Ramin Setoodeh

Stories by Ramin Setoodeh

  • Predictions: Jacko Convicted, But Blake Gets Off

    Now, with the blogosphere abuzz about her power to see into the future, NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh asked Browne to gaze into her crystal ball and make some predictions for 2005. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How did you come up with the Brad-Jennifer prediction?Sylvia Browne: I'm psychic. I was born this way. I come from 300 years of validated psychics. I sit in my room quietly, and I go through politics, I go through the economy, I go through world events. I'm sitting there with a piece of paper. I start making a list. I concentrate. I give myself a question: what's the stock market going to do? I take the answer. What's the economy going to do? What's medicine going to do? It just comes.But how?It just comes from God, honey. It would be like for me to say to you, "How are you like how you are." You'd say, "I don't know. I am." It's not something that I turn on. It's part of my essence.Do you ever get predictions wrong?Oh, of course. Only God is perfect. I better be more right than wrong-...

    Colonel Mustard may have done it in the Clue library with a candlestick, but start a game collection and you might make an even bigger killing. "This is the time to get in because prices are way down," says Bruce Whitehill, a game historian who owns more than 5,000 titles and recently sold a 1906 race-car game for $3,300 on eBay. While serious collectors like games from the 1800s, beginners might have more fun with a collection pegged to a theme like TV shows or books. Special, and early, editions of classics like Monopoly are in demand, as are rarer titles like the Fish Pond Game, circa 1900 (below left, $245), or the Golf Game, circa 1920 (at right, $250; both titles from FAO Schwarz). Make sure pieces aren't missing, the edges of the box or game aren't frayed and the instructions are intact. For more information, try vintagegamestore.com and theoldgamestore.com. Then pass "Go" and collect your dough.

    When Brandi Jones first started breaking out at the age of 16, the cysts on her chin hurt more than just her vanity. "It was so painful," she says. "My face throbbed like someone had punched me." She spent her nights tossing and turning and her days popping Tylenol and Aleve. Over-the-counter acne treatments failed, so she saw a dermatologist, who prescribed antibiotics and topical creams. Neither worked. Finally, after her first year in college, she decided to try Accutane, a controversial prescription drug that attacks and destroys oil glands. Though she'd heard Accutane could cause depression and that it sometimes made acne worse before improving it, she took the pills for six months. "I felt pretty suicidal at times," says Jones, now 22, who posted her experiences in an on-line journal. Ultimately, the drug worked--and now her skin is mostly pimple-free. But Jones isn't sure she'd go through with the treatment again.Everyone wants clear skin, but the decision about what...

    Health: In The Clear From AcneBy Ramin SetoodehWhen Brandi Jones first started breaking out at 16, the cysts on her chin hurt more than just her vanity. "It was so painful," she says. "My face throbbed like someone had punched me." A dermatologist prescribed antibiotics and topical creams. Neither worked. A few years later she decided to try Accutane, a controversial prescription drug that destroys oil glands. For six months she took the pills, knowing that her acne would get worse before it got better. Her face flared. Her joints ached. Her skin dried out, and she developed scabs from her elbows to her nasal passages. "I felt pretty suicidal at times," says Jones, now 22, who posted her experiences in an online journal. Ultimately the drug worked--and now her skin is mostly pimple-free. But Jones isn't sure she'd choose the treatment again.Everyone wants clear skin, but the decision about how to get it is becoming more complicated. Those with severe cases of acne--which forms when...

    Seated in her Manhattan corner office, Andrea Jung is talking up cosmetics like a seasoned Avon lady. She holds up a tube of shimmering burgundy lip gloss called Glow Baby Glow. "This," the chief executive declares, "has been heralded as one of the breakthrough ideas of the decade." The quantum leap? The packaging. Avon's new line puts an applicator on each end--one for the tube of gloss, and the other for mascara or concealer, so you can carry two kinds of makeup in one tube. A bonus is the product's name, which might make you blush without any rouge: Hook Up.This is Avon calling? Ten years ago the world's largest direct seller of cosmetics was showing a lot of wrinkles; many women thought the brand was as outdated as their mothers' hot curlers and Tupperware parties. But when Jung took over as CEO in 1999, she gave the company an extreme makeover, pouring millions into research and development, pushing new lines of skin cream, expanding into overseas markets and developing snazzy...

    Can't tell Cinnamon Breeze from Apple Dumplin'? Better figure it out fast; toys from the '80s are hot this holiday season. Here's everything you need to know: My Little Pony, 1983. They live in harmony--and with a hairbrush. This year's theme is "Friendship Ball," a gala where a pony is crowned "Best Friend of the Year." What to get: stand-alone friendship ponies ($9.99 at major retailers) come with a tiara and other prom attire. Look at the "cutie mark" on their hip for a jewel or sparkle. Strawberry Shortcake, 1980. She inhabits a magical land with strawberries so big they're carried in wheelbarrows. The evil Purple Pie Man tries to steal recipes. What to get: start with the figure ($8.99). Then look for pals Blueberry Muffin, Angel Cake and Ginger Snap--all appropriately scented. The play set shown ($29.99) has a chiming clock and a doorbell. Fraggle Rock, 1983. These Jim Henson puppets belt out lyrics like "dance your cares away" in underground taverns. What to get: Red, as in...
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on Television

    What happened on the small screen this year? Ross and Rachel got together on "Friends," and the series ended so we know they can't split. Donald Trump was in the green with "The Apprentice." ABC finally scored with "Desperate Housewives." And Meryl Streep delivered a series of walloping acceptance speeches as she strutted down the red carpet for her performance in HBO's production of "Angels in America."Why wrap up the year with a Top 10 list when there are so many channels to choose from? Instead, stay tuned for our selection of the good, the bad and the ugly in 2004:Talk showsThe good: Ellen DeGeneres. Remember when Rosie O'Donnell sang her way to the queen of daytime? DeGeneres's talk show, now in its second season, is even better. She dances.The bad: Tony Danza. If he doesn't look bored when interviewing guests, we do.The ugly: Star Jones. She dropped more sponsor names than pre-wedding pounds."The Apprentice"The good: Donald Trump. He makes the game look so darn fun, everybody...

    If you stumbled into a video store over Thanksgiving weekend, you probably witnessed the same frenzy we did. The new-release shelves looked like a scene from "Twister." You couldn't even find "Nemo." And the checkout line felt longer than "The Passion of the Christ." But 28-year-old Hadas Elias of New York avoided the crowds by renting "The Terminal" from a drugstore's vending machine on the day it was released. "It's much faster," she says.Coming soon to a street corner near you: rental kiosks and disposable DVDs. The latest innovations in video rental are piggybacking on the success of services like Netflix and video on demand, which have eliminated many of the annoyances of brick-and-mortar stores: no long lines or confusing return dates. But how convenient are they? tip sheet compared new and old rental options as we hunted for three holiday movies: the new release "Elf," with Will Ferrell; the 1995 comedy "Home for the Holidays," directed by Jodie Foster; and the 1946 classic ...

    Spruce up your next holiday gathering with more than mistletoe: rent a reindeer. "They're very docile," says Carol Borton of the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association (reindeer.ws), and they won't bite. She estimates a $250 cost for an hour with a pair of reindeer and a handler, sometimes dressed like an elf.You can't go wrong with outdoor spots, like the lawn in front of your Christmas party. Set up a camera and have your guests line up. But don't let them hop on--reindeer are better at dragging sleighs than carrying people.Indoor setups, like the annual office party, are also possible but require more planning. Make sure that doors are at least five feet wide for the span of the reindeer's antlers. Throw down tarps to catch droppings. And avoid faulty elevators. Tammy Anderson, a breeder from Illinois (summerfieldfarminc.com), once tried to take a male reindeer to the top of a Chicago building. "We got stuck in it for about 20 minutes," she says. Fortunately, it had been a...

    The latest addition to room service won't fill you up, but it'll bring the house down. Pillow menus, with free hypoallergenic and feathered offerings, are being fluffed out at upscale hotels. The Benjamin in New York boasts 11 varieties, like a jelly neckroll that conforms to your head. The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in south Florida has 12--including a buckwheat hull-stuffed version that keeps sleepers cool, as well as a five-foot body pillow. Other chains are following. Holiday Inn expects to roll out pillow menus with at least four options to its U.S. sites by the end of March.Insiders say it's part of the larger trend--along with high-thread-count sheets and plush mattresses--to offer a customized night of rest. "They've become extremely sensitive to a traveler's needs," says Rick Lawrance, president of the California Lodging Industry Association. One problem, though: thieves. The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia had to discontinue its pillow menu, says a rep. You'd think a few bars of...

    Jonathan Cohen of Brookline, Mass., calls himself "a middle- aged 'toony head." That's because during the past few months, the 47-year-old has watched countless hours of Road Runner, George Jetson and Bullwinkle J. Moose, all on DVD. "There's so much vintage stuff around," he says. "I probably won't get to SpongeBob until I'm 60."And maybe not even then. Studios are releasing boxed sets of classic cartoons in droves--and they're not necessarily targeted at the Nickelodeon crowd. "Our primary audience is adults who are fans because of the attachment they developed" as children, says Dorinda Marticorena, an executive marketing director at Warner Home Video. The company hit a nostalgic nerve with its "Looney Tunes: Golden Collection" of 56 restored shorts--which made $9.3 million last year. Since then it's unloaded more than a toy chest of classic 'toons: "The Flintstones," "Scooby-Doo," "Tom and Jerry," "Jonny Quest" as well as the lesser-known "Wacky Races" and "Top Cat" (slated for...

    Vinyl records aren't just for oldies. Young artists are releasing on the vintage format for DJs and collectors. Where to find old and new tunes:Virgin Megastores (virgin mega.com for locations) Special aisles have full-length albums (Norah Jones; $18) with a richer sound than compact discs.VitalVinyl.com Extended single mixes from the likes of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez are a hit with DJs and the party scene (from $6).Vinyl.com Records from hundreds of classic artists, like Miles Davis and Janis Joplin, are available in limited quantities (from $6).MusicObsession.com Albums from a smattering of genres--like R&B, rock, classical, jazz and country (prices vary widely).RestorationHardware.comGet the music going with a record player ($199) and a collection of rock-and-roll songs ($3).

    Uma wielded hers proudly in "kill bill." So did Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai." Now you can start your own sword collection--a hobby that's picking up as more vendors capitalize on martial-arts films. "It's a growing business," says Tony Norella, founder of swordsofhonor.com. "There are more and more sellers out there." A few pointers: avid fans want high-carbon steel swords. But they're deadly and costly--$90,000 for a rare katana on bushidojapaneseswords.com. Stainless-steel replicas are better for newbies. Build your collection around a theme; karatedepot.com has ninja swords. Or live the fantasy with "Lord of the Rings" offerings from United Cutlery (up to $500; 800-548-0835 for locations). They come in handy at Halloween and for "interior-decorating purposes," says Elizabeth (Lunzie) Prince of firebloodarms.com. Prince would know: her walls are covered with 10 of them.

    From weddings to the work-place, more men are sporting brightly colored socks. But how do you coordinate new stripes and checkered patterns? Brights work well under dull slacks because "it's unexpected," says celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, and "breaks the boredom of gray suits." Complement a necktie--or if you go without, it'll be your chance to show some personality. Wackier patterns are high in demand and "more fun," says Suzanne Hawes of joyofsocks.com. But you don't want to scream for attention. So pass on the crazy colors when you wear shorts, sandals--or a kilt.

    A few Novembers ago, Brooks Cowles passed on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner--and took his wife and two boys to the Bahamas instead. They snorkeled in warm waters and watched the sun set over the beach from hammocks. On Thanksgiving Day, rather than reach for the stuffing or cranberry sauce, they feasted on lobster cooked over an open fire and sipped island rum. "I've got wonderful pictures," says Cowles, 45, a lawyer from Georgia.With long lines at the airport, travelers know the burden of spending Thanksgiving with the folks. Now more people are using the holiday to flee for a long weekend--since international airports are less crowded and "exotic destinations have fairly decent availability and reasonable rates," says Geoff Silvers, director of merchandising at Orbitz.com. A growing number of low-cost carriers and travel packages are also making it easier to plan a nontraditional Thanksgiving celebration.Domestically, Las Vegas has become a big hit. Expedia.com's Ultra-Hip...

    For anybody who's ever wanted to look like a celebrity, a number of Web sites can help you dress like one. TvWear.com has polka-dot pajamas from this season of "Will & Grace" ($122; bedheadpjs.com) as well as information on Carolyn Kepcher's working-girl wardrobe on "The Apprentice." (But strangely enough, no one is looking to copy that '80s do.) Reel-Style.com includes a Hilary Duff tube dress from "Raise Your Voice" ($92; activeendeavors.com). Other sites let you stalk--um, follow--skimpier celebrity pieces, like FamousFashionsFound.com's tiny tops worn by Paris Hilton ($34 for a black skull-and-crossbones), Gwen Stefani ($115 for a vintage tie tube top) and Madonna ($34 for a cheerleader-print tank).Not all the matches are exact fits. Reel-Style links to a pink cashmere sweater ($70; bluefly.com) that looks almost identical to the one Natalie Portman wears in "Garden State." The truth? Portman's sweater was a double-knit jersey, customized with a silver star zipper "to make...

    It's October, and amusement parks want to scare you on--and off--the rides. Our top picks.Fright Fest at 15 Six Flags parks Kid-friendly during the day with trick-or-treat trails and hayrides. At night, look out for aliens at the Brutal Planet house. sixflags.comHalloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort Two parks open at night with seven haunted houses and a parade of the dead for the undead. universalstudios.comHalloween Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, Calif. A circus, hypnotist and 1,000 costumed characters. No, it's not Michael Jackson's birthday. knotts.comHaunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland The popular ride gets a makeover with characters from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." disneyland.comFear Fest at Paramount's Kings Island, Ohio Wind your way through mazes with Sleepy Hollow and crypt themes. Sorry, MapQuest can't help you now. pki.com

    This fall, you don't need to do a song-and-dance number for cheap seats on Broadway. The TKTS booth in New York's Times Square offers tickets for half price, but you can get closer for less by heading straight to the box office. A student ID in the afternoon will get you two front-row tickets to "42nd Street" for $21.25 each. Or anybody can rush to see Wayne Brady in "Chicago" for $26.25--just get there in the morning. Recent hits like "Wicked" and "Avenue Q" hold daily lotteries for good, inexpensive seats. Your odds are much higher in "Rent's" $20 lottery for the first two rows of orchestra. (It stars Drew Lachey, who's brother of Nick, who's husband of Jessica, who's sister of Ashlee, who's... never mind.) If you get to the theater and find yourself in the nosebleed section, you can try slipping into a no-show's better seat at intermission. "Most ushers won't say anything," says broadway.com's Cara Joy David, and "it's not frowned upon by other audience members." Or try Play by...

    Last month Patti Tiver was on the hunt for a 1971 Roadrunner. The classifieds were full of used Plymouths, but not the right model. "I knew what I wanted," says the 31-year-old receptionist and car collector from Medford, N.J. But when she logged onto eBay she saw the car of her dreams, in hot orange, no less. There was just one problem: it was parked 450 miles away in Lakewood, Ohio. Still hoping for a bargain, she followed the auction for a week and cast the winning bid of $10,800. For an extra $466, a carrier service towed the car to her door. "I was nervous," says Tiver, but after examining the car she was thrilled with her purchase.Internet surfers have long turned to search engines to look for used cars. But only in the past few years has the online buyer's market hit critical mass. Some 20 percent of eBay clients now shop for autos and parts--the auction site unloaded its millionth car earlier this year. In fact, eBaymotors.com has become a hub for secondhand vehicles--not...
  • Style: Shrinking Jean Pool

    Men's jeans are getting a makeover this fall, with slimmer fits borrowed from women's lines. Energie ($199; at select Bloomingdale's), Gap ($78; gap.com) and Tommy Hilfiger ($90; tommy.com for locations), pictured, all have them. The lowdown.Dropped drawers: Low-rise jeans aren't just for plumbers. Wear them with boxers that peek out (Tommy Hilfiger; $19.50 at Macy's) or new low-rise briefs ($19.50; 2xist.com).Tight fit: These jeans sport a closer fit in the booty and crotch (those with chunky thighs may have trouble pulling them on). Match the jeans with a funky belt: large buckles and metalwork are popular.Less leg room: Boot cuts start slim and widen above the ankle to "accentuate the look of the leg," says Steve McSween of Gap. Look for subtle, natural-looking fades. The Justin from Energie has a narrowed straight leg for those with lanky physiques.

    Looking for what she calls a "slumber party" purse at the Sanrio store in New York's Times Square, Lisa Mejia, 29, proclaims, "I like Hello Kitty!" Maybe it's because they're the same age? In November, Sanrio's Kitty turns 30, but the world is already celebrating. In Japan--Kitty's home--collectors are keeping an eye out for special gold Kitty coins as well as the $3,700--yes, $3,700--Hello Kitty robot (left), with 20,000 conversation patterns. A global Kitty exhibit includes a photo of a crop circle in England shaped like the feline. In America, where Kitty pencil cases have long been a staple among schoolgirls, an October women's surfing event in Huntington Beach, Calif., will showcase her new board. Stores have already rolled out 30th-anniversary booty like a vintage coin purse, the first Hello Kitty product. And in Los Angeles, a Hello Kitty prom dress, a Judith Leiber purse and sketches of Kitty from stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Calista Flockhart will be auctioned. (How much...
  • Technology: The Connected Classroom

    After Komal Bains, 32, drops off her 4-year-old, Anoop, at kindergarten, she hurries home to a computer. But Bains isn't checking e-mail--she watches images from a Webcam that shows her daughter pledging allegiance in the morning, working on crafts later in the day, clinging to the teacher at recess and napping in the afternoon. "I want to see if she's doing well," says Bains, a pharmacy manager from Turlock, Calif. The other students in class hardly notice the school's cameras--about the size of an index finger--embedded in ceilings and walls. But Anoop was a little worried at first: "What happens when I'm in the bathroom?" she asked. "Nobody can see you in there," Bains assured her.Until now, Web cameras for parents have been restricted mostly to day-care centers. That's changing as companies like WatchMeGrow (watchmegrow.com) wire up elite grade schools like Anoop's TLC Education Academy. The private school forked over $50,000 this year for its technology, which includes a...

    Now stars chase after you. Reality-TV favorites want to be tracked on TheFishbowl.com, as they blog to stretch their 15 minutes. "Temptation Island's" Valerie Penso dishes on Playboy Mansion etiquette. Others post recipes or plug the new beefcake calendar, an idea from "The Real World's" Beth Stolarczyk. "I was a little shy," says Ethan Zohn (far left, of "Survivor"), adding he also dropped trou for PETA. "I had a fig leaf--and double-stick tape in places I'd rather not stick tape." Meanwhile, look for movie projects and workout videos: "The Real World's" Eric Nies jumps rope, Erika Landin of "Big Brother" knows her Pilates.

    The letter "Z" is used as an onomatopoeia for soft buzzing--like the sound of bees. In "Tono-Bungay," H. G. Wells laces a character's words with "Zzzzs" because his habit of breathing air through his teeth lent a "whispering zest to his speech." With sleep, the "Z" captures the buzzing sound of snoring, says the Oxford English Dictionary. For instance, in a 1975 New Yorker piece, a man sits down, says "Zzzz" and "his head falls forward." The same phenomenon was observed at a recent screening of the Olsen twins' movie.

    "CE" stands for the French term Conformite Europeenne (European Conformity). The symbol shows up on products like electronic gadgets, medical devices and toys to demonstrate that they comply with legal requirements in the European Union. Why does it appear here? To make life easier, says Paco Cabeza-Lopez of the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, products from big manufacturers include "every single certification mark they have." It's sort of like bringing your U.S. passport on vacation to Hawaii.

    If you can't judge a book by its cover, then how can you judge different editions of the same classic novel? Start shopping for your favorite summer reads with reviews on amazon.com or other sites, but don't look for plot holes. Instead, dig up dirt like a recent posting that lambasted spelling errors in a paperback edition of "Madame Bovary." Next, log off and hit bookstore shelves. Different editions can be distinguished by notes from the editor (skim to see if he or she is from a familiar college) and supplementary readings at the end of the text. Brenda Silver, an English professor at Dartmouth, says novels that include "things like maps make for a much richer text for teaching." But for recreational purposes, "I probably wouldn't buy the [edition] with essays." Instead, consider footnote placement, especially for older texts like Shakespeare. You'll probably want individual words, not lines, to be noted; the Signet Classics get it right. And footnotes should be on each page,...

    Show off your curves--and crafts-- this summer with the latest trend in knitting: bikinis. To start, get water-friendly yarn with "some kind of stretch," like nylon or microfiber blends, says Edith Eig of La Knitterie Parisienne (800-228-9927 for free tips) in Studio City, Calif. But stay away from whole cotton or your suit might sag. Most patterns, available at sites like knitwhits.com, are simple enough and take only a few days to complete--especially if you make two triangles for the top. Crochet the straps or use knitted cord. For your suit bottom, rely on a simple shaping technique. "Increase the fabric and decrease the fabric" to create leg holes, says Miriam Maltagliati at Knit New York. Next, try "a sexy bikini for the bedroom" that you can wear all year-round.
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    Studios release box-office numbers--and after splurging on films, they're interested in the bottom line. "It's been done this way forever," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., a box-office tracking firm. "It sounds a lot sexier to say a movie has made $100 million than sold 20 million tickets." The major drawback? Inflation. Go to boxofficemojo.com, and you'll see that "Gone With the Wind"--not "Titanic"--has filled more seats than any other film.
  • Fairy Tales: I'm A Believer

    So "Shrek" doesn't have a monopoly on fart jokes after all. Here are our favorite fractured fairy tales--and the important lessons they'll teach your kids.The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka ($15.99). Marriage to a frog turned prince croaks--and it isn't just because of the pond breath. Girls, get him to sign the prenuptial.The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House by Dan Piraro ($12.95). Don't trust little piggies named Rummy, Dickey and Dubya. Tax "cuts" will blow your paycheck down.The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison ($6.99). Off with the diapers. The time will come in every young princess's life when she'll need to learn how to sit on her throne.Fractured Fairy Tales by A. J. Jacobs ($10.95). Oldskits. The lesson: if you remake a moose cartoon and leave out the witch Grizelka, you're cursed.
  • Entertainment: Fast Ride

    Who wants to wait hours to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean when you've got the DVD? This year, theme parks offer ways to beat lines. Skip crowds at the gate by printing your tickets at home (check sites for availability). An upgraded $99 ticket at Universal Studios Hollywood lets you jump to the front of all lines. Or try a "virtual queue" at the Disney and Six Flags parks. Pick up a ticket or pager that saves your place--then go back and hop on.