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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Steak N’ Chicks Tuesday #2

The second Steak N’ Chicks Tuesday was better-populated than the inaugural, as is often the case with occasions for which invitations are a matter of honour and social standing. And because, like, more people came. The flexible ‘Steak’ requirement was bent a bit to include sushi, but the more rigid ‘Chicks’ requirement, although momentarily shaky once or twice, stayed intact.

30th May 2006 – Zushi, Victoria Road, Darlinghurst

The Place
Zushi ( is a bit like Uma Thurman – long, skinny, sophisticated, endearing, and no longer doing rude things to Ethan Hawke. Maybe just the first four. At first glance it’s just another Victoria Road hole-in-the-wall eatery, but it doesn’t take long for its casual warmth to seep in, even on a crappy, cold, wet night. We perched outside on red-cushioned wooden boxes under a very effective heater, and despite being interrupted by an extremely loud fire alarm emanating from the ‘gentleman’s club’ across the road, we were extremely comfortable. Tegan, our resident songbird, managed to incorporate a bit of an impressive James Brown/Fire Alarm mash-up anyway, so no real harm done. Zushi’s interior is dominated by a long sushi bar with stools along its length, with an additional kitchen at the back. Whilst waiting for the loo, I had a quick squiz into the kitchen, which looked like an alcoholic ceramicist’s wet dream with its massive collection of both wine and tiny, gorgeous little plates and dishes. A highly-commended mention must also be made regarding the loo – standard spacious general facilities, with the piece de resistance – a floor-length skinny-mirror. How to make your customers feel good AND eat more? Make them look two sizes slimmer!

The People
A great mix o’ chicks in attendance – the ubiquitous Alex, Fi and me, plus Steak N’ Chicks virgins Tegan, Sarah, Erica and Jas. Erica had to rush off a bit early to go and be a nurse, which was a shame, but I suppose bleeding people take priority over slices of dead fish. Zushi was staffed by an extremely efficient and friendly waitress, a handful of sushi chefs (not to be confused with sous-y chefs) in obligatory headbands, and Ray the Owner. Fi knew Ray, who came over for several chats and made sure we were phenomenally well looked-after, although even half the level of service we received would have been more than adequate. Double it, and time probably would have gone backwards. Other diners, mostly couples, seemed to be taking advantage of the extremely generous half-price Happy Hour between 6 and 7, as the clientele thinned out drastically after that time. Fi’s fiancĂ© stopped by, but was quickly banished due to his inappropriate genitalia.

The Food
If I only had space for one or two words to describe the food, I’d probably use ones like “Dribble-Worthy”, or “Congratulations, Tummy!”. Luckily on my own blog I can use as many words as I like. So I will.
From the moment we were seated until the moment we left, gorgeously-displayed dishes seemed to cascade onto our table, which, to people like me whose digestive system takes priority over, let’s see, breathing and circulation, was Very Good News. Goma-ae (spinach salad with sesame) and Edamame (known worldwide as ‘those salty bean-pod things you have to eat fifty of’) were welcome starters, after which (thanks to a conversation between Ray and Fi in the ballpark of ‘keep ‘em coming’) the following arrived:
Sake, and plenty of it (warm, sweet, syllable-removing)
Oysters with dressing (superbly salty-fresh, and two each – slurpalicious)
Snapper sashimi (SO fresh, paper-thin, with a gentle spicy sauce)
Zushi rolls (avocado, prawn, and eel finished with crispy noodles and Japanese mayo – subtle, flavourful and oh-bugger-the-plate’s empty)
Zushi ‘crunch’ rolls (similar to above but rolled in crunchiness, tasting like an attractive fish breathed on a pillow in heaven)
Gyoza special roll (gyoza INSIDE a sushi roll, which is a bit like wrapping Clive Owen inside Johnny Depp. Porky and magnificent)
Agedashi Tofu (the only mild disappointment – a teensy bit flabby and watery, with not much flavour)
Seafood Tempura (fantastically crisp and fresh – endearingly spiky)
Gyoza (not that there’s such a thing as BAD Gyoza, these were tiny, perfect packages of spicy softness with an ideal smattering of crunchy/chewy bits).
My recommendation for anyone is to also top off the above with gooey chocolate birthday cake and a quick champers at the Vic Room next door…

The Summarising Bit

After the MASSIVE amount of food that made its way swiftly from the kitchen to our lower intestines, I was ready to sell some assets when the bill arrived, but I was gobsmacked when we were only set back $25 each. The phrase “Happy Hour” is truly a wonderful thing in any context, but especially here. Bloody good food, excellent service, top sheilas and an effective heater means two enthusiastically soy-smeared thumbs up.

Friday, May 26, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #8

I laughed. I cried. I hissed. I gagged. I rinsed. I spat.
Welcome to what we'll call, physically and emotionally, the Root Canal Episode.

After last week's elimination, Joanie is feelin' good, doin' well, and talkin' crooked. Throughout her life, her gammy tooth has shamed her into speaking out of one side of her mouth (like Popeye), and smiling by squinting and grimacing (like someone who's eaten a teaspoonful of salt and stepped on a thumbtack at the same time). Nnenna, in a shock move akin to breathing in and out, is on the phone to her boyfriend, and when she's off the phone, she talks about being on the phone to her boyfriend, and how it might affect her focus. It's affected mine - I'm so bored by the whole Nnenna/John saga, I've taken to staring at a dot on the wall.

The modules are carted off in their special ANTM Black Thunders, and arrive at an advertising and design studio, where they meet a photographer and Deprise the Creative Director. The girls have individual challenge interviews with Deprise, a b*tch in a blouse, who unbeknownst to them is really an actress paid to rip them to shreds, destroy their confidence and then send them out to the photographer for a snapshot, to see if he can capture the exact moment when they die inside. What a hoot! Apparently the theme this week is the oxymoronic "Ugly Side Of Modelling". Nnenna is told she looks like a transvestite with a flabby stomach, Sara learns that her lips are uneven, and Furonda is told she's anorexic with a big nose. Danielle is given some schtick about the gap in her teeth, and responds (without whistling, surprisingly) with "I think she badmouth me". Joanie is told her ears are too big and she looks old in her photographs, and, of course, that she has a massive decomposing tusk jutting out of her lower skull. Brooke is told that she looks masculine in photographs, which, ironically, she doesn't take on the chin. Deprise meets a brick wall with Jade, though - it's amazing sometimes how utter, jaw-dropping stupidity and a triple scoop of up-yourself can look like bravado when you have no idea you're being insulted. When told she looks harsh, Jade says "Thank you, yes - my look is really versatile". When told she looks mean, Jade says "Yes - I have really prominent features. They're... you know... URNGH". Later, to camera, Jade explains her calm response with "She was really cut-throat, but I've dealt with cut-throatingness before". Deprise's sham is revealed to the girls, and the winner of the challenge is announced. Who could be hollow enough inside to not be offended when insulted directly? It's Jade! She picks Nnenna to share in her prize, some 'mystery packages' waiting at the Model Mansion.

The girls return 'home' to find two massive wrapped boxes in their loungeroom for Jade and Nnenna, and there, scrunched uncomfortably inside for God knows how long, are Jade's mum and Nnenna's boyfriend, John! Jade cries, crumbles, and embraces her mother, and at one point looks disturbingly like she's going to pash her. The mother-daughter resemblance is... well... underwhelming - a bit like a housewife giving birth to a psychotic funnelweb. Nnenna gives John a bit of a hug, and says to camera later that she was hoping it would be her sister, but he'll just have to do. I'll pause here so that the romantics among you can dab at your eyes and clutch your chests.
Jade shows her mum around, but her mother senses a tremor in the force - she turns to Jade and says "Can I fluff you down?" I got confused here. Pardon? What does a "fluffing down" entail? My mind raced - I imagined Jade's mum fixing her hair, searching her for concealed weapons, or engaging in activity not wholeheartedly sanctioned by the Department of Community Services. Silly me. As Jade speaks to camera, I realise the answer was glaringly obvious all along: "My mother does energy work. She pulls energy out of the universe and channels it through her hands". Der. Of course. Jade lies on the couch whilst her scary cosmos-chanelling mother waggles her hands over her, and Jade is so inspired she recites a poem earnestly to camera, which includes lines like "heaven and hell, are the power-linked force / make me listen, and strength be my source". Things all make sense now. Jade is a little bit of a nutjob because her mother is certifiably, cover-your-cell-walls-with-your-own-faeces insane. There's kind of a gorgeous sense of full-circleness about that. Meanwhile, John chats to Nnenna while she pretends to be asleep. It's... it's just beautiful.

PHOTO SHOOT 1: Our modules meet Jay at a studio, and are told they'll all be made-up and dressed as dolls for Pantene today. Joanie, a ventriloquist's dummy, gets to sit on a male model's knee, prompting Daniele to ask "Can we share him? He's a hottie with a body". Despite looking a lot like a drag queen (especially with the implication that another man's hand was... er... "puppeting" her), she rocked. Sara, as a Bratz-style doll (where's inflatable fish-mouth Kari when you need her?), was suitably plastic, and Brooke the 'glam' doll looked awesome, but was awkward and stiff, even for a doll. She probably had a right to be confused though, as one of Jay's criticisms was "You look too much like a model". Hmmm. Daniele-as-marionnette just looked spooky with a white face, and Jade-as-mannequin was adequate. Furonda, a rag doll, resembled a pile of burnt matches with pigtails, and Nnenna was unrecognisable as a wig-wearing baby doll. Who puts a Nigerian princess in a shortie dress with rag-curls and a teddy bear? This show does, and I am eternally grateful. When Nnenna is reasonably unresponsive, Jay tries to inspire her and makes the mistake of saying "Think about your boyfriend!". Nnenna scowls instantly. Maybe she needs a wowwipop.

At the end of the shoot, Jay announces that he has a treat for the girls. Is it food? Drink? Men? Clothes? Jewellery? No! It's a trip to the dentist! Woo! All the girls will have their teeth whitened, but Joanie and Daniele will get extra treatment - a fang-ectomy for Joanie and a daub of sealant for Daniele's gap. Joanie is so happy she cries buckets, although Daniele isn't as enthusiastic, as she doesn't mind the gap. Joanie is first in the chair, and with Daniele holding her hand, the dentist explains calmly that he's going to yank out the offending tusk, then file the rest of her teeth down to points so that he can whack in some veneers. And it will take two days. If Joanie wasn't spastic with happy gas, I'm sure she would've jumped for joy. Without warning, we see the dentist brace himself and yank not one, but TWO teeth from Joanie's petrified, sluggish maw, complete with root, saliva, blood, and bits of gum. Who's a pretty girl? After being extracted and filed for twelve hours, she's left a bit Stonehengey overnight, ready for more orthodontic shenanigans tomorrow. She laments at 5:30am: "I have tho compethe thoday, and I can'th eben thalk". Meanwhile, when Daniele fronts up to the chair, she just asks for a bit of whitening, and leave the gap there, thanks very much. She loves her gap. Honestly, getting these girls to look like proper models is like... you know...

In a seemingly pointless excursion, the modules are shipped off to a photo-shoot for Elle Girl magazine, and watch Janice Dickinson and Eva (series 4 ANTM winner) hamming it up for the cameras with an accessories designer. Yawn. Eva gives the girls some vacuous advice about confidence, and then Janice sits them down to talk about The Dark Side Of Modelling. I don't know about you, but I have trouble taking advice from someone who can't make her eyebrows or her breasts move. Janice tells the modules that alcohol is a big no-no, and regales them with a story of her first Valentino show, during which two glasses of champagne sent her tumbling arse-over-scary-tit off the end of the catwalk. Must have been the champagne - the coke was grade A, and the Quaaludes were prescription.

PHOTO SHOOT 2: Each girl is led outside one by one to where Tyra is waiting with a photographer, some make-up, a vial of menthol and a crazed expression, only one of which is out of the ordinary. She tells each girl that not all photos are taken when a model looks pretty, and she's going to put some menthol in their eyes and make them cry. Kind of like saying "I really want you to emote in this shot, so I'm going to rub some jalapeno chillis in each eye and stomp on your foot. Now, lift your chin! Find the light!". Jade is first, and as soon as her fake tears are summoned, she poses for a couple of easy shots, then claps her hands and exclaims excitedly "That was awesome!". Daniele's eyes burn from the menthol, so an assistant splashes her eyes with water, which kind of makes you wonder why the menthol is needed at all. Brooke is pretty accustomed to looking sad, and the usually stoic Nnenna actually breaks down and has a bit of a sook - the pressure of being an African Queen with a redneck boyfriend can really weigh a girl down. Joanie aces it, possibly because she has a mouth full of sharp tooth-stubs and a bloodstream full of morphine.

After a quick 6-hour dentist sesh, Joanie emerges with perfect teeth, although it's hard to break the crooked-smiling habit of a lifetime. I reckon as soon as she smiles properly, she'll win the competition.

JUDGEMENT: Tyra greets the girls, and seems even crazier this week - it's not enough for her to just speak English, she has to morph it into a kind of sing-song, mad-eyed, head-tilting Thinglish. She introduces the judges, including Spunky Nigel, who I'm knitting a jumper for. The judges view the doll and crying photos, and all of them catch the self-esteem-bashing bug. Sara is accused of not being passionate about the competition, Nnenna is chastised for letting her relationship interfere with her modelling, and Daniele is given no end of grief about choosing to keep her tooth-gap. Cindy Crawford had The Mole, Sophie Dahl had The Girth, and Kate Moss had The Junkie, but Daniele's not allowed to have The Gap. When Jade's crying photo is displayed, Jade gets emotional and tears up, telling the judges through wracking sobs "That pain is real. I've suffered". If you listen closely at this point, you can hear every voice in the whole world saying "Oh, F*CK OFF". All the judges try to hold in their derision - Tyra accuses her of bad acting, and Nigel tells her that all the modules standing behind her have been busy rolling their eyes in disbelief. Like watching the Wicked Witch Of the East's feet shrivel into their stripy socks, it was a brief, sweet, come-uppance carnival. I think I sighed with satisfaction.

ELIMINATION: Tyra reads the modules' names out one by one, stopping along the way to give Daniele a bit more sh*t about her gap, and we're left with just Jade the Psycho and Brooke the Bruised. Prompting more satisfied sighs, Tyra tells Jade that even though she takes good pictures, she's arrogant, defensive, and fake, fake, fake. To prove she's not arrogant or defensive, Jade scowls and shakes her head the whole time. Brooke is told she's the most beautiful of all the girls (obviously measured against the Chesty Bonds Exaggerated Chin Index), but she has bad pictures and she's running out of chances. No more chances for Brooke as she is sent packing, and for the first time ever she doesn't cry. Bye, Brooke! Don't walk into a door on your way out. Jade speaks pleadingly to Tyra, insisting she's not fake or arrogant. Um... Brooke's just had her dreams shattered, Jade. It's not really your moment right now, honey. Go and get fluffed.

Next week, we can expect Sara to be insecure about her chances, Daniele to be sad about her imminent gap closure, and everyone to be packing their bags for a mystery trip. Doubting. Pouting. Outing.
See you then...

Monday, May 22, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #7

I know some of you simply don't have time to read the Watercooler each week, so here's a quick summary of this week's episode, and in fact the entire series to date: Brooke's crying, Nnenna's on the phone, Jade's making my gorge rise, and Tyra's a mean, shiny, insane woman who can't keep her bottom still. There.

For the rest of you, I present: The Swirl And Twirl Episode.

The Crying Little Girl inside Jade surfaces briefly as she laments her frequent inclusion in the bottom two at eliminations. She declares "I look like a damn fool", which is like Michelangelo saying "Y'know, Father, your ceiling could use some spackle". Brooke's mild distaste for Nnenna has developed overnight into a full-blown caustic obsession, not helped by the fact that every time Brooke stuffs up, Nnenna thinks it's a right hoot. Brooke tells the modules that she may seem fragile on the inside, but she has a temper. And two black eyes.

Miss Jay drops in for a quick Accessories On The Runway workshop, during which the modules walk up and down whilst donning and removing jackets, gloves and handbags. I should point out here that these girls are professionals-in-training, and under no circumstances should you try to remove a jacket or hold a handbag at home. Leslie walks like she's trying to get away from her own arse, Brooke drops her handbag to the tinkling peals of Nnenna's mirth, and Sara looks like blonde Meccano in a frock. If you're that tall, you really should learn to be a bit bendier.

After a quick road-trip montage, our girls arrive at an ornate building as a pair of middle-aged male twins drift down a stairway to meet them. They announce with identical lisps that they're going to teach "Thwirling and Twirling", and then they demonstrate by whooshing around the room, voluminous robes flying. I think these two might just constitute the row of tents people always talk about. The modules put on some flowy frocks and try swirling and twirling themselves - Leslie looks tense as she seems to try to stop her arse sticking out by imagining she's carrying an egg-yolk between her cheeks, while Joanie starts like a stripper and ends like a tripper. After a quick "Thankth, ladieth. It wath gorgeouth", the girls twirl back home.

Nnenna (you might need to sit down for this - it's a shock) is on the 'phone to her boyfriend (!), and Brooke's Nnenna-hating caterpillar starts to work its way out of its seething coccoon of rage. She bursts into the 'phone room, and shouts "I don't think you understand the concept of the 'phone!" Yeah, she does. The boyfriend whines like a pre-menstrual teenager into one end, and you tell him he's a loser into the other. Simple. Brooke's tirade continues, but Nnenna just calmly counters with "Do I look like I care?". So regal. So beautiful. Such a freakin' bee-yarch. Brooke rants to the other girls, spitting "What makes her so great? Because she's from Africa? Why doesn't she GO BACK TO AFRICA!". I'm not sure, but I think the poverty, disease and the tsetse fly might have something to do with it. Go figure. Regardless, Brooke calls Nnenna a beeping b*tch and storms off. Daniele, as usual, summarises beautifully with "Dang. That girl can really wig out".

Joanie reads out a Tyra-Mail with a basket on her head, and the modules are shipped off to church. As they enter, Jade blesses herself with holy water which, surprisingly, doesn't cause her to blister and squeal. The girls are introduced to an event manager, who explains that church fashion parades are where a lot of models get their start. Pardon? Apparently fashion parades are common occurrences in some American churches, quite likely in keeping with the two missing commandments "Thou shalt sashay", and "Thou shalt not digest solids". Jade bignotes herself by saying "If there's a runway anywhere, I'm there. In the Sahara Desert - I'm on it". Like, everyone wants to go to Africa all of a sudden. The girls are told that the church congregation will be judging them, and the winner will get a $25K diamond ring. It's on. Our modules are swathed in gorgeous flowy gowns and are encouraged to swirl, twirl and flap their way down the runway. Daniele rocks, Leslie drops the egg yolk and just lets her arse go, Brooke's posture looks like her spine is bending under the weight of her massive jaw, Nnenna is stiff and awkward, and Sara is an aggressive giraffe. Joanie decides the whole competition is between herself and Jade, and quite frankly rocks it like the swathed stripper/model she is, with plenty of 'tude and hardly a glimpse of her gammy tooth. Jade... Jade... (I'm going to choke on my own bile - excuse me) ... does really well. She's a swirling, twirling machine who could give a Turkish dervish a run for his money. Jade wins the diamond ring, dances the dance of the smug and squinty, and thanks Jesus, perhaps for the opportunity to turn his house into a den of thin.

PHOTO SHOOT: Our modules meet Jay on a rooftop, and Nnenna assumes that they'll be photographed jumping off it. She's wrong. In a shameless plug for worthless tat, the girls will be modelling Payless Shoes, marking a point after which the word 'shoes' is never uttered again without the word "Payless" in front of it ("Did you say Payless shoes? Where are my Payless shoes? Put on your Payless shoes!"). Call me old-fashioned, but I reckon if you want to give a brand an air of prestige, you just call it something else. It'd be like eating a "McMediocre", or driving a "Toyota Breakdown". Suddenly the rooftop is beset by a group of heavily made-up clown/hip-hop hybrids, a group of blokes collectively introduced as today's "krumpers", (or convulsing hip-hop dancers for those antipodean honkies amongst us). The modules have to dress 'street', krump, look pretty AND show off their rubbish shoes. Jade, in her traditional pre-event crowing, states "I can dance. It's fulfillment for the soul", and then proceeds to practice whilst waiting by spastically flailing her arms and legs. Somebody throw in some washing, quick.

Joanie again re-visits her stripper roots with her dancing, although with a mean mug possibly due to her unwillingness to reveal her dying grey fang. Furonda looks a bit like a bunch of spider-legs being shaken up in a bag, and Sara is just awful. Daniele, not confident with her dancing ability, tells Jay "they call me a white girl back home", but proceeds to do brilliantly, and Nnenna is too interested in being regal and pretty to really get down. Good dancing means looking constipated - everyone knows that. Leslie looks great, but can't move, and Brooke, looking brilliant with a massive afro, dances like a year 9 girl at a school dance after swigging a vat of Passion Pop. Jade gets into krumping with disturbing enthusiasm, jerking, gyrating, and throwing a bottle of water all over herself, and later says to camera "Do you see the potential? Do you see it?". Yeah, we see it. It's right there behind the teetering veener of sanity.

Back home, and we're treated to a bizarre moment in which Daniele the Ghetto 'Gator and Joanie 'Vanilla Ice' Gammy-Tooth rap together. This show is so real, G.

JUDGEMENT: Jade's done something disturbing with her hair, and looks a bit like Kath to Tyra's Kim. The mini-challenge this week is to show the judges a 'signature walk' (that is, a unique, recognisable walk as opposed to, oh, I don't know - putting one foot in front of the other), and stop in the middle of the runway to turn, as Tyra demonstrates, as if you're on a turntable. Everyone has a go. Everyone is sh*t at it. Stumbling, bad posture, tripping and dangly arms aplenty. The photos from the shoot are shown and picked apart, and then....

ELIMINATION: Names are called out one by one, until only Sara the Giraffe and Leslie the Latino are left, and they brace themselves for the Tyrade. Sara is told that she's no model, and should perhaps go back to the mall, while Leslie is told that while she looks like a model in photos, she looks like nothing in person. After the girls dust off and re-insert their self-esteem, Leslie is sent packing, proving that I'm as good at picking winners as Anthony Mundine is at post-modern discourse. I really liked Leslie, and I don't know why people like Furonda the Stick Insect are still in, if people who are actually pretty with two properly-functioning arms are let go. Bye, Leslie. Don't dislodge any breakables with your arse on your way out.

My new pick for member of the Top Two is Joanie, which means she's pretty much a cert to get canned next week.

Next week, the modules are torn to shreds when they go on 'go-sees', gore and pain abound as something is done about Joanie's tooth, and the girls cry in their photo shoot. Rental. Dental. Sentimental.
Until then...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Six #6

My, oh my.
Parts of this week's episode of America's Next Top Model left me a bit... nonplussed. Mildly unusual behaviour has blossomed into eyebrow-raising, one-hand-on-the-knife-drawer strangeness. Let's call it the That B*tch Is Trippin' episode.

We open as usual with the girls reeling from last week's elimination, questioning their futures in pastel tracksuits. Brooke the Bruised is certain she'll be next to go, packed as she is with un-tappable potential. Mollie-Sue (Hi, Mollie-Sue! Got anything that needs washing?) is frustrated by the judges' comments that she has no tangible personality. "I have personality", she wails. "I fart!".

Nnenna the Nigerian, whom I secretly suspect may be turning into something of a dusky diva, is - gasp! - on the 'phone to her boyfriend! He wails like a captive killer whale, and the total of all Nnenna's responses can be summed up as "Whatever". Jade, who slinks around in the background like a sinister fruitcake, starts giving some "advice" to Nnenna, wanting them to stay together, with the obvious hope that if the lanky African is emotionally compromised, it will improve her own chance of winning. As she says to camera: "I'm free. I have nothing holding me back". Except for, maybe, 26 years under your belt and a pixie that tells you to burn things...

Tyra drops in to the model mansion for a surprise visit. I clenched my teeth and gripped the arms of the couch, expecting the obligatory Tyra One-On-One Pep Talk that happens tediously every series, but no. Something's wrong. Tyra's tired. She must be. She says "I'm so tired, y'all". She flutters her lids, puts her hand to her brow, stands on wobbly legs and, most tellingly, DOESN'T do any kind of bootay-shakin' dance. Something MUST be wrong. All of a sudden Tyra's knees buckle and she's down on the floor, out for the count. Our modules freak out, their scrawny frames overcome with adrenalin, and panic sets in. Tyra stirs slightly, and the girls crowd around her, concern furrowed deeply in their powdered foreheads. They leap back in shock when Tyra miraculously recovers, leaps up in the air and shouts "HA! I was ACTING! Today you're gonna learn about ACTING!". Yeah. Freakin' hilarious. Unsurprisingly, none of the girls see the funny side, having just left chocolate messages in their undies, and Furonda even sheds a few tears. Tyra soldiers on, earnestly telling the girls about the importance of acting in a modelling career. Then, to make things all better, everyone gets a pink t-shirt!

The modules are bussed off to an 'improv and sketch theatre', where Jade claims "Girl, I think I'm made for the stage", and then proceeds to try to show off some gigantic white boots she's wearing by resting her feet above her head at every opportunity. The girls are told to act terrified, then act like Janice Dickinson, and then act angry. Personally, I couldn't tell the difference between the last two - shouting and squinting. Next, the girls line up and are told to improvise a story, a line each. Brooke starts off with the first line of the story, the hardcover edition of which should soon be available in a brown paper bag at the top of a narrow staircase. Everything chugs along until Jade's turn, which involves some kind of accent change and a spot of melodramatic posturing, and the acting tutor calls a halt to the exercise, telling Jade it's a team exercise, not all about her. The Crying Little Girl inside inches microscopically closer to the surface.

As tediously repetitive as Bert Newton's career comebacks, Nnenna jumps back on the 'phone to her boyfriend, and her malevolent side begins to reveal itself. I just reckon that even if a couple are having problems, the death knell for a relationship is certainly tolling when one person says "John, you're embarrassing me. Suck it up. I'm only going to hate you when I get back". Jade panics a little at the thought that they might break up, so she starts scribbling a making-up script on post-it notes and handing them to Nnenna, who drones their contents down the line. To add to this obvious display of rational human function, Jade has again wrapped her head and shoulders in what may or may not be the house curtains. She'd give Julie Andrews a run for her money in the creative textiles stakes, that girl.

A Tyra-Mail shoots the girls off to the set of Wild N' Out, an improv show, where they're met by 3 of the stars, who explain that their show is all about playing games and being funny on the spur of the moment. First, they're given a random prop to improvise with - Daniele mimes the old Vaudeville classic 'Vomiting A Slinky', Furonda turns an over-sized pipe-cleaner into a thigh-master, and Mollie-Sue turns a bike-tire into an earring, causing Daniele to comment that she's "hella funny" through her gappy teeth. Next up is The Question Game, in which module is pitted agains module in a conversation which must comprise entirely of questions. Got it? It's the kind of concept that an illiterate, deaf 9-year-old could understand, right? As long as that child isn't Jade. Every time it was her turn, she just made a statement. It was bizarre - it was literally like she didn't know what a question was. Joanie comments that "Jade just sucks at everything we do", while Jade defends herself lamely with "Even though it was fun, that just wasn't humour to me". It was to us though, hon.

Next - the Great Rapping Challenge. A beat starts, and each model has to improvise a quick couple of lines on the spot. Daniele, true to her so-street-it-stings hype, does brilliantly, offering "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'ma win the title, 'cos you look like Boo-Boo". Nnenna sucks, Joanie is surprisingly good, and Furonda kicks arse. All is done with the kind of light-hearted ribbing that rap is generally known for, although without mention of the unnecessary popping of any caps in anyone's arse. Then it was Jade's turn. Oh, Jade honey. You're thick as sh*t, aren't you? I don't know why I didn't see it before, but there, sitting in between the outside layer of Psycho Diva and the inside layer of Crying Little Girl, is a great generous wedge of Stupid in a big dysfunctional sandwich. Her offerings, cutting both Furonda (Girl, your skin is bumpy, mine is flawless, but yours is all lumpy) and Sara, who she basically says shouldn't be here and then swears at, go down like a lead balloon. Sara, revenge etched all over her face, responds with "I think I'm gonna puke in a bottle if I hear any more 'bout Jade being the undiscovered supermodel", after which Jade says "That doesn't even rhyme". Oh, DOIK. To camera afterwards, Jade blames her spectacular failure on the fact that she wasn't given enough direction.

Furonda wins the challenge and a prize consisting of a cameo role in Veronica Mars and a Public Service Announcement for HIV awareness. She does well in both, with no mistakes, no b*tchiness, no melodrama, and no tears. BORING!

Jade, who should probably be apologising to Furonda for the 'lumpy' thing, instead proclaims like an insane Alabama preacher "I'm like the realest individual. I need to write a book - and you should read it".

Before things get too predictable, let's have a scene involving Nnenna on the phone to her boyfriend, eh? The other modules have a bit of a whinge about the time Nnenna takes hogging the 'phone, and start to question whether Nnenna is, in fact, as sweet as she first appears. Will it be Nnenna the Nasty Nigerian?

PHOTO SHOOT: The modules arrive at a glamorous hilltop mansion where they're to shoot an ad for Cover Girl foundation. Pretending they're at a party, the girls have to remember two scripted lines (including, of course, 'Easy, breezy beautiful Cover Girl' - don't make me bring up the deaf 9-year-old again), and improvise the rest whilst walking through a maze of guests and waiters bearing cocktails. All this, and they only get two takes each. I don't predict any disaster, do you? Sara does brilliantly, although she appears to be promoting a Long Island Iced Tea. Furonda bounces like a scrawny lapdancer on speed, and Joanie slinks through like a Playboy mansion hostess, stopping for a quick gyrate with some of her guests. Leslie nailed it, Daniele muffed a couple of lines and tripped over her own teeth, and Mollie-Sue seemed to be aggressively selling Angry Foundation. Nnenna rocked it, but Brooke was nervous as all get-out, crying before she started and forgetting her lines. And then there's Jade. Imagine a semi-mute drag-queen voguing on Quaaludes and drifting through her own birthday party on the Love Boat, and you're halfway there. She also needs someone to explain to her that a microphone doesn't just start to work when you're ready for it to, like, after you've exhaled and said "okay.... um....". She forgot her lines, laughed, and swore. In both takes. Only words usually used to describe snowmen are suitable here - I was embarrassed for her. Jay turned to camera, eyes wide with disbelief, and just said "She's a drag queen". Jade, unconvincingly, says "If I had one more take I would have aced it - I needed to be given a little more direction". 'Elsewhere' is a direction, babe.

Judgement is upon the girls, and we're again introduced to the judges, including Spunky Nigel, who gets first naming rights for either of my boobs. Tyra, again with the comic instincts of a dead ferret, pretends to faint again. HILARIOUS! The models do a successful group impersonation of a tumbleweed. The judges screen and comment upon each girl's Cover Girl ad, telling Daniele to change her accent by imitating a newsreader. Tyra does an impersonation of Daniele's ghetto twang, which is both insulting and... well, insulting. I'm sure, in her head, Daniele was imagining kicking her in the neck. I know I was. Furonda might as well have said "Easy, cheesy, beautiful", and Tyra dubs our bruised friend "Babbling Brooke". Jade and the judges view her diabolical travesty, and Jade, red-faced, stamps her foot, shakes her head and says accusingly "You guys used my worst take! In the other one I delivered my lines perfectly". Um... were you THERE?!?

ELIMINATION: After taking a moment to again ridicule Daniele's accent, Tyra reels off the girls' names one by one, until only Jade and Mollie-Sue are left. Now, I know I hate Jade with a passion usually reserved for chihuahuas, but she consistently provides me with incredulous entertainment, so I'd be sad if she left. And we all know how I feel about My New Flatmate Mollie-Sue. Tyra revs up for her weekly personality assassination, and tells Mollie-Sue that while she takes good pictures, she has a distinct lack of 'persona', and seems robotic. Jade is told that she not only had a bad ad shoot, she always plays the 'blame game', the judges are turned off by her attitude, and that both takes of her ad were awful. Then... then... wait, I just have to dab at my eyes with a devastated hanky... MOLLIE-SUE IS SENT HOME. Wha..?? Who except for a blind brain-damaged daschund would prefer JADE over MOLLIE-SUE? Mollie-Sue is gutted, particularly at the fact that she was beaten by the Squinty Psycho. I don't get it. Bye, Mollie-Sue. Don't like, be the prettiest and best model in the world on your way out.

My new guesses for top two are Nnenna and Leslie. Go, underdog!

Next week (sorry, my computer screen's gone a bit blurry...), we're promised catwalk-twirling lessons, a hip-hop photo shoot and a barney between Brooke and Nnenna. Dizzy-making. Booty-shaking. Mickey-taking.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Australia's Next Top Model Series Six #5

Hmmmm.... the America's Next Top Model box of chocolates seems to be a bit less nutty this week, although it is by no means free from the burden of dysfunction. Let's call it the Maniacal Laughter Episode.

Gina is shocked that she hasn't been eliminated - a feeling shared by you, me, and everyone who has ever breathed oxygen. She adopts the classic Jan Brady Tantrum Pose and lies face down on the bed wailing about her insecurities and the fact that Jade is mean.

A lot of our modules seem to be feeling the pressure - Brooke the Bruised isn't confident about her photos, Nnenna the Nigerian is ruthlessly harrassed by her boyfriend, who misses her (the b*stard), and Daniele the Ghetto 'Gator is hobbling around on crutches, her pinky toe still swollen from last week's nosebleed-heels challenge. And hobbling. And hobbling. Sit DOWN, girl!

Like ocean waves, dirty washing, and John Holmes, the Tyra-Mails just keep coming, and this morning's mail merely says "What's your favourite position?". Oo-er, matron. How very Benny Hill of you. After the obligatory models-wearing-sunglasses-in-car-convoy montage, our girls arrive at a studio in which a number of artists are busily sketching a mysterious black-hatted model. Surprise! It's Janice Dickinson, the incredible plastic woman! I imagine she's what a kelpie would look like if it simultaneously sucked on a lemon and hung from a bridge by its ears. She welcomes the modules to her posing class, and introduces her guest assistant, Crazy Lisa from ANTM Series 5 (for those of you who remember, she of the peeing-in-the-nappy incident). Luckily, Lisa seems to have been contractually limited to a non-speaking role in this episode, and was merely there to demonstrate poses. If only Janice "Don't Come Near Me With A Naked Flame" Dickinson had the same clause drafted into her contract. She explains the difference between 'commercial' (think Cover Girl) and 'editorial' (think Vogue) posing, which basically comes down to a) the presence or absence of maniacal laughter, and b) pretending you have a broken spine.

During the posing class, Gina admits to Janice that she has trouble being 'convincing' in her photographs, so Janice gives her a quick and bizarre lesson. "Smile for me", says Janice, and Gina grimaces as if she's just stepped on an errant piece of Lego in bare feet. "Laugh like you've just heard something funny", says Janice, and Gina giggles nervously as if she's reading the words "Ha, ha, ha" in a script. Janice, seemingly less interested now in education and more interested in her own twisted amusement, tells Gina to "Stand on one foot, hop up and down, and laugh hysterically". Because this is going to increase her confience, of course. Jade, always ready to criticise our favourite twitching Korean, comments that "This girl has lost her damn mind". Hello, pot? Phone call for you. It's the kettle.

The modules go out to dinner, and are once again joined by Janice "97% Flesh Free" Dickinson, who has obviously fully satisfied the 'You Must Be At Least This Insane To Ride This Attraction' requirement for the show. For her entrance, Janice asks the girls to 'gimme a beat', so they variously beat-box or drum on the table, with air-scratchin' courtesy of Daniele. Jade gushes to camera that she and Janice seem to have a real connection, because they're "on the same level". Yes. You're both psychotic b*tches with a bit of a squint. Janice at first seems to go against the psycho Jade connection and takes pity on Gina, getting her to sit on her lap and saying "Now, tell me who's giving you sh*t". Gina is hesitant to be a bit of a dobber, but eventually indicates Jade with a nervous finger. Jade, recalling her studies in Advanced Transparent Melodrama 101, raises her pseudo-innocent eyebrows and says "What did I do now, Gina? What did I do now?". Just when we all think that Janice is going to leap to Gina's aid, she turns like the evil synthetic monster she is and shouts "YOU DON'T RAT OUT YOUR B*TCHES!". Gina starts yammering in her own defence, but Janice shuts her down, exclaiming "Zip it, B*tch! You're dead to me now". This woman has children. Book their rehab now.

In the car on the way home from dinner, Gina is, understandably, a snotty, screeching mess, and some of the girls try to prop her up, Nnenna asking "What's Jade gonna do? Spank you?". Back at the house, Gina comes out of the shower to see Jade sitting on her bed, giving her the melodramatic greasies, and announcing "You've got it so twisted, Gina. We're gonna have to do this now. I'm trying to make peace with you". Yuh-huh. Like Palestinians and Israelis, you are. Gina snaps and gives Jade a good old serve, almost fizzing as she tells her she's not intimidated. We all know that she actually is intimidated, but given the choice of someone either giving Jade a spray or not giving Jade a spray, I know what I'd pick every time.

Another Tyra-Mail and car montage, and we're in another studio meeting Lawrence Zarian, who is an older male model with a forehead you could land helicopters on. Being very much the sweater-draped-over-the-shoulders kind of model, he introduces a commercial-style modelling challenge. The girls are to dress themselves in four different outfits from Sears, then pose 'commercially' against four different seasonal backdrops, trying to physically epitomise Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Most of the girls do pretty well, with regular dips into the Maniacal Laughter punchbowl, and Gina talks herself into the moment by announcing "I will bring you Spring". Jade looks on evilly. Nnenna wins the challenge prize, being every Sears outfit worn for the shoot, which is a bit like winning a year's supply of Fletcher Jones Casuals, but whatever - she's excited.

Nnenna has another chat on the 'phone to her boyfriend Tim, surprisingly not telling him to shave off his revolting moustache. He gets a bit cranky and pouty about her being away from him, and, in a surprisingly snippy move by the normally serene Amazon, she barks "You're being annoying. And it's not stopping", and hangs up on him. Our Nigerian is turning out to have quite the set of bollocks on her.

Before I go any further, I have to dedicate some space to Joanie's gammy tooth. She has a killer body, a beautiful face, and almost a lovely smile except for the DYING GREY FANG that juts out from the middle of her gums like a fossilized off-white meerkat. There. I've said it.

Tyra Mail. Car montage. Our ladies turn up at the CBS studios, just in time to say hi to an ebullient Tyra fresh from the set of the Tyra Banks Show. She babbles like a drunken auntie about how modelling is a temporary career, and that you need to have goals so you don't have to resort to high-class prostitution as soon as a wrinkle or liver-spot appears. The modules take turns to tell Tyrant what their goals are, and they range from attorney to African chemist to singer, with a couple of stand-outs. Joanie, bless 'er, says she wants to be a stay-at-home Mom, which is exactly what you'd expect from a fundamentalist Christian pole-dancer. Brooke wants to be a "nurse's anaestheticisticist", which is unfortunate, because I think being able to pronounce your goal is a pre-requisite for being allowed to put people to sleep and make sure they don't die. Jade, seemingly on a whim, says that she'd like to be a kindergarten teacher, which scares me more than a little. Daniele (as usual) puts it best when she claims "That's so random. I would home school my kids if she was their teacher".

PHOTO SHOOT: Jay tells the girls that this week they'll be acting out their future goals in an 'editorial' style, which means 'edgy', or in normal person terms, 'constipated'. Jay then introduces the main props for the shoot, lining up five male models in front of the girls, prompting a chorus of lascivious leers. Nnenna, certainly coming out of her shell, beams and says "I want to have fun". Furonda sighs languidly and enthuses that there's "So much candy". Daniele does her summarising best by testifying "Thank you, Jee-SUZ!". What a pack of randy slappers. The male and female models mingle for a few minutes to become acquainted, and one of the blokes says to Nnenna "Whatever you need, I'll give it to you", and you could have cut the moist sexual tension with a well-greased knife.

Furonda becomes an attorney in tight black leather, and for the first time this series, doesn't look like a crack-addicted chihuaua. Jade is quite easily the most terrifying sl*tty kindergarten teacher imaginable in a long straight blonde wig, Sara is the Lawyer Most Likely To Feature In A Film Titled 'May I Approach The Bed, Your Honour', and Joanie is a housewife with a martini. Mollie-Sue is a mulleted make-up artist, Leslie is a criminal justice investigator / dominatrix, and Daniele is a singer for whom talent appears irrelevant. Brooke is a naughty nurse, and Gina the fashion designer nervously flips her frock flaps and wraps a tape measure around the male models' neck. Nnenna appears to be, as they say in the classics, on the horn, and flirts outrageously with her male model, dressed as she is in predictable leopard-skin, with him in almost nothing. She seems to confuse 'drug researcher in Africa' with 'Madame Frottage and her Muscular Toy'. Much rubbing and pouting ensues, with the final shot ending in a bit of a pash. Squeals of laughter and embarrassment are heard as the male model bolts from the room, covering a raging stiffy with a towel. "He totally pitched a tent!" cries Joanie gleefully. "And not the camping kind!" she adds unnecessarily. Yes, Joanie. We get it. Phnar.

Nnenna the Nympho feels a tiny bit guilty and talks to her boyfriend again, telling him almost everything about the photo shoot. She lies when he asks "Did you kiss on the guy?", and he hangs up on her. She kind of thinks it's funny.

Judgement time, and we're AGAIN introduced to the judges, including Spunky Nigel, whose photo will soon be hanging in my shower. The girls are given a mini-challenge to try and sell the clothes they have on in a 'catalogue' style by showing three different poses to the judges. Much Maniacal Laughter ensues, except for, predictably, Gina, who sticks with her customary twitching, with a bit of scary clown mixed in. In the second half of the challenge, the girls are given a fireman's hat, jacket and boots, and are told to pose with them in an 'editorial' way. Most of the girls are statuesque and angular, a little bit like they have uncomfortable things up their bottoms. Except Gina. Oh, Gina. She holds the props as if they're giant slavering dogs, does one pose and then says "Can I .... Do I have to do more, or.... can I wear these?". I can only imagine what it's like inside her head - a big ball of tangled sticky string with crumbs from yesterday's toast all over it.

Elimination time, and it comes down to Brooke the Bruised and Gina the Crazy Korean. This week's Tyra tirade isn't as harsh as usual, but Brooke is told she has loads of potential but no talent, and Gina is told that her fabulous cheekbones won't make up for her vacuousness. Then, in a shock comparable to that of the sun coming up each morning, GINA IS SENT HOME! She doesn't seem very upset due to the fact that the odds for her leaving were about one to one, and even Jade manages a civil hug. Bye, Gina. Don't have a screaming spasm on your way out.

Next week, we'll be treated to some acting classes, some (gasp!) b*tchiness from Jade, an ad shoot for Cover Girl, and a shocking collapse! Casting call. Lasting brawl. Nasty fall.
Until then....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Steak 'n' Chicks Tuesday #1

Some weeks ago, my mate Alex decided, since we all have such frantic social agendas (being the sophisticated girls-about-town that we are), that we should make a monthly commitment to catch up for a pub meal. Enthusiastically received, the idea came to fruition, and hence I'm pleased to present the inaugural Steak 'N' Chicks Tuesday Review.

2nd May 2006 - The Grand National, Underwood Street, Paddington

The Place
The Grand National is what I've decided will now be known as a BNP - a Bloody Nice Pub. While it bears some obvious scars of the Great Late Nineties Pub Renovation Cancer Epidemic, it still maintains vestiges of a traditional pub feel. Its main room is dominated by the bar and a massive blackboard menu, whilst around the corner is a bit of a niche and a separate back room, the latter bearing the only clanging disappointment in the decor - a lurid mural that Salvador Dali might have painted if he'd just come from the supermarket. There is a separate Proper Restaurant, which won't get any further mention here - cloth napkins just isn't what Steak 'n' Chicks Tuesday is about.
Despite the presence in the Grand of three big screens - appropriately only one showing sport, and the other two stuck on the Fashion Channel - the pub maintains a cosy feel, mostly due to quaint touches like a homely shaded lamp emanating its soft glow atop the ciggy machine.
When we arrived and left, about 3 hours apart, there were tables and seats available, but at several points in between it was standing room only - not bad for a Tuesday night.

The People
Despite early enthusiasm, the inaugural Steak 'N' Chicks Tuesday was only a modest affair - Alex, Fi, Anna, Jen and me - just enough to fill a table and enable everyone to take part in the same conversation at once. Good bunch of chicks, really.
Staff in The Grand were refreshingly average-looking - good for clientele self-esteem, not so good for a good old-fashioned perv - and mostly female. Service was absolutely top-notch.
Clientele was extremely mixed early in the night, with lots of older locals getting in a feed before the younger hordes arrived. The crowd seemed overwhelmingly local, possibly due to the small size of the pub and the tucked-away-in-a-narrow-corner location. Alex bumped into 'thingy' from MTV (sees him everywhere, name escapes her), and Fi was relieved when a guy, who looked exactly like her ex-boyfriend, wasn't. A touch of eye-candy here and there, although (happily) of the quietly confident and relaxed sort. Marginally more blokes than chicks, but in nothing near wet-t-shirt competition proportions.

The Food
The Grand National is like a place to get food with beer attached. Its focus seems to be primarily on its gastronomic offerings, with really, really, satisfying results. The menu was long and full of opportunities to grunt appreciatively, with a couple of steak options followed by pasta, risotto, warm salads, pizzette, fish and chips, schnitzel and the like. Anna and Fi had a warm salad with dribblingly tender slices of lamb topped with a subtle yoghurty dressing, which was the perfect size and extremely fresh and tasty. Alex had a New York steak with salad and peppercorn sauce, and was thankful she didn't have the chips that would normally go with it. Massive pieces of steak actually cooked as requested (which is rare, in both senses of the word), and a fantastic sauce. Easily the meal voted Most Likely To Have Some Left Over, due to its gigantic size. I had seafood paella with chorizo, which made up for not-quite-enough-chorizo with buttery chunks of fish right through, and five mussels perched on top. It's rare to find pub risotto-esque dishes that aren't a salty, stodgy clump, so I was more than satisfied. Jen, having just come from a gruelling, 'I nearly vomited' training session, just sampled enthusiastically from our plates. Meals in general seemed to be the perfect size, especially for the girth-conscious, although an hour after we'd finished we were gazing lasciviously at our neighbours' two plates full of T-Bone steak and chorizo and herb pizzetta.

The Summarising Bit
Excellent. The second Steak 'N' Chicks Tuesday will have to try hard to top this one in food quality and venue coolness. We were left with warm fuzzy glows and comfortably full stomachs.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Is It Just Me, Or... #3 Dylan Moran the only slovenly, paunchy, grey-skinned, chain-smoking, wine-guzzling intellectual snob in the whole world who can still be sexy as all get-out?

I'm sure he has bad breath, dandruff and bluish pockets of flesh in several unfortunate, downward-pointing clumps, but he's also got enough sarcasm to run a small munitions factory for several days. And DIMPLES.

I don't have to go out with Dylan Moran. Just someone exactly like him.