Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, May 30, 2008

David Gilmour's Film Club,a cinematic study of the parenting heart

In The Film Club,writer and film critic David Gilmour talks about the unusual way he decided to bond with his son,Jesse,during Jesse's troubled teen years. Jesse was on the verge of quitting school and his father realized that it was a make or break time for them both.

Therefore,he gave Jesse an interesting proposition:if you want to leave school,fine. I won't make you get a job or pay rent,but you have to watch three movies a week with me,movies that I pick for us. Jesse thought about it(his dad insisted that he not answer him right away)and then agreed to the plan,which went on for about three years.

The first movie the Gilmour boys saw was Truffant's The 400 Blows,which set the tone of this impromptu film school right from the beginning. While David didn't exactly go thru the entire history of cinema with Jesse,he did touch on many of the big film movements of the past century.

While Jesse did get into many of the movies,they were some that he just couldn't connect with. A prime example of that is A Hard Day's Night,which his father felt would fully explain the phenomenon of the Beatles to his son. Not a chance;Jesse thought it was boring and found John Lennon to be the least impressive of the group.:

However,they did find some films to admire in common and even had some fun with them. One of the things they did was play "Spot the great moment",pick a scene that is your choice for the highlight of the movie. One of David's is in The Shining,the part where Jack has that chilling chat with the former caretaker of the Overlook Hotel.

Jesse's great moment pick from The Shining is at an early point in the film,where Danny Torrance and his dad share a private moment together that's subtly sinister in it's foreshadowing of the terrors that lie ahead:

It wasn't just all film talk for the Gilmours,Jesse was going thru a number of things,such as a couple of troubled romances, and trying to figure out what direction he wanted his life to go in.

David had many doubts about his method of dealing with Jesse and a few worries about what he might be teaching his son by example. During the week that the two of them saw The Bicycle Thief,David enlisted Jesse's help in discouraging folks from buying a nearby house that he had been promised first shot at,only to be turned away. Jesse didn't think any less of his dad but David was still bothered by his own behavior in handling that and wondered about just how good of an influence he was being.

Jesse was able to go to his father for advice,especially when it came to romance. While David was a sympathic ear,he also gave him a few warning about overindulging in lovesickness,using some film clips to bring his points home such as the end scene from La Dolce Vita.

The Gilmours did find inspiration and harmony in their lives thru the Film Club and even shared cinematic bliss with films like the classic Ran,trashy delights like Showgirls and Basic Instinct and brilliant hybrids of art and entertainment,as with one of my personal favorites,True Romance:

The most important and compelling theme of the book and the Gilmour's growing relationship is that they were able to really talk to each other,about life,film and love most of all. Regardless of how you may feel about the way David went about dealing with his son's foibles,the matter of the fact is that whatever he did worked.

Jesse did eventually go back to school,his own choice,and while his father misses some of that intensive time that they spent together,he is ultimately glad that his son was able to stumble thru some tricky moments(involving alcohol and drugs)without falling too hard or boxing himself into a narrow corner from which there would be no escape from.

The Film Club is now playing at a bookstore near you,and while it would make a great Father's Day/Graduation gift for the men/boys in your life,I urge my fellow females not to turn away from it. This is an open,honest and touching account of a parent reaching to their child during one of the most turbulent points of their relationship and being just as nervous and vulnerable as their kid is. This is a book about family and how film love,or any other mutual interest,can keep that bond alive without bringing it to the breaking point.

Hey,don't just take my word for it. Here are the Gilmours themselves to state their case in point:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Top Chef raises the steaks,Louross loses out in Hell's Kitchen and what else is on TV this summer

It was down to the Final Five on Top Chef this week,and the Quickfire Challenge was a literally tough one. Each chef had to butcher their own meat,being careful to "french" their cut(which means scraping the meat off of the bone,making it look like a big beefy lollipop)and then take the steaks back to the TC kitchen where Padma and famed steakhouse owner Rick Tramonto had them cook one of the "tomahawk" steaks and get the rest of their meat inspected.

The challenge wasn't about flavor and taste;it was more about technique. Rick asked the chefs to cook a steak medium rare and the only one who did that the best was Spike. Turns out that Spike's grandfather and father were butchers,so he had a little advantage in this round and now would be granted another for the Elimination Challenge.

The Elim challenge was for the chefs to take over Rick Tramonto's restaurant for an evening and create an appetizer and an entree,using whatever was in the restaurant's walk in kitchen.

Giving the judges some extra imput on the meal were the last three winners of Top Chef:Harold(YAH!),Ilan(BOO!) and Hung. The fellas spoke to the current contestants beforehand to give them some advice;guess what Ilan's suggestion was? "Don't shave anyone's head tonight!" Again,I say,BOO!

Spike had first choice of protein for his dishes and he went with the tomahawk steak for the entree and scallops for the ap. Unfortunately,the scallops were frozen and falling apart. I'm not a scallop person,so I consulted with my mom(who loves them)and apparently,scallops are like sponges that can soak up too much water and practically burst apart when filled to the brim. Spike should've dumped those suckers but he didn't,which didn't help him out with the judges.

Stephanie's sweetbreads won the night,making her the first one to be announced as one of the Final Four,yes! Also,she received a autographed cookbook from Rick Tramonto,plus a full set of Kenmore kitchen appliances. Congrats to Stephanie,and to Richard and Antonia who will be joining her in the finale.

Remaining on the chopping block were Lisa and Spike. Lisa,for her chilled shrimp that was Bland City,and Spike for the scallops. It was close but Spike sealed his doom by mouthing off to Rick Tramonto,who told him that the scallops should not have been used. Spike snapped him at him "Well,they were in YOUR walk-in!" Yeah,but that didn't mean YOU had to use them,dummy! Plenty of chefs get ingredients that turn out to be not right for cooking and have to dump a dish at the last minute. That's something every real top chef knows,Spike!

So,Lisa squeaked under the wire and will be joining the others in Puerto Rico,while Spike had to pack his knives and go. Hopefully,we will have a Richard/Stephanie showdown to cap this season off just right.

Louross's downfall was complete,as he was booted from Hell's Kitchen. First,he was bullied into sitting out on the relay race challenge(which surprised Ramsey)and that Jen wound up losing for her team by forgetting to sauce two of the three dishes made.

He got some payback when Ramsey reviewed the Blue Team menu that was to go up against the Red Team's for dinner service,which sounded godawful,and Louross pointed out that it was all Jen's ideas. She was mad about that,but,hey,that's the price of insisting that everyone listen to you and refusing to let them get a word in edgewise.

Louross was pretty frustrated and it showed in the meat station,as his entrees kept coming back raw. I felt sorry for him,but he did screw up,bigtime:

Matt was a mess,sweating so much that the pasta he was cooking became extra salty(ewww!)and Jen wasn't much better at the desserts,plus she doesn't know when to shut up,ever! Ramsey teased us with nearly a triple elimination,but instead he simply had Jen and Matt go back to their old teams.

I wish that both of them had left,since Matt pouts and gets useless when things don't go his way and Jen loves to trash talk but refuses to take either criticism or direction from anyone. Funny,on TC,I'm rooting for at least two people but here,there isn't anyone for me to cheer for. However,I'm still going to watch.

Funny thing is,Petrozza has been showing a bit of good character and judgement lately,especially when articulating his reasons for picking Louross and Jen for elimination. Who would have thought it from the hen in a pumpkin guy?:


Since plenty of our regular shows are done for now, let's look at what is store for our viewing pleasure this long,hot summer:

Shear Genius will be back for season two,beginning on June 23. If you didn't catch the first season of this hair raising hairstylist competition,don't worry. There's a brand new set of contestants to watch as they curl up and dye,plus Bravo is bound to have a Season One marathon before the premiere.

Another favorite reality show competition of mine will have it's third season start on June 8:yes,folks,Design Star is back! This time,they'll be in Nashville and no doubt some form of country music challenge will appear:

I may also check out The Next Food Network Star,which debuts on June 1. I swear,one of the contestants was also on the first season of Last Comic Standing(Corey Kahane). Guess she wants to serve up more than laughs:

Another June 1 arrival is In Plain Sight,a quirky new series about a US Marshall who tries to balance her work and private life with some degree of harmony. It might be worth a shot(too bad we're not getting another season of the 4400!, Oh,well):

Mad Men is due to present their second season in July. While I didn't watch the show when it first began,I did catch it during Sunday night replays and got seriously hooked on it. My favorite character is Peggy and I hope that things go well for her but if that were so,where would the drama be? Check out some of these prime Peggy Clips:





Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rereading is Fundamental

Over this past holiday weekend,I put most of my current reading material aside and got reacquainted with Different Seasons,one of Stephen King's best collections of novellas(long short stories).

Three of the four stories in Different Seasons have been the basis for some very good films-"Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption(better known as The Shawshank Redemption),"The Body"(Stand By Me)and Apt Pupil(which was allowed to keep it's original title).

The final story,"The Breathing Method" is well done but more suited to a TV anthology series like Nightmares and Dreamscapes,for example, than a full length feature film.

So,why did I feel the need to do that? Well,I'm not entirely sure. It's been several years since I read Different Seasons and since I recently worked on a short story myself,perhaps that might have triggered the urge to go back to such familiar country. Not that I have any shot in hell of being anywhere near as good as King is,but also,I don't read as many short story collections as many literary folks do.

Short stories are great,but to me,it's more like having a few snacks before getting to the main course,which to me is a novel. Granted,novellas are much meatier yet my preference is to soak in a mental bubble bath than take a quick brain shower . I did enjoy revisiting Different Seasons quite a bit,it really cleared my head and reminded me of the elegance of a tale well told.

One reread seems to have begotten another,as I decided to brush up on my classics reading pile and found myself turning to Jane Eyre,which I haven't read in over a decade.

Jane Eyre was one of those books that I read numerous times in my childhood,along with Heidi and Black Beauty,that made an early impact on my reading tastes but one that I thought I had outgrown,like liverwurst sandwiches and Bubble Yum(an odd combo,but trust me,I never had the two together).

I was tempted to pick it up again after reading Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair and then again after finally tackling Wuthering Heights(which is a damn depressing story and one I don't care to ever revisit). But,no,my intent to reread Jane Eyre was sparked up by hearing Rory Gilmore try to talk Dean into a "little Charlotte Bronte" and by the end of the night,I was over thirty pages into the story.

Right away,I can see what drew me to Eyre in the first place-her being picked on as a child and her later adult status as governess(which didn't lend itself to being a social butterfly in those times,it was highly discouraged)certainly made Jane very identifiable to those in the Freaks and Geeks crowd. It also gave one hope that you might find your own Mr. Rochester,sans the crazy wife in the attic of course(Orson Welles was the best on screen Rochester,in my humble opinion).

And will yet another reread follow this one? Perhaps. I did recently buy a copy of A Little Princess,which I loved as a kid. Everyone else always praises The Secret Garden when they talk about Frances Hodgson Burnett but I would rather hang out with Sara Crewe than Mary Lennox any time(never did read Little Lord Fauntleroy,wonder if that's still in print?).

Sara was genuinely sweet and good natured,which can put some people off, but her powers of imagination were her real strength. Part of the reason that the book holds up today is that it's a great lesson in how to cope with changing circumstances and tough times without losing the best part of yourself. That's what I got out of it,anyway.

I'm still reading my usual number of new books but will tuck into an old favorite every now and then to refresh my senses. An important component of book love is to
enjoy reading for it's own sake,and a good reread helps you to do just that. Balance in all things keeps the world going,especially when it comes to books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sharing a few snickers about the Sex and the City movie

Okay,I'm about to upset a few folks with this statement but I need to get this off my chest so here goes: I don't like Sex and the City and could care less about the film version that's coming out this week. SATC is just one of those big popular shows that I just don't get,like Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy. I only watched one episode and took an instant dislike to it right away.

Nothing personal against the fans but SATC always seemed to celebrate shallowness(which can be fun)and neurotic upper class women who have nothing better to do than whine about their sex lives and drink martinis(I know,I know,they drank Cosmos. I learned that from an EW TV IQ quiz). Since I never really saw more than one show(it had to do with a baby shower,I recall),there may have been more to it than that. After all, Pauline Kael was a big fan and she knew good storytelling when she saw it.

"So,if you don't like the show or the movie,why are you even talking about it,huh?" Good question,folks. Part of the reason that I feel the need to come clean is the fact that the advertising for the SATC movie is hard to get away.

The campaigning for this movie is yet another Summer Movie juggernaut to hurtle,right on the heels of the Indy Jones movie(which raked enough money to fill Scrooge McDuck's vault)and not too soon after Iron Man,with the likes of Hancock,The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight yet to follow.

Alot of movie clout is riding on this film,since it's the closest we have come to a potential blockbuster chick flick. Since the success of the SATC movie may open a few doors for other female friendly projects,I'm more than willing to be supportive but can't help but wish a movie like In Her Shoes was given this much love from Hollywood and movie-goers:

However,I don't want to pour out glasses of haterade and pass them around,either. I know what's like to have people just not understand about your particular fandom and give you grief over it. I do think that I've come up with a serviceable solution to this pop culture dilemma and it's the healing power of laughter.

Even die hard fans of a genre show can share a few giggles at a good parody of their favorite series with those on the outside(goodness knows,I've enjoyed several Buffy mock fests myself). So,in the interest of building bridges and not burning them, here are some SATC parodies for all of us to enjoy:

The freshest one is from The Soup,which combos the high octane drive of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's ad campaign with SATC's:

One of the shows that SATC has been compared to is the Golden Girls(as in "a younger version of"),which makes it fitting that Bea Arthur stars in this TV Land parody,complete with her own special Mr. Big:

The toughest parody I've seen of SATC so far is the Mad TV take on the show,which has some rather rough language and bawdy sight gags(viewer discretion is advised):

But even the SATC stars have a sense of humor about themselves and the show,as this MTV Movie Awards Matrix hybrid parody clearly shows:

So,SATC fans,have fun at the premiere this weekend and revel in your glory. As for me,I think that I'll indulge in my one of my own fangirl delights via DVD. Being a geek girl should be empowering for all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Break

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day,and LRG will be back tomorrow with a full post. In the meantime,please enjoy some of these classic Casablanca highlights:




Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top Chef's Restaurant Wars,Jenn turns Blue in Hell's Kitchen and Idol can smell which David is Cookin'

After an early morning Quickfire challenge that had the chefs working the egg station at a local diner,Judge Tom announced that he wouldn't be judging the Elimination round due to attending a charity event. He gave directions for the location of the EC,where Padma gleefully informed them that Restaurant Wars was back on-YAH! It's the best challenge ever on Top Chef,the show wouldn't be the same without it.

Antonia won the QF,so she had first pick of people to work with and she chose Richard and Stephanie(both of whom I would love to see in the finals). Their restaurant was called "Warehouse Kitchen" and the food theme was fine dining in a relaxed bistro atmosphere. Spike,Lisa and Dale decided to go with Asian food(what a surprise...not!)and called their place "Mai Buddha".

The chefs were given another announcement during prep,as Anthony Bourdain visited each kitchen and told them that he was replacing Judge Tom on the panel for this Elim. Restaurant Wars,with Bourdain on board..sweet! The Mai Buddha team was extra nervous,since Bourdain knows Asian food inside and out(the man's eaten cobra hearts,for Pete's sake!). Also,each team was allowed to have one of their former competitors join their group for some extra help. Mai Buddha had Jen and Warehouse Kitchen got Nikki,who not only helped out with the fresh pasta but pointed out that the clams needed to be rewashed before serving.

Warehouse Kitchen received tons of praise,from the beet salad opener to the linguine with clams and sausage,right down to the gorgonzola cheese cake. Stephanie ran the front of the house and she did a great job. Warehouse Kitchen won the challenge and Stephanie was chosen for a special prize,a trip for two to Barcelona,nice!

Mai Buddha,however,was a big mess. Starting with the decor chosen by Spike,which consisted of numerous buddha statues and purple napkins that made Bourdain feel he was eating at Prince's house,to the botched laska soup and sloppy mango sticky rice(why they would let Lisa near rice again is beyond me)and Dale's butterscotch scallops that Bourdain said"looked like a melted candy bar" but didn't taste as good as one,this team went down in flames.

Lisa and Dale took turns throwing each other under the bus,while Spike smirked on the sidelines(something that the other guest judge,Jose Andres,noticed and called Spike out on). In the end,Dale had to pack his knives and go. He did make some good food at times but it's his attitude that's holding him back from being a real top chef.

I felt bad for Louross this week in Hell's Kitchen;both teams were given a twenty item challenge,to create four dishes with that number of ingredients to work with and not only did each item had to be used,no one could copy an item from someone else's dish.

Bobby and Jen(who agreed to join the Blue Team to even things up) insisted that Louross add veal to his red snapper dish,which he didn't want to but went along with,anyway.

Louross didn't plate the veal on time,so he had to serve his fish alone(he didn't want to have the veal on the red snapper anyway,since it would throw the flavor off).

Ramsey noticed the missing ingredient and Louross,to his credit,admitted it right away,instead of using Jen's lie about rendering the veal fat into the dish(she also ratted him out to Ramsey and stewed during the punishment detail,blaming him for the whole mess). Jen needs to get over herself,seriously:

The Red Team did poorly during dinner service,which had two food critics in the crowd,and Rosann took the fall here. She screwed up the veggie station yet again,burning things so badly that she was running of items to be served.

Matt reverted back to his bad cooking ways,messing up the meat station. He and Rosann went up on the chopping block but Christina was called on the carpet for her lousy performance as well. Hey,Christina,stop trying to be the leader and start being a good chef there,your work might actually improve!:



American Idol's Battle of the Davids is over,and Cook is the one left standing,YES! Archuleta's a nice kid but clearly Cook was the stronger and more seasoned performer out of the two. While I still wish that Carly Smithson could've made it to the Final Two(and why did they pair her up with Michael Johns during the finale? Jason Castro gets to sing a solo,but not Carly?!),I am glad to see Cook come out on top.

A couple of suggestions for next season,AI-first,since Paula spends most of her time dancing at the Judges' table,why not install a go-go dancer cage for her to prance around in? Also,could Randy pick up a new cliche handbook to qoute from,please? So tired of hearing "You can sing the phonebook" and "Red hot molten lave TONIGHT!" Any how,congrats to David Cook. You did good,buddy:


UGLY BETTY: Lindsey Lohan guest stars on the finale tonight,playing her usual brand of mean girl and hopefully showing up sober for the rehearsals. Naomi Campbell also drops into Mode,so folks need to be on the lookout for those pesky flying cellphones that follow her everywhere:

MIND OF MENCIA: Carlos is back and pumped up with plenty of social humor and pop culture parodies,such as his take on the new Indy Jones movie. Enjoy!:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's roaming about the movie trailer park unsupervised these days

Most of the big Hollywood hype is going to the Indy Jones movie that opens up tomorrow and the Sex and the City flick next week. However,I've been seeing a few other trailers for movies that plenty of folks will put down their hard earned money and/or credit card for because either the bigger movies were sold out or out of sheer boredom.

I get that,but they have direct to video releases for a reason,people. A good example of what I'm surprised is not one is The Strangers,starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a well to do young couple who go off to a country house for a romantic weekend and get terrorized by a trio of masked maniacs who apparently don't get good cable reception or even have a Netflix account because they seem to find freaking out a pair of city slickers to be the perfect entertainment for the weekend.

Not only is this concept more played out(right down to the "based on true events" tagline) than a Atari game,the couple in question truly seem too stupid to live. "Why are you doing this to us?" Uh,because your husband is such a genius than instead of calling the cops right away when seeing a weirdo hanging out in his driveway,he goes outside to confront him. And you're really a big help there, by cowering and shrieking right behind him. Yeah,plus you were home,too:

Due to hit theaters in September but being advertised right now is Beverly Hills Chihuhua,another live action animal film that has the four legged characters speak with celebrity voices(Cheech Marin, George Lopez,Salma Hayek,Drew Barrymore).

Sure,it looks like a cute little kid's movie but somehow I seem to be able to have a bit of that high frequency hearing that dogs are supposed to possess,since I keep hearing a subliminal message during the trailers that says"Hey,kids;stereotypes are fun-tastic!":

One of the more trickier challenges this summer movie season is deciding which looks
less funny;Mike Myers in Love Guru or Adam Sandler in You Don't Mess With The Zohan. Both SNL veterans have given us some good laughfests in the past,but these two movies come across more as a Battle of the Bad Foreign Accents.

Sorry,guys,but it's going to take more than some goofy outfits and obvious sight gags to pull either one of these movies off.Fellas,seriously,stop sleepwalking
on screen here and make a real effort to do something original and entertaining. The younger generation of comedians are fast upon your heels and ready to take the wheel:



Mike and Adam,if you don't want to listen to me,then just watch this trailer for Eddie Murphy's upcoming July release,Meet Dave, and treat it like a visit from the Ghost of Bad Movies Future. This makes Norbit seem sophisticated.

Oh,Eddie,why,why? Haven't you learned the perils of doing overblown sci-fi comedies by now? Wasn't The Adventures of Pluto Nash a sign unto you?

I know that you feel ripped off after losing out on the Oscar for Dreamgirls(you were great in that movie)but that should drive you to do more challenging and quality work,not fall back on cheesy special effects and pitiful attempts at fish out of water humor:

Well,fellow movie goers,you have been warned. As to the filmmakers,if you're going to make lousy movies,at least own up to it and revel in the hideous glory. Uwe Boll
is arguably one of the worst directors ever and yet,he's willing to truly take on his critics in the boxing ring. You have to give him some credit for that bit of brassy boldness there:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Pop Culture suggestions for spending that economic stimulus do-re-mi

Many citizens of our fair nation have by now,or are about to,received their economic stimulus check from the government and are considering ways to spend that extra chunk of cash. An interesting and practical way could be to invest in the future development of an independent bookstore in Brooklyn.

My enterprising literary friend, Jessica Stockton Bagulo,aka Book Nerd,has been working towards that goal for quite awhile now and hopes that book lovers out there would like to use some of that cash to help her in her quest.

Very much like a PBS fund raiser,you can choose what amount you would like to give and get either buying power and/or swag(a signed book,
mix tape, T shirt,etc)from the future store. For more info,you can go to her blog,The Written Nerd,or go right to the website set up for this project,Stimulating Reading, to see if this is the right way for you to put those intended economy boosting bucks in motion.

If you'd prefer to use the funds for more personal desires,I have a few other ideas about that as well:


Want to extend the summer movie superhero love outside of the multiplex? Then start off with a celebration of one of the classic comic book artists of our time,Steve Ditko,in the new Fantagraphics coffee table collection,Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko by Blake Bell.

Shipping out in June,this extensive book goes over the 55 years of Ditko's career and not only mentions his days working with Stan Lee to create such characters as Doctor Strange and Spiderman(Ditko also worked on a number of DC characters,too)but many of the other projects he's done that didn't get as much recognition. A must read for comic art true believers out there.

For those seeking some unique glassware,Toon Tumblers offers a line of Marvel Comics character glasses,with the likes of Spiderman,Ghost Rider,DareDevil and the X-Men available. They also have classic cartoon characters like Little Lulu,Underdog and Rocket J. Squirrel. Toon Tumblers makes special edition glasses for Comic Con,and I am the proud owner of their Iron Man NYC Comic Con one. Good for display,or for pouring your favorite cold drink
into this summer.

The long awaited Heroes action figures will be sold exclusively at Toys R Us in June and the chain will also have two exclusive figures,Fire Rescue Claire and Times Square Teleport Hiro. Other characters from the show that will be in doll size include Peter Petrelli,Mohinder and everybody's favorite brain eating evil genius,Sylar. Might be fun to have own private Heroes battle while you wait for Season Three to start.


Instead of standing in line for the Sex and The City movie,why not invest in some nostalgia and scoop up the complete series of Sarah Jessica Parker's teen sitcom,Square Pegs? Cast interviews are included,plus you can enjoy such celebrity appearances from Devo,Father Guido Sarducci and The Waitresses.

Also, if you're doubtful about how good the new Indiana Jones movie will be,there's a spanking new "Adventure" collection of the first three films to add to your home video library.

Plenty of new bonus features and behind the scenes shorts are included,along with a few promos for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,of course. You might want to grab a copy before they're all sold out and have to resort to an auction to find one:

The wickedly funny yet underrated John Waters true crime parody,Serial Mom,has it's
very own special edition DVD,with two commentaries from the director himself. Kathleen Turner gives one of her most memorable performances as the title character,a Martha Stewart type of impulse killer who becomes a media darling. The musical version of this film should be interesting,indeed:


Lots of hot new titles will be on the shelves soon,and it's a good time to place your order for those much needed beach books for your summer vacation.

Jane Green's latest novel is appropriately called The Beach House and the story line centers around Nan,a long time Nantucket native who decides to rent out some of the rooms in her rambling old house for summer. Nan's looking for some company and boy,does she find it and then some!(June 17)

Lewis Black will be back in the humor section with another book of his interesting thoughts and rants about life,Me Of Little Faith.

Due out on June 3,Black takes on religion,politics and current events with his usual calm,cool and collected insights. Here's an example of that,as Black gives would be writers some advice on the creative process:

For all of you Temeraire fans out there,July 8 is the official release date for the fifth book in Naomi Novik's series,Victory of Eagles. This one will be coming out in hardcover instead of the usual paperback but don't despair,folks. It's a sign that the series is doing very well and should be a real treat to beat the heat(yes, I'm a poet and I know it).

Well,however you chose to use your economic stimulus funds,be sure to take full advantage of the opportunities that it opens up to you:

Monday, May 19, 2008

TV's tastiest cooking judges are the ones with a tough crust

Watching cooking shows and competitions on TV may seem to be as safe and cozy as your grandma's knitting circle,but things can get really steamed up if there's a tart tongued judge on the panel with a sharp eye for detail and an even sharper set of personal standards to determine the fate of the chef contestants.

Least you think that these folks are simply food tyrants,the harshest critics turn out to be folks with many years of training,skill and no nonsense approaches to what is best about the profession that they truly love. Here are some of the ones that make me sit up and pay attention whenever they're onscreen:


I call her Professor McGonagall,since she reminds me very much of the head of Harry Potter's House at Hogwarts(even tho Kerry is an Aussie)and can easily picture her going around the contestant's entries saying "five points will be deducted from Gryffindor!"

Kerry is one of the regular judges for Food Network Challenge,usually when it's a cake competition. She's a self taught sugar artist and cake designer/author who runs the Oklahoma Sugar Art show,which is an international yearly contest/exhibit for current sugar and pastry artists that also encourages newcomers to the field.

She's also a real stickler for the rules,as in the Disney Princess cake challenge where points had to be deducted from the Jasmine cake,due to the very noticable toothpicks protruding from the top section. I have to agree with Kerry on that one,it really did take away from the beauty of the piece:


Steingarten is best known as the author of The Man Who Ate Everything,a collection of food essays that he wrote for Vogue that chronicled his many culinary adventures. He's a food critic who was once a lawyer(which may explain his cross examination style of judging)and has also won the James Beard award twice,along with several other honors.

Jeffrey Steingarten is one of the frequent judges on the revolving Iron Chef America panel,and while he's usually the biggest nitpicker in the group,you can always count on him to not be shy about the use of the secret ingredient or to point out the overpowering spice that distracts him from the dish at hand:


Bourdain is about as well known as Simon Cowell,for his blunt and occasionally brutal take on the world of professional cooking and his fellow celebrity chefs in the field. Therefore,it's always a thrill to see him as a guest judge on Top Chef. His appearance practically guarantees a memorable quote or two.

One of his best ones was his reluctant praise of Michael's contribution to the Season Two Thanksgiving challenge,admiring the guts to have a "Flintstonian" presentation of his food. He had a few interesting things to say during the third season's airplane food challenge,too.

So far, Bourdain has only made a brief appearance on the current season but I hope he shows up soon. I'd love to see some of the smack talkers they have now try that crap on him:



Of course,negativity in and of itself can be fun at times but the real pleasure of watching such tough critics is the chance to see them truly enjoy and marvel at discovering a real talent who reminds them of why they got into this business in the first place. Getting recognition from someone with such a high level of expectation and reverence for the art of food is more valuable than a simple pat on the back from a Paula Abdul type of judge. So, thanks,folks and bon appetit!:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Being book bespelled by Kushiel's Dart and other Jacqueline Carey delights

Part of my blogging duties are to hunt down new and interesting books to read and talk about(which is more fun than work,truth be told),so when a book rep friend of mine asked if I would like to check out the new Jacqueline Carey book this summer,Kushiel's Mercy and also was generous enough to send me the first two books of that trilogy(yes, there is more than one,I'll explain shortly),I figured"Oh,why not? It'll give you something to write about."

Also,my friendly book representative has introduced me to some really good books in the past,which made my decision that much easier. Being the completionist that I am at times,I did a little online research and found out more about Jacqueline Carey and her Kushiel series. To start at the beginning is always best,in my opinion,so I picked up the original Kushiel's Legacy books and dove into the first one,Kushiel's Dart.

The heroine of the first three Kushiel books is Phedre,who was born with a red mote in one of her eyes that is known as the dart of Kushiel,one of the original followers of Elua. The mythos of this world is rather elaborate but yet an unique mix of Judeo-Christianity with what some would call "paganism".

Basically,Elua is a god born from the blood of Christ and the tears of Mary Magdalene combined with the power of Mother Earth. Elua's main tenet is "Love as Thou Wilt",meaning that sex is a sacred act and should only be enjoyed willingly with one that you love.

One of Elua's companions was Kushiel and that red eye of Phedre's makes her an "anquissette",a person born with the ability to take pleasure in pain and can heal rather quickly from their wounds,in a sexed-up Vampire Slayer sort of way. Phedre was sold as an apprentice to a pleasure house as a child and later on,recruited by Anafiel Delaunay,a prominent spy master,to use her talents to gain information about political enemies to the throne of Terre d'Ange.

The first trilogy is all about Phedre,while the second deals with Imriel,who becomes Phedre's adopted son later on in the series. His story starts with Kushiel's Scion and according to what I've read,the second series stands well enough on it's own without having read the earlier books.

To test that theory,I intend to take a Godfather II approach and read Scion right after Dart,crisscrossing the rest of the books instead of just reading them in order. A little experimental reading for the summer,along with the rest of the books on my TBR list.

I'm still in the midst of Dart but already I know that that these books are real sexy saga treasures,very much like my old favorite,Maia,that I rediscovered last summer.

Carey creates an elaborate but not overly complicated world that is an reimaging of European culture and filled with plenty of intrigue,romance,theology and kinky bedroom romps that are,believe it or not,actually intrinsic to the plot. Another point in the plus column,her prose is utterly addicting and like potato chips,you can't read just one page without needing to read another and another.

These books may seem raunchy and while a few of the sex scenes come close to the NC-17 mark,more focus is placed on the characters and the situations they have to deal with. Their sexual preferences are meant to be reflections of each character's
personality,rather than a cheap thrill for the reader. While a couple of the supporting players share some of Phedre's more painful passions,it is their deeds outside of the bedchamber that truly show them as they are.

So it looks like I have quite a bit of reading there,but I do intend to check out some other less steamy titles as well. Don't want to overload my senses,otherwise my new found interest could burn out before I've barely begun.

After all,despite the summertime TV shows about to magically reappear and several promising new hit films,there'll be lots of open time slots for me to fill up with entertaining goodness and one of the Kushiel books alone is long enough to be a miniseries for cable.

On top of that,I am not the most outdoorsy type of person(I sunburn easily)and prefer to beat the heat in air conditioned surroundings. Kushiel's Legacy should provide enough simmering storytelling to keep my summer well warmed.