Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

A handful of Emmy 2012 highlights

For the first time in a long while,I did watch the entire presentation of the Emmy awards,something that I tend to not tune into due to the lack of attention paid to shows that I like such as True Blood or The Vampire Diaries(also,Sons of Anarchy deserved a couple of noms there,in my opinion).

The show was pretty much what I expected,and if you're a big fan of Modern Family and Homeland,this was definitely your year. Despite some disappointments and limited humor(that whole "let's play a joke on the internet!" bit that host Jimmy Kimmel tried to pull off with Tracey Morgan went nowhere fast),there were some fun moments and great wins to see:

MELISSA MCCARTHY'S MAN FEVER: Melissa and Mindy Kaling were teamed up to announce the winner for Best Actor in a Comedy Series,with Melissa stealing the show as she lustily read off the names of the nominees.

I know that she's busy with Mike and Molly these days,but someone needs to give this woman a movie to star in and not as a supporting player either. Better yet,maybe she could host the Emmys next year(sorry,but I wasn't too impressed with what Kimmel did with the show here). Melissa's crack timing and delivery should be granted more big as well as small screen time:

THE DOWAGER DUCHESS GETS HER DUE: Sadly,Downton Abbey did not reap the benefits of being a multiple nominee except for Maggie Smith winning Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

At least one trophy went to DA and even though Dame Maggie wasn't there to accept her award,most of us have no problem in imaging what she would have to say on such an occasion. Much like her character,this great lady is rarely at a loss for words:

LUCKY LOUIE: Comedian Louis C.K. won a pair of Emmys that evening,one for writing an episode of his F/X series Louie and the other for a stand up special called Live at the Beacon Theater.

The stand-up show is mainly available thru his website but it did air on F/X once,so it was eligible for nomination(it got three other noms but only won for writing). Having been a fan of both his stage routines and his previous series on HBO(which wasn't given a real chance to thrive),these awards are full vindication for his efforts.

His style of humor may not be for everybody but what Louis does,he does very well indeed:

PLAYING A WINNING GAME: The best made for television movie of the year was Game Change,which won five awards including Best Actress for Julianne Moore,Best Director for Jay Roach and Best Screenplay for Danny Strong,which made me especially happy.

Strong has done well as a screenwriter,but to me and other Buffy fans,he'll always be Jonathan,that ever present outsider who rose as high as a member of the Big Bads for the sixth season yet remained a good guy towards the end(and yes,he was also Paris' main man on Gilmore Girls). Seeing him win his first Emmy was a nice Revenge of the Nerds moment there:

So,all in all,a decent showing but it would have nice for the likes of Mad Men,Game of Thrones and any other sitcom than Modern Family(sorry,but that one doesn't tickle my funny bone)to get some of that Emmy love this time around.

Then again,there's always next time and the most important thing for the non-winners in the audience to remember is keeping a good poker face as someone else claims what you hoped to be your award:

Monday, September 24, 2012

A few Reading,'Riting and Rebellion selections for Banned Books Week 2012

The 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week begins on September 30,ironically enough,and the mission to spread the word about books that many are attempting to restrict or remove from public access is more relevant now more than ever.

With all of the political upheaval both foreign and domestic that we've been seeing lately,cherishing our freedom to read and write openly is becoming a truly precious thing. One of the best ways to really appreciate BBW is by reading some of these books to see what all of the fuss is about and as a theme for this year,I'm suggesting a set of novels that share one key plot element;a totalitarian society.

Seems rather interesting that any work of fiction that explores the notion of how a social order can be used to suppress free will is most often a frequent target of censorship. Coincidence? You decide after checking out one of these stories that perhaps hit too close to home for some people:

THE HUNGER GAMES: This young adult series by Suzanne Collins has gotten very popular over the last couple of years,particularly with the success of the first film made from this trilogy about a futuristic world where children are forced into partaking in a televised for the masses tournament of death.

Some of the charges made against this series were due to the necessary violence but others seemed a tad random-granted,I've only read the first book but I don't recall anything that was "sexually explicit" or "satanic". What probably is the real reason for most of the complaints is the strong connection between reality TV and blood sport as distraction for society's problems that this set of novels explores:

THE HANDMAID'S TALE: Margaret Atwood's novel about a formerly free society overtaken by a dogmatic regime who insist on dividing up women into certain classes determined by their "usefulness" to the state has been accused of being too sexual in nature and anti-religious,particularly anti-Christian.

However,there are a number of places around the world where women,both past and present,have been repressed by more than one faith based group which is what makes this story so universal.

The real thread of tyranny in this work is not about any one religion but the sad and scary idea that women should and need to be controlled,particularly when it comes to their reproductive rights. Making that notion a political mandate is a nightmare that no one of any gender wants to wake up to,even in fiction:

BRAVE NEW WORLD: A calmer form of oppression is detailed in Aldous Huxley's classic novel about citizens of the World State are lulled into a peaceful existence by the powers above with an abundance of Soma pills,along with gene splicing and rampant consumerism.

Considering that this book was written in 1932,Huxley's observations about just what would contribute to a possible social downfall are eerily accurate. Instead of complaining about the "offensive language" and "insensitivity" perceived here, folks should use this story to take a better look at the frightening similarities between that imagined realm and our own:

1984: No list of this sort would be complete without George Orwell's timeless statement on the subject. This book has been fully absorbed into the pop culture that most people understand what you mean when you accuse someone of Doublespeak or mumble "Big Brother is watching you"(although I doubt that Orwell would very much appreciate that term being used for a reality show).

Yet,it's more than just a quick and easy reference to perceived deception and dubious monitoring. Orwell's characters,particularly the leading man Winston Smith,realistically examine the thin line between the fear of being manipulated and fear of breaking free from that manipulation. While that actual year has come and gone,the message of the novel is never out of date:

Whether or not you read any of these books,the freedom to do so or not is what's important,not only this week but all year round. Even in a nation such as ours that is devoted to keeping a forum for idea free and open to all,this sacred privilege should not be taken for grant or underestimated.

Even if some of the books that appear on the banned lists are not to your literary or personal taste,that is all the more reason for protecting their right to be read. One of the great things about America is our wide variety of pop culture choices and everyone in every state,as well as around the world,deserves to share in our rich book bounty:

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Words and other writers gone wild on film.

A movie that quickly came and went out of theaters earlier this month,The Words,had to do with a writer(Bradley Cooper) who publishes a hit novel that is merely a copy of another man's work that he found in an old briefcase.

Said previous owner of the briefcase(Jeremy Irons)had thought that story of his lost long ago and happens to connect with the now hot shot author. Despite some guilt ridden attempts to make this wrong up to him,the old man refuses to let the younger one off the hook that easily:

The core idea of the plot is loosely based on the classic anecdote about Hemingway's wife losing a suitcase full of his work in progress during their travels,something that many literary types love to debate about whose fault that was or did it even happen in the first place.

While I have no opinion about that(although I do think that Hemingway should've kept a closer eye on his own stuff there),it did occur to me that The Words isn't the only film out there that showcases writers in a less than flattering light. Here are a few other examples of authors with attitudes that would shock some of their readers and cause a few bookmarks to fall:

CROSSING DELANCEY: Izzy,the charming heroine of this romantic comedy(Amy Irving)happens to be a bookseller who finds herself being wooed by Anton Maes, a very prominent writer,particularly over a lunch date to set up a book signing.

However,when she invites him out for a meal,he insists on bringing along his assistant and the two of them make Izzy feel like a third wheel. This isn't the end of Anton's dubious nature but it certainly was a bright red warning flag for Izzy to notice there:

YOUNG ADULT: The leading lady of this less than tender tale is Mavis Gary(Charlize Theron),who ghostwrites for a no longer popular series of high school themed books and is about as mature as her target audience.

On her way back to her hometown(with the main goal being seducing an old boyfriend away from his wife and newborn child),Mavis stops into a bookstore where she is peeved to find her books on the clearance table. You can easily sympathize with that situation but her cranky insistence on making the books nonreturnable dilutes some of that empathy for Mavis' plight:

SHE DEVIL: Granted,Roseanne is the star of this wonky adaptation of Fay Weldon's dark social comedy,The Life and Loves of a She Devil,but Meryl Streep's portrayal of pretentious romance writer Mary Fisher nearly steals the show.

The whole plot springs from Mary's stealing the husband of frumpy Ruth,who then embarks on a fully planned out revenge on the two of them which leads to financial ruin and public humiliation. Mary and her prima donna pretenses make her the type of person that you eagerly enjoy seeing being brought down a peg or two:

THE SHINING: No look at writers gone wrong would be complete without checking into the Overlook Hotel with Jack Torrence,a former teacher and would be author seeking some literary redemption during his time as winter caretaker of the place.

However,when wife Wendy takes a peek at his work in progress,it's obvious that Jack is in more help than a standard writer's retreat can provide. You do have to give the man credit for the various fonts he used in crafting his madman masterpiece-that alone could get him a publishing contract in some circles,if he didn't take to murderous rampages,that is:

Don't get me wrong;being a writer is a laudable goal(especially since it's one of my own in this life)and while there are plenty of films that display the best side of that profession,it is good to also acknowledge that they're just people like everyone else.

Movies do exaggerate both of those qualities,as they do with most professions,but just as they say "don't believe everything you read",don't be too quick to discount all that you see either.

For every warm and wonderful greeting you may get from one of your favorite authors that you're lucky enough to encounter,there is also the strong chance that he/she may not be the same type of person that appears in their books or in their film adaptations. That's no excuse for ill manners,of course,but it does pay to be prepared because for some folks,that's as good as it gets:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Project Runway contender gets a cutting critique,A Vampire Diaries worry and dreaming of Downton Abbey

Last week's episode of Project Runway allowed the designers to create their own print pattern that represented their heritage,a challenge that some took to with ease while others struggled. One of those particularly having a hard time with this was Ven,who opted for a simple hibiscus flower on white.

His first choice was to turn the print into an embellishment for his dress,by making little fanned bows that would go across it. I personally didn't find that to be much of an effort but Tim Gunn was put off by that look for a very unusual reason:

After that rather intriguing critique,Ven changed his whole concept but the end results weren't that much better(although it did have less of a feminine hygiene look there).

That dress had everything in Ven's bag of sewing tricks,plus the kitchen sink. It was such a hot mess that not only did he wind up in the Bottom Two,the judges even asked Tim Gunn to come and talk to them about it. During that chat,he informed the panel of his original assessment,which I think captured their imaginations for a moment or two.

Ven managed to stay in the competition and one would be tempted to feel a little sorry for him if they hadn't seen his prior obnoxious behavior,including the humiliation he visited upon a makeover client a few episodes back. Payback can be a bitch in heels,indeed:

Season four of The Vampire Diaries is set to start on October 11,with Elena in the midst of a transition from human to vampire. I hope she does go full vamp,especially since that will even the odds between her and her elder doppelganger Katherine,if she shows up again.

However,the chances of me and other fans in the New York area getting to see TVD on TV are pretty slim at this point. Seems that Cablevision is waging yet another war with a channel provider(Tribune)over fees which means that Channel 11,our home of the CW in my neck of the woods,has been gone since the summer. Way to go,guys!

There is still some time before we have to really worry yet I can't help but find it annoying to be deprived of a channel that's been around all of my life,even before the whole cable thing took over the air waves! Oh well,I can always watch TVD online when the CW website uploads it,several days later*sigh*:

At least I have the comfort of knowing that Downton Abbey will be returning to PBS this January,without any major obstacles in it's path. Just the thought of seeing Shirley MacClaine try to best Maggie Smith at witty bon mots is a pleasant notion to savor over.

That won't be the only plot line worth following,as poor Anna strives to get her unjustly imprisoned husband released,Lady Edith has renewed hopes for romance and the Crawley family fortune is in bad shape due to the aftermath of the war. This is supposed to be the final season yet perhaps we might hope for just one more?:


ELEMENTARY: The wait will soon be over,as this new version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson makes it's debut next Thursday. Looking forward to seeing this dynamic duo in action and expecting others to give it a fair shot at success:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who's your Fantasy Candidate for President of Pop Culture Land?

Along with new TV shows and old sweaters,the arrival of the fall season also heralds in another rounds of elections for public office. Regardless of what party you're in or opinions you may have about one issue versus the other,I suspect that most of us would like a little more variety in our ballot box selections this year.

If only we could write-in a few fun figures from our collective pop culture to liven the race up. Then again,who says we can't? They do have Fantasy Sports and Fantasy Celebrity League,so why not add in a beloved(or not so beloved)character to lead our country into a brighter tomorrow? Here are a handful of LRG nominated candidates that are definitely worth your consideration,if not your vote:

JANE AUSTEN: While she is,or rather was,a real person,Miss Austen has been used for fictional purposes in both books and film,which more than qualifies her for the position.

Granted,she may prefer to devote more time to her writing but such an abundance of sense and sensibility within one person can not be overlooked or undervalued. Who better to teach us how to retrench during these difficult financial times we're in or to rally our spirits while keeping to tough yet steady standards that will provide us all with a handsome future(or husband,as the case may be):

DAENERYS TARGARYEN: This young would-be queen of Westeros may not be the most experienced in political matters but her fiery determination to reclaim her birthright more than makes up for that.

Being the Mother of Dragons also gives her an unprecedented advantage in playing any game of thrones anywhere. True,her "children" are small in stature yet they won't always be that size for long. It would be wise to pledge allegiance to House Targaryen before this Khaleesi throws her royal hat into the ring:

REGINA MILLS: In addition to her term as Mayor of Storybrooke,this regal lady has had experience being in command in more than one reality and is not afraid to make those tough decisions that will keep her in power.

Regina isn't a sweetheart when it comes implementing policy,public or personal yet she does get the job done. One thing is for certain;it's better to be her employee than her enemy because she is one tough apple to tangle with:

DON DRAPER: This Madison Avenue marvel may be some what old fashioned in his approach to things,however his smooth talking and lightening fast creative ideas have made many a sale go through and salvaged plenty of perilous personal situations as well.

Convincing others to give in to plans that will benefit everyone in some way is the nature of politics,after all,and having a sharp dressed man deliver your argument with poise and confidence can make all the difference:

Whoever is the winner in the end,there is one certainty that we can count on and that is there is no perfect leader that will make all of our troubles disappear,even if they do know how to perform magic spells or slay monsters.

At least in Pop Culture Land,we can always dream of new heroes and heroines to guide us down whatever rough road lies before us and such inspiration is a real boon to our sagging spirits. While it's nice to imagine someone from our past to return to present day to save us from ourselves,it might be best to leave that person right where they are in order to prevent any unknown chaos to creep in,especially if it has fangs:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Having a bloody brilliant birthday bash with Agatha Christie

Tomorrow marks the 122nd birthday of literature's most celebrated queen of crime,Agatha Christie,whose books are still read widely today. As a tribute to this very special day for mystery fans,I have collected a few clips from film and TV adaptations of her works that feature prominent party scenes.

Both of Christie's most popular detectives,Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple,will be equally in attendance here and normally,we would go with ladies first but since October is not that far off,it only feels proper to begin this sinister soiree with Hallowe'en Party.

In this 1969 tale,an All Hallows Eve children's party is in full swing,with one of the young guests insisting that she once witnessed a murder. None of the adults are taking her seriously but before the night is over,it appears that someone has(not a gruesome clip,I promise!):

One of the most memorable party sequences in any Agatha Christie caper occurred on Miss Marple's watch. In The Mirror Crack'd(From Side to Side),fading film star Marina Gregg is embracing her new English home by hosting an annual village festival.

During the meet and greet portion of the house party,Marina seems transfixed by one of the paintings over by the staircase and several people notice her odd out of joint expression,which would mean nothing of importance if the lady she had been chatting with at that time hadn't been poisoned not long afterwards:

Despite an ongoing investigation,one of the suspects in Appointment With Death is determined to attend a cocktail party,regardless of Poirot's deadline for finding the killer of a wealthy widow who had her husband's revised will destroyed in order to remain in control of her stepchildren.

All of the suspects decide to attend the cocktail party,including Poirot who entertains most of them with his solution to the mystery that connects them all. That revelation at this celebration turns out to be the last dance that one of them will have for quite some time to come:

Miss Marple was not invited to the impromptu gathering in A Murder Is Announced but then again,no one is quite sure who placed the strange ad in the local paper that inspired the spontaneous get-together at Little Paddocks.

Most surprised was the spa's owner Letitia Blacklock,who chose to go with the flow and see what sort of party was meant to be had. At a certain time,the lights went out and shots were fired but those assembled first assumed it was all part of a murder mystery game. However,it quickly became obvious that this was no game. Sometimes,it doesn't pay to RSVP:

A very happy birthday to Dame Agatha Christie and her many readers this weekend and while we may not have any current adaptations of her marvelous mysteries on deck at the moment,the spirit of her stories will inspire others to bring them back to screens both big and small.

In the meanwhile,there are plenty of them to read and enjoy,either for the first time or as a welcome revisit. Despite what some may say,Agatha Christie's mind boggling mysteries are much better than your average game of Clue:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Announcing the Alternate Emmy awards!

We interrupt our usual TV Thursday coverage to bring you a special look at some of the highlights of this television year that will more than likely not be featured on the upcoming Emmy awards presentation later this month.

A major reason why most folks don't tune into the Emmys is that they either ignore certain shows(particularly in the fantasy/sci-fi arena)or over/under rate others.

However,it is important to give TV performers and creators their just due and yet,I feel that a more fan friendly celebration is in order(and I don't mean the People's Choice Awards either).

Here at LRG,we prefer to honor those key moments that make any genre of TV viewing well worth watching and instead of making you wait for some hyped-up list of nominees,we'll go right to the winners circle:

BEST WATERCOOLER MOMENT: With Mad Men having to take a year long hiatus,due to contract issues,between seasons,many were concerned about the staying power of the series.

Those doubts were quickly dispersed in the first episode when the new Mrs. Don Draper did a little song and dance number for him and their friends at his "surprise" birthday party. It was not only a light and lively way to jump start the show,that unexpected performance also set up the tone for the generation gap growing between the SCDP regulars and their new counterparts:

MOST CONSISTENT TEAM PLAYER: Even though Downton Abbey has had only two seasons(with a third and final due early next year)that have given both the upstairs and downstairs residents a great deal of challenges and changes,there is one cast member who can always be counted on to say something memorable.

That dear lady would be The Dowager Countess Violet,played to perfection by Maggie Smith,whose wit and veracity has aged better than wine. In addition to her verbal skills,Countess Violet's steadfast sense of what is right and proper,plus her spirited resistance to new ways and loyalty to those who need it are what make Her Ladyship a welcome sight in any scene:

MOST IMPROVED CHARACTER: Fans of True Blood don't tend to agree on everything but a good number of them were fed up with the emotional ups and downs that supporting player Tara Thornton has had to endure for the last couple of seasons.

That tune has changed,along with Tara's status as a member of the living. Her transformation into a vampire,bound to tough as nails Pam,really allowed her to get some real breathing room. The fierce feisty nature that she displayed in earlier seasons is back with a new sense of purpose in protecting her Maker and their stake in this ever changing game of blood politics:

WORST WHINING: Reality shows do lend themselves to a fair share of temper tantrums and general bad behavior but by far,watching a grown person whimper and pout like a child over a situation that they got him/herself into for the chance to be on TV is flat out annoying.

This happens quite a bit on The Amazing Race,which during it's last season had a team from another reality series Big Brother competing;Brendon and Rachel,aka

Those of us not familiar with this less than dynamic duo couldn't figure why Brendon had so much patience with his eternally whining partner,who moan about her plights with such charming bon mots as "I'm not as smart as you!" and "The Amazing Race is supposed to be fun and good!". Well,Rach,TAR is fun and good but mostly for the audience in this case:

BEST USE OF BOOM BOOM POW: Game of Thrones viewers were getting a little restless for some serious action during the second season but after having a taste of what wildfire can do,everyone stayed riveted to their seats.

Tyrion's bold move in attempting to take out Stannis' fleet did gain some ground for his soldiers but that impressive display didn't faze the main man himself. However,his remaining troops were shaken up as well as a tad reluctant to go back for more:

We hope you have enjoyed this medley of TV moments and that fresh new ones in the coming new year will be even better. In the meantime,this year's Emmys will be handed on September 23 with host Jimmy Kimmel,who may make them just as watchable as Neil Patrick Harris has made the Tonys:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Filling in the Fantasyland seats at the Movie Trailer Park

Now that September is here,a slew of serious minded movies are heading out to the theaters in hopes of gaining some serious money from mature audiences,not to mention a nomination or two come awards season.

Granted,the kids may be back in school but that doesn't mean the kid in all of us can't have some fantasy flavored fun at the multiplex. Here's a handful of upcoming flights of film fantasy both this fall and early into next year:

The end of this month brings us Looper,starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman who uses the time travel technology provided by his mob bosses to kill targeted folks from the future when they are shipped back to the past.

He strays from his course of execution when his latest target is his older self(Bruce Willis),who manages to escape his younger yet determined to kill him counterpart. With his bosses pursuing him until the job is done and the future version of himself on the loose,our unlikely hero has quite the life choices to make. This may sound convoluted but my storyteller sense is tingling in the positive on this one:

For a more kid friendly treat,Tim Burton will be bringing us Frankenweenie,an expanded version of his 1984 short film. The plot is pretty much the same,with young Victor reviving his beloved deceased dog Sparky which causes an uproar in his small town. However,the mayhem is increased when the other kids want Victor to bring their former pets back from the beyond as well.

The cast of voice actors here includes such Burton alums as Martin Landau,Catherine O'Hara and Winona Ryder,plus a special vocal cameo by Christopher Lee. The film will be released in early October,setting the perfect mood for a happy Halloween indeed:

Slightly more older audiences will be looking forward to the final chapter in the Twilight saga,Breaking Dawn-Part Two. With Bella now a full fledged vampire who is adjusting well to her new lifestyle and the tensions between Jacob and Edward somewhat resolved,the new additions to the Cullen family seem to be in harmony.

Unfortunately,some intentional miscommunication causes the Volturi to rise up in force to stamp them out. In order to protect what they have,Edward and his family search for other vampire clans to support their right to exist. Even Bella has to prepare herself for an all-out war,especially with her daughter's life at stake.

Despite the recent Kristen Stewart scandal(in which I think Robert Pattinson acted like a gentleman by not displaying any of their dirty laundry in public,even with the multiple media opportunities given to him) devoted fans will want to see the characters in this supernatural story take their last bows onscreen this November:

After the big holiday season,our wait for another fantasy flick won't be long as Hansel and Gretel:Witch Hunters hits the cineplex in January of 2013. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the title siblings who have taken up witch removal as their profession.

This pair of eager executioners find themselves in a sinister situation as a powerful sorceress(Famke Janssen)is rounding up a large number of kids to sacrifice in a ceremony that will grant her coven enough power to defeat them. Also,the local authorities are far from willing to lend them any support,suspecting the brother and sister act to be less than human. Granted,it's a pretty campy premise but this still could be a fabulous ride to take indoors this winter:

While many things are uncertain as we head towards the end of this year, the one sure thing that can be counted on is a fresh dose of fantasy fare at the movies. Whether it's from a sci-fi starting point,a revised fairy tale or somewhere over the rainbow,nowadays our cinematic imagination is truly a thing of wonder to behold:

Friday, September 07, 2012

Jessica Grose's Sad Desk Salad is a mirthful main course to select from your reader's menu

I've been having great luck with Library Thing's Early Reviewers program lately,which has send some interesting books my way. My newest win,Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose,arrived earlier this week and I just finished it this morning. This novel won't be out until October but I couldn't wait that long to share my thoughts about it.

The story takes place during a pivotal week in the life of Alex Lyons,a popular blogger for a women centric website called Chick Habit. While CH does do an occasional piece about social issues,Alex quickly realizes that the posts that generate the most attention are the ones she does about celebrity gossip or adding her special brand of snarky commentary on pop culture trends.

She's under a lot of pressure to crank out posts by the hour,not only from her demanding boss Moira who freaks out if Alex steps away from her computer long enough to eat and bathe,but her sister CH bloggers that maintain a steady yet warily competitive friendship with one another:

The insanely high quota for posts at Chick Habit put Alex in a daily frenzy which is not helped by the online presence of eager to help out new intern Molly and the arrival of a hate site entitled Breaking the Chick Habit,which seems to be targeting her a little bit more than the rest of the writers at CH.

After finding out that her boyfriend Peter's company may be involved with a corporate buyout that could threaten her job,Alex is somewhat pleasantly surprised to see an anonymously sent e-mail that offers her an instant solution to some of her problems.

The e-mail contains a link to a video clip that features Rebecca West, one of the golden girl daughters of a professional tiger mom turned politician, indulging in a sex and drugs romp. Such a juicy gem of gossipy expose is hard for most people to resist taking full advantage of and while Alex has a few qualms about it,she does post it at Chick Habit which pleases Moira but gives Alex a whole new set of dilemmas to deal with:

While the video goes viral and lands Alex a taste of instant celebrity herself,it also earns her some scornful disappointment from a few of her friends,plus an ultimatum from a mysterious source that demands the controversial clip be taken off Chick Habit by the end of the week or some of Alex's own dirty laundry will be showcased to the world.

As her personal and professional life is under fire from many directions,Alex has to resurrect her old reporting skills to track down her blackmailer,along with Rebecca West who has disappeared from both public and private view. With Alex having no choice but to leave the cluttered comfort of her computer screen, her immersion into the real world forces her to take a closer look at who she has allowed herself to become:

Sad Desk Salad is a first novel for Jessica Grose,whose previous experience as an editor at Slate and Jezebel gives her take on the hectic pace of the professional end of the blogosphere an authentic air.

The story is fast paced and furiously funny,with an insider flair that makes her satirical points hit home hard but not at the expense of her characters,especially her leading lady who has more depth and empathy than she cares to admit.

This is one of the best fictional looks into a pop culture realm since Michael Tolkien's The Player,in my opinion. Granted,the satire in SDS isn't as dark yet it's the smartly written savvy slap in the face that the meandering ethics of online publishing could use right about now.

Sad Desk Salad will be officially released on October 2 and I hope that it climbs the bestseller list as quickly as any Hollywood blockbuster. Thank you Library Thing for bringing this book to my attention and I hope that others enjoy the entertaining insights this engaging novel has in abundance:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Checking out of Hotel Hell,this season's pack of TAR contenders and Project Runway's latest problem child

The first season of Gordon Ramsey's makeover series,Hotel Hell,ended this week with a pair of back to back episodes. Sadly,I missed the first half at the River Rock Inn(which apparently was not the tidiest place to stay) but I did catch the second hour.

That episode was at the Roosevelt,where the owner preferred to pay more attention to the murder mystery events he set up and starred in as Sherlock Holmes(claiming to have a better British accent that Gordon himself!) than the soul crushing misery his wife was enduring by running most of the place by herself:

You felt sorry for the wife in particular at the Roosevelt,since her husband just invested all of their money into this venture and didn't even bother to consult with her about it until it was too late to back out.

Fortunately,Gordon got through to him but not without giving this clueless guy a bit of well deserved hell. When this show will appear again is uncertain yet it's return will be welcome indeed,based on the ratings. Frankly,I'm surprised that there isn't a Gordon Ramsey channel in the works because he appears to be working non-stop on TV-take a break,Gordon,you've certainly earned one!:

The 21st season of The Amazing Race will begin on September 30 and the new set of teams include a pair of Chippendale dancers, a couple of monster truck owners and a married couple who arranged lumberjack competitions.

Also on board is a professional female snowboarder with artificial limbs, a guy who was the bassist for two metal bands(White Lion and Megadeth)and some reality show alums.

The biggest change to the typical TAR proceedings,however,is the addition of
a double your money bonus;if the first team to win the first leg of the competition also happens to win the whole shebang,they get two million dollars instead of one. Now,that's a way to raise the stakes to a very new level,indeed!:

Just about every season of Project Runway has it's troublesome designer,that guy or gal who acts up whenever things aren't going their way and making the tension of the competition even more difficult to bear.

While we've had plenty of candidates for this dubious honor here(and still not happy with Ven,who treated his "real sized" client incredibly awful),the choice for this season's menace is clear. Elena has proven to be moody,bossy and quick to downgrade the abilities of others,making any team challenge with her an ordeal you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy:

Elena is as equally skilled in making herself miserable as well. Last week's challenge had everyone making dresses that would fit into a line for Lord & Taylor and most of the designers went the little black dress route. While it can be tricky to turn something that basic into a unique design suitable for mass production,such a task is not impossible or unworthy of someone looking to become a professional in this field.

Alas,Elena bitched and moaned about "compromising" her vision,especially to Tim Gunn who gave her some solid advice. *Sigh* I don't get these people who go on shows that have been around long enough for anyone to get an idea of what to expect and then carry on about how they can't handle certain things that traditionally occur on the program. Do you not watch the show beforehand?

Elena's dress turned out fine,even the judges were pleased with it. However,that entitled attitude of hers will be more of a drawback as time goes on and how long hers will last on PR remain to be seen,in my opinion:


2 BROKE GIRLS: Yes,Virginia,there will be a second season and it starts on September 24 at a new time,9:00. That slightly later air time might calm down some of those folks who got all up in a tizzy about the mature nature of the jokes. If not,too bad for them,I say:

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A reveling romp through Rosemary Rogers' Wicked Loving Lies

I spent a good portion of my summer reading time this year with Wicked Loving Lies,a historical romance by Rosemary Rogers who was one of the big bestselling authors in this field back in the 1970s. Her name was familiar to me when I stumbled upon the gorgeously gaudy colored paperback at a local rummage sale(even the page ends have a purplish tint to them)but had never read anything by her before.

The time frame of the book is during the Napoleonic/Regency era and yes,Bonaparte and Josephine do pop up in the plot. The heroine of WLL is Marisa,a young woman whose mother died during the French Revolution and was shipped off to a convent in Spain by her father,who has a plantation in New Orleans.

Marisa is distressed to learn that her distant father has arranged a match for her,so she runs away with a gypsy gal pal of hers seeking freedom. That is just the start of the numerous trips that she makes in this book,starting in Spain and then making stops in England,Tripoli,Louisiana and of course,France where it turns out that Empress Josephine is her long lost godmother. I swear Marisa goes through more costume changes than Josie and the Pussycats in this narrative!:

During her travels,Marisa has constant run-ins with Dominic Challenger,a privateer with a troubled past who has a love-hate relationship with most of the women he encounters and particularly with Marisa.

He takes her virginity by force,with the excuse that he thought she was just a gypsy girl(great justification there,buddy!)and over the course of their mutual travels becomes her husband and the father of her son,who she was told had died at birth but was instead meant to be sold into slavery yet rescued at the last minute by Dominic. The twists and turns of this story line make a pretzel seem straightforward there.

It's hard to side with either one of these leading characters at times,because both of them persist in willfully misunderstanding one another and making rash decisions based on their preconceived notions of each other. Not to mention the whole Luke and Laura nature of their relationship,where Marisa is subjected to repeated acts of sexual violation(mainly by Dominic)and yet is still drawn to him and he to her:

Now,as a reader of historical fiction,I'm used to seeing women in jeopardy situations that would not meet modern day standards of acceptable behavior towards females and taking them in stride.

Plus,having read about the old school tropes of romance novels during the seventies both online and in books on the subject like Beyond Heaving Bosoms,I did have a notion of what to expect in a novel like this from that particular point of time in publishing.

Yet,I did pause in my reading of Wicked Loving Lies for awhile,due to not feeling comfortable with a work of fiction that bandied about the term rape as loosely as Todd Akin and his like minded ilk did recently. I'm not saying that Rosemary Rogers would have approved of those ignorant remarks or blame her in any way here,it was simply that I needed some space to let the pop culture air clear before taking up this book again.

I will say that despite such qualms,WLL was engaging enough to capture my interest so much that I had to see it through to the end. This novel is part of one of Rogers' most popular series,The Legend of Morgan-Challenger,with the best known of that bunch being Sweet Savage Love.

Wicked Loving Lies was the third installment and sold three million copies in it's first month of release,impressive numbers in those days. She's still putting out books and while I'm not sure if I'll try any of her other works,I can see why she became popular in the first place.

The lady knows how to create a strong narrative drive that pulls you and keeps the reader turning pages,no matter how over the top some of the situations that her characters find themselves landing in to be. Not an easy feat for any writer in any genre to handle well and I have to give it to Rosemary Rogers,she's a natural.

Books like hers were not just guilty pleasure reads,they also paved the way for others to go to the next level with the genre and create more independent heroines and sensitive male counterparts who sought healthy relationships,both emotional and physical. In addition,the genre acceptance for female friendly lit,more commonly labeled chick lit,was broadened and while we still have a ways to go in that department,some of those steps were made possible by those old school romances:

One thing that I learned from reading Wicked Loving Lies is that it's not enough just to read about a certain style of writing or genre to really know it. Immersing yourself into that realm can give you more of a true perspective on that type of book and how you honestly feel about it. My horizons were definitely broadened and I think that I'll be better able to appreciate other works in this genre after this.

Many readers out there are dreading the return of those dysfunctional leading men and women from those not so long ago days of yore,due to the multimedia buzz surrounding the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy(which I have no burning desire to check out). Even if that's the case,I wouldn't fret too much.

Pop culture trends do come and go,especially in the book world and soon enough,there will be another new overnight sensation for everyone to talk about. So,like Marisa and Dominic eventually realized,it's best to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm to your happily ever after. You may not have to go around the world to find your true love but a literary trip to love is always worth booking:

Monday, September 03, 2012

An Austenesque Autumn with a cup of Matchmaker Mishap tea

September is here at last and if you're in a Jane Austen frame of mind,the best place to be at this month is Austeneque Reviews.

This delightful blog that is devoted to literary works inspired by Austen's novels is having a 30 day salute to Our Dear Jane's legacy this season with their Austenesque Extravaganza.

Each day has a different theme(Sociable Sunday,Traveling Tuesday,etc)and today is Matchmaker Monday,that asks for reader recommendations in order to help folks find the right Austen flavored book.

That title gave me an amusing idea for my post today,which is themed Matchmaker Misunderstandings. I will be featuring a bit of a mix and match between traditional Austen and re-imagined Jane to highlight those moments where even the most well meaning interference in romantic affairs are met with misdirection and mistaken notions that changes the course of the characters' lives in so many ways:

We couldn't start this overview without a visit to Emma,the queen bee of Austen matchmakers. While Emma is busy arranging for suitable to her own tastes suitors for sweet yet easily lead Harriet Smith,she seems to have no idea that her good friends Mr and Mrs.Weston hope that their son Frank Churchill would be interested in her as more than a friend.

Emma has no objections to being courted by Frank,who shows her much attention and is entertained by his professed indifference to the quiet charms of Jane Fairfax. Emma may be clever but she's not savvy enough to realize that when a man is quick to downgrade another woman to the lady he's with,chances are that his feelings regarding that woman are rather the reverse:

For a post modern twist,let's take a look at The Jane Austen Book Club and in particular at Jocelyn,who fancies herself as the Emma Woodhouse of her group. When meeting the amiable Grigg on her way to a dog breeding convention,his interest in her does not register high on her romance meter. Jocelyn's cold shoulder gives him the chills indeed.

Yet,another chance run-in allows that flame to reignite,however what Grigg doesn't know at this point is that Jocelyn is sizing him as more of a ideal match for one of her girlfriends(who is getting divorced and in need of a rebound romance) that as a potential partner for herself:

And now for a double dose of Mr. Collins. Amanda Price,the heroine of Lost In Austen, is torn between living out her dream of being in the pages of Pride and Prejudice and fearing that her presence will cause an uproar amongst the characters that could derail their intended plot lines.

Mr. Collins,naturally,is one such pitfall that Amanda wants to protect Jane Bennet from. However, her awkward attempt to throw Charlotte Lucas his way only makes Mr. Collins think that it is Miss Price who desires his less than desirable affections:

In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,Ricky Collins(who would rather be called Mister)has made his frequent visits to the Bennet household a reason for Lizzie to dread dinners with her insistent-upon-marrying-her-daughters-off mom far more than usual.

Yet,on this occasion,Mr. Ricky Collins does an offer to make to Lizzie but it happens to be more on the professional rather than the personal side. That proposal doesn't appeal to her either way not will that refusal on a non romantic front please her desperate housewife of a mother:

Finally,we venture over to Mansfield Park,where romantic misdirection is the order of the day. Upon their first meeting,both Maria Bertram and Henry Crawford contend to their nearest and dearest than they are not attracted to each one.

Since Maria is already engaged,that point is pressed on particularly by his sisters to Henry,who declares that he prefers younger sister Julia the best.

Despite such claims,his comments about the eldest Miss Bertram's nature tell a different tale. Maria also echoes that sentiment to her sister,yet her competitive spirit will not allow her to yield on that front gracefully:

I hope that everyone is enjoying their Labor Day respite and that all of my fellow Austenites flock to the celebration going on at Austeneque Reviews the rest of this month. I also hope that Austen fans keep in mind that no matter what misguidance a matchmaker in either Jane's time or ours can give,a happy ending for any set of true loves is never in doubt: