Monday, April 28, 2008

Context is Everything

When I originally wrote about Evan and Gareth's "Cop Nation" spoof, the post looked like this:
Yay! Sketch comedy writers Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds, after years of toiling with internet shorts, finally get their own network show on the CW! Look for the ads in this clip from Gossip Girl. Be sure to watch to the end!
It seems that shortly after I saw this on their MySpace page, G4 featured the video on Attack of the Show so I got a lot of page views yesterday. One commenter said "Pretty sure that the whole thing was a sketch, and that you shouldn't be watching satire and tooting the horn at the same time."

I'm pretty sure anonymous knew I knew it was a satire of all those distracting "swipe" ads (and it is, obviously a spoof, not a real show, if you watch it through the end). But I don't think that's what he was complaining about. He was complaining about my setup.

The original description and set up on E&G's MySpace page was
These ads are getting out of hand!
Caught this on Gossip Girl the other night, WTF?!?!
With jokes, everyone thinks about the punchline. In this case, I belatedly realized, the description on Viddler and MySpace, was not just an intro but the setup for the joke. The video without the right context is not as funny, and their original setup is better than mine--which is why they are the comedy writers and I am not. In fact, my setup might just disappoint some E&G fans who might be looking forward to the Thursday night debut of Cop Nation--as a fan, I was getting ready to relapse into TV watching just for them, until I got halfway through.

Thanks to anonymous, I have since changed my original post and don't embed the video anymore, because it does take it out of context.

The creators have now posted the video on YouTube as well, and it looks like they are still tinkering with their setup--there, the intro is slightly different--better I think:
These ads are getting out of hand!
How ridiculous are all those mid-show promo ads for other tv shows?!
The Colbert Report got it's start as a fake ad on The Daily Show--let's hope Evan and Gareth get to do this show for real one day. Are you listening, CW?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Here Comes Another Bubble" Nominated for a Webbie

Who cares about the election in November--voting for the 2008 Webbies closes May 1!

Register today and vote for your favorite websites, interactive advertising, and online film and video.

I am biased, but I think The Richter Scales "Here Comes Another Bubble," featured in one of my first posts, should win for Best Viral Video.

Haven't seen it? Take a look:

Cop Nation!

Here's the latest video from sketch comedy writers Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds. Be sure to watch to the end!

(note: In response to a comment, I've edited this post since I originally posted it. Here's why.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Big Fat Brains Behind You Suck at Photoshop

I first became aware of MyDamnChannel when my husband forwarded me "You Suck At Photoshop." It appeared to be a Photoshop tutorial by someone named Donnie Hoyle, a graphic design know-it-all with a failing marriage determined to school our sorry asses in the intricacies of digital photo manipulation, but was the funniest how-to lesson ever created.

Most of the content on MyDamnChannel is from celebrities, albeit, not well known, mainstream celebrities: Harry Shearer, Don Was, Andy Milonakis, Coolio, and David Wain. However, YSAP was created by someone or something called Big Fat Brain. Who the heck were these guys?

Whoever it was, it was not Dane Cook, as some speculated, unless he learned to use of filters and curves at correspondence school. As funny as it was, Big Fat Brain was not just a comedian; he clearly knew his way around the Photoshop.

As it turns out, Matt Bledsoe and Troy Hitch, the designers of MyDamnChannel's website were also the behind-the-scenes content creators Big Fat Brain; here's an April 24 Time article on how they got started.

So although MyDamnChannel was created to showcase the work of known celebrities, their first viral hit was created by complete unknowns. How big a hit has YSAP been for the fledgling web network? For comparison, take next most popular on the site, Wainy Days, which is kind of like Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Sex in the City, starring David Wain of the sketch comedy show The State. His online show features celebrity friends (Michael Ian Black from The State, Paul Rudd from Anchorman, Elizabeth Banks from the 40 Year Old Virgin, Rashida Jones from The Office, and Jonah Hill from Superbad) but has far fewer viewers, total and by episode, than an YSAP; by my calculations today, a Wainy Days episode garnered an average of 28,343 hits at MyDamnChannel, while the average episode of YSAP was seen by 156,041 viewers.

(graph not created by Photoshop; yes I suck)

That's twice as many eyeballs with half as many episodes, not even counting the views on YouTube, which are about four times as large. Collectively, the ten episodes have earned 7.7 million hits in four months, or 1.9 million hits a month. As I discovered in researching my post "Funny Man, Straight Man--No Middle Man?" that's well above the 50,000 to 100,000 hits a month it takes for quality advertisers to take an interest.

So instead of celebrities drawing people to a network which might feature work by lesser known talent, the opposite has happened. In fact, it was only because of YSAP that I even became aware of David Wain. Boy, did MyDamnChannel luck out.

As for YSAP, the tutorial series ended with episode 10: Donnie runs from the law after his ex-wife sends a SWAT team to evict him from the house. This has spun off a new series: Sn4tchbuckl3r's Second Chance, featuring Donnie's World of Warcraft friend, Snatchbuckler. Deeply affected by Donnie's disappearance, Snatchbuckler has quit gaming and joined Peopleberg, a SecondLife-like virtual support community for gamers facing their addiction.

Given that there are more gamers in the world than Photoshop geeks (not to mention media addicts like myself), let's hope Snatchbuckler's Second Chance is even more successful and that Big Fat Brain has re-upped for a Big Fat Paycheck.

Here's the first ep:

Mystery Solved: Who Were Those A&F Guys?

I wasn't the only one who blogged or commented about those guys behind Obama during his concession speech in Evansville, PA on Tuesday night wearing Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts. The blogosphere lit up, even drawing in Conan O'Brian to comment on the "Background Jackass of the Day."

I was surprised I was in the minority when it came to the theories as to why they were there. A few said that the "Obama brand" and A&F both happen to be popular among a younger demographic, so it was a coincidence. The majority of the blogs that night speculated that the Obama campaign had placed those guys behind Obama to appeal to younger voters, or had been paid by A&F for the product placement (Some blogs even went so far as to say the campaign wanted to appeal to males who, shall we say, might appreciate an A&F catalog full of buff models who didn't actually wear any of A&F's t-shirts, or anything for that matter).

That never crossed my mind, given that Obama already has the youth vote and has stated that his challenge will be winning over the elderly. Only a few people thought, as I did, that A&F had infiltrated the event as a marketing ploy, something A&F's spokesperson immediately denied.

Well, everyone was wrong, and right, at the same time. CNN interviewed brothers Brian and Brandon Ferguson, and their friend Cole Marker on Friday. Apparently, Marker is an Obama supporter and asked his friends the Fergusons, who were undecided and unregistered, if they wanted to go to the event. Marker happens to work at a local A&F store and gave his friends the shirts, but it wasn't something driven by corporate headquarters and he swears it wasn't deliberate. As to their placement, the campaign had asked a large group of people if they wanted to sit behind Obama--the three friends just happened to line up right behind the podium.

As to the part which irritated me the most, which was their blank stares and distracted behavior, including talking to each other and on their cell phones, Marker say they just couldn't hear the speech and Brandon Ferguson says he just answered his phone on instinct. They've been reading the blogs and Brian Ferguson says it's been "the most stressful week ever."

My post was mostly criticizing A&F, and while I doubt they read this blog, sorry dudes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Turn Off TV Life

Of all the things for me to miss writing about--it's Turn Off TV Week and we're already half way through it. Of course, for me it's been Turn Off TV Winter and Spring. I was reminded about this on public radio (who else would remind me, the Today Show?) on Monday but haven't had a chance to write about it.

It's interesting, the organization behind this is no longer just about turning off the TV--it's sponsored by the Center for Screentime Awareness. I understand. I used to complain that I could get sucked into a whole Saturday in front of reruns of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, but I have also gotten sucked into clicking link after random link all day long. But I'll trade internet addiction for TV addiction any day.

It's only fitting that the CSA has a terrible website. The fact that this week is Turn Off TV Week is not emblazoned on their homepage--you have to make two clicks before you can find out that it is scheduled for April 21-27, 2008.

What more can I say about turning off the TV other than what I wrote about in my initial posts about why I quit TV and what it was like for the first few weeks? I think some people can have a healthy relationship with TV but I'm not one of them. If I could watch TV, I would try to follow these nine tips to make TV-watching a source of happiness. But I don't want to go beyond the rules I made for myself--they allow me to structure my media exposure without going overboard in either direction.

My name is Steadof, and I have been sober of TV for 109 days.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Abercrombie and Fitch take Over Obama Speech

I am on a business trip but I have CNN running on mute on the TV while I'm working. (watching TV while I'm away from home is a loophole to my No TV rule). Obama is giving a speech and I was noticing the three frat boys behind him. I mean not to generalize about frat boys, but they're the right age, they look all tanned from spring break, have those sideburns and jock shoulders, and they are all wearing t-shirts. I mean, I knew that Obama does well with white males, to the point that some women, even women who support Obama, are getting annoyed when Obama boys go off on vaguely misogynistic rants on Hillary.

And then I noticed they were ALL wearing Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts. Come on A&F. I know Obama has your youth demographic, but this is just tacky. Could it really be that three guys really love A&F so much and just happened to line up behind him, or did you send your street team here? Lame, lame, lame!! A&F, with their lily-white catalogs and racist t-shirts, are the opposite of the multicultural ideal that Obama espouses and represents. And hawking your t-shirts on a nationally televised event for free advertising is worse than advertising bail bonds by standing outside the Today Show.

Monday, April 21, 2008

One Degree: Going on a Hiatus

I am not tapped out of celebrity movie role trivia, but I am tapped out of topical, interesting celebrity movie role trivia. I could challenge you to name the two movies that Romola Garai and Benedict Cumberbatch are in together (I am not making this up--these are the real names of two British actors have appeared in two major motion pictures in the last year and a half), but few people would be able to do this without Google.

So, when a new movie is coming out and the actors have appeared together before in a non-obvious way (i.e. no Judd Apatow movies because his stable of actors always appear together), I will resurrect this column.

Before I put this on hiatus, an answer to last week's One Degree, as there may be more than one. This summer, the ultimate chick flick, spawned from a throw away line from Sex in the City, is He's Just Not That Into You. Comedy veterans Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Gennifer Goodwin and Justin Long have never appeared in the same movie together, but have no more than a two or three degree separation, when you count romantic links.

But my mind would not rest until I found a connection for their co-star Jennifer Connelly--curse her lack of romantic comedy experience, I couldn't fall asleep for an hour! Neither she, nor her husband Paul Bettany, who she met while filming A Beautiful Mind, had appeared with any of these folks before.

For a while, the best I could come up with was Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer with Bill Campbell, who was in Enough with Jennifer Lopez, who dated Ben Affleck. But that's three degrees so I kept working at it. My best answer is:

Jennifer Connelly was in The Hulk with Eric Bana, who was in Lucky You with Drew Barrymore.

However, computers will do this so much better: Here is what the Oracle of Bacon has to say:

The Oracle says: Aniston has a Connolly, Jennifer (II) number of 2.

Jennifer Aniston was in Picture Perfect (1997) with Greg Grunberg (I)
Greg Grunberg (I) was in Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil (1993) with Jennifer Connolly (II)

And in fact, Drew, Ginnifer, Ben, and Justin, are all connected to Jennifer by a degree of three via one actor--Greg Grunberg, star of an earlier One Degree. Perhaps Greg Grunberg is the Kevin Bacon of the new millennium?

And since One Degree is taking a vacation for an undetermined length, here are the 1000 most connected actors in Hollywood to keep you going-Greg's got a long way to go.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Saddest Commercials in the World

Forget cutting onions--just watch a Thai Life Insurance Company commercials if you want instant waterworks. Here are four, in order of increasing potency. The last commercial won a Clio in 2004 and was produced by Ogilvy & Mather, Bangkok. Officially, it is titled "Peace of Mind" but you'll find it on YouTube listed as "Daddy." Could American companies get away with commercials this over the top?

I Want More Time

My Girl

Marry Me


Always Strive for the Best

A father caterpillar encourages his son to be a gourmand in this Japanese tea commercial.

Funny Man, Straight Man--No Middle Man?

For decades, comedians with dreams of fame and money labored for years in improv troupes across the country, hoping to get picked up by Saturday Night Live. Today however, more comedians are turning directly to the web to make a name for themselves.

Case in point: "Tom Cruise is a C**kblock" (as the title implies, this is not safe for work, but overall, it is PG-13).

So are actors Evan Ferrante, Ross Kohn and Ed Stein, and director Richie Keen headed for online immortality and profit? If they did want to turn their online videos into a business, they’ve got some work ahead of them. In the article "Online Fame Easy, Ads Harder to Get" at TV Week, Dina Kaplan of video sharing site says that to attract quality advertisers, a site has to get between 50,000 to 100,000 views per month and creators shouldn't even think about quitting their day job until they hit 500,000 a month.

There are only a few sites that have done this. Ask a Ninja, featuring Douglas Sarine as an assassin answer-man, started as a single video in November 2005. It could have remained a quirky show followed by a few friends, but the podcast was featured on iTunes, and gained 12,000 subscribers in one week, tuning in to see Ninja’s manic and random answers to viewer-submitted questions--for instance, the answer to "What is a Podcast?" is "apple pie for whales."

About a year later, Sarine and Nichols decided to make money off their hungry viewership, not from paid subscriptions but from ads. They started posting their videos on Revver, which splits ad revenues with creators 50-50, and earned over $40,000 in eight months. This in turn attracted Federated Media, which signed them to a seven-figure ad deal in January 2007.

Now they have their own Ask a Ninja site.In an interview last June with NPR, they stated they have more viewers than Adult Swim, the nighttime persona of the Cartoon Network, for the same young male demographic. By December, they had amassed 70 million views, and now average 2.7 million views a month and $100,000 a month from ads and merchandise sales.

Since established stars have more lucrative projects, very few name-brand talents have an entire site dedicated to themselves, nor would they prolific enough to create a steady stream of videos in their free time. In this case, banding together on an internet channel that they can use to promote their latest project or make a few bucks makes sense. My Damn Channel features Andy Milonakis, David Wain of the afore mentioned show The State, and Harry Shearer of The Simpsons in their own weekly shows. Funny or Die features comedic shorts by both name and unnamed talent and got a huge boost when SNL alumnus Will Ferrell and director Judd Apatow signed up, followed by videos from their celebrity friends.

So in general, only celebrities are paid upfront to create content or generate ad revenue. Unless they want to work behind the scenes as writers first (As Tina Fey and Conan O'Brian did for many years), upstarts will need to establish their audience first before they can get noticed by either Hollywood or advertising networks. They'll also need to keep the content flowing--one hit isn't enough.

That's exactly the approach these comedians are taking--here are some names to watch (though not at work, as many of their sketches are off color)

Jon LaJoie, with his Everyday Normal Guy rap keeps coming back with more topical skits.

Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds: They seem to have been trying for a while to break into comedy writing and acting, even doing internet shorts for Axe Bodyspray, and each getting acting gigs on nationally aired commercials. They're on a show called The Writer's Room on Hulu. But their best work came after they paired with director Todd Strauss-Schulson and Ulterior Productions on three videos, including Evan Meets a Leprechaun.

So how will Ross Kohn and Ed Stein do? Too soon to say. After all, how many Tom Cruise parodies can you make? The answer, for now, is at least two. Here is their sequel, "Tom Cruise is a C**kblock 2."

Cold Ginger Chicken from Popo's Kitchen

My cooking is usually inspired by what's about to go bad in the fridge. I once made a string of four meals over the course of a month, each with a leftover ingredient from the last meal. So this Saturday, I noticed I had cilantro from a carnitas (crispy fried pork for buritos) recipe a couple weeks ago. Surprisingly, the cilantro was still good, but probably wouldn't stay that way.

The recipe I made last night is for Cold Ginger Chicken from June Kam Tong's Popo's Kitchen. It's simple but delicious. In a fancy restaurant, the dish would probably be called "Cold Poached Chicken with a Ginger Cilantro Sesame Pesto."

I was curious if other people liked this dish, so searched for that recipe on the internet--there are several posts, but none of the recipes are exactly like this one. I don't like to put other's people's writing on my blog, but consider this a plug for Ms. Tong's book of Chinese-Hawaiian home cooking and family favorites (more on the book below). I've also included a few notes on the recipe throughout.
4 lb. roaster chicken (I have also used chicken that has been cut up)
Boiling water
2 whole anise (these are star anise--star shaped seed pods found at Asian markets, not fennel--both are licorice-flavored but they are not interchangeable)
1 Tbsp. sesame oil

Oil Mixture:
1/2 c. oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Ginger Mixture:
1 tsp. garlic (minced fine)
3 Tbsp. ginger (minced fine)
1/3 c. green onion (minced)
1/3 c. Chinese parsley (minced)
Dash of MSG (I've never used and it turns out fine)
1 tsp. sesame seed
1/4 tsp. sesame paste (I've used sesame oil, which is probably not as intense)

  1. Boil enough water rapidly to cover chicken. Add anise.
  2. Place chicken in water for 1 minute. Lift chicken out and rinse in cold running water.
  3. Boil water rapidly again. Place chicken in pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn off heat. Let stand 1 hour. (I recommend not turning off heat completely, see story below.) Lift chicken out and rinse under cold water.
  4. Brush sesame seed oil on chicken.
  5. Cool and refrigerate overnight
  6. Heat oil mixture in pan. Cool slightly. Pour over ginger mixture. (I have forgotten to heat the oil, and while it's OK to mix the two cold, the heat will help to draw more of the flavor out and mellow the sharpness of the garlic)
  7. Chop chicken in bite size pieces. Serve with ginger sauce. (Yes, the pieces include bone, so you'll need a cleaver, or serve it whole.)
Before you try to make this, a cautionary tale about step three above. Because this was a favorite of mine growing up, I made this chicken dish for my first boss out of college and her family. I was making close to minimum wage; she was down to earth, had a big house, four kids over the age of nine, and offered me a room for negligible rent (it wasn't as weird as it sounds, but I did move as soon as I got a raise). I didn't have to do any cleaning or babysitting, but I did offer to cook every Sunday.

I hadn't done much cooking at home before I left for college, so called my mom a lot for recipes. We are not Chinese, but when you live in Hawaii, you grow up eating foods from a dozen different countries so I grew up eating Pad Thai, sukiyaki, stir fry, clam linguine, enchiladas, you name it. For the Chinese recipes I grew up with, my mom sent me a copy of Popo's Kitchen.

The recipe for cold ginger chicken says you should turn off the boil and let the chicken cook in the residual heat for an hour. This is what I did, and after an hour, I put the chicken in the fridge overnight to cool.

The next evening, with six hungry mouths waiting in the dining room, I started cutting up the chicken. The outside it was poached white, but toward the bone, well, it was not raw or bloody per se, but it was noticeably pink with red veins. Was this normal? I don't know, but since I couldn't reboil and chill the chicken, removed the pinkest pieces and served it with the ginger oil sauce. My boss and her family politely picked at the whitest pieces but we ate lots of salad and rice that night. They still joke about the time I tried to give them salmonella poisoning when I see them.

I have since it's a good idea to leave the pot on low heat for a while at least, rather than turning it off completely for the hour after the second boil. Regardless, before putting your chicken in the fridge, check for pink juices at the bone, and cook it a little longer. (Also, if your chicken runs away from you when you poke it, it's not done yet).

The USDA says that pinkness is not necessarily an indicator of whether chicken is safe or unsafe (young chickens, smoked chickens, and flesh with high hemoglobin concentration may all look pink). Instead they recommends cooking chicken until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Farenheit. So, a more surefire way to see if your chicken is done is to start checking your simmering chicken with a food thermometer at around 40 minutes.

About Popo's Kitchen, and how to order it
My copy of Popo's Kitchen is well worn and stained with oyster sauce. It is an unassuming book with red spiral binding and color photos of only 14 dishes. However, for $14.95, it includes 200 recipes for poultry (including duck and squab), seafood, beef, and pork and a few vegetarian dishes (so few, these are found in the "Seafood" section).

First published in 1988, it commemorates 200 years since the arrival of Chinese in Hawaii from Canton in 1789. Most recipes were passed down from June Kam's mother and Popo, or grandmother: steamed fish, lobster tail in brown bean sauce, shark fin soup, melon flower soup, Gin Doi (chinese donuts), Harm Joong (steamed packets of rice, egg, and pork), Taro and Turnip cake (common dim sum dishes), won ton, and Jai (Monk's Food, one of the few vegetarian dishes).

However, it doesn't turn it's nose up at American-Chinese food (chop sui, sweet-sour fried chicken nuggets, lemon chicken, beef broccoli, coconut fried shrimp) and certainly includes recipes from other ethnic backgrounds that are so generally popular, they are simply considered "local" to Hawaii: huli huli chicken (rotisserie chicken), Portuguese bean soup, chicken long rice, shoyu chicken (soy sauce and sugar braised chicken), curry stew, teriyaki beef, Korean short ribs, Ham Turkey Jook (savory rice porridge that can be made with a turkey carcass after Thanksgiving). It even includes budget recipes you might find in any middle American household, most noticeably, a baked chicken with asparagus recipe that relies on cream of chicken soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and mayo.

To order Popo's Kitchen, you will probably have to look at a Borders bookstore in Hawaii --it is self-published and has no ISBN number. However, at the back of the book it says you can send a check for $11.95 plus $2.75 shipping and handling to Popo's Kitchen, 3280 Uilani Place, Honolulu, Hawaii 96816, along with your name and address. Of course, this may very well have changed since I received this book in 1996; you may be better off asking a friend in Hawaii to check the bookstores for one, unless you want to buy a used copy for $45 at Amazon.
UPDATE: Popo's Kitchen is back! According to this article in the Honolulu Advertiser, June Kam Tong originally printed this as a fundraiser for a friend's grandson with leukemia, then for Easter Seals, then the Chinese Bicentennial Committee, selling over 40,000 copies. This time she has reprinted 2000 copies as a fundraiser for neighbor's child with autism. You can buy it at for $16.65 including shipping and handling. My mom has already bought some copies for friends. If you grew up with these foods, you can't beat 77 years of experience from Mrs. Kam.

In this day and age, it is possible to find many of these recipes on the internet, but for sheer convenience, it's easier to whip out this book than your computer when you need to stir fry the chicken, broccoli, and carrots that are going to expire later that week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

One Degree: The New Bennifer, Times Three

First, the answer to last week's One Degree--Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg, who now appear on the NBC hit Heroes were previously in Austin Powers in Goldmember.

It's a very special One Degree this week, since I am having writer's block. So if anyone can connect Jennifer Connelly to any of these actors in the upcoming movie He's Just Not That Into You, you get a special bonus prize--my undying geek respect. This movie is rife with connections, but I can't seem to fit her into it. Here's how the other stars, in bold, fit together:
Ginnifer Goodwin starred in the TV show Ed with Justin Long, who is now dating Drew Barrymore, who was in Never Been Kissed with Michael Vartan, who starred with and dated Jennifer Garner, who married Ben Affleck, who dated his Bounce co-star Gweneth Paltrow, who dated Brad Pitt before he married Jennifer Aniston.
After Jennifer Connelly appears in this movie, she'll be extremely well connected, but until then, brownie points to anyone who can link her, via movie or romance, to any of the stars in bold, in as few degrees as possible.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lilith Girls In Rome

I was loading up my mp3 player on Napster and saw a channel devoted to one-hit wonders. Between Haddaway and Chumbawumba there was Tracy Bonham with "Mother, Mother," a song I loved in the 90's but completely forgot about. The lyrics are priceless: a daughter makes an obligatory phone call home to an overprotective mom. It starts with questions about the weather and dad, assurances that she's doing okay, then degenerates into screaming sarcasm --"I'm starving, I'm freezing, I'm bleeding to death--everything's FINE!!!"

This song hit at the end of 1996, and she toured with the Lilith Fair in 1998, a show started for female artists by Sarah McLachlan the previous year. When I found her video on YouTube, at least one person commented that they thought she was going to take off, but then never heard from her again.

The Lilith Fair lasted one more year, done in by 1999's debut of Britney Spears' "(Hit Me)...Baby One More Time." Sugar Pops replaced granola for almost five years, as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Fergie of Black Eyed Peas all came on the scene. Talented and diverse as these performers are, there is no denying that they all became successful by playing up their sexuality.

I'm sure all these performers would classify themselves not as anti-feminists but as "lipstick feminists." But where does that leave the Lilith generation? And the next wave of female singers that doesn't want to shake their money maker to make money?

Quintessential female rocker Alanis Morissette had one of the best satires of the genre with her cover and video of the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" back in 2007.

As fun as that song is as a dance number, when you're forced to listen to the lyrics slowed down, it practically satirizes itself.

Tracy Bonham did her own violin-based cover of Beyonce's Crazy in Love. It's not satirical but is fun and quirky.

And the next generation? Whether they're easy listening types or rockers, they're critiquing the last half decade of pop in their own way and creating something new.

Yael Naim, who's song New Soul was featured in a Macbook Air commercial, also has a hauntingly beautiful cover of Britney Spear's "Toxic."

Pink took on the epidemic of tabloid blondes last year with her song and video "Stupid Girl."

Look up "female singer" on Google and the top cited article is "Serious female singers harder to find on the charts" from USA Today from two years ago. But all is not lost. Here's Entertainment Weekly's photo essay "Female Singer-Songwriters: The New Wave." Lesson: if you're a singer/songwriter who doesn't want to dance or bare your midriff, there's hope to be found in Apple commercials, One Tree Hill, and Grey's Anatomy. And of course there is American Idol, which has proven that American youth will vote for talent over mannequins and models.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Be Here Now, Courtesy of a Stroke

I have a chattering mind. When we're not actually doing the things we should be, we're thinking about all the things we should be doing. Should, should, should--it can stress you out.

Today I was ruminating about a situation at work and my husband said, "I want you to take four breaths. Breathe in and feel the air. Listen to what is around you. Feel the earth pushing up on your feet."

Grrr. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood to hear that kind of thing--I want to ruminate and fix the problem. But he's right of course. I'm usually not in the present moment. I'm always thinking about my future and past self. It's only when I'm really in a state of flow, like if I'm working on crafts, or writing, or working on a spreadsheet that I can lose myself. I'm sure everyone can relate, except maybe not to the spreadsheets.

So I find it interesting that being in the moment might be tied to our brains. When neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke, she kept mental notes of what was going on in her head. My aunt, a proponent of meditation, sent me this article about Taylor from the NY Times last week. You can also watch her 18-minute lecture at TED. It will give you a unique perspective on what it would be like to lose that part of you brain that keeps you from being here now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One Degree: Greg Grunberg and Masi Oka

Sorry to be a little late. The answer to last week's One Degree was Empire of the Sun. Ben Stiller appeared as an extra, while Christian Bale, then a child actor, starred in his first lead role. I would have had no idea that Ben Stiller was in that film, except that he said he thought of his idea for his new movie Tropic Thunder, while working on Empire of the Sun.

If you like Heroes, you know Greg Grunberg as psychic policeman Matt Parkman and Masi Oka as time-traveling Hiro Nakamura.

What movie did Grunberg and Oka appear in together?

Answers next week! Leave your answers in the comments!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Congratulations Mr. Deng!

During the first month of my blog, I wrote about Mr. Deng, pen pal of Todd Rosenberg, creator of His wife was expecting at the time and I've been checking in every now and then to see if he sent any letters since his last post in January-- today, Todd made the birth announcement on his home page.

Less Top Chef, More Cooking

I don't eat a lot of take out, but I do eat a lot of frozen meals for convenience, portion control, and variety. When I cook, I tend to cook large meals but since my husband rarely eats leftovers and sometimes has nighttime obligations, I will end up eating my dish four times in a row.

For the last few weekends I've been trying to cook things that I can recombine into other meals. For instance, three weeks ago, I marinated some chicken in garlic and chili pepper and grilled it up for burritos, or to go over rice, or to make a flatbread sandwich, or to put over salad. Last weekend, I made some ground turkey, spiced half of it Italian and the other half Mexican, grilled some peppers and onions. Throughout the week, I put some of it in burritos, some in pasta sauce, some on a flat bread pizza.

Today, in addition to a scallop stir fry with cabbage, onion, and carrot, I used the last three ingredients in an Asian chicken salad with some leftover ground turkey, fish sauce, and mint (as I type this, I realize how weird that combination of flavors sounds, but it's good, I swear--it originally called for shreaded chicken and it's similar to larb, a Thai specialty). I also tried to recreate the spicy pork (carnitas) at our local taqueria for some burritos; tastes alright but I should have researched for recipies on the internet instead of just guessing.

I like to cook elaborate meals but I can't do it all the time. Even cutting out TV, I still don't have the time to cook dinner from start to finish every day (Rachel Ray's famous 30 Minute Meals don't count washing pots, pans and cutting boards). So precooking meat and vegetables over the weekend this gets me a little head start during the week.

For snacks, I bought some hard, aged Monterey Jack cheese. I had heard that during WWII, it was used as a substitute for Parmesan and was curious. It didn't disappoint: not as hard or sharp as Parmesan, but still firm and tangy.

Out of curiosity, looked up hard Monterey Jack on the internet and stumbled upon Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, featuring foods that are endemic to America. I first heard of the Slow Food movement when I read James Gleick's Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. In short, Slow Foodies turn their backs on all facets of the industrialization of food, from big agriculture and animal husbandry, to the delivery of those foods in the form of Big Macs, for environmental and societal reasons.

While it's easy to say I won't eat at McDonalds, I don't think I can give up all manufactured and processed food I buy at the supermarket, if only for convenience and cost. But having just read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last month, I have been thinking about the broader implications of what and how I eat lately in a way I never did--as a decision that affects the fate of the planet. Lest I start sounding too highfalutin, though, what really kicked off my cooking was leafing through a copy of The Abs Diet my husband left lying around--having some easy-to-assemble, fiber and protein rich food seems to be a good idea.

If anyone's been following my posts and wonders why it started sounding like a foodie blog, not a TV blog, I'll just say that I started this not just as a commentary on my relationship with video-based entertainment, but also to document what else I might start doing if I stopped watching TV. Cooking, reading, and thinking happen to be a few of those things. I'll still watch Top Chef on Hulu, but I'll try not to let that get in the way of actually cooking.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Evan Meets a Leprechaun

After writing about Nate Dern, I wanted to write a long article on how young comedians and actors have been going to the web to get exposure and maybe even make it their primary means of distribution. However, the more I learn about this, the longer it's taking me, and in the meantime, you are missing out on all the clips I found in my research, especially from these guys, Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds. So here's "Evan Meets a Leprechaun," which I would rate a PG-13.

Copyright 2008