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.

Nighttime in Split, Croatia
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.

Below Deck Mediterranean in Croatia
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?

Live PD

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.

TLC

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Poe Cooks Reality: Eggplant Parmigiana from Food Network’s “Best Thing…”

While it’s generally well known that I have a very handsome in-house personal-chef-for-life, I too, can combine raw ingredients into something passably edible. Or, at least not poisonous. (I just scoured this website for a picture of me cooking and found nothing. NOTHING. I was sure there was a picture of me stirring a pot somewhere, but no.)

And, now that I work from the spacious Poe Industries World Headquarters (ie: home), I’ve been stepping up and cooking more often.

Truth be told, I tend to lean towards large, stick-to-your-ribs meals that would feed a small yet hungry army, with a particular tendency towards casseroles smothered in cheese until unrecognizable. This weekend’s offering definitely falls in that category.

I saw this eggplant parmigiana on some Food Network show. Something along the lines of “Best Cheese-Covered Mess I’ve Ever Eaten/Made.” (Actually, here it is, and it was called “Best Thing I Ever Made – Fry It Up”) Alex Guarnaschelli, who has the most impossible last name ever, was raving about it. Seriously, I almost gave up on trying to find the recipe because of typing in that last name.

Now, I don’t find Chef Alex particularly enchanting. Her delivery is pretty boring actually, and she looks just like a former friend who literally just up and stopped talking to me right around the time I met XFE – never did solve that particular issue/mystery, but I’m sure my happiness was totally annoying to her.

But, Chef Alex does have some meat on her bones, and I tend to trust chefs that actually look like they eat. Never trust a skinny chef is one of my life mantras.

Eggplant Parmigiana via Poe

This recipe was fine. I wouldn’t say it was easy. And, you will use every damn cooking utensil in your house. At one point, I had four cookie sheets at play, and three pie plates that I was using as a dipping/breading station.

There are also a lot of steps that I think could be skipped. For example, making your own sauce. Yeah, it’s not like that’s a hard thing to do, but probably not necessary. In our case, one of the reasons we were making eggplant parmigiana is that we had some crushed tomatoes in the freezer from last year’s amazing tomato crop. So I swapped those out for two of the three cans of whole tomatoes the recipe called for, and just used one can of San Marzano whole tomatoes. If I made this again, I’d just buy a good, premade sauce and save myself some time.

Also: in the recipe, Alex says you don’t have to salt the eggplant and let them sit for an hour, but really, who wants bitter eggplant?

My other quibble is that we were told to use a 9 x 13 casserole dish, which I did. However, in the recipe, she suggests you can get three layers in that thing, which was not the case in our house. We used two medium-sized eggplants and got two generous, overflowing layers in the pan, so it worked out fine, but definitely not three layers.

Ours was a bit watery at the end. Some moisture on the bottom of the casserole dish. XFE noticed it when he was wrapping the leftovers to put them in the fridge. I don’t know if it was because I used too much sauce or because of the tomato swap out, and it wasn’t a ton, but maybe more than we expected(?).

I also question the necessity of breading and frying the eggplant. I’m not a big fan of frying in general (not for health reasons or anything. It just makes the house stink, in my opinion), and the final product was really a cheesy mess. You definitely don’t get any fried crispiness. But again, maybe that was because of the tomato/watery situation. Hard to tell. After dinner, XFE pointed out that Trader Joe’s has fried eggplant slices in the freezer section, so if I made this again, I might use that short cut as well, since home frying didn’t seem to make a discernible improvement to the final product.

However, with all that being said, this eggplant parmigiana was really, really good. Downright delicious.  I mean, how could it not be? It had like a couple of pounds of cheese. It was basically an ooey, gooey Italian cheese delivery system, which is just fine by me. And our tomatoes tasted amazing, really bright and summery, so it was a good use of those.

Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch this week. Maybe with a side of cheese, eaten Bleona style.

Bleona eating cheese.

Totally Random Search Terms – October Edition

Way back in the day, when thePoeLog was just a tiny little sentence fetus and Google played nicely with WordPress, we had a semi-regular feature called “Totally Random Search Terms that Brought Someone to thePoeLog.”

This was inspired by a feature on WordPress that rounded up terms used in search engines like Yahoo, Google and Bing, that somehow led people to your blog.

It was mostly something I highlighted on Twitter, say, for example, when someone found the blog by searching for “rats on treadmills,” I would tweet out a silly little welcome for all those Pied Pipers in training out there who had accidentally stumbled upon my blog.

But then WordPress and Google got in a fight or something. I don’t know. I’m still waiting for the Taylor Swift song to clear up the details of that particular little spat. But the point is, the Totally Random Search Terms from Google have been mostly replaced by just “Unknown Search Terms.”

EXCEPT, the terms that are used on non-Google search engines. Those are still available for mirth and amusement. While not as plentiful, they’re still pretty funny.

So, without further ado, here is a Q&A using a small sampling of Totally Random Search Terms that Brought Someone to thePoeLog in October.

Could glass covered wetsuit repels sharks? – I have, apparently, written quite a bit about sharks, thereby making me a leading authority on all things shark-fear related. And while this post here ponders the merits of some possible shark-repellant/shark-attracting wetsuits, I do not see anything about glass-covered options.

But, if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that nothing would repel a hungry shark, and in fact, a wetsuit covered in glass might actually result in the diver accidentally cutting themselves, sending spurts of blood bobbing through the water and actually attracting sharks who want to make a little snack out of you. I wouldn’t risk it. (For more aggressive underwater animal avoidance tips, check out this post.)

Shark bite swimsuit, of course.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Why does the ravine committee tell me what I can and can’t build in my backyard? – Ah yes, the dreaded ravine committee. These low-level, volunteer bureaucrats exist to make designer Hilary Farr’s life hell on HGTV’s “Love It or List It.” I wrote about the incredibly formulaic show (and Canada’s Ravine Preservation system here).

As for why they wield such control, I suspect it’s because they are empowered by their neighbors and fellow homeowners to do so. We have a similar group of busy bodies here in the historic district we live in near Washington D.C. It’s kinda like “Mean Girls” – they exist because the rest of the school let them exist.

Busy body cat
“I notice that you’re building a gazebo awfully close to the ravine. You can’t do that without a permit.”

The (semi) good news is that these types of boards are always looking for volunteers to join them in their efforts to stop growth and progress in the name of saving a tree. Go ahead, fight the power from the inside. Join them. Go to their meetings. Be the dissident voice on every single vote. This one in Toronto is looking for volunteers and the term length is FOUR YEARS! Think of all the ways you can be annoying over the course of four years.

What goes with oysters? – Not to be confused with the other oyster-related search term, “porn models eat oysters,” although I do wonder if these two terms were in any way related. According to this post right here, Croatian pasta cake goes with oysters. But I would also argue that fresh oysters are pretty damn perfect on their own and really need no further accompaniment than a squeeze of lemon and a flute of very cold champagne.

Oyster humor.
Oyster humor.

Who is Alex from Million Dollar Listing? – This one is a bit interesting and led to a very intriguing online revelation, once I started digging into it a bit. I believe this question refers to Alex, who was actually a home buyer and client of Ryan Serhant on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York” a few seasons back. He was the “difficult” client with a pet wallaby, which I wrote about here. Supposedly, Alex was a young finance millionaire looking for a $4 million, wallaby-friendly home.

Alex from Million Dollar Listing and his wallaby

But today, while digging around on the Internet, who do I find working at Nest Seekers, aka Ryan Serhant’s real estate firm? Why, our wallaby-loving client Alexander Saks. Only now, he’s working at Nest Seekers as an agent! Isn’t that interesting/suspicious? So, what gives here, Bravo? Are you guys using other telegenic real estate agents as “clients?” Or was Ryan such a great real estate inspiration that Alex just left behind his career in finance to jump into the competitive world of New York real estate? And will we be seeing young Alex on the upcoming season of “Million Dollar Listing New York?”

Bravo disappeared off of channel 62. Where did it go? – I don’t know, but in my house, that would be a major tragedy on the scale of the still lost episode of season 1 of “Below Deck” (which was also another search term query last month: “what happened to episode 3 of below deck?”) As you can see from that example, and the one above, sometimes Bravo plays fast and loose with the facts. That could very well include what channel they are currently inhabiting in your area.

My advice to you is take a good long look at yourself and try to figure out what you personally did to piss off Andy Cohen. And then you better fix it quick, because “Real Housewives of Atlanta” just started Sunday night and it is going to be one hell of a juicy season. You better find your Bravo fast.

Bravo Andy will not tolerate it.

The Lashes May Be Mink, But the Faux Fur Drama Was Flying on Vanderpump Rules

There was some sort of really big thing going down here in Washington D.C. last night. Actually, it was a national event, full of backstabbing and upsets. It included a cast of familiar, soul-less characters who act like friends one minute, only to turn around and do something shady the next. There was even a total flip flopper at the center of all the drama who makes John Kerry look like a stubborn stalwart.

And it had me glued to my television last night.

You can’t tell because my eyelashes are mink (oh, Sheena), but I am seriously excited that Vanderpump Rules season three (or should that be SUR-son three) is back.

Jax works out on Vanderpump Rules
The episode opened with Jax working out shirtless. Of course.

Wait. You didn’t think I was talking about the elections, did you? Please.

Yes, our long national nightmare of skank-less television is now over. The SUR kids are back with their hookups, social media stalking, and short-swirly-slightly-Ed-Hardy-esque t-shirt dress uniforms.

And even more exciting is the fact that Stassi is back!

Mysteriously so. Considering that Stassi left behind SUR and all her cheating friends and exes for a new life and love in New York. Yet, here we are a mere six months later and she’s back in LA, scurrying around to get the latest dirt on her former colleagues. Allegedly, her boyfriend’s Sirius Radio show moved to California. I say allegedly because 1) we never saw this new boyfriend on the first episode; 2) it’s Sirius Radio, which is headquartered in New York, so not clear on why they would want him to be LA-based, and 3) Stassi is staying with friends in LA, NOT her new boyfriend.

What Stassi did bring to last night’s episode (besides the drama, judgment and sarcasm), was a collection of ridiculous statement necklaces. Let’s have a bit of a review.

Stassi of Vanderpump Rules loves a statement necklace.
I didn’t meant to cut off Stassi’s head while making my collage. But I did not do anything to stop it either.

I guess without the SUR uniform, she feels like she really needs to bling it up. I really feel like maybe she’s accessorizing in preparation for a future position here in Washington D.C. Stassi in 2016?

Statement necklaces in Washington DC
That would be Michelle Obama and Ann Romney rocking the statement necklaces.

Reality TV Time: Euros of Hollywood

During the last year that this blog has been dormant (almost one year to the day!), I’ve been on some fabulous trips that I have just been dying to talk/write about. I can’t tell you, gentle reader, how many times I’ve been witness to something and thought: Man, this would be great for the blog.

For example, we went to South Africa in March (with a super sketchy layover in Nigeria that I cannot wait to tell y’all about), spent a long weekend in Copenhagen (where I discovered my love for open-faced sandwiches – genius. Pure genius), revisited Costa Rica, and most recently, we went to Bali, where we worked extra hard to avoid all references to “Eat, Pray, Love” (spoiler alert: we failed).

In fact, I was working on an oh-so-clever Bali post when I saw the most amazing thing ever: Euros of Hollywood.

Meet the Euros: Bleona, where are your pants?
Meet the Euros: Bleona, where are your pants?

“Euros” (which I’ll call them for short) are on a new reality show on that most amazing of networks, Bravo. I swear, that Andy Cohen is a national treasure and no one can convince me otherwise. He should get a Nobel Prize just for his general programming greatness.

“Euros” is like that other great Bravo delicacy, “Ladies of London” but in reverse. “LoL” followed the lives of a mixed group of women comprised of Americans and Brits, so it had just a touch of that “fish-out-of-water” storyline that folks find amusing but then it also had the added fabulousness of the reserved Brits reacting to the American “fish.”

But “Euros” is all in on the fish-out-of-water storyline. And unlike the Americans on “Ladies of London,” these Euros haven’t even the slightest interest in fitting into their new pond. In fact, they seem quite determined to make America conform to their Euro-standards.

We start the show by meeting Bleona, an Albanian pop superstar with a name that sounds like an over-the-counter diuretic. Looks wise, she resembles Angelina Jolie. But then she opens her mouth and it’s more like Nene Leakes. She’s brash, loud, diva-esque, rude, opinionated, and sees slights where none exist. I, of course, love her, and want to sit and chat over a plate of sheqerpare cookies, and be her very best friend in the whole wide world. She’s gorgeous and she’s crazy and I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing her in Playboy very, very soon.

Bleona being choked by net neck brace.
Bleona at 2012 Billboard Music Awards. Also: WHAT IS THAT AROUND HER NECK? I think she’s being attached by a tulle caterpillar.

Unfortunately, there is trouble brewing in Euroland because Bleona isn’t the only chantreuse in the cast. A little later on, we meet Fawni, a boobilicious blonde Austrian who has had a number one single in Japan, which, as we all well know, is practically a gateway to American pop chart greatness. Fawni, however, has informed us that she’s in America to be a great painter, and Bravo kindly shows us a few of her paintings. They’re…..ok, I guess. OK fine, they’re not horrible….but since I’m firmly on Team Bleona, maybe I’m a bit biased. I will say that they’re definitely much darker than you might expect from an Austrian Barbie doll. Although, there is the ubiquitous Marilyn Monroe tribute piece.

Aaaandd, I love that Fawni’s Bravo page says “Sorry, nothing here yet.” Indeed.

Fawni with one of her paintings. Also: WHERE IS HER ARM??
Fawni with one of her paintings. Also: WHERE IS HER ARM??

We also meet Sascha, a German entrepreneur/DJ/music producer who owns what appears to be a very successful clothing store in LA (where I presume all the Euros get their too-tight, deep v-neck t-shirts, button up shirts that start around the navel, elaborately embroidered skin-tight jeans, and unisex scarves). And yet, Sascha’s wife and two children are still in Germany and he only sees them every couple of months. Now, listen, I know that the United States has a somewhat difficult immigration system. Believe me, I KNOW. Eight years of writing for the nation’s largest lobbying organization in Washington D.C. gave me a lot of familiarity with the difficult politics of this issue. But I find it hard to believe that with all his money and having himself established as a business man in LA, Sascha can’t find a way to bring his family over. Maybe he could hire a lawyer or something to help get the wheels in motion? I hope we hear more about this issue during the season. If for no other reason than the fact that I always like to cram pop cultural references into the otherwise-dull policy debates when I can.

Speaking of unisex scarves, I absolutely cannot finish this post without introducing you to Massimo, a holder of several “slashes” – model/actor/choreographer from Italy. Massimo’s biggest credit so far appears to be in a movie titled “We Have a Pope,” which is a horrible title but an interesting premise: “A story centered on the relationship between the newly elected pope and his therapist.” Wonder if that’s On Demand somewhere. Somehow, I doubt it.

If, by some miracle you are able to resist watching all these other over-the-top wannabes trying to get a foothold in one of the most difficult industry towns in the world, you have to at the very least watch Massimo attempt an American accent. It’s pretty bad. But I have a feeling I’m going to be cheering for his success before the end of the season.

Not in the field of choreography, however. He’s really, really awful. He’s like a cross between a Muppet and someone who is dizzy from thrashing about in the final stages of a debilitating illness.

Massimo in the throws of acting. Is that a popped collar underneath a deep v-neck t-shirt? Get ready America.
Massimo in the throws of acting. Is that a popped collar underneath a deep v-neck t-shirt? Get ready America.

Paternity Court, It’s Time to Get Tested!*

Ladies with bad taste in men, rejoice.

A new show is heading to a TV screen near you, determined to uncover the truth.

My friend Caroline made me aware of this show, which is, as the fine New York Daily News reports:

“Paternity Court” is a new syndicated show on which people take DNA tests and learn from a “judge” if they are related.

Think of it as a cross between “Judge Judy” and the “Maury.”

P court

I used to love those Maury episodes back in college. So suspenseful.

The show will be “officiated” by Lauren Lake. Here’s the first line of her Wikipedia bio:

Lauren Laniece Lake is an American family lawyer, author, interior designer, real estate developer, background singer, legal/relationship/life consultant, guest host, and talk show presenter.

Lauren

Holy over-achiever, that’s a lot of jobs. No doubt about it: Miss Lake has got some hustle. Respekt.

But I can’t help but notice that “judge” is not listed among the many jobs. As the NY Daily News notes:

Lake is not a real judge and by law her decisions are considered nonbinding mediation.

But she offers good advice.

“Once we get that DNA evidence, then it’s my job as a judge to talk about how that scientific evidence will relate to the law,” Lake said.

That’s odd. I also don’t see scientist listed among her many professions. But I think, based on the very thorough “Paternity Court” Wikipedia page, that what Miss Lake will bring to the proceedings will be far more useful than background in biology (emphasis mine).

In distinct contrast to Judge Judy, Lake maintains little order over her courtroom in handling cases on Paternity Court. Rather, she runs a much more unruly courtroom: Lake allows noisy bickering, interruptions, name-calling, outbursts, dramatics, and misbehavior from the litigants and their witnesses. Even audience members are allowed to make a ruckus and regularly interrupt the judge with boisterous hand-clapping and vocal utterances. Most of the cases are filled with the litigants spewing scurrility and vitriol at each other in unison. In the midst of all the chaos, Lake observes quietly with added dramatic facial expressions. At the end of the cases, Lake offers the DNA test results while dramatic music sounds. Following this, Lake closes with advice in the form of a speech to help the couples move forward.

“Spewing scurrility.” Awesome phrase. Henceforth, all scurrility shall be spewed and only spewed. Those wordsmiths over at Wikipedia were on fire when they wrote this one up.

Dramatic facial expressions? Wait a minute. This gig sounds perfect for me. I have absolutely no poker face whatsoever.

faces

I’m also pretty free with the (unsolicited) advice. And very judgmental. For example, I think people who go on court room TV shows to find out if they’re related are a bit pathetic.

Actually, me and Miss Lake have a lot of things in common. She “calls it the way she sees it.” I tell it like it is. She likes red lipstick. I like red lipstick. She likes to expose deadbeat dads. I had a deadbeat dad.

By Steve Kabelowsky

And we were both weird kids:

“I was always a quirky kid,” said Lake…. “I’d ride my Big Wheel wearing Jackie O sunglasses, plaid pants, a polka dot shirt, a big hat – thank God my parents were OK with it. They didn’t put me in a box, so I was always designing something – clothing, my room, all kinds of things.”

Now that “Breaking Bad” has ended, I figure I have an open slot in my TV viewing schedule for scurrility and vitriol accompanied by dramatic faces and even more dramatic music sounds. After all, that was kind of “Breaking Bad’s” bread and butter, no?

*Paternity Court, it’s time to get tested! is an actual tag line for the show, along with the also awesome: “Paternity Court, where science meets law,” and “Paternity Court; she’s the judge; DNA is the jury!”