Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Personal Note for the New Year

Normally,I don't discuss my personal life on this blog but something has recently
happened that will have some impact on what is written here,not to mention that
it was necessary to alter my profile so this is situation I'm facing for the new
year:I left my job after 8 years. I gave notice on December 26 and turned in my
keys to the store on December 27.

I'm going to give you some background info-last year,I was hospitalized for a week
due to heart related probelms that went unchecked for too long(which had to do with
the fact that I couldn't afford health insurance but that's a whole other issue).
When I went back to work,one of the things I needed to do to help myself get better
was to cut back on my hours. I brought in a note from my doctor,explaining that I
had to work only four days a week and that I shouldn't do heavy lifting. My hours
were changed but over time, feelings of resentment were directed at me when certain
duties that involved lifting came up.

Also,the owner has grown more frustrated about the state of the store and has taken
these feelings out on me and the rest of the staff for the past few months. It's one
thing to have made a error and asked to correct it but it's quite another when you're
told that if you couldn't find something that was put away a year ago that you"need
new glasses" and that you were given a $1 raise to "make you feel better" that isn't
being earned.

I'm not going to get into any more specifics but I will also say that the working
environment of the store has sharply changed. Sure,there's always good times and
bad times but when I first started being a bookseller,there was more of a sense
of community spirit. We used to celebrate each other's birthday with a card and/or
cake & flowers. At holiday time,the whole staff would go out to dinner to celebrate
another year together and make plans for the next. We haven't done any of that for
awhile now. People are friendly to each other but there's a remoteness and an aura
of disconnection about the work we do.

All of this has been affecting my health-I was so agitated last Monday that when I
came home that night,it was necessary to take my blood pressure. I'm alright but
it has just gotten to the breaking point where I can't put up with this anymore.

This has been one of the hardest things I've ever done-I've never just up and quit
a job before and I've never left one job without having another one to go to. My family has been very supportive of me at this time for which I'm truly grateful.
I'm sorry to have left this way but it seemed like I had to sink or swim so I
dove into the unknown. I do intend to keep this blog going,it's one of the better
aspects of my life.

Don't worry,I have no intention of boring anyone with tales of my job hunting and
other personal woes. I still have plenty of books to read and review for '06 and
will keep working on getting more author interviews(thanks again to Suzanne for
being so generous with her time and recommending other writers to me.). Hopefully
things will get better in 2006. I wish everyone at the store the best of luck and
hope that the new year is good to them as well. I know there's more important probelms out there but this one is mine and I intend to try and see this as an
opportunity rather than an obstacle. Happy New Year to one and all.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Brokeback Mountain:hip or hype?

So,Little Sister and I went to see our last movie of the year,Brokeback Mountain. I feel slightly redundant in summerizing the plot,given that it's mostly known as the
"gay cowboy movie" but there is more to it than that so here goes:the story begins
in 1963 when two down on their luck western working stiffs,Jack Twist(Jake Gyllenhaal)
and Ennis Delmar(Heath Ledger)are teamed up to do some sheepheading on Brokeback Mountain in the wilds of Wyoming. Jack is loud and humorous while Ennis is your
typical closemouthed type of fella. The men eventually form a friendship which turns
into passionate lovemaking one cold night that leads to denial the next morning.

Nevertheless,Jack and Ennis keep in touch with each other over the years despite
their marriages and living conditions(Jack marries the boss' daughter and does
well for himself in Texas while Ennis barely scrapes by with ranch work). Their
love for each other is only safe to give into on their"fishing trips" and even
tho Jack wishes to make a more permanant arrangement,Ennis resists due to fears
of violent retaliation from the local community and his own struggle with his

This is a quiet film,one that slowly unwinds and grows with emotional strength. Ang
Lee excells at capturing hidden struggles with love and following your own desires
which made him the best director for this story. I haven't read the Anne Proulx short
story but I have no doubt that Larry McMurtry and Diane Ossana translated it well.

As to the performances,many will agree with Little Sister when she says that Jake
Gyllenhaal plays the same type of guy in every film(different degrees of Donnie
Darko,if you will)but I do think that he portrays emotional neediness rather well.
Heath Ledger gives one of the best performances of his career to date,showing the
stoic heartbreak of a man wanting to do right by everyone he loves and yet winds
up with the short end of the stick. Michelle Williams as Alma,Ennis' wife who
gets a whiff of his other life,is hauntingly real and deserves an Oscar nom right
along with Ledger(she's taking some very good indie film roles and I hope she keeps
it up).

So,will Brokeback Mountain win lots of awards and be forgotten,as many other films
have before it?Well,it should do well at awardtime but BBM should and will be remem-
bered as the film which gave Heath Ledger his first shot at showing us what he really
can do. No more Knight's Tale type of goofiness,serious actorville next stop! Don't
get too highfalutin' now-another Brothers Grimm movie would be pretty welcome at my

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Open Letter to Alyson Hannigan

Dear Alyson,

First off,congrats on your post Buffy career;your reoccuring role on Veronica Mars as
Trina Echolls rocks and altho I haven't watched The Night I Met Your Mother,it appears
to be doing well(plus,working with Doogie Hoosier is an extra geek bonus). While checking out movie news at Yahoo,I came across a trailer for your upcoming film,Date
Movie and was"Wow,Alyson's starring in a comedy film with no reference to band camp?! let me check this out!" Also,there's a picture of you doing some kind of Kill Bill
parody so my hopes were raised even higher.

After watching the trailer(which is linked in the title above), my mood changed into
a much different tune. This movie looks bad...White Chicks bad. When one of the main
advertising points is that it was written by two of the guys who wrote for Scary Movie
(which has a ton of hit or miss jokes,mostly missed by film number 3),that's not a
harbinger of film fun.

My big question is why,Alyson,why? Granted,you're great at the funny but you don't
need to do American Pie Redux anymore. The chick flick is ripe for the comedy pickings but having to watch you dance around in a fat suit in bad mock sexy mode
to the beat of "Milkshake" is beyond human endurance. Not to mention the Napoleon
Dynamite inpersonater and Eddie Griffin making lame drug jokes....all I can do is

You're a talented actress and I have no doubt about seeing you onscreen in another
film-I just hope that Date Movie is merely a road bump and not a dead end like Mr.
Wrong. Better luck next time and best wishes for the New Year.

Lady T and Willow fans everywhere

p.s Maybe you and hubby Alexis Denioff could team up to do a really cool indie flick-just a suggestion:)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Festivus!

With the holidays drawing near and my being able to avoid the current MTA strike due to being off for a few days,this seems like a good time to dive into what's left in the
bottom of the pop culture popcorn bowl and nibble on some choice bits:

TV:Now that we know who the Carver is(still wish it had been Sean but I guess he renewed his contract good and proper),the world will be at peace...or in pieces!
Lame jokes aside,the Matt/Cheri subplot with Crazy Nazi Dad really made the show
for me-it totally slipped under the wire with all the Carver hype and made me
eager for the show next year. John Hensley is real damn compelling as Matt and
hopefully,he'ld get some really good plotlines and more screentime. Julia's Rose
mary's Baby nightmare went on too long but am curious to find out if she'll have
the baby. Poor Kimber...that was quite harsh what was done(and undone)to her this

Music:Glad to hear that Gwen Stefani is "alledgedly" pregnant(is that like being alittle bit pregnant?). I'm pretty sure she won't name her kid something like Peach
Cobbler or DSL like some people:)

Books:I'm reading Anya Seton's Green Darkness(and also have Catherine and Dragonwyck
on my reading pile)right now and oddly enough,I got my hands on an ARC for A Rose For
The Crown by Anne Easter Smith which has a cover letter from her editor,Trish Todd
that links Seton to this book. Let me qoute:

"I would compare Anne Easter Smith to another great historical fiction writer,Anya
Seton...Like Seton,Anne's writing is clear,accessible and commercial,and her plot
never falters in pacing and interest. In fact,much of A Rose for the Crown is set
at the lovely English house,Ightham Mote-the same setting used by Anya Seton for
her Richard III novel,Green Darkness."

Now,this is not surpising considering that Trish Todd is Philippa Gregory's editor
and Philippa wrote an afterword and intro for the new reprints of Seton's novels by
Chicago Review but I was still touched by the kismet of me getting ARFTC while just
discovering Anya Seton,particularly Green Darkness. My taste in historical novels is
more Philippa Gregory than Dorothy Dunnett-character driven narratives are my literary sweet tooth. I was looking forward to the Easter Smith book anyway when I
saw it in the Simon & Schuster catalog but now,I'm much more pumped for it.

Movies:Little Sister and I plan to check out Brokeback Mountain soon,just to see
what all the fuss is about. Hopefully,it'll be something truly worth the hype and
not just the Indie Flavor of the Month. Also,is it just me or does that South Park
joke about "gay cowboys eating pudding movie" seem like a prophecy come true?

DVD: Sin City:the Extended Cut really should've been released sooner or with the
bare bones edition at the same time but buyer's remorse doesn't help here. Besides,
the longer version also has a mini graphic Sin City novel(The Hard Goodbye) included
and you can watch the film with an audience reaction track(from the Austin film
festival),so it's worth the trouble.

Well,Happy Whatever Folks. Oh,and if you click the title link,you'll see a cute Christmas short made by a guy named Brendon Connelly. It's called John Vs. Laura
and has a nice Tim & Eric meets Spy vs. Spy vibe to it-enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Christmas Movies that are not so ho ho hum

What makes a Christmas movie? Sure,this may seem obvious but if you're sick of the same
old stuff to watch(I love A Christmas Story but does TBS really need to have it on for
an entire 24 hours?)or can't grab your favorite holiday flick at the video store,here's
a way to get your film jollies and be creative at the same time.

This is my basic criteria for a movie to be considered a Christmas Flick:

1)It has to take place during the Christmas season(you can use Thanksgiving as a
starting point just as Miracle on 34th Street did and have New Year's Eve as the
end piece but Christmas has to be in there somewhere)

2)Christmas props must be visible and in full view at least once onscreen.

3)Christmastime has to hold some plot point-it doesn't have to be the main focus but
it should provide a reason for character action.

I'll give a example-Die Hard(the first movie-DH2 was crap and Die Hard with a Vengence kicks ass but it takes place in the fall,I believe)can be considered
a Christmas film. It takes place during the holiday,the main action occurs
during an office Christmas party with a Christmas tree,John McClaine uses a Santa
hat to mock the bad guys and it provides the main reason the hero,a NYC cop,is at
a California corporate function-to visit his wife and kids for the holidays.

Batman Returns is another fine example-it's Christmastime in Gotham City and the first attack by the Penguin is at the lighting of the Gotham Christmas Tree. Also,
the official tree lighter,the Ice Princess,is murdered and her death is used to make Batman look bad. Not to mention that Catwoman trashes a department store(nice way to
work out your holiday shopping angst)and the constant snow covering the city makes
it extra gothy.

I bet you can find many movies that aren't considered traditional holiday fare fit
this particular mold perfectly. I love the classics(the best version of A Christmas
Carol is the Alstair Sim one,IMO)but sometimes,you gotta spice up the usual mix with
something different. Happy viewing to all and to all,a good film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Golden Globe Goodie Bag

The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning(click blog title for link to
the list)and while I am glad to see certain folks get props,others were sadly overlooked. History of Violence,thankfully,is up for Best Picture and Maria Bello made the Best Actress line-up but why Viggo Mortenson and Ed Harris were denied,I can't figure out.

Also overlooked were Toni Collette for In Her Shoes,Paul Rudd for The 40 Year Old Virgin(he gave Steve Carrell a run for his money in several scenes),Dennis Leary
for Rescue Me,Everyone on this season's Nip/Tuck and of course,Arrested Development.

The GG noms are usually alot better than most award shows due to not only honoring
TV and Film but the division of catagories such as Drama and Comedy/Musical. This
year's list is pretty good but I,for one,would like to know why all the damn Desparate
Housewives had to hog the Best Actress Comedy catagory-plenty of other ladies deserve
a shot there,Tichina Arnold for Everybody Hates Chris or Portia De Rossi for AD spring to mind. And why do films that haven't even been released yet get noms? Sure,we know
Peter Jackson kicks ass filmwise but Sarah Jessica Parker has to prove herself onscreen to justify a nod for The Family Stone(which looks real obnoxious in the trailers).

Anyway,it should be a good show-another cool thing about the GGs is that they serve dinner and alcohol to the guests during the event so the odds on a really interesting
acceptance speech,slightly slurred,run high.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Happy New Year of Reading

As I sit here by the window watching my neighborhood turn into a winter wonderland of
Narnian proportions,I felt the urge to skip the usual year end round-up of books and
instead,look towards the upcoming literary season. Unlike Hollywood,which tends to dump
whatever they have moldering on the back shelves into unsuspecting theaters,the book
world slips out quite a few goodies before the big summer rush.

Most of these titles are going to be hardcovers but there is one paperback tossed in
the mix so let's start with that:

Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden(Random House):This is Boyden's first novel which
takes place in the 1980's and focues on a budding friendship between two girls,Lisa
Smith and Celeste Rose Diamond. Lisa's admiration for Celeste leads both girls down
a rather rough path of drugs,sex and parties. This is clearly not some Gossip Girl
type of novel but maybe some of those GG fans might grab this and get a taste of
grown-up fare. Due in March

Night Watch by Sarah Waters(Penguin):Waters usually writes about Victorian England so
this book is a slight departure for her,taking place in London of the 1940s and
centering around a group of four friends during the Blitz. I've only read Fingersmith
but just the memory of that compelling and artfully worded tale made me eager for her
newest book. Due in March

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse(Penguin):First off,this book was not written by the uberwaif
supermodel but by an English woman who has gathered a good following for this novel
in her home country. It's about two women from different times-Alice,in modern day exploring the Pyrenees mountains and Alais who ,800 years before, was given a stone
ring by her father that would lead to the secret of the Grail. Alice now has the ring
which bears a labyrinth seal and is still an object of mystery. Sounds alittle bit
Da Vinci Code? Maybe,but this seems to be much more interesting(actually,the first
thing that came to my mind was the Lana Lang/Isobel witch subplot from last season's
Smallville)and any author who aspires to have strong female leads(in her words)"Grail legends are usually about men with swords and women being rescued. I thought"I want the women to have the swords."-sounds like someone worth knowing. Due in March

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman(Random House):Emilia wishes to
indulge in her mourning for her newborn daughter but is pulled back into the world
thru her Wednesday visits with her stepson,William. I know,this sounds like depressing Oprah material but this is an author who was actually heckled by an Oprah
audience for writing in an essay how she would mourn the loss of her husband more than her kids,so give this book a chance. I've never read Waldman before but she seems to have a good sense of humor and compassion. Due in February

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar (Random House)Recent Russian emigrant Tanya's ambition is to be
a literary muse for the next Dostoevsky but the fella she hooks up with in New York,
Mark Schneider,fails to live up to her expecations. This is another first novel(Vapnyar had a collection of short stories published earlier)which not only
shows promise but has quite an interesting premise. Due in April

Brookland by Emily Barton(FSG):My dad was a born Brooklynite so I'm already partial to this story about Prudence Winship's plan to build the Brooklyn Bridge with the
inherited wealth of her father's gin distillery and the help of her sisters Tem and
Pearl,along with local surveyor,Benjamin Horsfield. The book takes place in 18th century "Brookland" and reminds me abit of Ahab's Wife(minus the illustrations)
with its period prose and down to earth flavor. Due in March

This is only a small sample of what's to come(and what's in my ARC pile for '06)but
do keep an eye for these budding new blossoms when they spring up on the shelves. Right now,I think it's time for some hot cocoa and the perfect book to snuggle up with in the snow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

F/X presents a Christmas Carver

So,I'm eagerly awaiting the big two-hour season finale of Nip/Tuck,where the true identity of The Carver(who has his/her own MySpace account-click title for link)
will be revealed and the fate of poor Kimber known. Granted,I only got into this
show late last year but I think my Carver theory is as credible as the next fanboy's.

To me,the Carver is Sean MacNamera-earlier this season when bad girl Brit detective
Kit accused Christian Troy(a very evilly gorgeous Julian McMahon and one of the reasons
I'm getting the Fanastic Four on DVD)of being the Carver due to his being a "sexual deviant",I kept saying to myself"For someone who's supposed to be a mindhunter,you are
as clueless as a vegan in a Outback Steakhouse." The attacks of the Carver are more the
work of a repressed person filled with major league self-loathing. Guys like Christian
who act out on their twisted needs(as we've seen recently with the S&M bond Christian
developed with one of his less than pretty patients to get over Kimber's disappearance
at their wedding)are the least likely to slip on masks and slice n' dice.

Sean,however,is your typical bottled up emotions person who, when he does unleash the fury,lets the hammer come down hard. Psychologically,it makes more sense to me. Probaly wrong but I bet that the Carver is someone's Norman Bates which will make the
reveal extra twisty. F/X shows are facinating due to the boundaries they fearlessly
vault over. When I first saw Rescue Me,the rapid fire cursing was startling-"They can say that?!" Have no probelm with cussin' but didn't know then that,due to being a cable channel,F/X has alot more freedom with content than the major networks. I got use to expecting less from channels that had commerical breaks(Bravo,for example,got
watered down when they started showing ads)but F/X has exceeded my WTF factor quite
a bit this year.

One of my friends is getting Season 1 of Nip/Tuck for me so I'll be able to get some
more background before Season 4 starts. I do hope that Kimber survives(if The Carver
has to take anybody out,let it be Quentin-I can't stand that smarmy SOB)and that we
get even more messed up mindfreaks from F/X in '06. Any network that lets me start my
day off with a Buffy repeat is perfectly alright in my book. As for the Carver;Tell
me what you don't like about yourself.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Aeon Flux:Liquid TV comes alive

So,I ventured forth alone to the multiplex(Little Sister teamed up with Mom to commense
the household holiday shopping)to check out Aeon Flux,starring Charlize Theron as the
rebel assassin in a futuristic facist society sent to wipe out Trevor Goodchild(Marton Csokas),the chairman in charge who may also be Aeon's true love. Frances McDormand also
appears as the rebel leader(seen mostly in telepathic communications) and Pete Postlewaite has a small role as a holographic guide.

Aeon Flux:The Movie is based on Aeon Flux:the Cartoon that was part of what MTV used to
call Liquid TV. Liquid Tv showcased several not-for-kids animation shows,such as The Maxx(now that would be one hell of a movie with the right director at the helm)and The
Head-sort of an early version of Adult Swim. Aeon Flux gained alot of it's cult status
from MTV(who have conviently packaged the Flux cartoons into a DVD set just in time for
the film's release)so it's no shocker that they produced the movie. As with many films
of this ilk(based on an earlier version that the fans adore),comparisons are flying fast and furious,reviewwise. It didn't help that the studio decided not to give the
critics a pre-screening-that always brings the vultures out.

My opinion:it was pretty well done. The main probelm in turning AF into a feature length film is setting up a structured plot. The majority of AF cartoons were very
nonlinear and most had little to no dialogue. That was some of the beauty of the Fluxverse:at the best of times,it was a ballet of sinewy bodies and sleek action.
However,the cartoons were not very long so that worked out fine- but for ninety minutes,
an audience needs to know what's up and to bond somewhat with the characters. Aeon
Flux;The Movie manages to do that but the tone is almost haiku like-you get what's
happening but there is a detached aura surrounding it.

Theron does a good job here with what she's given to work with and the rest of the actors follow suit.I wasn't disappointed in the movie(this certainly isn't a Catwoman
situation)but it's not a must buy for me when the DVD release hits the show. Worth a
rental but if you really love Aeon,your best bet will be the animated version that's
more lively than the live action one.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shop 'til you drop or How I stopped hating holiday shopping and learned to love the commericalism

Well,it's that time of year when folks decided to celebrate the season of winter's arrival by divebombing into the stores and fighting to the death over the latest hot
ticket item of the month. To make things easier and to help you avoid the embarrassment
of giving someone a rather odd present(do you think Tom Cruise put a big bow on the
sonogram machine before he gave it to Katie?),I've put together a list of recommended
goodies for gift giving this year:


Had to start with that-okay,paperbacks first,

Popco by Scarlett Thomas:I've mentioned this book before but I really think this
would be perfect for many people. You can give it to Sudoku fans(plenty of number
codes in this story),corporate slacker types,Brit Lit readers and just anyone who
wants to know a smart and quirky heroine with a mysterious locket that may lead to
a buried treasure.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs:I blurbed this one for Booksense(and nearly wrote to
the NYT after Joe Queenan's snarky review). It's a fun factoid read about Jacobs' reading the entire Encyclopdia Britannica for a year and his adventures with that-getting to meet Alex Treback,for one(which disqualified him to be a Jeopardy contestant-Jacobs had to settle for Who wants to be a Millionaire). A good gift
for any serious and not-so serious reader.

Mammoth Cheese by Sheri Holman: This is the little book that could. When it first came out in hardcover,everyone at my store had already read it and loved it. The plot
is basically about a small town that decides to recreate a historical presentation of
a mammoth cheese to Thomas Jefferson to the newly elected President as not only a way
of reminding him about his pledge to help small farms(the local chesse maker is a main force behind the cheese stunt)but to revive the community spirits after a local
family event goes askew. Mammoth Cheese is a strong and sympathic look at people and
politics without major stump thumping. Before you give it to someone,read it for your
self and savor the flavor.

Lily of the Valley by Suzanne Strempek Shea:This is my personal favorite of Suzanne's novels,mainly I think due to the fact that my father was an artist. It's the story of Lily Wilk,struggling painter whose fortunes may change when she gets a commission from local supermarket heiress,Mary Ziemba. A sweet novel that doesn't drip with sentiment,this book should satisfy anyone looking for a great book to recommend for
their next book club meeting.


Adored by Tilly Bagshawe: I know this book didn't sell very well over the summer but
that doesn't mean it can't be the perfect holiday gift for that gal who's read every
other bigtime splashy-trashy book around! Some presents should just be fun and Adored
fits the bill.

Rereadings by Anne Fadiman:Fadiman put together this collection of essays from American Scholar magazine about going back to a book that influenced you in your
youth and how it plays to you now. The rereadings are a mixed bunch,from Pride &
Prejudice to the Sgt. Pepper Album. Will definately inspire you to check out some
of the books mentioned.

The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carrolly Erickson: Erickson has written a
number of historical books but this one is a novel based on the famous queen that
gives her some heart and soul. Should please the historical fiction fan and those
who love a good soap opera with smarts.


King Kong-if you know someone who plans to check out the new Peter Jackson version,make sure they have this two-disc set that is a true classic. There is also
a three pack of King King,Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young for the converted(while
I enjoyed PJ's re-enactment of the lost Spider Pit scene,I'm not interested in seeing
his feature length Kong. Why fix what's not broken?).

Greatest American Hero,volume 3:This set not only has the episode where Ralph gets to
meet his alien benefactors(very hokey F/X),when you press the cover of the box the show's theme song plays! How cool is that?

Veronica Mars,season 1:Not alot of extras but a great way to catch up with one of the
best shows since Buffy on the air now. Plus,Weevil rules(sorry Logan fans but I think
he's a total jerk)!

Batman and Batman Returns special editions:Worth getting and giving due to the excellant bonues-the Batman disc alone not only has nice featurettes on the making
and marketing of the film but three Prince videos as well! Yep,Batdance is one of

Other Stuff:

Barbie may be overdone to death but I for one,am happy to know that both Harley Quinn Barbie and Poison Ivy Barbie will be under my tree this year. If you click the link in the post title,you'll see what I plan to send to one of my good friends this year.
There's alot of King Kong stuff out now but I predict that the Chronicles of Narnia
toys will find happy homes.

Also,Corpse Bride toys are finally available-I personally recommend getting one of
throws. The one I have is incredibly soft and goes well with my Sally from Nightmare before Christmas one. Don't be ashamed to let your geek flag fly,people. Now,as Wilma
and Betty used to say at the mall"DunaDumDum-Charge IT!"