Sunday, March 30, 2008

Portrait of Seider & Sargent 2

I think the portrait of Madame X may well be one of John Singer Sargent's most well known paintings and thus, it is appropriate that Seider chose another famous female for his retrospective of and homage to Singer's work.

Helena Bonham Carter is the typical, determinedly bad girl who threw over the yoke of genteel restraint and aristocracy for a life on the edge.  Her quirky, non-conformist and edgy dark side stems from the age-old rebellion against a heritage of conservatism.  

So, it is perhaps ironic yet strangely fitting that her homage to Madame X has become one of the iconic British masterpieces of contemporary photography to form part of the millennial exhibition at the National Portraits Gallery in London, as one of the 100 great photographs of the century.

The line back to Sargent lies with Bonham Carter's great-great-grandmother who was painted by the master in 1912.  

I'll put it out there.  I love this photo.  Bonham Carter is downright luminescent.  Talk about blue-blood!  Her skin is truly a study of fine alabaster that glows like mother of pearl against the dark backdrop.  Dark features, pale, pale skin, delicate bone structure and such a commanding air of nonchalant nobility. 

I've never thought her a beauty but she is certainly arresting and charismatic and she knows how to work it.  I love how Seider used one of his favourite tricks here - reflection.  In many of his other works, the man loved placing mirrors, bodies of water and glass to duplicate the model in surreal, cut-out dreamy images.  Here, it is dark, dreamy yet strong with a clear image traced in velvet lines.

Bonham Carter's clavicles are sharply lithographed on polished mahogany yet her face fades into the foreground, creating an imagery of ancient statues that have lost their heads but not their perfect symmetry.  Her hands are diabolically interesting here.  The right is raised and half curled inwards as it to make a point or hold a thought.  Yet the left hand in placed almost impatiently on the table with the allusion of finger tapping to hurry the session on.  Such dichotomy!  Such an intelligent and well-thought out pose.  Amazing.  I am in awe.  It tells such a powerful story and invites so much study that it goes galaxies beyond a lovely photo to true art.

The styling is also so well-thought out.  The line of her strapless bustier is mimicked in her hairline and the slight scallop curves of the bust line by the two tendrils of curls flanking her temples.  Knowing Seider, all these were carefully orchestrated and directed and not the results of a happy coincidence.

Bonham Carter's expression is direct yet the slight hoodedness of her gaze gives her a hint of soulfulness and softness.  It is a commanding and striking countenance and her chiseled cheekbones and slightly pursed lips suggest that she is about to make an importance address and is contemplating the possible reactions and consequences.

It is a superb photograph and will deserving the accolade of being one of the 100 most memorable photographs of the century.

We now compare it to the original Madame X, painted in 1888, a study of contrast and deliberation as well.  Considered as one of Sargent's most definitive pieces because it was such an unconventional pose for its time.  In fact, that pose led to such a volley of controversy and criticism that it forced Sargent to leave Paris and move to Britain.

Why?  Because the pose was considered suggestive with her exposed neck seemingly arching back, inviting a heated kiss or bite to that pale column.  It was deemed sexually suggestive and salacious and much disapproval was heaped onto Sargent's head for it.  It is quite ironic as the model was Madame Gautreau, the American wife of a French banker in Paris and some demi monde as many insinuated at the time.   Perhaps naming it Madame X was not a terribly bright idea.

The painting not only destroyed Sargent's position as the darling of Paris but also caused much grief for the Gautreaus.  The lady was always in the forefront of fashion as evinced by the clean lines, sharp shape and bold statement of her gown.  It is surprisingly contemporary even by today's standards and demonstrates a daring, adventurousness and flamboyance of a confident social figure.  Madame Gautreau's striking beauty and élan paved her way into society.  She was kirsch flavoured chocolate ganache when vanilla ice cream was rampant.  Her fiery red hair, pale skin and lean, slightly muscular stature made her stand out enough to catch Sargent's eye as a model.

Standing by the table, she is a vivid flame that enflames the imagination.  And boy, did the Parisiennes' imaginations flare.  

Her turn of head to avoid the gaze of her voyeurs only enraged her naysayers more.  The unattainable yet with all her assets in blatant, full frontal glory.  Although the nose was down-turned, they imagined that she look down upon it at social conventions. Her clinging gown exaggerated her waist, suggestive of a corset and thus, in those days, of her displaying herself in her under-garments.

It is necessary to note that this painting was re-done by Sargent after all the trauma so we do not see the full affront it posed to Parisian society in the late 19th century.  In the original painting, apparently our Madame had the strap artfully fallen off the right shoulder.   

Even without meeting her eyes, you could sense the challenge, calculation and teasing cold-shouldering of this exotic creature.  

Her one hand is grasping the front of her silken gown perilously close to her woman's bits, setting the teeth of the overly-conservative on edge.  The suggestion of heated emotions gripping Madame X in its thrall lies in the clench fingers digging into her upper thigh.  Yet the right hand lingers teasingly on the wooden table.  She seems to be caressingly it languidly, trailing her hand seductively against the polished wood.

Her ears are flushed pink and the puerile imagination fancies that someone had just recently been nuzzling and sucking incessantly on them as she exposed her neck to them.

It was all horrible lascivious to the Parisiennes and all I can say is that they all have a dirty mind.

In comparison, Seider's Madame X is tame.  Yet if you look closely, you may get the whiff of dominatrix in the whole arrangement and in the unyielding stare-down.  The greatest difference is in the colours.  Sargent's has a warm, umber glow while Seider's blue wash places it on the opposite end of the tonal spectrum.

What an artful juxtaposition these two pieces make.  Clever similarities yet defined contrast.  

Portrait of Seider & Sargent 1

I realise there is a common element in the photographs I introduce or advocate.  They tend to have a very painterly effect to them.  Like snapshots of the canvas of an old master or a suddenly lit corner of an ancient fresco.

It carries through to my preference in movies.  A movie may have a rather disappointing plot or mind-numbing dialogue but can be redeemed if it unfolds visages of panoramic swirls of colour, swathes of light and shadow and glorious depictions of dreamscapes that seem to leap from a painting in the Louvre.

A contemporary favourite is 300, which I cannot rave enough about.  Sure, the story veered so much from so-called history and there were moments of supreme cheesiness and tacky OTT-ness, but every frame in that movie was a master painting.  It resurrected the Spartans from the eerie grave back onto the big screen as a masterpiece of art.

For some reason, as I pondered my predilection towards painterly photographers, one name kept sticking in my mind.

David Seidner.

Obviously, this is because of his pièce de résistance, Portraits, inspired by Sargent's portraits.  What an amazing concept to trace the progeny from Sargent's society models for his portraits and re-image them into modern day depictions!  Seidner masterfully transported them into Sargent's canvas with lensed brush strokes and left a legacy that haunts me even after almost a decade of his passing.

In honour of this perfectionistic artist, (he apparently controlled every minute turn of the head, fold of fabric and even placement and cropping of his photographs in magazines - something I totally identify with and can appreciate), I present David Seidner's Portraits.

This portrait is of Hilary Gardner, who is the great-great-grandniece of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the art collector and philanthropist painted by John Singer Sargent in 1888.  

The first glance invites you to marvel at the lustrous and lush use of silk drapes swaddling the floor, above which the modern-day Gardner perches with a hesitant awareness.  Her body seems almost bent on leaping from her seat to disappear into stage right, away from the viewfinder.

The arch of her eyebrows, slightly aggressive forward tilt of her neck and awkward turn of her head give the impression of a reluctant attention that bely her sedentary pose.  The arms are raised in preparation for movement even as they try to rest on the arms of the chair and the billowy skirt.

The colours are phenomenal.  Like the rich gleam of jewels - matured gold, shadowed emerald and mysterious amethyst bloom around her like in a vibrant cloud.  Her peaches and cream complexion glows against this canvas and gives her a measure of delicacy that alleviates her slightly big-boned robustness.

Overall, the impression is of a reluctant princess more used to rugged pursuits and simple personal presentation forced into a frock, makeup and a tiara and feeling like an utter git.  Her patience is running thin and there is a surliness to the look, hinting at impending tantrums and a severe arse whopping.  You get the feeling that any moment now she is going to spring up on her Reeboks hidden under the gown, hitch the layers of taffeta and silk to the waist, stick a middle finger at Seidner and make a break for it.

I would call this portrait The Reluctant Princess but I might get sued.  

You compare that to her ancestor, Mrs Jack, as Isabella Stewart Gardner was known and it is quite a contrast indeed.

I certainly do not see a resemblance which is to be expected in such a long passing of lineage.  I suspect Seidner deliberately veered from replicating the portrait of the older Gardner as he was a very studied artist who created with an eye towards intellectual and surrealistic detail.

Sargent's Gardner is a picture in restrained austerity and understated elegance.  Seidner uses colour and barouque richness in his shot.  Mrs Jack proffers slim lines and serene anticipation.  The young Hilary sits in overflown curves of barely restrained eagerness.  An aura of light surrounds Mrs Jack and gives her a muted halo to her gleaming, pale skin.  The younger Gardner flushes healthily in the pitch darkness that dares not encroach on her abundance of colours.

I confess I much prefer the sophisticated refinement of Mrs Jack and especially love the double strands of pearls accentuated her corseted waist above a slim flute of velvety black.  Much as I love the jewel tones, I think Sargent's masterpiece looks surprisingly modern while Seidner's looks ironically dated, which is his intent in the Portraits series.

In fact, in terms of pose and colours, the other Sargent portrait of Grace Curzon, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston, seems a more likely reference.  Note the purple sash, armchair and slight forward edge of the body.

I don't know.  Perhaps I am reaching.

The tapestry continues in a rich vein with the next Seidner portrait.  This time, the colour is focused on glowing shades and hues of green.  It is a classic portrait in terms of composition and pose.

Yet the use of colour again modernises Seidner's piece with mellow elegance.

Rachel Feinstein's pale, understated beauty is enhanced by the dark background that seems to dominate all of Seider's works.  The stark and unforgiving backdrop illuminates her muted serenity.

As with all of Seidner's models, her skin is superbly lit and gleams with an almost ghostly glow.  She would look washed out and insipid if not for the flowing green of taffeta that cascades from under her push up bust. 

She sits quietly, perhaps penning a love letter to her faraway lover.  The romantic might see her pining for her husband who is away at war.  The cynic would deduce that she wistfully scribes an illicit missive to her secret lover, while bemoaning a loveless marriage.

There is a resigned sorrow half-hidden in her eyes.  A acceptance of fate in her lips.  The green plays up her settled position and she seems comfortable in her situation despite the slight tugging of past regrets.

The slash of purple at one shoulder offsets the jade and cream, drawing the eye to her face.  It also gives a touch of interest and hints at a deeper strength and complexity to this portrait of a woman caught in a time warp.

We might see the influence of Sargent's Misses Hunter, circa 1902, in Seider's treatment here.  Again, we have the allusion of an afternoon of scholarly pursuit which is probably just the ladies indulging in a bit of dimestore rip bodice novels and penning assignations.  The usage of green lends a bucolic languor to the scene although Seidner's model is slightly more assertive and mature in her repose.

The full skirt is repeated in both tableau and while the Misses Hunters form a tight circle of confidantes, Ms Feinstein evokes a self-inflicted solitude.  You get the sense that although she is alone, she is constantly surrounded by the demands of others.  The difference and similarity between the two paintings give one much to think about and I suspect (if indeed this is one of his inspirations) that was exactly Seider's purpose.

We move on to yet another Seidner piece with this picture of luminescent beauty.  India Hicks, the grand-daughter of Countess Mountbatten, is a study of intelligent, aristocratic grace in this tastefully art-directed gem.

The long line of her neck sets off her features which are turned in three quarter silhouette to the camera.  The gentle colours appear bright without being brashly exuberant.  

The pearlescent glow of the chaise lounge's silk upholstery vies for attention with the alabaster skin of the model.  Excellent use of lighting and composition brings your eye to her despite the complementary tones and hues that might otherwise have washed her out and blended her literally into the furniture.

Her expression seems pensive and slightly perturbed at having her introspection disturbed.  There is a quizzical tweak to her brows and polite but resigned questioning in her eyes.  There is also a slight hint of belligerence in her chin and an imperceptible tightening of her lips that suggests that her contemplation was reaching a critical conclusion before our rude interruption.

She is tastefully attired with effortless elegance and sophisticated simplicity.  The stark severity of the single black velvet choker highlights the radiance of her skin.  The full bloom of the pale peach rose tucked into the waves of her hair picks out the creamy tones of the picture as well as her gown.  

It is a little hard to see here but the dark greyish blue of the background echoes the slightly turbulent, lambent hue of the exotically-named Ms Hicks.  I really like the subdued, clever play of colours here.  A thoroughly arresting piece that keeps drawing the eye.

The Sargent inspiration might have come from the portrait of Mrs Philip Leslie Agnew, also circa 1902.  A similar pose with hues of cream and black.  Unlike Ms Hicks' expression, Mrs Agnew seems to have an almost sneaky humour in the intelligent glint of her eye.  There is a gentle mocking and slightly jaundiced eye to this matron and yet we know she is nervous and projecting a bravado she might not feel.

The telltale sign in in her hands.  She is nervously picking at her own fingers as she gazes at the painter.  We do not see India Hicks' hands but by her body position, we can hazard a guess that they are folded together in her lap and pressing down into her skirts in a bit of tension as well.  Both pieces hint at some intellectual agitation below the seeming composure of both ladies.  However, Hicks appears to possess greater inner strength than her painterly counterpart with the upturn of her face while the latter's downward angle hints at a greater willingness to give in to life's demands.  Or perhaps it is the weight of that massive mound of feathers on her head that is making her bow to convention.

Additionally, one can be forgiven in thinking there is trouble in Ms Agnew's marriage as she is fiddling with her ring finger on which an outrageously loud wedding ring sits.  She is all decked out and seems self-conscious of her over-eager show of affluence and status while the modern-day Hicks parlays a understated class.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do Not Klingon to False First Impressions

You know how some women are just so immaculate? Not a hair out of place. Flawless makeup. Gorgeous clothes cladding a well-cared, proportionate body. 

It's easy to make swift first impressions about such ladies but I've learnt that judging a beautiful book by its cover and dismissing it as such leaves you many pages short of an interesting novel.

I remember a lady from Hong Kong who seemed the typical brand-conscious, fast-talking, social-climbing yuppie. We were sent to a team- and leadership-building retreat and had to participate in a paintball tournament.

She grumbled incessantly when we got there. Her French manicure would chip. Her hair would smell. The uniforms were ill fitting and unfashionable. The helmets smelt funny and were uncomfortable. I was ready to shoot her myself before we even got on the field. I love paintball and dreaded having her on my team.

Then we got in there and the woman stopped squealing. She transformed into Rambina. She had my back and was our sniper. Boy, could that woman shoot. She personally took out 6 of the enemy's team. With her small build she could cower behind everything and sneakily zap an unsuspecting victim before they knew it. She had a killer instinct that made me beam like a proud parent.

She also had no compunction, besides a slight grimace of disgust, when I asked her to crawl through the muddy swamp to circle behind the enemy lines with me.

We won and she was the loudest and most ungracious victor I had ever seen. She did not mouth off a single complaint or whine about her bruises and whooped it up as obnoxiously as the rest of us.


That night, we bonded over beer and exchanged totally exaggerated "war stories" of our victory that afternoon. We had not been able to do that at any point of the retreat till then. Guess paintball does bring people together.

Then there is this really hard body dancer who has such tremendous muscle control she can pop her shoulder muscles individually in isolation and in total controlled rhythm. She looks rather hard and has the dramatic dark looks, wild hair of a vengeful gypsy. 

Her makeup is always dramatic and full-on. Bright red lips. Dark slashes of brows. Cat eyes makeup. Her hair teased and curled in a magnificent cascade of wild curls right down to the dimple of her back. Clingy, tight dresses in leopard spots or tiger print or some bold tropical floral design. She's a lean, mean drama mama.

Some people have even questioned if she was not a drag queen. I have not had much opportunity to speak with her but not being a gym bunny, thought I might not have much in common with her.

So it was with some trepidation of awkward silences and mild curiosity that I sat next to her for lunch. Made the usual ice breaking small talk. Then it started.

"Love your hairband, Raised Eyebrow! Where did you get it? It's so cute. Love, love the wide silk band with the tie on the side. Looks faboo on you with your long hair!"

I tried not to simper vacuously as I preened and petted my hairband. We immediately lapsed into the kind of girl talk that sends men to the pubs for fortifying pints.

She is phenomenally funny. Totally girly and not a half-crazed health nut and gym bunny as her look suggested. She is also not a brand shopper and loves visiting flea markets and finding obscure little shopping havens.

Still on the hairbands, she said,

"I may try hairbands like yours but not those cloth ones you know? The wide ones that cover your hairline."

"Me neither. I look naft in those."

"I look worse than naft, RB. I've got such a short forehead and strong features that if I wore those, I look like a Klingon."

Which sent the two of us into hysterics at the mental picture. Then I discovered another common bond. We both loved sci-fi. And we spent the afternoon annoying the rest of our table by mournfully toasting to Arthur C Clarke, making whooshing noises as we pretended to be Jedi knights and speaking like Yoda.

It's brilliant when you discover new things about people you never felt any real connection to before. And forge a bond, even if it is for a transient few hours as you share a meal.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heroes Sales On in May

It's no secret I am a Heroes fan.  The writers' strike really pissed me off as it cut short Season 2 of my favourite telly programme and sent me into a panic when it looked as if there might not be a Season 3.

So it was with much relief when the producers announced that Season 3 was back on and slated to air this summer after a resolution was decided upon with the writers.

I was patiently waiting for news and updates when I came across an interview with Tim Sales on Pop Candy by Whitney Matheson.  That's the brilliant artist who created the comic strip for the series featured as Isaac Mendez's art pieces.  I was already in love with the man's work and after reading the interview, I admire the bloke even more.  Talented, modest, great taste and down-to-earth.  And he's kinda cute too.  It's enough to make you sick.  With envy.  Sigh.

So, for the benefit of fellow Heroes addicts, I will just include some excerpts from the interview pertaining to the show.  There is a lot of to the interview and it is only the first in a two-part (I think) series but it was well worth the read, if you are into comics like I am.

A Q&A with Tim Sale, part one

One of my favorite aspects of last week's trip to San Francisco was getting to know Tim Sale, renowned comic-book artist (Batman: The Long Halloween,  SoloCatwoman: When in Rome) and the man behind the paintings on NBC's Heroes.

"Everything is different because of Heroes," he told me. "And if they'd had a better finale the first season and a stronger beginning of the second season, God knows what it would be like!" he joked.


The "Me" here is Whitney Matheson, the lucky girl who did the interview.

Me: Are you working on the third season right now?

Not yet. I'm told that I have a job, and I've been told how it's gonna take place. These guys are really uptight about saying too much. The writers are back, but production doesn't start until May 1.

 I have been told what they're thinking of doing, and it sounds like a really cool idea.

Now tell me about the process you go through to make the paintings, since we're sitting next to a stack of them.

It's funny, I first got involved with the show through Jeph (Loeb, the co-executive producer). Jeph called me a couple years ago and said, "There's a guy I've known longer than I've known you -- so it's longer than 20 years -- who has a hit show on NBC called Crossing Jordan.  And Tim (Kring, the creator) has written this script. And it kind of has comic-book overtones -- nobody's wearing tights or anything, but there are powers involved. And what he wants to do is to have someone do illustrations for the script in order to make it more exciting for the suits."

So I spoke to Kring and learned that he's never read a comic book. ... And eventually, the script sold. So Kring calls me and says, "Can you come up to the studio?" I'm up in his office at Universal, and the director, producer, Kring, a couple of the writers, the set designer are all there. And they said, "Can you paint?" And I said, "No, I'm color blind." Then I said, "Let's go to my website, I'll show you what we do in comics to try to overcome that."

What I do is take a piece of comic-book paper and do some artwork on it in black, white and gray using wash and charcoal and ink and scan that at a high resolution. I send that file to Dave Stewart, who's my fantastic colorist in comics, and he takes that file and, on the computer, colors it. He then sends that file back to the prop department on Heroes, and they go to Kinko's or something and have it printed really big on canvas and they tack it up and it looks like a painting.

I was pretty nervous about what it was gonna look like, (but) it is really impressive. Plus, on the show it's only onscreen for a second. So the size helps increase the impact of the impression of the artwork.


Then there were some questions from the readers of Pop Candy.  Among them was this:

Is there any way to get ahold of prints from your Heroes work? -- Geist0

No. I don't understand why the marketing department at NBC hasn't done something like that. There is no "Art of Heroes" book, but they're planning one -- I've just done a cover. I'll be helping design that. Wildstorm is gonna be putting it out. I don't know when it's on schedule.

There are also an awful lot of other artists doing other things ... but I think it's primarily gonna be the paintings from the show, my process and that sort of thing. There is also a book that came out from Wildstorm last year with two different covers -- an Alex Ross cover and a Jim Lee cover -- that had some of my artwork in it, but it was basically the online comic. That's sort of it, and I don't understand why there isn't more, especially prints.

I cannot wait for both the second part of this excellent article and also to Season 3.

Belly Lucid

Bad news, mates, your beer belly's gonna make you forget things and lose your senses.  Wait, what am I saying ...

Alright, it's bad news for couch potatoes and middle-aged beer drinkers.  Apparently your waist size and your grey matter count correlate.  No, I'm not trying to insult your intelligence in prefering to veg out in front of the telly or cast moral aspersions on your level of drinking, but just recounting the recents findingss reported in CNN.


Study: Big belly could carry bigger dementia risk

  • People with normal weight, large belly 89 percent more likely to have dementia
  • Doctors: High insulin levels could be reason for connection
  • Traits associated with developing heart disease are linked to dementia
  • Abdominal fat already linked to higher risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease

NEW YORK (AP) -- Having a big belly in your 40s can boost your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease or other dementia decades later, a new study suggests.

It's not just about your weight. While previous research has found evidence that obesity in middle age raises the chances of developing dementia later, the new work found a separate risk from storing a lot of fat in the abdomen. Even people who weren't overweight were susceptible.

That abdominal fat, sometimes described as making people apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped, has already been linked to higher risk of developing diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

"Now we can add dementia to that," said study author Rachel Whitmer of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.

She and others report the findings in Wednesday's online issue of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 6,583 men and women who were ages 40 to 45 when they had checkups between 1964 and 1973. As part of the exam, their belly size was measured by using a caliper to find the distance between their backs and the surface of their upper abdomens. For the study, a distance of about 10 inches or more was considered high.

The researchers checked medical records to see who had developed Alzheimer's or another form of dementia by an average of 36 years later. At that point the participants were ages 73 to 87. There were 1,049 cases.

Analysis found that compared with people in the study with normal body weight and a low belly measurement:

• Participants with normal body weight and high belly measurements were 89 percent more likely to have dementia.

• Overweight people were 82 percent more likely if they had a low belly measurement, but more than twice as likely if they had a high belly measurement.

• Obese people were 81 percent more likely if they had a low belly measurement, but more than three times as likely if they had a high measurement.

Whitmer said there's no precise way to translate belly measurements into waist circumference. But most people have a sense of whether they have a big belly, she said. And if they do, the new study suggests they should get rid of it, she said.

It's not clear why abdominal fat would promote dementia, but it may pump out substances that harm the brain, she said.

Dr. Jose Luchsinger of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who studies the connection between obesity and Alzheimer's disease but didn't participate in the new work, cautioned that such a study cannot prove abdominal fat promotes dementia.

But the study results are "highly plausible" and "I'm not surprised at all," he said. High insulin levels might help explain them, he said.

Dr. Samuel Gandy, who chairs the medical and scientific advisory council of the Alzheimer's Association, said the results fit in with previous work that indicates a person's characteristics in middle age can affect the risk of dementia in later life.

And it's another example of how traits associated with the risk of developing heart disease are also linked to later dementia, he said.

Well, I guess it would induce a big belly laugh if such waistful assumptions proved true.  I don't know.  I have quite a lot of experience with Alzheimer's and dementia suffers and most of them were/are thin as a rail.  Some with even smaller waists and belly than me.

Again, I remain sceptical until absolute, irrefutable evidence presents itself.  And that's not just because I happen to enjoy a beer in front of the telly on occasion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cornflakes of America

Honestly, the things people will buy on ebay is ludicrous.  The chap who tried to sell his life.  And now someone who will probably pay $2350 for a glass of milk with a milk skin the shape of Miami.

Two sisters from Virgina claimed they were "biting our nails all the way up to the finish, seeing what would happen" on Friday night as they watched the ebay counter tick away.  

What happened was that they laughed all the way to the bank.

Someone had just paid US$1,350 for a cornflake from the two shysters, I mean sisters.

The winner (sic) was one Monty Kerr, from Austin, Texas.  The acquisition of flakey dimensions was not made in a moment of early morning haze but a strategic decision to add to his traveling museum of pop culture and Americana.  

Kerr said of his latest investment, "We thought this was a fantastic one."

According to CNN, Kerr owns and declares that he will likely send someone to collect the flake by hand to avoid damage.  Let's hope the courier does not get hungry and decide to have cornflakes for snacks.

Kerr's half-baked flakey obsession has manifested before when he purchased a cornflake billed as the world's largest but sadly, it flaked out on him by crumbling into three during the delivery.  I guess Kerr was not into the three-for-one deal. 

By the way, the two McIntire sisters, aged 23 and 15, are planning to use their milked money for a family  vacation.  Most likely not to Illinois.

I would just like to point out to Kerr that a traveling museum of Americana in America itself is a little ironic.  Bit like bringing coals to Newcastle, ain't it?

Party Of Blondes

How many blondes does it take to make a Russian President?

I swear I am not on a vendetta against blondes or bimbos but both this and the previous article about The Bimbo Game appeared in my email and it seemed serendipitous.  

I truly thought the article was an April Fool's joke till I realised it was not yet April.  I know quite a few Russian friends and not all of them are blonde.  And do not seem blonde inside either.  I hesitate to inquire about the mindset and culture back in Russia that would induce such a phenomenon as it is a subject that seems broached with a minefield of faux pas.

From The Times
22 March 2008

Blonde ambition seeks to storm Kremlin
Tony Halpin in Moscow

Blondes famously have more fun, but a jealous world has long joked about their intellectual limitations. Now blondes in Russia are fighting the bimbo image by forming their own political party.

Organisers insist that the Party of Blondes will establish itself as Russia's newest political force by recruiting 50,000 members within weeks. The blonde ambition, they say, is to challenge Dmitri Medvedev for the presidency of Russia at the next election in 2012.

“The Party of Blondes is for blondes, those who love blondes, and those who are blonde inside,” general-secretary Marina Voloshinova told The Times. Confusingly, she is a brunette.

“I dyed my hair blonde once but it was so awful that I decided never to do it again. I just have to stay blonde inside,” she said. “Blonde is not just a hair colour, it's in your brain and your heart. Blondes accept life in a more lively way, they really have more fun.”

The idea started as an internet community, the Club of Blonde Lovers, that evolved from a forum for jokes into a discussion about the many problems facing Russian women. “We decided to make it more serious and to form a political party. Blondes are very attractive and the Party of Blondes is a way to gain attention for issues facing all women,” said Ms Voloshinova, a 39-year-old economist.

“We want to make it easier for women to start small businesses because that is where they can develop themselves, and children's education is a major question. It is free on paper but everybody knows that you have to pay under the table to get your child into a good school.”

She added: “We will try to have beautiful blondes as party representatives. Unfortunately, a lot of our beauties have left Russia and we have to work hard to make life more convenient for women so that they will stay and be beautiful here. Men will vote for a beautiful woman, but we have to convince them that she is not only beautiful but also clever and a good leader.”

The party launched three weeks ago and claims 5,000 members. It needs 50,000 plus branches in half of Russia's regions to gain official registration. “We will be ready by May 31, which is the Day of Blondes,” Ms Voloshinova said. The party is seeking support from famous blonde Russians, such as Valentina Matviyenko, the governor of St Pertersburg, Maria Sharapova, the tennis star, and Ksenia Sobchak, the “It” girl.

“They don't have to become members, just sympathise with our ideas. To be a real political force we need to develop our own leaders, and there are a lot of talented women in the regions.” Non-blondes, including men, are also welcome. Indeed, the current leader of the nascent women's party is a man, Sergei Kushnerov.

“He founded the Blonder Lovers' Club so he became our leader, but that may change when we are more organised. Anyway, he has dyed his hair blond,” said Ms Voloshinova.

She insists that the Party of Blondes is not a joke and that it is serious about capturing the Kremlin in a country where ultra-nationalists and Communists ran in this month's presidential election. Mr Medvedev may even have a fifth columnist in his camp - his wife Svetlana is blonde.

“No other party in Russia represents women's rights. We want to teach women to love themselves and to believe that they can be all that they want to be,” she said.

“We will have a blonde president and if we find a great woman leader who is not blonde, we will make her dye her hair. To become the President of Russia, every woman is willing to dye her hair.”

Looking at the picture of Marina Voloshinova somehow makes the article even more facetious.  I am really trying not to snigger here.  Really.  

I'm Your Bimbo Girl

Lord, Paris Hilton lives.

I am not quite sure what to think anymore.  

As a child, I was not really allowed to have dolls.  Certainly never a Barbie and the only two dolls I possessed was a vintage porcelain dolls with eyes that could open and close given to me by my grandmother as an heirloom and a big arse doll in plaid that an uncle in Scotland gave me and my mother was too polite to reject.

My mother was very much into hot-house child rearing and believed that toys with no educational significance or purpose were evil.  So dolls were out except for Bridget (the Scottish lass) as she could teach me about Scottish clans and history and the heirloom ... well, no one argued with Grandmama.

If she had seen this game, she would have keeled over in horror.  

Parents concerned about Miss Bimbo game

Last Updated: 2:16am GMT 26/03/2008
The Telegraph

Parents' groups have criticised a new internet craze in which young girls give virtual characters plastic surgery and feed them diet pills.

The Miss Bimbo game has seen girls aged as young as nine given an online alter ego, which they look after.

They compete against other players in beauty contests to earn money so they can dress their characters in lingerie and take them to nightclubs.

The aim of the game is to become "the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the whole world". Players keep the girls at their target weight using diet pills.

They are given missions, including securing plastic surgery to give their "bimbo" bigger breasts and finding a billionaire boyfriend to bankroll her, while keeping a constant check on her hunger, thirst, happiness and other statistics.

The game, which was launched a month ago, already has nearly 200,000 British players, most of whom are girls aged between nine and 16. When they run out of virtual cash, contestants can send text messages costing £1.50 each to top up their accounts.

The sister website in France, which has attracted 1.2 million players in a year, has been condemned by French dieticians and parents.

The game's creators claim it is "harmless fun" and builds on the success of Barbie, the Bratz dolls and Tamagotchis, the virtual pets invented in Japan.

But parents' groups fear it will fuel teenagers' desire for plastic surgery and lead to eating disorders.

Bill Hibberd, spokesman for parents' rights group Parentkind, said: "It is one thing if a child recognises it as a silly and stupid game. But the danger is that a nine-year-old fails to appreciate the irony and sees the bimbo as a cool role model. Then the game becomes a hazard and a menace.

"Children will do what they have always done with Barbie dolls and the like, modifying them with new hair styles and clothing. But the technology has changed and so have the fashions and trends.

"Children's innocence should be protected as far as possible. It depends on the background and mindset of the child but the danger is that after playing the game some will then aspire to have breast operations and take diet pills.

"Many parents have no idea what their children are looking at on the internet and there are financial dangers for parents too if they do not know what their children are texting when they pick up mobile phones."

The game's creator, 23-year-old web designer Nicolas Jacquart, from Tooting, south London, said: "The game is structured in such a way that it simply mirrors real life in a tongue-in-cheek way. It is harmless fun."

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I am all for tongue-in-cheek but young girls of that impressionable age often cannot differentiate that from reality and therein lies the rub.  This worries me.