Archives for the Month of October 2009 on Cereal Monogamist
Some Thoughts on Project Runway
- I love when Tim Gunn prompts all the designers to say, "Thank you, Mood!" at the fabric store. There's something so corny and good-natured about it. If he hadn't become a fashion guru, I think Tim would have made a great kindergarten teacher.
- Why are they doing so many 1-day challenges? I feel like there haven't been many really incredible designs this season, and I think that's partially because they're being given so little time to design and create. Can't Lifetime foot the bill for a few 2-days? I want to see another Chris and Christian avant-garde gown, please!
- I've been rooting for Carol Hannah. I worried that tonight she was getting what reality TV-watchers call "the edit." She's been really unsure of where to go with her design and spoke for all of us wafflers when she announced, "I'm going to commit! I think." But actually, she was getting the perseverance edit, the struggle that pays off, and got commended on the runway. Though she did not win. I don't like Althea, who was the winner, because she refuses to mar her designs with necessary support undergarments. The judges like her, though, even awarding her the win tonight. If I could trade Althea out for Gordana, I would, but the judges clearly think she's too old, so her days are numbered. I don't like Logan or his greasy hair, but he's not going to be a problem anymore.
- Meanwhile, can someone explain Christopher to me? He started out on a roll, won in the first episode, later made a dress I loved which he described as being for a Victorian-era vampire bride, and then he just fell apart. He's been in the bottom two four times in a row now, and four designers have been eliminated so that he can hang around and make the viewers at home laugh at his ridiculousness. He got lucky tonight that his bedskirt gown was only the third worst tonight. As for Irina, I've decided to like that she's such an unabashed bitch. She didn't say much at first, and suddenly a few episodes in, she swooped in to announce that nobody knew as much as she did, and everything everyone else was making sucked. I should hate her--I kind of dislike when people on competitive shows can't keep their eyes on their own paper, so to speak--but she's made some nice stuff (including tonight's dress although Nina thought it looked "cheap") and, you know what, be confident Irina.
- Hey, Uncle Nick from Season 2 is a judge! Yay for him! Heidi is awesome. She described Logan's look as something an 80s rocker would wear, "but not the main one." He eventually takes from this that he was eliminated because he was too edgy and the judges "didn't get it." Sigh. They all say that. He even used the expression "Middle America," which is pretty nervy coming from an Idahoan.
- I usually watch Models of the Runway, the after-show, but that's only because I'm in bed and I don't care that much what's on. Tonight they had like a ten-minute discussion about boob tape. ...No comment.
Tonight's Mad Men: "The Gypsy and the Hobo"
I just watched tonight's episode of Mad Men twice in a row. In the words of Groundhog Day's Ned Ryerson, "it was a doo-hoo-hoozy!"
SPOILER ALERT for those of you not keeping up with the show (i.e., Mom) but Don Draper 'came out' to Betty about his true identity, telling more truths in a row than I believe he has ever done before. This all occurred while his most recent dish-on-the-side waited for him in the car so they could go away for the weekend. He never made it back to the car--did he forget that she was there, or, did he, cool-as-a-cucumber, just let her figure out that he wasn't coming back? Oh, Don.
But forget all that, because none of it was as awesome as the moment Joan clocked her husband over the head with a vase.
This guy's a real jerk, not in the least because when she married him, Joan quit working at Sterling Cooper and is thus in the show less than she used to be. Less Joan = bad. But also, he's a bastard who failed out of his surgery rotation (or...whatever) and can't get himself back on track. Also he's a jerk, he doesn't talk to her, he belittles what's important to her, he fails to recognize the real contributions she could make as a wife, because he thinks women are useless and just bred to sit around, when Joan's smart and super-capable. He's been nothing but trouble for her, dashing all her dreams for her marriage.
Well, in this episode, after another bad interview, which all of her helpful preparation couldn't keep him from screwing up, he snapped at her that she couldn't tell him anything, that she didn't know what it was like to want something your whole life and have it not work out. Which of course she does--it was marriage she planned for, and that he has single-handedly ruined. And then she clocked him over the head with a vase. Oh, Joan.
Note: this weekend I put together preparation for my Halloween costume. It is Mad Men-inspired (think sassy Sixties secretary!) and I am incredibly excited. I have cat's-eye glasses!
Woo. Too much excitement for a Sunday night.
Edited to add: Joan SMASH!
Tune in at 10
They're down to 8 cheftestants on Top Chef and that can only mean one thing...
Tonight is RESTAURANT WARS!
Old movies are always great opportunities for analysis--seeing what’s different, but also seeing what’s the same. It’s fascinating to me, and yet some people, especially those my age, really resist that opportunity.
You’d think a roomful of college students, like the ones taking the film class I'm taking now--and it’s not an intro film class either, they’ve all made it through at least one full class already--would be willing explorers. I’m surprised at how often they react negatively to black and white, to subtitles, just to differentness. (The 400 Blows is not boring, twerps! You're boring.)
Let me describe an old movie experience: several years ago, when I still worked an office job, I saw a portion of a movie. I used to watch TV while I got ready for work, from about 7am to about 7:35, and what I watched varied, but if there was an interesting movie on at the time it usually won. So, this particular morning, I saw a bit of this movie in which a bunch of characters were trapped on a raft after a shipwreck. Tyrone Power was among them, and in the bit that I saw, the characters were discussing whether or not the sick and doomed among them should be thrown overboard, because they were running out of food, water and supplies. The concept of sacrificing a few people to save a few people was, I thought, an intriguing one for a movie. I love when movies address hard questions, when there’s a little ambiguity about the proceedings, so this was right up my alley. I didn’t get to see the end, because I had to go to work, but the first thing I did when I got there was put Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which is what I assumed I had watched, into my Netflix queue.
Some time later, Lifeboat appeared in my mailbox and I sat down to watch it. Imagine my surprise when Tyrone Power wasn’t in it. And it was about Nazis. And they were in a lifeboat, but it was a different boat and different people. It was a damn different movie. We live in the age of Google, so I found the movie I’d seen relatively quickly. In fact, it didn’t take me longer than the time it took to hit Tyrone Power’s IMDB page. I realized I had watched what was probably a B-movie from the 50s, released under both the title Seven Waves Away, and the far greater title, Abandon Ship! Yes, the exclamation point is theirs.
Well, Abandon Ship! is out of print, never been transferred to DVD, so I had no way to view it again until it played last week, incredibly, on Turner Classic Movies at like four in the morning. I DVR’d it and watched it today.
Abandon Ship!, especially compared to Lifeboat, is pleasantly sensational. Tyrone Power is strutting around (you know, on the raft) from the beginning, salvaging clothes off dead bodies and rolling them into the sea. People are all, “No! We need to give that man a funeral when we get to shore!” They’re menaced by sharks, they have no hope of rescue. Eventually they get to the point where they decide to control their rations by throwing the sick overboard.
From the film class I’m taking right now, I know that the 1950s were a turning point in the movie business; it was when “art movies” and “popular movies” began to take really different paths and the gap between culture and entertainment got wider. Old movies, especially from the 30s and 40s (probably my favorite old-movie era) are wonderful, but watching them is like visiting foreign countries. They just have moments that feel strange, and you take that into consideration as you watch and evaluate. Abandon Ship! (I can’t stop putting in that title, it cracks me up) was obviously popcorn fare, slick and cheesy and dark and fun, and for that reason, it felt really quite close to the movies we have in the theater today. The rhythms we’re familiar with now—like “We’re out of water,” DUN DUN DUN—were beginning to be developed. It's not exactly the same, of course--there's a little more melodrama in older movies--but the gap is just not as wide as people think.
For my part, I’m glad I learned to trek around in that foreign territory, and to feel comfortable doing so, because it’s brought me endless enjoyment.
The Most Sexist Season of Top Chef Ever! and the Spunky Blonde Lady Who Might Take the Whole Thing Home (and Dear God I Hope She Does)
I love Top Chef, I do, enough to continue to be addicted to it despite the fact that my personal taste is so pedestrian that I literally had popcorn for dinner tonight. The contestants are all, “Ceviche! Veloute! Scallops!” and I’m all, “Peanut butter! Processed cheese!” and yet, Top Chef and I, we remain the best of friends.
Still, this season has been getting on my damn nerves.
There is one guy on the show this season who is such an obnoxious ass that I’m not going to print his name. I don’t want to increase his Google hits, a number I’m sure he keeps track of in some kind of retro little black book that also has the phone numbers of his favorite escort services and the female cousin he took to his prom. Anyway, this guy should know that I’m on to him. The rude and sexist things that come out of his damn mouth are so clearly designed to rile people up and grab him attention, and I am pissed that this show is giving it to him.
Even though the need has been more than met, other guys are continuing to step up and be bastards, including one in tonight’s episode who blathered on and on about how his dish was more refined and creative and special than anyone else’s and who didn’t even crack the top four. The only two guys who haven’t given me any trouble so far are Kevin (AKA Beardo, AKA Young Santa Claus) and Ash, the quippy gay guy who seemed like a nice guy but not a very good chef, and whose past-due elimination came tonight.
There are four front-runners right now (in addition to the bastards, who seem to consider themselves front-runners without tons of evidence of this): the Voltaggio brothers, and who seem too intent on beating each other to worry about the presence of women in the kitchen, nice guy Beardo, and Jennifer, who is my girl crush. The first couple episodes seemed to be trying to position her as ‘the bitch,’ overplaying footage of her talking about how competitive she is, and how she’s not there to make friends or whatever reality show cliché the producers coaxed her into saying.
Let me suggest, as Tina Fey did in a really funny rant on Hillary Clinton, that YEAH. SHE IS A BITCH. BITCHES GET STUFF DONE.
Jen gets stuff done
She really came alive in the third episode of the season, a challenge in which the entire crew had to fix a big buffet-style meal for an entire airport hangar full of military people and their families. She had won the Quickfire, the mini-challenge that takes up the first ten minutes of every episode, and her reward was immunity—the “you can’t get eliminated tonight” prize. On account of that, the rest of the group nominated her as the head of the kitchen (there’s some fancy name for it, I forget what it was), who would not make a dish of her own but would supervise and manage and just in general keep everything hot, refilled, on plates, on time. She stalked around the kitchen like General Patton, negotiating arguments over the use of equipment, asking people things like, “Can you cook and have this conversation at the same time?” She was alarmingly impressive.
I wouldn’t be so aggressively girl-power if this particular season hadn’t made it necessary. Women have been getting eliminated twice as fast as men have been—and I’m not saying the judging is crooked or anything, but that the contestant pool was thick with mediocre ladies. If you don’t put good female chefs on the show, good female chefs can’t win, and that bugs me.
The second episode of the season pitted “boys” against “girls” (and yes, that’s what they continually called it even though these are all men and women legally able to purchase alcohol and rent cars) and featured tons of trash talk from the “boys” about how they didn’t feel threatened by any of the women. Several episodes in, the designated punching bag has become older woman Robin, who regardless of how annoying she is does not deserve the vitriol that gets hurled at her, especially when she’s not in the room.
Even super-capable Jennifer is not immune. In the very first episode, when the chefs were milling around getting to know each other, she named the restaurant that she works at, and was immediately asked, without a hint of irony, “Oh, are you the pastry chef?” Without a hint of surprise—or bother, for that matter—she replied, “No, head chef.” No offense to pastry chefs, but yeah, that’s a slight. She’s become the Peggy Olson of this show—I am invested now, and if she loses, FEMINISM LOSES. Even if she loses to the talented and utterly inoffensive Beardo.
(Tonight judge-in-love-with-his-own-one-liners Toby Young compared Jennifer’s dish to a hairy armpit. Strangely, this was a compliment, meant to be on par with a more conventional adjective like “earthy.” She just smiled with amusement and said thank you.)
GO TEAM JEN.
Notes for a Wednesday
Things That Baffle Me
That person who thinks that, on a campus of 8000 students, 3000 faculty members, and God only knows how much non-academic staff, he is the only one who will be going to get a flu shot today. He walks up and down the line, stunned and insulted, seeming to think that if he says dubiously, "The line is all the way out the door?" enough times someone will let him step in. Clearly he is more important than the rest of us.
DUH there's a line. I got here half an hour early, man. How many years have you been on this planet? You wait for these things. You plan for it. You bring a book. I got through an entire chapter of Storytelling in Film and Television.
Also, my arm hurts. But I will probably not get the flu this winter.
Things That Amuse Me
At my writing center hours today, I saw (among others) a young woman from the school of management who wanted some help with an application to a graduate program. She is originally from China, and she wanted to make sure she wasn't missing anything in this essay prompt which asked if she was prepared to be integrated into the "exceptionally diverse" environment of the school. I gave her the secret handshake, which is to say that I told her that "diverse" is a signal word, meaning that the school is committed to having a varied racial profile and that she should expect a lot of minorities. She was like, great, I'm all set!
On Monday, I had a long conversation with a Korean student about the thematic implications of the expression, "Follow your heart." It's always fun to get the shot to kind of explain these things. Suddenly just being born an American makes me a genius.
Things That Improve My Outlook
Life has been exponentially sunnier since I turned in my Toni Morrison paper yesterday. I thought that thing was never getting written.
Pop Music Catharsis
A playlist for feeling bad so I can get feeling good.
"A Dustland Fairytale," The Killers
This song is dusty, like the title suggests, Midwestern, iconic Americana, with the Killers touch of New Wave-inspired Vegas-and-neon drama. See the band, including lead singer Brandon Flowers, perform this song on Letterman’s show, letting the orchestra behind them amp up the emotion without overpowering the pop.
Click ahead for 13 more great songs.
The Wonderful World of Web Weirdness
More e-mail forwards from my sister...
It's harder than it looks! Use the 1st letter of your last name to answer each of the following questions. They have to be real places, names, things. Nothing made up! Try to use different answers if the person in front of you had the same initial. You can't use your name for the boy/girl name questions.
1. What is your last name?
2. 4-letter word?
(I said, a 4-letter word.)
(No, a 4-letter word.)
(I told you...oh, I get it.)
3. A boy's name?
4. A girl's name?
Wanda, see also my lovely grandmother
5. An occupation?
6. A color?
7. Something you wear?
Wellies (but only if you're British)
8. A beverage?
9. A food?
10. Something found in the bathroom?
11. A place?
12. A reason for being late?
Weather (who hates driving in snow?)
13. Something you shout?
14. Something you do?
Write pointless blog entries when I should be working on Toni Morrison essays.
Freudian slips, or Joke of the day for graduate students
(Freud says a cigar
is not just a cigar)
This morning in film class, discussing Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," my prof commented that the essay was, "dense but penetrable."
Cliff notes version: Mulvey applies Freudian psychoanalysis to film, explaining that classic Hollywood cinema (c.f. Hitchcock) serves men who experience movies as symbolic opportunities to touch a beautiful woman. Imagine the filming camera as caressing the Hollywood beauty, the camera as eyes, as hands, as phallus or penetrating object.
I know, riotous! OK, you had to be there, but the class was in stitches. I think my prof made the joke on purpose, because the next thing he said was, "You DID read it!"
Were you a child in the 80s?
If so, you probably have a photo of yourself like this:
See other people's youthful humiliations at We Have Lasers!!!!!!!, a photo blog that was just begging to be made.
I know I have at least one of these (4th grade) which I really kind of want to submit to this site now. As I recall, my hair was painstakingly crimped and then gathered in a side ponytail, and I'm wearing my best ruffled denim jumper, accessorized by my then-favorite plastic dangly heart earrings.
I was tipped to the blog by this slideshow over at Newsweek.com. If those sites aren't enough to waste your workday, take a look at some of my favorites, like You Suck at Craigslist, Passive Aggressive Notes and of course, Sexy People.
"We're Mad Men!"
I can't wait for Sesame Street to parody some of my other favorite shows! They took the cigarettes, sex, and booze out of Mad Men, so they should be able to take the murder out of Dexter, the drugs out of Breaking Bad, and the misanthropy out of It's Always Sunny! ...Right?
Green Day to Broadway?
Green Day's instant-classic rock opera album, American Idiot, has been adapted into a stage show in Berkeley, CA.