Saturday, September 30, 2006

Project Runway Snarkfest #3

So we just saw the "What the Elle?" episode, where the designers were competing for one of the three spots at Fashion Week and a spread in Elle. Please note that there are SPOILERS for this episode in here, as well as some spoilers at the end because we saw a mini-preview of the four Fashion Week collections in Entertainment Weekly. We did not see the collections in their entirety, nor do we know who wins or loses.

TRACY: What was UP with MICHAEL'S horrible, horrible dress? What happened to my boy? He's had this great combination of elegance and urban sensibility all along, and when asked to create something that speaks to who he is as a designer, he goes for a horrible, yawnfest of an evening gown I wouldn't have worn to my prom in the EIGHTIES? And that "keyhole" on the chest was for a mighty big key. The weaving at the waist was nice, but it didn't show half of what Michael can do. Find your bliss again, dude, and STAY there.

Here are my three words/phrases for Michael's dress: Hootchie, Fredericks of Hollywood, and wardrobe malfunction.

TROY: More like a brain malfunction...or taste malfunction. So if Michael is describing himself via this dress, he's boring, unimaginative, and kinda skanky? The judges knew how suckatastic this dress was and decided to honor his past work on this show by adding that little twist of "NO ONE'S GOING HOMEEEEE!" (This refers to an episode of TOP MODEL where crazy Tyra told two models that they really sucked and then surprised them by screaming "WE'RE ALL GOING TO LONDON!" with the girls starting to cry with a horrified look of confusion. Then Tyra informs them "NOBODY'S GOING HOME!" Anyway....).

His spirit may have been crushed after the DEVASTATING loss of Nasri (see: NICK from season 2), but STEP IT UP LOSER. You can make the most amazing dress out of GARBAGE, but you can't design something that defines you????

TRACY: Wow. Troy is very angry today. Anyway, I can't believe ULI won! I was so expecting her to get the auf. Her dress looked like a beach cover-up I once bought in Pensacola for $20. Oooh, she did a new neckline! What range!

TROY: Uli deserved the win! She still did her Crazy! Uli! Patterns!, but with a new shape and style. If she would have made that dress a solid color, it would have been a complete 180 and the judges would hate that (see: JEFFREY).

TRACY: And who else wanted to kick her in the head when she stole Michael's model, which is just nasty and mean this late in the game. There were plenty of other models in there that were good. Nasri deserves the spread in Elle, and she's not going to get it with Fraulein CrazyPatterns.

TROY: I applaud Uli for being cutthroat and "stealing" Nasri. It goes to show how protective people are of Michael (seeing as Uli was voted on the Bravo poll as the one people most wanted auf'd). If Uli would have stolen Jeffrey's model, no one would have cared. Nasri is obviously the best model and can sell wearing a garbage bag and Crocs. Uli will benefit having her as Nasri is the spice to make any collection better!

TRACY: Geez, who kicked your puppy today? All this hate for Michael. Although honestly, I think Nasri is such a standout, she's going to make it big anyway. That girl has a mean strut. I wonder if she can act? That hair is just too fabulous to be confined to the pages of a magazine....

But I'm totally going to take a picture of my beach cover-up and send it to you. It's Uli's dress all the way. Now, onto JEFFREY....

I must be high, but I sort of liked Jeffrey's dress. It's not something I'd wear, but I thought it was adorable for a 20-something--kind of had a slight Regency feel to it, but with the contemporary "bubble silhouette" that so excited the judges when Bradley did that terrible dowager-hump gold shirt and gray, up-to-the-armpits skirt. I think Jeffrey just confused them, because while he claims the dress is his style, it didn't match what he's done in the past. Not that I minded seeing Sparky McNeckTattoo get a dressing down.

TROY: I completely disagree about Jeffrey's dress. I thought it looked unfinished, unflattering, and WTF was going on with the "blue" top? He was thinking it was a dress about "romance." I was thinking it was a dress from Alice in LSD Wonderland.

Speaking of "romance," drink every time he mumbled that word. Everything was ROMANCE. He's a ROMANTIC. His picture embodied ROMANCE! Gag me. Couldn't he been given the AUF on principle alone?

TRACY: Yeah, that was gross, him trying to show his :::air quotes::: "softer side." I know that whole bit with him crying when he got a picture of his kid was supposed to make us like him more, but I just kept recoiling in horror at the thought of him reproducing. Arrogant wanker.

TROY: I also was terrified at the thought of Jeffrey procreating. HE DOESN'T SHOWER!

How about LAURA? Did Laura just use one of the dresses she's worn so many times on the show and parade it on her model? Although I applaud her for working so hard especially while being pregnant (and without maternity clothes), but she obviously will not win this competition. We probably will see a LAURA! store in our malls in few years. I hope we aren't subjected to her whole fashion show (unless it's past 1 AM and I desperately need something to knock me out). Thanks for the snark Laura, but not much else!

TRACY: Finally, we agree! The dress was pretty, but SO back to basics. I would have loved to have seen her tackle a different TYPE of garment, like a pants suit, instead of the same variation on a high-waisted dress she's done for so long. I'll be interested to see what her line at fashion week looks like, because I don't think she can send 12 empire-waist cocktail dresses down the runway.

How about that PREVIEW for the reunion show? Did you see Keith getting all uppity about his premature auf for cheating on the preview? What a freaking sociopath. I can't believe he doesn't understand why--I mean, it wasn't just one offense, it was THREE: having pattern books, leaving the premises, AND using the Internet. HELLO!

TROY: Shut up Keith! Cheaters never win, asshat! That is all. Oh! Michael's totally winning the fan favorite prize too. It's Janelle/Rupert award!

TRACY: Omigod, asshat is such an excellent word! HA! Oh, and for those of you out there who aren't glued to their TV at all hours while you're supposed to be doing homework like SOME PEOPLE, Janelle is from Big Brother, and Rupert was a fan favorite from Survivor.

You know, both made it onto the all-star versions of their show. I wonder if they'll ever do a Project Runway All-Stars? Malan Forevah!

BTW, those Fashion Week SPOILERS you mentioned last week. So, did you read them? I'm betting you did.

TROY: I've only looked at the pictures in last week's Entertainment Weekly.

TRACY: I saw those! (Note: the photo only showed about three looks from each designer's entire collection.) I think Michael caught the Last Train to Hootchieville, and I'm SO disappointed. "Street Safari," with an emphasis on the street.

TROY: It's obvious the theme of his fashion show is Austin Powers in Goldmember. Michael LO-UVES G-AWLLLLDDDDDD! And hooker wear! Uli and Jeffrey deserve to be the top 2 with the collections (Laura is NOT a contender with that snoozefest, from the three outfits in EW we saw.). I guess we'll see what else the designers have to show. God, I hope Michael's collection was a decoy and he has something else.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mystery Solved

Apparently, a volume of Where's Waldo made the ALA challenged book list because it contained a picture of a woman with her bikini top untied. Waldo, you scoundrel!

Actually, I have yet to find a specific reference for the correct volume, and the description of Waldo's transgression ranges from what I stated above, to "a woman in a bikini with an exposed breast," to "a topless mermaid." Wikipedia says the books included "a topless mermaid AND a topless sunbather."

Oh, the horror. Smut you need a magnifying glass to find.

:::banging head on monitor::::

Well, at least now we know (maybe). And now, back to my regularly scheduled deadline madness.

P.S. If you want to expand your Banned Books Week reading choices, check out Wikipedia's list, which includes links to the original sources.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Banned Books Week!

An interesting quote from the American Library Association web site:

In his book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.”

As a rule, I'm horrified by censorship, but I do understand where Kerby and Hentoff are coming from. There are at least a few people who would make me very happy by taking a flying leap off my universe and never bothering me with their insane natterings again (Ann Coulter, I'm staring at you.). While I don't think of that as censorship--more like a public service--I guess it is. Something to think about.

And if we're discussing censorship, either the flag-burning amendment is up again, or it's Banned Books Week. In this case (I'm sure the title of this post provided a big clue), it's the latter.

When I worked at Barnes & Noble, I always loved Banned Books Week. (I almost made that an acronym, but then I realized that big beautiful women everywhere owned that one.) Probably on orders from the New York office, one of the B&N managers would set up a table in the front of the store covered with books that had been banned in the past, along with a sign proclaiming what to us was a major holiday. We'd all talk with each other and with customers about what banned books we'd read, shaking our heads and lamenting the collective insanity that often accompanies library censorship.

I'm no longer a bookseller, but in honor of the start of Banned Books Week today, I went through the lists of banned and challenged (i.e. not yet banned) books on both the American Booksellers' Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the American Library Association (ALA). Here's what I found:

Most Surprising Choice:
Where's Waldo, by Martin Hanford
Yes, THAT Waldo. Unfortunately, Waldo was listed on the ALA site, which does not explain why the bans or challenges occurred, unlike the ABFFE. WHAT is so wrong with a picture book that has kids finding a little cartoon guy in a big cartoon crowd? What did Waldo ever do to you, people? Anyone who would try to ban Waldo would probably find something objectionable in his or her DVD player instruction manual and should just not read anything. Ever.

My Favorite Book on the List: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. (Challenged by an eighth grader in California and a high school principal in Alaska for racial slurs and the depiction of an attempted rape.)

In honor of Latin-American History Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), books on the list by Latinos: Paula, by Isabel Allende
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High, by Alex Sanchez

I can't reproduce every book on these lists without making this entry way too long, but just to give you an idea of what's on them, here are the
banned and challenged books from the ABFFE list that I've read:

Paula, by Isabel Allende
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Deenie, by Judy Blume (Man, I never did read Forever)
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy
Krik? Krak!, by Edwidge Danticat
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Hot Zone, by Richard Preston
Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
The Entire Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
America! (The Book), by Jon Stewart
The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Black Boy, by Richard Wright

And the books I've read from the ALA's top 100 challenged books list (that weren't on the ABFFE list):
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
A Wrinkle in TIme, by Madeleine L'Engle
Blubber, by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The Outsiders, by SE Hinton
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Native Son, by Richard Wright
Carrie, by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree, by Willo Davis Roberts

Interesting how many of these books are for young adults, and how many of them that I've read count among the most vibrant, memorable, and edifying books I've read in my life. Do your part for free speech. Read a banned book this week!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Love Song for Walter

So I was in the car by myself the other day, and, as I am wont to do when I am in the car by myself, I started getting my diva on and belting out songs along with the radio. (Much to the amusement of everyone driving past me who happens to look my way, I'm sure.) All my life, I've been convinced that my singing voice should be better, as if by sheer force of will, I should be able to hit all of the notes right along with Mary J. Blige when she's on the radio.

I've never stopped being frustrated by the fact that sometimes, I open my mouth to sing and my voice hits a wall in the form of a high E. (Think the key change in Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On and On." No, wait. Don't think about that. Yuck. Just suffice to say that key changes and I don't get on well together, and it's not for lack of trying.)

Anyway, I was leaving the gas station last week when an old Concrete Blonde song from the early 90s, "Joey," came on. For those of you who don't know the song, the verses start out quite low--lower than is comfortable for most sopranos, though I rather like them. So I'm pulling away from the pump singing along in my best tenor, when the chorus hits. Now the chorus to this song suddenly jumps up over an octave, and needless to say, things generally get quite ugly about then if I'm somewhere alone with this tune.

But somehow, for the first time in my life, I hit the chorus. Easily. On a relative Tracy scale (i.e. not a Mary J. Blige scale), I knocked it out of the park, comfortably nailing "Jooooey, I'm not annngrryyyyy, anymooooorrrrrre" without sounding like my vocal cords were about to explode in agony.

For this small moment of happiness, I have one person to thank: Walter Ayotte.

Walter was my voice teacher my senior year of college. I'd dabbled in getting a music minor but pretty much decided against it when I realized how many math-like music theory classes were involved. (Yuck.) But just for fun,throughout my four years, I'd take a semester of piano here, a year of wind ensemble there, a couple of years of chorale. My senior year, I got brave and decided to take a semester of voice lessons, despite the fact that I was going to have to get up and perform classical music in front of all of the other people taking voice lessons. Regularly.

So on my first day, I met the man who insisted I call him Walter, a quiet, balding professor in his seventies, dressed in a sweater vest and a pair of neatly pressed pants. I explained to him that I had no soprano range to speak of, or even, really, an alto range, but I could do a mean tenor. He smiled a little and said, "Let's run through some scales."

First, he took me at my word and let me try to impress him with what I hoped was my smoky, Melissa-Etheridge-esque low range (SO not the case). Then, we went up. And up, into my head voice until I was squeaking like a mouse hopped up on helium. Then he took his hands off the piano keyboard, swung around on the seat to face me, and grandly proclaimed, "Tracy, you're a soprano."

"Oh, ha ha ha, Walter. Good one," I responded.

"No, really," he said. "You're a soprano."

"I so am not!"


"Tenor. Maybe an alto." I was seriously panicking now. If good old Walter was going to insist that I was a soprano, I was going to look like a shrieking idiot when it was my turn to perform for the students of the four, count them, four vocal profs on campus. "I could maybe do alto."


"Are you sure?"

"Trust me."

"This sucks, Walter."

"I know. But you'll see."

Somewhere in there, he let it slip that he'd been trained in voice at New York's prestigious Juilliard School. No ego involved--just a subtle message that he might know what he was talking about. I stopped arguing and painfully stumbled through a piece that had the misfortune of being both high and in French, and then we called it a day.

After a few sessions of Walter's rigorous vocal exercises, which were both intricate and so catchy, I hummed them in the shower, I got the notes in the much-hated French piece down enough that we started working on pronunciation. And then it was my turn to sing for the class.

I had a cold, so we backed out the first week I was scheduled to perform. The next week, I had another cold (I had REALLY bad allergies in college that I've since outgrown for the most part). And the week after that, my cold was gone, but my allergies were going nuts. Walter and the head of the voice department had had enough of my sickly ways and decided I was going up on stage, come hell or some really flat, strangled notes.

"Walter, this is going to be ugly," I said, clinging miserably to my Kleenex box.

"It's OK," he said. "You'll be fine."

Basically, I sucked. After I was finished, there was a smattering of polite applause, and then some gutsy little freshman lambasted me for singing from my throat instead of my chest. (I squashed one of his theories in a Shakespeare seminar we had together a few days later, out of sheer, embarrassed spite.) I slunk off the stage to where Walter was waiting. "I'm so sorry," he said, confirming that I had, indeed, blown huge, gelatinous chunks with that song. "I probably should have listened to you." I asked him if he minded if I hid behind him for the rest of the class. He didn't.

At our next meeting, he brought out a Lenten dirge called "For my Transgressions" that was blessedly in English, but about a hundred octaves higher than the French piece. I wondered if there was some hidden meaning in the title referring to my French Massacre in vocal lab the week before. "Walter," I said, "I can't sing this."

"Oh, just try," he responded genially, as unmovable as a very cheerful Rock of Gibraltar. I stumbled through the Lenten dirge, dreading giving the smug little freshman another chance to publicly humiliate me.

A couple of weeks later, I was not only singing the Lenten dirge--which had become decidedly un-dirgelike--I was belting it into the stratosphere. Sure, my soprano voice was never going to bring crowds to their feet, but it was full, clear as a bell, and, much as I hated to admit it, fun to sing in. Walter said something kind about looking forward to showing me off at lab. I asked St. Jude, the patron saint of miracles, to pray for my continued health until then.

A couple weeks later at vocal lab, I was allergy- and illness-free (Thank you, St. Jude.), so Walter and I headed onstage, and I sang all about my transgressions, hitting all my notes and having a great time listening to how my newly minted soprano voice floated and soared (soared!), aided in no small part by the recital hall's most excellent acoustics. "By God, Walter," I said after we'd finished. "I'm a soprano." He just smiled.

The class response? I can't remember what the freshman who'd snarked at my French said exactly, but it was somewhere along the lines of "Holy crap." Again, I'm not the most stunning soprano in the world, but it was a marked difference from the auditory dying swan I'd inflicted on everyone last time. One of the other profs, clearly jealous of the miracle Walter had wrought from my measly talent, grumbled, "I could have improved your voice more than Walter did." Whatever, dude.

On my last day of voice lessons, just before graduation, I told Walter I'd always regret having waited until the last semester of my senior year to work with him, and that the one semester with him was the single best musical experience I'd had in my life. I can't remember how we got onto the subject--I think I just started asking questions about Juilliard and his life before that. But he told me he had been the navigator on a B-17 (I think) bomber during World War II. Fascinated, I sat down next to him on the piano seat and insisted that we blow off class so he could tell me all about it. I wish I had a better memory of his incredible story, but I do remember that close to the end of the war, he was shot down and parachuted out of the plane, captured by Nazis, and rescued by none other than General MacArthur himself, who congratulated the men from his plane "on living like gentlemen" even under POW conditions. That was Walter to a T--always a gentleman, whether faced with Nazis or a silly student who misguidedly insisted she was a tenor.

Walter passed away a few years ago. I'm sure he now knows in depth about the impact he had on his students. But, just in case, I'll say it anyway: Thank you, Walter. You're the best. Every time I open my mouth to sing and pleasantly surprise myself, I think of you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Success is 1 percent ambition and 99 percent not writing an awful book."

--David Roberts, The Daily Grist

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day, Again

Check this out: It's Talk Like a Pirate Day today, which also means that it's just past the one-year anniversary of this blog! TLAP Day 2005 was the subject of my third post! (Arrrrr.)

And this blog entry, short and sucky though it is, is my 100th post! It's a field day for numerology today! (And the day I officially use up my exclamation point quota.)

I'm in deadline purgatory, so I just thought I'd impart that bit of information and run. Enjoy the rest of this auspicious holiday, mateys.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Project Runway Snarkfest #2

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS about Project Runway's Black and White episode.

TRACY: Omigod, they brought Angela and Vincent back! How annoying was that? Kayne said it best when he said they were like cockroaches. You keep squashing them into little gooey, crunchy piles of humiliated goo, and they keep. Coming. Back.

TROY: Did anyone really think one of these two would win the challenge? Vincent puts BUCKETS on his model's head! Angela thinks jetsetters look like hobos! Incorporating these two into the challenge added NO drama at all.

TRACY: Except to those who were dying to witness both of them explore the depths of self-humiliation AGAIN. Or to witness Vincent's megalomaniacal idiocy again.

But then again, it did add a little drama to LAURA's win.

TROY: Laura finally won a challenge, but AT WHAT COST (dun dun dunnnnnn)? The mid-show meltdown shocked me, since we've only seen Laura be strong and snarky.

TRACY: Spoken like a dude who has no chance of ever becoming pregnant. IT'S THE HORMONES, WATSON!

I felt really sorry for her. I mean, they've been giving them these horrendously exhausting challenges, she's pulling all nighters with little nutrition, they flew her to Europe and back so now she's jet-lagged, AND on top of this she's in her first trimester and none of the clothes she brought with her probably fit anymore. (Did you see that belly? It came out of NOWHERE!) She was totally due for a meltdown, and I give her major props for pulling it together and winning the challenge with a lovely dress.

TROY: Yeah, I'm happy her fire came back and she turned into drillmaster Laura again. I'm still undecided on the outfit. It's very pretty and well constructed, but the sleeves bothered me.

TRACY: Spoken like a dude who doesn't know the pain of being a woman with fat arms. My arms have always been fat, even when I was a size two. I look like a normal person with two big yellow sausages stuck onto my shoulders. I say YAY to the sleeves.

TROY: Making it strapless may have made the outfit younger and sexier (then again, I'm not a big fan of Laura's model, so it may look different on someone else). The outfit seemed fairly straight-laced and similar to something Britney Spears wore to the VMAs a few years back.

TRACY: I have to disagree, Roeper. I loved the outfit. I totally thought ti was Josephine Baker, and I can't see Ms. Cheetos and Beer Federline wearing anything that classy. It was charming and fun, and she did break out of her Ann Taylor-esque rut.

And speaking of Laura's model, what a whore! "Laura, how could this look ... you know. It's just ... you know. I mean, how could it look ... you know.... Young.... How could it ... you know?"

Nice. Just what she needs, after all the aforementioned stress and exhaustion, plus nearly getting the auf last week. And all her bored-and-pissed looking model can do is kick the pregnant woman when she's down. I think Laura should take Amanda (Kayne's model) now that Kayne is gone and kick her nasty model's bony ass to the curb. "Guess who's NOT getting a fashion spread in Elle magazine? That would be YOU, unbeliever!"

So, how about MICHAEL?

TROY: Flawless. I loved Michael's outfit. I was a little scared when we first got a peek at the outfit and the belt/garter thing, but it looked great on the runway. Very simple, classic, and he was smart about how to use the rest of the fabric, by lining the purse. He always has a great attitude and continues to push through, working hard until the last minute. This competition is his. Don't screw it up Michael!

TRACY: I agree. I can't even make a joke--Michael is fabulous. And how smart to go with white instead of black, which EVERYONE else chose.


TROY: I think Uli is a very sweet woman and a talented designer. However, I am starting to think she is showing signs of being a one-trick pony. Uli can make flowy dresses! With wacky patterns! And crazy colors (except in this challenge)! She was able to branch out with the couture challenge and the results were great. If Jeffrey is this season's Santino (but less talented IMHO), Uli better step it up or she'll be out next.

TRACY: I totally loved Uli's dress, though. I'd wear just about anything she made, as long as she sized it for a real person and not a twig masquerading as a woman. But yeah, she's definitely in a V-necked, hippie-inspired, crazy-patterned rut.

You know, for all the times they subtitle her when I've never had a problem understanding her, there was one point in the show where she OBVIOUSLY insulted Angela, and I have no idea what she said. Jeffrey made some comment about Angela coming back, and Uli said something in a very snarky way that made everyone laugh, but no matter how many times I rewind my Tivo, it still just sounds like, "Oh, Angela, carpe farfegnugen Volkswagen CHEESE!"

TROY: No idea. I don't have Tivo, so I'm just going to be bitter. Anyway, that gets us to JEFFREY.

TRACY: Ugh. (Can you even say that nasty man's name anymore without automatically uggghhing?) The Neck of Darkness, as Entertainment Weekly calls him, sure outdid himself with that awful Little Bo Peepshow outfit. Anyone who wore that mess to a cocktail party, rock and roll or not, is just asking to be a magnet for every sweaty, puffy, fat married man with no soul in the room. "Hey, honey, how much?"

TROY: The opposite of Justin Timberlake, Jeffrey was bringin' FUGLY back.

TRACY: All you have to do is look at his neck, nonexistent chin, and sunshiney attitude to realize that fugly never left.

TROY: He managed to make his model stumpy in that trashy Pretty Woman costume reject. I ALMOST wanted to see Angela win the challenge just to see his smug self get the auf. I did have to laugh when they said he was doing Gwen Stefani style, as Gwen wouldn't be caught dead in that mess (then again, the 36 year old woman DOES prance around in a high school cheerleading outfit). While he's not the most disgusting reality contestant right now (that honor goes to you Mike "Boogie" Malin!), he needs to "leave quickly now" (see BUFFY).

TRACY: I have no idea who that is. Anyway, how sorry did you feel for Kayne? Ay. At least I don't have to see that sad little pout anymore.

TROY: Poor Kanye. Poor tacky confused Kanye. I really did like the front of his outfit, but when his model turned around, the white shoestring tying his dress was horrifying. ALL he needed was a white belt (similar to the garter/belt thing that Michael made for his model) to stay in the game. Oh well. He can go make some pageant gowns and make Oklahoma couture.

TRACY: Yeah, that looked like something you'd pick up at 5-7-9. I think it would have been nice if he'd thought of something better to do with the white. Ah, well. Miss Tennessee still thinks he's fabulous. And someone had to go along with ANGELA and VINCENT.

TROY: Totally wasn't surprised to see Angela go, especially once we saw her trying to pass off AUDREY II as an outfit (the collar was eating the model, ya'll!).

TRACY: You can't say "ya'll." You've lived in the midwest all your life!

TROY: Whatever. Vincent's outfit wasn't fairing any better, resembling one of those bags that you put clothes in and then suck the air out of to save space. Seriously, I was surprised his model could walk at all in that outfit. Crazy, but harmless, these two should be thankful they got to stay in the game as long as they did.

TRACY: I thought bringing them back was just cruel. Although really, I expected Angela to fare a little better. After all, the woman is the Grand High Priestess of Extra Fabric. (Everyone say, "My signature rosettes!")

TROY AND TRACY: ("My signature rosettes!")

TRACY: She should have left on a better note, IMHO. Someone ought to tell her that anytime you're tempted to use a fabric that "looks just like vinyl!" you're going to a very, very unhappy place in the land of fashion.

I know Vincent's dress was inspired by a tuxedo cummerbund, but did it have to be the size of one? Poor Javi. She looked mighty annoyed that they called her back to wear that non-contender of an outfit. All she had left after getting kicked off the first time was her dignity, and that hemline just took it all away.

And besides, what did Vincent mean when he said Javi "overpumped" the dress. Did it have an inflatable bra inside? Homeboy's lucky Javi didn't walk down the runway carrying that damn thing between two fingers at arm's length and holding her nose.

TROY: So I guess the finalists had their fashion shows this week.

TRACY: Oooh, really? I'm so oblivious.

TROY: The pictures of the final outfits and the designers are posted all over various blogs. EVIL SPOILERY BLOGS! I scrolled past quickly and saw a few outfits, but tried to avoid the rest. Should be an interesting finale to the show.

TRACY: You will end up spoiling it for yourself. I know you--you always do. Just don't tell me, and you can still be my brother. Con queso.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

For the Sake of Mind and Musical Expansion

Found this in an iTunes review of an Alice in Chains compilation today:

"To most, sadly, the 90s alternative movement has faded. To those who grew up during those years, it represents our youth and what we consider one of the last true musical revolutions. It will never die! When breaking music boundaries actually meant something. Alice in Chains is one of those great bands, along with Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Phish, and so many others who created their own sound for the sake of mind and musical expansion, unlike today's bands who lack and do not appreciate identity and originality."

You know, I always said I was going to move with the times and not get irretrievably stuck in a certain decade (PARTICULARLY not the 80s. Dear God, my hair...). But when it comes to music, lately I've been digging in my heels and staying in the 90s. Weird melodrama aside ("It will never die!"), I found myself nodding in agreement when I read the AiC review cited above. I hear you, my brother in grunge, mi amigo con queso.

Let me warn you, I hardly have the musical vocabulary or savvy of, say, a Rolling Stone magazine reviewer. Ergo, I'm not going to come out in this blog with an uber-hip, musically intelligent sentence like: "But where the music of those classic Bach-rockers had moments of pastoral clarity, the band favors unrelenting density, often through free-jazz clatter and Afro-Cuban percussion onslaughts." I just know what I like and what I don't, and I'm compelled to blog today about how I've developed this odd musical ennui lately that has me responding to just about every new band and artist I hear with a resounding MEH.

My poor brothers have heard me natter on about this ad nauseum in the last couple of years. (Jose isn't into music much at all--the last song he made me buy off of iTunes for him was :::shudder::: Five for Fighting's "100 Years." There you go, honey. Make me spend 99 cents on a sugar-shock-fest like that, and you will be blogged about.) But I think rock music needs to find that "new sound" again, the one that caricatured, over-the-top record producers on television were always waving their hands and ranting about on shows like Joanie Loves Chachi or The Monkees reruns on MTV back when I was a kid.

Seriously, have you ever heard a piece of music for the first time that just made you drop everything and move closer to the speakers? The one that's so different, yet so amazing, you're floored by what you're hearing? The artists who create that sound are the ones that have moved into legend territory: Elvis, Smokey Robinson, Donny Hathaway, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Beatles. According to Wikipedia, in 1966, former Animals' bassist and record producer Chas Chandler had this idea in his head that the folk tune "Hey Joe" would make a wicked rock song. Keith Richards' then-girlfriend introduced as-yet-undiscovered Jimi Hendrix to Chandler, who somehow must've heard about the producer's love for the song. Left-handed Hendrix got out his upside-down, restrung, right-handed Stratocaster and launched into his own version of "Hey Joe" at their first meeting. Chandler promptly spilled a drink on himself.

It's hard to describe the elusive "new sound," but everyone knows it when s/he hears it.

Despite not having soiled my clothing in any manner at the time, I still remember when I first heard Nirvana. After the New Wave movement had died, local radio stations in my college town could only blast treacly ballads by the likes of Richard Marx and Michael Bolton, mixed in with the last of the dying breed of hair metal bands (Skid Row, anyone?). A friend of mine and I had a Sunday morning radio show on campus, "Up for Church with Tracy and Rose" (Catholic university--what can I say?), on which we mainly played 60s and 70s music due mainly to my hatred of just about everything on Rick Dees' weekly top 40. (She'd sneak George Michael in the middle whenever I stepped outside the studio, which was always good for prompting a slew of angry, drunken phone calls. "Whasshh thisssss shhhhhhhhhhhh%$@?")

Anyway, someone--most likely from out of town where the radio stations weren't spinning all Guns N Roses, all the time--called in and asked us to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Once the caller assured me that no, she wasn't asking for a deodorant commercial, I promised we'd look for it, but told her I highly doubted that an "alternative rock album" was sandwiched anywhere among the likes of Wilson Phillips and Color Me Badd in our meager library. But lo and behold, some forward-thinking soul had either bought the album for the station, or Geffen Records had sent it to KSMR mistakenly thinking we were a hip, alternative college radio station instead of the jumbled, motley assortment of deejays with our own odd musical agendas, determined to rebel against the station manager's top-40 mandate. Ever dutiful to our eight listeners, we put it on ... and I remember dropping the Crosby, Stills, and Nash record I was holding and spinning around in my chair to stare at the turntable in shock (yes, they were actual vinyl records. Do I look old now?). Instead of being the last of a dying hair band era or a bubblegum pop "sensation," Nirvana was shockingly different. Edgy. The very essence of cool. I felt hip and deep and misunderstood just listening to the song.

I can imagine people having a similar experience at Woodstock when Jimi Hendrix played "the Star-Spangled Banner," or when Janis Joplin broke into "Ball and Chain" at the Monterey Pop Festival. Or even when the Talking Heads and Patti Smith moved the music world away from seventies rock into the New Wave era. (Apologies for not mentioning any hiphop artists, the evolution of which has seemed really gradual to me--I can't imagine someone spilling a drink on themselves after hearing Run DMC, but maybe it happened.)

All I know is I'm feeling the same way about today's music as I did back in early 1991, before three boys from Seattle caused such a sensation. (For my brother Tom, rabid member of the Jamily (Heh. He hates that term.), I must also acknowledge Pearl Jam as fellow progenitors of the Seattle grunge rock movement. And I can honestly say that I was just as blown away when Tommy played "Even Flow" for me from his dark basement hovel of a room at our parents' house as I was when I heard Nirvana.)

Of course, there are still musicians I admire today. I love Evanescence's I'm-nearly-suicidal, goth-rock sound. I think Mary J. Blige has the talent to be one of the most astonishing singers of our time--thank God she's off drugs. I admire the continued growth and timelessness of Sting's music (had to slip him in there). Kanye West is amazingly creative, creepy porn addiction aside. Justin Timberlake's first album was amazing, especially considering his musical roots as part of the Mickey Mouse Club and N'Sync. The talented but little-heard-of Alana Davis is shamefully underrated.

But on the whole? ZZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzz. I'm waiting for the next big musical thing to come and expunge the pretend-hip-hop and Pussycat Doll detritus from the charts with his or her bold sound and sweeping innovation. I'm waiting for everyone to jump on board and start imitating this NEW next big thing, instead of recycling the same old guitar rhythms and bass runs and tired lyrical sentiments. I'm waiting for the Pussycat Dolls to DIE DIE DIE! (Musicially, not for real.) And I'm waiting for 50 Cent and his ilk to realize that gross misogyny utterly negates true artistic talent. (I'll take you to the candy shop and hack it off, you nasty man. Go talk to your mama that way and see if she doesn't smack you upside the head.)

Elvis, if you're really not dead, it's time to create a shockingly good new musical sound and come back to us. Because we really, really need it.

What do you think of today's music? Anything good out there that I'm missing? Has the new sound come and I've just missed the boat? Am I turning into my father, who would always stare at the car radio whenever I was changing the station from his beloved NPR in the eighties and pitifully note, "It all sounds the same to me?"

If you want to read a really interesting (and hilarious) discussion of innovative Canadian musicians, Her Royal Highness the Queen-a Athena has been knocking out some wicked fun blogs lately on the subject over at the Scribbling Goddesses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reports of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Just wanted to surface from Deadline Purgatory to clear up an email rumor some of you may have heard. The RUMOR: Harlequin's Intrigue line is not doing well and is being shut down. FACT: The Intrigue line is one of Harlequin's bestselling lines, and it is not going anywhere. This is straight from Denise Zaza, Intrigue's lead editor. (Actually, it's from Julie Miller, who e-mailed Denise and received a phone call from her in response aimed at quashing this horrible rumor immediately. But I didn't want to sound all: "My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night.")

We suspect that the person who started the rumors of Intrigue's demise was confused by the imminent changes to Bombshell and Intimate Moments. Long story short, Bombshell is being phased out. The Silhouette Intimate Moments line is shifting slightly, so ALL of the books in this line will be romances with a suspense element. The suspense element cannot overshadow the romance in this line, unlike in Intrigue, where the suspense is emphasized to the point where the books are quite mainstream in tone.

In a move I confess I find a little baffling, HQ/Silh. marketing is changing the Intimate Moments name to Silhouette Romantic Suspense. I find this a little confusing, because it seems to place more of an emphasis on the suspense than the "Intrigue" title does, so I think it will confuse readers. Perhaps they should call the new line "Silhouette Romance With Some Suspense" or "Silhouette Romance With a Little Suspense But Not Enough To Give You A Bad Case of The Heebies."

I wonder why marketing doesn't ever check with me about these things? Clearly I am a marketing genius.

Anyway, long story short, Intrigue=selling well; sticking around. Bombshell=sadly going away. Intimate Moments=Changing to Romantic Suspense (though not as much suspense as in Intrigue).

So I've done my part to straighten out this mess. My work here is done.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Remembering ...

It's hard to believe that September 11th happened five years ago already. It still seems so immediate, even though so much has happened in that time for Jose and I--we moved to Korea and back to the US, had our two girls, he went to war and came back....

Five years ago, I was in my office in DC when the towers were hit. My boss, whose office was across the hall, had a news website up on his computer and called me in to see a replay of the first tower getting hit--a strange and horrible accident, we thought. Then he called me in again when tower #2 was hit, and we watched together as the Pentagon was hit and the first tower fell. Dennis mentioned his friend who managed the restaurant at the top of one of the towers. I got a call from a friend who lived near the WTC, which was abruptly disconnected when the second tower fell. Several coworkers came in to worry out loud about a former staff member who now worked inside one of the towers.

My coworkers cleared out of the office, one of them telling me that there was a plane still in the air that was unaccounted for and a rumor spreading up and down K Street that the Mall was on fire. Another soon surfaced that the Capitol had been hit.

During the next few hours, determined to stay in one spot until I heard from Jose (who did not work at the Pentagon, thank God) I watched streams of people walk past my window toward the Metro, until the streets emptied completely and a truly eerie silence descended on the city.

I looked at the news one last time on my computer, saw that the missing flight had crashed in Pennsylvania. I still remember hearing Katie Couric speak for the first time of hints that "there had been heroism on Flight 93." I wondered whether those heroes had saved the lives of my coworkers and I, too, since we were a mere four blocks north of the White House.

Jose called, blessedly safe--no freak trips to the Pentagon that day. I packed up and headed for home. The streets were deserted, and I met no one until I actually went into the Metro station. A CNN reporter sat near me on the train, and the few people there clustered around her, hoping to hear something from her that would make sense of the day's events. She mentioned terrorists. We all talked in whispers.

The rest you know--the somber reports delivered by disbelieving newscasters; the endless streams of terrified people clutching posters of their loved ones and begging someone to please tell them they'd seen this person alive and well and in some hospital far, far away from the devastation; the replaying footage of firefighters going up, up, up the WTC stairways.

I know I promised when I set up this blog not to get political, but I have to say, I find it mind-boggling that we're still sending young men and women--many of whom signed up to defend their country in the wake of 9/11--to their deaths in the name of the victims of 9/11, even though we now know that ties between Iraq and the 9/11 perpetrators are fiction. I honor the victims by speaking out where my husband can't (court martials, you know).

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

9/11 matters. Everyone going off to fight this ridiculous war matters. Those who are speaking out against it matter. Our right to disagree with each other matters.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Project Runway Snarkfest #1


Yeah, we missed a few episodes, but my little brother Troy and I decided we needed to start blogging Project Runway, which is currently having its Best! Season! EVAH!

Everybody give it up for Troy, who will be guest-blogging with me every Friday, except for the Fridays that he doesn't. (We can't blog the day after Project Runway airs, because that would be Thursday, Troy's "hell day" of nonstop classroom fun at the University of Minnesota.)

So here goes our uneducated-yet-hopefully-amusing take on the winner, the loser, and the rest of the designers from this week's "Couture du Jour" episode.

TRACY: So JEFFREY won. Unbelievable. I loved when he said of his toxic-waste-in-a-plaid fabric, "It just jumped out at me." YEAH, it jumped out at you. Like the Mothman jumps out at unsuspecting West Virginians.

That's exactly the fabric I'd use if I wanted to sew a sign warning people that a major bio-chemical spill of nastiness was sludging their way. That dress was a complete horror show, and I don't know what Heidi Klum and her merry band of idiots were smoking to declare that ugly, flailing, plaid bathmat-in-its-death-throes of a dress the winner.

TROY: I seriously expected to see his model whip out some multi-colored bagpipes on the runway. WTF? I'd thought it would be near the bottom, let alone the WINNER. Am I missing something?

TRACY: If you are, so am I. If hating that dress is wrong, I don't EVER want to be right.

TROY: Is that a dress you'd see in Vogue? Now, I don't read Vogue, but this dress seems more likely for Hoe-down Weekly.

TRACY: Heh. As annoyed as I am that Sparky McNeckTattoo won two in a row, I am glad that MICHAEL, despite putting some ruching on his gown that made his model's breasts look like the Hooter's logo, still managed to stay safe.

TROY: That dress looked like it was eating his poor model ("from beneath you it devours"). And he cannot blame the egg incident for the WHOLE dress. The egg hit the bottom, which the judges didn't complain about.

I knew his wasn't bad enough to get him the "auf," but hopefully it inspired him to get it together and make it work next week. He can't be perfect every week, but if he's not in the top two this year, there is no justice.

TRACY: Totally. He had me at the coffee filter dress, and this week was his only slip-up all season so far, IMHO. But you know, he still managed to impress me this week--not with a killer outfit, as usual, but by uttering the night's best line: "I'm sweating like a whore in church." Ha!

How about LAURA's dress?

TROY: ZZZzzzZZZZZzzzZzzZ. Boring. Boring. Boring. And ugly. It would, however, have been perfect for French Maid Elvira.

TRACY: Or something you'd put on a dowager empress for her wake. I keep wanting her to pull off something outrageous, but I think she's going to end up designing for Ann Taylor. Nothing against Ann Taylor, but the company is pure Laura--flattering and sophisticated, but very, very safe.

TROY: I think Laura will be right at home working at a safe, well-tailored mall store. If only her clothes were as sharp as her snark, then she'd have something.

TRACY: I love her snark. Her snark is excellent. And I read somewhere that she's just as snarky at herself, so that makes it all OK.


TRACY: Loved Uli's dress, but did the bodice remind you a little of Santino's gray party dress that he made for Nicky Hilton last season? Didn't that have braided straps, too?

Santino's Nicky Hilton dress was also exactly what I was thinking. I love Uli and hope she continues to improve, pulling out a win before the finale. She's been robbed a few times (the mother challenge!), and her deviation from the crazy colors and patterns was a step in a good direction.

TRACY: Agreed. Even if Uli's dress was inspired by a Santino creation, it was beautiful and a nice departure from her usual patterned creations with the Y necklines.

And then there's poor KAYNE. He breaks my heart with that sad little pout every time the judges rag on him. Is it just me, or was Kayne's dress really, secretly quite nice? I think if he'd picked a solid chiffon for the skirt, it would have gone over better with the judges.

TROY: Much better than the gay bat wing shirt from last week. I honestly thought Kayne would have been a contender for the winning position this week. I was confused at all of the discussion of the corset being "tacky."

TRACY: I loved the updated 18th-century feel of the corset top! Maybe it crossed over into the Land of Liberace in person, but on camera, it sparkled.

TROY: Yes, it may have been a "Monet" (where from far away it looks nice, but in person it's a "big ole mess" - Clueless), but on TV it was looked very nice.

TRACY: Heidi Klum, you troll, I shake my fist at you! I mean, honestly, if that was over the top, then how did Jeffrey's demented banana on a golf outing win the challenge?

But thank you, Jesus, VINCENT finally got kicked off.

TROY: Vincent makes the baby Jesus cry. Allison should have outlasted him (bitter. bitter. bitter.). I do think he was trying to honor Angela with the rosette-looking flower on the bum, but we saw how well that did for her.

TRACY: Everybody say "fleurchons!"


TRACY: Dear God, what WAS that horrible, sycophantic blather-fest coming out of Vincent when he was talking to Catherine Malandrino on the boat in Paris? I actually COVERED my eyes and was CRINGING away from the TV while he was nattering away about her fashion and her shoes and her style and, oh, wow, that was awful.

Maybe he was trying to bamboozle her away from criticizing that bridesmaid horror of a dress? I think I wore that mess in a wedding back in the eighties, butt-flower and all. At least we don't have to hear him talking about what gets him off anymore. Bleeecccch.

TROY: In CONCLUSION, I say good riddance to Vincent's auf. Hope Jeffrey follows him next.

TRACY: I think the judges and producers are grooming Jeffrey for a spot in the final three, to my everlasting chagrin.

TROY: I totally agree that Jeffrey is now going to the final 3. The producers must seem him as a Santino-esque character, but at least Santino had his spectacular Tim Gunn impression. What does Jeffrey have (besides a stupid neck tattoo and overinflated ego)?

TRACY: A serious problem with rage. And an overly doting mother who needs to open up a serious can of whoopass on certain spoiled, creepy sons of hers.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Alone. Alone alone alone. Alone.

So, my husband just packed the kids up in the car and left for Pensacola without me.

You know, that sounds a little dire. Let me rephrase.

My husband just packed the kids up in the car and left to visit his parents in Pensacola without me. (He is coming back.) I suspect it's because I've been being such a pill about getting my work done and meeting my Oct. 1st Intrigue deadline (SHRIEK!), he wanted to give me some alone time to get some stuff done without having to worry that I'm the Worst. Mother. Evah. while I neglect my kids for the computer. Actually, he probably just wanted to get away from the stellar and prolonged impression I've been doing lately of a fishwife. (In my defense, I do not buy that men suddenly forget how to vacuum once they get married, nor that I should always do it because I'm "better at it." How hard is it to shove a vacuum about the carpet for a few minutes? Really? Did the priest eat your brain during the wedding ceremony when I wasn't looking? Because if not, it's time you and Mr. Kenmore got better acquainted, dude. That is, if you ever want to see your non-fishwife wife again.)

So I should be loving life right now. I've got a clean house (not a plastic Dora doll or Peek-a-Block in sight!), a refrigerator full of Diet Coke, the Schwan's man came yesterday to replenish my supply of Chocolate Peanut Butter Passion ice cream, and I have the entire weekend to write. I have complete and utter silence. I can sleep in. I have copies of Match Point and Take the Lead waiting for me to meet my daily goals so I can relax in front of the DVD player in the evening as a goal reward. And I just revamped the first chapter of the Book Formerly Known as Renegade Ridge (that's a whole other blog entry), and it's not bad.

Am I loving life? Yes and no.

This is the first time since Marin was born nine months ago that I've had not just one full day, but two and a half full days all my own. I'm not at a conference. I'm not in DC visiting my workplace. I can decide what to do with every single minute of the next two and a half days until they come back Monday afternoon. Bliss.

But I miss them. At the risk of sounding sappy, my arms feel empty. I want to take Maggie to the pool, and I want to see Marin walk some more (she's been tooling around like a pro for about two days now). I want to put in that baby sign language DVD and see if we can learn something. I want to go to the bookstore and replace Maggie's Disney Princess Sticker Book (because even though the book says the stickers are reusable, they're LIES, all LIES).

This is idiotic. I need to enjoy these two days (and a half), because who knows when I'll be able to have time to myself like this again? So here I go. I'm enjoying myself. Yes, I am. Relaxing, having a glass of wine, and writing up a storm. Yep, that's me.

I miss my kids. (And Jose, even if he doesn't vacuum.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Joy of Cooking (Not.)

(Yeah, I'm back. Where I've been will have to wait for another day, because I actually have a topic in mind....)

So I have an unfortunate addiction to cookbooks. Which is sad, because I hate to cook, and they inevitably just end up sitting on my shelf representing the needlessly chopped up trees of the world, while I resort to butchering my mother's spaghetti sauce recipe or overcooking some chicken.

The reason I hate cooking is that I'm terrible at it, and no amount of will or effort mitigates that. I can't taste something and recreate it just by using the Force. I can't embellish a recipe by adding a dash of this and a pinch of that, without making everything taste like a mixture of sawdust and too much salt and look like the brown and red sprinkles my elementary school janitors used to clean up the mess when a student vomited. I can't listen to a list of ingredients and intuitively combine them in ingenioiusly tasty ways (see vomit sprinkles comment above).

Actually, I can barely follow a recipe that spells every step out for me, and when I do, I have about a 50-50 chance of over- or undercooking said recipe, even with an idiot-proof listing of cooking times. All I can say is, God bless the Schwan's man and his dinners in a box.

Despite my complete and utter failures as a cook, every time I see a really nice cookbook--one with yummy recipe titles, beautiful pictures, and pretty, pretty fonts--I'm always, and I mean always, taken in by the promise between those covers. Maybe this is the one that will finally make me love cooking. (I had a roommate once claim cooking was "relaxing." Yeah, about as relaxing as downing a vat of Jolt cola and jumping into the tarantula tank on Fear Factor. )

(OK, maybe not that bad, but still....)

Maybe this is the one that will help me inject some variety and, oh, flavor (other than too much salt) into my dishes. Maybe this is the one that will be completely and totally idiotproof, so I can't screw things up.

Unfortunately, after many years of assembling what is now an entire pantry shelf full of cookbooks, I haven't found The One. But I still hold onto the dream.

This time, I bought Gordon Ramsey Makes it Easy. Did I mention that I'm about 87.5% more likely to be suckered into buying a cookbook if it contains the phrase "makes it easy" or "made simple" or "fast and delicious" in the title? Cooking for Kitchen Idiots? That's me! Bring it on! Anyway, you may know good old Gordo as the f-bomb dropping Scot from the hit summer reality show, Hell's Kitchen, where he's head chef over a bunch of dubiously talented wannabes competing for their own restaurant. It's a fun show, and I have to admit, despite his abusive behavior toward the contestants, I've been rather taken in by both Ramsey's passion for cooking and his tacit promise that even the most slackjawed yokel can make amazing food,if they just follow his directions. If Ramsey could help sweaty, puffy Tom the unemployed misogynist from Brooklyn churn out a tasty fish entree, why couldn't this book help me? I'm not sweaty, and I'm fairly intelligent (and not misogynist), so it could happen, right?

So here's the cookbook. On my kitchen counter. Mocking me. I spent money on it, so now I guess I need to try a recipe. But unless it's a dessert (which, for some unfathomable reason, I always get right), I'm doomed to rubberize it, turn it into charcoal, or accidentally drown it in salt. Or, I'll just crunk everything up altogether by forgetting to buy fresh rosemary and trying to avoid another trip to the hated grocery store by substituting a bottle of dried rosemary and some green onions. See? I suck.

Even though I know I'm doomed to failure, there's a part of me right now that's still made happy by this cookbook. I haven't crunked up anything yet, so deep inside, I can still believe that Ramsey is going to turn me into a cooking genius. I love the idea of making Maggie his spiced breakfast bread, or the fresh macaroni and cheese with crimini mushrooms. I'd like to try the wild mushroom risotto that's gotten so much airplay on the Hell's Kitchen show. ("Polly, your *BLEEP*ing risotto is a *BLEEP*ing *BLEEP* of *BLEEP*!") And maybe, if I just follow the directions, the broccoli soup would turn out to be tasty enough that I could cram a vegetable into Maggie's stomach without her realizing I'm cramming a vegetable in there. Marin might like it, too.

There's also a charming section on cooking for kids. (Fish cakes with eyes! Pasta with bacon and peas! Cut-out cookies!) And all of his talk about buying organic vegetables and fresh, bakery bread makes me believe, just for a moment. I BELIEVE I can cook. I can!

(I so can't.)

Speaking of ingredients, there are some weird ones in there, which helps to narrow down which recipe I'll choose to butcher. Baby octopi? Fresh eels? Blood sausage? BLECH. I'm also wondering what the crunk creme fraiche is. Some weird UK thing? Some secret ingredient that only cake-eaters know about because it's only available in expensive cake-eater grocery stores to which I am not privy? I think I may need it for the breakfast bread.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Once I get up the courage to watch my dream die, once again.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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