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America’s Top Model + Idol – What happened last night?

March 5, 2009


America’s Next Top Model
The 2-hour kick-off to Season 12  dressed the girls up first as goddesses (but, um, the “goddess of friendliness?? Huh?), and then as little girls playing kiddie games like tug-o-war and ring-around-the-rosie. Way to empower the female.

Allison, for her fearless double-dutch spread; she was prolly trying to get a nosebleed cuz she thinks they’re “really pretty.” Blood fetish is not hawt, but she won anyways.

Isabella, whose lame-o dodgeball spread did not dodge the bullet of Tyra’s wrath. Thank gawd we don’t have to listen to any more of her whining about strobe lights setting off her epilepsy. 

American Idol
The semi-finalist round is over (except for tonight’s Wild Card-a-thon). Next week they compete old school, with one singer sent home after an emotional video tribute and being forced to sing through their tears. 

1. Lil Rounds, duh. The mom of three tykes killed with Mary J. Blige. And then we got to hear her sing it again, yay. (Pictured below.)
2. Scott, who I guess I’m supposed to forgive for the Bruce Hornsby imitation because he is BLIND.
3. Jorge, who cried when Ryan delivered the news, because that is what he does.

1. Nate, so no more boy headbands (see pic) or catfights with other contestants.
2. Kristen, who did not impress with her white-girl Tracy Chapman routine. Um, hello? When was that a good idea?
3. Ju’Not, who had to share all of his asthma stories with America and doesn’t even get to be a finalist. Bummer.

Wild Card Selections:
After bringing Felicia back from the dead after kicking off that Annie girl, she gets the hand again and doesn’t advance. What? Instead, after some cryptic last-minute decision making by the judges, we’re going to be tortured by hysterical Tatiana (pictured), at least for one more night.

* * *

Allison and Isabella from
Lil Rounds From Washington Post
Nate from
Tatiana from


Rihanna May Return to Chris Brown…And Everyone Hates Her.

March 5, 2009

With blogs hot and bothered with the possible reunion of Rihanna and Chris Brown, we’re distracted by the resulting anti-Rihanna backlash.

Headlines like “Rihanna: Role Model No More?” and “How Could Rihanna Take Back Chris Brown?” seem to punish her for making a questionable decision during a difficult time. Then there’s the implication that she’s somehow asking for it again…and that folks won’t be as sympathetic next time. After all, she’s somehow to blame.

But blame? Why have we stopped asking Brown why he hit her in the first place? Why has his alleged violence become about her weakness and failures as a woman?

What do you think of the backlash against her?

Book Smart: Oscar Reads, “The Reader”

January 30, 2009

Act like you read the book when all you had time to do was watch the movie (or, the trailer) (we’re busy people!). 

The Reader,  by Bernard Schlink (1995) is a former Oprah-fave. Now it’s an Oscar-nommed movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet in her Golden Globe-winning role as a German streetcar conductor who has nasty secrets and a penchant for teenage boys. 

In The Movie:
•    Directed by Stephen Daldry, with a screenplay by David Hare, the movie is told through flashbacks.
•    It’s most famous for the scene where Kate gets naked and deflowers the boy in a bathtub. Hot.
•    Then, because she can’t read, he reads classics of Western lit to her, also while naked. Also hot.
•   SPOILER ALERT! Unfortunately for them both, it turns out that she used to be a Nazi prison guard and gets tried for war crimes and goes to jail. Ralph Fiennes, former child love slave all grown up, sends her books on tape that he records himself. Still, weirdly hot. 

Between the Pages:
•    The book is pretty brief and alternates between storytelling and philosophical musing on the nature of guilt and responsibility.
•    Sequences like the reading-in-bed montage only occupy, like, a few sentences.
•    The book moves chronologically; instead of through flashbacks.
•    The book ends with the loverboy writing down his story; in the movie he tells his tale to his daughter (without all that stuff about the bathtub).

Sink Your Teeth Into Competitive Eating

January 30, 2009

Super Bowl? What Super Bowl? This week’s main sporting event took place this morning in Philadelphia, where John Squibb was crowned the winner of Wing Bowl 2009 with a bellyful of 203 wings and a brand new Cooper Mini. Barf. (Except, by the rules, he’s not allowed to.)

Squibb, aka Cottage Cheese, beat out rivals El Wingador and defending champ Joey Chestnut, the Michael Jordan of Competitive Eating. Yes, it’s a real sport.

Want to eat your way to fame, or at least a hot car? Here are some places to do it:

  • The mother of all eating contests is Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Championship, bringing 40,000 spectators to Coney Island every 4th of July. Japanese eaters dominated the “Mustard Belt” until two years ago when Joey Chestnut crushed the record, eating 66 wieners in 12 minutes. Last summer the gorging went into overtime, with Chestnut narrowly beating a guy suspected of hurling under the table.
  • If meat’s not your speed, try the Stockton Asparagus Festival in California, where eaters gorge on “tempura” asparagus. Yes, that would be the bougie word for deep-fried. Another Chestnut special, our man digested 8.8 lb. of the stuff last year.
  • The Dennis Gross Memorial Sacramento Peep Off challenges you to ingest as many marshmallow Peeps as you can in 30 minutes.  Named for the record-holder who ate 102 sugar chickens in 2003, un-swallowing will get your disqualified. Unless you eat your puke. Which happened last year.
  • For the ladies: at the Iowa State Fair you can compete in the Erotic Corn Dog Eating Contest, banned in 2007 for “poor taste” but reinstated in 2008 due to “popular demand.” You have 30 seconds to demonstrate your, ahem, “technique.” On a corn dog. Creative use of mayo encouraged.
  • New Jersey found a way to out-gross even the grossest, with their the Pigs’ Feet Eating Championship, held at the Meadowlands. Arturo Rios, Jr. won $1250 for eating almost 3lb of pigs’ feet and also knuckles, which most of us wouldn’t even eat one of. To make the “challenging” fare more appetizing they were squirted with lemon juice. Um, yum?

Chow Down on More:

How to Win a Hot-Dog Eating Contest (wiki)

Taiwan cancelled eating contests last year after a guy suffocated

VIDEO of Joey Chestnut breaking the hot dog eating record

* * *

Word Up: Competitive eating – the official sport of stuffing your face with more food than should be humanly possible

By the Numbers: 203 – number of wings winner John Squibb ate during Wing Bowl 2009

Book Smart: Oscar Reads Slumdog Millionaire

January 30, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire is melting hearts and snapping up awards across the planet (hello, 10 Oscar nods?). This means we are going to get to see M.I.A. wear something insane when she performs her nominated song “O Saya.” Awesome.

The movie tells the tale of Jamal, a chai-wallah (tea boy) who wins the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” It’s based on  Vikas Swarup’s Indian bestseller “Q&A.” However, it’s not just the title that has been changed.

Here are other ways director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufroy fiddled with the original:


  • Movie: The show is called” Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, it’s real-life title.
  • Book: Swarup calls it “Who Will Win a Billion?”, a made-up version of the same thing.


  • Movie: The hero, Jamal Malik, is a Muslim whose mother is attacked and killed by Hindus.
  • Book: The character’s name is Ram Mohammed Thomas, a symbolic mix of Indian, Muslim, and Christian names.


  • Movie: We first meet adorable little Jamal running through the slums of Mumbai; he lives with his mother until she is killed in a raid
  • Book: We meet Ram as a baby, left on the doorstep of a Delhi church


  • Movie: Perhaps the most complex relationship in the film is between Jamal and his tougher brother Salim
  • Book: Jamal and Salim are just friends, so the betrayal at the end does not carry the same weight


  • Movie: Jamal meets and falls in love with Latika, a fellow street kid, as a young child; after they are heartbreakingly separated, he spends most of the movie looking for her, going on TV hoping she’ll see him
  • Book: Ram meets his lovergirl as a teenager; she is a prostitute and he goes on TV to win the money to buy her from her pimp.


  • Movie: Jamal is arrested after the second-to-last question, suspected of cheating.
  • Book: He’s thrown in the slammer after winning the whole shebang.

What does author Swarup think of all these radical departures? “The film is beautiful. The plot is riveting. The child actors are breathtaking.” And paid, like, zero dollars.

Greening the White House

January 29, 2009

In his first weekly You Tube address to the nation, Obama declared that the US will be a leader on climate change. That is change we can believe in. And also breathe.

Here are some of the ways he’s gonna green the U.S. of A and save our wasteful souls:

  • Get 10% of our energy from renewable resources by 2012, and 25% by 2025
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.
  • Build a new electricity grid
  • Make 75% of federal buildings more energy efficient
  • Weatherize 2 million family homes

Ok, so we know it all starts at home. Every four years, the First Family gets $100,000 from Congress to redecorate—so how well are the Obamas going to practice what they preach?

  • The Obamas just hired Sam Kass, their locavore-minded Chicago chef, to work with White House chef Cristeta Comerford, who already uses veggies from the White House roof garden. Just yesterday, she served sustainably raised wagyu beef to Congress at the very first White House cocktail party in eight years.
  • The Bushes have already made the White House pretty efficient, installing flurorescent lightbulbs, solar-heating panels, and low-flush toilets.
  • Last fall, Obama told told Barbara Walters that he turns the lights off at home and unplugs unused electronics. “Part of what I want to do is to show the American people that it’s not that hard” to be green.

Or, Not So Much:

  • We’re all a-twitter about Obama’s no-jacket office attire. But there’s more than fashion behind that look: turns out BO likes to turn up the heat. Literally, not just on Republicans. Advisor David Axelrod told the Times, “He’s from Hawaii, O.K? He likes it warm.” Unfortunately, keeping it warm can leading to warming, i.e. of the earth.
  • You may recall that The Beast, the President’s kick-ass new car, only gets—gulp—8 miles a gallon. A Prius it ain’t.
  • Obama is going to have to work to reduce waste at social gatherings. The day after the Inauguration, the Washington sanitation department picked up 130 TONS of trash.

Hm. While it’s obvious that Obama and fam are totally committed to all things awesome and green, I wonder if he should buy a hip Armani sweater, turn the heat down, and go for more walks.

* * *

By the Numbers:

100,000 – number of dollars new White House residents get to erase all traces of the previous occupants’ bad taste

Abortion Smackdown: Obama V. Pope

January 29, 2009

Lots of women cheered when, on his second full day in office, President Obama signed a law overturning the “gag-rule,” the Bush-era clamp-down on overseas groups offering abortion counseling.

Not cheering, however, was the iPod-loving Pope. The Vatican immediately declared the act “arrogant” and the new president to be “a disappointment,” and basically warned the new Prez that  he’s gunning for a fight over family planning—a fight that Obama seems ready to take on.

The New York Times wrote that repealing the law on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade shows that Obama actually plans to deliver on his campaign promises. Obama himself declared that overturning the gag-rule “stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”

Representatives of the Holy See lashed out in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, saying that signing the law displayed “the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death.”

Some Catholic groups in the US are ready to play dirty, already airing this video suggesting that Obama himself was almost aborted. Ugh.

More helpful is this map of pregnancy centers in the US, by state.

* * *

Word Up: The Holy See – the site of the central government of the Catholic Church; recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations

By the Numbers: 36 – number of years ago that the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion

Cholera: a 19th Century Disease Strikes the 21st

January 28, 2009

The death toll from Zimbabwe’s recent cholera outbreak has just reached 3,028. This is an increase of 1,000 in just one week, and World Health Organization officials fear the water-borne disease will spread to nearby Botswana and South Africa.

Horrific, yes. But wait, isn’t cholera one of those historical diseases, like smallpox and the plague, that were supposedly killed off by the magic of modern medicine like a hundred years ago?

Well, no. And yes.

  • Cholera is a bacterial disease spread through contaminated water. The most common (and grossest) symptom is diarrhea, which can be so severe that left untreated can kill you in hours. 
  • During the 19th century, cholera was like the plague, and six pandemics across the world claimed millions of lives, including famous people like Russian composer Tchaikovsky and James Polk, our 11th president.
  • Cholera used to be super-widespread because people bathed in the same water they drank (yuck). In 1854, London physician John Snow figured out that the germies were carried through the drinking water.
  • Now, modern sewage and water-treatment technology (like, don’t sh*t where you drink, duh), has practically killed off cholera in all industrialized countries. The last major US epidemic was in 1911.
  • Cholera is actually really easy to treat. Sufferers can rehydrate with a cheap and easy rehydration antibiotic that is available from the WHO and humanitarian organizations, as well as your local doctor if you happen to pick it up abroad (which you probably won’t).
  • So, WTF in Zimbabwe? The current outbreak is the worst cholera epidemic in 14 years, since 25,000 people died in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s. With dictator Robert Mugabe dragging his country into chaos, the infrastructure has totally disintegrated: poor hygiene + backed-up sewers + military obstacles to humanitarian groups = a petri dish in which cholera flourishes.


Word Up:

By the Numbers:
3,028 – number of people killed by cholera in Zimbabwe since August

Afghan Girls Skate Through Life – On Boards

January 28, 2009

Watch this video of two Afghan girls in adorable pink and orange hoodies yelling “juice it!” and launching their painted skateboards down a makeshift ramp. Do it. You will not stop smiling all day, for real.

The girls are learning how to do an ollie at Skateistan, a skateboarding school in Kabul founded in 2007 by Oliver Percovich, who followed his girlfriend halfway across the world and then, like lots of us who do that, found himself with, um, nothing do to.

Now the extremely hot Aussie rides around town on a scooter with skateboards strapped to the back. He’s raising money to open an indoor skate complex, where local boys and girls can learn to pivot on a quarter-pipe instead of, um, having acid thrown in their faces.

Of course, this being Afghanistan and all, the Tony-Hawks-in-training don’t have it easy–there’s the girl whose brother beat her up for skating it up with street kids, and then there’s the small matter of car bombs going off 20 feet away. But hopefully skating gives these kids a way to deal with all the insane violence and unfairness in their lives.

As the girls tell the camera, “We skate because we want to lose our fear, and to get courage.”

It’s like that old Vision Street Wear motto from the 80s: No Fear.

Skateboarding in Afghanistan Provides a Diversion From Desolation

Skateistan’s Website

Skateboarding Glossary

Word Up –
Ollie: the basic skateboard trick, the one where the front of the board goes up in the air but you hopefully don’t fall on your ass

Creepy Doll Made From Dead Girl

January 28, 2009

You know sad little Caylee Anthony? The poor two-year-old whose mom is charged with stuffing her in a bag, keeping her in the trunk, and then stashing the remains behind a tree? Her grandfather on suicide watch last week?

Believe it or not, there will come a day when poor Caylee and her fricked up family won’t be in the news anymore—but don’t worry, because now you can purchase your very own “Inspirational Caylee Sunshine Doll,” available from Showbiz Productions for just $29.95. That’s right, you too can be the proud owner of the 18-inch-doll, which will sing “You Are My Sunshine” on command. 

Actually, the site was temporarily shut down after people rightfully complained. Jaime Salcedo, the entrepreneur behind this brilliant idea, insists that the doll was designed to “promote awareness.” Of what? Fetishism? Child-napping? Profit-whoring? Yuck.

Timeline of the case of Caylee Anthony

Caylee Doll Website


By The Numbers:

30: number of dollars it costs to purchase a creepy Caylee Anthony Doll