Saturday, January 27, 2007

celebrity judges

The only thing that was more painful than watching Tim Gunn have to constantly sell sponsor's products was watching Tim Gunn have to sell so-called celebrities.

Naturally Tim has the good manners to introduce the guests with enthusiasm, as I am sure Todd Oldham will. I just thought it was more than a little bizarre to watch Tim Gunn froth over the wondrous talents that the spawn of Trump and Hilton brought to the show, especially in the face of their total indifference, if not condescension.

Los Angeles will have its own distinctive type of the over-rich and under-talented who will treat Todd with that special Hollywood mixture of obliviousness and superiority. He will be adorable as always and make them feel right at home.

But here is what I'd hope Top Design producers will do do:

First, it would be nice if Bravo stopped calling the guest judges "celebrities" and stopped making the cast act excited about people who really aren't all that famous (with a few exceptions like Debra Messing or Parker Posey).

If the judges insist on referring to themselves as celebrities (as with the hilariously imperious Mrs. Kors), well that has its own entertainment value.

There was a big difference between the judges who were interested in fashion -- actresses and debutards,

"but how would I look in it??"

excuse me debutantes -- and the judges who were actually in the fashion industry, like Vera Wang and Catherine Malandrino and Fern Mallis (who was the best guest judge PR ever had). Did everyone's hearts go pitter pat when they had Parker Posey rather than Fern Mallis? I doubt it. Why not get someone who is not particularly famous but actually knows something about what they are judging?

Certainly, some of the celebrities are tied to relevant challenges -- like the skating outfit or pageant gown (and oh how delightful she has continued to be for us!). But I for one (perhaps the only one) would not mind seeing Top Design put a few knowledgeable architects and designers in the guest's seat.

I'm not holding my breath.

product placement

Sure, these shows run on advertising.
They are also cheap to produce.

I'm not talking about the commercials. I'm talking about all the product hawking in the show. It can get really tacky. Especially when they always have to use awkward titles for things like the "Macy's Accessory Wall" in Project Runway. Or that ridiculous contrivance with cotton as the official fabric of PR Season 1.

If Top Design is like Project Runway, Todd Oldham will, like Tim Gunn, become the super shill for the show. It is rather sad to watch them take the person with the most dignity and then give them the role that strips them of it.

Because there is so much advertising within the show there is a fair amount of continuity with the commercials. This is an advertiser's dream. Except that this can also backfire. By the end of Project Runway who could resist mocking the constant mention of that radical and new technique of creating the "smoky eye"? The effect of this campaign was that is made you think that super pro Collier Strong only knew how to do one boring technique that every junior high school girl already knew how to do.

The other problem with having too much continuity between commercials, product placement and host endorsement is that the show starts to seem like an infomercial thus making it less appealing and ultimately unwatchable.

Wait - - - what was I saying about product placement ? ?

Friday, January 26, 2007

peter shelton: trend watch

It would appear that Laura is not the only one with a keen eye for style in the Bennett-Shelton household.

Yesterday Gawker asked "What is up with White Converse?" regarding the fashion rage for Chuck Taylor All Stars in New York City.
(I'm a Jack Purcell gal myself. However I don't know how fashionable that makes me considering that the only other person I've seen wearing these particular shoes is a friend's four year old daughter. In my defense I got them for $12.)

At any rate, Fashionista replied to Gawker with their post "Explain White Converse" in which style experts weighed in on the white Converse All Star blitz.

We learn that these sneakers are a New York icon. (God love New York fashion editors. Yes, we out in the hinterlands have never heard of these things you call sneakers. We still wear wooden clogs.)

We also learn that Teen Vogue has styled them with skinny jeans, school uniforms, volume skirts, and prom dresses. I wonder if this sort of versatility makes them the kind of item that would become a fashion rage in the city. Does every New Yorker have these items in their wardrobe?

Ah, but it was this comment that offered some insight: they look even better when worn and aged.

I couldn't agree more.

Interior Design Magazine. LAURA BENNETT, PETER SHELTON, AND LEE MINDEL The Project Runway finalist with her husband, Peter Shelton, and Lee Mindel, partners of Shelton, Mindel & Associates. Photography: Paul Godwin.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


::surroundings:: magazine top design blog has a useful post today (Thursday January 25) outlining the differences between interior decorators and interior designers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

before I go any further

let's review:
Those of you who were with me for my project runway blog will remember that before anyone starts to get their panties in a bunch I tell them to read "for the record" (listed on the right under the links list, and below.)

kih recommended reading re: reality tv
This list includes a few of my occasional forays into theories of popular culture and communication theory (although I never called them this because I didn't want to scare anyone) or research I think is relevant.

The point of all this is to make sure no one takes it too seriously. It's all in good fun.

Comments on the people on the show are not about the actual people in real life: all media personalities, including the judges, are fictional inventions in some way. This includes the various the personas people present on their blogs and myspace sites (ahem. see below re moi).

It's not really reality. It's just a tv show. The cast and situations are manipulated for the purposes of entertainment and -- mainly -- for selling us stuff.

In return, we manipulate -- or interpret -- or reinvent -- the cast and situations for our own amusement, speaking from the point of view of our own various invented personas.

In fact, I'm actually a wire fox terrier.

Monday, January 22, 2007

myspace amusements

The folks at blogging top design have helpfully put up links to the designers who have myspace pages. I have a tendency to find myspace pages ugly and irritating. Generally I don't get the point of them.

When I say things like that I realize that I'm old. Like when I look at boys who are wearing pants so that they are falling down off their butts and I think, WTF? Or when gauchos came back into fashion and I said, "No, not this time around. Once is enough."

That said, I am not very many years younger than Elizabeth. How many I am not going to say. I also went to high school not too far away from her. Yet when I went to her myspace page and that music starting playing I thought, is this a joke? It sounded like something that hippy teacher on Beavis and Butthead would play.

Nearly as scary was realization that my taste in music has more in common with the kid practically half my age who (aside from the jazz, naturally) apparently likes the Shins so much that he listed them twice.

It's interesting that the person with one of the most obnoxious Bravo bios has one of the more appealing myspace pages. It's a bit precious but he's young and the Corinne Bailey Rae sort of lets him get away with it: the widdle chipmunk, as the gayboys so inimitably call him.

Anyhoo -- what led me to soften my rather harsh view (based on the Bravo bio) was that his list of favorite movies included Junebug, Little Miss Sunshine, Gaslight, and *especially* the 1934 version of Imitation of Life. The 1956 version is fab but that 1934 film is much more obscure and totally mind blowing. The Good Girl and Clueless are also choices that would be in my list. I think Clueless is one of the best of the Jane Austen films.

But all my warm fuzziness is undone by this statement: "I would like to meet people who would rather be wanted for murder than not wanted at all." [i.e., fame is the most important value above all else: there is no point in meeting someone who is not wanted by others because that person has nothing to offer.] It's certainly characteristic of the kind of person who would want to be on a reality television show: it's all about celebrity narcissism. (And famous criminals are just narcissistic sociopaths.) No wonder he likes In Cold Blood. He also liked the film Capote but from this quote he appears to have missed its point.

Still, if it weren't for narcissists we wouldn't have reality television. Think of what we'd miss.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

editorial note

Notes on the Bravo Top Design Contestant Biographies

I provide these annotations as a service to the viewers. The Bravo biographies are very sugar-coated. The problem is that if our opinion of the contestants is too idealized then the initial episodes -- when we discover what they are really like -- can sometimes be traumatic. Thus, for the emotional well-being of the fans, I have provided some exegesis of the biographical texts Bravo has posted for the Top Design contestants.

In these glosses, I've raised questions about some improbably assertions. I have queried terminology that seemed vague or odd. And I have tried where possible to translate certain phrases -- red flags and euphemisms -- that might not be caught by the untrained reader.

I am sure that this is only scratching the surface but hopefully it will provide us with a more nuanced view of these personalities before the show starts, preparing us, in some small way, for the lunacy ahead.

ultra fab

Click here to read the note on the purpose of these annotations of Top Design biographies.
Design style: Architectural Ultra Modern
FOR "Ultra" READ "Flaming"

. . . he was handpicked by Robert A.M. Stern
I’ll bet he was.

Goil loves to win.
Unlike other people who enjoy being left in the dirt.

Self-described as “small, spicy and fabulous"
Isn't that nice.

Goil is known to stand his ground and confront his challenger face-to-face when conflicts arise.
Is he a designer or a chow chow?

enough with the punk

Click here to read the note on the purpose of these annotations of Top Design biographies.
Design style: Bull in a china shop
Does he leave a stain on the carpet? Do people actually want a designer who ruins their stuff?

He considers all of his education a blessing because he comes from a small industrial town in Ohio where great opportunities were a luxury. He is extremely appreciative of what he has and is not afraid to do whatever it takes to be successful.
READ: He has a major chip on his shoulder.
I’m reminded of Stephen Colbert’s discussion about being the son of a turd farmer.

He works 24-hours a day
READ: has some sort of manic disorder,

and describes his personal style as “half Henry Rollins, half David Lee Roth, with a sprinkle of Evil Knievel.”
It’s Evol. That is a fairly unhip attempt to sound hip. We're getting into Jeffrey territory (PR3). (Honestly. I forgot Jeffrey’s last name but don’t remind me of it the sooner it is out of my mind the better.) At least Ryan doesn’t dress like he’s in Spinal Tap.
Advice: please for the love of god, get the David Lee Roth part removed. A good podiatrist can take care of that.

Prediction: This one has issues. May be prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. Alert the nearby medical facilities.
Style : modern bold and cultural
bold = forces her style on clients
cultural = I’ve traveled so I'm cultural
Andrea has shared her expertise with the world in several television programs. Married with two boys, she is part Swiss, speaks four languages, and is in the process of learning two more.
How specifically is she in the process of doing this? Will she be bringing her tapes with her? Does she study the languages every other day or does she split her study time each day? This sounds like total bullshit.

Underneath all the proven accomplishments, Andrea is a self-proclaimed punk rocker, and she prefers to live by the fringe and often dyes her hair pink.
Part Swiss AND a punk rocker?! Fuckin’ A.

I hardly have to point out that if you think dying your hair pink makes you punk -- or proves that you live by the fringe -- then you have pretty much proven that you are not.

I already went through this with Jeffrey (PR3) my friends. These people are too young by at least a decade to have been punk when punk was still around. They were barely in school at the time.

There seems to be some confusion between the word "punk" and the word rebellious. Or even just idea of not always being in the mainstream. It's getting so ridiculous that the word has practically lost all meaning.

the babies

Click here to read the note on the purpose of these annotations of Top Design biographies.
michael, 23
Profession: Owner of Michael Adams Interiors. Education: Attended Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) and Parsons School of Design. Hopes to eventually earn a degree in decorative arts from F.I.T. Michael grew up on a farm in Western Massachusetts before moving to New York City to follow his dream.
Where does a farmboy get the money to attend two private schools and open his own company by age 23?

Michael will tell you, “I'm polite. I'm kind and I'm very understanding. But, push me too far and I will totally burn your house down.”
Call the police honey. We’ve got an arsonist on the premises.

Translation: I’m a total suckup and any conflict is always someone else’s fault.

This brat needs a good spanking before he is booted off this show as quickly as possible.

carisa, 26
Design style: Clean and modern
Does anyone have a style that is messy?

Carisa attended a special design magnet high school where she studied design for three years as well as fine arts.
READ: Not sure when the Civil War happened.

chi town boys

If we are lucky we will get to hear some great midwestern twangs. I'm especially hoping that Matt the Minnesotan and John the Chicagoan will come through for us on this.
Click here to read the note on the purpose of these annotations of Top Design biographies.
Design style: Casual elegance
Snore. Someday I want someone to say that their style is Formal Crudeness

Without even a high school diploma,
READ: Not sure what Civil War was.

A big personality ... there's never a dull moment when he's around
READ: total drama queen

... compares himself to George Michael
READ: has been arrested for having sex in public places.
Hometown: Comfrey, Minnesota, currently resides in Chicago
Married at 22.
Those Minnesotans. They get to work early on everything.

Design style: Current contemporary that's livable
As opposed to – outdated contemporary that’s uninhabitable?

Matt says his biggest accomplishment is the playhouse he spent three years building for his daughter.
That’s a cause for concern.
Hometown: South Bend, Indiana, currently resides in Chicago. Education: Briefly attended Indiana State University and studied design at Ball State University.
Erik gets points for going to the university with the gayest name ever.*

Design style: Creatively client-focused
Whatever. All designers do this don't they?

Erik says, “a true designer is always looking at things to put their stamp on.”
He was the one who drew the mustache on Wendy’s picture of her daughter.

*More fun facts about Ball:
  • Ball State was endowed by the company that makes the glass canning jars. (I use the Ball jars every year when I make preserves. I like the ordinary Ball jars with the old logo on it. I don't like the newer ones with all the cutesy fruit and quilt designs.)
  • David Letterman went to Ball State.
  • Ball State is in Muncie Indiana which has been used by sociologists as a representative of the most normal, average place in America. It’s the Peoria of Indiana. Just think about that for a moment. It's kind of a Midwestern koan.

la women

Click here to read the note on the purpose of these annotations of Top Design biographies.
Felicia grew up as part of a very spiritual family in Los Angeles.
What does this mean? They were Holy Rollers?

A self-proclaimed health nut, Felicia has completed 15 marathons and now does triathlons.
READ: high-strung

She says: “I approach design like a marathon. I don’t stop until the end.”
Prediction: Will annoy others with her exercise and diet routine

… has a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology [READ: New Age hoo-ha] from University of Santa Monica

Design style: Creative and eclectic
This pretty much includes everything so it is basically meaningless.

Elizabeth realized she wanted to be an interior designer when Prince gave her money to design the after parties for his Purple Rain tour.
Okay. That is actually pretty cool.
Lisa owns her own firm called Interior Obsession in Beverly Hills, California, where she says she works all day and all night.
What is it with these people? Don’t they realize that insomnia is a sign of a severe psychological problem? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder comes to mind.

Casting note: Lisa looks like she might be a reasonable and sociable person with her own unique personality. But reality tv show producers have an appalling attachment to casting and/or editing stereotypes. And once again we have the token black woman. God forbid there should ever be two. So according to the script she should be a bitch because for too long the man has kept her down and it improves the ratings.
Design style: Historical and progressive
Does that mean that her design style is from the progressive era in history?

Heather is extremely passionate about design as a whole and chose interior design due to its ability to affect thousands of people, whereas a couture dress only has the ability to affect one.
READ: Blow it out your ass Project Runway.

two terms

...continuing under the topic of how everything would be ever so much better if I were in charge...

Here are two terms that I really hope I don't hear on Top Design:

1. window treatments
What kind of treatments do windows need other than washing? Moisturizing? What do these treatments entail? Are they for a serious condition? This phrase annoys me. It is completely unnecessary. What is wrong with curtains? drapes? shades? The first person to use this term should be automatically kicked off the show. Via defenestration.

2. embellishments
The way that this word is put into practice among crafters "to embellish" actually means "to festoon." Embellishments are small bright objects that are especially appealing to obese women with bad perms who use the words "scrapbook" and "journal" as verbs. If someone is using a hot glue gun then there is a good chance that they are embellishing. If someone is embellishing an item, this is a good indication that their creation has reached the point of no return. They should discard it and start over. But first they have to write "less is more" on the chalkboard one hundred times.

Monday, January 08, 2007

project runway makes worst of 06 list

Annie Wu on has this to say about this past season's Project Runway:
God, Project Runway was just plain painful this season. Not only did we have to put up with Vincent and Angela for an ungodly long time, they were brought back for an additional challenge! Then, Jeffrey, the designer with the worst collection of all (well, in my personal opinion), won the whole competition. Livid, I was. I definitely expected better taste from what I've long considered the classiest reality program on television. Click here to read her full review.
Now don't get your panties in a bunch about this.

First, she's a funny reviewer (read what she has to say about Flavor of Love and American Idol in this article). Second, this is about her having high expectations of PR. She's saying she's disappointed in the show, not that she thinks it is worse than everything else on tv, and frankly, I agree with her criticisms.

However, Wu neglects to account for the bright spots of this season. Like Laura. Over time the judging stupidities and blowhard personalities of this season will fade from memory while we tune into the new hit show: What would Laura do? (tag: And how the hell does she manage to do all of that?) Getting Flash with Michael Knight (the nice boy takes the street). The Robert and Kayne Show (tag: Barbies, Beauty Queens and Bitching). Malan Breton from Taiwan (it doesn't get any more fabulous than that).

Speaking of crazy man V: on VH1's "Best Year Ever" Vincent's tirade was one of Doug Benson's choices for getting a rose. There's no way to explain this joke. You just have to have seen it . . and like that offbeat kind of humor.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007