Sunday, May 07, 2006

Still Here?

After you finish brushing the dust and cobwebs off, hop on over to Blissfully Clueless 2.0.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Migrating...

Image hosting by Photobucket I'm in the process of moving the blog. All future posts will be here. I don't know how long it will take to move all the archives and whatnot, but you'll be able to read the rest of my random ramblings over at Wordpress.

Sour Notes

  • Christina Aguilera is the new Madonna, reinventing herself, yet again, for her next album. (Billboard)

  • Aaron Carter carries on the family tradition of attracting legal trouble.

  • Will E-40 finally become the new household name in Hip Hop? (EBX)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The L Word Season 3: Year of the Cock

Edit: There is a more reader-friendly version of this post at my new blog home, which can be found here. ________________________________________ Showtime's The L Word is the perfect example of a good show, or at least, a good idea for a show, gone terribly wrong. The show was never really a deep, thought provoking drama; in its first season, viewers were treated to the type of show that had a talented ensemble cast, a lesbian focus (albeit a narrow one), and a combination of dramatic plotlines and classic comedic moments. The show was pitched as "groundbreaking television", the first show on tv that reflected how "real lesbians" live. Right from the start, there was criticism about the show's portrayal of Los Angeles lesbians, because of the glaring omission of any butch or non-glamorous characters. Many people complained that an entire segment of the lesbian community was missing. And how can you have a show that realistically portrays lesbians if you no butch characters, or at least, any characters who don't wear makeup, short skirts, and spiked heels? Despite these flaws, however, the show was actually watchable, if you were willing to accept the idea that maybe some of the things that were missing were due to compromises with the network (some viewers were even quick to joke that most Los Angeles lesbians are pretty glam; Shane, the lothario of the group, was as close to butch as we were going to get). And of course, it is tv; we can't always get everything that we want. So, many decided that, for the first major lesbian representation on television, The L Word wasn't all that bad... But, that was two seasons ago. The show has been airing for 3 years now, and each season has gotten progressively worse than the last. In Season 1, we were introduced to a group of very likable, human, characters, and even if some of the situations they found themselves in were a bit far fetched (e.g., Bette and Tina's attempts to get pregnant by asking a random male stranger to have a one-night, condom-free, menage a trois with them, only to have the guy leave, indignant and offended at the fact that these two beautiful women only wanted him for his sperm), the show was still entertaining enough to suspend disbelief for some of those outlandish plot twists. Season 2 introduced another highly unrealistic scenario, which, unfortunately was a plotline that stretched through half the season, and which left me wondering if the "lesbian" focus of the show was being compromised in order to pander to a wider audience. Of course, any television show seeks to gain as many viewers as possible, but when a show compromises its basic premise, or has its cast members acting completely out of character, I have to wonder what the real "purpose" of the show is. Was it really a show that wanted to pave new ground by showing a realistic representation of lesbians? Or was it just a melodrama that would put take the low road in order to get higher ratings? The scenario that seemed to "turn the tide" for The L Word was the story arc involving two females, Jenny and Shane, and their male roommate, Mark (an aspiring filmmaker). Mark, unbeknownst to the women, had wired the house with hidden cameras and microphones, and enlisted a friend to help him spy on them 24 hours a day, in order to gather footage for a "documentary" he had been planning. This situation went on for months, until Jenny discovered one of the tapes. Jenny confronted Mark, who reluctantly admitted that he had been filming their every move in the house, including highly personal conversations and sexual activities. Now, you would think that any sane woman, especially a lesbian, would immediately kick Mark out of the house, but Jenny and Shane decided to let him stay and deal with his "guilt". I had many problems with this storyline, but I was soon to see that it paled in comparison from many of the story arcs in Season 3. In this current season (Season 3, the finale of which airs next Sunday), The L Word writers have sacrificed the very thing that kept viewers loyal to the show. Even if we had to deal with crazy plot twists, and less than stellar dialogue, at least we could count on the characters remaining true to themselves through all of it. Any show can survive a multitude of issues, as long as the audience can maintain loyalty to the characters that they have grown attached to through the years. Ilene Chaiken, creator and Executive Producer of the show, has been facing a lot of criticism for this season's departure from character development. Most of the major characters have received personality replacements. It would be understandable if a character developed over time and slowly began to exhibit different traits, as a result of personal growth through life experiences, but this show has not even tried to use this strategy. Characterization has been sacrificed for the sake of melodrama; we have been subjected to seeing characters act the complete opposite of the way they did in just the previous season. There is no character progression anymore, and there is no continuity in the story arcs or the timelines. Most viewer complaints are not about the wild plotlines, but the fact that the timing of some of the questionable events makes things completely unbelievable. The other major problem with this season is the fact that it has almost completely lost its lesbian focus. Instead of watching a show were we have a group of lesbians interacting with each other in both positive and negative ways, we are now presented with a show that just happened to have a group of lesbian characters, whose lives revolve around various men. I'm not saying that men have no place on the show; I would actually like to see a more positive portrayal of the men who are on the show. I labeled this season "Year of the Cock" because it is obvious that the message that is being conveyed to the viewers is that even lesbians cannot function without men coming in to take control, and lesbians cannot be happy unless they are emulating men in some way. Also, this season's lesbian love scenes have taken a back seat in order to focus on male-centered relationships. In one episode in particular, we were treated to more cock than a typical episode of Queer as Folk. And this is on a lesbian show! The characters have been butchered so drastically, that people are saying that they feel sorry for the actresses. Knowing that contractual obligations are tying them to this show, we feel empathy for them, having to suffer through the humiliation of performing scripts that make no sense and plots that ignore character/series history. Really, this show has only been on for 3 years, and some of the historical inaccuracies are glaring. I've seen soap operas (some that have been broadcast for 50+ years) that present historical details with more accuracy. Indeed, may viewers have voiced the hope that it be revealed the next season that Season 3 was all just someone's extended nightmare, and that we can all wake up to have the "real" L Word back. Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals): Bette has lost her backbone. Former an alpha female, Bette has tried to get into mediation in order to find a center to her life, which has fallen to pieces. She has not only lost her father to cancer, her job as a result of a calculating rival in love, and her life partner to a man, she also risks losing all rights to her child. For an entire season, we have been waiting for Bette to take charge and take control of her life, but we have been subjected to watching her allow people to walk all over her, which is the complete opposite of what her character is all about. We have watched as Bette allows her former partner, Tina, flirt and canoodle with a man in her house, and this is after Bette had made it clear that Tina was no longer a welcome presence in her home. Most viewers, and surprisingly, even straight female viewers, have been complaining about how Bette's character is not the same. But even so, comparatively speaking, Bette's character change could be explained away as development. Anyone could reasonably believe that Bette, faced with the problems that she is going through, would bury her alpha tendencies because she is in a difficult place in her life. The same cannot be said, though, for her partner, Tina. Image hosting by Photobucket Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman) Tina is the character who has gone through the most unbelievable metamorphosis this season. Her actions have been so ridiculously outrageous, that many viewers have taken to explaining the situation by saying that aliens must have abducted the "real" Tina and replaced her with a pod-Tina. Tina, Bette's partner of 7 years, has just had a baby through artificial insemination. While many of her motives have been questionable, we have been forced to accept Tina's actions at face value, because we have never really received any background on her character. We have never seen or heard about Tina's family, we don't know much about her history outside of her relationship with Bette, and she doesn't have much of a personality, but even taking that into consideration, most viewers were open to knowing more about Tina. Now that has all changed. It is rumored that EP Ilene Chaiken is using the character of Tina to seek revenge against someone in her personal life, a former lover who left her for a man. Supposedly, we are seeing this woman's actions mirrored in Tina, but even if this is the case, they are not being presented in a believeable way. Tina, in the space of a 6 month period, had suddenly "developed feelings for men". This is from a woman who has identified as a lesbian for at least 7 years (she had been living as a straight woman before her relationship with Bette), and who has never been shown to even give men a passing thought. In one episode, Tina tells a friend, "Men are boring". But that was back in Season 1. Now, in Season 3, after going through a separation with Bette, during which she carried on a steamy affair, while pregnant, with Helena, another alpha female, Tina has started craving penis. Tina starts a cybersex affair with an anonymous man on the Internet, yet she still presents herself as a lesbian, even to him, calling herself a "dyke with baby". Her screen name even hints that she identifies as lesbian: "Lindsey[76]" is the name of one of the lesbian characters from Queer as Folk, who cheated on her lover with a man. Tina goes, in 6 months, from having hot sex with both Helena and Bette, to "having feelings for men", and makes a dismal attempt to seduce a male employee. After this, she eventually meets another man, Henry, a divorcee with a young son, and begins an affair with him. The major problem with this storyline, as many have said, is not the fact that Tina is interested in men, but the fact that the timelines are ridiculously unbelievable. Tina meets Henry, has sex with him in her house, in the bedroom that she shared with Bette, with her child and Henry's son in the next room sleeping, after having known the man for a matter of hours. Even heterosexual fans have complained that the timing of these events is unrealistic. What new mother with a young child would bring a strange man to her home to have sex with him, in her lover's bedroom? And after the first night, Tina and Henry are inseparable. Tina even announces that she wants to "make a family" with Henry, which excludes Bette and the possibility that she will be allowed to see their child. Again, the timing of all of this is completely unbelievable, because Tina has met, mated, and now wants to mesh with Henry, all in less than 10 days. And the strange thing about this storyline is the fact that the writers have presented it in way that makes the timing element very obvious to the viewers. All of this happens while Bette is away on a meditation retreat (a trip that was supposed to last 10 days, but Bette actually leaves the retreat early). Many viewers have expressed extreme displeasure about this storyline, and many people, who were either supportive of Tina, or even noncommital, can't stand to watch scenes that include her character. Tina, who was once the "goody-two-shoes" character, has now become the villain of the show, all in a few episodes. Image hosting by Photobucket Jenny Schechter (Mia Kirshner) Jenny is a bisexual writer, who was once the most villified character on the show. Jenny has been described as the character who is closest to being an onscreen representation of creator Ilene Chaiken; the actress who plays Jenny even looks like Ilene. Jenny was the series' most disliked character because she was selfish and manipulating, but she always got her way, because she exuded an air of innocence. Jenny is a character who tends to have good intentions, but she goes about things the wrong way. Her life revolves around her writing, and she will use friends in order to gain fodder for her work, even without their permission. Jenny is currently in a relationship with a FTM (Female to Male transgendered person). And, typical for Jenny's character, it appears that she is pursuing the relationship mainly to further her writing career. Indeed, Jenny is one of the few people on the show who has remained true to character. Image hosting by Photobucket Helena Peabody (Rachel Shelley) Helena is the other alpha female character. Helena, a calculating, vindictive, selfish, and greedy English lesbian heiress introduced in Season 2, is now a lovelorn, shy, timid, wallflower with low self-esteem. There was never any explanation as to how Helena suddenly became a completely different person. In Season two, she was breaking hearts and seducing women with just a look; in Season 3, she has to seek the advice of a fortune teller to help her decide the course of her week. The old Helena never answered to anyone, not even her equally alpha mother, who holds the purse strings to Helena's trustfund. The new, self-doubting, shrinking violet Helena has been suffering through an extortion scheme plotted by a woman who she fell in love with. How Helena, supposedly a savvy and calculating woman herself, could fall for such an obvious ploy is really difficult to believe, but as this show has proven, the writers will script anything that that they can get a way with. Image hosting by Photobucket Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) Alice, one of the show's most popular character, is played by the show's only (openly) lesbian actress. Alice is a free lance pop culture writer, perky, but in a snarky way, always handy with clever one-liners, who usually provides comic relief. One notable subplot from Season 1 was the bisexual Alice's relationship with a "lesbian-identified" male named Lisa, who felt like "a lesbian trapped in a man's body", and who refused to use his penis in any sexual encounters with her. It has been mentioned that despite Alice's bisexual status, she has never been shown to be in a serious relationship with a man. Her most significant relationship on the show has been with another regular character, her best friend Dana. This season, Alice suffered through the breakup of her relationship with Dana. Alice's behavior after the breakup was over the top, but once again, if we suspended disbelief, we could chalk perky Alice's psychotic behavior toward Dana, a woman she professed to still be in love with (extreme jealousy, slashing Dana's tires, building a shrine to Dana in her living room) to comic relief. Image hosting by Photobucket Shane McCutcheon (Kate Moennig) Shane is the show's resident lothario, or as many like to describe her, the L Words' answer to Brian Kinney from QAF, or this show's version of Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. Shane has a huge following, as most heartbreaking heart throbs do. Shane lived her life from day to day, never turning down the chance for a hookup; if it was anonymous, that made it even better. The writers have tried to make Shane settle down in a monogamous relationship this season with Carmen, but when Shane dallies with a former lover, we are supposed to believe that this is the tragedy of the century. The whole Carmen/Shane relationship has been really forced, and the characters seem to be as bored with the story as the viewers have become. While I commend the writers for apparently attempting to give Shane's character more depth, her interactions with Carmen for the most part have come across as laughable teenybopper melodrama. Image hosting by Photobucket Dana Fairbanks (Erin Daniels) Dana's character has received the worst treatment of all. Dana, a lesbian tennis star, and probably the most popular character of all, was killed off the show this season. The rumors preceding the character's demise suggested that the actress was having a salary dispute with producers, and this would have been an understandable situation, but alas, it was not the case. Ilene Chaiken has said that she wanted to invoke awareness about the prevalence of breast cancer, so the only way that she could do this was to have Dana be stricken with the disease, and to have her character die. Countless viewers have criticized this tactic as being a poor way to "educate the audience" about breast cancer, and have complained that it would have been much more meaningful to have Dana as a cancer survivor and not a victim. Killing the character off the show (for such a flimsy excuse, it seems like an attempt to try distract from poor writing) was only half the insult. After the episode (in which Dana dies), Chaiken, and the other producers and the director come onscreen to "explain the rationale" behind Dana's demise, and they enlist some of the other cast members to give their thoughts on the topic, including Erin Daniels, the actress who played Dana. The shocking thing about it all is that the cast (including Erin) obviously had no idea that Dana would be killed off; it was presented to them as some random decision. They were totally unprepared for it. Kate Moennig (Shane) actually openly stated her displeasure in the decision, while Ilene Chaiken only remarked, "sometimes the stories write themselves". Image hosting by Photobucket Carmen de la Pica Morales (Sarah Shahi) Carmen is Shane's current girlfriend, who is the cast's resident "Latina". Oddly enough, Shahi is of Persian descent. I'm not discounting the actress's skills, but I find it strange that the producers could not find one qualified latina actress (even if she wasn't Mexican-American). The problem lies in the fact that they often have Carmen speaking in Spanish, and it is obvious that Sarah Shahi doesn't speak the language. Also, in scenes where she is with other family members, Shahi looks noticeably different from the latino actors who play her relatives. The difference is glaring. Image hosting by Photobucket Moira/Max (Daniela Sea) Moira/Max is the newest character, who started out as a butch lesbian from the Midwest (who moved to LA with Jenny), but is now a female-to-male transgender person. Viewer empathy for this character has been dismal, mostly because of the questionable acting abilities of Daniela Sea, but also because of more unbelievable plotlines. Moira appears to only suddenly want to become a man after hearing it suggested to her by a gay male character, Billie Blaikie (Alan Cumming). After facing some discrimination because of her butchness, Moira decides that changing her gender will lead to an easier life for her. She begins to take illegal hormones, (with Jenny's help) and tries binding her breasts and wearing a dildo to make herself feel "more like a man". Once Moira declares that she is now "Max", he is determined to live as a man, and consults a doctor about getting surgery to remove his breasts. The most offensive part of this storyline, besides the show seems to be conveying a message that butch lesbians want to be men, is the fact that Max seems to have a warped view of what "being a man" actually entails. As Moira, the character is annoying, and confused to the point of being imbecilic, but as Max, the character is gradually becoming more lucid and more confident. In a scene where the cast goes to a wooded area to memorialize Dana by spreading her ashes, we see Max take the lead, analyzing the map for the women, and helping all of the women through the uneven terrain. These scenes are hard to believe, because most of the women do not like Max (this originally started as a class issue, something else that the writers chose to abandon), and they are all able-bodied and confident enough to make their own way through the woods. In the memorial scenes, it appears that the women are almost deferring to Max, because he is the "male". The other senseless plot device related to Max's character involves a love scene in which he has sex with the gay male character Billie Blaikie. Max, when he is caught in the act by girlfriend, Jenny, says, "Having sex with Billie makes me feel 'like a man'." Many viewers were left wondering how a person who had only been shown to be attracted to females could suddenly have sex with a man and say that it made him feel "more manly". It seemed as if the writers had begun to research the topic of trangender personalities, but stopped before they were able to write anything about it in the show's script that would make any sense. Many viewers are hoping that Season 4 will be better, but with the creator saying things like, "all kinds of things can happen", who knows how many of them will be watching to see exactly what will take place?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Video Vixens: Victims of Exploitation, or Using Feminism to Their Advantage?

PopMatters compares the modern day video vixen to the Hottentot Venus: Black women, you see, have a special sensitivity as to how their womanhood is portrayed in mass culture. They've had to contend with centuries of being labeled promiscuous whores, hardwired for animalistic sexuality — and not much else — by that blasted jungle DNA. It has been a battle for decency and dignity at the most intimate, personal level. The victories in the battle have been so hard-fought, the wounds still so far from healed, that it doesn't take much to call all that pain back to the surface. The ravages against black womanhood are legion, but with big butts on endless display in videos and "bitch" and "ho" all but commonplace in hip-hop lyrics, one particularly sad and disturbing case comes to mind. Sarah Baartman (1789-1816) survived the slaughter of her people, only to be exploited for centuries hence. She was born in what we now call South Africa as a Khoikhoi, and enslaved in Cape Town by wealthy Britons. Her exceedingly large rear end, especially prominent on a short 4-foot-7 frame, gave associates of her enslavers the idea that there was money to be made. So Baartman went off to London, where she was christened "Hottentot Venus" and put on public display. She was marketed as the freak show to end all freak shows. She was made to bandy about in a cage, her derriere in full and barely clothed view, and would be told to perform a song or dance for the leering, jeering patrons. The spectacle became a smash hit, inspiring bawdy parlor songs. Baartman actually enjoyed a brief measure of dignity in her downtime from "performing", but such luxuries were a thing of the past by the time the enterprise made its way to Paris. Have we really progressed much since the days of Sara Baartman? If it were just the discreetly marketed magazine, calendar, or DVD where such images were available, it would be a slightly lesser deal (though no less bothersome for many). But the pervasiveness of rap videos stringing together shot after shot of such women shaking what their mommas gave them became too much to ignore. Having a scantily clad honey or six in the video became de rigueur, just like shots of the entourage making gang signs and rented luxury cars. Such images all but drowned out any other representation of women in rap videos, especially considering the relative paucity of female rappers that can command big budgets for videos (and the even skimpier number of women directing videos, developing artists' marketing plans, or deciding what gets added to the TV rotation and what doesn't). Of course, the fact that these videos often illustrate songs that refer to women as "bitches" and "hos" hardly helps matters. It got so bad that BET, the network that relies on black pop videos for much of its programming, relegated the raunchiest of them to BET Uncut, airing at 3AM — away from the reach of the youngest, most impressionable minds (at least, those such minds without VCRs or Tivo). One of the most notorious Uncut favorites was Nelly's "Tip Drill" video, which featured various shots of men swiping credit cards down a woman's butt crack. Needless to say, folks felt emboldened by the cordoning-off of territory for soft-core porn with a funky beat, and started making videos specifically for broadcast on Uncut. Most of the "video vixens" themselves (with the exception of Karrine "Superhead" Steffans) purport that their work is empowering to women. According to Melyssa Ford: "I am the highest-paid video girl to date. I've endured all the snide comments and ignorant remarks from people who presume to know me because I'm on their television screens and in the pages of their magazines. But I'm not the promiscuous twit I'm often mistaken for. I am a businesswoman who has used videos to launch a multimedia career. My product is me. "Besides being the lead girl in hip-hop and R&B videos, I am a sex columnist for a men's magazine. I star in my own DVD. I've hosted television shows, and I've produced my own calendar, which I sell on the Internet. My job is to sell fantasy and perfection. When the cameras go on, I detach myself and play the sexy vixen who will turn a nigga out." All this, from a woman who had once aimed to become a forensic psychologist. From her description, she even makes herself sound like a porn star. Which is the better role model for women? The student working toward a professional career, or the video vixen/model who, with mainly her good looks working for her, is two steps away from pole dancing at the strip club? Aside from rap videos, the only places you're likely to see these women are in strip clubs (where lots of rappers apparently enjoy spending spare time and money), and in the pages of the aforementioned XXL and Black Men, plus their competitors King and Smooth (which has its own spin-off Smooth Girl). Just as the granddaddy Players, the hip-hop leaning Fish-n-Chips, and various other titles exist in a racially parallel porn universe from Playboy and Penthouse, so do these black laddie publications chronicle women hardly ever seen in Maxim and FHM (now there are laddie mags for those who like their cheesecake with Latino and Asian flavorings — another sign, apparently, of their emerging consumer clout). Are these women really clever at marketing themselves? Or are they being exploited by the richer, more famous men they work with/for? They say that feminism has made it possible for them to gain notoriety and make a lucrative career from exhibiting their bodies. Melyssa Ford and her peers try to demand respect for the careers that they have built, but who really respects a woman who uses her body to get ahead? "Modern Day Hottietots" (PopMatters)

Whatever Happened to Winona Ryder?

It seems that Winona something in common with Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey-- she seems to be stuck in an unending period of adolescence: Asked to free-associate about her inspirations and influences, Winona predictably enough namechecks Timothy Leary, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Lennon, Patti Smith. First up, though, she wants to look backwards. "I'd include the script for Heathers in the category of literature. It said so much about society. There is an assumption when you're young that things don't mean as much or aren't as painful. But first love is the most devastating of all. Society will always look down on teenagers - parents and teachers don't seem to pay enough attention to kids when they are at their most painful age. Most of the great writers were outcasts ..." Most of the great writers, however, were not teenagers. In fact, discounting Rimbaud and Chatterton, none of them was. And there's a reason for this: to be a great anything, you have to grow up. Winona's appearance here is truly disturbing. She remains little Miss Voice-of-a-Generation but at first sight it appears to be a generation 20 years younger than her own. In the high-gloss photographs, gothy and bloodless in vintage lace, she comes across not as a grown-up Lydia from Beetlejuice, but as a potential Miss Havisham, still stuck forever at 20 minutes to nine on her wedding day - aka the set of Reality Bites, 1994. This isn't just about a Hollywood actress facing the looming perils of 40. For Winona Ryder, but also for anyone her age, the question is this: how, if you are a product of youth culture and nothing but youth culture, do you grow up? Trying to grow up, it helps to be involved with something difficult, something which takes a lot of effort but which eventually rewards that effort. In other words, a craft. Parenting is one kind of craft. Acting, though it pains me to say so, is another. An actor of 35 has to learn to act 35 - and this Winona has never done. On screen, her default mode is to slouch, play with her hair, wince and look winsome. Winona has become the female version of Ralph Macchio, who even though he is 45 years old, is still only seen as "The Karate Kid". It's hard to believe that she is actually older than Angelina Jolie, but when you compare the two, it is obvious to see that while Angelina has evolved, Winona just makes you remember her old movies. "Girl Uninterrupted" (UK Guardian)

A New Dating Remedy for the Shy Guy...

... who doesn't want to end up with the resident lush at the end of the night... This just sounds like something to make a perfectly innocent shy guy look like a creepy predator: Wingwomen are professional matchmakers who escort men to bars or clubs and use light chat to break the ice with groups of females before introducing their “friend” — the client — and then stepping back out of the limelight. “It’s based on personal experience,” said Shane Forbes, 31, a former computer programmer who founded Wingwomen in New York two years ago. “Women trust men who are accompanied by other girls a lot more than a couple of men.” At the very least, wouldn't most women question why a guy who is already with a woman would try to pick up someone new? It's natural for a guy to be hanging around with other guys. A guy trying to pick up women when he already has an attractive woman on his arm is really suspect. Couples who approach women in an attempt to set up a menage a tois typically do this. And that is always creepy. Don't pimps use this techniques to lure new workers? The wingwomen, whose services cost $150 (£85) a night, are not allowed to “fraternise” with clients, although they do accept drinks. So far they have helped about 1,000 men to pick up an attractive stranger in a public place — or at least get her telephone number. What if a wingwoman were to indulge in one too many drinks and one thing led to another? Would that count as fraternization? The wingwomen are trained to infiltrate groups of fellow females, striking up conversations with questions like “What a great blouse — is it Armani?” or “What is in your cocktail?” before moving on to: “Would you like to meet my friend? He’s smart, kisses well and dances even better.” It is then up to the man to live up to the billing. This is so obvious. Why would a woman want to date some guy who doesn't have the self-esteem to talk to her himself? And what type of woman would hire herself out for this? And for the man who doesn't have the balls to dump his girlfriend face to face: Arriviste Press, a small Boston publisher, has set up a “virtual wingman” service which can send witty notes to objects of desire. It also acts as a “virtual break-up buddy”, dumping “unwanted baggage” with a tender and remorseful e-mail. "Wingwomen Show Shy Men a Good Time" (London Times)

Sunday Sundries

  • Another interview with Natalie can be found here. (Popwatch)

  • Hilary Duff continues to ride on the cotton candy cloud of teeny bopper fame. (Seven)

Anyone Can Be a Model

For those times when sex isn't used to market a product or service: Many model agencies in town have "real people'' components, but the field seems to be heating up. "The public has become more and more skeptical of what's being sold to us, so the more believable, the more like us, the people in the ads are, the more convincing the advertisements are,'' says William Delzell, owner of Blue Sky People, a San Francisco online real people casting service. The Web site, www.blueskypeople.com, was introduced two months ago. These companies look for people whose images can be used to sell a myriad of popular products, many of which are far removed from the world of high fashion and the upscale market, which typically uses professional fashion models or celebrities. She may not be the face of Lancome, but Jennifer Frisch is one of the faces on the Nancy's Petite Quiche boxes in the frozen food section of your supermarket. All she had to do was grin madly for a day and take home $800. Maybe you could too, if you strike the right balance between sexy and approachable, as she does. Or maybe you're a middle-aged guy with a comb-over and a couple of chins, like Jay Baumgard, a menswear sales associate at Macy's. In his other life, he's the poster boy for the Blackwell Files (www.blackwellfiles.com), the largest San Francisco casting agency specializing in finding everyday people to be featured in advertising and promotional campaigns for all kinds of products. Like many of the "models'' at Blackwell, Baumgard was scouted on the street one day by a staffer with a digital camera. "You'd be good for a Compaq shoot,'' she told him, and took a few photos. "I looked at her like she was crazy,'' he said. But he signed a release form and gave her his number... His comb-over is real. He's 48. He's not fit or trim. "Advertisers think most Baby Boomers look like me, I guess," he said. "I'm just the average Joe on the street.'' Technology companies love him; he's appeared in ads for Yahoo, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Veritas and Best Software, as well as a goofy American Cancer Society ad for prostate cancer exams, where he wore a nurse's uniform half undone. What a revolutionary concept! Using average people doing regular things (or not) to sell a product! Who would have ever thought that sexless marketing would ever work? Could this be strike 2 for the girls on Tyra's Top Model show?

News and Nonsense

  • I was really hoping that "Snakes on a Plane" was a metaphorical title, and not a literal one. (Movie Blog)

  • Damon Dash shows us, once again, that a wallet full of cash is the most attractive thing about a man with a bulge in his trousers. (Corsair)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why Black People Tend to Turn Down Free Cruises

Is this person a functioning member of society? Who knew that they let idiots who would publish, let alone say something like this out to mingle with the regular people? ... slavery... was the ticket to America for black people. I have long urged blacks to consider their presence here as the work of God, who wanted to bring them to this raw, new country and used slavery to achieve it. A harsh life, to be sure, but many immigrants suffered hardships and indignations as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it. You don’t hear them bemoaning their forebears’ life the way some blacks can’t rise above the fact theirs were slaves. Besides freedom, a job and a roof over their heads, they all sought respect. But even after all these years, too many have yet to realize that to get respect, you have to give it... And in order to be thought of as an intelligent individual, you have to exhibit at least a limited amount of logic, which is sorely lacking in this woman's case. (link via TMFTML)

The New Sex and the City

Sex and the City meets K Street... Or rather, "Sex in the District", or how about "Hookers on the Hill"? Look out, all you Washingtonians who ever had sex with Jessica Cutler, proposed having sex with Jessica Cutler, discussed sex with Jessica Cutler, or ever brushed up against Jessica Cutler -- the infamous Senate aide whose sexual antics scandalized/enthralled our fair city a couple of years ago. HBO is plowing ahead with a sitcom based on "The Washingtonienne," the D.C.-set novel inspired by Cutler's blog of same name in which she discussed her exploits with a boatload of men around town in such glorious detail. I'll bet that the main character in this series will make the Sex and the City girls look virginal. (link via Bookslut)

Friday Flurry

  • Vin Diesel needs to learn that sometimes the less said, the less gay it sounds. (Rod 2.0)

  • Jessica Simpson momentarily appeared to exhibit the ability to process some higher level thoughts, but it was all a mistake. (Defamer)

The Final Word on the Brokeback "Conspiracy"

In an interview with After Elton, Roger Ebert dispels the ridiculous notion that Brokeback Mountain lost the Best Picture Award to Crash because of some great wave of Hollywood homophobia: I think a lot of people voted for [Crash] because they thought it was the best picture. Some people voted for it because [unlike Brokeback Mountain] it was a Los Angeles production, and in the business, that actually does control votes. And there were probably some people who voted against it because they don't like gay people... The membership of the Academy, and the working population of the Hollywood branch of the industry, is less homophobic than almost any other group you could name. But they are xenophobic. And given the choice of a movie that has dozens of actors in it and was shot in Los Angeles with union crews, and what is perceived as a runaway production [Brokeback Mountain], [that] didn't even shoot in Wyoming, but Canada, there are people who might have voted for the local picture because they are thinking of their own paychecks and [wondering] why should all that money go in Canadian pockets? ... Here is the thing that confuses me: All of the awards that Brokeback won would seem to indicate that those people were not homophobic. Did they become homophobic when it came to the top category for the Oscars ? They were able to vote for Best Director, but then they became homophobic when they got to the next category? I don't know. My two primary positions are Crash was the best movie, and you are not a homophobe if you think Crash is the best movie. (link via BGP)

Sour Notes

  • Interview with Pink. (Guardian UK)

  • It's a wonder that LeToya Luckett wasn't made to perform with her mouth taped shut during her stint in Destiny's Child, so that she wouldn't upstage Beyonce. Too bad they couldn't have done that for Michelle. (Prodigal Sun)

  • When did Bubba Sparxxx ever get enough clout to pull off crap like this? (AHH)

  • Peers give their thoughts on B.B. King. (Guardian UK)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

News and Nonsense

  • Movie theaters are so desperate to increase revenues that they are considering jamming cell phones in theaters. Now if only they could put gags on those annoying people who insist on talking to each other during the movie.

Random Ruminations

  • Michael Jackson seems to have forgotten that he still owns Neverland Ranch, and someone probably needs to explain that he's never owned the people who work there.

  • If an airline charges more for aisle seats, would it be ethical for aisle seat passengers to charge a fee every time a middle seater or a window seater has to get up to go to the loo? (Boing Boing)

  • Puffy gives us TMI about his hygiene regimen, his "romantic moves", and his man purse. (3am Girls)

Wednesday Whirl

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Imagine that This Was a Better Movie

The Telegraph interviews Lena Headey, star of the new film, Imagine Me and You, and asks, "Is this Britain's answer to Brokeback Mountain?" Brokeback Mountain vs. Imagine Me and You

  • Brokeback: "a love story"
  • Imagine: "a love-at-first-sight story"

  • Brokeback: 2 macho [male] sheepherders (Ennis and Jack) fall in love
  • Imagine: a lesbian and a straight woman (Luce and Rachel) fall in love at first sight [at the straight woman's wedding]

  • Brokeback: we see that Ennis and Jack are passionately in love with each other, through their dialogue and their actions
  • Imagine: Luce and Rachel never exhibit any type of behavior to show us that they even know each other's last names, let alone love each other

  • Brokeback: has some intriguing dialog, but half of it is obscured by Heath Ledger's mushed mouth delivery
  • Imagine: has a lot of terrible dialog, which makes you wish Heath Ledger had been in this film

  • Brokeback: the spouses are angry and resentful about Jack and Ennis's affair
  • Imagine: Rachel's husband gives her his full blessing in embarking on her new "relationship" with the lesbian she fell in love with when Rachel first saw her as she walked down the aisle at her wedding

  • Brokeback: focuses on the two main characters
  • Imagine: has a bevy of side stories and extraneous characters to make the unbelievable plot even more confusing

  • Brokeback: you have to suspend disbelief during a 2 minute lubeless love scene between Ennis and Jack
  • Imagine: you have to suspend disbelief through the entire film (and there is no love scene-- in fact, there's only one kiss between the two "enamored" characters)

"Flower Girl of Primrose Hill" (Seven)

Sunday Sundries

  • The iPod is really revolutionary because it provides a foolproof way to block out all those annoyingly loud cellphone conversations. (SFgate)

  • The only definition one needs for the term "Chicksdiggim" is to know that Adam Levine is the first thing that comes to mind. (BWE)

Home may be where the heart is, but is there any room for the brain?

The perks of being a housewife, as told by a woman who gave up a full time career to find fulfillment in her home: Once you start bonding with your home, spending time with your kids, enjoying the pleasures of a healthy marriage and paying attention to your needs as well, your life transforms. You can almost have it all. Yes, something has to go — for me, it was my career. But I found a way to keep my brain going — I wrote a book while the kids were napping. It's a good thing that she did find something to occupy her mind, because raising children is such brainless tedium. "There's No Place Like Home" (London Times)

Jamie Foxx is no Kanye West

NYT profiles Jamie, discussing his Oscar win, his new album, and his strategy for maintaining a successful career: "When I won the Oscar, I realized that the worst thing I could do was act accordingly," he says. "I always think, It's as if you've won the lottery and kept your job: you're rich, but you still work at the post office. You may take an extra 15-minute break, but you don't forget who you are... But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the ride." "... players, no matter how great, are never going to be bigger than the game. I learned that from the beginning." "After you have success, you realize that everybody isn't happy for you. I've learned to keep my success to myself. If you look too thirsty, people let you know. I gave my Oscar to my manager, Marcus King. I've been with him for 17 years, and after I won, everybody told me to get better representation. But you can't let the Oscar beast in. The moment you do, the game just ends." "All the Right Moves" (NYT)

Sour Notes

  • Wafah Dufour dropped the "bin Laden" from her name, yet she keeps reminding us that she is Osama's niece. (Billboard)

  • Missy Elliott shows us why you shouldn't do interviews when you're high. (Arjan)

Terry McMillan: Still Trying to Get Some Payback

Sometimes you just don't get a return on your investment. You just have to be grateful that you're no longer in a losing situation. Apparently, Terry hasn't figured this out yet: I’ve never had a problem selling books in the past. I sell millions of books. Why would I tell the media my husband is gay to sell books? I haven’t even sold 300,000 copies, which is probably the lowest I’ve sold since before Waiting to Exhale. You know why? People got to watch the live reality show, so why buy the book? That’s what his lies have done... Everybody is a pimp these days! Real pimps will probably want to change the name of their "vocation" because everybody and their cousin either claims to be a "pimp", or is accusing someone else of "pimping": He wants to be famous. He’s pimping my fame. He’s dumb, but he’s not stupid. He wouldn’t have been able to pull all this off if he was stupid. He wants the spotlight. He wants men to line up and take a number. He’s looking for a sugar daddy... He lied to me. He deceived me. And the only thing the gay community knows is "Oh poor Johnny, he was locked in the closet" as if I put his ass in there. Looks more like Terry's pimping him as payback for his cheating... You'd think Terry would be working on getting her groove back, but instead, she's still harping about how her ex-husband did her wrong. Maybe she'll make an appearance on Jerry Springer, so she can really express herself? (link via Rod 2.0)

News and Nonsense

  • What will Sharon Stone do the next time she wants to attempt to revive her career? Soft porn? Oh, wait-- that's what Basic Instinct 2 (NSFW) is, pretty much... (Seven, Jossip)

  • ...and I wasn't even going to ask what else could possibly go wrong on the set of Casino Royale... (Defamer)

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