscent of SVU with the whole kidnapped Russian teenage girls for prostitution ring theme. Let me mention again, programming gods at NBC, please don't cancel Law & Order. It's the best it's been in years.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

law & order

Clearly I won't be the only one upset if Law & Order is cancelled. New York-based actors have been the backbone of the program for years, and there aren't many opportunities out there for television roles in New York.

On a related note, I believe I officially have too much time on my hands when I read the Post every day instead of waiting for Gawker to fill me in.

best advertisement ever?

Check out the new The Economist ad. Coolest ad ever?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

yeltsin

Next to Bill Clinton and George Bush (41), Putin looks downright giddy at the Yeltsin funeral. Seriously, how creepy are the simultaneous frowns of Clinton and 41? And when did Bill get so old?

for the young fan in us all...

Entertainment Weekly has a mini-interview with Kelly Ripa this week about her stint hosting the TV Land Awards. (sidebar - I love award shows, and I watch most of them, but I don't get the concept of TV Land handing out awards).

EW: For the awards show, Ripa re-created the Laverne & Shirley opening with the real Shirley, Cindy Williams.

Ripa: "I literally looked at her and said, 'Besides the birth of my children, this is the most exciting moment of my life.' And she looked at me with such pity.


Priceless. Haven't we all had a moment of childhood dreams fulfilled?


long lost relatives?

How much does Christian Perry (the swing instructor from Dancing with the Stars this week) look like Max Crumm (Broadway's new Danny Zuko)?

the new pussycat doll

I did watch the finale of Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll. This episode shall be known as the hour of disrespect. I couldn't even follow all the accusations of disrespect, and listening to tiny, whiny teenagers talk about disrespect without actually ever talking about respect is nauseating.

Overall, this season was amazing. It suffered from the illness that sometimes strikes reality tv finales. There can be no good conclusion. As fun as it is to cheer against someone (Asia) all season, it's not nearly as satisfying in the final episode to cheer for anyone but Asia to win. A villain is fine, but if no heroine emerges, the villains defeat or victory is dull. I was left with only Melissa to cheer for, but I wasn't terribly disappointed when she failed to win. I do think Asia's win is a joke, but I don't really take the Dolls that seriously anyway. I love the show, but I don't love the band. My fascination with the Dolls will lay dormant until another season comes along.

Please, bring on Pussycat Dolls Present:The Search for Another Doll. CW, you have so few good shows, you can afford another season-long commercial for the band.

inferno 3

I confess to watching the latest installment of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. I no longer watch The Real World or Road Rules, and I don't even know who many of the contestants are. Cast members are no longer identified by their season of origin. The veterans are better known for their frequent Challenge appearances, and the newbies are disposable until they develop their own Challenge identity.

Despite my long-standing enjoyment of this program, I cannot bring myself to take it seriously anymore. I no longer mourn the elimination of my favorites because I know they'll be back sooner or later. I can't remember who won Challenges or infernos or gauntlets. I enjoy it, but I don't quote statistics. Clearly Rachel (from The Real World:Austin) who still has her affinity for talking about her time in ironic, does not realize Challenges are a pale imitation of what they once were. After losing in the inferno she whined, "It's just being so ashamed that some chubby civilian girl can beat me." Do you remember Rachel? She was the chubby girl in Austin who got included in the token male magazine shoot but was much more covered than the other girls? She now has bigger boobs, which I suppose helps the proportions, but the girl is chubby. She lost to Jenn, who is an NFL cheerleader. Have you ever seen a chubby NFL cheerleader? Rachel, chubbiness is not a bad thing, and a little more girth might have helped you in a jousting challenge. Still, Rachel left saying, "I'll never be able to live this down." I see her introductory interview for Inferno 9 now, "I'm here to avenge losing the joust to Jenn."

Settle down and get drunk; alcohol makes Challenges so much more fun.

kellie pickler

I didn't watch American Idol much last season, and I emerged with no opinion on Kellie Pickler. I do, however, listen to country music, where both Kellie and Bucky Covington have good singles. I adore her single "I Wonder" so much that each time it comes on, I turn the volume up.

I was pleased to start up this week's Opry Live to see her actually perform. She still performs like she's trying to hard; she hasn't yet developed the natural confidence on stage. She's good, but she looks like she's thinking. For her finale, she saved "I Wonder." For the first time in her performance, she stopped trying too hard and just sang. Kellie wrote this song herself. She sat down on stage and just sang. She was in tears by the end, as were most of the audience members the camera panned to. The Opry gave her a standing ovation, and she deserved it. I was clapping from home. It was a beautiful performance.

Opry Live is wonderful at evoking emotional moments for both the live audience and the home audience. It's also excellent at showcasing the awkward clapping of white people during the upbeat numbers. Shamelessly, I enjoy both.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

i heart 30 rock

The best moment in last week's episode of 30 Rock:

"How Sex & the City are we? I’m Samantha. (To Phoebe) You’re Charlotte. (To Liz) And you’re the lady at home who watches it."

Are you watching 30 Rock yet?

the ny times wedding announcements

When I leave two weeks worth of dirty laundry for Sunday at the laundromat, I treat myself with a Sunday New York Times to read while I wash and dry. I confess, the Sunday Styles section is one of my favorites. (Sidebar - did you read the cover feature about Digging for Truth? I set my DVR immediately). I also confess to loving the wedding announcements. I don't always read them all, but I make a point to read the long ones. The tales of how our newlyweds came to find one another can produce bizarre stories. I once had the idea for a short story collection based solely on tales from the Times wedding announcements. I might still write those one day.

Clearly, I'm not the only one with this bizarre fascination. Gawker has a delightful scoring system, Altarcations, for the level of WASPiness among newlyweds.

bob dylan biopic

Normally I wouldn't post on upcoming movie news, but I am too intrigued by Todd Haynes latest creation I'm Not There not to. This film features several actors (Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere and Cate Blanchett to name four) portraying Bob Dylan. The film is set to premiere at Cannes this year, but photos of Cate Blanchett as Dylan have already surfaced. If you weren't excited yet, you better get ready. Cannes kicks off in less than a month. I'm already predicting a SAG Award for best ensemble cast.

Monday, April 23, 2007

ann telnaes

My favorite political cartoonist and one of the Six Chix, Ann Telnaes, puts her tragically not funny take on the so-called partial birth abortion ban.

the demise of jael

I knew from the first classic Jael quote of the episode that she was done for. The editors clearly were using the episode as a Jael best-of retrospective. As I've said before, this season continues to use a single outfit for the confessional scenes, and most of her comments are geared to the generic "I don't want to go home because...".

The highlights of the episode where the girls had to make a commercial and appear coherent:

"I have complete faith in myself because I am the spreader of light." - Jael

"I would make the best correspondent out of the group because I have the look and I'm able to talk." - the ever-confident Natasha, who did in fact win both the correspondent challenge and the commercial shoot despite her thick Russian accent and often nonsensical word order. I give her credit for mastering an Australian accent better than the others.

When the models departed for Australia, the producers threw in a nifty computer map showing the audience exactly where Australia is in the world. The map sequence played like an homage to Our Lips are Sealed, the classic Mary-Kate and Ashley film set in Australia, of course. I may be the only one to enjoy it, but somehow I imagine I'm not the only MK&A film fan who watches Top Model.

Depressing story of the day, channeling poor Danielle from The Bachelor, "When I was in high school, I got run over by a car, had eight staples in my head and it affected the memory part of my brain." - Brittany, who actually had an excuse for her inability to memorize dialogue.

"I think that I'm really good at speaking with other human beings." - Jael, whom I imagine is also really good at speaking with animals, plants and other inanimate objects.

"The best thing about being at this shoot is that I'm surrounded by nature. I'm finally at home, and I get to run free." - Jael, who's from Detroit.

"I just wanna touch the grass and the animals and like breathe the air and climb the trees." -yes, Jael actually said that; I couldn't make it up.

Finally, in conclusion, "I'm not finished spreading the joy to the universe." - Jael

How do you think Whitney's dad feels now that she gave up Dartmouth to be outlasted in a competition by Jael?

This week brings the dreaded highlights episode. What I love most about reality television is their lack of repeats. Bring me an uninterrupted season, please!

Drive

I watched the first three episodes of Drive last night. I didn't intend to sit down and watch all three, but I was immediately hooked. It's not the best show on television, but it is good. It's entertaining and, more importantly, it's intelligent. There is a lot of suspense, and one can only hope its genuine suspense rather than suspense for the sake of it (Hello, Lost). The premise is an illegal, secret cross-country road race. Racers receive clues on their cell phones. The clues are slightly mysterious and fun to figure out. Remember when Amazing Racers had to decipher clues in season one? My one fear for this show is early cancellation due to poor ratings and those millions of us who were watching are left with far too many questions. I'm still upset at ABC for yanking The Nine.

Watch Drive online now.

Friday, April 20, 2007

on menstruation

When I clicked on the business tab of today's New York Times, I wasn't expecting an article about menstruation to be the lead story.

First came the quarterly period. Now we are about to have the option to take an oral contraceptive that would completely eliminate menstruation as long as the woman takes it. Women generally hate to menstruate but don't necessarily want to give it up. This issue fascinates me both sociologically and medically.

Dickens World

It's a theme park inspired by the works of Charles Dickens. The Boston Globe begins, "In Dickens World, rat catchers hunt vermin on London's cobbled streets, pickpockets roam the alleys -- and visitors line up for a fun-tastic water ride." The full article.

I do hope this delightful attraction makes the itinerary for next year's trip to England.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

the bachelor: episode three

Is it only week three? This show gets more dull each episode. The first episode was entertaining. By the time the third episode rolls around, it gets a little sad that all of the women seem to believe they're in love. It will now stay slightly depressing, except for a few cat fights fueled by champagne, until Andy proposes.

Memo to the producers of The Bachelor: Boot camp is dull; drunken baking is good television.

The lowlights:

"Erin may have bleach-blond hair and look like a Barbie doll, but she sure knows how to do some manly things, like shoot guns. So, that's attractive." -Andy, who mistakenly confuses "manly" with shooting guns. Even more unfortunately, this episode aired on the same day as the Virginia Tech massacre, and I think most agree his shooting spree was far from manly.

"He's a boy, like, of course he'd love to drive these kind of cars. I think he's looking for a girl that's like the exact same as him." - Kate, who actually owns her own business. Has any show ever had so many gender stereotypes? Sadly, I'm sure the answer is yes.

"She seemed really giddy and happy. She showed me a different side of her." - Andy on Danielle, of dead college boyfriend fame. She actually seems quite sweet, but either she only talks to Andy about the death of her college boyfriend, or the editors have only shown those conversations. Creepy death update of the week: Danielle was in bed with him when he passed away.

Erin is a financial analyst? Oddly, both of the women eliminated were financial analysts.

I am seriously questioning my continued viewing of this show. I do believe alcohol will be mandatory for future episodes.

john ratzenberger

John Ratzenberger was absolutely delightful to watch on Dancing with the Stars this week. I actually clapped. ABC has a partial clip. Choose John Ratzenberger: Week 5.

goodbye, whitney

I'm a week behind on America's Next Top Model somehow.

I do believe Natasha's baby might be the cutest one ever. Ever.

Is it a sign Top Model is declining when Tia Mowery makes her second celebrated appearance in one season? Or is The Game actually a good program?

Dionne, whom I found boring and dull the first few weeks has made me love her. She embodies one of the biggest (and most surprising) transformations in any season. I would like to see a season without eliminations. Go ahead and rank the models somehow, but it would be sociologically intriguing to see if there are more hidden Dionne's out there who didn't have enough time to shine.

I thoroughly enjoy Top Model, and this season is wildly entertaining. From the beginning, I did not look forward to anyone being eliminated. Back in week one, when Kathleen clearly had the worst picture, I wanted her to stay just to listen to her confessionals for a few more weeks. One of my least favorite parts of reality television remains eliminating at the end of the show. It's the same reason I partially loathe the NCAA basketball tournament. I want to know when my favorite is playing his last game, or when my favorite model is doing her last photo shoot. I adore Whitney, and while it was clear she was not going to be around too much longer, I didn't get to savor all of her moments in the episode because I didn't know it would be her last.

pussycat dolls: the final three

I knew it was coming. Robin Antin and I clearly have different taste. Perhaps it makes more sense now that I never took the group seriously. At this point, I might not even watch the finale, although I feel fairly confident the remaining Melissa will win. Here are some collected thoughts on this episode and the season in general.

I do, however, adore Mikey Minden. I do believe in the last episode he dethroned Laurie Ann "boom cat" Gibson as my favorite reality tv choreographer.

Melissa Smith, my favorite, and the winner of the only challenge that involved the audience voting, has been out to prove herself all season. She has the cynicism of coming so close to "making the band", and this time around she won't relax. She has the uber-focus all the teams on The Amazing Race:All-Stars have this season. On All-Stars, it's not as fun to watch, but Melissa was a joy to watch. She dominates the frame. She has that Margot Fontaine-you-can't-take-your-eyes-off-of-her quality when she's on stage. Alas, Robin Antin wins, and Melissa loses. I can only hope she finds something better than Danity Kane and the Pussycat Dolls. There has to be a venue out there to support her talent.

Chelsea belongs on American Idol. She would win. She's cute and she can sing. She's not a dancer, and she doesn't need to be too much of a performer when she can sing so beautifully and strong. She has zero chance of actually making the Pussycat Dolls.

A continued amusement of the show this season is Mark McGrath's ever-evolving description of Lil' Kim. First it was one of the most successful female rappers of all time. Given. Next it was one of the most successful female recording artists of all time. Maybe. Then it came one of the most successful female singers of all time. Hardly; she raps. Finally, Lil' Kim has been named one of the most successful female entertainers of all time. I absolutely love Kim as a judge, but, please. She's judging the search for the next Pussycat Doll. How much credibility does that require?

Robin chooses the songs and assigns the songs. I think the entire practice is shady. Robin wants the illusion of a contest. She has been orchestrating Melissa R. to win from day one.

The last four finalists are all quite small, yet when we see the PCDs, they all seem quite tall. Perhaps it's all an illusion.

One final observation: Is it Asia or Top Model's Jaslene who looks more like a drag queen?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ahoy!: Pirate Master

I am ridiculously excited for Mark Burnett's latest reality show, Pirate Master. The premiere date is set for May 31. A summer with Big Brother and Pirate Master? Oh, CBS, I am falling a little more in love with thee.

The description from the CBS press release:
"Pirate Master will send 16 modern-day pirates on a high seas adventure where they will live as buccaneers and travel around the Caribbean island of Dominica in search of hidden treasure that will total $1 million. Over the course of 33 days, these pirates will live aboard a massive 179 foot, square-rigged barque which carries 12,500 square feet of sail.

Each week, the pirates will embark on extraordinary expeditions where they will decipher clues along the way in search of missing treasure. Gold coins -- real money which the pirates may take with them beyond the show -- will be awarded after each expedition, but only to some. The gold will play a key role as pirates strike deals with each other or plead for long-term security. In addition to claiming the lion's share of the week's riches, one pirate will become the captain of the ship and will assign roles and chores to the remaining crew members, setting the tone for either law and order or betrayal and sabotage, which could lead to mutiny by the crew.

Each episode will conclude on the ship at Pirate's Court, a lively gathering of public speaking and judgment where one individual will be eliminated and "cut adrift." In the end, one will be the first to find the largest booty, worth $500,000, and claim the title of "Pirate Master."

It better be as cool as it sounds. Did I mention the host is Australian? Ahoy! indeed.

Menudo!

After a disturbing (to me) and disappointing (surely I'm not alone?) conclusion to Pussycat Dolls:The Search for the Next Doll this week, MTV has once again come to the rescue with its upcoming reality series Road to Menudo. Johnny Wright is back!

Apparently MTV has a Latin American channel, Tr3s. I hope the show will find its way to my MTV or at least my computer.

My favorite part of the press release: "Contestants must be at least 15 years old and look no more than 19 years old." In the spirit of 90210, please bring on the Gabrielle Carteris of young Latin men.

the full story

Kansas Music Hall of Fame

I was watching the Grand Ole Opry this weekend. I look forward to it every Saturday, even though I wish the unedited Opry would be televised. During Martina McBride's interview, the token attractive female reporter asked her about her recent induction into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. I love the state of Kansas, and I love trivia about Kansas, and I have never heard of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. Off the top of my head, I could think of three artists, including Martina McBride who might be in this Hall of Fame. (The other two are Melissa Ethridge and Jennifer Knapp). I did a little investigating and discovered that the Kansas Hall of Fame is quite new, does not have a location and includes many people I've never heard of. Now I'm on a quest for Kansas music history knowledge.

American Idol: country week

I watched my first American Idol episode of the season. As a pop culture observer, I already know quite a bit about this season's finalists. I picked country week to watch. Here are my one-week assessments of the finalists:

(in order of appearance)
1. Phil Stacey singing "Where the Blacktop Ends" (Keith Urban)
I do not like this song, but Phil sang it better than Keith Urban does. I am a huge fan of Keith Urban sometimes ("You'll Think of Me") and find him forgettable other times ("Where the Blacktop Ends" or "Stupid Boy"). Phil seems to be capable of a few country cds that could field a few country hits. He might even crack the Kansas Music Hall of Fame with Martina.

2. Jordin Sparks singing "Broken Wing" (Martina McBride)
Again, I don't like the song. I'm not a huge Martina fan, although there are a few of her songs I adore. Jordin was goose-bump and tear-in-eye inducing amazing. I hope she wins. I might even buy her record. I may spend the afternoon trying to find a good copy of her performance from last night. She was that good.

3. Sanjaya singing "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" (Bonnie Raitt)
The vixen in me has been cheering for Sanjaya to win without seeing him perform. He is not a good singer, but the boy has stage presence. He has a future in broadcast. This season of Idol has been lackluster at best, and I think adding Sanjaya as a host might spice things up for the inevitable Season 7. I'm sure we're stuck with Seacrest too, but some Sanjaya banter would lighten up the trite squabbling of Simon and Ryan. I still hope he wins.

4. LaKisha Jones singing "Jesus Take the Wheel" (Carrie Underwood)
Another song I don't like, and I am a Carrie Underwood fan. I even paid for her record. Carrie sings this song better. LaKisha was dull; she lacks starpower. I would be curious to see her perform a different style, but her presence didn't grab me at all. I'd watch Sanjaya sing over her. Pizazz is powerful.

5. Chris Richardson singing "Mayberry" (Rascal Flatts)
I see why LC greets his arrival with such joy. He has presence. He transforms into sexy Justin Timberlake-style. You might not pick him out of a line-up as the cutest, but in the end, he is. His performance was okay. He sounded almost creepily like Gary LeVox. It wasn't unique, but it was entertaining. Please find him another show, reality or not, to be on. Dare I hope for The Hills Season Three?

6. Melinda Doolittle singing "Trouble is a Woman" (no one anyone has ever heard of)
I understand Melinda is one of the front-runners this season. She was good. She is clearly talented, but I don't think she's a recording star. She could succeed on Broadway. Melinda strikes me as one who could go out before she should because she's everyone's second favorite. She's good, but you don't quite love her.

7. Blake Lewis singing "When the Stars Go Blue" (Ryan Adams)
I spent most of his performance fuming that the credit of this song was going to Tim McGraw. Ryan Adams did it first, then One Tree Hill's cast almost did it to death, then Tim McGraw got around to it. (On a similar note, have you heard the new country covers of "Lips of an Angel" and "Life is a Highway"? Of the latter, nomadreaderboy exclaimed "Finally!" when it came on the radio on the road trip. Laughter ensued.) Now, I like Tim McGraw, but he shouldn't try to take on Ryan Adams. Neither should Blake Lewis. Perhaps it's because he was the last too perform, but he seemed the most forgettable.

I likely won't watch another episode this season, unless Sanjaya does actually make it to the final. I might watch the performance clips of a few online. This show needs to reinvigorate itself. People are still watching, but they're not watching for the same reasons they have in past seasons.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fly Me to the Moon by Alyson Noel

2.5 stars - really liked it (or half way between liked it and loved it)

Fly Me to the Moon is a delightful, fast read about a jet-setting flight attendant and aspiring novelist with the usual love problems and penchant for awkward situations. The main character is immensely likeable, and despite the novel being somewhat predictable, it was still a joy to read. I wanted to know how it would all happen, even though I thought I knew what was going to happen. I could not put this novel down. Instead of making the seven minute walk to my office from the parking deck, I took the shuttle so I could read another ten pages. If time allowed, I would have gladly finished this gem in one sitting. I do highly recommend this book; it's entertaining, well-written and fun.

This novel is Noel's first one for adults, but I did put her young adult novels on hold to read soon. I want to invite Alyson Noel over for dinner and wine to talk about travel, reading and writing.

Alyson Noel has a blog too

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Notes from the Underbelly: first thoughts

After a mini-marathon of The Shield (season one) last night, I was searching the DVR for something a little less intense. I decided to give Notes from the Underbelly a try, despite its almost universally bad reviews. I was, afterall, the only one in the country who enjoyed and laughed at Heather Graham's far-too-short-lived Emily's Reasons Why Not.

I laughed out loud three times before the opening credits of Notes from the Underbelly. The two episodes were so good I saved them to watch again with nomadreaderboy. The show is smart and funny. It's not set-up like a sitcom: the action doesn't stop when the viewer laughs. It's a dryer, smarter humor, very much in the style of Tina Fey. The cast includes Jennifer Westfeldt, co-writer and star of Kissing Jessica Stein (fantastic film); Peter Cambor, who was a Tom Cavanaugh-esque quality to him (that's a big compliment: I loved both Ed and the far-too-short-lived Love Monkey); Michael Weaver, who's guest starred on multiple Law & Order series, so he must have some acting chops; Rachael Harris, who's been funny in everything; and Sunkrish Bala, who played that one night stand of Meredith on Grey's Anatomy deftly, plus he's funny. It's a strong cast, and despite being billed as the comedy about pregnancy, it's not. Two of the main characters are pregnant, but it's a show about five friends. It's not gimmicky; it's just funny.

This show has staying power, if it can find the ratings. Naturally, ABC is choosing Wednesday at 8:30 for this gem. There are already three shows I enjoy in that time slot! Please, ABC, find a good spot for a good comedy. In week two, the show will already be in its second timeslot. Find it a good home.

If you liked Mean Girls, or you like 30 Rock, watch Notes from the Underbelly. You may even catch up by watching it online .

Friday, April 13, 2007

top design: the finale (or the supremacy of Monochromatic Matt)

I waited a few days to watch the season finals of Top Design. The top two were a disappointment. Monochromatic Matt has been dull throughout, while Carisa uses even excess to the excess. Mostly, Carisa is more irritating than her rooms. She has come on strong the last few weeks, although I still find her immature and obnoxious. Since the first week, with the unfortunate partner challenge, strong and innovative designers have gone home. The show itself is not dull, but the designers who move on often have been. As on Project Runway, and to a lesser extent, Top Chef, group challenges are irritating to watch and lead to unsatisfying eliminations.

My distaste for Carisa and more often than not, her aesthetic, is not a secret. Mostly I forget about Matt, until he made it so far I had to remember him, even if I can't recall a single of his interior designs. When I sat down to watch, I wanted Carisa to lose. I didn't think Matt deserved to win, but I figured the producers wouldn't pull a Big Brother and bring Goil back into the mix.

The loft concept was a good one. Carisa surprised me. I liked her loft. I liked her color choice, and the bed was genius, fun, and absolutely channeled Big. I would buy that loft just to have that bedroom space. (I would also add three walls of bookshelves and mount a plasma on the fourth, if I could afford to purchase such a space.) The bedroom in Carisa's loft was far and away the best piece of design in either loft. For once her pillows weren't over doing it. She stayed true to her vision, taste and aesthetic, but she did it in a more beautiful way. Perhaps she needed a bigger room from the beginning. In my mind, Carisa clearly should have won. Granted, in my mind, neither Carisa nor Matt should have even had a spot in the finals.

Matt's loft was dull. The only thing in his refrigerator was a bottle of Grey Goose, which could explain his increasing skinniness. Have a drink and think something up, Matt! As he said, "I love to go home at night to a place that's sterile." Sterile should not be a desirable word in interior design it seems to me; sterile is for hospitals. Whereas Jonathan Adler, with his patented smile-smirk said of Carisa's space, "That bedroom was really fun. I can imagine getting into some really freaky scenes in that pit." It's not exactly the image of Adler I wanted, but it showcases the creativity in Carisa's design. Sterile or creative? You idiots chose sterile? My money's on Margaret orchestrating the whole affair. She knows Carisa has no place in Elle Decor, and sterile is perhaps what her readers want. It may be Elle Decor's style, but Top Design certainly showed a lack of style.

I do hope the series returns for another season. It's an intriguing, if not always well-executed, concept. I do hope the next season brings a little more flair with its style.

the bachelor: episode two

Episode two begins with me wondering when the arrest record and mug shot of one of the ladies will appear online.

Andy starts us off with "Operation: Soulmate is about to begin" and one large grin. Someone is channeling Maverick, which makes me remember when Tom Cruise was endearing.

"I guess I thought it would be funny to fake an injury and get Andy's attention." - Tessa, after falling off the mechanical bull. She did open with the muffin joke, but surprisingly, I like her.

Andy - "I'm really excited to see what Stephanie pulls our. She's a gymnast. She has lots of talents." Such as? Seriously, my girl from Kansas stayed on the bull, and she was the only one. Kansas is regaining credibility after crazy Lindsay's departure.

"This is the kind of place where I think something magical could happen and possibly I could fall in love." - Amanda, about Los Angeles, reminding the world she is from Texas.

"I heard that you were home schooled." - Andy. Where did he hear that? Meddling producers! At least pass along interesting facts about the ladies.

"I'm conservative, yet open-minded." If the conservatives are dating fifteen women at a time on national television...it is for the grand purpose of Operation: Soulmate. He has pure intentions. Why else would Stephanie South Carolina get the first impression rose?

"I was in heaven with seven women in my arms, under the stars, on a roof deck on the Sunset Strip; it doesn't get any better than that." - Andy, embracing his multiple love theory again.

"Let's have some mimosas!" - Andy, to the ladies, before he told them they would be doing a mini-triathlon. Andy, do you always drink before swimming, biking and jogging? Has there been a scene without alcohol?

"She engages me, she challenges me, and that's really, really sexy to me." - Andy, on Tina. He sure pulls out endearing moments!

Would the casting directors of Beauty and the Geek please cast Susan and Erin. They are "soul sisters". Operation: Soulmate achieved!

"I'm a healer; I'm a doctor. And the thought of instilling some pain in people, it doesn't go very well with my heart and my mind." Andy, it's just a rose ceremony.

"Good evening, ladies. I just wanted to say thank you so much to all of you for taking this risk with me. If you don't get a rose tonight, it's just that maybe we don't have that connection, but I believe in true love, and that person's out there for you." - Andy, raising the eye-rolling meter.

During the rose ceremony, it's clear that Alexis (token virgin) has quite the twitchy nose and the evil eye. How pure are her intentions?

Another episode down, and I'm still sucked in. I'm rooting for Bevin, Stephanie Kansas, Tessa and Tina. I like Peyton too. Sometimes I even like Andy.