Wednesday, September 26, 2007

smoke and mirrors...(ANTM)

This week the ladies had their first photo shoot and challenge. The shoot was an anti-smoking ad (here goes Tyra, taking the high road), and the challenge was to find some essential wardrobe pieces in Old Navy (okay, somebody's brand is on the come-up).

The anti-smoking ad was actually two (two! two!) shoots in one. The first pose depicted the glamorous side of smoking; the girls were beautiful and sexy with cigarettes in tow. The second shot depicted them with one of the MANY DISEASES OR SIDE EFFECTS CAUSED BY SMOKING. Mr. Jay, with the help of technology, then combined (or as he likes to say "composited") the shots into one photo. He used the set-up of a mirror and it's reflection to show both images (one as "real" and one as reflected). Everyone looked beautiful, after all that's how they made it this far, but only a few really showed any modeling chops. (Granted, they haven't really been schooled yet, so these would be baby chops at best.) Sarah and Victoria did an excellent job, and so did Chantal. Lisa also rocked it out, and that's not even my favoritism talking. Heather didn't really pull off anything extraordinary, but luckily she's already striking. The panel did like her ghastly reflection though; Heather and Saleisha modeled together - showing the effects of secondhand smoke, and they were even called up together during panel. The two were nearly foils of each other - Heather the awkward beauty, and Saleisha the valedictorian of T-Zone Camp or "Self-Esteem U." By the way, Saleisha won the Old Navy challenge. Tyra told the girls that, overall, everyone's diseased/sickly images were really well done, but they need to work on being more convincingly pretty (I thought that was pretty funny considering...) Unfortunately, things weren't much prettier off the set either.

Ebony's role as villain did not play out this week; she was actually kind of timid and unremarkable. Bianca, on the other hand, had her colors flying high as Lisa's nemesis. In hair and make-up for the photo shoot, and again afterwards, she made off the cuff remarks about people's attitudes and their abilities. While the others ignored or kept quiet, Lisa was not trying to hear it. So she would respond in a manner that made it clear she wasn't backing down. As a result, Bianca had to go for the jugular after the photo shoot. Everyone was standing around when the two got into it, and Bianca tells Lisa that nobody wants an exotic dancer as America's Next Top Model; "What kind of role model is that?" she asks rhetorically, and proceeds to tell Lisa that she should just pack up and go home. Well! It didn't get physical, but Lisa was crying and yelling and swearing and the whole nine (for a minute I thought I was watching VH1). In a confessional, Lisa says that hers is a great story to be told, for how many people come from nothing and have to work hard to get to the place they want to be. Tu che, Lisa; I'm cheering for you even more. Lisa and Bianca's interaction so far has appeared to me like the personified relationship of these 2 great places, New York and Jersey.
Heather has been catching hell in the house as well, the girls wasted no time in preying on her unique position. Their lack of sensitivity is appauling. Do I expect Heather to receive special treatment? No, but saying stupid things like, "I don't want her to cling to me", and demanding that she educate your dumbass on her condition is totally unacceptable. I so hope Heather rocks it out, and I especially want her to be around longer that Kimberly (cling to that, heifer).

At panel, the girls were all critiqued, as usual. Ebony's timidity caused her to be in the bottom two, but it was Mila's chances that went up in smoke.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

can't spell autumn without ANTM...

With the lull and relaxation of summer behind us. We move forward into the fall – deep, rich color pallets; warm scents of sweet and spice; frosted mornings, shorter days and chilly nights; the sound of ice cream trucks replaced by the sound of school buses. For many of us, this means it’s time to get back to work, but for 13 girls, in particular, this time means, “You better work!” (That’s the first and last time I quote RuPaul)

America’s Next Top Model returned last night for it’s 9th cycle, and I couldn’t have been more ready. I wanted to live-blog during the show (trying to step my blog game up), but the computer is upstairs and the telly is downstairs and I haven’t remedied that yet. I missed the first few minutes which means I haven’t heard how the theme music has been revamped (as it certainly has), but I was along for the ride during most of their 1 hour tour…their 1 hour tour…
The 30 ANTM hopefuls found themselves on a cruise ship this time, where they were individually interviewed and assessed. [Disclaimer: I will try my best to keep the sailing references to a minimum, but I make no promises.] Of course, tears, attitudes, antics and motion sickness abounded. Tyra, J1, and J2 did not disappoint in their random behavior. (Simulated butt waxing? Really Tyra?) The ship made a stop in Antigua (I think), where the first elimination was made; the 20 girls with “passport” photos were allowed back on the ship while the 10 others were marooned on the island. The second and final elimination for the night appeared to happen on deck. The girls have made it through the first cut, so going home may hurt a little more at this point (but, um, not really). There were 2 girls who left last night that I was actually sorry to see them leave, Anchorage and Boston Bartender (I don’t remember their names, but they’re already gone so give me a break). Anchorage was super tough and very grounded; Boston seemed a little tough too, and I could have listened to that accent all day.

Now, on to those we will see next week:

Ambreal – is a student from Dallas, TX, who rocked denim legwarmers last night that looked like the bottom half of some bootcut jeans - definitely homemade. She even kept them on when she modeled a swimsuit. Maybe that’s her take on chaps? (Maybe she should take them off).

Bianca –is also a student, but Bianca is special because she is from Queens, NY. Note the early Keisha Cole-esque two-toned hair – Kool-Aid on the top and black on the bottom. Bianca has already established her adversary and claimed her domain because let’s not forget Bianca is special because she is from Queens, NY.

Chantal – is a student; she’s from Austin, TX, and has decided to make good on what people have told her all her life – that she should be a model. Mr. J is on the boat as well; he’s already called her out by saying her movement and features are model-esque. She’s conventionally beautiful and all, but show and prove, Miss Chantal; until then I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid.

Ebony – is a nursing student from Chicago, IL, and wasted no time establishing herself as the…um…oh…(what’s the word?) b*tch of this cycle. At one of their first meals together, Ebony says to the group, “Let’s play a game called ‘Who has an eating disorder?’” Like I said, b*tch (not my words – her actions). The most upsetting thing is that I know plenty of people from the Chi, and they are all hella cool. So she’s a poor ambassador indeed.

Heather – is a college student from Valparaiso, IN (don’t know where that is). She’s been diagnosed with ADHD and a mild form of autism that makes her posture and movement awkward at times. Tyra and the J’s think that she’s beautiful (I agree), and that her condition could make her a force when it’s time for couture posing. She’s quietly confident and made a good first impression. I like this girl.

Janet – is an Aesthetician from Bainbridge, GA. (I don’t know where that is either.) She’s one of the elders here, at the ripe old age of 22. (Can I say that without laughing? No, I can’t.) She’s already got her look pulled together; Mr. J complimented her buy saying, “I love when we have a girl that we don’t have to make over.” Janet left her mark (or should I say left me scarred) when, upon Tyra’s request no less, she performed a simulated butt waxing. (Sometimes at night, I can still hear the screaming.)

Jenah – is a student from Farmington, CT. I don’t remember anything else about her. Lucky for Jenah, I’m not a judge (technically). ;)

Kimberly – is a student from Ocala, FL. She brought Tyra a gift when she interviewed – a little horse statue. “I’m from the horse capital of the country,” she says. Did anyone else think Kentucky? I’m not the only one, am I? Yeah right, liars.

Lisa – is a bikini dancer from Jersey City, NJ. (Not to be confused with an exotic dancer because apparently there’s a difference, right? She was clear about it though – not nude or topless.) Lisa comes across as fun, unassuming, confident (but not cocky). She didn’t strip tease during her interview, thank goodness. I disclose my hometown favoritism right now.

Mila – is a recent college graduate from Boston, MA, but her look screams that her origins are from someplace far more northern and colder and European. There’s a naïveté in her face; she’s got that hot foreign exchange student thing going on (which is funny because she’s from the states).

Saleisha – is a receptionist from Los Angeles, CA. Saleisha also thinks that she is special because she attended Tyra’s T-Zone camp when she was younger. Tyra says that she will be harder on Saleisha because of this fact. I believe neither of them. When asked about her worst feature, this chick couldn’t think of one (oh boy!) When asked about her favorite feature, she said her hair. Dear ANTM, please cut all of Saleisha's hair on the make-over episode. Thank You.

Sarah – is a college student from Heath, MA, and the trio cannot figure out how to peg her. Sarah’s got a beautiful figure and great proportion (says Mr. J). But she’s bigger than a typical model, and very small for a plus size model. She may actually need to gain a few pounds. (Whoda thunk it?)

Victoria – is a student from New Haven, CT. This Yale girl looks like she just walked out of a Jane Austen novel. She was quick to tell the judges how smart she was but equally as quick to admit she didn’t think all of the girls were too bright. (Somebody get her a PR tutor, quick!) Hopefully, she’s not too cerebral in her approach. That hasn’t boded well for brainy beauties in previous cycles.

There’s no shortage of egos in this group. It’s too early to tell, but here are the girls I think will be around for a while:

09/26 - retraction: i was wrong about Saleisha. anonymous informed me that she was not the one who thought her hair was her best feature (i could have sworn...) Dear ANTM, Don't cut Saleisha's hair off. I was just playin' ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Roaring Twenties...

I love books, but I can’t make myself read anything. I guess I’m still romantic in that way; I have to be “called” to a book, or it has to “come” to me. The last two books that I’ve encountered were TWENTY SOMETHING: The Quarter-Life Crisis of Jack Lancaster (by Iain Hollingshead) and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIE: 26 Truths About Life in Your Twenties (edited by Emily Franklin). See a pattern? Perhaps I am a little self-centered right now. As I don’t spend much time around other 20-somethings at work, I want to know what other people were/are doing at my age. Sure I talk to and email my friends and acquaintances, but that doesn’t fulfill my need to read does it? These books and I, we’ve spent some quality time together in the last 2 or 3 weeks. Maybe you should invite them over as well.

In Twenty-Something, the narrator/protagonist has all the fixin’s of a posh, urban London existence. He’s a well-paid investment banker, he’s got a beautiful girlfriend; he’s got the artsy-fartsy roommate (who happens to be a bit of a slacker, but his wealthy father got them the great flat that they live in, so there); and he’s got the cool group of co-ed friends who are all familiar enough to be comfortable yet attractive enough to stir that sexual tension that makes any gathering fun. Despite the glamorous, glamorous life (thanks, Fergie), Jack finds himself on New Years day no longer in love with his girlfriend, pudgy and unhealthy, and desiring a job where he actually knows why he gets paid. The novel is the journal Jack keeps for an entire year as he gets himself out of this proverbial rut. There’s poignant introspection, romantic pining, and many a hilarious drunken scene. (Quoting Braveheart as your being “escorted” from your former place of employment – contemporary classic.) It’s a man’s perspective, and it’s Brit wit – a bloody good read.

It’s a Wonderful Lie is a collection of commiserating essays all from women who have made it out of their twenties alive (promising already, it’s it?) The book is separated into sections that debunk the prevailing fairytales so many have about this coveted decade, from the material “I’ll have an amazing apartment and love my job” to the far more complex “I’ll know myself and what I want.” The writing is highly informal, but sparing no detail – with occasional swearing for authenticity. Some of the more memorable essays included one woman who was an indentured servant to major universities (i. e. an RD) because the apartments were beautiful, prime real estate and she lived rent/ utilities free. Another woman addressed the difficulty of making friends at the age of twenty-four; she attests to the importance of shared experience, and admits that without the sandbox or dormitory, it’s a lot tougher. Still another recounted the few years she spent searching for meaning after graduation, just to find that where she belonged was back in a classroom at graduate school. My only beefs with this book are that most of these stories take place in NYC (which I guess is accurate because what twenty-something doesn’t want to be there at least for a time?) Also, I would have liked a few more mahogany moments mixed into all of these alabaster encounters. Lastly, I wonder if there isn’t a bit of cowardice in only writing about something after it’s over? Isn’t hindsight always a prettier view? Still, a pretty good read; I recommend it.

Before I started picking up books again lately, I was reading a lot of magazines. Among my repeat offenses were MORE and O. Both of these are good mags, in my opinion, but they are geared toward older women. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I was reading them and becoming eager about being that 30+ or 40+ woman that these magazines celebrated (you know, the Angela Bassetts and Rachael Rays of the world). In the meantime, I’m kind of living over my twenties, which is a bonehead move because I’ll never get them back. So while I’ve never been and never will be all sex-drugs-and-rock and roll, I still am curious and resilient and (relatively) adventurous. In addition to all of the “I know, right?!” moments that Twenty-Something and It’s a Wonderful Lie gave me, those books reinforced for me this very important point – none of their stories are mine. So while I have half of this decadent decade left, I’ve got some serious living to do.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"east west home best mean house"...

well, it's official. we are home owners. it's been official for about 2 weeks now, and why haven't i posted sooner? that's right - there's just that much to do. it's a beauty, though: 100+ year old victorian, 2.5 stories, 1 car garage, storage shed, nice deck, and the most beautiful backyard tree. now don't be fooled. it still needs work, but we are a young, able-bodied, hard working couple (alhamdulilah). so i have every confidence that we will bring this house into it's potential, and our "sweat equity" will mean dollars in the future. would ya' listen to me? "sweat equity," it just means hard work. (Like pulling staples out of hardwood floors, one by one, after removing carpet from a room that is 13'X13' - that kind of hard work.) it's one of those real estate code phrases that we've picked up. here are a few others: "character" - "it's old"; "charm" - "some of the style is probably outdated"; "fixer-upper" - "RUN!!!" our house has "charm" and "character", not to mention the previous owner was fond of hunter green (bless her heart). so we've got our work cut out for us, but we will pace ourselves and learn a lot in the process. bet you want me to stop talking and show you some pictures, right?

there used to be another house on this corner, but it was abandoned for a while and the city eventually tore it down. soon after, the previous owner (we'll call her Miss Green... in the library with the candlestick!) bought the adjacent lot. what does all this mean? we hold the title for both properties. (sweet!)

here's one view of the deck. reminiscent of Jumangi, i know, but Miss Green moved out months ago. so the house hasn't had regular upkeep (not the detailed kind anyway). let me find a better shot...

(that's better.) with this jazzy deck/stage set up, i can see hosting artists' reviews and readings and whatnot...

and here's the beautiful tree. it's great for shading the deck, hanging a tire swing, stringing white christmas lights for aforementioned artistic gatherings, doing pull-ups... (HomeBoy has already tested that last one.)


forgive the cliche, but this is a new chapter...blah blah blah - i can't even say it, but you know where i was going with that. it's exciting but not overwhelming. i'm anxious but not worrisome. i am grateful for this house and love it as it is, but i can't wait to see what it could be. interior pictures of the queen mum in the next post. (yes, i named the house; i do that with cars too, but not all inanimate objects - like i don't name refrigerators or microwaves or anything. no, HomeBoy doesn't know i named the house...well, i guess he does now.)