Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear BBC…

Every year or so, an Internet quiz starts recirculating, about 100 books the BBC thinks most people have only read six of.  The implication being, of course, that most people are ill-read mental slobs who don’t know which end of a dust jacket to eat their soup with.

And every year or so when I see this quiz pop up again, I take a peek at the latest iteration, which never fails to amuse, amaze, and annoy me.  I have been reading since 1975.  I average 2 or 3 books a month.  And since I math almost as well as I read, that tells me 100 books is a small fraction of what I’ve mentally consumed in my literate lifetime.  So, BBC, here are a few things I would like to tell you about my reading habits and my take on your idea of what people should be reading:

1- I’ve read 22 of the books on your “must read” list.  Please see the above-referenced math and calculate accordingly how many other books I’ve read along with those 22.  Are you saying I would somehow be a better person if I’d read these particular 100 to the exclusion of all those others?

2- I do not like Jane Austen.  Period.  That does not mean I’m illiterate.  It means her work bores the shit out of me.  I even tried Pride & Prejudice & Zombies to see if that would help me get through one of her stories.  It didn’t.

3- When exactly did Harry Potter become great literature?  Because I’m pretty sure that never actually happened.

4- Now, when you say “The Complete Works of Shakespeare”, what exactly do you mean?  Everything Shakespeare ever wrote except Hamlet?  Because you list that separately.  Or do people who have actually read everything WS ever wrote get to count that one twice?

5- On that note, is there a reason you list both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe?  Just wondering if that’s another opportunity for extra credit, since I’m pretty sure anyone who’s read “The Chronicles” has read the first book of The Chronicles.

6- I tried to read A Prayer for Owen Meany.  I got so fucking annoyed with the unending caps lock every time Owen spoke that I finally had to put it down about 80 pages in because it was quite literally giving me headaches from all the jaw clenching I was doing as I tried to get past the feeling of constantly being yelled at by the main character.  I have, however, read The Cider House Rules all the way through, and reached the conclusion that I’m just not much of a John Irving fan.  I will, at some point, read Setting Free the Bears because I’ve heard good things about it from people whose opinions are similar to mine on the subjects of Owen Meany and Cider House, so perhaps all Irving is not yet lost for me.

7- Bridget Jones’s Diary?  Really?  REALLY?  Chick lit about a 20-something who can’t even get her shit together enough to figure out that smoothies have a lot calories is on your list of books that make one a more literate being?  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read it and Edge of Reason and enjoyed them both thoroughly, but they are not great literature by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.  The fact that the main character is British doesn’t change that, much as you might want it to.

8- The Da Vinci Code?  Again, are you serious?  Because again, I read and enjoyed it, but do not put it in the category of “Great Literary Achievements of the All Time History of Ever”.

9- More Jane Austen.  You are fucking killing me here.

10- Since you list separate volumes of certain sets twice, I’m wondering if I get points for books on this list I’ve read more than once?  Because I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird  and Catcher in the Rye twice each, and Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory at least 4 times each.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chiquita’s Amber & Tan Bundt

As many of you are aware, November 15 is National Bundt Day.  This is the third year I’ve observed the day by baking an original recipe Bundt cake, and the third year that there has been a unique emotional circumstance attached to the event.  In 2011, I was on the verge of buying a house and, as I baked my Tiramisu Bundt in my tiny apartment kitchen, I knew it would be one of the last things I baked in the place that had been home for almost 15 years.  2012 brought the Avenging Dark Chocolate Bacon Scourge Bundt of Doom, the result of several sources of frustration and annoyance translating themselves into dessert.

This year, on November 13, I was told by a dear friend that one of the most amazing girls I have ever had the honor of knowing had passed away.

It took about two minutes in Chiquita’s company for her to find the place in my heart that will be hers forever.  In the two months that she lived with us before moving on to her permanent home, that initial bond deepened and grew stronger every day, and as devastating as it was to let her go, I knew she was going to the best place we could ever want for her; lots of space to run now that she was able to run again, a comparably-sized four-legged friend to play with, and a family who would love her every bit as much as we did.  The rest of her life would be good, and for a creature whose life hadn’t always been that way, that was all I asked.

Sadly, the rest of her life was only a year and a half.  But in that year and a half, as in the two months before it, she was loved, and spoiled, and cherished in the way she deserved to be; as one of the sweetest, most gentle souls the Universe has ever seen fit to create.  It was no mistake on the part of her creator that that soul was housed by a body many would shun and fear throughout the course of her too-short life, for simply by being, she was an example, a mind-changer, a lesson in taking a moment to think before you judge.

So, my sweet beautiful girl, this is for you.  As you were never allowed to be during your life, you were in the kitchen with me today.

Chiquita’s Amber & Tan Bundt

The Players

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mace
3/4 cup almond milk
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp + 1 tbsp crystallized ginger
1 cup + 1 tbsp chopped almonds

~ Preheat oven to 350

~ In a small bowl, combine almond milk and 3 tbsp crystallized ginger.  Stir well and set aside.

~ In a medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground mace until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

~ In a small bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

~ In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add egg yolks, vanilla extract, orange extract, and maple syrup.  Remember how much Chiquita loved eggs and try not to cry into bowl.  Realize that this particular bottle of maple syrup was part of a housewarming gift from a friend who was staying with you when you first brought Chiquita home.  Remember how you warned him not to let her on his bed because once there, she would never leave.  Remember how she never left.  Blend ingredients at low speed for about a minute.

A very special bottle of maple syrup

~ Stop pretending you don’t need to go get a tissue.  Go get a tissue.

~ Add almond milk/ginger mixture, and blend at low speed for another minute.

~ Add 1 cup chopped almonds and stir until evenly distributed.

~ Add combined dry ingredients one cup at a time, stirring after each addition, then blend on low until smooth.

~ Fold egg whites into batter.  Do not think about the fact that they’re eggs.

~ Go get another tissue.

~ Pour batter into greased Bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Allow cake to cool in pan while you make the Maple Glaze.

Maple Glaze

1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup maple syrup
Dash of salt

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  When completely melted, add salt, then whisk in flour one teaspoon at a time, making sure mixture is lump-free before adding next teaspoon.  When all the flour is added and blended, add maple syrup and increase heat to high.  Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil and immediately remove from heat.  Continue to stir for 1-2 minutes, allowing mixture to thicken.

~ Turn cake onto plate, and while both are still warm, drizzle glaze over top of cake.  Sprinkle with 1 tbsp crystallized ginger and 1 tbsp chopped almonds.

~ Spend the rest of the day wandering around misty-eyed, remembering a big clumsy girl with a goofy smile, and the way she would pause at the bedroom doorway to pick up whatever shoe might be handy before making her way to the living room in the mornings, and the look on her face the first time she was allowed on the couch, and how she always truly believed she could outrun the water on her coat after a bath.

~ Have a piece of cake for dessert later that evening.  Insist the outrageous plot twist in that CSI: Miami rerun is actually very sad, and that’s all it is.  Go get another tissue.

~ Fall asleep that night knowing your girl is in a better place, where she was never overweight, never had hip troubles, and no one was ever afraid of her just for being a big beautiful pittie.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Next Food Network Star: The Season 9 Recap Rant

You all know how much I love Food Network.  You’re also likely aware how little I hesitate to call them on their shit when I see it.  And as the finale of the latest season of Next Food Network Star approaches, I find myself with plenty of shit to call.

The format of this season of NFNS was scattered at best.  The “mentors” seemed less like mentors and more like judge, jury, and executioner.  I’m sure plenty went on behind the scenes to which I’m not privy, but near as I could tell, they were not grooming stars.  They were throwing into an ocean of options a bunch of people who want to be stars, and seeing how well they could float.

Example: You claim you want food authorities.  Yet people continually referenced notorious alien crime boss Mars Capone when listing ingredients, and no one said a word to correct them.  Allow me to restate that, to make sure you really get it: GIADA FUCKING DE LAURENTIIS stood there and let numerous people mispronounce “mascarpone” on multiple occasions, and never uttered a peep.  That is not mentoring.  I don’t even let my friends get away with that crap.

Oh, on a side note: I know the ratings game necessitates you have your villain in every season, but there are limits.  I find it damn near impossible to believe that anyone is as unmitigatedly cuntish as your careful editing made Danushka Lysek appear, but your presentation of her brought me very close to not watching the show.  Just something to keep in mind when you’re picking out a bad guy next year.

But I digress.  And now, after a season of floundering, flopping, and fuckuppery, much of which seems like it could have been avoided with a bit more guidance from the experts present, it is down to the final 3 contestants and show ideas.

The Final Three: Damaris, Rodney, and Russell

Russell Jackson: Guilty Pleasures

Before I say another word, let me say this; when this NFNS season opened, I was all about Russell.  Seriously.  All.  About.  Russell.  I would have stuck forks in the face of anyone who dared speak a word against him.  I liked his message, I liked his style, I thought that with a bit of coaching he could work through his on-camera awkwardness and go on to great things.  ‘Great things’ in this case being, making a show I would watch.  Then, his message started getting a little mixed, and then a little more, and in his attempts to distill it into something marketable, he lost the part that appealed to me most strongly; the part where he would show us fun decadent sexy food styles that we could re-create in our own kitchens.

His pitch opened with “I go to other people’s restaurants and...”  Red flag, but I was willing to give him the benefit of every possible doubt.  Then I saw his pilot.  He did indeed go to someone else’s restaurant, and tried one of their products, and had wonderful things to say about it.  Okay, you’ve advertised for someone, now show me something I can use.  So he borrowed that restaurant’s kitchen to make his Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream.  I like alcohol and pork products, I can get behind this.

Except.  He is going along, step by step through the process so we can follow, and BLAM!  Straight into the brick wall of liquid nitrogen we run.  Here’s the thing, most home cooks don’t have large tanks of liquid nitrogen in their kitchens.  I know.  I’ve asked for one, many times.  So there’s really no point in explaining your process in detail if you’re just going to have a pretty significant step that I can’t copy.  He then gives the finished ice cream to the restaurant owner and asks if it’s something they might someday consider putting on their menu, and is told yes, that could maybe happen. 

At the end of the show, I’ve seen one product I can’t try because I don’t live where the host restaurant is located, and one product that I can’t buy anywhere yet and can’t make at home because it requires a piece of equipment that I SWEAR TO YOU, MAN OF MINE, WILL HAPPEN SOMEDAY but I do not currently possess.  I’ve watched you do fun stuff, but gleaned nothing useful.  If I want flashy improbable scenarios with a side of sexy, I’ve already got Rex Linn in CSI: Miami reruns

WOULD I WATCH THIS SHOW: Heartbreakingly, no

Rodney Henry: Pie Style

Of the three finalists, Rodney is, in my opinion, the one who would have benefitted most from a firm hand to help rein in his all-over-the-map exuberance and channel his natural energy and charisma.  Because he is fun to watch, but “overly focused” is not something I think any teacher ever had to write on his report card.  After spending the entire season with him, the only conclusion I can reach is that the definition of “pie style” is “whatever the hell I feel like doing, because I’m the one doing it, and I wear cool hats.”  Unfortunately, this is not the kind of conclusion that compels me to watch any show.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Rodney.  There is no doubt in my mind that going out drinking with Rodney is one of the coolest and most anecdote-producing experiences any human being could hope to have.  I’d love to meet the guy.  But that’s not the same as wanting to watch the guy on TV.

His pitch also opened with “I go to other people’s restaurants and...” which is, as previously stated, a huge red flag for me.  But the basic premise, that he goes to other people’s restaurants to taste their signature dishes and turn those dishes into pies, translates far better to a home cook than Russell’s “I go to other people’s restaurants and borrow their kitchens because I can” platform.  I like turning things into other things, and when the other thing is pie, so much the better because you can make two with very little extra work and freeze one for later.

So Rodney is given a dish, a grilled cheese sandwich with all sorts of yumtastic stuff in it, and he turns it into a pie.  The translation from one to the other is pretty literal, a bit more of a personal twist would have been nice, but the personal twist is “it’s now a pie” so I can let that go.  Am I ever likely to turn my grilled cheese sandwiches into pies?  Not really.  But there were a few things he did that made me think.  Like, the original sandwich had nuts and raisins in the bread, so Rodney put nuts and raisins in his pie crust.  Which made me think “hey, I bet adding some golden raisins to the crust next time I bake an apple pie would be really good.”  So, kudos to Rodney for giving me an idea I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  This is why I watch Food Network.

But before I got that idea, and fighting to drive it from my head after it was got, is the loud, extremely boisterous, at times downright manic presence of Rodney himself.  He is absolutely an entertainer, and an awesome one at that.  What makes him difficult to accept as a teacher is how exhausting it can be to pick the useful information out of his presentation.

WOULD I WATCH RODNEY: Yes, but only in small doses
WOULD I WATCH THIS SHOW: Yes.  Because it’s pie, which has been scientifically proven superior to all other foods

Damaris Phillips: Eat Date Love

I am actually surprised that Damaris made it as far in the competition as she did, but in that “please please PLEASE you can do it just hang on you can DO THIS” weekly internalized prayer meeting kind of way, rather than that “what the hell is she even doing here?” kind of way.  I wanted Damaris to grow and develop and focus and hone her natural charm and awkwardness into something that would force the FN execs to see just how marketable she really is, and that happened.  And it made me happy.

Her pitch was “I’ll teach guys how to cook so they can impress women”.  Right there, she is ahead of Russell and Rodney because of two little words: I’ll teach.  I don’t recall hearing anything about teaching in either of the boys’ presentations.

And as someone who, while in the throes of the worst flu this side of bubonic plague, was once told by her well-meaning and always supportive guy, “I can make you anything you want for dinner, as long as you want bacon and eggs”, this idea of teaching guys how to cook specifically for their women struck a spectacularly melodic personal chord.

So, we have a show I can get behind completely, hosted by a woman I find almost ridiculously adorable.  Aside from her imparting useful information, I know there will be that moment in every episode when she puts her foot in her mouth, backtracks to try to cover whatever awkward thing she just said, makes it even worse in the process, and is laughing right along with us at her own slightly risqué clumsiness.  Half the fun of watching the show will be waiting for that to happen.

And there will be sweet potatoes.  Oh yes.  There will be sweet potatoes.


There it was.  After careful evaluation of not only the personalities but the shows themselves, I am brought to the conclusion that there is only one place my vote can go, and that is to Damaris.  Russell, Rodney, please forgive me.

So off I went to cast my vote.

Except, in order to vote, I have a choice between giving Food Network a piece of information that is none of their damn business, or giving them other information that is even less of their damn business.  Yes, I can only vote by letting them know my phone number, or giving them access to my Facebook profile.  Neither of those things is going to happen, so I ended up not voting.

Congratulations, Food Network.  I thought you dropped the NFNS ball with your handling of Justin Warner.  Turns out you were just getting started.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Solicitation: How to Get What You Want from Women in Their Underwear Without Pissing Them Off

Late last year, I was approached by the editor of a magazine and asked if I would consider submitting some photos.  This editor and I have a number of mutual acquaintances, one of whom is a good friend of mine so, on the strength of that, I happily agreed.

Thus began an ongoing communication, during which I shot not one but two sets for the magazine, both of which I agreed to keep exclusive until after they had been published, and made sure I kept the editor apprised of the progress of both shoots as progress was made.  No specifics beyond general themes were ever discussed, but since this editor came to me based on the work in my portfolio that he had already seen, he knew my style.  The photos were submitted well before the deadline for the issue, and when emails were sent out to let contributors know which high-resolution images needed to be sent, I found out that one image from one set would be published, and the submission of the second set was not even acknowledged.

Flash forward a few months, and a dear friend of mine finds herself in an almost identical situation, with a different magazine; approached by the editor, asked to submit a photo set based on the strength of her portfolio with only a very general description of what they’d like to see, time and money spent on the shoot, photos kept exclusive and submitted well within the required timeframe and, after several attempts to find out the status of publication, finally given only a lukewarm “maybe” as to whether they’ll ever be used.

I’m not going to say, now or ever, that any editor is obligated under any circumstances to guarantee publication of unseen work, regardless of who initiated the contact.  The editor’s job is to make sure all work published is in keeping with the quality and overall image of the magazine and, until you’ve seen the pictures, you can’t know they meet the criteria.  So my issue with the above mentioned situations is not that the photos asked for weren’t used.  My issue is with the communication, or rather lack thereof, from the editors’ sides.

In both of the above situations, the burden was on those editors to let me and my friend know as soon as possible that the work submitted was not what the magazine was hoping for.  A simple “you know, I appreciate you taking the time to do this, but it isn’t quite what we’re looking for” would have been fine.  A simple “you know, we’d love to see a set from you in a bar-type setting with mood lighting and a sheer black robe” prior to the shoot actually taking place would have been even better.  What is not at all even a little bit okay is “just send something Christmas-y” or “we’d like photos of you wearing red lipstick” and then leaving the model hanging for an answer, or ignoring the submission altogether.

I do not consider myself the be-all and end-all of magazine editors, far from it.  But I know what I want and I know the only way I’m ever going to get it is to ask for it, clearly and concisely, from the people I think are most likely to be able to provide it.  Case in point: I received a cover art submission for an upcoming issue that was almost what we want.  I emailed both the model and photographer and said “can you redo this same concept, making these changes and adding this?”  They said “hell yes we can!” and I have no doubt that we’re going to have an amazing cover that is exactly what we want.

Communication.  Is.  Key.

And it’s not actually all that painful.  Editors don’t like sending out rejection emails any more than contributors like receiving them, but you know something weird?  I’ve lost count of how many emails I’ve received over the past year from people who have sent work that is not in keeping with what we publish, thanking me for taking the time to let them know we wouldn’t be using their submissions.  They’re not thanking me for turning them down, because that would be silly and masochistic, but they are thanking me for not just letting their hard work vanish into a black hole of sent-and-never-answered emails.

To anyone who takes the bullshit line of not having time to reply to all submissions, no.  Just... no.  If you have time to ask for submissions, and time to profit from other people’s work, you have time to create a form letter that you can cut and paste as a reply to work that you don’t want to use.

Rejections are like band-aids.  A quick and clean rip that stings for a second is far better for everyone than ignoring it until the adhesive rots and it falls off on its own and lands you don’t even know where until it gets caught in the vacuum cleaner belt and starts to smoke and stinks up the entire room.

Unsolicited submissions to open calls deserve at least the token formality of a standardized rejection notice.  Solicited submissions?  Yes, those deserve considerably more.  If you ask someone for something, you are placing two burdens of responsibility on yourself.  First, that you communicate your requirements clearly.  Second, if you do not communicate your requirements clearly, and leave the details up to someone else, that if the end result is not what you had in mind, you at least have a big enough pair to let the person who did the work know you won’t be using it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Small Boobs Are Awesome

Among other endeavors in the pinup community, I am part of a panel that judges a monthly photo contest.  There are five of us, and our group goes by the name Tits On A Unicorn.  We run a page on Facebook that has two regular features, the Daily Unicorn and the Daily Bazoombas.  The Daily Bazoombas feature is open to any woman who wants to submit a photo, and the photos are, well, boob-emphatic.  The lady who handles the scheduling for the feature wanted a St. Patrick’s Day-themed photo, so I sent her this one to have on hand in case no others were submitted.

In the email, I told my dear uni-sister that if another photo were sent in that she would prefer to use, to please go ahead and use it, this was a just-in-case submission so we’d have the holiday covered.  I am well aware and will be the first to admit that I am not a boob pinup.  I can pad, push up, lean and bluff my way through boob shots when necessary, but they’re not my real strength.  I am a leg & butt pinup, and am perfectly fine with that, in fact rather proud of it.

This is what I do best

The photo was posted on the page, and received the following comment:

“Humm... are a bit small, but I like them”

A bit of a kerfuffle followed and was quickly smoothed over, when one of the ladies on the panel jumped to the defense of my girls and the original commenter stated that he hadn’t meant any offense, just that we usually post larger-breasted women in the feature.  Which is true, we do.  We post every photo that is submitted, and encourage women of all shapes and sizes who are of a mind to share their boobs for appreciation in our boob-friendly community.

But here’s the problem; it isn’t that smaller-breasted women don’t want to celebrate their boobs, it’s that most of them feel they don’t have a pair worth celebrating.  The majority of the submissions we receive for this feature are from large-breasted women because “bigger is better” is accepted as the standard by which boob worth is measured, and those women have been made aware from the time they developed them that their large breasts are great.  Comments like the one posted above, while not intended to be offensive, in truth intended as a compliment, are part of the problem.  It’s not that he pointed out the obvious, that I have small boobs.   It’s the inclusion of the word “but”, implying that liking small boobs is somehow exceptional.

It is not.  At least, it shouldn’t be.  Because small boobs are awesome, and here are just some of the reasons why:


I hear large-breasted women complain constantly about the difficulties they have finding bras that fit and, when they do find them, they’re seldom the pretty lacy girly ones.  I wear a 36B.  I doubt there is a bra manufactured on this planet that isn’t available in my size.  I have never had a problem finding bras, and I’ve never had to deal with the price bump that seems to be integral to purchasing anything larger than a D cup.

And sports bras?  I am golden.  I can buy those in the children’s department.


It is rumored that, over time, all boobs eventually find themselves doomed to show the effects of constant downward pull, and there is only so much that good muscle tone and underwires can fight.

Or is there?  These are my boobs, from the age of 19 to the age of 43.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any appreciable difference in the distance between them and my bellybutton over the course of almost 25 years.

Small Boobs: The Decades-Spanning Non-Sagging Saga

Maybe when I’m 50, that will change.  Or maybe it won’t.


No matter how you arrange them, large boobs are going to have skin-on-skin contact somewhere, it’s just a matter of whether it’s between or beneath, and that means a higher likelihood of sweat and irritated skin.  Unless you put them in a serious lift & separate sling, which just creates a larger ratio of skin-to-fabric contact and doesn’t help matters much when you’re already dealing with being overheated.  We small-boobed women don’t have this problem nearly as much, and most of us have the option of going braless on particularly hot days.


Okay, not all the time, but the likelihood is greater that they might.

It’s really easy to find reasons to not like your body, to think you’re too heavy or too skinny or your boobs are too small or your ass is too big or your legs are too short or or or or or.  There will never be a day when you will have difficulty finding something to dislike about yourself if you want to try.  The good news is, with the same amount of effort, you can find something to like, and a damn good reason to like it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go organize my collection of $9 sports bras.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dear Food Network: HUGE Mistake

Dear Food Network,

Allow me to introduce myself.  I am a woman in my forties, a full-time homemaker with a comfortable middle-class income and a love of cooking.  Sound like a demographic you’d be interested in targeting?  I thought so.

Yes, I am your customer.  And I wish there were a nicer way to put this, but there isn’t; you have just done something that I consider unbelievably stupid.  That something is Justin Warner’s Rebel Eats.

When the last season of The Next Food Network Star aired, there was little doubt in my mind that Justin would emerge triumphant.  The kid has it all.  He’s adorable without being intimidatingly male-model perfect, he’s quirky without being off-puttingly odd, he’s funny, he’s smart, he’s imaginative, he’s everything you could have hoped for.

In short, he is a gold mine.  A gold mine that, instead of prospecting, you decided to shaft.

In addition to the specifics mentioned in my introductory paragraph, I also have a functioning vehicle, a valid driver’s license, table manners well-developed enough to allow me to eat in public without getting arrested, and a debit card.  I don’t need a show that tells me how to drive around, buy food from other people, and eat it in their restaurants.  I am already equipped to do that, and even if I wasn’t, you already air that show several times a week.  How can you possibly think shoehorning a new face and voice into an already overdone format is a good idea?

Particularly when the face and voice in question are as unique as this kid’s.  Justin Warner is the last person I want to see shilling other people’s food.  Because I want to see Justin Warner’s food.  He’s fun to watch, largely because I don’t know what he’s going to come up with next but I do know that, whatever it is, chances are it will be something I never would have thought of on my own.  Which is saying more than you might think because I am not at all afraid to let things get weird in my kitchen.

That's Chocolate Chicken with Blueberry Cayenne Sauce.
That's what I do when I'm bored.

He’s also fun to watch because he’s having fun when he’s cooking, and it shows.  A lot.  He clearly loves what he does, and that goes a long way in convincing viewers to love what he does.  Will he love driving around letting other people do the cooking?  Maybe.  Will he love it as much as he loves doing his own cooking?  Unlikely.  Will he love it so much that I will be compelled, week after week, to tune in to watch him not teach me a damn thing?  No.

There’s two strikes against your new project.  First, you are making a show that you’ve already made, one that in small doses can be entertaining but is not what anyone would call particularly instructional.  Yes, you are in the entertainment industry, but your niche is educational entertainment.  No one ever watched MacGyver expecting to someday rescue their great aunt from a bank-robbery-turned-hostage-situation using nothing but a palm frond, a Q-tip and half a can of flat Pepsi, but they do expect to learn something about what can and should go on in their own kitchens when watching The Food Network.  So there is a limit to how much “here’s how to go eat food in a restaurant” programming you can reasonably expect your audience to sit through, and you have enough already.

Second, in order to remake this show you’ve already made, you are taking a talent out of his element and, frankly, just wasting him.  You don’t take someone whose love of wacky experimental cooking shines through every morsel he makes and every word he says, and put him on the road to talk about other people’s food.  You put him in a kitchen and let him go crazy.  And let us go crazy along with him.

Now, before you start to think I’m just here to complain, rest assured that is not my style.  I try very hard to not be the kind of person who says “here is a problem” if I can’t follow that assertion with “here are some possible solutions”.  Here are two ways in which I, as a viewer, think the package that is Justin Warner could be best utilized.

1) Improv Cooking

This is actually a suggestion from my best friend, Jerry over at Muddled Ramblings, that I think is awesome.  You put Justin in a kitchen stocked with random ingredients suggested by viewers, with absolutely no idea what he’ll have to work with, and let him work with it.  The element of surprise would work beautifully with his style because he is the element of surprise.  For added twists, throw a couple of extra required ingredients at him mid-show.  It will be fun to watch, it will be something viewers can relate to because we’ve all been in the place where you just have to figure out a meal with whatever random crap happens to be in the cupboards that day, and by letting the audience suggest the ingredients, you earn points on two levels: 1, they feel involved and will watch to see what their suggestions turn into, and 2, they will very likely suggest things they have in their own kitchens, and consequently learn something new that can be done with those things.

2) Dorm Cooking

You have a guy who looks like he could still be in college, and you have a demographic that desperately needs to learn how to cook, guys who actually are in college.  Put together a show that focuses on limited space, limited cooking facilities, and limited cash.  Raw food recipes, things that can be cooked in a microwave or on a hot plate, things that will impress girls, things that are not pizza.  A cross between Poor Girl Eats Well, and Recipes That Will Get You Laid sans nudity and profanity.  You could do an entire month of episodes about ramen noodles alone.  And all of this is information that will translate to boarding houses, small apartments, etc., it doesn’t end with college guys.  I would watch that show.  Even though I don’t want or need to cook at that level, I would still watch that show because 1, it has the potential to be funny as hell with someone like Justin hosting it and 2, it would teach me something I currently don’t even know that I don’t know, I’m sure it would.

Just a few thoughts.  Take from them what you will, but please, stop putting guys on the road.

With sincerest hopes that you will reconsider wasting your talent & my time,
A Loyal Viewer

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Adventures in Shopping: Washing Machines

I was 42 years old before I ever needed to buy any major appliances.  For most of my adult life, I rented an apartment that had a fridge included and a laundry room on site, and prior to that I lived with my parents, where my input on the purchase of such things was limited to the occasional “I like the green one better”.

Then we bought a house.  This particular house also had a fridge included (a really nice one, too; thank you, previous owners), but we did need a washer & dryer.  And since our household setup is based on the somewhat old-fashioned model of him earning the money and me spending it, the task of selecting, purchasing, and arranging for delivery of said appliances settled on my full-time-homemaking shoulders.

Which was cool because, frankly, I love that kind of stuff.  The thrill of the chase and what have you.  The bigger the prey, the greater the satisfaction when it is brought down.

I began with a short list of requirements.  For the washer; top-loading (I have a completely irrational paranoia of front-loading washers), high-efficiency (because I’m a tree-hugging “California-is-in-a-constant-state-of-drought”-raised hippie at heart), and able to fit in the space allotted to it and the dryer.  For the dryer; the one that matched the washer.

I found a washer that met all of my requirements and was within the price range I had set for myself, and then began the next step in the selection process, the reading of reviews.  For the most part, they were generically positive.  Then I came to this one-star review:

“This washer doesn’t get clothes clean.  They look clean, and they feel clean, and they smell clean, but they are not clean.”

A pause-worthy review if ever there was one because, based on the number of senses left to offend, I could only surmise that my clothes would either taste funny or start saying mean things about me behind my back if I subjected them to the processes of this machine.

Conclusion: Neither of those things, should they occur, would be the fault of the washer.

Still feeling the need for reassurance, I continued reading, until I came to this review:

“My husband likes this washer because the control panel looks and sounds like a video game.”


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Those Are Not “Free” Magazines

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I have extremely mixed feelings about the print-on-demand magazine industry.  On the one hand, it provides an outlet for creative people to do some amazing work with no financial outlay.  On the other hand, that very lack of required financial commitment has created some rather callous attitudes among people who now claim the title of “editor”.

One recurring statement from these editors drives me particularly crazy, that they do not give “free” magazines to contributors.  And yes, they usually do put the word ‘free’ in quotes, whether for emphasis or irony I’m not sure.  In one distinctly memorable case, a magazine’s submission guidelines stated quite emphatically “we do NOT give out free magazines, so DON’T ASK”.  This is the attitude I have a problem with.

There is a difference between a contributor copy and a free magazine.  Free magazines are copies that you give to your mom, your best friend, or maybe a vendor that you would like to see carrying your publication so they can take a look at what you’re asking them to sell.  In other words, they are product given to people who did not in any way have anything to do with the creation of the product.

Contributor copies are product given to people whose work was crucial to the creation of the product, without which there would be no product.

See how those things are different?

Now, before you get the idea that I think all print-on-demand magazines are Satan’s work and the creators of them should perish in a fire fueled by the very paper their evil is printed on, let me assure you that is not the case.  A lot of really talented people are using the available print-on-demand technology to do a lot of really good work, I applaud them for it and I don’t want to see that change.  What needs to change is the “free” magazine attitude.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Say an issue of your magazine is 60 pages.  To keep it simple, we’ll estimate layout time of 20 minutes per page.  Some may take longer than that, some may take considerably less time, but for the sake of discussion we’ll use 20 hours as the total time to complete the layout.  Add to that another 20 hours of reviewing submissions, and another 20 hours of chasing down hi-res photos, releases, miscellaneous nuts & bolts and legal crap, etc., and you have 60 hours total assembly time for a 60 page magazine.  That’s a week and a half at a full-time job and, using California minimum wage for an example base, we’ll say has a cash value of $600.

Now, say this issue of your magazine has 60 photos from 30 different contributors.  Each of those photos has a photographer, whose time we’ll value at $50 an hour for a two hour session, and a model, whose time we’ll go ahead and stick with CA minimum wage for a total of $20.  Somebody had to drive somewhere, so we’ll throw in another $20 for expenses.  Wardrobe, hair, and makeup, we’ll estimate another $50.  That’s $190 worth of work, from 30 different sets of people.

For a total of $5700 worth of content.  For your magazine.  From which no one will profit but you.

If you are creating a magazine via print-on-demand, your business model likely does not allow for the purchase and distribution of contributor copies.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But you need to say “we are not able to provide contributor copies” rather than “we do not give away free magazines”.  Because saying you do not give away free magazines implies that the people who might want them, the people providing the content without which you would have no magazine, have done nothing to earn them, and that is just not the case.

Most people don’t have the money it usually takes to start a magazine.  That’s fine.  Print-on-demand has provided the means to bypass that obstacle.  However, it costs you nothing to show a little respect for the people who are helping to make your creative dream a reality.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Large-Breasted Geek Phenomenon: Some Theories

I have a dear friend who is, hands down, the most dedicated geek I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, Comic-Con, WoW, you name it, she’s into it to a degree I find not only endearing but fascinating in its dedication.

She also has really large breasts.  And apparently, there are women who believe these things cannot exist simultaneously in a single being, so they insist either the breasts are fake or the geekery must be.

I know for a fact both of these things are genuine in this particular woman, and I also know there are others like her in the world.  Which begs the question, where does the large-breasted geek come from?  How is she formed, in what environment does she thrive?  After careful thought, I have come up with three possible theories to explain her.


Many naturally large-breasted women get really fucking tired of constantly being hit on, leered at, and otherwise made to feel like they are nothing but a great pair of tits that happens to have a voice and brain attached.  At a young age, a lot of them discover the easiest way to avoid this treatment is gravitating toward the guys who are too shy, awkward, and/or insecure to behave in this manner; the geeks.  By inhabiting a social circle predominantly geek-like in its interests, these interests are absorbed.


Many brothers of naturally large-breasted women get really fucking tired of seeing their sisters constantly being hit on, leered at, and otherwise made to feel like they are nothing but a great pair of tits that happens to have a voice and brain attached.  To combat this, they may choose to be a larger and more dominant presence in their sisters' lives than they might be otherwise.  Consequently, the sisters will be exposed to many more interests that are considered traditionally “male”, such as sports and geekery, and develop a fondness for those interests as a result of not only constant exposure but the sense of family bonding associated with sharing them.


Brain development and breast development occur completely independently, and these two things actually don’t have a damn thing to do with one another.  Get over it, and if you want bigger boobs, go buy some.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Things That Are Not Plagiarism

Few things on the Internet bug me more, as an editor, an artist, and a human being who loves language enough to want to see it used properly, than the constant throwing around of accusations of plagiarism by people who don't seem to have taken the time to learn what that word actually means.

Plagiarism is when someone takes someone else’s original work and claims it as their own, either intact or after making only very minor alterations that leave it still recognizable as the original work.  For instance, if I were to post this

“Faith is the downy thing
That lands upon the heart
And dances a dance without a beat
Missing time apart”

as an original work by Harlean Carpenter, that would be plagiarism because, for any of you not familiar with it, this

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all”

is by Emily Dickinson.  Anyone familiar with the original would see immediately that I had ripped her off, blatantly.  And badly, but give me a break, that’s just something I dashed off to prove a point.

The following two things, the most common of the completely false accusations I see, are not plagiarism:

Someone buying a copy of your book and then selling it is not plagiarism, it is reselling.  If they took a marker, blacked out your name, wrote their own in its place and then sold it, that would be plagiarism.  And stupid, that would also be really really stupid.  But just selling something they own is not a crime.

Someone sharing your Facebook/Myspace/Twitter posts is also not plagiarism, and frankly it blows my mind that anyone would think it is, but apparently a lot of people do think just that.  So, to clarify for those people... no.  If you post something in a public forum, and someone shares it in the same public forum with your name still on it, that is not any kind of plagiarism.  I'm sorry if you don’t like the opinion of your comment/status/tweet they may have added upon sharing it, but that does not make them plagiarists.  It might make them assholes, but last time I checked that's still legal in most states.

Plagiarism is a huge concern in any creative field, and every time someone throws the word where it doesn't apply, it only makes it more difficult for the actual offenses to be taken as seriously as they should be.  So, boys and girls, next time you want to accuse someone of something, make sure what you're accusing them of is what they're actually doing.