Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh


    As the winner of the second "Apprentice," Kelly Perdew should be in line for a top job in the Trump organization. But you'd never know that from his office. His desk is in a small, windowless space next to the assistant to Donald Trump's wife, Melania (Perdew has no assistant). The walls are bare, except for a dry-erase board and a U.S. map, stuck with pins marking the distributors he's signed to buy his boss's new line of bottled water, Trump Ice. "This is going to be big," he vows.That, of course, is the same promise Trump made about the job waiting for the lucky contestant who survives long enough to hear him say, "You're hired." (He'll be picking this season's winner on Thursday.) In the series premiere, Trump promised the top prize of a job as president of one of his companies. But spend some time with winners of the first two seasons, and the reality of this reality show becomes clear: the apprentices' $250,000-a-year gigs are less about climbing the corporate ladder, and more...

    On a sunny spring day in southern California, a handful of factory workers are scurrying around in heavy black winter parkas. At the Dreyer's ice cream plant in Bakersfield--where they turn out such treats as Drumstick cones, Push-Up pops, ice-cream sandwiches and flavors like double-fudge brownie and rocky road--it's never time to be wearing short sleeves. These days, the temperature is dropping even more. In some of the largest freezers, set at 7 degrees, Dreyer's is producing a new kind of lower-fat ice cream that the company says tastes like the regular artery-clogging good stuff. Plant manager Mark McLenithan opens a chocolate tub and offers a taste. "You can't tell, can you?"Well, call us skeptical. Light ice cream, with half the fat or at least a third fewer calories, has been around since the 1980s. But most palates haven't been impressed. When you cut down on fat, ice cream tastes more like ice and less like cream. Now Dreyer's, the largest ice-cream maker in the United...

    Sunday is Mother's Day: time to buy roses. We ordered four small bouquets and polled moms to see what they thought.SITE: 1800Flowers COST: $43.43 SPECIAL DELIVERY: You choose hand or mail delivery. Shipped buds are fresher but hard to unpack. MOMMY SAYS: These colorful roses are 'nice.' Bonus points for a big arrangement.SITE: Teleflora COST: $40.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Orders come from local florists, who can sub in buds you didn't pick. MOMMY SAYS: 'Too prissy.' The site shows light pink roses; we got dark pink.SITE: ProFlowers COST: $29.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Flowers are boxed and sent from the field. Guaranteed to last longer. MOMMY SAYS: Not a fan of the site's 'petite' roses. 'I'd say they're a little puny.'SITE: FTD COST: $40.98 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Usually delivered by a florist. Ours came with a handwritten note. MOMMY SAYS: The selection of a dozen red roses, above, 'is my favorite.'
  • Summer Slimdown

    "Here now summer's coming around again." But the Carly Simon lyrics don't tell you the best way to shed those extra pounds gained during winter. Atkins is out. South Beach is so two years ago. And Slim-Fast feels like your grandmother's plan. But how do you separate the fads from the facts?Fortunately--or unfortunately--for us, bookstore shelves are bulging with new diet books. We sampled some of the latest titles:The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life By The American Institute for Cancer ResearchJudging by the cover: Pies are yummy ... and can be good for you, too!Recipe for success: A group of food experts got together to compile a book of meals that are healthy--to reduce, say, your risk of cancer--and still don't taste like cardboard. Sample dishes, like roasted chestnut soup and spinach lasagna, are low in saturated fat. There's also a full glossary of fruits and veggies, so you can tell your bulgur from your basil.Bottom line: Recipes...

    Q&A: Ray RomanoAfter nine years, "everybody Loves Raymond" is going off the air. The final episode will show on May 16. Ray took time to speak to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Have you filmed the last episode? ...

    Q&A: ELLEN BARKINEllen Barkin is as feisty and outspoken as ever. She's starring in Todd Solondz's controversial new movie, "Palindromes." She talked with NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.Were you nervous taking on this role?No, I was more than honored. I said yes before I read the script. He's the best director I've worked with.Have you answered a million questions about abortion?Yes, and I'm happy to answer more. I'm adamantly pro-choice. I guess I'm a child of the '60s, and I remember one of my friends hemorrhaging on the bathroom floor because she'd just come back from Puerto Rico. What I see ahead is Roe v. Wade being chipped away every day by this hysterically frightened society. I find it horrifying.Let's talk about plastic surgery!In NEWSWEEK?Hey, that's me. Pretend I'm a shallow gay man.Shallow, yet perfectly keeping in the Zeitgeist.You've been talking about it.I have. You don't know if these actresses are 17 or 70. Some of them don't look like themselves. I think now it's f--...

    Harvard officials announced last week that they would divest $4.4 million in shares of a company linked to Sudan. Why? They were persuaded by students who mounted a campaign against the genocide in the country's Darfur region, allegedly perpetrated by the Sudanese government. A mini-guide for the would-be activist:Start an online petition. Organizers say they put up $10 for a domain name that allowed them to collect about 1,000 signatures.Set up a meeting. A few persuasive reps sat down with university officials in positions of power.Protest peacefully. Student groups dressed in black and rallied together to show their dissatisfaction. "There was just no defense for this," says Manav Bhatnagar, 20, cofounder of the movement.

    Could this be act two of Christo's "Gates"? Men's raincoats this spring are popping up in shades of orange. How do you pull off the trend without looking like a pumpkin? The coats pictured above are already "very dramatic," says celebrity stylist George Blodwell. So you want to pair them with a more understated color--white or pale blue. Jeans are always a good bet. Follow the same fashion advice if you experiment with other orange offerings, like shoes, shirts and pants. (OK, you might want to pass on the pants.) After all, "orange is a hot color at the moment," Blodwell says. But whatever you do, avoid other citrusy tints, like green or yellow: people might think you're bananas.

    FASHIONStep Into SpringPack up your boots, put away those pumps and say adieu to Uggs. Spring has officially arrived and, with it, a new crop of shoes that celebrate longer days, warmer nights and the first show of bare legs. Put some sparkle in your step:Precious metals. Metallic shoes are making a lustrous comeback. No longer a fashion relic of the '80s, today's pretty metals have been recast as understated flats in gold and silver that add a dash of St-Tropez sparkle to cropped pants, full skirts and even denim. The striking Degas Ballerina by Tod's is perfect for long promenades (www.tods.com), and slipping into Lanvin's lurex flats (www. lanvin.fr) infuses your favorite pair of jeans with instant French luxe.Hot rocks. Baubles, beads, beach glass and seashells: spring's low-key jewelry is adorning some of this season's most seductive sandals. Aegean-blue beads on Manolo Blahnik's turquoise thongs give flourish to simple skirts and short pants. Craving a bit of bling? Christian...

    It's lunchtime in Iowa City, and after a bite of her veggie sandwich, Wendi Winkie starts reading student papers. But these aren't just any classroom essays--they're from the new SAT, which launched in March with a new writing section. One of the questions--"Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?"--is prompting creative answers. They range from Thoreau to vacuum cleaners. One essay argues that creativity is needed in the advertising world, because we see the same commercials for male-enhancement drugs. Winkie sits up, chuckles and gives the essay a 5 on a 6-point scale. But, she adds, "Just because you find a response humorous doesn't mean it's any better."What does? Teachers and test-prep companies have been trying to figure that out since the College Board announced the new essay section. (Test- prep company Kaplan, like NEWSWEEK, is owned by The Washington Post Company.) Does neat handwriting help? (No.) How about vocabulary? (Papers that sprinkle in more...

    Who is Jude Law? Audiences missed his movies last year, so how will you decide which version of Jude to spend the night with? A cheat sheet.MOVIE 'Alfie'LOVE INTERESTS Susan Sarandon: 26 yrs. older; Sienna Miller: 9 yrs. youngerTAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 2:15 (mins. into movie)ROMEO MOMENT To Jane Krakowski: "Your derriere looks really rather ravishing."MOVIE 'Closer'LOVE INTERESTS Julia Roberts: 5 yrs. older; Natalie Portman: 8 yrs. younger.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 91:39ROMEO MOMENT To Clive Owen, online: "MEET ME... London Aquarium & then HOTEL."MOVIE 'I [HEART] Huckabees'LOVE INTERESTS Naomi Watts: 4 yrs. older. But she doesn't get the ring.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 11:32ROMEO MOMENT "Why is marriage and kids so important? There's an overpopulation problem."MOVIE 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'LOVE INTERESTS Gwyneth Paltrow: 3 months older. They were both born in '72.TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT 53:41ROMEO MOMENT To Gwyneth: "Please! Don't touch anything else!" Hey, it's an action movie.

    After a hit on the Cartoon Network, Japan pop stars Ami and Yumi are taking over. But haven't we seen this act? PERI investigates:RelationPuffy AmiYumi Met at an audition nine years ago; they're BFFsMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Twin sistersAgesPuffy AmiYumi 31 (Ami), 30Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Both 18Animated SeriesPuffy AmiYumi"Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" has a big tween followingMary-Kate and Ashley Olsen "Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action!" lasted a season. On DVD in May.DollsPuffy AmiYumiSay Japanese words and sing theme song. Out August.Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Dressed for college. Carry GO TEAM megaphones.Greatest HitsPuffy AmiYumi"True Asia," "Love So Pure," "Planet Tokyo"Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen "I Am the Cute One," "Ice Cream Crazy," "Pool Party"

    You're a "Star Wars" fan who can't wait to see Hayden Christensen become Darth Vader in "Revenge of the Sith" (May 19). But wouldn't you rather undergo that transformation? Here are the latest Vader masks--just shell out the $$, and give in to your Dark Side.Darth Vader 'Episode III' Helmet, $899. From Master Replicas. It's made of fiberglass and lined with foam, suede and leather. The Dark Side: Out in October, it's taken from the studio mold, so it won't fit if your head's bigger than Hayden's. Is that possible?Silver Color Mask and Helmet Set, $2,000. From Rubie's. It's coated to protect against tarnishing--and comes with a stand. Who said you don't have a good head for decorating? The Dark Side: There are only 500 out there. Supreme Edition Darth Vader, $130. A high-end plastic mask at party stores. Wear it with a black cape on the day the movie opens. The Dark Side: The lenses are tinted "like sunglasses," says a rep, to hide your eyes.Darth Vader Voice Changer, $30. From...

    How do you phone home? More than a million consumers have discovered VoIP--voice over Internet protocol--to make local and long-distance calls over the Internet. Subscribers get a phone adapter to plug into their broadband line. Because the services don't slap on as many fees, your bill will be lower. The downside? You'll lose your phone when your Internet goes down, and 911 service is tricky. Still, with prices so low, now might be a good time to join, especially if you need a second line. The lowdown:VONAGE (vonage.com) is the leader, with some 500,000 customers. It comes with three-way calling and call return (*69). But its customer service has been getting bad marks. $25 a month for all U.S. calls; $68 start-up fee (includes the first month).AT&T CALLVANTAGE (callvantage .com) is adding an enhanced 911 service that would allow the operator to see your contact info. $30 a month; $30 start-up, and $10 for shipping.VERIZON VOICEWING (verizon.com/ voicewing) waives the start-up...

    "I'm a nurse," says Jenni Hanson, 23. "Do you want to hold the newborn?" Only Hanson's not really a nurse. And she's not offering the children who crowd around her a real baby. Dressed in a white uniform, Hanson works at an adoption center--for dolls. Here, in New York's FAO Schwarz, girls gather behind a glass window to peek at newborns in a hospital setting. Once they choose whom they want to adopt, "Nurse" Jenni pretend-listens for a heartbeat and hands over an adoption application with questions like "Will you provide clothes for your baby to wear?"More adoption nurseries are on their way. The Middleton Doll Co. plans to open a handful this spring in the Saks Department Store Group, and 100 in the next three years. "We want these babies [which retail for $89] to be just like a newborn," says Tim Voss, the company's president. It's part of the trend for doll makers--to make their dolls more real, to compete with new gadgets targeted at kids. "Doll manufacturers are squeezed to...

    Avoid "Rebirth." J. Lo needs one after that Grammy performance, but judging by her new single, "Get Right," and the fact that Sony wouldn't give up a review copy, it may be more like a "Nail in the Coffin."Buy "Classic Comedies Collection" ($69). A box set that includes "The Philadelphia Story," "Bringing Up Baby" and four other titles with greats like Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.Read "Campo Santo" by W. G. Sebald (Random House. $25). A posthumous collection of prose from the German writer. For a bookstore browse, try the essay "Dream Textures: A Brief Note on Nabokov."Play Ms. Pac-Man wireless ($30). Now you can plug the addictive game into your TV and sit way, way back--the controller's cordless.See "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Yours will be on Halle, in her steamiest sex scene since "Monster's Ball." What else would you watch for? (Sunday, ABC, 9 p.m., ET).

    You'll be tickled by what Elmo can do now. This fall, Fisher-Price will introduce a new talking plush toy based on the "Sesame Street" character that says your child's name, counts down to his birthday and lets him know when it's time for lunch. The technology is made possible through a memory card in the doll's stomach that receives information from parents.By now, adults have learned all about interactive toys like the virtual pet Tamagotchi. But the latest kids' gadgetry, unveiled this week at New York's American International Toy Fair, involves even more sophisticated technology, like motion detectors and sound recognition. The idea is to create toys that look, feel and act like living creatures. Some child psychologists aren't crazy about the new trend--critics say it can stifle creativity--but kids are. The latest generation of tots, who grew up playing with their parents' cell phones and iPods, expect their toys to be just as wired. "By 2010," predicts Jim Silver, the editor...

    All bets are off at this year's Oscars, thanks to host Chris Rock who might prompt more bleeps than a broken smoke alarm. But if you had to make some bets, say, in an Oscar pool, wouldn't you want a little help? TIP SHEET tracks the top races. As for what to wear, you're on your own.CATEGORY: Best Picture ...

    The latest comic-book superheroes are from a real different world--Hollywood. These days, TV and movie scribes are cranking out comics. Even directors are in the game; Bryan Singer ("X-Men") and Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream") will publish later this year. Why the shift? Big names help boost sales. But are you ready for do-gooders who talk like "The O.C." 's Mischa Barton? A roundup:Young Avengers By Allan Heinberg"The O.C." writer knows as much about comics as Seth. Four teenage superheroes with dialogue like "This is not superhero behavior." But at least they throw punches, not lawn furniture.Man With the Screaming Brain By Bruce CampbellActors can write? From the B-movie star of "Evil Dead." A four-issue mini-series (out in May). This title character switches brains after a mad scientist performs an operation on him.Deadshot By Christos GageHe's penned episodes of "Law & Order: SVU." Issue three is out now. Hit man Deadshot learns of his daughter's existence and...

    Rent "The Greatest American Hero." Believe it or not, high-school teacher Ralph Hinkley inherits a superhero costume from aliens but loses the instructions in this '80s cult hit.Hear "Never Scared." Chris Rock's new comedy album takes aim at rappers and strippers. It's bleeping hilarious--unless you're a nervous Oscars exec.Buy Adidas by Stella McCartney (at select Bloomingdale's). This new line of gym couture includes yoga shoes ($120) and hoodies. It's stylish enough for working out and wearing out.Enter The Ugliest Car in America contest (donate carusa.com) to give your wreck to charity. Prize lemons tour the country--by tow truck.Surf themorningnews.org's Tournament of Books. Bloggers pit 2004's best novels against each other in a bibliophile's version of March Madness.

    If you're the kind of person who'd get married at an amusement park, we've got excellent news. Now you can buy your wedding dress there, too. Universal Studios Hollywood just opened a new discount store with couture fashion worn by celebrities. (The park snatches up the goods from TV-set racks after the stars undress.) There's even underwear. But at least everything's been to the dry cleaners.'Crossing Jordan' LUCKY BRAND. From the title character's closet. She investigates bodies; we witness fashion crime. 'American Dreams' SCHOOL APPAREL. Hey, neighbor. Meg's cardigan could make you look like a female Mr. Rogers. 'Passions' OLEG CASSINI. From the upscale designer. At this price, you can get the floral-pattern, beaded gown now--and find your husband later. 'Will & Grace'TRINA TURK. This red top was worn by Debra Messing's Grace. Did you think it belonged to Jack? 'Passions' DONNA KARAN. The character Grace Bennett is said to have pulled on these men's boxers.

    Apply for "The Apprentice" (NBC.com for info) by Thursday. But if you're going to beat out thousands just to quit in the third episode, try for "Wheel of Fortune" instead.Buy "Full House" on DVD ($30) and relive the days when we thought Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were one person. Wait... they're not?Surf epicurious.com for recipes to ring in the Chinese Year of the Rooster, which dawns Wednesday. Make dumplings to symbolize wealth, lo mein for long life or a cake to sweeten your luck.Read "Bedside Manners" by David Watts, M.D. (Harmony Books. $24). In candid, poetic prose, a doctor explores the "instant, profound human interaction" between patients and physicians. You'll wish your doctor were half as attentive.Hear "Sweetheart: Love Songs" ($15 at Starbucks). It sounds awful, except that it's great, with hipsters like Rufus Wainwright crooning classics.
  • Ready for My Close-Up

    But can I succeed? Will the Guru of the Green yell: "You're fired!"? Stay tuned.5 a.m. The alarm rings. I wake up, shower, cut myself shaving, put on my olive-green suit and stumble outside. Snow sprinkles from above. I wave for a cab and, in my best Raj voice, command: "Driver, take me to the Trump building!"6 a.m. Hundreds gather out back. The first guy in line, Sean Grant, 31, an options trader, arrived at 4 p.m. yesterday. "I want to be No. 1," he tells me. "Waiting 17 hours for the chance of a lifetime isn't such a bad thing." It isn't? Well, he concedes, there were a few downsides--like the wind and the hail and the cold. "I lost complete feeling in my feet." One last question: Will he let me cut?6:45 a.m. From where I stand--and shiver--at the end of the line, there are only 164 people ahead of me. I bond with Darlene Mays, 45, a stay-at-home mom who's auditioning for "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." "I make draperies, ottomans, paintings on glass," she tells me, from under...

    Wacko Jacko, as Court TV kicks up its coverage. (A new documentary airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.) With jury selection underway, this case is shaping up to be a real... thriller.Groundhog.org for links to trivia and a live Webcast at 7 a.m., ET, Wednesday, when America's favorite forecaster comes out of his hole. No, we don't mean Al Roker."Putumayo Presents New Orleans" ($15.98). Mardi Gras is almost here, so get the party started with this new CD. It includes renditions from Louis Armstrong and Dr. John."Ray." The biopic is out this week on DVD. Follow it up with "Collateral." Who would have thought the star of "Booty Call" would land two Oscar nominations in the same year?"Black Panther." This first black comic-book superhero returns with a new Marvel series ($2.99; in stores Wednesday).

    Fox's hit series "24" kicks off its fourth season with a disturbing story line: a seemingly normal, suburban American Muslim family is actually a sleeper terrorist cell bent on destroying Western society. The mother, played by Oscar-nominated Shohreh Aghdashloo, is so evil she kills her son's cute blond girlfriend to make sure she doesn't blow the family's cover. The Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR) protested the show and eventually met with the network. Fox called the meeting "educational and informative," and released this statement: "We are providing CAIR's PSAs [public-service announcements] to the affiliates. It is their decision whether or not to run them." In case you never see them, the 30- and 60-second spots include the line, "Muslims are part of the fabric of this great country."Critics, like author Jack Shaheen who catalogs Arab and Muslim images in the U.S. media, worry that "24" represents a new trend, where even the Muslim or Arab next door is a potential...

    The party started for Candy Williams of Phoenix, Ariz., when she brought home a karaoke machine last year. Now she and her husband croon songs together after dinner--and even yodel, on occasion. Family members come over to sing "White Rabbit" (her mom's greatest hit) and Elvis. Sometimes their jam sessions last for six hours. "We just pass the mike around," says the 32-year-old hospital supervisor. "I can tell you my least favorite song: 'Love Shack.' They scream [it] into your microphone."These days the spotlight on karaoke keeps getting brighter. U.S. sales of home gadgets at music stores more than doubled from 2000 to 2004, according to NAMM, the International Music Products Association. Now manufacturers are building off the appeal of karaoke bars and "American Idol"--which returned for a fourth season on Fox last week--to peddle the idea that anyone can be a rock star, at least behind closed doors. Their latest plug: new technology that offers more voice enhancements, such as...

    RENT "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Hey, Jude--sorry no one saw your movies last year. This was your best... next to "Alfie" and "Closer." But it sure beats "I [HEART] Huckabees."EAT Pillsbury ice cream. The Doughboy rolls out his new line ($5.49 for a carton), in seven flavors. Our favorite: Brownies 'n Cream. Sadly, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough tasted crumby.SEE Oscar nominations, announced Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., ET, by Adrien Brody. Our prediction: he won't get a nod for "The Village."HEAR "In Good Company" has the best soundtrack since "Garden State." It includes Aretha, Diana Krall and Peter Gabriel. The song to download: David Byrne's "Glass, Concrete & Stone."READ "Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood," by Bill Hayes ($23.95), traces the cultural significance of blood, dating to Dracula. It's the perfect gift for the phlebotomist in your life--or (nudge, nudge, Brad) Angelina Jolie.

    In the coming weeks on "The O.C.," Marissa develops a female love interest. But what some fans really want to know is whether there's more than just brotherly affection between the show's male leads, Seth and Ryan. "Well, yeah, they're lovers," creator Josh Schwartz tells NEWSWEEK.He's kidding--but not everyone's so sure. These days, looking for romantic tension between male TV characters is a popular side attraction to the actual plotlines. A phrase has even sprung up in the blogosphere--"HoYay!" meaning "Homoeroticism Yay!"--to describe awkward glances or sexually ambiguous dialogue between guys. "The director sets up a soap opera--two male characters clenching their jaws--and you're totally thinking to yourself, 'Just kiss already!' " says Sarah Bunting of TelevisionWithoutPity.com. "It's almost funnier when the writers aren't aware."They usually are. Schwartz acknowledges "The O.C." has HoYay!-like moments "from time to time"; the boys' hetero love interests even mock them about...

    "Curb Your Enthusiasm"'s third season, out on DVD Tuesday. Squirm as Larry David hurls inappropriate comments at a widow, a little kid and a crazed nanny."Sixteen Acres," by Philip Nobel (Metropolitan Books. $25). This engaging account of the behind-the-scenes battle to rebuild Ground Zero explores the power and limits of modern architecture.Esprit's crepe blouse ($49; esprit.com), part of its spring collection. Once the epitome of California cool, the label's been reborn as a chic Eurobrand.Russell Crowe's right hook (what, you missed the BAFTAs?) in the trailer for the boxing biopic "Cinderella Man"(imdb.com). He's a shoo-in for an Oscar nod... in 2006.

    If "Million Dollar Baby" (still in limited release) hasn't made it to your corner yet, step into the ring with these worthy contenders. 'Rocky' Stallone improves his game ("Yo, Adrian!") in this 1976 crowd-pleaser that won the Oscar. 'The Champ' Skip the 1931 version in favor of the campy remake with Jon Voight as a washed-up boxer and Rick Schroder as his son. 'Girlfight': A little-seen jewel about a teen girl who trains to take on the boys. The real knockout is star Michelle Rodriguez. 'When We Were Kings' The rare footage in this Ali documentary will remind you why he's the greatest. 'Raging Bull' In this Scorsese classic, Robert De Niro hates on women and pounds men. And you thought he was twisted in "Meet the Fockers."