Friday, September 30, 2011

One of the worst outfits I've seen in a long time - Heidi

At a certain point during the "Project Runway" season, front-runners appear. But I don't remember it ever being as obvious and exclusive as this year. If it wasn't so much fun to continuously watch the bad ones fail, there really wouldn't be a point to watch the weekly episodes until the finale. I mean, seriously.

Top Three: Viktor, Kimberly, Anya.

This fact was abundantly clear Thursday night as well. With the exception of Laura's second look, none of the other designers (those not listed above) made looks that were at all tasteful or wearable. The challenge was to make two 1970s looks that are also modern. So not literal is what they were looking for.

I was stunned Joshua didn't go home -- considering Heidi called one of his pieces "one of the worst outfits I've seen in a long time -- although the decision wreaked of a purposeful shock move, since Anthony Ryan has actually performed well in the past. Not Thursday, though, and he was booted for some fugly clothes.

Anya was the winner of the challenge. She had lost her money at Mood, and she created an outfit better than the majority with $11.50 donated to her by other designers. Her second look was cute, too. But I saw Kimberly as the clear winner with her pencil skirt and crop top.

And still, we can't seem to get rid of Bert. I thought for sure his Barbie-esque fabric selection and booty shorts would result in some Bert-bashing by the judges. But once again, they continue to kiss his old butt.

He'll get his soon enough. It's only a matter of a few weeks before Viktor, Anya and Kimberly make it to the finals. Mark my words!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This 'big loser' has backslid

Wednesday's breakfast: skipped. Lunch: turkey and bacon club (with mayo) and steak fries (with lots of ketchup). Dinner: Kwik Trip corndog and a bag of candy orange slices. Dessert: Fruit and yogurt and granola thing, with two glasses of red wine.

Yeah, folks, I've backslid. Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's when the "keeping it off is the hardest part" statement starts ringing in your ears. It's when you look back at a couple of months before, when you SWORE there was no possible way that junk food for dinner and zero exercise for days could possibly be your lifestyle anymore. I mean, how in the world could you ruin all of your hard work?! There's just no way.

Oh, there's a way. You know it, and I know it. There's always a way that the old lifestyle can come creeping back in, with a tiny whisper of a promise in your brain that it's only temporary. It's just a break. Tomorrow you'll do better. But for today, live it up. Embrace what tastes good and don't worry about having to zip up those jeans tomorrow, which, for some reason, just keep getting tighter and tighter.

Well, today is "tomorrow," I guess. I haven't gained back a ton of the 50 pounds I lost this year. But it's a bit. Enough to make me worry. Enough to make me come clean to all of you, and to declare that my summer of carefree fun with candy and cookies and avoidance of the gym is OVER.

I won't be bombarding you with numerous columns about said subject, as I did for a solid seven months. But once in a while, I'd like to check in to gain back some of that accountability that helped so much a while back. Maybe that will help ensure Wednesday's 2,500-calorie day of sugar, fat and alcohol won't happen again anytime soon.

Thursday's breakfast: honeycrisp apple. Hurray! Off to a good start.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Biggest Loser' stars are crashing at my house

As a somewhat local public figure -- and that term, in this case, is as loose as a wizard's sleeve -- I'm asked to do some strange, but interesting things. Judge beauty pageants, essay contests, chili feeds. Speak at schools and meetings. For anyone who knows me real well, it's odd anyone would want me in any key role for an event. I'm just a silly, TV-addicted, candy-loving writer.

But, as I've come to notice, when you slap your mugshot on a column and write in the first person, people start identifying with you, even if you're just spouting off about an episode of "Project Runway."

So, once again I've been surprised by a request. ... Folks (or at least one folk) at the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau read my blog for the first half of this year when I complained several times a week about losing weight. In total, 50 ell-bees. ... A week or so ago we published a brief stating that Rebecca and Daniel, contestants on Season 8 of "The Biggest Loser," would be coming to Mankato Oct. 22 or thereabouts to run the 10K during Mankato Marathon. The two, who met on the show and fell in love (awwww), were looking for a host family to stay with while in town. ... The Chamber put two and two together, and voila! "Why not have two famous 'Biggest Losers' stay with Mankato's very own public 'Biggest Loser.'" Lol.

Sure! Why not, right? I don't live in a palace. And I have a smelly dog. But I've been known to be hospitable to guests. And how often do we get the chance to have TV stars stay in our homes?

Several concerns: What do you feed 10K runners the morning before the big race? What will they want to watch on TV? Should I record that week's episode of "The Biggest Loser" so we can watch together? Do they even watch that show? Maybe "Project Runway" is more their style. Or maybe, since they're all totally healthy now, they'd rather take a walk in the woods or something naturey like that. (In which case, do I have to go?)

Anyway, this could be interesting. Hopefully they'll be as laid back as I am and we can just rent movies or something. My mom's already begging to come over and cook dinner, though. So I guess I'll be able to add bodyguard to my roster of public duties, too. (She's a hugger.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Olivier designs for a 'plus size' man ...haha

I honestly think that the producers have sat around and thought, "How can we make this the funniest episode of 'Project Runway' that we've ever had?" And they're doing it! They're doing it!

Last week was awesome with the designing for straight guys' girlfriends. But designing for actual straight dudes? In a band, no less? Priceless.

They just floundered! It was as if none of them had ever seen a man before, and most of them actually are men, as you may recall. I was surprised that none of the male designers had ever made clothes for themselves before.

Once again, Olivier made a fool of me for having chosen him in the beginning as one of my favorites. He went home and for good reason. He kept calling the poor lead singer of the Sheepdogs "big." "He's just so much biggah than anyone I've eva seen in real life. He's just enormous." Well, something like that, anyway. He even referred to the poor man as "plus size." Isn't that a female clothing term? And isn't that also completely inaccurate? He was fairly average, if you ask me. ...Anyway, he chose yellow and blue fabric with swans on it for the shirt. Enough said. He was auf'd. Big time. Although if I'm being honest, I thought Kimblerly's orange bowling shirt was much worse.

The winner was Viktor. Hated the shirt, and really? A fringe jacket? But given the competition this week, it was the right decision.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall TV is causing some scheduling conflicts

On the eve of the Fall TV Kick-Off -- aka Sunday night -- I had a problem. A big one. My digital cable had been “blinking” on and off for a while. Everything I had recorded came up with these freeze-ups every 30 seconds.

But it wasn’t all the time with every single channel, so I decided to see if it would go away. When it interrupted extremely important Sunday night programming -- I mean, come on, Sunday is THE DAY to watch TV, if you’re going to at all -- I knew I had to get somebody over to my pad fast before it messed up premiere week.

I’m not going to name the company. But gee whiz, I always have trouble. They keep you on the horn to “troubleshoot,” which never frickin’ works, and then they make you wait two hours for somebody to show up, only so they can show up 20 minutes past the two-hour window you were warned to be home during. Frustration mounts! It just mounts.

So, anyway, this morning, alas, I was given a digital box. Hurray, hurray. No more blinks. But it also means my series recordings are gone. They’re just gone. So I have some work to do.

What do I mean, you ask? Check out my fall TV lineup (and this doesn’t include those fun filler shows, such as House Hunters, Color Splash, Pawn Stars, Hoarders and other creepy TLC programming.)

I have color-coded new shows in a lovely shade of pink for your reference.


Dancing With the Stars, 7-9 p.m., ABC

*Two and a Half Men, 8-8:30 p.m., CBS

American Pickers, 8-9 p.m., History

Weeds, 9-9:30 p.m., Showtime

The Big C, 9:30-10 p.m., Showtime

EXTRA: Emmy special Fashion Police, 9-10 p.m., E!


The Biggest Loser, 7-9 p.m., NBC

New Girl, 8-8:30 p.m., Fox

Raising Hope, 8:30-9 p.m., Fox


The Middle, 7-7:30 p.m., ABC

Up All Night, 7-7:30 p.m., NBC

Modern Family, 7:30-8 p.m., ABC

Storage Wars, 9-10 p.m., A&E


Parks and Rec, 7:30-8 p.m., NBC

The Office, 8-8:30 p.m., NBC

Project Runway, 8-9:30 p.m., Lifetime


*Little People Big World, 7-8 p.m., TLC

Desperate Housewives, 8-9 p.m., ABC

Dexter, 8-9 p.m., Showtime

Breaking Bad, 9-10 p.m. AMC

PanAm, 9-10 p.m., ABC

As you can see, I keep my DVR pretty busy. Often I'm faced with difficult choices when unexpected programming pops up. I sometimes have to record two programs downstairs (that's the maximum allowance) and watch a third program upstairs, just so I don't miss anything.

: )

Did I mention that when I was a baby my mom used to put me in a crank-up swing and park me in front of the TV? Did I mention my first sentence was the early 1980s Coca-Cola ad slogan "Coke is it." Did I also mention that, nowadays, you will find me in a rocking chair parked in front of the TV drinking Coke Zero like it's going out of style?

Anyway, happy fall TV everyone!

(*Footnote: I consider Two and a Half Men new because of Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen, and I consider LPBW new because it went off the air for a bit and now it's back, see.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wow, the Emmys are really fun!

My longtime readers (bless all three of you) know I love a good awards show. After the holidays I light up when I realize awards season is on deck, with the Oscars waiting at the end like a giant unwrapped package with silver ribbon.

But tonight I remembered just how fun the Emmys are, and I wondered why I haven't paid closer attention in the past. I never have really included it in my must-see awards show lineup, but dang! I've been missing out. What a fun show! Jane Lynch ... amazing as the host. So funny. And it's as if they read my mind with every single award. All my favorites cleaned up.

I have to give mad props to my favorite comedy, "Modern Family," for wins for Ty and Julie, for best supporting. (Kind of funny that all four men were nominated in the same category.) The show also took directing and writing awards and best comedy again! So well deserved. I laugh like an idiot, knee-slappingly loud, even during repeats. Especially recently when I rewatched the episode where the Dunphys change up good cop and bad cop roles. "You poked the bear, girls. You poked him!" ...Oh man...

I was also so excited to see Melissa McCarthy win for best actress in a comedy. I'm not a huge fan of "Mike and Molly," but I will always think of her as my Sookie -- the ORIGINAL Sookie, before Stackhouse stole its identity. Sookie St. James, as some of you know, was a beloved character in "Gilmore Girls." (How awesome was it that all the best actress in a comedy nominees took the stage when their names were called as nominees? Nice touch.)

When it got to the drama portion of the show, however, all I kept thinking was, "Where the hell are all the 'Breaking Bad' nominations? Doesn't Bryan Cranston win every year? Not even a single nomination?" It sent me Googling in the middle of the show, where I learned that the new summer schedule for "Breaking Bad" means season 4 won't be eligible until next year's Primetime Emmys. The more you know (shooting star).

As far as fashion goes -- because it is, after all, a crucial part of all awards shows -- I've got to give it to Kate Winslet, hands down. A beautiful, classic Elie Saab with capped sleeves, but in a smoking' hot red. She can do no wrong.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gay designers + straight men = Big laughs


The funniest series of moments in "Runway" history: Olivier, in a fake British accent, "Whaht iss double dee? What duss thaht mean?" (All serious to the camera) "I think the biggah boobs, they will be a prohblem for me."

Oh man ... a bunch of gay designers sitting around with heterosexual, boosie-loving men talking fashion ... now THAT'S good TV. Geriatric Bert standing by while some horned-up Italian motorboats his dress-making dummy? Come on! I'm dying over here ...

But let's get onto the business at hand. Bryce. He had such potential! He was one of my original choices, as you may recall. And if I had it my way, he would have skirted by last night with that pink mini and Anthony Ryan would have been sent packing for his 1987 V-neck monstrosity. (I was just having a conversation with a friend who was like, "Anthony Ryan's going all the way. He's got it." I'm like, "Got what? Crappy taste? Indeed, he does have it." Inyoface, anonymous friend.

As for who should have won but did not, Anya rocked it AGAIN last night. She was my No. 1 since day 1! Holla!!!! ...Oy, did I just say holla? I should be sent packing for that one.

Anyway, Viktor won. I don't object. It was a cute look. But it wasn't the best look of the night, not that the judges ever care about that.
ADDENDUM: I was wrong! Viktor did not win. I think I blocked out the fact that Joshua won, with his blah black cocktail dress. Why? I have no idea. I DO object!

Until next Runway ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mason Jennings plays intimate show at the Hag

I got to the Coffee Hag super early Monday night, about 5:30 or so just to make sure I was in the lovely Jenn Melby's way as she and her staff were clearing out tables to prepare for the Mason Jennings concert at 7:30. The Hag is an intimate space for a concert, and with 90 or so people expected, I wanted to make sure I got a seat up front to take pictures.

The concert was part of The Current radio station's Road Trip series to outstate cities that carry The Current's signal. DJ Jill Riley was the host of Monday's concert at the Hag. The two of us were on a journalism speaking panel together at MSU last year, and I interviewed her for the preview story on the concert that I ran in the Currents section last week. So she was kind enough to put me down as her "plus one" for the show. (The tickets were free, but they were gone in four minutes, so I was too late to get into the show without pulling a media string or two.)

What I didn't anticipate was that Jennings would be at the Hag just as early as I was to meet people and do sound check. So I sat at my little table for two against the brick wall with my laptop, doing some homework and quietly observing. Several employees and friends of the Hag gave Jennings demos of their bands, which he graciously accepted. Several people approached for photos, which he didn't at all seem to mind. Several people asked him questions and exchanged stories about the Twin Cities area music scene, where Jennings got his start in coffee shops a decade ago.

Being a fly on the wall in a situation like that is priceless to any arts journalist. We get the opportunity to speak with musicians on the phone to ask a few questions before a local show, which at times can yield insight into actual, true character. At times. But rarely do we get to see them in any kind of natural way, guard down, no pretense.

From his music you'd expect Jennings to be kind, laid back, insightful. And from what I could tell, he absolutely is. A true Minnesotan: NICE (even though he joined us here in the great Midwest as a young adult).

Jenn closed the Hag around 6:30 and cleared everyone out except a handful of employees mingling in the back. I got to stay. And sitting 10 feet from the stage, Jennings sat in front of the piano and started to play. For a few minutes, I got a private concert. And it was one of those moments where there was nowhere else I'd rather be.

When Jenn turned the lights down and let the audience in, a few dozen people sat on the floor in front of the stage. Jill introduced Jennings to the crowd, and he started into the piano-based "Bitter Heart," and it still felt like he was playing just for me. Chatting with a woman near my table a while later, she said the same thing. Intimate, melodic and peaceful. Music you can listen to all day, as another concert-goer put it.

After every couple of songs Jennings played, Jill would ask him a few questions, including the sound of the new record, "Minnesota," which came out today. He talked about appreciating the contrast between his last record, which was louder and electric, and the quieter piano-driven music on this new one. He talked about how the actor, Jason Schwartzman, also a musician (Coconut Records), played instruments on the record.
He talked about how the concert at the Hag was his first in a coffee shop in 10 years, so it was a nice return to his roots. Both of them talked about stopping at Jim's Apple Barn on the way down to Mankato, Jennings for Zestar apples, a recent discovery of his, and Jill for candy. And he told a funny story about having to sing the "National Anthem" at a Twins game, where there was a one-second delay between the words he was singing and the echo in the stadium, making delivery extremely difficult. At one point he started rocking back and forth like a frightened child, sure he was massacring the song. To his surprise, his slower delivery (due to extreme concentration) came off as intentional and moving.

But the most interesting Q&A came from the audience.

Q: Who does your hair?
A: The wind.

Q: What is the most musical food?
A: Chocolate chip cookies, because trumpets go off in his head when he sees them and he can't resist.

Q: Which one of his songs should Danny and Ashley in the audience play at their wedding?
A: He wouldn't go there. Such a personal decision should be made by the couple, but he was touched they would choose his music at all.

Q: Will he bless Jen and Justin's unborn child?
(A pregnant couple in the audience.)
A: Yes, with a chord he played on the piano.

Q: Dogs or cats?
A: Dogs, but more recently. He suddenly felt the urge as an adult to hug a dog. His family now has a retriever named Rosie.

Q: Will you play at the Coffee Hag again?
A: "I hope so. This place is great."

For you Jennings fans who plan to catch him on tour, here's the setlist:
1. Bitter Heart "Minnesota"
2. Raindrops on a Kitchen Floor "Minnesota"
3. Rudy "Minnesota"
4. Hearts Stop Beating "Minnesota"
5. Clutch "Minnesota"
6. No Relief "Minnesota"
7. Ballad for my One True Love "Birds Flying Away"
8. Ulysses "Use Your Voice"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What woman wants 'canceled' on her crotch?

Everyone who thought the clocks team should have won Thursday night's Runway challenge, raise your hands!! ... All of you buffoons with hands in the air, consider yourselves auf'd from this blog.

OK, OK, you can keep reading. But please seek help for your devastating vision problem.

I mean, what in the world? I was super excited to see a team challenge were five designers had to mesh their design ideas together into one collection. Plus, they had to design fabrics, which is always tragic. But I swear, from the first time Tim entered the work room, the winning team was abundantly clear.

Well, hold on, I suppose given Heidi's affinity for Bert's insane garments, there was a bit of doubt lingering. Those judges ... who knows what they'll say next. But for the vast majority of sane viewers, it was quite clear that Anthony Ryan and Viktor's team had the corner market on classy-sassy New York wear Thursday night.

My favorite piece was Anthony Ryan's tulip skirt. I also loved Olivier's tailored jacket. Anya was the winner of the challenge, but only because, while every other designer voted for THEMSELVES to be the winner on the team, Bryce threw his vote to Anya, so she ended up with two. So I'm not sure why she was that excited about the win.

The losing team, on the other hand, made up fabric designs to go along with a time/clocks theme, so some models had words such as "canceled" and "delayed" on their outfits, including the dreaded "canceled" on the crotch piece that Michael Kors pointed out (it sent the frumpy Becky packing). What was the worst piece? Every single piece on the losing team. 'Nuff said.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Heidi Klum and I are OVER

There are moments on "Project Runway" when I 100 percent cannot believe what I am hearing from the judges. Thursday night not only fit into that category, but I couldn't think of another night in all nine seasons when I've been more bewildered.

First, the challenge: The designers paired up with students from the Harlem art academy to create a painting together and then design an avant-garde garment inspired by the painting. I LOVED this challenge. Avant-garde challenges are always love it or leave it moments on the runway. There is usually no in between. Lots of drama.

I'm not going to rehash all of the outfits. Really, there are only two moments worth getting upset over.

No. 1 with a bullet: This is where Heidi Klum and I part ways FOREVER. I have tried to see her strange points of view in the past. But last night, when she was arguing for Bert's 1980s-pastel-clownpanted-tightankled-geometric-craft-project, I threw up my hands, quite literally, and said aloud in my empty living room, "I'm done! I'm (expletive) done. Heidi is an (expletive) idiot, and apparently blind," and just because she has decades of experience wearing high fashion does not mean she knows a darn thing about it. (And after a few seasons of watching "Project Runway," I guess that qualifies me as an expert ...)

There was a slight reprieve in that the other judges "didn't get" Bert's garment. But they were quite gentle in their criticism, and that is unacceptable. He should have been pushed into a corner and verbally socked in the stomach, repeatedly. We should have seen a Bert vs. judges smackdown, with him finally revealing his true colors as the workroom's biggest *itch. To say I was let down is the understatement of "Runway" history.

No. 2: There was only one moment on the runway that was breathtaking. The rest, quite frankly, were awful. (There are usually at least a couple to choose from. Not Thursday.) Kimberly! How was Kimberly not the winner of last night's challenge? Instead, she's in the middle of the pack. She doesn't event get feedback from the judges. The red feathers, the pleather, the asymmetric cut, the head piece ... somehow, she made all of those red-flag elements come together in complete and total cohesion. BEAUTIFUL.

I was telling my friend the other day that half the fun of "Runway" is getting pissed at the judges. I think I've changed my mind. It can't be healthy to be this angry over a TV show.