Email me

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Nine #3

I think my priorities may be a smidge out of whack. I left a harbourside restaurant, some lemongrass and ginger mussels and an excellent Sauvignon Blanc to rush home and watch this festering garbage. So now I not only sound like I'm a complete wanker (if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…), I'm also about three IQ points worse off than I was at dinner-time.

To be fair, though, there's not many other places where, in the space of an hour (or twenty minutes if you subtract the time spent viewing retrospective Tyra photos), you can see cross-dressing scary nurses, purple pom-poms and couture rock-climbing all in the one spot. Colour yourself barely entertained – it's the Nitwit At Hanging Rock episode of America's Next Top Model.

· I think we're supposed to hate Bianca. If I can bring the jury's attention to exhibits A through F:
EXHIBIT A: The purple fringe.
EXHIBIT B: The phrase "Don't let the hair fool you, bitches – I can be very high fashion". Emphasis on the word "high", I'd venture.
EXHIBIT C: The practice of intentionally giving bad advice to the other modules as a competitive strategy.
EXHIBIT D: The phrase "My mouth can get me anywhere". Monica Lewinsky gives a wink and a knowing smile at this point.
EXHIBIT E: The phrase "I will kick 'em where it hurts. I'm a start cuttin' up clothes". Who needs witty repartee and articulate comebacks when you've got a chip on your shoulder and a pair of pinking shears? Huh? Arsehole.
EXHIBIT F: The purple fringe.
The only thing that saved it for me was her habit of using the phrase "Aaand I'm done!" to close her arguments. I may use that in meetings today.

· The usual Tyra Mail/Bus/walking into building scenario brings us to a dilapidated hospital signposted 'Fashion Madhouse'. Now, on the original planning outline for this episode, a producer probably just scrawled 'Miss Jay – walking lesson' on a napkin. Somehow, in the following weeks, this simple concept evolved into 'Spooky hospital, skulls, strobe lights, straightjackets and ugliest nurse on planet'. This is why television is both my secondary electronic lover and potentially the catalyst for the downfall of the human race as we know it. After some Halloween-esque theatrics, screams and tears, Miss Jay emerges in a nurse's outfit complete with skewiff deflated beehive 'do, making Nurse Ratchett look like Tinky-Winky. Sarah (who?) comments that she'd love to have Miss Jay as a nurse, which makes me suspect that she has a little pencilcase in her luggage filled with razor-blades and bottles of iodine. Miss Jay announces (subtitles my own):
"I'm here to cure you of your fashion ailments" (I'm here to teach you how to walk, because if anyone tells you that it's just a matter of putting one foot in the other whilst looking constipated, I'm totally out of a job).
"There's method to this madness" (It's in the script, y'all).
"Sometimes couture is restrictive, and you have to bring it alive" (We're about to put you in straightjackets, and this is the producer-sanctioned rationale).
So… the girls put on straightjackets and walk up and down and stuff. Now, I know a scene involving walking and implied insanity in a strobe-lit hallway should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by the Microsoft Excel help page.

· Hey, guess what? No, guess, go on! Saleisha's done some modelling before! I'm serious! She's done a bit of catwalk, and a bit of being photographed, and, most likely, a bit of sipping wee bottles of champagne through a straw whilst being discreetly felt-up by a bisexual designer! Yes, way! I just wish she'd mention it every now and again. Like, every five minutes, maybe. Kimberly, on the other hand, summarises her modelling experience by telling us that her dad's been taking pictures of her all her life. I don't know about you, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable if it had been her mother taking those pictures. Still, as long as there's no homeless art student who's willing to pose in exchange for a bowl of soup involved, I suppose it's okay.

· Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to play All Up In Them Bitches' Faces! Today's two contestants are Saleisha, who says she loves modelling, has modeled before, would like to be a model, and can rent out her forehead as a landing strip, and Bianca, who likes unnatural hair colours, saying the word 'bitch', and cutting up your clothes. Welcome, ladies. I'm sure you both know the rules, but I'll just run through them for the poor exasperated bastards playing at home. Each contestant must rag on the other until one of you either storms out of the room or clicks your fingers dramatically in the air. You might be distracted by the tears of laughter coming from your co-modules or an errant item of bedding, but stay focused! Extra points can be scored by:
o using the word 'stank';
o insinuating that the other contestant is 'borderline plus-size'
o using the phrase 'Mama look atchoo!'
o getting so close to your opponent that you can smell her fear.
Points will be deducted for mentioning that you've modeled before, or stating that you're not interested in making friends because this is a competition. These statements may, however, be edited for use in our Predictable Shit We've All Heard A Million Fucking Times Before Christmas Special.

· Challenge time, and the girls are met.. oh, I don't know – somewhere – by Roy Campbell, a 'runway show producer' famous in my mind for having big gums and little teeth. He explains that this week's challenge will involve dressing in restrictive (read: mildly bizarre products of a mushroom-induced design workshop) couture gowns by Colleen Quen (read: Isn't she that mean skinny chick from Grey's Anatomy?) and walking up and down a catwalk. A third of the frocks are boring. A third of the frocks are gorgeous. A third of the frocks are hideous construction experiments including elements of Art Nouveau and Mies Van Der Rohe architecture, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like putting an IKEA Henrik chair in a cement mixer after a few Bundy and Cokes. Ambreal sports purple pom-poms. Jenah is a strange, bumpy, warped silver gastropod. Heather is an insanely beautiful bird of paradise, Sarah (who?) is a purple puffy mini, and Lisa is an awesome gold mermaid in my favourite frock of the bunch. Kimberly is a stack of flowerpots, which is unfortunate and awkward for her, yet highly entertaining for me. Saleisha wins the challenge prize, which is a trip to Paris to take part in a real Colleen Quen show (if Colleen can get time off from the hospital, of course). Bianca's pissed off. I think. It's hard to tell when your face is sponsored by PermaScowl.

· Traditionally, ANTM photo-shoots do not - how do I put it - skip joyfully through realism daisies in the meadow of the sane. In the past, we've had motorised hair-pieces, ice-caves, angry racing cars, Thai elephants, cross-dressing celebrity couples and prosthetically-enhanced circus freaks. It's good to see, then, that this week the modules are just posing in expensive designer gowns with mildly artistic make-up. Hanging in the air. In harnesses. At an indoor rock-climbing gym. For fuck's sake. Suspend your disbelief and your emaciated bimbos – I feel a summary coming on…
o Lisa explains that she's afraid of heights, but this doesn't really show once she's up in the air. Her undies, however, do.
o Janet offsets her awful short hair with an awful leopard-print dress, and underwhelms. Next.
o Saleisha, after quickly mentioning that she's modelled before, is told to 'think art' by Mr Jay. Apparently 'thinking art' means 'turning up-side down'. Huh. When I was at art school, it meant 'finding enough change in your bag for another beer and getting high on turps'.
o Bianca wins second prize in an Ears Like A Wingnut competition, and apparently epitomises 'punk glamour'. She's like, an oxymoron, you know?
o Victoria tells us she's going to 'bring on her super nerdy skills' and does pretty well in a colourful flappy smock dress. She then nabs Quote Of The Day by describing herself as 'a sea nymph on acid scaling a wall in the sunshine'. Anyway, she piddy. She piddy lady.
o Ambreal is boring. Seems to be a habit. What?
o Chantal is a pink parrot who would fly south for the winter if she didn't have bad fluffy hair and wonky eyes. Fly, parrot, fly!
o Ebony, in a pink mini, claims that people expect a lot from her. I expect her to make up words, and she doesn't disappoint. Ladies and gentlemen: 'exterialise'. As in 'I'm going to exterialise my anger and maybe throw up my lunch a little bit'.
o Sarah (who?) is… um… wearing stuff in the air.
o Kimberly, taking out the undisputed Wingnut Trophy, is in an okay black frock, and strikes okay poses. She tells us she 'wants to be a role model for the girls that just have a normal life'. Way to hitch your wagon to a star, Girl Next Door.
o Jenah, who has been rock-climbing since she was twelve, manages to hoik her massive teeth up the wall without too much trouble, and poses surprisingly well. Damn, though. Those teeth. Damn.
o Heather is perfect and looks perfect and is perfect. Y'know – except for the autism n'all. Shut up.

· A Tyra Mail sends the girls to the Elimination of Wake-Me-Up-When-It's-Over, where the bag of fried chicken herself greets them in a dress that looks like Pucci threw up on a stiff sheet after a particularly aggressive bowl of oysters. She robots through the prizes, which I think this year include a tape measure and a single dead gerbera, and then introduces the judges, including Miss Jay (slightly bigger afro than last week), Twiggy (slightly more of an Egyptian matron than last week), Roy Campbell (teeth still the same inadequate size), and Spunky Nigel Barker, who I'm making sure the carpet matches the curtains for. For some reason, Tyra starts speaking with a French accent, until she pauses and says "Why am I speaking in a French accent?". Then she keeps doing it. And doesn't stop. Trou du cul.

· Photos are whisked through, with a smattering of worthwhile moments:
o Tyra is troubled by the fact that, to her knowledge, people with Asperger's Syndrome characteristically have trouble making eye contact, yet in Heather's photo, she seems to be making 'amazing' eye contact with an imaginary person in the distance. So, like, I'm colourblind, but I'm awesome at picking colours on an imaginary colour-wheel. It's sort of like a miracle and stuff.
o Nigel sees Ebony's photo and just says "Legs-a-million". I'm sure he meant to say "Just a little to the left, Jo. Thaaaat's it".
o Tyra's critique of Ebony consists entirely of telling stories about her own start in modelling, including booking twenty-five shows in Paris on the basis of three photographs. Ebony looks like Confused And Sad Dionne Warwick Doll – Now With Disturbingly Jutting Collarbones!
o Tyra tells Kimberly that her favourite part of her is her ears. I wish Kimberly had immediately said "Sorry, what?". It's just a theory, but I think if someone tells you your best feature is your ears, consider a career in accounting.
o Nigel tells Chantal that her photo might have been better "had she owned her legs". What, is she renting them?
o Miss Jay says that he sees 'no nutritional fashion value' in Kimberly. I… I don't know what that means.

· The judges deliberate, and finally Tyra commences calling names and doling out photographs, until only Bianca Pinking Shears and Kimberly Wingnut are left. Kimberly is told that she's a gorgeous girl with perfect ears (shut uuuup), but a little pedestrian (not like the guy on the 'don't walk' sign), and Bianca is told that none of the judges liked her photo. I wipe some catatonic dribble from my chin, and Kimberly is given her marching orders, but not before Tyra lovingly caresses her ears. Bye, Kimberly! Don't dislodge any mantelpiece ornaments on your way out!

Next week, a grasshopper invades the Module Mansion, the modules suspect they're about to get a makeover, and then.. they.. kind of… get a makeover. Wild environs. Warning sirens. Curling irons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keeping Me Up At Night #9

Why is it a "cotton-picking minute"?
Like, how long does it take to pick cotton?
How is a cotton-picking minute different to a normal minute?

I need a coffee.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

America's Next Top Model Series Nine #2

Okay, so I missed Episode One. As far as I can tell from the "Last week, on America's Next Top Model" bit, I missed some denim leg-warmers, an ocean cruise, a life-jacketed walk-off, a bunch of tears and screaming, and Tyra dressed as a feathered showgirl from The Best Little Fried Chicken Joint In Texas. I'm not overly distraught.

What I am upset about, though, is missing seeing actual evidence of the unsuccessful contestant named "Spontaniouse". I can't think of anything else except the name Spontaniouse. I can't say it enough, I can't write it enough, I can't read it enough. It epitomises everything that is perfect, good and right about this show. Plus, it's like, way fucked up.

But let's not roll around in the fetid carcass of the past. Let's dive headlong into the blossoming, scented chrysanthemum of the present. ANTM has a message, which surprisingly isn't 'Be Sure To Tweeze Out Any Strays' or 'Undies First'. No – as Tyra makes crystally and polyunsaturatedly clear, this is a Non-Smoking Show. So stub it out and move away from the ashtray – it's the Gettin' Ciggy With It episode of America's Next Top Model.

· I'd better start with a brief rundown of our module finalists. I said brief rundown, not briefs down, ladies. Important distinction. As usual, many of the modules' parents seem to have named them by shaking up Scrabble tiles in a bucket. Starting with my two current favourite modules and then just randomly plonking:
o Heather – has Asperger's Syndrome, a kind of autism characterised by limited social skills and clumsiness. If Naomi Campbell is anything to go by, these symptoms are no barrier at all to a successful modelling career. Heather is endearingly awkward, and gob-smackingly beautiful.
o Lisa – at times looking like she's missing the top of her head, Lisa is otherwise stunning, like a blacker Christy Turlington, and ever-aware that there's a camera on her. Her hair is quite possibly thinner than a porno plot, and she'd know – she's an 'exotic dancer' by trade.
o Chantal – Blonde and pretty, but unfortunately God ran out of matching eyes on her birthday, and just picked two at random, accidentally sticking one of them on the side of her head.
o Saleisha – Cutey McCute from CheekPinchingVille.
o Mila – If you got some pale tumbleweeds and blew them across a dewy hot-tub in Sweden, you would have Mila. At high school, I bet she was voted 'Most Likely To Say "Um… What?" A Lot'.
o Kimberley – oh, please. Didn't I used to sit next to you on the school bus? So girl-next-doorsy I can see into her loungeroom from here. Apart from her ability to summon Essence Of Slut in photographs (just like the girl next to me on the school bus), there's not much to her, really.
o Bianca – I'm glad this girl has a bitchy ghetto personality and a penchant for mouthing off at anyone who gets in her way. It keeps me from developing a deranged tic trying to figure out why she's dyed her fringe purple. Way to look like a trailer-park grape, arsehole.
o Victoria – goes to Yale, so much is made of her gigantic brain. Fortunately, not anywhere near as much hoo-hah is made of her chunky legs. Shut up. It's a modelling competition. This matters. Gorgeous Merchant Ivory face, personality of an erudite shrew. We'll see.
o Ebony – Oh, hello Ebony. When you're finished looking like Dionne Warwick with a bead fetish, would you mind being this series' Psycho-Bitch Megalomaniac? Ta.
o Janet – is fulfilling the Short-Haired Girl quota for this series. Or Tyra owes one of her paler cousins a favour. Or the show is being sponsored by the American Fund For Pointy Faces. Or the producers are being sued by someone Ginger. Or.. I really don't know how to explain her presence. A little help?
o Ambreal – oh, BULL that's your name. Decent body, but the face is nothing to write home about, unless it's to say "Saw some uninteresting people today, mum. Oh, and please send fifty dollars". Meh.
o Jenah – I think they're PhotoShopping contestants now. Half-lemur, Jenah can probably see in the dark and suck apples through her strange teeth. And I really hate a redundant 'h'. But that's probably not her fault.
o Sarah – Who? So non-descript I'm considering legal action. A little bit fat.

· Mr Jay shows the girls the new Model Mobile, telling them that Tyra wanted to show concern for the environment this series, so the car is "bio-diesel". Luckily, this saves all the petroleum in the world for use in Vaseline, Tyra's Favourite. Beauty. Product. Ever. There's grass on the back of the seats, which are made from recycled tyres, and there are leaves painted on the outside of the car. Mila, helping out by preserving thinking energy, comments that it's good "to be aware of what makes the earth good". Now, I know an intensely detailed tour of a big green environmentally-friendly bus should be interesting, but I'm momentarily distracted by methane.

· Our modules are driven to their bio-soy-recycled-raffia-solar-powered Module Mansion (see: 'Same Shit Every Series', especially subtitles 'Scream', 'Claim A Bed Is Yours', 'Admire Omnipresent Tyra Imagery' and 'Suggest A Skinny-Dip'), and everybody plays the get-to-know-you game. Everyone, that is, except Heather, who sits by herself drawing and writing in her notebook. She holds the notebook right up close to her face, and I think I hear her say "Aren't I pretty, book? Look at my pretty face! You, book, are my only friend". But I'm not sure. In the Hippie House, showers are limited to ten minutes, so ten of the modules all pile into the bath together, in a scene I'm either calling "Boyfriends Can Watch This Glorious Shit, Too" or "Soup With Dumblings".

· No time or bleach is wasted as Mr Jay introduces the first photo shoot of the series, and announces The Message, which is 'Smoking Is Bad'. Next week: 'Dogs Have Four Legs'. Each module will pose for two photographs – in the first, they will pose glamorously in front of a mirror brandishing a cigarette, and in the second, which will be superimposed into the mirror, they will be made up to demonstrate the harmful effects of smoking. It's a bit like the juxtaposition of realistic and dream-like imagery in the Surrealist movement, or, for the lowbrow amongst you, like looking at yourself in the shiny bit on the inside of a Violet Crumble wrapper. Whether it's activism or autism, it's time for a summary:
o Ambreal reflects lung cancer, and spits fake blood into a tissue.
o Jenah reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like the saddest novelty condom in the world.
o Mila also reflects hair loss from chemotherapy, and looks like Mick Hucknall in a wind tunnel. She finds it hilarious, but I'll never be able to look at a rambutan again.
o Janet reflects a burn victim with scars, and I kind of feel like eating steak.
o Chantal reflects a tracheotomy with a hole in her neck, making it look like God slipped when applying one of her eyes and her anus.
o Heather and Saleisha together reflect second-hand smoke, and are made to look old and ugly. They have trouble relating to each other, which must be a huge surprise to the producers, who recently devoted fifteen minutes of the show to exploring how bad Heather is at relating to other people.
o Kimberly reflects a sunken face. Headline reads GIRL NEXT DOOR LOOKS VAGUELY LIKE SLIGHTLY OLDER GIRL NEXT DOOR. Next.
o Sarah reflects premature aging, with lines on her face. What? Who?
o Victoria reflects a stillborn child. She cries whilst holding a dead baby. Like, I know these photos are supposed to be disturbing, but that's… disturbing. Sort of a lot.
o Ebony, in a gold dress that does nothing to take away from the whole Dionne Warwick thang, reflects a collapsed lung with an oxygen mask, and Jay comments that she looks like she's sitting on a toilet. Be nice, Jay. Smokers have to crap too.
o Bianca reflects gingivitis with rotting teeth, and except for the implied associated halitosis, is uninteresting.
o Lisa, after having a borderline-awesome snarky bitch fight with Bianca in the make-up chairs, reflects a facial tumour, and looks like she's balancing a Subway foot-long on her cheek.

· One problem with seeing about five hundred thousand episodes of this show across two continents is its predictability. Just as you'd expect crowds of Emperor Penguins to display the same behaviour in two different documentaries, crowds of emaciated bimbos tend to all waddle in the same direction, too. Hence heated arguments (in this case Lisa and Bianca) get all up in them bitches' faces. Hence the 'outcast' (in this case Heather, and granted, at the time she's sitting outside clutching a toy monkey) is usually easily able to hear the other modules making fun of her. Hence Tyra spouts senseless drivel, gesticulating with her great drumstick appendages. Hence I want to be buried with an International ANTM DVD box set.

· It's Challenge Time, and also time for me to question the direction the show is heading. The winner used to be on the cover of Elle, not Seventeen. The photographer of the winning magazine spread used to be Gilles Bensimon, not PixieFoto. And the shopping/styling challenge used to be at Rodeo Drive, not Old Navy, a place where you get the feeling the change-room walls are made out of egg cartons and Paddle-Pop sticks. Benny Ninja The Flourescent Pirate appears behind a rack to introduce the moduels to their challenge – they have ten minutes to find an outfit comprised of 'model basics'. Just like Emperor Penguins, the girls run, scream, trash the store, and line up looking plasticky and flammable. Most of the girls have interpreted 'model basics' as 'denim on the bottom, polyester on the top'. The real challenge here is to not throw a brick into the television.

· A Tyra-Mail summons the girls to the Elimination of Doom, and they file in wearing their new outfits, nervous and machine-washable. Tyra is mercifully scarf-free this season, although she appears to have forgotten her iron and remembered her arse. She enthuses about the prizes, which I think this year include an A4 envelope and a pair of nail scissors, and then introduces the judges – Miss Jay (in disturbing close-knit afro wig), Twiggy (dressed in traditional boring), and Spunky Nigel Barker (who I'm visiting the chemist for).

· Outfits are assessed, and Saleisha is announced the challenge winner. She gets excited until she's told that the prize is a one-thousand dollar shopping spree at Old Navy. It's a bit like winning a case of beer for overcoming alcoholism, only much more likely to induce sobbing. Photographs are trowelled through, and aside from Heather being the most stunning person in the entire world, and Tyra telling Kimberly she "doesn't have to hoochify herself to be beautiful" (in the Bible, this would be referred to as 'Tyra 3:14'), I'm already waiting for the closing credits. Tyra then announces that, as of tomorrow, there will be a ban on smoking, so the girls should get in their last puffs tonight. PS: Heather is really, really pretty.

· Eventually Tyra grabs the photos and starts calling out names one by one, until only Mila the Swedish Meatball and Ebony Warwick are left. Mila is told that she's a pretty girl, but not a model, and in an unexpected twist, Ebony is told that she's a pretty girl, but not much of a model. Mila stares into space like she's trying to find Sputnik, but Ebony takes it one step further. Gone are the days where being faced with being in the Bottom Two merely elicited a single, slow-rolling crystalline tear. Ebony ups the ante by producing the most magnificent glistening snot-glob I've ever seen, balancing it between nostril and lip with the light-catching grace of gossamer. Several mucousy minutes pass, and Mila is given the arse. Bye, Mila! Don't bump the IKEA smorgasbord on your way out, Frauline.

Next week, the girls practice their walking skills, fights develop about body image, and people in scary costumes instill terror into every module. Walking Scenes. Venting Spleens. Halloweens.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pre-emptive Scrag Lag

Okay, so Series 9 of America's Next Top Model starts tonight on pay TV.
The thing is, right, that I'm in Broome, see, and I won't be watching it.
I said I won't be watching it.
If I can get a copy of it (email me now, people), and if I have time to recap the first episode before the second one thunders down the catwalk in an inappropriate bikini, I'll be more than happy to throw my two bitchy cents in. Vitriol is like a fart - if you try to hold it in, it just makes you feel sick.
Until then, I've got fishing, desert-crossing and sky-diving to do. I'm sure you understand.

That's me. At about eleven thousand feet. I know, right?