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The Original Butt Sketch: Every tush is beautiful in its own way

The Original Butt Sketch elevates sidewalk artist to lucrative trade show gigs

The Original Butt Sketch elevates sidewalk artists to lucrative trade show gigs

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
“Every tush is beautiful — in it’s own way.”

Originally published: March 17, 2000
The Telegraph/Encore Magazine

While the scientists on the Human Genome Project aim to discover every DNA sequence in the human body, Texas artist Krandel Lee Newton isn’t concerned about probing underneath the surface. Focusing on exteriors and posteriors, he is driven by one core belief: You never forget your first Butt Sketch.

Newton is a mercenary artist, a charcoal-for-hire sent to fight boredom on treacherous trade show turf. A few weeks ago in New Orleans, I met him at a not-so-boring gathering of TV programming executives. But I just as easily could have discovered the Butt Sketch if I were a florist, a dentist or a mortgage banker.

I begin by walking over to a masking tape line on the plush carpet cushioning my feet. My back to the easel, I spread my feet about three feet apart and put my hands on my hips — my imagined “tough guy” stance.

Krandel scampers in front of me like an art critic looking for a good angle. His hands, too, are on his hips. “Is this the way you want to pose?” he asks, making direct eye contact. His voice softens. “I like what you’re doing. I really do. I just want to tweak things a bit.”

The artist gently nudges my head to my left, pats my shoulder and says, “See you in two-and-a-half minutes.”

I don’t feel self-conscious while my butt is being sketched. Maybe that’s because my pants are kept on. Maybe it’s also because Krandel has a non-threatening, wisecracking style that instantly puts me at ease. For a brief moment, I believe I can quit my job and pose for Dockers ads.

In the end, my Butt Sketch really does look like me and the appeal is twofold. First, there’s accuracy. Nobody thinks about his or her rear end being as definitive as a thumbprint. Yet, Krandel proves that it is, capturing an individual’s personality through tushie language. Second, Krandel’s quality doesn’t suffer despite the self-imposed time limit.

Sharianne Brill, of New York City, watched me get my butt sketched. Satisfied with the results, she tells Krandel: “Wow, that’s good. I hope you do my body justice!”

Three minutes later, Brill is happy. “Oh man, I look hot! My butt says I mean business,” she says. “People always teased me about my booty for years, but if you got it baby, flaunt it!”

Krandel, 41, was an engineer for Westinghouse before becoming a full-time butt sketcher 13 years ago. Trade show paychecks are far more lucrative, multiplying his old salary “more than five times” and bringing in enough business to hire a support team of seven artists. Inspiration came from his days as a sidewalk artist, when bystanders would marvel at his drawings of parades – from the rear.

“There is no horrible looking butt. Every butt is a good butt in my eyes,” Krandel says. “That’s my company line and I’m sticking to it.”

The artist admits he has “been accused of having a flattering hand” in his drawings. Perhaps he should sell women’s bathing suits on the side. Krandel is the consummate salesman, enticing both men (40 percent of drawings) and women to play along with the gag. The co-ed clientele and his avoidance of offensive innuendos have shielded him from inevitable cries of sexism.

“The first time I saw him I was so nervous,” recalls Leslie McClure, a publicist from California. “Nobody likes their own butts, especially women.” Since sketch one, she has been immortalized five more times and even hired Krandel to sketch guests at her 50th birthday party.

For the record, all of McClure’s Butt Sketches are framed and matted. Four hang in her office and two are displayed at home. Krandel, who obviously loves repeat business, insists he doesn’t get tired of drawing the same butt twice.

“We like to call them ‘Butt Upgrades,’” he says.
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s Encore magazine.


ALSO SEE: Booty Call: Butt Sketch artists shake up corporate trade shows

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, Fashion, Tacky Souvenirs, Uncategorized

Middle East Surprise: “Austin Powers” Fembot Fashions Thrive in Syria

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

What’s really underneath those burkas?

If you’re a Syrian bride on her wedding night — or even a bridesmaid at the bachelorette party — chances are there could be a Tweety Bird thong that plays the soothing tunes of Kajagoogoo. Anyone who grew up in the MTV age is intimately familiar with that British pop band for their 1983 anthem, “Too Shy.”

Or perhaps you might see this the next time you are underwear shopping in the outdoor Damascus shuk. There’s no way this is more comfortable than 100 percent organic Syrian cotton:

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Image courtesy of Chronicle Books

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Image courtesy of Chronicle Books

These fashion gems were culled from a kitschy new coffee table book by Syrian lingerie experts Malu Halassa and Rana Salam. Despite the bondage theme above, most lingerie drawers north of the Golan Heights are filled with cutesy feathers, fake flowers and fur. Liberace meets the Fembots from Austin Powers. Without the nipple guns.

The authors joke that they sometimes felt trapped in a “1970s transvestite disco.”

Think a plastic cell phone would ever make it into a Victoria’s Secret thong?

Cell phone thong courtesy of Chronicle Books

Cell phone thong courtesy of Chronicle Books

“Doesn’t matter whether you wear a miniskirt or a hijab, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to put on some of those outfits,” Halasa says. “Rana and I ended up admiring those women, and we thought some women in the developed world could use a little joy like that in their lives.”

So what does this have to do with the prospects of Middle East peace?

As U.S. Sen. John Kerry raves about the potential of an Israeli-Syrian thaw, the authors have their theories. Check out my full book review, “Damascus After Dark,” in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

You’ll learn….

… Which Israeli leader the authors would like to dress up in these outfits, and it is not Bibi Netanyahu.

… The previously undiscovered link between the 1973 Yom Kippur War and meteoric rise of the Syrian bra industry; and

… Regardless of the cultural context, can Tweety Bird possibly considered a sexual turn-on?

If you prefer the old-fashioned print layout, which includes more fascinating fashion pictures, the PDF download is available here:

“DAMASCUS AFTER DARK: How the kitschy Syrian approach to underwear cuts through the image of the all-concealing burka” (Page One) (Page Two)

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Austin Powers Fembots, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Syrian Lingerie

The Manny Ramirez Salary Comparison Calculator: How poor of a schmuck are you?

Recession-Proof Man: How long does it take Manny Ramirez to earn what you do?

Recession-Proof Man: How long does it take Manny Ramirez to earn what you do?

Want to get depressed?

You already know that the backup shortstop on the Kansas City Royals makes more in a season than you will in your entire life.

But check out ESPN’s new salary comparison calculator to really put things in perspective.

Let’s say you make $60K in a year, certainly a respectable salary if you don’t have an MBA or a decent curveball.

After his first two at bats of the season, Los Angeles Dodger Manny Ramirez is already ahead of you.

Why $60,000 will barely buy you one-third of an RBI or one-tenth of a homer.

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Saddam Yard Sale: Hussein secretary stole more than paper clips

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 11, 2007

Saddam Hussein is now having a yard sale.

Yes, he’s thankfully dead so he can’t profit from any of the memorabilia from his tyrannical glory days.

And technically, the latest batch of Saddam stuff to hit the market is up for auction. But at the end of the day, there will be plenty of unsold trinkets that will be begging for a best offer.

Get a load of these prices:

— $150,000 – Saddam’s favorite diamond-encrusted Rolex watch that he wore to banquets, Arab summits and other social events.

— $12,000 – Fancy sliver cigarette box allegedly given to a teenage Saddam by his stepfather as a reward for killing his first human being.

— $12,000 – Saddam’s favorite pair of Christian Dior sunglasses, which shielded his eyes from the glare of the Iran-Iraq desert battlegrounds in the 1980s.

— $5,000 – Designer Cartier pen used by Saddam to sign the execution orders for 66 condemned members of his Ba’ath Party.

— $4,000 – Christian Dior necktie taken straight from Saddam’s tie rack (several available).

A bunch of miscellaneous items bound for the “Everything for $5” table include a Thai paperweight given to Saddam by an ambassador, a piece of granite from the original London Bridge, and a ceramic leopard that used to decorate the dictator’s “private recreation room.”

The sale is being conducted on-line by Haitham Rashid Wihaib, Saddam’s chief of protocol (essentially a glorified personal secretary) from 1980 to 1993. Wihaib, who defected to England a decade before Saddam’s capture in the spider hole, does not explain how he got his hands on his former boss’s personal stuff.

As he was fleeing Iraq, did he stick all those Christian Dior accessories under his shirt? How did he cram that ceramic wildcat into a suitcase – or was it an airline carry-on?

The auctioneer’s Web site bio claims his father was an “Iraqi general who was killed in a car accident orchestrated by Saddam.” If that was the case, why would the Iraqi dictator ever want to hire a traitor’s kid as a trusted aide?

Whatever the true origins of this Saddam memorabilia are, there are indications that the items are genuine. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark demanded that Wihaib return a royal Danish medal from Saddam’s collection to her country. The Knight’s Cross of the Order of Dannebrog is awarded for special service to Denmark, and is customarily returned upon the death of the recipient.

Wihaib, who has reportedly agreed to give the medal back, promises to donate 20 percent of his profits to needy Iraqi children, new hospital buildings and various other Iraqi war victim charities.

The other 80 percent goes to a charity named Haitham Rashid Wihaib.

If you’re upset about Wihaib getting rich off genocidal souvenirs, you may take modest comfort in the fact that his marketing timing stinks.

Quite frankly, Saddam Hussein is so 2006.

The buzz has migrated east to his nefarious archrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I wonder if he’s been keeping an eye on his personal secretary lately.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Darren's Archive Vault, Middle East, Overpriced Souvenirs, Politically Incorrect Products, Tacky Souvenirs

Exercise caution before badmouthing a ‘rotten’ neighbor

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 18, 2007

Anyone who has ever worked as a police officer, newspaper reporter or has served in local government knows this universal truth about human relations: Animal disputes bring out the worst in people.  A typical small town dog hearing packs in more hate and resentment than the United Nations General Assembly.

Of course, neighborhood grudges simmer for many reasons beyond killer pit bulls and toxic doggie doo-doo. Touted as a breakthrough consumer real estate tool, a new Web site chronicles the myriad of causes for shattered communal harmony.

RottenNeighbor.com was launched this summer by Brant Walker, a 27-year-old computer programmer from San Diego. The site is a geographical hate forum for bitter neighbors to “warn” newcomers against buying a home in their area. Maybe it’s because there’s someone on the street who doesn’t mow their lawn, or there are teenage vandals or druggies in the next apartment.  Or maybe the freak-next-door raises alligators in his bathtub or is stockpiling anti-aircraft weapons in the shed for the “next revolution.”

In any case, the altruistic motivation to keep prospective homeowners out of your neighborhood – regardless of how utopian or dysfunctional it might be – seems like a self-destructive exercise to me.  If no one wants to live on your street, real estate values will plummet and your chance of escape dwindles.

On his site, Walker brags that he’s offering the “the first real estate search engine of its kind that helps you find bad neighbors before you move so you don’t regret the purchase of your new house, home, condo or apartment.”

“Real estate agents will never tell you about bad neighbors,” he writes. “If a bad neighbor exists, this information should be made freely and easily available to everyone.”

Before purchasing my current home, I did the traditional background check for area child molesters, domestic abusers and assorted malfeasants. I wish I had access to the secret police database that documents exactly where the “bad people” live.  But I have no privileged access to the cops or Santa Claus.  I just did a simple newspaper archive search and turned up only a couple of kids who liked to play with matches.

I figured as long as I didn’t give out Bic lighters or blowtorches on Halloween, I would be all set.

Although RottenNeighbor.com has already enjoyed massive success in generating grass-roots buzz, the Web site itself so far is not living up to its promises.

I plugged in the “03060” zip code for Nashua and the Google map was directed to upstate New York.  I did this multiple times to check if I was typing in the wrong information.  Using the navigation arrows, I eventually was able to migrate from Albany to Milford.  Many of the neighborhood complaints do not even include a street – so libel or not, what’s the point?

Here’s a gem RottenNeighbor “report” from Greater Nashua:

“WORST NEIGHBORS EVER!!!! Where in the world do I begin? Liars, liars, liars. 3 boys and a dog. Husband tells me “Oh the wife is a notorious liar.” The sad part is, he is an even BIGGER one. Now that the boys are growing up, guess what they are turning out to be –liars also.

They have zero respect for anyone else, their yard, house anything. They are huge slobs. Cause all sorts of problems in the neighborhood with their lies. Had to have our yard surveyed because they said that part of our property was theirs. Surveyor says “Nope, here’s the proof.” Kids knock down our marked survey sticks sledding–what does Dad say? “Oh well, boys will be boys.” The next time they do it, he blames the other neighbor who is nice enough to plow his driveway. Complete buttholes.”

And some more insightful testimony from The Telegraph’s circulation area:

“Recently separated from husband and left alone with 3 kids, this woman is out of control! … Summer was a living nightmare—every day 7 to 9 kids here in blow up pool all day long yelling screaming crying and left unattended because she spends her entire life ON HER PHONE.

“Her children made 2 huge holes in my brand new fence so that they could watch us swim in our pool in my backyard… My favorite is when her kids hang out the upstairs windows yelling to us asking if they can swim here with us… I did not save my money for years to buy a home in this wonderful affluent community… only to end up next to a RENTER!!!!!”

As it’s structured now, RottenNeighbor.com only exists to confirm the obvious. Southern New Hampshire is teeming with potential guests for Jerry Springer or Judge Judy.  Although I confess that I did not know that owning an inflatable pool is a character flaw or even a crime.

Walker would be better off requiring that the complainers on RottenNeighbor.com provide their full names and addresses.  Those are the people I’d really like to avoid.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore magazine. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

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Teen ice cream scoopers looking up to journalists: Am I on Candid Camera or Punk’d?

Are print journalists really viewed as role models?

Are print journalists really viewed as role models?

So, there I am craving ice cream in Times Square at 9 ‘o clock at night and Cold Stone Creamery is staring me in my neon-basked face. Now before all you Zagat-carrying Manhattan zombies chastise me for not going to an independently owned shop, is there such a thing in Times Square any more?

I order a medium waffle cup of Gingerbread ice cream — inanely called their “Love It” size — and bring it to the cashier.

I am wearing my sardonic Save-the-Newspaper t-shirt (pictured above on a much more muscular frame) and the teenager behind the register seems more interested in the paperboy graphic than my money. “Are you a real journalist?” he asks. “Who do you work for?”

I mention “The Working Stiff,” my weekly business column for the Boston Herald and his jaw drops. “Wow, I’ve never served a real journalist before!”

The teen’s syrupy earnestness and smooth delivery immediately struck me as camouflaged sarcasm. Was I on Candid Camera or MTV’s Punk’d? When did I get to meet Alan Funt or Ashton Kutcher?

A young woman standing behind me in line seconded the cashier’s motion. “Yeah, that’s cool!” she said, pointing to the newspaper t-shirt. She, too, seemed to be part of the gag.

However, after careful reflection, I think both the cashier and ice cream customer were being truly genuine. This leads to me to two conclusions:

1. Writers for the New York Post and New York Daily News know of a hipper place to get ice cream in Times Square; and

2. These aforementioned journalists don’t wear t-shirts announcing their occupational status.

In any case, it is encouraging to know that print journalism has at least two eager supporters under the age of 60.

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Hurricane Katrina aftermath includes urban myths, tacky souvenirs

Hard to imagine, but you can buy a Hurricane Katrina souvenir program at newsstands.

Hard to imagine, but you can buy a Hurricane Katrina souvenir program at newsstands.

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 6, 2005

In case you were under the delusion that our tacky culture couldn’t possibly get any tackier, check out your local supermarket newsstand this week. Shelved next to the latest dieting magazines and word search puzzles, you’ll find copies of “Remembering Katrina,” the official Hurricane Katrina souvenir program.

The glossy 64-page “pictorial record,” suitable for coffee table display for those of us whose coffee tables are not under water, is stuffed with color photos of victims clamoring for food and helplessly staring at their destroyed homes. The $6 souvenir program also includes a scorecard of the “most intense” U.S. hurricanes since 1851, with an apologetic disclaimer that Katrina’s ranking could not be determined at press time.

“However, residents who experienced the fury of this powerful hurricane know that no big storm can be taken lightly,” the magazine condescendingly adds.

“Remembering Katrina” includes no bylines, masthead or information on how to contact the publisher, MMI Publications. The reason for their low-key demeanor is obvious. The editors couldn’t possibly purchase enough dental insurance to cover the amount of facial punches they deserve.

A Google search on MMI Publications only turns up a French-language Web site mentioning “Celebrity Style Hairstyle Specials Presents… Desperate Housewives and Other Prime-Time Vixens.” At least they had the class not to critique the hairstyles of hurricane victims.

It turns out that the legitimate media — the magazines and newspapers that do take credit for their work – doesn’t score much higher on the integrity scale when it comes to natural disaster coverage. An investigation by the Times-Picayune of New Orleans determined that reports of widespread assaults, rapes and murders – especially at the Superdome refugee center — were wildly exaggerated rumors “treated as fact by evacuees, the media and some of New Orleans’ top officials.”

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had declared on Oprah that Superdome refugees were trapped for days “watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people.” According to the Baltimore Sun, other phony reports included an infant’s corpse being found in a trash can, sharks swimming through the flooded city and hundreds of dead bodies piling up in the convention center basement.

The latest official casualty numbers are 885 dead, with less than 10 believed to be the victims of homicide.

Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss inexplicably pulled out the race card in an interview with the Sun, claiming that if “the dome and convention center had harbored large numbers of middle-class white people, it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering.”

Big disconnect for me there. Are blacks more afraid of sharks than whites? Did any journalists, black or white, track down a marine biologist to verify the likelihood of sharks surviving in extremely polluted river water?

So, the news media does a collective confession that serious journalism mistakes were made, but what about the veracity of the investigation of these rumors? Here’s a peek at next week’s headline: “REPORTS OF MEDIA EXAGGERATION WERE GROSSLY EXAGGERATED.”

Meanwhile, much closer to home, a Massachusetts woman told the Metrowest Daily News that the brutal stabbing she witnessed at the Superdome was no exaggeration. Adrienne Long, of Holliston, was stranded in New Orleans after bringing her son to Tulane University. She said she saw two men fighting over a bottle of Jack Daniels. One man repeatedly beat and stabbed theother with a wooden stick.

“I saw the guy with all the holes in him and his head,” she said, adding that “nobody helped him because nobody wanted to get involved.”

Just a guess, but I assume Ms. Long won’t be rushing out to the supermarket to buy a souvenir program.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in Encore. Reader comments are welcomed via email at cultureschlock (at) gmail.com.

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, Lost Causes, Tacky Souvenirs