Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs," and the baffling chef Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is an unpleasant, scowling, foul, sour, insulting, annoying, repellent woman who for some reason continues to appear on programs airing on the Food Network. Considering this is the cable channel that has inflicted upon us Guy Fieri, Duff Goldman, Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, Sandra Lee, Robert Irvine, Troy Johnson, and Bobby Flay, you might think it would be difficult to decide just who is the least likable and most irritating human being ever to appear on its airwaves. This, however, is not the case. The owner of that dubious distinction, hands down, is the human equivalent of runny brie smothered in wasabi that is Alex Guarnaschelli.

For reasons that baffle me, this condescending, hectoring, supremely unsavory person has been given at least two of her own shows -- one of which is apparently still on the air (who would watch her? I'd rather eat a plate full of undercooked chicken smothered in raw eggs and possibly poisonous mushrooms than subject myself to watching her make that scowling face that somehow acts as her "smile" while she tells me about her favorite breakfast in bed moment for 30 minutes) -- and she regularly appears as a "judge" on the alleged cooking competition "Chopped." Someone at Food Network has a Chef Guarnaschelli fetish that is as mystifying as Spam wrapped in Fugu.

The only thing that's even remotely remarkable about her is unfathomable ability to get herself on television.

I've often thought that I must be missing something -- she can't possibly be as bad as I think she is, and moreover there can't possibly be some grand conspiracy to force her upon us. But now that Ms. Guarnaschelli is a contestant on the newest season of "The Next Iron Chef," (which is laughably subtitled "Super Chefs" -- what exactly is so "super" about Ms. Guarnaschelli?) I have irrefutable proof that Ms. Guarnaschelli is just as irritating, unpleasant, hateful, vituperative, nasty, and repellent as I've always thought. And that there is a conspiracy to force her upon us, no matter what.

On the episode that aired tonight, November 27, Ms. Guarnaschelli served the judges burned peanut shells in a bag. Literally. That is literally what she served the judges. She told them they were inedible. And she served them. Burned peanut shells in a brown paper bag. I am not exaggerating that.

And she didn't even land in the bottom two.

No, please do not ask me to explain the premise of this ridiculous show. It's bad enough that I actually watch, and it's bad enough that I'm actually blogging about it now. The remaining chefs had to create dishes inspired by New York City landmarks, and then tell stories about their food (shouldn't the food itself tell the story?). Ms. Guarnaschelli's landmark was the Empire State Building, for which she concocted some cockamamie story about smelling burned peanut shells -- it's street food! -- every time she walked past the Empire State Building to get to her first job in a restaurant.

Moreover, as for the edible portion of her dish, at least one of the judges -- Simon Majumdar -- complained that her potatoes were as rancid and hard to take as her personality (I'm paraphrasing). But no, it was Chef Elizabeth Falkner who landed in the bottom two because she allegedly didn't "sell" the story behind her Brooklyn Bridge inspired schnitzel, or something.

Maybe Chef Marcus Samuelsson deserved to land in the bottom two (the whole enterprise is dubious!), but there is no way that either he nor Chef Falkner should have gone home before Ms. Guarnaschelli because you know what? Neither of them served the judges in an Iron Chef "Super" Chefs competition a bag full of burned peanut shells.

A bag full of burned peanut shells!

During the final cook-off between the Chefs Falkner and Samuelsson, the Chef Anne Burrell (who is a cool refreshing drink of Mojito on a hot summer day next to Ms. Guarnaschelli) turned to her and said something to effect of, "I'm worried about that schmear on the bottom of Chef Falkner's pan. But I hope it tastes good." To which the backbiting scold Ms. Guarnaschelli replied, "No you don't."

Ms. Guarnaschelli, you see, wishes villification upon others, and she projects that unpleasant calumny that comes so naturally to her onto everyone else.

And I'm not even going to mention -- I'm too irritated! -- the incident in which she dropped her potatoes into the water and she overstated "There was nowhere in the universe I'd rather not be than in that kitchen at that moment." This woman has absolutely no perspective. Would she have rather been in Iraq at that moment? How about on the other side of Pluto?

Okay, I get it. Reality shows are supposed to have villains. But in a cooking competition, shouldn't the contestants -- even the villains -- actually serve, you know, edible food to the judges? Otherwise we might start to get suspicious.

She thinks that smug, condescending scowl is a smile.

Bonus: You can read my Food Network and Hunger Games belittling book, The Hungry Game, here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home improvement terms from DIY Network and HGTV that sound kind of naughty

Someone famous wrote a book about how you become an expert at something after having spent 10,000 hours doing it. Well, I have watched about 10,000 hours of HGTV and DIY network, so I feel I am an expert on home improvement.

One thing that I've noticed, as I've become a home improvement expert, is that some of the terms that we home improvement experts use sound kind of -- well, "a bit rude," as the Prince Regent put it in the third Black Adder series (having watched at least 10,000 hours of British television, I'm also an expert on British history). Here then is my list of home improvement terms heard on HGTV and DIY network, that sound a bit rude:


Backer rod


Bottom rail


Butt hinge



Curb appeal

Double glazing

Double hung window





French door

Furring strips





Head track

Horizontal slider

Jack studs

King studs

Lag screw

Load-bearing wall




Packing nut

Pilot hole


Plumb bob

Plumber's putty

Pocket door





Set screw


Sill cock



Stud finder

Triple glazing


Weep hole

Wet wall

Bonus: Poetry first, then sausage:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why do people question the miracle that is the McRib sandwich?

The McRib is a miracle sandwich. It's something delicious that is made from a bunch of seemingly non-delicious ingredients. This apparently bothers some people.

I'm sure there was someone there to criticize Jesus Christ when he turned water into wine, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Sasha Grey reading to elementary school kids, and the true insidious purpose behind Read Across America

Sasha Grey, a former pornographic film performer and my choice to play Cheetah in any upcoming Wonder Woman film or television adaptation, apparently read to some school kids last week. According to TMZ, some parents complained about this.
Porn legend Sasha Grey says she will NOT back out of a national elementary school reading program -- despite pressure from parents -- claiming she will "not live in fear" of her XXX past.
The "national elementary school reading program" is something called "Read Across America," which is a program apparently aimed at getting school children to, well, read across America. Apparently they think that inviting famous people (the kids probably know Ms. Grey from her appearances -- playing herself -- on the HBO television program "Entourage") to read to children for photo opportunities will somehow encourage them to read for themselves.

Then again, perhaps Ms. Grey's elementary school appearance wasn't part of that program after all:
A spokesperson for Read Across America told that Gray [sic] was not affiliated with the program.
First of all, who proofreads It's Sasha Grey, not "Gray." But that's less important than the fact that Read Across America denies that Ms. Grey is "affiliated with the program."

Since didn't see fit to post Read Across America's spokesperson's statement, we don't really know what they're denying. Are they claiming that Ms. Grey has never been an employee of Read Across America, or are they claiming that Ms. Grey's reading session was not an officially-sanctioned Read Across America event?

I'd never heard of this program, so I went straight to their website to discover what they're all about. As it turns out, this seemingly altruistic program, with its goal of getting kids to read, has a sinister purpose that has nothing to do with pornography. Here's the first paragraph of the Read Across America website:

NEA Celebrates Reading with the Lorax in 2012

Green is the theme for a very special Read Across America celebration in 2012. NBC/Universal's The Lorax Movie (featuring the voices of Taylor Swift, Zach Efron, Danny Devito and Betty White) opens nationwide March 2, 2012 and Universal, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and Random House are joining NEA's Read Across America in a special Read Across America campaign featuring new posters, teacher guides, events and activities on the RAA website.
It's a commercial for a piece of corporate entertainment called "The Lorax," complete with a hyperlink to the official NBC/Universal website. Apparently, Read Across America is an exercise in corporatism (will "The Lorax" be on these new posters and teacher guides?) designed to prime public school students for the opening of a new NBC/Universal film in March 2012.

Do the elementary school students have any choice as to whether or not they participate in this program? Do they have to sit there and listen while they're fed NBC/Universal propaganda -- or is this some kind of voluntary, after-school kind of thing, for kids who want to know what kind of corporate entertainment they should consume?

As noble as pornography might be, I don't think that students need to be exposed to a "porn star," ex or otherwise. The parents of a first grader might not want to have to explain to their child who exactly Sasha Grey is. But for crying out loud is that really as bad as using an alleged educational platform as a pretense for selling a piece of corporate entertainment to a group of suggestible public school kids?

And by the way: If in fact Ms. Grey's appearance was not an officially-sanctioned Read Across America event, then how do they explain this doctored screenshot of their website, promoting Ms. Grey's participation?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poodle Bitch wonders if humans have lost the ability to express true affection

Poodle Bitch has noted with no small amount of concern the rise of ironic detachment in human culture. She sees the ascendancy of post modernism and deconstruction as a way for people to avoid dealing with genuine emotion. The artists of today, those people who are supposed to shine a light upon the human condition and thereby illuminate the experiences which all human beings share, seem instead to be more interested in proving how "cool" they really are. Poodle Bitch isn't particularly interested right now in helping humans overcome this particular deficiency, but she would like to note that no less a pairing of artists than Kanye West and Jay Z agree with her. In their song Otis, they express the sentiment with both eloquence and, appropriately, irony:

"Sounds so soulful, don't you agree?" they ask, in reference to the late, great Mr. Otis Redding, who had no trouble expressing genuine tenderness. These two artists reached back into the past -- the ancient past, the 1960s -- to bring forth an example of unabashed emotional artistry. This in the midst of a song deconstructing modern hip-hop, and of a video deconstructing a Maybach.

Poodle Bitch will let you, the reader, come up with your own examples (here are a few -- posts on the television program "Up All Night," the upcoming "Muppets" film, and the "Toy Story" films -- to get you started). For right now, she wants to illustrate the cumulative deleterious effect this all-pervasive ironic detachment has had on relations between humans and animals. Last week, the gentlemen who created the Awkward Family Photos website (which is dedicated to cataloging the myriad ways in which human beings are losing the ability to express familial piety) released a new bound collection of Awkward Family Pet Photos. This book is full of images of human beings posing with the pets they purport to love. Some samples:

These are companions as props, for the aggrandizement of the humans depicted within. These images are not whimsical. There is nothing humorous about them. They represent a humanity that is losing touch with itself -- an entire species that has been capable of the greatest of emotions losing the ability to communicate those emotions. Poodle Bitch notes that none of these images is spontaneous; the humans involved carefully thought out how they wanted to be depicted alongside their canine companions, and willingly posed in the manner depicted above, while forcing their companions to join in what is in fact a dual humiliation. In the case of the alien abduction themed photo, Poodle Bitch assumes the humans scrolled through the photographer's available backdrops (or, worse, called around to see which photographers had such a backdrop) and found the one that they thought best represented them and the relationship that they have with their nonhuman companion. Poodle Bitch notes the abduction motif is in fact appropriate, although not for the reasons the humans might imagine.

These humans might actually love their inhuman companions; but they are clearly unable to express this affection without first cloaking it in some bizarre, protective veneer.

The most extreme expression of this companions-as-props attitude can be found in this alarming photo:

If Poodle Bitch were slightly more cynical, she might note that the above photo is perhaps the only honest one of the bunch. Here the humans are literally equating their companion animal -- in this case, a bird -- with a tool. A gun. Poodle Bitch wonders which item the humans in that photo find the most important?

Just as the humans depicted in the photos above seem incapable of feeling shame, Poodle Bitch notes that animals are incapable of irony. Their devotion to their human companions is as sincere as it is total, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the story of Duncan, the three year-old Boxer who rescued his human companion from a housefire, and died in the process.
[Human companion Scott] Dunn was asleep Monday night, when he woke at about three in the morning to find smoke "down to the floor" in his home.

It was Duncan, a three-year-old boxer, who woke him in time. "He was just pawing at me. I thought he was trying to go out," recalled Dunn.

Dunn says he grabbed his keys and Duncan by his collar as he attempted to leave the house to get to his car. "The minute I opened the door, it was like the house exploded," said Dunn. "The flames went from one end of the house to the other."

In the confusion Dunn didn't realize that Duncan hadn't made it out of the house.

Poodle Bitch does not have the words to express herself. She is heartbroken over the loss of the heroic, selfless Duncan. She does note that there is nothing "awkward" about the photo below:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing a novel in one month is for wimps. I wrote a novel in one day. Actually, I wrote a novel in like 20 minutes

November is, for some reason, National Novel Writing Month, or, if you prefer, nanowrimo for short. The object is to write a novel in one month. Actually, that's not true, if this particular post is to be believed:
The basic premise is that you take 30 days to write a draft of a 50,000 word novel, which averages about 1,667 words per day. You are allowed to outline and plan beforehand, but the actual writing can’t happen until November 1.
You're allowed to outline and plan, but not actually write? Outlining and planning is part of writing a novel. In fact outlining and planning are the most important parts of writing a novel. If you're allowed to start those before "the actual writing" begins, then I guess I don't understand the point of the arbitrary 30 day time constraint.

Anyway. Today, this morning, I endeavored to write a novel in one day-- and I exceeded my goal by about twenty three and one half hours. I was also so efficient that I managed to get my novel written in about 1,500 words or so. Below is my novel, in its entirety. Please enjoy.

Disgusting Life, or, A Wretched Tale, in Two Parts
A complete novel by Ricky Sprague

Part First: How Mr. Sinclair and Madame O came to be married.

So in love was Mr. Sinclair that he did not see the object of his affections, Madame O, as anything other than a sweet, comforting angel. This naturally made him a source of ridicule and scorn in the town, for nothing is so ridiculous nor so loathsome as a man who is too blinded by affection to see how foolish he is being made.

One afternoon, Mr. Sinclair called upon Madame O in her parlor, for sorghum and cornpone, as was a holdover custom of more genteel times. Madame O, seated on a settee and wearing enormous petticoats, did not rise to greet him. “Please forgive me, that I do not rise to greet you,” said she, in a halting voice. “For, you see, my knees are weak and I fear I have a slight case of the vapors.”

“Trouble yourself not,” Mr. Sinclair said, in his sincere yet stilted manner. “For it is a pleasure to my eyes to see you seated upon your settee thus, and if you’d risen in the manner customary in polite society I would have been cheated out of the experience of gazing upon you sitting there.”

He took a seat upon another settee, adjacent to the one on which Madame O’s body now sat, quivering, as Mr. Sinclair only just noticed. “She must be trembling with joy to see me,” he thought.

A servant brought them the tray of sorghum and cornpone, and they each began to eat. “Why do your hands tremble so, when you eat your cornpone and drink your sorghum?” Mr. Sinclair asked, in the openhearted manner with which he ever asked any question.

“’Tis merely that I am trembling with joy to see you,” said Madame O, with a slight shudder.

Mr. Sinclair, himself, gave a shudder at what sounded to his ears to be a verification of his own suspicions. “If only we weren’t enslaved by these traditional customs!” he declared. “If only I could take that dainty, alabaster hand in mine, with its slender fingers—” (for Mr. Sinclair’s fingers were quite slender) “—and press my lips to your perfumed skin! If only polite society did not prevent me being so bold!”

Madame O gasped, a gesture which Mr. Sinclair took as a visceral assent to his importunations. In a trice he was on the settee next to her, his hand clasping hers. “Fie upon convention!” he exclaimed. “I shall declare myself now without fear! I will show you of what I am made!”

Again, Madame O gasped, which Mr. Sinclair took as a positive signal of his own effect upon her. He leaned forward to kiss her hand, and thought he heard, faintly, the sound of muffled laughter. He then noticed something which struck him as even more peculiar: Madame O appeared to have three feet visible from under her petticoats… One of those feet being upside down.

So clouded by the pollutant called love was Mr. Sinclair’s mind that he did not at first understand the implication of what his eyes beheld. “Does Madame O find herself afflicted by a third leg?” he inquired, earnestly.

“A third leg, yes,” she replied, “but ‘tis no affliction!” At that, there emerged from beneath her petticoats a man whose countenance Mr. Sinclair had seen before, in the stocks as punishment of being found guilty of selling his wife’s children for money with which he had purchased a revolver which he then used to rob a group of elderly lepers. He laughed, thanked Madame O for allowing him the pleasure of her body, then spat upon Mr. Sinclair.

“You are a dog, sir!” Mr. Sinclair declared, shocked.

“Aye,” the man said, dryly. “A dog that likes to chase pussy!”

So scandalized was Mr. Sinclair by the tone of the man’s veiled vulgarism that he became emotionally ravaged, and his empurpled body collapsed upon the settee, which itself reverberated with the shocks emanating from his body. Madame O laughed, and sat down beside him. “Oh, dearie. You’re too sensitive,” said she. “Don’t take it so hard.”

At length, Mr. Sinclair again found the ability to articulate. He chose his words carefully: “Madame O, I had planned on letting our courtship run its natural course, yet I can now see that in order to win your affections I must be more demonstrative! I desire now to request a meeting with your father, that I may ask him for your hand in marriage!”

Again, Madame O laughed. “Suit yourself, suitor!” She then called to her father, who stepped out from behind the paper partition that divided the room. Her father, a large man with a face nearly equal in redness to his hair, sat beside Mr. Sinclair, who by then gave the outward appearance of having recovered from his spell.
“I couldn’t help but overhear what just happened,” the father said, “being as I was in the same room with you. I understand you want to speak with me.”

“I wish to ask you for your daughter’s hand in marriage!” Mr. Sinclair said.

Apparently the father found this an uproarious suggestion, for there ejaculated from his mouth a furious staccato of guffaws the likes of which Mr. Sinclair had never before heard. Accompanying the father’s abrasive aural revelry, Mr. Sinclair also heard the sounds of Madame O’s laughter which, it seemed, was somehow less dulcet than usual.

“Forgive my laughter,” said the father, at length, “but your proposition strikes me as hilarious, and when I hear an hilarious proposition, I laugh uproariously. My daughter isn’t likely to be a fit wife, especially to a sensitive type such as yourself.”

“I love her dearly,” said Mr. Sinclair. “And I know that the force of my love will impose upon your daughter the curative of virtue that will ensnare her in the cage of chaste love!”

The father shrugged, then slapped Mr. Sinclair upon the back. “Good luck to you,” said he. Thus, having served his purpose in our narrative, he again took his place behind the partition.

So it came to pass that Madame O and Mr. Sinclair were married. Madame O (despite the marriage, she continued to wear the cognomen “Madame O”) engaged in lewd acts with an usher, Mr. Sinclair’s friend Mr. Rogers – who had served as Mr. Sinclair’s best man – and with one of her own matrons-in-waiting, in the waning moments of their wedding reception. Thus, too tired to fulfill her wifely honeymooning duties, she slept alone in the conjugal bed, while Mr. Sinclair, patiently, slept on the floor beside the bed.

This arrangement continued more or less unabated for two years, for that was how long it took Mr. Sinclair to finally accept what his clouded mind already suspected: That he alone was not the sole beneficiary of his wife’s physical ministrations. He conspired to catch and confront her during her shamefully shameless actions. This was no sooner thought than done, for Madame O made no effort hide her activities. So one night, when he heard the bed begin squeaking, Mr. Sinclair simply rose from his place on the floor and told his wife to stop laying with other men.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Stop laying with other men, like the man with whom you’re laying now.”

The man in question gave each member of the married couple a quizzical look. “I thought this arrangement was agreed upon and acceptable to all parties,” said he.

Ignoring the man who lay atop her, Madame O said, “I see no reason to change my life at this point, simply to accommodate you. Besides that, I have given you two children, as I recall, and that should be more than enough to occupy your obviously troubled mind.”

“One of those children was stillborn,” Mr. Sinclair replied. “The other was of a decidedly swarthy hue, and I am not entirely sure that the child was mine.”

Madame O pursed her lips. “I care not for your tawdry accusations and your insecurities. You’ve ceased to be amusing, and I am leaving this arrangement.”

“I am leaving this arrangement as well!” Mr. Sinclair agreed. The three of them left the house.

Madame O’s and Mr. Sinclair’s one child, Charles Peter, died the following day of starvation, having been forgotten by them both.

Part Second: What happened following the dissolution of their marriage.

Mr. Sinclair spent his nights drinking, and his days sulking. Soon, his days and nights blurred together, and he was intoxicated and miserable all of the time. At his government office, he was unable to perform even the simplest of his duties, such as transcribing lists of possessions of recently deceased clergymen, and he was terminated from his job. He spent his days in destitution, staggering about the streets in desperate search for some respite from the misery that was his constant companion.

He lay in the gutter, moaning her name. “Madame O,” he would moan. “Maaaaaaaadddaaaaaaaammm Oooooooooo,” he would moan.

One day, he was overheard by a lout as he left a public house. “Madame O?” the lout asked, kicking Mr. Sinclair in the ribs. “She’s just about the finest prostitute in all of three counties!”

At this, Mr. Sinclair’s heart skipped. After that regretful night in which Mr. Sinclair had confronted his beloved bride, she’d seemed to disappear completely, despite his best efforts at finding her. Now, as the man placed a muddy shoe against his temple, Mr. Sinclair felt hope. “Tell me where she is,” he demanded.

“She works in a brothel down in Q___,” the man said. And, having thus served his purpose in this narrative, he staggered into the night, while Mr. Sinclair made his way to Q___.

He walked the streets until his tatty shoes were torn to tatters. His clothes hung off a frame that had become nearly skeletal from lack of nutrition. He retraced his steps out of confusion and miscreance, yet finally he located the brothel in which Madame O kept the apartment in which she plied her wares.

So thoroughly loathsome was Mr. Sinclair that Madame O, who was even more robust, voluptuous, and rosy-cheeked than before, thanks to regular exertion and dining afforded her by her steady and frequent employment, did not at first recognize him as the man she’d once regularly cuckolded. “Much as I like my job,” she told the sallow-complected bag of bones she now beheld, “I cannot see my way clear of doing for you.”

“But, I was once your loving husband!” he moaned.

At that, Madame O gave a start, then laughed as uproariously as she’d laughed on that day when he’d asked for her hand in marriage. (A day which Mr. Sinclair remembered with much fondness.) “Why, Mr. Sinclair! Just get a look at you!”

His heart raced to hear the sound of that voice he’d so desperately been longing to again hear. “Please,” he said, “let me just caress you…”

“A caress is twenty-five cents!” Madame O declared, striking the price board which Mr. Sinclair had not before noticed. Listed were the activities in which Madame O was willing to engage, and the price for said services. What he read made his mouth water, and stirred his loins in a way that had only a few months before seemed impossible thanks to drink and malnutrition.

As the door to Madame O’s apartment opened, Mr. Sinclair heard the ringing of the bell, and a man pushed past him. “You’ll have to excuse me now, poor wretch,” said his former wife. “But I’ve work to do.”

“You want me to throw him out?” the man asked.

“No – he’s leaving,” Madame O said, in a stern voice.

Mr. Sinclair did just that, resuming his dazed shambling through the streets. By chance he came upon a small, undernourished boy, walking down the street alone. The boy held in his hand a silver coin, upon which he was gazing with loving attention.

“What have you there, my boy?” Mr. Sinclair gasped, as casually as he could.

“It’s a two-dollar coin,” the boy said, proudly. “I won it in the church lottery, and I’m going to use it to buy my parents fresh bread crumbs. You see, we’re so poor that we can usually only afford stale bread crumbs that have been gnawed by diseased rats.”

“Well, aren’t you a lucky boy,” Mr. Sinclair said, licking his lips at he prospect of what two dollars would buy him in his ex-wife’s apartment. “Why don’t you let me have that coin, and I’ll give you four dollars in return!”

The boy refused, and the two of them had a long discussion during which the child likened Mr. Sinclair to the devil, as in that old chestnut about the child encountering the devil on his way to school, and then Mr. Sinclair picked up a rock and clouted the boy’s skull, spilling gore and brain matter into the street. Mr. Sinclair then took the boy’s coin (he now being dead no longer had use for it) back to Madame O’s apartment. She was surprised to see him, but nevertheless took his money and performed upon his nude, emaciated body two dollars worth of activities she’d never performed upon him when they were married.

“Next time you get any money, come back and see me,” Madame O said, sending him on his way and greeting her next customer, who happened to be the town magistrate, who was taking a break from investigating the murder of the boy who’d won the church lottery. Upon seeing the silver coin in Madame O’s possession, he made a mental note to arrest her once he’d finished engaging her services.

Both Madame O and Mr. Sinclair were arrested, and the two former spouses were hanged the next day in the town square.

The End.