• [the above video is maybe NSFW for about 5 seconds, although that moment is nowhere near as disturbing as the rest of the video]
  • this latimes feature on heidi and spencer is one of the most intelligent responses to them i’ve read in the mainstream press. spencer and heidi aren’t really saying things that are all that different than what they’ve said before, re: their roles on the show, but for some reason the phrasing and the confidence level here are different. spencer in particular is on fire, every quote is a pull quote:

    • “Obviously we’re entertainers. We are trying to entertain in every aspect of our lives,” says Heidi Montag, with boyfriend Spencer Pratt.

    • “We’re always the juicier story,” Spencer said. Switching to the third person, he added, “And when Heidi and Spencer are gossip machines, it’s like, ‘What did Heidi and Spencer do?’ “

    • “Every hour,” he said. “Every different magazine, every blog texts, like, ‘We heard this, we heard this.’ Most of the time, people are just making things up, trying to get you to give a source quote. Or give one line just so they can build something. On every site, in every magazine, they need content. It’s the most competitive industry in the world, I would say, the pop culture media game.”

    • “We were all of a sudden in pages next to Brad and Angelina and TomKat.”

    • “Janice Min at Us Weekly is like a family member to us,” Spencer said. “We love her. If my mom and her are e-mailing me at the same time, I’m like, ‘Uh, Janice or my mom?’ “

  • the best quote is related to the nature of fauxreality performance. the writer, kate aurthur, notes that “the criticism of Paris Hilton was once that she was famous for doing nothing, which, though it was never actually true, had a certain sting. But what Heidi and Spencer do — and there are others with their kind of fame, such as E! celebutante Kim Kardashian — can’t possibly be called nothing…” then there is a spencer quote:

    • “No celebrity does anything, really,” Spencer said. “Unless you’re a famous athlete who actually physically does something, like, how much work is reading lines from a script? We’re improv TV personalities. That’s way harder.”

  • let’s avoid for now a discussion of the craft of acting and “how much work is reading lines from a script” and instead listen to what spencer’s arch-enemy, lauren conrad, said about whether she would want to date a celebrity. this is from an interview segment on “the hills: aftershow” a few weeks ago – the show’s host asks her, “if you could break up a celebrity couple and move in, who would it be?” ignoring the weird specificity of this question and the fact that it would make lauren, with all her trust and relationship issues, a homewrecker, the fact that it grounds what should be a silly fantasy in angst and moral tension, let’s listen to her response:

    • “i don’t really want to date a celebrity, though.”

    • [the host asks her if she has any celebrity crushes]

    • “not really, they’re always disappointing. it’s always such a let down, you know?”

    • [host: “when you meet them in (sic) real?”]

    • “yeah. everyone looks better when they’ve been color corrected and on camera and told to say the right things and done a million takes.”

  • one of the interesting things about this interview is that it’s operating under the assumption that lauren conrad is not a celebrity, which of course she is. this sort of “what celebrity would you date” question that we all ask ourselves takes on a whole other dimension because lauren is a celebrity and probably could date celebrities if she wanted to (and let’s note again that her ex, stephen colletti, did recently date a celebrity, hayden panettiere, which i continue to mention mostly because i think it’s fun to say the name hayden panettiere – it sounds like some kind of creme-filled pastry). the interview question is resting on this distinction between celebrities and “celebrities,” between a-list and b-list, between movie stars and everybody else. this distinction is, i feel, dated, and is disappearing and will continue to disappear. i am, of course, not the first person to say this, but i feel a need to keep repeating it because some people just don’t seem to fucking get it. kate aurthur puts it nicely with a play on the thomas friedman meme – she writes, “the tabloid world…is simultaneously bursting and flat.” she defines “flat” as the idea that,

    • “…every story seems just as important as every other, and the monster needs feeding. that’s what tabloid fame is now: weekly, and sometimes hourly, we must have stories; the lives of the chosen people must appear to move forward.”

  • warhol 15 minutes of fame blah blah blah

  • so, moving past that, lauren says, no, she doesn’t want to date celebrities because “they’re always disappointing.” she says they’re disappointing because they’re “color corrected” and “on camera” and “told to say the right things” and “done a million takes.” even though she either has done these things (been color corrected, been on camera) or has been accused of them (the show being scripted, doing multiple takes of a reality show), the line doesn’t seem ironic or self conscious at all, she seems to really feel th. the main reason that Celebrities, that movie and TV stars are disappointing to her is that in real life, they’re not the same as they are on the screen. they’re “such a letdown.”

  • thus, both lauren and spencer are making strong statements against the notion of traditional cinematic/televisual acting. yet though they share this view, which is of course in their self interest as the main avatars of the style, they see their roles in divergent ways. lauren has always and continues to affirm that the show is “real,” that this is her “real life,” that she is not performing. heidi and spencer have always and continue to assert that the show is performance, that editing has changed the meaning and made them look worse than they are, that the show is “not real.”

  • the most interesting part of the interview is when spencer and heidi’s relationship is discussed. i’m just going to block quote the whole thing because there’s too much:

    • “Indeed, Season 2 was when “The Hills” changed — because Spencer changed it. He and Heidi, who was Lauren’s television roommate and sidekick, had met off-camera after the first season and started dating. Sort of. First, they had to overcome that age-old obstacle of whether he was using her because she was on an MTV reality show. Spencer, after all, had a history that included his own unscripted ambitions as an executive producer and costar of Fox’s failed “Princes of Malibu” in 2005.”

      • so heidi and spencer met off camera while heidi was filming the first season and presumably during her difficulties with then boyfriend jordan eubanks (jordan eubanks, by the way, is making really weird youtube videos which feature cameos by jason wahler, talan torriero from laguna beach, and brian drolet, jordan’s best friend from “the hills” season 1 and someone i think they tried to hook up with audrina. it’s kind of scary, like this island of lost toys where all the exiled male cast members of “the hills” go to live.) anyway, apparently the tension early in their relationship was that heidi wasn’t sure if spencer was just dating her because he wanted to be on TV, a tension i have discussed constantly in the past.

    • “The Hills” needed some evil, Spencer figured. “I saw a clip of the show, and everyone was so nice,” he said mockingly. “Friendly,” he added with disgust. So yes, he wanted to “cause drama” and “get my own show.”

      • this is him acknowledging the fakeness, that he has constructed and is constructing dramatic situations (“cause drama”) not because he dislikes people in the real world but because he thought the TV show was boring and lacked drama and plot. not that he didn’t like someone’s (moral/social) character but that he didn’t like their (televisual) character. okay, and probably the most important thing spencer did WAS to create drama, to bring a larger, catchier, more powerful narrative to the show. it makes this usweekly cover a little more telling. the headline is “the plot to destroy lauren.” the implication is of course a sort of snidely whiplash plan to…i don’t know, make lauren look like a ho? but really, the plot to destroy lauren is plot – is narrative, is story. and it’s a plot to destroy lauren – it’s a story about destroying lauren, it’s not actually doing it. spencer can’t destroy lauren (whatever “destroy” means) because if he does, he and heidi are destroyed too. they are all in the “plot” together because they are all in the plot together.

    • “Viewers loved to hate him for it, as Min saw. What those people didn’t see in Season 2 and still don’t see as Season 3 closes, Spencer said, was him falling in love with Heidi. “I was — and am — so in love with Heidi, and that stuff stops mattering. Our real world is right here.” He gestured at the space between them.”

      • this last part just makes my brain explode it’s so awesome. the reason that people “didn’t see” and still “don’t see the real love” between heidi and spencer on the show is that heidi and spencer have been consciously staging fake relationship “drama” and pretending that they are not in love to make the television show more interesting and to raise their profile. so even if they’re abs. marvy behind the scenes, in the scenes, they are a couple at war. i love his reference to the real world, which i would need to hear the tone of his voice to know if it’s a conscious allusion to the show “the real world” or whether he’s so used to talking and thinking about these authenticity issues in his life that he can use the term “the real world” in an unloaded, reference-free way. then, the coup de grace is that kate aurthur used the word “space” to describe his gesture. because there is something kind of touching and beautiful about him sitting with heidi and pointing to this tiny space in between them and saying “our real world is right here” and this is juxtaposed with, on the show this season, heidi’s bizarre obsession with “space” with her belief in the seemingly mystical properties of “space” and her desire to put more and more “space” between herself and spencer.

  • so, great feature.

  • oh shit, i still have to talk about the TV show. ok, since i already just wrote like a lot i’m going to skip the second by second close reading and talk about three main subjects: heidi and spencer, audrina, and lo

  • first, heidi and spencer. so, amid all this revelation and insight into the “real” heidi and spencer, this week’s episode featured them at their absolute most fake, most staged, most absurd and ridiculous.

  • the heidi/bolthouse scenes seemed to exist not for plot purposes or character development but solely as a sort of commercial for sbe, or, moreover, for brent bolthouse’s ego, as represented by the private jet and the hired car at the end of the episode. b. bolthouse must be so happy he had the foresight to hook up with his sugar mama, miss montag. that old guy on the plane, sam nazarian, seems really authentically skeezy, in that wealthy middle aged businessman dead hooker in the trunk of the car sort of way.

  • i also liked how heidi described spencer – she didn’t say the relationship was over, she used a visual metaphor: he’s “out of the picture” (i.e. off frame).

  • other people have done much more with heidi’s ridiculous interview scene than i could. i have no real commentary, but i do find it interesting that i haven’t heard anyone connect her funniest line (“i would love to get my hands in there and make myself available to you”) to spencer’s radar advice column about anal sex (“My boxing coach Dirty Phi says, “If you stick your pinkie in there, and then another finger, and then another, and she responds happily, then it’s cool.”)

  • the scene with spencer that closes the episode is so ridiculous. it literally doesn’t make any sense. kicked out by stephanie, he goes to heidi’s apartment and when she’s not there, he seems to have a nervous breakdown and calls stephanie, demanding to know where heidi is. maybe…at work? having coffee? the gym? target?

  • on to, lo, my love, my life, my lust. dr. television has an interesting post about the transformation of lo (“the transformation of lo” – nabokov’s other unfinished manuscript). a relevant excerpt:

    • “The problem for The Hills these days is that Lauren and Heidi are seemingly splitsville forever–these two ain’t gonna be friends again and Lauren, at least, seems to have little interest in engaging with Heidi at all, even to accuse and argue. So where’s the new drama? It seems to be brewing between new roomies Lauren, Lo, and Audrina, as Lauren is placed in between her actual, for-real childhood pal Lo and her MTV-generated friendship with Audrina.

      Granted, this totally works as relatable drama. But. It is placing Lo in the position of villainess, and this I just can’t take. Lo is one of the few young women gracing the
      Laguna/Hills-averse that seems to have some smarts. She’s witty, clever, just seems to have thoughts going on behind her sparkly blues. (I really don’t mean to diss the others, especially not Lauren, who delivers some bon mots of her own from time to time.) In this latest friendship drama, Lo is being depicted as forcing Audrina out of Lauren’s life while Audrina is the sad victim of Lo’s actions. [Important aside: Isn’t Justinbobby’s transformation a-mazing?! Sobriety has made him actually really and truly attractive! He looks great, and is a sympathetic boyfriend/friend/whatever to Audrina!]

      The soap villainess is a crucial character, but in the daytime soap world her villainy comes from somewhere–usually insecurity or desperation or revenge–and her challenges to patriarchal strictures of femininity are a pleasure to love (or love to hate). But Lo is so not this character. No, the brainiest girl on The Hills is cast as the bitch, for no real reason other than to stir up drama. Disappointing, again.”

  • i will say that i am also dismayed by this change. lo seemed to exist in the past purely to be adorable and give people funny names and pronounce words in humorous, affected ways. my personal perception of lo in the past was as a sort of sorority “mom” figure, who makes plans and activities and decorates the spirit wall or whatever the hell else those girls do. she existed as that kind of stereotype, but i think we only saw the positive aspects of that kind of character, the fun stuff. i think she still exists as that kind of stereotype, but now we are seeing the negative aspects, too.

  • but beyond that, the problem i have is with her line that “the brainiest girl on “the hills” is cast as the bitch, for no real reason other than to stir up drama.” my issue is with the word “cast.” yes, this meanness could be a result of the producers trying to incite tension, to “start drama,” and then using editing to focus and hone that drama and, thus, “cast” lo as a bitch. but isn’t it equally possible that…lo can just be kind of a bitch? isn’t it equally possible that she can be kind of nastily territorial with regards to her oldest and closest friend, a thing i think most of us have experienced in our lives, from both smart and dumb people? isn’t it possible that she just really doesn’t like audrina very much and isn’t ashamed to show it? throughout the show, audrina has been a kind of whipping girl; lauren, lo, and even whitney (who is described in the rolling stone article as “neutral,” “like switzerland”) have made myriad subtle and not so subtle condescending remarks about audrina’s judgement and, perhaps more significantly, her poor fashion sense, which they all seem to see as tres gauche.

  • in the same paragraph, dr. television notes that isn’t justinbobby’s transformation amazing? and how he is “really and truly attractive”, that he is now “a sympathetic boyfriend/friend/whatever.” but how can we say that his change is more or less real or more or less constructed than lo’s? how can we say that she is being falsely represented as a bitch but he is genuinely changed when there is just as much of a chance that she is genuinely a bitch sometimes and he is pretending to be different, he is not sober and he is performing his way back into audrina’s heart and back on to our television screen to, i don’t know, support his modeling career. i’m not saying that either scenario is true, but what i am saying is that either of them (or any combination in between) could be and we don’t and can’t know. we have no objective evidence to check this against and we aren’t didactically “told” what’s “really” going on in the show (or, if we are, as in lauren’s monologue, we’re immediately called to be skeptical and not trust what the show “tells” or “gives” us) so a lot of things come down to just personal prejudice and how our subjectivity affects our notion of the show. like, dr. television’s post is ostensibly about how gender is represented on TV and while it is obvious she is outraged to see (someone she perceives as) an intelligent woman portrayed as a “bitch,” it seems more tangible that she is mad that lo, this person she really likes and has formed a bond with, can be kind of a bitch. she’s not angry about a whole gender, she’s angry about lo, specifically, one person. similarly, in zigzigger’s great post, “the hills is real, too,” he departs from his sort of “objective” critical voice to defend lauren’s much-criticized decision to take gavin to see a book about the show at barnes and noble (“I find it so touching to know that she is proud of her accomplishments, but whatevs.”) and to insult gavin with language that’s pretty strong and personal, (“And what’s so great about G? I think this sounds like the bitter disappointment of a guy who was rejected not only by a pretty girl he liked, a fantastic catch, but by a television show that could have made him famous. He sounds like a jilted whore.”). it’s obvious that the critical analysis he’s writing of this show is colored by the fact that he really likes lauren and that he thinks gavin is an asshole. i’m not criticizing them – far from it, i do this all the time and i think these kind of subjective personal judgements and attachments are incumbent to dealing with “the hills” on its own terms.

  • maybe what i’m trying to say is if we’re discussing completely fictional characters, it’s much easier to detach ourselves from them and think of them as things, objects, chess pieces. but since, as zigzigger says, the hills is real, too, since lo and lauren are real people playing themselves, real people with feelings and hopes and dreams, we have some kind of investment in them that we don’t have in, say, kaya (remember kaya?). when people talk about realist fictional dramas, one of the highest compliments that they can pay them is that they create characters that feel real, that feel “three-dimensional,” that could live in the real world. “the hills” doesn’t have to jump this uncanny valley because its characters already are real and three dimensional and live in the real world.

  • so maybe we suffer from the kind of documentarian’s stockholm syndrome, the way that many documentarians are, by the nature of the form, forced to spend lots and lots of time with their subjects, and that this time spent creates a relationship, of like or dislike or a more complex place in between, that colors and shades whatever document is ultimately produced. i don’t know, i’m just rambling now. whatever, errol morris needs to devote one of his times blogs to “the hills” instead of talking about old pictures of cannonballs and shit.

  • (OMG, imagine “the fog of war” but starring spencer instead of robert mcnamara.)

  • (also, thanks dr. television for teaching me that the dramatic pause at the end of soap opera scenes (the evolution of which is such a big part of the “laguna”/”hills” aesthetic) is called the “egg.” i always wondered, but the only description i had ever heard was joey tribbiani’s scatological description in that one episode of “friends.”)

  • speaking of smelling the fart, i’ve finally realized why i’ve never cared much about audrina. i’m gonna get really shallow here, so sorry, just bear with me. i used to think i didn’t like audrina because i didn’t find her as attractive as the other girls on the show. this is shallow, i know, sue me. i don’t mock people on the street for being unattractive, but i do hold people who are on television shows and movies to a different aesthetic standard and i don’t think that’s totally wrong. some people don’t like audrina because they think she’s stupid. i don’t know if she is or isn’t (or how you define that. a lot of people call heidi stupid, my mom called heidi stupid when i talked to her on the phone the other day, but heidi has created a life for herself where she can be paid fifty thousand dollars to sit in a club for two hours, so that sounds like a pretty smart kind of stupid to me) but i think this is as shallow as reason to dislike someone as for their looks. however, i think i’ve finally realized why i don’t care much about her and why i don’t think she’s that important to the show: she’s just not very good at expressing herself.

  • let’s go back to the fauxreality performance vs. dramatic acting thread from earlier. for all the bullshit most people spew about lauren and the gang being talentless, they’re, quite simply, not. they have a skill set, they have tools as performers that not everyone has – you couldn’t just drop anyone into this show and expect them to be interesting to watch and relatable and memorable. this is a skill, either physically or verbally, that audrina just doesn’t have. she really can’t do any of the facial gymnastics that lauren and heidi specialize in and she can’t manage the idiot savant free jazz ballet that whitney graces us with whenever she’s on screen. she’s not as fauxarticulate or quotable as lauren or spencer, she doesn’t say things in the quirky patois that lo and justinbobby and whitney manage, and her speech isn’t as idiosyncratically illogical and insane as a lot of heidi’s monologues are; she just talks kind of like a normal person who doesn’t have a lot of interesting things to say. this doesn’t make her stupid or vapid or ugly, it just means she’s not a very good performer. she’s not a bad or worthless person, she’s just not very good at entertaining us.

  • which makes all the secondary sources that are coming in about audrina right now all the more insane. because audrina, off camera, is becoming a performer in the most old school sense of the word for example, she was seen a few weeks ago in vegas, dancing on stage with the pussycat dolls. though she said this was a one time thing and that she would not be joining the pussycat dolls, she is dancing on a stage in a theater, straight vaudeville. at a bar that night, audrina (reportedly) said, “i’ll be more famous than lauren conrad one day.”

  • and now, according to usweekly, she’s going to be in a movie! like, the old fashioned kind, where people act and they play characters that are not themselves. and, shock, it turns out that audrina has always wanted to be an actress (“this is why i moved to l.a.”) and recently fired her agent because he wasn’t getting her enough jobs. audrina describes her role (“Patridge said she’ll play “the girlfriend of this cocky guy who think he’s the s–t … and I kind of have him wrapped around my fingers.” “It’s cool,” she added, “because on The Hills, I don’t have that.” – i.e. she enjoys the fictional role because she has agency that she doesn’t have in her real life) but won’t say what the title of the movie is (“I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say!” ).

  • this confidentiality is absolutely puzzling, since as a producer it seems as if the main reason you would put audrina in a movie is because she is semi-famous and you might get to be involved in a bliplet or listicle in usweekly or something and get a little buzz. but if that’s not the case, then…why? i guess we’ll see.

  • little things:

  • my favorite line in the episode was when lo said of the new dog, chloe, “her reactions are fantastic.” oh, the irony!

  • the scene with the alkaline trio – so ridiculous. why would epic show us a session for this shitty modern rock band instead of, i don’t know, a musical artist that the audience of “the hills” might actually want to listen to. because audrina has to be ROCK AND ROLL, i guess? getting your song on “the hills” is like the mainstream equivalent of getting a decent review in pitchfork. it’s for people like lo, who “don’t feel cool enough” – it’s a way for them to feel cool, hip, with it – tuned in to the cool teen girl pop zeitgeist, where they can listen to avril lavigne but also yelle and santogold. i am not saying that in a sarcastic hipstery way, i think anything that helps people feel cool is great, i’m just saying. i will admit again that 90% of my hits before the season started were based on viewers searching desperately for the name of a song they heard in a particular episode. the new MTV chyrons that pop up and announce what song is playing have killed a lot of that, but since the show plays completely different (read: crappier, cheaper) songs during the internet airings that some of us are forced to watch, i still get some traffic.

  • in other music news, i spent an inordinate amount of time on my crappy stolen wifi paging through 15 pages of this rolling stone listicle about “the best music moments on ‘the hills'” and they didn’t fucking list the scene with heidi painting the wall to that cat power song! yet they listed two songs by some band called “a fine frenzy”? TOTALLY ridiculous.

  • also, this week, my favorite video blog about “the hills” is skeptical about whether the girls actually live in their new house. they argue that the reason audrina is unfamiliar with the house and the reason they haven’t unpacked the living room yet were able to have a housewarming party is that the girls don’t actually live there and the house is really only a set. who knows, but interesting notion and one that would support the rumor of whitney and lauren moving into an apartment together.

i’ll put up a song later this weekend but until then i’ll leave you with the dulcet tones of jordan eubanks, brian drolet, and talan torriero. if you’re interested, you can hear more of talan’s music at his myspace page. the first two lines of his song “somewhere dead in hollywood” are “looking for a flying diamond starship / just another boy in southern california.” like, totally.

lauren eats a nice grapefruit

  • i’m so sad that lisa love and lauren didn’t have a final moment in lisa love’s office before lauren left teen vogue. it’s really a travesty. LL deserved some kind of speech (a chance to do it better than she did when whitney left, a real mentor-y “i’ve seen you grow so much” sort of speech) if only for coining and delivering with such power that whole “girl who didn’t go to paris” line which was such great shorthand for who lauren was for so long. where is our closure?

  • there’s not even a “packing up the desk” scene where lauren can look at the objects in the room with deep longing and attachment – it’s not in scene at all, it’s handled in lauren’s opening narration (“…and after helping whitney during fashion week, her new boss ended up giving me a job. now i was back working with my friend again!”). she says it and it is so.

  • of course maybe those rumors about teen vogue being fed up with the girls and pushing them out were true (although why you would put a cash cow out to pasture is beyond me) and LL just didn’t want anything to do with them anymore and wanted to fill the space with real interns that would do real work for her. i don’t buy it, though, she seemed to relish her scenes way too much.

  • i will never not be entertained by watching beautiful women fold expensive clothes and talking about their personal lives. if i am, just shoot me (or make me watch “just shoot me,” that other TV show about working at a fashion magazine)

  • notice how lauren characterizes audrina and heidi’s friendship when talking to whitney. first she says that audrina “keeps running into” heidi when she’s out at clubs. this is a lot of spin, since obviously audrina is actively making plans with heidi and i doubt that she’s lying to lauren about it (although maybe). then after whitney, totally out of the loop (but no, she and LC are great friends!), asks whether audrina and heidi are fighting, LC is like, “oh, no, they’re friendly,” and then when whitney seems surprised, LC clarifies it even further, to “they’re friends.” it’s as if it is such a big deal she can’t admit to herself all at once but has to do it in stages.

  • i also love love love when lauren goes into that sort of breathy, higher pitched “i am being so serious and rational but i am also about to cry” vocal register that she uses when talking about how the apartment belongs to both her and audrina and so she doesn’t want to tell audrina what to do but at the same time she REALLY wants to tell audrina what to do. she uses it a lot, more this season, like, it’s the same tone as when she was talking to stephanie about how bad she felt that spencer made her cry and how she should know that it’s not her fault and blah blah.

  • whitney, on her reunion with lauren: “i never thought we’d be together again.” lauren, goofy, knowing smile. producers, rolling on the floor laughing. audience member, annoyed at unnecessary bullshit.

  • i am so fucking tired of this theme song and i know it will never, ever change.

  • i always like the scenes where the girls are getting dressed to go out. maybe it is that when they are talking about clothes, not just in general but the clothes they are wearing and about to wear, there is that glimmer of the real that is so enticing when you can taste it. like the tiny moment when audrina suggests that lauren wear the dress audrina is wearing but in a different color and lauren says, “i’m not going to wear the same dress as you” and then, audrina’s back presumably turned, lauren looks at lo, shaking her head and rolling her eyes, like, “god, can you believe that stupid bitch?”

  • lo, on stephanie pratt coming out: “oh, that’s good, maybe she’ll bring heidi!” in the mouth of any other character, this would feel like a forced line, something whispered in an ear by a producer to trigger a dramatic reaction. but i totally believe it from lo. she’s been established as the plucky, spunky, say anything, make up annoying nicknames for people, make out with frankie in vegas, coke-snorting-sorority-big-sister ball of fun and excitement and i feel that, cameras or not, she would have made a smart ass remark like that in her high, chirpy voice.

  • also perfectly in character is lauren basically commanding the girls to praise her for doing well in school (“say good job, lauren!”). she also describes herself as “so scholarly.” L O L. of course the class discussed is her computer class, the only class we ever see her taking, which provides an oh-so-convenient segue into discussing stephanie pratt. ditto lo’s clarification of “stephanie…stephanie pratt,” just in case someone at home was too stupid to follow.

  • across town (whatever, i don’t know the geography of LA) stephanie and heidi are playing out, as if through the looking glass, exactly the same scene, the “getting dressed to go out and also let’s foreshadow important issues coming up in the episode” scene. it opens with heidi saying, “i don’t know what to wear,” echoing audrina’s comment in the previous scene. “all girls have fashion in common,” et cetera. heidi, again, wants to have “a girl’s night, a good night out.”

  • just like lauren revealing that audrina is friends with heidi, stephanie is trying to slowly break this news of lauren being at the club to heidi. she says “literally everyone goes to goa on thursdays.” which is so funny because it provokes heidi to deduce, sherlock holmes style, “you don’t think, um [quieter] that lauren would go with her?” and all i am imagining is a sort of abacus in heidi’s brain working out, well, if literally everybody is going to the club, and lauren is part of literally everybody, oh no that means lauren might be going to the club! then, instead of cutting back to stephanie, we stay on heidi and watch her react to stephanie saying solemnly, “she told me she is.”

  • stephanie looks kind of bad in the scene; maybe her ugly eye make-up is supposed to signify how troubled she is about the possibilities of this night?

  • the idea that lauren would suddenly be cool with heidi because spencer is out of the picture is so inane that it could only come from heidi. the issue is not that heidi moved in with spencer, it’s that she rejected lauren to move in with spencer. the issue is not that audrina is going out with justinbobby, it’s that she’s doing it even though lauren told her it’s a bad idea. the issue is not that audrina is friends with heidi, it’s that she’s doing it when lauren has made it clear she doesn’t want audrina to. it’s that cliche’ action movie trailer phrase, “it’s PERSONAL!” made real – it’s always personal, it’s never logical.

  • as usual, all heidi has are her cliche’s, her scriptlets (“it was so long ago,” etc.). she goes totally miss malaprop when she accidentally crams together two of them and says, “it’s old water under the bridge.” she and stephanie both laugh. this is funny for two reasons. one because OMG how stupid. two because it’s a clear allusion to the scene at lauren’s birthday party when stephanie, cementing her nascent friendship with lauren, says “water under the bridge…is that the expression, water under the bridge?” it shows that stephanie and heidi talked about that night in close enough detail heidi can later make a semi-knowing reference to an offhand remark of stephanie’s from some days before and they will both get the joke immediately.

  • (p.s. i was looking for a youtube clip of the “the crunge” (have you seen the bridge, etc.) to make some sort of pseudo-pun about “water under the bridge” but that’s too elliptical, this is “the hills,” it’s about direct adolescent emotion, so here is a video of a teenage girl’s first song which she wrote about some boyfriend who obviously things didn’t go well with and so she wrote a song about water under the bridge and it’s called “water under the bridge.” she’s canadian, she should totally be on “the hills: aftershow,” way better than ana marie digby.)

  • at the beginning of the club scene, stephanie and heidi’s remarks about justinbobby are obviously both dubbed and subtitled (and this dubbing is really bad). we see them at a distance, from an awkward angle, in the dark with a harsh little highlight to pick up their faces, with people in the foreground blocking them. then cut to lauren and audrina talking, where lauren is softly lit, in close-up, speaking without dubbing or subtitles. the visual hierarchy – who is important, who is not, who is in the inner circle and who is on the outside, scratching at the studio gates.

  • so lauren goes for another glass of champagne and heidi swoops in to drop her gossip about justinbobby. just like last week, even though this is a bad thing for her “friend” audrina, it’s a great thing for heidi, it’s an opportunity for bonding, for connection, for becoming “friends” and not just “friendly.” just like last week, she overplays things but to hilarious effect by asking audrina, “like, do you want me to make sure he doesn’t come in this room or anything?” like she is club security or something, like she is man police. it is also a subtle attempt to entrench herself into the area where lauren will be and where the good camera angles are. of course, audrina blows her pathetic overture off, saying, “it’s fine.”

  • god, i don’t even know how to parse the scene where lauren and lo come back with stephanie. ok, first of all, as lauren, lo, and stephanie approach, audrina is telling heidi about justinbobby’s stalkerish tendencies, how he wouldn’t leave her alone. this is of course exactly what heidi is doing to lauren in this scene; lauren has made it as clear as she can without a restraining order that she wants nothing to do with heidi and yet there is heidi, at her table, waiting for her. heidi responds, as usual, with a cliche metaphor about pain. “it’s like a wound, still, it’s not like it’s healed.” she is tacitly empathizing with audrina, about how spencer wouldn’t give her “space,” but really she’s talking about herself, about her relationship with lauren, about the pain she feels that lauren won’t interact with her.

  • again, this scene is visually really confusing. i’m having to write it down just to figure it out. okay, so heidi and audrina are sitting on the (camera) right side of the couch having their powwow. we find out from a cutaway later on that stephanie is actually sitting next to heidi while this conversation is going on, at the right edge of the couch.

  • lauren and lo at goa
  • lauren and audrina enter in a medium shot from stage left, lauren first, closer to heidi and the traitor. they are cloaked in shadow. lauren more tells than asks, “hey guys, can you make some room?”

  • heidi and audrina
  • then back to the close-up of heidi and audrina. neither want to give up the (literal) spotlight. heidi is staring at the space where lauren should be and smiling, audrina is looking off vacantly.

  • then a really brief medium shot of lauren from the right. this is not really heidi’s POV, but it stands for it and it has that effect. lauren stands there all chiaroscuro, lit from the right and underneath, but half in the darkness of the club. she holds her class of champagne in her jeweled hand and seems to look at heidi down her nose for an instant, then turns away to the left, into the darkness.

  • this is where it gets confusing. okay, the angle is of the right corner of the booth. we see lauren entering from the right side getting up into the elevated booth and carefully squeezing past audrina to get into her seat (audrina actually helps her through, briefly placing both hands around lauren’s waist, presumably so she doesn’t spill her champagne) heidi is absent during the shot, but we know where she is, she was sitting right beside audrina near the outside of the booth. thus lauren is literally climbing over heidi to get into the center of the booth. obviously, the meta-implications of this are strong (lauren climbing over heidi to reclaim the spotlight, the center of attention, her close-up, mr. deville) but also just imagine how uncomfortable that would be in real life, to climb past this person you hate and then have to sit at the same table as them.

  • then we have a short close-up of lauren settling in and smiling at the reclamation of her “space”, from the camera angle used during the audrina-heidi conversation earlier.

  • then, in an overhead angle, she immediately leans in to her left to talk to stephanie pratt. this at first seems like a crazy, disorienting continuity error, because two shots before (so, like two seconds before), this blond nobody with glasses was scooting over to give lauren more room. it seems as if this girl is by the magic of editing with stephanie pratt. after watching this about five times, i’ve figured out that the blond girl actually slips out of the booth and stephanie pratt is sitting to lauren’s left and quickly slides twoard her. lauren moves closer to the center of the booth, probably to put more “space” between heidi and herself. she whispers to stephanie, “i just didn’t really think that you’d bring heidi”

  • then a wide shot from the left. lauren, slightly obscured by some girl in the foreground, says, “it’s just really hard for me to be at a table with her.” as she and steph have this conversation in the light in the center of the frame, heidi is hard left, in the dark, watching their conversation intently behind audrina’s back.

  • then there is some wanking around with the focus on a new close-up of lauren and stephanie, from the right side. lauren says, “i’m sorry, that’s really awkward to say to you, i know.” the camera pans to the left to center around stephanie and lauren. lauren seems to be sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning to the left, as if she is trying to get as far away from heidi as she can without actually getting up. stephanie says, “no. i mean, i know, exactly what it is…”

  • stephanie’s subtitled voice (“i just kind of thought we could all get along”) continues over a cutaway of heidi and audrina talking.

  • back to the close-up of stephanie and lauren, stephanie making light of the situation, lauren trying to look pained but in a fun way.

  • rack focus onto an extreme close-up of audrina’s face. heidi, represented in the frame by some of her hair, says, “i think i’m gonna go soon. it’s pretty clear lauren doesn’t want me to be friends with you.” well thanks, captain obvious.

  • (one wonders here whether these rack focuses are meant as authenticity signifiers or to create some sort of visual drama or if they are just a necessity of shooting in a poorly lit nightclub)

  • then the most sort of composed, painterly shot in the scene. in the center is lauren, talking to stephanie on her left. on the right, audrina. at far right, heidi, in her black dress almost merging with the background. at far left, anonymous man in black, who has been sitting at the table the whole time, following the scene intently while saying absolutely nothing (obviously our audience stand-in). in the foreground, some carafes of girly drinks.

  • then a sort of telephoto extreme close-up of lauren looking pissed off but beautiful, obviously reacting to what heidi has just said. in the right edge of the frame, audrina, out of focus. heid, out of frame again, says, “oh my gosh, here comes justin.”

  • then a close-up of audrina and lauren. lauren is in the background, out of focus, drinking quietly. audrina does an awkward openmouthed smile at the right side of the frame.

  • now, here, the obvious choice in a movie would be to cut to a reverse of justin bobby to catch his reaction, from somewhere around where audrina and heidi are sitting. this is obviously impossible, because, like, audrina and heidi are sitting there. so instead we get a wide shot from the back of justinbobby looking like fucking hipster zorro, in all black and a stupid hat. heidi gets up and is all welcome-wagon and smiles. she’s excited because it’s someone else lauren hates, it’s someone on her “team,” it’s someone to absorb some of the hate rays lauren is sending from her powerful, expressive eyes.

  • then an out of focus overhead shot of justinbobby taking heidi’s seat. this is really weird because it doesn’t seem as if the club is two levels. is the cameraman standing on a ladder in the middle of the dance floor? is the camera hanging from the ceiling? where is it? heidi says again, “i think i’m gonna go.” she’s just waiting for someone to say, “no, don’t go,”

  • we cut back to the wide shot, where our view of heidi and audrina, and justin is blocked by people, and where, miraculously, audrina actually does say, “heidi, don’t leave, we’re having fun.” i am about 50/50 about whether this is a dubbed line, but the audio on mtv overdrive is not hifi enough for me to be able to tell.

  • either way, we come with a snap zoom back to the close-up of lauren from the right, reacting strongly to this. of course, if it was dubbed, she’s not actually reacting to it, but obviously audrina said something because she is reacting. she is facing left and looking left, but she is totally taking all this in out of the corner of her eye. we hear heidi say, giddy, “or i’m gonna stay!” and lauren looks up at the ceiling, beyond annoyed.

  • back to the wide shot where heidi sits down, beaming. she asks justinbobby how he’s doing.

  • back to stephanie and lauren. they are seemingly shocked and are uncomfortably laughing at, like, heidi’s audacity, or that justinbobby is sitting there. lauren looks like she’s about to explode.

  • then heidi and justinbobby are BFF! heidi talks about how “we should all hang out in a group sometime.” justinbobby says “i’m down, whenever. it’s up to this one, though.” and points at audrina. his greased lightning patois never ceases to dazzle. he doesn’t say “audrina” or “her,” he says, “this one.”

  • then a close-up of audrina clutching her giant right earring for dear life and looking all dreamy and moony and remembering the good times with JB.

  • heidi, total huckster, says, “luckily, i am talking to this woman.”

  • then, as we watch a close-up of lauren looking to the left, heidi goes even further and trots out her favorite sentence about audrina, “her and i were friends before her and lauren were friends.”

  • back to heidi and justinbobby. justinbobby says something incomprehensible. note here that he doesn’t get subtitles while everything heidi says is subtitled. zorro is mysterious, we don’t have to understand what he’s saying. or, men aren’t important, no one cares what they have to say.

  • laurie
  • back to the close-up of lauren with more heidi speech for her to react to. heidi says, “i told audrina it’s silly can’t be friends because you live with lauren. she’s like, ‘i know.'” lauren is agape.

  • jb and he
  • back to justinbobby and heidi and over them we hear lauren, finally reaching her breaking point, say, “oh my god.”

  • lauren breaks
  • back to lauren and stephanie, lauren says emphatically, “I need to leave the table, immediately,”

  • in the wide shot, lauren, consummate hostess, says, “you guys, have a great time” as she’s getting up. justinbobby and heidi, who have seemingly done their work and don’t have to talk to each other anymore but are content to just stare into space.

  • dress tug
  • in the overhead shot, we see lauren adjusting her dress and getting the hell out.

  • sad
  • lauren crosses the frame and exits stage right. stephanie scoots over next to audrina and whispers, dubbed, “i think lauren’s totally upset.” no fucking duh.

  • hair
  • whatever, i’m done with this shot for shot shit. lo and lauren meet up in the darkness of the floor and lauren, as she often does during emotional scenes running her hands through her hair, says, “i can’t pretend it’s normal that we’re all sitting together.” and that she wants to go home. because of the angle, we can see neither her face nor lo’s for the entirety of their exchange. it’s like they have merged into a unit. it also seems to me their lines are the live audio and not dubbed. lo goes to get her stuff to leave.

  • lauren stares off at the table, back at…

  • team heidi, in her base, in her light. back to…

  • try harder fail better
  • lauren, watching them and then turning away into the darkness of the mass in the club as the scene ends.

  • god that took a long time to do. what did we gain? anything? i hope. fail better.

  • morning after scene with steph and heidi is a snooze. heidi pronounces audrina differently than everyone. she says ah-drina while everybody else says aw-drina. is this because she was friends with her first?

  • the parallel lauren-lo afternoon after scene is much better, mostly because lo is wearing an absurd scarf and then in close-up unwinds it. but then they talk about getting a house and lo unloads another perky yet bitchy comment, this time about audrina. lo: “maybe she’ll bring heidi and justinbobby to the new house” and lauren gives this “egads!” kind of eyelook and then lo does a kind of pseudo-mock-serious “that’s not allowed” (kind of like her mock-chastizing of frankie for having a girlfriend a couple of weeks ago) and lauren picks up on this whiff of rigorous judgement of others actions and loves it and loves lo for it and this is why they are good friends from so long ago.

  • AUDRINA WEARS A BLACK LEATHER JACKET TO MEET JUSTIN BOBBY. HE SAYS, “LIKE YOUR LEATHERS.” HE IS WEARING A BLACK LEATHER JACKET, TOO, AND THAT STUPID HAT FROM THE CLUB. LIKE YOUR LEATHERS. ROCK AND ROLL. I AM GOING TO WRITE A SONG ABOUT AUDRINA AND IT IS GOING TO BE KIND OF STOOGE-Y AND I AM JUST GOING TO REPEAT THE WORDS “LEATHER JACKET…EYE MAKE-UP…ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLL” OVER AND OVER AGAIN OVER A REALLY HEAVY RIFF. HE SAYS, “LOOKS LIKE YOU MISSED THE BIKE, HUH?” and when she demurrs, he says in a fonz-y kind of syllabic elongation, “COME ONNNNN?” you can tell by audrina’s facial expressions that he has already won her over, that he won her over at the club, that she wants him back. he cleverly makes mention of how “no one’s been on the bike since you,” like I WONT CHEAT ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT, BABY. “I’VE GOT A SOLO SEAT,” he says, “I HAVEN’T HAD ANYBODY ON IT” audrina continues to play obsessively with her earrrings as at goa earlier. JUSTINBOBBY SAYS, “needed to get my priorities straight,” and does a sort of eye pop, like, “get it, audrina?!?” he wins her over more by coming out as anti-gossip and commenting on “all the BS that’s gone on” and she notes “i’m over all this stuff and i’ve got my own stuff and i don’t need all this drama. TO SEAL THE DEAL, JUSTINBOBBY USES METAPHORICAL LANGUAGE LIKE FROM A BAD ROCK SONG: “it’s not nice when you FALL AWAY FROM PEOPLE, but when you, kind of, REGROUP AGAIN, it’s…” audrina, finishing his sentence, vibing, on his wavelength: “…good company.” justinbobby: “absolutely.” THEY ADMIT THEY MISSED EACH OTHER. JUSTINBOBBY ASKS WHAT AUDRINA IS DOING LATER AND SHE IS ALL COY AND “I DON’T KNOW” AND HE EYE POPS AND JAW TWISTS SUGGESTIVELY AND AUDRINA LOOKS AT HIM VACANTLY BUT WITH A HINT OF SEDUCTION AND THEY PROBABLY HAVE SCREAMING FEEDBACK FLAMING GUITAR ROCK AND ROLL SEX LATER.

  • spencer and stephanie split a sandwich last week. lauren and audrina split a grapefruit this week. aww, roomies. i also love how “he didn’t burp at all” is a major improvement for JB, on par with getting off drugs. i also love the way lauren eats her grapefruit, first randomly stabbing it with a knife and then at the end of the scene doing this weird sort of modern dance routine with her spoon.

  • when audrina says, “it’s like you and jason and stephen” and lauren has her big line we’ve heard so many times in previews and promos, “no, because i stopped going back to jason,” it’s totally undercut by the fact that in the preview for this week we see her…going back to stephen. L O L.

  • and spencer is, again, on the couch. it is just great characterization, to put him in this place over and over again, to define him by it. his manner is great (“can i help you?” as if a butler and not her pseudo-ex-boyfriend). his wounded, defensive thing (“you said you were here to see steph and now you’re pretending to talk to me?”) she starts to tell her story about going to a club, the exact thing she blew up at him for doing the previous week, and he totally shuts her down (“cool, did you have fun?”), denying her the right to relate her narrative. she keeps going, playing him for sympathy and connection by talking about lauren and how stephanie made her uncomfortable by talking to lauren. he shuts her down again from his reclined position (“i know you want to vent about this, but i really have no sympathy for you. i mean, who did you expect to find at goa?”) heidi tries some of her cliches on him and he blasts her by crushing the sort of fantasy that she probably has had about lauren (“what you think you guys are going to move back in together and everything’s gonna be hunky dory?”). she is stunned silent. he goes in for the kill, says again, “no offense, i really don’t want to talk about you out at clubs,” he raises his eyebrows so high in agression, and says, “maybe you should wait for my sister to come back,” i.e. this conversation is done. heidi says her “ok, i’ve gotta go” and this time there is no dumb audrina to beg her to stay. spencer says, quasi-sarcastically, never moving from his groove in the couch, “it was great seeing you, enjoy your space,” and heidi leaves and we see her leave. walking out the door in these absurd tight, white short shorts. this particularly male gaze objectifying camera angle is picked up on by spencer, who adds, genuinely, “you look great” which gets some wordless angst from heidi as she exits.

  • at the restaurant where lauren, lo, and audrina are eating, the banner outside says “authentic” mexican. ha ha ha ha, i’ll add that to my list. silly girls, don’t they know don antonio’s is life changing mexican food?

  • that is an ugly fucking hat lauren is wearing. did she borrow that from audrina’s closet? the scene is interesting at first because what lauren is tacitly trying to do is to convince lo that audrina should not live with them (by telling stories about JB). but of course, it’s been obvious from the inception of the idea that lo, as lauren’s oldest, dearest friend, doesn’t want audrina in the house and needs no such convincing. what lauren, in that UGLY PINK HAT is doing, is convincing herself that audrina should not live in the house, even as she’s about to invite audrina to live in the house (lauren just doesn’t want to be happy!). they pause talking shit about audrina’s dirty boys when audrina herself appears. she is stuck in the middle of them in her black garb with her dark hair, flanked by blondes in white clothes giving her the third degree about her morality and relationship choices.  she tells lo about going out with justinbobby and lo questions her with an authenticity thing, “really?” and audrina looks to lauren for help and lauren is just staring, silent, sipping her drink and playing with the straw. and honestly, i’ve never really liked audrina, but it’s pretty awful how they are ambushing her here, bumrushing her, and you know part of it is for the cameras, like they could be a lot more subtle and less “mean girls” but they are playing it up because they’ve seen “mean girls” and the editor and the producers are playing it up too. and god, all the awkward stares and drink sips and pregnant pauses, which are actually effective satirized by the remix on “the hills:aftershow” and the scene ends with lauren and lo just chewing their food awkwardly and not talking but poor audrina, ahdrina if you’re heidi and awdrina if you’re everybody else – she has no food to chew, she’s having soup, and it hasn’t even arrived yet. le pain quotidien, indeed.

my song this week is called “sadness” and it is about sadness. i watched that documentary about daniel johnston last weekend and really loved it and was moved by it. afterward i wrote this song in about 5 minutes and this is the first take i recorded. it’s no daniel johnston, but i was happy with it.

[splashcast OAAY5991HA YBIW9338LU]

  • hey, it’s a “whitney does a good job” episode! to be more specific, it’s “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job, but then does a good job.”
  • the fact that the episode was centered around this big event (“the fashion show”) basically precluded anything really interesting happening. like, take the scene before the first break where whitney and lauren are making gift bags. for the scene to be interesting, there would have be something else going on, some other element. for example, in episode 7 there’s a scene where ostensibly the girls are scouting locations, but this is just a pretense that breaks down immediately and lauren starts talking about a boy or something and whitney makes appropriate dazzling facial expressions. the scene this episode, though, is just about making gift bags. ok. same deal with the scene where whitney is learning how to seat a crowd. i guess maybe these scenes serve to build up the idea that “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” but i just don’t feel like that’s enough. i wasn’t bored, but i wasn’t particularly engaged, either.
  • the exception to the above is the exchange backstage between whitney and lauren where lauren is just like saying combinations of numbers at whitney (“7 and 1…7 and 11…i’m 7, you’re 1″) and whitney is like omg. hilarious.
  • i’m not sure how i feel about the “dramatic” centerpiece this episode, with the frantic intercutting between whitney racing around flustered and lauren trying to call her on a walkie talkie. i have talked previously about how intercutting like this breaks the unity of scene and seems too showy for “the hills” style. in addition, all the big sweeping overhead shots were wrong; this show is at its best when it’s at its most intimate; think “cathedral” and not cathedrals. still, there was a good rhythm, and if the only drama in this episode was going to be “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” then this was probably the best way to milk it for all it was worth.
  • did you notice any interesting celebrities? i only saw (i think) hayden panettiere (juicy). that was a fucking ugly hat hillary duff was wearing. is she like a rasta now or something?
  • before “america’s next top model” and “project runway” and “a model life” i bet the shots of backstage at the fashion show would have felt so insidery and revealing and cool. but now, with reality shows and with this wikipedia level of knowledge that everyone thinks they have of everything, you really have to push harder to defamiliarize the world.
  • the scenes with heidi and nondescript work friend were placeholder-y. there were a couple interesting spots in the lunch (“spencer’s just taking me out for a surprise dinner”), but i felt like heidi was really overselling the whole “what is up with my life omg???”discomfort.
  • heidi’s remark about how she “feels like she should be turning 25 right now, you know” will, i’m sure, rouse some fresh ire from the blogs, but i found it kind of poignant.
  • the heidi and spencer dinner was also pretty blah. the best part was when it cut back to them at the end of the episode and spencer is twiddling on his cell phone and heidi, disconnected, eats cake and unfolds her napkin and drinks water and pushes glasses around on the table.
  • also i found it interesting when spencer asked heidi, “what’s that face?” everyone knows what that means in the real world, but it takes on a whole other dimension when you live in “the hills.” what’s that face? like, are you projecting that face at me or are you trying to telegraph it for the cameras? is it how you genuinely feel or is it the mood you’re trying to set for the show or is it a combination of the two? are you going to be doing this face later when we’re at home? etc. etc. etc.
  • i have a bad memory and watching this episode i was struck by the idea that, hey, wasn’t audrina like public enemy number one at the beginning of last season? or was that the end of the first season? i don’t know, but either way, it’s funny because it’s like it never happened, it’s like the past doesn’t exist. it’s kind of the way that i have absolutely no memory of heidi’s asshole boyfriend from season 1, like nothing, he is a blank. i should probably rent the DVDs or something.
  • audrina and justinbobby were adorable in their “rocker” outfits. the problem with the concert scene was that there was no emotional context. the combination of that lack of emotion, the focus on the band instead of on justinbobby/audrina, and audrina’s line, “I wanna get their CD so I can take it into Epic,” which is subtitled so as to just beat us over the head: it all tastes like really bad product placement.
  • this impression was reinforced with awfully artificial staging and composition outside the club. like, oh yeah, of course, the guys in the band are casually chatting outside the club, completely ignorant of the the camera and tripod three feet behind them. audrina approaches, walking directly towards the camera. ugh. later, at the bar, i also didn’t like the staginess of the two guys in the band talking “in the distance,” the camera capturing them in the mirror. just felt like too much.
  • when audrina first sits down at the bar, it’s like everyone in the room is paying attention to her. which makes sense, she’s the TV star after all. but in every other scene she’s in, she’s always playing second fiddle to lauren, always in the background. yet here she is, holding court, repeating the name of her funny drink order over and over again, fending off suitors, and you really get the sense that she is loving it, feeding off the attention in a way that she hasn’t before.
  • and who is this rocker dude? this is his rock star game, to ask “where are you from” and to say, squeakily, that there’s “always an after-after party”? and then asking permission from her boyfriend to ask her out? you just played a hot show to a packed club and you’re soberly hitting on a girl with a boyfriend? of course the obvious answer is that he’s doing this to get screentime/appease the producers, that he could care less about audrina and, in fact, maybe he’s so stiff and lame because he’s having a real internal crisis like “whoah am i selling out??” like “bro, i thought i was an artist but, what, now i’m on this soap opera?” it could be that, like something out of “kaya,” but he also plays a pretty convincing wuss. justinbobby has more rock/roll in the grease in his hair than this dude has in his whole body.
  • speaking of, justinbobby was hilarious. he is always good. the staccato clip of his laugh. flicking his tongue back and forth. the variation (“she’s a really good girl…she’s a really good person”) and repetition (“she’s pretty good…she’s pretty good”)
  • although, watching it again, now i think that the second time that justinbobby says “she’s pretty good,” is actually just the clip of him saying it the first time replayed, separated by a cutaway to another angle. a reminder, of course, that the editor is creating the character as much as the performer. duh, i know, but it’s interesting to see it in a tangible way.
  • “the hills” as achievable fantasy. now i will trot out the “sex and the city” comparison, for the umpteenth time. for the majority of the young audience of “the hills,” envisioning yourself in the world of “sex and the city” is complete fantasy; those women have Careers, they have Jobs. any dream we have of living their lives right now is as far fetched as thinking about being an alien or an astronaut. but for teens and twentysomethings, the fantasy that’s set forth in “the hills” is achievable, it’s the fantasy we can allow ourselves to have. we can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the world of “sex and the city”: to be a lawyer or the curator of an art gallery or a PR exec or a freelance writer who can somehow buy really expensive shoes and lay around her apartment all day. but what we can imagine is what it’s like to be an intern, at a record company or a PR firm or a magazine. what are lauren and audrina? interns. what were heidi and whitney just last season? interns. lauren and audrina’s apartment is nice and everything, but how different is it from an apartment that you’ve lived in or that someone you knew in college lived in? how much nicer is it, how much of a distance is there really? unless you lived in the sticks or something, i bet not that much. it’s not like it’s crazy blinged out or something; it’s the midpoint between middle class and the “back to school” spread in seventeen magazine. it’s fantasy, but it’s not a fantasy that makes you ache with jealousy to imagine.
  • and like so much of “the hills,” of course, this is an illusion. i’m sure these people are rolling in money, i bet heidi’s birthday dinner cost more than i spend on food in a month, but at the same time, the show makes it feel like they’re in a situation that’s only once or twice removed from my own. enough to make it glamorous but not to make it foreign.
  • the bread and butter of this blog is close reading and not my crackpot theorizing or shallow musings, but in this episode there really wasn’t an awful lot to read close. hopefully more next week.

in the player is a song i wrote called “won’t you please be friends.” it’s about how lauren and heidi should be friends again. i have never written a song about “the hills” because i thought it would seem kind of weird and obsessive, but who am i kidding? my friend alicia and i used to play music together and we once tried to write a song about alex h. from laguna beach and her existential crisis about how nobody knew her last name. notice in the picture audrina’s velvet underground t-shirt – nice. it makes me want to do a cover of “i found a reason” but change the spoken word part to be about lo. i also tried to do a cover of “wave’ by patti smith except about lauren instead of the pope, but it sounded too creepy, even for me.

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  • there are only and will only ever be two whitney stories and that’s horrible and depressing. because of the fact that she doesn’t want her personal life to be featured on the show, the two stories are “whitney does a good job at work” and “whitney does a bad job at work.” that’s it. sometimes there are interesting permutations, like the episode i love where she walks on GMA and trips, which is “whitney does a good job at work and then is rewarded for it” or this episode, which is “whitney appears to do a bad job at work but actually she does a good job.” but really it’s very limited.
  • it’s a shame because she does such wonders with work, chained to her desk and computer screen, and i just feel like let me see her in the world, let me see how she lives. my favorite scene of the entire “hills” is when she’s eating sushi with lauren and heidi and she’s making a mess of it and it’s just like a hologram projecting out from the screen. what would a whitney date scene be like? what about a fight or a break-up? what is whitney like when she gets emotional – what is the tone of her voice, the pitch? when she’s mad, how does she signify it, what does she do with her eyes, how does she hold her arms, is her mouth open or closed? how does she flirt?
  • in one way, she’s the one whose life is most mediated – we’re only allowed to see this little slice, the office and maybe a tiny fragment of a night out at les deux or a barbeque. in a narrative sense, nothing ever happens to her besides the aforementioned work stories; she’s just an echo-box for lauren’s monologues. she’s completely inessential to the plot and yet i cannot imagine watching the show without her. part of me thinks she’s essential to creating a veneer of authenticity. part of me thinks she gives the more reserved members of the audience a character to identify with who’s not as dramatic as heidi or lauren. part of me just likes something about her.
  • i have been having trouble with my bloated, lengthy “kaya”/”sex and the city”/”the hills” three-way-cage-match post, but based on the title of this episode or the new york vistas (“stress and the city,” to wit, MTV), i had this blip:
  • lauren – carrie. heidi – charlotte. audrina – samantha. whitney – miranda.
  • i have made the carrie-lauren comparison multiple times this season, based on lauren’s increasing confidence and screen presence, but i had never thought to connect the dots to the other girls. this all totally obvious, but carrie-lauren is the narrator who once had an Important relationship and carries the louis vuitton baggage as she tries to find new men who can equal what it once was. heidi-charlotte wants to get married to a stable rich dude who she loves despite his personal issues (see the comparison of WASP-west hollywood in the previous post). audrina-samantha is sluttier than the rest of her friends and is attracted to more dangerous types. whitney-miranda is type A, awkward, and a workaholic, yet charming. [ed: i checked and realized this was already kind of done in a comment in that old gawker piece but it’s a necessary segue into my shallow personal recollections so i’m leaving it] at college we watched hours and hours of sex and the city and since this was a house of dudes, in order to justify our heterosexuality we would take turns saying “oh yeah, she’s hot” or “damn, she’s hot” or “she’s pretty hot, but not as hot in that last scene.” also, of course, fuck-marry-kill debates. i was never into carrie bradshaw because i’ve never been attracted to a woman with curly hair (i am still waiting). i would always say that i wanted to have sex with charlotte and in theory i am really attracted to that WASPy thing, but i am way too middle class for that shit to work in anything but a fantasy. really i would get along best with miranda if only she had better hairstyling/clothes. obviously i would kill samantha – that’s what we all always chose. you could probably read that as an unconscious male response to the threat of female sexual liberation, but really i read it as samantha was always the most campy and least real of the characters and then there was that awful cancer subplot in the later seasons which seemed soapy and just did nothing for me.
  • brody jenner and frankie delgado were on “keeping up with the kardashians” this week. brody was pretty subpar but there was a fun scene where frankie delgado videotapes brody jenner’s little half sisters they gyrate around a stripper pole and pull up their shirts, faux-flashing him. from behind the lens, he tells them he’s going to “put it on youtube” and make them stars. writing it like that makes it sound all dirty, but really it was fairly adorable. i am no moralist but i do not think chris jenner seems like a very good role model.
  • i like after lisa love tells the girls that they’re going to new york to meet amy astley, when they get back to their office they talk about what they’re going to wear. whitney says “as soon as she was like you’re going to new york, i just, like, my closet ran through my brain, i was like oh my god, what am i gonna wear” and lauren immediately echoes the sentiment, noting that she has a dress in her closet specially picked out already. it’s the kind of genuine detail that’s crucial; it has nothing to do with advancing the plot but has everything to do with establishing the girls as flesh and blood (and hair and make-up, of course)
  • the spencer-frankie confrontation was a snooze-fest, as was the scene after with heidi and spencer. will this show go to a fourth season? if it does, will heidi and spencer remain or be forced out? this season, they’re integral, the show wouldn’t be near as popular without “team heidi” and “team lauren” but can they continue? how long can this tension be sustained without a resolution or without new plot twists? the obvious arc seems like the last episodes of this season plant some seeds of lauren and heidi coming together again and then the next season would follow that through its natural progression. but what if this doesn’t happen (in real life, i mean), what if they just can’t get it together, what if they hate each other that much? spin-off, i say. i am working on a post with a model of how “the hills” aftershow should be, but it could just as easily be how the heidi and spencer spin-off could be.
  • the helicopter shots of the moving cab in new york were interesting. usually it feels obvious that the landscape shots are second unit stuff, that they’re shot separately and are separate from the action itself. they’re frames for the scenes, not part of them. here, by cutting between close-ups of lauren in the cab and the helicopter shots, the editing is implying that it’s lauren’s cab, which obviously it isn’t. this is another example of how something that’s incredibly common in film grammar feels foreign to the “hills” house style. (it doesn’t help that after the show comes back from break, there are a couple less than perfect lighting and color correction matches)
  • one thing watching “kaya” has taught me is how movement through space is captured in “the hills”. in the first episode of “kaya” there’s a scene where kaya stomps across a parking garage, followed by her dad. kaya accomplishes this with dolly shots; the camera moves through space as kaya does. in this episode of “the hills”at the marc jacobs office, lauren and kate waters walk down a hallway. instead of a tracking shot, this is accomplished by cutting between two basically static cameras at the end of the hallway, a long shot and a medium shot.
  • amy astley and co., unlike lisa love, understand how they are supposed to behave as magazine editors in this post “devil wears prada” world. love the reactions shots, great faces, perfectly shot, well cut. i wonder if these people look so annoyed because they are 1) hamming it up for the sake of the scene 2) hipper-than-thou and pissed that they have to be on this trendy television show 3) genuinely unimpressed with whitney’s plan for the event. or some combination of the above. the hundred wonderful ways that whitney has of saying “um…yeah…so”
  • marc jacobs’ wireless mic pack sticking out over the top of the sweatpants in his scene. the extended shot of him walking away that ends the scene, who chose this? did he practice, did he rehearse, did he get walking tips like on “a model life”? were there multiple takes because watching playback he didn’t think his ass looked good in one of them?
  • i liked the line in the church where lisa love talked about covering up the confessionals. she obviously feels the same way i do about talking heads. she also redeemed past woodenness with her winking delivery of the line “well, it was very dressy, wasn’t it?” followed by a shot of whitney openmouthed confused followed by a shot of lauren doing a minute sympathetic lipflip.
  • the impeccably lit/composed wide shot of spencer when he calls brody. it feels like so much work for a tiny bit of plot connective tissue.
  • i didn’t like the look of the last scene. i don’t know if it was the low light making the grain of the video a little more apparent or just lax color tuning, but it felt flat and gray where it should have been warm and rich. i liked the scene, though. when brody jenner said “i’ll always be there for you and you’ll always be there for me” and lauren nodded against his chest, it made me want to do a torch song cover of the “friends” theme. the last close-up of her is great, it really gets the texture of her hair. and then i like in the closing medium shot how after a minute her hand comes in from the right side of the frame holding the remote, changing the channel; they’re not looking off wistfully into the distance, they’re watching TV, just like us. of course, judging by the shots we’ve already seen, they are watching the TV between the bodies of the three cameramen who are trained on their every move, but still, it’s romantic.
  • my favorite part of the preview for next week was when some guy who’s interested in audrina asks justinbobby “what’s your situation with audrina” and justinbobby says, subtitled, “she’s pretty good.” genius. subtitles are not used on “the hills” for clarity, i don’t think, because usually what’s being said is pretty clear (and if it’s not, they could just dub it anyway). instead, subtitles make the lines pop that little bit more; they’re the equivalent of pink highlighter on a three-hole-punched love note.

in the player is a song called “danny devito, let’s eat some doritos.” i basically had this vision where i was in a buddy comedy with danny devito and we were hungry. i thought for a second about it being “danny devito, let’s eat a burrito” but i thought doritos were a funnier image (imagine danny devito at blackjack table and he’s got that neon orange coating on his fingers and he’s trying to play but he’s getting the cards dirty and maybe the dealer thinks he’s marking them and throws him out and he sits outside on the curb licking his hands and wiping them on his hawaiian shirt). also i am in favor of product placement. i don’t really know a lot about danny devito besides the penguin and “it’s always sunny in philadephia,” but he seems affable. i also don’t know where the weird accent came from – maybe camera obscura, who i have been listening to while i jog. i wish i could hit the high notes in the chorus without getting screechy. i’m sure you do too.

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  • what was that thing whitney was wearing during her first scene with lauren? underneath it was like this white knit tanktop and over that was this weird three quarter sleeve thin purple bathrobe terry cloth i-don’t-even-know. dear teen vogue, is grandma couture the new “in” look?
  • during the second season of the hills, lauren’s abilities at face and eye performance were completely overshadowed by heidi. she has matched and probably surpassed heidi now, but her saving grace as a performer then was the use of her voice. it’s still wonderfully expressive. that scene with audrina is superficially a conversation, but, like a lot of her scenes with whitney, it’s really just a chance for lauren to do a self-defining monologue. note how in the beginning she really doesn’t do anything with the tone of her voice and then slowly increases the amount of inflection (“i’m still really Broken”) culminating in this intense stress on her words when she was “i mean I made my roommate move OUT. like she couldn’t even LIVE with ME” all of this visually mirrored with the wild gesticulations of her hands. the look she gives audrina at the end, with the questioning eyes, is like the look a hopeful actress gives a casting director when she knows she’s done a good read. imagine someday young actresses preparing lauren conrad scenes as monologues to use for auditions.
  • i was totally kreskin about lo’s character, as last episode i said “i see lo really coming into her type as that sort of ‘mom’ girl in the group,” and this week at the end of their scene lauren calls her “momma lo.”
  • what’s weird in the lo scene is that lo is really acting as a sort of surrogate lauren. she’s giving the same kind of advice that lauren has given to audrina and heidi – stay away from this person, why are you meeting up with this person – and she’s doing it with the same level of emotional attachment and guilt that lauren uses, so much so that lauren seems to get slightly annoyed and goes on the defensive (see the way she cocks her head to the side and rolls her eyes as she says “i’m not throwing myself back in, i’m just going to lunch with her”).
  • look at the calendar in brent bolthouse’s office. there’s like nothing on there, how is this business successful? i take this as proof to support my notion that is just a potemkin office, a set. heidi’s expressions are priceless in that scene. the way she furrows her brow and narrows her eyes, it’s like by talking about work he’s speaking a foreign language.
  • loved the small moment at the beginning of the jen bunny scene with the cream spreading in the coffee. it’s something every sensual human being enjoys watching in real life and it’s really underutilized in representations, i think, except probably in a lot of shitty amateur photography. tangentially, the first shot of the episode, of the teen vogue office, was like paul strand shooting a company catalog.
  • the jen/lauren scene was great. i loved the line about the friendship bracelet and the subsequent cutting/framing around the awkward pause.
  • rare meta-reference when lauren says “truth and time tells all.” i want to talk about this in detail but i’ve been working on a long thing i’ll be putting up later this week about narrative self consciousness and “the hills.” it is kind of my unified field theory of “the hills” and it features lots of pictures of the girls in lingerie.
  • purely for the plot, i hope that it was brody who started the rumors. i mean it’s way more logical that it was spencer, but we need soap style reversals here.
  • the ends of the two spencer heidi scenes were both great. in the first one, spencer sums up the conversation they’ve been having by saying “lesson learned – you can’t depend on anybody.” the camera cuts from a close-up of him saying this to a medium shot. her mouth is wide open, because of the make-up partially but also because even she realizes that’s kind of an insane thing to say, like losing faith in elodie is losing faith in the entire human race (except spencer of course). then it cuts back to spencer who nods along in approval of his own point.
  • the end of their second scene is even better. heidi says, as the closing music builds in the background, “i just think it’s so sad that they’re blaming you.” cut to spencer, who is looking down and rubbing his eyes and generally avoiding heidi’s gaze, which causes her to qualify what’s she saying with a questioning “right?” the camera stays on him as he continues to look away until heidi says “spencer” and he glances at her. cut on his look back to heidi, who’s staring at him imploringly. a split second before the next cut, her eyes squint a little, as if to say “hold on.” back to spencer, who has locked eyes with heidi. he does this devilish smile and this really slight little nod, as if to say “uh huh.” back to heidi, whose pupils spin around in her eye sockets as she deals with this information, then she shifts her body and drops her head, as if willfully, for her sanity, trying to block out this moment.
  • justinbobby totally has the presence to anchor his own spinoff, but to have to deal with that would be like “staticky” and like not “happy and blissful and mellow” enough, so i doubt it’ll materialize. it’s interesting that i find myself judging the boyfriends’ morality by how much they want be on a TV show. like spencer really wants to be on TV = he is a bad person. brody jenner kind of wants to be on TV = he is kind of a bad person. justinbobby really doesn’t care about being on TV = he is a “real” person. yet it’s the goal of every decent american person to be on television and they can’t all be bad people – it’s entirely possible that the hypothetical perfect guy for lauren is a kind, decent person and also a total exhibitionist narcissist. and we’ll all say that he’s wrong for her, that he’s “just doing it to be on TV,” when really that’s only half of it.
  • possible halloween costumes for hills’ cast: brent bolthouse – lurch. whitney – a ghost (traditional, a sheet). heidi and spencer – m & m’s (cliché but appropriately so). audrina – sluttier elvira. i don’t know about lauren, it seems like she’s beyond costumes. maybe a transformer. last year on halloween i went to a broken social scene concert and i wore black vinyl pants and a black vinyl jacket and a lou reed tee-shirt and a batman cape and mask. the rough concept was hipster batman but the execution was me sweating to death in sticky vinyl and feeling like i was going to die and having an awful headache from music that was way louder than necessary.
  • this is getting harder.

in the player is a song called “all the ugly people in the world should be shot.” the original title was “disposable love” and that’s really what the song is about, but obviously “all the ugly people in the world should be shot” is a more attention grabbing title, so there. umberto eco has a new book about ugly people and why ugly people are more interesting than beautiful people. wait, i’ve heard this one, it’s cause they’ve got better personalities, right? no, eco says that ugliness is more interesting because there’s an infinite variation to ugliness while there’s an end limit to beauty (that golden section kind of bone structure, i guess?) ((and obviously the book is a load of complicated semiotics and shit but i am just going by the yahoo news interview here)). i disagree with eco, although i like his one-liner about how it’s less distracting to write about ugly people (“I was not disturbed by sexual desires.”). i do think that the sign of a truly progressive, radical cinema would involve all of the stars being really ugly, like not just quirky or strange or freaky but flat out mundane uggos like you see on line at the supermarket. i certainly wouldn’t want to watch that sort of thing (it makes my skin crawl just to think about it), but i would respect the statement.

(and really i’m just kidding, i love ugly people! at zoos, i wave and feed them pellets through the bars of their cages.)

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  • spencer, a star? whatever you think of his black, black heart, he killed in that climactic scene at don antonio’s, under the tarnished, dying sun. his eyes! my god! the way that, because of the highlights catching in them, you could see the slightest movements of his pupils as they tracked over heidi’s face, barely holding back the tears.
  • that scene was a total continuation of the swapped parody of traditional gender roles thing i was talking about two weeks ago. heidi, the businesswoman, has to leave the anniversary dinner to go to work and spencer, the househusband, is upset (“i say it’s rude to answer the phone at anniversary dinners.”) and has an emotional outburst (she says “i love you,” he says “no you don’t”). i love this costume for heidi. where is the chewed up stogie in the corner of her mouth? when will she start complaining about her ulcer and knocking back double scotches when she gets back to the condo at night?
  • it’s great how heidi is shot at bolthouse, always through the door of her office. it’s claustrophobic, it emphasizes how isolated she is from everyone and how out of place she is. simple but effective.
  • fascinating how people in “the hills” can’t seem to tear their eyes away from their computer screens while conducting dramatic scenes in a television show. you see it most often at teen vogue with whitney and lauren (whitney makes a fetish of it, almost), but it’s also in heidi’s scene with brent bolthouse in this episode. when she does it in that scene, it’s like the equivalent of a sixth-grader smacking gum or something.
  • lauren, as always, works wonders with her operatic eye movements. notice at the end of her scene with frankie, when he’s trying to convince her to hook up with brody jenner. the whole scene, she’s been projecting this mask of like “oh, you’re full of shit, frankie, whatever.” then he breaks through the armor. her first look is this head tilt with an imploring upwards full-eyed stare. then there’s a cut, and in the next shot, her eyes are to the right, as if she’s accessing her memories of brody and processing this new information, trying to filter out truth. then she closes her eyes and when she flips them back open, she looks at frankie for a second, one last question mark to his intentions, and then she looks out the window as she sips her drink, fantasizing about the possibilities.
  • brody jenner is decent on “the hills,” though he’s no justinbobby. he’s having to play a kind of good guy here, but i think he probably defaults to more of an asshole. i liked his aborted fox reality show “the princes of malibu” in which he and his rich brother did fun and wasteful rich guy things to fuck with his rich dad. it was formulaic, but fun. (ed: whoah, i totally didn’t realize that the spencer who was brody jenner’s loser friend on “princes of malibu” was actually spencer from “the hills”. trippy. maybe more on this in the future)
  • the scene with elodie and heidi was interesting on a number of levels. like for example, elodie’s line “so you want me to cover for you” is obviously looped. now, if she’s really a person that hates heidi, can you imagine what it would feel like for her to have to take time out of her day to go rerecord this looping? standing in the recording booth, fuming. maybe the producers have even scheduled heidi to record right before her, so as elodie is smoking a last nervous cigarette outside the building, heidi walks out in her sunglasses and they have a terse exchange.
  • and i continue to get this “six characters in search of an author” style meta-drama from elodie. it’s not like she hates heidi the person, it’s like she hates heidi the character. she plots to mess up plots. when she goes “duh duh duh,” when heidi walks in, it’s like she’s trying to insert her own music cue.
  • even though the elodie plot twist was stupid and fake(how did heidi, who has a management position at this small company, not know that an employee was quitting) it was necessary and the end result (the scene with spencer at don antonios) was totally worth it. in the previews, lauren talks about how she needs friends with “less drama”, and it’s interesting to think about the multiple meanings of that word. because the person lauren needs friends with less drama, but, of course, the character doesn’t. while i would be happy watching an episode of the hills that’s just lauren and whitney going to the grocery store and buying groceries, i think most people need the drama. the hills is successful because it’s one-half this fascinating discovery channel nature documentary about young rich kids and it’s one-half this crack-like addictive soap opera, with simple and obvious but powerful storytelling.
  • the editing in the “introducing vegas” montage felt too self conscious to me. cutting with the descending bassline of the song? i don’t know. although i probably wouldn’t have put a song about las vegas in an episode about las vegas (except maybe that old tearjerker “leaving las vegas” for some slight irony ala the piano ballad version of “girls just wanna have fun” in the season two premiere)
  • i liked the way lauren kissing brody was handled. it’s like i’ve said, the way the “hills” aesthetic represents things is different than anything else in film or television. in the beginning, there are these close-ups of lauren and brody doing faces, like the way chimpanzees slap themselves before mating. then there’s a short shot of audrina watching, which is so realistic and true. then the cut back to a close-up of lauren, alone in the frame with the flashing lights. as she turns her head, the look on her face starts to turn, as, off-frame, brody puts his arm around her neck. and the resulting kiss fills the frame and it’s awkward, all we can really see is hair, but that adds to the veneer of the real. then the next shot is this completely left-field medium shot of lauren’s back, which is notable because you see the muscles in brody’s forearm flex as he pulls lauren in. then back to the previous shot, where lauren is looking down, squinting and touching her nose. then back to audrina, who is like “well, as a viewer of this show i was really waiting for that to happen” and then back to lauren, who is staring into brody’s eyes and it’s notable because besides this big smile and wide eyes, she’s not doing any of her face acting histrionics, she’s still.
  • and the choices lauren makes, like the way she plays with her cup in the final scene with brody, holding it on his stomach as if it’s going to rest there all night because he’s stable, then deciding to put it somewhere else.
  • there was no whitney in this episode. bullshit
  • part of the problem with discussing the nature of performance on the hills is that there’s not a good lexicon and i am constantly having to attach qualifiers to the things that i saw. i am thinking of some compounds i would like to coin, including faukward (faux-akward) and fauthentic (you get it). i got this idea from the delightful slang usage of “britney” in this episode (“i just saw lo’s britney.”).
  • poor jill. i’m sure she’s absolutely a lovely person, but if people even noticed her, she’s going to go down in history as lauren’s ugly friend. i wonder if she watched the show with her friends and family, what they said? did they silently eat popcorn and look at each other for positive encouraging things to say? she isn’t even named until the second scene she appears in, like she’s not important enough to be named right away! and when she is named, she’s off to the side of the frame; the camera’s focus is obviously not on her. i am working on a piano ballad called “all the ugly people in the world should be shot.” it is really upbeat and peppy.
  • speaking of types (“the ugly friend”), i see lo really coming into her type as that sort of “mom” girl in the group, you know, the one who plans stuff (“okay, first bet, first bet. the first person to make justinbobby smile…wins!”) and is always trying to get everybody excited for things and then takes it really badly when things go wrong. usually when an actor is playing to type that’s bad, because they’re not doing anything we haven’t seen a thousand times. but lo is great because she’s using specifics to reveal what is universal (like drunk lauren hitting on the british guy). she’s doing what we’ve seen a thousand times, but instead of making it look like the thousandth time, she’s making it look like all of the thousand times added together and then divided by a thousand. i’m not good at math.
  • though the looping of lo’s lines at the pool was crazy. it’s like they didn’t even treat the sound to try to to make it like it was recorded outside. maybe the editors think that if they continue to be more and more bold with their looping, it will just become natural, we’ll stop noticing, eventually the show can be like that fellini myth, where the actors just say “1, 2, 3, 4″ and all the dialogue is added later.
  • the revolving bed was really underused as a staging device. it should have been going through the entire “justinbobby hates us!” scene, with the cameramen in an arc around the bed, catching this rotating tableaux. but then lo might have puked, so i guess i understand.
  • i thought that the season was about to end and i was really palm-sweat panicked about it. i had planned a whole week of activities like a second grade teacher, and then like any idiot i googled my concern and found out that there are 9 episodes left. my hands have stopped shaking.
  • in other breaking news from that three month old press release, ‘kaya’! from the previews, i think tony di santo, who is otherwise a fucking genius, is really wrong about this show, which is listed in the press release as a “pet project.” it looks dated and bad and the lead is not that good looking or talented seeming. the actors play things so big when compared to the subtlety of the hills; it looks like bad community theater. the promo for it i saw tonight had stepped back from proudly describing it (with bold text and a voice-over) as “m.t.v.’s new scripted drama” to simply calling it (no voice-over) “m.t.v.’s new show,” which is at least a baby step in the right direction. as if the audience for “the hills” wants to watch a scripted drama. maybe have the lead actress get caught doing a couple of bumps in the bathroom of area and get some real life drama going, some buzz. the promo for the tila tequila show was incredible, though. the other show i am most looking forward to is “pageant place.”

in the player is my cover of “imitation of life” by r.e.m. i have never been a huge r.e.m. fan although my favorite episode of that ‘iconoclasts’ show on sundance was definitely the one with michael stipe and mario batali. there’s a great, absurd shot of the two of them riding on batali’s vespa, stipe either putting his arms around batali’s rotundity or maybe nervously hanging on to the back (one time i rode stoned up a steep hill on the back of vespa trying to hold onto the back because i didn’t want to look gay and i don’t know if i’ve ever been so scared). i like how nervous michael stipe seems during the whole thing, there’s a part where he’s sweating in the back of a limo and it’s like he’s in a teen movie on his way to pick up his prom date. it’s really endearing. and there’s a scene in a pretentious indie record store where he is awkwardly shopping for CDs and he’s talking to pretentious indie record clerk and he looks awkward and uncomfortable and i have felt exactly that feeling. anyway, this is the one r.e.m. song that i really love. i know there is some cryptic ambiguity to the lyrics about the nature of celebrity and the cost of fame and the fleeting joy of the hollywood experience but really all i hear is the major key chorus and the hooks. this is my attitude about a lot of things – all i (want to) hear is the hooks.

p.s. i broke down and bought the ‘us weekly’ with the heidi interview at the supermarket. i stuck it under a bag of dog food like it was porn. i wanted the ‘seventeen’ interview with lauren more but i was not prepared for the look i thought i might get for buying ‘seventeen’. anyway the rest of the interview was not that great at all, they really excerpted the good things on the website. there was one good answer, when ‘us weekly’ asked “Does Spencer like your bigger chest?” and she says “I think any guy would be excited! He was like, “I loved you before and you looked great before, and I love you now and you look great now.” what a diplomat. there were also several unsubtle pictures of her boobs.

[splashcast MRDJ5167JJ TRCU7740GR]

  • god that was bad. what happened?
  • the looping was just ridiculous. i caught the tail end of an episode of “newport beach” the other day and there was this climactic scene where a teenage girl was in the jacuzzi with her new boyfriend at night. and they’re doing the kind of awkward glancing that this form does so well and then the camera cuts to a wide shot so we can’t see her eyes or her mouth or the expression on her face and she tells him, “i’m a virgin” and the line is looped. and it’s not like the producers are trying to redirect what the scene’s about; the next shot is the natural reaction of the cool manly surfer dude to her letting him know she’s still pocketing the v-card. i guess there was just obviously something about the way the girl said she was a virgin that just wasn’t an acceptable reading and what it really makes you wonder is how she said it, what words she used, what tone, what the look in her eyes was, how she was breathing, what she did with her hands. and i thought that was some pretty bold looping, but after this shit tonight…
  • because really, I have no problem with looping as it’s usually done on “the hills.” i usually mention it here because noticing it is part of a thorough analysis of “the hills” and also because it raises interesting questions about televisual reality.
  • and one question it really raises is, why not just reshoot the scenes? if there’s eventually going to be looping in every episode anyway, why not just do another take or two on location? maybe that’s interfering with the reality of these girls’ lives too much (maybe it’s in their contracts), but god, how is it really that different than them looping the lines later? i don’t think the authenticity division of the LAPD is going to show up at Teen Vogue and shut down the shoot.
  • and so many dropped-in lines that aren’t necessary, that don’t make any sense, like the editor all of a sudden developed tourettes. like in the scene where heidi and jen bunny are looking for bridesmaid dresses, they enter the dress shop and as the door closes, they drop in heidi saying “oh, i can’t wait to show you this dress.” this is necessary for…continuity, context? she wants to show her a dress? no shit, that’s why they’re at the dress shop! the audience can make this connection, kuleshov figured all this out like 90 years ago and he didn’t even have final cut pro. and then as she stands trying on the dress in front of a mirror, they drop in another line, heidi saying “my heart is beating so fast.” stop with the cliché placeholder dialogue! please, give me some odd framings of her face and her eyes and a short cut to her hand gripping the tulle and play under the whole thing an anxious but marketable emo-ballad and i will feel that her heart is beating.
  • john gardner describes the goal of fiction as creating “a vivid and continuous dream’. i think john gardner was a conservative jerk who would’ve hated meta-tv like “the hills” and i don’t agree with him on principle, but, still, there’s something to that line that describes why dubbing fucked up tonight’s show so royally. the dubbing was so obvious that i have to believe that even a viewer who has the least possible knowledge of the mechanics of television production was going “what the hell is going on?” and when that happens, all dramatic tension dissipates.
  • any good things about the episode? the first scene was great. there was this excellent push pull editing between jason’s bullshit and lauren’s reactions. her eye moves and head bobs were all perfectly pitched. really all the stuff between lauren and jason was good (i never thought i would say jason was the best part of an episode). the “we’re taking shots” montage was really well done, there was a great shot of audrina holding her nose. the speidi shopping spree was okay and what a fantastic line out of left field when spencer says “i think we need to go to tibet” (is tibet still in? it seems so woodstock ’99). what if they had this total brangelina moment and went all granola and spencer grew out one of those monk beard/pony tail combos! the lauren and whitney scene at the end was decent, although the last smile is way too big to come so abruptly, it’s a little scary.
  • i have made clear my feelings that whitney is the best performer on the show and this is obviously “the whitney episode” of this season, in the same way as that episode in the second season where whitney is picked to be a model on “good morning america” and walks and falls and recovers and its adorable and it’s touching, etc. and that episode was great. this episode sucked, not because of whitney, but because she had nothing to work with. wooden lisa love (hasn’t she seen ‘the devil wears prada’, doesn’t she know how she’s suppposed to act)? bland “artist you oughta know” pop-punk band (i’m just guessing) where the only one who talks seems like a less interesting clone of mr. fall out boy? predictable plot arc where she is set up to gently fail and then (shock!) does? please. give her something where she can actually express emotion. there was a scene in the trailer where she was breaking up with her boyfriend. when she said “i hope i don’t get wasted” and then the show went into that great liquor montage i allowed myself to believe for a second that the episode was saved because whitney was going to get trashed and then do something incredible. but no.
  • i don’t even want to talk about this anymore. it makes me want to stop watching and write about that tila tequila show instead.
  • yet i think there are only two episodes left and that is gut-wrenching.

in the player is a song called “phoning it in.” i really wasn’t feeling it today and i kind of phoned it in, so that is what the song is about. i recorded this before the episode of the hills tonight, so it’s kind of funny how coincidentally we both phoned it in. i almost went all laser floyd and put in some echoey telephone rings, but i think it’s enough as is. sorry. maybe i’ll do another song later in the week to make up for it. you know that stupid hypothetical question about which beatle you would rather be and everyone always says john or paul or george? it’s such bullshit, any sane person would be ringo in a heartbeat. if you’re john you get addicted to heroin and get shot. if you’re paul, your wife dies of cancer. if you’re george, you get stabbed, then you die of cancer. ringo just coasts along, free and easy.

[splashcast EKWP2489IM EHJF2695LL]

  • easily the best episode this season. there was the exact perfect balance of things happening and things not happening.
  • this episode felt different than the ones previous. it was baroque, it was the high “hills” style. almost every shot seemed to to pop with faux-reality. when lauren and jason first sit down at ketchup, they do such a crazy combination of things: the weird sitting down shoulder dancing, jason’s incredibly overtelegraphed head turn, all the facial expressions. so close to being over the top, almost self parody, but i don’t think it was. chaplin, keaton, conrad, wahler.
  • what i enjoy most about “the hills” is seeing things represented on television that i have never before seen represented on television. and i don’t mean in a “giant bear having sex with a great white whale” big kind of way, i mean in the micro sense: the small gestures and body movements, the casual poses, the verbal tics, word repetitions, and vocal inflections; all the things that color the fabric of everyday existence. the hills, by foregrounding what is unnoticed, defamiliarizes it. it makes what’s completely normal feel strange, and that’s why i think it’s great.
  • whitney continues to be a revelation. she owns every shot. her specialty is of course the close-up, but she’s equally adept at medium shots and wide shots (see the way she contorts her body in the medium shot on the location scout, then in the wide shot how she plays with the camera strap). my nonsexual fantasy is that there is going to be some “videodrome” moment where she does something so authentic that she just comes out of the television into my living room and sits indian style on the floor. and at first i would be startled, but then it would be “e.t.” heartwarming; i would present her with various objects (reeses pieces, a fleece blanket, a toothbrush) just to see how would react. then she would touch me on the forehead with her index finger while crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue and i would learn to be a natural and authentically goofy person.
  • the scene where lauren and whitney are at teen vogue is possibly my new favorite scene on “the hills,” surpassing my old favorite scene from season one where they ate sushi together.
  • there’s some very blatant dubbing in the first scene when heidi and spencer talk about elodie. if you listen to the inflection, it’s like all of a sudden they’ve stopped having a conversation and are suddenly ESL students reading about the adventures of dick and jane in hollywoodland.
  • lauren seemed to discover that she has hair in this episode. this is a positive development. she did a lot of gestures with the hair that were varied, dynamic, and powerful. the best was when she was sitting in the car with jason and she brought both hands up under her hair and sort of plumed it out, while smiling and opening her eyes wide, and i feel that the look says, “hey, i am a woman and at one point i was your girlfriend and you found me attractive and you still do because i still am and maybe i am slightly interested in you also but i am reserved about this and can only express it by doing this thing with my hair.”
  • the scene at ketchup could have easily devolved into something cliché in another show, but it’s impossible when you have heidi, almost giggling with evil, saying “maybe they’re back in the movie making action” it’s such a bizarre way to phrase that! and then when lauren and jason send the obviously insulting drinks back, she says “well, that’s rude” and her tone of voice is like she actually means it, like she actually thought they were going to drink these insults and enjoy them! and lauren looking at her cellphone while sending back the drinks.
  • i don’t know what was up with the weird video treatment when lauren and jason were driving home. but when the car stopped, more incredible expressions. the concluding gambit, wherein jason tugged at his left ear with his mouth open and lauren looked down slightly while touching the base of her throat and sliding out of the car, wow.
  • i was talking to someone last week about how you can read “the hills” as a feminist inversion of hollywood stereotypes. it was re: the gawker piece about “the hills” as the new sex and the city. what i feel is that men on “the hills” aren’t present to be fully rounded, important characters. this is obvious; for as much screen time as they get, they’re not even included in the credit sequence. they’re tools (ha), boy toys that exist for the the female leads to use to define themselves like so much lipgloss. whatever plot points are centered around them (for example spencer “breaking up” with brody jenner) aren’t important in and of themselves but only in the ways that they affect the female leads.
  • you can really see this at work in the heidi and spencer domestic scenes, which read like a flip-it-and-reverse-it parody of classic sitcoms, “i love lucy” or “dick van dyke” or what have you. spencer is the one who stays at home, who decorates the apartment, who sits and fiddles with his laptop the way women might have darned socks when socks needed darning. as heidi is getting dressed to head to the office, powdering her face instead of shaving, they talk about the position of the toilet seat. then spencer asks, in this sarcastic, nagging tone whether “we get to go to breakfast before work?” and it’s like, he should be wearing curlers or something! fantastic.
  • ((obviously heidi isn’t really the breadwinner, spencer owns the apartment and everyone knows he’s sitting on piles and piles of money, that’s probably the padding for their sofa, but the hills isn’t about reality, remember, it’s about surfaces.))
  • because that, the incongruity between the surface and reality, is what’s interesting. the absolute hilarious thing about heidi’s new job is that it’s not work at all, it’s the facade of work. heidi goes to the costume closet and gets dressed in her “businesswoman suit” and goes to this giant fisher price office. and her computer doesn’t really have a screen, it’s just stickers, and inside her desk drawer is a scale model of the office she is sitting in and in the chair is a barbie doll that looks and is dressed exactly like her and she plays with its hair until the bell rings and she’s allowed to go home.
  • ok that last thing that was a bit much, but really. the way she interacts with her assistant…
  • the scene with elodie brings me back to something i noticed a few episodes ago, in a scene that made me feel like elodie was “someone who watches “the hills” and happened to miss the season premiere, and so has to be caught up.” i am getting an analogous vibe from the the scene she has from heidi and also the intermittent shots of her sulking around the office. she hates heidi now, ostensibly because of the job, but it what it really feels like is that she has become someone who hates the television show “the hills” but is simultaneously living inside of it. kind of like a really surly greek chorus.
  • there is that virtual hills thing, which i have actually registered for and am going to try, but i think what would really work is a “mortal kombat” style fighting game. the arenas would be teen vogue offices, heidi and spencer’s apartment, les deux, coffee shop, gym, beach, etc. you would have to tap out combos: for example, hitting x would flutter an eyelash and if you roll the analog stick in conjunction you roll the eye also. the counterattack would be a half smile or possibly a left hair flip.

in the player is a song called “after a lot of people” the loop is messed up but i don’t understand how to fix it, so that’s what the beginning of the song is about. the rest of the song is about the state of the aura. it is very simply built from a sample of the opening two chords of satie’s “gymnopedie no.1″. i find it weird that most of my songs are about two chords and in this song when i go to sample something, i only sample two chords even though there are an awful lot of chords in the original. i think that two chords is about all i can handle, which means i am one short of rock and roll.

[splashcast FTON3005RU IEWO3982YY]

  • there was some superb face acting in this episode. whitney opened things up with her usual bravura performance. note the way she tilts her head back to the left at an extreme diagonal and, then, in the next shot, she has her face over on the right side of the frame prone, and then transitions back with a hair flip and blink to the left side of the frame; it’s like some modern dance shit. lauren had some great eye rolling and hair tugging in the dinner date scene, and heidi was excellent in her scene with elodie after she got the job. she did two great expressions that were these combinations of like shrugs and gasps and coughs and blinks and muttered apologies and just great, like a braque painting animated by the team that did “waking life”.
  • an interesting character insight involved lauren’s paranoiac musings on what i will call “guy radar.” in the first scene, she imagines jason constantly monitoring her with a beeper, which goes off the moment that everything is going okay in her life so he can come disrupt it. then two scenes later, with audrina, she shapes the idea into loser guys calling her at the exact second she’s stopped thinking about them “because they KNOW you’ve stopped thinking about them, it’s like a RADAR.” this is interesting 1) because everyone knows people repeat the same shit with slight permutations over and over again and 2) it keys in to lauren’s general distrust of anything with a penis in an interesting pynchonesque kind of way.
  • i still don’t like the fact that elodie is actually a character now, but i’ve decided it does serve a purpose. after heidi quit school and got the job at bolthouse, there was the initial “heidi-is-a-ditz-and-crappy-at-her-job” drama and then absolutely nothing interesting happened there ever again. all the bolthouse/work scenes consisted of heidi ranting to elodie about what was happening in the rest of the show. now at least there’ll be some drama to those work scenes.
  • in terms of dialogue, this episode was probably the best of the season. i think my favorite exchange was when lauren was on the phone and lo whispered, “oh is that your daddy?” and lauren said, “it’s jason”. i imagine teen freud eating skittles and reading “teen people” and sniffing a perfume sample from said teen people all while watching this episode of “the hills” and when those lines come up he just loses it and has to be revived with smelling salts.
  • speaking of dicks, this season “the hills” is really big on larger-than-life symbolic representations of the male ego. first, of course, was the giant graffito-tagged hollywood sign that spencer had put up on the wall of the apartment. in this episode, one scene opened with a massive motorcycle filling the frame and then there was a focus pull to reveal audrina and justinbobby coming up off the shore, dwarfed by it.
  • i’ve talked before about the use of music cues in “the hills.” something which i’ve seen before but only really noticed in this episode is the way that the scene proper (the dialogue, action – the meat) will end and then, as the music cue builds up in the background, there are one or two shots where the characters hold their poses, as if in the scene they are hearing the music; like instead of living in real life, they are living in the edited version of the show. you can see this demonstrated all over the place, but i feel its presence most at the end of heidi’s meeting with brent bolthouse and after lo and audrina and lauren’s dinner and after lauren and jason meet for coffee and ok really it’s like almost every scene and i can’t believe i haven’t verbalized it before. it would be interesting to have something like this in real life, music cues rising in the air around you to capture the convesational zeitgeist and let you just sit there and soak in the moment with a perfectly chosen song by God’s music supervisor and then you could go on with your day. ((p.s. i was watching this interview with mike figgis about godard on the dvd of “weekend” this weekend and he was talking about godard’s use of music in that and how the detached, ironic way he used music actually allowed the music to permeate the scene in an even more emotionally powerful way than standard hollywood mantovani schmaltziness. and i don’t know what the connection between that and the thing i just talked about is except i do think the use of music on the hills is hyperselfconscious and there is more discussion to come on that topic.))
  • the use of unexplained allusions to stuff outside the show really points to the importance of web gossip culture to “the hills” audience. the big thing at the start of the season was the sex tape rumor, which was something that was introduced before the actual season even started via gossip blogs. and in this episode there was jason saying “i was out of control. i had some bad habits” and “i went to my morning group” which would’ve been weird and out of nowhere and unbelievable except anyone that cares about “the hills” (and no, i don’t think this is just the province of obsessives) read in the the last couple of days that jason had come out of rehab to deny all the sex tape shit. you couldn’t have pulled that off 2 years ago, the flow of information via teen magazines was too slow. (actually this makes me interested in what the “teen vogue” coverage of the hills is like)

in the player is a song i wrote called “t.s.a.” i wanted to do something heartwarming and life affirming for september 11th, so this is a public service announcement about the importance of regular breast examinations for fine ass women. i am really hoping for the best with regards to this kanye west/50 cent faceoff, the best being that they will both get even richer and that this opulence will reflect itself prismlike in their music. i like them both; i’ve probably listened to kanye more but 50’s “hate it or love it” is one of the most beautiful and perfect songs of this century.

[splashcast HFVA3520GX ZFNP9984AM]

  • i love the rarity of lo’s appearances and how this has no impact on anything at all. it’s very convenient for the producers, to have a character that can just be dropped in and yanked out without any plot triage necessary. but it’s also entirely realistic, everyone has those kind of friends that you aren’t really close with but see on saturday night. it is to her credit that with a very limited amount of screen/plot time that she has established a shtick, gestures, patent pending looks etc.
  • at first i was unsure about justinbobby but i have really warmed to him. the reason is that he introduces a whole new male verbal style to the hills. previously, the men on “the hills”/”laguna beach” were either functionally retarded and seemingly unable to speak (jason) or spoke in a very predictable cliché driven orwellian “dudespeak” (spencer (though he does have flashes of brilliance), talon, every other male character). justinbobby is the first really verbal male character and his chosen patois is this sort of “jim morrison doing a staged reading of ‘he’s not that into you'” greasy mystic shit that some girls (like audrina) lap up like chicken noodle soup (for the soul, obv.).
  • whitney was back this week in top form, doing the things she does best which are purposefully goofy facial expressions. whole books could be written about her faux-awkwardness. the director i think she would work best with, besides the aforementioned youtube “passion of joan of arc”, is probably like soderbergh or something. the obvious choice would be all those mumblecore dudes, but while i liked “funny ha ha” and that young american bodies thing on nerve (it’s like a hipster version of the hills with nipples and bare asses), i think whitney is far too talented for them. maybe rob zombie
  • i don’t know what to say about spencer’s facial hair. maybe that it feels like five o’ clock foreshadowing. he is probably going to go all howard hughes and sit there on youtube with a beard and long fingernails while heidi washes towels, folds them, unfolds them, washes them again, folds them etc. in an endless loop.
  • the pool scene was exquisite. the tableuax of bodies in the long shot and, in the close-ups, all those giant sunglasses so you couldn’t see anyone’s eyes. dazzling.
  • the scenes from next week were both troubling and intriguing. as much as jason is a horrible actor and will be awful on the show i think it is probably a good thing for the plot because it puts lauren in a more complicated moral situation (whether or not brody actually spread the sex tape rumors will also add to that). but the idea that heidi’s ugly, old coworker at bolthouse (i can’t remember her name) is suddenly a character who is supposed to have things happen to her instead of being a plastic sounding board for heidi’s issues is ludicrous. if there is anything the show needs, it is not more major characters.

(p.s. i enjoyed the ad-break music things with mark ronson, even if they were a little over the top. i want his suit and his guitar and his decks. wasn’t there an amy winehouse song somewhere around the middle of the episode? i haven’t been paying attention but i wonder if the people in the ad breaks always have a song in the episode.)

in the player is a song called “having a coke with you”, which is a musical setting with embellishments of the frank o’hara poem of same name. recently, MTV chose john ashberry as it’s first “MTVU poet laureate.” while i am aware that this is a title that means absolutely nothing at all, less than who wins “celebrity rap superstar” (and actually a lot less because that is an important thing), I still i have to say that frank o’hara would have been a much better choice for the position. i don’t care that he’s dead, in this post-anna nicole age, dead is as alive as alive is, if not moreso. o’hara’s the poet of facebook and myspace (god, how many friends would he have); his poems trace dense webs of connections and friendships and he name-drops like nobody else. he’s the poet of product placement, of the mention and/or rhapsodic celebration of the commercial object. most importantly, he speaks to our horribly transcendent celebrity culture better than anybody. listen:

Poem
FRANK O’HARA

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

all the wonderful mess of paris/nicole/britney/lindsay/lauren/(insert the next girl’s name here) — all of it is summed up right there. this poem is over fifty years old.

so basically for the MTV crowd i tried to turn the poem into this sort of pop punk love romp, which is most obvious in the chorus where the eloquent superlatives and reflections of the verse give way to a set of crude similes in which i tried to do my best mall punk imitation even though i was never punk in high school maybe for about ten minutes. still i mean all of it, it’s not just empty parody, except with the exception that really i have no interest watching monkeys have sex at all much less all day but it was something i could imagine a fifteen year old boy in a hoodie say to a fifteen year old girl in a food court somewhere. in closing, i would say the song is about 37% ironic, which is a pretty good percentage these days, what with the interest rate debacle and everything.

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