Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, March 30, 2007

Literary potpourri for 100,Alex!

There's been quite abit of book stuff in the news this week and if you didn't catch any of it,here's a brief roundup to set you straight for the weekend:


Oprah declared herself done with the whole memoir,since nothing could Sidney Poiter's Measure of a Man in her opinion(and Poiter is a hard act to follow) and has gone back to selecting current fiction. Her selection is Cormac McCarthy's The Road,a book that has gotten tons of praise and awards. She even pulled off what many would consider to be the impossible;McCarthy has agreed to appear on the show. McCarthy's a nortorious recluse-no author tours,no book signings,nada,zip. Boo Radley had more of a public life than him.

While I'm not always a fan of Oprah,I am happy to see her go back and chose books written in this lifetime. Hopefully,she'll take a chance on some as yet unknown writer out there and give him/her a shot at wider distribution. The Road is a departure for her in some ways(it's a story set in post-apocalyptic America) but in others,it's not(the main characters are a father and son). Instead of a dysfunctional family coping with the world,The Road has a dysfunctional world that a family has to cope with. Plus,Vintage released the book in paperback sooner than planned,thanks to Oprah. Oprah fans should be pleased with that.


The cover art for the last Harry Potter book,Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,was revealed to the public for both the American and the British editions. Mind you that in England,they have two different covers for the Potter books-one for the adults,the other for the kids. This one is the children's version:



The US version is designed by Mary Grandpre,who has done all of the American covers and looks pretty damn cool to me. Nicely goth but not too overdone,plus is it just me or does Voldemort look like the Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi? Voldemort's robe has more of an Obi Wan hue but still.....


The ABA(Amercian Booksellers Association)has announced the winners of the Book Sense Book of 2007. Book Sense,for those don't know,is a independant bookseller program that releases a monthly listing of the top books to read,with blurbs contributed by independant book retailers across the country. The Book Sense awards are voted upon by indie book people. The winner for fiction is Sara Gruen's wonderful novel,Water for Elephants. In other catagories,The Book Thief by Markus Zusak recieved Best Children's Literature while Owen & Mzee:The Story of a Friendship written by Isabella & Craig Hatkoff,with Dr. Paul Kahumbu took the honors for Best Illustrated Children's Book.

Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck won Adult Non Fiction and the list of Honor titles include Oprah's new pick,The Road,along with The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai,Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen,Peter and The Shadow Theives by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Pirateology. The awards will be given out during the next BEA convention which will take place in New York. The ceremony will be held at the ABA Marriot in Brooklyn,NY(Feel free to do a "BROOOKLYYYN! shout out,if you must there). Congrats to all the winners and good reading to all and to all,a good read!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dirt finale,a hair raising American Idol and Top Design takes a suite at the Four Elements

It was Final Four time at Top Design and the decorator's challenge this week was to create a luxurious hotel room based on one of the four elements,earth,air,fire and water. I thought Goil's room was one of the best ones-he had Fire and really pulled together a viberant yet relaxing space that incorporated the theme without being overwhelmed by it.

The judges,however,were in love with Matt's room,which was Water. While he use the space well and his style had elegance,it really needed some more color. Matt said that to him,water was clear and that was what he was going for. Fine,but all that white puts me in mind of a high end hospital room,not a hotel. Some blues or green would've been a nice pop of color. Matt was declared the winner and since his carpenter nearly lost a finger cutting the boards for this challenge(the guy was okay after getting about 8 stitches and went right back to work),it made the victory extra sweet there.

When it came down to elimination,Andrea and Goil were on the chopping block. Andrea should have been the one to hear "see you later,decorator"(what a lame sign off that is)but Goil was given the boot instead. I call shenangans on that! Andrea hated the theme of her room(earth)and her design shows it;it's dull,unfocused and that stone bench with the patch of grass is uncomfortable and ridiculous! She could've gone with some rich autumn leaf colors or a forest glen feeling but no,Andrea slapped togther some drab colors and a literal interpretation that somehow got her into the Final Three.

In looking at the Judges' blogs at the Bravo website,Margaret Russell said that Goil wasn't"passionate about this room and it was his downfall." Not passionate about his room?! The guy threw a hell of alot effort and creativity into that design while being ignored and unencouraged by his fellow decorators. If anyone was not passionate about this challenge,it was Andrea,who kept bitching and moaning about how she was stuck with a theme and how she's not"crunchy". She's not that great a decorator from what I've seen on this show.

Carisa did a decent job on her room,making up for last week's diaster of a dining room but she still keeps fighting with her carpenter. Carisa,please-is it really a smart move to constantly tick off the guy who has full access to saws and hammers and can "accidently" drop heavy objects on your head?

Dirt wrapped up it's first season on Tuesday and while I've only been watching the last few episodes on and off,I figured that I might as well see how this thing ends. The best parts were poor Don Konkey's struggles in the desert to resist the urgings of his hallucinations to kill Lucy. Ian Hart is pretty damn cool,I hope he gets a better acting gig out of this.

Of course,most folks tuned in to see the big Courtney Cox/Jennifer Aniston kiss and that was pretty much a nonevent there. I've seen sexier smooches between two Barbie dolls in a grade school playroom. So dull:

I don't know if Dirt has been renewed for another season but they certainly followed the tradition of most of the successful F/X shows and went out with a hell of a cliffhanger,with Lucy bleeding to death after being knifed by Julia and calling Don to come over and take the pictures before calling 911. Great priorities there,hon! Maybe a second time around the block will pay off better,who knows.

Gwen Stefani was the guest mentor on American Idol this week,giving the contestants a choice of either No Doubt songs or songs by those who have been an influence on her such as Donna Summer and The Police. Only three of the Top Ten dared to sing some of Gwen's tunes and yes,Sanjaya was one of them. I've been awarding crappy performances on AI this season with the Singalong Screwup award but I've given up with that and will simply call it the Sanjaya. That hair alone makes him a memorable piece of American Idol's history;that was the first time I've ever seen a hairdo get it's own closeup.

When he came out with that fauxhawk,it reminded me of a cartoon character with a similar bouncy hairstyle but a much better singer:



Sanjaya is safe yet again,while Chris Sligh was given the honor of singing the Song of Shame. It's a bummer but Chris Sligh seemed to have quite a bit of potential going into this competition but he didn't live up to that promise. Also,not keeping in sync with the band during the song is a big no-no. On the bright side,both Melinda and Lakisha rocked some sweet Donna Summer and Gina gave a great performance with Chrissie Hyde's "Stand by You". Let's take a look:




Random Notes:

TAR/All-Stars: Charla and Mirna were Team Number One yet again while Teri and Ian were Philiminated. Uchenna and Joyce benefited from the airport madness on this leg which kept teams hours apart from the clues and challenges. I'm glad they're still in the race,altho I wish that Eric and Danielle were gone already. The two of them are too damn moody,plus Eric loves saying stupid things about his girlfriend's breasts or calling one of the other teams"two old queens." Nice,real nice!

The Riches: Doug faked his way thur his first day of work as Dahlia conned the headmistress of the local snooty private school into accepting all three of her kids without that pesky waiting list business. I'm really liking this show and my favorite character is Sam,the youngest Malloy with the most potential for breaking out of the family criminal rut but may have to hide his tastes in girl's clothes to keep the current con going.

Also digging seeing some other actors from favorite shows of mine show up here,like Gilmore Girls' Gregg Henry as Doug's mental case boss and last week Kaitlin Olson,aka Sweet Dee from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia popping in as a one armed,bitchy neighbor. Can't wait to see who will show up next!

Blood Ties: Mike has finally caught on to what kind of a guy Henry really is and thank goodness,he found out by the third episode. It would've been annoying if they had dragged out the whole"what does Vicki see in him?" thing for too long. If it was up to me,I'd go with Henry. He's sexy,charming and damn useful in a fight with supernatural forces. Oh,and he's a graphic novel artist to boot! Sweet. Watch this and tell me you don't agree:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kurt Andersen shows us one heck of a Heyday

Setting the right tone in any novel can be tricky and it's even more of a challenge with a historical one;the bar for that kind of authentic style is placed pretty high. In Kurt Andersen's Heyday,you can tell you're in for a treat in the just the same way that you can tell at a concert by the first few notes that the lead singer is in good voice.

The story begins in 1848,as Benjamin Knowles,a young Englishman from a wealthy family decides to broaden his horizons by going to America and in particular,New York. Ben's also looking to steer clear of Europe for awhile after a deadly run-in with the police in France during an uprising that lead to the death of his friend Ashby as well as one of the officers due to an encounter with a literally explosive girl and a stuffed penguin. The brother of the fallen officer,Dumont,is hot on Ben's heels seeking revenge.

During his time in New York,Ben makes a few friends and acquaintances such as Timothy Skaggs,a budding photographer and professional pleasure seeker,Duff Lucking,a Mexican War vet whose pyromania comes in handy with his current position as a firefighter and his sister Polly Lucking,a would be actress and occasionally prostitute that Ben instantly falls in love with. The Gold Rush craze has just started and for their own personal agendas,the four of them take off for California to seek their fortunes. Dumont also gets wind of this and ruthlessly stalks them on their cross country journey.

Certain real life historical figures make cameo appearances in the book,Sigmund Freud and Alexis De Tocqueville for example,but they don't stand out like sore thumbs in the narrative. Rather,they seem perfectly natural. Andersen really must have done more than just bone up on the time period-his writing shows a true love for the good old fashioned character driven,yet filled with vivid physical description of the world around the story,smartly paced potboiler of a novel. Another way to say that would be what the Blas Blue catalog calls a "thumping good read". Heyday is exactly that,to a T.

Heyday is one of those few novels that get rave reviews and not only lives up to the hype but deserves to be praised and widely read while still in hardcover. If you'd like to know more about the book and its' author,please click the title link above to check out Kurt Andersen's offical website that also has plenty of info about his earlier novel,Turn of the Century,along with his other various forays into pop culture. Heyday is not just a masterful piece of writing but a true masterwork that should be passed down thru the generations.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Does death become America's Next Top Model?

Folks are still talking about last week's episode of America's Next Top Model and not because Felicia was sent home;the chatter is due to the photo shoot in which the theme was murder victims. The whole point of the shoot was to showcase the lesson on posing the gals recieved from Benny Ninja(hard to write that name down without giggling). A number of women's groups are up in arms,claiming that the show is "glamorizing violence against women" and comparing these pics to those ads for Captivity that were taken down from billboards recently.

I'll be honest here-when I have watched ANTM,it's been mainly for laughs. Some of these reality shows are too much with the diva drama,plus Tyra and Miss J are sure to do,say or wear something wacky enough that'll get them a key spot on E!'s The Soup. However,I must admit that alot of these photo shoot themes are pretty interesting(when they're not blatant ads for Cover Girl products)and dare I say it,border on the artistic. This cycle so far,the girls have posed as political statements,high school cliches and candy. Yep,candy and they were nude for those pictures(naughty bits covered up by CGI)-wonder where the feminist uproar was then?

"Hey,you just complained about those Capitivity ads,Lady T! Isn't this the same thing?" No,not at all. The death photos were not meant to advertise a movie,clothes or any item up for sale. They were intended as an exercise in posing. Don't believe me? See what the judges had to say:

Part I

Part II

See? Everyone involved considered this as just another day's work. If you watched the whole episode,you saw the girls getting into their makeup and deciding on how to pose(like Brittany did,which enhanced her picture). Also,the girls and the judges were joking around about which model did in which girl. It wasn't about promoting violence,despite the grisly subject matter. It was about being creative and challenging,which the Capitivity ads are not.

I can understand how this would upset some people and the theme's a bit more extreme than I expected from ANTM but lighten up there,ladies,please! Tyra may be alot of things but I don't think for one minute that she and her crew meant this as anything but a unique way to get these girls to really show what they can do as models.

I'm sure the producers don't mind the extra PR this controversy has been stirring up but frankly,I'd like to see groups like NOW do some real talking in the media about how there are places in the world where women and young girls are forced into arranged marriages and can be beaten and killed on a whim,without anyone in authority saying "boo" about it. How there are women punished for doing things that we take for granted in this country,like wearing nail polish or exposing their hair. Or even wondering why Anna Nicole Smith's death and the custody battle over her infant daughter seems to have been orchastrated by a very manipulative man. Oh,but wait,that would be something a real feminist would do. My bad.

Anyway,Tyra,I'm on your side here. Just tell those haters what you told the bozos ripping on your bathing suit:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lomax and Biggs,Hollywood homicide's finest

There are plenty of detective teams out there on the literary beat but none like Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs,the leading men of Marshall Karp's murder mystery series. We first meet them in The Rabbit Factory,where the death of a cartoon character mascot,Rambunctious Rabbit(aka Rambo),at the local Disneyesque theme park, Lamaar's Familyland is only the beginning of their troubles.

At first,Rambo's murder seems unconnected to Familyland since the guy in the bunny suit turned out to be an unregistered sex offender. Things quickly change when one of the stars of Lamaar's family films is brutally killed while doing charity work. Clues are left behind at the scene that point to a grudge against Lamaar Studios and as the body count grows,it's clear that someone has declared an all-out war against Lamaar and anyone,including customers,are walking targets.

In midst of all of this,Mike is still in mourning for his wife Joanie,who died from long term cancer and dealing with his dad,Big Jim Lomax,who wants Mike to start dating again,plus his brother Frankie's gambling probelms have caught up to him in a lethal way. Keeping Mike steady is his partner Terry,a former New Yorker who finally found the right woman(complete with three stepdaughters)after three marriages. Terry fancies himself a comedian and while he does get off a good line every now and then,he also is the one who puts his foot in his mouth first out of the two.

In their latest adventure,Bloodthirsty,Lomax and Biggs find a bigtime Hollywood producer dead and dumped in public. The prime suspect,an arrogant actor whom he was feuding with,is soon found murdered in a similar style. As the media pressure builds up,Mike and Terry discovers a very personal motive behind those murders and find they have some sympathy for the killers,who are not finished with getting revenge by a long sight.

Marshall Karp has written for stage,screen and TV,so he knows the Hollywood scene pretty well. He also knows how to create believable and compelling characters capable of smart,witty dialogue and can keep up a fast paced narrative that grips the reader to the edge of their seat. The Lomax and Biggs books are those great stories that have what Stephen King calls "the gotta " as in"I gotta read a few more pages and then I'll check on the laundry/kids/dinner" and "I gotta find out what happens next." Writers who can do that are real gems that should be treasured and Karp certainly qualifies there.

If you'd like to check out Lomax and Biggs for yourself,The Rabbit Factory has just come out in paperback and Bloodthirsty is due in hardcover this May. You can also visit the Lomax and Biggs official website by clicking the title link above to learn more about the author and his detectives. It's going to be hard to wait for the third book in the series but then again,that'll give more folks a chance to catch up and share in the joy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

When Movie Poster Art Goes Bad

As many of you who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis know,I'm a bit of a horror movie fan and have a pretty strong stomach for certain things. I even enjoy lurid images,if done well and appreciate boldness. However,some of these marketing people are really testing my limits(Warning-some of these images are definately not work safe or kid safe-you have been warned).

Recently,two movies are freaking people out with teaser posters like this one for Hostel II,showing a nude body holding her own severed head under her arm(the actress is Bijou Phillips,who's in the movie). There are two versions of it,one that you see on the right and a much gorier one,for those who must have red wine with their meal:

And that's not all,folks! Billboard ads for the upcoming movie Captivity were pulled down,due to people being upset that their kids could see images of Elisa Cuthbert being held hostage in four fun parts ending with death. Take a gander,if you will:

These ads went up on over 30 billboards in LA and 1,400 NYC taxicab tops. The producers claim that this was done in error but I don't know if I buy their"uh-oh,spaghetti-os!" line. The one sheet posters for Captivity are alittle more subtle,...well,one of them is,anyway. See for yourself:

Now,I'm not going with the"protect the kids!" line,especially since I'm usually the first person to call shenanagans on that one,nor am I going to whip out the feminista card here. My complaint is based on creativity. First impressions mean alot,folks and what are these ads telling us here? "Hey,wanna see something gross? We've got naked chicks,too!"

Smooth move,Clyde. Real smooth. These ads are nothing but shock and awe guerilla style tactics and yes,they'll put plenty of butts in multiplex seats to watch them on their opening weekends but is it too much to ask that you give your prospective audience a hint of what's to come,not give away the whole show for free?

"Aw,give me a break,Lady T! You like those posters for Grindhouse and Black Snake Moan-aren't those just as obvious?" No,not really. Those posters give you an idea about what to expect but are executed with more style and substance. They are homages to past images from dime novels and 1970's low budget exploitation films that have more heart and soul in them than some of the slick sleaze being made today. Just one look and you can tell that quality wins out:

If you have low expectations for your audience,that's fine but I for one prefer a little more flash for my cash in the brains department. Good scary fun is great and alot of my favorite flicks are not highbrow. However, ads like these for Hostel II and Captivity leave a nasty taste in my mouth that's similar to swallowing my own vomit and I'd rather not rush out to see them in theaters. Maybe a rental but more likely watch them on cable,if there's nothing else on.

I know it's hard to think of new ways to advertise any movie,especially in this genre but it can be done with a little more flair and imagination. Think it about it,that's all I am asking of you.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ColorSplash,A.I. and Top Design sets the table for a Top Chef

There was a slight reality show crossover this week as one of the judges on Top Design was chef Tom Colicchio,the Simon Cowell of Top Chef. The designers were asked to create a "chef's dining room" for one of Tom's new restaurants. The style guidelines given to them were these:arts and crafts look,mid century design with touches of natures and mixed materials such as stone and wood. The most important detail was that the room had to look high end.

Andrea won the challenge and her room did look great but I didn't like the chairs. They just looked way too stiff for me. Carisa was up on the chopping block this time and as much as I like her,the room she put together was a mess.

It was basically a huge space with a tiny looking table in the center. The chairs had these awful plaid fabric slipcovers that just screamed "itchy"! Carisa blamed some of the room's probelms on a fight with her carpenter(this girl can't keep a carpenter happy ,I swear!)which didn't endear her to the judges at all. Get it together there,Carisa!

Michael was sent packing this week,finally,after his dining room diaster;having three sets of mismatched chairs(none of which looked comfortable),a carpet that seemed more appropiate for a Vegas airport and no place to put neccessary dinner items like napkins(which Michael "disagreed" about with Judge Kelly) was not as clever as he insisted on. Also,he was very stand-offish when all of the designers were asked"which dining room would you NOT like to eat in?". Michael just pushed up his glasses and said"I refuse to answer that." twice. He really is Cousin Oliver.

My favorite dining room was Matt's,with it's leather paneled floor. Goil put together a good room,too but his floral chandelier did resemble something out of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters(that's what it reminded my little sister of,anyway).

The winner of HGTV's DesignStar,David Bromstad,had his show ColorSplash debut on Monday and since I'm on a Heroes hiatus(thanks alot,NBC!),I was able to catch the first episode. The basic premise is that David does a makeover on the one room in someone's home that they're not happy with and the theme is based on color.

David is the perfect interior designer-he's charming,tasteful and considerate of his client's needs. For the first room he did(a couple's bedroom),all the husband wanted was for his wife to be happy and to have his TV set in a better place for him to watch it.

Most design shows seem to hate TVs,especially if it's in a bedroom. Not David,he just picked up a flatscreen and had it mounted over the fireplace that was there. Cool move,man.

My only complaint is with David's assistant,Danielle. She acts real dippy and is a bit of a Repeat-O Girl;everytime David mentions a concept or an idea about the room,she parrots it back for the viewer later on. Other than that,ColorSplash looks top notch. The second season of DesignStar is due to start on July 29 and maybe some of the people behind Top Design should watch and see how it's supposed to done.

American Idol took on the British Invasion this week,with Peter Noone and Lulu as guest mentors. Sanjaya survived yet around round and for the second week in a row,I must give him the Singalong Screwup Award. Despite the tear stricken fangirl in the audience,that performance really showed that Sanjaya don't know what he's doing:



Let's do some positive compare and contrast;two of the ladies took on Shirley Bassey tunes(Lakisha and Jordin) this week-did they do them justice? I think so but you decide:



Glad to see a decent performance from Chris Sligh(keep it up,buddy!)and Melinda Doolittle was lovely,singing "As Long As He Needs Me". Stephanie went home this week after a lackluster version of "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me",which is a shame. Sometimes in this show,it only takes one bad performance to kick you off. Why that hasn't happened yet to Sanjaya is anyone's guess at this point. Oh well,let us enjoy the goodness,shall we?



Random Notes:

TAR/All Stars: Charla and Mirna were Team Number One,for the first time ever! Pretty cool and smart of them to pick the nail polish roadblock over that coal packing task. Danny and Oswald chasing Phil around the Pit Stop was so damn funny and I don't blame Phil for not wanting to get coal dust on his jacket,not at all.

America's Next Top Model: The photo shoot theme this week was CSI:Fashion Victims,as the girls made gruesomely gorgeous faces of death. Felicia was told she looked "too dead" in her eyes,but in a way that really enhanced the photo in my opinion. This shot reminded me of a scene from Dario Argento's Deep Red(the classic elevator decapitation bit that I wish I could find on YouTube). Most of the pictures had a very giallo look to them.

Felicia went home but whiny Renee stayed,to complain some more about how all the other girls hate her. I guess it's a staple of ANTM to have a resident bitch on board but it can get annoying. That whole crying over the phone to her husband to take her home after she lost out on the diamond bracelet came off like a spoiled brat whimpering how she doesn't want to play anymore,since she's not winning. Sorry you and your hubby are in debt,hon,but who asked you to get married so young and run up a stack of bills there? Beauty fades,dumb is forever-watch some Judge Judy there!

Ugly Betty: Marc's mom(played by Patty LuPone)comes to visit and Betty is forced to be his beard. Should be fun! Speaking of fun,that rubber dress Amanda paraded around in last week was hilarious,even without the hat. The Betty and Marc kiss is a comedic highlight that I'm eagerly looking forward to:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kabul Beauty School gives lessons in sisterhood and style

When Deborah Rodriguez first came to Afghanistan in 2002 as one of the volunteers sent by the Care For All Foundation to help rebuild the country,she took a good look around her at all of the other aid workers and wondered "What am I doing here?"

Most of the folks that were there were doctors and nurses,teachers,engineers,etc. She was the only hairdresser in the bunch,which turned out to be a very in demand position. Afghan natives as well as Westerners were clamoring for her services,many of whom had been beauticians even during the reign of the Taliban. Some of them had to destroy and/or bury their mirrors and other tools of the trades if they recieved too much scrutiny from the authorities.

In 2003,Deborah became one of the teachers and founders of the Kabul Beauty School. The main objective was to give Afghan women some independence and a way of making a better life for themselves and their families. Beauty salons are a women-only zone in Afganistan,one of the few places where they don't have to get approval for every little thing from their husbands,fathers or brothers. For many of the students,the school provides them with the means of support and in some cases,the only source of income going into the household.

Deborah fell in love with the country and its' people and even set up a teaching salon of her own,The Oasis Salon. She later on married an Afghan man(who had another wife and children living with his parents in Saudi Arabia)and made many friends amongst her students such as Roshanna who needed to prove her virginity on her wedding night with Debbie's help and Nahida,married to a cruel Talib husband who abused her at every turn.

Debbie's story of her life and times in Afghanistan is truly inspiring but not a"oh,look at how noble I am" book. Rather,her down to earth nature shines thru the pages,making you feel as if you were hearing all of this from a good friend you haven't seen in years but want to know what she's been up since you last saw her. You become drawn into the world of her students and friends as well as get an real idea of what life is like in Afghanistan,a place that many of us only have a vague notion of.

There are those who would find the notion of a beauty school in that part of the world to be a trival pursuit but it's about more than just learning how to set perm rods and manicures. Attention to physical appearance is a sign of truly caring for yourself and boosts the spirit for both sexes. By opening this school,Afghan women are being given the chance to open themselves up to new possibilites and begin to make small steps towards one day being considered equals in their society. You have to start somewhere,folks.

Kabul Beauty School is a wonderful,thought provoking memoir that should be your top reading group selection this spring. It will be out in stores on April 10 and if you would like to know more about the school,please click the title link above to check out their website(that also has a link to the book). There's also a documentary about the first class of the KBS now available on DVD called the Beauty Academy of Kabul,which features many of the students and teachers(including Debbie)that is in stock at Netflix. I just watched it last night and it really enhances Debbie's account of how everything began there. This is one of the best examples about how outer beauty can truly enrich the inner.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lights...Camera...Roll Credits!

In thinking about how much I don't like the opening credits of this season's Veronica Mars(the visuals are stiff and the theme song is mashed down into a quickie remix version of itself),I started to look back at opening title sequences that I did enjoy,such as the one for the original Wonder Woman show(back when she was still fighting Nazis):

My mind also turned to movie opening title sequences,which can really set the tone for what you're about to see. Here are a few of my favorites:


The weird thing about these credits is that I really don't like the movie. It's watchable but after awhile,the characters just get on my nerves. It doesn't help that when I first saw ND,the projectionist put the film in wrong so that everyone on screen looked like Munchkins(you could even see the boom mike in most of the shots!).

That didn't bother my sister but it induced a killer rage in me that lead to a vicious rant fest from me as we left the theater(also had an upset stomach as well). Nevertheless,the opening credits are very creative and for a minute there,I had hope that this would be a good movie. Also,the White Stripes song is well chosen:


One of the few horror sequels that goes for the funny yet still has some scare show thrills left in it. The opening sequence gives you a good heads-up on the dark humor that's to follow,plus Tiffany's doll collection reminds me of Drusilla's from the second season of Buffy. Take a good listen to the Rob Zombie song that plays in the background,it has a direct bearing on this blog:


I like opening credits that bring you right into the action of the film,not stalling the plot and letting the main character get in their groove. Bridget's sorry for her self singalong instantly bonds the audience with her right off the bat:


It's not everyday that you get to watch a Mormon porn star superhero in action and the opening credits to Matt Stone and Trey Parker's early film has one of the best theme songs I've ever heard:


Great graphics,pumped up noir music and a brilliant pull away shot that showcases the title of the movie...what's not to love here?:


This may seem like a very dull opening,just a woman walking to work but when that woman is Pam Grier,she's anything but dull. Jackie Brown is a very underrated Tarantino movie but in my opinion,it's one of his best. Excellant use of Bobby Womack here to set the tone:

One of my alltime favorites is the opening credits to Flash Gordon,with a mix of Max Von Sydow's Ming blasting the earth with wild weather,artwork from the original Alex Raymond comic strips and Queen's theme song. While I couldn't find a clip of that title bit,the closet I did find was this video of Queen recording the title song. Hope this gives you a good idea of it or atleast gets you to rent the movie:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Open letter to the CW,Re:Veronica Mars

Dear CW Network:

As someone who has watched this network back when it was not only as the WB but simply WPIX/Channel 11 in New York(as well as your new ally,UPN),I can confidently state that I've been rather patient and forgiving of certain things that have gone on in the past.

Such things as dropping Buffy the Vampire Slayer in it's fifth season simply due to not wanting to give Joss Whedon and Co. any more money,canceling the spin-off series Angel also in it's fifth season(what is it with you guys and the number 5,honestly? I hope this commitment phobia deal doesn't cross over into your other non-work relationships,but I digress)while keeping Charmed on the air for nine years and don't get me started on that Seventh Heaven musical episode,which should be listed with the Geneva Convention as an inhuman act of torture. I give you Exhibit A:

This latest bit of business against another top notch show cannot be abided;I'm speaking of course about the strong possibility of canceling Veronica Mars. From what I gather,three possible outcomes are in the air-1)revamping the show by setting it four years later,with Veronica as a FBI agent,2) continuing with Veronica in college or 3) canceling the show completely. I know that you're not happy with the ratings and that some of the fans are not thrilled with this season but some of the blame for that belongs to you,CW.

By insisting that there must not be a season-long mystery arc(a hallmark of the show) and plenty of stand alone episodes so that"newcomers could get into it",you sandbagged this series. First off,this is only the third season and unlike Lost or the X-Files,the premise,setting and characters on the show are not that convoluted. Also,if folks want to catch up,there's this thing called DVDs,where you can watch a whole season in one sitting. Many folks get into a new show that way.

And what is the logic behind not having a season-long arc,exactly?"Gee,people will get bored if they don't find out whodunit right away! They won't tune in to find out what happens next!" Again,I must point to Lost,the X-Files and Heroes to show you the error of your ways. Unless your stategy is to program for the ADD demograph or the oversexed male/video gamer market(which explains the Pussycat Dolls Search you so brilliantly put in place of VM during it's hopefully brief hiatus),it just doesn't make sense to me.

Do you want to be known as the punchline of TV show jokes forever? No one's saying you can't have some goofy shows on the docket in order to pay the bills. America's Next Top Model is great fun,just like Deal or No Deal,Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. However,most of the other networks also produce and promote quality shows to round out the viewing diet. Stuff like 24,Ugly Betty and Law & Order:SVU. If all you offer is junk food,you're going to get as much respect as a BBQ chef at a vegan convention.

And let's face it,your list of good shows is dwindling. Gilmore Girls is practically out the door at this point and you might get another season or two from Smallville but what else is there,I ask you? One Tree Hill? Beauty and the Geek? Sure, Supernatural's getting a nice fanbase there and Everybody Hates Chris is nice but most of your lineup is pretty weak,folks. Even USA Network has stronger stuff than that and F/X is kicking your butt in the must-chat-around-the-water-cooler buzz department. Granted,they have a much looser rein on them in terms of content but that's no excuse!

Finally,all I can say is that this is a great show about a smart young woman that deserves to be given more of a chance to reach her true potential. Every show has a troublesome season or two but it's way too soon to put Ms. Mars out to pasture. Here are some examples of how good Veronica Mars is and can be:

Season One Fire Finale:

Veronica,her dad and DNA:

Veronica shows Wallace some Pirate love:

Season Two Finale-Rooftop Showdown:

Season Three Classroom Confrontation:

And one other thing before I go; don't give up on the Veronica in College theme just yet. Part of the appeal of this series is seeing the leading lady grow and develop her mental skills as well as her affairs of the heart. You don't want to alienate those 'shippers out there,trust me on this. Those guys will turn on with such a frenzy that a shark attack looks merciful in comparison.


Lady T and the still supportive Veronica Mars fan club

p.s. Fans of VM,please click the title link above to sign an online petition to keep our show alive!

p.p.s Bring back the original opening credits or make ones better than this!


S2(similar to first season):

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's The End Of The World As We Know It and he's not feeling fine

Reading someone's life story,even a small part of it,can be an interesting and exciting experience that lets you literally walk a mile in another man's shoes. That walk can have some pretty rough spots or just be a long scenic route that goes nowhere in particular but you're in no hurry to arrive at the assumed destination just yet.

In the case of Robert Goolrick's upcoming memoir,The End Of The World As We Know It,despite the increasing emotional pain on every page,you do want to reach the end if only to find out what terrible family secret has driven this poor man to such despair that he took to cutting himself so badly on both arms that when a niece asked him how that happened,his story about falling thru a plate glass window sounded plausible. Goolrick takes the reader thru the sad mystery of his life and that of his parents who seemed hellbent on being bitterly discontented.

Goolrick grew up in Virginia in the 1950's and the atmosphere at home was like one long cocktail party. His father was a history professor and his mom was a reluctant homemaker who would host the numerous social gatherings held for their friends. They seemed to live in a world of lovely parties and good times. That was merely an acceptable social mask for the reality of their life together. His parents were also alcoholics who would pack a suitcase full of bourbon for any long trip.

Alcohol is a key clue in deciphering what lead Goolrick to seek love in all the wrong places as he grew up and to turn to self mutilation. There seemed to be an almost unspoken but there nonetheless begrudging agreement to keep the peace between Goolrick and his parents that nearly broke out into open warfare at times. He attempted to write a novel based on his family once and even innocent details like a cocktail dress of his mother's that was only worn once,due to a cigarette burn,caused his mother and father to verbally lash out at him,calling him a betrayer.

Despite their coldness to him,Goolrick would try time and again to win them over with gifts(like buying the family home that they could no longer afford to keep up and later in life,was over run with rats)and accomplishments but nothing seemed to matter to them,beyond where their next drink was.

As the book gets closer to what did cause this broken bond and even afterwards,several chapters read like epic poems of sorrow,wondering how they ever managed to live a regular life filled with ordinary pleasures with the dark shadow of this hideous thing looming in the background,silent yet ever present.

The End of the World As We Know It is not a "blame my family" screed,rather it's one man's attempt at finding peace with himself and gaining closure with what happened to him so long ago. He doesn't paint his parents as monsters but does deal with his anger and selfhatred,trying to put all of his issues to rest. This is not a gentle read but it is a beautifully written testament to going thru the fire and coming out as whole as you can on the other side.

Robert Goolrick's book will be in stores on March 23 and if you would like to see him on his author tour,please click the title link above to see if he will be at a bookstore near you. This is a sad story but it is one definately worth the telling.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meet the Riches,Blood Ties and Top Design parties down

On Top Design,the remaining six decorators broke off into two teams and were challenged to create a five sense theme party to promote Barcardi Limon. One team was made up of Goil,Andrea and Erik. Goil had some cool ideas,like creating a chandelier out of Barcardi bottles,but was completely run over by Andrea and Erik who shoved alot of the dirty work on him. This really bummed out Goil,who had been looking forward to working with Andrea.

Team Two had their own probelms as tensions rose between Michael and Carisa(who was again stuck with buying the fabrics for the project). Carisa felt that Michael and Matt were trying to shut her out and she wasn't totally wrong there! Thank goodness that Michael's idea to hire some go-go dancers for the party was nixed in favor of having a bouncer instead.

Too bad that Michael picked out the flowers-calla lillies have no scent,plus plucking the lillies off of the stem for table floral arrangements was dumb. The whole point of calla lillies is that they're tall! Also,I agree with Carisa that mixing them with cabbage was weird. I just don't get that guy,I don't.

In the end,it was the team with the bouncer who won the day and the person sent home was Erik,who claimed responsibility for designing the losing team's space which was rather cluttered and filled with too many half done ideas. They really should've listened to Goil;he's shown his architectual skills are strong thru out this competition and if his input had been given more of a forum,the group would've had a better chance of winnning. Jonathan Adler took Goil to task for not speaking up but I don't think Adler appreciated the situation Goil was put in. His choices were to keep arguing to have things done his way or get to work so that the project could be completed on time. Many of us don't have the advantages of being their own boss,Adler!

The Riches debuted this past Monday on F/X and if you think this show's been hyped to death,let me assure you that the hoopla is well warrented. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver play Wayne and Dahlia Malloy who,along with their three kids,are part of a modern day gyspy clan who tire of the grifter life and decide to steal the American Dream by stepping into the life of a dead man. This preview gives a good lowdown on the plot and the major players:

Izzard and Driver have great chemistry together,plus the whole idea of faking your way to the top of the financial food chain is a pretty sweet one. If you click the title link above,you can watch the first two episodes online at Yahoo's tv section. Check this one out,folks,because we may have another Emmy winning series on our hands here. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Another new show that premiered this week was Lifetime Channel's Blood Ties,which is based on a series of paranormal romance thrillers by Tanya Huff. The basic premise here is that former top cop turned P.I. Vicki Nelson(she quit the force due to a progressive eye condition which will lead to blindness)is torn between working with her old homicide partner Mike on strange supernatural cases or Henry Fitzroy,a 450 year old vampire who only uses his powers for good. Henry's a rather sexy guy and quite a badass fighter, but not totally invulnerable. Demon wounds can take alot out of him and anyone else nearby:

Since I'm more of a vampire fan,this show is abit more up my alley than the Dresden Files(which is a decent series),so I'm hooked from the get go. Vicki's a good,strong character,even if she is prone to arguing with just about everyone she meets. Just hope that the plotlines get more intriguing as we go on.

Random Notes:

American Idol: It was Diana Ross week for the Top 12 and as usual,the best performances were from Lakisha and Melinda,with Jordin Sparks dogging their heels. I was truly puzzled by Chris Sligh's version of "Endless Love"-singing a duet as a solo performer is not easy(and yes,I know both Ross and Lionel Ritchie have done it separately)but that odd arrangement was really off putting. He nearly recieved the Singalong Screwup award this week but that honor goes to Sanjaya,who escaped the Song of Shame as Brandon was eliminated.

Sanjaya should have NEVER attempted "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" but whose bright idea was it to make him look like a lost member of the Jackson Five? Bad enough that he screwed up the song but resembling a Jim Henson creation on top of that added insult to injury:



As I said,the ladies truly truimphed here and if the rest of the guys were picked off for the rest of the season,that would be just fine with me. I do dig Chris Sligh but he really needs to get on the ball if he wants any real chance of entering the finals. Diana Ross was very nice to the contestants,being the Good Diva of the North. She really took a shine to Lakisha:

Melinda and Jordin are the only ones really giving Lakisha any competition here:



TAR/ALL-STARS: Joy was heard thru out the land as Rob and Amber were Philiminated on this last leg of the race. Particularly sweet was that the team who reached the Pit Stop ahead of them was Charla and Mirna,who Romber tried to mislead about the location of a clue box. They seemed to take it well but they're professional reality show players at this point,so there's bound to be another gig for them in the near future. I suspect that we have not seen the last of them:

I only saw part of the season that Charla and Mirna were originally on the Race,so I didn't realize how bitchy Charla can get. It was very annoying to see her shout at her cousin like that(more work,less talk next Detour,honey!)and to say in an aside interview that her team has "shortcomings" is so not cool. Let's see how the Race goes now without Team Romber leading the pack. This should mix things up better.


Tonight is the big wedding between Lex and Lana,which will end happily ever after,right? Wrong! If anything,this could be even more of a disaster than Zod attempting to conquer the earth:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Reading of the Green

With St. Pat's Day coming up,it's my duty as an American of Irish descent to give folks some proper recommendations for good books to read that will put you in the Emerald Isle state of mind without hitting a pub(hey,I'm Irish,I can make the jokes,ok?!). Instead of the usual James Joyce/Frank McCourt somber stories,let's have some fun here,shall we?

First on my list is a book I picked up while on my way back from England and I've read it twice since then. Isobel's Wedding tells the tale of a expectant bride whose boyfriend decides two weeks before the wedding that he doesn't want to get married and thinks they should just go as if nothing had happened .Nice,right? Isobel decides to take a job in Spain to get a fresh start on her life.

Spain works out pretty well for her,with its easygoing lifestyle and a new love in her life,Nico. Eventually tho,the jerkweed ex-fiancee shows up to rekindle the flames. Yes,she has to chose between them but her decision is made in a relatable human way and not in some melodramatic fashion. This may not seem very Irish,with a good chunk of the book set in Spain,but the adjustments to her new surroundings make Isobel akin to many of the Irish who have taken themselves to parts unknown for a ne life. Isobel's Wedding by Sheila O'Flanagan is not yet available in the US(Flanagan does have some novels reprinted in America such as He's Got To Go)but you can buy it at Amazon.com UK.

Glass Lake is one of my favorite Maeve Binchy novels-I know Circle of Friends is pretty popular(and a great Minnie Driver movie)but this one is rather touching. In the small town of Lough Glass,frustrated housewife Helen McMahon runs off with an old lover from her past,Louis,leaving a sealed note for her mild mannered husband Martin. Helen's young daughter Kit finds the note first and burns it,thinking it to be a suicide note(her mother had been showing strong signs of depression)that wouldn't allow her mom to be given a Christian burial.

Due to a boating accident in the area,everyone including Martin believes that Helen is dead and Helen even finds that out herself,mistakenly blaming Martin. Despite having a new life in London with Louis,Helen still longs for her children and writes to Kit under the guise of being an old friend of her mother's. Kit decides at one point to meet the mysterious"Lena" and a whole can of worms opens on them both.

This is not just the story of Kit and Helen but of the whole village;Kit's brother Emmet who slowly overcomes his stutter,Sister Madeline,an eccentric nun that becomes the wise old oracle of the neighborhood and Maura Kelly who falls in love with Martin and wants to marry him. Glass Lake is such an engrossing book that I actually got mad at one of the characters and wanted to smack her(not getting into details because I don't want to ruin the story for those who haven't read it,which is a more smackworthy offense). Glass Lake is a tale of love and community that shows you how to be true to both without betrayal.

Sushi For Beginners should appeal to Ugly Betty fans as the novel is centered around the launch of a women's fashion magazine in Dublin. The Wilhemina part goes to Lisa Edwards,who feels demoted by the London office after pushing for a top spot in New York. Ashling Kennedy doesn't wear braces but has the Betty Suarez vibe as the eager to do well newcomer whose purse is packed with all sorts of survival gear for almost any occasion,from bandaids to a sewing kit. Ashling's friend Clodagh has the suburban homemaker's dream life but finds her eye wandering lately.

All three ladies have love interests that complicate their lives even further,with Ashling unexpectedly being romanced by slick and sleek boss Jack Devine(so Daniel Meade-ish,too!). Keyes' novels usually have a strong undertow of serious emotional issues for her characters,which this books only treads lightly upon. That doesn't make the story a total fluffernutter-rather,it's a enjoyable trip down the romantic runway with some good laughs along the catwalk.

May your irish eyes be smiling down on these pages and just remember,you can always rent some of those Leprechaun movies if you feel the need for a drinking game. Just take a shot whenever the phrase"pot of gold" is said. Only a suggestion,people,only a suggestion!