Monday, October 31, 2005

New blog!

I have a new blog at Jack Myers' Media Village, where I'm blogging, well, supposedly daily, but we'll see how it goes because if you check out this site you know I'm pretty slow about it. My blog is called TV Diva Talks Back, because sadly I couldn't think of anything better, and I'm basically going to just chat about the TV news of the day and anything else that comes to my mind. I'm also supposed to be running a forum on the site: Talk Back with TV Diva, so we'll see if anyone starts participating. I get compensated based on traffic, so I guess I should get to marketing!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cassini flies by Saturn's moon Dione

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Even though I typically write about inane things such as TV shows and celebrity gossip, I've also always thought exploring space would be really cool. I even considered becoming an astronomer (not astrologer, although I've considered that too) but then I realized I would have to do physics and that wasn't going to work. That's why I went into writing, and even then sometimes I have to do math. Don't these people get the fact that if I could do math, I would be doing something that paid a lot better?

Anyway, here's the link to the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena's Cassini home page. It's a great place for wanna-be astronomers to hang out and regret that physics eludes them.

Amateur astrologers, go here: Susan Miller's Astrology Zone. It's a fave of all the people I know who have an unhealthy obsession with astrology.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More bragging and shameless self-promotion


Adewale on the cover of the New York Post's TV Week Posted by Picasa

I do love to brag, but mostly I just want people to see the cover photo of this week's TV Week because it is so hilarious, especially if you are a fan of Lost. I wrote three stories for last week's edition, and the cover photo of Adewale blah blah blah (I still can't spell this guy's name even though I wrote a whole thing about him) is the best thing ever (well, besides Google Earth. And maybe Baked Ruffles). Other stories in the issue: one on the gorgeous Jaime Pressly, starring in NBC's My Name is Earl, who was the world's biggest pain in the ass to get on the phone, but it was completely her non-existent, non-working publicist's fault, and NBC agrees with me; and one on the equally gorgeous and actually very articulate Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is starring in CBS's Ghost Whisperer.

Added bonus on the Love interview -- I got to also talk to James Van Praagh, who is a famous medium and also the creator and exec producer of GW. He was so interesting, even if you think that stuff is total bunk, which I don't. I'm a total sucker for all that stuff!

Anyway, he said that since I'm a Scorpio with Pisces Moon that I'm super-intuitive and should become a medium myself. I actually think that would be really cool, if I could see or talk or sense any dead people. But since I have trouble communicating with real live people, maybe I should just work on those skills and leave the crossing-over stuff to others.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Google Earth is the coolest thing in the world!

Get your own copy at You can fly from Boulder to New York and then watch yourself zoom into the canyons of Manhattan. You can visit the Forbidden City of China and check out the temples, and then zip over to see the Great Wall. You can even fly to Aspen, click on the "restaurants" tab and see all the good places to eat and where they are located. Seriously, go check it out!

OK, I'm easily amused. Plus anything to avoid working!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm confused

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OK, I give up. Maybe I was totally wrong. Maybe all that jumping up and down on Oprah's couch really was Tom Cruise in love. In any case, after a barrage of hot Hollywood gossip today -- skankmeister Lindsay Lohan crashes AGAIN supposedly evading the ever-present paparazzi, and Nick and Jessica really are splitting up -- this little nugget comes out.

Now my cynical little head is spinning -- did they actually have sex or is this just Cruise trying to put to rest the rumors that he's infertile, hence adopting children with Nicole? (Watch for her pregnancy announcement soon.) Even though it seemed like the world's most obvious PR stunt, are they actually in love? Or do people actually go so far as to produce children in the name of publicity?

That seems like the most cynical thing of all time to me, so I might have to switch all my negative thinking and go with "in love." Because if these two got pregnant as yet another way to maintain Cruise's image, they are definitely on the fast track to hell.

And here's the lamest thinking of all on my part: Why couldn't Katie just stick with fellow Dawson's cutie, Joshua Jackson? He's adorable and he's not a crazy scientologist. Granted, he's also not the world's top movie star, but I for one still love his boyish charm.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Hollywood megastar Tom Cruise and his fiancee of six months Katie Holmes are expecting a baby. The "Mission Impossible" and "Top Gun" star's publicist and sister, Lee Anne DeVette, told People magazine that 26-year-old actress Holmes is pregnant with the couple's first child. "Tom and Katie are very excited, and the entire family is very excited," DeVette was quoted as saying. Cruise, 43, and Holmes, who was virtually unknown before starring in this year's "Batman Begins," first said they were dating just six months ago and announced their engagement at a press conference in Paris in June. DeVette could not be reached by AFP at the time of reporting.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A shot of a different part of the same valley. Posted by Picasa

The Maroon Bells

The famous Maroon Bells in Aspen with a fresh dusting of snow. This is the perfect time of year to see them, and I was lucky enough to be up in Aspen sharing a junket with Ross last week. The Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in the U.S., and they are named as such because of the red-colored rock that comprises them, and their bell-like shape.Posted by Picasa

The path that leads into the MB valley. Posted by Picasa

One of the hillsides in the Maroon Bell valley ... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ok, I may sound like a wacko but does anyone else think it's ironic that these giant hurricanes, caused by warmer-than-usual waters in the Gulf of Mexico (and thus potentially linked to petroleum-based global warming) are hitting towns -- New Orleans, Gulfport, Galveston, Houston -- where the majority of U.S. oil refineries are located? It almost seems like nature is making a direct attack on the industry that's heating her up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Me at the top!

See how I am a mountain goddess? I stayed about three minutes and then scurried back down to get out of the wind. I was like Chevy Chase in Vacation. Posted by Picasa

Lisa at the top of Triangle Pass

For some reason I do not understand, my crazy friend Lisa loves strong, freezing wind so she calmly ate her chicken caesar wrap from Whole Foods while I ran back down the rocky mountain. Not being as well prepared, I ate my squished but delicious PB&J on the way back to camp. Oh, and chocolate, of course. Posted by Picasa

Voila! The view. This picture doesn't do it justice, however. You can backpack up to Conundrum from this site (Crested Butte) as well, but going over this narrow and windy pass with a backpack on my pack does not seem appealing. It was hard enough on the easy Aspen side! Posted by Picasa

On the way up to Triangle Pass. It was really really really (I can't really emphasize this enough) windy and cold. I thought I was going to get blown off the mountain and felt a bit like Frodo climbing up to the Cracks of Doom. But the view from the top was worth it. Posted by Picasa

The valley behind our campsite at 11,200 feet.  Posted by Picasa

More scenery, which helped keep my mind off the giant pack on my back and my increasingly sore shoulders. Posted by Picasa

On the way up to Conundrum

OK, I promised photos and blogging from my Conundrum trip, and here they are!

The trip was totally amazing, although I didn't take enough pictures to record everything. The hike in was long but not brutal, the weather was perfect and the moon was full. Sitting in the hot springs was fun, social and most importantly, warm. Getting out was a bit of a challenge since you had to scramble out naked, under the light of the full moon no less, and then get your towel quickly around you while standing in the freezing wind. But even that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and the hours spent sitting in the spring kept me warm in my sleeping bag all night long. Waking up to the sun peeking over a tall mountain and lighting the whole valley also was cool.

This picture is of some of the gorgeous scenery on the nine-mile hike up to the springs. I didn't take enough pictures, so refer to my picture of the springs in my previous posts to see what it looks like. Ok, it looks like a small mudhole, but it's really quite a magical place. Imagine 40-50 naked people all sitting in there together, howling in unision at the full moon on Saturday night. It was quite the rockin' place to be.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Backpacking. Why?

I'm going on a backpacking trip to Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen this weekend, and can I say that the scenery had better be pretty damn rockin' and the hot springs better be pretty damn hot because it's taken me three freakin' days to prepare for this trip! I don't know if I'm just mentally challenged or what, but this is now the second backpacking trip I've gone on (why, I do not know. That's a subject for a coming blog) and it takes me longer to get ready for the trip than to actually go on it. And why this takes so long, I also do not know, because the whole point of backpacking is to get as much stuff as possible into as lightweight form as possible and then shove into the smallest amount of space as possible. This would seem to indicate that it wouldn't take too to long prepare because by definition you don't need that much stuff, but sort of like technology, getting everything to be small and light requires many shopping trips and much careful consideration. So before we even set off for our nine-mile hike into the mountains, I am exhausted. What I think about all this craziness when I come back should be interesting. How did I go from city girl to backcountry girl in just one short year?

The pictures above are of the Conundrum Hot Springs, which at 11,200 feet above sea level are the highest in the country, and of scenery along the nine-mile path. (Pictures taken by some guy named Evan Ravitz, who was nice enough to put them on-line for me to steal.) Once I get over the pain of carrying my heavy pack for hours and hours, I actually think it's going to be an amazing time. And I think if I can carry a huge pack six miles up a mountain in three feet of snow, like I did last January, I can do this!

Oh, and one fun fact -- people sit in the hot springs naked, which my friends and family know is really not my bag, but I'm trying to be adventurous. (Maybe there will be a story to sell in all this? Ideas anyone?) Plus, I think it's going to be pretty cold up there, so I probably won't care too much at that point anyway. I'll just want to get get warm.

Is this sounding fun yet? I wonder if it's too late to bail in order to stay in Boulder and drink all weekend like I usually do.

Wish me luck -- blogging and pics to follow next week.

New Orleans: "It's hell on earth"

This is an email I received from a friend of a friend about the real state of affairs in New Orleans. I knew it was bad but this somehow made it much more real for me than what I was seeing on TV. It's long, but it's very descriptive. I hope you will take a little time to read it. Also, this is a little late, but here's a link that will take you to all Katrina-related web sites, from the Red Cross to missing persons sites.


I just returned from my first trip to Louisiana this weekend since Katrina. I spent the entire trip back trying to decide if I wanted to tell you all about what is happening down there, because honestly if I had the choice, I would choose not to know. But in the end, I figured e-mailing you all was better than talking to each of you on the phone and over e-mail. It is beyond what you can imagine... it's hell on earth.

I flew into Baton Rouge, which sits about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans, and the city is destroyed, but not by the storm. There are over 750,000 refuges from New Orleans in Baton Rouge. People are camping on the side of the roads, in their cars if they have them, and all over the LSU campus. The first thing you notice is how outraged everyone is. The people of Baton Rouge don't want us here. There seems to be no plan for the New Orleaneans once they are dropped off in Baton Rouge, and everyone is confused, horrified, or worse. They know this is potentially a permanent situation, or at least the way it will be for the next several months, and it is safe to say they are as scared as the homeless and exhausted refugees that litter their streets.

My sister and I rented four houses in Houma, Louisiana, which is about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge or about 30 miles west of New Orleans. We spent the weekend moving our family there, then our friends, and then in the end, people we met that had no other options. When I left, we had perhaps forty people with another twenty on the way. It is an amazing thing to see: your best friends, your family, and everyone in between huddled on floorboards, makeshift beds, and sleeping bags.

It is truly like a nuclear bomb hit our city, and we are doing everything we can just to keep everyone housed, fed, and with water. Saturday morning, I decided to go into New Orleans. There were far too many people from our home unaccounted for, but beyond that, New Orleans is part of everything that I am; it's more than a city to those of us who call it home. It's part of your family, and with the stories of looting, flooding, and complete inability of the government to make the matter better, it was as if a family member was being slowly killed.

I was told by everyone it was impossible to get in and I would be arrested for trying, but I'm sure you call imagine how little that did to deter me. There is no way to get into the city. The roads that are open are being used to bring people out, and no traffic is headed into the city. I had a rental car, and I started to drive the 30 miles on back roads that I guessed wouldn't be flooded. I made it about half way before there was no way to get into the city by car. I loaded up a backpack with as much water as I could carry, two packs of breakfast bars, three canisters of bug spray, and an extra pair of shoes. Then I started walking.

From there, it was hell on earth. First, there is the climate. It is almost 90 degrees, and the humidity plus the still water everywhere has made the swamp come alive with bugs. Trying to describe the mosquitos is almost impossible. Do you know the sound of the wind in the north when a blizzard is happening? The "whirring" sound? That is the sound this many bugs make. You have to wear long sleeve shirts and pants, and you are drenched with sweat because of the heat.

The first group of people I met were very friendly. I traded my IPod for a kid's dirt bike so I could make better time, and they gave me some extra water. They did their best to warn me it wasn't safe to head into the city, but they didn't argue when I said there were people we couldn't find. They warned me about what neighborhoods to avoid, and they said beyond everything else, it was critical to stay away from the police. They would force you to leave by putting you on a bus destined for who knows where, and if you resisted, they'd shoot you. It was the first I saw of a constant epidemic: the police and the government are considered absolute enemies by Katrina survivors. At first, I tried not to judge and simply
considered that shortsighted, but over the next two days, I started to understand where it came from. I got into the outskirts of the city by about 2 pm... an upscale neighborhood called "Metaire," where most of the money of New Orleans lives. To even get that far had already involved about half a mile of swimming. There is no way I can get you to understand just how destroyed everything is. It's not just underwater - it's more that the swamps have risen over New Orleans. There are snakes and alligators everywhere, and the more you see, the more you realize the city isn't going to be livable for who knows how long.

And then there are the bodies. I first started seeing them as I crossed from Metaire into what is called "mid city." Have you ever been to Jazz Fest? The neighborhood you drive through to get there and the fairgrounds are called "mid city." It was the first place where I saw them. Before this weekend, I had only seen a few dead bodies in my entire life: traffic accidents, I once witnessed a shooting, and then funerals. I don't know how many dead people I saw this weekend. Some have been pushed against dry spots by what I am assuming are rescue workers. Others are just floating in the water. Then there are all the houses with red marks on them, meaning there is someone dead inside.

The most horrifying part of all of it is what happens when a body is floating in the water for two or three days. It's barely recognizable as a person. When you see one, it is riddled with mosquitos and who knows what else.

The other thing you have to understand is people are still everywhere. Any idea the media may have given you about a city-wide evacuation is insane. I found hundreds if not thousands of people in all the different neighborhoods, and they have no intention of leaving. First and foremost, they have nowhere to go. And having come from Baton Rouge, the people that did get evacuated are simply unloaded from the busses, told loose
plans of food that is coming, and told to hold tight and someone will come up with a plan. It's chaos.

Second, they don't want to leave. They don't trust they will ever be let back in, and they certainly are not going to allow their homes to be pillaged by the people crafty enough not to get kicked out.

Finally, they just don't believe the argument that the city will be unsafe and riddled with disease. The people still in New Orleans are our uneducated and angry masses. You know the people of the world that "don't believe" in AIDS, who thinks the government is out to get them, and don't understand why they should ever get jobs when unemployment pays just fine? Try convincing them typhoid fever is real.

But beyond that, they are armed and angry, they have already survived five straight days of no food and no water, and they don't believe those who haven't gotten them food or water are going to find a place for them to live. I know it sounds ignorant on their part, but can you imagine it? I was there on Saturday, five days after the storm, and still no one had been told where to go for food or water. People are surviving by breaking into each other's homes. It's chaos, and it's dangerous, and there doesn't seem to be a plan to fix anything any time soon. My main goal was to go to the homes of family and friends and make sure everyone was safely out of the city.

I grew up in the 9th Ward - it's one of the lowest income areas in the city, and it is also the sight of the first levy break. For me to get to my childhood home, I would have needed to dive down underwater just to get to the roof. I went to the second house we lived in after that. It's roof had been torn off, and there was a body floating not fifty feet away from the front porch. I wish I could say the journey to friends' houses fared better, but I can't. Most of the homes were either completely submerged, sitting in ten to fifteen feet of water, or just not standing anymore. I found three people I knew in all, and they set off for Houma that afternoon. Then I started to explore the city.

Like I said, it is hell on earth. The people are furious. They feel as if they have been abandoned. You have to understand, there is no power anywhere. The rescue crews are going through New Orleans proper, not all the neighborhoods where people live. Most of the city doesn't even think there is a rescue effort underway at all. It became clear to me the one thing people need is communication, and in the absence of communication, fear takes people over. I never realized how powerful the raw ability of communicating is. There is nothing more important to restoring order than giving the leaders an ability to get messages to everyone. I know you have all heard about people firing on helicopters. I'm certainly not saying it is right, but after being there, I understand. For five days, helicopters were flying overhead, but none of them are even so much as dropping water or food down for people. They fly by using loud speakers saying that anyone found looting or stealing will be arrested, and those are the helicopters that are followed by gunshots, from what I saw. I don't know who is controlling the message being given to everyone, but they need to be replaced. The only government group anyone has seen are the police with sawed off shotguns threatening to arrest everyone who is walking around on the streets. Everyone is scared about their future, about their friends and family, and about their city, and fear leads people to do amazing things.

Like I said, I'm not saying firing guns at the helicopters is the right thing to do by any means, but after being down there, I understand. When I left, I thought I was going to see the 3rd world, but it isn't the third world. It's a state of war. People don't even know who they are fighting, but they know they are at war. Twice, I had to bike at full speed away from gangs that came at me, and before I left the city, I had my cash, my backpack with my food and change of clothes, and my camera stolen from me. It's like a family member of mine has been possessed by a confused, frightened, angry force that can't be stopped. Every interaction with someone who is supposed to be helping, like the helicopters flying overhead or the police barking threats only makes it worse. When I left for New Orleans, I thought I wanted to help the people I couldn't find. But once there, I realized I was just trying to feed my selfish vanity of wanting to see the city in turmoil. If it was flooded and there was chaos, I wanted to see it and be a part of it. It was as if I was one of those idealistic kids who wanted to head off to war to seek glory. I'll never forget this weekend my entire life, and I'll spend years wishing I could. You just can't describe what it is like to see your hometown that you love, that is a part of everything you are, with dead bodies floating in the street and the people you consider "your people" firing guns at strangers and hating everyone and everything. It was one of the worst things I have ever felt or seen. It's a war being fought against no one.

But not all is ruined. I was thrilled to see the French Quarter, the Garden District, and the central business district were all ok. The shipping yards along Tchapitoulas were also undamaged. It is enough to make you believe the city can be salvaged.

I got back to Houma Sunday morning, and that is where the real work began. We've been trying to construct mosquito nets around the houses. Just using screen doors and screen windows isn't enough, because of how many people we have living there. Opening the door for ten seconds every hour can make the house unlivable. We managed to get a generator going, and we are using it to boil water, keep food cold, and charge up non-working cell phones (we can make calls out of state, but we can't receive any phone calls with in-state phone numbers). So many of you have asked what you can do, and I am sorry to sound pessimistic, but I just don't know. I wish I could say "donate money to the Red Cross," but I didn't see the Red Cross doing anything. The entire time I was there, I only saw Jesse Jackson and his buses, a huge congregation of busses from Baltimore (for some reason) bringing food and water, and private companies like Dysani, Evian, and K-Mart bringing supplies. The more you look around, the more you realize it is the private sector that is the only group that is doing anything. I genuinely believe private companies are going to do more for us than our own government, but I'm ignorant to the entire picture, I only know what I saw, so I don't want to judge anyone.

If you want to help, all I can say is there are different levels of help. There are 1,000,000 people that need homes and some semblance of a future. My sister, mother, aunt, and I are going to do our best to make a home for people in Houma. We don't need money, but we do need bodies. There is just too much to do. I'm going back on Thursday, and I hope to figure out an address for people to ship things to us. Right now, what we need more than anything else are: light sleeping bags (not designed for the cold) - battery chargeable power tools - mosquito netting by the square yard?- CELL PHONES with out of Louisiana phone numbers are CRITICAL We have enough breakfast bars and bottled water for now, and there is no power for preparing food as it is. There are stores to the north that can sell food once we have the power to make it, so that isn't needed, even though you would think it is. I know this sounds crazy, but if there could be anyway to make an outdoor movie theatre powered off a generator, it would do more good than you can imagine. New Orleaneans are social, and one of the biggest problems we have is not being able to be with each other... share the stress and find a way to deal with it together. It's being isolated from each other that is really destroying people's will. If you can, please consider opening up your home to people that need one. But as these people are strangers, I don't pretend it is something everyone will find comfortable. If you can, there is an amazing site setup to help you register as a host ( Thank you to you all for everything you will do in the next coming months,


Monday, August 22, 2005

Yes, I'm obsessed with Crocs

OK, I'm eventually going to get off the Croc thing, really I am, but I have to report that last night, while innocently eating delicious sushi, we spotted a man wearing the following outfit: light-blue linen pants and matching shirt, white jaunty cap, and PURPLE CROCS. My friend could not get over the Crocs, but I couldn't get over the whole ensemble. I mean, not even woven Italian leather sandals could have saved this disaster, but the application of the Crocs sent the whole thing over the top. And I really don't think this man was gay, just seriously fashion-challenged. This is what happens when fashion weapons like the Croc just fall into anyone's hands: Total wardrobe disasters that end up impeding on my simple sushi dinner. Well, my dinner also was impeded upon by crying babies and a capella fraternity singing groups, but still ...

Does this mean I'm going to eventually find myself buying, and horror of horrors, wearing Crocs? Is this like falling in love with your captors or something? Will I become the Patti Hearst of shoes? If you ever spot me walking along in bright orange Crocs, or any color really, please save me from myself. Tackle me, distract me, ply me with alcohol, whatever.

Well, ply me with alcohol no matter what sort of shoes I am wearing.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

They're ugly but you can invest in them

Boulder's journalistic bastion, The Daily Camera, had a lead story on Tuesday announcing that the Niwot-based company that makes those ugly Crocs is going public. Here's the link to that story: Crocs files for public offering. Here's also a link to the column I wrote way back in November about how absolutely ugly they are: link back to my November article discussing the hideousness of the Croc.

A stroll around Boulder indicates that investing in Crocs, the company, may be a good idea. I swear everyone is wearing those hideous shoes! I think it's a case of social norms -- everyone else is wearing them so why not? Meanwhile, I have yet to talk to a person, even those currently sporting Crocs, who does not think they are the ugliest things ever. "But they are so comfortable," they inevitably say. I don't think that's an excuse. I mean sweats are super comfortable, but I don't wear those everywhere I go. At some point, you've got to draw a line in the fashion sand. Even in Boulder, which is one big town illustrating What Not to Wear.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wheel of Not-So-Much Fortune OR Faint Hearts Never Get on Game Shows

Ok, I fully realize that I haven't posted in more than two months, and I apologize for that. The summer has just whizzed by what with socializing, traveling, and so forth. In an attempt to make it up to you, dear readers, I am posting the unedited version of a column I wrote that recently ran in the Boulder Weekly. As background, I actually did all of this in May, so it's still sort of too little too late, but it's better than nothing! I'll try to do better as we move into fall. Here goes ...

"In an attempt to chronicle important events in the Front Range’s pop-culture fabric, I trucked myself down to Denver last weekend to audition for Wheel of Fortune. You know, that game show that’s been the number-one program in syndication for like the past 20 years? The one you used to watch with your parents while your mom made dinner and you avoided doing your homework at all costs? The one that, right at this moment, you are surprised to learn is still on television? It actually still draws huge audiences, and this past May, became the number-one show in Denver at 6:30 pm on Channel 7, beating Entertainment Tonight.

The open auditions featured the following things: First, the WheelMobile, which is a tricked-out Winnebago that serves the duel purpose of toting the set and Wheel chatchkes (keychains, pens, hats, water bottles, travel mugs, you get the idea – nothing you really want) all over the country, AND promotes the show because it is bright yellow and has Wheel of Fortune painted all over it.

The event also featured fake Pat Sajak – aka Marty Lublin –a fairly hot guy amped on Red Bull who jumps around a lot and speaks very enthusiastically into a microphone. The thousands of fans who were gathered for their chance to be on Wheel of Fortune didn’t seem to care that Marty wasn’t Pat, and the few that made it on stage hugged him and slobbered on him just like he was actually famous. Which he isn’t. But who cares, they might be on TV! There was even a camera there from News 7, encouraging people to act even more stupidly than they otherwise would have.

Just to keep everything parallel in the universe, there also was a fake Vanna White –aka Kim Sullivan. Kim is a cute girl wearing a cheap-looking dress (guess the couture is saved for Vanna) who writes puzzle letters on erasable pads as opposed to turning lit-up panels. The touring version of the job is much tougher than Vanna’s, in my opinion, because Kim actually had to figure out where the letters went and then write them down. All Vanna has to do is look good and determine which of the very well-marked panels she needs to flip. It’s a job we all should aspire to: very little work for very much money.

The auditions were held at the Universal Lending Ampitheatre, right behind Pepsi Center. The place seats at least a couple of thousand wannabe contestants. While I overheard people at the nearby gas station say that folks had lined up at 4 and 5 am for their shot to be on the show, the Wheel of Fortune execs assured me that because the WheelMobile is primarily a good-will builder, promotional tour and a contestant search all wrapped up in one, they do everything possible to get every person that shows up a chance to get on stage.

The whole point of the WheelMobile tour – which drives around the country from April through November, hitting 22 cities a year—is to find contestants. In fact, it’s the only way the show finds contestants, other than occasionally testing people in Los Angeles.

People in line are handed “applications,” yellow, orange or blue slips of paper that include a bit of information about them. The applications are put into a spinning bin, like lottery ping-pong balls, and then a lucky few – about 30 per hour – win a spot on stage. Each would-be contestant is subjected to a very easy interview with fake Pat aka Marty, who always asked “what do you like to do in your free time?” (“My husband,” said one contestant. C’mon, keep it clean, people! Haven’t you heard about Janet Jackson and the FCC?) and then they play a quick game.

The interviews can take a bit of time because if you say you sing or rap or teach aerobics or cheer lead, you are subjected to performing that skill. This was no secret, however, because whenever said skill was mentioned Marty would say “did you say SING?” and then Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Contestant would be off to the races. I heard Amazing Grace at least three times, and one white guy rapped out to Kid Rock. He wasn’t bad, actually. Another woman said her life-long goal was to be a Denver Broncos cheerleader, but other than yelling “Go Broncos!” and leaping lamely one-half inch into the air, she hadn’t really gotten around to charting that course yet.

Once I realized that demonstrating high-energy antics, such as jumping up and down, and possibly performing in front of 1,000 or so strangers would be a requirement of this gig, I bowed out. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been covering the business of television for a while now, and just moved back to Boulder from LA. I already had an in with the Wheel people, and since I can’t be on the show, for ethics’ sake, they weren’t really pushing me on stage. Still, I could have put my foot down and demanded that I run the paces, because that’s what I told them I wanted to do for this article, but I didn’t. I thought I was going to be in a room, play a little Wheel, maybe fill out a quiz or something. But bounding about and singing in public? Not for me. This is why I’m a writer and not a dancer, stand-up comedian, actor or anything else that requires public performance.

But getting on Wheel isn’t just about jumping up and down and screaming, says Lisa Dee, executive director of marketing and promotions for Sony Pictures Television, which produces both Wheel and sister game show, Jeopardy! It’s about having good energy, not freaking out in front of a camera and being able to play the game.

“I compare it to getting into a really good college – you have to have the whole package,” Dee says. Whatever, I wasn’t doing it. I was content to sit backstage and eat Quizno’s with the rest of the crew. I also tried to get fake Pat’s attention with a come-hither look and a wave of my toasted sub, but I think he was unimpressed by my wimpy stance. Plus, he was too busy fending off bouncy contestants.

As I was leaving, one of the tour producers tossed me a pack of brand-spanking-new Wheel of Fortune playing cards, which are round, like the venerated Wheel itself. So I can’t say I came away empty-handed. No chance to test wits with Pat or to win an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii, but my dignity was intact and I had a Wheel of Fortune-branded chatcke in my hand. Oh, and they bought me drinks aftewards so that probably counts for something too."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lies, Lies and PR

So let's get this straight: Tom and Katie ARE sleeping together and are madly in love and Brad and Angelina are NOT sleeping together and are not madly in love. Apparently the publicists to the stars either think the American public is comprised of a bunch of star-struck blithering idiots who will believe anything that is put before them OR they are so self-deluded that they believe their own spin and assume the rest of us are just following along like little lemmings.

What I find redeeming about this whole situation is not that Tom is going on Oprah and rolling around on the floor or that both Brad and Angelina continue to deny what has been clear as day to the Hollywood gossip community for months (motto of said gossips: where there's smoke, there's definitely fire. And in the case of Brad and Angelina, that fire is hot hot hot). No, what's redeeming is that no one believes any of it. Hallelujah! We've finally reached the point where the American public is savvy enough not to believe the spin.

If I was smart enough and employed as such, I would have written the same column that former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown penned in the Washington Post today. After pointing out what we all know - hello, Tom, no one believes you so quit all the embarrassing antics - Brown writes that the Bush White House has taken a page from Hollywood in terms of how it runs its publicity. And the moral of the story is: don't believe anything that comes from Hollywood studios or the White House press office.

What's sort of interesting/obvious about Tom and Katie and Brad and Angelina is that all four of them have big movies to promote.

For 42-year-old Tom, his sex appeal has waned a bit. His last few movies have done okay, but they haven't been the guaranteed box office they once were. And while he's taken on a lot of risky roles, they haven't paid off the way he might have hoped. Jamie Foxx got all the rave reviews for Collateral, and ex-wife Nicole Kidman became an Oscar darling, while Tom has yet to reel in the big O. What's more, Tom continues to battle rumors that he is gay. What better way to combat that than by starting up yet another contrived romance with an up-and-coming starlet with her own movie to promote and career to further, even though she's young and baby-faced enough that some of us are more grossed out than titillated.

Meanwhile, 26-year-old Katie Holmes is promoting Batman Begins, her first big studio picture. And while she's certainly not carrying the film - those honors go to Christian Bale - it's also in her best interest to suddenly be seen as white hot and super visible. Voila! A couple is born and paraded about on Oprah.

Brad and Angelina have the opposite problem. They both still remain at the peak of their sex symbol status - in fact, most people forgive them for being together because they figure if the world's two hottest people want to get it on, who are we to stop them? But with Brad divorcing America's Sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, it's in his best interest to remain on the down-lo with Angelina, particularly because he and Angelina have Mr. and Mrs. Smith coming out shortly and it doesn't look good if it seems like the two stars were canoodling on set before Jen was actually out of the picture. So those two are trying (but failing miserably) to keep a lock on what is now an open secret.

What I wonder is what would happen if everyone was just honest. If Tom came out and said, "yes, I am gay," not that I know that he is, but if he was and he did -would that really mean his career was over? And if Brad and Angelina said "yes, we did fall madly in love during the shooting of this movie and can you blame us?" would that mean that no one would go see this or any of their future movies as a result? Maybe no one will go see it anyway - you never know with movies. Plus, just because she's the hottest woman alive, there's plenty of Angelina Jolie movies no one has ever seen - Beyond Borders, for example. And I could go on.

If I ever wanted to be a movie star - and I never did because a) I love to eat way too much and b) I can't act - realizing that stars' whole lives necessarily become one big act definitely dissuades me. And what's worse, if the public finally gets wise and decides that act has become really tired, celebrities these days are going to new heights to stay in the public eye re: Britney and Kevin: Chaotic (or Catastrophic if you consider the ratings) or Paris Hilton's recent pornographic Burger King ad, which is not such a far cry from her widely-distributed Internet homemade sex video.

I'm not rich, powerful or famous, but at least I have the privilege of screwing up my own relationships, or lack thereof, in private.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hey look, I'm famous!

My blog got profiled by another blog -- Boulder's Dirt, which is a youth-oriented spin-off of the local paper, The Daily Camera. Here's the link to the little interview I did: All About ME. It's only a matter of time before I go worldwide. I'm talking global, people. Universal.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

CNN goes from boring to ... possibly more boring

My news intuition must have been going off (as well as my acute sense of snore TV) when I wrote yesterday. Changes are afoot at CNN, although three hours hosted by Wolf Blitzer is quite possibly worse than an afternoon block that includes Inside Politics, Crossfire and Inside the Blogs. Would it be so crazy to air original stories that were actually reported by people in the field and included footage, writing and producing? I know, I know ... too expensive. We wouldn't want to do anything to affect bottom line.

From Variety:

CNN's lone-Wolf strategy

Cabler axes shows, expands Blitzer


CNN is reorganizing its daytime programming, creating a three-hour program anchored by Wolf Blitzer that will replace both "Crossfire" and "Inside Politics."

"Crossfire" had been put on notice by newly installed CNN U.S. prexy Jonathan Klein as an example of the kind of shoutfest he thought turned off viewers.

"Inside Politics" is anchored by Judy Woodruff, who announced that she will retire at the end of the May.

The moves -- the most significant since Klein took the helm of CNN late last year -- came of a challenge he issued to CNN staff to come up with new ideas on how the network could report on politics.

The winning proposal came out of the Washington bureau, where producers David Bohrman and Sam Feist proposed building a show around Blitzer that will address the day's top stories in politics, business, national security and world affairs.

Klein declined to say when the new show would debut, but part of the reorganization will begin Monday, June 6, when CNN replaces Blitzer's midday show, "News From CNN," with a simulcast of CNN International's "Your World Today."

The shift will free up Blitzer for an extended three-hour newscast in the afternoon and showcase some of CNN's international reporting, an asset Klein believes differentiates the net from the competition.

"We cover international news better than anyone, and we want to show it across the news group," Klein said.

A spokeswoman said it's unclear if jobs will be eliminated or shifted as a result of the changes.

In an internal memo, CNN EVP of operations Cindy Patrick said the changes could "eventually affect Atlanta staffing levels." The changes will cut a half-hour from "Life From ...," which is produced in Atlanta. The other shows affected are produced in D.C.

Memo also says the net is considering moving the control room and some staff positions for "Larry King Live" to D.C. from Atlanta. King now has a staff and copies of his signature sets in New York and D.C., but typically tapes his show in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Amazing Race, Phil and Pat, and lots of other rambling

Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan congratulates Uchenna and Joyce Posted by Hello

And the winners are:
Uchenna and Joyce, who take home the million on The Amazing Race, in the show's most-watched finale ever. Rob and Amber came in second, foiled by two small things: a friendly pilot and an inability to find anyone in Miami's Little Havana who could translate English into Spanish.

Truth be told, Uchenna and Joyce completely deserved to win. They could have ditched their taxi driver at the end, whom they did not have enough money to pay in full, run in and won the million dollars. Instead, they stayed outside, begging for money until they had enough to pay the driver, and then they ran in and won. That's class.

What's more, viewers got to watch the couple's relationship get stronger and stronger. Joyce became determined to do whatever she needs to to have a child after the racers found themselves at an African orphanage full of smiling children. Joyce allowed her head to be shaved in order to win a leg of the race, even though she cried through the whole thing. And Uchenna proved himself to be a man of honor, hugging Joyce in the nook of his arm while she cried and he kept on swallowing his pride and asking strangers for money. Toward the end of the show, the couple confessed that they had been talking about splitting up, but running the 40,000 mile race around the world brought them back together and made them stronger than ever.

I have to admit that I found myself disappointed by Rob and Amber's loss, even though they drove by the overturned Jeep, because I just can't let go of my fandom. On the other hand, CBS paid for their wedding in the Bahamas and they won a bunch of trips on Race and they seem to be legitimately in love, so I'm not really crying for Rob and Amber.

I will say that Rob and Amber have proven that they are that very rare thing - true reality show stars - for two reasons. 1) They've either won the money or come super damn close twice. That's not a coincidence. And 2) Ratings for Survivor: All-Stars and The Amazing Race 7 were both huge, bigger than other outings of both long-running series, and Rob and Amber have to be credited with bringing viewers to the set. Or at least me.

So we all know what that means: On May 24, I'll be glued to the set, pathetically watching the creatively named Rob and Amber Get Married. And probably crying.

Random TV musings: Um, didn't CNN cancel Crossfire after Jon Stewart told the show's hosts they were ruining democracy? (Extremely excellent MTV Headline: Jon Stewart Bitchslaps Crossfire ) Because if so, I'm still waiting. This horrendous program remains on the air, because it shows up every day during my CNN watching. Oh wait, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post reported in January that CNN was going to be including Crossfire as part of Inside Politics. Altogether it makes for one big snoozefest - Crossfire teamed with Inside the Blogs tied together by uninteresting newsreading.

In the same Washington Post article, CNN President Jonathan Klein said about Carlson: "There was zero fit between what he wanted to do and what we wanted to do. He's best suited to host a head-butting talkfest, and that's not the kind of program we wanted to do in prime time. . . . Our network is about roll-up-your-sleeves journalism, powerful storytelling."

Dude, have you watched your network lately? If you think reading from a teleprompter and interviewing talking heads all day long is powerful storytelling, then OK, it's super-powerful. Otherwise, not so much.

It happened and the world somehow did not end: The show I was most sad to miss in the past week was Dr. Phil's surreal interview of Pat O'Brien . We've met Mr. O'Brien before, and visited him at my new favorite blog: (which sadly is over now because selfish Pat left rehab and returned to television. But you can visit the hilarious writer of this blog, who happily outed himself on May 2, at Utter

It's unclear in this scenario who is exploiting whom because the exploitation sort of overlaps in confusing, swirling patterns until I feel like I need to take some drugs and check into rehab myself. (And then maybe I can get on Dr. Phil and become superfamous. Hey, I think I'm on to something here.)

Phil opens up the interview by asking Pat: "The studio did not coerce you into coming here?" Pat does not say what we're all thinking: "Hell no. They didn't have to ask twice. I know who signs my paychecks. Plus this is TV, man. TV!"

A little review for the 99.5% of you that don't follow the ins and outs of the media world: Megacorporation Viacom owns a bunch of companies, among them CBS and Paramount Domestic Television. Paramount produces both Dr. Phil and The Insider, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that a special featuring Pat's confession would be hosted by Dr. Phil and air on CBS during May sweeps. When TV executives suddenly realize that they have a star that’s going through a horrible time in his personal life, what do they do? Put him on in prime time! Have him tell Dr. Phil his most embarrasing personal secrets. It’s sweeps for God’s sake. Something's gonna explode soon, right?

Another TV kid tragically grows up: I'm not a big fan of Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle, but I ended up watching it on Mother's Day because my brother-in-law had control of the remote and he wouldn't let me watch Deadwood, which he referred to as that F@$& show, which isn't so incorrect, but it is the best show on television in my humble opinion.

Anyhoo, I could not fail to note that Frankie Muniz has finally reached the stage to which we all knew he was headed. Instead of being a cute little kid, he's now a really weird-looking, short teenager whose head is too big for his body. This seems to be the unfortunate fate of all cute child TV stars (see Gary Coleman and Danny Bonaducci). And don't try to tell me that Raven Symone is the exception. Just because you were an adorable child on The Cosby Show 15 years ago, does not, and I repeat, does not, mean you should get your own show on The Disney Channel.

Finally, here’s a list of things that are not actually news: the Runaway Bride; Paula Abdul’s alleged affair with American Idol contestant and developing television executive Corey Clarke; Priscilla Presley’s Elvis musings. A feature on the extend of Presley’s plastic surgery, however, might make sense for Primetime Live to do right after Extreme Makeover.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Very Original Headline: Hitchhiker's Guide Kicks Ass

Update: Hey, we have better taste than I thought! HHG opened up number one at the box office this weekend, pulling in more than $21 million. That crushed the competition, with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman's dreary looking The Interpreter taking second at almost $14 million. XXX The Sequel (whatever it's called) came in a diastrous third, earning not quite $13 million. Scarily, it looks like Vin Diesel made the right choice -- The Pacifier (Vin's spin on Kindergarten Cop) has somehow, someway crossed the $100 million mark. (Box office totals gathered from

There's a lot of talk right now about the pre-summer movie market being in the doldrums. It's not that complicated: if the movies suck, people won't come.

Except for Hitchhiker's Guide, of course.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Movie Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Life, the universe and everything. Posted by Hello

So before we even start, let's just throw out there that the answer is 42. Always has been, always will be. But that's not the big mystery of Hitchhiker's Guide - the mystery is what is the question? How do you correctly phrase the question of life, the universe and everything?

And so we commence the voyage of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a favorite of my sister Ashley and mine since early childhood. Back when we were just little girls, we would look forward to Saturday mornings - not for Scooby Doo or Smurfs, but to watch Hitchhiker's Guide and Dr. Who on the local PBS channel. This strange choice of programming for two young girls may explain some things - once we stayed up all night together, hanging out on our window seat and waiting for Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo to come walking up our cul-de-sac, and why we thought this might happen I still do not know. In any case, we greeted the feature-length, modern-day version of Hitchhiker's Guide with great enthusiasm. In fact, I was so enthusiastic that I braved yesterday's snowy weather to go to the movie theatre at 1 p.m. and secure us tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show.

Ashley handled her enthusiasm by securing mini-bottles of Jamison’s to sneak into her Coke during the movie, and I have to say, she did seem a little more unbridled than usual, perhaps to the disgruntlement of those around us. But we both agreed that the movie does a perfect job of staying true to Douglas Adams' wonderful original (Adams' books are so original and hiliarious that he practically defines the term original), while deftly using today's technology (and the Muppets) to update it.

Brit Arthur Dent (The Office's Martin Freeman) is having a very bad day. Bulldozers have arrived to tear down his house to make room for a bypass. Dent is busy blocking the dozers with his pajamaed self, when his best friend, Ford Prefect (played by Mos Def), shows up with a grocery cart full of beer to stall the workers. He then whisks Dent off to a nearby pub where he buys each of them three pints each, and explains that the world is going to end in 12 minutes. Dent isn't really grasping this, but when the world-ending Vorgons show up in huge intergalactic space ships and announce that Earth will be blown up to, ironically, make room for an intergalactic bypass, people are starting to catch on. Dent doesn't notice, so preoccupied is he about his house, but the people in the bar ask if they should lay down on the floor and put paper bags over their head. "Sure, if you want," Ford says. As the world comes to its promised end, there are the barflies, lying on the floor, paper bags on heads, for really no apparent reason other than that’s apparently what people in mass suicide cults seem to do. So runs Adams' humor.

Ford grabs himself and Dent a ride on the Vorgon spaceship, and then explains that he's not really from Earth, but in fact a writer for the galaxy's best-selling book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which contains the answers to everything, even though most of those answers are quite useless. (For example, when Ford asks the Guide how to save someone from the Vorgons, it says "don't bother." And so forth.)

That begins a long space journey for Dent, throughout all of which he remains in his slouchy pajamas and terrycloth robe, while Ford stays clean as a whistle in a white suit. They soon hook up with the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, played whimsically by Sam Rockwell who takes the opportunity to cleverly mock current President of the Galaxy George W. Bush, as well as Dent's would-be girlfriend, Trillian, who was whisked away from him back in England when Zaphod decided to drop in on Earth and crash a London party.

("What did he have that I don't have? Two heads?" Dent asks Trillian. "A spaceship," she responds.)

The coolest part of the movie is when Dent and his guide for the moment, Slartibartfast, tour the mythical Planet Magrathea where planets are constructed. I don't know how they did this scene back in the late 70s and early 80s when the BBC made The Guide into a TV series, but with modern movie-making techniques, this scene was amazing. Dent and Slarti zip past planets under construction, mounted in a massive intergalactic sound stage, and when they reach Earth, workers are spraying water to make oceans, painting canyons red and landscaping houses.

The performances don’t really stand out, which is I why I didn't rate the movie higher. The actors do a fine job, but it's just way too hard to make something new of characters that rabid Guide fans already know far too well. To get too crazy would disappoint too many people, and that limits the actors' choices.

John Malkovitch shows up randomly as a spider-like preacher-man, essentially playing himself as always, and Alan Rickman mellifluously voices Marvin, the depressed robot.

Freeman as Dent and Def as Ford are perfectly cast. Zooey Deschanel as Trillian gets the most leeway, because if Ashley and I remember correctly, Trillian was a dopey blonde in the BBC original.

The thing that will always be best about The Guide is Douglas Adams' original concepts and his random humor, and this movie is successful because it remains so true to them. That's largely because Adams collaborated with Executive Producer Robbie Stamp until Adams' early death of a heart attack in 2001, so the film doesn't veer too far away from his vision. Spike Jonz (Being John Malkovitch, which may explain the actor’s appearance) was asked to direct this film, but he declined, recommending two English music-video directors instead. The pair of Hammer and Tongs, otherwise known as Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith, took the movie over and did an admirable job in their first feature film venture.

I wanted to use martini glasses as my star system, but this blog doesn't support symbols so I'm giving The Guide three and a half asteriks (what it does support) out of a potential five. I think Ashley would give it a full five. I asked her to write her own review and she said: "Brilliant!" and tottered off to make drunk phone calls. So that may be it from her.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: ***1/2. A lot of fun.

Springtime in Boulder

Occasionally means blizzard. Bummer for me, who would be happy in 115 degrees in Miami, but great for all the skiiers. The ski lifts may never close!

Boulder today:

Winter returns -- April 29 Posted by Hello

Boulder just a few days ago:

Spring hiking on April 23Posted by Hello

tulips on the mall Posted by Hello

Boulder Theatre -- the best place in town to catch a movie or a band Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Book review: Garlic and Sapphires

When I was a little girl, reading was my favorite thing. I would while away hours at a time, my nose deep in a book, my brain somewhere else completely. To me, reading was better than TV, better even than the movies.

These days, older, not much wiser and much more distracted, I often long for nothing but an airplane or a beach so I can devour a book cover to cover, so quickly that it's a miracle I remember it at all. But there's very few books that convince me to surrender my whole weekend to it and a comfy chair.

Ruth Reichl's three memoirs - Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples and now Garlic and Sapphires - are those sorts of books for me. Reichl writes real life so that it feels like fiction, and her lush but simple prose about food makes me want to do nothing but eat.

Here's her description of water: "I tipped the liquid into my mouth and it was instantly flooded with icy coldness and a deep, ancient flavor, as if the water had come bubbling up from the middle of the earth." Some have said Reichl can be a little overzealous, and maybe that's true, but don't you long for a deep, cold drink of water right now? And I don't even like water.

In Garlic and Sapphires, one of the first restaurants Reichl reviews in her new post as the restaurant critic for the New York Times is Honmura An, a now-famous Japanese noodle house in Manhattan. About the restaurant's soba noodles, Reichl writes: "The noodles are earthy and elastic, soft and slightly firm to the tooth, and when you dip them into the briny bowl of dashi it is as if land and sea were coming, briefly, together."

After reading that, I have had an insatiable yen for noodles, a dish I love, but repeated visits to Noodles & Co., a Boulder chain restaurant, have not cured me. Mainly because everything I've had there that actually involves noodles sucks, frankly, although the non-noodled mixed grill is good.

Reichl's clear adoration of food explains why she went from obscure food critic at a small San Francisco weekly to the restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times to the country's most powerful dining critic. The Grey Lady's snobby climate got to even Reichl, and she moved on to head Gourmet Magazine in April 1999, making it into a gorgeous monthly homage to food, wine, culture and the written word.

Like J.K. Rowling, another writer whose work I've inhaled, I can't quite put my finger on what makes Reichl's writing so compelling to me. Both women use simple sentences that convey exact but full meanings. You know Rowling delivers a precise image when you see the Harry Potter movies - every character from Harry to Hermione to Professor Dumbledore looks just as you imagined them. Reichl's books haven't been made into movies, but her goal is different. While Rowling is precisely describing characters and situations, Reichl's talent primarily is describing eating experiences. Having said that, she also creates memorable characters, and one wonders how much of them are real and how much of them are fiction. I'm always left wondering if the people she writes about end up insulted, dead, or so insulted that they died as a result.

Reichl's other books deal with her childhood and her eccentric parents, and then move on to cover her life in Berkeley cooking organic food in a commune in the 70s. Always she winds the food into stories, including her favorite (and always simple) recipes as part of the text.

The title of this book comes from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot. Reichl's husband, TV news producer Michael Singer, cites it to her after a particularly horrible dinner with an unbearable food snob who won dinner with her at a charity auction. After Reichl behaves boorishly, lording her vast food experiences and knowledge over the self-described "food warrior," Michael walks out of the dinner at Windows on the World, feigning having had oral surgery that morning. Upon arriving home, Reichl questions her husband's abrupt departure. He quotes: "'Garlics and sapphires in the mud ...' I remember that when you got into this it was almost a spiritual thing with you. You love to eat, you love to write, you love the generosity of cooks and what happens around the table when a great meal is served. Nothing that went on last night had anything to do with that. ... There must be better ways to give," he says. "Don't give yourself away."

When I was Broadcasting & Cable's Los Angeles Bureau Chief, I thought a lot about how people treated me a certain way because of what I could or could not (or would or would not) do for them. Now that I am not in that position, those relationships have changed, as I expected they would. Reichl allowed herself to get caught up in the power of the country's most powerful paper, as anyone would. When she finally realized the pressure and the false power was turning her into a person she didn't like, she knew it was time to move on.

Reichl has lived a rich life, and done us a favor by capturing it on paper. But what annoys me is that she spends her whole life eating and remains slim. She told in 1996: "I think I have a very good metabolism. I haven't gained or lost weight for years. I think it's partly that I'm not obsessed with it. I eat what I want. I probably eat a lot more when I'm cooking for myself, because I'm making exactly what I want made to my taste."

If I were a restaurant critic, I would certainly weigh 400 pounds. Definitely proof that life is not fair, or that some people are better suited to restaurant criticism than others. (Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, 328 pages, The Penguin Press, $24.95)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Making money on Rob and Amber

Here's a link to my latest story in the New York Post's TV Week: Why We Hate Rob and Amber.

It's a coincidence that I ended up writing about reality TV's hottest (and now married) couple, when I recently blogged on the same idea. But the TV Week editor happened to call me up and ask me to take on that topic, so I happily agreed.

But I have to admit that I'm back to rooting for them. Even though they were bastards for driving past the Jeep, well, it is just a game ...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bush and the media

Right-wingers think the liberal media have dictated the press for far too long, and they hate Clinton for the questionable choices he made in his personal life. I think, however, that the way the Bush regime is working to control the media (and then acting like the media have no relevance to them) is far more disturbing. This administration is completely ignoring the First Amendment; in fact, they are constantly working to undermine it. To me, the ability to know what is actually happening within the government my tax dollars support affects the quality of my life far more than knowing who is doing Clinton in the Oval Office. Eric Alterman's excellent piece at The explains all this. Go there to learn a little something.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Schiavo memo surprise? Not so much

Are all these newsies breathlessly reporting the "discovery" of a memo describing how Capitol Hill Republicans planned to use the Terri Schiavo case for political gain actually surprised? Are these people really this naive? Where's that hard-boiled cynicism these reporters are supposed to have developed by now? Wasn't advancing the Republican agenda the point of the whole endless thing, from which we were only saved by the death of the pope, which is also dragging on interminably? (Do I really need to see his 84-year-old corpse 65 times a day? People who really want to see that are camping out at the Vatican -- so we can assume the rest of us are okay with missing it. In fact, maybe some news organization should set up a temporary digital news channel to cover the pope and his funeral and so on so the 10 billion of us in the world who are not Catholic and don't care one freakin' whit can get on with our lives.) Anyway, didn't right-wingers keep Terri Schiavo on the front-burner so they could keep framing the debate on right-to-life issues in their favor? That's what I thought anyway.

So my reaction to this news that a staffer for Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) authored a memo that called the Schiavo case a "great political issue ... and a tough issue for Democrats" is ... who the hell cares? The poor guy, senior legal staffer Brian Darling, has since resigned, a pariah to the Republican cause. Um, hello, there's no way Sen. Martinez and his Republican counterparts weren't having this conversation. Maybe they didn't want it published by ABC News, The Washington Post and the Associated Press (by means of a memo assuredly delivered unto those prestigious news organizations by a lucky Democratic staffer who found a draft in a trash can somewhere and ran as quickly as possible to the phone) but they were certainly discussing all along how to turn Terri Schiavo into a political cause celebre.

That's what this story was all about. Schiavo long ago stopped being a brain-dead individual fighting for her right to lay in a hospital bed forever more and became a political issue, a way for Republicans to draw very bright lines on where they stand on these so-called right-to-life issues. That way of thinking - done best by Karl Rove - won George W. Bush the election. Republicans managed to turn San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's attempt to do something nice for his many gay constituents by letting them get married into a major, divisive, election-day issue. At that moment, the election -- very helpfully for the Rs -- stopped being about the war and the morass it has become and started being about moral values. And when that happened, a little more than half the country (and more than enough) had no choice but to vote their conscience. Their God and their religion demanded nothing less. I can't blame those people for standing up for what they believe - I'm just saying that the Republicans are experts at taking over the debate and using it in their favor. Meanwhile, the Democrats barely play defense to Republicans' Super-Bowl worthy media offense, and their offense never leaves the locker room. That's possibly out of sheer terror, but it's all to the Democrats' great disservice and disempowerment. Air America isn't the answer, by the way, and Jon Stewart can't and doesn't want to solve the Democrats' media disconnect by himself.

Besides using Terri Schiavo as a Republican branding campaign, the Schiavo case also represents another chapter in the Republican Party's long-standing effort to brand liberals as anti-life, or more recently and more brutally, pro-death. That's pretty ironic if you think about it. Somehow the Republicans have managed to make liberals -- people who are typically anti-death-penalty, anti-war and pro-gun- control -- pro-death. But having said all that, liberals want choice for women, and that means death for unborn embryos, so that's pro-death. No big deal that most of those "saved" children will go into the welfare system that Republicans don't support, and later into a public education system that Republicans also don't support. No worries! Without much of an education, these kids will end up signing up for the Army where they can later die in Republican-led wars. Problem solved. In fact, maybe that's the secret reason why right-wingers are anti-choice - maybe they fear that with choice we won't have enough displaced people willing to go abroad and die in Republican-endorsed wars. But anyway, sure, it's those crazy liberals that are pro-death. Actually, I think they are just pro-death with regard to certain Republicans and radio talk show hosts.

When a story like Terri Schiavo or Elian Gonzales or even gay marriage shows up in the news and won't go away, assume anyone that can -- Rs and Ds -- is using it for political gain. That's how the system works. What's more important is who plays that game most successfully -- because that's who holds the power.

And for another, but similar, opinion on this subject, check out Eric Boehlert's piece at .

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


This is a big shift from Terri Schiavo, right-to-life issues and whether or not cable news channels are actually doing a good job, but tonight I was laying around at home like a big blob (I know that's a lovely image. I wasn't totally blobolicious, I did manage to paint my toenails and fingernails, which of course I promptly screwed up). While painting away, I watched CBS' Emmy-winning The Amazing Race, which features Rob and Amber, the now-engaged winners of Survivor: All-Stars.

When I watched Survivor: All-Stars, I was impressed with the Rob and Amber combo. They played the game ruthlessly, but with skill and determination, and I believed they deserved to win even though most of the other competitors told them at the end of the game that they were the worst people they had ever met.

Sore losers, I thought during that last tribal council. And it was so romantic when Rob asked Amber to marry him on live television.

So tonight I'm watching The Amazing Race, rooting for my favorites Rob and Amber, and getting progressively more disgusted by their behavior. An older woman, Gretchen, fell in a cave and seriously cut her head, and all Rob had to say was that her doting husband, Meredith, probably pushed her so they could con everyone out of their money. After that, Meredith and Gretchen came in last. Instead of eliminating them, the show's host seized all their money and belongings, guaranteeing them even rougher going the next day. When the pair took up a collection from the other players the next morning, Rob refused to contribute, saying “it's a game” so he and his fiance weren't going to help.

Later in the race, another team literally rolled their jeep while driving in the African outback. Every other team stopped to make sure the two were okay; Rob and Amber just drove on, not even slowing down.

Competitively, that was the right decision, because it put Rob and Amber in second place at the end of the round when previously they had been losing more challenges than Rob could stand.

Turns out, the older couple managed to come in fifth, even without belongings or money, securing their place in the race. And the brothers who flipped their car came in sixth after a sprint to the finish, beating the endlessly battling couple who still said they planned to stay together even though it's apparent to all of America that they hate each other.

Still, I thought the right thing to do would have been to eliminate Rob and Amber for bad behavior, giving the fighting couple their spot. Not that the fighting couple was so much better - they were the only other team that refused to give Meredith and Gretchen money. But at least they slowed down to see if everyone was all right. At the end of the day, people's lives are more important than any game, even ones played on TV. Especially ones played on TV, because now we all know who Rob and Amber really are. And I was such a fan ...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Enough Terri Schiavo already

I'm working on a story right now about conservative books, so my research journey has taken me to Fox News Channel and many conservative blogs - see Captain's Quarters,, and If you are on this site, you have likely read some of my other posts, and you have figured out that I'm not a big fan of the U.S. conservative movement. As Andrew Sullivan points out, it's really more of a move toward fundamentalism and away from libertarianism, which is ironic in light of the fact that the 9/11 attacks, one of the major catalysts for this shift in the party, were perpetuated by fundamentalists, albeit Muslims not Christians.

Anyway, what I'm confronted with in all these right-wing places is Terri Schiavo. No big surprise, but it's opened my eyes a little. Even though I'm a member of the media, I have never understood how some of these micro stories become mammoth monster stories that take over the news agenda of the entire country. Why Terri Schiavo, Elian Gonzalez and Lacy Peterson? Why not the many, many other brain-dead, hospitalized victims; Cuban refugees; or murdered wives?

I still don't know the answer to that question, but what I did learn (or what I was reminded of), is the copycat nature of news in the U.S. Watching Fox News, which last Thursday was airing Terri Schiavo almost to the exclusion of anything else (except a brief dip into the Michael Jackson lawsuit), I remembered exactly why discussion of the case has taken over -- fear. If Fox chooses to cover Terri Schiavo night and day, and Fox is the cable news leader, then everyone else has to cover it night and day because of the fear that viewers will leave in droves, ratings will plummet and everyone at the network will lose their jobs.

It's that point I believe the cable news directors lose their judgement. I do think the Terri Schiavo case is an interesting and important debate on morality and the right to life or lack thereof, and I do think this country should engage that debate. I do not think it should black out the news agenda to the exclusion of most of the rest of the news. What's more, with so many 24/7 news channels available, plus the Internet, and so on and so on, couldn't someone get brave enough to drop coverage of the Schiavo case unless something actually happens? And when it does, couldn't they just report that, maybe analyze it a little, and move on?

To some extent, I think copycat journalism is just easier. Why go break new and interesting stories when you can follow what everyone else is following? Why analyze trends or provide real, useful information when you can just chase your competitor? Why waste time examining what is happening on the international front that none of us really know about?

I also know from experience that most news organizations are limited in their funding. News outfits aren't run as non-profits, unfortunately, and thus are obligated by their corporate parents and their stock holders to show a profit margin. As a result, even if CNN makes lots of money, the channel still is forced to adhere to a strict budget so as to deliver profits to the corporate bottom line.

Within that budget, reporters, editors, and producers all feel obligated to cover the day's news agenda, even if it is repetitive and boring. They don't want to look like they got beat by their competitor. And at the end of the day, all of those news teams have nothing left - energy, resources, inspiration -- with which to bring original stories. They've given what they have to the issue of the day, and so have the reporters from every other news service.

If the news channels could somehow get brave enough to architect their own agendas and stop worrying about what the other guy is doing, that would much better serve the public interest and educate the democracy. The cable news channels could leave the nitty-gritty reporting of these ongoing stories to the wires and the major papers, report them as obligated, and spend their resources on the cutting-edge, the new, the unknown.

It's up to us, the consumers, to let the news organizations know we are fed up with copycat reporting by turning it off and demanding something better. As members of a democracy, we are obligated to educate ourselves on the issues of the day and the decisions--both pending and completed--of our government. To cite my hero, Oprah: what I know for sure is that there's more going on out there than Terri Schiavo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I'm Stuck in Rehab with Pat O'Brien

I hate to be totally evil at someone else's expense ... oh, who I am kidding? I love it! Anyway, the following link will take you to one of the funniest things ever available on the Internet. Unless you live in Boulder and never watch TV and have no idea who Pat O'Brien is, BUT if you know anything about the TV industry at all, you will find this hilarious. So go there now:

I'm Stuck in Rehab with Pat O'Brien

Feel free to return and ask questions in the comments section of this blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


OK, I have been a horrible, horrible blogger. I didn’t even blog about the Oscars, which I had been leading up to for weeks.

So what brought about this complete lack of responsibility to my blog and the four people who read it? The deadly combination of travel, laziness and illness – so I’ve actually had tons of things to blog on about but no motivation to capture it all on paper or computer screen, as it were.

I feel like the Oscars passed me by, but let me say a few things.

1) I found the ceremony boring – including Chris Rock. And even though I appreciated Executive Producer Gil Cates’ attempts to spice things up a bit by placing all the nominees on stage so that most of them could be rejected and then recorded trying to cover up their disappointment, I found the exercise crueler than even the everyday reality show. This represents people’s life work in many instances – can’t you just let them slouch in their seat when they lose, like they get to do at every other awards show? I hope that format does not become a trend.

2) I like Beyonce as much as the rest of us, but one song with her would have been plenty. Also, what the hey did Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana do to that song from Motorcycle Diaries? I think that when the guy won he was relieved so he could come up and let everyone know that it was actually a good song before the Banderas/Santana combo got their hands on it.

3) I didn’t pick Million Dollar Baby, but my excuse is that I hadn’t seen it when I made my picks. I’m not sure I would have changed my votes, however. The movie really gained steam toward the end of the voting process, and the acting nods for Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman really sealed the deal for Clint. Could Clint ever direct a movie that is not miserably depressing? Light-hearted is clearly not in his repetoire, as amazingly talented as the man is.

Meanwhile, I’m still seeing Oscar-nominated movies, even though the moment has passed. Last night, Mom, Ashley and I saw Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education. In Ashley’s words: “I can’t believe I’m seeing movies about ass-sex with my mother.” And if it disturbed Ashley, you know it was over the top.

Parting comment: Why on earth does CNN insist on covering the blogs with their stupid stupid stupid segment called “Inside the Blogs” during Judy Woodruth’s Inside Politics. Word to CNN: a) computer screens do not make good TV and b) CNN (and all news services) is like the anti-blog, and as such, should not be covering blogs. It drives me crazy on a daily basis (yet I still persist in having CNN on all day because I need something to keep me company and bring me the news, and what are the options?).

And to my four regular readers: Since I have no travel scheduled until the end of July, I plan to be a better blogger in the future.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hollywood Reporters, Gatsby Envy and total denial of one's true self

One of the best things about having a blog is that I can just ramble endlessly, with great and fervent opinion, about just about any subject I darn well please. And I can do it without having to directly offend the person I believe has offended me. In fact, I can just passive-aggressively pop off right here on my own site.

Now, if I were a blogger worth my salt, I would have written about the State of the Union address even while it was going on. But since I was drinking wine and chatting with my mother throughout the entire speech, I really have no idea what that guy said except that he told us again he would be pushing for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and that social security would be bankrupt by 2047 or something like that and that we don't have an exit strategy for Iraq. Wait, didn't we know all that already? I guess I listened a little bit. And I think that hug between the Iraqi woman and the military wife was staged. (Washington's picked up a few tips from Hollywood since Clinton was in office.)

Anyhoo, let's talk about something more interesting to me. (Because it's MY blog and this is all about ME and MY thoughts, right?)

LA Weekly
's Nikki Finke, a talented and gutsy writer, has written the most self-serving response to Bernie Weinraub's revealing NY Times piece (see previous posting) that perhaps I have ever read. Link to it here, read the piece so you know what I am talking about and then come back: LA Weekly: Columns: Deadline Hollywood: Hollywood Reporters and Gatsby Envy

Finke shares with us that even though she's from old money, Hollywood money doesn't affect her. Unlike Weinraub, she is above all that Hollywood glam; she is perfectly happy in her shabby West Hollywood digs. She wouldn't mind driving a rented Chevy among the Jags and Beemers. No, she is in it for the integrity.

Give me a friggin' break. It's one thing to be above it all when you really are poor and have nothing to fall back on. It's another thing to slum when one plane flight back to the East Coast will win you a grant from Mummy and Daddy.

Actually, I don't know that Finke has access to the family money she boasts about, but even the fact that she mentions it renders her whole insufferable article even more ridiculous. Finke uses Weinraub's revelations to further herself. And if that's not vintage Hollywood, I don't know what is.