Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry War on Christmas ... er, I mean Happy Holidays from Eric Three Thousand!

Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season. Yeah, and ALL seasons! Seriously, who came up with that lame saying? Christmas isn't enough for Jesus? He needs Thanksgiving, New Year's day, and Hanukkah as well? That's a little selfish.

A better saying would be "Jesus is the reason we call an ancient pagan holiday 'Christmas.'" But, of course, that doesn't rhyme.

Like most people in the western world and much of the rest, I celebrate Christmas. I have a tree and fairy lights and presents. And most Christians are happy that everyone celebrates their religious holiday even if most people aren't really marking it in a religious way.

But then there are assholes like Bill O'Reilly who want it both ways. They want Christmas to be a national holiday and they want everyone to celebrate but, at the same time, they complain that people are forgetting about Jesus.

The other day I was listening to an interview on NPR with the mayor of some town who decided it was appropriate to put a manger scene on top of the town hall even though there were complaints by some non-Christians. His reasoning was this: as long as the manger was part of an overall display including Santa Clause then it was fine. When asked if they ever display symbols for the holidays of other religions, such as a menorah for Hanukkah, he said he has gotten requests for all kinds of ridiculous things such as the "Flying Spaghetti Holiday" and he finds that insulting to Christianity. So let me get this straight; he doesn't find comparing Hanukkah to flying spaghetti to be insulting?

When it was suggested that maybe Christmas decorations that weren't overtly religious would be more appropriate for a government building he reminded us that Jesus was the whole reason for the holiday in the first place.

Well, you can't have it both ways; either it's a civic holiday that everyone can enjoy OR it's a purely religious holiday that shouldn't be promoted by the government.

Anyway, as I said, it's really an ancient pagan winter solstice celebration that was co-opted by the Christians to celebrate the birth of a baby who was probably born in the spring. Whatever.

Sorry about my rant. I want everyone of every religion to celebrate any way they choose. Manger scenes on government building don't even bother me. It just bothers me that some people don't even understand that it could seem like government promotion of a specific religion, which is a problem.

But seriously, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Whatever!

Hope you all have a great 2008!


Eric Three Thousand

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Project Runway Season Four, Episode 5: Have you called Jenny yet?

This is Project Runway, let's go, hell, yes, I'm the best, you're either in or you're out, I'm in, they're out, I wouldn't be caught dead in his clothes, fashion is my life, who will be the next big fashion designer? that's me, bottom line, I'm the best, I will own the runway, for these fifteen designers this will be the opportunity of a lifetime!

Or, in other words, everyone can suck it.

Christian: "I thought I was going to die"

You keep saying that but you never do.

So, Chris is gone . . . or is he? Ooh, how ominous!

Jack thinks he has a pimple:

Tempest Bledsoe: "Oh, one time I had this pimple on my forehead and I was so embarrassed I didn't want to go to school but my sister Denise showed me this great trick of wearing a cool scarf around your head! I totally rocked the 80s in that look!"

Yeah, you did! Unfortunately that's not going to work in this situation. Jack's upper lip is really swolen from some infection. I noticed last week that his face was looking really freaky but I couldn't tell what the problem was. Well, now it's gotten worse and he may have to do something about it. He starts the challenge but then he has to leave:

Tim: "Designers, I have an announcement. It has been brought to my attention that Jack had all the pages of a pattern book tattooed on his body. This is clearly against the rules so we had to ask him to leave."

Jack: "No, I'm leaving to get medical attention."

Tim: "Oh, that's right. I've just been watching a lot of 'Prison Break' lately and I got confused."

So, what's the challenge? Heidi walks out onto the runway to tell us:

Heidi: "Hello. OK, enough small talk. Here are your models."

Kirstie Alley: "I've lost 700 pounds! Have you called Jenny yet?"

Heidi: "Will someone please get that attention whore off my runway?"

The real models for this challenge walk out onto the runway:

Sweet P: "I can't tell whether they are fairy princesses or transvestites."

Well, there's an idea for your next movie, Disney: transvestite princesses! Something the whole family will enjoy!

OK, we know they can't be fairy princesses because those are just pretend. So obviously the models must be transvestites. And boy, do these transvestites need a makeover. Apparently they have all just lost a lot of weight:

Kirstie Alley: "Jenny made it so easy! I even got to eat chocolate cake!"

Heidi: "Get out of here!"

Sorry; back to the transvestites: I don't care what they are wearing; someone needs to get them to the L'Oreal hair and makeup room STAT! Seriously; it's an emergency!

Oh, alright; we'll talk about the clothes first. You would think from what they are wearing that being overweight means you have to wear really ugly clothes from the 1980s. Look, I've been to Lane Bryant and there are some nice clothes for big girls. There was no excuse for what they considered their favorite outfits.

The challenge is to take these fat clothes and use the material to make something more appropriate for this century and their new sizes.

One of the models is wearing her wedding dress:

Kevin: "Everyone was thinking, 'who is going to get the wedding dress?' Everyone wanted it!"

Steven: "Please God, let me get the wedding dress! America, start praying for me now!"

Steven gets the wedding dress.

Steven: "Jealous much?"

Sweet P is picked last again. That really is starting to get freaky. Fortunately, it didn't make a difference in this challenge since the models were randomly assigned anyway.

The designers get to work in the design room. There's a message from Chris. The note basically tells the other designers that they can suck it. Just kidding.

Tim tells the designers that they need to make something suitable for the everyday life of a transvestite. You know, something they could wear to a Mardi Gras celebration.

Victorya: "These are not like our regular transvestites. These are just normal, average transvestites and it's a whole different set of rules."

Transvestites: "What a bitch."

Steven had a big challenge to transform a white beaded wedding dress into something wearable. But he also had the biggest opportunity to wow the judges. He really could have gotten away with murder in this challenge. almost anything he could have done would have been impressive.

Except for what he ends up doing. He completely blows it. He decides he can't use the dress because the fabric was cheap-ass shit:

Steven: "It was polyester satin with acetate lace. It was so horrible I couldn't bear to touch it. I was afraid I would get a rash."

Model: "Hey, that's my wedding dress you're talking about!"

Seriously, he's totally insulting this woman's wedding dress. That's so rude. Yes, it was a really tacky dress but you don't need to actually say it. Oops.

So he goes to Mood and buys some even worse cheap-ass shitty fabric ... in black! WTF?

Jillian also decides she can't use her original garment and just buys some similar red fabric to use. Why? I don't get it. It was a fun challenge; I don't understand why these two decided not to do it.

So, back in the design room Ricky is wearing some heels and his model's jeans as Capri pants and his belly is hanging out:

Steven: "Dear lord, help me now."

Yeah, I think we could all use some help recovering from that image. Geez, that was not pretty.

Tim comes in to make an announcement. Chris is back as one of the un-aufed, cursed to wander the halls of Parsons for all eternity, sucking design inspiration from the living. This pitiful creature will be forced to keep making outfits until Nina and Michael stab him in the heart with a sharp insult and Heidi finally puts his soul to rest permanently.

This really is a Project Runway first! And Heidi doesn't even make a grand announcement about it. Sure, Angela and Vincent came back for one challenge but they could only stay if they won the challenge and everyone knew that was never going to happen so it wasn't the same as really bringing them back. But Chris gets to come back and make another "just barely not the worst so he can stay" outfit and he's through to the next challenge!

Tim and Heidi: "We brought back Chris to keep the competition at a high level."

No, you brought him back so we would be left with the right number of contestants."

Tim and Heidi: "Whatever."

So Chris takes over Jack's model:

Chris: "Oh, I am so good at making costumes for transvestites! I am going to rock this challenge!"

OK, unfortunately, Chris is a little tired and didn't understand that I was just joking about the transvestites.

Tim tells Chris he can stay up all night since he got a late start. But he warns him about making decisions in the middle of the night:

Tim: "I've made some really bad decisions at 3:00 in the morning."

Designers: "Ooh, we want names!"

Tim: "Oh, you guys are terrible!"

Time for the Saturn commercial:

Chloe: "Whenever I'm in Los Angeles, which is never, I like to drive my Saturn to Echo Park."

Chloe lays in the grass and closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens her eyes her purse is gone, she's covered in graffiti, and she's surrounded by used syringes.

Chloe: "It's so inspiring!"

The models are being sent to hair and makeup. Thank God.

On to the runway! The guest judge is some guy from the GAP, for no particular reason.

For the most part the women look great! The designers did a really good job!

Jillian made a boring red dress that had almost nothing to do with the original garment except for the color. The dress isn't the worst but I think it's kind of ugly and it doesn't seem to fit well. For some reason the judges think it is beautiful. She's in the top three. I don't get it.

Jillian: "I transformed this woman! Her life will never be the same! I have the power of God!"

Sweet P made a cute halter dress out of a hideous olive-green sack. She's safe.

Ricky made a nice top and jeans out of a really ugly top and jeans. Did he change the color of the top? He's safe.

Ricky: "Oh, my God. The woman told me I was great and she hopes I'm successful. I've never been so moved in my entire life. Can I have a Kleenex?"

Chris made a cute top (although I'm not sure it looked that much different from the original top) and a skirt that had a little too much going on. The red trim sent it over the top:

Michael: "It's a little Shirley Maclaine as a transvestite hooker with a heart of gold."

Chris: "I can't tell if that's a compliment."

Christian made a really fierce outfit! That's right: fierce! It fit perfectly, it looked interesting, and you could tell his client loved it. Christian wins immunity in the next challenge. Congratulations, Christian!

Christian: "Yay! I've finally sold out and made something commercial! The next thing you know my clothes will be on sale at Target!"

Victorya made a decent cocktail dress out of a horrible green velvet sack. She's safe.

Elisa made kind of a weird artsy fartsy outfit. It wasn't bad but I can't really see that woman wearing it. It might look OK on a gallery director:

Michael: "My clients are gallery directors and they would never wear that."

Santino: "Yeah, but your clients are old and boring."

Michael: "I should have Nina slap you in the face for that comment."

Elisa: "I made a day trousseau and now my model really has an increased sexuality. With so many men in this room she should really be careful!"

I think she'll be alright. OK, so using the term "trousseau" completely inappropriately and talking about that woman's sexuality was a little weird but it's hardly up to Elisa's high standards of weirdness:

Elisa: "Sorry; I used up all my 'A' material."

It's very disappointing.

Kevin created a really cute yellow top out of an inexcusable yellow blazer. Black and yellow is a horrible combination - it makes you look like a bee - but Kevin made it work. He was a contender for the win:

Michael: "Just be careful with leggings. They can turn on you. I had a friend who was killed by a pair of leggings."

Rami made a cute top and a nice skirt from a pair of pants. It fit really well. He's safe.

Steve created one of the ugliest dresses I've ever seen. It was a shapeless black sack with white trim. It looked much worse than any of the original ugly outfits. It was really inexplicable:

Michael: "I'm speechless."

Nina: "We should be so lucky."

The judges decide it looks like a French maid at a funeral . . . in the rain . . . after being hit with an ugly stick. No transvestite would ever be caught dead wearing this.

There was no choice; Steven is out.

Next week Tim takes the designers to a destination! Ooh, I love destinations!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Project Runway Season Four, Episode 4: Blast from the Past!

America, start praying for Steven . . . now. I don't know why we should do that; I'm just the messenger.

Steven: "You have no idea how hard it is to constantly come up with new ways to say, 'ooh, another scary challenge; whatever shall we do?'"

I understand.

Before we start the program there is an advertisement for a new Project Runway product:

Heidi: "Do you ever find yourself wishing you smelled like one of the designers after running around Mood and lower Manhattan on a hot summer day and then working in a stuffy, crowded design room for 16 straight hours? Do you ever think, 'I wish I could get that feeling of having Nina Garcia tell me I'm a disappointment or Micheal Kors tell me I look like Bea Arthur'? Maybe you've just wanted to have me say 'auf wiedersehen' when you're so exhausted you just want to punch me in the face. Well, now you can get all that in the privacy of your own home with our new Project Runway fragrance that smells like tears and Chinese food! it's called "Tootie" and it's available at bluefly.com!"

On to the show:

Last week Carmen was sent home:

Nina: "This is unacceptable."

Well, that's what I thought but you're the one who voted her off."

Nina: "No, I meant her outfit was unacceptable."

Oh, right.

So, as the winner last week, Jack chooses to switch to Ricky's model:

Nick Verreos: "OH, MY G..."

Shut it, Nick! We're sick of hearing about it!

Nick: "But that bitch stole..."

Nope, we don't want to hear it!

Nick: "But..."


Ugh, I don't know why he has to show up every time someone takes another designer's model. The winner gets to pick a model; it's not a big deal. OK?

Ricky: "I still think Jack's a bitch."

Heidi: "This week you are going back to the design room where you will meet some old friends."

Hmmm . . . old friends . . . it's going to be something old . . . what could it be?

Oh, it's Nina Garcia!

Nina: "If Heidi calls me old one more time I'm going to rip that weave right off her head!"

Wow, I sense a little tension there.

OK, seriously, the "old friends" we are meeting are supposedly outdated fashions. I question whether "70s flair (or is it flare?)" or poodle skirts are really that out of style at the moment but certainly shoulder pads and cut-outs should be outlawed.

One of the outdated styles is overalls. Jillian, who is supposed to be updating these styles, is actually wearing overalls:

Jillian: "Isn't it ironic?"

Well, it's kind of funny but I'm not sure it's ironic. As usual we turn to the expert:

Alanis Morissette: "I don't know! Leave me alone!"

There you have it, folks.

Everyone's name is drawn and they pick some hideous style and then Tim tells them to play dodgeball to determine teams. Everyone tells us how they ended up with exactly the teammates they had wanted their entire lives. Awww.

The teams are:

Chris, Steven, and Sweet P.
Ricky, Victorya, and Elisa.
Christian, Kit, and Jack.
Jillian, Rami, and Kevin.

Then Tim delivers the totally crappy news that they need to pick their own leaders. This is not a democracy, Tim! They can't pick their own leaders! This can only end in disaster!

Really, it's one thing to have leaders determined by some contest (such as presenting the best sketches) because that person earned both the opportunity and the responsibility of leading the team. But when a team just randomly picks a leader, that person is going to end up bearing all the responsibility without gaining any advantage. Let's see how they play this:

Steven and Sweet P: "Chris, you should be the team leader so you can get blamed for everything."

Chris: "OK."

Ricky: "I'll be the team leader."

Victorya: "Sure, we'll call you the 'team leader.' But we all understand I'll actually be in charge, right?"

Ricky: "Of course."

Elisa: "I don't understand the concept of 'teams.' Can't we all just work together as one big universal team so we don't have to compete with each other? War is not the answer, people."

She makes a good point. OK, so it's settled: Ricky is the leader. Except that it's really Victorya.

Now for a special segment that I hope will be a regular feature of the program. I like to call it "Ricky Lizalde: Weirdo Whisperer."

I'll set the scene: non-team leader Victorya is telling Elisa what to do:

Victorya: "So, I want you to lower the waist and move this seam over here. Got it?"

Elisa: "I don't understand this technical sewing terminology."

Ricky: "What Victorya is trying to explain is that you need to follow your bliss to the land of magical ponies."

Elisa: "Oh. Well, why didn't she just say that?"

Aaaaand . . . scene.

That was fun. Now back to Victorya not understanding the she agreed that Ricky would be the team leader:

Victorya: "I don't want to be a big, bossy cow."

Well, that's too bad 'cause apparently you are one.

Victorya: "I really wanted to ask Ricky why he wanted to be the team leader."

But you didn't.

Victorya: "Well, I just assumed that he would want to do everything my way. I don't understand why people don't want to do things properly. Everyone is being so difficult."

Ooh, come back from the kitchen everyone! It's time for the Saturn commercial!

Nick Verreos: "I'm here in this fabulous Saturn driving to my favorite inspiration spot: Decades 2!"

Cool! I think I read about that place in the New Yorker! The guy buys used designer clothes from celebrities!

Nick: "You think you're better than everyone because you read the New Yorker."

Shut up! Do not!

Now for the new Bravo quiz segment. There is way too much crap going on; just give us the show! Anyway, did you know that the French make all their dogs wear skirts? I think that's what it said. The French are so silly!

And by the way, Bravo, you can't make someone a supermodel. You have to be BORN a supermodel!

Back in the design room Steven is doing a pretty spot-on Santino impersonation:

Steven: "Designers, I'd like to take you all to the Red Lobster."

Kevin is pulling a magic rabbit out of his ass. I wonder how that got there.

Christian loves his look. Quelle surprise.

Ugh! One more stupid survey before we get to the runway: What outdated fashion trend do you still wear? Well, I'm sitting here wearing a unitard and fuschia leg-warmers so I can't think of a single thing.

Oh, god; now what? Oh, Tim is doing an advertisement for Parsons. Isn't this whole damn show an advertisement for Parsons?

Finally: the runway! The guest judge is Donna Karan.

Jillian's team (with Rami and Kevin) had to update a poodle skirt, overalls and "70s flair (or flare)." They did a really good job. They gave "70s flair (or flare)" to the overalls, which worked nicely. They updated the poodle skirt by giving it a higher waist. The collection was very cohesive. They win. Congratulations!

Christian's team (with Kit and Jack) had Zoot suit, pleather, and fringe. The only thing I see of the inspiration is the pinstripe fabric. Apparently the pleather is in the accessories, which is a real cop-out and I don't really see the fringe. The look with the pencil skirt and the vest is really nice; I think Kit made that one. But one nice outfit and hardly any of the inspiration? I thought this collection was a failure. But it wasn't the worst so they're safe.

Chris's team (with Steven and Sweet P) had shoulder pads, dancewear, and baggy sweater. It was pretty godawful. I didn't really understand Steven's outfit; it looked like a shiny karate uniform. Chris's was so bad. It's easy to say, "well, what could you possibly do with shoulder pads?" But the truth is he could have done something with big shoulders that didn't look like this. In fact, in the first episode of the season Christian made a jacket with huge shoulders that wasn't to everyone's taste but it looked kind of fresh. But Chris's looked as dated as the look he was supposed to be updating. The problem isn't that it looked "costumey," which wouldn't necessarily be a problem for a runway show; the problem is that it looked like a costume from a bad production of "The Women."

Sweet P, on the other hand, made the best outfit of the night! She updated the baggy belted sweater look to an adorable little dress. You could absolutely see the inspiration but it looked completely fresh. And the fact the Donna Karan liked it will not dissuade me from saying it was my favorite look! In fact, I'm going to say it's my favorite look so far this season! Too bad she was on that team because I think she could have won the challenge this week.

Ricky's team (with Elisa and the real team leader Victorya) had neon, cut-outs, and "underwear as outerwear." Oh, Ricky. Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. What the hell was up with that collection? They should have really done "outerwear" and made winter coats out of bras and panties. I guess I get the basic idea: neon satin was supposed to cover the neon inspiration and the underwear inspiration. The problem is they looked like neon nighties and they were hideous.

Except for Elisa's. She sent her model down the runway naked to represent one giant cut-out that has gotten out of control and swallowed the whole garment:

Elisa: "If I didn't know that I did that I wouldn't have known that I did that."

You didn't do that; I just made it up. No, unfortunately she made a little black satin garbage bag decorated with brightly colored Pillsbury sugar cookies. For some reason the judges liked it.

So it comes down to Ricky and Chris. Once again, Ricky gets a reprieve. Sorry Chris; we'll miss you!
Congratulations, Tiffani!

Sorry, no recap but I just wanted to congratulate Tiffany for winning the Top Chef Holiday Special! She wins $20,000, which apparently is enough to start a restaurant! OK, so maybe it's enough to buy napkins for a restaurant. Seriously, $20,000? What's she supposed to do with that?

Anyway, I'm very happy for her because I really think she got a raw deal in season one. I'm not saying she should have won over Harold, I'm just saying it sucked that everyone hated on her so bad and that she was stuck with Stephen and Dave as her helpers for the finale, showing up hungover AND drunk (I didn't even know that was possible) and being completely unprofessional.

It's a little bit of redemption.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Project Runway, Season Four, Episode 3: Why?

Heidi: "This is a Project Runway first!"

You mean an episode nobody will be interested in?

Heidi: "Well, yes; there is that. But I was talking about menswear!"

We've had menswear before.

Heidi: "Not a challenge with ALL the designers doing menswear!"

That's true. Menswear should be interesting. What are you going to do to screw it up?

Heidi: "The challenge will be to design for a sports star!"

Ooh! Like an ice skater?

Kevin: "That's not a sport, dummy! Football is a sport!"

Football? Congratulations, Bravo! You really know your audience. Nothing goes better together than fashion and football. This sounds like the worst episode ever. I don't even want to watch it.

Heidi: "There will be hot male models in their underwear!"

oh, alright.

Other Eric wants to make sure everyone knows he figured out it would be menswear. He also predicted that Heidi would be dressed as Lieutenant Uhura. I think he's psychic.

So the designers go on a field trip with Tim:

Nick Verreos: "Ooh, I hope we are going to some fabulous Park Avenue penthouse!"

Will you shut up about the fabulous Park Avenue penthouse already?

Tim introduces the designers to Tiki Barber.

uh ... yeah ... that was my reaction too.

Kevin: "Well, I'm straight so I'll explain who he is. He was a famous football player and now he's a correspondent on the Today Show."

OK, not only do I know nothing about football but I don't think I've ever watched the Today Show, either. I'll have to take Kevin's word for it that he's famous.

So what exactly is the challenge?

Tiki: "See what I'm wearing now? Great! This is basically the only thing I wear. So try to make this exact outfit but different."


Tim: "There will be no creativity in this challenge. Just try to make something that resembles normal men's clothing that you would find in the store and doesn't look glued together. This is the week where you should just try to skate by and make it to the next challenge."

Tim: "Oh, yeah, this is classic 'make it work' time."


Tim: "Yeah, it isn't antique 'make it work' time but it also isn't modern 'make it work' time. I thought about vintage or traditional but I finally decided on classic."

Well, you can't go wrong with classic.

OK, so none of the designers make menswear. What will they do?

Jack: "I immediately took off my pants."

That's your solution to everything.

Jack: "Hey, whatever works."

So Jack is going to use the pants to make a pattern:

Jack: "Tim, would it be alright if I use my pants to make a pattern and share it with two other designers so we have a huge advantage over the others?"

Tim: "Of course!"

I don't know how I feel about that. I know it isn't against the rules to use anything in the room to make patterns as long as they don't bring in pattern pieces or pattern books. And they are allowed to help or not help other designers but this still seems unfair.

Whatever. I'm kind of over this episode:

Tim: "I'd like to bring in the totally hot, young, nearly-naked male models now!"

OK, you have my attention.

Kevin: "I guess the guys were good looking, though I wouldn't notice that kind of thing. The women were going crazy about them. And, don't say anything, but I think some of the male designers were checking them out, too. Do you think they might be gay?"

So Kevin is working very hard to make sure we don't think he is interested in his model:

Kevin: "So my model was there in his underwear but I was all business. I took his measurements and fit the clothes on him and I wasn't even staring at his butt at all. No, I barely even noticed him standing there. Why would I? I'm straight."

We get it. Some of the other designers were a little more flustered:

Chris: "Uh ... ha ha ... um ... hi ... do you work out? Wait, I'm supposed to be doing something ... oh, yeah, I need to make some clothes."

But Ricky is really freaking out:

Ricky's model: "The waist feels like it fits right."

Ricky: "OK, I'd really love to chat but I just don't have time."

Ricky's model: "Sure. Whatever."

Tim: "Ricky, you were just rude to a hot guy for absolutely no reason. I'm really worried about you. Have you been getting enough fiber?"

Tim has an announcement:

Designers: "Aw, crap."

Tim: "I never get tired of that reception. Now that it's too late do make any changes to your designs, I have a special guest here who will tell you everything that is wrong with what you are making."

Christian: "OH, MY, GOD! It's a totally anonymous Asian lady! I am so excited by this, for some reason! Asian ladies are fierce!"

Asian lady: "Yeah, I get that a lot."

So, the Asian lady is Mrs. Barber and she's there to check on the progress of the clothes being made for her husband.

She and Tim tell Carmen that her Members Only jacket is crap and she needs to start from scratch:

Karen Walker: "[Gasp] is that a new Members Only jacket?!"

Rosario: "What can I say. A lady likes to have nice things."

Oh, sorry. I don't know how that scene got in here. Anyway, Carmen is a little flabbergasted:

Tom Collicchio: "What's the problem? It's not like cooking; making clothes is easy. Just make a whole new jacket in an hour with no fabric."

Tom, you're an idiot.

I really wish Tim had mentioned that it was a terrible design BEFORE she made it.

Carmen: "No; it's my fault. I should have bought enough material so I could keep making jackets until Tim was satisfied."

Now for the regularly scheduled portion of the program where Elisa does something bizarre:

Elisa: "What? I'm not prepared for this? Oh, wait; I've got it! ... I'm just too shy to have my model undress because I've never seen a naked man before. So I'm just going to put the clothes over the clothes he is already wearing! Ta-da! How was that?"

Perfect! I think you have fulfilled your obligation of being a total weirdo for this episode.

Elisa: "Thanks! I really just pulled that one out of my ass!"

Now for a very special Saturn commercial:

Kara Saun: "I love driving my Saturn to the beach. I'm always inspired by the color of the water."

Isn't it usually blue?

Kara Saun: "Well, yeah."

That was fascinating. Back to the turmoil in the design room. Steven tries to find an appropriate metaphor:

Steven: "It's like the Titanic?"


Steven: "Well, everybody is running around like crazy and I think I hear Celine Dion singing."

Fair enough.

Steven: "What was it that they had on the Titanic right before it sank?"

I don't know; terrible acting and ridiculous dialogue?

Steven: "No; plenty of ice for mixed drinks! Who wants a cosmo?"

On to the runway:

Heidi: "All the outfits that are finished, no matter how stupid they look, are safe."

In my opinion, Christian, Chris, and Elisa should have been called out for making really dumb-looking outfits that Tiki would never wear on the air. Chris's looked like a StarTrek uniform and Elisa's model looked like a bounty hunter; it was completely inappropriate for the Today Show. Christian's was just silly.

I also thought Rami should have been out there as one of the best. The jacket was casual but it wasn't a Members Only jacket and it looked good. Steven's also wasn't bad, though the rise on his trousers was ridiculous.

So Kit, Jack, and Kevin were the top three. They were pretty good. They looked pretty well-made and were not too boring:

Jack: "I think mine looks like you could have just bought it in a store."

Why do we need a designer to make something you could already just buy in a store? Yeah, that was the problem with this episode.

The judges think Kevin's has a look:

Michael: "I think Kevin's has a look."

Nina: "Oh, yeah, I was just going to say that. It has a look."

Heidi: "I agree; it totally has a look."

What the hell are you talking about?

So Jack wins. He only made two pieces but they looked good. I just don't feel like there was any designing there. It was just a technical exercise; trying to make something that looked like store-bought clothes. Whatever. Congratulations, Jack!

Sweet P, Carmen, and Ricky were the bottom three. At first I wasn't sure that Sweet P was in the bottom because all they did was say nice things about what she made:

Michael: "I love the tie. I wish he were wearing that and nothing else."

Yeah, me too.

Carmen didn't have time to make a shirt so she just put the shirting fabric under the jacket like a shawl. The color was nice. The outfit didn't look well-made but I didn't think it was that bad. It was more interesting than Ricky's and it had more going on that Sweet P's:

Michael: "The crotch on that pant is insane!"

Nina: "And Michael has seen his share of crotches so I think he knows what he's talking about."

Michael: "Thank you, Nina."

Ricky's is a mess. He tried to make a totally boring business suit and failed. So it was neither well-made nor interesting. Obviously he's going to be the one to go home, right?

Nope; it's Carmen. That was totally the wrong decision.

Tune in next week when a tornado hits Wisteria Lane! Exciting!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Project Runway Season Four, Episode 2: Icon, the SJP episode!

Last week Simone was sent home:

Tim: "Someone has to be the first to go. I'm just glad it wasn't someone talented."

Wow, that was harsh.

We start the episode with the remaining designers picking models. Sweet P has to choose between the last two:

Sweet P: "I'm really sorry but I have to be honest and say that I'm just not in love with either one of you."

OH, MY GOD! This has never happened in the history of the show! She turned down both of them! America is shocked!

George W. Bush: "I feed so cheated. The fact that she couldn't find the right match from all those girls is really disappointing. I don't think I've been this upset since Ruben Studdard won American Idol."

Heidi: "Well, get over it. We have a famous person coming in I need everyone on their best behavior. No crying! This is an icon! Do you hear me? An ICON!"

OK, I'm really not holding my breath for an icon. We usually end up with Sarah Hudson or Nicky Hilton or some crap like that. So, here comes the so-called "icon." Who will it be?


It's SJP! Chris is crying, Andre is crying, I'm crying!

Heidi: "I said there was to be no crying!"

Sorry. So, yeah, we actually get someone cool. PR fans have been saying for years that SJP NEEDS to be on the show. The designers will be creating a two-piece look for Bitten's Fall/Winter line. And the winning design may be sold under the Bitten label.

SJP: "MAY ... MAY be sold. I would like to make that perfectly clear. I can't get away with what most of the celebrities on this show say; promising to wear the winning design to a 'major' event and then wearing it to the opening of a car wash or something. I could be stuck having to sell one of your crappy designs so the word 'may' is very important."

What's the catch?

SJP: "Oh, yeah; I think it's very important that every person on earth wear my clothes. To this end, I make my clothes so affordable that people really can't afford not to buy them. So your two-piece look will have to retail for $40. That way even ordinary people--people like you and the viewers at home--can look good. You're not going to look as good as I do--my clothes aren't magical--but you will certainly look better than you do now."

Heidi: "So, the outfits have to retail for $40 but you all know that the price of materials is only a small percentage of the retail price."

Designers: "Duh."

Heidi: "Right. So taking into account the actual markup, that will give you almost thirty-seven cents to work with. But don't worry about the labor cost. You go right ahead and design really intricate pieces that would be completely prohibitively labor-intensive."

Come on! Why is the cost of materials the only thing taken into account here? Even with slave-labor some the designs in this challenge are way too complicated and have too much hand detailing to be produced cheaply, no matter how inexpensive the fabric is. Determining the labor cost is a little more difficult than the price of the fabric but making something that could be cheaply mass-produced still should have been part of the challenge.

That being said, this was still a good challenge. Even the team element couldn't ruin it. Yes, the "T" word. We made it all the way to the second episode before we had to have one. I understand that it makes the early episodes easier to manage, because we had only seven outfits to look at instead of 14, but I still hate it.

Anyway, each designer has to pitch to SJP. Everyone is so excited to meet her:

Kevin: "I'm not gay or a woman so I don't get it."

SJP: "What's not to get? I'm me!"

It's true. She is.

Anyway, Kevin's pitch meeting doesn't go so well:

Kevin: "Here's my sketch."

SJP: "Oh; could you tell me a little about it?"

Kevin: "What's the point? We're obviously not connecting here and you're just going to criticise everything I say. I'm leaving." [Storms out of the room]

SJP: "What's up with Miss Thing?"

She picks Elisa, Kit, Victorya, Marion, Ricky, Christian, and Rami to be team leaders.

Sweet P wants to be on a good team. Sorry, but there isn't any way for you to avoid being on a team that has you in it. Just kidding! These are the teams:

Elisa and Sweet P

Sweet P: "Son of a bitch."

Kit and Chris

Victorya and Kevin

Marion and Steve

Marion: "I picked Steve because he seems easy to push around."

Ricky and Jack

Ricky: "I picked Jack because he's such a good designer. Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to spend some quality time with him."

Christian and Carmen

Christian: "I picked Carmen because she's fierce."


Rami and Julia

SJP: "See you on the runway! I've always wanted to say that!"

Well, I'm so glad that dream could come true for you.

In the design room Elisa is doing something weird, as usual:

Elisa: "Lay down and let me put this fabric on you. OK, now I'm just going to mark it."

Sweet P: "Hey! Did you just pee on me?!"

Elisa: "Yeah, that's how I mark it."

Sweet P: "You're crazy!"

Elisa: "I like getting organic human essence on the material. It gives life to the fabric. I don't understand why you're getting upset."

SJP: "I'm sorry but we can't afford all the urine that would be necessary to mass-produce that garment."

Tim is concerned that Elisa is cuckoo because she's hand-rolling all the edges of her fabric. That's why he thinks she's cuckoo?

Christian is loving his design:

Christian: "I think it's fierce!"

Of course you do.

Before we go to the runway Jeffrey Sebelia is telling us that he is inspired by driving his Saturn to Blends, which sounds like a coffee shop and I just don't care.

On to the runway:

Victorya's outfit is very cute. It's pretty and feminine and looks current and stylish, but it also seems like it would be fairly easy to mass produce cheaply and the sizing would be very simple because it isn't form-fitting. She wins! Her design will be sold as part of the Bitten line! Not "may be" sold; it will be sold! Congratulations, Victorya!

SJP: "I think it's Lovely!"

Other Eric invented a new drinking game:

Other Eric: "Every time she says 'Lovely' you have to spray on her perfume."

How is that a drinking game?

Other Eric: "I don't drink."

OK, I don't think he understands drinking games.

Lovely -- available at Target for $59.99

The judges also like Elisa's outfit:

Michael: "What's that mark on the fabric?"

Elisa: "Oh, I mark my fabric with pee."

Nina: "That is so cool!"

SJP: "It's innovative!"

Heidi: "Yeah, I think customers would love getting peed on."

Elisa: "Thank you. I refer to it as 'pee-morphic'"

Marion (with Steve) and Christian (with Carmen) are at the bottom. They are just horrific.

Heidi: "It won't make any difference to the judging but you know I enjoy making people cry so could you each tell us which team member you think should be sent home?"

They all say the two team leaders should be held responsible for the work, which is exactly as it should be. The team leaders had the opportunity to win the challenge so they should be held accountable for failure.

The judges say Christian's outfit is stuck in the 80's. Michael thinks it's just a pair of giant earrings away from being on an episode of The Facts of Life. It's just a boring sheath dress in a dreadful color with a really ugly jacket that has way too much detailing to be produced inexpensively.

Marion's outfit is droopy and makes the judges sad:

Other Eric: "The model looks like she's dressed as Pocahontas."

Michael: "She looks like Pocahontas."

Other Eric: "Damn you, Michael Kors; stop copying everything I say!"

Marion is sent home for his disastrous outfit.

SJP: "It's not Lovely."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Project Runway Season Four: the premiere: or the pointless tent episode!

Can you believe it's back? It seems like only five or six years since the last season!

First let's meet the designers:

Rami: He designed for Jessica Alba so he doesn't need your pity.

Chris: Larger than life (those are his words). He's been practicing making costumes out of heads of lettuce just in case that comes up.

Christian: Finally someone who went to my stupid little design school. Three seasons of "Parsons this" and "Fashion Institute that" and never anything about the American Intercontinental University!

The American Inter-what?


Carmen: She used to be a model so now she knows all about fashion. She's practically Heidi Klum.

Gillian: She was an illustrator and now she's sick of that.

Kit: Her nickname is "Pistol" because ... um ... I don't know why.

Kevin: He used to make jeans and he's the token straight guy this season. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Jack: Just Jack.

Steve: I think he's cute but Eric thinks he looks like a serial killer. Are those mutually exclusive?

Elisa: She started out making marionettes and then moved on to shapeless sacks that she calls "costumes." She's "on the edge of avant-garde." As opposed to being in the middle of the mainstream.

Marion: He owned a flower shop.

Sweet P: This is the result of Popeye and Olive Oyl raising an abandoned baby.

Simone: It doesn't really matter.

Victorya: She was born in South Korea and moved to Texas as a child with her nine sisters ... Oh, wait ... no.

Ricky: "This has been such an emotional year for me; I (sniff) lost my boutique (sniff) and this dress I made out of my jeans represents my whole life and it's a combination of my culture and my new life and it's like a phoenix rising from the ashes and (sniff) ... no! I said I wasn't going to do this! This just means so much to me! Waaaaaaaaa!"

Andre Gonzalo: "Wow, what a freak."

The designers move into their new digs:

Christian: "Ooh, beds! Well, la dee da, how fancy! I sleep in a pet carrier at home."

Kevin: "Yeah, I know what you mean ... wait ... what?"

Basically, that was all the excitement at the apartments. No joy buzzers, no huge fights over the closets, no stealing of "special pillows from home."

Now on to the show:

Heidi: "Hi, everybody! I'm Heidi Klum! Standing next to me is Tim Gunn!

Tim: "Thank you, Heidi!"

Heidi: "For what? Saying that you are standing next to me?"

Tim: "Thank you for letting me stand next to you."

Heidi: "OK. Why don't you tell everybody about the first challenge?"

Tim: "First let me say that I think this is the strongest group ever. Previous groups have been made up almost entirely of talentless losers but not this time! So, let me tell you about the first challenge: you know how in previous seasons the first challenge has been something really goofy? Well, to shake things up, this time we made sure the first challenge wasn't interesting at all! Isn't that crazy?! What will we think of next? So, see those tents over there? Well, inside the tents you will find nice fabric from Mood and you can make something out of that."

Designers: "We don't understand. Are we supposed to use the tents for something?"

Tim: "No. We just had some extra money in the budget so we put up some tents. Aren't they cute? NOW RUN!"

Phil Keoghan: "These 15 designers are here in New York City starting the first leg of a race around the world!"

Tim: "No, they aren't. they're just running over to those tents to pick out some fabric."

Phil: "And that's where they'll find their first clue."

Tim: "No; then they'll take the fabric back to Parsons and make an outfit."

Phil: "Once they've completed this task, they'll be handed their next clue."

Tim: "Oh, for the love of god."

So the designers are all running at top speed across the lawn because they all have to have that one amazing plaid fabric that is visible from space. Poor "larger than life" Chris finally makes it to the tents looking like he's just finished a half marathon but he still gets the fabric he wanted.

Back at Parsons Jack puts on his fabric like a cape and says he's a superhero:

One of the designers (Christian?): "Well, he looks like a superhero!"

The rest of the designers: "Yeah, he's cute!"

Jack: "Oh, my god, you guys; I'm right here! It makes me very uncomfortable when everyone is constantly talking about how good looking I am! Will you guys be a little more sensitive and show some class?"

Other designers: "You're right, Jack. It was very insensitive of us to make you feel like a sex object and we are sorry."

Jack: "Apology accepted. Besides, you bitches couldn't afford me."

Elisa is working with grass-stained fabric. She is measuring her model:

Elisa: "OK, first I'm going to measure you psychically by waving my hands around you and getting vibrations from these crystals and the magical fairies that are talking to me."

Model: "Why don't you use a tape measure like a normal person? Are you saying I'm fat?"

Elisa: "Then I'm going to sew the dress together while I'm wearing it."

Model: "Oh, my god; do you think we wear the same size dress?! I'm never eating again!"

OK, before the judging we go on a trip to the Broad Foundation in Santa Monica with Santino Rice. I'll be damned if I can figure out why. It would have been nice if he had explained a little bit about the Broad Foundation instead of just telling us he likes to go there because "art is fashion." Did you like what you saw? Do you want to visit? Well, too bad; you can't. The Broad collection is not open to the public; It's a lending collection that is available to scholars by appointment. I guess the point of that little segment was to demonstrate that Santino is special enough to get into the Broad collection.

Back to the show:

No, wait; first we have to vote on what we like best about Project Runway:

What's your favorite part?

1: The pregnancies.

2: The screaming.

3: The sex.

4: The drunken parties.


5: Tim Gunn.

You can only vote for one!

OK, FINALLY, on to the runway:

Heidi looks cute in a little gold dress. The guest judge is Monique Lhuillier.

Other Eric: "So that's what she looks like."

Christian's outfit is very nice. Eric doesn't like it but I think it's cute. It looks very well made. The judges agree with me and pronounce it good.

Rami's dress is beautiful! He really is a master of draping. The bust of his dress doesn't look as good on the model as it did on the mannequin but the back of the dress is gorgeous. He deservedly wins this challenge. He gets immunity for the next challenge. Congratulations, Rami!

Victoria's black dress is kind of interesting. It's one of the outfits left on the runway that you are not sure whether the judges think it is in the top or the bottom. Turns out they liked it.

Elisa's model was almost strangled to death as she got tangled up in the stupid train flowing out of the bottom of the dress. Heidi thought it looked like the model was pooping fabric. Michael Kors thought Elisa should have edited herself and left off the train. Elisa goes into a 45 minute explanation of the spiritual experience you were supposed to get from seeing the fabric flowing behind the dress. Too much talk, not enough walk.

Andre Gonzalo: "Seriously; what the hell is wrong with these people?"

Elisa: "You know, there was a little voice in my head telling me to cut off the train."

Tim: "Actually that was me. People often confuse me with the little voice in their head."

Ricky is in the bottom three because he made a little baby doll dress. It's true that it's a pretty boring design but it's very cute and well made so I'll give him a pass on this one.

Simone created an astoundingly bad outfit. There was nothing redeeming about it.

Other Eric: "I like the color of the waistband."

Wow, he really had to scrape for that compliment. The dress was boring, the jacket was a mess, and the whole thing was just so badly made.

This was an easy decision. Simone had to go. Sorry!

Next week someone makes a dramatic announcement!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Designing Erics: the remodel!



To start at the beginning, we were not really in the market for a house but we had been looking around a little bit because we were tired of using a community laundry room and a downstairs neighbor who kept us up all night blasting her stereo. But our apartment was cool and it was pretty spacious so we were not in any hurry. We weren't really finding anything we liked, either; most places were a lot smaller than our apartment, had bad parking, were in a bad location, had been badly remodeled, etc.

But then one day after looking around we drove to this neighborhood with all these cool mid-century townhomes where Eric has wanted to live ever since he moved to Los Angeles. There was an open house and Eric wanted to go in:

Me: "What's the point? We can't afford it."

Other Eric: "Come on! I've always wanted to live here!"

Me: "Oh, all right."

Cut to a few minutes later:

Me: "Um, that was kind of perfect."

Other Eric: "Yeah."

It had pretty much everything we wanted: it was built in 1964 and had some mid-century features; it hadn't been remodeled so it still had original details; it had the space we needed with two bedrooms and a den; two and a half bathrooms; a big eat-in kitchen that opens into the dining and living rooms; a laundry room; an attached garage with a storage room; a nice patio area; a community pool (which was featured on an episode of Desperate Housewives a few weeks ago); it's on a nice quiet street; and it was almost affordable.

It was priced about 20% below other units in the complex because it needed so much work. Oh, it was so awful: filthy rust-orange carpeting and fantastically horrific vinyl in the kitchen. Oh, OK, we kind of liked the vinyl but we had to get rid of it so we could put the bamboo floors through the whole downstairs.

Oh, and all the wallpaper in the bathrooms!


Oh, sweet Jesus.

But it was just such a relief not to see the generic remodel that we encountered in all the other overpriced condos we entered: the same granite countertops, the same tasteful lighting fixtures, the same beige colors. I know sellers and flippers are told to make a place as dull and generic as possible so the greatest number of customers will be bored into buying it. But I don't get it.

So basically every inch of the place needed to be refinished, though we haven't done everything yet. We had to rip out the wallpaper, the vinyl, and the carpeting, and repaint all the walls and cabinets. We put in bamboo flooring downstairs and carpeting upstairs. We kept the cabinets but painted them brown, we kept the flooring and the vanities in the upstairs baths even though they need to be replaced at some point. We kept the cottage cheese ceilings for now because we don't mind them. I know for resale they need to be removed but I don't know why people hate them so much; they really do help the acoustics of the rooms.

We also kept the tile counters in the kitchen for now because we can't decide what we want to do with them. We were going to get orange Formica counters and try to replicate the Brady Bunch kitchen but that just didn't happen. I thought it would be so funny to tell people, "Oh, yeah, we ripped out the granite countertops and put in Formica." But we decided it was stupid to replace the tile with Formica and we couldn't find a color we liked anyway. So we don't have the Brady kitchen but it still looks pretty cute. I don't mind the tile counters (though they are a little damaged around the sink) but the yellow just doesn't work with anything.

Anyway, here's how the schedule of the remodel was supposed to go:

Day 1: have the locks changed, the air conditioning serviced, and get an estimate for the floor.

Day 2: rip out the cabinets hanging between the kitchen and dining room, the vanity and the toilet in the powder room, and the florescent lighting fixtures in the bathrooms.

Day 3: refinish the cabinets in the kitchen.

Day 4: paint the walls.

Day 5: remove the wallpaper in the bathrooms.

Day 6: repaint the bathrooms and put in new light fixtures.

And on the seventh day I would rest.

OK, so obviously that's not what happened but I figured, even if everything took twice as long as I thought it would, I could still finish in two weeks, right. Well, no.

My mom did come out to stay and help me, so that was good. Eric had to go to "work" so I had to do most of the remodel myself. No, seriously, Eric had the downpayment and I get a lot more vacation time so it made sense for me to take time off to do the work. I took almost three weeks off (and I still had three weeks of vacation left).

But even when Eric wasn't at work he seemed to either be at the Hollywood Bowl or in temple. Is it true that the entire month of September is a Jewish holiday? I think he was making that up. No, I'm just kidding; he was great help, looking over my shoulder and telling me I missed a spot. No, seriously, he did help. I kid because I love.

Anyway, day one went OK except that I paid way too much for new locks and door-knobs. I was trying to do too many things at once and I let myself get conned by the locksmith. So apparently I ended up with the same locks used by the Israeli military or something like that. I guess it's good to have quality locks but we really don't have many suicide bombings in our neighborhood so it's probably more security than we need. And anyone could just smash our patio door if they wanted to get in that badly. That's why I like to do the work myself so I don't have to deal with people overcharging me.

Day two was when the schedule started to fall apart. Tearing out the cabinets was fun but much more difficult than I thought. They were not just bolted in like new cabinets; all the cabinets were nailed in piece by piece so the only way to remove them was to saw them apart. What an ordeal! But it was so satisfying to have them gone! Taking down the hanging cabinets really opened up the kitchen/dining space. And there were also cabinets that had been added under the breakfast bar. We thought about keeping them but the room looks so much bigger with them gone. And they were built right on top of the original carpeting! Ugh! That's so gross. Anyway, ripping out the cabinets took more than one day but it still went pretty smoothly.

Things really went to hell when we tried to stay on schedule refinishing the kitchen cabinets. That took forever! The cabinets, of course, had over forty years of grime on them so they were really difficult to clean and then we sanded them and put on primer and two coats of paint. As you can imagine, that takes several days. Oh, I tried staining them dark brown first but that didn't work so we went with dark brown paint instead. And, of course, when we put on new hinges they didn't fit because hing sizes have changed just a tiny bit since these cabinets went up. Why? Why would they change the size of hinges by 1/16th of an inch? It's insane! Anyway, I tried drilling new holes but it still didn't work so I had to put the old, dirty hinges back on. Yuck. And there are new drill holes, which Eric is thrilled about. Oh, well.

We cheated in painting the kitchen: I just couldn't face sanding down all the walls and ceiling so we painted right over the glossy paint, which you shouldn't do because it won't stick very well (painting over matt paint is fine). So we had a little peeling problem in a few places but I think it's fine now. I should have used a deglazer first but I thought the primer would be good enough. I think it should be fine but it was pretty tacky for a couple of weeks. I learned later that it can take a month for paint to completely dry. Weird.

Wallpaper! Here's where the shit really hit the fan. The wallpaper in the powder room was hell to remove. I almost lost my mind. I tried everything: the scorer, the gel, the scrapers. Eric suggested putting plastic wrap over the area where you have applied the gel because that way it can soak in longer without drying out. That actually helped a little But not enough. Eric finally figured out that we just had to sand the wallpaper right off the wall. It took forever but we finally did it. If the wallpaper had actually been something groovy and tacky in a cool way we probably would have just kept it but it was just ugly. Except that after we had sanded the flocking off it wasn't as bad.
Yeah, I kind of liked it once it was partially sanded away; it looked very antique. We decided to keep it on the ceiling to save some time and Eric got a paint color called "caraway seed" that really complimented the remains of the paper so that it almost looks like we did it on purpose. It's just the ceiling so it isn't overwhelming but it adds a bit of whimsy and visual interest to the room.

I really hated the powder room. That room was dead to me. I was close to buying drywall and just covering the whole thing. And we were in such a rush to finish the major work downstairs because we had the flooring guys coming. We didn't get it finished but we got most of the scraping done. When they came to put in the floor the room really looked like hell, with holes where the medicine cabinet, toilet, and vanity had been, and the awful unpainted walls. One of the flooring guys said it reminded him of something out of a horror movie.

But after the room was painted and the wood floor, new sink, and toilet were put in, it suddenly became my favorite room in the whole house! I'm sure it was just because it was the biggest challenge. (That cool mirror belonged to my great-grandfather.)

So the flooring guys did a great job! We bought the wood at Simple Floors, which is similar to Lumbar Liquidators, and had a local installer put it in. They finished the whole job in three days, including new baseboards and clean-up! Another unit in our complex was putting in floors for weeks! Our guys rocked!
Now, here's some advice in case you are thinking of getting new carpeting: most carpeting is in stock in a nearby warehouse and takes just a few hours to install so make sure you order it, oh, say, about three or four years ahead of time. Yeah, for some reason the carpeting turned out to be the real problem. It was such a nightmare! We had to change the date of our move because we couldn't get the carpeting put in.
I really thought the carpeting was going to be the easiest part so I just wasn't worried about it. Eric kept saying, "we need to order the carpet," and I kept saying, "you go ahead and order it if you want; that's not my top priority." I really thought we could order it anywhere and get it installed pretty quickly. And the carpeting upstairs, which we may need to replace in ten years, just wasn't as important a decision as, say, the wood floor downstairs that needs to last forever. And I kept saying, "if worse comes to worst, we can always just call Empire and they can install it the next day."

Well, that is if Empire can actually find your house to do the estimate. We wasted an entire evening waiting around for the Empire salesman and they kept calling the wrong number to say the guy was lost and we later figured out the guy was actually parked in the alley behind our garage but he never managed to find our front door. It was so weird. So we gave up and ordered some carpet from Lowe's. It was one of their "express" options that was supposed to be available in three days. We had a week before the move so that should have been fine. But four days, and then five days later and the carpet still hadn't been delivered to the installer. The carpet was sitting in the warehouse but for some reason they couldn't manage to get it to us! Ugh! So we had to cancel that order, change the date of the move, and try Empire one more time. I gave the Empire phone lady the address, and detailed instructions, and I explained that our house does actually have a door that the person can come to and knock on (!) and gave her the phone number that WE WANTED THEM TO USE BECAUSE WE WOULD ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO ANSWER IT!:

Empire phone lady: "Can I get an alternate number?"

Me: "NO!"

Anyway, Empire is, of course, over-priced. But they did actually install it the next day (once they found the house), the carpet is nice, and they did a good job. We are happy with it but I'm sure we could have saved some money if we had ordered earlier from another company. The carpet cost almost as much as the wood floor, which seems ridiculous.

Well, that's enough for now! I'll keep posting with more horror stories, project details, and updates. There is still so much to do!

Oh, yeah, we have a ghost! Our friend Aimee can see ghosts and she sees a woman sitting on our sofa. It's probably the original owner, Rosalind, who died here in the house a few years ago at age 92. That sofa is so uncomfortable I can't believe even a ghost would want to sit there. But I'm happy for her to sit anywhere she wants as long as she stops screwing with the plumbing. (Seriously, the toilet tank in the master bath cracked the day before we took ownership and nobody had been in the house! Spooky!)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares!

Did you see Gordon Ramsay last night? I've never watched his show before but he was at a restaurant called Sebastian's, which is right by our house so we watched. Eric, who has lived and worked in the area for many years, always said what a terrible reputation it has, nobody he knows ever goes there, and that it always looks empty.

But it was still stunning to see just how bad it is. The guy not only can't cook but he has no interest in cooking. He just likes calling himself a cook and heating up frozen food. Who wants to go to a restaurant to eat frozen food? All he is interested in is his restaurant's "concept," which he thinks is marketable. Apparently the concept is "bad food." I guess he thinks bad food is somehow a unique idea. Has he been to Applebee's?

And a big, confusing menu is not a new concept, either. Jerry's Famous Deli has been doing it for years but they must have realized this because they recently renovated the menu so that it is easier to read (it's organized more like a Cheesecake Factory menu now.)

Anyway, Gordon changed things around and made it so people might actually want to eat there and I was thinking I might give it a try. They were making fresh pizza dough and roasting chickens in a wood-fire oven and the food looked pretty good. But by the end of the program, and from what I've read on the Internet, it looks like Sebastian went back to his old menu of terrible food. Everyone who works at the restaurant really wants to make good food except for the owner. It's really sad.

[Update: OK, so according to Sebastian's website, it looks like he has revised his menu. It looks like maybe it's a combination of his old menu and the one Gordon Ramsay recommended for him. Now the question is whether he is using fresh ingredients. If I knew I weren't getting pre-packaged food I think I would give the place a try.]

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween from Eric Three Thousand!

Here's our pumpkin! Last night I carved him up, ripped out his guts, toasted them with olive oil and kosher salt, and then served them with fava beans and a nice Chianti. Poor guy didn't know what hit him but the pumpkin seeds were good! Our first Halloween in the new house; I hope we get lots of trick-or-treaters! Have fun! [Update: we didn't get a single trick-or-treater; apparently they skip the townhomes and go to the nearby multi-million-dollar houses. What do we do with all this stupid candy?!]

New posts on Eric Three Thousand!

Make sure to go over to Other Eric's blog to read exciting news about our swimming pool!

Read my post below about the Republican power grab in California!

Read my recent updates on the home remodel!

Read about our cruise to the Mexican Riviera!

Also, I've enabled the word verification in my comments section because I've gotten some SPAM recently. Sorry for the inconvenience; please keep commenting!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How do you get a Republican elected president when the majority of Americans vote for the Democrat?

(Besides getting your friends on the Supreme Court to stop all the votes from being counted.) You pay for a ballot measure in California that would result in up to 40% of our electoral college votes going to the Republican, which would virtually guarantee a Republican win.

I mentioned this possibility earlier this year when I wrote about the National Popular Vote but now it might actually happen. This ballot measure could get on the ballot in California next year and people might vote for it because they don't understand what it means.

The voters will be told that it's a more fair system because, instead of all our electoral votes going to one candidate, they would be split up according the votes in congressional districts. And on the surface that is more fair (although only slightly, because congressional districts are gerrymandered and don't accurately reflect the popular vote, either). But obviously it isn't fair because it means a Democratic state would be giving up a lot of electoral votes while Republican states keep all theirs. And Republicans should remember that it could happen in a Republican state, so they shouldn't be too thrilled about this. It's basically a way to make sure the election of the president has absolutely nothing to do with what the American people want.

The only way that would be fair would be if all the states did it at the same time. But, as I said, that would still be a mess because of the gerrymandering of congressional districts. The only real solution is the National Popular Vote. (But that's not the topic of this post.)

So how would such a ballot measure that would almost guarantee a Republican win actually pass in a state that votes Democratic? Two ways:

It will be sold as a "fairness in voting" measure, or something like that. People who don't understand the consequences or even how the electoral college works may think it does sound more fair. Independents who might vote Democratic much of the time but don't like living in a state that is solidly Democratic might think it sounds like a good idea because they might think it would make the state more independent. But, of course, it doesn't make the state more independent; it only makes it useful to the Republican party.

The other way it could pass is that old standby of the Republican party: low voter turnout. Republicans love low voter turnout because the majority of Americans are moderates who would lean to the left if they were forced to make a decision but most of those people don't care enough about the issues to actually vote. People on the extreme left and right are more likely to vote but there are more people on the extreme right than on the left (even though, as I've said, the majority of the Americans are moderates who lean left on many issues). So this is why Republicans love bad weather on election day: they know they can get out their radical voters and many moderates will stay home. (This is also why they put things like anti-gay measures on the ballot: most people, often including those backing the measures, don't care about the issue but Republicans know it will bring out the religious extremists in large numbers and they can use that skewed voter turnout to accomplish other, more important things. This is also why a few Republicans are opposed to the National Popular Vote: because it would increase voter turnout and that scares them.) In the case of this ballot measure, it won't end up on the primary ballot, when people will actually vote; it will end up on some weird midterm election that nobody will bother with. This will give a huge advantage to the minority Republicans in the state.

But before it gets on the ballot it needs signatures. It will probably get the signatures because getting signatures is no problem if you can pay for it. It has been demonstrated that people will sign petitions for anything. People collecting the signatures are getting paid for it and the ballot measures never sound like what they will actually do. So they'll get the signatures.

But still, DON'T SIGN THIS PETITION! If you are asked to sign something for "fairness in voting" or something similar, DO NOT SIGN IT! You will be signing to guarantee a Republican president in the next election. If you know people in California, tell them not to sign this petition.

Actually, it is a good idea to never sign petitions for ballot measures since they are usually bullshit. I'll get into my hatred of ballot measures and the mess they've made in California in another post. Until then, stay away from this petition and, when it does get on the ballot (and it will), make sure you go to the polls (even if it is inconvenient; even if it means missing part of American Idol) and vote against it!

Thank you!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Searching for a stud and other adventures in remodeling!

Sorry it's been so long! I really want to be good about posting at least once a week; otherwise, I'm afraid I'll get out of the habit. But the past two weeks have been so busy. We came back from our holiday and, like most people, we had so much to catch up on. And by 'so much to catch up on' I mean we had so much recorded television to watch. No, just kidding. There was a lot to catch up on at work and we came back to the unfinished house. And then, on top of that, a friend asked me to write the essay for his exhibition catalog and it had to be written in a week! It was such a great opportunity so I said I would do it even though I was feeling really overwhelmed with everything else I had to do.

Anyway, I finished the essay; that's what I did last weekend instead of blogging. Then this weekend Eric and I were going crazy on the house, trying to finish up a few more major projects before next weekend, when his parents come to town. They aren't staying with us but we want the place to look somewhat finished so they don't think we're living in a total shithole.

There were a couple of things I've been putting off for too long. One was putting up bookshelves. It didn't seem that high a priority but I knew that once I put them up there would be so much less crap sitting around on the floor. The shelves actually came with the house but they were in another room. They were nice solid wood and they perfectly fit the wall in our second bedroom so I thought I would reuse them. I got a stud finder at Lowe's and nearly drove myself crazy searching for the studs. Maybe the $100 stud finders work well but this $10 piece of crap was really annoying. It took hours and I still wasn't sure where they were.
Can someone tell me where the studs are?!
Larry Craig: "Why does everyone keep asking me that? How would I know? I'm not gay!"
Whatever. Anyway, I got the damn shelves up today and I was on to the next job.

I still haven't gotten to the lighting in my bathroom (in other words I don't have lights in my bathroom) but there was one major lighting job I had to get done. We had been putting it off for months, trying to figure out what to do about the lighting over the kitchen sink. I had torn down the hanging cabinets between the kitchen and dining room, which really opened up the space and looks great but it left a hole in the ceiling and a metal electrical tube hanging down (Eric referred to it as the elephant dong).

We decided we wanted three recessed lights over the sink area. It didn't seem like a big deal. We had a big electrical company come out for an estimate, which cost $99. Now I know why they charge to come out: because they know nobody is crazy enough to have them actually do the work. Never pay for an estimate! This was a major company and we wanted it taken care of so I decided to just try them but their prices are outrageous.

So the outrageously expensive electrician came out and I told him I wanted three recessed lights and this is what he said to me:

Outrageously Expensive Electrician: "You know what would look really hot? Three pendant lights hanging down over the breakfast bar. I think that would look really hot!"

I am not Paris Hilton. I do not need my kitchen to look hot. So I told him I just wanted three recessed lights and, after telling me all the amazing things he was going to do (like replace the outlets and switches), he told me it would cost ... wait for it ... TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!

Yeah; that's not hot.
I can't afford that! So after outrageously expensive electrician left, the guy plastering the ceiling in the garage from the repaired pipe (we had water pouring into the garage from a broken pipe the week we moved in) said he's a handyman and I should call him if I ever need any other work done. So I had him come upstairs and he said he would do it for about $300. That seemed more like and I told him I'd probably give him a call.

I tried calling him when we got back from our holiday but his phone message was so unprofessional I didn't leave a message. The message was something to the effect of "If you called, you know who this is. Do your thing at the tone and remember..." I don't remember what the last part was. Something like "keep it real" except the kids don't say that anymore, right? Actually, after I hung up I decided to just leave a message anyway but when I called back someone yelled at me. It sounded like a woman saying "he's not here!" but I'm not sure.

So then I was back where I started. I decided to try to do it myself:

Other Eric: "You can do it!"

That's just the support I needed! OK, I'll give it a try!

What happened next was me standing in the lighting section of Home Depot staring blankly at hundreds of different pieces of recessed-lighting equipment, none of which seemed to go together. Seriously, you need three different pieces but I couldn't find the three pieces that actually match each other:

Other Eric: "Why don't you ask someone?"

And surrender my manhood? Never!

Instead, we grabbed a kit that really wasn't what I wanted but at least all the pieces were there. Putting it up was much easier than picking it out. First I shut off most of the circuits because I didn't know which one controlled the light (I couldn't test it because there was no light there anymore). Then I cut the hole in the ceiling with a keyhole saw and it almost replaced the hole that was already there. After I hooked up the wires it went up into the ceiling pretty easily. I turned all the breakers back on and ...

The light worked! Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was! So it's only one light instead of three but it lights up the sink area and I saved about $2,480 by putting it up myself!
But I can't help looking at it and thinking, "You know what would look really hot? ..."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Erics of the Mexican Riviera: at world's end!

Yes, a week after we moved in to our new house, we took the vacation we planned at the beginning of the year. I wanted to go snorkeling in the Caribbean and Eric wanted to take a cruise to Alaska so we compromised and took a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

We took an eight day cruise on the Golden Princess round trip from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. As some of you may know from reading Other Eric's blog, he was thrilled to be on the "Love Boat" and I got a little snorkeling in so we had a great time!

In case any of you are thinking of taking a similar cruise, I will give you my review of the vacation:

We drove down to San Pedro (Long Beach) and did the whole embarkation thing. It wasn't too bad; kind of like a good day at the airport. We had a balcony stateroom (you have to call it a stateroom) and it was really nice! We have been in hotel rooms that were smaller than this so we were completely comfortable. The bathroom was pretty nice but larger people might have a little trouble maneuvering in it. Eric thought about getting a mini-suite, which had a small sofa, but I thought that was unnecessary; the important thing was the balcony. Having the balcony was totally worth it! We sat out there and had some wonderful views; we even watched dolphins jumping right outside our room!

We were on deck 11 (Eric kept correcting me when I called them "floors"), which was the Baja deck, and we were toward the back. It was a very good location; we could look down on the decks below but nobody could see down onto our balcony; and the buffet was just two decks up, almost directly above us.

Our balcony and room were very quiet; we couldn't really hear all the partying on the decks above. And the ship really didn't feel crowded, even though there were three thousand people aboard. People warned us that it would feel like too many people but the ship was so big, there was plenty of space; in fact there were many places on the ship that were completely deserted.

However, as big as the ship was, it still wasn't as big as I expected. I was especially disappointed with the shopping. It wasn't that I wanted to do a lot of shopping but the brochures seemed to go on and on about it and it clearly stated that anything I forgot, I would be able to find on board. I was expecting a complete shopping mall on that ship! Maybe at least a drug store. Well, no; there were two jewelry shops, a perfume shop, and a souvenir shop like you would find in an airport. I did manage to find a small bag to take on our shore excursions and I also found some sunblock but the selection was really limited.

The dining was pretty good. We ate at the buffet a lot; like I said, it was very close to our room so it was very convenient; we could even grab things and take it back to our room (oops, I mean stateroom). I had a continental breakfast delivered the first morning because I thought it would be nice to just hang out on the balcony before I ventured out. It was pointless because you could get much nicer things to eat right upstairs. We didn't order any other room service because the menu was very limited and there was just no point. Some of the food at the buffet was bad but most was edible and some of it was really delicious; this was definitely not Hometown Buffet.

I think I ate five or six meals a day! Apparently cruising makes me very hungry; I really stuffed myself. I swear I must have gained at least four and a half ounces! (Seriously, I can't wait to go to the gym and see if I actually gained any weight.)

We ate in the regular dining room twice. The food wasn't bad. We got the "personal choice" dining, which meant we just went to the dining room whenever we wanted to instead of having a regular time and table. We actually think we might like to try traditional dining next time. The first night we were placed at a table for eight and it was a little unpleasant because the table was too big to really have conversations with total strangers. The second time we went to the dining room we were at a table for six, which was much better. We had a nice time talking with the two other couples. Of course, it was also later in the cruise so we were a little more comfortable. You can also request to sit alone but that seems so unsociable and not very cruise-like so I'm glad we did the group seating thing a couple of times to get the full cruise experience.

I've learned that you don't bother introducing yourself by name on a cruise. You tell people where you are from and ask them where they are from (sorry about ending those phrases with prepositions but I just don't know how else to say it). You can, of course, exchange names but it really isn't necessary since you will never see these people again. It seemed strange to me at first but it makes perfect sense. Where you are from (sorry again) seems to be the most important thing to people on a cruise. The staff all have their country of nationality on their badges (interestingly, I don't think any of them, from waiters to captain, were American). Many guests seemed to be from the Los Angeles area, where the cruise originated, but I think most people came from elsewhere, many from other countries. This is a little surprising because one of the reasons Eric and I took this cruise was because we didn't have to fly anywhere, which adds one more annoyance to a vacation.

Oh, so back to the food: there are two specialty restaurants on the Golden Princess: an Italian restaurant called Sabatini's and a steak house. You pay $15 and $20 extra to eat at these restaurants. I can't recommend Sabatini's ... highly enough! Hah, got you! No, really, it was fantastic! I'm sure it wasn't the best food in the world but we really enjoyed it; it looked like the menu at a normal Italian restaurant but the difference is you get all of it! You get something like eight courses of lots of little things (the only thing that was bad was the gnocchi) and my main course of lobster was delicious. The steak house was a dud. My wine glass was dirty, my spinach-artichoke dip appetizer was more like soup, and I couldn't eat my steak. I don't eat much meat anyway but I do occasionally love a good fillet minion. The dessert was OK but by that time I wasn't very happy.

Anyway, in general, I was pretty satisfied with the food. It was nice to be able to just eat whenever and whatever you wanted without thinking about how much it was costing. The drinking, of course, is a little different. I think everyone knows "that's how they get you." Eric hardly drinks and I have about one drink a day so this wasn't a problem for us but there were people onboard drinking from ten in the morning until they went to sleep at night and they must have spent at least $100 a day on booze. The nice thing is they really don't gauge you; the drinks cost what they would at any bar. But they should at least give you free soft drinks. You do get free iced tea, coffee, and what I hope is filtered water.

So I signed up for shore excursions for our three port days:

Other Eric: "We're supposed to be relaxing; not running all over the place."

Me: "Don't worry; they'll be plenty of time to just sit in our room doing nothing."

Cut to the trip:

Other Eric: "What are we going to do now?"

Me: "Can't we just sit and read?"

Other Eric: "We can't just sit around!"

What I'm trying to say is I was forced to watch "Licensed to Wed." In fact, I think this whole trip may have been an elaborate ruse just to get me to watch a Robin Williams movie.

Slightly better than "Licensed to Wed" were the onboard shows. They were pretty bad. I know traditionally these shows were meant to keep people busy as they traveled from one place to another but I thought they were supposed to be better now. These were definitely just a way to relieve boredom. Most of the singers couldn't sing. In the first show, of Broadway songs, one woman did a very good version of "On My Own" from Les Miserables but the tap dancing numbers were ridiculous. The next night we saw a silly magic show; how many times do we need to see a woman being levitated to old Prince songs? Then we saw a ventriloquist; I was sure I would hate it but I actually thought the guy was pretty funny (actually, Eric grew up watching this guy on a children's show in Arizona). The final show we saw was another "big production" show. This one was of movie songs. It was better than the Broadway show but not by much. There was one amazingly bad number that I referred to the the "Cirque du Celine" number: a truly bizarre interpretation of "Windmills of My Mind" with dancers hanging from fabric:

Other Eric: "I'll never be able to listen to that song again."

OK, so young hot guys dancing around in their underwear? Yeah, I get that part. I'm totally down with that. But it wasn't enough to make up for that singing and arrangement.

In Puerto Vallarta we took a boat trip and went snorkeling in a cove and then went to a little fishing village called Yelapa. The little village only got electricity a few years ago and is only accessible by boat. It was very interesting. We hiked up and went swimming under a waterfall. The crew on this Yelapa tour were amazing and we all had a really good time (I even survived being forced to join a conga line). If you like to drink, this trip would be a very good value for you. People got a LOT of free alcohol; I'm sure if they had that many drinks on the ship it would have cost them much more than the $80 excursion price. It was really a full, fun day and I highly recommend this tour. Oh, the water was really warm but pretty murky because there had recently been a storm. I still got to see some pretty fish but you couldn't see very far. Also, on the walk back from the waterfall we had to walk through this stream that probably is usually easy to cross but because of the recent rain, it was waist high and really wide. I was a little worried that some of the older people on the tour were not going to make it across and I was also worried Eric would drop his camera. But everything was OK and it ended up turning it into more of an adventure.

In Mazatlan we took the Sierra Madre tour, which was a bus trip two thousand feet up into the mountains, where we visited two little villages and had a delicious lunch (for some reason, the only Mexican food of the entire trip). The mountains were beautiful. The plant life was very strange; it was like a combination of rain forest and desert, with jungle vines covering cacti. We really enjoyed this tour, too, and it was a nice, more relaxing day. Oh, and apparently you are supposed to buy vanilla in Mazatlan. So I did. You are also supposed to buy silver but what do I need with silver? Every other person on the street is trying to sell you silver chains for a dollar. Seriously, how many silver chains could anybody possibly need? In my case it's exactly zero but, assuming you did need silver chains, would you really need to buy more of them every few feet?

In Cabo we took another boat tour, this one was snorkeling in Chileno Bay off a catamaran. The water was much nicer is Cabo; not quite as warm as Puerto Vallarta but much clearer. I saw some pretty fish but Chileno Bay was a little crowded. This was only a half day tour and the crew were definitely not as good as the Puerto Vallarta crew and the tour was the same price. So we thought the Puerto Vallarta tour was a much better value but the water was so much better in Cabo we still enjoyed it. I can see why Cabo is such a popular tourist site; it's really beautiful. We'd like to go back.

On our last sea day I got a massage and a facial. I found the spa treatments a little confusing but it was very relaxing and my skin looks a little better. However, I expected to look ten years younger and I don't. Oh, well.

After a massage you are supposed to avoid alcohol so I went to a wine tasting. The time was listed incorrectly in the daily schedule so I showed up half an hour late and they were already three wines into the six we were being offered. Several of the wines were very good but I really didn't learn anything about wine and I also thought it was going to be pairing wine with food but it wasn't. Like I said, it was a nice opportunity to try some expensive wines but this experience was still disappointing.

We also went to an art auction. It was kind of fun but the art was really awful. I know I am not the intended audience of this art but it would have been nice if they had actually had something good.

Disembarkation was pretty easy. Our time to disembark was 9:00 AM and by 11:00 we were back in the San Fernando Vally. So it was really not as bad as we had been told.

Eric decided pretty quickly into the trip that we are "cruise people." I would cruise again but I'm not sure we are "cruise people." We don't really love talking to strangers, I don't enjoy most of the activities on the ship, I don't like sitting in the sun in a deck chair, the pools are not very nice, the entertainment is crap, we don't drink much, we went to bed too early to experience the night-life, we didn't do any onboard shopping, and we don't gamble. I do like looking at the ocean, however, and it was nice to get somewhere without flying but I don't know if that's enough to make us "cruise people."

So, we had a wonderful time. The weather was very hot and humid but we missed the storms. The cruise was relaxing but we also did some really fun things. We only saw Mexico on guided tours but we got to see some small villages instead of the cities. We would probably cruise again. We don't know if the next one will be a Princess cruise to Alaska or a Disney cruise to the Caribbean.

Check out Other Eric's blog for a slide show he put together and should be posting soon!