How I Plan to Be Super Chill and Eat Waffles in 2018

Here we are a week into the new year and I must say my overwhelming feeling so far in 2018 is that the dumpster fire that was 2017 is far from over.

That seems mighty pessimistic, I know.

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On a personal and professional level (and without getting too personal), last year was a bit bumpy, to put it mildly, pretty much from start to finish.

And the state of the world and society in general from a national and global level….well. I have thoughts and opinions.

You often hear people compare 2017 to a roller coaster. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. For one thing, some people really like roller coasters. And with a roller coaster, you can generally see the loops and dips and swoops that lie up ahead.

No, I think of 2017 as more like a pinball machine, where we’re all careening around recklessly, slapped about by seen flippers and slingshots yet also gut punched by those little knobs that pop up out of nowhere all the damn time.

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And while I can’t do much about the state of the world and society (I’ll leave that to Oprah for now), I can do something about my personal and professional spheres of being.

One thing that I subconsciously did last year was improve my interpersonal relationships. I didn’t set out to do it…I’m actually a bit of a hermit crab who wants to stay home, curled up on the sofa in my yoga pants with a cat on my lap and a glass of wine within reach, watching anything that Bravo wants to put in front of my face.

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But when I look back on 2017, the memories that pop out the most are the ones involving family and new and old friends. Times when I made an effort. Times when I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to people I barely knew or talked to people I had just met or reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a long time.

My sister came and visited me for the first time here in D.C. and we got to spend some time together for the first time in years. Some of it was great, like when I played tour guide and dragged her all over town in the freezing January cold or showed her some of my favorite Old Town spots. Some of it was difficult and uncomfortable as we sorted through some of our vastly different memories and perspectives on shared events.

And I made a point to visit her when I went to Texas for a freelance conference later in the year. Again, some of that visit was good and some of it was awkward as we continue to hash out the perimeters of our relationship, but I think that might be what family dynamics are all about. They’re not cut and dried. They’re actually quite hard. It’s a feeling and situation I’ve tended to avoid more often than not. But at least – on that relationship – we are making inroads, I think.

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About that freelancing conference: it was, quite honestly, pretty much a bust (in my opinion) and I won’t be attending it again. But by just attending it, I met and learned a lot from my fellow attendees (we even joked about starting our own better-organized and useful, practical freelancer conference – maybe a goal for 2019?).

I also came back from that conference convinced that 1) I’m actually doing some things right in this old freelancing biz, 2) I have wisdom, experiences and advice that I’m happy to share with others, and 3) I shouldn’t be afraid to make friends, even with people I view as potential competitors. What I learned is that there’s honestly enough work out there for all of us.

When I got home, I doubled-down on attending networking events and reaching out to other freelancers for coffee, lunch and drinks. And I checked my motivation and expectations at the door. I made sure that my efforts were NOT for the purpose of generating job leads—which has never worked out for me at a networking event—but just to be social and have a laugh, and sometimes to commiserate and share advice. That’s something that I intend to continue throughout 2018.

That bummer of a conference also allowed me to reconnect with old Austin friends, some of whom I didn’t even think had missed me or would want to see me! I left Austin about 15 years ago and I figured we’d all just grown apart and moved on with our busy lives so it honestly didn’t occur to me that they would want to rearrange their schedules to meet up while I was in town. I just didn’t think we were “those type” of friends anymore. But they did! And I was so moved and humbled by that. It really made me reassess how I myself treat old friendships that I thought were “in the past.” I look forward to the work I need to do on improving those friendships in 2018.

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So that’s my goal for 2018 — work on the stuff that I have control over, including and especially, relationships. That, and cut back on cussing, but that’s damn losing proposition.

Reality TV Time: Below Deck Mediterranean

My travel-buddy-for-life XFE and I just got back from a soccer roadtrip through the South, which was basically 3,000 miles of varying degrees of traffic and highways broken up by stops for soccer (go Tottenham), kitschy tourist locales (I’d never been to South of the Border, but I have now), barhopping at country honkytonks (Nashville might be my new favorite place ever), ice cream from gas stations (literally, every day) and tons of Southern food (hello pimento cheese)—all in all, pretty dang awesome.

But before we start down that 3,000 mile road, can we please just talk for a minute about Below Deck: Mediterranean? Because the reunion is tonight and I. Have. Thoughts.

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First of all, killing me with those beautiful Croatian backdrops there, Bravo.

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We went to Croatia in 2013, including Split and Dubrovnik, which are both prominently featured on the show. It was amazing to see the same medieval streets again on the TV screen and it really, really made me want to go back.

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One of our 2013 photos

In fact, there was one scene where they went to pick up some guests from their hotel right outside of Split instead of at the dock. And wouldn’t you know it, they were actually picking up the guests from the same hotel we had stayed at, Le Meridien Lav (scene of the infamous French fry décor).

So yes. Killing me. Making me want to book another trip immediately.

But, more importantly, I think this was probably my favorite season of Below Deck. And that’s because I felt like this season really shined a light on the social hypocrisy that exists when it comes to gender stereotypes.

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Love triangle, cruising style.

You already know what I’m talking about. There is, of course, the Malia-Adam-Wes love triangle. I cannot believe how much grief that poor girl got. And for what? For casually dating/getting to know two guys and figuring out which one she might like? Guys do this all the time and no one bats an eye about it. In fact, I believe Mr. Andy Cohen has a whole other show on one of the main networks where contestants date (and sometimes even kiss) three different people in the course of a week!

I was also very shocked that it wasn’t just the aggrieved, jilted Adam who was giving Malia grief. It was the other male deckhands and even the female stews. Hey ladies, how about you stop clutching your pearls over whether Malia is kissing two grown men and giving Malia a high-five for evening up the score a bit. #sistersdoingitforthemselves

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And Adam, maybe you should go check out this museum in Zagreb dedicated to broken relationships. You could have a good cry, donate that hat you lent to Malia, and then maybe some healing can begin.

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Same street in Split we were on.

I’m actually more bothered by the fact that they’re all co-workers. I’m a firm believer that you should not poop where you eat and dating co-workers falls into that category, which is why I’ve never dated a co-worker. (I’ve also never dated a boss and Wes was a blind idiot for making Malia his second-in-command over Bobby, who clearly has more experience).

Then there’s the whole Hannah-passenger-Jason and Bobby-passenger-Paola business. Again, do I think any of them should be smooching on passengers/clients? No, absolutely not. But the hysteria that surrounded Hannah’s transgression compared to the virtual shrugging of the shoulders when Bobby lurked (multiple times!) on his Tinder match (dude, what are you doing checking Tinder when you don’t even have the night off?) was so annoying and hypocritical.

Hannah and Jason on Below Deck
I will give you credit, Hannah: If you’re going to break the rules, a good-looking millionaire is probably a good route to take.

Even Max admitted to how hypocritical his reaction towards the exact same situation involving crew getting involved with clients was when Bobby went creeping downstairs to get a smooch from a girl who may or may not have been a paid companion of the primary.

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Jerry the charter primary and some of his..ahem…guests.

Anyway, it was a great season and hopefully, there will be more discussion of this sexist hypocrisy business at tonight’s reunion. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Or, as the Croatians say: Velike ribe male proždiru (big fish devour the small. I’m not sure that actually applies here, but I wanted to include a Croatian proverb).

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Bobby learning how to use an iPad (with an assist from the more tech-savvy Bugsy).

 

Reality TV Time: Why Live PD is the Wreck I Can’t Help But Watch

Don’t mind me. I’m not even here. I mean, I’m here, but I’m not supposed to be. I’ve got a couple of major projects gobbling up my time, a bunch of looming deadlines, and I’m waiting to jump on the phone with a potential new client, but I had to just stop by and ask a very, very important question……

Is anyone else obsessed with Live PD?

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Of course you are. According to Deadline Hollywood: “Since its premiere in October, Live PD has averaged 1.1 million total viewers a week in Live+7 and has outperformed A&E’s regular primetime average by 29% among total viewers.”

So, it’s doing pretty well.

This latest reality TV offering from the fine folks at the esteemed Arts & Entertainment network (that’s A&E, for those not in the know) is on for three hours (!) Friday and Saturday nights and, gentle reader, it is amazing. One of us (the one not named Poe) even DVRs it and watches it sporadically over the course of the weekend, in case a three hour commitment is just not in the cards.

(Also, yes, I know exactly what this implies about Friday and Saturday nights here at the Poe household and yes, those implications do indeed hold up. We’re pretty lame.)

The thing is: there’s nothing really new here. It’s basically like “Cops.” It plays on the idea that 1) criminals are crazy; 2) cops are not stupid; 3) we—the audience—like to think we’re smarter than both.

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Well, I know I’m smarter than this probable pedophile/drug dealer who was wearing this shirt on a recent episode.

A&E describes the show as “a live look at police across the country as they work the night shift in real-time.”

There are, at least, a couple of debatable facts in that statement. For one thing, it’s mostly “live.” The producers also rely heavily on pre-taped call segments, but I’m not mad about it.

Listen, sometimes live police work isn’t very interesting. There’s a lot of driving around while the units wait for a call. Sometimes that call isn’t very interesting. And, of course, law enforcement institutions are incredibly bureaucratic, so it’s not unusual to have to wait around to get another officer to come and conduct a field sobriety test (although, at this point, after several weeks of viewing, I’m pretty sure I could administer a field sobriety test at this point.) Or bring a K-9 unit to sniff the car. Or any number of things that slow down the action.

The terms “real-time” and “night shift” are also a bit debatable. There have been numerous times where our good friend and host Dan Abrams insists a chase or call is taking place at this exact moment of 9 p.m. but it appears to be in full daylight. Even for calls in Calvert County, Maryland, which is maybe 50 miles from where I live.

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But putting all that aside for a second, the thing that’s truly addicting about Live PD is that you never know what people are going to do.

After a few weeks of watching, the “show” had started to get a bit formulaic to me:

  1. Car has a busted license plate light. Police officer pulls car over.
  2. When the driver rolls the window down, police officer exclaims he smells a strong detection of weed. Driver denies it, perhaps even gets offended.
  3. Police officer asks driver to get out of car. They discuss the driver’s lack of valid license/ID/ and/or other outstanding warrants.
  4. Police officer then has enough probable cause to search the driver (but not before asking if the driver has anything in his/her pockets that’s going to hurt the officer, a question which sometimes elicits some pretty comical responses), search the car, gets a K-9 to scratch up the exterior—all while the officer is pleading to the driver to just tell the truth and come clean, and the driver is insisting that he had done nothing wrong and didn’t even deserve to be pulled over in the first place.
  5.  Inevitably, no matter how sincere and impassioned the driver’s reasoning and entreaties sound to the audience at home (I have more than one time proclaimed that a driver was being harassed and really seems like he’s worked his way back to the straight path and shucks, can’t we just forget the stupid license plate light?) lo and behold, marijuana or other more hardcore drug paraphernalia is discovered and the perp is hauled off in handcuffs.

All over some stupid minor infraction like a busted license plate light.

My faith in humanity gets put through the wringer every damn time. I consider myself pretty street smart. I grew up surrounded by some questionable, if not downright shady, adult figures. I’ve been present during some instances of recreational drug use.

But I keep coming back to Live PD because they keep surprising me. For one thing, I am amazed at 1) how many people are out there doing drugs (apparently, everyone operating a motor vehicle – and sometimes bicycle. Yes, we’ve seen people pulled over on their bicycles on Live PD) 2) how much some people just flat out lie, even when evidence to the contrary is sitting right there on their car hood, and 3) how good some of them are at lying. And, also, how laughably bad some of them are at it.

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The now-famous Obama Convenience Store, where a lot of drug activity apparently takes place.

There are a few other questionable aspects to Live PD other than time jumping and sloppy continuity issues—for example, it’s interesting to see the efforts at privacy used in cases where the driver is wealthier and whiter (especially huffy white women who’ve had “just one glass of rose” or “an Irish coffee after dinner.” Those broads get away with some serious level smack talking). In those cases, faces and licenses plates will be blurred (although the memory of bad mom outfits will always be burned in my mind), and the camera guys will film from behind the driver.

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Whereas, in the case of non-white drivers, license plates will be shown, faces will be shown, even in instances where they say they don’t want to be filmed (my favorite cop rejoinder when a driver asks about the cameras: “Those guys are here for me, not you.” I assure you, dear law enforcement person, viewers are definitely not here just for you.

Shows like this serve many, many important functions: deterring criminal activity, making cops seem more humane and approachable while highlighting the danger of their jobs, and, the most important, entertaining us. Live PD does all that.

And, if you are watching Live PD, may I suggest printing out some of these bingo cards?

Revisiting Reality Shows: My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding

Twice this past month, I’ve gotten a notification from the fine folks at WordPress that my “stats were booming,” ie: a significant spike in visitors. By like, 400 percent.

Since I have been pretty sporadic about posting lately, I found that a bit odd and did some digging.

And what I found out is that it’s the gypsies that are doing it.

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The post that attracted hundreds of new visitors to the site for several days in July and August was this one from 2012: Reality TV Time: I Cannot Tear My Eye-Nipples Away from My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.

Now, I’d like to think it’s that snazzy title with the incredibly SEO-friendly phrase “Eye-Nipples” that has led to all this PoeLog discovery. However, I think it’s probably much more likely tied to the fact that a season FIVE (??? Is that right? How can that be??) of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding recently started up on July 17 on TLC, formerly “The Learning Channel” but which I rather affectionately call “Total Loose Cannons.”

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I have to admit, I have not kept up with my white-trash cousins, the American Romanichal. Somehow, over the years, I’ve lost touch on all the comings and goings of wee little gypsy Priscilla (she’s now a professional wrestler!) and her ne’er-do-well pappy Pat Baby (not surprisingly, he did some time at what Teresa Guidice would call “camp”). I have missed out on probably hundreds of gaudy yet spectacular Sondra Celli dresses made for under-aged brides with more makeup (and disposable cash) than common sense.

But, with the Olympic-sized absence of Bravo-sponsored reality TV in my life last week, I decided to pour myself a goblet of wine, don my best butt-bedazzled velour house pants, and give my blog readers what they want: like an 80-pound gypsy bride in an 80-pound dress, I carefully maneuvered my way back into My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, ie: I watched the first two episodes OnDemand.

And wow, how I have missed this show. All of the essential trainwreck elements are still there: tangled family triangles (as well as quadrangles and any other geometric configuration you can think of), young girls with big dress dreams and impossible requests, young men who eskew normal wedding attire, fights – both the internal struggles against expected societal norms and actual drunken brawls. And divorce. Lots and lots of divorces, especially for a cultural group who insist that divorce is incredibly shameful and not an option.

Episode one (“Rotting Dresses and Candy Messes”) of this season involved two supposedly “nontraditional gypsy girls.” Eighteen-year-old Maquayla, has several jobs, including, alarmingly, as a makeup artist. Her would-be groom, however, has zero jobs. Maquayla, full of love in her heart, still intends to marry him and she wants a Sondra Celli dress made of real flowers.

Now, Sondra’s magical dress workshop is located near Boston. Maquayla lives in West Virginia. No way a dress made of perishable items is going to survive the 500-mile journey two days before the wedding. And, surprise, it does not. When the supposedly “refrigerated” truck pulls up in front of what looks to be the Days Inn, I can tell right away that that truck is not refrigerated and second, that that dress was not transported with love and care. The door opens to reveal a sad, wilted flower salad of a dress.

Maquayla calls Sondra Celli crying and Sondra Celli jumps into action, flying down to West Virginia with only one assistant and rebuilds the entire dress with only moments to spare. The wedding takes place in a literal field with cows and pigs in attendance. The groom and his groomsmen are wearing vests, ties, trucker hats and no shirts. Oh, and Maquayla tells us and her groom that she’s pregnant. So much for non-traditional.

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Our other non-traditional gypsy girl is Yazzie and she’s celebrating her Sweet 16. The reason she’s non-traditional is that she’s secretly dating a gorger (a boy who is not a gypsy). His name is Anthony and it’s all really rather boring except for the fact that when Yazzie decides to honor her mother and her culture by breaking up with Gorger Anthony, she does it at a park. Then she skates off dramatically on a giant skateboard. It was pretty fantastic.

Favorite lines from episode 1:

  • “Everything was dead….my dream wedding dress was dead. And my dream gypsy flower wedding died with it.”–Maquayla
  • “My eyes wanted to cry and my stomach fell into my butt, but he was the picture of perfection.”—Maquayla
  • “I’ve never lost a dress and I’m not going to lose this one!”—Sondra Celli

Episode 2 (“Double Wedding From Hell”) cleared up for me why I had had so many visitors to that particular blog post—it was a catch-up with our old friends, Priscilla and Pat Baby.

We discover that Priscilla Kelly is now 18-years-old and is now a professional wrestler in Atlanta. She must be doing alright because she’s throwing herself a big, gypsy birthday party. But she’s torn on whether to invite her father, Pat Baby. Priscilla’s parents are recently divorced and cannot stand each other. Plus, Pat Baby has a way of acting out and she’s worried he’ll turn it into a “Pat Baby party,” which he totally does. He’s also pretty fond of embarrassing her in public, including at her wrestling matches where he becomes a creepy superfan.

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She does not invite Pat Baby and makes it clear that he is not invited. However, he somehow takes this as an invitation to just show up anyway. And he gets drunk, hangs all over his daughter, yells at his ex-wife, tries to take over the DJ tables and gets kicked out.

Our other story is, believe it or not, even more unbelievably disastrous. Cousins Stefanie, 19, and Amber-Lynn, 22, are in love with gypsy boys, Mike and Dustin and plan to have a double wedding. The only problem is, Stefanie’s sister, Chassity. She also happens to be Dustin’s ex and has a child with him. When we first meet her, she’s practicing her bb-gun skills, so we know she is no joke.

Chassity objects to the upcoming Amber-Lynn/Dustin wedding and along with her mother (Amber-Lynn’s aunt), vows to ruin the big day. She tries to break up the in-love couple, making it clear that she’s available and forgiving. When that doesn’t work, Chassity and her mother don black garb and attend the wedding, glaring at the couple throughout the brief ceremony and through the ghetto reception.

The reception is where things really start to unravel. Amber-Lynn’s ex-husband shows up to declare his love for her. Although Amber-Lynn kicks him out, her new groom believes there is more there. He calls her a whore, pushes a pregnant girl, gets in an all-out fight with all the other attendees, and the cops show up to break the reception up. The episode ends with the news that Amber-Lynn has gone back to her ex-husband.

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Favorite lines from episode 2:

  • “Nobody puts Pat Baby in a corner.”—Pat Baby
  • “My theme is 1920s Great Gatsby meets rave with a touch of gypsy bling.”—Priscilla
  • “She has no butt, no boobs. You’re going to get bored.”—Chassity
  • “Definitely curse this fucking wedding.”—Chassity

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Reasons We Need a Real Housewives of the Olympic Village

The Olympics are on and they are totally messing with my Bravo viewing.

I’m not a fan of the Olympics and not just because of the TV viewing disruption. I just think in this day and age, when there are so many other platforms and international competitions and accompanying viewing options for all of your favorite sports (all of which occur without waiting four years in between), the Olympics have sort of lost their shine.

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If I was into gymnastics and trampoline (that’s a sport!?), maybe I’d feel differently. But since I can literally find even table tennis or rugby on TV in just about every part of the world, I don’t feel the need to tune into the Olympics.

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Trampoline: an Olympic sport. I shit you not.

Also, it seems like it’s a total shit show for the host country every single time. A financial disaster, a PR nightmare and little or no return for a lot of effort.

My opinion, however, is a minority opinion. Clearly. You can tell by the all-out, wall-to-wall coverage blitzkrieg NBC is putting on to cover every single second of the games. Since NBC is already live streaming it everywhere, including your phone and OnDemand, I really don’t understand why they have to disrupt the entirety of the Real Housewives franchise.

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Table tennis: Also an Olympic sport. Again, not kidding.

Now, I have to wait two weeks to see RHNJ’s Jackie call Teresa a crook to her face (the ONLY thing even remotely interesting happening on Real Housewives of New Jersey this season). Two weeks to see RHOC newcomer Kelly Dodd mess up another dinner party by calling someone the “c” word (my money is on Shannon being the recipient of that particular doozy). Two weeks until we finally see RHNY’s Bethenny break the Tom/Playboy-bunny cheating news to Luann. And I have to wait two whole weeks to see if Brooks ever returns Vicki’s call!

So, what I propose to the Amazing Programming Genius/National Treasure Andy Cohen is that he get stepping and create a Real Housewives of the Olympic Village. Here are just a few reasons why I think this would be a great addition to the franchise:

Home Improvment1) Housewives and Olympians love a home improvement project (see: Heather Dubrow, Chateau Sheree, Moore Manor), and the busted Rio Olympic Village certainly sounds like a major home improvement project. Not only have there been a ton of complaints about the lackluster accommodations, but several countries have apparently brought in their own repair teams to fix damages.

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2) Olympians, like the Real Housewives, are a super horny bunch (looking at you, New York crew: ie, Luann, Sonja and Ramona). Hundreds of Rio Olympic athletes are active on Tinder, likely making use of the record 450,000 condoms distributed at the Olympic athletes’ village. Some big name Olympic Tinder users include swimmer Ryan Lochte (the Sonja of the Rio games) and golfer Rickie Fowler.

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3) Real Housewives require real private chefs and the Olympic athletes are also enjoying some hand-prepared specialties in the Olympic Village. Although, it’s hard to imagine the ladies of OC or Beverly Hills eating carb-heavy and fried salgadinhos. But I know those ladies would throw down some caipirinhas (also on the Olympic Village menu).

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4) Real Housewives love an excuse to enjoy a yacht (see: “We Got the Yacht” Luann). So do some Olympians, especially the Team USA basketball crew. They decided to skip the Olympic Village and shack up on a luxury cruise ship that sounds fit for a Housewife. “The boat has beds that will accommodate 7-footers (sorry, Bogut), a spa, multiple dining areas, a bar, a cigar lounge and an open-air pool. A weeklong cruise typically costs about $13,000.”

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5) Real Housewives like a good spa day, as do many Olympians who are enjoying the services of his-and-her salons in the Olympic Village and getting free patriotic manicures. Or, you could really go the extra mile as the Team USA men’s basketball team did and go to a “spa,” aka, a brothel. I guess the spa on their luxury cruise ship wasn’t exactly providing the services they so desperately needed.

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6) Speaking of spa services, as we saw on last week’s episode of Real Housewives of Orange County, Shannon Beador is a fan of the Gwynnie-approved therapy known as cupping. Turns out, the US Swim Team is also into cupping, which apparently confused the hell out of a lot of mainstream, TV-viewing Americans the other night. Luckily, thanks to Goop and Real Housewives, I’m up to speed on all the latest kooky health trends. So be sure to be on the lookout for leeches, people.

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7) Real Housewives like, no, need, to travel with a whole lot of luggage, as do Olympians. In the case of the team from Great Britain, they traveled with 3,000 pieces of luggage (9 of which have apparently gone missing).

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8) Finally, just like Real Housewives of New Jersey, the Olympic Village has its’ own tax evader in the form of Brazilian soccer star Neymar. Although, to be fair, Neymar probably isn’t staying in the actual Olympic Village. I’m sure he’s staying on a yacht somewhere with Luann and crew.

5 British TV Shows to Replace Downton Abbey

A sad(ish) thing happened to Anglophiles and history nerds a couple of weeks ago: Downton Abbey ended after six seasons.

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I watched a couple of seasons of Downton Abbey, but I was not a consistent watcher, although I do thoroughly appreciate the way they would just hurtle forward in time to avoid expensive production moments. One second, a character will announce that they’ve just gotten engaged and the next second, you see a carriage/car pulling away from a church exterior and two other characters commenting on how it was a nice wedding. You don’t actually get to see the too-expensive-to-film wedding or the many months leading up to it. It’s as if nothing at all important happened during that period. Or, at least, nothing so important it can’t be explained with some past-tense, recap-like dialogue. “Wasn’t it something when Lord Twiddle-y met his soon-to-be, yet completely unknown daughter for the first time just weeks after the engagement? By jove, that was awkward. Let’s go have some cake.”

Or, maybe it wasn’t a cost thing at all (I mean, look at those costumes!) but rather, certain actors just not being available at certain times, or something else entirely. In any case, it’s over and lots of people are sad.

But there’s really no reason to be sad. In fact, as I discovered on my recent trip to London, there is tons of great British programming that–for reasons completely mysterious to me–have not yet made their way over to this side of the pond.

Here are five British television shows that could easily replace Downton Abbey.

Geordie ShoreLet’s start with the most obvious. Now in its 12th season, this fine yarn has been on MTV-UK twice as long as Downton Abbey was on television. This show, which is basically a British knockoff of our beloved Jersey Shore, is described on IMBd as a “reality TV show following eight young men and women as they spend a summer experiencing the highs and lows of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s party scene.” So everybody is sleeping with each other. Like, a lot.

Geordie, in case you didn’t know, refers to someone from Newcastle. And let me tell you, their accents are so thick, you absolutely need subtitles. Especially when they are drunk or yelling, which is all the time.

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How it’s like Downton Abbey: Well, like I said, I didn’t watch every season of Downton Abbey, but it sure seems like those Crawley girls got around. When we meet Mary, she’s just had a one-night stand with a Turkish diplomat, who died in her bed. Don’t even get me started on Edith’s illegitimate daughter from her married (and yes, soon dead) boss.

Four in a Bed: On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is this Channel 4 show, which is, unfortunately (or, maybe fortunately) not as sexy as it sounds. B&B owners throw open their doors and take turns to staying at—and critiquing—each other’s establishments. There’s some seriously bitchy shade thrown around in this one.

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How it’s like Downton Abbey: Lots and lots of chintz and antiques. Plus, the snark is reminded me of Lady Violet.

Come Dine With Me: Also on Channel 4. A group of five strangers, each an amateur chef, compete to host the best dinner party, each party solely for the competitors. The winner takes home £1,000. Plus there’s this wonderful narrator throwing out bad jokes and snarky comments about the competitors’ cooking and hosting abilities throughout the show.

Come Dine With Me

How it’s like Downton Abbey: There were plenty of dinner party dramas at old D.A., but the one in episode 5 of the last season might just take the award for most awkward. As far as I know, no one on Come Dine With Me has had an ulcer burst and spewed blood all over the dinner table. Although, this sore loser might have burst a blood vessel (and a shirt button or two) during his temper tantrum.

Take Me Out: This misogynist dating game show on ITV was one of our absolute favorites. 30 women compete for the attention of a bachelor. The women each have a switch they can flip to opt out of being picked by the would-be suitor during the first couple of rounds, but in the end, the guy picks the woman he’d like to go out with from the remaining women. They then go off to some hilarious fake place called “Fernando’s,” for a beach vacation. Sometimes, the episode includes an update on the overnight date from a previous match up.

Take Me Out

How it’s like Downton Abbey: D.A. was known for having some pretty quippy one-liners over the years (“Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”) but ol’Lady Violet hasn’t got anything on the verbal cleverness of Take Me Out host Paddy McGuinness, who has coined such terms as “No likey, no lighty,” “If he’s not Mr. Right, turn off your light,” and “Come and get some Paddy love!”

The Jeremy Kyle ShowThis ITV show just beat out Take Me Out as our favorite show. It’s a lot like the old Jerry Springer show. Wikipedia has the best description, which includes the term “human bear baiting.”

It’s a train wreck involving lots of lie detector tests to determine if people have cheated, stolen, impregnated, or otherwise wronged each other. It appears that one family member will call the show saying they want their loved one to take a lie detector test to prove they aren’t using drugs anymore. Then the aggrieved loved one will counterattack by demanding that the original loved one take a lie detector test to prove they aren’t sleeping with their brother. It goes pretty much downhill from there. Results are revealed on the show and much shouting and talking over each other ensues in accents that make the whole proceedings pretty much unintelligible.

There’s a therapist, of sorts, on hand to help everyone deal with the lie detector results, but the real ringmaster is Kyle, who looks a lot like Craig Kilborn (most recently of the Kraft Mac and Cheese commercials). He’s very blunt, judgmental and pretty funny. He’s also prone to run backstage to confront waiting family members with the jiggling camera following him through the halls. And, at least once a show, Kyle will casually lounge on the carpeted stairs that lead to the raised platform stage, waving his handful of result cards while having a sensitive moment with some of his onstage guests and looking over his shoulder at the audience to see if they can believe what they’re hearing. Kyle also acts very wounded if he finds out he’s been lied to which is literally, all of the time.

jeremy kyle

How it’s like Downton Abbey: Well, Jeremy Kyle is no Lord Grantham, that’s for sure. But the Jeremy Kyle show has all the drama and manufactured intrigue of Downton Abbey, just with fewer teeth and trashier clothes.

DA Done

The Unlikely Entrepreneur of Reality TV: Big Giant Swords

I’ve been neglecting someone on my little blog here. A group of people really, near and dear and close to my heart.

My reality TV friends.

Don’t worry. My non-husband-for-life XFE and I have been watching tons of crap on television. I mean, it’s winter, after all. And both “Vanderpump Rules” and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” are on right now. What else would we be doing?

One of our current favorites is “Big Giant Swords” on the Discovery Channel.

When XFE first told me about it, he said it was called “Big Ass Swords,” which would have been a way more awesome title, if any executives from Discovery are reading this. No? Ok, then.

But, where “Big Giant Swords” falls short on naming-bad-assery, it is not short on entertainingly weird charm.

Irish Mike of Big Giant Swords
This, by the way, is your lead character in the show. Irish Mike.

Here’s the description, in case you couldn’t tell what it was about by the name:

“Big Giant Swords” is an American television series that premiered on January 13, 2015 on the Discovery Channel, The program follows sword maker Michael “Irish Mike” Craughwell as he and his associates create custom over-sized swords from scratch for his clients. Episodes focus on the creation process of one or two commissioned weapons as the team attempts to complete them to the customer’s satisfaction in a set time period.

Craughwell first began making giant swords in 2003 as a hobby and models many of his works after swords found in video games and other fictional media. Craughwell first garnered attention for his creations after posting videos of himself wielding the weapons on YouTube. He is based out of West Tisbury, MA on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Suffice it to say, this Irish Mike guy is quite the character. I am DYING to know what other folks around Martha’s Vineyard think when they see this guy rolling past the boutiques in Vineyard Haven in his tattered black t-shirt and his leather apron.

(While doing a bit of research, I came across this Yelp review for a shop in Tisbury. Apparently, the Poe-llows line of ridiculously priced pillows needs to be stocked at this store. Clear some shelf space, Midnight Farm).

Irish Mike is very socially awkward and yet, somehow, he’s able to get his crew of varying skill and talent abilities (ranging from the very talented, and maybe bald –well, we never see her without the headscarf—blacksmith Jamie to the practically useless cameraman Ameri-Mike – who really should consider wearing a headscarf. And investing in some hair product. His frizz has got me all worked up.)

AmeriMike from Big Giant Swords
Photos from YouTube and Discovery Channel.

Wait. What was I saying? Oh yeah, he’s got all of these not-so-charismatic guys to work for him basically for free. Or for the love of the craft. Or because there’s nothing else going on in Tisbury, and this shit is entertaining. Whatever.

But it all works. Mostly because, they, like him, are a bit of a group of social misfits, so you can tell they just get each other. Even as they avoid eye contact and mumble to each other.

And, well, the swords are really, really cool. I’m not really into swords, or LARPing or fantasy stuff, but these things are pretty amazing works of art in their own barely-functioning right.

One of the things we really like about the show is that it feels like Irish Mike is kinda in on the whole joke of the situation. He realizes this is a ridiculous way to make a living. His FaceTime discussions with his potential clients range from awkward to slightly derisive to totally jiving together on fantasy nerd stuff. Perhaps more than anything though, he just wants to get off the computer and get to work on his latest grande scheme.

But where Irish Mike’s personality really shines when it comes time to test the swords. Because he actually cares whether or not they could–ostensibly, if the client were a giant and incredibly strong–work. It’s during these bits that his desire to be in the spotlight and flair for flamboyance really comes out. So far, we’re about three episodes in and he’s already set himself on fire while slicing through gasoline-filled coconuts being hurled at him through the air. He’s also dressed up like Zeus and another time like swamp monster that rises out of a lake to demolish a row boat. And, when making videos he doesn’t have to interact with anyone, which you can tell suits him just fine.

So, check out the show (full episodes are online), watch some of his YouTube videos (the one of him lifting a 106 pound axe is pretty funny), or read his thoroughly charming yet very, very nerdy Reddit AMA.

I’m rooting for the guy. I hope Irish Mike can continue to exploit the ridiculousness of his current situation and make a great, sustainable business out of his hobby. It gives me hope for my Poe-llows.

Friday Links: Snow Art and Snatched Crowns Edition

snow penis
Nobody said this was a family-friendly blog.
  • Airline workers kill time by drawing a giant dick next to one of their planes. This actually sums up perfectly how I feel about winter. Plus it reminds me of the infamous “Below Deck” episode where the chief steward made blanket art in the shape of a penis but insisted it was a misinterpreted rocket ship. Man, I miss that show.
  • But guess what IS coming back!! Get your sweet tea iced and set your Tivo’s for March 9 for a preview episode, and March 16 for the full “Southern Charm” assault on the senses, y’all.
  • The Chief Jefe of Poe Communications and Mattress Merchandising Inc., and my personal-boss-for-life XFE has always wanted to stay at an ice hotel. I prefer not to sleep with my teeth chattering throughout the night. So just for him and his thwarted dreams, here’s a roundup of ice hotels by OMGFacts.
  • It’s hard to drag yourself out of bed when it’s 6 a.m. and 17 degrees. It’s even harder when you’re bed is heavenly. The ladies at Cardigans and Couture know: It’s all about the bed. We actually have the same mattress (Westin’s Heavenly mattress) and it is pretty awesome.
  • Following up on the Christmas break wine heist at the French Laundry, Central Texas has a brisket bandit on the loose. No word on if they prefer the “packer” or the “flat” cut.
  • Required reading for our cat, Petunia: Neurotic people probably make pretty great pet owners, according to a new study on overbearing pet parents. Now get over here and let me smother you with hugs and kisses.
  • My favorite story of the week: A Brazilian beauty pageant runner-up snatched the crown right off the winner’s head. (Oh yes, there’s a video. Things get catty around the 1:50 mark. The crowd goes wild). And she’s not sorry about it at all, as you can tell by this amazingly awesome quote in a Brazilian newspaper: “What I did was not on impulse, [it] was to show Manaus, Brazil and the world, that money cannot buy everything. I didn’t do it for me but for other candidates … She didn’t deserve the title.”

Totally Random Search Terms for November

Guess what time it is? Well, perhaps it is indeed Hammer Time, somewhere, say in like, an alternative universe where Aresenio Hall is still cool, Bill Cosby’s only major crime is wearing ugly sweaters, and baggy-crotched satiny pants are the thing. Oh wait. Those pants are actually back. Allegedly.

No, it’s time for Totally Random Search Terms that Brought Someone to thePoeLog this month! For those who don’t remember, here’s a couple of posts that explain it.

This month was particularly interesting for two reasons. 1) I got a ridiculous number of people who found the blog while trying to solve the mystery of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding. Well, not the mystery of how that show exists, but rather, a murder mystery that was totally mentioned and glossed over on one of the episodes. Someone was beyond passionately curious about what had happened to gypsy Baby Pat’s baby sister. As far as I can tell, that episode isn’t in heavy rotation or anything, so I have no idea why so many people were looking for that information in November.

The other weird outlier falls into the category I call perverts. I, along with a lot of the Internet, I’m sure, get a lot of folks who – well, let’s just say, they’re not here to read about my excellent eggplant parmigiana. But this past month, there was someone/something looking diligently for any information/pictures of Indian women going to the bathroom. All kinds of “going to the bathroom” activities. But very specifically, Indian women. Or Indian aunties. Or Indian girls.

I just can’t. I don’t even. I can’t.

I can't even.

Anyway. That seems like an incredibly awkward transition to the work at hand here: a Q&A using a small sampling of Totally Random Search Terms that Brought Someone to thePoeLog in November.

What to pack for 18 day vacation? – First of all, that is awesome. I’m totally jealous. No idea where you’re going but an 18-day vacation sounds amazing. Unless you’re going to like, Stolipinova in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Apparently, that place is not very nice. And it is the home to a whole bunch of Romani, as in GYPSIES, which would make me kinda excited, but the whole rubbish-lined stinky streets thing does put me off. And the violence.

But back to your question. I have spent many a sleepless night fretting over what to pack for a trip, as you can see here, here and here. Hopefully, this post helped you out a bit as well.

My most recent strategy (and one I’ll use for my upcoming trip to Italy) has been to take everything I wore today, yesterday, and the day before, toss them in a suitcase, add toiletries, clean undies, and a blazer, and go. At least then I know I’m taking stuff I actually wear, instead of inspirational, Pinterest-inspired nonsense.

Are the American Pickers worried about hantavirus? – Ah yes, the hantavirus. I remember this threat from the Summer of Disease Outbreaks. The Wikipedia informs us:

Human infections of hantaviruses have almost entirely been linked to human contact with rodent excrement, but recent human-to-human transmission has been reported with the Andes virus in South America.

We still regularly watch American Pickers around these parts, and I have to agree: with all the disgusting foraging those guys do in really questionably conditions, they should indeed be worried about getting a disease carried by rodent excrement. They should also worry about collapsing piles of trash. That show, while enjoyable, gives me the heeby-jeebies. I can’t handle hoarders, even in the name of “collecting.” Makes me itchy.

Wikipedia also suggests some ways to prevent contact with the hantavirus. I find the last one particularly reassuring:

General prevention can be accomplished by disposing of rodent nests, sealing any cracks and holes in homes where mice or rats could get in, setting up traps, laying down poisons or using natural predators such as cats in the home.

Maybe the American Picker guys should bring a cat along on their trips. Kitty cats + foraging through junk = ratings gold.

Is Judge Loren Lake a little person? – First of all, it’s Lauren Lake. Not Loren. Second, hmmm, that’s kinda rude, dontcha think? I agree completely with calling into question her experience and qualifications as a judge, but I don’t know why her stature is under question.

Although, she does look a bit shrunken behind that ginormous “Paternity Court” bench.

Judge Lauren Lake on Paternity Court

Best Vegas hotel bathrooms. – I have spent a lot of time in many Vegas hotel bathrooms. Wait. That sounds weird.

I’ve stayed in a fair number of Vegas hotels, and many of them had very nice bathrooms. I have not, however, stayed at every hotel, so I don’t know if I can be considered an authority on them.

Of the one’s I have enjoyed, I’d probably pick the Cosmopolitan, which I think definitely had the best hotel bathrobe I’ve ever experienced. I also really liked the lady silhouette wallpaper in the separate toilet area. Very chic. Oh, and the Venetian. That bathroom was amazing. And I haven’t written about it, but the Wynn had gorgeous bathrooms as well, if memory serves.

Luckily, there are other folks who have waded through the Strip powder rooms and come up with lists. I especially like this one from RefinedGuy.com. My favorite in his list is the Ivory Tower Suite bathroom at the Palms. I. Die.

Palms bathroom Las

Things to put on Facebook. – Well, if my feed is any indication, what people choose to put on Facebook are their idiotic rants about politics, race in America, immigration and guns, along with pictures of the same sunsets we all saw on our way home that day, and children in apple orchards/pumpkin patches/Christmas tree farms and the family pets. The truly surprising part is that it’s the exact same group of people posting in both of those categories. Sunsets and race in America. Same person. Weird.

You know, the first rule in writing is to know your audience. There’s no easier place to know your audience than on Facebook. They’re your family and friends. You should have a pretty good idea of their tolerance level for political rants and/or cutesy stuff. But at the end of the day, Facebook is social, so be social. Whatever that means to you. For most people, it means, don’t be annoying or provoke people into fighting with you. That’s not “social.”

And, we’re all adults. If we’re fed up with your “prescription for what’s wrong with America,” we’ll unfriend or block your posts. No biggie. I do it all the time.

So post whatever you want. Maybe even some nonsense on Indian women pooping in Vegas bathrooms while on an 18-day vacation.

Thanks, eHow

My man-panion-for-life and I were joking around the other day that we should get some of those temporary tattoos for the holidays — but like snarky custom ones. And, being the Vanderpump Rules fans that we are, we knew exactly what we wanted to get.

Jax's Stassi tattoo

That’s right, we’d like to show up at the parent’s house this year with Stassi’s signature on the inside of our arms. AND, Jax’s signature, preferably in thick, crayon-type lettering that befits his emotional age, on our other arm.

XFE stumbled across this super-helpful eHow page during his search for homemade custom temporary tattoos. eHow recommends that you use a Sharpie for this little project…..because it’s less likely to bleed. I guess they missed the memo on the “temporary” part. But when you are ready to remove the Sharpie tattoo, eHow recommends using  alcohol or witch hazel, and warns that these chemicals can burn sensitive skin. Damn. Nevermind.

Honestly, it feels like an eHow article that Jax would write.

I have a feeling Jax pretty much lives his life based on advice from eHow pages.

Contemplative Jax
“What would eHow say about staring into mirrors while out in the sun?”