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Thursday, June 28, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Eight #3

Modelling is a world in which things you and I have known how to do since nappy-crapping are known as skills. Talking. Walking. Playing dress-ups. Pulling faces.
This week's episode is almost entirely devoted to Learning How To Walk, although I sincerely hope that Learning How To Talk follows swiftly behind. I'm looking at you, Natasha. And Jaslene. And Jael. And Felicia. And maybe Tyra. Not you, Nigel. You're perfect.

Put one leg in front of the other, stick your norks out, and pout like you're sucking on a marble. It's the Walking The Dog episode of America's Next Top Model.

· First, for the time-poor, The Nutshell Version: Twelve girls go back to school, walk around in outfits plucked straight from Satan's Ironic Punishment Range (available at Target), Renee scowls, Jaslene thinks she's the Modelling Messiah, Tyra's still a pirate, and someone goes home.

· As in every episode of every series, the modules express their insecurities to loved ones back home by way of telephony. Jaslene speaks Spanish to her madre, telling her how fierce she is, and sounds a little like she's deaf. Samantha obviously is deaf, as she apparently hasn't heard me yelling "DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE GOD-AWFUL EYEBROWS!" repeatedly at the television. Why, oh why, must we wait so long for a makeover episode? Bring tweezers, a whipper-snipper, and some ordinary household bleach, STAT. Samantha tells her mother that she feels different from the other girls (because she has gigantic unkempt eyebrows), and that she'll never forget who she is (you're the girl with the gigantic unkempt eyebrows).

· A Tyra-Mail arrives, saying "Babies learn how to do it – can you?", and the girls correctly guess that the theme of the week is "walking" and not "poohing in a real toilet". The Big Pink Hummer (which I'm just dying to turn into a euphemism), delivers the modules to a high school football field, where they're met by Miss Jay leading a marching band with a series of disturbing arse-wiggles. Watching Miss Jay sometimes feels like I've just walked in on an uncle trying on a dress. Dionne displays her vast fashion vocabulary, commenting that "he has on his little - whatever kind of hat that was". Miss Jay tells the girls that runway walking is all about timing, precision, and choreography, to which I would add "moving one's feet" and "looking constipated".

· Miss Jay and the modules all get changed – the modules into bad high school sportswear (read: ugly polyester shorts and shirts with heels and sun-visors), and Miss Jay into an outfit viewable in several nightmares I'm having next week. He's dressed as a private school girl, in a skirt, blouse and plaits. My gorge rises, but then recoils quickly in horror. I hate it when my gorge does that. Each girl is required to walk up and down a white line (I don't know whether to make a joke about Johnny Cash or Grandmaster Flash. What's that? Neither? Right. Carry on) whilst Miss Jay critiques their technique. Nobody really sucks, but we see the first glimmers of Jaslene's diva fever as she works the running track like it's her bitch, saying "I found Miss Jay's suggestions helpful, but this is who I am". Renee throws her a narrowed acidic squint, pinpointing her as enemy number one for the week. In Spanish, that's numero uno. My favourite part of this segment, though, and the reason I want a talking Natasha doll, is when Miss Jay tells her she "walks like she's marching" (which is actually being nice, as she walks like she's controlled by a fitting puppeteer). To camera, Natasha is a little confused, saying "Miss Jay – he say I walk like Martian". Seriously, if this girl ever learns English, I'll be very, very upset.

· The second part of the lesson starts, and Miss Jay splits the girls into groups of three and gives them a choreographed runway routine to perform. He says "Three girls walk from point A to B, the girl in the middle stops, the other two continue and cross over. On the way back, the centre girl will walk while the others wait, then they'll all go back together". Understandably, Natasha says "What?". Sarah, right before falling out of her shoes, smarms "I think it's much easier to walk in heels because you have more elegance". Unfortunately for you, dear girl, you still only have the same amount of chin.

· A bell rings, and the modules are corralled into the school gym, where they're met by Roy Campbell, best known for organising community fashion parades in churches, because Jesus Loves Fashion. Roy, like Phillip Bloch last week, also has a creepy pencil moustache. Seriously – has that look ever really worked for anyone? I'm offended on behalf of pencils. This week's challenge is announced, with the promise of a BIG prize – the girls must take part in a fashion parade in front of school students and their parents, executing the same choreographed moves they just practiced on the football field. The theme of the parade is "Prom", with sub-themes of 'modern contemporary', 'the Eighties', and 'ghetto fabulous', my current favourite oxymoron. Miss Jay walks out in a blue taffeta meringue and an up-do. Honestly – he's just not trying anymore.

· A "make-up stylist" is introduced, and her only function is to say the words "Cover Girl" as many times as possible. Whilst a shameless and repetitive product plug pretending to be a beauty seminar should be interesting, I'm momentarily distracted by my knees.

· Parade: yes. Fashion: no. Puffy taffeta and polka dots: hell, yes. Hollywood tape: regrettably, no. The parade starts with relatively sedate beauty-pageant-esque gowns, moves on to re-hee-hee-volting puffy taffeta and crimped hair, and comes to a climax with hoochie slut frocks of the kind that prostitutes dress in briefly between clients. Jaslene spends a lot of time telling the other modules in two different languages how good she's going to be. Renee announces that this is her time to show people what she can do. Way to summarise the whole point of the challenge, arsehole. The second time Sarah walks out, she winks at the audience, but on her final strut she gives them so much more. In front of students and parents alike, both of her boosies escape her dress and lead her down the runway and back, neither winking nor blinking. She says "I just kept on going – I'm not going to let anything ruin my runway walk". How about an indecent exposure lawsuit, honey? Would that do? After a quick Yearbook Committee meeting, the students vote her Girls Whose Boobs We Wanted To See Least. The other modules barely notice, busy as they are with bumping into each other.

· Roy assesses the girls' performance, and is most critical about Sarah and her double exposure (She claims she didn't know it was a bad idea to flash at children), Renee and her dishwater-blandness (She says "I really don't care – the crowd was loving me"), and Jaslene and her general air of being lost (initially thinking she's going to be complimented, she does the best facial impression of instant heartbreak ever seen off Broadway). He tells Natasha that she "wasn't cognizant of the other girls on the runway", and he might as well have told her she was a purple reticulated aeroplane. Surprisingly, no criticism is thrown Brittany's way, despite the fact that she looked like she was trying to mix two separate cakes in different directions, and she wins the BIG prize. The prize is a gigantic four-foot trophy. With a gold spray-painted shoe on top. Gold. Spray-painted. Shoe. It's like winning a Mary Schneider album in an orchestral eisteddfod or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like winning a cup of cold sick in a chook raffle.

· Ladies and Gentlemen: we's got us some bitchy. Renee, smirking and smoking, asks Jaslene how she felt about her critique. She then says to camera "I feel that Jaslene is self-centred and cocky, but I also feel she's insecure". Aaah, the pot and the kettle – together at last! Felicia, able to be catty without the assistance of actual eyebrows, looks directly at Jaslene when she says "People are mad because they're not in the top anymore – they're just hang-around girls", and I don't know what she means. Jaslene says "Speak for yourself, darling", and "Coming in here and talking about all that smack", and I don't know what she means. Then Jaslene says "Dumbaaaasssss". I know what she means.

· Reading a eulogy for a dead horse, this week's high-school-themed photo shoot gets underway, in which the modules are dressed as "high school clichés" and photographed in situ. Mr Jay reads out the list of clichés, apparently from the Roget's Thesaurus entry for "slut". To summarise:
o Jael is the Class Nerd, and in a surprise comparable to finding three equal sides in an equilateral triangle, she's given a pair of spectacles to wear. And a knitted vest with a raccoon on it. She's happy, and says "this is definitely something I'd wear".
o Sarah is the Class Flirt (Slut), and she sits at a desk and giggles. Her giggle frightens me to the core of my icy soul, and she's about as sexy as Julie Andrews. Jay loves her, but she says "because I used to do photography, I think about it too much. Did I tell you I used to do photography? I used to do photography".
o Dionne is the Class Bad Girl (Slut), and she looks like a very pretty biker skank mole indeed.
o Cassandra is the Cheerleader (Slut), wearing a demure cardigan open to the waist. She explains her special method of channeling the spirit of the cheerleader: "I got to be reluctant".
o Renee is the Class Clown in a frilly ruff, harlequin-printed bodysuit and bright pink bra. She pulls strange faces and jumps up and down, and whinges that she's been treated unfairly. "Why can't I get things I'm good at, like the other girls are? They keep giving me stuff that they know I'm not good at". Clearly, Renee feels that she should have been dressed like a slut. Poor Renee.
o Samantha is the Girl With The Bad Reputation (Slut), and she feels a bit uncomfortable. "This is not me at all," she complains. "Last week I was a lesbian, and now I'm a ho". Samantha, Miss Butterbean Festival 2006, you are clearly, clearly neither.
o Brittany is the Valedictorian in a bad frilly blouse and a mortarboard. She has a pretty face. Next.
o Whitney is the Mean Girl, which is apparently Big Girl Who Owns A Handbag. Yawn.
o Diana is the Student Body President in a beret and a bob. She poses well, and has a seriously stunning face and a great, fashionable outfit. But… um… she's like, fat and stuff. I don't get it.
o Felicia is the Girl Jock in a wrestling leotard, and I have to admit – when an outsider is brought in to draw proper eyebrows on this girl's face, she's gorgeous. Jumps around gracefully. Nails it.
o Jaslene is the Weird Girl in goth make-up, overcoat, and deerhunter hat. Comment on school report: "Jaslene has been told repeatedly to not hide semi-automatic weapons under her clothing. A troubled, troubled young man". Jay wets himself with enthusiasm. Renee pops herself a new forehead-vein of jealous rage.
o Natasha is Teacher's Pet in big curls and a shapeless printed sack, and says "I don't unnerstand – should I be innocent or more saxy?". Jay just tells her to stop looking like she's sitting on the toilet. This modeling shit's hard.

· A Tyra-Mail arrives announcing the impending elimination. Jael reads it to the house wearing only a black wig and a pair of undies. Scene.

· The modules pile into the Elimination Vestibule to learn their fate, and Tyra is again dressed as a pirate. She drones through the prizes which I think include a pair of tweezers and a pineapple, and introduces the judges including Spunky Nigel, who I'm laundering my gussets for. Miss Jay is wearing a jaunty ruffle around his neck, which is explained as a new Elimination Element. Every time a module is eliminated, he'll add another ruffle to his outfit, confirming my suspicions that at ANTM Production Meetings they serve coffee, tea, and crack. Photos are picked apart one by one, accompanied by Tyra's invaluable advice, including golden nuggets such as "You can look like a 'ho, but make it fashion", "You know how to jump and keep your face nice", and "I call it the novocaine mouth". Natasha is given some stern criticism which makes her beam with delight – with her IQ and command of English, I suspect all she hears is either praise or a brisk polka played on the accordion.

· Names are ominously called until only Natasha and Samantha are left. Natasha is told she's got a gorgeous face that doesn't translate into good photos (you've got a gorgeous face, oom-pah-pah), and Samantha is told that she takes gorgeous photos, but that she's not ready for modeling yet. Time passes, an accordion distantly plays, and Samantha is given the elbow. Bye, Samantha! Don't lose your keys in your great shaggy eyebrows on your way out!

· Wait – Renee didn't mention her son all episode. Maybe he died.

Next week, the girls FINALLY get a makeover, Renee lets off some more bitchy steam, and Jael gets a tragic message from home. New hues. Short fuse. Bad news.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #11

If you're on stage and people throw food at you, it's called 'heckling'.
If you're at summer camp and people throw food at you, it's called 'food fight'.
If you're at Steak N' Chicks Tuesday and people throw food at you, it's called 'Teppanyaki'.

In icy rain, nipple-hardeningly cold weather and an official Sydney cyclone warning (which turned out to be a Category Two Breeze), a bunch of swish broads descended upon North Sydney for this month's Steak N' Chicks Tuesday.

19th June 2007 – Shinju Teppanyaki, Berry St North Sydney

The Place
This joint ain't half cultured n' that. I suspect that when it was being fitted out, the owner just handed the builder a copy of The Vapors' album and said "Track Two". To get to the main Teppanyaki Temple, one is led by a kimono-ed hostess past a tasteful and quiet bar, across an indoor bridge (over which we insisted on walking as if on a Fashion Week catwalk), and artfully-designed rocks into a black-lacquer, bamboo-ey room of typical Japanese comfortable sparsity. Like, everything's really rectangular, y'know?
A clutch of large teppanyaki grill stations dominate the room, emanating their gratefully-received heat and less-gratefully-received promise of food-related humiliation. And the plates were nice.
The toilets were, unfortunately, a different story. I asked a quiet hostess where they were, and she bowed her head and directed me with a subtle and polite hand gesture. She could just as easily have said "Follow the white rabbit down the burrow until you smell armpit". Two short corridors and a steep flight of echo-ey stairs get you to the bathroom, seemingly furnished from Crazy Dave's Tired Old Plumbing Supplies, and I think Crazy Dave threw in a can of Rugby League Air Freshener. Nup.
Amanda advised that the boys' toilet had much nicer toilet paper than the girls' toilet. She's such a freakin' huss.

The People
Alyson organised this month's culinary shenanigans, and anyone who can get eight chicks out of the house in unglamorous temperatures is indeed a Girl Of Social Talent. Also present were tireless regulars Claire, Alex and myself, consistent attendees Lucette and Amanda, and virgins Kelly (a virgin in the ways of both Steak N Chicks and teppanyaki, so immediately challenged to eat a prawn head) and Nikki.

Other diners included what looked like family and work groups, none of whom were a match for our decibel-heavy repartee, facilitated by a few warm-up drinks at The Firehouse on Walker St beforehand.
Staff were easily placed in two categories: Quiet, Dignified and Polite (the wait-staff), and Smutty, Smutty, and Not Very Good At Throwing (our grill-man, Rici).
Yes, a teppanyaki chef should be entertaining and charismatic. He should not, at every possible opportunity, direct the table's attention towards a diner's boobs or arse. Doesn't matter how funny it is. And it's pretty funny.

The Food
Good teppanyaki is flavoursome, crispy 'round the edges, deep in saucy brownness and of the kind that shouts "Hello, Lucky Tongue!".
This was not good teppanyaki. It was, y'know - fine. It was not good.
We went (except for Claire, who opted for the vego menu) for the Osaka Set Menu for $32 a head, which consisted of:
Salad – which was 100% fat-free. It was also 100% salad-free, as it never actually arrived on the table.
Miso Soup – Miso is miso is miso, and this was some. Not bad.
Prawns – Quite nice, and actually full of flavour. Unfortunately some of that flavour came from the pooh-tube that had been left in mine, despite Rici's artful knifey removal-theatrics.
Vego Tofu – this was part of Claire's menu, and Rici deftly cut a big block of the stuff into smaller blocks which, really, anyone with a blunt knife and a trained monkey can do. Carnivores who were still hungry after their single prawn were offered a piece of tofu by Claire, who found herself with around sixteen pieces of it. It was nice - but it was still tofu.
Fish – disappointing. Pale and flabby, with not much flavour.
Beef – After slabbing half a cow on the grill and slicing it up, we expected grandness and received blandness. I'll throw some points on the board for the mouth-melting tenderness, but the flavour gets one-and-a-half disgruntled bovines.
Vegetables – by "vegetables", I apparently mean "onion and cabbage", which also means "keep the bedroom window open". I never, ever say this, but: more salt, please.
Chicken – oh, okay. Delicious.
Vego Vegetables – Claire's special veg consisted of baby corn and mushrooms, which tasted exactly like two different vegetables in like, sauce.
Eggy Rice – everybody knows that this is the throwy-catchy bit of the Teppanyaki Experience (more detail below), and all I'll say is that for the entertaining, hilarious trauma we suffered through to get it, we really should have been rewarded with more than bowls full of anaemic, tasteless glug. It was, again, sort of okay. It was… there.

The Show
Oh, Rici. You're so fine. You're so fine you make suggestive comments about food and body parts. Phnar!
I'm not sure if Rici had a bung throwing arm, or if he was just intentionally getting food all over us and the floor so we'd keep wiping ourselves off and bending over. At any rate, I learnt, the hard way, to never wear a suede skirt to Teppanyaki again.
· Eggs balancing on end on the grill. I know they do this at every Teppanyaki restaurant, but it still looks cool. I wish I didn't always imagine that there was a chick inside, wondering why its arse was suddenly getting hot.
· Whenever we were required to catch something in our bowls, Rici would shout "Open your legs, please! More wider, more better!". Rici. You randy goat.
· When my egg landed squarely on the aforementioned suede, Rici said "Take it off – I'll clean it for you". Rici. You horny bastard.

· Rici asked Claire to close her eyes and open her mouth. Repeatedly. He then, without actually throwing any food into her mouth, just thanked her and went about his business. Rici. You saucy devil.
· Rici asked Nikki to sit backwards on her chair, then he asked me to spoon rice down the back of her top. Rici. You sneaky arsehole.
· Nikki caught an egg in her crotch.
· Rici asked Alex to stand up, move back, turn around, bend over, and hold out her bowl between her legs. In what then became Teriyaki Porn, he shouted things like "I'm coming!", "Don't shake or I can't get it in!", and "Wider!" before throwing egg and rice all over her. Alex, gastronomically showered, said quietly "That was the lowest point in my life".
· Rather than the traditional "Thank You", Rici spelt out "Rici's Angel" in salt at the end of the meal, illustrating it with twee lovehearts and an angel. Rici. You tacky motherf*cker.

The Summarising Bit
Teppanyaki is nothing if not entertaining, and we laughed until we hurt. I've definitely had better food before, though, and if I have to open my legs and mouth that wide, I usually expect a bit more.
Don't wear anything dry-cleanable, and bring your own salt.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lithp Poem

Oh, I like to thing thongth about thongth.
Not the undieth (worn under tharongth),
But the thooth on my feet,
Worn to walk down the thtreet –
Known ath flip-flopth by thome (which ith wrong).

But there aren't many thongth about thongth.
They all focuth on love that'th gone wrong.
Thingularly obthethed
With jutht kithing, or theckth,
It theemth thongth about thongth don't belong.

Yeth, there thould be more thongth about thongth,
To help muthical'th thtorieth along.
They would be jutht terrific
In Greathe, Thouth Pathific,
Thweeney Todd, Godthpell or Mith Thaigon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Eight #2

This show is so not about modeling it's not funny. Except it is. It's very, very funny.

Some of you don't have time to read a whole re-cap, so I'll introduce the Nutshell Version: Thirteen girls roll around in meat, fur, and second-hand clothes, Tyra's a pirate, Nigel's hot, and someone goes home. There.

Long version:

I'm so politically enlightened right now I could burn my admittedly highly-flammable bra.
Despite the fact that the main players in this farce probably still think the Republican Party involves champagne and canapés, and can barely tell (or spell) the difference between activism and autism, they all brought out the politically-charged goods this week in a "controversial" photo-shoot, a charity-driven fashion show, and a quick spot of high-fashion hula-hooping.

These are modules with conscience. These are not always modules with consonants.
And this is the Politics of Prancing episode of America's Next Top Model.

· The modules are in Hollywood, and I'm in limbo – I'm torn between two villains, and I can't decide who to hate or ridicule the most. Only fair to do a pros and cons list, really:
o Renee
Pros: Determined. Really quite pretty.
Cons: Has a son, whom she talks about relentlessly. Highly-strung and competitive, causing her to refer to situations as "battles", "wars", and other military descriptors. Sobs at the drop of a hat.
I'm Calling Her: The Crying General.

o Sarah
Pros: Determined. Ummmm… owns and uses her own pancreas.
Cons: Has a little bit of experience as a photographer, so thinks she knows everything. Tells people she knows everything. Not very pretty. Complete absence of functioning chin.
I'm Calling Her: The Neck.

I'm pretty sure I hate Sarah more. I only want to give Renee a stern talking to and a bit of a shake. I kind of want to pop Sarah's eyeballs with a fork.

· One thing about the US series – the screaming really gives me the pip. Agent Starling thought the lambs were bad – she never stayed in a mansion with these excitable freaks. After Mr Jay (in another hilarious attempt by producers to make him look macho) rides in on a motorcycle and removes his helmet (keeping his concrete hair intact), he just says the words "Final 13!", and is engulfed by a wave of shrieking screamingness. Jay then comes over all serious, and talks about making a statement, adding, without laughing, that Fashion Is Political. Y'see – America's Next Top Module will become a household name, so she has to stand for something. Judging by previous winners, the household in question is on a first-name basis with their local waitress.

· Based on the above rubbish, Jay outlines this week's photo shoot, in which each girl will be dressed up to represent a different political ish-you and then photographed by Spunky Nigel Barker, who I'm reinforcing my bedsprings for. The ish-you of "war" is neatly skirted around (in neat skirts), presumably because it's so irrelevant to young Americans today. Anyway, it might be Winter here in Sydney, but I'm in a summary kind of mood:
o Brittany – represents "pro-fur" – in a surprise comparable to finding a walnut in a bag of walnuts, she's dressed in fur, and doesn't look too bad for a fifty-year old Manhattan dowager. She says "it's weird to have the head of an animal on your shoulder", proving that she and I have different taste in men.

o Kathleen – represents "anti-fur" – dressed in a funky vinyl jacket, she admits that "I actually do like fur – it makes you look hot", which is exactly what most furry animals think right before they're bludgeoned and skinned. She's not forthcoming with the modelly poses, and Spunky Nigel asks her if she knows what a 'high fashion' look is, and she answers in Brooklyn sing-song "That's a serious look, right?".

o Jaslene – represents "pro-death-penalty" – dressed in a hooded medieval smock, brandishing a morning star, anyone else would look violently matronly. Jaslene, using Tyra vernacular, looks feeee-yerss.

o Sarah – represents "pro-life-in-prison" (because we're not scraping the bottom of the theme-barrel here, no sir) – dressed in a tight-but-boring prison guard's uniform, The Neck looks like The Freak from Prisoner/Cell Block H, but skinnier and a little bit gayer. She says "Nigel knows I'm a photographer, so he's expecting more from me". Nigel says "meh".

o Diana – represents "pro-gun" – Plus-Size White is dressed as Linda Hamilton and bounces around holding a pistol. It's a bit like watching Terminator II in Really Wide Screen, except distinctly uninspiring.

o Renee – represents "anti-gun" – dressed as a hippie, holding a gun (wha?) she claims that it's "hard to portray peaceful". Being Girl Most Likely To Have An Aneurism, I believe her. Cries before going into make-up. Cries whilst having make-up applied. Manages to make rifle-toting look appealing.

o Jael – represents "pro-life" – dressed as a housewife chained to a door labelled "Clinic". Jael has a touch of the grippe, and coughs and sniffs her way through her underwhelming shoot. At one point she feels like she may pass out, but at the last minute she realizes exactly what she needs, and says "maybe I need to hula-hoop a little bit to feel better", which is like putting on Rachmaninoff if you feel like relaxing, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like asking Laurie Lawrence to read you a bedtime story.

o Natasha – represents "pro-choice" – in an outfit conceived whilst the stylists were on a cigarette-break, our mail-order bride is dressed in white bra and undies with the words "pro choice" painted in red on her stomach. She's not quite getting the political theme, and announces that "I not gonna be involved in policks. I just gonna be model". Sweet Baby Jesus, I love this woman.

o Whitney Plus-Size Black and Samantha – represent "gay marriage" – dressed in stuff. Holding hands. Jay tries to help their portrayal by advising them that "lesbians aren't serious all the time". He's right, though – look at Ellen DeGeneres. And.. um… oh. Whilst seeing an overweight girl in a suit and a willowy southern peach gaze into each other's eyes with faux Sapphic lust should be interesting, I'm momentarily distracted by prime numbers.

o Felicia – represents "straight marriage" – dressed in bridal gown, marries a mannequin. Sorry. Can't get past the eyebrows.

o Dionne – represents "vegan" – nude except for artfully draped vegetables. Whatever. Is this over yet?

o Cassandra – represents "pro-meat" – surrounded by burgers, ham, and some roast chickens, she looks like Tootie from The Facts Of Life – The Abattoir Years.

· Our girls are shown to their Module Mobile – a pink Hummer limo complete with chandeliers and pictures of Tyra the Messiah. Scream. They're driven to the Module Mansion, with its obligatory palm trees, lap pool, themed rooms, practice catwalk and.. er.. a row of flame coming out of a… a thing. Scream. Kathleen gushes "we open the doors and it's like freakin' hea-ven", whilst Natasha, ever the flapping Russian cyclone, jumps on a bed and breaks a lamp. Haven't we seen this scene before? Like, every fucking series? Jael saves the repetitive monotony from becoming overwhelming by putting on boxing gloves and a blue wig, and gives Renee a quick pash. That girl's like a breath of fresh air from the lungs of a crippled emphysemic smoker. Bless her.

· A Tyra-Mail (accompanied by screaming) whisks the girls off to a mystery location with the words "one woman's trash is another woman's treasure". Kathleen is suspicious, moaning "I just know I'm gonna have to do something with like… crap". On this show? Are you sure? The location turns out to be a Goodwill second-hand clothing store, and the modules are met by Miss Jay and stylist-to-the stars Phillip Bloch. Phillip Bloch is a spooky looking, John Waters-esque kind of guy with creepy eyes, gluey hair, and a pencil moustache. I think there might be some kind of rule that requires stylists to look like day-old shit – like how women selling skin cream at department stores are required to have golfball-sized moles on their foreheads. As the "gentlemen" explain, today's challenge is to rummage through the racks for dusty frocks in three minutes and find a look that epitomizes each girl's personal style. Their 'looks' will then be chucked down the runway in front of a motley, homeless-looking audience, and auctioned to raise money for charity. Oh, realism. I miss you so.

· Have you ever let the air slowly out of something and been left with a soggy pile of useless deflated plastic? Yes? Excellent. I believe we're all on the same page. A stream of uninteresting polyester over-acts its way down the runway with very few highlights other than those in the modules' very bad hair. Renee complains that she's having trouble because "there are no thrift shops in Maui". Natasha seems to think she's a tiger in heat. Miss Jay describes Kathleen as "straight up Brooklyn hoochie". Diana looks – um – fat. Sarah craps on about how she's "walked fashion shows before". Jael rocks it in a tiny, tiny skirt. I thank God for gin, and furthermore, tonic.

· The fashion parade raises a massive $286, and the winner gets to both sign the oversized novelty cheque and be styled by Spooky Phillip for elimination. That's a prize, see. Jael wins, and I think she goes on to fret to camera about not wanting to seem to pleased just in case the other girls start hating her, but I'm not sure, as she speaks like an alcoholic with a mouth full of marbles. Renee pouts her mean, pointy pout and thinks the win is undeserved, saying "the only reason she won is because she's a thrift-shopper – it's not a model thing", speaking like a spurned cheerleader with a mouth full of sour grapes. Minor terse words are spoken, but we don't even get a proper fight out of it. Gypped. I wants me skinny dumb moles with their claws out, or what's the point, y'know?

· Another Tyra-Mail announces the impending Elimination Ceremony, and Phillip Bloch arrives to style Jael. He takes her from Scrag to Scrag With Eyeshadow in just under two hours. The upcoming ousting elicits visible cracks of pressure in most of the modules, becoming manifest in various ways. Renee bitches to whoever will listen about how much she can't stand everyone, and says "they can win all the battles, I'm gonna win this war". Oh, honey. You're going to get hypertension and a smack in the chops, is what. Sarah says "I know I'm not going home", which I suspect we'll hear from her sucky teacher's pet mouth every week. Kathleen, like, freaks out and like, says "like" like, a lot.

· The girls file into the Elimination Parlour, and are greeted by Tyra, who looks like a pirate today, although it's less "pieces of eight" than "eight piece bucket". The prizes are rattled through, which I think include a push-up bra and a box of paperclips, and Tyra introduces this series' judges. Same as last series – Miss Jay, Twiggy (in my grandmother's blouse), and Spunky Nigel. Hi, Nigel. I made you a cake. You can lick the bowl.

· Photos are whacked up on the big screen, with some notable comments:
o Jael excuses her lacklustre expression by letting the judges know she was ill. Tyra doesn't buy it, claiming that even when she's been sick, she's been able to turn up and "lead this panel". Tyra! I had no idea! The sacrifice! I know when I have the flu, the last thing I want to do is sit in a chair in a room and look fat.
o Renee tells everyone she has a son. More news, page four.
o Nigel tells Diana that even though her "pro-gun" photo isn't much chop, he "enjoyed shooting her". Ha! Get it? Oh, Nigel. You're so funny I could pour stuff on you slowly.
o Kathleen delivers, without question, the best bit of the entire show. After being asked off-hand if she's anti-fur like her photo, she says "Like, if an animal is alive, you shouldn't kill it, but if it's already dead, you can take the skin off". Got it. Only kill an animal if it's dead. Then, after the sound of crickets has subsided and she's asked to elaborate on the 'already dead' part, she says "Animals fight each other in the jungle, right?" and "People die naturally sometimes". She's got a point. Let's wear stuff made out of humans. It's not that she's stupid. She's just a fucking idiot.

· After the judges deliberate over the truly god-awful photos, the modules line up to face their fate, and Tyra, leaving around two weeks between each one, reads out the names of the successful. Eventually it comes down to Kathleen The Moron and Jael The Hoarse – Kathleen is told that she has a bright spirit, and hair to match, but absolutely no clue, and Jael is told that she's funky and quirky, but afraid to succeed because she wants to be liked. Three months pass, and Tyra gives Kathleen the arse. I light a candle for golden quotes that might have been. Bye, Kathleen! Don't trip over any animal carcasses on your way out!

Next week, the modules go back to high school for a photo shoot and runway show, Jaslene suffers from a bad case of being crap, and Sarah's boobs try to get away from her by jumping out of her top. Memories. Maladies. Mammories.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Soy Beans - My Gift To You, Commuters

For lunch today, I had the Thai Risotto from Nature Care College's excellent tuck shop across the road.
It's packed with good things like ginger, brown rice, shitake mushrooms and soy beans.
I'm about to get on a train to North Sydney in peak hour.
Judging by the delightfully resonant gurglings currently emanating from my intestines, I'm betting I'll have a seat, if not a carriage, all to myself.

Monday, June 18, 2007

This Week, I Are Been Mostly Highbrow

An overdue gallery visit on the weekend had me coming over all impassioned and swoony and the like.
See, I'm a qualified art teacher who doesn't work in a field even remotely related to art or education, so every now and then I'm compelled to dip my toe in the painterly puddle and wiggle it around a bit.
Dodging the recently-disgorged contents of a tour bus near the front pillars, I revisited ol' Agnes (that's what us cultured kids call the Art Gallery Of New South Wales, see. Because it's kind of an acronym, see. Esoteric, see) with a sigh and a warm, straight-out-of-the-dryer feeling.
I was in a Twentieth-Century Australian Abstract kind of mood, so I walked in and turned left. I'm a fickle old bitch when it comes to art – if paintings were lovers, I'd have to change my sheets every couple of days. Next time it might be Dada or French Impressionism. I'm a cultural commitment-phobe.

Also, as an equation, I consider myself equal parts highbrow and lowbrow, arty and farty, arse and class (and in fact have trouble liking or trusting anyone who isn't). So, in vernacular accessible to as wide an audience as possible, I'll say this about my recent aesthetic dabblings and current favourite:

Ian Fairweather is the shit.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Emails I May Never Send #16

Dear Matthew Newton,

Thanks for your lovely email.
Unfortunately I'm busy tonight at Karate class. Maybe some other time?


Keeping Me Up At Night #6

How do they put the stickers on non-stick frying pans?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Eight #1

There's no rest for the wicked, tattooed, stupid, hyperactive, or criminally insane.
With the Westie Scrags mere smoky wisps in the humidor of our minds (sorry – doing a full final episode post now would be quite lame), we welcome back Tyra, the Jays, and a bunch of psychotic, fundamentalist-christian mall-rat modules in the first installment of the drag pantomime, drunk auntie member of the NTM family: America's Next Top Module.

For those of you new to the US show, ANTM is a little bit like a televised modelling competition, with one vital difference: It's a ridiculous, melodramatic farce. Every new series is exponentially more ludicrous, and I predict big things this time – if last series included a photo shoot with motorized hairpieces, my expectations, like the show's producers, are high.

The first episode did not disappoint. Mail-order brides, tattoos, borrowed hair, boot-camp, dentistry. Not just words from a game of Scrabble in prison. Contestants in the When Something Is Wrong With My Crazy episode of America's Next Top Model.

· Let's not be under any illusions here. Tyra Banks is out of her gourd. The hair and ba-zooms might be a bit tamer this time around, but there's still some serious neural-synapse hiccupping going on. It may be for this reason that the 33 semi-finalist modules are taken in a bus to a military outpost for what is dubbed 'Model Boot Camp'. The 'Model' part of the equation is taken care of by the motley clutch of pipe-cleaners that tumbles out of the bus. The 'Boot' part is introduced when the modules are asked to change into white singlets, camouflage trousers and high-heeled boots. The 'Camp' part is executed efficiently when a jeep rolls up containing Jay Manuel, stylist, (still clinging desperately onto platinum hair and shaped man-brows), and Miss Jay, catwalk trainer (tiny army shorts clinging desperately to the only definitively male part of him). Both Jays launch into stereotypical Boot Camp behaviour, including spouting the glorious phrase "You bunch of model maggots". I take a sip of incredulous elixir and release a satisfied sigh. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

· With the inevitability of gastric reflux, a distant thundering is heard, and across a bridge, accompanied by khaki-clad dancers, Tyra comes a-stompin' and a-hollerin' into shot. Bitch is crazy. She dances. She chants. She sends ripples of military wiggle through the ample comfort cladding each limb. Hackneyed clichés tumble from her lips like "You can't handle the truth!" (the truth perhaps being that you've stacked on the fried chicken), "I love the smell of hair and make-up in the morning" (not to mention the smell of fried chicken), and "I want Top Guns, not top sons-of guns" (which makes no sense, but.. you know… something about chicken).

· Model Boot Camp, despite all its hype, consists of a two-minute posing challenge and a handful of questions about designers and photographers. Whilst the idea of thirty-odd identically-dressed models being drilled by two sashaying limptenants should be interesting, I'm momentarily distracted by the idea of cotton.

· The first episode of any series is always confusing, as new faces and names are flashed incessantly in one's face and one desperately tries to capture the essence of each in between making horrified facial expressions and sweeping hand gestures at one's television. That said, my impressions of those who made a dent are as follows:

o Natasha – I love Natasha with all of my heart, soul, kidneys and spleen, because she's an absolute, no-holds-barred, point-and-whisper mess. She came to America at 18 as mail-order bride to a 40-year-old husband. Her command of English is tentative at best and possibly gleaned from watching The OC. She over-acts everything she does. She's sure she can win. She has strong opinions and is not afraid to voice them. Her hair looks like she uses glue and an iron in her morning beauty routine. She must, MUST stay for a long time, purely for my entertainment, and for the opportunity to transcribe her verbal offerings in that condescending way that only white, Western, English-speaking Anglo-Saxons such as myself can. As long as she keeps offering nuggets like "The Jays are here! I can't belief I am seeing them alive!", I will be her devoted slave.

o Sarah – Tall, gawky, geeky, with short blonde hair, a badly-shaped nose, and a know-it-all, teacher's pet attitude. Fancies herself as a photographer. Miss Jay thinks she's "adorable". I think she's "not going to last past episode four". If there's a book going that she's buttered on the frigid side of life, I'm putting a twenty on it.

o Micheline – Gorgeous face. Excellent rock n' roll attitude. Wickedly quirky bowling-alley-meets-biker-gang fashion sense. Twenty large tattoos. Bugger America's Next Top Model – there's a vacancy for My Current Role Model.

o Heather – from Deer Park, which is where I assume she got her Deer In Headlights look from. All doe-like sweetness goes out the window, however, when she impersonates her father, the drill sergeant, at Tyra's request at her casting. Jay is terrified and drops to give her twenty, whilst Miss Jay is unmoved, raising an eyebrow and saying "I don't do push-ups, baby".

o Renee – Stunningly pretty face, and sure she has "character and determination" over the other girls. She also has a husband, a 7-month-old son, a ridiculously toned abdomen, and the ability to cry in a vacuum.

o Jael – Short, tousled blonde hair, a long body, a voice made in Marlboro Country and the self-esteem of a one-legged sweat-shop worker. Somehow she endears herself to me – it may be the fact that even though she's whiter than white, her father is black. It could be the fact that she's the kind of girl you want to have a beer with. But it's most likely the fact that she wears a red tutu.

o Kathleen – hoooooooo boy. Kathleen is going to be a freakin' quote goldmine. I wish I could emulate her Brooklyn sing-song wail in print, especially when she keeps interrupting her own spiel by repeating the phrase "Tyra, you just so PRETTY" over and over. She admits that her MaxiFro is a fake, which is a relief to anyone wondering how a human head could possibly sprout that fuzzy a thang. Let's call Kathleen enthusiastic. And a bit of a screamer.

o Cassandra – Girl, you colourblind or what? Wearing three layers and fifteen different colours, Tyra and the Jays leap to re-style her. Colour, however, is not the most noticeable thing about Cassandra. Cassandra has her weave sewn to her head. Sewn. To her head.

o Brittany – Short of hair, big of mouth. A bartender with a spitty kind of speech impediment. Bye.

o Samantha – Honey, tell the truth – what the fuck's happening with your eyebrows? I'm no expert, but I don't think they're supposed to make a square around your entire eye. And if you don't want the editors to keep playing banjo music in the background of every scene you're in, maybe don't tell people you took part in a butter-bean festival back home whilst showing them your missing tooth-hole. Apart from that – yes, Tyra. She's the spit of a young Janice Dickinson.

o Melissa – only 5'7", and had to borrow her own hair-weave back from a friend to make the auditions in time. Pure class.

o Dionne – somewhere from her avalanche of boring, relentless monotone dribbles the pearler "modeling and dentistry are my passions". Talks the leg off a donkey. Bores the shit out of me.

o Natalie – Natalie is on crack. She says, slowly, that she loves Audrey Hepburn, and that Dinner At Tiffany's is her favourite movie. Oops. "I mean Lunch At Tiffany's" she says.

o Jaslene – I never understood why this girl didn't make it to the final in Series Seven, as she's completely freakin' gorgeous. Sure, she's Latina, insane, and hyperactive, but that's just cute. Go, Jaslene. Strike a pose. Take a Valium. Kick some arse.

o Felicia – okay, enough with the freaky eyebrows. Jessica seems to have shaved off her own and replaced them with a pair she stole from a much, much smaller person. Fancies herself as a Tyra look-alike, pre-twelve-piece-bucket. Raps her way out of the room. I don't know why, but she creeps me out. If I start having nightmares about intense people with wobbly heads and no eyebrows, I'll be very upset.

o Whitney – plus-size (ie fat) model number one. Whitney is twenty-one going on forty, and she can't stop her boosies falling out of her frock. Reading from the plus-size model script, she says that she wants to be the first plus-size Next Top Model. This will not happen.

o Diana – plus-size model number two – the white version. Pretty. Fat. Days. Numbered.

· The wanna-be modules are whittled down to twenty, and sent to a party to pose for paparazzi-style shots, which are then scrutinized by Tyra and the Jays. Spunky Nigel is noticeably absent, and I'm worried that he may still be handcuffed to my bed, and hence unable to make the shoot.

· Elimination time, and each finalists' name is read out by Tyra, who inserts the usual pregnant pauses and drawn-out suspenseful sentences. My tattooed lady doesn't make it, but both plus-size girls do. When did fat become a more desirable token minority signpost than body-art? It's a world gone crazy. Both sets of disturbing eyebrows also make the cut, signaling another series of Freaks trumping Beauties. Here we go. I'm ready. I have a new bottle of gin in the freezer.

Next week, the modules move into their mansion, undergo their first meaningful social-issue photo-shoot, and settle in for a good couple of months of catty tantrums. Suitcase. Charity case. Headcase.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #10

Or, more appropriately, Steak N' Tits Wednesday.
Sharpen your pencils and adjust your bra-straps – this months' (okay – last month's – I've been running a bit behind) Steak N' Chicks Tuesday (okay – Wednesday) included some fast-paced games of bingo and a Dolly Parton impersonator. Throw in a hooker, a murder, and a roulette wheel and you're practically in Vegas.

Except we definitely weren't. We were in Erskineville.

16th May 2007 – The Kurrajong Hotel, 106 Swanson St, Erskineville.

The Place
The svelte and glamorous Claire organised this month's Steak N' Chicks, which, ironically, was held in a venue that, whilst heavily endearing, would never be described as svelte and glamorous. The Kurrajong has read the 1979 Australian Pub Manual from cover to cover, and followed almost every guideline with refreshingly old-school results.
A barn-sized space has its massive U-shaped bar impressively plonked right in the centre of the room, with tables (the tall kind, featuring the all-too-rare thigh-height handbag shelf) scattered throughout the remaining space. The kitchen is off to one side, pokies are out of sight, and larger, less comfortable timber bench tables run along one side of the bar for groups like us, or even those with blokes in.
One very important point, though: if you want to go for a beer in Sydney in anything except a Rabbitohs NRL jersey, go somewhere else. I've seen Rabbitohs banners, flags, and supporters before, but when you see Rabbitohs window decals on every available glass surface, you come to fully realise the depths Bunny-backing can reach (Brendan McMahon being the obvious exception, of course). The Kurrajong is no stranger to old men's bum-cracks or badge-draws either, but none of this is to say it's not a Bloody Nice Pub. It has a feel that too few pubs in Sydney still have, and so many think they're too cool to try and emulate. You'd be comfortable bringing your dog to the Kurrajong, and a lot of people do.
To me, though, the single most attractive thing about the Kurrajong, and in fact the reason that Steak N' Chicks Tuesday was held on a Wednesday this month, is Dolly Parton Bingo. Bingo hosted by a woman dressed as Dolly Parton, speaking with a bunged-on American accent, and stopping between games to belt out some of Dolly's biggest hits (say that fast – it's funny). Incongruous – perhaps. It's like someone starting a Charlie's Angels-themed darts tournament, or a Sister Janet Mead Spelling Bee. But it works. Bingo and Dolly go together like… well, Bingo and Kenny.
The obligatory toilet review must make mention of the many doors one must pass through before actually coming across any porcelain, statistically making Narnia a little quicker to get to. In all other aspects, though, the plumbing facilities get a resounding and relatively non-descript "meh". They'll do.

The People
For the first time ever, I couldn't keep track of all the attendees, so at the risk of leaving anyone out a-la the Romper Room Magic Mirror, let's just leave it at Claire, Alex, me, Mel, Tash, Amanda, Ella, Elly, Charlotte, Rachel, Belinda, Tina and Tori. If I've left you out by accident, I encourage you to make a more significant impression next time. If I've left you out on purpose, you were probably rude to me, and I'm sulking. All in all, a resoundingly bonza bevy of beauteous birds which, with the addition of beer, wine, music and competitive pencil-based parlour games, became resoundingly resounding.
Staff here are what you'd expect in a pub like the Kurrajong – friendly, no-bullshit, and mostly built-for-function, with the exception of one or two bar-chicks fairly obviously thrown in for eye-candy for the mostly male clientele. A succinct summary (for a change) can be drawn from the fact that when we arrived, the girl behind the bar said "Oh! There's girls here! If we'd known, we would've put a few more male bar-staff on". Call them. We'll wait.
Claire nudged me and pointed to an extremely short, fashionably-dressed, moderately-breasted woman across the room, whispering "That's Dolly!". Apart from the mild disappointment arising from the fact that I'd half-expected Dolly to be a man in drag, I was reassured that the final, costumed result would be much more impressive.

The Food
As a rule, the food is too big for the plates at the Kurrajong, and I suspect the calves they slice their veal from are from meadows in the Chernobyl outskirts. People do not go home hungry from this pub. Meals are pretty standard pub fare, with cheap burgers, steaks under twenty dollars, fish n' chips, pastas and mixed grills taking up most of the menu space.
The chicken burger, especially when upgraded to include cheese and avocado, seemed to be the pick of the night, and universally enjoyed, although the somewhat drier beef burger, orange-hued wall of veal schnitzel, soggy chips and not-bad pasta had less glowing reviews. Yeah, the food's fine. As a restaurant, this place is a great Bingo joint.

The Bingo
Dolly re-appeared in costume during dinner, and even in nosebleed heels only came up to my chin, although with parts of her now well-padded, if measured whilst lying on our backs, she'd have been at least two norks taller. And what a hostess.
After the distribution of bingo cards, Dolly commenced the evening's entertainment, which consisted of some really-rather-well-sung Parton tunes interspersed with bingo games at breakneck speed. And I don't care what anybody says. Bingo is exciting. Shut up.
Our table became louder and louder, both with the singing along and the bingo enthusiasm, and the noise built and grew and we ate and scribbled and laughed and swore and then BINGO!! Belinda and Tori provided our raucous table with a total of three wins, although neither name was drawn out of the hat for the big $500 prize. We did, however, snicker conspirationally every time the number sixty-nine was called, and we fat-ladied and legs-elevened at all the appropriate moments. Dolly finished with a "comedy" version of "I Will Always Love You" called… wait.. still laughing… "I Will Always Hate You" – see what she did there? Because she changed the wor… never mind - which included conversational anecdotes between verses like "I went out with a builder. He was always coming… next week!" Boom, I say. And furthermore – Tish.

The Summarising Bit
Go and do Dolly Bingo at the Kurrajong. You know there's a bit deep inside you that wants to. Garn.

Friday, June 08, 2007

So Cool I Could Die

Fonzie is cool because he wears a leather jacket and clicks his fingers to get chicks.
Jim Morrison is cool because he wears (and fills) leather pants like no-one else and died when he was still good-looking.
Tarantino is cool because he makes cool movies with cool people and big guns in them.

Businessmen, no matter how hard they stare at their newspapers and financial reports, are not cool just because they don't pay any attention to the in-flight safety demonstration.

When I'm safely sliding my way down a big yellow slippery-dip, oxygen mask strapped across my dial and lifejacket snugly encasing my torso, I'll be laughing at you.
You, still on the plane.
Trying to find the emergency exit.
With your face on fire.

At least glance up occasionally, you cold, self-absorbed bastards.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Scrag Lag

I know having a life is no excuse for not recapping the final of Australia's Next Top Westie Scrag yet, but it's the only one I've got.

For those of you who really, really need something, a summary is as follows:

Alice won.