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Thursday, November 30, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Seven #9

If Dr Seuss watched this show, he'd say something like:
Modules. They're here, they're there, they're everywhere. They're in the air. They have nice hair.
We've got a new, action-themed episode, yet another stupid, stupid photo-shoot, and modules throwing themselves around with gay (some more than others) abandon. It's The Cat In The Fat Goes Splat! episode of America's Next Top Module.

· It's a Module Mansion Musical Memorial, as CariDee strums her guitar and Melrose, lamenting the recent departure of Brooke, "sings" along. It's like a tone-deaf owl got its knackers caught in a vise at a siren factory. She sings:

We love you, Brooke
And we're gonna miss you like hell
You brought to this house
A feeling I could feel.

Aaaah, Melrose. Not a smart girl. She's frustrated, though. Frustrated with girls who keep avoiding elimination, who don't "want this" as much as she does. Thing is, nobody wants this as much as she does. The Postal Worker Within would happily stick a javelin in her own eye to win this competition. I really can't wait until she doesn't.

· The modules are trucked off to the beach, where they're met by Gabrielle Reece, an ex-module turned champion beach-volleyballer, who introduces this week's theme of movement and action. Jaeda takes an instant shine to her, relating easily to her massive frame and bulging muscles. It's like Brigitte Nielsen looking in a mirror, but with testicles. Gabrielle explains that you can be muscular and feminine, active and attractive, or chunky and spunky. To demonstrate her point, she asks each module to dive head-first into the sand in a bikini, whilst posing for a photo. Anchal is mortified about stripping off and revealing her "flab", which to me looks like a perfectly acceptable body dangling beneath two gargantuan bosoms. She under-commits to the sand-diving, and adds to the overwhelming sense of pointlessness surrounding this exercise. I must say, though – Sweet Jesus, those twins are pale. Seeing them leap and flail in their smalls is like throwing a handful of sneaker shoelaces into a strong wind. Food and sunshine, my dears. Stat.

· The diary-room gets a good workout this week. Eugena claims that Anchal's self-consciousness "makes her look more like a big ol' blob", and Melrose takes a personal interest, saying that she's "frustrated with Anchal's pictures. I want her out of here". I love watching a Messiah complex blossom in the mind of a simpleton. You know what I'm talking about, Anthony Mundine. Anchal has her turn, and after the usual "I have no friends, I'm fat, I'm lonely" gripe, moves on to her distaste for Melrose, stating succinctly: "I just wanna slap the ho". I stop being bored senseless by Anchal for a second. Then it's gone.

· The Module Mobile drops the girls off in the middle of the desert, where they're met by NASCAR driver Stanton Barrett and the wonderful and ridiculous James St James, a sort of gay designing thing. More mascara than Liza. Less hair than Angry. A black turban reminiscent of Shirley's in Postcards From The Edge. More elbow and shoulder-pads than the entire cast of BMX Bandits. It's terrifying. Yet appealing.
The girls are here for a photo-shoot challenge based on the action theme – they're to pose in front of a racecar, pretend they're cross with "boyfriend" Stanton Barrett for putting his career ahead of theirs, leap at him angrily through the air, show their frocks to best advantage, look pretty, and take their own photo by pressing a button on a remote-control device in mid-jump. I know, it's stupid, but it's also f*cking brilliant. Better than motorised hair and Fabio by a long shot.

· Eugena rises above boring and is pretty good. She's practiced looking angry quite a lot – mostly between dawn and dusk every day for her whole life. Melrose seems to think that angry people hurtling through the air should still smile, and Jaeda is three times the size of Stanton Barrett. As she launches herself at him, she casts a shadow on him as she comes between him and the sun, and he looks so frightened I think a little bit of wee comes out. Twin Amanda is less 'angry girlfriend' than 'disgruntled spaghetti', but Caridee (mostly because she's perfect) rocks the freakin' house. She starts by spitting "This is your last race, BITCH" at Stanton, and then flings her frame from right to left and back again. Anchal, in a surprise comparable to getting wet in the shower, is shy and restrained. She moans "I'm afraid of my boobs falling out" (which is, frankly, bloody fair enough), and James St James snorts "I don't care about your boobs". Big shock from a man in heels. Twin Michelle is better than her sister, and shows commitment to the task by walking all over the car in heels, denting it in the process. I'm quite impressed that she actually weighs enough to dent a car – she's the kind of girl who doesn't look like she'd leave footprints in chocolate mousse.

· Michelle wins the challenge, and chooses Caridee, Amanda and Melrose to share her prize, which is "the opportunity to win a ten thousand dollar shopping spree", which seems like an unnecessarily vague prize description. Is that like walking in a thunderstorm is "the opportunity to be killed by lightning"? The winners go to Billion Dollar Babes and are met by Kate Robelius, the Aussie owner, who tells them they have 30 seconds to put on as many clothes as possible. The girl who puts on the most clothes wins everybody's clothes. Stupid. Boring. Melrose won. Whatever. That girl wins bloody everything. Perceptively, she says "I feel like every girl is wanting to kill me right now". Bingo, sweetie. Slowly. With razors and salt.

· The modules get a Tyra-Mail blathering something about all models being airheads. "I don't get it", says Caridee, making me want to go shoe-shopping with her this weekend. The girls schlep out to an indoor skydiving facility (the kind where you hover in mid-air in a plastic room over a gigantic fan, looking like a leaf caught in a pool filter), and Jay reminds them that this week's theme is action and movement. They'll be hovering in the virtual sky-diving zone, dressed as "sexy space sirens", reaching out for a tub of CoverGirl foundation, which will be Photo-shopped in later along with a cosmic background. My dreams of an un-ridiculous photo-shoot concept are dashed. Dashed, I say! It's funny, though – when I hear the phrase "sexy space sirens", miraculously I don't think of rubbery off-white bodysuits, gardening gloves, goggles and helmets shaped like novelty condoms. That kind of outfit more effectively evokes the phrase "men's downhill". That just shows what I know about fashion.

· Twin Michelle is up first (literally), and she does the best that an ungraceful knitting needle can. Jaeda is next in the air, proving that this fan is one powerful bastard, although she complains that her face is flapping. Twin Amanda is thrown around like a sock in a dryer, although Jay says she's like a "ballerina in the sky". Sutan the gayest make-up artist in the world looks at Anchal in her space-suit and says "Suck it in, honey". Anchal pouts and says "I am". Sutan hisses "Suck it in harder". This seems to upset her into doing the same pose over and over again. It's a miracle she's not beaten to death by her own windswept boobies, to be frank. Eugena is as boring as a hovering somebody in a wind-tunnel can be, and Melrose underwhelms, even though Jay tries to spur her on by shouting "Come on! Make these girls hate you even more!". Caridee swoops and dives like a hyperactive superhero without any regard for her personal safety or that of those around her. She rocks so hard I'm going cross-eyed.

· The modules shuffle into the Starship Enterprise to be introduced again to the judges, including Spunky Nigel, who I'm having my tongue scraped for. Tyra's hair has been tortured into a kind of bouffant tsunami, and she's swathed in dark blue satin, cinched at the waist with a weightlifter's belt. Not too bad, to be honest, although I think my standards have dropped due to weekly visual abuse. The girls are given a great action-themed challenge – a verb and an adverb are randomly drawn from two hats (they must have edited out the bit where these are explained as "doing words" and "words that function as modifiers of the aforementioned doing words"), and each girl must play out the described action. Eugena "shakes flirtatiously", and while her body wobbles, her face stays dead. Boring. Michelle "skis sadly", which is a kind of angry forward static moonwalk. Jaeda "skips sensually", and glimmers of her personality are seen behind her manly façade. Amanda "swims frightfully", and yes, she does. Anchal "dances aggressively", and all of her except her norks give a half-arsed performance, right until she sprints out of the room. Melrose is told to "box joyfully", and, mental behemoth that she is, adopts a joyful face whilst miming the outline of a cardboard box. To add to the confusion, she mouths the words "cover girl". Oh, man. She's stupid. Like, stupider than cheese. Caridee "hides dizzily", and stumbles around the room, voguing drunkenly, hiding behind her hand, the door, and anything else available. She's brilliant. The judges practically gyrate with admiration, and I'm thinking of knitting her a scarf. Or a house. Somebody name a landmark after this girl.

· Photos are picked through, and most of the "sexy space siren" shots look angular and awkward, just like girls suspended in mid-air do. Anchal is given a bollocking for not committing to the tasks and challenges this week, although her space photo, which I'm calling "Cosmic Hooters" is pretty good. The judges' chairs get a bit moist when Caridee's performance and photo is appraised, but Jaeda's photo is mostly jaw.

· The judges deliberate, and Tyra stands before our modules, cradling the Photos of Doom. Names are droned (and Tyra asks Eugena to shake again, and flip her hair "like a white girl") until it's just down to Boobie Anchal and Twin Michelle. Anchal is told she has a gorgeous face, but that she doesn't believe in herself. No mention of her fat arse. Michelle is told that she has natural talent, but that she doesn't seem to want to be a module, which is offensive to Tyra. Eventually, Anchal is given the flick. She cries and hugs all the other girls, including her nemesis Melrose, who gets the extra farewell message of "I still hate you". Gets you right there, innit? Bye, Anchal! Don't knock a vase off a shelf with your great pendulous rack on your way out!

Next week, the girls go to acting lessons, Caridee calls someone mean a bitch, and the girls are off to Spain! Drama. Karma. Mañana.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #7

It's been a while between Steak N' Chicks Tuesdays, but I think we more than made up for it this month. Do you know how I know? I wore a bib. That's a sign that I'm very, very serious about eating. It's possibly also a sign that I have a dribble problem, but that's neither here nor there.

This time 'round, we were looking for a place with an outdoor area and summery food to match the temperate climate at this time of year. We were looking for a casual atmosphere, a good wine list, an affordable bill and as many bi-valve molluscs as we could cram into our faces. An impossibly tall order, you say? Not at all…

28th November 2006 – Bungalow 8, King Street Wharf.

The Place
I have some considerable reservations about the King Street Wharf strip. It all feels so brand new, and the bars and restaurants that crowd its length run the whole gamut from Too-Cool-For-School to Someone-Just-Vomited-On-My-Shoes. Every now and then, though, I'll have a brilliant time there, and this was one of those. Bungalow 8 is a big, open space with a massive outdoor area, a kitchen at one end and a bar that runs most of its length. Outside is sheltered enough to protect diners and drinkers from sudden, pelting rain (as it did last night), but open enough to get some mild breeze fluttering through one's glamorous, fashionable hair. I have no idea how anyone stays warm here in winter, but the cane chairs, chunky exposed beams and blocky outdoor couches scream Summer to me. Although the place was heaving, it still seemed spacious and relaxed.
As usual, I can't move on without mentioning the little chick's room, and the loos here are like a lot of loos in newish Sydney venues – shiny, blockish, dramatically lit, with taps that need instructions and a basin that looks like it's going to leave a wet smudge on your crotch. But doesn't. Quite nice – earthy tones, funky locks on the doors, but (as I discovered too late), not up to scratch on the old keeping-the-toilet-paper-refilled front. Nothing humbles a girl faster than a shouted plea for paper over a cubicle wall.

The People
A good mix o' chicks – Me, Alex, Alyson, Di, Claire, Ella and SNCT virgins Milly & Rose – meant that as usual, conversation and wine egged each other on in a competition to be the most fluidly copious. More than one of the chicks had only eaten salad at lunch in order to leave their stomachs as ready as possible for disgusting amounts of food, which is the kind of forethought I really admire in a contemporary glutton.
The place was packed. Tuesday night is a popular night here, and I was very glad we booked ahead – easily three hundred people were fed and watered over the space of about three hours. The crowd was generally young and mixed, consisting of people from all walks of life who seemed to share a penchant for the Sucked Mango haircut. It's over, people. Let it go. Atmosphere was buzzy but not overwhelming, and if I hadn't been deep in both conversation and a pot full of mussels all night, I probably could have put in a good stint of conscientious perving.
I have never seen so many waitstaff in my entire life. The bar and kitchen area looked like it had just had a box of uniformed teenagers shaken open over it, swarming as it was with the keen-eyed, youthful help. Possible low-level brain activity was more than made up for with incredibly fast, efficient service. Empty glasses and teetering bucketfuls of empty mussel-shells were swiftly and effortlessly disposed of and (the best bit) replaced with fresh 'uns, and despite being almost overwhelmingly numerous, the staff were all so lithe and snake-hipped that they could swoosh past you with a tray full of empties and you'd hardly even feel the wind in their wake.

The Food
There are few phrases more deliciously titillating in life than "All You Can Eat". Tack the phrase "Mussels and Chunky Fries" on the end, and you've got a slice of gastronomic heaven. Tuesday night at Bungalow 8 is All You Can Eat Mussels and Chunky Fries (AYCEMACF) night, and I'm now a complete and subordinate slave to the concept.
I've been wary of mussels in the past – I've had some ineptly-cooked samples in the past which were unimpressive, so I'll usually order something else if given the choice. Also, being an emetophobe, I cringe at stories of one bad mussel turning unfortunate people into three-day chunder monkeys. All of my concerns dissolved the moment someone lifted the lid on their pot of gloriously-scented, black-shelled nuggets of liquoury loveliness. Fantastic.
On AYCEMACF night, you order your mussels from the bar, pay your eighteen dollars, and get a fetching blue wristband, the adhesive from which, in retrospect, should not be brought anywhere near one's delicate smattering of arm-hair. Virtually as soon as you've plonked your buttocks back on your seat, you're presented with a big black pot of steaming Tasmanian mussels, a side of "chunky" (jury still out on definition of "chunky") fries and a basket full of torpedo rolls. Mussels come in five different varieties – Thai Green Curry, White Wine, Laksa, Provencale, and Tom Yum. Based on aroma alone (and helped a bit by the fact that I tasted a bit of everyone's dinner. For the review, you understand..), I'd recommend the Asian flavours, although all were tasty.
Alyson had the subtle white wine variety, but loudly coveted Di's Tom Yum for its more intense flavour, and because Di was making appreciative grunting noises. In like, a really ladylike and sophisticated way, of course. Alyson noted that it didn't matter what flavour you had, dipping the bread in the broth afterwards was the business. Alex had the Laksa mussels, which came with delectably massive chunks of ginger and lemongrass, whilst Milly, Ella and I had the Provencale, with wedges of warm tomato and flecks of bacon. Rose and Claire, who said thousands of quotable blog-gems all night, didn't have the mussels, opting instead for great mountainous plates of salt-and-pepper squid. Granted, their meals looked a bit like they were brought to you by Colonel Sanders, but one taste (for the review, you understand) proved I was reading a book by its perfectly-spiced cover. Chips (still not comfortable with the misleading "chunky fries" thing) were not the highlight. Unseasoned, lukewarm and powdery. But oh my lord, the mussels were good. Bib-worthy, even.
After a good half hour of the sounds of slurping, lip-smacking and the clink of empty shell against empty shell, our pots were removed, and we were asked if we would like some more. Yes, we said.
Special mention must be given to what was (hopefully) a sign of freshness and authenticity. All of us (but mostly Ella), fished a small number of tiny, curled up crabs from our mussel-pots. It's as if they knew that there weren't enough risqué joke opportunities afforded by a bunch of girls at a table eating de-bearded shellfish from Tasmania – now we all had crabs. Phnar! Final crab tally at the end of the night was a massive 15 crustaceans.

The Summarising Bit

Nobody looks good in a bib. Nobody.
This is an excellent, excellent way to spend a Tuesday night, particularly if you start starving yourself around Sunday evening. Table manners are difficult to uphold when you're wrist deep in a bucket of mussels, which is exactly how it should be – this place is about really diving into the fresh, fresh critters with unabashed gusto, and mopping up the spoils with crusty bread afterwards. A couple of perfectly-suited wines on the list too, including my first Pinot Grigio.
There's certainly a novelty element to AYCEMACF Tuesday, but it's competently backed up with really good food (meh to you, chunky fries), and quick service. There were only a few things missing, which I've listed below:
· Nobody made a model of the Taj Mahal out of the empty mussel shells;
· Nobody made any of the empty mussel shells look like they were talking;
· Nobody put on a tiny crab puppet-show – there were easily enough collected to stage a mini-crab Idol; and
· Nobody invited Clive Owen.

Never mind.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Henry Lawson Is Stalking Me From Beyond The Grave #3

Actually, he's not. Henry Lawson isn't stalking me any more. He's stalking my mate Milly instead. He's such a slut.

Whilst planning a trip to Mudgee to see some old-fart champions of Australian rawk play at A Day On The Green, Milly thought she'd have a squiz at some background information about the winery the show was being staged at. Poet's Corner. Named after Henry Lawson. On Henry Lawson Drive.

A couple of weeks ago, in her capacity as Person Who Gets Sent The Occasional Press Release, Milly received an intriguing bit of parchment from C.L.A.S.S. (The Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters – logo includes pair of crossed rifles superimposed over the Southern Cross), announcing that November 18th will now be National "Buy A Gun" Day. I know. I know. The first sentence of the document reads: "In the words of that great Australian poet Henry Lawson, 'Every man should own a rifle and have cartridges in store'". I dunno – maybe he was just trying to rhyme with "Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door" or something.

The basic point is that I don't think Henry likes me anymore. It's the same old story, really – girl meets dead bush poet, girl introduces dead bush poet to friend, dead bush poet clocks friend's winner rack and drops girl like hot stone. I've been rejected before (not often, mind you – I've got a really nice bottom), but never by a spectral scribe. That's worse than by text message. I know he's like, famous and all, but you can probably understand why I'm a little bit insulted that I've been dumped by a guy who's been rotting in the ground for the best part of a century.

Milly, I hope you and Henry will be very happy. I really mean that. You're a top chick, and as far as decomposing odists go, Henno's a real catch.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Seven #8

I have a feeling we've been here before – or, as Miss Jay might say, I have a sense of gay ja vu. Just when we're starting to get to the pointy end of ANTM, and we're getting all excited about the possibility of seeing some actual modelling, nervous breakdowns and knife-fights, instead of a brand new episode we're hit with a flashback show, reminding us of what's happened in the last seven weeks. And some "Never Before Seen" (NBS) footage. It's like they think we have Alzheimer's and low standards. They're only half right. With some emerging themes and footage not deemed worthy of screening previously, here's the 'Bust A Recap In Yo Ass' episode of America's Next Top Module.

· NBS 1: Charlie the stylist and Sutan the campest make-up artist in the world visit the Module Mansion in week one, and ask the girls to bring out their luggage and show them their clothes so they can pick through and ridicule them. Not humiliating enough, you say? Charlie drags in a garbage bin emblazoned with the words "Fashion Trash" (when a picture of Janice Dickinson would've done just as well), and disposes of any truly offensive items. "This is hideous", says Charlie of one of Caridee's tops, and throws it in the bin. "That was my mom's", says Caridee. Anchal is accused of having too many rhinestones, and Monique's satanic sensibilities are roused when her god-awful spangly boots are tossed, and she objects loudly. Those boots were made for squawking. Melrose is given an A-plus for her style. I'm giving her a "See me" for her irritating, vacuous grin.

· NBS 2: Charlie and Sutan take the girls to Skyla, a relatively non-descript clothes shop, and give them five minutes to shop for "model basics". These are, apparently, a short mini, nude bra & undies, a big bag, a tank top, jeans, a scrunchie, sneakers, and a black cocktail dress. Commence scab-grab. This segment didn't make it to broadcast the first time around because it's as interesting as looking at masonite. On the smooth side.

· Emerging Theme 1: Monique Is A Nutjob. Seriously. The girl's a danger to society. If she wasn't so skinny, she'd be a Big Fat Psycho. We're reminded of her lilting, high-pitched, seemingly Quaalude-influenced voice – think Meg Tilly with a larynx full of helium and a head injury – and her complete disregard for the rules of normal human behaviour. Can't find the packet of chips you want in the cupboard? Don't just pick another packet of chips. Punish ALL modules by dragging all the packets of chips in the entire house onto the kitchen floor, stamping on them, and then chucking them in the bin. Don't have adequate brain cells to actually argue with your housemates? Just repeat everything they say in spooky falsetto. Monique says to camera "Nice Monique is out the freakin' window. Bitch has came in". Word.

· Remember Christian, the first girl eliminated? Me neither.

· NBS 3: Megg's Rock N' Roll Breakdown. During the Extreme Hair photo-shoot, Megg the groupie skank gets upset, and cries to Jay: "Like, I usually like to be myself, and like, get into my heavy metal music – it like, helps me model". Yep. She won't get out of bed for less than a Slayer CD. I'm skipping through the meadow of skepticism, though – do people who like "heavy metal music" really call it "heavy metal music"? If she was a true devotee, it would just be "Meddawl!". Honestly, pet. She snuffles, wipes her nose, and then adds weepily "I just wanna play some bongos, man". Yep. Bongos. The cornerstone of metal. Back at the Mansion, Megg fashions a drum kit out of flowerpots, boxes, and twigs, and thrashes herself some happy. She finishes gleefully to camera with "Today I made some bongos", which brings me to….

· Emerging Theme 2: Megg Is Missing A Chromosome. Her mouth hangs open most of the time. She has trouble forming sentences. She has trouble forming sentences without constant use of the words "like", "man" and "rawkenroll!". She was chosen to be the bearded lady in the circus freak shoot. She summons her inner model with Black Sabbath. Bongos make her happy. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the genetic equivalent of a potato.

· NBS 4: A tiny sparrow accidentally flies into the Module Mansion, causing widespread panic, terrified arm-flailing, and mirror-shattering screams. For the sake of comparison, I'd really like to see a hungry wolf wander in one time, just to watch the frenzied carnage. Is that mean?

· NBS 5: A Yoga instructor leads the modules in some "free dance", that is, she blindfolds them and tells them to improvise some organic dance moves about the room. Absolutely no point to this aside from my own personal entertainment. This will be a game played at every party I ever throw or attend from now on. Possibly nude.

· NBS 6: I don't want to surprise anyone, but Jaeda seems to be packing more than just a robust set of testes – she has a personality! The modules all gather for a spot of impromptu role-play (and it's just wacky that the camera's there to catch it), and pretend they're at an elimination. Jaeda plays Tyra and, despite not wearing something three sizes too small and gurning like an institutionalised gum-chewer, she does an astoundingly accurate impersonation. All the dryly dramatic catch-phrases are there: "Eight beautiful girls stand before me", "The first name I'm going to call is…", "I only have One. Photo. In my hand", and then, at the climactic bit, just when we find out who's eliminated…. she emotes "The girl who is still in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Model is…." , and I'm marvelling at how realistic Jaeda's impersonation is, and everyone's holding their breath to see who goes, and…. and….. CARIDEE DROPS HER GUTS. A great, big, loud fart, like someone quickly tearing a big sheet of corrugated cardboard in two. It's brilliant, and there are tears glistening in my admiring eyes, which brings me proudly to:

· Emerging Theme 3: Caridee Rocks, Like, Way Hard. She looks good all the time. She's hilarious. She's witty. She's pretty. She's cool. She's down-to-earth. All the modules love her. All the judges love her. She takes ah-some photographs. She farts like a constipated brickie. What in Nigel's name is there not to love?

· Emerging Theme 4: Jaeda Is A He-Woman. As this is a flashback episode, we're treated to a number of pre-makeover scenes, and I'm surprised to admit that Jaeda actually makes an okay-looking girl. With her long hair hiding her steroid-abuse-neck, jaw and shoulders, she passes for Junior Female Body-Builder, rather than Big Bloke With Tennis Balls Down Shirt. Bah to you and your makeovers, Tyra. The girl had a chance, pre-butchering.

· Emerging Theme 5: Melrose Is An Irritating, Bum-Sucking Crawler. I hadn't really noticed before, but Melrose wins nearly every challenge. I actually consider this a good thing. Come her inevitable elimination, her indignation and shock will likely be that palpable that she'll come all unstuck and Release the Postal Worker Within. Let's give her a false sense of security now. Build her up, buttercup.

I feel cheated. Damn you, recap episode. You're a sorry excuse for a show. You're Skipper to new episode's Barbie. Terri to new episode's Steve. Carob to new episode's Chocolate. You suck, recap episode.

Next week, we have the same stuff we were promised last week, before we knew we'd be hoodwinked with a recap show, but I'm still coming up with different rhyming words because I'm a slave to my own desperate desire to look clever: a photo-shoot with racecars, some simulated sky-diving, and a Melrose/Anchal war. Driving. Diving. Conniving.

It'd better be good. Mummy wants some drama.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Seven #7

There's so much ham and cheese in this show, it's like a… you know… a ham and cheese sandwich. After each episode I go and look at myself in the mirror, just to remind myself what someone who doesn't have their eyebrows raised looks like. Man, I look smart. And is it too much to ask that people in training to be modules have a photo shoot that doesn't involve prosthetic body-parts, spray-paint or pantomime costumes? Sheesh. Whatever. I'm over it. We want a proper, modelly beauty shot, and what do we get? The 'Mills & Poon' episode of America's Next Top Module.

· Eugena the Boring shows a mildly interesting trait this week – the ability to screw up her face and spit poison in everyone's direction. Maybe she's not boring at all – maybe she just hates everything and everybody. She starts in the right place, though, with "Melrose is a backstabbin' ho". I kind of get the feeling that even if Eugena won the lottery, she'd roll her eyes and sigh.

· Developing the negatives even further, Anchal throws her usual bunch of gripes into the mix with a bit of a self-doubt sampler. "I'm in the corner". "I'm self-conscious". "I have low self-esteem". "I'm shy". "I'm fat". She's not really any of those things. She's just a really pretty Indian girl who seems to store food for the winter in her boobs.

· Every girl seems to have a theme this week – we've covered bitchy and fat – let's move onto young, naïve, and missing out on rites-of-passage. Brooke's high-school graduation is on this week, and she's missing it to be here. She'll miss her prom, too, if she stays in the competition long enough, but it must be worth it – after all, previous winners of this competition are all huge, huge stars now, like What's-Her-Name from series one, and that girl who works at the newsagent. A package arrives from home, and it's packed full of presents to take her mind off missing her grad ceremony, like a Graduation Teddy-Bear, a Graduation Mortar-Board, and a big gold sign that says "Congrats, Grad!".

· Melrose wanders outside to the Module Mansion Backyard for no good reason, and discovers to her unscripted surprise that Tyra has set up an impromptu photo-shoot, with herself as the photographer! This is yet another Groundhog moment, as every series Tyra tries to prove that she's three-dimensional (a fact her dressmaker is painfully aware of) by taking moody black-and-white shots of the girls. She tells Melrose "I recently shot Nicole Richie, and I'm gonna shoot you today", which, if misinterpreted properly, summons all sorts of delicious, violent images. I start to think that perhaps we might be about to see this series' first non-gimmicky photo shoot until Tyra announces that she wants the girls to look angry-but-fashion, with the help, of course, of some novelty Thriller-esque horror contact lenses and teased hair. Despite not winning the lottery, I roll my eyes and sigh.

· After a 3-minute make-up job from the Tim Burton Junior Cosmetics Kit, Melrose is ready to interpret "scary fashion" as "melodramatic homeless zombie". Eugena's next, and her recurring problem of photo-shoot eye-deadness is overcome by a couple of cat's-eye contacts, and she looks half decent. Michelle manages okay despite being given bushy eyebrows and concise, meaningful directions from Tyra like "Don't lose your model". Manly Jaeda, with white eyes and steely jaw, actually rocks it, proving that she who is usually terrifying is just waiting for an appropriately terrifying context to make her feel at home. Amanda has trouble with nerves and discomfort, whilst Anchal is all slitty pupils and heaving bosom. Caridee hisses, growls, and snorts her way into my heart, and those of all who behold her. Really, even with white eyes and scare-hair, she's just a big plate of likeable sandwiches.

· A Tyra-Mail babbling something about flaunting one's assets arrives, and our modules are trucked off to a theatre to be met by Sutan (their camp, cross-dressing make-up artist) in bustier, top-hat, platforms and riding crop, and Dita Von Teese, burlesque megastar and wife of Marilyn Manson. Way to continue a spooky eye theme, guys. Dita performs a quick striptease involving a gigantic martini glass, to the delight of mostly Michelle, and then tells the girls she'll be teaching them the art of burlesque, or as I'm calling it, "Retro-Slutty". The difference between "sexy" and "sleazy" is touched upon (or rubbed, depending on which side of the fence you're straddling), and the importance of subtlety is explained by a woman in a push-up-bra married to a sideshow freak. Each girl is asked to do a quick gyrate with a prop, and I'm speedily whisked back in time to the Friday Night Youth Centre Dance, watching the Year Nine skanky girls trying to dance after downing a bottle of Passion Pop and a fistful of Alpine Lights. A terrified Anchal goes first, and is reasonably confident with her Sexy Sunflower dance. Michelle seems to have skulled more rocket-fuel than the others, and Melrose puts the "ho" into "Oh, wow. What a freakin' ho". Eugena pulls out that classic striptease prop – the …er… gold cheerleader pompoms, and manages to make them boring. Jaeda, after quickly crapping on about her unfeminine hair again, gyrates around with a feather boa in an odd Tim Curry/Vin Diesel hybrid. Amanda finds the desired combination of sexy/sweet, although I'm convinced she did so accidentally, but Caridee, or as I'm calling her in this segment "Strippy McSmut", goes completely off the deep throat end, rolling around with legs flailing, causing Brooke to gush, wide-eyed, "Girl – I can see your panties". You're so young. You're so naïve. You're so talking like someone just pulled a string in your back.

· It's Jaeda's turn for a cheap whine (and we know she's barely a chromosome away from some three-day growth), and it's about her hair, which is about as surprising as finding a ninety-degree angle in right-angled triangle, and exactly as interesting. She complains that she doesn't feel like a woman. It's not just the hair, sweetie. It's the six feet of height, the right-angled jaw and the footballer shoulders. The hair is just the testosterone icing on the testicular cake.

· An ad-break, and auditions for Australia's Next Top Westie Scrag are still being advertised. For those of you who have never seen a series, it's exactly like America's Next Top Module, but with more tattoos. Can't wait.

· A Tyra-Mail drags the girls to a house where they're met by Cathy Gould, the director of Elite Model Management, and Kylie Bax, a Kiwi ex-supermodel with exactly the level of charisma and intellectual precociousness we've come to expect from Kiwi ex-supermodels. It must be from trying to wairk ut on the ketwalk. Our modules are told they'll be the main show at a private party, and the long dinner table will be their catwalk. Cathy tells the girls to be sexy, which trips a switch in Anchal's head that makes her yabber about how fat and hence unsexy she is compared to the other girls. The other girls with concave chests, bony arses and ribs that show through the skin on their foreheads. Shut up. Clothes and make-up are slapped on until the desired Punky Brewster: The Crackwhore Years effect is achieved, and it's up on the table for a trampy trip through the tableware. Eugena, for some reason carrying a tray, apparently "tried too hard, and worked the tray too much" according to Cathy. Amanda almost fell arse-first into a guest's coffee, giving new meaning to the phrase "Waiter, there's a crack in my crockery", and Michelle was underwhelming in her underwear. Jaeda managed to be slow and sexy, no mean feat for a big bloke, but Brooke looked like an underaged groupie trying to get into a slapper convention. Melrose, as is her annoying habit, was bloody good, but Caridee overdid it again, and Anchal was obviously obsessed with what she regards as her heifer-like proportions. Cathy comments that Anchal perhaps needs to be in better shape. Predictably, Melrose wins the challenge and grins her now familiar Cheesy Psycho Grimace. I want her to snap. Soon. There's absolutely a postal worker inside her, just scratching to get out and shoot up the joint – we just need to find a trigger. And some plastic explosive.

· Melrose picks Brooke and the Twins to share her prize of an editorial spread in Seventeen magazine, and except for the re-appearance of Atoosa "Bless You" Rubenstein, and the fact that Melrose looks like a seventeen-year-old's auntie-who-owns-a-lot-of-cats-and-smells-like-medicine, this segment was less interesting than getting keys cut.

· It's nighttime poolside, and in another moment destined to make this the most tiresome of all ANTM episodes, Anchal is moaning to Caridee about how grotesquely obese she is. Puh-lease. She's obese like I'm shy on the dancefloor. Caridee plumbs the depths of her wisdom and suggests that perhaps it's the eating that's the problem. Anchal thanks her for her advice, gives her a hug, and calls her "coach".

· Somebody do something interesting in this episode. And by interesting, I mean mental. And by mental, I don't mean a wacky photo shoot concept.

· Photo-shoot time, and Jay meets the girls in a big house, where they'll be taking part in a sexy romp as chicks on the cover of romance novels. For. F*ck's. Sake. I'm sick of being amazed at how stupid these shoot ideas are. So sick, that I'm going to make three predictions (no cheating, I promise) about future photo-shoots, and we'll see if any of them come true. My three predictions are: Ostrich. Underwater. Vegetables. If any of these three themes or items turn up in photo-shoots in the rest of this series, I am a champion. If they don't, I've just written a really short postmodern poem.

· Melrose summarises the covers of most romance novels as "groping, aggressive paintings", which momentarily makes her less hateful. The girls are advised of their scenarios in this dumb, dumb farce – Jaeda will be in love with a vampire, Eugena will be "caught in the act", and Melrose will be the madam of a brothel. Anchal will be an Egyptian beauty, Caridee will be a peasant girl in love with a rich man, and Brooke will be a forsaken, jilted lover. Straight Amanda will somehow be conjuring leaving a man for another woman, whilst Gay Michelle will be nursing her lover's illegitimate baby. Just… just so stupid. Speaking of which, the modules are introduced to their co-star for the shoot, and yes, I'm afraid it's Fabio. I wish I could lie and say it isn't. But it's Fabio.

· Caridee, in her only subtle performance this week, does well, but Fabio is awful. Jay comments about Amanda that she's "consistently fair", but you can tell he thinks Fabio is awful. Gay Michelle isn't comfortable rolling around on a bed with Fabio and a fake baby (strange girl), and uses the excuse that she's never rolled around on a bed with anyone. Anchal looks gorgeous as Queen Nefer-titty, and Fabio looks stupid as Chunky Man With Eyeliner. Jay thinks that Eugena is working on "a three-quarter tank of gas", which is his way of saying "boring". Jaeda struggles to look more feminine than Fabio, and doesn't manage much through her obvious revulsion. Fabio jokes to Brooke that he's a virgin, to which she replies "Are you? Me, too!". She's required to grip tightly onto his thigh in the shot, which she says is difficult, because he's "not just tall – he's thick, too". When asked to move her hand one centimetre closer to his crotch, she feels like she's being "forced into adulthood", which is probably a different concept to Brooke the Naïve than it is for, say, Macaulay Culkin. Fabio comments that she is "berry inessperience". Mel-As-Brothel-Madam acts the randy slut to perfection, and may have given Fabio a little Italian soldier. She's the only one to openly flirt with Fabio, because all the other girls have a relatively low chunder-threshold. He's awful.

· It's elimination time, and I'm desperately relieved to see that Tyra, after a couple of weeks nibbling at the Milk Arrowroot of Style, has once again jammed the Tim Tam of Tack. We're treated to an asymmetrical, triangular hairstyle seemingly held in place with egg-white and Spakfilla, and a two-tone strapless sheath that Tyra seems to be holding in place with her armpits. It's wretched. Miss Jay goes out in sympathy with his own black-cockatoo-styled coiff, and Twiggy just surrenders in plaits. Spunky Nigel looks dashing and handsome, and may find my shoe-prints outside his window soon. Guest judge, to Anchal's self-loathing-based horror, is Cathy from Elite.

· Tyra spends a couple of minutes talking to the girls in a high-pitched baby voice which I do not understand. I prefer not to analyse her behaviour here – I'll just put it down to a combination of prescription drugs, Cristal, and chicken fat. Let's move on.

· Photos are picked through, and the romance novel shots are completely and utterly unremarkable, save for Tyra's advice to Anchal to "back the booty up, make it less hoochy". The Scary-But-Fashion contact lens shots, however, are a different story. Disturbing in a "Why you do this to me, Dimmy?" kind of way. Twin Amanda looks like a feature on When Ginger Corpses Attack, and Brooke is a snarl away from Teen Wolf. Twin Michelle adds unfathomable creepiness by licking her lips in her shot, and Eugena is angry, not boring. Caridee's shot causes Tyra to gush "You blew me away. You commit to a photo in a way that's insane to me". Insane? To You? That's freakin' nutty, man. Melrose is a bit pantomime scary, but Jaeda is the most petrifying freaky ghoul I've ever seen in my life. She looks straight out of her photo into the core of my soul, and chars it red/black with the heat of hellfire and the faint whiff of sulphur. Or something.

· The judges deliberate, and the ludicrous comment is made that Caridee is "trying too hard to be a model". You know – like how irritating it is when horses in the Melbourne cup keep running all the time. There's just no place in a modelling competition for trying to be a model.

· Names tumble dramatically out of Tyra's mouth one by one, until only Rappin' Brooke and Eugena The Boring are left. Tyra tells Brooke that the judges love her personality, but that she has no potential, and then tells Eugena that she has loads of potential, but no humility or respect, those two traditional hallmarks of models like, say, Naomi Campbell for example. Brooke is given the shunt, and in between racking sobs, wails that she could've been at her high school graduation after all. She's devastated. I'm indifferent. Bye, Brooke. Try not to rap the names of all the Bratz dolls on your way out, kiddo.

Next week, we have a photo-shoot with racecars, some simulated sky-diving, and a Melrose/Anchal war. Laps. Flaps. Snaps.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Emails I May Never Send #12

Dear National News Producers,

There seems to be some confusion regarding which stock footage clips should be shown with which news item. For the avoidance of doubt, please stick to the time-honoured formula below:

- Story about drugs: close-up of someone cooking up a hit on a spoon
- Story about paedophiles: close-up of children's legs walking to school
- Story about obesity: close-up of numerous fat arses walking up and down Pitt Street Mall
- Story about hailstorm: close-up of local bloke's hand holding big f*ck-off hailstone
- Story about drought/water restrictions: image of puddle of water surrounded by cracked, dry earth
- Story about anything to do with Muslims: image of women in hijabs at local shopping centre
- Story about apartment building on fire: image of residents in jammies standing in street
- Story about bushfire: image of fireman squirting own face with hose
- Story about bush/sea rescue: image of person wrapped in blanket
- Story about sex scandal: image of Shane Warne
- Story about court case involving teenager killed in police chase: image of mother/sister/aunt arriving at courthouse with bad perm and cigarette
- Story about baby animals born at zoo, shown after the weather bulletin: whatever you like, channel has been changed immediately after surf/snow report

Please also tell Sandra to pull back on the fake tan.


Friday, November 10, 2006

White With Two Acting Lessons, Thanks

I've often been accused of making a big song and dance about nothing. Let's add this to the pile.

Actors on television can do a lot of things – they can cry on cue, throw themselves out of trucks, hold you in their thrall with an emotive soliloquy, make beach scenes look convincing in goosebump climates, feign mental disease and ride horses.
Why, then, is there not one of them that can convince me that the Styrofoam cup they're holding contains any liquid whatsoever? Actors can't do coffee. None of 'em. Put a takeaway cup o' Joe in their hand and watch them wave that thing around like a glowstick at a bad teenage rave. If that cup was full, all the extras would have stained clothes and third-degree burns.

Seriously, have a look. Tell me I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Seven #6

Ummmm…. like… ummmm…. so… ummmm….
This week proves something we've all suspected for some time: modules doesn't talk good. I've only really said this to boyfriends before, but - don't speak, honey. Just stand there and look pretty. Here is, for want of a whole lot of better words, the 'I'm Bringing Syntax Back' episode of America's Next Top Module.

· Caridee is my new heroine. She may even be my new heroin, I'm so addicted to her. I'm thinking of making her my new heron, too, but that would just be silly. If that had been anyone else strumming guitar and singing ballads in the moonlight whilst other modules listened wistfully, it might have been a cheesy moment, instead of just being deeply, profoundly irrelevant.

· The modules busy themselves discussing the differences between the Twins (I have a twin sister myself, and I spend all my time telling her how pretty she is), commenting that Michelle is more outgoing (or perhaps out-coming?), whereas Amanda is more withdrawn. Suddenly Michelle drops a gentle, pink-hued bombshell, starting with "I've never had a boyfriend", and finishing with "I might be gay. I don't know". Her horoscope today reads: Gemini: People will be able to tell you and your sister apart from now on. Some girls are shocked (including Brooke, who instantly does a natty impersonation of a blow-up doll), but Jaeda succinctly summarises Michelle's bi-curiosity with "she might be straddling the fence". There's just too many jokes there. I give up. Amanda freaks out a little and Michelle tries to comfort her with "I told you before… right..?". Dunno about you, but if I was gay, I'd probably tell my sister about it before announcing it on camera to eight squillion viewers. Maybe I'm just weird.

· It's Tyra-Mail time, and the girls hoof it to a television studio where they're met by Mark Steines, the host of Entertainment Tonight who looks like he's been carved out of a block of Cliché Wax. He's there to teach the modules some interviewing skills, the sum total of which is the instruction "Ask a question. Get an answer". Coming soon: Mark's book about boxing, called Hit 'Em Till They Fall Down, and his rifle-safety leaflet Stick Goes Bang!. Each girl then has a turn at interviewing Mark, to show what they've just "learned". Caridee, who's allowed to read my diary, goes first, and cements her position as My New Best Friend when she checks the label on Mark's jacket and says "Who are you wearing? Oh! Mary-Kate And Ashley!". Brooke, who usually sounds like she's reading from a cue-card through a Quaalude anyway, does reasonably well, although she looks like she's doing a piece for Good Morning Stepford. Jaeda dissolves into giggles, presumably at how much more masculine than Mark she is. Amanda becomes Ummmmanda, and AJ starts badly with "How's it going", and then gallops swiftly downhill by breaking into hives. She chalks up her failure to her inability to "probe people", perhaps forgetting to add the phrase "without the aid of a flick-knife". Badass. It's Melrose's turn at last, and she steps gleefully into the spotlight, instantly making Mark her bitch. She's bloody made for this, which figures – the girls I hate are always so freakin' good at stuff. I'm sure that's not why I hate them, though. I'm not competitive at all. I bet, in a competition to find the least competitive person in the world, I'd kick everyone else's arse. I'm not alone in maligning Melrose, though – the other modules scowl and roll their eyes behind her back, nicknaming her "Smellrose". It's like parliament, this is.

· Challenge time, and the modules are dragged to Geoff Thomas Designs for a red-carpet jewellery launch. Mark Steines meets them and tells them they'll take it in turns to listen to him through an earpiece and interview a celebrity on the carpet as they enter. Sounds easy, until we realise that the "celebrity" is none other than Princess Polyurethane herself, Janice Dickinson, in a triumphant return to the only show in which she makes sense as a human being. She makes her entrance over and over again, accosted each time by a different stammering module in the most awkward series of interviews since Martin Bashir dropped in on Neverland. For some reason Caridee tells Janice she's "over-pungent", and then kicks herself in the diary room, unaware of the fact that it's probably a pretty accurate descriptor considering what usually happens when human flesh and synthetic materials rub together. Brooke learns a quick lesson when she opens with "So… what makes you so bitchy?", and Janice just walks away from her. Anchal has trouble with the whole microphone-to-speaking-person's-mouth concept, pointing it towards herself when she's listening and nodding. Eugena's interview is interrupted when a pigeon craps on Janice's shoulder, and Twin Michelle gets the jewellery designer's name wrong, which Janice finds hilarious. You can tell, because her face doesn't change. Amanda stutters, and Janice refuses to speak to AJ whilst she insists on wearing a moth-eaten homeless-person's beanie which resembles an unfortunate pair of medieval underpants. Janice remarks that she wouldn't wipe her car with the hat, harsh criticism from someone who lets her personal assistant inject botulism under her eyelids. AJ breaks out in hives again, like lots of red, inflamed full-stops at the end of lots of bad, disjointed sentences. Melrose, just to spite me, is really good, but Jaeda's entire interview consists of her muttering "So, um….. so…. um….. DAMN!". Melrose wins the challenge, and her prize consists of interviewing celebrities on the red carpet for ET at some random awards do. That's a prize, see. Not a job that everyone else would get paid for. A prize. All the other modules make faces like they've just tasted Windex.

· It's time for this week's Groundhog moment – as per every series, it's the Tyra One-On-One Chat, otherwise known as the 'First I'll Talk About Me, Then You Cry' segment. Tyra visits the Module Mansion and explains her worthiness as a mentor by announcing "I have done this career backwards and forwards – I know the ins and outs", and my eye starts twitching from all the slutty innuendo that rushes to my frontal lobe all at once. She starts the girl-on-girl chats, and draws out some information so shocking I'm reminded of last Thursday, when I ran out of staples. AJ likes to keep to herself, because she finds Melrose abrasive. Smelrose's heart beats faster when Tyra is around (perhaps straddling a few fences yourself, Mel?), and she's convinced that all the other girls are intimidated by her. Eugena admits she has to work on the emotion in her pictures, which is like Keith Urban admitting he doesn't mind a shandy after a gig. Caridee does actually surprise us, revealing that three months ago seventy-five percent of her body was covered in psoriasis, and that she's a photographer. Tyra tries to imply that perhaps Caridee, being a crusty kind of girl, hides behind the camera because she's scared to be in front of it. Whatever, Tyra. Eat some chicken. Michelle is told that she seems to be flowering and opening up, which is probably a euphemism for recently coming over all Leslie. Amanda has a good cry, saying that she's scared for her sister and what coming out on telly might mean for her. Tyra, with the sensitivity of a lanced boil, rushes in with "I cry, y'know. I cried yesterday. I cried for Two. Hours". Pooooor Tyra. I know, I know. Running out of Nutella can really suck.

· Buoyed by her pep-talk, Michelle decides to call her mother to let her know her chances of grandchildren have just been considerably reduced. It's just one of those ho-hum television scenarios – you know – same old story, watching identical twins in a modelling competition sit in a diary room whilst one of them comes out to their mother. It's actually almost a touching moment, as the Twins' mother sounds like the kind of person for whom band-aids, milk, cookies and gay empathy are all things she keeps in the top drawer, just in case. She reacts with "Don't fret. I love you, no matter what". Ooooooh – we love you too, Mrs Twin. You rock. Then, to end the phonecall, Michelle speaks three words which have so far made this episode for me. The timing, the context, the delivery – everything. Just before hanging up, Gay Michelle says "Happy Mothers' Day". Brilliant. It's freakin' Mothers Day, and Michelle comes out. Nothing says I love you like a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates, and your daughter announcing her penchant for other people's daughters. Hallmark may not have a card for that one.

· Melrose claims her red-carpet prize, and microphone in scrawny, self-obsessed hand, interviews some E-list celebrities (including Tyra) on a red carpet somewhere. She finds exactly the right mix of vacuousness and helium to really excel, and this segment is as interesting as shopping for grout.

· A Tyra-Mail tells the girls that for this week's photo shoot, they'll be working 'with the person who knows you best'. Jay meets them and tells them they'll be posing with their Photo-shopped selves as celebrity couples. I have to retract a statement I made a few weeks ago about the Extreme Hair photo shoot. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the stupidest, STUPIDEST idea for a photo shoot EVER. Each girl will be dressed and made-up as one half of a celebrity couple and photographed, then dressed and made-up as the other half and photographed, and the separate images will be digitally merged. Dear. Sweet. God. I've never seen a segment in this show which required a make-up artist to provide a bag of fake five-o'clock-shadow before. I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or order a bronze commemorative plaque.

· Eugena the Boring is Jay-Z (nose widened, eyebrows embushened, wigged, capped), and Beyonce (diva-fied, long wig, trampy frock). She is, in a word, boring.
Anchal is Oprah (red dress, curves emphasised, bad wig) and Steadman (curly wig, moustache, costume straight out of the dress-up box at Caringbah Primary). She does okay as Oprah, including smiling for the first time in the whole series, but as Steadman she comes across a bit like a Punjabi Mr Kotter. I am so disturbed.
Caridee is Brad (fake stubble, aviator sunglasses, cap, toddlers in tow) and Angelina (full lips, dark hair, sunglasses, baby strapped to breast). She gives great Brad, but as Angelina she's the absolute business. Angelina wishes. Jay loves her, and possibly even turns straight for a second. Hot.

· AJ is Marc Antony (short hair, fake stubble, non-descript suit) and J-Lo (enhanced buttockage, glamour frock, wig). She looks spookily like Marc Antony, and as J-Lo she makes a great Jessica Simpson. She spends the whole shoot wearing an expression which reads "this is f*cking stupid", proving that she's way to smart to be a module. It shows, unfortunately.
Brooke is, with unfortunate timing, Britney (long wig, skanky outfit, real live white python) and Kevin Federline (corn-rows, stubble). She does a better Kev than Kev does, and then looks absolutely nothing like Britney. Like, she's thin, hot, and doesn't have taco in her teeth. As Jay says (and as Liz Smylie shouldn't), she's sassy.

· Jaeda is Whitney (wig, spangly dress) and Bobby (yellow sunglasses, gold chains, angular hair). I'm stunned as some actual personality and confidence is displayed – as Bobby (aka Grace Jones), she pops, locks, and runs the running man right outta town. As Whitney, she got soul. No suitcase full of weed, though. This ain't no airport.

· Michelle, in the most obvious writer decision since Scott & Charlene's wedding, is Ellen (suit, sneakers, short blonde wig), and Portia (sparkly gown, long blonde wig). She's convincing as Ellen, but much, much more modelly as Portia. Art imitates life again.
Amanda is Demi (a-la Charlie's Angels in black bikini and long dark wig) and Ashton (again, fake stubble and a baseball cap). Unfortunately for Amanda, no-one on earth is prettier than Ashton, but she does a damn fine Demi.

· Melrose disappoints again by being pretty freakin' good. She's Donald Trump (bad wig, scowl, suit), and Melania Trump (blonde wig, vacant I-don't-like-sex-anymore expression), and rocks every frame. She gets a laugh or two with her funny Donald face and funny Donald voice, and decides to milk it for all it's worth, hamming to camera "Melrose will be America's Next Top Model, or else you're fired". Really. The girl could write for Humphrey B Bear. Sensing that she didn't murder any of the English language in her last sentence, she adds "I feel alone – these girls are intimidated of me".

· Judgement time, and the modules board the Enterprise to face the judges, including Spunky Nigel, who I'm flossing my teeth for, Tyra, Twiggy, Miss Jay, and Matthew the photographer. Tyra has shoe-horned herself into quite a decent dark satin corseted shirt-dress, and her boobs look like two battery piglets. A mini-challenge is posed – each module is to watch footage from last season's finale party and give some commentary like they're presenting an entertainment show, or possibly flogging a dead horse. We get it. They can't talk. Move on. Anchal, Jaeda, AJ and Amanda are dreadful, but after Brooke figures out which end of the microphone is up, she does okay. Eugena calls Miss Jay a "trashbag", and Melrose does predictably and painfully well.

· Photographs are picked over – everyone drools over Caridee-as-Angelina, including Nigel, which is something I'll have to chat to her about. Friends don't steal friends' imaginary television boyfriends. That's the rules. Brooke-as-Federline is commended on her authentic role-play, and she reminds the judges that she can rap, too, although what rapping has to do with Kevin is anybody's guess. He's less a gangsta than a sad, slutty, gold-digging sperm-factory. Am I right, Brits? Nobody, of course, can stop the following tumbling from Brooke's mouth:
My picture's lookin' good, my picture's lookin' fly
I took it to the next level – I got high
Boys check it out, I'm revvin' it full throttle
I'm standin' here, I'm gonna be America's Next Top Model.

I don't know how to describe my reaction. Brooke rapping feels like Blue Tellytubby poppin' a cap in your ass. Incongruous, to say the least. Amanda is told her Demi/Ashton shot is very convincing, and Eugena's 'dead eyes' are again brought up as an issue. Tyra, in one of her tiresome yet life-enhancing demonstrations, shows the difference between an animated Beyonce and a dead-eyed Beyonce by yodelling and enduring some kind of neck spasm. The judges are disappointed in AJ's Marc/J-Lo photo, and Tyra remarks that Michelle's Ellen impersonation is frightingly… fri-nen-ing-en-ly,… fing-a-ding-a-dingally… disturbingly realistic. Melrose's arse is kissed loudly and wetly by all the judges over her shot, which causes all the other modules to look like they've just taken a bite out of a trough-lolly. Anchal is given props as Oprah, and Tyra blathers on about what an inspiration Oprah is, what with her charity work and ability to overcome obstacles. Anchal comments that yes, she does seem to be famous for eating quite a lot of donuts.

· The judges deliberate, gushing again over Caridee, questioning Jaeda's confidence, and discussing Anchal's donut comment. A box of donuts miraculously appears, and we're treated to vision of Tyra cramming her gaping maw with about fifteen of the suckers. I'm transfixed – it's like watching an anaconda swallowing a water buffalo, but without the table manners.

· Elimination time, and the modules are whittled down to just Badass AJ and Manly Jaeda. Tyra looks earnestly at them and tells them that neither of them seem to care whether they're modules or not – AJ has good pictures but no desire, and Jaeda has bad pictures and no confidence. Then, proving that male genitalia is no hindrance to high-fashion modelling, Jaeda is safe and AJ is out. Tyra tells Jaeda that "Bobby Brown saved your butt", which I'm thinking of getting tattooed on my own, and AJ says, clearly and articulately, without shedding a single tear, that "I think Tyra eliminated me for the right reasons – I sabotaged myself subconsciously". No wonder she got eliminated. She's got a manky woollen hat and a vocabulary. Bye, AJ. I'll miss you. Make sure and be a badass on your way out.

Next week, Eugena becomes frustrated with her mansion-mates, the modules have a monster photo-shoot, and everybody's taught to be a little bit sexier. Upsetting. Blood-letting. Pant-wetting.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hung Like A Pun

I, like so many people this afternoon, have just returned to my desk with a plastic cup half-full of champagne (I'm obviously an optimist), after crowding around an office telly screen to watch the Melbourne Cup. Despite pulling the name of the hot favourite out of the sweep-bowl, my horsie lost. I think if I ever become a horse trainer, I'll call my prize nag Anticlimax, or perhaps Jatzencheese, after the traditional office race-day spread.

Whenever I watch a horsie race (which is once a year, in early November, probably obvious due to my reference to the Melbourne Cup as a "horsie race"), I'm reminded of an excellent waste-of-time game invented at the pub whilst I was at university. Lots of things happened at the pub whilst I was at university – in fact, thanks to eight years at art school, I'm now so well versed in the social arts I find it impossible to separate postmodern theory from the phrase "Schooner of VB", and even years later it's hard to smell a beer-soaked pub carpet without thinking of Manet's Olympia.

But I digress. The game, called "Pauper's Punting", was invented at the Rose Shamrock & Thistle in Paddington, at a table populated by scruffy art students with nothing in their pockets but small change and broken up bits of charcoal. The RST was blessed at the time with a generous horsie and doggie betting station, adorned on all sides with numerous televisions, hung from the ceiling like electronic, life-sapping bunches of grapes, each showing a different race. This is the perfect set-up for Pauper's Punting, as one barely has time to divvy up the spoils after one race before another begins, ensuring a cracking pace and plentiful excitement where perhaps very little is otherwise warranted.

Generally speaking, Pauper's Punting should not involve more than six or seven people, as the number of players must not exceed the number of quadrupeds hurling themselves down the racetrack. Each player assigns themselves a number which corresponds to the number of the doggie or horsie in each race. Every player then coughs up a whopping five cents into the kitty (or twenty, or fifty, depending on the number of days since payday, and subject to employment status and inflation). ABSOLUTELY no consideration is given to the animal's bloodline, the condition of the track, or the hilarious puns which can be made from their name. The point of the game, pure and simple, is blind competition. As each race finishes, the player who has assigned themselves the number of the winning beastie takes the kitty.

Deceptively simple, right? Right. Just like the absurd yet undeniable excitement generated from the "pageantry" of the Melbourne Cup each year, this is the best way known to enjoy your time in a racing-obsessed pub, without ever having to understand what a trifecta is or having to line up to pass your card to the bored, heavily-permed sheila at the little betting window. I've seen normally sedate, bespectacled companions reduced to whooping Eliza Doolittles in the blink of an eye, and if you play long enough and with enough conviction, you can take home a good thirteen or fourteen dollars. It's highly (and surprisingly) addictive, without there ever being a chance that you'll lose your shirt or your house. Dignity, sobriety and nice manners are the only things at risk, and who gives a crap about dignity?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

America's Next Top Model Series Seven #5

I love a world in which a prosthetic elephant's trunk can be earnestly discussed as a fierce fashion accessory. It makes the drought, terrorism threat and cost of bananas just that much easier to bear. Brought to you this week by Rick James, it's the "Kind You Don't Take Home To Mother" episode of America's Next Top Module…

· Brentwood becomes Roswell as our girls commence the autopsy of recently-departed Monique, which can be succinctly summarised as "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead". Nobody is sad to see the back of her, but we can see Hydra-esque signs of another ugly, loathsome head growing in her place. Are we ready to hate Melrose? Yes'm, we are.

· Thanks to "reality" television, society has busted the myth that when a bunch of girls get together at bedtime they all nude up and have pillow-fights. Sssshyeeah. As if. Everybody knows that what they really do is nude up and all pile into the one shower to giggle and scream. At least, that's what bunches of wanna-be modules do when they let off steam, and there's at least one tight-undied cameraman who can vouch for that. The still fully-clad and dry Melrose objects, claiming that the soapy shower shenanigans are stopping her from getting her three measly hours of beauty sleep. Megg, predictably and tiresomely, comments through her jutting dentures that all she wants to do is "rock and roll and have a good time". Her only endearing feature glimmers when she punctuates this with "bitch".

· Jaeda philosophically laments about her new look, saying that she notices people staring at her trying to figure out whether she's a "boy that's girly, or a girl that's boy-ey". I do have a soft spot for the poor girl, but I still think she looks like a man who ate another, more muscular man for breakfast.

· Anchal worries about how comparatively voluptuous she is, saying she has a tummy and breasts, surprisingly not also mentioning her great big arse. The impact is lessened somewhat by the fact that she's frying four eggs in lard as she's saying so.

· A Tyra Mail sends the modules to a studio, where they're met by ex-module and Canada's Next Top Model judge Stacey McKenzie, or as I'm calling her, 'Get The Broom! It's Hideous!' I know I may occasionally throw the odd blasphemous obscenity around, but Jesus. H. Christ. What a scary-looking motherf*cker. I vaguely remember her as one of the stewardesses from The Fifth Element, but that was before the frizzy Mohawk and talking-through-a-plastic-pipe man-voice. Bloody Hell. A contortionist appears who talks to the girls about "extreme posing", and he demonstrates by suddenly becoming Very Bendy Indeed. Part yoga, part "Look! Here's My Testicles!", our modules look on with increasing horror. Except Melrose, who exercises her tiresome talent for discussing herself and announces that since she does yoga, she'll probably be excellent. The girls don leotards and proceed to pretzel themselves under instruction. Anchal proves to be the Bendiest In The Land, and I'm forced to comment again about the almost disturbing size of her rack.

· Melrose isn't happy. Anchal stole her bendy crown, and she's pissed. She starts digging into Anchal about how she shouldn't moan about not being skinny if she's going to sit on her arse eating eggs all day. Anchal, as is her habit when she's awake, gets upset, and Melrose claims she's just trying to help by "telling her the reality of the situation". Because they're all in this competition to help each other. Just like a pack of rabid mastiffs in a pit are all there for some supportive, sharing roleplay.

· The inhabitants of the Module Mansion have divided themselves into two groups – the Misfits, consisting of girls like Melrose, Eugena, Brooke, Jaeda and the Twins, who are probably social pariahs in the outside world and all bitter and twisted about it, and the Chooffers – otherwise known as Chicks Who Smoke, consisting of Caridee, AJ, Anchal and Megg. The Chooffers, despite being a bit more emotional and the type of people who would want to willingly hang out with Megg The Rock Groupie Skank, are my favourites, partly because I probably would've wanted to be in their group at school, and partly because of behaviour displayed during this week's Inarticulate Bitchiness. The Misfits are all crammed into the spa (not difficult with a body-fat count in the negative), and Melrose starts an Anchal Personality Assassination Session, taking care to give the English language a good working over as well, stating "At first I thought she was one of the stiffest competitions here, but now she's not". She continues to waah waah about Anchal's insecurities and wobbly bits, unaware that the Chooffers are listening intently from the balcony above. Anchal, because she's breathing, has another snotty cry, and AJ comforts her with the awesome "I've got your back, honey". Dig that girl. And don't think for a second she couldn't hold her own in a scrag brawl. She's badass.

· Megg has a nose like a burst barbecue sausage. There. I couldn't keep it to myself any longer.

· The Modules are corralled to a joint called "Oasis" for dinner, and there is a place set at the table for a "special guest", which turns out to be Twiggy. Woo. She gives a bland speech in aviator sunglasses about how posing styles have changed over the decades, and emphasises the need for the girls to be themselves and innovate. I love Twiggy, but I'm kind of more interested in cleaning crumbs out of my keyboard right now. Melrose, sensing an opportunity to talk out of her own sphincter, manages to bogart all of Twiggy's attention with tales of herself and how fabulous they both are. Caridee, to camera, cements herself as my possible future bridesmaid as she comments upon the hilarity of watching Melrose ingratiate herself with guests, saying "it's funny to see her stick her nose right up their arse". After Twiggy leaves, Melrose gushes, completely oblivious to the irony, that "Twiggy is huge".

· Another day, another Tyra Mail, and the modules haul bony arse to the 'Fashion District' to meet Bao Tranchi, a quirkily-quiffed fashion designer who has apparently invited some guests to come and view her creations in 'human art installations' for this week's challenge. She asks the modules to "please contort yourselves", and gives them each an outfit and a piece of jewellery to wear whilst balancing precariously on top of pedestals. Fashion: ten points. Make-up: ten points. Hair: Buy That Man A Beer. All the girls look brilliant with the exception of Melrose, whose hair is combed and co-erced into a kind of follicular gimp mask. Nothing she says in this segment can be taken seriously now. Nothing.

· The modules assume their angular positions atop the pedestals – Caridee comments that she feels "more like art than a model", and Brooke says wide-eyed that she was "shaking like Jello", making it sound like she's reading from the side of a cereal packet after dropping some MDMA. Eugena the Boring is, for once, not boring at all, and rocks it. Melrose is confident for a change, Twin Michelle looks like she's intentionally giving the audience an opportunity to smell her arse, and Jaeda looks like Manly Lego. Megg is uggly. But we know that. In her new guise as Not-Quite-So-Boring-Anymore, Eugena wins the challenge, and is presented with the $35,000 worth of jewellery all the modules wore for the challenge. She is, as they say in her 'hood, Buggin'.

· After the challenge, with her stupid hair-mask still in place, Melrose gives the girls a quick modelling lesson, subtitled How To Be A Wide-Eyed Twat. Making her usual abortion of the mother tongue, she states "I wish I woulda had a bit more smile. There's two faces – this (setting her jaw and looking constipated), and this (setting her jaw and looking slightly less constipated). See the difference? That'll sell an outfit". Yuh-huh. As long as that outfit has sleeves that tie at the back, you might be right, honey. The other modules stare in disbelief at the condescending pile of self-engrossed tendons standing before them, and collectively all think the same thing: "Shut" and "Up", although I think AJ might have tentatively added "Or I'll knife you in the colon". Because she's badass.

· Tyra drops in on the Module Mansion like a flame-grilled Whopper for one of her infamous pep-talks. She starts with "Everyone's all happy and smiley because I walked in here" proving that ego might in fact be directly proportional to back-fat, and continues with "Let's talk about fear and insecurity", after which Melrose, in a surprise akin to finding a Rice Bubble in a box marked "Rice Bubbles", talks about herself for a day and a half. Not getting the dirt she wants, Tyra marches straight to the nub of the business by asking if there are any "interpersonal" problems in the house. Melrose again talks about herself, and Anchal, in another breakfast-cereal-esque surprise, has a bit of a cry. She tells Tyra how she overheard Melrose dissing her in the Jacuzzi, and moans that she was an ugly child who never had any friends. Melrose looks momentarily sheepish before becoming distracted by her hair, and seems happy to have been pigeon-holed as "The Mean One".

· Photo-shoot time, and the modules are dragged out to the middle of nowhere and met by Mr Jay at a creepy-looking circus. Today the girls will be dressed as underwear-clad turn-of-the-century circus freaks and photographed, which is why this show should be prescribed in tablet form. Everyone is introduced to the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine, Atoosa Rubenstein, who will be observing today's shoot, and I must say that for an irritating woman with a name straight from Jewish Pokemon, she don't arf come up with some choice comments.

· AJ is "Cannibal Lady" with blood on her chin, posed in a cage with raw meat and scrappy bones. Despite the carnage, she looks fabulously angular and cool. Brooke is "Rubber Girl", but comes off decidedly un-rubbery, the Twins are predictably posed as "Siamese Twins" and as usual scrub up quite norse with big hair, big eyelashes, and a time-share forehead. Megg is, joyously, "Bearded Lady", and comments unnecessarily "Dude, I have a beard. I've never seen myself with a beard before". Dude, why would you have? She looks truly awful, and poses like a grey rag soaked in custard. She gets upset about "over-thinking" her poses, and sheds a few rock n' roll tears. Caridee is "Elephant Lady", and has the aforementioned prosthetic trunk glued onto her face, and if she's not the hottest parasol-toting pachyderm ever to be caught on film, I'll eat my hat. Atoosa squeals "I didn't even notice you had a snout, 'cause you were so fierce!", which I may get printed on a t-shirt. Eugena is "Bird Lady" with a less-impressive prosthetic beak, but she actually shows some personality and looks pretty good. Anchal, unkindly cast as "Giant Lady", looks gorgeous but only 'giant' around the bust. Jaeda is "Strong Lady", and has abdominal muscles spray-painted on top of her abdominal muscles, which is a bit like drawing a moustache on a picture of George Negus. She lifts a prop barbell and grumpily waves goodbye to her chances of ever having heterosexual relations again. Melrose is "Lady With Old Face And Young Body", and does okay, although I keep expecting her to say to Nicole Kidman "But mummy… I am your daughter!"

· The modules are summoned to the Starship Enterprise for judgement, and it almost kills me to admit that Tyra doesn't look like a cut-price prostitute this week. Her white frock appears to be the right size, and her hair is just kind of… curly. Disappointed, Tyra. I expect much less from you next week. The usual crowd is there, including Spunky Nigel, whose rubbish bin I'm going through, and guest judge Atoosa (to whom I keep wanting to say "Bless you!"). The photos are sifted through - Miss Jay clucks and mimes some birdseed-eating at Eugena's Bird Lady, Amanda and Michelle are generally regarded as Twins sans Chins, and Jaeda terrifies everyone with her photographic impression of Angry Steroid Abuser Swallowing Pinecone. Megg gets a bit teary when she sees her photo, in which she looks more than a little brain-damaged, and Tyra tries to soften the blow with the woeful "Y'know – a real bearded lady is probably insecure, too – use it". Caridee is applauded for her ability to not let an elephant's nose inhibit her, and Atoosa exclaims that the photo makes her want to buy her own proboscis.

· The judges deliberate, and Atoosa summarises Brooke in one fell swoop by saying she wants to put her on top of a cupcake. No. No, I don't understand it either, but it still makes sense. Eugena still has dead eyes, Caridee "owned her trunk", and Twiggy has to be told that Jaeda's abs aren't real. "Oh, Twiglet", sighs Miss Jay.

· The modules file back in and the successful names are hollered one by one, until it's just down to Jaeda the Man and Rawk N' Rawl Megg. Megg is told she has an ugly "Rock on" personality, and Jaeda is told she's too insecure about the hair she has no choice but to endure. Then, finally, proving that things are right with the world and that the judges retinas all function, Megg is sent home. She tearfully consoles herself to camera by saying she's "like, gonna, like, be a musician/model". Uh-huh. Bye, Megg! Don't fellate any roadies on your way out!

Next week, Twin Michelle confesses that she might be gay, Janice Dickinson makes an appearance, and Brooke asks Janice why she's such a beeyarch. Curious. Spurious. Injurious.