RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 recaps

The shadiest Drag Race recaps on the web. Get ready to death drop, queens!

The Bachelorette Australia recaps

One woman, 14 desperate men, mucho LOLs. Oh, and Osher Gunsberg.

The Bachelor Australia recaps

Sequins, spray tans and sex - it's season 3 of the world's stupidest dating show.

RuPaul's Drag Race Season 7 recaps

YASS, HUNTIES! Every episode of season seven recapped for your reading pleasure. Let's get sickening!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What the Elle? The Body's Photoshop FAIL

Usually newspapers and magazines get into trouble for Photoshopping models and celebrities to look thinner than they are. Now it seems they're trying to make them look fatter.

A few days ago the Daily Mail published this article about Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson and her supposed new boyfriend holidaying in Ibiza, along with this photograph and caption:

Screenshot from Daily Mail.

I think we can all agree Elle looks amazing, as usual. But something seems amiss. Her thighs seem fleshier, there's a bit of "muffin top" and a hint of belly poking above her teeny weeny string bikini. Is this really what "The Body" looks like these days?

Well, no, it isn't. Compare that photo to the main pic the Daily Mail used on the top of the same story:

Screenshot from Daily Mail.

Either Elle got a very speedy liposuction between those two snaps, or something fishy's going on here.

There are many photos from Elle's recent trip to Ibiza with Roger Jenkins, and weirdly her muffin top and bulging gut are invisible in all of them.

So what's going on here? Simply: Photoshop. Or perhaps we should call it "Fatoshop".

Elle's spare tyre is missing from all these photos because it never existed in the first place - as is evident from the original version of the offending photograph, taken in 2008:

Hang on, where's the fat?


That photo was one of several taken on the shoot of Elle's "Invisible Zinc" TV commercial on a Sydney beach in 2008. The Daily Mail credits the photo as being copyright of News Limited's photo arm Newspix, and now defunct Sydney agency Icon Images. Other online instances of the pic credit it to agency Rex Features, which has a bunch of similar shots in its online library.

Whatever the source, the pictures have been all over  the internet  for years, and "The Body" looks taut and toned in all of them, as she does in the actual commercial itself:



Now here's that original photo and the Daily Mail's version side by side:

Left: The original photo from Elle's "Invisible Zinc" shoot. Right: The photo that appeared on the Daily Mail last week.

Clearly the photo on the right has been digitally altered to make Elle look fatter than she is. But who did it? Someone at the Daily Mail? An intermediary agency? And more importantly: why?

Is it some kind of misguided attempt to make female readers "bond" with a publication, like BFFs cheekily scoffing chocs as they giggle at "fat" celebs? ("Look, supermodels are just like you! Be our friend and read us!")

Or is it just another cheap and easy way to make a story more "clickable", so readers will share it on Facebook and Twitter while breathlessly exclaiming "OMG ELLE IS SO FAT NOW LOL!"?

Whatever the motivation photo manipulation of this kind is straight out lying, and furthers the damaging representations of the female body that already saturate our media.

---

Thanks to The Fireblade Array for the tip-off.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Shop the press! Online advertising reaches new low

Want to buy the jumper that serial killer is wearing on the front page? Now you can!

You know how sometimes on your favourite TV program the characters will stop what they're doing to reach into the fridge for an icy cold can of Coke? Or they'll have an important plot-forwarding conversation in the car park of a McDonald's? Or they'll suddenly express a fondness for Cheerios?

Or Funyuns?

It's called product placement and it works because we like these shows and we like the characters, and when we see them using a product it can act as a silent, subconscious word-of-mouth recommendation. (Case in point: I bought a bag of Funyuns the other day just because Jesse Pinkman said they were awesome.) (Side note: They're not.) (Second side note: Stand by for a future Incredible Inedible.)

It's perhaps not ideal, but it's usually unintrusive enough not to cause any real problem with regular viewing.

But thanks to new technology product placement is starting to creep into some very inappropriate places. Namely, online news reports.

Today I saw this Daily Mail story about Annette Bening and Warren Beatty's 20-year-old transgender son Stephen (born Kathryn), who has released a web video for activist organisation WeHappyTrans.com .

In the six minute video Stephen talks about what it's like to be transgender and gay - but FORGET ALL THAT BECAUSE OMG WHAT IS HE WEARING?

GET THE LOOK!

If you're like me I'm sure the first thing you thought when you saw that video still of Stephen Beatty was "WHERE ON EARTH CAN I BUY THAT SNAZZY JUMPER?"

Well fret no more. Thanks to new web advertising technology provided by Luminate, the Daily Mail can tell you. Just hover your mouse over the image, click on a "hotspot" and VOILA!

Now you can look just like Warren Beatty's transgender son!

I can't even begin to describe how a) offensive and b) ridiculous this is.

I can't be sure, but I'm fairly confident that when Stephen put that jumper on and headed down into his very unattractive basement to make that video he wasn't hoping to start a new trend in knitwear. I'm pretty sure he wanted people to pay attention to his message, and not his clothing.

This sort of product placement is intrusive and totally undermines any serious meaning a story may have originally carried. It's the web equivalent of pouring your heart out to someone only for them to interrupt with "Nice story, but where did you get that jacket?"

Putting this sort of thing on fashion photos, celebrity or red carpet shots is one thing, but the very idea that anyone would want to "get the look" Stephen is sporting in his video is laughable, probably even to Stephen himself.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail, why stop there? There are heaps of stories on your site today on which you could encourage readers to "get the look". Like the rise in unemployment:

* Not a real screenshot, I made this.


* Not a real screenshot, I made this.

Or the bloody fighting in Damascus:


* Not a real screenshot, I made this.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Incredible Inedibles: Marshmallow Fluff

Roadtesting the iconic American spread, and the famous "Fluffernutter".

Here's a good rule of thumb for living: If the thing you're about to eat can be described as "soft", "sticky" and "white", it probably isn't technically food. (No matter what he says.)

Like toothpaste. Or plaster of Paris. Or the filling of a Twinkie. Or Marshmallow Fluff.



Yes, this actually exists.


I've subjected myself to some truly weird foods for your reading pleasure over the years. But never before have I had to eat something that looked like it came from Bunnings' sealants aisle.

This might explain:

You can get it in a woodgrain stain for an extra $5.

What IS this shit? The label says it's a blend of corn syrup, sugar, "dried egg white" and vanillin, and according to MarshmallowFluff.com, it's "the finest marshmallow creme anywhere!". (Note to Marshmallow Fluff: It's probably the ONLY "marshmallow creme" anywhere. No one else wants this crap, trust me.)

Its best known use is in the iconic American "Fluffernutter", a migraine-inducing sandwich made with Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter. If that's not revolting enough for you, why not try bunging it in a bowl with some sweet potatoes and canned pineapple for a holiday treat? PRO TIP: Use the giant Marshmallow Fluff tub as a vomit receptacle after the meal!



"YAY IT'S HEALTHY!" - a total moron.


To be fair, Marshmallow Fluff isn't really even PRETENDING to be food. I mean, take the name: "fluff". If a company names a product after something you scrape off the carpet and dig out of your navel, and you still insist on eating it, they really can't be blamed for any negative side effects you experience.

Speaking of which, "negative" pretty much sums up my reaction to eating Marshmallow Fluff. It is blindingly white, like shaving cream is and food should never be, and it's unnervingly goopy and airy at the same time. Stick your finger in and it might pull up long, sticky strands like pizza cheese, or it might bring up a puffy blob resembling melty ice cream.



This has to be good for you, right?


Here's another good rule of thumb: If the thing you're about to eat actually eats your spoon before you get a chance, you probably shouldn't go near it.



This took approximately five minutes. I swear I didn't touch it.


Lucky for you I'm not a scaredy cat who's afraid of some sort of T-1000 sandwich spread. The Fluff may have won the first round, but I had a whole DRAWER full of spoons and I wasn't afraid to use them.

So, the taste. Well, you know sugar? It tastes like that. A LOT OF THAT. It also has a very thick, greasy mouth feel, rather like you're deliberately coating the inside of your mouth with sugar flavoured lard.



On the plus side, my tongue was all ready to swim the Channel after just one Fluffernutter.


But I figured no taste test of Marshmallow Fluff would be complete without trying the world famous Fluffernutter. Unfortunately I didn't have any bread so was forced to use a hamburger bun, but then I realised that made it EVEN MORE American and therefore at least 230 per cent more awesome than a regular Fluffernutter.



Peanut butter on one side, Fluff on the other, as per Fluffernutter Advisory Board (FAB) official instructions.


I wrapped the Stars and Stripes around my head, Axl-Rose-style, put Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA on full blast and yelled "GOD BLESS AMERICA!" as I shoved the yankee sanger in my mouth.




This has got to be one of the saddest images I've ever seen.


Now listen here, America. I know your food is very awesome in lots of ways. Your fruit is delicious and cheap. You make salads like no one else on the planet. And your hamburgers - well, I would commit several illegal things just to bite into one. BUT NO ONE NEEDS A SANDWICH THAT TASTES LIKE A CANDY BAR. The sandwich says "lunch" but the sugar says "dessert". WHICH IS IT?

Basically, a Fluffernutter tastes like what you'd get if a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup mated with a bag of molten sugar, had a baby S'more and then spread its afterbirth all over some bread.

Obviously, it was delicious. In a "goodbye cruel world, there's nothing left to live for so I might as well eat this shitty sugar poison cocktail" kind of way.

But I rather value my life, so I stopped after two bites.

Now I have a giant tub of Marshmallow Fluff that I don't know what to do with. Anyone need any cutlery hidden?

The best Jack White GIF ever made?

Jack White premiered the new Hype Williams directed video for his single Freedom At 21 today, in which he gets into a car chase and does naughty things with half naked booty girls while in prison.



Here's something you won't hear me say very often: I don't really like it. Yes it's true, Jack White has done something I don't completely love with every fibre of my being. It CAN happen, people.

Muscle cars in the desert, being arrested by a hot cop, sexy girls with heir boobs hanging out... For an artist who's consistently put out offbeat, interesting, artistic videos this one seems a tad generic. But you know, whatever. He's newly divorced, he's touring, it's summer - why not make girls drape themselves over you? If I had to make a music video I'd probably cast a half naked Alexander Skarsgard to serve me cherries while Jake Gyllenhaal gave me a neck rub and it'd finish with a shot of me having breakfast in bed with Jack White. It'd be the worst video ever, but I'd have fun making it.

In any case, Entertainment Weekly wrote a piece about Jack's new video mentioning that the moment at 1.38 in which he does a bizarre hand/tongue movement should be immortalised in GIFage and... well, I aim to please. So here it is.

I'm not sure, but it may be the best Jack White GIF ever.

Any ideas what's going on here?


Want more Jack White GIFs? Check out Jack White Doing Things for a laugh.

Read my review of Jack White's May 22 New York concert with the Alabama Shakes.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Incredible Inedibles: Matzo Ball Soup

Once upon a time I worked in an American restaurant in a rather posh suburb of Adelaide.

There aren't many American restaurants in Adelaide. Or actually, anywhere.

That's because when most Australians think of American food, they think of this:

Except for maybe the sushi, I think that comes from Canada.

Which is fine, of course, but generally not served in the sort of restaurant you want to take a date to (unless maybe you're on a blind date and you've decided you don't like them after all, and you want to try and get rid of them. Then you could take them to "Jake's All You Can Eat Americano Grub Shack" and you'd be sure to never see them again.)

The problem was this restaurant didn't serve hot dogs and fries and burgers, or even Canadian sushi. It served rather nice modern American cuisine like crab cakes and New York strip steak and clam chowder and wanted to be thought of as more like this:

"More American delights, sir?"
Their image was not helped by the fact that they described themselves as an "eatery", which tends to make people think of a room lined with feed troughs, rather than the type of place one feels enthusiastic about spending $70 on a bottle of wine.

Inevitably, the yawning chasm between diners' expectations and the reality of the restaurant was sufficient enough to keep the dining room empty roughly 90 per cent of the time, so I spent most nights doing stocktake (fairly simple when nothing actually gets used) and polishing tables that were already shinier than Alex Perry's head.

Yes, shinier than THIS.
After a while I got bored of being paid to stand around doing nothing on Saturday nights (I was young and stupid - now I'm in my 30s, this is actually my dream job description) so I quit, and the whole thing went down the gurgler not long after. I can't claim the two events were related, but... you know. I WAS a pretty good waitress.

Anyway apart from exceptional table-polishing skills, the eatery did teach me a few things.

Like the difference between Manhattan and Boston clam chowders (Manhattan is tomato based, Boston is cream based); and what "pulled pork" and "jerk chicken" are (hint: they're delicious, and not at all sexual); and how to deal with a drunk, depressed chef (you avoid him, no matter how much his manager wife begs you, a 19 year old, to pull him into line).

And about matzo ball soup. The Eatery served a delicious home-made version of this iconic Jewish dish and I used to eat it there most days before my shift. As far as I know they were the only place serving it in Adelaide, and it died there along with the manager's dreams.

So when I discovered this in my local supermarket (which, as I've previously discussed, is awesome) and discovered all it involved was egg and oil, I began to realise why the eatery's $12 version hadn't been too popular.

I tried to find one with increased sodium, but they were out.
Anyway it stayed in my kitchen cupboard for two whole months while I busied myself with being distracted by New York's incredible array of take-out options and not cooking anything at all, ever. Then today I got a cold, and it was MATZO BALL TO THE RESCUE!


Step one: Beat two eggs and two tablespoons of oil, then add the matzo mix, helpfully described as "packet one" on the box. Except neither of the two packets of powder had any markings, and there were no further instructions anywhere. I looked around for a nearby Jew to ask, but there were none. (And they say there are so many in New York - rubbish!).

I almost broke down from the mental turmoil this situation caused, but eventually guessed the more floury of the two powders was probably the matzo, and ended up with this, which looked right.

Very thick and sticky.
Step two: Put the matzo mix in the fridge for 15 minutes. In the meantime, boil 10 cups of water and add the soup mix (aka "packet two", aka "the packet you didn't use before").

Step three: With wet hands, roll the matzo mix into one-inch balls. Make sure you take the opportunity to make some jokes about small Jewish balls.

Cute little things.
Step four: Drop the balls in the boiling soup. Make a joke about dropping balls (here's one: "Oy vey, my balls just dropped!"). Turn the heat down, put a lid on the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step five: Open the lid and FREAK OUT at how much the balls have grown in size. And yes, make a joke about balls growing.

Don't plotz, they're supposed to look like this.
Step six: Bung in a bowl. Bite into a matzo ball and taste the rich, delicious egginess soaked in chickeny, salty soupness. Let eyes roll back in head. Feel flu symptoms start to subside.

Oy vey.

If you'd like to make matzo balls but can't find matzo meal, apparently you can substitute crushed up unsalted crackers. Then just follow this recipe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blind tasting a surreal experience

New York's hottest new restaurant fad transports diners to the dark side.

As soon as I walked through the door I was gasping for breath, my pulse racing, my hands shaking.

I felt like someone had wrapped a heavy cloak around my whole body and was pushing me down by the shoulders. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the voices in my head begging me to turn around and walk back to safety.

I was totally freaking out - and I'd only been in the restaurant for 60 seconds.

Yes, a restaurant. I wasn't preparing to bungee jump or dive with sharks or tightrope across Niagara Falls, or anything even vaguely life threatening.

But I was experiencing the most intense darkness I've ever... er... NOT seen, at New York's hottest new fad restaurant “Dans Le Noir”.

Rather ironically located four blocks south of Times Square, the neon light capital of the universe, Dans Le Noir is a restaurant in which patrons pay to “dine in the dark”.

From the moment your waiter – or “guide” as they're referred to at DLN - leads you into the dining room you are in complete darkness. You can't see the other people on your communal table, you can't see your food, you certainly can't admire the d├ęcor, if there even is any. You can't even make out vague shapes of things.

You see nothing. At. All.

Rather like this.

Until this week I was able to say with some confidence that I was not afraid of the dark. Now I realise that's only because I never really knew what “the dark” was.

True darkness, of the sort you are forced into at Dans Le Noir, is oppressive and heavy and quite frightening. You feel a bit like you're being smothered, and it's difficult to breathe at first. When you close your eyes, there is no difference.

It's the closest I ever hope to come to being blind – which many of the restaurant's waiters actually are.

But after your brain finally accepts that it is still, in fact, working and that the body in which it resides is not in any mortal danger, you begin to relax and focus on enjoying your invisible food - which is supposedly the whole point of the thing.

Nightvision shot of diners being led to their table at Dans Le Noir, Paris.

In the absence of sight, you are told, your other senses are heightened so you may appreciate your meal in different ways.

With the menu kept secret until the end, you have to rely on your nose and tastebuds to determine what you're eating. And, I'm slightly ashamed to admit, your hands. (Well YOU try using a knife and fork with your eyes closed and see how far you get.)

You soon become aware how much you depend on your sight to determine the most basic things. I was surprised to discover what I thought was roast chicken was roast boar, and the cheese sauce I'd tasted was actually vanilla cream – mistakes I like to think I wouldn't have made if I'd seen the food.

At $79 a head it's a pretty costly undertaking – given you could possibly just eat with your hands in the dark at home for free.

But as our vision impaired guide led us, squinting, back out into the light-filled lobby I realised that as a reminder of how wonderful it is to be able to see, it was priceless.

---

This article was first published in the Adelaide City Messenger on June 27, 2012.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Alternative Emmys - my picks

Forget Best Actor and Best Drama - these Emmy Award category suggestions are way more fun.

Can you hear that distant whooshing sound?

No, it's not a wormhole into a parallel universe opening up in your backyard (although you should probably check anyway, now that I think about it). It's the inhabitants of TV Land taking a collective breath and holding it in anticipation of the Primetime Emmy nominations, set to be announced in Hollywood on July 19.

People say the Emmys are like television's equivalent of the Oscars, but I think they're  more like the Golden Globes in that no one really takes them seriously and no one who actually votes in them seems to know what a comedy is. Also, Mad Men always wins everything.

There aren't likely to be many surprises this year. Tina Fey will get something, Big Bang Theory will probably pop up somewhere, as will Homeland, and everyone will continue pretending Modern Family is still funny.

So I've come up with a list of alternative awards I'd like to see given out instead.

UNLIKELIEST SEX SYMBOL: Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones

Tall, dark and handsome might be the norm for on-screen hunks, but as acid-tongued dwarf Tyrion Lannister Dinklage has proven short, blonde and a bit rough around the edges works just as well. He may be no taller than a mailbox but women everywhere have fallen for his sharp wit and steamy bedroom antics in this medieval fantasy drama.



ACTOR MOST LIKELY TO INSPIRE CONFLICTING EMOTIONS IN FEMALE VIEWERS: Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad.

As Jesse Pinkman, the beleaguered young assistant to New Mexico drug kingpin Walter White, Paul manages to fall somewhere between being the bad dude you were too afraid to date in your 20s and the broken little boy you wish you could fix.

One minute you're swooning over his handsome, tough exterior, then the next you want to give him a cuddle and a cup of hot Milo and tell him everything will be alright. And then you remember that he's a methamphetamine manufacturer who's murdered people, and you sort of want him to be locked up. Confusing.

LEAST NECESSARY REALITY SHOW: Snooki and JWoww.

A hotly contested category – Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp came a close second – but this Jersey Shore spin off was doomed as soon as Snooki announced she was pregnant. With partying, boozing and random hookups off the menu, just what are viewers supposed to tune in for? The sparkling repartee?





MOST AWKWARD SEX SCENE: Louis C.K in Louie

It's difficult to go past actress/writer/director Lena Dunham, whose portrayal of 20-something intimacy in HBO series Girls has to be watched through slotted fingers. But her fumbling pales in comparison to comedian C.K's hilariously cringe-making attempt at seduction in his own sitcom, Louie. In episode two, when his bedroom role-playing causes his lover to cry about her father, it's nothing short of disturbing.

THE HIS 'N' HERS AWARD FOR SERVICES TO INTIMATE RELATIONS: True Blood

Abs. Boobs. Bums. Legs. Pashing. Neck sucking. And, er... well, you get the drift. This sexy vampire horror-comedy has enough flesh in enough permutations to get virtually anyone's blood pumping.











THE GOOGLE AWARD FOR WEIRDEST SEARCH ENGINE PHRASE INSPIRED BY A SHOW: Mad Men 

Three words: “zous bisous bisous”. Or is that “zoobie zoobie zoo”? Or “zu bizu bizu”...?





What award categories would you like to see at this year's Emmys?

---

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on June 30, 2012.

The best GIF ever made?

So, I think I just made the best GIF ever, you guys.

BEHOLD: Manny from Black Books being yelled at.


Hypnotic, no?

And the original scene, for context:



Friday, July 06, 2012

Beverly Hills 90210 GIF recap: S1 E1

We open on a lone surfer riding the waves in slow motion to the strains of The Beach Boys' Surf City, which, for all you younger readers, was a totally hip summer track all the kids were listening to in the early '90s.

Then suddenly, for no reason, we cut to Brandon who appears to be doing some breathing exercises inside a tent he's constructed using an inside-out Slip 'n' Slide and a couple of garden sprinklers.

"MUM, TURN THE HOSE DOWN!"