All posts by joliesimons

I Tried It: At-Home Hair Treatment for Buildup

Beauty products are all about marketing, and it’s clear that marketers aren’t scientists. Plenty of products claim to bring your hair “back to life,” forgetting the fact that hair is dead. Marketers can peddle their zombie-hair claims all they want, but what’s a girl like me to do when faced with limp, drab locks? What about the girl who’s not yet ready to put her faith in a $20 bottle of marketer’s claims of beautiful hair?

I love my fancy new job, but it’s left my hair with awful product buildup. The messy ponytail just won’t work with my jackets and pantyhose anymore, so I have to wake up early and blow dry my hair to perfection. That’s left me with limp hair that gets dirty easily and feels crunchy, even after washing.

Of course, plenty of people suggest the ol’ baking soda treatment for hair buildup. In one way or another, rub a bunch of baking soda in your hair and your buildup will magically wash down the drain. While this may be true, I didn’t get such good results the last time I tried. In fact, I was left with a head full of poodle-like fuzz that was dull and tangled easily. Not good.

I devised this two step treatment to help with my problem hair. Here’s the process:

Step One: Baking Soda

In the palm of your hand, mix about half baking soda with half shampoo. Most shampoos will do. Mix them together. It will be thick like a gel, but should still spread. Wash hair as usual, gently spreading the mixture through hair. Rinse thoroughly.

Step Two: Lemon Wash

Next, make a weak lemon wash. This restores the acidity of your hair and scalp. If you look at your bottle of shampoo, there’s a good chance it contains citric acid. This makes the shampoo a little acidic, and the acid condition makes hair cuticles lay flat, leaving hair shinier and smoother.

Take a small lemon and mix with a gallon of water in a large mixing bowl. Take another small bowl or cup and pour the weak lemon wash through hair, letting them mixture run back into the bowl. Keep rinsing until hair has been thoroughly coated with the lemon water. Rinse again thoroughly. There might be pulp in there still.

Step Three: Finishing Touches

Finally, after rinsing out the lemon wash, I conditioned my hair as usual, concentrating on the damaged ends rather than the grease-and-dirt-attracting roots. Rinse with cool water for added shine.

The final result? Amazing! But, of course, your results may vary. So please leave your comments. What at-home treatments have you tried?


Let Me Try to Explain Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) to Women

Quinton Jackson defeats Chuck Liddell

The recent mainstream acceptance of the sport of mixed martial arts, known as MMA, recently had a big breakthrough. On Saturday, the first primetime MMA event aired on CBS. Elite XC Saturday Night Fights introduced the primetime broadcast television world to the controversial sport.

Parade magazine said the game should be banned. The world of “legitimate” sports has long criticized the sport for not actually being a sport and more controlled brutality. Fans, however, mostly young men, flock to MMA which makes a sport out of kicking, punching, and grappling with others. Yes, people bleed. Yes, there are lots of really painful-looking things going on. Yes, it’s violent. But let me try to explain to women why this sport should matter and why you should not freak out so much about the popularity of this “fighting sport.”

One of the bones of contention for the CBS event was the women’s fight between Gina Carano and Kaitlin Young. You may know Carano as Crush, the “hot” gladiator on NBC’s series American Gladiators. Carano has been called the face of women’s mixed martial arts since women haven’t really been major players in MMA until Carano showed up. So far, she’s undefeated and trains with some very elite names in the MMA community. She’s being trained by Extreme Coture, the fighting school established by MMA hall of famer Randy Coture. Then again, maybe she’ll do American Gladiators full time and will quit the daily grind of fight training.

gina carano

Thing is, fighting looks pretty violent. In the early days of UFC, one of the sport’s major fight organizers, fights were brutal and the stuff of paid subscription television. There were no rules, so any man could fight any other man, so they did. Men’s teeth were kicked out. Hair was pulled. Groins were kicked. Blood was spilled, sometimes in copious amounts. This wasn’t a sport but televised brutality. While the “train wreck” appeal was undeniable, it quickly became apparent to everyone that the sport had to change in order to gain respect.

So the sport pulled together and created some unified rules. In UFC events and Elite XC events, there is no eye gouging, groin kicking, or elbows to the head while fighters are on the ground. There’s no breaking of fingers. Ringside doctors have the power to stop any fight at any time. Referees are required to stop fights they feel might become dangerous.

MMA may look brutal. It is fighting, after all, but the danger is overemphasized by critics. MMA doesn’t kill. Dale Earnhardt fans know all too well the pain of sports death, and the danger of sports like NASCAR, the NFL, or even horse racing are understated in the media while the dangers of MMA are overstated. MMA requires that fights be stopped before anyone actually gets hurt.

The idea is that fighters get to the point when they could potentially hurt each other seriously, like locking someone’s arm or chocking someone while on the ground. When this happens, the fight ends before harm is actually done. Nobody’s breaking their arms because the fighter wins when he proves that they could but before he actually does. Boxing emphasizes standing up, even though tremendous damage is being done to the brain, and Muhammad Ali is reminder of the damage that can be done by boxing. MMA, however, is a sport where the fight is stopped before the damage is done. If you’re not fighting back, you lose. No exceptions.

Then, there’s the question of taste. How tasteful can it be to have muscle-bound men, with the occasional woman, punch, kick, and wrestle each other in the name of sport? How can a sport be tasteful if so many of its athletes bleed during competition? Therein lies the most legitimate criticism of MMA.

When I was a young girl, I used to watch my grandfather while he watched boxing on TV. Grandpa was quite possibly the world’s most mild-mannered man. He had a heavy accent and a dark, brooding look about him, softened over the years by gray hair and the rounding of old age. He also loved to watch boxing, a surprising sport for a man like him to enjoy.

As boxing events wore on throughout the afternoon, he would sit in the living room, watching as men would pound each other about the head and body. He’d ball up his fists and hold them under his neck, occasionally throwing light punches in the air and shouting in the language I didn’t know. Eventually the frustration would overwhelm him and he’d storm out of the room to go work in the garden. A few minutes later, though, he’d always return to find out what happened.

I feel like our tastes don’t always have to define us. Yes, most MMA fans are young men, the kind of men who buy energy drinks and malt liquor, perennial corporate sponsors of MMA events. I, however, am a fan. I don’t know why I’m a fan, but MMA seems like a harmless indulgence. If sweaty men want to punch and kick each other for money and they want me to watch, I’ll watch.

So there you have it, MMA in a nutshell. Ladies, feel free to hate MMA if you want. I, on the other hand, will be enjoying last week’s big UFC pay-per-view event, hoping for some nice armbar or rear naked choke action.

R.I.P. Sydney Pollack

Legendary director and actor Sydney Pollack

Reports have surfaced that legendary actor and director Sydney Pollack has died after a nine month battle with cancer. Pollack was 73.

I remember Sydney Pollack from great films he directed like Tootsie, the Dustin Hoffman vehicle that was hilarious and touching at the same time. Pollack was also responsible for such award fodder as Out of Africa (starring Meryl Streep) and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They.

Youngsters will probably recognize Pollack not from his directing but from his acting. In his later years, Pollack became a sort of everyman character actor and appeared in many different projects ranging from Will and Grace to last year’s Michael Clayton.

The 50 Worst Album Covers

\"All My Friends are Dead\" by Freddie Gage

Just thought I’d pass on a little comic gem I found, a gallery of the 50 worst album covers as compiled by Newsday. Of course these albums are mostly old LP’s, many of which are so tragically awful looking that it boggles the mind.

Also, there seem to be a lot of covers with dummies as in the puppets some comedians use to illicit laughs.

It’s been a hectic week here in the ‘Lou and I don’t know about you, but I could use good laugh. Enjoy!

White Gold: Detroit’s Electric Six Sexes Up the Magic of Dairy

The Best I Can Give is 2%

There’s just something about the band Electric Six, the band from Detroit that has, on numerous occasions, rocked my face right off. I discovered them whilst downloading large amounts of pirated copyrighted material from the Internet using my college’s fat pipes. Among the many discoveries I made that year–Elton John is kind of overrated!–was Electric Six. Since then, my husband, friends and I have followed this band around like lost puppies for years now. We catch nearly every show they have in Missouri, along with many other Midwestern shows. Dick Valentine and the boys had us at “Danger! High Voltage.”

Now, apart from recent albums like I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master–yeah, dig the title–, they’ve also written and probably performed some of the music for a hip, new viral web campaign.

And who knew the ads would be for milk? Perhaps the milk people didn’t know that Electric Six once released a song encouraging nuclear war on the dance floor or proclaiming that they “buy the drugs.” But I digress.

The new concept is White Gold, an off-kilter funk-metal band fronted by some dweeb in a bad wig and two sassy ladies on bass and drums. They’ve released two videos on YouTube and an album on iTunes called All I Can Give is 2%. They were also featured in a short Newsweek blurb about how some middle aged white dudes are trying to make milk hip through viral Internet marketing.

So me, sucker for this band and sometimes-band-guestlist member, decided to check out White Gold. The verdict? I know it’s a corporate jingle, in essence, but it rocks. It’s got that cheeky Electric Six vibe going on. The vocals are clearly being performed by E6 lead singer Dick Valentine. As for the instrumentation, White Gold is missing the vital keyboards and rich instrumentation that comes with having six band members. No word yet on whether the rest of the band is performing on All I Can Give is 2%. I’ll ask them the next time I see them, which could be a while because I hear they’re taking a break from touring to work on their new album.

Go buy some Electric Six. You won’t be sorry. Also, White Gold’s two current music videos can be seen below. Enjoy!

I Like My Movies Like I Like My Coffee: 8 Great Black Comedies, Part 2

continued from yesterday…

Human Nature DVD Cover

Human Nature: Charlie Kauffman has written some outstanding movies, most notably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. Somewhere in between his writing successes, he wrote a great movie called Human Nature that not nearly enough people saw. Human Nature combines the talents of Michel Gondry and Kauffman, the great team that produced Eternal Sunshine. What’s different about Human Nature is how… normal it is. Well, it’s normal compared to the mind-erasing hallucinations of Eternal Sunshine and the orchid-snorting of Adaptation.

Human Nature is the story of three people who are trying to figure out what it really means to be human. Patricia Arquette plays a woman with a genetic condition that leaves here covered in hair, so she goes and lives in the wild. Rhys Ifans plays a man who has lived as an ape since he was a boy. And Tim Robbins really loves manners. Now that I think about it, this movie isn’t so normal after all. It’s bitter sweet and more than a little dystopian. I suggest everyone go see it. Also, we don’t call them pygmy chimps anymore. We call them bonobos, but whatevs.

American Psycho DVD Cover

American Psycho: I saw this movie in high school and didn’t get it, but thought I should like it because I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew, on the surface, what the real story was: an eighties-era yuppie played by Christian Bale is obsessed with killing people, especially women. He’s also a narcissistic asshole who likes to lecture prostitutes on how awesome Huey Lewis and the News is. Then the movie ends in a way that leaves you scratching your head. What, exactly, happened here? Who’s fooling who? Also, I love that this movie had a female director.

It’s Bale’s Patrick Bateman that really steals the show, not because of how well-placed he is in the scheme of things, but how misplaced he is. He is, in every sense of the word, a total dork. A homicidal dork, but a dork nonetheless. He’s obsessed with cheesy music and obsessed over New York yuppie things like getting reservations, snorting coke, and his expensive printed business cards. All this obsession is almost endearing, but ultimately funny in a very, very dark kind of way. Oh, and he kills people. Did I mention that?

Happiness DVD Cover

Happiness: Go, right now, and see this movie. Before I even introduce you to the story, go see this movie and come back to me with a report. What did you think? My husband and I have played this game with a lot of people, and are always amused at the great reactions by people who think they’re just seeing some indie Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie. Instead they travel to the depths of the human soul, the darkest of places imaginable in the human spirit. Plus, you know, it’s kind of funny.

Happiness is one of those multiple character movies, where several different people have interacting stories as each of the characters tries to figure out what happiness really means. The aforementioned Hoffman plays a pervert who’s deathly afraid of real women but loves to call them and, well, say inappropriate things. Laura Flynn Boyle’s character could have any man she wants, but chooses the company of… Hoffman’s character. The best character is played by Dylan Baker, a child molester who battles his demons but ends up failing miserably. All in all, this movie is set on full “creep out” mode. It’s dirty. It’s provocative. You MUST see it right away.

The Big Lebowski DVD Cover

The Big Lebowski: Apparently, this movie isn’t for children, because I recall vividly the first time I saw this movie, right after it came out of video. I didn’t like it. I hated it, in fact, but I was only barely a teenager at the time. This movie is not worth wasting on youth who won’t get it. Years later, late at night in someone’s college dorm room, I rediscovered The Big Lebowski and it changed my life. The movie is hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just the right kind of hilarious tragedy. Nothing seems to go right for The Dude: his car is stolen, then found, then crashed, then beaten, then set on fire. Thugs piss on his rug which “really tied the room together.” His friendships with Walter and Donnie are put on the line.

This movie is like Alice in Wonderland, but with pot, booze, bowling, Germans, and kidnapping. The Dude (the wonderfully red-eyed Jeff Bridges) must travel to all ends of the Earth when all he ever wanted was his rug back. The tale is really labarynthian, almost like a Greek myth set in early ’90s Los Angeles. The whole movie feels like an in-joke, the kind of joke you share with your friends that nobody else understands. You, too, can share this movie with millions of other fans, especially the ones that flock to Lebowski festivals all over the country. I kid you not. These people have conventions. That’s how good this movie is.

Grosse Pointe Blank DVD Cover

Grosse Pointe Blank: The year was 1997 and my parents decided to leave me at home alone all weekend while they went out of town. I was in high school, but insisted that this time alone for two short days would be good for me. However, as Saturday rolled around and there wasn’t anything good on TV anymore, I was starting to get really, really bored. We had the Internet, but we were cruising on ’97 speed pipes, a 56K dial-up connection that tied up the phone lines. About a mile away from the house was a little strip mall with a Wal-Mart, a Movie Gallery, and a small, hometown grocery store. I stopped by the Movie Gallery to rent a movie and ended up with a sweet VHS copy of Grosse Pointe Blank in my backpack. I also brought home some snacks from the grocery store, if that’s important.

Even at my young and impressionable age, I loved Grosse Pointe Blank. The story centers around Martin Blank (Cusack) who apparently freaked out on the night of prom and ran off to join the military, only to be trained as an assassin, now working freelance gigs. He decided to return to Grosse Pointe–a suburb of Detroit–in order to attend his high school reunion. I loved the terrific yet comic violence that was spattered throughout the whole movie. In one scene, John Cusack returns from killing a an assassin sent to kill him. He’s just stabbed him with a pen. He sits down at the bar, and casually orders a drink while glistening with sweat. He thanks the man who gave him the pen. The whole scene is so tragically comic, it’s a near-perfect moment. Makes you wish John Cusack was in good movies again.

I Like My Movies Like I Like My Coffee: 8 Great Black Comedies, Part 1

Publicity Photo from Death to Smoochy

Black comedies are awesome. The first time I knew I really loved a good black comedy was when I saw Dr. Strangelove in high school. It was then that I finally realized the true meaning of both Cold War paranoia and comedy irreverence. To me, there was no greater feat than the one pulled by Kubrick in Strangelove. He managed to instill a sense of foreboding fear while, at the same time, making a movie with Slim Pickins. In fact, Dr. Strangelove is often pointed to as the granddaddy of all black comedy, the coup de grâce of bleak and funny film, the movie that made it all happen. So, without further adieu, I present to you black comedies that I have known and loved, in no particular order:

Death to Smoochy DVD Cover

Death to Smoochy: This 2002 film was widely regarded as a failure as a movie and a total dud in the theaters. Where this movie lacked in coin, it made up for in cultish brilliance. Director Danny DeVito often called this movie a cross between Pulp Fiction and Barney which, in and of itself, makes this movie watchable if for no other reason than to see what those two genres would look like collided. Critics hated the results, but kids like myself, raised on movies like Pulp Fiction and shows like Barney and Friends, were in awe. The story is typical, about the rise and fall of a star, but the trappings are brilliant: the Irish gang, the colorful set dressing, the vengeful murder plot. Good stuff.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind DVD Cover

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: George Clooney decided to direct a movie, which often sets movie critics’ faces to grimace. After all, where does some handsome-boy and former TV actor like George Clooney get off in wanting to direct a feature film? All grumbling ceased when the movie came out and was not only funny but visually stunning. Low-tech camera tricks abound, and everyone got the general sense that this Clooney kid knew what he was doing.

Confessions is the story of Chuck Barris, former host of The Gong Show and pioneer of trash TV with shows like The Newlywed Game. In an autobiography he wrote in the eighties, Barris also mentions that, in addition to being a game show host, he was also an assassin for the CIA. This visually stunning movie shows what happens when you mix the intrigue of espionage with, well, The Gong Show.

Dr. Strangelove DVD Cover

Dr. Strangelove: The granddaddy of all black comedy, Dr. Strangelove had a significant impact on me as a teenager. I’d never quite understood Cold War-era nuclear paranoia until I saw this movie. As a child of the eighties, I didn’t really have to. The Wall was already down by the time I began learning how to ride a bike, and the democratic revolution in Russia played softly in the background as I played with Barbies. When I finally saw this movie, I understood why everyone was so crazy back then. It took a black comedy about a situation that could never happen to make me realize why everyone was so afraid of a nuclear war with the USSR.

Dr. Strangelove also began my love affair with George C. Scott, one of those actors I missed out on because of my age. A year later, I saw Patton, a movie that also blew my mind. I often wondered why they didn’t make movies like that anymore. Where there any great actors anymore? Where were the George C. Scott’s of my generation who could chew through the dialogue of Dr. Strangelove, and do so with such depth and sincerity, making the movie’s hilarious premise? While I’m still waiting, I could watch this black comedy again and again.

continued tomorrow…

The Strange Linguistic World of Lolcats

So you have no idea what an lolcat is? Well, fortunately for all of us, there’s a Wikipedia article about it. Also, Time magazine did a short write-up of the lolcat movement.

So what’s up with lolcats? Why should anyone care about them? Lolcats (also seen as lol cats) is a term used to describe pictures of cats with funny and grammatically-poor captions written across the picture. The lolcats movement has spawned loldogs, and lolrus (for some reason, walrus pictures) as well as any other animal or cute photo you can think of that would be improved by silly captions. Here’s an example, a reference to the famous monologue by Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood:

i drink ur milkshake

So why should anyone care? I thought the same thing until I began looking into the movement. Lolcats and lolspeak is truly a user-generated language created by people who, to the best of my knowledge, have never met each other. Currently my love of strange social movements and language has created a great interest in lolcats.

I’m currently compiling research on lolcats for a potential article or book. If you have any personal connection to lolspeak or lolcats and want to share your experiences, I’d appreciate your input. Please feel free to email me here.

The HD DVD Death Rattle


As many news outlets are reporting, Toshiba is expected to announce the end of their HD DVD technology, essentially taking the company out of the next generation race for high definition movie technology. Toshiba will stop manufacturing HD DVD players and will cease printing HD DVD titles. As many are reporting, this could have a ripple effect in the computer and gaming market, including the loss of HD DVD burning technology for computers.

Despite HD DVD’s lower price points, Sony’s Blu Ray technology ultimately won the war with studios, and this trickles down to customers. Studios were attracted to Blu Ray’s  new laser technology, meaning that Blu Ray discs are protected from copying–for now. When customers don’t have many purchasing options in the HD DVD format, they will choose not to invest in HD DVD players or titles.

HD DVD players could be purchased for as low as $100 in some cases, or for $180 as an addition to an Xbox 360 console. Blu Ray, on the other hand, required an investment of $400 or more to purchase a Playstation 3 or standalone Blu Ray player.

Toshiba, which created DVD technology, was unable to get a foothold in the high definition movie market despite having several advantages over Sony’s Blu Ray. HD DVD’s were based on DVD technology and could be produced more cheaply than Blu Ray discs. HD DVD players were online-ready, and customers could use online features and instant online updates with their HD DVD players, whereas Sony has only just recently announced a move to make Blu Ray technology sync online. HD DVD’s have better menu technology, and the difference in picture and sound are negligible.

There is no word, yet, on why Toshiba’s partnership with Microsoft or it’s demanding presence in the movie market–with their ownership of DVD technology–couldn’t save their foothold in the market.