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Friday, June 30, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #13 - THE FINALE

I feel….empty. Not because I was disappointed with the result, but because it’s over. All I have to look forward to next Wednesday night is… well, Wednesday. Through misted eyes and racking sobs, I welcome you to the Three’s A Crowd episode of America’s Next Top Model.

· A quick recap, and we’re reminded of each module’s journey – Daniele the Southern Belle and her sprained stiletto pinkie-toe, dehydration drama and to-gap-or-not-to gap dilemma. Joanie and her stripping thang and ripping fang. Jade and her arrogance, arrogance, and arrogance. Imagine setting up some kind of device from the very first episode of this season which automatically ticked over every time Jade said “undiscovered supermodel”, “not on my level”, “I’m a soldier”, or “I have potential”. No, actually – much easier to just set the device to measure every time someone yells “Oh, F*CK OFF!” at the telly.

· We’re still in Thailand, and Jade tries to add ‘Exotic Bi-racial Comedienne’ to her already heaving array of talents. She fakes out the other two modules at breakfast by jumping up excitedly, looking into the next room, and shouting “Oh, My GOD!!”, making Joanie and Daniele jump up excitedly too. When they discover Jade’s masterful, complex piece of japery, they’re so impressed that Joanie says to camera “Please don’t let Jade win. Please”.

· A Tyra-Mail arrives, cryptically announcing a Cover Girl commercial shoot the following day, and Jay drops by the Model Mansion to deliver the girls’ individual scripts and give them a pep-talk. The girls’ nerves reach fever-pitch, and Jade closes her eyes orgasmically as she says to camera “I’ve seen myself winning over and over and over in my mind”. Pay no attention to her. I’m sure she also sees herself as a centipede with shoes made from rubies, dancing with hippos in tutus. You see – she’s insane.

· The girls spend a large chunk of the night rehearsing their scripts, with Daniele becoming more and more paranoid about her oft-commented-upon Southern drawl. In the morning, Jay meets them at a house in a garden and briefs them regarding the day’s shoot. Jade asks “Can we improvise?” and Jay says “No. No, you can not”. Lord knows why she’d want to after the last time – apparently in Jade’s World, ‘improvising’ means ‘making people think you have concealed male genitalia and a glue-sniffing habit’.

· Joanie is up first, and despite her original effort being a bit Stepford-Wifey, she does much better on her second take, and looks gorgeous for her still shot, although she’s still learning to smile like a normal person post-tuskectomy. Daniele, obsessed as she is with obliterating her heritage by glossing over her natural accent, completely forgets her lines and jumps up and down with frustration. As Jay says, “When the camera goes on, Daniele goes off”. She eventually nails it, and definitely brings the goods for the still shot. Jade, she of the peanut-sized brain and the listening skills of an earthworm, stuffs her lines up and then decides to improvise. As viewers, we’re treated to the correct words superimposed on the screen, whilst Jade rambles randomly like a drunk infomercial. “Want a more casual mascara look?” becomes “Don’t you ladies want want to have a casual, beautiful mascara that you can put on your eyes like mine? As you see, mine are very beautiful”. Jay gets the sh*ts and calls for cue cards, but I think the squiggles on those big bits of white cardboard just confuse the poor idiot. The assistant might as well have been holding up a selection of French pastries, for all the good it did. Jade is either blind or illiterate, and I reckon she’s not blind. Jay spends most of the afternoon shouting “CUT!”, as Jade makes an abortion of her lines over and over again. She finally manages a good take, albeit directly from the Drag Queen Dramatic Academy, and goes back to where the other modules are waiting. Daniele asks her if she remembered her lines, to which she answers “Yep! It went perfectly”. As if Jade didn’t have enough problems, now her pants are on fire. Her still shot is fine, although she complains that the photographer is “giving me too much direction”. The bastard.

· ELIMINATION PART 1: The modules are summoned to the Judgement Temple by a Tyra-Mail, to find out who the final two contenders will be. Tyra is resplendent in a revolting outfit presumably designed to make her look like a mentally-unbalanced Victorian-era prostitute, and Spunky Nigel can barely concentrate, he’s thinking about me so much. A guest judge comes in the form of a Thai designer who doesn’t speak any English and his interpreter. They view the Cover Girl commercials and still shots, starting with Jade. Through the interpreter, the Thai designer mentions that Jade takes a great photo, but that her forced, cheesy smile makes her look like she’s got something to hide. A machete, perhaps. Jade, in a surprise tantamount to finding some wine available at a bottle shop, makes excuses, babbling “It’s my first commercial (rubbish), and I had no acting coach (ummm… so?), although actors and actresses inspire me, and Tyra inspires me”. The judges are less impressed than overtly condescending, and basically indicate that she should shut her mouth and remove herself. Joanie’s next, and all the judges are suitably impressed, although they comment that her smile seems unnatural, chalking it up to her unfamiliarity with her new non-walrus-inspired teeth. Twiggy compares Joanie’s look to Grace Kelly, and Joanie says “She was a dancer, right?”. Daniele’s turn, and Nigel, giving us the impression that he may at some time have engaged in some one-on-one intensive “coaching” sessions with the dusky beauty, comments that her beauty “makes me want to melt”. Perhaps it’s just because she looks like chocolate. Tyra’s bizarre advice to Daniele is that she should squint more, which seems about as relevant as telling a brickie that he’d be better at trowelling mortar if he just clenched his buttocks a bit. Daniele’s commercial is shown, and Twiggy and Nigel proudly tell her that they could understand her accent perfectly. The Tyrant then says “I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all”, and in a speech designed to make me want to throw some acid at her face, tells Daniele that she should “leave her neighbourhood behind”, and fake an accent. She compounds the massive insult by mimicking Daniele’s twang, and I want to report her to the United Nations. What a Machiavellian beeyarch.

· The judges deliberate, and the modules are called in to hear their fate. By unanimous decision, and because she’s my new best mate, Joanie is announced as the first finalist. Daniele the ‘Gator and Jade the Illiterate Nutjob remain, and Tyra draws breath for the traditional Verbal Brazilian. Daniele is told that she’s beautiful, but with a voice like hers, she can’t sell makeup, which is like saying “I’m sorry, Albert, but with toes that hairy, you’ll never be a physicist”. Jade is told that she takes great pictures, but that she’s full of excuses, seemingly glossing over the fact that she’s Satan’s illegitimate offspring. All is right with the cosmos, however, when Daniele is announced as the second finalist, and Jade is sent on her evil, evil, way. Bye, Jade! Don’t murder any children on your way out! Jade thanks the judges, stops herself from spitting at the two finalists, and just before dropping out of sight turns, poses dramatically and takes a bow. The judges almost burst major blood vessels trying not to laugh. Back at the Module Mansion, Jade packs her things, omnipresent scarf on her head, and comments yet again that she has what it takes, adding that the judges just didn’t see it because she’s in a different realm. She leaves behind a poem for the girls, and whilst I have a thousand comments all rushing to my keyboard at once, I’ll just let it speak for itself:
Leftover lady
Let alone the strongest to be subdued
If I only had the magic key
That would unlock the realms to
The plateau of the highest me
Even though I’ve been badly bruised
Living in a house
To become a popular muse.

· I’m going to take a moment to thank Jade for making this series of America’s Next Top Module one of the best yet. I’ve never wanted to employ traditional torture techniques on anyone quite as much as her, and on several occasions due to her inane drivel my television has come very near to being thrown in the bath, but she is by far the most entertaining psychotic dimwit I think I’ve ever come across. Thank you, Jade. Now mind that cliff-edge.

· Daniele and Joanie are understandably excited, Daniele shouting “It’s ebony and ivory, sucka!”, and we’re treated to a “Were the final two” dance. A Tyra-Mail tells them that they’ll be battling for the prize tomorrow in a catwalk-off.

· The next morning our modules are met by Jay at a remarkable cluster of stunning pagodas-over-the-water, all linked by long ornate ramps, which will serve as today’s catwalk for a show for the Issue label. Miss Jay pops out of one of the pagodas for some last-minute runway training and advice, but appears to have forgotten to wear any pants. That’s what we need to see. A gender-bending fashionista catwalk specialist’s upper thighs. Our finalists are intensely nervous as they get their hair and make-up done with the other modules in the show, and Tyra ducks backstage for a pep-talk. Both girls look stunning in gorgeous outfits, shell headbands, feathers and random percussion instruments, and the show starts. The girls make their way around the massive web of petal-strewn, slippery runways, and the judges (and I) practically explode with pride. There’s barely an apian phallus between them, as they both do wonderfully well – Joanie looks down too often, and Daniele slips on a petal or two, but they pose, strut, and wink with all the sass and aplomb of real modules. The show finishes, and both girls burst into tears. The judges gush that it’s the best ANTM catwalk show they’ve ever seen, and all is well with the world. Until….

· ELIMINATION PART 2: Tyra is dressed as a green insane Pocahontas, but our girls look amazing in Issue frocks. Catwalk footage is shown, and most of the girls’ photos from the whole series are waded through – from the bald to the falling fairy tales, from dolls to elephants, and we’re reminded how tops these chicks are at looking noice. The judges go through several pairs of underpants telling them as much, and the modules are invited to make a small speech each before a final decision is made. Daniele says (quite clearly, mind you) that she realises her communication skills aren’t perfect, but that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve. Joanie thanks the judges for her new teeth and confidence, and the judges banish them outside whilst they frown and tut over their difficult choice. The girls tremble back in, holding hands, and without the usual moronic speechifying, Tyra gets straight to it. The winner is…. DANIELE!!! She flaps, bounces, buckles and cries with gratitude and relief, and Joanie is gracious and elegant in defeat, because she’s such a top sheila. Bye, Joanie. Don’t sprout another manky tusk on your way out, you great, great girl, you. And good on you, my ‘gator friend. Don’t you DARE get any speech lessons. That would really stick in Tyra’s craw.

It’s been a crazy, dumb, bitchy ride, and I’m sad it’s over. Thanks for reading, and remember: when you’re missing modules and don’t think you can go on, just whack on a psychotic headscarf, click your heels together and chant “Fluff me down. Signature walk. Mind the gap”, and you’ll be right as rain. See you in the next series.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #3

Cold weather and the tyranny of distance kept this month’s Steak N’ Chicks Tuesday on the petite side. The mountain sometimes comes to Mohammed, but you just can’t get some chicks across the Harbour Bridge.

27th June 2006 – The Commodore Hotel, Blues Point Road, North Sydney

The Place
The Commodore is a pub most definitely suited to daytime Summer drinking, although it’s also well set-up for the lower end of the thermometer – very open-plan, with a magnificent outdoor area. A discreet pokie room hides in one corner, and is separated from the kitchen and swish bistro area by a long, meandering bar. The outdoor bit, which takes up over half the pub’s footprint, is strewn with umpteen tables and outdoor lounges, warmed effectively by umbrella-hoisted heaters and a cosy enclosed fire. The toilets are a bit of a low point, seemingly unbothered by the pressure of being attractive, and painted in a colour probably listed on a Taubmans sample sheet as “Mottled Vomit”. Not a significant drawback, but worth mentioning.

The People
Just four chicks this week, but quality. Alex, Fee, Jo, and Steak N’ Chicks newcomer Vanessa, who was originally only going to stay for a quick beer until she clocked the menu. Fee arrived laden with her impressively slick and gorgeous new brochures for her printing company, and several minutes were spent all gushing over them. We all agreed that the staff at the Commodore were very pleasant indeed, with manners my Grandma would have raised her teacup to. The glassies seemed to have been trained at the Ninja School of Bar-Help, as our empties kept disappearing conveniently and efficiently from the table with barely a shoe shuffle or a shadow. Clientele were plentiful without equating to a crowd (I’ve seen this place on Friday nights, and it ain’t arf heaving), and mostly young with a minimum of body hair. When an older-than-forty couple walked in, I almost imagined swinging saloon doors, a piano suddenly stopping and a distant tumbleweed, such was their seeming incongruousness. A handful of suits provided the obligatory lecherous stares to any bosomed people passing their tables, but as far as ogling office-workers go, they were non-intrusive and mild.

The Food
I think the Booker Prize needs to be expanded to include a gong for Best Descriptive Menu Sentences, and if they do, The Commodore menu would probably be a finalist. It’s hard to read when your dribble keeps obscuring beauties like Warm Tart of Balsamic Tomato and Onion Jam with Ricotta and Rocket Salad, or Home-Cured Gravlax with Caper and Dill Salsa, Seeded Mustard Cream and Sourdough Toast.
The chefs at the Commodore seem to have discovered a kind of Tardis Of Flavour – meals look reasonably tasty on the outside, but manage a good fifty square metres of intense and gorgeous flavour on the inside. Before we even ate, all our dishes easily managed big ticks in both the presentation and nasal waftage boxes, too.
Vanessa, starvacious as she was, ordered the fish & chips. Points initially lost for not-hot chips were redeemed when we considered that Vanessa’s your-food’s-ready buzzer was faulty (hence the meal was waiting at the counter for a longer-than-usual time), and also when we all tasted the Best Tartare Sauce In The World. Tartare Sauces usually fall into two general categories – too piquant or too creamy, but this was a perfectly-balanced mouth-party to which anyone with a few bucks can be invited. A brief cutlery shortage was sorted before the rest of the meals arrived, and Fee sat down to a subtle but flavour-packed pumpkin & ricotta ravioli with burnt butter, lemon juice & pine nuts. She ordered a crusty roll as she was picking up her meal, and managed to talk the kitchen hand down from the initial fifty-dollar price tag to a one-dollar final settling fee. Nobody was quite sure how that whole scenario worked, but Fee’s appreciative lip-smacking indicated that either price was a bargain.
Alex ordered the warm salad of winter vegetables with medium rare lamb loin and basil, featuring gentle chunks of pink, flavourful lamb with delicious lumps of non-stodgy vegetables.
I had “Sausages with Braised Onions and Potato Puree”, which we all know as Bangers N’ Mash, but proved itself worthy of its somewhat flowery menu description. Three fat, perfectly cooked and fork-responsive sausages nestled around a mound of fluffy, smooth potato, topped with sweet brown onion and fresh cress – islands of good stuff in a truly lovely pool of dark, intense gravy. I gave up daintiness for the joys of gorging, stopping occasionally to wipe smudges from the sides of my mouth. Quite possibly the perfect Winter meal. Portion size for all meals was ever-so-slightly-too-big, which is vastly better than the alternative. Bloody yummy, mate.

The Summarising Bit
Whilst truly worth a re-visit in some warmer months, and with an interior d├ęcor that seems to have been a little overlooked in favour of the far-more-popular outdoor area (save for the swanky bistro), a hugely appreciative and satisfied nod goes to The Commodore. The phrase “decent feed” was never more appropriate – nothing was sub-standard, and quite a few meal features, including bread, sausages, and sauces were spectacular. Go. Across the bridge wit ya.

Friday, June 23, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #12

I’m coming over all misty in this, the second last instalment in this series of America’s Next Top Model – the Barmy Tsunami episode.

· We’re still in Thailand, and it seems our modules are having a bit of a lament-fest. Jade laments the fact that she’s in the bottom two most weeks, claiming that “I don’t belong there, man!” That’s right, Jade. You’re actually the best, and the judges are putting you in the bottom two just for yuks. Daniele laments the fact that she has a melodic Southern twang, and we’re again shown footage of Tyra the Condescending Overlord giving her some schtick about it. She’s got a point, though – like, how sick are we all of hearing Kate Moss’s voice all the time? What? You’ve never heard her speak, don’t give a rats about her accent and don’t believe it would make any difference to her success as a model? Are you sure? Sara is again lamenting the fact that she was found in a mall, and that people seem to think that she shouldn’t be here. Because she’s the prettiest vacant, one-dimensional giraffe I’ve ever seen.

· A Tyra Mail miraculously materialises, and the four modules pile into their pink winged mini-bus and arrive at an elaborate temple. They’re met by Pichita, who is apparently a former Thai super-module – kind of like Janice Dickinson, but without the plastic body parts, prescription drug habit, random verbal abuse of passers-by and complete disregard for other peoples’ personal space. Pichita runs the girls through some Thai customs like taking off your shoes when you go indoors and smiling whenever possible. Might be a problem for Jade – she looks fine when she takes off her shoes, but her smile generally just screams ‘concealed weapon’ to me. Pichita tells the girls about this week’s challenge – they’re to travel in tuk-tuks to a number of ‘go-sees’ (like auditions with designers), remember to take their shoes off and smile, and bring a gift to each designer. They’ll be judged on general appearance, knowledge of Thai customs, their photo portfolios and their runway walk. And they have to be back at the hotel by 4:30. Got that? 4:30. I smell drama and disaster. And maybe a red curry.

· The modules sprint off to the markets to buy gifts for the designers, and Sara, despite the fact that she should feel right at home in any major shopping centre, almost walks off without her portfolio. I guess she can’t be expected to be able to see where she’s left things with her vision all impaired by having to look over those massive rubbery lips.

· Jade and Daniele have trouble getting used to the tuk-tuks, with Jade princessifying “If it was up to me, I’d be in a cab, not a took-took, yoo-hoo, blah-blah…” Really, my love, for an exotic bi-racial butterfly, you really are a condescending provincial cow. Daniele craves windows, saying “It’s hot, it’s humid – do you know what that do to a black girl’s hair?”

· The go-sees do not go well, despite Americans having an international reputation for embracing and appreciating foreign cultures. The modules visit three designers each – a twee swimwear label imaginatively called Sexy Little Beach, a designer of ungainly gowns called Tube, and an apparently Alice-In-Wonderland-inspired label called Boudoir. They have sweaty, fuzzily-tousled Polaroids taken, walk up and down a lot, and, with the exception of the frazzled and scatty Daniele, mostly remember to take their shoes off. Due to the Wonderland theme, the Boudoir designer not only asks each module to parade around in designer smalls, she also gets them to pop on a giant papier-mache animal head each. The world of fashion is just soooo predictable. Jade watches Joanie prance, and in a snide aside muses “I don’t know if lingerie is really Joanie’s market. She doesn’t have a lingerie body”. She’s sure got a head for papier mache, though. Jade herself gets a massive chipmunk for a head, and looks almost cute in a Mummy-I’m-having-those-nightmares-again kind of way. Sara’s walk is stiff and awkward, perhaps due to her not knowing how to interpret the designer’s request that she “Walk more gentle. Gentle but strong”. Daniele is thrilled that her accent doesn’t make her any less understandable to Thai tuk-tuk drivers, who have no idea what any of the modules are saying anyway. The notorious Thai traffic frustrates the modules, and a handy on-screen stopwatch keeps us up to date with exactly how late they are. And they’re very late. They’d be quicker if they got out and walked. Backwards.

· Joanie, Sara and Daniele arrive back to an angry Pichita, who tut-tuts about the tuk-tuks being the girls’ excuse for being late. Meanwhile, Jade is still swanning around in designer’s studios, apparently having carefully calculated the amount of time she has left. Unfortunately Jade appears to have left school before the telling-the-time lesson – if only Cookie Monster had spent more time chatting about the big and small hand, and less time scoffing Oreos. Jade finally shows up at 5:40, and Pichita looks like she’s just swallowed a pinecone, such is her rage. Showing her usual sensitivity and grace, Jade says to camera “B*tches, please, relax yourselves”. Honestly, I’m ready to pay fifty bucks and hour to some Slapping Professionals just to give this moron a good working over. The girls are assessed, and Jade is upset because nobody ever uses the word “supermodel” when discussing her, perhaps because it’s the only four-syllable word she knows. A few single-syllable words spring instantly to mind, though. Daniele is told that she’s won the challenge, but her prize is withheld because they all failed to show up on time. In a deliciously mean turn of events, the modules are shown the extensive wardrobe of gorgeous clothes that Daniele would have won, prompting her to wail “Shut your mouth. SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Say it ain’t so!” It’s a bit like giving Karen Carpenter access to a toilet and then gluing the lid closed.

· A Tyra-Mail announces that our modules are off to Phuket, but upon reading it the girls are a bit concerned about pronouncing their destination out loud. A quick animated plane trip later, and the girls are in what Joanie describes as “The Rio de Janeiro of Asia”, all dribblingly excited about being near the ocean. Jade announces dramatically in irritating third-person “The water and Jade – we mix”, obviously believing that she’s either a bottle of Scotch or a sachet of Instant Stupid. Tyra arrives in an abominable pale-green resort-wear-style jumpsuit which clings disturbingly to her fried-chicken-enhanced frame, and speaks earnestly (you can tell she’s earnest, because she doesn’t do her booty-shakin’ dance) about the recent tsunami and the lives that were lost. She calls for a minute of silence and the five of them hold hands in a circle with their heads bowed, whilst I roll my eyes in respectful reverence. The girls cry, and Jade pumps two fists in the air, saying tearfully “This is emotional for me, but I’m a soldier”, and my disgusted rage nearly brings on an aneurism.

· Joanie seems to have lost a diseased fang and gained a mean streak. In practically her first ever display of cattiness, she vents to Daniele about Sara’s mall-based competition unworthiness, saying “I feel like a bitch, but she was this close to being a lawyer, so she shouldn’t be here. Besides, she copies offa me. I might start doing things wrong on purpose”. I’m a bit torn here – I see her point and appreciate her frustration, but if Joanie and Sara are going to fight, it might put a dampener on my plans to go shopping and have a coffee with them both this weekend.

· PHOTO SHOOT: Jay tells the modules they’ll be moduling swimwear on the beach and in the water, and punters will be able to download the images onto their mobile phones. It must be easy to concentrate on your poses when you know that within a week a thousand teenage boys will be thinking of you whilst using their phones with their bedroom doors closed. Jay introduces Spunky Nigel (who I’m crocheting an effigy of) as today’s photographer. Joanie is first, and manages to look stunning as the rough waves pummel her against some glamorous spiky rocks. Sara eventually manages a couple of good shots after many stiff, awkward ones, and Daniele, despite being distracted by thoughts of the dead bodies that recently floated in the water she’s now squatting in, also manages a couple of corkers. Jade balances precariously on the front of a bucking boat, and does amazingly well, possibly with the best photos of any of the modules. And now I have to cut out my own tongue for admitting that.

· Judgement time, and as Tyra introduces the judges and rattles off the prizes, she appears even more psychotic than usual, seemingly impersonating a children’s presenter reading for the part of Charlie Manson. As the modules’ pictures are picked through, she’s also full of advice – she mentions her ‘two booties’ – one being her real-life booty, and the other her retouched-photo booty. Unfortunately she also gives a demonstration, erroneously thinking that we haven’t seen enough of her goddamn arse already. After viewing Daniele’s slightly suggestive, open-legged beach photo, Tyra offers the clunky mantra “Men’s magazine – legs open, Women’s magazine – legs crossed. Men’s magazine – chest out. Women’s magazine – back hunched”. She neglected to mention “Men’s magazine – daks off, boosies out. Women’s magazine – pencil skirt and a puppy”. After seeing Sara’s emotionless expression in her photo, Tyra gives a quick demo of ‘smiling with only your eyes’, which also doubles in a game of charades as ‘insane person with gas’. Jade and Joanie’s photos are stunning.

· The judges deliberate, and Tyra reads out the modules’ names one by one, to determine who the final three will be. Joanie is first, because she’s basically flawless, then Jade, because of her irritating habit of being quite a good model. It’s down to Daniele the Gator and Sara the Giraffe – Tyra rants that Sara is the ‘most improved player’, but she’s probably reached her limit, and then hacks into Daniele yet again for her accent, saying a Cover Girl needs to be articulate. Step off, you committable bimbo. Get a real job. In a surprise comparable to seeing water come out of a tap, Sara is given the boot. Bye, Sara! Pop in at the mall on your way out. She’s extremely humble in defeat, bless her designer cotton socks.

Next week is the massive finale with a commercial shoot for Cover Girl and a runway challenge! Hearts a-flutter. Snapping shutter. Runway strutter.
Until then, with baited breath…

Thursday, June 15, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #11

Goodness, but our girls are physically expressive this week! Mind you don’t get in the way – it’s the Not Drowning, Waving episode of America’s Next Top Model!

· Jade seems to have singled Joanie out as her main competition, which she cleverly hides by constantly mentioning how “un-intimidated” she is. It’s good to know that she doesn’t let insignificant things intimidate her, like beauty, poise, multiple brain cells and a birth certificate which doesn’t mention Satan. Jade says to camera “If Joanie went to castings in New York, they would laugh at her”. Maybe, but it’s a step up from being spat at, sweetheart.

· Just as I was starting to think that this was the first truly heathen series of ANTM, up jumps a surprise display of piety. Daniele takes a tabernacular time-out from the stresses of moduling by popping open her bible and referring to scripture until, as she says, “I get where I need to be”. I can never remember what it is about modelling that God especially likes. I think it’s the shallow and occasionally lecherous focus on the body. Or maybe the vomiting.

· The girls are pink-bussed off to a theatre where they are met by Patravadi, a dance teacher. Patravadi and some traditionally pointy-hatted dancers demonstrate some traditional Thai dancing, which is restrained, complex and delicate, just like our modules aren’t. The girls are given lessons and told that their hands and movements are to be “berry elegant, berry beautipul”. But watch out! Lifting your hands above eye level might be interpreted as arrogance! Jade reassures us that she “doesn’t have an ounce of arrogance in her body”, which I suspect is only because of some kind of metric conversion.

· Daniele tries to concentrate on the dance lesson despite a headache and a general feeling of wooziness. The cameramen help us to experience her malaise by making the focus all fuzzy whenever Daniele is on screen. Thank God she didn’t have haemorrhoids. She feels sicker and sicker, and I would have felt sorrier for her if I hadn’t been so transfixed by the puffy red bloomers the modules were shuffling around in. Hilarious.

· Lunchtime, and the heat and frantic schedule take their toll on our girls, and tempers are short. Joanie gently accuses Jade of always being defensive, but Jade proves her wrong by squealing “I AM NOOOOOT!”. Jade picks a fight, and the two waah waah waah for a while. Jade says to camera that “Joanie’s trying to corrupt things”, and even the boom mike doesn’t know what she means. Joanie does much better with “I’m sitting right next to her, and all I can smell is bitch”.

· All of a sudden, Daniele’s on a stretcher, gasping for breath, shaking, and on her way to hospital! Then, just as suddenly, there’s an ad break, and I throw a shoe at the telly! It turns out that Daniele is suffering from dehydration, exhaustion, and a touch of food poisoning. Perhaps God couldn’t understand her accent when she was praying earlier. She eventually checks herself out of hospital, saying that she feels rubbish, but the competition is more important, and she has to be strong. She’s like Moses crossing the desert. Except he never entered a modelling competition.

· The remaining 4 modules dress up for a Thai dancing challenge in stunning wrappy, shiny outfits with gorgeous ornate headdresses. They do their own makeup, and Jade looks like she’s the worst entry in a kindergarten colouring-in competition. In front of an audience and judges, and accompanied by a bunch of dramatic drummers, each module takes it in turn to waddle onto the main stage and show off what they absorbed that morning. Jade does quite well, but is a bit stiff and angular. Joanie rocks the house, and depite being tall, blonde, and from Beaver Falls, is quite convincing. Jade pouts and says “I’m not intimidated by Joanie. She’s not on my level”. That’s right, honey, but she can see the top of your head from there. Sara is unremarkable and looks embarrassed, but Furonda takes the cake, although not literally, because the intake of actual food molecules might kill her. Rather than recreate the moves demonstrated in this morning’s workshop, Furonda just decides to do her own thing, which evolves rapidly into a kind of hilarious hula/krumping/apple-picking/itchy-bum hybrid. She even lifts her hands above her eye level (I know! Um-ah!), but is saved from looking arrogant by her permanently slack-jawed open mouth. The judges look politely confused. The audience piddle their pants laughing. Joanie wins the challenge, and Jade scowls so hard it looks like somebody rubbed an onion in her face.

· The prize, which Joanie shares with Sara, is a lame and tedious dinner with a group manager from Thai Elle magazine. Joanie is given a bejewelled warrior sculpture as a gift, which she decides to point directly at Jade when she gets home. Malice and sculpture – together at last!

· A Tyra-Mail sends the girls to a photo shoot in the jungle (Daniele somewhat groggily), and Jay meets them on the back of an elephant. The modules learn that today’s shoot will be atop the gigantic beast, and are excited, Jade gushing about how great it will be “to be next to a creature that preposterous and big”. The shoot is to promote a vibrating razor (because shaving is obviously not dangerous enough already), with the intention of juxtaposing the girls’ smooth skin against that of the wrinkly pachyderm. Five minutes of tedious product placement later, the girls are dressed and made up with leaves in their hair, ready to go. Daniele is first, and looks nervous as the elephant reels and trumpets with fright every time the camera flash goes off. Despite still being sick as a dog, she brings it with some stunning poses, offset by her announcement that “I’m about to regurgitate on somebody’s face right now”.

· Jade is still gushing about her massive co-model, and says “it reminds me of an ancient dinosaur. Because, you know, they are in the dinosaur family”. About as much as you’re a human, pet. How’s that zoology degree going? Jade is still a bit stiff and angular, which frustrates Jay. Furonda is just a touch bizarre – flailing arms and jutting jaw, looking more than a little like some drowning Meccano. Joanie gets all brave and creative, balancing herself on the elephant’s leg, and Jay nearly soils himself with enthusiasm and pride. Jade gets the almighty sh*ts and says “I don’t pay much attention to Joanie. She’s not on my level”. Uh-huh. Using words from your own vocabulary, I think you’re manipulising the truthfulness a bit. Sara marvels at Joanie’s originality, and decides she’s going to be original too, by copying everything Joanie does. She does well, but doesn’t make any friends with her unabashed mimicry.

· The dreaded Elimination Tyra-Mail arrives, and the modules head for the Judgement Temple to face the judges. Like clockwork (albeit from a clock made from stupid gears and conceited springs), Jade rants to camera about how amazing she is, babbling “I am a threat. If I’m eliminated, the girls will be happy, like, they won’t have to deal with Jade anymore”. Word. Tyra, with a brand new skip through the Forest of Ridiculous Lumpy Hair, introduces the judges, including Spunky Nigel, who is now in charge of eighty percent of my estrogen.

· In this week’s Judgement Mini-Challenge, the modules are asked to don a mask and express three different emotions (sensuality, compassion and despair), using only their bodies. All five of the girls express all three of the emotions by waving their arms indiscriminately in the air, with Furonda again winning the ribbon for Most Likely To Be Mistaken For A Funnelweb Caught In A Garbage Disposal Unit.

· The photos from this week’s shoot are discussed – Furonda’s is surprisingly good, Daniele’s is gorgeous without a hint of her threatened elephant-upchuck, and Jade’s is fairly decent. Joanie’s photo is head, shoulders, arms, and abdomen above the others, and even though her legs are spread atop the elephant “Hello, Boys!” fashion, she still manages to look sophisticated and elegant. It’s almost a pity her manky tooth is gone – I could’ve done a whole paragraph of ‘tusk’ jokes. Sara looks stunning in her shot, but is given a spray about being a copycat. Tyra dribbles on about how copying is fine, as long as you ‘make it your own’, and I can’t help thinking that her job could easily be done by a three-year-old gibbon with a frock and a script.

· The modules’ names are called out one by one – Joanie is first, because she’s my new hero and I’m inviting her for coffee as soon as I can clear a space in my schedule. Sara is next, because she finally figured out she’s in a modelling competition, followed by Daniele, who is given even more schtick by Tyra about her incomprehensible accent. Leave her alone. She’s got new teeth. It comes down to Furonda the Funnelweb and Jade the Vacant Powerpoint – Furonda is told that she has a great personality (like that ever got a module anywhere), but that she just doesn’t get it, and Jade is told she marches to her own drum, and then quickly reminded that that’s a bad thing. Then, in the first sensible and logical moment ever recorded on American television, Furonda the Funnelweb is given the Flick. ABOUT TIME. The stuff I gouge out from under my toenails is more appealing than this girl, and better at dancing. Bye, Furonda! Don’t absorb any calories on your way out. As Jade collects her photo from Tyra, she thanks her for believing in Jade. Almost endearing herself to me, Tyra responds with “It’s not necessarily me believing in you, Jade”. Then she blinks, and I hate her again. Furonda wears her inane fuzzy pink tiara for her entire goodbye speech, and comments that the “judges must have lost their heads”. Whatever. Go eat something.

Next week, the modules do some ‘go-sees’ in giant decorative animal masks, there’s a photo-shoot in the ocean, and Joanie establishes her dominance by having a right old bee-yarch about Sara. Exotic. Aquatic. Despotic.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #10

A bit of a signature walk down memory lane this week, as we’re treated not to a new episode (Lord knows, it’s been 167 hours since the last one), but to a recap episode of some of the choicest moments (and a few unseen titbits, although not literally – this is sort of a family show) from the last nine weeks. And Jade being a twat.
Let’s do it then – the My Modules Are Repeating On Me episode.

· Goodness, but don’t our modules look different in episode one! Furonda has short hair but the same amount of acne and a virtually transparent body, Joanie still has her lycanthropic fang, and Sara has shoulder-length hair. Daniele looks almost exactly the same, save for her old dental four-lane highway now looking more like a country cow-trail, but Jade takes the prize for Most Gob-Smacking Transformation. Imagine an afro. Now double it. Now add some mean and take away just enough brain cells so blinking is still possible, but not much else. And there’s Jade! We’re reminded that even back then, she was still incredulous that she hasn’t been discovered yet as the next undiscovered supermodule. I think if you’re undiscovered, then becoming discovered would only put an end to your undiscovered status, and hence make you discovered. There. I’ve said it so many times it sounds funny.

· Joanie reveals a change-of-undies-strength crush on Spunky Nigel via the usual methods – gazing at a picture of him, and telling the world how hot he is by employing the help of a ventriloquist’s dummy. So much quicker than yanking the petals off a daisy. I suppose if I can’t have him (which hasn’t been established for certain yet – I still have people working on it), then I suppose Joanie can.

· We revisit Furonda’s Rules (instructions for the other modules typed, photocopied and handed out),and Furonda’s Tiara (stupid, pink, and eternally perched on her bony skull), both of which paint her with the Psycho Princess brush. At no point during this recap episode did I get a glimmer of understanding as to why this girl is here. I’ve seen chicken giblets that are more attractive.

· Remember Gina the Crazy Korean? None of us will ever forget the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach Debacle, during which we were treated to screams, minor mouth-vomiting, hand-waggling and general haute couture histrionics, but this week we discover something (albeit posthumously), we didn’t know. She bites. Even Gina can’t explain it, but when she’s fond of someone (like Daniele, whom she wanted to watch in the shower), she likes to pinch and bite them. She demonstrates on a few of her horrified mansion-mates, and I’m surprised that none of them hit her with a frypan.

· Bless the nosebleed heels challenge. Bless the sound of snapping fibulas. Bless the sight of wincing modules with twisted pinkie-toes crawling away from the judging panel. I simply cannot get enough of seeing models, in stupid shoes, in a lot of pain, trying to walk. Praise the lord.

· Oh, Janice. Janice Dickinson. Whether you’re shouting incoherently at strangers, throwing food at modules, hurling abuse at Crazy Koreans, slurping noodles through your pneumatic lips, or babbling like the chemically-enhanced Stepford-prototype you are, I can’t help but like you. You should be further sedated and put behind perspex, but I do so enjoy you.

· Can we please, PLEASE stop with Nnenna and the phonecalls to her boyfriend. What a freakin’ yawn. Furonda, in the only example of her not being a conceited, empty stick-insect, does a fair impersonation of Nnenna being mean to John. Nnenna pwobabwy thinks Fuwonda is being wecalcitwant.

· Hilarious dental hijinx – Daniele gets bored waiting for all the other modules to get their teeth whitened, so she visits Jade in the dentist’s chair, who has been told not to move whilst there’s a laser trained on her gums. Daniele decides to have a play with some of the equipment, and proceeds to vacuum Jade’s head with the spit-sucking doo-hickey. Gold. And no chance of brain damage.

· My favourite, favourite part of this recap episode is the montage of Jade making an absolute abortion of the English language. Honestly, my shower-pubes are smarter than this girl. After spelling “etcetera” as “E-X-C-E-D-E-A-R”, she offers a few more choice examples:
o “A lot of models have long, lengthly hair”
o “I’m a very analystic person”
o “The decipheration between confidence and cut-throat”
o “I can’t describe my tornness”
o “I like my brunetteness”
o “I need a releasement of stress”
o “Thank you for considerating me”
No, Jade. Thank YOU. Thank you for the bestowage of your literation blessingness upontop of us.

Next week – a proper episode, with stuff we haven’t seen before, including a Joanie-Jade barney, and somebody being rushed to the emergency room! Brand new fun. Fight’s begun. 911.

Friday, June 02, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #9

What's going on? Nnenna doesn't talk on the 'phone to her boyfriend. Joanie smiles properly. Jade goes a full hour without mentioning that she's the next undiscovered supermodule. Is it Armageddon? No. It's the Love You Long Time episode of America's Next Top Model.

I used to like Nnenna. Back in the olden days (like, as far back as episode two, even), she was a classy, quiet, regal girl with a pretty smile and a shiny head. Now look what's happened. Nnenna says (without irony, laughter or dry-retching) "Jade is my favourite person in the house", and the two pal around as great chums. I just can't have any respect for her now. It's like when two Ginger people become a couple - their choices are their choices, but buggered if I'm going to sit by and watch it.

Furonda practices her walk (I love that phrase - a bit like saying "Millicent rehearsed her blinking") by strutting up and down the Model Mansion hallway in heels and the ubiquitous pink fluffy tiara, looking a little like a pair of chopsticks holding a pink crayon. And struts. And struts. And complains afterwards that her "legs are burnin'". That's not sore muscles, honey. That's the acid in your empty stomach burning through the intestinal wall and eating away your flesh. Eat something, for f*ck's sake.

Daniele is fretting over whether or not to close the gap in her teeth after Tyra's catty instructions last week. She might not be able to model, but her future whistling career is practically set in stone. She considers the gap her trademark, and in the first of a goldmine of 'Gator-quotes, doesn't want to fix it "In case it looks jank". I don't know what that means. But I love it.

The modules are squeezed into and pushed out of their Model Tarago and go to visit Rachel, a media trainer. Rachel gives them some tips on effective interview technique, and embarrasses Nnenna by asking some probing questions about her boyfriend, at which point we're AGAIN shown footage of Nnenna kissing the male model, and I start thinking about carpet so I don't fall asleep. The girls are then sent one by one to a mock interview with George Wayne, a Vanity Fair columnist who I think, despite his macho job description, might be gay. He gives it to the girls with both barrels, with a bit of napalm thrown in for good measure. Echoing what we've all been thinking for weeks, he says to Jade "So what's with the head wrap?". She answers "It's the Jade look", and again reading our minds, George says "I don't know.... you seem like an arrogant b*tch to me". I think I want to keep this man as a pet. Jade continues to gush "I'm an exotic bi-racial butterfly", at which point I want to close her neck in a vise. After Daniele describes herself as "cantankerous", George asks her to spell it. She can't, but I'm pretty sure she deserves some props just for using the word, especially after using the word "jank" mere minutes before. George tells Joanie she's not pretty (Yep - he's gay), and asks Furonda if she's the Queen of Sheba, to which she replies that she's never been to Sheba. What? You've never been to a biblical kingdom now quite possibly buried under the sand on the southern Arabian peninsula? Are you sure?? George has a go at Daniele's accent (but not her gap, surprisingly), tells Nnenna she's a snob, and repeats the oft-dragged-out Sara-was-found-in-a-mall-and-doesn't-want-to-be-here mantra. Nnenna, despite sounding like a beauty pageant contestant, wins the challenge and picks Jade to share in her mystery spa treatment prize.

Daniele agonises again over her to-gap-or-not-to-gap dilemma, and calls her Momma for a pep talk. As she says, "When I'm trippin', I call my Momma". What a good Momma she is, too - after a few crackly, well-chosen words, I wanted to catch a plane to the deep south myself just to have this woman serve me milk and cookies. In the dentist's chair the next day, Daniele agrees to narrow the 'Gator Gap, but not close it completely, so where a semi-trailer full of sumo wrestlers could have fit through before, now there's only room for a thin midget on a postie-bike. Now she can say to Tyra "There. I've had my gap closed. Now what are we going to do about your massive shiny forehead?".

Now for the Worst Dramatic Set-Up Involving Bad Puns Award. The modules sit down for dinner in a restaurant in a familiar scenario that usually involves a 'surprise' Tyra visit and gee-up. Suddenly a drag queen dressed and made-up as Tyra bursts into the room, and it takes a full minute for me to notice any difference. It was all there - the dumb waxy hair, the 'My-Make-Up-Artist-Has-An-Astigmatism' pancake, the ridiculous costume jewellery and the intolerable shouting of a person who hasn't had the concept of a microphone properly explained to them. Uncanny, except for the Adam's apple, which the drag queen didn't seem to have. The 'real' Tyra (and I use the term loosely) enters soon after, and the two Tyras have a hammy, badly-scripted argument about who is the impersonator and who is the impersonatee. The argument gallops clunkily towards its climax with each Tyra shouting "I'm Ty!", "No, I'm Ty!", and explodes with the embarrassing pun "We're all gonna be Ty, because we're goin' to THAILAND!!!" I'm glad I wrote that down in my notes, because my brain keeps rejecting it as unworthy for storage. The overseas trip has been a feature of all six series of ANTM, with the first four groups of likelies being packed off to the obvious fashion centres of Paris, Milan, London, and Japan, and last series' mob going to the slightly less obvious not-quite-fashion-mecca of South Africa. Despite the girls possibly being disappointed about being sent to the culture-rich but fashion-poor (despite a thriving bootleg knock-off industry) Thailand, they all excitedly gush to camera about their impending jaunt. Daniele even forgets her recent dental angst with "Forget the gap, sucka! You goin' to Thailand!". Jade's to-camera rants are decidedly sedate this week. It's amazing what a good maternal fluffing-down can do. Joanie excitedly exclaims that her only overseas trip so far has been to Canada, and Furonda wonders whether Thailand is "ready for Furonda". Depends on what you can do with ping-pong balls, my dear.

After a strange animated representation of the modules' plane trip, they arrive in Thailand and are picked up from the airport in a luxurious pink panel-van and taken to their shiny new Bangkok apartment. The girls study up on their basic Thai phrases and customs in their Lonely Planet guides (I assume Jade just looks at the pictures), although Furonda focuses mainly on how to say "How much?" and "That's too much". She's extremely wide-eyed and excited about having 3,000 baht, which she doesn't seem to realise will buy her a couple of t-shirts and a stir-fry.

Nnenna and Jade discover that their challenge prize is a day-spa including a massage, and the other girls discover that they'll be doing the massaging, which seems to disappoint all present. It must be hard to anticipate massaging Jade without indulging in a couple of bludgeoning-to-death fantasies, or at least a brisk mouth-gaffering. Furonda curls her lip and says "They're gonna be naked? I'm not happy with the whole touching thing", and, while the other girls proceed dutifully to oil and knead, Furonda uses one finger and a pained expression to rub Nnenna's calf. After the "massage", Joanie comments that "Furonda is just doing her own thing, not giving a rat's arse" (her effective use of the phrase only endearing her to me more), and Furonda sighs "Now that's over, I can go wash my finger". The girl used to work in a phone-sex call centre, but can't touch another person's calf with more than one finger. There's some kind of glaring double-standard or childhood trauma thing there that I really don't want investigated.

PHOTO SHOOT: Our modules meet Jay at the floating markets, where they're told they'll be dressed as mermaids and suspended upside-down over the water in a fishnet-cum-harness with seaweed and some dead fish, to advertise suntan lotion. You know - just another humdrum day at the office. The newly-dentisted Daniele is first, and looks fantastic, an illusion almost ruined by her disgusted, twangy, classic complaints like "Is that fish juice I just felt?", "I just threw up in my mouth a little bit", and "My uterus is flat as a pancake right now". Jay advises her to "Work with it, girl". Nnenna was a boring, flaccid mermaid with all the charm of a beach-strewn lungfish, her excuse being that she wasn't 'feeling it' due to her lack of mermaid-esque hair. Oh, blow it out your gills, woman. I'm sick of you. Jade (wait - I just have to stab a fork in my thigh) does a really good job, and even manages not to look like an angry powerpoint in a couple of shots. Sarah, whose interestingness is becoming more and more comparable to a ream of A4 paper, does an adequate job, and is turned off by Furonda's "diva attitude" when she-of-the-constant-tiara comments that she would rather be in an air-conditioned trailer. Furonda grimaces with harness-induced pain and complains that "her womanly space is hurting". Sweetheart, if you're going to be a model, you need to learn to become one with your hoo-hoo. Joanie looks like a gorgeous, bona fide glamour-mermaid, and also shatters this illusion by claiming, upside-down, that she feels like she's going to throw up her morning coffee, punctuated by a bit of a gurgly burp. She recovers and takes some excellent shots, all the time worried that her inverted knockers are going to escape her bikini and offend the Thai women she's precariously suspended over.

JUDGMENT: A Tyra-mail announces the impending elimination, causing Jade and Nnenna to discuss how upset the world might be if they were eliminated. Relieved and content in the fact that the cosmos has an innate sense of justice, maybe, but upset? No. The modules file into the new Thai Judgement Temple and are greeted by Tyra and her ridiculous hairstyle, both of whom introduce the judges, starting with Spunky Nigel, whom I would use more than one finger to massage. The elimination mini-challenge involves each girl stepping forward and 'selling themselves' (thankfully not in the traditional Bangkok style) to the judges with a quick two-minute sales spiel. Joanie compares life to Little Athletics and beauty to a sword, Sarah gushes about how intelligent she is, and Furonda says very little, allowing her inappropriately sparkly frock to speak for itself. Jade announces that you should never judge a book by the cover, that her versatile face allows her to transform herself into all types of ethnic backgrounds (perhaps ignoring the existence of the entire Scandinavian region), and that her body is very 'proportionable'. Nnenna drones on and on in a tedious monotone that would put a Ritalin-testing lab-rat to sleep, and I find myself wishing there was enough lint in my belly-button to get me through it. Daniele is just herself, and the judges almost dissolve with relief when she chats like a normal (albeit Amazonian) human being.

The judges deliberate, Spunky Nigel giving Jade a jab by noting that "sometimes the cover is more interesting than the contents", and Twiggy cowers at the end of the desk, just saying "Jade frightens me. Please don't ever leave me alone in a room with her". The modules are called back into the room, and have their names called one by one until only Nnenna the Boring Nigerian and Furonda the Funnelweb remain. Tyra and her hair start in on the Weekly Wrist-Slitting Invitational, telling Nnenna that her initial potential is now fading into a big boring nothing, and informing Furonda that, despite her recent improvement, she's no model. I must admit I agree with the Furonda comment - whoever she's been sleeping with to get her this far must be both powerful and desperate. Despite Furonda's uncanny resemblance to a pimpled crack-monkey, she makes the cut, and Nnenna is sent packing. Bye, Nnenna! Don't call your boyfriend on the way out.

My amended picks for the final two are Daniele and Joanie, because they're beautiful, personable, and don't need slapping.

Next week, more Thai adventures, temper tantrums, and eliminations. Curry Puff. Catty Huff. Good enough?