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.