Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Open Letter to potential reality show contestants seeking a publicity stunt to pull

Dear Attention Seekers,

With the economy being in such a downward spiral these days,it's not surprising that more and more of you want to get a better chance at grabbing the brass ring by becoming a reality show star.

Even when things were doing well,achieving fame from making a memorable impression on an audition for a televised competition or being the most obnoxious contender for whatever top prize was at stake brought plenty of folks an instant shot at those precious fifteen minutes and some of them made a nice chunk of change into the bargain.

As is the way with many fads on the pop culture scene,there comes a point when things are going too far and needless risks are being taken in order to get ahead of someone else waiting in line. Well,gang,that time has come and with it,a serious need to reassess your priorities.

High on the list of questions on whether or not you should pursue this road to reality show fame is "Is this worth risking the safety of one of my family members for?" and if your answer to that is yes,I wouldn't want to be related to you. It's bad enough to make money off of the pain and suffering of others and a thousand times worse to do so using the trust and love of someone who is supposed to be the nearest and dearest to you:

No doubt some of you are saying "but that Balloon Boy deal was just a hoax,the kid wasn't in any real danger at all!"-physical danger,true,but the emotional scars that child will have to bear by being forced into the spotlight and made to lie about that incident on national television by his scheming parents are just as damaging. Not to mention highly insensitive to those families who have lost their children due to terrible accidents or worse,had them become faces on milk cartons. Swallow that bitter little pill,if you will.

If that weren't bad enough,now we have these State Dinner Crashers to reckon with. Sneaking into a White House event as a way to become the next Real Housewife of D.C. is not a cute idea or a smart thing to brag about on your Facebook page. Showcasing just how easy it is for anyone to get past security and be in reach of the President of the United States of America(and the Prime Minister of India as well)only encourages would be assassins to ramp up their plots against him.

Don't try to talk me out of my concerns by pointing out that the Real Airheads of D.C. went thru metal detectors and had no intentions of hurting anybody. For one thing,that's not the point and secondly,there are all kinds of ways and means to bring weapons in undetected or have them placed in convenient spots to be found at the right time-didn't any of you see The Godfather or In the Line of Fire? If Hollywood can dream up plausible scenarios for the worst to happen,so can the actual bad guys:

Sorry if that sounds harsh,but I think that it's time for a slap in the face of sorts to wake up from these fever dreams of fame seeking at any cost. Reality TV is a mixed bag of quality and content,which we can all debate until the cows come home but there's a world of difference between metaphorically throwing someone under the bus and literally doing so.

To me,the better reality shows are the ones that allow people a chance to use their talents such as singing,dancing or cooking in order to get that big break in their profession they've working towards for years.

Shows that highlight the lives of well to do do-nothings or how "delightfully eccentric" your family is are a waste of time and energy that could be given to those more deserving of a media spotlight. I'm not trying to climb up on a high horse here(The Rachel Zoe Project is a guilty pleasure of mine,but even that show involves some level of professionalism)but take into consideration what you're trying to accomplish by getting on reality TV in the first place.

Are you looking at this as a stepping stone to achieve your own personal quest in life or as a golden ticket to easy riches? Either way,you should think about the harm that might be done to those folks you want to climb over and step on as you make your way up the ladder to celebrity status. Crushing the so-called "little people" might help you get where you want to go faster but leaves a set of bloody footprints behind that only lead nowhere when you need someone to support you when the chips are down:

No one's life or emotional well being is worth destroying for a moment in the sun on a reality show and neither is making a elected official more of a target for evil doers to take down. Think before you act,that's not too much to ask of anyone.


Lady T and those of us in the viewing audience about to change the channel

P.S. If that isn't enough to convince of the folly of your ways,just take a listen to this swan song and hope that one day,others will not see it as a fitting tribute to the person you have become:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A pop culture search for the meaning of Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving eve,I'd like to talk about how the true meaning of the holiday has been reflected in pop culture over the years. While it's been a concern of mine that Turkey Day has been given short shift lately,due to the mad consumer rush towards Christmas and other winter holidays that require gift giving,this year seems to be a turning of the tide in that sad spiral. Perhaps it's a sign of the times but if there's to be a silver thread of lining amongst those dark clouds hovering us over these days,a return to appreciating this day of national appreciation is worth grabbing ahold of.

For decades,the traditional tale of Thanksgiving was centered around the quaint notion of the Pilgrims and Native Americans joining together to share the bounty of their harvest and to celebrate surviving in such rough terrain. The sentiments were well meant and added some wholesome flavor to the holiday feast:

Over time,historians reveal more of the harsher truths about those early days and while that was a good and necessary development,many folks felt that dose of reality soured the Thanksgiving proceedings forever and vowed to disown it:

This newfound contempt for the holiday was fuel for many a fire on the battlefield between generations,as that one contrary member of the family tended to take the stance that Thanksgiving was yet another symbol of adult hypocrisy.

Granted,most family get-togethers bring out the worst as well as the best in people but the extra tang of socially aware angst left a rather unpleasant aftertaste.

Most of the time,however,that attitude faded away with some understanding served up with great tasting stuffing:

Eventually,the traditional meaning of the day made peace with the acknowledged truth of it's origins and people could once again take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving as it was meant to be. The inevitable emotional turmoil that crops with such a family focused celebration is still a holiday hazard but one which is lessened by giving props to the reality of how Thanksgiving lore all started:

While Thanksgiving has had it's share of ups and downs with the changing times,one thing has firmly remained-the bond of family. Whether connected by blood,love or friendship,renewing those emotional ties is more than enough reason to keep this tradition alive and well.

Of course each generation has to decide for themselves how they want to commemorate this annual event and what individual mark to make on the day. As we at LRG sign off until next week(don't worry,we'll be back on Monday with more pop culture musings to share),please accept our best wishes to you and yours on this Thanksgiving. Have a happy one and keep those leftovers fresh,whether they're charmingly savory or just a sweet slice of revenge:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's more shocking,Adam Lambert's AMA antics or his Bob Fosse flair?

By now,many of you out there have heard about the show stopping performance that American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert gave on the American Music Awards this past Sunday night. Unfortunately for me,I didn't see it live but thanks to the internet,was able to view his "For Your Entertainment" romp across the stage.

If by chance you didn't see it,the big hullabaloo about Adam's musical number(which was shown a few minutes before 11 P.M. on the east coast)is that he had obvious sexual overtones in the dance routines and at one point, kissed a male keyboardist impromptu.

It should be no surprise to anyone who watched Adam during his AI run that his style is extremely flamboyant and he's not ashamed of his sexual orientation(nor should he be at all,in my opinion).

The folks at AI pretty much had a "don't ask,don't tell" policy about that and now that Our Mr. Lambert is no longer obliged to tone down his true artistic persona,that we would get a taste of his unbridled onstage act sooner or later.

What does surprise me is that no one has yet pointed out that his FYE number at the AMAs is in many ways,a tribute to Bob Fosse. The infamous choreographer and director who gave the pop culture world such dazzling fancy footwork in Broadway shows and films like Cabaret,Sweet Charity and Chicago would be on his feet applauding this performance if he was still amongst the living,I'm sure of it.

To start off this evolutionary chain of entertainment,take a gander at Adam's AMA performance and note the sexy combination of dancers as they move all about that large metal framework in the background,it's an important component here:

Now,take a look at former AI judge Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted" video from the 1990s, which was directly inspired by a routine in Fosse's autobiographical musical All That Jazz from 1979. See any similar set pieces,folks? Not to mention some of the the dancers being matched up in not the standard boy/girl pairings:

Groping group song and dance numbers are a regular theme of Fosse's work,particularly his signature style. The opening number from Chicago,where the title of that groundbreaking film from '79 comes from,showcases that rather naughtily in a nice fashion:

Speaking of All That Jazz,here is that less than subtly sensuous number that inspired Paula Abdul and seemingly Adam Lambert as well.

Fosse's doppelganger in the film is named Joe Gideon( well played by Roy Schieder),who in this scene is giving his producers and cohorts a sample of he intends to put on stage for his latest play. Just like Adam,Joe gets a mixed reception about his work,to say the least.

I remember seeing this movie on cable TV years ago and this routine does inspire a blush or two,along with admiration for the creative coordination involved here(a little bit of nudity crops up,folks-you have been warned):

"So,that makes it all right then,huh,Lady T?" No,it's not a question of right here,this is more about finding out the subtext of what is really so bothersome to many people about this. If it's simply not to your taste,that's fine and if you prefer that your kids don't see it,that's up to you. However,to call Adam's performance morally offensive while other performances on the same show that appeared way earlier in the evening than his did and were far from modest,is a tad puzzling there.

Don't get me wrong,I have no problem with Rihanna or Shakira and especially not with Lady Gaga strutting their stuff on any music awards show. Yet,when none of those numbers causes one tenth of the uproar that Adam Lambert's "For Your Entertainment" did,it makes me wonder why.

How is it that Madonna can kiss girls on stage(mainly to boost her sagging shock rock status) and Miley Cyrus do a pole dance on a kid's award show and only ruffle a few feathers while Adam makes out with one guy and hordes of people are insisting that it's a sign of the apocalypse? I normally refuse to press the prejudice buzzer for stuff like this,but it's blinking very brightly at the moment.

In the end,Adam's getting plenty of publicity out of this and his album will no doubt sell amazingly well this holiday season. I just wonder if more of his Broadway inspired style would be more acceptable to some if he was a gal named Anna instead.

After all,risque numbers have been accepted on award shows before,such as this classic bit from Nine(which,like All That Jazz,was based on Fellini's 8 1/2 Weeks and is about to appear on the silver screen this Christmas,with Chicago's Rob Marshall as it's director)and if the likes of "Be Italian" could pass muster with the S&P department back then,does that prove that we are moving forward or backward with our accepted standards of artistic interpretation for the general viewing public? Certainly something to talk about while waiting in line for tickets to Adam's concert tour,that's for sure:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Julie Powell's Cleaving cuts close to the bone to expose the marrow of a marriage

After the publication of her blogger memoir,Julie and Julia, chronicling her determination to make every one of Julia Child's 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and before the release of the film adaptation of her book this past summer,Julie Powell decided to go on another culinary quest for edible enlightenment.

This new food challenge,however,involved more of a real life,hands on approach to the subject at hand.

Julie wanted to learn the art of meat cutting and after a bit of a search,she found a place that was willing to take her on as an apprentice,Fleisher's Meats in Kingston,NY. The work was physically hard,but the folks at Fleisher's were friendly and patient enough that Julie soon became one of them. Her time there taught her a lot of new things,including respect for the band saw as well as those less glamorous portions of meat that most people wouldn't consider serving up at home:

Butchery has usually been a male dominated domain,but Julie was readily accepted into that band of blood brothers and after her apprenticeship was up,she traveled overseas to learn more about it in places like Argentina,the Ukraine and a Masai village in Tanzania.

Julie's experiences lead her to making new friends and exploring an amazing realm of savory flavors and recipes(which are included in just about every chapter). She also became a convert to the sustainable meat movement,which offers up just as healthy an eating lifestyle as vegetarianism can(ironically enough,one of the owners of Fleisher's was a vegan for over a decade)and is rapidly growing in support and supply all over the place:

This new food odyssey that Julie Powell undertakes is darker in tone than those only familiar with the movie version of Julie and Julia might expect and not just due to the raw descriptions of carving up sides of meat and slaughtering animals for food prep purposes(she observes this,for the most part).

Her new book Cleaving is subtitled "Marriage,Meat and Obsession" for a good reason. The marriage and obsession parts merge together as Julie throws herself into her butchery studies to avoid dealing with the effects of an extramarital affair and her longing for D,the elusive bad boy type that Julie had said affair with and becomes fixated on,even when they break up for good.

I suspect that some may want to judge her harshly on this(particularly because she's a woman)and while her behavior is not commendable here,it's really not up to the reader to decide her guilt level on this messy emotional matter. Julie's willingness to lay bare her mixed feelings about her love for her husband,her passion for D and the direction in which her life is going makes her only human,just like the rest of us.

That she finds it easier to dissect meat than the problems facing her at home is no different than Don Draper being more comfortable at Sterling Cooper than with his suburban wife and family or Buffy drowning her post afterlife sorrows in the arms of Spike. The main difference is that Julie is not a fictional character whose transgressions may be more forgivable or less hard to swallow by a viewing ,or in this case reading, audience.

So,is Cleaving a good read? Yes,it is a compelling narrative that provides some tough yet tender meat to chew on and while it may not be for the faint of heart,the book does show how seeking new horizons can lead to finding peace of mind(of sorts) after a bad romance. Cleaving may not have the feel good flavor of Julie and Julia but it does satisfy a reader's hunger to know more about the art of butchery and dealing with a rough patch of your love life:

Friday, November 20, 2009

The LRG Best Books of 2009

I know this may seem a tad early for rounding up the best in books for the year,but then again,Black Friday will soon be upon us and many of the titles that I plan to highlight from this past months of reading would make great gifts for many of the folks on your holiday shopping list.

It's been a hectic time,in more ways than one,for the world at large and the need to read has grown even more vital than before. With the advancement of new technologies and the hustle and bustle of social changes surrounding us,the good old fashioned book is still on hand to provide readers with entertainment,enlightenment and some much needed escapism,regardless of format. Here for your literary delight is our batch of books for your perusal:


This year started off well with Tiffany Baker's first novel,The Little Giant of Aberdeen County,that followed the emotional journey of Truly Plaice,a woman born with a medical condition that made her truly larger than life.

As her manipulative brother-in-law Robert Morgan put her under his thumb over the years(partly as revenge for Truly's petite sister Serena leaving him),Truly found a way to slowly undermine him as well as increase her inner self esteem to match her outward appearance. This was a wonderful novel to discover,with it's heartfelt narrative and tug of war between two equally stubborn souls and I hope that we won't have long to wait for another book from Baker to enchant us again.

In the spring,one of the pleasant surprises I had at BEA was picking up a copy of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane,written by Katherine Howe who came up with the inspiration for this novel while studying for her PH.D candidacy.

The thesis student in her book,Connie Goodwin,uncovers some unusual family history while cleaning out the abandoned home of her grandmother that leads her to search for the "shadow book" of an ancestor accused of witchcraft back in the olden days of Salem.

This book became one of those "can't put down" reads that I took with me just about everywhere I went. It blended a subtle mystery with supernatural happenings that never went over the top or made a wrong turn towards the end. Katherine Howe is a great new voice in literature and one that with any luck is destined to make her mark with an even wider audience:


One of the more shocking successful bestsellers of the year was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,a gruesomely reimagined version of Jane Austen's most beloved book that had Lizzy Bennet and her sisters battling scores of the undead as well as for the love of Darcy and Bingley.

Seth Grahame-Smith was recruited by the gang at Quirk Classics to bring together the separate dominions of Regency romance and brain eating Romero movie characters in the same literary playpen and with the added bonus of ninja warriors on hand at Lady Catherine's command,he achieved this gory giggleworthy goal rather nicely.

Not ones to let the bloodstained grass grow under their feet,the Quirk Classics crew brought Ben H. Winters onboard for the next Austen invasion. Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters places the Dashwood sisters in perilous waters as they struggle to find safe harbor from the giant lobsters and flesh eating fish that plot the destruction of non-undersea life while seeking their true loves.

More Jane Austen zombie madness is being planned for next year and while this popular series may seem like the opening of a Pandora's box of literary parodies of dubious nature,it's also been a real shot in the arm for both Jane Austen fans and monster movie lovers alike. The uniting of these most passionate fronts can only lead to greater things:


Out of the many good books I was able to give away at this blog in 2009,Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon was a treasure to behold.

The story of Lil,an elderly lady who spent her days working at a Manhattan book store and her nights dreaming of the memories of her youth as a fairy once assigned to help a certain young girl get to the ball with glass slippers was charmingly bittersweet and beautiful.

Turgeon is reportedly at work on a new novel that has the legend of the little mermaid as it's focus. Seeing how well she did with Cinderella,Turgeon's tale on the Hans Christian Anderson classic should definitely be worth looking out for.

Jacqueline Carey is best known as the creator of elaborate fantasy realms such as her Kushiel series and while she did release a new spin-off from those titles,a more down to earth flight of fancy was released by her as well.

Santa Olivia is set in a futuristic America,at a border town blocked off from the rest of the world due to the military's insistence on containing a band of roving terrorists.

The trapped inhabitants of Santa Olivia have no one to champion their cause until young Loup Garron becomes their small town savior,due to her odd parentage that gives her no fear and some amazing strengths that help her survive and seek justice for all. I don't know if there will be a follow-up book(it may be a one shot deal,like many a Joss Whedon science fiction show)but there's plenty more meat on this bone to chew over that would make for another tasty mental meal:

Speaking of follow-ups,the sequel to Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict took the anticipated time travel perspective of an Austen era single gal into our modern world and nearly topped herself into the bargain.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict had Jane Mansfield try to figure the rules of 21st century Courtney Stone's world that in some ways,are not that much different from the social restraints of her own place and time.

In addition,the freedoms of a modern woman,along with watching many of the film versions of Pride and Prejudice,are embraced with joy and a sense of true wonder that many present day readers of Austen's work long to possess from the pages:

*Lost in Austen is not an adaptation of the Jane Austen Addict novels-there has been some confusion there from fans and I just wanted to make that clear while I used this LIA clip as a theme reference,nothing more*


It's been awhile since I read mysteries but two books this year have reopened my interest in them. One of them was The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay,whose hired gun of a leading man is burdened more than the average noir P.I. Mark Genevich has a severe case of narcolepsy,which includes hallucinations and blacked out moments of time,a real stumbling block in his line of work.

That doesn't stop him from solving a case for Jennifer Times,a reality show starlet who seeks his help. While there is some doubt about whether or not her fingers were stolen,there are a set of possibly incriminating photos left on Mark's desk that bear investigating. This nifty little noir is a real eye opener and a earful of amusing word play to boot:

The other was Flipping Out,the third title in Marshall Karp's Lomax and Biggs detective series. This time out,Mike and Terry had to protect their lady loves from a killer stalking the house flipping company that tied in with a mystery writer's popular line of books.

I was lucky enough to get a spot on Flipping Out's blog tour(and the Rude Awakenings one as well)and it was fun to help a writer spread the good word about his latest literary endeavor. The street smart humor and fast pace of the Lomax and Biggs books are just as compelling as any L&O episode,with a true respect for the spirit of teamwork towards catching the bad guys in the end:


Many a popular website has gotten a book deal from their internet fame but not all of them have much to say beyond their web pages. The gals at Smart Bitches,Trashy Books offer plenty of bang for the buck with Beyond Heaving Bosoms,a first hand look at the romance novel genre and it's evolution over the years.

Serious food for thought is on their literary menu,along with the bawdy laughs at romantic cliches that they're known for. While literary lovers and romance fans may feel as if they are worlds apart from each other,Beyond Heaving Bosoms shows that there's always a way to bring these two together in hilarious harmony:

One of my favorite online comic strips is UnShelved,created by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes,which chronicles the day to day hazards of working at your local library. Their newest collection of strips in print form was called Reader's Advisory and among the targets of their mirthful wrath were overdone emergency drills,overzealous library students and ukuleles.

I got the chance to say hello to Gene at this year's BEA,where I also bought one of their cool T-shirts. Finding funny things about the library may seem to be hard to do but as anyone who's dealt with the public professionally knows,snark is easy to unearth anywhere:


A good friend of this blog has been YA author Robin Brande,whose second novel touches upon issues of female self esteem,healthy eating choices and taking scientific research outside of the lab.

In Fat Cat,Catherine Locke's determination to beat rival classmate Matt for their school science fair project has her living the lifestyle of a cavewoman by reducing and/or giving up everyday technology such as cars and cell phones and eating more down to earth fare than she's ever had before. The change in her appearance leads to other experiments with the new found power of her physical beauty but it's the journey of the heart break from her past with Matt that brings Cat full circle with her outlook on life.

Robin's first YA novel,Evolution,Me and Other Freaks of Nature,has been optioned for a film adaptation by some very big league Hollywood types and we all wish her well there. Fingers crossed that Fat Cat lands an equally great deal in that department but even if it doesn't,it's a wonderful read for both teens and adults alike.

2009 has been an interesting year,to say the least,and hopefully,things will get better on all fronts in 2010. In the meantime,let us take up a good book or two to talk about as we go thru these troubled times together:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Top Chef ups the ante,TAR teams need elbow room and is Sylar back in action?

It was down to the Top Five on Top Chef and the stakes got even higher with this last round before the Finale. Padma and guest judge Gavin Kaysen had the chefs make for the Quickfire their own version of the dish that Gavin entered in the Bocuse d'Or(it's a culinary Olympics)which was a protein within a protein within a protein,or as Jen called it,turducken.

Jen didn't make a turducken but her calamari steak with scallops and salmon gave her a QF win that she badly needed. She also received an extra thirty minutes of cooking time for the Elimination challenge

For the Elimination,the chefs had to hold a mini version of the Bocuse d'Or. They each had to create a presentation platter featuring one protein(either salmon or lamb)and two garnishes,all of which required a strong showing of technique. A number of influential people in the cooking world would be at the dinner,along with the usual judges,and that included highly respected chef Thomas Keller.

The Brothers Voltaggio had a mixed showing here,with Byran's parsley crusted lamb not being cooked enough. His garnishes of crepinette with lamb shank and orzo pasta with sheep's milk gratin were stylish enough but over all,everyone agreed that he needed more time to pull the whole thing off.

Michael claimed that his salmon platter had "Mediterranean influence" but none of the judges could taste that anywhere in his dishes,especially when one of them had cauliflower in it. Also,one of the dinner guests found a bone in his fish,not of the good there,buddy! Both his offering and Byran's were good enough to take them to the finals,but they both need to step up their A-game.

Jen will be joining them,despite the fact that her salmon portions were uneven in cut and cooking results(several of the judges wound up with undercooked fish). Her other dishes like the shrimp flan turned out great,so she made it in but I hope Jen doesn't ultimately crash and burn here. She's a good chef when she mellows out and puts her mind to it.

Last but definitely not least to make the Final Four was Kevin,who was declared the winner of this challenge. He received 30 grand as a reward,plus the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or-nice! His lamb confit may have appeared simple to some(*cough*Michael V*cough)but it was well executed along with his sherry glazed beets and baked asparagus on the side. Kudos to Byran for giving Kevin some tips about sous viding the meat(something Kevin doesn't regularly do). Good sportsmanship is always appreciated.

Packing up his knives to go was Eli,whose lamb sausage had huge chunks of cold uncooked fat in it,yuck! No one at the table could eat it,which was a shame since the truffle sauce looked very inviting. Personally,I'm glad he's gone. Eli always struck me as rather obnoxious at times and not as great of a chef as he claimed to be(that peanut soup from last week spoke volumes about that).

So,the finale will soon be under way and I'm rooting for Kevin to win. He's been the most consistent chef this season in terms of style and execution,plus a really nice guy to boot. Between the Brothers Voltaggio,I would have to favor Byran over Michael-Byran is a much nicer guy and seems to have more of a genuine love for food than Michael,whose overbearing nature is a real appetite killer.

Jen's a good contender but her output has been very uneven the last few rounds. She needs to not let her emotions get the best of her as things heat up and she could have a real shot at the win here. I do wish that this season had a Thanksgiving episode;some folks may hate those holiday themes but they can be a lot of fun:

On Heroes last week,it looked as if Matt had defeated the Sylar ghost in his mind by committing suicide by cop but wouldn't you know it,Peter showed up at his hospital bedside and used his newly acquired healing powers to bring him back from the brink of the beyond.

Fake Nathan was along for the ride,giving Spirit Sylar a chance to reconnect with his body. The touch off was very brief,but soon enough our favorite foe may be fully back in action,folks:

Next week,Heroes will be having a Thanksgiving episode and while Sylar may not be on the Bennet family guest list,there will be a couple of unexpected new faces at the table and plenty of tension to season the turkey with:

As the competition narrows down on The Amazing Race,the interaction between some of the teams is getting rougher and rougher. During the last leg,Sam and Dan were determined to outrun the Globetrotters to the Pit stop and some nasty elbowing was unleashed upon Flight Time there. Not cool,fellas,not cool at all!

Also not smart,since Big Easy was this close to punching either one of them out. I'm sorry to see Matt and Gary go,they seem to have a real solid bond between them. Brian and Erika are a good team as well and I can do without Meghan and Cheyne. Sam and Dan need to check themselves,however,or all that energy focused towards beating the Globetrotters(and other teams as well) may bite them back in the end:


V: There's only one more episode to go before the show shuts down for the winter and I hope it's a real doozy. So far,the intrigue level has been subtly peaked but in order to keep the buzz going until it returns in March of 2010,V needs to toss us a nice juicy grenade of revelation before it leaves.

They've set off some tasty firecrackers this week,such as the connection between Anna and Lisa(who has plans for Erica's son Tyler that she really won't like) but a major emotional explosion will have sci-fi fans talking for weeks on end and setting up countdown clocks for next season,trust me on this:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remote Control's goofy glory days

Recently,a sad footnote in pop culture history was made with the passing of Ken Ober,best known as the host of the first non-music related show on MTV back in the 1980s. Remote Control was a game show that catered to the couch potato crowd of college kids,with emphasis on pop culture trivia.

Contestants had to click thru channels in their easy chairs to select categories such as "Dead or Canadian" and "Babes and Assassins" and midway in the opening round,were treated to a "Snack Break" that had food rain down upon them. Silly,yes,but vast entertaining indeed:

A number of comedians made a few entries on their resumes from this show-Colin Quinn was the co-host(the Ed McMahon to Ken's Johnny Carson)and Kari Wuhrer launched a B movie career from her hostess stint for the first three seasons.

Some of the category questions were presented in skits,such as Denis Leary playing Andy Warhol in "Andy's Diary" and Adam Sandler as "Stud Boy",who would describe his pursuit of sexy celebrities for the contestants to guess who was the object of his dubious affection:

The laid back approach to the proceedings and the wacky interaction on stage made Remote Control a must-see show in my house. It was fun to watch low scoring players get yanked off midway in the second round,with the audience cheerfully singing the infamous "Goodbye" song and the final lightning round played in bed,plus Colin Quinn's singing was welcome at any time:

Remote Control lasted five seasons,longer than most of the other offbeat trivia game shows that came along after it. Comedy Central tried out the format at least twice with Win Ben Stein's Money and Beat The Geeks,which had regular folks go up against self professed "geeks" in such specialized categories as music,TV and film but also had "guest geeks" who narrowed their focus in certain areas like The Simpsons,South Park,James Bond and yes,even Michael Jackson. I really liked that show and wish they would bring it back:

Ken was only 52,very young to have left the world stage and he will be missed by those who knew him personally and those of us who fondly remember those glory days of Remote Control. Fare thee well,Ken:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sometimes group sings are best when unexpected

I have to confess that I've given up on Glee already and it's been bothering me as to the reason why. Pinpointing one major reason has been difficult here.

On paper,it seems exactly like the kind of show I would enjoy-high school setting, sly social satire,plenty of witty banter,a heady mix of romantic misunderstandings and emotional conflict between characters both maturing and mature(or supposed to be,at any rate)and excellent musical numbers to boot. What could be better than that?

Maybe that's the problem,it's a little too perfectly orchestrated for my tastes. There's no real surprise element and while the cast is extremely talented,watching them break into another well done song and dance number is just par for the course here. Not that I would want them to screw up on purpose(like poor Kurt did during his solo stand-off with Rachel)or anything like that,but spontaneity is one of those sparks of inspiration which shouldn't be taken for granted:

Some of my favorite musical moments from both TV and film have been those least expected to occur. One of the strengths of the Buffy episode "Once More,With Feeling' was that despite all of the strange supernatural happenings in Sunnydale over the years,none of the regular Scooby gang anticipated being made to reveal their inner emotion turmoils thru song. Having such an unexpected delight pop in to what one considers to be the standard genre fare makes the usual proceedings stand out even more.

It doesn't have to be a big moment;a scene that I always look forward to whenever I watch You've Got Mail is the holiday singalong bit done by the intrepid indie bookstore folks from The Shop Around the Corner. This is a movie that's jam packed with tunes for just about every major emotional highpoint and yet this little group melody thrills me every time:

Having a quick song moment during an episode rife with tension is a useful ice breaker. During a double date with Lorelai trying to keep Luke from sniping at Dean,who he felt wasn't good enough for Rory,the four of them wound up having to watch Pippi Longstocking instead of Cool Hand Luke at the local retro movie theater.

Pippi was fine with the ladies(plus Dean,who was introduced to the film long ago,thanks to them)who know it so well that they can follow along with the theme song without missing a beat:

Blending a musical number into the plot without making it too obvious is a tricky line to walk but the Golden Girls always managed to pull it off. During a show when it was needed to sing a cranky baby to sleep,Rose got Blanche and Dorothy to join her in a round of "Mr. Sandman" that sounded a lot better than Sophia was willing to admit(but her critique was meant to be a punchline,anyway,so there you go):

Some times an impromptu singalong can bring out a truly poignant moment. On the third season of Roseanne,singer Bonnie Bramlett was a reoccuring cast member,playing the seasoned waitress buddy of Roseanne during her stint at Rodbell's. For the Mother's Day episode,there was a group sing at the backyard barbecue held by the Connors that turned into a stunning solo for Bonnie. I had no idea at the time that she was a professional singer but after hearing this,there could be no doubt about it:

So,while I wish Glee well,I'm just going to have to remove myself from the crowd. The show has a good following at this point and altho I do yearn to like it more,there's no sense in watching a show that has lost it's appeal for me. I hope everyone else in sync with the series enjoys it to the fullest and those who,like me,like to look for those unexpected moments of song find something else to amuse them as well. Oh,and as to the song-off between Kurt and Rachel over Defying Gravity,my vote's for Kurt. Bad note or not,he gave more to the song than she did,in my opinion:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Twilight New Moon tie-in mania is on the rise

As the release date of Twilight:New Moon draws near,the increase of merchandise associated with the series has grown to incredible proportions. While some of this stuff is to be expected with the success of the films(along with a strong boom in vampire lore within the pop culture in the last couple of years),a few of these advertising venues are rather off the beaten path of the usual commercial haunts.

The target audience that big ad campaigns like this tend to seek out are teens and the hopefully open wallets of their parents. However,a few of these Twilight items seem to be very crossover friendly to the older Twihards in the crowd as well.

For example,let's look at the dolls-while the Twilight Barbie and Ken version of Edward and Bella may be something a teenage girl may want on her shelf,it's the diehard Barbie collectors who will be snatching them up as well.

The Neca Twilight action figuresare in the reasonably priced range(Edward alone goes for around $15)and are a bit more lifelike in appearance. That company also caters to more of a mature sci-fi/fantasy/video game crowd of customers,keeping the casual and the committed supernatural fans in touch with one another.

Also,even if the economy was a thousand times better than it is right now,not many average fans of the Twilight saga would be able to snag the Tonner versions of Edward,Bella and Victoria(the lowest price is for Bella,at $140). As much as I liked the fella who played James in the first film,getting a $179 price tag version of him is rather much indeed.

Candy is easy on the budget,so picking up a box of the Twilight themed Sweethearts conversation hearts entitled "Forbidden Fruit" would be good while you wait in the movie theater lobby.

A friend of my sister's sent me an Edward box as a gag gift(they are not Twilight fans,needless to say)and it's not much different from the regular chalky candy hearts given out for Valentine's Day. Yes,they do have sparkles and Twilight appropriate phrases like "bite me" and "soul mate" but if you're not into Sweethearts in the first place,I wouldn't rush out and buy them.

I have heard of a Twilight chocolate bar called "Heart's Desire",which is based on the classic Sky Bar(this new one has three instead of four chocolate compartments filled with different flavored creams). That I would go for,as a serious chocoholic.

For a more substantial meal,Burger King has a whole New Moon package with Team Edward and Team Jacob water bottles,trading cards and even the tried and true Burger King crown itself. Maybe it's just me,but the fact that the majority of the Twilight characters wouldn't even order off of any burger joint menu(they prefer their meat extra raw,if you know what I mean and some of you do)makes this particular tie-in hard to swallow.

The oddest commercial tie-in to me is the Volvo;granted I am not a big car person to begin with and while interest in driving the same car as Edward Cullen does may help stimulate the economy,it just seems to be on the verge of fandom overdrive. Then again,lots of guys have bought Aston Martins to be like James Bond,so there may be a method to this madness after all:

In the end,most Twilight fans will get whatever tie-in product suits their style and budget. I prefer the small stuff(I own a Twilight pen picked up at a comic con last year)and while homemade objects of fan love are the best,there's nothing wrong with grabbing a mainstream goodie within your price range. Speaking of range,the soundtrack for New Moon just isn't the same without Paramore in the lineup. I get that they didn't want to be typecast but Death Cab for Cutie just isn't cutting it for me,angsty music wise: