Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A few tips for making your speech more Jane Austen like

As today is the first of what I hope will be many more remembrances to come that honor the first publishing of Sense and Sensibility, the book that introduced all the world to the wonders of Miss Jane Austen,our daily discussion will offer a number of ways in which we can expand our verbal horizons.

In short,I have prepared a list of opportunities that should be useful for those wishing to fully engage in Talk Like Jane Austen Day. Whether you prefer to openly converse with others in this manner or restrict your remarks to online society,perhaps one of these suggestions will prove useful to you beyond the boundaries of this singular social entertainment.

READING RECOMMENDATIONS: To somewhat rephrase a point made by Mr. Darcy himself,part of the improvement of one's mind can be achieved by extensive reading. In order to do this effectively,both the giving and receiving of books between trusted friends and acquaintances is an excellent means by which to make your search for proper material less of a burden.

This is also a good topic of conversation to engage in,particularly when making new friendships but do keep in mind that some books may be too warm in nature to mention in a public setting and are best spoken about only with particular persons in private.

However,do not be afraid of expressing your approval for popular works;you may find that such tastes are shared by the most agreeable people who are only too eager to share their opinions with you:

A GOOD DOSE OF POETRY: Reading to oneself is all very well and good,but the surest method for enhancing your speaking manner by it comes from reading aloud.

From the words of Shakespeare to more modern fare,public speaking has helped to assist many a promising young person to enter and gain success in their chosen profession.

Poetry is not a field of endeavor that many consider to be practical yet it has provided a wealth of worthy material for aspiring public speakers to practice their performances with.

With enough effort and encouragement,you may be able in time to not only recite poetry in a clear voice and engaging manner for general delight but to hold forth with a composition of your own creation most credibly:

MAKING THOSE FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A hallmark of refined speech is being able to make friends wherever you go,through the use of agreeable as well as polite dialogue. Whether you are being introduced to a large new number of new acquaintance or simply paying your compliments to the hostess of an evening's party,a little amenability can go quite a long way.

However,pretty speech can be as deceiving as a pretty face. While obvious social blunders can be smoothed over by well chosen words,it will do you credit to lend a discerning ear towards dialogue that may be you leading far too close to a path of possible indiscretion:

WORD PLAY WITH CARDS: Another good way of strengthening your verbal skills is by displaying your skill at cards with others. It is not enough,however,to merely join in for a hand or two,particularly if you must play with a partner at your side. Fortune favors the brave,so taking the lead in bringing a new game to the table can improve your chances of winning in more ways than one.

Introducing a new game to your companions that all will truly enjoy requires clear and concise instructions,along with knowing when to press an advantage and when to tactfully decline from taking an unfair one:

In conclusion,I do hope that this day of vocal celebration will be a beacon of encouragement that lights the way for a turn towards making proper speech more fashionable in our society than it seems to be at the moment.

By no means do I insist upon correcting the grammar of others nor to disallow slang terminology amongst friends-the growth of language in any society would be severely stinted by such punitive methods. It would be more prudent to endorse the positive effects of improved speech instead.

A good example would be in giving our future generations the verbal veracity that would serve them well in choosing future leaders. Rather than being easily swayed by clever words,they will be fully armed to take on all contenders and match wits with the best of them.

Perhaps we may even gain a truthfully honest leader in the process,which I grant you is a bit of a stretch,but as Emma Woodhouse would say,stranger things have happened and it does no harm to hope for better things,now does it?:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Top Chef: JD's Dessert Wars,a less than tasty meal for a TAR team and The Vampire Diaries prepare for cold blooded revenge

We're down to six chefs on Top Chef:Just Desserts and after a cookie jar pull,they were divided into two teams for their own version of a mise-en-place relay race. The challenges were to fill a dozen small tart pans with crust,make a batch of butter-cream roses,whip up a non drip froth of egg whites and the hardest of all,roll up a filled with fruit strudel.

It was pretty close but at the end,Team Diva(Zac,Yigit and Heather H)were defeated by Team Morganza(Danielle,Erik and naturally,Morgan). Since Team Diva has been carrying on with as much decorum as your average high school clique,this little let down should have woken them up about just how hot their pastry skills may not be.

Everyone staid in team mode as the big elimination challenge was revealed to be Dessert Wars-each group was given a bakery shop set and each person was responsible for three items,one of which had to be bread based.

The big prize for the winning team was 30 grand(to divide up,I assume-that wasn't made very clear),so all of the chefs were pretty jazzed for this challenge.

Team Morganza decided to call their shop "Whisk Me Away",with a home style comfort food approach to their sweets.

While Eric's chocolate chip cookie went over well,Judge Gail thought it was a bit too basic. Judge Johnny,however,pointed out that every business needs a simple sellable item and that the cookie was excellent in that regard.

Danielle had front of the house duties,which she carried off with a lackluster air. While two of her dessert offerings were decent,the coffee cream pie with hazelnut brittle was deemed too mild in flavor.

The superstar of this team and the night was Morgan,whose dishes the judges adored. From his pretzel stick with duo of mustard sauces to the fried lemon pie and a true piece de resistance,a chocolate mousse cake with a creme brulee center,the guy was on fire here.

Team Morganza won,much to the dismay of Team Diva. Morgan's personality leaves quite a bit to be desired(he's condescending and cranky,at the best of times),the man is showing all the signs of becoming a serious contender for the finale. Some people need to really get it together or they'll be tapped out of the competition before they know it.

Meanwhile,Team Diva called their place "Pastry Playland" and although spirits were high,their display case was low on goodies. Zac's initial treats such as caramel corn with bacon bits and blueberry jam doughnut did please some palates but his lemon verbana milkshake was a bust,along with the fennel seed and kalamata brioche that he made as well.

Yigit did great as front of the house man and his margarita sorbet delighted Judge Gail to no end. Unfortunately,his peanut chocolate tart had a crust so thick that Hebert Keller nearly broke his plate cutting into it.

Heather was the one who made that dough,which she owned up to at judge's table,and as usual,she took too much upon herself which showed in her own dishes. The frozen key lime bar she made bore the mark of her fingerprints on the chocolate,for one thing and since she was the one who made a lot of the other components that affected her team's treats,Heather was told to pack up her kit and go.

It was a welcome sight to see,particularly due to Heather's consistent crankiness with others. At one point during Dessert Wars,she actually got into a "Shut up-no,you shut up!' fight with Zac in the kitchen,very grade school indeed.

Next week,the remaining five have some fancy sugar work to do and things get even tenser than they already were. As much as I like this Just Desserts deal,it's hard not to be impatient for Top Chef All Stars to begin.

Doctor gal pals Nat and Kat were lucky enough to take advantage of a Fast Forward on The Amazing Race,especially since the Detour involved rappelling off of a bridge and Nat has a fear of heights. Why anyone with that particular phobia goes on this show,I'll never understand.

Turns out that the Fast Forward was a major challenge for Kat,who has been a vegetarian for 22 years and hoped this wasn't an eating assignment. Of course,it was and the two ladies had to devour the meat from a sheep's head. Again,if you have certain food preferences,be prepared to abandon them on the race.

To their credit,the ladies got through the unappealing meal and became Team Number One for their troubles. At least Nat and Kat took the whole thing in stride instead of getting over dramatic,which earns them bonus points in my book:

Sinister shenanigans are in the works on The Vampire Diaries as the Salvatore Brothers and friends plan to quit playing around and give Katherine what the vamps on True Blood tend to call the "true death". That sounds good on paper,but things aren't going to be that simple,folks.

Katherine is in desperate need of a werewolf for whatever end game she's playing(my guess is some sort of empowerment spell involving that moonstone Mason was so eager to get for her)and now that Damon has eliminated her right hand man,so to speak,she has to create another one.

Her back-up plan is to compel Matt into fighting with Tyler unto the death,which will trigger Tyler's inborn lycanthropy and bingo,brand new minion! These two schemes are bound to end badly,one way or another,with the only guarantee being that this should be one hell of an episode:


PROJECT RUNWAY: Tonight is the finale,where the Final Three have their Fashion Week showing,and despite the hype about a split decision between the judges,I'm rooting for Mondo to win. This season has been much more well paced than last time,even though it was overrun at times with personality drama but talent is what should win out in the end:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A bounty harvest of books is ripe for the reading this November and December

With Halloween soon upon us and Thanksgiving setting up the feasting tables as we speak(not to mention the mad rush to the major winter celebrations before the end of this year),there are plenty of seasonal preparations to get ready for. On top of that,there's an election just around the corner to make things even more lively.

However,that shouldn't totally take us away from checking the latest in literature. The need for a little relief and relaxation is vitally important during such hectic times and if your cable company is feuding with a network and not letting you watch certain channels yet again,reading is a most welcome refuge indeed:


Kathleen Kent follows up her marvelous debut novel,Heretic's Daughter,with an earlier look at the trials and tribulations of two of it's characters, Thomas Carrier and his destined bride Martha.

With The Wolves of Andover,we first meet Martha as a servant in her cousin's home who falls in love with the hard working Thomas,who is threatened by more than one outside source.

In addition to partaking in the local wolf hunts,Thomas and Martha come under attack from English assassins seeking the head of the man involved in the death of Charles I. As their romance builds,so does the fear that they may be all too abruptly parted. Kathleen Kent showed us her flair for making historical fiction feel all too real before and here she goes again with another well woven tale(November).

A Stranger in Mayfair is the newest entry in Charles Finch's Lenox Mysteries series,where Victorian gentleman Charles Lenox arrives home after an overseas honeymoon with his new wife Lady Jane and is requested by a good friend to look into the violent death of a footman.

Soon enough,many secrets regarding not only the footman but the family that he worked for are brought to light,as well as a connection to an old friend of Lenox's in the bargain.

Even with the arrest of a suspect,Lenox has his doubts about the bigger picture that this murder took place in. When it comes to finding the truth in such matters,perception is truly in the eye of the beholder(November):


Steve Dublanica made a strong splash on the restaurant scene with his blog and then later book about being in food service called Waiter Rant. Now,he's back and tackling an even stickier subject,the social niceties of tipping.

Keep the Change discusses tipping with more than just waiters and waitresses;everyone in the service industry such as beauticians,bellhops and bartenders are given their two cents here.

While there are phone apps available to figure how much to leave as a respectable tip in eateries,other issues are not as easy to work out such as who should be left a gratuity in certain situations and what impression will I leave on so-and-so,based on what I give? This topic is certainly one that most of us have an opinion about and worth a lively debate(November):

Thanks to the renewal of interest in Julia Child and her culinary legacy,more of her personal world can be explored for the edification of all.

As Always,Julia is a collection of over two hundred letters between Julia and her devoted friend Avis DeVoto,who offered up emotional support and encouragement as Julia dealt with putting together her now classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia and Avis spoke openly and candidly about other concerns,such as the changes going on in the post-WWII world around them and the intimate details of their love lives.

Whether you're a die-hard Child fan or just a casual diner,there's sure to be something on this festive menu of correspondence that will whet your intellectual appetite(December):


Dean Koontz is fond of delivering a new thriller to his fans by the end of December and this year is no exception as What The Night Knows is set to arrive before New Year's Eve. The ghost of a vicious killer haunts the footsteps of Detective John Calvino,who is worried that his family will be the next victim in the current spree of slayings that he's investigating.

These brutal attacks are startling similar to the bloody path carved out twenty years ago by Alton Turner Blackwood,the man who claimed John's parents and sister as victims in his tally before a then fourteen year old John took him permanently out of the game.

Just how permanent that really was is one of the questions that John must seek an answer to in order to save his loved ones and stop this new reign of terror before it's too late. Sounds chilly than a blizzard but with a warm blanket and good lighting,this scary story could certainly keep you warm with excitement(December 28).

Another fright fest on tap is Stephen King's Full Dark,No Stars,a quarter of novellas(aka,long short stories) that have different takes on terror.

While two of them have supernatural spins("1922" and "Fair Extension")the other stories deal with more true to life horror shows,as one woman discovers the depths she will to go to claim revenge for an assault which nearly killed her and another unearths the secret life of her supposed to be meek and mild husband.

The beauty of the short story is in it's brief moment of time in which to enchant the reader into that small window of imaginative observation opened up to them. King loves keeping those windows wide open,hoping to make you fall right in but perhaps more than willing to give you a push there as well(November):


Lauren Willig's series of Pink Carnation novels that blend Regency spy stories with a modern day gal's search into them have quite a following and her latest romp has a holiday setting for it's story to be properly displayed in.

Mischief of the Mistletoe gives the spotlight to Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh,considered a bumbler at best by the majority of his acquaintance,who unexpectedly winds up involved in intrigue during a visit to his sister at boarding school.

The new headmistress,Arabella Dempsey,is in possession of a Christmas pudding that may offer more than figgy goodness and leads to several merry misunderstandings and deadly encounters. Another sweet surprise is the appearance of Jane Austen as a small supporting player who naturally has the last word in romantic advice.

Officially,this book is due out on October 28 but with being that close to November and it's timely seasonal theme,Mischief of the Mistletoe rightly belongs in this holiday lineup and satisfy even those whose sights are firmly set on Mr. Darcy alone as the perfect romantic lead(late October,early November):

Speaking of Darcy,Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell envisions the Pride and Prejudice cast and crew in post-Civil War America,as the Bennet family retrenches from Ohio to Rosings,Texas.

While Beth Bennet appreciates her new surroundings,she is determined to hold true to her core beliefs which are challenged by Will Darcy,a local rancher with plenty of reason to be reluctant about his past.

There have been scores of reinventions of Austen's most beloved novel but in this creative relocation,the feisty and forthright nature that our Miss Bennet is blessed with can be fully engaged and explored. Many a notion of courtly romance did arrive in the States during that period and any a new look at this classic couple is most certainly welcome(December):

I hope some of these upcoming books will find their way to you,as either a entertainment option or a great gift for that special soul on your holiday list. It would be nice to just enjoy this magical time for it's own glories instead of fretting about where to buy that hot ticket item and if this set of literary suggestions helps in any way,I will be happy to sit back and sip a cup of hot chocolate with a smile and song in my heart:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Presenting Jeff Dunham and friends in All By My Selves

Ventriloquism is mostly regarded as a novelty act of a bygone era these days but like many classic forms of pop culture,it only takes one talented person with persistence to make everything old new again. Jeff Dunham is that guy for this genre and along with his merry band of seriously silly sidekicks,has made quite a name for himself and his comical creations.

His upcoming memoir,All By My Selves:Walter,Peanut,Achmed and Me,chronicles his life and times as an entertainer called towards more of an old school style in a world ruled by stand-up comedians with modern flair.

Jeff started out at age eight,with a dummy modeled after Mortimer Snerd,one of Edgar Bergen's most popular characters. Bergen's techniques were guide posts that Jeff studied to develop his craft and inspirations for his budding talent as well:

Over time,Jeff developed his own offbeat personae such as the cantankerously charming Walter and Peanut,who definitely marches to the beat of a really different drum.

He did all sorts of gigs,from corporate events to state fairs and small clubs,striving for a major career goal;an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jeff did eventually become a regular returning guest on that program as well as other late night shows but that was only one hurdle to jump over in getting his career off the ground:

Jeff's act wasn't an easy fit into most markets but eventually he carved out his own niche,with live performances and Comedy Central specials that brought in many folks attracted to his warm wit and politically incorrect edge. While his recent cable series was given only one season,Dunham's star is still on the rise.

The book talks about the ins and outs of his career,including the development of such controversial characters as Achmed,The Dead Terrorist,who first began as a much needed dose of comic relief after the tragic events of 9/11. Achmed,thanks to numerous YouTube viewings,has become a major league fan favorite with an international following.

Some might feel that it's insensitive to have this figure in his show but by making what many people fear most in the world a source of laughter,Jeff ultimately shows us how foolish it is to give such power over our minds and hearts to anyone:

Dunham tells his stories in a very straightforward manner,laced with good humor and occasional commentaries from his galley of merry(not so merry in Walter's case,I grant you) misfits.

While he does discuss numerous highs and lows in both his personal and professional life,Jeff does not dwell on the negative. Rather,he sincerely tries to learn from all of his experiences and strive to improve himself and his art. He may sound too good to be true but Jeff Dunham is who he is;a person fortunate enough to know what he wanted to do in life early on and happy to share his gifts with others.

All By My Selves is an entertaining look at a pop culture phenomenon and his take on the world around him. Even if you've never seen one of his performances yet still hold a special place in your heart for puppets,this book delivers the comedy goods. Jeff Dunham's memoir will be on sale by November 2,so keep a lookout for it and maybe one of his buddies at a book signing near you:

Monday, October 25, 2010

How much does it matter that Jane Austen's bits of ivory had a touch of an editor's brush?

An intriguing literary discovery for Jane Austen fans was made public over this past weekend,as renowned Oxford University scholar Kathryn Sutherland revealed that our Miss Austen clearly had some editorial assistance in bringing many of her later works such as Persuasion and Emma to life.

As part of a three year project to have all of Austen's manuscripts available for online viewing,Sutherland read over 1,100 pages of her writings,which include spelling errors,incorrect grammar and scratch-outs. Most of the polishing of Austen's later material is attributed to William Gifford,contradicting statements by Jane's brother Henry such as "everything came finished from her pen."

It's no secret that the Austen family tended to encourage the notion of Dear Jane as a sweet little literary saint over the years,not to mention a few Austen devotees. Some may even feel upon first hearing this news a sense of outrage-"Oh,naturally-such a brilliant female author had to be taken in hand by a man! No mere woman could have the talent or wit to create such well crafted prose on her own, she had to have had help-how dare they suggest that!"

As many characters have to had to say to Mrs. Bennett,do calm yourself and take a moment to reflect on what influence that an editor would have on any writer's work. Especially a writer with exceptional talent that may not have been as much exposed to the wider world of letters and formal education as Miss Austen was:

She would not be the first writer to possess messy handwriting or prone to crossing out mistakes or lines that she changed her mind about,after all. If you look at the first drafts of many authors from her time to the present(and even further back),it's easier to appreciate the blessings of spellcheck and deletion that many of us enjoy in this electronic age.

It is the part of the duty of an editor to not only clean up the text but to steer their writers in the right direction when it comes to keeping an eye on the main point of the work. Yes,there is a vast difference between dropping some useful hints and taking over the material but no one,not even Miss Sutherland,is suggesting that.

By persisting in the idea that Miss Austen was able to produce perfect writing without any guidance(particularly male guidance)is another attempt at denying the lady her humanity,in my opinion.

The best thing about learning more about an artist's life and times is seeing him or her as a real person,who struggled with both personal and professional regrets yet managed to showcase their creative visions,some of which brought them true immortality. The price to pay for that is often high:

If anything,this new revelation should inspire more people to learn about Austen's creative process,something that has been taken for granted due to the strong commercialization of her work. Many are quick to write Jane off as a sentimental scribbler of love stories,despite the sharp jabs at the social morays of her day that are glaringly present in her books.

Others are fast to assume that Jane's stories don't require the in-depth analysis one would give to a more "sophisticated" literary work,seeing as it's easy to adapt her characters and plots into sitcom ready fare. Such conceited folly would make Miss Austen herself snicker with sarcastic amusement at the modern day likes of Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine thinking they know all there is know about anything,including her work:

Rather than damage the reputation of Miss Austen's work,Kathryn Sutherland's goal is to open up more discussion about her experimental style and promote the concept that Jane Austen was"even better at writing dialogue and conversation than the edited style of her published novels suggest." I hope that dialogue takes place,as it would benefit both old and new readers of Austen's body of work.

As we approach the anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility,the first of Jane Austen's novels to be released upon the world,this new tidbit of knowledge about her writing is a gift that should not be shoved aside or packed up for disposal. Instead,it ought to be looked over as carefully as Miss Austen did with her prose and ultimately appreciated for the whole as well as the sum of it's parts:

Friday, October 22, 2010

A few humorous Halloween hijinks for your pop culture trick or treat bag

Halloween is still about a week away but that doesn't mean we can't start celebrating with a smile. Laughter is the best cure for fear and holiday themed humor is the ultimate sweet treat for the soul. As a whimsical warm-up to All Hallow's Eve,here are a few fearsomely funny clips that should make you shudder with giggly ghoulish delight:

A WITCHY ENDORSEMENT: First up,we have a little promo from the official Mistress of the Dark,Elvira as she clears up those slurs about her occult status and encourages folks to support the brand of cheesy late night horror movie that she proudly hosts.

Yes,this is a parody of a certain candidate out on the political scene as we speak but hey,whose to say that Elvira wouldn't do just as a good job as some of the people hustling for public office these days? One thing's for sure,she certainly knows how to grab your attention with her talking points there:

DEVILISH DICKENS OF A PLOT: On one of the infamous Roseanne Halloween episodes,Mrs. Connor had lost her taste for elaborate costumes and gruesome pranks so she received visits from the Ghosts of Halloween Past,Present and Future. While it took her awhile to revive her spirits of the season,the ultimate shocker was seeing just low her abandonment of Halloween fun could go:

COSTUME CALAMITY: Since the boys on The Big Bang Theory love all things associated with geek,dressing up as superheroes seems par for the course. However,the issue of everyone latching onto the same outfit was bound to pop up,sooner or later.

In this instance,the guys chose The Flash,a DC Comics favorite,and one that so far hasn't been adapted for a major motion picture.

While the four of them teaming up to create the super speed the character is known for is not a bad idea,changing costumes was the better solution(plus,getting dibs on what other fantasy figure to go was truly quick thinking there):

BOO TO YOU,TOO: One of my favorite episodes of Reba is the one where she teases an all too easily swayed by superstition Barbara Jean about the possibility of her new house being haunted. Part of her mirthful motivation was to get back at ex-husband Brock for allowing their young son to watch scary movies that gave him nightmares but Reba's main reason was that she found the whole thing hilarious.

The joke wound up backfiring,however,as Reba was tricked into babysitting a frightened Barbara Jean on her own time. After all,those laughs at her neighbor's expense started to stick in Reba's throat,which could explain the strange chanting mode she went into:

Hopefully,these Halloween gags gave you a grin wider than any jack o' lantern on display this season. The best part of this season is sharing the fun with friends and family in your community,along with some great goodies. I know that many places are already setting up for the next holiday on the docket but taking time out for Halloween is a great way to bond as well as say "BOO!":

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top Chef: JD goes back to black and white,a TAR team's swan song and a Mad Men marriage proposal

For the Quickfire challenge on Top Chef:Just Desserts this week,everyone had to make a dessert with savory ingredients and it had to be prepared using only one pot. Zac won this round with a beet cake that had sweetened goat cheese and a lemon thyme gremolata.

He was granted immunity but quickly traded that in for a cash prize of five thousand dollars instead(which he negotiated from an offer of one grand!). That was a bit of a risk to do,particularly before learning the details of the Elimination challenge.

The devil was in the details here,as the chefs had to make black and white treats for a party of 200 guests to celebrate the 128th anniversary of the Los Angeles Times. Lucky for Zac that his deep fried whoopie pie with passion fruit cream and Asian pear rocked the socks off of the judges there.

Joining him in the winner's circle was Eric,for his take on a Mississippi mud cake that had Earl Grey whipped cream and hot fudge sauce. The most impressive component of the dish was the plating,which Eric has had some trouble with in earlier rounds. Judge Gail praised him for the obvious improvement and that meant more to Eric than getting the win here.

Yigit took the win this time,thanks to his chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse and a berry compote with almond milk ice cream on the side. The flavors were rich but not cloying,plus the elegance of the cake composition was a visual pleaser as well.

It was a bad night for the ladies,as all of them landed in the Bottom Three. Heather's spiced chocolate gingerbread torte had red berries,which stood out a little too much for the black and white theme,plus her flavors didn't have much of a punch.

Sadly,it was Erika who went home,for a lemon poppy seed ice cream that the judges said tasted like soap. Her white chocolate pave and blackberry creme brule didn't go over too well either. It's a shame,since Erika was one of the more levelheaded chefs in this competition,not to mention a creator of some really gorgeous looking desserts. She will be missed.

Next week, this Top Chef spin-off will getting it's own version of Restaurant Wars,whipping folks up into even more of a frenzy than they already are. Should be fun and frothy viewing there!

The Express Pass was used at last on The Amazing Race,sparing Jill and Thomas from struggling through the second choice for the Detour. The two of them were way behind to begin,before poor Jill kept taking tumbles on that ski slope scooter.

The team that was eliminated instead was the Princeton Acapella Boys,Jonathan and Connor. This particular leg happened to fall on the date of their college graduation,something they did keep slightly grousing about.

The boys took their loss in literal stride,serenading Phil with a pomp and circumstance tune as they made that final walk into the Pit Stop. Well,at least these new graduates gained a little life experience and were entertaining to the last:

The fourth season of Mad Men wrapped up with some hope for the future of SCDP,as Peggy signed on a new account all on her own and it turns out that Joan decided to keep that baby after all(good for her!)but everything was eclipsed by Don's proposal to Megan.

She wound up accompanying him and the kids on their California trip after Betty unjustly fired Carla for letting Glen say goodbye to Sally(when that girl actually has a real boyfriend,things are going to go from ugly to hideous with her mother). I had a feeling about Megan a few episodes back and was really happy to see that her answer was "yes" to Don.

Not just for the kids' sake,altho I do think that Megan will make a great as well as supportive stepmother,but she's more of the kind of woman that Don can handle right now. True,she is a younger female who looks up to him,much like Betty was at first,but Megan doesn't seem to have the same set of heavy emotional baggage as his first wife. Also,she's not as willingly naive and has a sincere interest in Don's work,which could help him and the agency in the long run.

Don's treatment of Faye stunk on ice,but let's face it-that relationship wasn't going to work out,regardless of Megan. Faye and Don are both too alpha for each other to take on full time and one way or another,they both know it.

Many folks point to that moment when Sally spilled her milkshake in the restaurant and Megan's calm reaction as the deciding point for Don to pop the question. I concur with that,since the stunned expressions on the Draper clan spoke volumes about how very much they wanted a change from their dysfunctional norm and happy to accept Megan as the agent of that new regime. Next season will hopefully show us if that snap decision was a wise one:


THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: After a brief break,the show is back with new developments on the Catherine front and more allies in the hunt to take her down. For Halloween week,we're getting a masquerade ball as a treat while Katherine prepares plenty of tricks to torment Elena and the Salvatore boys with-I love it when a theme comes together!:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'll take Crossover Pop Culture Jeopardy Moments for 1000,Alex

One of our longer lasting game shows is Jeopardy,viewed throughout the world and still holding it's own as the most challenging quiz program in syndication.

Most of us grew up with current host Alex Trebek(Art Fleming was the original question man for the early seasons,starting in 1964 and ending in 1979)and while the sets may have changed over the years,the basic Q&A format really hasn't.

It's status as a high water mark of intelligence makes Jeopardy a show most desirable for folks eager to display their smarts,with some of those contenders even coming from the realm of fiction.

From sitcoms to movies and comedy sketches,Jeopardy has been an ideal goal for many a made up character. Let's take a gander at some of these amusing appearances and see if any of the pop culture players had the chops to reach the final round:

MAMA'S FAMILY: Thelma Harper tried her hand at Jeopardy and really had a tough time of it for awhile there. Fortunately,she managed to dig herself out of the minus pit and make it to the final question. While Thelma wasn't the big winner that day,at least she did better on Jeopardy than when her clan went on Family Feud:

GOLDEN GIRLS: Dorothy was hellbent on being a contestant but her over-zealousness cost her a spot on the show. However,she did get her very own Jeopardy themed dream sequence,going up against Rose and Empty Nest spin-off character Charlie(who made frequent appearances on GG from time to time). Dorothy's dream ultimately spun out of control,with the help of a cameo by game show magnate Merv Griffin,but what a wild ride it was:

GROUNDHOG'S DAY: One of best throwaways gags in the movie was when bored with his seemingly never-ending day weatherman Phil showcased his memorization of the Jeopardy episode playing that evening. To most of the folks with him,he seemed to be super smart but at least one of them was a little spooked by Phil's ability to answer the questions even before they were asked:

WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP: A major life goal of girlfriend Gloria in this flick was to make a splash on Jeopardy and she got her wish indeed. Lucky for Gloria that the judges didn't hold her pronunciation of an answer against her;they're pretty picky with that for regular contestants these days:

CELEBRITY JEOPARDY/SNL: A popular reoccurring skit on Saturday Night Live during Will Ferrell's time was this parody version that had Sean Connery taking every opportunity to drive Trebek crazy. While I don't think Connery has ever been on the show,he may not want to after such hilarious expectations have been built up here:

Well,that's all the time we have for now,folks. Tune in next time when we may have more game show related pop culture picks for display. In the meanwhile,please enjoy our parting gift,courtesy of Weird Al and company:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some subtle scares from literary fare for your Halloween delight

While many of us love having Halloween as an excuse to read and watch as many scary stories as we can,some folks are less than thrilled with the gruesome pop culture offerings thrust upon them this season.

It's not so reasonable;after all,you can easily get overloaded and underwhelmed by the hordes of zombies,serial killers and werewolves screaming for attention on every other channel,bookstore display or multiplex screen.

Even a big vampire fan like myself feels the need for a break from bloodsuckers once in a while there. As a service to those seeking less gory but still spooky in spirit entertainment,here are a few suggestions from the realm of classic literature that should give you a good shudder or two:


Granted,this posthumously published novel of Jane Austen's mostly pokes fun at the overwrought imagination of those who take their leisure reading a little too seriously but it does whip up a few moments of titillating tension as our heroine Catherine Morland widens her eyes extra large upon her arrival to the title sinister looking estate.

While the 2007 film version of this story does provide a few inventive scenes of gothic fantasy,the 1986 take on the story is done with a fearsome flourish worthy of any Hammer horror film. For campy chills and surrealistic sequences that make no real sense yet are charming to behold,this eerie view of Austen is your golden ticket to terror:


For a more authentic gothic tone,the Sisters Bronte are happy to oblige. While Jane Eyre does have plenty of lurid thrills on hand(a mysterious mad woman in the attic is nothing to sniff at ),Emily Bronte's tale of tormented lovers has more shocks in store for it's readers and viewers.

Wuthering Heights was one of the inspirations for the second book in the Twilight saga and for good reason. The hell that Heathcliff and Cathy put themselves through,dragging in other friends and family from more than one generation down with them,makes any deathtrap from the Saw movies look like child's play in comparison.

It even begins in a ghost story like manner,as a stranger to the area stumbles across the house and dares to stay the night,despite the desolate air that haunts those still remaining. Wuthering Heights may be marketed as a tragic love story but it's also a good example of destructive obsession,sort of the Fatal Attraction of it's day:


"Come on,Lady T-this is a Hitchcock movie! Of course it's scary!" Don't be so quick to assume that,folks. This chilling film,based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel,is more of a mystery that gently unfolds rather than the overt horror of Hitch's Psycho or The Birds. Rebecca is truly a haunted house story with the evil that was this woman still lingering on in halls of Manderley,determined to destroy as many lives as it can.

A prime agent of this agenda is Mrs. Danvers,the housekeeper whose twisted devotion to her former mistress takes the form of suggestive sabotage towards the new Mrs. DeWinter. One wonders if Danvers is motivated by obsession or in some strange way a victim of possession as she seeks a way to avenge the perceived wrongs done to the first Mrs. DeWinter with no limits as to far she's willing to go:


Unfortunately,none of these "blood and thunder tales" by Louisa May Alcott have been adapted for film but they are still available for your reading pleasure,thanks to the diligence of two LMA researchers who brought her hidden for years thrillers out into the literary limelight.

Alcott wrote many stories dealing with themes that would certainly shock those only familiar with Little Women(then again,Jo March did scribble a few shockers of her own there)-deception,drug addiction,madness and deliberate cruelty.

There is also a full fledged novel called a Long Fatal Love Chase that has a woman on the run from a not to be deterred lover(no restraining orders in those days)but for a small taste of LMA style of terror,the brief novellas collected in Behind a Mask should do rather nicely:

I hope that some of these offbeat suggestions for milder Halloween chills are of some use to even those diving into the more modern fright fests going on around us. While there are plenty of high tech horror flicks to be found this time of year, it is wise to not buy too much into the hype. The bang for your buck might not be as big as you expect it to be: