Project Runway “We’re sleeping where?”

Apologies for getting this out a week late on account of travel, but here we go.

The episode opens with the hilarious surprise they get to sleep on the top of the Empire State Building, and while that’s probably fun for a boy scout troop, if you’ve ever been up there, you know it’s windy as fuck and couldn’t have been relaxing or comfortable for the designers.

I still love this season’s cast for their diverse talent, but the editors of the show are the same editors using the same tricks to try and coax storylines out of everything. This episode seemed to focus on Kenya and her difficulty with the challenge, which was surprising since she’d knocked all the previous ones out of the park.

But here’s the thing, you go on a show, and they don’t film once a week, they’re much more intense, where they’re filming an entire season in the span of a few weeks, so you just go go go. Kenya is a kickass designer, but through the whole season, they’ll be asked to make a dozen or more looks in a very short time and no one on earth is going to be perfect every time. Even the greatest genius is going to punt on a challenge once in a while as their creative energy ebbs and flows.

The Runway

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Shawn’s look was terrific. As much as I hate the way the editors put so much of the hijinks from the twins into episodes this season, I’m starting to realize I really like Shawn’s work and it’s on a higher level than her sister Claire. This looks fantastic, sophisticated, and sexy without being revealing. Plus a great print on top. It’s one of my favorites.

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Samantha’s look was ok. Great colors and blocking, but overall a boring sillouhette.

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I liked the Chrysler Building reference in Michael’s look, as well as the color and the interesting straps on top. Nice work.

pr16-ep4-ma-finalMargarita’s look is pretty boring. A nice ombré dyed fabric, but the rest of it looks downright ordinary, like anything you’d buy in a lingere section of JC Penny.

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Kentaro’s look was probably my absolute favorite. Beautiful colors and print, fits here well and looked great.

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Kenya’s look was a mess, and she knew it, but the editors made sure it looked like she barely squeaked by.

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Deyonté’s look is a trainwreck. The top is cut terribly and doesn’t show off any of the model’s figure. The waistband looks weird and bulky and cuts her in a weird way, and when untucked, the outfit kind of screams that someone is wearing a baggy shirt and dress and doesn’t give af about anything.

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Ugh, Claire’s look feels unfinished and unrefined. I’d put this in the bottom three.

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Brandon’s look was ok, kind of in his wheelhouse in terms of style, fit, and color, but not really any sort of custom print going on either. It’s less provocative sleepwear and more like street wear.

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I really liked Batani’s look. It moved really well on the runway and the top looked fresh and sexy. I hoped this would be a top three look, even though the print was a tad sloppy.

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Ayana’s look was ok, but nothing really stood out. Impressive to get three pieces out in the short amount of time, but otherwise kind of blah.

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Amy’s print here is interesting but the silhouette is kind of abysmal. Her model looks wrapped in a bedsheet.

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Aaron’s look was boring, from the color to the cut, to the way it looked on the runway. About the only cool thing was the print, but it made the fabric heavy and unwieldy.

Judging

Not much to disagree with this week. I would have given the win to Kentaro, but I liked Micahel’s winning look as well. Deyonté was definitely one of the bottom looks and he’s faltered in earlier challenges so overall, I was happy with the results.

Project Runway: A Leap of Innovation

A surprisingly great runway this week. Some looks appeared to be a bit hasty and pinned together, but otherwise a good show.

Runway

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Kenya continues to absolutely kill it. She does unbelievably good work in a single day challenge. Even through TV, you can tell things are impeccably constructed. Hope she’s in the running for the win this week.

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Brandon loved his look, and I liked the back and how it looked when still. The sleeves had an almost Hamilton the Musical quality, but that weird open front while his model walked left the overall look feeling kind of meh for me.

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Michael’s look was a tad shiny but looked well done considering satin can amplify sloppy sewing.

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Margarita’s dress was a great concept, to update a classic Latin dance dress, but the top didn’t look flattering on her model and overall it might be a bit too simple for the judges.

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Deyonté’s look was a boring dress done poorly. I know he’ll be on the bottom and I wonder if he’s going home for it.

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Amy continues to put out incredible work that approaches actual engineering. So much structure and clever ideas, it’ll be a ripoff if she’s not in the top three.

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Kudzanai’s dress is an awesome concept. I love the colors and feathers remind me of New Orleans parade dresses but he needed more time to do it right. He’ll be on the bottom three for it.

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I hated Claire’s work this week. It looks like a mess, terrible silhouette, hope she’s on the bottom.

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Ayana’s dress is pretty forgettable. Not much to write home about. Maybe “reach for the stars” by painting stars on fabric was taking things way too literally?

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As much as I hate the show’s producers love of The Twins, I actually loved Shawn’s outfit this week. It looks “dancey” but also stylish as hell and I could see the look being worn on stage.

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Aaron’s piece was just plain weird. I like his concept to exaggerate aspects of the look where movement occurs, but his model didn’t strike a pose to show that aspect off. So it’s just weird.

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Batani’s cape dress had some incredible color, but I really wished I could see the wings in motion as the model walked, instead of just as a static pose.

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Kentaro’s top is cool but the bottom is a mess. How can someone mess up booty shorts on a beautiful model? The contrast between the top and bottom looks like he ran out of time and this could be going home material.

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Samantha’s dress was incredible. Sure, she kind of made something she’d wear herself and it looks similar to her earlier work, but it definitely works for this challenge. It’s a great tough dress that can move and I can’t believe she did it in one day. Could be my absolute favorite.

Judging

Damn. My top-3 would be Kenya, Amy, and Samantha, and they were all just safe. That said, the judges’ choices were understandable and I mostly agreed with their top and bottom three picks.

I can see why Brandon won, though I hope he can find something to love every week of the competition. He hit this one out of the park because he connected with his model and the challenge and could do something in his wheelhouse. In the past, he’s struggled with other challenges.

Kentaro was lucky to not be in the bottom two. WOW, I can’t believe they cut Kudzanai over Deyonté, I guess Deyonté got to stay because of his early success. I wanted to see Kudzanai stick around to flex his muscles on other challenges, oh well.

 

 

Project Runway “Unconventional Recycling”

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The second episode of the season had a lot going on. An unconventional materials challenge. A team challenge. A 5-piece collection in one day. I suppose the show runners wanted chaos because it seems like a good recipe for it in this episode.

Overall, the thing that set apart any designer was being able to craft literal recycling garbage into what appeared to be good materials. For less successful designs, those designers struggled to get a good silhouette. It was certainly difficult material to work with, but it made their models look boxy or clunky, or that they were wearing garbage.

Sidenote: I’m getting tired of designers saying that making clothes for curvy models is a challenge. If you design clothes for sale, you should be able to design for regular people. The standard NYC model isn’t a regular woman, so I don’t know how these new designers are expecting to make a living after the show is over if they can only sell clothes for six foot tall women that weigh 100lbs.

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The Wabi-Sabi team collection overall had a lot of cohesion, and some of the looks were outstanding, as a couple dresses really did look as if they were transformed into leather, but a couple of the pieces still looked boxy and like plastic garbage being worn. Their looks also generally had too much embellishment, just to make them look more similar but it negated from the outfits themselves.

The Tsunami collection had less cohesion but the story was much the same. A couple good looks while the rest seemed boring or uninspired. A couple looks still appeared to be garbage bags on models.

Ballin’ on a Budget had a crazy good collection that stood out. Great colors, good fit on everyone, and cohesive, shared elements in all. I loved something about every piece, but especially Kenya’s newspaper dress, Brandon’s checker print outfit, and Ayana’s dress that looked great in motion.

Judging

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Yay! They picked the right winning team.

It was a toss-up for the losing team, but I can’t disagree much with Tsunami being there, given most of their looks still looked like garbage bags.

Ayana won, and her look was amazing in motion since it had so much movement with the fringe, but at rest, the front of the garment was boring and hodge-podge looking. I loved the bottle cap back though, it was super clever. Honestly, I would have picked Batani’s outfit for the win because it looked good in motion as well as when standing. The neck piece alone was terrific, but every other aspect of it stood out as well. It was remarkable she threw away her original design and still pulled out that gem.

I disliked several of Tsunami’s looks, and I thought they had the right people at the bottom. Sentell’s look was the least transformed of any other looks, so I fully agreed on this call. It looked sloppy, and it looked like plastic. It had no structure and no silhouette. Shawn’s look was bad, but at least it was shaped to her model’s body.

That said, I’m not looking forward to more Shawn drama because she was in the bottom twice and she’ll need to overcome another crisis of confidence on the next episode.

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Baby’s first license agreement

A couple days ago while surfing the Family and Kids section of Netflix instant, I found a show I knew my daughter would love. We watched a couple episodes and it was then I noticed the small print in the Netflix interface: available for streaming until June 23.

It's a cartoon about horses and pretty innocuous, but I knew we would quickly have to have The Talk, you know the one, where you explain the Hollywood studio system, the complicated license agreements between online delivery services like Netflix, and the byzantine world of paying the creators of programs based on the slivers of monthly fees of Netflix customers. 

Tonight, perhaps I'll tuck her into bed and read from one of her favortes, the latest iTunes End User Software License Agreement.

Kevin Bacon Number II: The Wire Index

I've noticed many of the films and shows I've enjoyed over the past few years have featured actors that previously appeared in The Wire. Someone should build a site that calculates a number based on how many actors in a show or film previously appeared in The Wire. It could be calculated like so: 

(Actors in the work that were on The Wire / Total number of actors in a work) * 10

This gives you a number between 0 and 10, with 10 being a perfect total saturation of the cast (probably only in actual episodes of The Wire) and zero being not a single actor from The Wire is involved in the project. I'm curious what the highest number non-Wire show/film is and I have a feeling if I was about to watch something and it had a number hovering between 2 and 3 I would be almost certain the work would be enjoyable.

Developers: this seems like it'd be fairly possible to do with some IMDB api work and you could probably make some money off the site by throwing Amazon "order now" links to any DVDs mentioned. 

 

Netflix on the iPad

One of my favorite apps for the iPad is Netflix's streaming service. I started out watching tons of documentaries. I really enjoyed two recent ones: Beer Wars and The Union

Beer Wars is an inside look at the world of microbreweries and how it's nearly impossible for them to sell at major stores thanks to the near monopoly held by Bud, Coors, and Miller. The Union is yet another "pot should be legalized" movie, but it's better than any I've seen before, with a long slow exploration of all the angles of the "why is pot illegal?" that doesn't fall for cheap tricks or emotional pleas and comes off as an intelligent run-down of how crazy the US laws are around pot and how they got to be that way.

Eventually, I found I didn't always have 90 minutes to sit around watching films and I eventually found the streaming TV shows listing at Netflix. It's really fantastic to have all three seasons of Arrested Development just a click away, or any number of TV shows I've never watched when they were first broadcast.

I thought my favorite app for the iPad would be Air Video, but that requires me to seek out shows and movies, download them, then stream. Netflix has surprisingly become my go-to app for relaxing and enjoying video on the iPad. It's a bit buggy and crashes whenever I finish an episode, but other than that, it's pretty great.

The Art of Negotiation According to Pawnstars

The other day I caught a marathon of the show Pawnstars. On the surface, it's kind of a blue collar version of Antiques Roadshow and at first I thought it was a pale rip-off of the original. But after watching a dozen or so episodes and a couple Antiques Roadshows, I'm convinced I like this Pawnstars show more, mostly due to the more modern items being discussed that I can recognize versus the Roadshow saying an ugly broken victorian chair is worth $250k which makes no sense to me.

Anyway, the big part of the show is that this is a pawn shop in Las Vegas of all places, so people are often desperate for money when they bring items in, and there are rounds of negotiation on price featured for every item following an appraisal. The appraisal stage varies among these three situations with the main pawn shop employee/owner Rick:

  1. Rick doesn't know how much something is worth, and brings in a local expert to give a real world auction appraisal price in front of both him and the owner of the item.
  2. Rick knows a lot about the item and gives an estimate for how much he might be able to sell it for.
  3. Rick has no idea how much it is worth, neither does the seller, so they guess.

Now, if you were really trying to get top dollar, it would help to do some research at the very least on Google before you ever try to sell anything. It being Las Vegas and people often being desperate for money, it's clear most sellers arrive not knowing anything about their item or what its worth may be.

The best part is the negotiation stage. I'm a terrible negotiator and in the past I've only done bargaining for new cars over email, since I completely fail trying to persuade lower prices from someone standing in front of me. I'm fascinated at how consistently Rick pulls a fairly low price for items and there is a general pattern to the procedure worth knowing.

Rick always asks people "So what do you want for it?" and the negotiations start from there. In the first situation, they have a third-party price and sellers will often say they want that full price but eventually cave. The second situation is the owner coming up with a price, and sellers tend to not cave so often (probably due to trust issues). The third situation is my favorite, since it's pure speculative negotiation with both parties in the dark about any true worth.

There is a general pattern almost every transaction follows and it goes like this:

"What are you looking to get for this?"

"$800"

"Hmm, I can't go anywhere near that, I was thinking more like $400 or so"

(usually there is a joke or some light laughter thrown in to defuse the tense situation of offending a seller with a low-ball bid)

"$400?! I'd really like to see $700"

"Hmm, about $450 is as high as I could go"

"I really needed to get at least $600 today"

"Ok, my absolute final offer, and only because I like it (inserts flattery for the seller) is $500"

"Ok, sold" (handshake)

No matter what the appraisal is at the start, almost every transaction involves the pawn shop not wanting to pay more than half of what something is worth. A lot of sellers balk and leave, but most give in because they had no idea what is was worth so anything more than zero is a deal.

My favorite deals are in the third category, where by just asking what someone wants for it, and talking them down to about 50-60% of that price, you later find out with a real appraisal an item was worth thousands of dollars and picked up for just a couple hundred through successful negotiation.

Superbowl

Yesterday's Super Bowl was great. A perfect come from behind win that ended the way everyone wanted it to, with the Saints on top.

In the past, I've watched the game mostly to see the ads, but this year was pretty bad. Aside from the Letterman ad and the great Google ad, the rest were a mess of misogynistic garbage about supposedly manly men stuck in terrible marriages.

With that in mind, I present my version of the Google Paris Love ad, done as a continuation of the original, in the style of all the other terrible ads that played throughout the game.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9314863&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

What does “MeFi” mean in the background of Mythbusters?

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I figured I should write the answer to this entry in case some fans of the TV show Mythbusters ever wonder what a small easter egg in the background of the show set means. For anyone typing the title of this post into Google, here’s your answer:

Adam Savage, the co-host of the show is obviously a geek and spends some time online each day between shooting scenes for the show. Among many popular blogs, he reads MetaFilter, which goes by the shorthand “MeFi” by its members. Most of his participation takes place on Ask MetaFilter, a question and answers area of the site. This is his profile on the site.

Early this year, he posted a question asking members of the site to suggest some myths they could test from the Old West. The show had already covered a bunch of standards in previous shows and Adam wasn’t too happy with the suggestions for new myths from his producers, so he asked on the site. There were over 200 answers, but these three made it onto the show:

Adam talks about how the myths were chosen and how they were filmed in a podcast interview I did with him a couple months after the original question. In it, he talks about how he wanted to thank the website by having some small “easter egg” mention of MetaFilter, Ask MeFi, or MeFi somewhere in the blueprint and credits at the end of that episode.

Turns out that instead of a temporary small mention on that one specific episode that aired this evening, it was done in masking tape on a door in the set’s background several episodes before and has since stuck around. Time will tell how long it lasts, but now you know what it means and why it’s there and thanks again Adam for the shoutout. Mythbusters continues to be my favorite show on TV due to the great simple science and geekiness displayed each week. Mythbusters is probably doing more to help steer kids into engineering and adults into DIY/hacking projects than anything else on TV today.