Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, September 28, 2007

I'll take offbeat pop culture tie-ins for 100,Alex!

While fan merchandising is a big industry and something that many of the diehard love to hate(and vice versa),you can still make your own personal touchstone for the Tv show/movie/book that you adore as unconditionally as some would love their firstborn child. Sure,you can be all DIY about it(as with this Gilmore Girls qoute mug currently on sale at EBay)but for those of us who are all thumbs with the creative skills,shopping is so much easier and safer for society at large.

For example, let's do one for The Whitest Kids U Know. Now,a ouija board may seem like a traditional occult party game for giddy teens but to Trevor Moore's cranky demon on the graveyard shift,this is his own personal form of hell on earth. You might even want to have a magic 8 ball as well for some extra inside laughs:

If you're enjoying the latest Ken Burns documentary,The War,you might want to put in a pre-order for Fantagraphics's upcoming Bill Maudlin collection due in February of 2008 entitled Willie & Joe: The WWII Years. This edition is edited by Todd DePastino who is also coming out with a bio of Maudlin around the same time. Pretty snazzy stuff for your coffee table there,folks!

Sure,most fans of Knocked Up can easily recall the Spiderman 3 reference but how many can truly get the joke when he/she spots that Back to the Future poster on your wall? Exactly! That is a real test of pop culture cross referencing there,my friends.

Are you a fan of The 4400 but feel underappreciated next to those big Heroes getting all of the attention and magazine covers? Well,just hop over to Cafe Press where you have your pick of 4400 related tops. You can ask What Would Jordan Do? or announce your status as one of the Marked or your level of Promicin intake. There's even a few Heroes related crossover jokes,too-see,no need to player hate!

Last but not least is this seemingly unusual tie-in to the Jane Austen Book Club. "Uh,Lady T,wouldn't that be one of Austen's novels?" Yes,of course,but folks who have already read the Fowler novel know of one member's devotion to sci-fi classics that lead him to meet one of his future Jane-ites while attending a convention. Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness leads to rather a nice meet-cute in the film version as well:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A second season serving of Heroes,more Kitchen Nightmares and Top Chef's season finale,part one

The Final Four contestants on Top Chef made it to Aspen this week and were treated to a hot air balloon ride before their Quickfire Challenge,judged by Padma and Eric Ripert. They had to cook trout by the side of a river,using a tree stump as their prep table and outdoor camping burners to work with.

Oddly enough,Brian had the most trouble with this challenge-Mr. Seafood kept dropping stuff all over the place. Hung finished cooking about several minutes ahead of everyone else but forgot to add some lemon(which ,Ripert pointed out later,really would've given it some extra zest). Casey wound up being the winner(Ripert praised her dish for it's "soulfullness",which seemed to irk Hung there)and was given the option of using some of her specially bought ingredients for the Elimination Challenge(no one else could use theirs at all).

Casey decided to hold off on using her special stuff,since the challenge seemed to be right up her alley. The chefs had to cook for cowboys and cowgirls,with elk meat as the main protein. This pleased Hung to no end-NOT!

Upon hearing that he had to cook for cowboys,his off camera response was"What do cowboys eat? Baked beans and baked beans and baked beans!" Uh,no,Hung,maybe you need to watch Food Network once in awhile there. I've seen a few Cowboys Cookoffs there and the menu is quite extensive. Hung also complained about not cooking the food he "wanted" to cook. Aw,poor little Hung,with the puppy dog eyes! We wouldn't want him to do his job!

Another surprise,Dale turned out to be the big winner here just as his dish was on the brink of diaster. He made a goat cheese and onion tart for his plate but saw midway thru his cooking time that it wasn't working out(like most of the tarts this season)and went with Plan B,a mix of fingerling potatoes and cauliflower. The judges also grooved on his huckleberry sauce as well.

The judges found Casey's elk to be too raw but they loved her tomato butter,so she joins Dale in the finale as well as Hung,who was told how "technically" good of a chef he was but abit cold about his food love. Hung vehemently denied that during the "tell us why you should be here" bit at Judge's Table. Brian's "whiskey river drunken elk" plate did not pass muster. It was deemed to be overrun with ingredients(which Padma teased him about) and for some reason,Ripert was annoyed about him offering two different cheeses for folks to choose from to add to the dish. I don't know why that's a bad thing-when I order a salad,I like being given a choice of dressings. So do most people. What gives,Ripert?

So,this time out,we're having a three person race for the Finale. Out of the three of them,I'm going to have to root for Dale. He's a nice guy and has turned out some decent food over the course of this competition. Hung is too damn snobby and there's something about Casey that just rubs me the wrong way. On to the Finals!

Kitchen Nightmares ventured into Manhattan this week,to Dillons,which is only a couple of blocks away from one of Gordon Ramsey's own restaurants,London. At Dillons,there's a confusing international cusine menu and two chefs in the kitchen who only know how to cook Indian food. Dillons also offers three managers,one of whom seems to think that his main duties are talking on his cellphone and having a waitress run her fingers thru his hair while he naps in one of the booths.

There were also flies buzzing around the dining room(who were probaly bred in the lower regions of the building that reeked of rat droppings and giant roaches). Ramsey ordered some vegetarian appetizers,which had meat in them and was constantly being served old lamb even when he ordered beef! Ramsey wound up having the whole place steam cleaned,simplfying the menu to basic Indian dishes and renaming the place Purmina. Interesting sidenote,the manager who had his hair fondled wound up quitting(after Ramsey suggested to the owner that he be fired)tried to sue the show by claiming that he was "set up". Cha,ya know what? I don't think so,dude!

Heroes is back for season two,and they've really hit the ground running(literally,in the case of two new characters). Matt Parkman is now a new badass cop for the NYPD,taking care of Molly(who is being haunted by dreams of the Potential New Villian,who reminds me of Sauron)while Mohinder is off on a world tour to get some funds to cure the Heroes only virus,Hiro meets his childhood idol Kensai and is quite surpised at his true nature and Claire signs up for a rather Buffied high school experience,complete with her own Cordelia and possible Angel on hand:




We'll have to wait for next week to check up on Nikki,Micah and to see what's up with Sylar(I'm most anxiously awaiting that!). Meanwhile,there were two excellant stand out scenes in this opener-the first being Mr. Bennett laying down the law to his annoying Copy Kingdom manager and the second being Peter Petrelli returning in Jason Bourne mode:

Random Notes:

Reaper: I watched the pilot episode on Tuesday and liked it alot. The humor was nice and quirky,the characters really connected well together and I was happy to see one of my favorite co-stars of Dead Like Me in a nice cameo bit as one of the Devil's DMV minions. Ray Wise does make for a rather charming Satan and hopefully this show can keep up with the promise of slacker demon fighting goodness that's been given so far.

Smallville: Season 7 starts tonight,and with SuperGirl(not the fake version we were given a few seasons back) being a major part of this go-round,I'm willing to watch Ugly Betty online and see Clark and co. back in action. There's also word of James Marsters returning as Brainiac in January,another good reason to stay tuned:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tv toy tie-ins ain't what they used to be!

With all of the new fall shows premiering this week,I'm starting to get alittle misty eyed for some of the dolls that they used to have when I was a kid that were based on hit shows of the day.

Yes,they still have TV tie-in action figures today but most of them are targeted directly at the adult market(Maybe it's just me but I find it hard to believe that some little kid wants a Jack Bauer doll for Christmas),which is fine but some of the best stuff was always intended for the young ones. Let's look at some of those old school commercials to show you what I mean:


This is an ad for not only Wonder Woman,but a Major Steve Trevor doll along with a villianess named Nubia(not sure if she was ever on either version of the WW show). Notice the very scripted role playing here-has anyone under the age of ten really been this sophisticated in their make believe time?:


Here are the original Angels,in doll form with some major league hair helmet action. You notice that most of the play encouraged with these dolls is all about dress up rather than kicking some butt,not to mention what is up with the skateboard? I don't remember any episode where Jill went all Skater Girl to save the day!:


This I remember actually getting as a kid-my brother and I loved watching Star Trek with my dad and this playset was either a birthday or a Christmas present. We never played with it outdoors,like they show you in the ad,but it was a simple,easy to store item. Too bad neither of us has this anymore,it's probaly worth a sweet penny or two on Ebay these days:


I found this one randomly but I wouldn't be surpised if I had actually seen it one Saturday morning while slurping down one of the Post cereal being hawked here. This SuperFriends "Create a Villian" contest sounds like something I really would've enjoyed-makes you who actually won and if that kid was pleased or ultimately as disappointed as Ralphie was with his Orphan Annie decoder pin:


I will fully confess to being a Knight Rider fan back in the day but the pickings were slim for entertainment value on TV during most of the 1980's(hey,let me have my lame defense there,will you please?)and no one could predict that there would be a time when David Hasslehoff would actually dare to sing in public and wind up on Broadway for it. This Knight Rider mini car track ad is worth watching for the Hoff's facial expressions alone:


Ahhh,the good old days when professional wrestling wasn't tainted by steriod abuse and sad family tragedies,how sweet they were! Back then,the WWF was like a hokey traveling circus of lovable lunkheads who romped around a ring for our amusement. I do wish they had been some GLOW action figures-would've been cool to have had a Hollywood and Vine tag team or a Dementia doll:


Finally,fans of the original Battlestar Galactica may well recall this fun summertime toy that turns the evil robot villians into harmless dispensers of suds. I never had this bad boy,much to my chagrin,but I bet that new fangled version doesn't have a tie-in as nifty as this!:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Treat yourself to some literary goodies this October

Now that we've all gotten back into our regular fall routines,October is looming just over the horizon there which is more than just an excuse to watch too many horror movies and finish off that "leftover" Halloween candy while doing so. October also means a new bumper crop of good books coming our way and there's no better way to start things off right than with....


In celebration of Alice Sebold's new novel,The Almost Moon(due out on October 16),I am holding a jingle writing contest that will award the winner a free copy of the book. Starting October 1,please send in your best last line to this original little jingle of mine:

Alice Sebold made her Lovely Bones,
With readers both near and far.
Now,with The Almost Moon approaching....

Please note that this jingle is NOT part of any official ad campaign for the book,this is strictly just for fun. Over the summer,I read Terry Ryan's The Prize Winner of Defiance,Ohio(which was made into a great movie starring Julianne Moore)and was inspired by the wit and creativity of those jingle writing moms and thought it would be nice in this day and age to see if some of that old school wordsmith magic could ignite a few sparks online. I will announce the winner on October 31 and runners-up will have their favorite TV commericals(provided that they're available on YouTube and have PG-13 content) posted with their submissions. Check back on October 1 for more details on where to send your entries and how to label them,so they can safely make their way out of the Spam folder. This should be a lot of fun!


For all of us vampire fans out there,Jennifer Rardin has a new moonlit heroine for our reading pleasure arriving on October 8. Her name is Jaz Parks and she's an Assistant Assassin for the CIA. Together,she and her ancient boss,Vayl,track down bad guys and get into all kinds of deadly adventures,starting with Once Bitten,Twice Shy and continuing in December with Another One Bites The Dust. There's always room for another kickass warrior woman on my bookshelves and hopefully yours,too.


Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs is out in stores today,but it's close enough to count it as an October release. Many folks have been on the lookout for another big book from him after his Pulitzer Prize winning novel,Empire Falls, came out in 2001. I was fortunate enough to meet Russo briefly, at a book reading/signing event that my then bookstore was sponsoring(it was for his short story collection,The Whore's Child)and he was not only a great speaker but a true gentleman who gave his time and attention to everyone present who wanted to talk with him. This new book is the story of Louis Lynch,who is planning a trip to Venice with his wife Sarah where they hope to meet an old friend that's become a well renowned artist with no other ties to his past. Sounds like another winner to me.

One of my favorite historical novels is Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth,which told the tale of a cathedral building that impacted several lives in a small town in 12th century England . POTE is still one of Follett's bestselling books and he is about to give us a follow-up to that massive work on October 9 entitled World Without End.

WWOE brings us back to the town of Knightsbridge in the year 1327,where four children(some of whom are direct descendants of folks from POTE) are witness to a murder that impacts the course of their destinies. You don't have to had read the earlier book to enjoy this one,but both of them together would make an excellant literary feast for your imagination,I'm sure.


Playwright Eduardo Machado gives folks a savory slice of his life in Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile's Hunger For Home,where he recounts his early childhood days and his family's flight from Cuba by recalling the foods that evoke the strongest memories of those times. He also includes stories of his life and times in America,along with recipes of such favorites as roast pork,his grandfather's take on arroz con pollo and his intro to all American dishes like Spam. I'm getting hungry just writing about this one!


When Elyse Schein decided to find out who her biological parents were after 35 years,little did she know that she would also discover a twin sister as well. She and Paula Bernstein reunited and discovered not only their similar paths in life but that those paths were made separate on purpose by researchers looking to advance their theories about the rearing of twins. Their story is told together in Indentical Strangers(coming out Oct.2)and is quite an eye opener in more ways than one:


A.J. Jacobs is back on the life experiment scene with his new book,The Year of Living Bibically,(Oct.9)in which he tries to see if one can truly live by the Ten Commandments in the modern world (along with some lesser known religious rules)and still keep in step with society. Jacobs also takes a tour of other followers of that ol' time religion such as the Lancaster Amish,some Appalachian snake handlers and a few believers of creationism. If this is just as enlightening and entertaining as his previous work,The Know It All,we're in for a real treat here,folks.

Last but certainly not least,the mighty Stephen Colbert hits the literary scene with his sure to be a bestseller,I Am America(And So Can You!),due out on October 9. The popular host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report is now daning to grace us with his unique take on the current state of the country and popular culture. This book should dovetail nicely with the upcoming comic book adaptation of Colbert's Tek Jansen Adventures,which diehard members of the Colbert Nation are eagerly champing at the bit for:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Before I Die: a novel that should be on top of every reader's Must Do list

Jenny Downham's debut novel,Before I Die,introduces you to Tessa Scott,a sixteen going on seventeen year old girl,who is determined to complete her To Do Before I Die list. The first item of business is sex(done with a sort of "let's get this over with" vibe,courtesy of an anonymous hook-up at a club set up by her best friend,Zoey). Next is saying yes to everything that's offered to her for a whole day. Other challenges include drugs,breaking as many laws as possible in one day and falling in love.

Least you think that Tessa is some spoiled teen looking for thrills,know this: her BID list has a serious time limit. She's at the end of her four year long battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and wants to taste alittle bit of the life she knows that she won't get to be part of. Her father is not pleased with this whole idea,since he is still trying his best to keep Tessa alive which he's had to do on his own since Tessa's mother left after the leukemia was confirmed. Her younger brother Cal particularly enjoys Tessa's day of saying yes but usually acts like the typical sibling who's annoyed at all of the attention the other one gets,while sharing the concerns about her health with their dad.

Tessa does fall in love,literally with the boy next door. His name is Adam and he and his mother recently moved into the neighborhood as part of coping with the sudden death of his father. Zoey winds up falling in love herself and having to deal with an unexpected pregnancy,which puts some extra strain on her friendship with Tessa.

This does sound like an incredibly sad story for anyone to read,but the beauty of it is that Jenny Downham refuses to resort to tear wringing tactics or gothy gloom and doom romantizing of the concept. Instead,she pays her characters the respect they deserve,by writing about them in a realistically moving way. The Scott family and their circle of friends are not picture perfect people-they fight,make foolish mistakes and yet try to make the best of things in the face of true despair.

That description also applies to Tessa,who Downham portraits as neither a wide eyed waif or a rightfully so miserable mess. She's given all of the emotional dimensions that any real girl her age has,illness or not,and the different phrases of her humanity as she gets closer and closer to the end of her time on earth is rendered as a hauntingly vibrant melody that insists upon been sung to it's very last note.

Yes, this book will be in the teen section of your local bookstore(official release date is September 25) but like such other brilliantly written crossover titles as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Life of Pi,Before I Die should make it's way up front soon enought for all to see. If you are putting together a list of Must Reads for this season(or even if you are not),BID should be right smack on the very top of it. This is one of the most amazing debuts of the year and missing out on this book of wonders will be more heartbreaking than you will ever know.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Odd Mom Out fits right into a modern woman's reading life

In Jane Porter's new novel,Odd Mom Out, we meet Marta Zinsser ,who has always been an independant gal,preferring jeans and boots over Prada and Jimmy Choos in her wardrobe,along with treasuring her Harley Davidson Hog and beat up old truck to a SUV anyday. Her nine year old daughter,Eva,is more of a traditionalist who,while a bright and well read girl,strives to fit in with the Mean Girls crowd at her new school in Bellevue, Seattle.

Marta and Eva moved from New York back to Seattle where Marta grew up,to be closer to her parents. Her mother is slowly being overcome by Alzheimer's and Marta wants Eva to be able to bond with her grandmother before her memory goes completely. Marta is also tackling the challenge of starting up her own advertising agency,working from home with a small but dedicated staff.

That challenge is nothing compared to the culture clash between Marta and the Bellevue moms,who seem like a hybrid of Stepford Wives and Heathers. Eva wants her mother to be more like the type of mother that Taylor Young(whose snobby daughter,Jemma,is the queen bee of the fourth grade hive of popular girls)is.

Marta doesn't want Eva to put herself in that conformist cookie cutter mold but does want her daughter to fit in amongst her peers,so she offers to be a classroom volunteer mom. Marta figures that she'd only have to pitch in for the occasional bake sale or class trip but it turns out that all of the other moms take their classroom duties as seriously as a full time job and schedule their workload as tightly as any of the corporations that most of their husbands work for.

In addition to juggling home,work and family obligations,Marta throws another ball into the air by taking a chance on romance(after ten years)with Luke Flynn,a rather rugged fellow who clearly does not fit into the suit and tie mix of men usually seen about Bellevue. Turns out that Luke is not just the simple outdoorsy type that Marta originally took him for-in fact,he's more than a match for her stubborn refusal to let others into her inner emotional world and gently but firmly breaks down some of the self imposed barriers that Marta has put up around not only her but Eva as well.

This may sound like your typical suburban mom fish out of water story,but Porter tackles a number of thought provoking issues such as the pressures of being a single working mother and the fierce infighting amongst women that spills over into the next generation of girls looking to find their way in the world.

Her leading lady takes on these dilemmas realistically while slowly realizing that her determined need to be independant and take care of everything on her own can be just as restraining as the happy homemaker lifestyle can be on those who go down that path.

Odd Mom Out also has plenty of smartly written humorous moments mixed with the pathos and the romantic sparks between Marta and Luke nearly ignite off of the pages. If you're looking for a light and lively(but not too brain candy-ish)read to add your fall book list or a way to ease the lack of clever girlspeak on primtime ala Gilmore Girls,OMO fits the bill to a perfect T.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kim is our new Design Star,Kitchen Nightmares begin and Top Chef's Final Five get french fried

This round of Top Chef may have taken place in Manhattan but the cusine was all about France,as the Quickfire Challenge took the Final Five to Le Cirque. Padma and special guest judge Sirio Maccioni(the owner of Le Cirque) served the chefs a VIP menu item,halibut wrapped in russet potato slices,which they were,one by one, to recreate in the restaurant's kitchen with a twenty minute time limit.

Hung went first and his dish was deemed the best. He didn't win himself any pal points with the other chefs however-right after he served his plate to Padma and Sirio,he went back to the others and was all cagey about how he prepared it. Sara was so intimidated by being in the Le Cirque kitchen that she screwed up her plate big time and her fish was raw in the center. Poor Sara! Just as I was starting to really warm up to her,she falls into a bad patch.

As his QF reward,Hung was given an extra half hour to cook and to serve his dish for the Elimination challenge first. The chefs had to prepare a meal for the instructors of the French Culinary Institute(one of whom was the current head of the school,Dorothy Hamilton) using these three basic ingredients: chicken,potato and onion. They were given an hour to shop and two hours to cook(except for Hung,of course). Alot of the chefs used ramps as their onion portion and judging from reactions of the guest judges,it was pretty tasty. See,that's what I love about this show,it gives me a reason to find out more about foods that I didn't even know existed.

Hung's butter poached chicken went over like gangbusters,but his pommes dauphin was found to not be as light and airy as it should. That didn't affect him too badly at the Judges' Table but Hung blamed his potato misfire on the fact that "I had to plate all by myself"-yeah,because they were still in the middle of cooking their food,Mr. "I Had A Head Start"! So not cool there,Hung. Granted,he's not as nasty as some of the TC contestants from earlier seasons but he doesn't have to be so much of a tool. Hung's elitism is revolting as well-you could start a drinking game by counting the number of times he says"classic",I swear!

Casey came in second,with her grandmother's recipe of coq au vin that Judge Tom kept pointing out really calls for a rooster to be used as the protein,not chicken. He was right,since it's one of those dishes that's meant to make tough meat tender. It did taste good enough to overlook that,lucky for her. Brian's "peasant pie" looked gross with that ramp puree turning it into something suited for a cheesy St. Patrick's Day menu and the sausage he added to it overwhelmed the chicken(he did use dark meat,which is not always the most flavorful) but taste won out yet again. Dale made a chicken duet and forgot to add the honey sauce that would've pulled it all together.

Dale's dish put him up on the Chopping Block but Sara was the one who had to pack her knives and go. Her chicken fricasse wasn't seasoned enough and Judge Gail(glad to see her back again,it's been awhile!)found her meat to be raw in the middle. That's a big no-no with chicken. One of the first things I ever learned about cooking was to make sure that your chicken has no trace of pink in it when it's done.

So,the Final Four will be going to Aspen for the two part finale and I really don't know who to root for. Casey's competant when she wants to be,but she keeps harping on how a woman should win TC because it would be good for female chefs out there. I would rather be a winner because I have the best skills at the stove and not be a token girl cook. Speaking of skills,Hung needs to work on his people ones,seriously! A top chef should be able to work well with others. Dale is sweet but can flake out at times and Brian is like a box of chocolates;you never know what you're gonna get! Oh, well,good luck guys-you're going to need it!

Congratulations to Kim,the winner of HGTV's Design Star for 2007! Glad to see a deserving person who not only has the talent but some down to earth good naturedness as well,achieving their dream. Gives hope to plenty of folks still struggling with their goals out there. Her show on HGTV should be debuting some time in the Spring of '08 and I'll be keeping an eye out for it on my programming schedule. As for Todd,better luck next time,buddy!

Gordon Ramsey's new series,Kitchen Nightmares,hit the ground running in it's premiere episode that took place on Long Island. Just like his British version of this show,Ramsey goes out to restaurants that are facing hard times and gives a week of his time to set things right. The eating establishment that was the focus of this show is known as Peter's Restaurant,a family owned place that has little sister and owner Tina doing all of the grunt work while big brother Peter pranced around as the "manager". His managing skills consisted of showing off his fancy car and clothes,along with giving out free meals to his friends,yelling at the staff and demanding that someone bring him something to drink at the drop of a hat.

Gordon started off his evaluation by eating some of the regular dishes featured on the menu. Turns out to be a very good indicator of the state of things:

An Unappealing Appetizer

The Entree's Not Any Better

The biggest probelm in the place(besides the non functioning kitchen equipment and the horror show of a walk in fridge in the back)was Peter,who has some major anger management issues. He kept getting into screaming matches with impatient bill collectors(who kept showing up at the restaurant mainly because it was the best way to actually find him) and would take out his frustrations on the staff.

At one point,Peter got on the case of Nicole,one of the waitresses right in front of the customers for no real reason other than he was responsible for a table not getting their appetizers because he ate their food himself! Gordon really gave him a good reality check there:

For those out there who think that Ramsey's just a big bully,I insist that you watch this show atleast once. Yes,he does shout at folk but not because he wants to throw down for fun. The man truly cares about the restaurant business and wants others in the same profession to do well,which is why he holds any kitchen up to such high standards.

He also puts his money where his mouth is,by buying some brand new stoves for Peter's Restaurant and getting them installed overnight. By the end,Ramsey managed to not only turn business around for the restaurant,he even got Peter to get onboard with the program and actually become a useful team player. This is one show that I will definately be watching every week. Small business owners should,too-alot of what Ramsey said and did could apply to anywhere that serves the public directly.

Random Notes:

America's Next Top Model: ANTM started it's ninth"cycle"(still don't get the whole cycle thing on this show)by having all of the girls audition on a cruise ship that was said to be going to the "Carribean" but actually went to Puerto Rico. Nothing against Puerto Rico but since it is part of the US,I'm not the only one who gets a different mental picture when someone says "the Carribean",I'm sure.

Tyra did a wacky showgirl dance and stunt casting went into full effect as we got the so-called "plus size" model(who looked as fat as Paris Hilton is poverty stricken),a gal with Asperger's syndrome and a hunched back,and of course,the resident bitch of the bunch,Ebony. I wish that some of the more interesting girls had been selected,like Jennifer who was blind in one eye or Marvita,a Grace Jones type. It would've been fun if Spontanouise had been chosen(yes,that's her real name!)-she sounded like a junior league version of one of those Flavor of Love ladies.

The 4400: Season Four ended with a bang,as poor Danny became a Promicin Mary,Jordan Collier narrowly escaped becoming one of the Marked(thanks to Isabelle's sacrifice)and Seattle turns into an occupied zone run by the Promicin Positives. I hope that we really haven't seen the last of Isabelle(hey,if Jordan could return from the dead,why not her?)and that next season will be just as good,especially with all of those NTAC folk developing those nifty new powers. I think,however,that Maia's wrong about Jordan being a good guy:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brush up your Shakespeare and a few other classics for some back to school basic laughs

September is traditionally known as Back To School time and before the month ends,let us take a look at some of those literary works assigned to the returning or freshman student for English class,with a little tongue in cheek there.

This may not be very helpful to those who actually need to achieve a good grade point average but for the rest of us who longer have to shoulder such worries,I think we deserve a well earned chuckle or two about these once daunting tomes that required plenty of essay writing and numerous footnotes. At the very least,you have to be smarter than a fifth grader to get the punch lines here.

Shakespeare will do well for a start. You can't get thru high school or college without tackling most of the Bard's major works,like Romeo and Juliet or Othello. Some even get to perform one of his plays for Drama Club while many get a class trip to see a professional theater company do justice to Shakespeare's immortal words.

I do think that it does help one to appreciate a play by seeing it acted live on stage and hopefully you will be blessed with an appreciative audience when you do so. As this clip will show, bad manners in the theater can have grave consequences:

We mustn't forget the Greeks,who were composing historical dramas long before Shakespeare ever drew breath. Public speaking was once a commonplace method of teaching and it's truly a lost art in this modern age. Perhaps it's time that it should be revived-things might be better in this world if more school talent shows had kids giving recitations from Oedipus:

Enough with the drama,time for some real reading. Thomas Hardy is one of the most seriously taken authors in the English Lit cannon,who can be seriously hard to read all the way thru. Since I heartly disapprove of cheat sheets and Cliff Notes,this abridged version of Jude the Obscure should serve as a good way to make the medicine go down:

Hardy too gloomy for you? Okay,cozy up to some Jane Austen instead. She's just as good for you and has alot more laughs. Her romances have happier endings,too. If you're looking for some extra credit,do a report on one of Jane's uncompleted works like Sandition or this recent discovery:

Finally,to round our curriculum out,some Bronte business is in order here. Jane Eyre is truly the best of both worlds for those Goth kids who like to indulge in romantic fantasies while still keeping their gloom on.

There have been numerous adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's tale of loneliness,love and hidden secrets which would greatly enhance any classroom discussion of the book but perhaps music is truly the universal language. It certainly would highlight more aspects of the supporting characters and raise some good topics to talk about,like Why is Mrs. Rochester so attracted to the pretty,pretty light?:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The View From Mount Joy is a pleasant sight for readers to behold

Lorna Landvik's new novel,The View From Mount Joy,starts off in 1972 as Joe Andreson starts his senior year of high school in a new town where he meets two women that will affect the course of his future life. One of them is the cutesy charismatic Kristi Casey, the ambitous head cheerleader who's dating one of Joe's new friends,Blake,but insists on having a mainly amorous affair with Joe on the side.

Kristi seems to the All American girl next door who wouldn't have butter melt in her mouth but does enjoy her vices just as much as any self proclaimed "bad girl" and will resort to blackmailing others at the drop of a hat to keep her public image intact.

The other influential lady in Joe's life is Darva Pratt, an artistic type whose main ambition in life is to live in France to pursue her painting career. After high school,she does just that and drops into Joe's life a few years later with her infant daughter Flora in tow. Joe is now the owner of the local supermarket(which he inherited from his former boss,who used to play jam sessions with Joe and another one of the store employees,Kirk,during after hours at the store),where he livens up the daily routine by having impromptu contests for the customers.

Darva and Joe become platonic roommates and form a surrogate family for Flora,with Joe's mother and new husband,along with Aunt Beth and her longtime companion,Linda. Kristi pops in and out of Joe's life,and still seems to be the secretive party girl for awhile but during the 1980's,she becomes a firebrand televangelist who winds up with her own radio show"On The Air With God" and on the arm of ultraconservative senator Tuck Drake,who is also planning to be President one day soon.

Kristi treats Joe as her only confidant and he respects that position,while not being shy about confronting Kristi in private about her obvious hypocrisy and lack of connection with her own family such as her brother Kirk,who is one of Joe's best friends. Kristi does her best to convince Joe of her better nature but,ultimately her actions speak louder than any of her words.

I've been a fan of Landvik's books ever since I first read Patty Jane's House of Curl during my lunch breaks while working at my old indie book store job. Similar to Maeve Binchy ,Lorna Landvik creates stories about characters who all interconnect in small communities and enrich each other's lives in big and small ways. She does have compelling plots but it's the people and the homey atmosphere Landvik invokes that truly draws you into her handheld inner world of words.

While there are elements of Tracy Flick from Election in Kristi and touches of It's A Wonderful Life in Joe,both of them are unique creations in their own right. Joe can be abit too teary eyed at times yet he's such a good natured fellow at heart that,like the man himself,you're willing to overlook his flaws and root for him as he seeks to find his own happy place in the world.

If you haven't read any of Landvik's novels before,The View From Mount Joy is as good of a place as any to perch on and get a look see. For those who know and love her already,clear another space on your bookshelf because you will definately want to add this one to your library of Comfort Food Reads.

Monday, September 17, 2007

High tea with Philippa Gregory and low energy at the Emmys

As I mentioned last week,Philippa Gregory held a webcast on Sunday that allowed for some Q&A from online viewers as well as the fortunate folks who attended her talk in person. I was able to tune in just fine and even had my question answered live. My fangirl cup runneth over with joy at that moment.

Gregory was asked about a myriad of things such as "Would you ever write a book of American historical fiction?"(no,she got into American history slightly for one book,The Virgin Earth,but doesn't really feel comfortable or knowledgable enough about it to do a whole novel on the subject)"If you had the chance to go back to the Tudor period(in England),who would you be?"(Henry the Eighth,since women had no power or say over their lives back then. At one point,she advised ladies that if they wished to time travel in reverse,to not go beyond 1920)and "Which of your books is your favorite?"(Like many authors,it's her most current one,The Boleyn Inheritance).

My query had to do with her upcoming book about Mary,Queen of Scots,which will be titled "The Other Queen" and due out in 2008. Gregory mentioned that she'd been avoiding Mary since she's one of those highly touted historical figures that most folk expect her to cover(she compared her reluctance to having a checklist of animals that you look to see on safari-elephant,lion,"hippo in the water")but found a way to make a take on the infamous queen her own.

She also talked a little about being a technical advisor for the big screen version of The Other Boleyn Girl and that two more of her books are up for film adaptations. The Boleyn Inheritance is being optioned by the company putting out TOBG and The Queen's Fool will be a four part miniseries in the US.

I can't speak for everyone involved but it did seem like a good time had by all. For those who were not able to catch the web event,these video clips should give you a taste of what it was like to have been a part of her audience:




It's a shame that my evening entertainment didn't quite measure up to the pleasant time spent with Philippa Gregory earlier in the day. Watching the Emmys last night strongly reminded me of why I usually avoid this award show like the plague. Congrats to America Ferrara for her Ugly Betty win,of course,but beyond that and a few comedy bits(some more successful than others),the show was as dull as dishwater.

You know you're watching an awful awards show when a potential catfight on a crappy crassfest like Rock of Love is way more interesting that who wins Best whatever. Hey,channel surfing during the commericals is a tradition at my house,okay?!

Also,note to Vanessa Williams:what were you thinking when you selected that feathery Muppet pelt of a dress? Wilhemina Slater would so snub you for that fashion faux pas.

And what does it take to get Emmy voters to give an award to someone who either hasn't won one several times before(did Sally Field snort a bag of sugar before the show,seriously?) or to someone who really is new and excitingly creative(James Spader does NOT count!)on the TV scene? Get them all drunk on schnappes before they cast their ballots?

Plus,several catagories were clogged with multiple nominees from one or two shows(Desperate Housewives,Grey's Anatomy,The Sopranos)-look,give each show a two person limit there,okay? Stop being mentally lazy and give someone else a chance to atleast get a foot in the door!

Maybe someday in the distant future, someone will give the Emmys a serious overhaul and make it a truly worthy celebration of the art of television. Perhaps it might even happen alittle like this(just substitute "Emmy" for "Christmas" in this song and you'll get what I mean):