Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A pop culture thank you to 2008

2008 officially comes to an end tonight,and many of us will be glad to see it go. While the need and desire to shuck this year off and bounce right into '09 with arms and hopes wide open is completely understandable,we should stop for a minute and give thanks for some of the good that '08 has bestowed unto us.

Yes,there were a number of great and wonderful things that did brighten up the dark spots of this year and to ignore that would only encourage bad karma to come a-knockin'. So let us reveal and rejoice in the pop culture glories of 2008:

THANK YOU MARVEL & DC,for bringing to the screen great versions of Iron Man and The Dark Knight. While Iron Man's box office reign may have peaked a little sooner than expected and backstage feuding has caused a casting change for the sequel,it was an excellent debut for Tony Stark and an amazingly well earned comeback for Robert Downey,Jr.

The loss of Heath Ledger is made even more poignant due to his groundbreaking performance as the Joker in TDK,but the film was not strictly a one man show. Christian Bale,Gary Oldman,Maggie Gyllenhaal(a great example of recasting that works),Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and in particular,Aaron Eckhart gave this film their all.

The success of both movies(along with some other good comic book based films,such as the reboot of The Hulk and Hellboy 2:The Golden Army)only makes the possibility of other decent superhero stories being properly adapted and enjoyed by everyone:

THANK YOU,HBO,for giving us True Blood,which more than makes up for the loss of such vampire centered shows like Moonlight and Blood Ties.

The series not only turned the Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire series of books into must reads(and pleased those who already know them well),it expanded and developed several of the supporting players into folks who could stand apart from the central vampire love story plot.

Season 2 of True Blood starts in the summer of 2009 and vampire fans can hardly wait to see Sookie,Bill and the rest of the gang heat up their bloodlust:




THANK YOU,STEPHENIE MEYER,for Breaking Dawn(which many folks need to seriously reread and reevaluate)and for giving your input on the first film adaptation for the Twilight series. In my humble opinion,that helped to make all the difference in bringing the book to life on screen successfully.

Even tho the original director,Catherine Hardwicke,won't be involved in the film version of New Moon,her replacement is a very competent fellow(Chris Weitz)and as long as Meyer is still consulted on the important elements of the story,everything should go harmoniously well:

THANK YOU,JOSS WHEDON AND FRIENDS,for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,that weirdly sweet tale of a would be villain,the love of his life and the obnoxious superhero who stood between them.

It was a great way to showcase the comedic and vocal talents of Neil Patrick Harris,Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day,not to mention proving that the internet can be used for more than sleaze and cheesy exploitation.

Folks can still watch Dr. Horrible online and the CD and DVD are available for purchase(I'm awaiting my DVD copy as we speak). With any luck,we may get a sequel or at least a counterattack from the Evil League of Evil:




THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO USED THE INTERNET FOR THE CREATIVE GOOD:While there's still plenty of online abuse and misuse,it gives one hope for the future to see folks making fun little videos to either entertain,promote or send out a satirically positive message into the online universe. Here are just a handful of my favorites(apologies to those left out,but this post has to end at some point!):





AND FINALLY,THANK YOU TO THE REST OF YOU who take the time out to read this blog. I hope that you've been amused by my ramblings and that you will continue to check on this little corner of my world next year and I will try harder to do the same for you and your excellent blogs/websites as well. Thank you especially to Lady Tink,Robin Brande and Planet Books(all of whom are included in my links section and are wonderful places to explore)for your continued patronage and positivity.

Happy New Year,folks and I'll see you all next week and next year. Thanks again for the love:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ring in the New Year with these great new reads!

As the new year creeps up on us,many fresh literary delights await us on the shelves to be eagerly discovered and opened up to embrace our imaginations with joy,dread or some other provocative emotion.

I know that this time of year is ripe for making resolutions and if one of yours is to read more good books,here are a few suggestions to help you start your resolve off just right:


One of the most highly anticipated new novels of 2009 is Tiffany Baker's debut,The Little Giant Of Aberdeen County. The literally larger than life heroine of the story is Truly Plaice,a woman who is constantly compared to and rejected by all in favor of her more attractive and compact sister Serena Jane.

When Serena Jane decides to leave her family for another man,Truly is reluctantly summoned to take over her sister's duties and receives nothing but misery from Bob Bob,her brother-in-law,for it.

She may seem to be down but Truly's not out,as she develops a real talent for natural healing and finds a way to take back her own power,thanks to a few family secrets and an heirloom quilt that is the key to unlocking a treasure trove of magical abilities. Sounds like a lady I'd like to know better,that's for sure(January 8).

Another Truely makes a debut in January,only this one is a fellow who teams up with his big sister Courtney to jointly recover from their failing marriages back at the old homestead in Nanci Kincaid's sixth book, Eat,Drink and be from Mississippi.

The sibling pity party is interrupted by Arnold,a moody teenager who wanders into their lives and decides to set up shop there. This new presence in their world not only forces the two of them to come out of their joint funk,it also gives the brother and sister act a golden opportunity to discover what family is really all about.


In Barbara Hall's The Music Teacher,Pearl Swain openly admits her resentment of being a living example of "those who can't do,teach" as she spends her days teaching violin to less than talented children.

Her complacent acceptance of her place in the world is challenged when a gifted young student named Hallie comes along. In her quest to make a mark in music thru her pupil's potential greatness,Pearl takes a risky step forward that only leads her and Hallie down a even worse path than the one Pearl was willing to live with. The competitive realm of classical music is brought to vivid life in this harrowing emotional tale(February):

The harsh realities of rock n' roll life are examined in Michael Shilling's novel,Rock Bottom. The Blood Orphans were supposed to take the music world by storm,yet after two years on the road,the band is finishing up a grueling world tour and most likely,their careers.

The lead singer is now a born again Buddhist who preaches during shows,the sex addicted drummer with the porno king dad is losing his mind,the bass guitarist's hands are turning into raw bits of rashes and the only one of them left with any real talent is the other guitarist who is persistently bullied into submission by the rest of the group.

Add in a drugged up lady manager and toss the whole lot into Amsterdam for their final show,you have quite a comical disaster in the making(January):


Michael Zadoorian combines the allure of the open road with the end of the road for an aging married couple in The Leisure Seeker.

John and Ella Robina want to take one last trip together before their kids pack them off to a supervised elderly living home out of concern for their declining health. Even with John's Alzheimer and Ella's cancer,the two of them are determined to have a bit of adventure before they have to turn in their independent ways for good. Zadoorian did some on hands research on Route 66,the famous highway of American lore,to further enhance his characters' journey and the reader's as well(February):


Author Dan Simmons has taken on many flights of fancy,but in his upcoming novel Drood,he takes on one of the literary grand masters of imagination,Charles Dickens.

Narrated by contemporary and occasional co-conspirator Wilkie Collins,the novel explores the notion that Dickens' final unfinished work,The Mystery of Edwin Drood,was an actual mystery that Dickens was trying to solve.

A gruesome train accident(which did actually happen to Dickens in real life)sets off a search for a odd stranger whom Dickens encountered during the horrifying aftermath and down some very dark corners where many respectable and not so respectable folks feared to follow. Collins often worked with Dickens to create theatrical pieces and this haunting tale would suit both gentlemen to a fare thee well(February):

Jonathan Barnes brings on the noise and more of the steampunk with Domino Men. A mild mannered file clerk named Henry Lamb finds himself in quite the whirlwind as he is called upon to replace his grandfather in some rather unusual duties to a secret society known only as The Directorate.

His tasks are simple enough;save the city of London(along with the world) from being destroyed by the monster Leviathan by finding a certain girl before it's too late. While this isn't a direct sequel to The Somnambulist,don't be surprised to find a few of those characters entering into the fray,especially the title twins of terror mentioned in the title(January 27).


Several ongoing sagas add another chapter or two to their steady story lines,much to the delight of their eager fans. While these books may not appear to have anything in common at first glance,all of them showcase clever and capable leading ladies who are well worth the wait.

First up is the newest Pink Carnation mystery from Lauren Willig,The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. The newest female spy with a flowery nom de plume to enter the intrigues of the Napoleonic wars is Lady Charlotte Lansdowne,a Maid of Honor to Queen Charlotte.

That lofty position and a reconnection to former lover Robert,duke of Dovedale(who is seeking revenge for the murder of his mentor)brings her to the brink of more than one deadly disaster(January).

Jennifer Rardin brings her supernatural specialist assassin Jaz Parks back for One More Bite
in January.

This time out,Jaz and her vampire boss/lover Vayl have to prevent a possible war between the former allies of vanquished menace to society Edward"The Raptor" Samos by eliminating a hitwoman hired to set off the chaos before she can take out her intended target.

The trail takes Jaz and friends to Scotland,where a number of complications crop up,including a bit of a family reunion. Sounds like some fists and fangs may be flying about to keep things very interesting indeed.

Speaking of fangs,Kim Harrison brings us back to the Hollows with White Witch,Black Curse in February. While there's not a lot of advance word regarding the plot,I have no doubt that Rachel Morgan's demon magic lessons in the Everafter will come into play at some point in this new book.

I hope that this lineup of brand spanking new books coming to a bookstore near you soon gives you some extra bit of hope and excitement about 2009. Granted,some of these books may not be as exciting as the possibility of becoming gum buddies with the President Elect of the United States,but they might give you something to do while you wait for that special day to arrive:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Milk:it does a movie good

I was able to finish up the year 2008 in film by watching Milk,the biopic about the 1970's gay activist and first openly gay person to hold public office Harvey Milk,played by Sean Penn. Penn's been on a strong artistic streak in film over the past several years and while I haven't seen most of those performances,his work in this movie is clearly Oscar worthy material.

I was more concerned with how well the director,Gus Van Sant,would showcase the story on film;Van Sant used to be a favorite director of mine,but for some time now,he's pretty much been coasting on his former film triumphs and putting out sad excuses for cinema(that godawful remake of Psycho,for a major example). Fortunately,for the legend of Harvey Milk and the audience,Gus appears to have remembered how to make a movie again.

The story starts off with Harvey at age 40,who is regretting that he hasn't done much with his life up til then and goes off to San Francisco with Scott Smith(James Franco,who is excellent here)to start over.

The two of them literally set up shop in a camera store on Castro Street,which soon becomes an impromptu headquarters for Harvey's growing interest in gaining political influence for the constantly persecuted gay community in the area

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black did his research for the film by seeking out many of Harvey's friends and acquaintances during that time period,which was a brilliant way to approach the material. You get a true sense of why people were willing to listen and follow Harvey where ever he was willing to take the fight for gay rights to:

Harvey is neither portrayed as a saint or made out to be a self involved opportunist;instead,he is shown to be pragmatic about attempting to form certain alliances that he felt would be ultimately beneficial to his cause,such as Dan White(well played by Josh Brolin)who wound up murdering him and the mayor:

His choices of the heart,however,lead him to some very personal moments of tragedy and regret,as an eventual breakup with Scott and then taking up with emotionally unstable Jack(Diego Luna)who neediness can not be truly fulfilled by anyone,especially Harvey as he gets more deeply involved with his crusade:

The battle against Prop.6(which would have denied legal protection for openly gay people in the workplace,especially teachers,and housing),which was part of a nation wide campaign against gay rights being spearheaded by Anita Bryant and Sen. John Briggs,was a key element in Milk's political career that ultimately lead to his murder.

It's also a battle that many folks will no doubt use as a compare and contrast to the current conflict with Prop.8 and some of those people fighting for that cause could take a few tips from Milk's tactics.

Harvey was outspoken and unwavering in his commitment to push the cause forward,even in the face of possible defeat. He intelligently debated his opponents in public and shrewdly used any and all publicity he could get in the best interest of helping others in communities all over the country who were about to be affected by these terrible laws. His friends and allies were just as motivated,many of whom are still actively involved in political causes today.

Getting back to the film,I think that this movie does justice to what Harvey Milk's legacy was and still is to many people who are out there trying to make things better for the next generation to come along.

Sean Penn will definitely get an Oscar nomination for this film but whether or not he 'll win is another story. He's up for several awards as it is,at the moment,and should receive plenty of props for his performance and rightly so.

I also feel that Josh Brolin did a great job as well,subtly showing the confusion and in over his headiness of White in his new political office(that whole Twinkie defense is mentioned in the afterwords portion of the film and not gone into in length,which is how it should be). Emile Hirsch also gives a standout performance as Cleve Jones,a cynical young man who becomes one of Milk's most devote campaigners.

Unlike many of the politically themed movies that arrived at multiplexes this year,Milk was able to tap into the human connections that make such public debates of political policy come alive and have real meaning in people's lives. If Hollywood wants to keep on getting on soapboxes at the movies,they would do well to try to talk to their audiences,not talk at them. There is a difference and Milk succeeds by knowing where to draw the lines:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have a merry pop culture Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve Day and since I'll be taking a blogger's holiday for the rest of the week,I thought it would be nice to leave you all a few fun clips of the season to amuse yourselves with.

A good way to start things off is with that ye olde classic,A Christmas Carol. There are tons of different versions of the Charles Dickens tale about regret and redemption but my personal favorite is the 1951 British film starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

Sim is delightfully wicked as the insistent humbug who grumbles and bullies his way thru life and determinedly tramples upon holiday cheer,making his spiritual rebirth all that more the touching.(Sorry about using a colorized film clip,but the black & white ones were hard to get here):

Next,we have a tidbit from A Christmas Story,one of the modern day movie traditions that is also a gold mine of qoutes suitable for many non holiday occasions. After all,how many of us have had to stand on a line somewhere that seemed to be long enough to reach Terre Haute?:

In the spirit of The Dark Knight,let's look at this singalong segment of "Christmas With The Joker",as the crown prince of crime makes a very merry escape from Arkham Asylum:

For a more realistic look at Christmas,check out this side job by Roseanne and her sister Jackie,as the two of them man the Rodbell's Santa and Mrs. Claus duties. There's no better proof that Santa needs to be a real mother than this:

To wrap things up,we have a double feature of mini MST3K holiday madness. To start off,here is a ten minute version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,the only Pia Zadora film known best for her not taking her clothes off:

Think it couldn't get any worse than that? Think again,kids! Here,for your viewing displeasure,is a movie simply called "Santa Claus" that features politically incorrect international helpers,creepy mechanical reindeer and guest appearances by a
prancing,pantaloons wearing Devil. Happy holidays,folks,and I'll see you all next week. Hope you have a good time with your loved ones this season and are watching better stuff than this:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Top Ten Things I learned from Mamma Mia!

Finally got the chance to check out Mamma Mia! this weekend,and it was everything I thought it would be;sweet,silly and a flat out good time. Some people,of course,insist on finding fault with the film and their chief complaint is that most of the actors in the cast don't have the best singing voices in the business.

Well,duh to the tenth power! The whole point of this musical is not to show off your vocal chops,but to be able to use the ABBA songbook to convey the cheesy storyline convincingly. There are a couple of professional singers in the mix(particularly Christine Baranski,who really camps it up here)but in terms of musical prowess,it's strictly a decent amateur hour or two.

What the actors lack in singing talent,they more than make up for it in nuance. Meryl Streep(who is never given credit for being a real trouper in less than super serious films)has to hold up her end as Donna,the mother of the bride who winds up being confronted with the ghosts of lovers past and she does it amazingly well.

Listen to how she sings "The Winner Takes It All" to long lost true love Sam(Pierce Brosnan)and turns the tune into a poignant monologue about romantic regrets. She plays that pop song like a speech out of Shakespeare and it's stunning:

Mainly,Mamma Mia is your typical romantic comedy of errors and everyone hits their marks beautifully. Amanda Seyfried is charming as Sophie,the bride to be who sets up the "Who's My Daddy?" shenanigans and she carries a tune well enough. As with a number of these "let's put on a show" musicals,the people who have the weaker voices get the least amount of singing time(I adore Colin Firth but the man's just not a lead singer type of guy). All in all,this movie is a toe tappin' good time and it helps a lot if you enjoy the music of ABBA.

Without further delay,here are the Top Ten things that I learned from watching Mamma Mia!:

10) Little boys who play with fire get their fingers burned:

9) When you are in the midst of romantic entanglements and mistaken identities,having an island of Greek chorus members comes in handy.

8) It's not a good idea to keep using the same tune as "our song" with more than one of your boyfriends:

7) Bagpipes are supposed to ward off unexpected visitors,not that some people need the help.

6) Inviting three of your mother's old boyfriends to your wedding to see which one of them is your father is not a sound scientific method.

5) A good way to get a gloomy gal pal out of the bathroom is by serenading her with "Chiquitita":

4) Always know how to make an entrance:

3) Two lone wolves can take a chance on each other together.

2) Shame to put a good wedding to waste!

1) Knowing who you are doesn't come from finding your father,it comes from finding yourself:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Frolicking in the fields of fantasy fiction

In going over the books that I've been reading this past year,I noticed an increase in one particular genre that usually I've only dabbled in slightly before.

Sure,paranormal romance has been a regular feature on my literary menu and with the last of the Harry Potter books finished(Tales of the Beadle the Bard can wait awhile longer for me),fantasy seemed like it was a done deal for me. However,most of the newer and more intriguing titles in my To Be Read pile are starting to resemble a more mature section of Flourish and Blotts.

Since fantasy is a rather large tent for many types of imaginative writing to huddle under,let's break this down into more easily examinable chunks. The following are books that I've either read,am currently reading or just about to.


One of the most talked about fantasy novels of the year has been Anathem by Neal Stephenson,who is best known for his Baroque Cycle and the genre hybrid Cyptonomicon,elaborately written tales of codes and cleverness.

In truth,I was a little daunted by the prospect of trying this book but after seeing it featured in Unshelved's Sunday Book Club,I couldn't resist the urge any longer.

The plot of the novel takes place on a planet similar to Earth in a future time,where intellectuals are gathered up to live in isolated communities designed to hone their mental skills. They are selected during their childhood and live like monks,with science and math replacing religious study,and given limited access to the outside world.

That is just fine with Fraa Eramus,a young novice who is content with his lot in life. However,he may have no choice but to go back to the world he left behind due to outside forces causing a shake-up that threatens the existence of everyone. To my surprise and delight,Anathem is very readable and thought provoking at the same time. I'm still in the early stages but this looks to be a ride worth taking:

A little less complicated,Stephenie Meyer's The Host gave the whole "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" theme a new twist by having the alien being who takes over the body of rebellious Earthling Melanie Stryder as a sympathetic lead character.

Meyer wisely chose to stick with what she knows best,developing characters and dealing with issues of blending into a new society rather than techno talk. The storytelling is a tad more mature than her well loved Twilight series but I think fans of those books would enjoy the adventures of Wanderer and Melanie as well as those of Edward and Bella.


Many paranormal series get played out after several books,but not Kim Harrison's Hollows titles,which just keep getting better and better. Her latest one,The Outlaw Demon Wails,takes Rachel Morgan to some rather unexpected places,including the always dangerous Ever After,where the link between her powers and forbidden demon magic is seen in a new light.

I love Harrison's wit,especially in the way she titles her books after Clint Eastwood movies. The next Hollows book is due out in February of 2009 and called White Witch,Black Curse. Another great reason to look forward to next year.

Gregory adds a new chapter to his Wicked Years,with A Lion Among Men,that takes a look at the Cowardly Lion(called Brrr in the story)and his part in shaping the land of Oz,as he exchanges information with Yackle,a dying oracle,in order to clear up the mysteries left behind by Elphaba,the infamous Wicked Witch of the West and her son Liir.

Maguire's examination of the Wizard of Oz books is meant to be more than a reinvention of a childhood classic. Rather,they're allegorical takes on society and the nature of good and evil,told in an entertaining way:


Steampunk is a genre that bases it's sci-fi/fantasy elements in the Victorian era of England. It occasionally uses fictional characters created during that time (or alludes to them)as well.

Jonathan Barnes gives us a grand example of that with The Somnambulist,which has Sherlock Holmesian detective and stage magician Edward Moon seek to uncover a growing conspiracy against the city of London involving a secret society,mystics and intelligently enhanced ape men.

Barnes is due to have another steampunk tale come out by the end of January called The Domino Men. If it's as riveting as The Somnambulist was,Jonathan Barnes is destined to have a strong literary following as great as those who have gone before him,like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. A duel between good and evil always sounds better with a British accent attached to it:

Technically,The Philosopher's Apprentice is not a steampunk book,since it takes place in modern day society. It does,however,have a number of neo classic themes and allusions to such Victorian tales as Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau,as author James Morrow plumbs some dark satirical depths about cloning and the development of personality.

Philosophy scholar Mason Ambrose is hired by an eccentric geneticist living on a secluded island to retrain her daughter Londa in morals,claiming that the girl lost her ability to judge right from wrong due to a head injury from a swimming accident. That turns out to be a phony story but the truth behind Londa's behavior and the reason her mother keeps her on that island is really stranger than fiction. This is one book where you can't guess how it's going to end,a rare treat indeed.


Fantasy sagas can be pretty intimidating,with lots of different names to keep track of and different locales to be described in painstaking details that tend to sacrifice character development. Yet,I was drawn enough to two of them to give the books a fighting chance at proving those prejudices wrong.

Kushiel's Dart introduced me to Jacqueline Carey's world,where the main rule of conduct is "love as thou wilt" and it's leading lady Phedre does that to the fullest and then some.

While I'm anxious to read more of the Kushiel books,Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series is also calling me,due to watching episodes of Legend Of The Seeker(which is based on his works).

I am taking my time about reading Wizard's First Rule,mainly so that I'm not too spoiled by prior knowledge to enjoy the show. Fresh episodes will be airing in January and you can catch up on LOTS at Hulu.

It's the characters who have me spellbound here,particularly Kahlan the warrior maiden "Confessor",who is clearly torn between her duty and her desire for the Seeker. There are,no doubt,vast differences from the book here but I suspect in basics,Kahlan on page is as noble as she is on screen:

So,why am I reading so many fantasy titles lately? Could be a number of reasons,like a need to escape reality,to seek out something off the beaten trail to inspire me or just a reaction to all of the current turmoil facing us right now.

In my opinion,it's really just my way of keeping my mental attic freshen up,with some newer sights and sounds to goad my muse into thinking of new things to get me going there. Whatever the reason,these books are perfect for bringing many wonderful fantasy dreams to life:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feast your eyes on these merry MSTie Shorts!

In the mail today,a good friend of mine sent me a great little DVD for Christmas called Mr. B's Lost Shorts.

The two of us are big Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans and one of the best parts of the show was the mockery of old movie/educational short films. Sort of a warm-up before the horrifying(for more than one reason) main feature.

The "Mr B" of the DVD title comes from Mr. B Natural,a bizarre music lesson with a Peter Pan flair to it. Other satirical targets include Design For Dreaming(a futuristic car ad as told by Fellini on acid)and the classic "Hired!". While I am thrilled to have this disc arrived before the big snowstorm in my neighborhood got any worse,I thought it would liven up any other snowbound folks out there to see a couple of my personal MST3K short faves:


Spring Fever has a frustrated suburbanite grumble about annoying the springs in his couch are so much that he invokes a Spring Sprite named Coilie to teach him the true value of those stretchy wonders. The fellow winds up becoming a long winded advocate for springs who nearly bores the audience as well as his friends to death. Fortunately,Mike and the 'Bots save us from the dull clutches of Coilie and his mirthless minion:


A Date With Your Family chronicles the proper way to conduct a family dinner,with the kind of natural ease and flow that you only get when dining with a group of total strangers. The Stepford Wives could take a few hints on mindless homemaking skills from this brainwashed bunch:


Posture Pals starts off with a classroom of kids taking a posture test and then being encouraged to improve themselves by the chance of winning a contest that will make one boy and girl the Prince and Princess of Posture,complete with crowns. Keep an eye out for a young Melissa Gilbert amongst the four main protagonists of this riveting saga:


What To Do On A Date focuses on the budding romance of Nick and Kay,as they walk through the minefield of potential perils on their very first date together. A lot of the helpful hints handed out during this piece involve inexpensive ways to show a girl a good time,which might be useful to know these days:

While I enjoy my Christmas a little bit early,here's a fun tune from Joel and the Bots to get you into the right merry frame of mind for the season:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Chef's savory season's greetings, the winner of Blush and Heroes wraps up another volume

As promised,Martha Stewart did show up on Top Chef this week,but only to judge the Quickfire Challenge which was to create a "one pot wonder" of a holiday meal. Immunity was not offered up as a prize,just a signed copy of Martha's latest cook book instead.

Ariane won,for her cauliflower puree and herb rubbed fillet of beef. Again,her flair for meats paid off,big time. The Elimination Challenge was announced,with some fanfare as the Harlem Gospel Choir came in to give each chef the theme of their dish to be served at the Amfar charity event hosted by guest judge Natasha Richardson:

Yes,it was the Twelve Days of Christmas and covering for the honeymooning Judge Gail was Michelle Bernstein. There was a bit of drama before the event,with the chefs returning to the TC kitchen to retrieve the food they had prepped the day before,only to discover that one of the fridges had been left open

Most of the food was spoiled,which affected Radhika and Hosea greatly. To everyone's credit,all of the other chefs pitched in to help them find last minute replacements for their dishes.

Both Radhika and Hosea made it to the Top Four with their food on the fly;Radhika had "partridge in a pear tree" and she wound up with a duck leg and pear chutney. Turns out that duck leg is a favorite of Nastasha Richardson's-sweet!

Hosea was declared the winner,since he received the most ribbons of approval from the party guests and the judges also liked his pork loin with chipotle potatoes. His song section was eleven pipers piping and that inspired him to make smoked pork.

On the bottom was Eugene,who had "five golden rings" and made a pineapple and fish with coconut milk that had a Yukon Gold chip on the side. He was told that the plate was too sweet and it was hard to taste the fish. He got a little defensive about that,which made me think he might be sent home for his attitude.

He wasn't the only one who was all bad moody;Melissa was her usual charming self about her strip steak being too cheesy and Jamie was less than thrilled about Michelle Bernstein's flat out dislike of the raw scallop with vichyssoise.

In the spirit of the holidays(plus bonus points for helping out during the fridge crisis),no one was told to pack their knives and go. Judge Tom went into the waiting room to inform the chefs of that and then lectured them about how underwhelmed he was by the food served for this challenge.

He seemed to take great offense at Ariane's making deviled eggs,with six different toppings. First off,she was given "six geese a-laying". That means she either has geese or eggs to work with here. Not to mention that this is a cocktail party,not a state dinner for foreign dignitaries,for Santa's sake!

All of his griping about "you need to make food that you think will win EVERY TIME" and "I don't want throwaway canapes!" was too much harsh for this group. Again,COCKTAIL PARTY! Also,unlike other seasons of TC,none of the food served at the Amfar party was burnt,undercooked,overcooked,under seasoned,over seasoned,etc. I've seen a lot worse dished up for some of these challenges in the past and so has Tom. Mellow your Grinch heart out,Scrooge,seriously.

Next week may be a repeat of the TC holiday challenge but the next new episode will have another replacement judge for Gail-Toby Young,whose "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" memoir adaptation was released into movie theaters this fall. I'm reading the book right now and let me tell you,this guy is super snarky. He might even give Anthony Bourdain(I hope he comes back this season)a run for his money.

Congratulations to Nolan,the first winner of Blush:The Next Great Make Up Artist! I was so happy that he won,his work has been outstanding all season long. His Max Challenge,which was to create a "furtistic" look,was the best of the three,in my opinion.

His only misstep was a pair of feathered eyebrows during the Elimination Challenge,which was to make three different looks for runway models at a Badgley Mischka fashion show. The designers had told Nolan that they didn't like the brows but he wasn't able to take them off,since the glue had already set.

Fortunately,his other make up was good enough to give him the win. Maxi did some very stunning stencil work,but his backstage antics and lack of order with his makeup kit took him out of the running. Todd did his best,too. Blush was rather fun to watch and hopefully,this will not be the only season we get to see of this show.

The Villains volume of Heroes concluded this week,with some folks regaining their powers,others acquiring new ones and a bit of a body count. As expected,Sylar had a sit down with Angela that didn't end well,for him anyway.

I'm not worried about Sylar being gone for good,since a)this wouldn't be the first time that he's come back from the dead and b)John Glover(Lionel Luthor from Smallville)has been cast as Sylar's father. Pretty obvious that they're bringing the character back there,with a development like that!

Fugitives will begin after the Super Bowl next year,with Nathan ratting out his fellow super powered folk to be hunted down by the government. Ironic how the very future that Peter was trying to prevent seems to be coming to pass:


NIP/TUCK: The new season starts on January 6 and it looks as if things are just as messed up as they ever were. Only,if I were Kimber,I wouldn't be so quick to toss the karma blame around. She's racked up some pretty nasty payback points on her own there: