Sunday, January 31, 2016

Val Chmerkovskiy of DWTS Fame Sued for Posting a Meme - Is This Fair?

Valentin Chmerkovskiy, along with CBS news and the photographer of a photograph are finding themselves the subject of a, in my opinion, frivolous lawsuit.

Image from
A girl with Down Syndrome, who is now 16 years old, drank a large soda in 2008. A guy took a picture of it and the event cascaded. Here's the scenario, per Note that you can see the image on TMZ's website.

The girl claims in 2008 she was at a baseball game and someone took the picture of her drinking a soda. The guy posted the pic with the heading, "Everything that's wrong with America."

The pic became a meme in 2014, and Val posted it 3 weeks ago on Facebook.  The caption on the meme read, "Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse."

Because the pic went viral and Val refused to apologize and remove the photo (he responded to the girl's mom's email saying that she's the problem, essentially), the girl is now suing for emotional distress, defamation and invasion of privacy.

The girl is asking for $6 million from Val, $6 million from CBS because they also posted the photo, and $600,000 from the photographer.

Okay, what? Here's the thing. When you're in public, you have no expectation of privacy. Per the American Society of Media Photographers' website:

Q: Am I legally permitted to photograph strangers in public places? Are city and state parks considered public places?
A: Yes, you can photograph strangers in public places, unless you do it to such an extent and in such a way that you become a harasser or nuisance to the public.

First and foremost, the photographer was within his right to take the picture. As the subject was in a public place and the photographer lawfully took the photo, I see no case here.

Secondly, the parents of this girl, who are obviously involved in this lawsuit, had to know that starting this lawsuit would thrust their daughter further into the spotlight. If the daughter really wanted this to go away and forget about it, a very public lawsuit would not be the best option.

Thirdly, I find it hard to respect this lawsuit given the amount of money being requested. I would respect this lawsuit more if:
  • The photographer was not being sued because he was within his rights.
  • The lawsuit noted that money from the winnings will support charitable causes to assist with Down Syndrome and childhood obesity.
  • The lawsuit were for a fair amount of money and seemed to have some level of positive intention.
I have not read the whole lawsuit so I don't know if any of my above points are included in the lawsuit, but they are not as far as I'm aware.

I really don't think this kid has a case, and I also don't think she'll win if it goes to court, but I think that CBS and Val Chmerkovskiy will pay the family some money to be quiet, and if the family's seeking fame, the girl will end up with a guest spot on a TV show or something and get her 15 minutes in the spotlight. For example, there was a character on Glee with Down Syndrome; this could happen again on another show.

Please note - I am arguing legality, not morality, in this blog post. What the photographer did initially was not right when it comes to ethics. And when the girl's mom asked Val to remove the photo, he should have. Telling the mom that she's not parenting correctly isn't a great thing to do, and I don't think many people are arguing about that. But her grudge against Val is certainly not worth the $12 million dollars she's asking for. Plenty of people are featured in memes all the time and they don't sue the people posting them. Goosebumps girl, for example.

Here's my thing - I don't doubt that the girl was embarrassed, and I don't think featuring people in memes without their consent is a nice, kind, fair thing to do. I do feel sorry for her and I do wish she didn't go through pain because of Val's selfish actions. But this was not intentional slander, and in an age where practically everything in public, things like this will happen.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cake Wars - Kung Fu Panda - Season 3, Episode 3 Recap

Here at Less Than Reality, we love cakes. And we love the movie Kung Fu Panda. So when we learned that the two would be coming together on the Food Network show, we had to tune in.

The challenge was to make a cake inspired by the upcoming movie Kung Fu Panda 3.

First up was a flavor challenge. The bakers had to use one of the ingredients from an Chinese inspired list in their cake: ginger, sesame oil, five-spice, rice vinegar or soy sauce, plum sauce, chili sauce or garlic. Interesting! The design had to reflect the designer if he or she were in Kung Fu Panda.

First up was Samantha Kestin, who brought her husband Adam Kestin to help her. The New Jersey native envisioned a cake featuring a momma panda with her kids. She decided on a dark chocolate, soy sesame cake, topped with cold noodle inspired butter creme. You can check out her amazing cakes here, if you're interested. She aimed to cover her whole cakeboard with decorations.

Next up was Liz Huber from Florida. She brought her sister as her assistant. She made a chocolate chili cake with ginger buttercreme. Her design is a panda holding weights. She was concerned about her cake looking lumpy due to heavy fondant.

Darla Swain from California was third. She's from a family of bakers. Her daughter in law joined her as a designer. Her design was a dancing panda. They made an apple five spice cake with ginger buttercreme. Darla worried throughout the challenge because it didn't appear as if her cakes were baking fast enough.

Antoine Lee from Maryland was last. He got his love for design from working in an ice cream shop. He brought an assistant named Abigail. Their cake would look like a panda playing basketball. He chose a tosted sesame oil almond cake with a pineapple filling. Antoine struggles with his panda decorations staying intact.

We met the judges, Waylynn Lucas, Ron Ben-Israel, plus the guest judges, co-directors of Kung Fu Panda 3, Jen Nelson and Alessandro Carloni.

Ron Ben-Israel loved the presentation of Samantha's cake. He said he thought the taste would fall flat but he was proven wrong. Jen loved that Samantha captured the fun of the movie.

Antoine was told that he played it safe and he didn't take enough risk with the flavor. Jen said it was too bad that Antoine didn't have time to finish his design.

Darla was told that she created a good spice combination. The apple and spices mixed well.

Liz was told that more time should have been spent on the facial features of the panda but the flavors were good.

Unfortunately, someone had to go, and that was Antoine.

Next up was the final round. The contestants had to create a cake depicting an epic kung fu battle featuring characters from Kung Fu Panda. Each contestant was given two assistants and four hours to build their panda cake.

Samantha imagined a big pagoda cake with lots of characters. She decided on a vanilla almond cake with an orange vanilla almond glaze and a whole bunch of other stuff. Unfortunately, one of her cakes fell, but she had to keep going.

Darla designed a cake featuring the characters on a mountain. She decided on a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. The cake had coffee in it to kick it up a notch. She required at minimum eight sheet cakes. As Darla cooked, it was noted that her rock structure didn't look as amazing as her pagoda did.

Liz also thought about a pagoda cake with Po saving the day on top. She chose an almond cake with ginger butter creme and plum sauce.

It was noted by the judges that all of the contestants seemed to be building similar structures.

Liz presented first, and she said she imagined Kai coming in to split the pagoda and Po keeping it together. She was complimented on the flavor and fun elements of her cake, but told that the bottom of the cake was dark and dreary. She was also told her cake was mushy and the proportions were off.

Darla's story was Po training the other pandas to be warriors. She was told her cake tasted great and had great gold design elements, but her characters didn't interact and allow the cake to tell a story.

Samantha's cake portrayed the story after the fight ended. She was given compliments on the taste balance of the cake, but it was overmixed. She was also told that her cake suffered from lack of details. She was also told that the cake was a little too real.

Finally, we had the results. Darla was eliminated first, with Liz being announced as the winner. That put Samantha in second place.

Congratulations to all of the contestants - you're all awesome for getting on the show in the first place!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

South of Wilshire - A Review of This Fun New Game Show

In the new TMZ-created show South of Wilshire, host Adam Glyn travels around the neighborhood south of Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles and talks to people at local businesses about their celebrity sightings. The people at each location give clues about celebrities that have come into their stores, and contestants have to guess the celebrity being discussed.

This fast paced show is fun to watch. It's got a great combination - fun hosts (Glyn and his co-host Raquel), spirited contestants and the appeal of celebrity trivia. The show follows a Jeopardy like format, with questions being asked of the contestants with the winner getting money, followed by a round where the contestants can wager cash on a tougher question.

Following that, the contestants get more questions, this time with the chance to win a larger sum of cash. And following that, a celebrity gives clues about him or herself, but with their voice disguised. Each contestant guesses (again, like Final Jeopardy) and person who has the most money at the end wins.

So, why do I like this show? It moves fast. Adam Glyn talks at the speed of light, and I mean it in a good way. He packs a ton into this half hour show. And there are some unintentionally funny moments too, like when somebody guessed Drake when asked about a celebrity who goes by his Hebrew name. It's a good guess, but Drake is definitely not a Hebrew name. Matisyahu, on the other hand, totally is.

Is this show worth watching? Yeah, it is! It's fun, light and fluffy, and it's really entertaining. So give South of Wilshire a try!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Undercover Boss - Shoppers World

Tonight's Undercover Boss features the store Shoppers World. I was interested in this because I have actually been to Shoppers World (and, in this blog, will display an image from a totally ridiculous product at Shoppers World).

 The description of the episode was kind of funny - it said the Shoppers World CEO discovers shoplifting at his stores. Well, yeah, it is retail so that's not surprising! Anyway, onto the episode.

This is a photo I took at Shoppers World. Proofread fail.
CEO Steve Dushey went undercover to see what's going on in his family business. In 1904, Steve's grandfather came from Syria and opened his first store in the 1930s. His family continued to open stores, and Steve was raised in the business. The goal of the store is to sell a bunch of stuff, including all things fashionable, at the lowest possible prices. Bored with the eight stores in the company, Steve expanded during the recession by finding affordable real estate and got the company to forty stores. He wants to add many more. Steve's dad, who is no longer in the business but does advise Steve, is concerned about too much expansion, but Steve says he's got it under control.

Steve talked to a buyer about prices, and that really is a true example - I saw the sheets (good ones!) in the store at the price point Steve was discussing. This really is a great store - there are so many fun items, and they pack a ton of stuff in the store. It can be difficult to get assistance sometimes in a store, but the employees are awesome and very helpful. Most of the merchandise in the store is great - some is name brand - but some is so funny, like the image I've included of the underwear with the typo.

Steve went undercover as Alex, a Jersey Shore surfer. He will pose as a reality show contestant looking to win money to open up a home improvement store.

Alex began at the Jamaica Avenue store in Queens, NY. Alex met with Nalini, who is in charge of shoes. Nalini planned to teach Alex every detail so he realized how tough it is to work there. He had to check the shoe boxes to make sure they contained the right items. He realized the store was carrying too many items for the space available. They next did stock upstairs, and when that happened, Nalini explained that she met her fiance at Shoppers World, and she takes care of her nephew and both her parents. She said she is upset because she's been in the job for eight years without a promotion, and she used to be offered 60 hours a week and is down to around 28.

Stop two was Morrow, Georgia. Alex worked with Sharteria. She goes by Shar. She was great! She immediately said that Alex needs to change her surfer hair. She pointed out that there were school uniforms, even though school had already started. Alex noticed that there were summer items out when it was fall - they were losing money by having the wrong things out. Shar, who I have determined is an awesome person because of her great attitude, shared that she was going to marry her baby's father but it didn't work out because he was cheating. She's twenty years old and six months pregnant. The pair had to dress a mannequin, and Shar asked Alex to pick out an outfit. She said he can use his fashion sense to pick the outfit. He was upset because there are company manuals about what to display, but Shar never saw it. Shar said they put the items next to the mannequin (up high) and customers ask for help to reach a high item. When asked, Shar said there's no training manual or anything and she learns on her own. Alex stepped out to talk to his district manager and talk about the issues he faced.

Cleveland, Ohio was third, and that's a store that turns over merchandise really fast. Alex met with Carol, who goes by Miss Carol. He'd be working in childrenswear. Alex would be scanning for markdowns - every item in the department. He had to make sure items match the marked price. If there was a mismatch, he'd have to mark the item as clearance with a red sticker. Because Alex did so badly at scanning products, the scanner kicked out. It had to be restarted, and it had problems because of the wifi connection.

This is where the shoplifting description came in. An alarm went off to signal shoplifting, but the employees were too late to stop the shoplifter. There's no security in the store so nothing could be done. Needless to say, Steve (undercover as Alex) was horrified. He met with assistant manager Aimee, who explained that two ladies hid merchandise in their purses. She said this is a constant problem - it happens once or twice a day due to the lack of security. Aimee said she was once pepper sprayed by a woman who was sneaking out the back door with merchandise.

Brooklyn came next. This is a huge store. Alex met with a cashier named Tanisha. This store handles security well, which was part of why Steve (Alex) wanted to visit. Tanisha showed Alex that the store, upon their own initiative, tapes bags shut once people buy things so nobody can sneak anything in. Alex was shocked to see the problems with checkout - some items wouldn't scan so they have to be entered manually, which is very slow. Tanisha said her job is all about fun, showing that she has a great attitude and is very likable. My only issue is that she tells customers to have a blessed day, whereas I feel that unnecessarily adds religion to the conversation. Tanisha told Alex about her family. Her father's in a nursing home and isn't doing well. Tanisha also has a 23 year old son. She'd love to have her father live with her but can't afford to on her minimum wage salary. She loves Shoppers World, though, and wouldn't leave. She grew up with her family shopping there and loves it at the store.

Reveal Time!

Sam revealed that he's the boss and he was dressed as Alex.

Sam told Shar that he realized there was a lack of training. He told Shar that he'd have everyone retrained so they could be successful. Sam gave Shar $10,000 to spend on her soon to be born baby.

Sam told Nalini she taught him that his employees aren't treated fairly. He said she'd be getting her 40 hours back and would be the head of merchandising in her department. He gave her a $15,000 signing bonus. He also gave her $20,000 so she could have a real wedding and wouldn't have to get married at city hall.

Aimee and Sam talked about security. Sam invested 1.2 million in security across the company. Sam gave all of the full time employees in the store checks for $5,000. Aimee would get an additional $15,000 for how hard she works.

Miss Carol convinced Sam to invest half a million dollars into improving scanners and wifi. Carol mentioned that her husband is ill, and Sam offered her a $20,000 check for her husband's care or her retirement.

Sam was impressed with how Tanisha trained him. Sam offered her full time employment, as well as $100,000 so she can care for her father at home.

End of Episode Update:

Shar moved to be near her family and had a baby girl. Nalini is planning her wedding. Aimee will reward her family with a new home. Miss Carol enjoys time with her husband and Tanisha cares for her dad at home.

And that's it! Steve Dushey was very generous on this episode. Of course, this seemed to be his goal from the get go, but it's cool - it was effective, and it will make me shop more at Shoppers World. Plus, they have great text deals so you can get discounts on their already great prices. Well played, Shoppers World, well played.