Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Sisterhood of the Cute Little Fluffies

kelly and her little yorkie

You may remember our post about Beyonce's pooch Munch Munch. And since we feel it is our duty to keep you aprised of all the cutest hollywood fluffs, we wanted to let you know about MOCHA, Kelly Rowland's adorable little yorkie.

k and m, cute as buttons

We found out about MOCHA on MTV CRIBS. Rowland's house is really beautiful, but nothing could compare to her little puppy. Kelly appears to shower little M with attention; she has her own grooming corner in Rowland's closet, and we all know that closet sharing signifies only the deepest love. Kelly even got on the stairmaster with mocha in her arms! Now THAT'S the way to exercise!

And BTW, Kelly is one of our new favorite celebs. She said she got three of everything (like yoga mats) because she likes to hang with her sistas (those other two children of destiny, or I suppose I must say retired children since Destiny's Child is officially over. boo hoo.). Anyway, we love that she is so into hanging with her girls.

You can see a watercolor of little mocha here.

Our Peeps!

We're back from the h-moon! Stay tuned for posts on Kelly Rowland and her yorkie Mocha, Bergdorf Blondes, the bitchin' fashion sported by the Japanese tourists in Waikiki, the freshy fresh Missy video, Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, underappreciated child stars, leis (the most underused fashion accessory ever!), and the fecund goodness of the papaya.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

It's about fucking time

We Go Where the Coffee Grow

the official drink of fluffy dollars starts out as beautiful red berries

I would wear this to go swimming in hanauma bay if it came in my size:

we approve of water costumes. we approve of costumes anytime.

Friday, June 17, 2005

fluffy bride

Oh, and btw, tom and katie are engaged.

Copy cats.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Contradictory World of Chick Lit

sista solidarity (click chicks to link to chicklit)

I thought this post over at Tingle Alley was pretty interesting. In fact, it syncs up with some of my feelings about the wedding industry (I think the trends are connected).

Anyway, this is what I said:

I’ve enjoyed many novels about the inner lives of fourteen year old girls (Member of the Wedding, Jane Eyre, The Bluest Eye, and Weetzie Bat – just to name a few faves).

And of course, as the above commenters point out, the label “chick lit” is distinct from the books themselves (and the authors), but of course the way this label operates is worth parsing out – especially in the way it influences reviews and sales.

And I can’t help but think of the diet or beauty industry (which also almost exclusively target women); the products in these categories are successful because they inspire both desire and shame. And they inspire a fantasy of being desired, or at least suggest that the key to being powerful is to be desireable. But this fantasy can only be fulfilled if one buys the product. Anyway, what fantasies are people fulfilling when they buy these “chick lit” books? What fantasies do these books inspire? And what does this suggest about our culture?

I’m worndering why more people aren’t exploring the class factor in these books. Most of them are about middle or upper class women who drink mojitos and carry fendi bags.

And I’m not really sure of the history, but wern’t romance novels (harlequins) popular among repressed housewives during the fifties? didn’t these books help women explore their sexuality? But didn’t these novels falsely resolve gender inequalities in the idealized world of boddice-ripping knights and noble ladies?

Anyway, any chance today’s “chick lit” does something similar? That is to say, falsely resolve some conflict our culture is still reluctant to really confront (such as persisting class and gender inequality)?

Anyways, while I'm on the subject of books and chicks, I'd like to recommend Pink Think by Lynn Peril and Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Also, check out

hip chicks

And I'd like to note that I really like chicks, you know like baby chickens. Did any of you see that promo for Making the Band 3 that was just shots of little fluffy chicks perched on mini ikea furniture? There was this voice over -- like the chicks were talking to each other -- saying stuff like, "well, you know what happens when you get a bunch of girls in one house. We're getting along I guess . . .for now!" Anyway, this promo was genius. So fun to watch . I'd watch a whole show of sassy chicks (of the baby chicken variety) peck around a mini hipster loft apartment. Where's that show?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Don't Swallow This: WE's Bridezilla

fresh from the wedding factory

The Bridal Industry is evil evil evil. It's like the diet industry and the beauty industry had a menage a trois with a cupcake and spawned some malicious goo monster that eats soon-to-be-wed women's money and self respect.

It's an industry filled with assumptions and insinuations: this will be the best day of your life, you will wear a "beautiful" white dress (that also makes you look like a poodle and symbolizes your soon to be defrocked virginity), you will be the princess in the fairy tale. And also, your father will give you away, you will have a bachelorette party and suck on penis shaped lollypops and do "blow job" shots, and you will subject your friends to horrific dresses in addition to feeling obligated to cater to your every whim because you've made them "bridesmaids." You will lose twenty pounds because everyone will be scrutinizing you. Start getting manicures at least three months before! plus chemical peels and teeth whitening treatments because those pictures last forever!!! And you know, you're pretty ugly now, so . . .

We know what people do on their wedding day is completely up to them; we're not trying to judge. It's just that, because WE are getting married in a week, we're feeling a little sick of people telling us what to do. We *do not* like people telling us what to do. grrrr!

But even after all our recent exposure to the evil wedding beastie, we were just *not* prepared for WE's show Bridezilla.

This show is an offensive, degrading mess. In fact, it's straight up offendoplex worthy, with promos that cheerily sing "can't talk to her, can't kill her -- she's bridezilla" as a crazed looking bride slices through an ice sculpture with a chain saw. The tag line of the show is "watch real brides go from sweet to certifiable," and on their website there is a picture of a mad-eyed bride in a straight jacket. Another caption says, "engaged, enraged, and about to be committed." Are you catching all these puns? So clever. It's so funny when people are crazy. ha ha ha Funny crazy ladies in their poofy white dresses. What psychos!

The thing is, the whole "bridezilla" stereotype is a product of the wedding industry. It's no wonder brides go crazy when their own wedding planners are saying stuff like, "A lot of couples go into their wedding . . .not even speaking" and "A bride who worked in finance said it perfectly: there is a merger happening here." Ew.

And what's up with WE, the so called "women's entertainment network" making fun of all the crazy ladies? Aren't there some other people who are more worthy of women's scorn? We know the show is meant to be funny, but it just ain't got the chops.

let them eat cake

To promote the show, WE sponsored a zany bridezilla cake dig in times square.

Juxtapose the above scene with this or this or this.

The whole spectacle of high cost weddings totally occludes the ways in which this institution is being used to keep people down. In fact, it provides a false resolution (in an idealized , "fairy tale" landscape) of persisting class and gender inequality.

Anyway, you can take a quiz to test your own bridezilla potential here.

And you can read about the history of marriage here.

Paris and Kathleen Mix it Up

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The New York Times actually writes about something interesting

Our Favorite Sisters, or Alpha Lotsa Moolah: The Celebrity Sorority

Number One: Mary Kate and Ashley

mary-kate and ashley

Mary Kate and Ashley are number one because -- face it -- they are the sisters who started this recent trend of celebrity sorority. Plus, they really do seem to have some freaky intense bond. Even though they are no longer sharing an apartment, we bet they have all that neat twin stuff. Like, they can probably read each other's mind and stuff. They are rich as shit, fun to look at, and oddly fascinating. We recently watched the Full House E! True Hollywood Story, and our admiration for this twosome has thus grown immeasurably. Did you know that Bob Saget was always making gross and inappropriate jokes on set? And we had totally forgotten about that "you got it dude!" that MK and Ash had to say. Yikes.

Number Two: Jessica and Ashlee

Jessica and Ashlee

Fresh outta Waco, TX, the Simpson sisters are southern fried. We think Jessica is sorta smart (but think her new video must have been directed by that awful daddy of hers) and find Ashlee awfully dense (though we just can't change the channel when her show is on). But we wonder, do they even like each other? Ashlee is almost invisible throughout the first three seasons of Newlyweds, and it doesn't really seem like they ever hang out or paint each other's toenails or -- I dunno -- talk? But there was this really great scene on the Ashlee show when Jessica did the robot dance to one of Ashlee's songs. And then Jessica yelled at Ashlee to stop dressing like such a boy (Ashlee was probably just trying to hide her boobs from their dad). And of course they also did that hilarious duet of "Little Drummer Boy" on their Christmas special.

"I have no gifts to bring pa-rum-pa-pa-pum"

Number Three: Beyonce and Solange

Beyonce and Solange

Beyonce has enough star power to light her own solar system, and many of Destiny's Child songs are about sista solidarity. Plus, she and Jay-Z are our favorite Hollywood Couple. Although her sister Solange is not nearly as high-profile as B, she's definitely got the Knowles sheen about her. Plus she seems sort of content and down-to-earth and happy.

Number Four: Paris and Nikki

Paris and Nikki

Our guilty pleasure. How is it that we are not totally sick of these people yet?

Number Five: Hillary and Haylie

Hillary and Haylie

A love/hate relationship. We love their dog, but hate their cover of the Go-Go's classic "Our Lips are Sealed." WTF were they thinking? Plus, they took over the Liquid Ice campaign after the Simpson sisteres backed out, and taking sloppy seconds from an endorsement seems pretty shameless. But Hillary doesn't seem to mind that her sister is trying to get a piece of her fame, so they must genuinely sorta like each other.

Number Six: Britney and Jamie-Lynn

Britney and Jamie-Lynn

We loved it when Britney coyly dissed Eminem on the premier episode of Chaotic: "I think he complains alot. But, I mean, that's cool. It's cool when guys complain about all the stuff girls have done to them. And their mom and stuff. I mean, whatever gets you in the game." ha ha Brit!

Anyway . . .sisters. At this point, we're not sure if these guys are going to give us years of entertainment (clubbing and dancing on tables together after britney and k-fed split), or if they've sort of plateaued. We like when Britney talked about wanting to keep her show clean for her sister's sake, and we liked Jamie-Lynn's reaction to Brit's Madonna kiss ("I was like, oh my gah -- she did not just do that"). Plus, she's already been featured on Go Fug Yourself.

Number Seven: Venus and Serena

venus and serena

These two definitely have the best names, and they are sooo rad. It is really fun to watch them hit that little yellow ball, and they definitely rock the courtside fashion. They'd be higher on our list if they were out and about a bit more. Their website is very pink.

Sisters With Potential:

Mischa and Hania

Hania and Mischa

Yesterdays not-so-blind item has us very excited about Mischa's little sis. She sounds like a real wild child! And what cute names they have. Bring on the schadenfreude!!!

Lindsay's Sis Aliana

She looks like a total priss. But that dog is really cute.

Friday, June 10, 2005


I love Golden Star

Sad Billionaire enjoyed many aspects of growing up in the Canadian hinterland, but perhaps none so much as the exposure to truly nutty cultural effluvia. Officially mandated multiculturalism translated in the real world into some of the best brain-twisting television known to humankind.

On any given Sunday morning, the TV was a riot of harmonium-pumping Sufis, millenarian Azerbaijanis, and yodeling Croats. Not watching compulsively was obviously not an option. The language barrier was such that it was impossible to figure out how to replicate the experience should one so wish. Many a time I would hear a ripping electronic bozouki solo during the Greek TV hour and wish to purchase a cassette by said artist, but how would I do it? Walk into a shop in the Greek neighborhood and ask if they knew about a guy with a Juan Epstein afro and a pirate shirt who played hot electronic bozouki?

The problem was that the posters in the Greek record stores (I got as far as entering them and trying to look nonchalant) gave the clear impression that there was more than one electronic bozouki player with a Juan Epstein afro and a pirate shirt... How would I be sure I wouldn't end up with the crap bozoukist? I mean, a Greek preteen following the same methodology could go into a store hoping to buy a Jimi Hendrix tape and end up going home with a John Stamos one. Horrible, even as a thought-experiment.

All of this leads me to the subject of today's post-- Punjabi recording artists Golden Star. One Sunday morning a few years ago, I tuned in to my favorite TV station, and saw the most sublime, mind-altering hour of music ever! Choreographed dance routines shot in super lo-8: teams of tubby, bearded men rocking out the hippest moves this side of "Dance Fever." Mesemerizing beats, all supported by an insistent Bollywood surf guitar rhythm: DOING-d-doing-d-doing-d-doing-doing; DOING-d-doing-d-doing-d-doing-doing... Incredible!!!

The miracle of the whole thing is that Golden Star (for this was the name of this magical ensemble) kept on flashing ordering information onscreen. Finally, I could keep the flame alive on a day other than Sunday. Unfortunately, the information was like: "Send only 50 Sterling Pounds by certified check to P.O. Box 12 in Madras, c/o "Chucky"... expect Maybe 7-8 months delivery." Again, I felt overly risk-averse.

BUT-- upon moving to Austin, Texas years later, I ventured into the great Waterloo Records store and approached the World Music section with the studied coolness of a doomed man on the way to the gallows... there were few things I was sure of in this godforsaken life, but the fact that a Golden Star CD would never be found in Austin, Texas was one of them.

And, because this is a happy story, of course I found the CD right there!!! Golden Star! In the house! Including their hit, "I Love Golden Star." Now, I too could be a tubby, bearded Punjabi entertainer with a Richard Dawson skinny mic, in the privacy of my home, in my imagination, anytime I wanted.

So, I bought it, of course. And now I am happy. Except that I am also sad. The Sad Billionaire.

Project Poetry Workshop, or Poetry Idol

bitchin' stitchers

Bravo's Project Runway was *by far* our favorite of the latest batch of reality shows. With the exception of American Idol, we'd almost always choose candid reality shows ( a la Newlyweds) over those cheesy competition shows, including those ooey-gooey dating ones. But Project Runway sucked us in immediately. Mostly because it is really really fun to watch people with really good hair make stuff. And when is it not fun to watch sassy and talented young designers have their work critiqued by snarky "professional" or "celebrity" judges?

And Project Runway's illumination of the creative process is really fascinating. Unlike AI or America's Next Top Model, the artists on Project Runway are really more "behind the scenes" artists than they are "performance" artists. We know, we know. Everyone on TV is performing in some way, and of course the clothes "performed" in the weekly runway contest, but what we mean is that a majority of the show took place in the sewing room where the contestants designed and constructed their outfits. And making clothes is really interesting -- the imagination, the technique, the presentation -- and the pressure! In between shots of the designers cutting and sewing and pinning, there were close-ups of the clock and the pointed recording of sidelong glances among the contestants. Interestingly, these designers who must -- by virtue of their vocation -- be intimately famililar with the body in order to outfit it, often communicated as much in theirown body language as they did spoken words. In fact its this aspect of reality show editing that most interests us -- the collaging of glances, gestures, frowns, and self-satisfied grins.

And the show really did showcase the various designers individual "visions." The winner, Jay McCarroll, was by far the most imaginative of the contestants, and well, it was just nice to see imagination rewarded. Certainly more interesting than seeing joe cheddar propose to susie creamcheese. And more interesting than the usual "survival of the fittest" mentality that informs most of these reality tv competitions. In fact, when Runway contestant Wendy Pepper tried to use the tactics that contestants on Big Brother might employ, she sort of ended up the biggest loser of all. Even sweet Jay, who was kind and generous with just about everybody, confessed that he "hated Wendy Pepper."

But we digress again.

beautiful "writer at work" artwork from

Our idea is to use the Project Runway format, only instead of fashion designers, the contestants could be poets. Each week would be a different poetry "challenge" -- i.e. write a poem only using words that you can find in a supermarket, write a "get well" poem for your favorite ill celebrity, write a birthday poem for George Bush without using the phrase "fuck you." Of course the challenges could also be stuff like "write a sonnet" or "write a dramatic monologue" or "write a poem in ten minutes while sitting in central park." And there would be "celebrity" judges " of course. Jorie Graham could be the host (she's got the hair), and Cole Swenson and W.S. Merwin could be recurring judges. To add some spark and create conflict, one of the judges would have to be an editor or a critic; someone like Helen Vendler or Camille Paglia or Marjorie Perloff or Harold Bloom. We know, you're thinking that these ivory tower folks would never want to be in a reality show, and that may be true. But those people are as vain and narcissistic as everybody else. And they love to hear themselves talk. They'd probably give it a shot.

Instead of a sewing room, the show would have a writing room. Throughout the week, the contestants would gather to workshop the poems in progresss. If you've never been in a workshop, or if you can't imagine what that might be like, you might want to recall that scene in Mean Girls when sweet little Cady compares the kids in her high school cafeteria to wild animals at the water hole. We KNOW -- it may not be the *best* way to create good literature, but it would be pretty entertaining, and it would also help raise poetry's profile (remember -- poetry is the new kabbalah). And the musty old establishment could use a good shake, or at least a satirical exercise.

The prize would be the publication of the winning contenstant's first book. And the fact that all of this is happening on screen would keep this contest clean (no foetry watchdogs needed here) . Then there could be a book tour, and appearances on late night talk shows, and podcasts of the poet reading her/his work.

If you don't think this could work, consider all the press that Novel has received. Look at all the so-called "poet bloggers" (check out the blog roll on Ron Silliman's site) and the growing popularity of groups like the "Lit blog Co-op".

There's an audience for this people.

Poets of the world unite!!! And watch TV!!!!

The Peppy Papillon

dog or butterfly?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Non-Annoying Boy Of The Week: Doug Henwood

What makes the Sad Billionaire happy? Well, besides romantic country walks with Femme Feral, and the beautiful plinky-plonk music of Derek Bailey , my top-ten list would definitely include the one-man political-economy-demystification-machine known as Doug Henwood.

First let me say that my life has been immeasurably better since I started subscribing to Henwood's Left Business Observer newsletter. I am always so happy when the self-published socialist tipsheet appears in the mailbox. It is no exaggeration to say that LBO got me through the galling idiocy of the last election season. Henwood explains complex topics, like petroleum macroeconomics, the meaning of monthly employment statistics, and the evolving landscape of globalization. Amazingly, he does it in a manner that is both technically sophisticated and user-friendly.

Henwood's refusal to indulge in the satisfactions of wonkish obscurantism is really inspiring. Like other non-annoying boys of the week of decades past, such as Karl Marx, E.P. Thompson and Ralph Miliband, Henwood actually thinks that intellectuals who understand the complexities of capitalism (and can read a graph or chart without having their eyes glaze over like a Krispy Kreme donut) have an obligation to try to explain it to the rest of us.

The good news is that Henwood is super-generous with his writings. He put his awesome book about the contours of modern-day Wall Street on the web for free after Verso decided not to reprint it (!): Print it out and read it, and you will be able to rationalize your desire to throw hot coffee at the television whenever "Kudlow and Cramer" and Suze Ormand start their insipid yapping. Not to deny the validity of the unreasonable, primal, dinosaur-brain impulse to take a Louisville Slugger to the TV every time these odious lackeys of the Dow Jones corporation come into view.

Henwood does a radio show on the WBAI radio station. He updates often with recent shows, and has an incredible archive of programs in several formats, going back a few years: Be sure to find the now classic interview with Slovenian mad genius Slavoj Zizek... it's like a quintuple-espresso in audio form.

Finally, Henwood is always giving props to his wife, Liza Featherstone, who has written an extremely timely and important book about horribleevil Wal-Mart and women workers: Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker's Rights at Wal-Mart.

We love cool married couples! We hate the free enterprise system!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jessica Simpson is not Depressed

"Complete" Seasons 2 and 3

We love Newlyweds!!! What a genius show: expertly edited and hilarious. Now we've heard that some people think JS is stupid, but we know that girl is a smarty (duh!). I mean, she probably hasn't read a book since 1998, but she knows how to make the most of a situation; she's playing up that "dumb blonde" thing and laughing all the way to bank. And seasons 2 and 3 are solid gold. The *best* thing about the DVD set is the special feature called "Jessica's Birthday." This feature gives us a behind the scenes look at Nick's "surprise" gift of Daisy -- a bundle of cuteness in the form of a maltipoo (sp?) puppy. Unfortunately, the Daisy episodes are not on this disc. In fact, the last ten episodes of the series are missing, which leads us to suspect that they will be released later. So much for that whole "complete" thing.

The one drawback is the lurking prescence of Joe Simpson, Jessica's dad. His creepiness has been well documented (check out this great article about sis Ashlee here). And their yuppie prick friends are sooo boring. But Jessica's self-satire makes up for all that.

Now if she would just get to penning her roman a clef already.

Lhasas make us wanna la la

I'm ready for my close-up

Poetry Buzz

click to link

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Monday, June 06, 2005

Annoying Boys of the Week

the boys of hbo's Entourage

Dear Reader, we have neglected you; we have been slack on our promised "Annoying Boy of the Week" installments. Before you judge us, let us explain.

It's pretty easy to identify an annoying boy every week, but it's pretty difficult to muster up the energy to write about said boy. We think Collin Farrell is hella anoying -- smug, nasty, vain -- but every time we've started to post about the fool our mind wanders. We can't get two sentences into the post before we're all like "bored now."

And Tom Cruise is basically banal by this week. As is Brandon Davis, who has never been very good at appearing to be anything but annoying -- spoiled rotten and soooo grumpy looking. What's that about? Did he loose one of his big bags of money? Or did Mischa perhaps drop a hint that he should wash his hair? Anyway, the annoyingness of these men is pretty much old news.

And this is true of *so many* other overexposed and overrated men: K. Fed, Brad Pitt, Ryan Cabrera, Ryan Seacrest, the Ying Yang Twins, Simon and Randy from American Idol (where Paula Abdul gets the "martha stewart" treatment: "burn her at the stake! burn her at the stake!") . And fucking Ronald McDonald for trying to pimp out that ridiculous fruit and yogurt salad. Thanks Ronnie, but I've had a fruit cup before, and your mysterious "yogurt" sauce and funky walnuts look a tad suspicous for me. Plus pretty gross.

So you see, it isn't that we are holding out on you. It's just that we only like posting on this subject when we're genuinely moved. So you know, let's agree to use the term "week" loosely. Don't worry, we'll keep you apprised of the most annoying boys. And sometimes we'll even give you a whole group. Like now.

So annoying that we can't even write about them for very long because our hands keep clenching into fists, we give you the most hateful crew from that most annoying of HBO shows, Entourage. It's like Swinger's on Viagra. The worst shit we've ever seen. The most pathetic pack of loser bam bams ever imagined. And we don't care if the show supposedly makes fun of the guys. Do we really need to watch another pack of entitled, repressed, homophobic white boys talk about "popping cherries"? Tell me again how that's supposed to be ironic. It's not even worth the so-called "inside" look at Hollywood. These guys suck.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


offend-o-plex worthy pillow

It has seemed to us for some time that a new category of cultural poison needs to be identified and labelled-- the OFFENDOPLEX. Lives are at stake here, people!

What is the OFFENDOPLEX? This is the cultural artifact that combines streams of hateful signification running backwards and forwards, upwards and down. The truly sublime OFFENDOPLEX combines not only an MC Escher apparatus of untraceable networks delivering shock and disgust, but several distinct and discreet streams of nauseating awfulness.

Now, many of you are undoubtedly getting anxious for some examples. We recently saw a "hilarious" throw pillow intended for affluent dog fanciers. This delightful knicknack boasted the embroidered slogan "Dogs are children in fur coats." So, to unpack:

1) The slaughter of animals for luxury fur garments is made quaint and chuckleworthy by pretending that one's little Lhasa Apso is "wearing" their fur as a coat in the manner of a Palm Beach matron, even though it is their brethren in furry cuteness who are sacrificed to enable the whole fur industry's marketing of ghastly necrophiliac couture; 2) Human children are somehow inferior to the puppies blessed by Mother Nature with stylish stoles and wraps... One imagines that the sales of these pillows (and Louis Vuitton dog carriers and Wolfgang Puck snausages) correlates perfectly with the number of infants living in poverty or without proper health care.

Burrow with me, if you will, into the psyche of the purchaser of this throw pillow, as the punch-line travels from cerebral cortex to funny bone. As the impulse forms to reach for the Platinum card and the imaginative work begins: where to put the pillow? Will it displace the bust of Mussolini? Will it properly offset the cigar humidor and extra-flammable bags of money? Can it be incorporated into the rustic, country style Klan nook?

There is only one name for this ickiness gestalt: OFFENDOPLEX!

So-- the Fluffy Dollars Corporation announces its first contest: Provide us with the best example of an OFFENDOPLEX, and we will honor you as reader of the week!!! Bring the ecch!!!

The Disturbing World of Tween Commerce

coming to malls everwhere: 'tween palace outfitters Dry Ice

The emergence of a "'Tween" market is old news, but for some reason it still took us awhile to really investigate how marketers were pitching to this demographic. Sure, we noticed all the new products coming out of manufaturers like Duff Stuff, PB Tween, and the empire known as American Girl. And we've always been interested in the way teen girls are represented in media, so we've perused a few issues of CosmoGirl and TeenVogue. But we've never really delved into this "tween" area of commerce -- the merchandise for 8-12 year old girls. Of course the demographic has always existed, but it wasn't until the late 9os that corporations began a serious campaign to court these consumers and attempt to brand this particular stage of development.

So yesterday the sad billionaire and I made our first trip inside a store called Dry Ice. We've looked in the windows of said store for many moons, but had always been too -- afraid? intimidated? discouraged? -- to enter. The store is an explosion of color and fluff, and every conceivable item the could be covered in faux fur is available within: furry phone? Got it. Furry clock? yes. Furry furniture?: check. They also had fun school supplies like bendy pencils and puppy-shaped erasers, desks and bookshelves in vibrant colors and patterns, imaginative lighting, and all types of colorful knick-knacks. Overall impression: thumbs up!! We're all for young girls personalizing their space. But there's more to this industry than rainbows and glitter and kittens; there's a dark side to all this too.

The 'tween market is undeniably gender-specific. While it seems perfectly reasonable for companies to market women's jewelry, make-up, clothing, and home decor to young girls, the trend seems to be in reverse for boys, with "kid" items (video games, animated cartoons) being marketed to male teens and men.

And while lots of products for tweens have a very positive message (games like Go Goddess!) and are designed to inspire creativity (poetry beads), we can't help but be a little concerned with the way so many of these items reinforce potentially negative notions about gender and sexuality. This is most obvious in attire: as clothing for younger girls becomes more provocative, boys' clothing remains virtually unchanged.

And we are by far most concerned for the youngest members of this market. You'd think memories of Jon Benet would make parents think twice before dropping 100 dollars on a half shirt, mini skirt, and high heels at Libby Lou. After Dry Ice, we visited one of these stores and let me tell you, these places are trully frightening. They are also colorful, but intsead of creativity-inspiring home decor, they're filled with trashtastic "beauty products," plastic tiaras, and outfits that seem to draw their inspiration from magazines like Barely Legal and Britney Spears' "Slave" video. There were also a handful of scantily clad girls prancing around the store when we were there, and we could only guess that the security guard at the front of the establishment was there to keep out potential predators. This could be Little Red Riding Hood come to life -- and the forests are the malls.

But the branding of the "tween experience" isn't going anywhere, and the term "tween" has come to embody its own set of meanings (see article "e-commerce's "tween years").

And though marketing for adults is undoubtedly manipulative, advertising for children in doubly potent. Children, unlike adults, do not have the same abilities to discern the difference between marketing spin and the "facts," and this essentially lays the groundwork for a whole new pedagogy of desire. As parents give their children more and more spending power, they essentially finance their children's training as life-long consumers of junk.

** check out Yahoo's group "Queens of Tween"message boards. We have a hard time believing that many of these messages are actually posted by tweens; it seems more likely that they are written by pernicious marketers hoping to drum up business for their latest drivel. I mean, what 12 year old writes posts with titles like, "Jasmine Trias: Hot New Artist!!!"

Fun and Fluffy Favorites

toasty fun

Pete's Coffee Major Dickinson's Blend
Hello Kitty Toaster
Google Poem Generator
Pink Wedge Heel Mocasins by BC
Singing Bird Paperclip holder
Pan Dulce

Thursday, June 02, 2005

File Under WTF??

In Case You Forgot How Sucky High School Was: MTV's MADE

See Heather go from cheerleading princess to rad skater chick on MTV's Made

Not that you can't be both, right?

Not in high school. Or did you forget?

MTV's Made is a televised social experiment which seeks to illustrate / narrate "what happens" when young people try to change. Each episode follows the month-long pilgrimage of a hopeful subject's quest to go from one "social designation" (outcast, jock, girly girl) to another (homecoming queen, intellectual, skater chick). Most of the episodes take place in high school (the level of hell Dante missed) and have a John Hughes inspired arc: even if the subject is not "successful" in their social transformation, the evil people have exposed themselves and the viewer's sympathy are almost always securely with the subject.

But is this another "reality TV" manufactured fantasy? Or is there really hope for social progress within the hallowed hell-walls of high school?

Yes and No.

You've gotta admire the ambition and risk-taking demonstrated by the kids wishing to be "made". In the promos for the series, they say stuff like "I wanna be the best." And they do things that are seem really difficult and uncomfortable -- like talking to kids who are usually mean to them, or wearing a dress made out of duct tape to the homecoming dance. The show might provide the participants with "coaches," but the "work" of changing -- and the risk -- is solely with the subjects. Despite their (paid for by MTV) support networks, they are depicted as facing these challenges alone.

And the amount of resistance some of these kids face as they undertake their various metamorphoses is trully mind boggling: "I guess when you're a skateboarder you don't have to worry about being fat" scoff's one of Heather's friends after Heather informs them that she won't be joining them at the beach during spring break -- she's got to practice skating because her competition is in two weeks. Compare this to the exchange Heather has with seven year old girl (who has been skating for six months) to "just keep trying." And while Heather's so-called "friends" withhold their support and encouragement, when Heather finally musters up the courage to approach the "intimidating" skaters at school, the skater boys are really nice to her. So she does make some new friends along the way. And even though her old friends do show up at the competition, they've shown their true colors and (we hope) Heather is for sure all the wiser.

But some of the shows cut a little too close to the bone. If you are at all sensitive to other people's pain, some of the episodes will undoubtedly make you flinch. Anna, a self-proclaimed nerd admits, "yeah, I've had some pretty tough times. In fourth grade everyone just sort of turned on me, and so I just turned inward." You gotta wonder, is she being helped here or just plain exploited?

And though you'll see all types of people you would never see on The Real World, and you'll be glad to see all those mean kids looking like the assholes they really are, the show -- ultimately -- isn't socially progressive. Despite the fact that the show's title "Made" emphasizes the creative aspects of "performing" one's personality ( thus begging the question who makes you -- You or your classmates? You or your parents? You or your friends?), it doesn't actually challenge the fascistic social hierarchies in which these questions and conflicts arise. And while the program proves that an individual may puncture through or momentarily alter these hierchies, it leaves the masses (high school kids everywhere) high and dry. Much like the days of Carnival, MTV's Made more likely "turns the world (of high school) upside down" than it actually alters anything for the long term.

And the show's structure is particularily frustrating, for it perenially casts the subject as a "nerd" or "outsider" who heroically embarks on a lonely adventure. The show fails to really critique the repressive culture of high school -- basically implicating the subject for their own "outsiderness" -- and affirms the power of the individual over the power of the collective. The message: anyone can be popular if they just really try. Never mind questioning the way the oppressive systemes of said popularity operate, or critiquing the values of a culture that invests so much in an astringent power structure that basically works to keep the people down.

So although Made does reaffirm one's ability to "make" and "remake" herself -- a pretty empowering message, especially in the context of high school -- we wish there was a way to take it a step further and just re-make high school. And although the show does reveal that you can "perform" multiple rules at once -- you can be a nerd and homecoming queen, you can be a princess and a skater chick -- we wish that these kids could just band together and smash the evil social machine that dominates them.

There was, after all, this other show that used to do that.


We Were Just Talking about This

Most of you have probably already seen this . . .

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Chow Chows are Yum Yum

I am very fluffy

You Mean Thurston Moore Doesn't have an i-pod?

Canadians are Fluffy

Hammy Hamster, Martha Mouse, and "GP"

You know, we don't spend *ALL* our time watching E! True Hollywood Story and reading In Touch. What do you think we are? Junkies?

No. We also watch "educational" promgramming, thank you very much.

This is our happiest (re) discovery since Teletubbies.

Well, it's a discovery for me at least; the Sad Billionaire, however, has known about Hammy Hamster since he was just a wee one wearing footie pajamas in Toronto.

Hammy Hamster is the television equivalent of those children's books from the 70s that used photographs to tell a story. It's live-action footage of a cute little hamster and his friends riding boats, peeking out of boots, and even swimming (have you ever seen a hamster swim -- it's very cute! Even cuter when he gets all bundled up in towel to warm up).

The story is delievered in a voice over, but you don't need that. We suggest muting the television. Instead, pop in a cd by Nobukazu Takemura to accompany Hammy and his friends.
The combination is intoxicating -- like a lullabye.