Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do you hear what I hear?

...It's the sound of my heart breaking. Why you ask? Well, I took a tour of NBC studios at Rockefeller Center in NYC today and learned that my favorite NBC show, 30 Rock, is in fact not filmed at 30 Rock. Not anywhere near 30 Rock. It's filmed in Astoria, Queens, which let's be honest, might as well be North Dakota.

When the page (yes, they have pages give tours just like on the aforementioned show) told me that neither Tina Fey nor Alec Baldwin ever grace the hallways that we were walking as Liz Lemon or Jack Donaghy, I felt my heart shatter. Now, as I've had time to reflect, I can understand why they don't shoot the show there. The fact is that 30 Rock (the building) was never meant to be a TV studio and couldn't accommodate 30 Rock (the show). The space is limited to say the least and, along with all New York real estate, is incredibly over priced. So, I can forgive Tina Fey for moving her show out of town. But it does take the fun out of watching a little bit, right? I figured since my heart was broken I'd break all your hearts too.

So, you're probably wondering where all the photos are. Unfortunately they don't let you take photos during the tour. Something about copyright (they should ask the editor at Cooks Source for advice on how to get around that). This photo of one of the entrances to the building will have to suffice:

I can tell you that yes, it's true, TV studios really are much smaller than they look on TV. The biggest studio we saw was actually Dr. Oz's, which is kind of messed up, since his show is TERRIBLE. I was expecting that they'd give out free colorectal exams in his studio, but that wasn't the case. I guess they save those freebies for the actual audience (You get an exam and you get an exam and you...!!!).

The highlight of the tour was definitely the set for Saturday Night Live, which is very impressive. I could picture the night's host coming out of center stage to deliver the monologue and Chris Farley crashing through a backdrop. Our tour guide told us that the studio has near perfect acoustics, so perfect that big time singers like Sinatra used to come there to rehearse before their performances on the main stage at Radio City. She also told us that if your favorite band sounds terrible on SNL it's probably a sign that they're awful since the acoustics are so good in that studio. Sorry Ashlee Simpson.

Okay, wrapping up here... Before we went to tour the NBC studios, we took a quick spin through the American Girl store, where they have these bizarre doll holders in the bathroom stalls, right above the toiler paper holder:
Isn't there something disturbing about hanging your lifelike doll beside you on the wall as you go to the bathroom? What's doubly bizarre is the fact that this contraption included an inscription that read, "Patent Pending." Really? You need to patent that? Like there are so many people out there itching to copy that idea, have it cheaply produced in China, and sell it at the mall? I don't think so. But it's true. I looked it up. There is a patent pending on behalf of American Girl LLC for the "ornamental design" of a doll holder. Go figure.

What does deserve a patent is the Dyson hand dryer that was also in the bathroom. My mother kindly demonstrates the technology below. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest inventions of our lifetime. Congratulations creepy guy who does the Dyson vacuum cleaner TV commercials.

This is Part I of my NYC blog post. Check back for my report on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Hotcha!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Square plates, round tables

Dear Restaurant Owner,

I have to admit I thought square or rectangular plates were pretty cool when they first became popular a couple of years ago. But I'm over them. They may look edgy and modern, but they're just not practical. They don't fit properly on the table and you can't balance your utensils on them. The oblong rectangular ones take up so much room, you can't even rest your wrists on the table. I feel bad for the wait staff who have to try to balance them as they make their way to the table from the kitchen.

I know you're trying to be different, but it's just not working. Please throw away your rectangular plates and return to round plates.

Thank you,

Friday, November 12, 2010

My take on the Wired cover

There's been a tiny Internet storm over the November cover of Wired, which features an up-close image of a pair of digitally enhanced breasts.

One of the critics, which got the attention of Wired's editor Chris Anderson, is Cindy Royal, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. She announced on her blog that she was "breaking up" with Wired over the Double Ds and proceeded to point out how the monthly magazine has consistently failed to give women leaders in technology the cover treatment. She listed a variety of women who have been on the cover, but pointed out that most were "jokey" and not true leaders in the tech industry.

Anderson responded respectfully on Royal's blog with an "I know but...," explaining that it's impossible to find a female to put on the cover that will sell on the newsstands. He also points out that it's nearly impossible to put people on the cover period, since few execs in the tech industry are household names. If only Julia Roberts had created the iPhone!

The article attached to the cover in question is basically a profile of a company called Cytori Therapheutics that hopes to use stem cell technology to produce any number of things, including breasts. Interestingly, the reporter on the story was a woman, Sharon Begley, whose name is prominently featured on the cover a few inches below where the sternum branches off from the clavicle. I wonder if the editors somehow felt better about their cover choice given that it featured a woman's name, if not a high-powered female tech executive.

Once you get past the cover to read the article, the boob photos don't let up. There's also an illustration of how one grows (artificially) a pair of breasts. Sounds tasteful, right?

I first saw the article after a friend on Facebook (a woman) linked to it. The link came along with a tiny thumbnail of the cover photo, but in that size and context it didn't really faze me. After all, you can see a lot more cleavage in some profile photos.

But when the actual issue landed on my breakfast nook (yes, I'm a subscriber; and yes, I have a table in my kitchen that I call my breakfast nook) I was a little annoyed. My immediate reaction was that the Wired team had gotten a little lazy. Perhaps they had another celebrity or concept cover in mind but that story fell through. And they were left scrambling. And what could be easier than digging up some clip art of a well-endowed chest and placing the Wired logo over it?

I can sympathize with the folks at Wired. Coming up with creative covers month after month is no doubt challenging. But this boob cover really made them look like boobs. I get that the majority of Wired readers are men. But I'm pretty sure if those men (or ladies) are looking for some titillation (pun intended), there are other better magazines (or websites) out there for that. People (men and women) look to Wired for the latest in technology. God knows there's enough happening in that space to fill a daily publication, never mind a monthly. So the tissue engineering cover story ends up coming across as gimmicky - certainly not thought-provoking as Wired often aspires to be.

So, am I "breaking up" with Wired? No. But I'll be expecting better next month.

I completely acknowledge the irony of the fact that I am giving Wired free publicity through this blog post. I've made my peace with that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This one is probably going to get me in trouble

First, let me say that I don't begrudge the photographers. They're just trying to make a living, and it's their job to make you buy stuff that you don't need. That's how our capitalist system works.

But I really can't forgive the couples who think they are so cool, so SASSY, so hip, that they need to spend three hours wandering around a farm or old mental hospital to get TOTALLY AWESOME engagement photos... Or trash-the-dress photos... Or look-at-me,-I'm-pregnant photos... Or see-how-small-and-tiny-my-three-hour-hold-baby-is?-Let-me-put-him-under-hot-lights-for-a-few-hours photos...

If you're on Facebook, you've seen these photos. And you've probably clicked through more than a few. And maybe at first, you thought, "Gee that's kinda cool." But I ask you to really take a moment and reflect on the statement that these photos make about the couple, or the mother, or the baby. Why do we, as human beings, feel that we need this stuff? We need to eat. We need to drink, and we need something to occupy our time. But do we really need to lounge half-naked in dim light for a guy with a telephoto lens to record the blue veins of our exposed pregnant bellies?

And what do you do with these photos? Create a shrine? I'm sure there are people who will read this post who have indulged in such a photo extravaganza who say, "Christina, you've got me all wrong. The photos of me and my fiancé taken at the run down steel mill are sitting in a box gathering dust. I'm not self-absorbed. I just got a little carried away."

Just because you store away these photos doesn't mean you aren't self-absorbed. Because, be honest, you know the photos are there. And on rainy days, when you're feeling a little glum, and you glance down at your middle-aged paunch, I can guarantee you're rummaging through the attic looking for those 21st Century Glamor Shots as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

But what of the people who actually frame and hang these photos around their house? Have you ever visited someone who had these photos on their walls? A full-on collage of Barbie and Ken and their love, frolicking in Abercrombie & Fitch wear through a hay stack? Could you hide your snicker as you wandered past them? I mean, come on. Who does that? Who thinks, I am so cool, I just want to stare at my cool self all day long? If you're going to post these photos, you might as well go all the way and create an Andy-Warhol-esque wallpaper of your mug and hang it along an entire section of your basement. At least that would make an artistic statement.

And don't get me started on the whole trash the dress phenomenon. Just because you are standing near a pile of dirt does not mean you are trashing the dress. And if you spent four hours in hair and makeup before the trashy photo shoot, it is by definition, not trashy. If some woman decides to wear her wedding gown whilst standing in a vat of pig's blood, then that is, in fact, a trash the dress moment. And it might even be art. But donning your gown and walking on tippy toes through a horse barn does not qualify as such.

Here's the thing: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you have to. True, no one is being hurt by a high-end photo shoot where the woman is rocking an astonishingly bright engagement ring. And I probably sound like a completely judgmental... Well you fill in the blank. But I do think it says something about our society and our priorities that we feel compelled to celebritize (I might have made up that word) every major milestone. It just feels like we're all a bit desperate. Like we can't be happy with what we have and we have to aspire to more and then show people how hard we tried to get there.

Notice I said we, because if I'm being totally honest, there's a part of me that looks with jealousy at those glitzy photos. Who doesn't want to feel like a model and have the photos to prove it? But that's just my point: We shouldn't have to feel bad that we aren't models. We are people, with cellulite and bags under our eyes and less than perfect hair. We don't need hours in a salon and hours in front of lens to feel good about ourselves. And we don't need to look like Brad and Angelina to feel fulfilled. In fact, if you asked Brad and Angelina, they'd probably tell you that being a celebrity isn't as TOTALLY AWESOME as it looks.

Being who we are should be enough.

Did this just turn into an episode of Oprah? It's probably time for me to stop typing now...