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March 2009

Something's fishy at the nail salon.

In keeping with the fish theme this week (see my previous post on The Headhunt Cape Cod fishing tourney), I'm compelled to comment on the fish pedicure controversy sweeping the nation's nail salons.

And my comment is this: GROSS.

I first heard about the fish pedicure last Summer, when Mr. John Ho brought his skin-eating fish here from China, in a U.S. nail salon first. Ho, who ran a salon in Virginia with his wife, had been looking at alternatives to pedicure razors, which are effective at removing calluses but banned in many states due to their risk of dangerous cuts.

Fish pedicure One day, a customer mentioned "skin eating fish" from Asia that piqued Ho's interest. In the course of his research, he discovered an old Turkish legend [from WSJ] about:

a shepherd who injured his foot and stuck it into a hot spring teeming with small fish. The foot healed. Word spread. A treatment center for skin ailments grew around the springs near the Turkish town of Kangal. From Turkey, the practice spread throughout Asia, employing garra rufa, toe-size carp that live in warm water, have no teeth and, according to those in the business, like to suck off dead skin. Another fish sometimes used to treat feet, called chin chin, is bigger in size and grows tiny teeth.

Mr. Ho subsequently introduced the fish to the States and became a media - and cosmetic - sensation. His salons charged customers $35 to have their feet nibbled by fish for 15 minutes.

Until now. At least 14 states have outlawed the fish pedicures, deeming them unsafe. The issue: "Cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away." Despite Ho's best efforts (e.g., ditching his original community pool approach for individualized fish tanks where the water is changed between sessions), there's still concern about how safe this practice is. For example, if the fish nibble on infected feet, can they pass it on to the next innocent pedicure recipient?

I'll say it again: GROSS.

The Headhunt Fishing Tournament

I realize Spring has just begun, and it's still rather cold outside, but it's not too early to start thinking about Summer fun. And one of the most fun events of the Summer is the Harwich Headhunt, a Cape Cod fishing tournament started by my friends, Ryan and Sean Burke.

TheheadhuntIn an effort to increase exposure within the fishing community to one of the best fishing areas in the country, the Burkes started this annual event in the waters off of Harwich, MA - home to some of the best striper fishing in the world.

The Harwich Headhunt is the fastest-growing striped bass fishing tournament on Cape Cod. This year's tourney on July 25th marks the 6th anniversary of the event, which typically draws dozens of fishing enthusiasts, local business sponsors, and other assorted hangers-on (like me) who simply show up for the big weigh in and after-party.

For those in the boats, it's a full day, with a 4am start time, weigh-in at 2pm, and all-out celebration from that point on.

If you're interested in fishing, register here, and be sure to check out the rules & regulations. If you'd like to sponsor the event, buy a t-shirt, or get any additional info, contact the Burkes.

Oh, and don't miss the colorful commentary going on over on the Headhunt blog. You'll be hooked!

Coulter vs. Maher vs. The Audience

Sparks flew last night at the Citi Center for the Performing Arts (f/k/a the Wang Theater), but not necessarily between to the featured guests, diametrically opposed political pundits Ann Coulter and Bill Maher.

Coulter v. maherIt was the Boston debut of MSG Engtertainment's “Speaker Series: The Minds That Move The World,” a timely production that looks at America’s current political landscape through the eyes of prominent political figures. Coulter and Maher kicked things off on Monday night with a show in New York at Radio City, and then hopped a plane to Boston for their 2nd of 3 nights (tonight was Chicago).

We were uncertain of what to expect, but imagined there would be some good-natured ribbing, if not outright controversy, between the liberal Maher and conservative Coulter. What transpired was actually a rather cordial exchange, with each getting 15 minutes to themselves to share perspectives on the current political state, and then joining together to counter each other's comments. There was the expected Obama-bashing and Bush ridicule, and a few inflamatory remarks thrown in for good measure, but in all, nothing out of the ordinairy if you've seen these two before.

The real controversy came from the audience - a raucous crowd that proved to be more incendiary and outspoken than Coulter or Maher ever was.

After taking a quick poll to understand the audience's political leanings (it was pretty evenly split between those who "think Obama has done a good job so far" and those who, like Rush Limbaugh, "want to see Obama fail"), the MC indicated that there would be no further audience participation, and to please respect the speakers and fellow audience members by refraining from speaking/shouting during the performance. We are priveleged to live in a Democratic society with the right to free speech, and this was an opportunity to listen to opposing viewpoints with an open mind (but closed mouth).

No sooner did Ann Coulter step on stage when the woman behind me started heckling her. Really loudly, with inane comments followed by cackling laughter. Others soon followed. I turned and politely asked her to "please stop talking"; she responded with a crinkled face and loud harumph! and proceeded to gripe. It was unbearable (and unbearably rude) so I inquired, "why don't you leave if you're having such a miserable time?" and that silenced her.

Moments later, when Bill Maher took the stage, there was an outburst in the back: a seated gentleman repeatedly yelled out, "Stop the liberal gestapo!" and other complaints. It was so bad that the show stopped while ushers tried to remove him, but failed (these poor ushers - mostly elderly women probably used to more passive showings like The Lion King, seemed shell-shocked by the controversy and expletives; in a moment of levity during the drama, Maher remarked, "where are the security guards? Oh - the security guards are 75 years old? I see...).

That guy finally settled down, and then another one erupted down front. This time it was "I spent 3 years in Baghdad!" and some more expletives. At this point, Maher lost his cool and yelled at the audience member, "Shut the f@#* up! These people did not pay good money to come here and listen to you! If you have so much to say, you should've worked as hard as we did, and then you would be up here! But you're not, are you Joe Plumber? So sit down and shut up!"

It was unreal. The whole show derailed. Beyond the political divisiveness, the show was plagued with audio problems, which prompted even more shouts from the audience. Moderator William Oksner (who?? All I came up with was this) was a dud. Instead of enemies, Coulter and Maher ended the show looking like co-conspirators who couldn't wait to run off together and commiserate. 

In all, it was an entertaining evening, but maybe not for the reasons we had anticipated. Coulter's performance was not what I'd expected; she seemed nervous, her jokes weren't funny, and she clearly wasn't comfortable dealing with hecklers. Maher has presumably had more experience with the latter, and he took most of it in stride; his years of comedy paid off as he was much more glib, engaging, and funny on stage. Coulter seems to need a script, while Maher easily improvized.

But the audience behavior left a sour taste in my mouth. Not Boston's proudest moment.

The Boston Phoenix has a great recap of the drama.

[Photo courtesy of the Herald, who's recap isn't so great, but at least they covered it. Where was the Globe?]

Samsung Ultra Touch Viral Video

I was contacted by a member of The Viral Factory in London last week, the agency responsible for Samsung's new viral video for the Ultra Touch mobile phone. It's pretty funny; see for yourselves:

Everyone loves to watch/forward cute animal videos, and The Viral Factory added a big dose of humor to make this one a hit. Besides being funny, the video cleverly drives home Samsung's product message: many, many uses. The Ultra Touch is full of multimedia goodness: built-in digital music player and FM radio, high-quality video capture, 8 megapixel camera, GPS navigation with geo-tagging capability. All packed into a razor-thin 12.7mm brushed metal frame with 2.8" touch screen (and slide-out keypad if you prefer).

The viral campaign is seemingly a success: at the time of this posting has already had over 512,000 views and 258 comments (and a fair amount of mentions in the blogosphere). It's too bad that the Flash-heavy microsite offers up no method of registering for more info or where to buy. Seems like sort of a missed opportunity there.

Trip to Vermont

This post is a couple of weeks late, but I visited Sugarbush, Vermont, for the first time last month, and oh my - it is gorgeous!

Here are some of the highlights; if you're planning a trip up there anytime soon, be sure to check these out:

The lodge at the base of the mountain is beautiful - that silver grain silo was converted into rooms:


It has an outdoor, heated swimming pool that was very active despite the single-digit weather (primarily children...Sugarbush is a much more family-oriented spot vs., say, Killington).Rum butter

The little town of Warren, VT is quaint, but blink on your drive through and you might miss it. The centerpiece is The Warren Store, a charming spot right in the center of town, full of local delicacies, housewares, clothing, and novelties.  We enjoyed breakfast at their deli/bakery, and took home a jar of the Thursday Cottage handmade rum butter.

A short drive north brings you to Waitsfield, VT, my favorite part of the trip. Much larger than Warren (but still a very small, quaint, New England town), Waitsfield is full of art galleries, craft shops, and gourmet food stores.

The Sweet Pea Natural Food Store in the Village Square Shopping Center is the best! We cooked in a couple of nights and the produce and prepared foods from this place are fantastic. We took home an extra bottle of the Vermont Wholesome all natural maple chipotle dressing - highly recommended.

Goat milk soap At the Artisan Gallery I picked up some Vermont Goat's Milk Soap from Elmore Mountain Farm; it smells divine (in Bergamot Rosewood and Spearmint Bergamot) and creates a rich lather. I'm tempted to try some of the other products on their site as well.

I also picked up the namesake cookbook of The Inn at the Round Barn, a 19th century farmhouse and a attached horse barn that were converted to an inn which now boasts its own catering service. And a really cool photograph called "Downhill" by photographer Jon Olsen. He uses a pigment ink printing system on 100% cotton rag watercolor paper coated to receive pigment inks...so while it's a photograph, it actually looks like a watercolor. It's really quite striking.

Last, but not least, is The Store. This place is awesome: chock full of gourmet food items, dishes, housewares, antiques, and quilts, all displayed in displayed in a restored 1834 Methodist Meeting House. There is even a cooking school in the back, where you can take classes or schedule private events: 


All in all, a really fun weekend. View the full slide set here (sorry, forgot the "real" camera so we're stuck with Blackberry shots):