Is a Real Life Exorcism the Ultimate Docu-drama?{Paranormal State}

October 29, 2008
Ryan Buell and his Freak Force

Ryan Buell and his Freak Force

Sci-Fi (Horror, Mystery and Suspense) is a popular genre, especially around Halloween; there is a thrill in being scared from a safe distance, and as a fan, I watched last night’s episode of A&E’s Paranormal State with the same chilling uneasiness I felt when I watched The Exorcist for the first time. I never thought I would witness (nor wanted to, really )a real life exorcism, let alone one on TV; it’s easier to digest this stuff when it’s made up. However, while I watched with interest, I felt uncomfortable for being “entertained” by the content of this episode.  Paranormal State both blurs the line between life and art, as well as bridges the gap between paranormal hoaxes and true human experience.

The success of Paranormal State is two fold: 1) “I Am Six” was entertaining as a classic horror drama and 2) “I Am Six” appeared to responsibly document the rite of exorcism, with empathy toward the victim. By airing this episode, PRS hoped to encourage open dialogue on a subject that, in the past, has been relegated to the Science Fiction genre“I Am Six” was a story that was presented honestly and edited seamlessly with minimal (thankfully) lame special effects from previous episodes.

Blogger, “Dr. Atlantis,” a skeptic, criticized the producers of Paranormal State for using these effects to up the “scary factor” of the show.  He compared Paranormal State to Ghost Hunters, a Sci Fi Channel hit series, by the ways they both cut to commercial just as the investigators discover something spooky.  The producers have yet to realize that with the invention of TiVo, we can fast-forward to the next segment. Thankfully, these effects were kept to a minimum (with the exception of the annoying reminders that the number “6” is associated with evil). The difference between Ghost Busters (TAPS) and Paranormal State (PRS)is that TAPS sets out to “de-bunk” false claims of paranormal activity, whereas PRS focuses on a client’s personal experience with the paranormal.  Ultimately, both organizations want to help people not to let the paranormal world prevent them from leading happy and productive lives.

What was intrigued me about this particular episode was that the normally stoic Ryan Buell was visibly shaken by

Chip Coffee hanging out with "the other" paranormal guys Jason and Grant of TAPS

Chip Coffee hanging out with "the other" paranormal guys Jason and Grant of TAPS

what was happening to the victim, Lara. On his blog, Buell, director of the Paranormal Research Society (PRS), stated his reservations about airing this episode.   He was smart enough not only to call in his usual reinforcements, but to be humble enough not interfere nor take credit for the process.  Assisting (or “co-starring”) with Buell and PRS were psychic medium, Chip Coffee,an Episcopalian priest, a psychologist, an ENT, and renowned Demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Walden.

For “personal reasons,” Buellchose not to promote “I Am Six” on the media circuit, a decision that surely affected ratings.  To his credit, Buell’s motives are not to achieve celebrity status from the notoriety of PRS, especially in light of last season’s possession episodes “The Name” and “The Devil in Syracuse”  helped to put PRS on the map. Buell clearly states he has a calling to help people and has managed to stay true to his calling amidst the sensational abet  exploitative nature of reality television.

However, it is the impetus, Ryan Buell’s own experiences with the paranormal, that remains a mystery.  A book by Buell, due out in February 2009, will hopefully disclose more about the event(s) that gave him a unique direction and purpose.

On his blog, Buell states in so many words that he did not appreciate the “shit” people wrote about him in their blogs as a reaction to the possession episodes.  He especially does not appreciate bloggers who hide behind their avatars in order to spread negativity.  However, not all bloggers are “haters” and my personal reasons for writing under an avatar have less to do with subterfuge, and more to do with wanting to write from a certain perspective.  Ironically, it is easy for one to tell Ryan, lighten up–you put yourself out there-deal with it, for precisely that reason.  I am interested to see how Ryan Buell handles the ensuing public reaction to “I Am Six.”  Perhaps he will serve as a role model and pave the way for those “shit writing” bloggers to emerge from behind their avatars and stand up to

One of Buell's hobbies is making fun of Paris Hilton.  Here she is "mugging" for the police camera

One of Buell's hobbies is making fun of Paris Hilton. Here she is "mugging" for the police camera

scrutiny.

PJ

p.s. Buell does have a sense of humor and is a fan of the sci-fi genre himself: his favorite pastime is making fun of Paris Hilton, and The Exorcist is one of his favorite movies.

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Why is Kenley still sewing? {Project Runway}

September 25, 2008

I more than a little bit baffled as to why Kenley was not sent home over Suade on last night’s episode of Project Runway.  Yes, Suade has been in the bottom two twice, but then Kelli was sent home (in my opinion, too early) without having been the bottom two before the night she was “outed.”  OK Suade’s outfit was “boring,” for a “Rock and Roll” aesthetic, but it was well sewn, and an outfit that is “well executed” (in Nina Garcia’s words) usually wins over the poorly sewn garment.  Remember when Angela kessler’s “streetwalker” (according to guest judge, Ivanka Trump) creation beat out Katherine Gerdes’s simple green dress during the man’s best friend challenge on Season Three?  If Vera Wang hadn’t raved about Angela’s skirt being “beautifully sewn,”  I think Angela would have been out that evening.  And then there was Santino Rice’s dog-doo brown jump suit he had made for Kara Janx.  Although the sleeve fell apart at the shoulder on stage, the guest judge thought the

Dont get snarky with Tim!

Don't get "snarky" with Tim!

outfit was original.  But last night, guest judge L L Cool J didn’t get Kenley’s idea of hip-hop at all, so what saved her? Kenley showed that she can not sew a pair of pants; she even said in her interview that her line is “dresses.”  Kenley does Kenley-type clothes well, but the same could be said for the signature looks of several eliminated designers: Stella and her “leatha,” Terri and her pant-suit separates, Keith and his “shredded wear.”  A finalist on Project Runway should be able to versify his or her signature look in a runway collection.  I don’t think Kenley is headed in that direction–and being the first designer on Project Runway to make Tim Gunn feel “snarky” doesn’t help, either.  I can hear Blayne shouting from a tanning booth in Yakima, WA: “Kenley’s just snarklishous!”  Kenely did look amazing as a pop-star last night; her outfit overshadowed her defensive attitude.  Maybe that’s why she still sewing.

PJ


Will Shawn Johnson be happy with Silver Medal?

August 15, 2008
Shawn and Nastia are happy rivals

Shawn and Nastia are happy rivals

Hopefully. She was quoted saying, “I gave my heart and soul out there. Nastia deserved the gold.” But there was sadness in her eyes; maybe not for winning silver, but probably because the All Around Finals are over. Athletic rivals couldn’t ask for a better competition; both were healthy and performed near flawless routines. But leading up to the Olympics, Shawn Johnson was the headliner on the women’s team. She was to be the next Mary Lou Retton. It’s evident the media still wants Shawn in the spotlight because the pair has been called “The Golden Girls.” Well the fact is that there is only one gold medalist, Nastia. I can’t picture both Johnson and Liukin together on the Wheaties box. Honestly, if Johnson won the gold, I really don’t think they would be calling the pair “The Golden Girls” because Johnson had such a good story, and it’s the story that connects the athlete to the audience. Johnson won the last two national and world titles; she is 16; Beijing is her first Olympics; she is from Iowa; she trains only 4 hours a day and attends public school; her coach was born in Beijing and his gym was damaged in the flood. Then there is the legacy angle: Although Carly Patterson was the last American to win the All Around gold medal in 2004, Johnson has been touted as “the next Mary Lou Retton.” Why? Well both Johnson and Retton perform “explosive” gymnastics and both have that All American Smile, and as a bonus, both Shawn and Mary Lou’s smiles are genuine.

Beautiful Nastia

Beautiful Nastia

But Nastia is different: she is not cute, she is beautiful and has beautiful long limbs. Her artistic gymnastics style will not be compared to Mary Lou’s and this is a good thing in my opinion. Mary Lou said in her Today Show interview that Nastia came in as former World Champion and Mary Lou was “an underdog.” (Meow). What Nastia brings the the post Olympic story is an expanded definition of “All American.” Her parents are former Soviet gymnasts who came to America and opened a gym. More importantly, Nastia’s win puts more distance in the Karolyi dynasty. By not being the next Mary Lou, Nastia will in no way be associated with “Bela’s Girls.” I think it is time that Nastia’s father get some credit. It was wonderful to see the individual coaches encourage all the girls on the American team. They seemed so comfortable with each other. They looked like a real team! Marta’s role was that of manager, not coach.

Nastia and Shawn are both good role models, and hopefully they will become better role models as a pair. With a rivalry, only one person can win. From watching Shawn and Nastia I’ve learned that yes, one person will win, but both can help each other do their best. Although Shawn Johnson won the silver medal, she couldn’t ask for a more perfect Olympic experience.

PJ


Diddy For President! {I Want to Work for Diddy: The Man, the Myth}

August 1, 2008

The preview episode for Diddy‘s (aka Sean Combs formerly known as P. Diddy, formerly known as Puff Daddy) latest reality tv show I Want to Work for Diddy: The Man, the Myth reminded me a lot of a presidential campaign–with one exception: I understand what Diddy is talking about. Diddy presents himself as a no-nonsense boss that can get things done. I’m not saying that Diddy can navigate domestic and international political waters, but I haven’t heard much from either Senator McCain nor Senator Obama about what they plan to do. It’s always about what they believe–the rhetoric of beliefs. That said, the upcoming National Conventions will be pretty boring. (Exception: How is Hillary Clinton going to ask the Democratic Party to support Senator Obama when she argued so vehemently against him? Stay tuned!) Here are some quotes from Diddy that would liven up the conventions:

It’s a hard mother f****ing job, but somebody’s got to do it.

To succeed in anything in life you need a vision. If you can’t see the forest through the trees, you need to chop them mother f****ers down.

If you gave it you’re all, that’s the kind of performance I judge. I judge your heart. You got to go hard or go home.

I want my dreams to come true, but not in a selfish way. I want other people’s dreams to come true, too.

Sleep is forbidden. When I’m working, I’m a machine and I don’t look at other people like they are human.

You got to be able to make a way out of no way.

I sometimes feel sorry for people that don’t work for me, ‘cuz I know they not be having as much fun.

PJ


Future network change looms over Project Runway

July 25, 2008
I miss the more serene Heidi

I miss the more serene Heidi

The first two episodes of Season Five of Project Runway are over and already Heidi Klum looks a little tired. The usual perky, fashionably dressed and impeccably styled host and executive producer appears a little too thin and stressed out. Season 5 has a trying-too-hard-to-live-up-to-past-season’s vibe; the format is the same, but you can tell things have changed. This will be the last season aired on Bravo TV. Season 6 will be aired on the Lifetime Network and produced in LA (supposedly the geographical change works out better for Klum). Will the New York based supporting cast follow Klum? I can’t imagine Project Runway without Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, or especially Tim Gunn. Will the ultimate prize still be a runway show at Bryant Park? NYC is the perfect backdrop for fashion designers–can LA live up to it? I would love to see previous LA based designers Kara Saun, Santino Rice, and Jeffery Sebelia make appearances. What I’m afraid of is that the show will pander to the Red Carpet culture rather than fashion editors. Also, isn’t Lifetime “television for women?” Since when did Project Runway become a show “for women?”

As for the first two episodes: no one has stepped forward as the official a-hole, yet. In my opinion, two talented designers have been sent home already. I really thought Blayne would be the first one out with his walking Depends Undergarment creation, but Blayne is a “character.” He reminds me of Kato Kaelin’s gay cousin. In the last episode he called Heidi “Darth Vader” because she dressed in black. (Heidi had called Blayne’s diaper-chic “butt ugly”–ouch). But then Blayne changed his mind and called Heidi “Darth-licious” in a manner that evoked the spirit of the great Christian Siriano. Also, guest judge Natalie Portman plugged her new vegan shoe line. I’ve been buying “vegan shoes” for years at Payless. I’m so ahead of my time.

Kato or Blayne?

Kato or Blayne?

PJ


Who names their dog Booger? {Groomer Has It}

June 19, 2008

Mario DiFante is a “Mobile Grooming Consultant” who is also the executive director of “Pet Fashion Week.” It was Mario who judged the Quick Sniff Mobile Grooming Challenge. Jorge, who was last weeks winner, picked Jonathan to be his partner. Actually, It would have been more fun to see how they got these vans messy in the first place than to watch the contestants clean them. The interiors were so nasty that Jonathan scoffed, “I do not go around cleaning up after people. It’s not my job.”

Jorge (about Jonathan): “It’s hard to fit yourself, and him, and his ego in a small place. I thought I would have to hose him down at some point.”

When time was up, Mario inspected the trucks literally with a white glove. I think Mario would have been more disgusted with the condition with Hell’s Kitchen. Kathleen and Artist won the challenge and received a mobile GPS as a reward.

At dinner that night, Kathleen and Jonathan made fun of groomers who put plastic flowers in their vans and according to Kathleen, “happily wear polyester.” Artist said he never wore a uniform and Jonathan said that wearing a black tank top isn’t appropriate if your dealing with certain types of people. Jonathan’s dress for success attitude didn’t impress Artist who said he would work at a Humane Society for free.

Watching Jonathan and Jorge navigate the streets of Los Angeles in a mobile Grooming truck was like watching Dumb and Dumber. Apparently Jonathan will hire his own driver in the future because he doesn’t drive, he grooms. Jorge’s comment was hilarious: “We are from New York. We don’t use maps, we just tell the cab driver where to go.” Jonathan and Jorge made all of their appointments on time (barely), and managed to put a hole in the roof of their truck in the process. But they figured they would be OK because they would not be judged on the condition of their vehicle.

At judging, Jonathan said, “There was a low hanging branch that did hit the top of the van.” Apparently Jonathan thought he was in Narnia where the tree branches have minds of their own.

Jonathan also trimmed a dog’s ears wrong. Interestingly, this was the same mistake that sent Jasper home, but this week Jonathan won–go figure. However, the judges determined that Kathleen’s made two fatal mistakes when grooming Eloise, the Coton de Tulear 1) Forgetting the Kwik Stop and 2) not letting the client know that the dog’s nails could bleed afterwards.

Kathleen bowed out gracefully; she was smart enough to know not to say anything bad about Artist, who is quickly becoming the show’s unsung hero.

Honestly, I have to admit what bothered me the most about this episode was that General Hospital actress Kelly Monaco named her French Bulldog “Booger.” Who names a dog Booger? Kelly looks too young to remember Curtis Armstrong’s character of Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, so what’s up with that name? It was funny, however, to see Karen “Doc” Halligan ask with a straight face, “Was this Booger’s first grooming?” But it would have been even funnier if they groomed Pink’s dog whose name is “F**cker.”

I’m still rooting for Artist to take the title!

PJ

Photos: Narnia’s Creepy Trees, Coton de Tulear, French Bulldog, and Curtis Armstrong, the original “Booger” in Revenge of the Nerds (1984).


Stephanie wins Top Chef after lackluster finale {Top Chef Chicago}

June 12, 2008

Stephanie wins Top Chef Chicago and becomes the first female Top Chef, but aside from her victory, the rest of the show was BORING! I decided to post this in fancy “Vivaldi” style font because it suits the high brow foodie audience for which the finale was intended. I could not appreciate Stephanie’s daring pecan and olive ingredients that so impressed the judges. The producers keep forgetting that those of us at home can’t taste the food.. I could appreciate, however, that Lisa’s soup caused the renowned guest chefs to “slurp” and ask for seconds. Like I have said before, Lisa did her homework before arriving in Puerto Rico and performed better than she ever did in Chicago. She was uncharacteristically at ease during the finale due to the fact that there wasn’t anyone around to argue with her. If you have ever watched Hell’s Kitchen, you can easily imagine Chef Gordon Ramsey eating Lisa alive (and probably throw up afterwards). Richard’s tanks of exotic gasses didn’t set him apart from the others. As I watched him pour liquid nitrogen into his bacon flavored ice cream, I thought isn’t that the stuff doctor’s use to freeze warts off of people? (ick) I believe Richard’s downfall was that he thought he could pull it all together on the second day, but surprise—no sous chefs! They bring back the old format for the finale: 2 finalists cooking head to head with the help of former cast mates. Otherwise,Top Chef should move over to the FOOD network. I hope to see more of Stephanie! Maybe she will write a cookbook or get her own television show. She is a heck of a lot less annoying that Rachael Ray!

PJ


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