Friday, January 16, 2009

Rocio Jurado-Estaba para comersela

Rocio Jurado, La Mas Grande, one of the best (along with Lola Flores) in Spain's pantheon of Andalusian folcloricas, has been immortalized by a Cordoba based chocolate producer called Gallo (cock). They are renowned for their Belen (Christmas Manger) made from chocolate but this year they kicked it up a notch by creating an edible sculpture of this most scrumptious and fabulous performer. According to the video (above) and news articles, the sweet surrogate was placed in a simulated tablao flamenco (place where you perform this musical genre). Had I known about this sooner, I would have booked the first flight to Cordoba. Viva Rocio! 

Obama Cult of Personality Part 3

Now, if you REALLY want to fuse yourself with our new Leader, you can go here - to transform one of your photos of yourself into one similar to Shepard Fairey's iconic portrait of President Obama.

Foucault and you posts restored

I somehow deleted a whole string of posts labeled FOUCAULT AND YOU, REALITY TV and had to Google the cached versions to copy and thus restore them. So now a bunch of old posts are on the blog and I'm sorry for those of you who read them months, years ago!

If you want to see the REALLY NEW posts go to "Obama Cult of Personality 2" and the others posted JANUARY 15, and then to the earlier dates in January and so on.

Just When You Thought Reality TV Could Not Be Any Worse

Just When You Thought Reality TV Could Not Be Any Worse (originally posted 12/4/2007)

There is now a reality show being promoted that sets up US citizens with eager non-citizens seeking to marry. The show is called WHO WANTS TO MARRY A US CITIZEN? This is so perverse and tasteless that I don't even know where to start. Particularly fucked up is that it is two Latino guys pitching the show. This reminds me of the repellent Nelly Galan, Latina creator of Extreme Makeover, possibly, until this show came along, the most unethical reality show out there. Both shows testify to the self-hatred and internalized racism which is rewarded by mainstream media - hello Uncle Tomas and Tia Tomas.

In Extreme Makeover, women were ethnically-cleansed and made to be more "Caucasian" (if your idea of Caucasian is a drag queen styled by Ivana Trump on PCP, with a budget allowing her to shop at JC Penney). Men also were subject to humiliation and to the sadistic gaze of the audience, of course. There was one episode that I loved because when the peroxide blonde and heavily made up mom came out to greet her family one of her babies literally burst into tears! The kid did not recognize the creature picking him up to hug him.

It was an awesome moment of real reality within reality TV.

Of course, in Spain they don't need this because they have a system whereby bus tours are organized to bring in immigrant females to depopulated rural towns in the middle of nowhere to marry Spanish men. So Cubans, Dominicans and others, usually much younger than the men they end up with, get a chance at citizenship that way.

Show seeks to love match migrants and U.S. citizens
Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:47pm EST

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A Los Angeles company is touting a new reality game show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" that aims to create televised matrimony between legal citizens and immigrants who have temporary visas.

The show's backers at Morusa Media hope to make a sort of love match between reality TV and a national obsession with immigration. But the producers make no promise that a marriage will occur or lead to U.S. citizenship.

Show creator Adrian Martinez said that Morusa Media has not yet found a network to produce or air the show, but he is currently in talks with one cable TV network and already has signed up contestants for six episodes.

"It's this generation's 'Dating Game,' but with a twist -- it aims to show love knows no borders," Martinez told Reuters.

As in the "Dating Game," which ran on network TV for more than two decades starting in the 1960s, a single U.S. citizen gets to ask contestants various questions. Toward the end of the show, he or she decides which one to select as a potential mate.

So far, most of the contestants are Hispanic immigrants, although at least one is from the Philippines, Martinez said.

In a statement, Morusa said that while it does not guarantee marriage or legal status, it will pay for a wedding party and honeymoon should a marriage result.

"We're just out to play matchmaker," said the show's host, Angelo Gonzales. "There are thousands of U.S. citizens seeking a spouse, and just as many immigrants seeking the same. So we want to make it a win-win situation for all involved."


Real NY Housewives (season 1): No One Does Their Research Better Than a Real New Yorker

Real NY Housewives: No One Does Their Research Better Than a Real New Yorker (originally posted April 13, 2008)

We know that New Yorkers have a reputation for being cosmopolitan, sophisticated, well-educated and traveled, street-smart and able to see through bullshit. So the Real New York Housewives should have braced themselves for the dark side of celebreality. I often wonder about the reality TV participants' intelligence. Are they not aware that when they speak to the "confessional" hidden camera that it is akin to an aside in a play -the audience can hear it and so can your reality TV cohorts!!!! Perhaps I am too naive to realize that they know this all too well and are seeking further protagonism by airing their beefs on camera and then remembering them in the inevitable "Reunion" show.

Similarly, thanks to the Big Brotherish research potential of the internet, we can all learn fascinating tidbits about them through and via the web. See the comments posted on the New York Magazine blog (url below) for bitchy insults and revelations about debts on property, nude photos and more! Sites like Property.shark (like HGTV, crack for those of us obsessed with real estate) and others allow us to spy on our neighbors or on our reality TV representatives!

Like me, most of the writers critique the women for not being "real" enough, they pretend to be the city's elite but we find them woefully vulgar and trashy. But what real NY billionaire would consent to this type of invasion of privacy - besides Donald Trump? And aren't the Real Housewives of Orange County also equally vulgar and mediocre? Maybe it's that as New Yorkers we want to be represented by women who seem more intelligent, better dressed and interesting than their Orange County counterparts.

House Hunters

According to the Home & Garden TV site, "House Hunters takes viewers behind the scenes as individuals, couples and families learn what to look for and decide whether or not a home is meant for them. Focusing on the emotional experience of finding and purchasing a new home, each episode shows the process as buyers search for a home." Among many people I know, from my parents to friends my own age, this show is a cult hit. Although real estate shows in general have skyrocketed in popularity according to my anecdotal evidence, this one is the favorite. The bubbly host Suzanne Whang, with her signature head tilt/bob and huge smile, drives the narrative and re-creates it as it's happening either on or off camera as the voice over. The show has a reassuringly standard structure:

First you meet the real estate seeker and see where they live as they tell you the pros and cons. Anyone with the least bit of curiosity will love the chance to see how a stranger lives. You "meet" their real estate agent and get to see what the buyer's wants are, including price range. You see the buyers and their agent visit 3 or 4 homes. At each they see the entire property and you see them discussing it including the price.

Common comments are: I (like / hate) the wall color, window treatments, flooring, kitchen appliances etc. Terms that were unfamiliar to me years ago such as crown molding, great room, bonus room, window treatment (hello? what about just curtains or blinds?), California King beds (everyone is bigger in the US so we need a mattresss larger than King size!), ensuite master bath, Jack & Jill bath (where a bath is open to two bedrooms on either side, like they had in The Brady Bunch for the boys and girls). Many of these comments are absurd because if you buy the freaking property you can paint, change the drapes ect. but of course they are also realistic because one does tend to waste time focusing on those details instead on how large a closet is or how noisy it is outside. After the first home they cut to commercials. Then they return and REPEAT what just happened in edited form, just in case in the 1-2 minute interval you somehow forgot. Then you see the same procedure repeated for two or three additional homes.

Another commercial break and AGAIN they repeat and summarize. You see the buyers discussing the pros and cons of each place, which entails yet another synopsis of what they saw. They then sign an offer contract somewhere like on top of a car in a parking lot, in a park, at a cafe, but never at the agent's office which is really how it is done. (my father is in real estate so I know). Following this, the buyers' options are recapitulated in a voice over by Whang, and they tell you which house they ended up with. Finally, you see them in the new home: their new decoration, their new habits, often having a party where the agent is a guest.

Perfect Closure. Always a Happy Ending. Buying Property is the ultimate end for an American. Rarely do they discuss bidding wars and never do they show the actual back and forth of negotiations between the agents. No one ever regrets their purchases. Often they discuss the purchase as a "Starter Home" and openly anticipate selling it in the near to later term. The desiderata for the Ideal Kitchen is always the same: Granite counters, stainless steel appliances. For flooring it is almost always wood.

Although in many ways the messages sent are very conservative, you have to own property, and conflicts are smoothed over, in other ways the show can be read as slightly subversive. Many of the people featured are gay or interracial couples, most are not weatlhy, for example. Whis is why recently I was floored when they presented a married couple living on an Army Base who home-school their kids and are seeking a home off base and near their Church. The children dress in little baby camo outfits as does the dad of course, and their home's window treatments were done in US Flag-patterned bunting!!!! Terrifying.

There's a spin-off show called House Hunters International which allows us to fantasize about moving abroad. But I find it particularly annoying to say the least because it's all about rich Americans buying up cheap property in often less-developed countries and having the privilege to parachute into a luxury (usually tropilcal resort type) lifestyle. They often they work from home, and you see them eating papaya at their laptop and walking on the beach, hanging out with other expats and of course their broker at the end of the episode. Most often they move down to these places for the weather and scenery without knowing anything about the culture and language. Examples of places they tend to go are Costa Rica or Honduras. They also have shows where rich tacky Americans buy lavish homes in the center of Paris, or people from the UK buy up properties in Spain, which really irritates me, because again, they have no knowlege of the language or culture for the most part, but can afford to buy property there because of their strong currency.

Discussing the show's narrative arc at a party a few months ago led several (then) 30-somethings to hysterical laughter as we realized that if you want to know what is happening on a given episode you don't need to watch the entire half hour, you can tune in at around 25 minutes and see a recapitulation of the episode and shortcut your way to the money shot: when they reveal the house selected. Of course this led us to consider that they know their audience: thirty to forty somethings with short attention spans and short term memory issues (let's not say any more about the whys) and retirees!!

They rarely feature NY but rather focus on small town America, though they did a week of (ridiculously expensive) NYC house hunting hosted by the repellent Star Jones. I can attest to the fact that MY experience with House Hunting in NYC was nothing like what I saw then.

In fact, my "journey" was featured in a less-popular venue for our collective real estate ownership obsession, the New York Post. Whis was fitting because I used to play a game with colleagues at an old job of trying to one-up their ridiculously tasteless bad cover and article title puns (one time I suggested "It's not over till the Arafat lady sings" as the Palestinian leader was about to meet his maker). I was delighted that in the same issue where the article about my house hunt appeared was the following headline: "Good `BI' Norma Jean: Marilyn's lesbian fling with Joan Crawford revealed."

In order to "protect" my anonymity, identifying details are missing from the article below.
My New Home
The New York Post - sometime in the 2000s
Author: Max Gross

Yes, it would have been nice to buy a co-op in the early '90s. We'd be all paid up by now and the only thing we'd have to worry about is the maintenance. But, as Petite Maoiste found out, maintenance charges are nothing to scoff at.

Petite bought her 700-square-foot West Village one-bedroom in 1991, when the market was at a low ebb. Working on her PhD in art history, she blissfully sat back as the value of her co-op soared.

But about two years ago, thanks to numerous repairs, Petite noticed that maintenance was shooting up. What had been a bargain was now costing half of her take-home pay in maintenance charges alone. (Petite, who will begin teaching at large university in the fall, was working at a large museum as a curator [sic] assistant at the time.)

And while many New Yorkers would sell their parents into slavery to stay in the Village, she grew disenchanted. "When I moved in it was really a bohemian neighborhood. But when you have an Olive Garden opening on Sixth Avenue, it starts to be, 'Why did I leave the suburbs again?'"

Buying however, turned into a yearlong ordeal.

"I wanted to sell, and take the money and turn around and buy something," Petite says. "But I couldn't take the time - with my job - to sell and then sublet and then look for a place to buy."

So she tried for simultaneous transactions, telling co-op boards she'd buy with cash from her sale. But boards didn't want to chance that her place might not sell. She looked at between 50 and 60 co-ops and found no board willing to accept her - or she got outbid.

Petite finally settled on a co-op whose board accepted her, although it was just half the size of her old place.

"I was basically panicking," says Petite, who liked the prewar building but had concerns about the apartment's size.

Fortunately, the buyer that Petite found for her old apartment was rejected without even interviewing with the board.

Six months later, when Petite went to visit her sister in [lovely Brooklyn neighborhood], she met her sister's real-estate broker, [nice man working for a large real estate company]. He urged Petite to consider Brooklyn.

At first, Brooklyn was just as formidable as Manhattan. "I went to one apartment that was a fixer-upper, and it was a dark winter night," Petite says. "When I got there the broker said, 'I apologize, but there's no light.' I was literally wandering around the apartment with my Hello Kitty flashlight."

It didn't stop her from making a bid that same night - she didn't get it.

But Petite benefited from an optimistic broker. "He kept saying, 'You should upgrade.'" her broker began showing her bigger co-ops, and in March he found a two-bedroom and a sizable living room that she fell in love with on a leafy green street in [a lovely neighborhood]. She made her bid and got it.

"You know 'The Price is Right'?" says Petite. "I felt like I had just gotten a showcase."

The search was tremendously stressful though I can't really complain since at the end of the day I am lucky that I had property to sell!!!! But it is interesting that someone with valuable property cannot earn enough to pay the co-op fees and has to sell for that reason. This is quite common as real estate prices soar and is happening in my current builidng as well. Suddenly Manhattan transplants with a lot of money move to Brooklyn and decide their new building needs upgrades (the slightly worn pre-War charm of the Brooklyn buildings isn't enough for them). These require co-op fee increases and/or assessments, which means shareholders with less money have been living in the co-op for years are not able to remain and sell to yet more Manhattan transplants. In my current building in about 3 years, the monthly maintenance has gone up over 30%. But I have a different job now so it is nowhere near half of my take home pay like it was in Manhattan, for now.

The disturbing thing about this dynamic is that, just as my prior building had racially and class-diverse shareholders, all of whom (including me) sold between 1998-2005, in my new racially and class-diverse historically African-American neighborhood, many of the African-Americans are selling and moving away. I truly felt like the end of the world was near when I saw the first nanny in my building. The people at my subway stop are also changing, some look like they belong in the Upper East Side or in a J. Crew ad. It worries me that just like it is now pretty much impossible for teachers, artists, and lower middle class and even middle class people to live anywhere in Manhattan, that in my new neighborhood this will soon be the case.

My broker and I were recruited by House Hunters, but sadly by the time we replied, someone else had already accepted. I would have killed to be featured on that show, mostly to know how they do it logistically speaking because this is not "reality" and they must reconstruct the entire thing but I cannot figure out how they orchestrate this!
Posted by Petite Maoiste at 11:20 AM Dec. 8 2007

Real Housewives New York -Season One

Real Housewives New York (originally posted in April 2008

From The New York Post's PAGE SIX:

'housewives' Go Really Batty
THE women on "The Real Housewives of New York City" nearly clawed each other's eyes out behind the scenes on the recently taped reunion special airing next week. Bravo host Andy Cohen interviewed the five women about the show's first season. All was fine until an hour in, when bitter wife Ramona Singer stormed off the stage and refused to return. "She didn't like Andy asking her about not inviting Jill Zarin to a dinner party," said one insider. Single housewife Bethenny Frankel stuck up for Singer on camera, saying they shouldn't bash her if she's not there to defend herself. "Ramona heard Bethenny say her name and started screaming from the side of the stage, 'Don't you speak for me,' and that's when it got heated," said our source. "Bethenny confronted her off camera, saying 'Who do you think you are, Madonna?' - because Ramona had been demanding outrageous things from the hair and makeup people." Fights also broke out between Zarin and Singer and Alex McCord and Singer. "Ramona is the most hated person in New York right now," said our spy. A show rep had no comment.

Obama Infomercial

Obama's Infomercial

Obama's Infomercial just aired and I could not tear myself away, but let's face it, I drank the Kool-Aid long long ago! Now I'm not really an infomercial type of girl, the last one I enjoyed was for Mirta de Perales' champu de placenta y crema de colageno back in the day, the beauty guru of Puerto Rico and Latin America showcased her Chicas Mirta, who with their hair tosses showed off their "good hair" - straight, glossy and manageable.

Obama's infomercial was a good piece of propaganda. To begin with, he looked "presidential," he had the iconic "American" images - wheat fields and the like. Rather than doing a collage of clips from his speeches where he made references to "everyday Americans" to prove a point in a folksy manner, he cut in mini-stories featuring average working Americans. These were similar to a reality TV show, showing you their "unedited" daily life as you hear a voice over about an issue they are confronting. The families were chosen strategically to reflect issues facing those in swing states, and general themes of the campaign: keeping jobs at home, sustainability and green efforts, access to education and healthcare, retirees' security, and the like. The "closure" however, does not happen in a "confessional" or in a studio after the fact in the requisite reunion show. Rather, it is delivered to us by Obama, who tells us what he will do to solve the American families' problems.

There are also the requisite "talking-head testimonials" that you would expect of an abs-ercizer infomercial at 3AM. But the testifying heads don't have the telling "paid endorsement" as Erik Estrada might when urging you to buy land in TN, no FL, no AK, they are Senators and Governors of swing states. Nice.

There are also spliced in videos of interviews and "behind the scenes" - Barack un-plugged as it were - of him, Michelle and the girls. Those looked like a slick sitcom, the panning across the family in their home, the pulling out, soft-golden-lit, as they burst out in laughter at a joke you are not in on, but that fills you with reassurance. The nuclear family! To those of us who have sat, riveted, throughout the campaign, we recognize the iconic moments from his campaign and his self-created aura including the big Democratic Convention speech in Boston.

In a moment of genius, the infomercial ends with a dramatic cut-away to a LIVE campaign rally in Florida, where you see an enraptured crowd, lots of flags, the brilliant Obama brand logo everywhere, constantly morphing....HOPE, CHANGE, PROGRESS, and now VOTE. And Obama goes for the drama, in six six six days. Call, volunteer, vote. This is not about me, it's about you. Thank you. I was tearing up. And this is the message he is giving to those of us who volunteer through his precinct leaders (I was part of a conference call to prep me for get out the vote in a swing state, I told you I drank the Kool Aid!), don't become complacent, don't assume we'll win, work hard, this is not about me, it's about you.

Six days, I don't know if I will survive the stress, I want to wake up from this nightmare of anxiety on November 5 and know that we won once and for all!

WORK OUT (your lesbian fantasies)

I already wrote about WORK OUT a few days ago (under "Real Housewives" things I love right now) but today I read a New York Times article about the cult of personality around Jackie. According to the article, straight housewives are her biggest fans and many say they have crushes on her and that they would swing her way.

Jackie thinks many of these women are closet cases who, thanks to her, have realized that they are missing out. Other hypotheses are that the women want to BE her, they feel envy for her perfect (?!??) body and assertive personality and successful business. I could see how some women might see Jackie as an ideal: confident, charismatic, determined, successful, seemingly unfettered by societal norms, aggressive sexually. It's sad to think that some women might feel that they cannot be any of those things and therefore have to live vicariously through her!

Another interesting facet of the article is that with characteristic narcissism, Jackie says that she thinks that the men on the show envy her for taking what they feel entitled to, the best looking straight trainer on staff (romantic drama of last season, now she has another girl-toy). It doesn't occur to her that one man is her gay sidekick and feels left out, and that the whole staff found it inappropriate and unethical to see her having an affair with an employee. She was aping the sexual harassment power dynamic that men normally perpetuate.

The writer does not consider that Jackie's soft butch persona might be a non-threatening image for straight women who may or may not be potentially attracted to other women. This is instead of a very butch woman, who in many cases elicits homophobic reactions. Nor do the writer or Jackie consider that some women (including this one) are bisexual. The dirty little secret in both the gay "community" and among heterosexuals. No one wants to go there. Mistrusted by both as an interloper who won't pick sides, characterized as promiscuous, deceitful, or, as an internally homophobic closet case by many gay women, an object of exotic titillation for straight men, and secretly fetishized by other lesbians as hard-to-get objects (although "converting" a straight woman is a much more prestigious achievement), most often bisexuals just don't exist.

In any case, even if I were not a "hasbean" already I would never go there. I don't find her attractive at all mainly because of her narcissistic personality. Mostly I watch with shame as one would when staring at a car crash, worrying that this is one of the few representations of gay women on television. Her, and that horrible Tequila woman who sadly was allegedly attracted to both men and women. At least we always have Ellen. And Oprah. And Hillary Clinton. And Condi Rice. Oh, sorry the last three are not gay. Right.

Aside from all of my sanctimonious breast-beating, maybe I secretly love Jackie too, because while watching WORK-OUT with my poor homophobic mother, who knows all about me, Jackie made out with her employee, Rebecca and so my mom had to be exposed to her first girl-on-girl kiss. Thanks, Jackie, for being there.

For Housewives, She’s the Hot Ticket
Published: April 13, 2008
Jackie Warner, the lesbian fitness trainer in the Bravo reality series “Work Out," has become the subject of many housewives' crushes.


Mr. T's Homophobic Mars Chocolate Commercial

A friend alerted me to the controversy that has (rightly) erupted in the UK following the airing of a Mars chocolate ad featuring the man who never goes out of style, Mr T. (see the ad, above) If you cut and paste the url below you can read the TMZ story about this brouhaha.

Since I am equally as juvenile as the advertising creatives that conceived the ad, I could not resist the thought of another reaction to the ad: the "academented" one.

This is so problematic, in so many ways, swishy walk, 1970s aerobic short shorts, a cannon aimed at a backside, the nuts in the chocolate....and SO SUBTLE too, you really need a PhD in Semiotics from Brown to figure out the nuances behind the textual and visual tropes, I am impressed that TMZ parsed the subtext so ably and then explicated it to the un-schooled audience. Is somebody going to give a paper at the MLA about this? "Aiming the Can(n)on: Mr T's Nuts, Subaltern Mimicry and Queer Minstrelsy"

Facebook has been compared to "Hotel California"

Facebook has been compared to "Hotel California"

It seems that Facebook, much like Petite Maoiste's generous host, Google, keeps an eternal archive of everything which means one can never delete one's profile out of Facebook. Which seems oddly fitting. Much like life itself. You try to do the best you can, you make mistakes. The mistakes never leave your memory. Even if you try to make amends, somehow you always feel regret. There are those things that you want to forget. Yet you cannot. Like an eternal high school or college reunion, an ex, or a former friend, there is something (someone) out there that will remind you of who you once were, even though you have moved on!

How Sticky Is Membership on Facebook? Just Try Breaking Free
Published: February 11, 2008
Some members discover it’s tough to erase all their information from the site.

UPDATE Facebook has responded to its users and has created a way to delete your profile altogether, according to the article whose link I post below.

HGTV as Real Estate Pornography: A Fragile Fiction?

Yesterday I was mesmerized by a tote carried by a woman on the A train bearing the legend "PHAT CRIBS REAL ESTATE" followed by a Harlem address. Only in NY. Though we know that before I was obsessed by real estate related programming of the Home and Garden TV network, I was a huge fan of MTV Cribs (Mariah Carey's house is my all-time favorite). Then I read the CNN article (see below) and began to think yet again: House Hunters is the opiate of the real-estate obsessed masses. As I have discussed here before (under Foucault and You - my posts about reality TV), that is my favorite TV show, despite its repetitive, indeed incessantly reiterative narrative structure, its recurring tropes (the three homes to choose from, the realtors' pointing to things that are obvious - "this is the kitchen", the shoppers bitching about things they can change or that are irrelevant - "I hate the wall color/window treatment....", the signing of the contract anywhere but at a realty company office, the summary prior to the big reveal) all of which serve to cloak the show's manifest lack of any relationship to an actual search. And no, that sentence was not in German, sadly, despite the number of clauses.

A huge part of the distinctions made that reinforce particular canons of US taste in middle and upper middle class domestic architecture and interior decoration have to do with the following: quality of window treatments (the plantation shutter being at the apex), wood floors vs. carpets, tiles especially Travertine tiles, en suite bathrooms with double sink in the "Master" bedroom, something called a "Great Room" (formerly a living room with a dining room included?), and even more bizarrely a "Bonus Room" (can't you just add it to the total number of bedrooms?). Molding - crown molding, chair rail and other types are also regarded as the highest indicator of luxury. Kitchens must have custom cabinets, marble or poured cement counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

There are many many other shows on HGTV all predicated on a real estate boom, on flippers' speculative economies, and on estimating value. "My House is Worth What?" often involves people getting an appraisal so that they can take out a home equity loan (WTF? why would you risk your home to borrow against it for some cosmetic reason if you are not planning on selling it, or, if you are not sure you can sell the house? You run the risk of having a house with a huge mortage and a huge debt on top of that!) to put marble counter tops and the whole make-over for the kitchen. HGTV has not caught up with the major recession and foreclosure crisis so now the shows seem like a laughable vision of fictive excess or foolhardy over-reaching. I wonder if their ratings will drop or increase similarly to the popularity of lavish musicals during the Depression....

Say good-bye to granite countertops
High-end kitchen and bath renovations just aren't boosting a home's value the way they used to. Sellers who succumbed to home over-improvement syndrome are feeling the pain.
By Les Christie, staff writer
Last Updated: March 14, 2008: 10:49 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- The granite countertop's glory days might be over.

During the housing boom, updating a kitchen with high end materials like cherry wood cabinets and a Viking stove was a sure bet to boost a home's value. Homeowners often recovered about 80% of the cost when the house was later sold.

But with so much more inventory on the market for buyers to choose from, they just aren't as impressed with the bells and whistles. Now most upscale renovations are returning less than 70% of their cost, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Remodeling magazine.