Thursday, June 30, 2011
Rocco's Dinner Party enjoys an Italian family feast,Food Network Star visits Cougar Town and True Blood's magical new season
The theme for Rocco's Dinner Party this week was Italian Family Dinner and two of the early contenders happened to be related to each other. Twin brothers Nicola and Fabrizio were ready to go mano e mano but Ninamarie's boldness in using a makeshift smoker for her lamb chops in the kitchen knocked out of those boys out of the running.
Guests for both dinner parties included Real Housewife Caroline Manzo,boy band alumnus Joey Fatone,comedienne Tammy Pescarelli and TV hostess Sara Gore,who had a special menu request.
She's watching her weight,so she very nicely asked the chefs to offer a carb-free,high protein dish that she could have for each course. A last minute request to be sure but one which does come up at many catered events.
Ninamarie served first,turning the informal dining room into a representation of Little Italy which went over better than expected.
Some of her dishes included grilled asparagus with braised pancetta,zucchini bread and eggplant caponata along side fire roasted red peppers. While she did deviate from most of the traditional methods of Italian cooking,her food was appreciated.
However,Ninamarie did not make any separate plates for Sara Gore,who had to pick through most of that meal to find something suitable. At least she was able to enjoy the veal Milanese that had peaches and cherry tomatoes served with it.
Fabrizio chose the terrace for his party,making it resemble a nice Tuscan setting that wowed everyone. He was also thoughtful enough to make sure that Sara had food she could eat without depriving the rest of the guests a hearty meal.
One of the favorite dishes from that party was polpettine,meatballs prepared without bread. I had no idea that you could make meatballs that way and they're one of my all time favorites. Must look that up!
That thoroughness is what earned him the win,in my opinion,since Fabrizio's pasta course and fish dish fell flat. His lasagna with bechemel sauce was deemed flavorless and the branzino afterward wasn't much better. If Ninamarie had only taken the time out to offer Sara Gore a diet option or two,she might have claimed this victory instead.
Next week,Rocco gets a little concerned about the casualness in the kitchen and the proof appears on the plate in more ways than one. Hope that works out for the new batch of chefs on deck here!
After an opening challenge involving Kellogg's products with Iron Chef Michael Symon as the guest judge,the gang at The Next Food Network Star had to tackle another team work deal.
Their task was to make lunch for the cast and crew of Cougar Town,with each group tailoring their dishes to the needs of their designated diners. For a moment there,it looked like the obnoxious Penny might be going home due to burning the cheddar sauce for her mac and cheese,which for some strange reason she seemed oblivious to.
It was one of the Justins who went home,lucky for her. Justin B and his bland monotone delivery combined with the lackluster couscous that he made proved that he was not ready for prime time just yet.
His counterpart,Justin D,may not have much more of a shelf life in this competition either. He seems constantly overwhelmed,plus not getting Susie enough quinoa(two bags,buddy,for a hundred or so people? Seriously,what is up with that?) was not cool. Not done on purpose,but still not cool.
Next time,a Fourth of July feast is underway with special guest Guy Fieri at the helm and a good number of personal fireworks lighting up as well. Holiday meals can make tension rise to the surface,especially when no one is making a real effort to keep them down to a slow simmer:
The fourth season of True Blood started off in Fairyland,where Sookie was surprised to discover an old acquaintance was already there,not to mention her grandfather Earl,who went missing over twenty years ago. He was just as shocked to see Sookie,since the last time he remembered seeing her was yesterday....
The rapid passage of time is not the only thing that one has to worry about in Fairyland. Queen Mab and her crew insist upon the new arrivals eating their "lumminaire fruit",which if you know any basic mythology is a bad idea.
Sookie tried to be subtle about warning her granddaddy that they needed to leave but telepathy amongst magical folk is easy to pick up on. Soon enough,the enchantments faded away,in part due to Sookie using her mojo on Mab and every mortal present had to make a run for it:
When Sookie did get back to Bon Temps,she discovered that a year had passed with a lot of changes since she last saw the place and that everyone thought she was dead at the hands of Bill(who gave her a smooth cover story for her disappearance).
Jason is now a cop,keeping check on Sheriff Andy's little V habit as well as the werepanther kids from Hotshot. Bill appears to be the new vampire ruler of Louisiana,Sam is in an anger management group made up of shapeshifters and Arlene is fretting about the potential for evil her baby son has.
Tara has undergone quite a major overhaul with her life and personality,as she now resides in New Orleans and works as a cage match fighter(a suitable occupation for her strong temper there)under the name Toni. She also has a new love interest in Naomi, another fighter in the ring and a steadier handle on her quick to anger impulses.
There was a time when instead of calmly cutting a pathetic lech down to size,Tara would've bitch slapped him and wound up in jail by the end of the night. This mature level that she's reached is great to see and I hope we get more of it:
The main highlight of this season will be witches,particularly the coven that Jesus is so eager to have Lafayette become a part of. His hesitation is sensible but probably won't last for long,with their lead enchantress showing signs of being able to reach higher levels on the mystical plain than expected.
For now,it's Sookie and Eric time,as Eric revealed to her that he is the mysterious new owner of her house and can come and go as he pleases. He may want to watch his step there,since Sookie is very familiar with vampire habits by this time and even those guys aren't safe in their sleep:
HGTV DESIGN STAR: A new season begins this July,with a new night(Mondays,thank goodness-too many good shows are playing on Sundays)and a new mentor in the form of S1 winner David Bromstad. This show definitely needed an upgrade after last season and this should do the trick nicely:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
With the Fourth of July weekend only a few days away,we'll be seeing some more big films out of Hollywood and a good number of them touting the burden of 3-D on their backs. Since this trend seems to have the longevity of zombies at this point,checking out some of the other built in movie gimmicks from the days of yesteryear might be our only relief.
To start,there's no better person than William Castle to go to. The unofficial grandfather of B movie tricks,he introduced the world to such things as Percepto(electrified seats for viewings of The Tingler)and Illusion-O,featured in the original film version of 13 Ghosts in 1960.
Illusion-O allowed the audience to see the ghosts onscreen in a more up close and personal way by using their "ghost viewer" and the red side of it's lens. The blue half caused them to "disappear",sort of.
The ghost images in the film were actually visible without the device(the ghosts had a blue tint superimposed on the actual film itself,which made them pop out more through the red filter)which made it easier for this fright flick to be shown on TV and home video later on. Some DVD editions do have the ghost viewers included,if you really want to catch the full effect there:
Another memorable Castle stunt was Emergo,for the Vincent Price thriller House on Haunted Hill two years earlier. A skeleton was suspended over the heads of the movie goers and sent rushing towards them during a crucial part of the movie's plot. Why they didn't think to do something like that for the 1999 remake,I'll never know:
Gimmicks like this appeared to have died out by the 1970s but eventually new forms emerged that went after our other senses. One of those was Odorama,where folks were handed scratch-and-sniff cards that had numbers placed besides the mystery scent ovals.
You were to scratch off each one in order as the number appeared on screen and sample smells both fair and foul. John Waters tried this out for his 1981 suburban satire Polyester which was considered a step towards the mainstream for him at the time. Odorama never really quite caught on,a blessing in disguise if you ask me:
There was one late-seventies sensation that nearly did catch on called Sensurround,that rigged up speakers with extended range bass that increased the sound effects a hundredfold. Universal Studios used it quite a bit for disaster movies such as Earthquake and Rollercoaster,causing other studios to create their own versions of it.
Even the theatrical release of the TV pilot film for the series Battlestar Galactica had Sensurround but alas,this audio boom had to be halted. The equipment caused a lot of structural damage to the theaters and many in the audience felt queasy afterward. In a sense,this gimmick did live on in the likes of Dolby,Stereo and Digital. and THX sound systems,so it may be gone but not forgotten:
I guess for now we'll just have to endure the wave of endless 3-D films that the studio heads are determined to give us. Perhaps,they'll try to be a little more creative with the process and add more interactive delights to the movie going experience. Who's to say that we won't have 3-D dinner theater before the next millennium rolls around,hm? Stranger things have happened,both on and off screen:
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Late last Friday,New York became the sixth state in our nation to sign into law the rights for gay couples to marry. As a resident of this great state myself,I am pleased as punch to witness such a wonderful landmark event within my lifetime. Particularly one that will bring so much joy in so many deserving lives.
With many folks out there scrambling to put together a wedding by the time the bill is officially passed,I thought the best help I could offer was of a pop culture nature.
So, I made a list of songs that would definitely put a little spring into any bride or groom's step as they head down the aisle or share that first dance of the evening at the reception. After all,pop culture flair goes with everything as well as every theme:
"I DO,I DO,I DO"- Granted,this song can be a bit of a cliche but that's what makes most weddings work. This can be used for a number of themes other than an All-ABBA one. A 1970s motif,a salute to the film Muriel's Wedding(Toni Collette looked smashing in her final dress)or a Swedish style of nuptials,this tune suits them all:
"KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF"- A countrified pop song might not seem ideal at first for a big city wedding but there are plenty of places in upstate NY that this notable one hit wonder wouldn't sound too off key.
The good humor in the lyrics and the hard to resist beat would only add to the fun,especially if you score a sweet outdoor locale:
"SOMEBODY'S GETTING MARRIED"- What could be more New York that this enchanting number from The Muppets Take Manhattan? You've got a nice Broadway vibe here and with a new Muppet film on the horizon this fall,the timing couldn't be better.
Also,this song is perfect for anyone wanting to do a flash mob moment at your ceremony. There's always someone in your group of family or friends that is just dying to perform in public and this way,you can give them a part(especially if that person doesn't have the greatest voice there)in the proceedings that shouldn't upstage the whole thing:
"MARRIAGE HAS COME TO TOWN"-Another gem for the flash mob theme,with the added bonus of an excuse to create a Bollywood movie romance musical for your special day.
There are other lovely songs from the soundtrack of Bride and Prejudice but this number was used twice in the film,which gives it extra emphasis for being first choice. Since the movie is a modern day interpretation of the classic Jane Austen novel,you'll also have the Janeites in your corner on this one:
"WHITE WEDDING"- The ultimate Goth cliche,I know but if you're going for that look,why not select the best? This also works for a retro 80's theme as well as about every horror movie based one.
I personally would chose this song for a vampire wedding,since Billy Idol's urban punk persona was a part of the inspiration for Spike,the best bad boyfriend that Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever had(also,the soundtrack for the original Lost Boys would be awesome,too). Aside from my geek girl interests,White Wedding would be marvelous even if you decided on a Tim Burton motif for the entire party:
Whatever song you finally decide upon for your wedding,the most important thing to keep in mind is that it should be one that holds special meaning for you and your intended. It doesn't necessarily have to be a grand spotlight number such as the song you both heard on your first date or the tune that you proposed to(or were proposed to). Sometimes,the best memories are marked by those small but significant moments that truly resonate within a loving relationship for all time:
Monday, June 27, 2011
School is almost out and vacation time draws near for most of us,which brings up the question of what cool read to dive into before the dawn of Labor Day.
There's plenty of entertaining competition out there,with more blockbuster movies yet to come and dozens of fresh TV shows cropping up amidst the reruns.However,books are still the best bet in town-no commercials,you can enjoy them without moving away from your a/c and even if the lights go out,reading by candle light is always classy.
So, let us browse through these beach book delights and see what would suit our summer season of reading just right:
One of the most anticipated titles this season is the fifth installment in George R.R. Martin's fantasy saga,A Song of Ice and Fire,thanks to the roaring success of the HBO adaptation of the first book Game of Thrones.
A Dance of Dragons focuses on three of the fan favorite characters;Daenerys,the determined queen seeking two riders to help her use her trio of dragons to regain her lost kingdom,Tyrion Lannister ,on the run from false charges of murder and Jon Snow,now Lord Commander of the Night's Watch who faces dangers from within and with-outside of the Wall.
Other characters will also make their presence known and even for those who have not even started on the previous book,Feast for Crows,will want to have this one on hand. There are some who fear that Martin may not be able to finish this series but such gloomy thoughts should be dismissed at once. With books this long,it'll take a true lifetime to complete it(July 12):
A mythology that is shared the world over by folks of all ages comes from the pages of comic books and renowned graphic novelist Grant Morrison takes a majestic look over of those origins in Supergods.
The subtitle of this book is "What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human" and that only begins to cover the waterfront here.
Morrison delves into the influences that helped to make the likes of Superman and the X-Men a part of our creative world as well as their influence on us. In addition,he sheds some personal insight into what makes his work and mind tick. For a serious look at the realm of comics,you couldn't do any better than this(July):
A slightly more down to earth but no less bizarre view of the world comes from Kevin Wilson's latest novel,The Family Fang. Buster and Anne Fang have grown up with being included in the strange performance art of their parents as the norm.
The toll that this unusual bit of fame has taken on the siblings,called "Child A" and "Child B", is not even considered by their mother and father despite a spectacular failure that glaringly underlines the faults of their lifestyle. Like most families,however,a reluctant love can strengthen those ties that feel all too binding.
Wilson's Family Fang may seem to be something straight out of a Charles Addams cartoon but the emotions on each page are very much true to life(August).
GRIPPING GIRL POWER
Kelley Armstrong's Spellbound is a follow-up to last summer's Waking the Witch that featured young sorceress/detective Savannah Levine on her first solo mystery solving adventure.
This time out,Savannah is in need of back-up as her powers are in suspension due to a well meaning but ill timed wish. A whole host of deadly enemies are after not just her but many of her fellow supernatural friends and family as well.
Even her werewolf gal pal Elena and her pack enter the fray and things should really start to shake,rattle and roll from there(July).
Speaking of werewolves,Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville makes two appearances this season,with Kitty's Big Trouble now in stores and Kitty's Greatest Hits arriving later in the season.
The second title is the first short story collection of the series that also includes two tales that have not been previously published.
Many of these stories follow the background of favorite characters like master vampire Rick and Kitty's good friend T.J.,while one takes up a caller into Kitty's radio show after he hangs up. For diehard fans of the Kitty Norville books,this book sounds like the perfect setlist of reading delights to groove along to(August):
ACTION PACKED PAGE TURNER
Bestselling author James Patterson is known for teaming up with other great writers in the field to put out thrillers that stand alone from his regular sets of mystery series.
His latest collaboration is with one of this blog's favorite writers,Marshall Karp whose Lomax and Biggs books are a great combo of crime solving and verbal wit. Kill Me If You Can begins with low income art student Matthew Bannon stumbling upon a bag of diamonds during a chaotic moment at New York's Grand Central Station.
At first,Matthew thinks that all of his problems are solved but there only just starting,as a highly trained hitman called Ghost is on his trail,seeking to reclaim what he stole. To make matters worse, Ghost himself is being haunted by a deadly rival willing to do whatever it takes to take him out of the picture for good. With two top authors on deck,this book should be as much of a roller-coaster ride as any summer smash hit at the movies(August):
Food writer Lauren Shockey gives us a behind the scenes look at restaurant life as she chronicles her internships both her and abroad in Four Kitchens,which take her to New York, France,Israel and Vietnam.
Shockey dishes about the highs and lows of restaurant cooking,plus she samples some interesting local fare and prepares food under unusual circumstances. Insights on certain well known chefs are given,like Wylie Dufresne whose innovative restaurant wd-50 is one of the kitchens where she honed her savory skills. Four Kitchens is an item that any foodie should order from their literary menu(July):
Molly Birnbaum's Season to Taste reflects on a crucial time in her life when her sense of smell was lost due to a car accident. Doctors claimed that it couldn't be recovered,forcing Molly to halt in her tracks towards a career as a chef.
After doing some research and consulting other experts in the field,Molly makes the effort to recover that vital sense in order to continue with her culinary dreams. It took some time and travel but sure enough,her sense of smell gradually returned with the bonus of learning a few interesting facts about this condition along the way.
Smell is one of those things that we take for granted but when it comes to the art of cooking,every little thing comes into play. Season to Taste promises to be a flavorful read and one that can be appreciated on both sides of the table(August):
THE MYSTERIES OF LOVE
Jennifer Donnelly concludes her steadfast saga trilogy this season with The Wild Rose,that brings her characters to London of 1914 where war is in the air and other challenges are all around them.
As Seamus Finnegan struggles to forget his true love Willa by marrying another woman,Willa is harboring resentment towards him for rescuing her during a hazardous climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro that resulted in the loss of one of her legs.
With her first two Rose novels,Donnelly brought back a taste of saga writing past and hopefully in the future,we'll have other books from her that are just as intimately inviting(August).
Deborah Lawrenson makes her American debut with The Lantern,set in the Provence region of France. When Eve,a bookish translator,journeys to the country estate of her new found lover Dom,she is intrigued with the charms of the place as well as the mystery that surrounds his first wife Rachel's disappearance.
Eve's growing apprehension about Dom's continued silence on the matter starts to mesh with a secret from the past regarding the estate and one of it's previous occupants.
Ghosts from more than one doomed relationship threaten to destroy the happiness that Dom and Eve have made together but it may be possible to answer all of the questions that plague them both,...or can they?
A nice heady mix of Gothic story telling and French landscapes may be the golden ticket that takes readers to a relaxing mental vacation during the dog days of this year(August):
Well,I hope that you're as ready for summer as you can be and that you enjoy many wonderful hours of reading in or out of the sun. Don't get too wound up about what to read,however-reading is fundamental but also meant to be fun and at times,funny:
Friday, June 24, 2011
There are a few odds and ends left over from this week's pop culture news and the best thing to do with leftovers is mix them together for a tasty meal. So,let us start with the biggest item in the showcase,J.K. Rowling's huge announcement.
For some time now,a website called Pottermore has been teasing the interest of Harry Potter readers,wondering if perhaps this was the author's way of saying that she has a new book in store for us.
Turns out that this site intends to be both a place where the E-book editions of the entire Potter series can be purchased(starting this October)and an interactive arena that will include expanded info on the mythos of the HP world. There's even an opportunity for fans to get an early glimpse;just give them your e-mail addy and by the end of July,you'll be notified on how to get your window of opportunity there.
The E-book portion of the story is what interests most folks in the publishing realm. Rowling has long resisted the move to the digital format for the beloved Potter books,which has brought about numerous pirated versions online.
With Pottermore in place,it'll be the only legal spot on the internet to download the series-no other book seller,chain or indie,will be able to sell it(altho those downloads are said to be compatible with the likes of the Kindle,Nook,etc).
Some might object to that but personally,I think it's great that Rowling is in the position to offer up her work to the digital generation on her own terms. With the last of the Potter films to be released this summer and new YA sensations on the rise,this promises to be a good way of keeping the Potter legacy alive:
The next toothsome item on the agenda is the remake of Fright Night,starring Colin Farrell as vampire Jerry Dandridge living next door to average teen Charley Brewster(Anton Yelchin),who discovers his new neighbor's scary secret life and becomes the target of his wrath.
The new version of the 80's cult classic,which had Chris Sarandon and William Ragsdale originate the hero/villain roles,is due out in August with the dreaded 3-D attachment to it.
The official trailer seems to take a different tact to the material,focusing more on the horror aspects of the film rather than the humorous high points that made the first film so great. Colin Farrell makes for a great scary vampire here,but more in the sinister stalker mode than the suave lady killer from the first incarnation.
Also,while the character of Peter Vincent is listed in the credits(with David Tennant being cast for the part),I don't see very much of him in this trailer. Granted,the location of the story is now set in Las Vegas,with the usual modern twists and I can get dropping the whole "those old movies were right all along!" shtick but it just isn't the same. This might be a decent movie yet for the moment,the Magic 8 ball verdict is "ask again later":
Finally,for a splash of silliness,we turn to Weird Al Yankovic's inevitable Lady GaGa parody. "Perform This Way" has Weird Al's face digitally placed upon the body of the gal who dresses up in outfits almost stranger than anything that GaGa has worn,a choice that sounds awkward at first but given the technology available and the fact that Yankovic isn't as limber as he used to be,a wise one indeed.
It's a good video and despite the confusion over whether or not Lady GaGa was willing to give her approval(she did,ultimately,after finding out that someone in her employ said no without even consulting her),the fact that all of the proceeds of this song are going to charity make it that much more harmonious:
Since it's now officially summer,I wish all of you a great weekend and hope that you get the chance to enjoy some family time there. Take a break from the pop culture scene and spend a few hours elsewhere,even on the beach if you can. One way or another,you should be able to make your own special brand of memorable fun:
Thursday, June 23, 2011
A look at Rocco's Dinner Party,more team action on The Next Food Network Star and Game of Throne's lasting ladies
After the Top Chef Masters finale last week,viewers got a special preview of a new cooking competition show called Rocco's Dinner Party,the Rocco in question being celeb chef Rocco DiSpirito.
We start off with three contenders fighting for the chance to pull off a great dinner party for Rocco and his friends,with their first challenge being to make their signature dish for tasting within thirty minutes. The best two out of three then compete to win $20,000 for creating the best mutual dining experience.
The winner of the first round gets first choice of dining room to serve in(intimate,formal or terrace)and to decide who goes first. Both chefs then have a party planner to consult as to how the room should be decorated and table set up in accordance with the theme that Rocco gives them for the party.
Last week's theme was a speakeasy,which lent itself easily to a party plan. This time out,it was Mystery Guest with each chef being given a dossier of hints as to what the secret guest of honor would like to eat and their preferred atmosphere.
The two gents competing here were Joel,a high school culinary teacher and King,the owner of a couple of Manhattan restaurants. Joel won the signature dish round and chose the formal dining room for his meal as well as went first.
The mystery guest turned out to be Top Chef hostess Padma,who the chefs were told enjoyed clean natural flavors along with spice and that Italy and Bali were two of her favorite places in the world to visit. Other party attendees included comedian D.L. Hughley,fashion designer Gilles Mendel and singer Babel Gilberto.
King had the intimate dining room and it was set up to be a combo of Bali and Italy,with a Vespa scooter in one corner and woven sandals for the guests to wear in place of their regular shoes instead.
The food was agreeable for the most part,with the lemongrass panna cotta dessert considered the highlight of the meal. However,the main course of rice and seafood was deemed rather safe in terms of flavor.
Joel had his dining room arranged in spicy storage style,with wooden spice holders on the table and spice racks along the walls. It actually looked very elegantly rustic,which Padma loved. He also had small chalkboards at each place setting with the question "If you were a teacher,what subject would you teach?". A good conversation starter and a nifty party idea there.
Despite some awkwardness with the service,the food went over well. Joel even made the Dijon spiced sausage for his borlotti bean stew that day,which was a real palate pleaser. In the end,Joel was declared the winner for his bold use of spicy flavors.
I like the concept of this show and so far,it's been interesting to see how a chef can whip together a fully formulated event like this. The only down note is how abrupt Rocco comes across to his contestants for most of the show.
Perhaps that's just his way but it wouldn't hurt him to be as welcoming to his chefs as he is to his guests. Next time,two brothers will be going head to head along side a New Jersey caterer to enter this upscale cook-off. Should be intriguing,to say the least.
The main challenge on this week's The Next Food Network Star was a sweet one,as two teams were chosen to make dessert items for an event to represent both Ace of Cakes' Duff Goldman and Robert Irvine.
With resentment still brewing over the last team challenge they had,Penny wound up the only gal on an all-boy's team. That team in particular had very little pastry experience,so things were not going well from the get go.
However,the girl's team was way too laid back for their own good,which reflected in the food. Mary Beth's milk shake with cookie crumble was too watery,the cupcake lollipops were gummy and Alicia's cookie dough cupcakes were so bad that most of them wound up in the trash.
Alicia,being a cupcake chef,was extremely embarrassed by this sad set of sweets and was the one to be sent home here. Next time,everyone has to cook for FN Southern belle Paula Deen and the cast of Cougar Town and a good number of them need to get their act together. Like Bobby Flay said,this is not the Fun Network,people!:
The first season of Game of Thrones has come to an end,with several set-ups for what to expect next year as Jon joins his brothers in the Night's Watch to explore in the lands beyond the Wall while Rob and his mother vow revenge against the Lannisters.
Meanwhile,Tyrion is assigned to straighten up things in King's Landing and Sansa's suffering at the hands of psychotically cruel King Joffrey is just beginning. The adventures for her little sister Arya are also about to start,as she is being taken out of the city with the raw recruits for the Night's Watch and given a boy's name as the first of many aliases.
Arya's journey makes her a few new enemies and friends,including a certain young blacksmith that her father once visited. Where their mutual path will lead them is not for me to tell but let's just say that Gendry and Arya make for a good team:
The one woman's journey that I was concerned with the most was Danys,who really had a hell of a row to hoe by the end credits. Losing her husband,baby and clan all in one stroke was the kind of thing that would've broken a weaker soul.
Daenerys,however,proved that she had the true dragon blood of her ancestors by using Drogo's funeral pyre to hatch those three eggs of hers. To the credit of the production,those newborn firebreathers looked amazing and since they play an important part in Danys' ongoing quest for the Iron Throne,I hope that the quality of their appearances are kept up. Next season should be even better than the first,now that the Mother of Dragons is ready to move forward(slight bit of nudity in this clip,you have been warned):
TRUE BLOOD: With Game of Thrones finished for now,our favorite vampire series sets up shop for a fourth season. There's plenty of ruckus to contend with,including the arrival of witches who are being lead by a certain aunt of Harry Potter's. What's a little magical mischief among friends and fiends,I ask you?:
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
With the upcoming film version of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling debut novel,The Help,set to arrive at the multiplex by August,it seemed like high time that I picked this book up(via Booksfree)and see what all of the fuss was truly about.
As many of you already know,the story in set in the early years of the 1960s in Jackson,Mississippi where the lives of three women unexpectedly connect with one another.
Aibileen has been a maid in numerous homes,practically raising most of the children in her care and at times,giving them the love and attention that their parents are incapable of doing. When we first meet her,she is two years into mourning the loss of her adult son,Treelore,a young man with ambitions of becoming a writer.
Minny is a good friend of Aibileen,mainly due to her strong loyalties to family and friends. Her skills as a top notch cook and housekeeper are undisputed but Minny's feisty nature and outspokenness prevents her from holding a job for very long. Her most recent enemy on that front is Miss Hilly Holbrook,the queen bee of the local ladies' League whose sweet exterior barely hides the vicious venom of her soul.
One of Miss Hilly's friends happens to be Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan,who has finally returned home from college and wanting more out of life than just getting married to the right sort of man. Skeeter has never quite fit in with her friends but her questioning nature drives her to consider the unspoken rules of their small world.
A major mystery to her is what happened to Constantine,her family's long time maid who was a second mother to Skeeter. By the time she finished school,Constantine was long gone and no one wants to tell her the straight story about that situation.
Skeeter comes up with a plan that catches the interest of a New York publishing executive,to write a book of interviews with black maids that tells the truth about their experiences working for white families. She approaches Aibileen first,who turns her down for awhile until agreeing to share her story and trying to recruit others as well.
Minny is especially hard to convince,mainly due to the very real fear of retribution. With civil rights marches,protests and the death of Medgar Evers a daily part of the news,the risk that's being run on both sides is a dead serious one:
Nevertheless,it's a local injustice perpetuated by Miss Hilly that spurs on other maids in town to join in on the secret book project. Even with the slim possibility of the book actually getting published,everyone feels that the effort is worth the trouble.
Change is in the air,particularly with the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird becoming a regular bedside reading staple.Each of the women have more than one motive in revealing the hidden life and times of maids-Skeeter,for one, hopes to find out the truth about Constantine.
Minny wants to get a lot of aggravation about the way things are off her chest and Aibileen is concerned about the influence she has on her newest charge,the daughter of one another of Skeeter's friends who is just learning about life and not getting much guidance or proper attention from her mother:
There's been a lot of controversy regarding this novel,mostly centered around the fact that the author is white and has her black characters speak in dialect.That really doesn't come across as a problem when you read this book;after all,differences in speech between characters are meant to reflect their background and it would ring false to have all of them talk the same way and style.
The Help is an addictive read,one of those classic stay-up-all-night-to finish-it books. While I didn't take it all in one sitting,I was awake until the wee small hours of a couple of mornings and had to force myself to go to bed. Not every book can do that for me but when it does,you know you have a great one in hand.
This story is not a merely a vehicle to discuss the civil rights movement in. It plunges right into the hearts of these women and the emotional obstacles in their path to personal freedom.
Minny's a formidable force of nature who has to handle an abusive husband while Aibileen is torn between her grief over Treelore and the connection she has to the little girl in her current care. Skeeter wants to be her own person but also please her disapproving mother and have the same kind of romantic relationship that all of her contemporaries seem to enjoy with ease.
This in depth development of the character's inner and outer turmoils elevates the story and makes it identifiable to readers of more than one generation and social status in life. The Help became a book club favorite for this reason and it's a book that does inspire talk in the best sense of the word:
While I don't know if The Help will achieve the same standing in literary history as To Kill a Mockingbird did,it is a noteworthy novel in the realm of Southern writing.
Hopefully,Kathryn Stockett will not follow Harper Lee's example and give us more books of the same caliber. I also hope that the film adaptation does the book justice,but even if it doesn't,The Help will still be standing on the shelves for a long time to come:
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