picture by blogefl

Inside the Sistine Chapel

March 23, 2013 5:30 PM ET
A new pope has been elected, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Source: the New York Times.


March 13, 2013
By Rise Birnbaum

It’s gotta be tough whenever a Pope dies.  But can you imagine what it’s like for this College of Cardinals given the recent Pope’s resignation and the bad ink about the Catholic Church?   And the news just got a touch worse today, when the papal conclave opened the papers with their morning cappuccinos only to see the headline, “Vatican Owns the Building that Houses Europe’s Biggest Gay Bathhouse.”  That’s a no-no.  And to add fuel to the fire, Cardinal Dias lives one floor above the rockin’ club in a swanky 12-room apartment. Continue reading


kate-middleton-maxMara-jpg_123948Why have we all become bump-aholics? Do we really want and need to see any woman’s tummy bulge? Do we really get off as belly buttons widen and stretch marks really S-T-R-E-T-C-H?  It’s like Alien meets Nine Months.  Where’s Sigourney when you need her? Oh, wait, pretty sure she’s post-Alien baby makin time.

Years ago women wore maternity clothes that disguised the growing baby.  Ya know, like peplum tops and lots of kitchen apron wear.  Boy, have times changed.  Now it’s a race to see how big a splash you can make lounging in your string-tini poolside at the Fountainbleu in South Beach.

Or, in Duchess Kate’s case, in Mustique.  An invasion of privacy?  Yeah.  Should we care about the Royal  bump?  Only that we wish Kate and Wills the best and hope the baby is healthy and wise.  Wealthy is a given. (I keep thinking of Downtown Abbey every time I see the Royal duo hoping to see Matthew again.)

I guess there are two big questions here.  First, why do women feel the need to expose their 25 pounds of extra flesh in their low rise skinny jeans and cropped top?  And, second, why have we all become belly addicts?  Is there a 12-step bump program?  Ya know, where I’d go and say, “Hi, I’m Risë and I’m a bump-aholic.”  And then I get cookies and coffee after all the belly laffs.

Back across the pond now.  The Duchess decided to make it official.  In a tailored Max Mara wrap dress, Kate Middleton officially debuted her celebrated bump on a visit to London’s Hope House, a place for recovering drug addicts.  (Nope, not bump addicts.)

So, Kate came out of the fashion closet to show the world she’s now a size larger (or maybe a half size) and a million cameras whirred and clicked and showed off her slight shape shift.

Over the years, fashion and mores have changed bigtime.  Women breastfeed in public, naked bumps become routine…if not worshipped and the mags, reality TV and online sites put it on a big silver platter for all of us to lap it up.

Don’t know about you, but bare bumps don’t do it for me.  But, as far as I can see, I’m way in the minority.  And I think the fact that my bump is now 26 might have somethin’ to do with it.


Icoffef someone had shown me the business plan for Starbucks and asked me to be an early investor I would have said, “Are you nuts? Ya think anyone will plunk down $5 for a coffee you can’t even pronounce?”

And that’s why I still have a piggy bank vs. a robust portfolio of ever growing stocks and bonds.

I go to Starbucks every day and they’re so used to my “grande skinny decaf no whip two-pump mocha” order that they start making it the minute I walk through the door. This is the Starbucks on MacArthur Blvd. in DC as opposed to the Starbucks on G Street, M Street, Wisconsin Ave. and about 78 other DC locations.

You would think they’d start to cannibalize each other, but there seems to be a very steady stream of coffee-loving consumers who drag themselves out of bed each morning just to get their venti latte, caffe misto or pumpkin-spiced frattacino (just made that one up but it might go over well with college guys). There is also, in fact, a big cardboard box o’ coffee you can take home for parties. That kinda reminds me of the jug o’ wine thing from my college days (a whole other blog).

And as for the folks I see every day? It’s everyone from realtors with laptops grabbing tables and moms with strollers to docs in scrubs (hopefully not in the middle of a colon resection) and retirees with a stack of newspapers and magazines dating back 12 years. Heck – it’s everyone! Some of us want to fuel up and go (like me) and the rest want to hibernate for the winter or lock themselves in the 200 sq. ft. bathroom for a quick wash.

But there’s more than coffee and donuts and some odd looking sandwiches coming our way. Now that they’ve got us hooked on some opiate in the coffee, they’re going to start getting our hearts to beat just a bit faster with tea. Starbucks just picked up the Teavana chain for a cool $620 million. That’s in addition to buying Evolution Fresh juices and Bay Bread for munchies (to replace all the sawdust and twine “bread” they now serve).

And if that’s not enough for Starbucks to take on, guess is their new at-home Verismo coffee and espresso will grab a slice of the single-serve pie that Green Mountain has savored to date.

As for me, I’ll stick with my unpronounceable order, test out the new bread and juice, and wish I was with Starbucks Chief Howard Schultz that fateful morning when he woke up, went to the diner, ordered coffee and had his AHA moment. That’s what I call grande thinking.

Two Men and a Half-Wit

Only in Hollywood would a goofy looking, bible-toting actor making $8 million a year talk trash about his very own show.

Here’s the deal.  The kid who’s grown up (and grown rich) over the last 9 years playing Jon Cryer’s son on Two and a Half Men found Jesus and lost some street cred.

The kid had a religious awakening and made a video distributed online by a Christian church in which he pleaded with viewers to stop watching his show and “filling your head with filth.”

Look, I’m not counting anyone else’s money, but this is one rich kid who seems like an ingrate to me (and maybe lots of others).  Where does this geeky kid with a wallet the size of Oklahoma come off telling TV viewers to please change the channel?

So, today, probably after a closed door session with producers that rivals something out of The Shining, teen turd Angus T. Jones apologized, saying, “I’m sorry if my remarks showed indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and lack of appreciation of my opportunities.”

Ya know what I say?  Too late twerp.  We all heard what you said and don’t believe one word of your “apology.”

Half the world would give their right arm for the chance to read scripts, show up on set for 9 years and make boatloads of money by the time they’re 19 (or 75 for that matter).

I’m not sayin’ it’s wrong to find religion.  It’s just wrong to bite the hand that feeds you.  And Angus took a very big bite.  A T-Rex size bite.

The “half man” has a year left on his contract and chances are real good he’s done with show biz.

From a PR standpoint, the apology was necessary, but dumb, and there’s nothing I would suggest the kid do except not talk to the press for the next year and maybe give away all his money to charity.

And ya know what the T. in Angus T. Jones stands for?  Turncoat.  It’s curtains for the kid.

Social Media and the Election

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Hailey discusses the upcoming election and the role social media plays.

For months now, the internet has been flooded with political news and opinions. I’ve seen countless Facebook posts and tweets about the upcoming election and its candidates, but are all of these social media users actually planning to vote? Anyone can sit on the internet and rant and rave about candidates, but I hope that those who truly care will take their opinions to the polls.

During the third presidential debate, my roommate and I noticed that if we were to base the election results on candidate popularity, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. However, I saw someone post about the same concept, except that Mitt Romney would be the victor. Initially I thought my Facebook friend must be blind, but it makes sense. The majority of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers grew up near me, went to college with me, or were in my sorority, so it’s likely that we share similar views. You can’t really get a glimpse of the majority when you’re surrounded by others much like yourself.

To get a better idea of candidate popularity on social media, I was going to compare the exact amount of Facebook “likes” both Obama and Romney have, but in the past five minutes alone Obama has gained more than 2,000 likes. Each time I refresh the page, the number continues to grow. The same goes for Romney. Although both are seeing increasing numbers, Obama has nearly 32 million “likes,” while Romney has just over 12 million (as of 11:10 a.m. EST).

There’s a huge gap here, but is social media support in any way indicative of election results? I guess only time will tell.

The Newest Way to Shout

Have you ever found yourself heated about a certain topic and just want to shout it out? Well, now you can with Shout Roulette. The new website has a variety of topics such as “Mitt Romney is an idiot,” “people should not own dogs in crowded cities” and “job interviews are horrible.”

Then you choose a topic that you are fired up about and either agree or disagree. The website takes your opinion and places you in a video chat with someone with an opposing view. When you are sick of talking about one topic you can move to the next and yell at random strangers over the internet.

The site reminds me of the controversial ChatRoulette but for folks who want to get upset and debate. Would you use this site as a place to let go of frustration? Or do you think this is a new way of communication?

I would love to see what happens on Shout Roulette during the presidential debates tonight. It’s probably a better idea to get upset at someone that you don’t know than to cause controversy in your own household. What are your thoughts on this new website and communication tool?

Ruffled Feathers

Who wudda thunk it?  That Big Bird would become a political hot potato in the home stretch of presidential election season?  Only in America could that big, feathery, loveable symbol of childhood get caught in the crossfire.

There’s no debating it, ever since Big Bird was named as a target for cost-cutting by Romney last week, the yellow guy has never seen this much ink.

It all started when Mitt took the mitts off and ran over poor Jim Lehrer while he was asleep at the moderator chair.  Hard-hearted Mitt told the global audience that he would actually cut PBS, Big Bird and poor Jim if he’s elected the next prez.  (I got very nervous about my Masterpiece Mystery! addiction).  But, hey, folks, that’s at least one cut he’s telling us he’ll make.  When it comes right down to it, Mitt is showing us he can make the tough choices.

So, what did Big Bird do?  He goes on a media tour and appears on SNL with Seth Meyers.  Quite a coup for the bird on the street.

But, now the candidates are flippin’ the bird all over the place.  Obama is now using Big Bird in an Anti-Romney ad and in stump speeches, and Romney countered with none other than the Count to show that 2 can play the same game!!  It’s obvious these guys are playing hardball.

This might sound funny, but Sesame Street is NOT laughing.  They do not want to be seen as endorsing either party and want all Sesame-Street-related ads pulled. The Obama Campaign is thinkin’ about it.

Guess that means Big Bird is down for the Count.