Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, October 31, 2011

A handful of sugary sweet tunes for your Halloween treat bag

Happy Halloween,friends and fiends! For your special LRG holiday treat,we have gathered up a sweet set of songs that highlight the most important element of the day,candy.

Whether you're a kid or still a kid at heart,Halloween is the perfect excuse to indulge in all sorts of edible goodies of nearly every sweet flavor imaginable. Some of these tunes reflect that childhood innocence while others have more of a grown-up taste to them,so there's a little something for everyone here:

One Halloween staple that can be enjoyed year round is the lollipop(my favorite kind are the Tootsie Roll ones)and there are two classic songs about these special sweets on a stick.

First up is Shirley Temple's The Good Ship Lollipop,from her 1934 film Bright Eyes. References to other candies are made within the lyrics but it's the title that counts here:

From there we jump ahead to The Chordettes' 1958 rendition of Lollipop,which was heard most recently in a Dell computer commercial.

This song has been covered by a number of other artists throughout the years,including action star Steven Seagal for his Songs From the Crystal Cave album back in 2005. That's a little too scary to listen to,so we'll play the original instead:

Toffee is one of those items that often puzzle kids when it winds up in a trick or treat bag but it's actually a really sweet surprise. This British sticky snack comes in several varieties and can be said to be where the idea for caramel apples came from.

There is at at least one song about the delights of toffee that did well in America and it came courtesy of The Hollies in 1967 with Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe:

The most popular Halloween treat is,I suspect,chocolate. Whether it's in bar form,candy coated pieces or simply a filling,this treasured sweet is always in style. Speaking of style,Kylie Minogue's sweet single Chocolate is definitely for more mature palates.

However,it is presented with true taste in the official video with a dance routine reminiscent of old school Hollywood:

Chewing gum has the status of being the least desirable Halloween treat,right along side pennies and a rock. Then again,kids do like bubble gum and adults like to have a stick on hand to ward off the evils of bad breath.

Our next candy related song Chewing Gum is meant for the adult dating scene as electropop singer Annie takes a playful look at the not so sweet ups and downs of modern day romance. One thing that this funky little tune shares in common with the actual treat is that it's got a tasty rhythm once you get started and the flavor is certainly long lasting:

Sweets to the sweet is the name of the game today and I hope that your dive into Halloween treat bags tonight doesn't leave you with the need for Pepto-Bismol tomorrow. All things in moderate,folks and may the Candy Man bring you all kinds of sugar covered goodness,which we could really use right about now:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Attack of the Snooki books,take two

With Halloween being only a couple of days away,the real fear factor seems to hitting the bookstores these days and not in the expected horror section. The dubious darling of MTV's The Jersey Shore is launching yet another book onto our literary shores and this claims to be non fiction(in a rather loose sense of the term).

Entitled Confessions of a Guidette , Snooki offers up her own guide to living life via fashion tips(bronzer is a must),entertainment ideas(“A guidette has to know how to have fun anywhere. Like, if you’re stuck in a cardboard box, you have to rock it.”*)and wardrobe suggestions such as “LOVE my slippers. It’s like wearing beds on your feet.” *

*actual quotes from the official promo for this tome-I sadly kid you not

What really has some folks riled up is the new trailer for Confessions of a Guidette where Snooki stops by her publishing house to see if they're ready to raise awareness for National Guidette Day(that's a new one on me). It's very much like watching a Saturday Night Live skit that was a stinker from the get-go but the actors have no choice but to go through with it anyway.

My favorite bad moment of this awful promo is when Snooki saunters down the row of featured authors hanging on the wall and snidely labels them as either "nerds" or "grenades"(which is not a compliment,I assure you). Notice how all of the faces are blurred out-guess they wanted to make sure none of their regular writers would be tempted to have a throwdown with Miss Snooki at a future publishing party:

What really irks most people about this trailer is how the publishing house female executives seem to be all too willing to play along with this rather tired routine. Hopefully,these ladies were given some sort of compensation for their role here and never have to do this again,for anybody.

It's hard to decide which is worse,that this new Snooki book is a guide to life or that her debut novel A Shore Thing doesn't give credit to Valerie Frankel,the chick lit author who actually wrote it.

Then again,she may not want this on her resume and I can't say that I blame her too much. At the moment,it seems to be a Snooki world that we're all just living in:

On the other hand,this isn't the first time a television personality has come out with a book,either based on the fictional character they play or otherwise.

Back in the day,there were books based on shows such as Upstairs,Downstairs and Twin Peaks,both fictional and pseudo non fiction. That trend has continued today with characters from shows like Parks and Recreation,How I Met Your Mother and Mad Men promoting books written by them within their series.

"But Snooki is real,sort of!" Yes,but that never stopped anyone from blurring the lines between reality and television and even reality stars are not exempt from that. After all,if the mystery series Castle can not only put out novels supposedly written by the leading man on the show and have actual mystery writers give their mock endorsements,who's to say that Snooki and friends don't have the right to shill their scribblings as well?:

"Come on,Lady T,you know these books are junk!" No argument from me on that score but I would like to point out that making a big fuss over Snooki's books is more of a help than a hindrance to her budding career as a writer.

Yes, I find it annoying that someone who is famous for not doing much of anything is able to land a nifty publishing deal like this but in the big picture,these books are just like her claim to fame-very fleeting and not made to last long.

Junk food for the mind is only bad if you make it your sole mental diet. One of my favorite books as a kid was 1983's Miss Piggy's Guide to Life,which is naturally out of print these days. A very silly book,to be sure,but one that I was truly happy to have at the time.

Granted,Miss Piggy is a tad smarter than most of the reality show bunch but she does share a sense of grandiose in common with them,so they would be able to get along pretty well,I would imagine. Miss Piggy is still out there with a new guide to life every so often(the most recent was in 2009,The Diva Code)and while I have no desire to read it,it's nice that a new generation of her fans get to. I highly doubt that we'll be able to say the same for Snooki or her other Jersey Shore cohorts:

So,what I'm really saying is that while Snooki is gleefully promoting her less than tasteful to most of us titles,it's better to laugh than to cry about the whole thing. Her day in the sun will end soon enough and with any luck,she and her other friends will have a new version of Hollywood Squares to hang out in.

Besides,trying to stop even bad writing only adds fuel to the fire within the delusional writer's ego and encourages him or her to resort to an "any means necessary" approach to getting their work out into the wider world. Quality may be preferred in the arts but sometimes,persistence pays off more:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top Chef JD's sweet winner,Work of Art goes pop and TAR tries to get into the spirit of things

The Final Three contenders on Top Chef:Just Desserts had a major feat to pull off for the finale,namely making the best version of a sugary feast.

Each chef had to make one of the following-a savory bread,bon bons,an entremet cake(a chocolate mousse layer cake,to be precise),a plated dessert that had special personal meaning and a showpiece. On the first day of the challenge,they were given help from three of the top pastry chefs in the world,namely fellas who have achieved the title of MOF(which is the top award given to masters of their craft in France).

Day two allowed the chefs to select assistants from amongst their past competitors,one by random and the other by choice. Sally picked Orlando for her team,due to his amazing skills in creating showpieces.

That may have seemed like a smart move at first but the end product was clearly more of a display for Orlando's talents than Sally's,which cost her plenty of points with the judges.

While most of her dishes turned out well,Sally's plated dessert(flavored with coffee and cashews,as a tribute to her mother and sister)had some technical flaws that also pulled her out of the running for the win.

Matt decided to take some risks and do certain things that he's never done before for his presentation. Having never worked with sugar art before,his showpiece was beautifully executed,in my opinion. Judge Johnny kept giving him grief for that,saying that he should have played to his strengths in chocolate.

That's bogus,because if Matt had simply made his usual chocolate work,Judge Johnny would have accused him of playing it safe as he's done in previous rounds. Sometimes,there is no pleasing you,is there,Johnny?

Matt's other edible offerings were pleasing but his plated dish felt a little disjointed. He meant for the strewn about placement of the treats to be a flavorful playground,to honor his wife and child,but Matt made the mistake of comparing the collection of cake and milk ice cream to chocolate chip cookies. Sure enough,everyone wanted a chocolate chip cookie instead!

Chris settled on an industrial theme for his food,starting with the elaborate chocolate showpiece that he put together. All those beams(he even made separate ones to display his bon bons on)had a very steampunk look to them,which elevated the entire set-up there.

Judge Johnny was quick to point out that one of the brioche balls lined up on one of the lower limbs had fallen off,but that wasn't as big of a deal as he was making it out to be. Geez,Johnny,can't you wait until Christmas morning to become a nutcracker,seriously!

Regardless of that,Chris won the whole shooting match with the rest of his food intact. His plated dessert was similar to one that he had made in a prior competition where he met his wife and that combo of almond cake and banana caramel appeared to be a crowd pleaser. Congrats to Chris and best wishes to his loved ones.

Next week,a new season of regular Top Chef begins in Texas,which should mean a rootin'-tootin' time for us all and some good meaty challenges.

On Work of Art,the contenders were lead down a trail of tin cans to their hostess China Chow and mentor Simon to learn the theme of their next challenge. It was Pop Art,as idealized by Andy Warhol and his Campbell Soup can painting. The artists were encouraged to use their own original ideas and modern day notions in making their piece.

Immunity was off the table for the winner,due to the big prize for this round was a two page spread in Entertainment Weekly(which I will be looking forward to checking out soon). The bad side of this was that a double elimination was now in play.

Once again,The Sucklord was overlooked for either positive or negative critique and he really put out an appropriate to the moment piece.

He made a collection of "Winning" merchandise,based on Charlie Sheen's mad media romp,and it was not only awesome but something that would truly be worth paying money for.

Included in his "Winning" showcase were dispenser bottles of tiger blood,jars of warlock dust and "action goddess" figures. Considering the lame products and T shirts that were actually marketed during Sheen's rant phase,these items were a savvy slap in the face on that effort to parley such a sad celebrity meltdown into quick and easy cash.

Only two art pieces were considered for the win and one of them is not work safe,you have been warned! Okay,now that that's been said,let's get on with it.

Kymia's "Greener Everyday" photo was meant to mock sex in advertising and pollution,with the bottle of dirty water held up between her breasts in a mock poster style. Once she had the lighting in the picture better adjusted(Simon rightly pointed out that her first picture made the liquid look more like a mixed drink),it made an impact on the judges.

Personally,it didn't speak to me at all. If she had poised in a fashion model stance and poured some of that grimy water onto herself(sort of like Paris Hilton and that sleazy sudfest of a Carl's Jr. commercial),it might have been more of a slam at the ad industry,in my opinion.

Young engaged his audience with his " A Modest Proposition" poster made into an interactive bulletin board. People were encouraged to write on the back of his piece about their feelings on Prop 8,taking the concept of something to talk about in a very identifiable and tangible direction.

I had my doubts about the piece at first,as Young was making it,but the end result did have the spirit of pop art as well as a combination of public and private response to a critical social issue. Congrats to Young and I hope that we'll see his write-up in EW sooner rather than later.

Four people were up on the chopping block and out of the two that did go home,one of them didn't deserve to. Let's start with Michelle,who has been doing good so far on the show. Her rendition of a Coke can in "Digital Fix" came off as a Warhol homage and not an interesting one at that.

Lucky for her,Jazz-Minh's "Bite Me" said much less than Michelle's piece did about her subject. She was trying to showcase the insincere smile that put-upon celebs like Britney Spears make in public but it wasn't at all apparent from looking at it and leaving that accidental blob of paint on the second photo was a bad idea.

Dusty chose to make a commentary on fast food with his "How Could You" trash can that was such a non statement from start to finish.

For one thing,the phrase on the trash can flap has no discernible meaning to it within it's setting and one of the judges pointed out that Dusty's work was easily ignored by the attendees of the galley show. Also,that box could've used some color,plus it was a poorly thought out presentation of the concept of pop art and fast food criticism.

"How Could You?" is what I wanted to say to the judges for sending Leon packing here. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one who was disappointed at this hasty write-off of a young man with real artistic potential.

While I agree that his American flag/corporate logo piece "What's in your Mind" didn't successfully get across the point he was trying to make about pervasive advertising in the US spreading around the global community,Leon clearly put much more thought and effort into his work than Dusty did.

Oh,well,next week might be better. Sarah Jessica Parker shows up to introduce the challenge,which is working with kids on an art project. Should be fun to see how The Sucklord gets along with children there!

The teams on The Amazing Race went to Thailand,where one of the challenges was to disassemble and then reassemble a "spirit house" after taking it from one location to another.

Most of the teams were smart enough to take notes,since only one of them was allowed to put it back together(and that person had to be the one who didn't do the Road Block on this leg already).

The father-son team of Laurence and Zac,who father Laurence claims to be an experienced "adventurer",had some trouble with this one. Zac wanted to write down how the spirit house needed to be set up but his dad insisted that wasn't necessary.Then,when it became clear that Zac needed to go back and see what he was supposed to do,Laurence got a little cranky about that.

Hey,if you had listened to the kid in the first place,you wouldn't have been in a position to lose valuable time. This is becoming a pattern with this team and one that could lead them to elimination:


THE NEXT IRON CHEF: The competition starts this Sunday and with a line-up of big name chefs,this should be quite the culinary showdown. I would like one of the ladies to win,since we don't see a lot of Cat Cora these days on ICA,but ultimately the best chef should be installed in Kitchen Stadium:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Agatha Christie and the case of the LRG giveaway

As I mentioned in my November/December book preview post earlier this week,the latest nonfiction title to enter my regular reading circuit is Agatha Christie's An Autobiography,which has been out of print for over a decade and due to re-released next month.Christie began writing it in 1950,then paused and took it up again with the book coming in 1977,a year after her death.

Her autobiography reads very much like a novel,as she describes the Victorian era details of her childhood and punches up the small dramas of her life with asides about the changing times and other notions that happen to crop up in Christie's thoughts as she goes along. In some ways,it can remind one of the classic BBC Upstairs,Downstairs as the servants in her family are portrayed with as much depth as her family members.

While the narrative is not entirely disjointed,she does take her time in getting where her memories plan to go(the ones she admits to recalling better than others)and freely confesses in the beginning that she intends to wander about in her recounting here.

The power of her imagination showed itself right from the start,where the land of make believe provided Agatha with some of her best friends and worst enemies:

The book goes on to chronicle other important moments in her life,such as the death of her parents,her first marriage and her successes and stumbles in publishing.

Although very forthcoming about some aspects of her personal life,there are a great many that she doesn't get into,particularly an incident in 1926 where Christie went missing for eleven days and a major search was conducted to locate her.

Despite that omission,Christie's An Autobiography is truly compelling to read. The leisurely pace of the book allows you to slowly savor all of the intricate descriptions that she relishes in relating and as for any unanswered questions,why wouldn't the Queen of Mystery leave us with a few unknowable points to ponder?:

While I'm still in the midst of Christie's autobio,I was able to finish revisiting one of her Miss Marple stories. The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side was first introduced to me via the 1980 big studio adaptation entitled The Mirror Crack'd starring Angela Lansbury as that savvy spinster Jane Marple.

That film is mostly remembered for the other major Hollywood players in the cast such as Elizabeth Taylor,Rock Hudson and Kim Novak. However,some of the finer details of the novel are trimmed down which makes it all the more a delightful romp to read.

The main murder of the story takes place at the new home of Hollywood actress Marina Gregg,who has chosen to restart her career in England and takes over the estate of Gossington Hall in Marple's home village of St. Mary Mead.

During a reception for the locals,a rather chatty woman named Heather Badcock winds up being poisoned after having a conversation with Marina about a chance meeting they once had. Marina at one point seems to have a strange reaction and a frozen look upon her face,which many onlookers soon remark on later. Some simply chalk it up to her being bored to tears by the fan adoration of Mrs. Badcock,something that even regular folk can easily sympathize with:

Eventually,suspicions that the intended victim was meant to be Marina crop up and are seemingly verified by mysterious threatening notes left for her almost everywhere she goes. Suspects are numerous,from professional frenemies to long lost connection that tie in with the sad circumstances of Marina's attempts to have children of her own.

While Miss Marple is not directly involved in the investigation until the very end,many folks flock to her to lay out the facts of the case and ask for her insight into the matter.

Her home companion,Miss Knight,is not pleased with such grisly talk for the woman she considers to be two steps away from being a complete invalid but even Miss Marple's personal physician insists that a nice little murder mystery is the best thing for her. It's not hard to see why,as the dear lady has a rather sharp set of wits and is commendably capable of making keen observations ,even if she still drops a stitch or two in her knitting:

The title of the book comes from a line in Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shallot,which is used to describe that sudden odd look on Marina Gregg's face at that crucial moment. It turns out to be chillingly apropos and a vital clue to discovering the true murderer:

" Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott."

It's not just the mystery that makes The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side so interesting,it's the small yet persistent notice of change in the world as Miss Marple interacts with some of the younger people who have settled in the new housing development(called The Development in capital letters) like Cherry,a part time housekeeper who gives her far more credit for taking care of herself than Miss Knight does.

This comes right along side the themes of being haunted by the past and refusing to deal with dark emotions and impulses. Some might think that a Miss Marple story is just a cozy little tea time mystery but there are a good deal of nuances beneath the surface,if you only look. The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side is a snappy mediation on how some things change and yet others stay the same to the detriment of others.

With all of this fresh buzz about Agatha Christie,the good folks at Harper Collins were kind enough to send me an item of new Christie swag to award one of my readers with. If you would like to win this lovely Agatha Christie tote bag(pictured items inside the bag in the photo not included),please leave a comment at this blog post by November 4th.

If you like,please name your favorite Christie detective as well. Whether it's Hercule Poirot,Miss Marple,Tommy and Tuppence or one of the heroes of her stand alone mysteries,all are welcome.

Since I will be shipping out the prize myself,this contest is open to US residents only. The winner will be announced on November 7th and I hope that this nifty tote bag makes for a great gift for either yourself or that special Christie fan in your life. No matter how old fashioned Agatha Christie mysteries may seem,real literary talent never goes out of style,satirical or otherwise:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The paranormal success of the Paranormal Activity series;how long can it last?

There's a reason for Paranormal Activity 3 being the only major horror film to be released in time for Halloween this year and that is based on financial fear.

The third installment of this low budget series has made 52.6 million in it's opening weekend alone,easily out grossing the previous movie and receiving just as much buzz as the first two chapters of this scare saga.

Clearly,this continuing tale of a family tormented by mysterious forces ,which is chronicled on home video,is cinematic competition that no one in Hollywood wants to take on right now. Critics are expressing doubts about the longevity of these films and that's a legitimate concern,given that the second and third chapters are actually prequels. There's only so back-story you can fill up on before wanting to either move on to something new or leave the table altogether:

What keeps the PA party going here is the combination of subtly built up scares and the raw footage style in which they're presented.

This ground was broken several years ago with the original Blair Witch Project and taken up by others such as the 2010 sleeper film The Last Exorcism and fortunately for the Paranormal Activity fans,that format play well on small screens as well as the big ones.

I got to see Paranormal Activity 2 in theaters last year,taking in a daytime matinee with an audience of one,namely me. As much as I enjoyed the slow yet steady rate of strange occurrences taking place in the film,I didn't think that I would be easily freaked out.

However,when the kitchen scene came up,I did verbally react which was even more nerve wracking since I didn't have any fellow moviegoers to bounce my shock off of. Pretty damn sure sign of how effective these films are,right there,if you ask me:

A lot of people feel that the popularity of the Paranormal Activity films and others like them is a good path for the horror film genre to be on.

As even the most diehard gore fans tire of such gruesome fare as the Saw series and "torture porn",which leaves a bad taste in my mouth,fear films that play upon the imagination,with or without elaborate special effects,seem like a true breath of fresh air. The PA films put some in mind of movies like The Haunting(the '63 version,not the ridiculous remake),a fine example of haunted house fare.

I also think that reviving the haunted house trope is a good one,especially when you consider the dramatic upheaval of the real estate market and the harsh economic climate we've been in for the past few years now. Subtlety is like a little black dress,it never really goes out of style,not to mention that the old saying "There's no place like home" can be given a sinister undertone if said in the so-wrong-it's-right way:

Of course,you can argue over whether or not the PA films can be called haunted house stories,since the locale of the supernatural torment changes from each movie and similar to this past spring's hit horror flick Insidious,it's more about the people than the setting.

However,flexibility has been granted to other sub genres and it can be applied here. While the PA films are not strictly haunted house bound,the main action of the story is framed within the confines of a supposedly happy household which makes the evil events that more glaringly awful.

In order to gain any real traction with today's generation of horror fans,the haunted house film has to go beyond the Amityville Horror stereotype and ramp up the nuances. Otherwise,it's doomed to fail:

No doubt as I'm writing this,plans are under way for a fourth PA film and we can only hope that the next chapter in this story has plenty of meat on it's story bones. As for any other attempts to spin off this success,if you're going for the haunted house vibe,you better find a seriously plausible reason for anyone to stay in that hostile environment or the whole thing's going to be just one big joke:

Monday, October 24, 2011

A few November/December books to pick up as you head down the holiday homestretch

With Halloween soon upon us,the next couple of months on our pop culture calendar will be taken up with lists of preparations for the holiday season,starting with Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and ending on New Year's Eve,leaving us a little time to relax before that Mayan prophecy starts to kick in(just joking,folks!).

So, if you're looking for great gifts or simply wanting to settle in with a good read as the weather gets colder,here are a few of our best suggestions:


For those mystery fans who happen to be Anglophiles as well,Agatha Christie is still the Queen of Crime and her literary legacy is explored in John Curran's Murder in the Making.

As a follow-up to his well received book,Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks,Curran reveals more information about Christie's creative process in writing many of her now classic mysteries from her stash of journals,letters and other saved papers,along with a never before published Miss Marple story and a deleted chapter from her first novel,The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Even if you haven't read the previous book,this intriguing look at the inner mind of one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century is definitely a good place to start and a good excuse to read the works either again or for the first time(November):

If you would also like to hear what the lady had to say for herself, the 1977 edition of Agatha Christie's An Autobiography is being reissued around the same time with the added bonus of a CD featuring her actual voice recordings.

I happen to be reading this book right now and while my copy doesn't have the CD,the book is fascinating enough, in and of itself.

Christie paints a portrait of her life and times in the leisurely manner of her celebrated books,with insights into the Upstairs,Downstairs childhood she had and her experiences as a WWII volunteer,becoming a published author and many notions people have had regarding her two most famous characters,Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Later this week,I'll be hosting a giveaway of Agatha Christie swag,along with a look at the autobiography and a review of The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side,so please stay tuned. In the meantime,do keep an eye and a ear out for this lovely new re-release(November):


Stephen King has been known to take a flight of fancy or two but his latest work goes above and beyond in terms of reality vs. make-believe. 11/23/63 offers up a major "what if" opportunity for Jake Epping,a modern day high school teacher whose good buddy Al reveals a doorway to the past in the basement of his diner.

That particular time portal opens up to the year 1958,where Al believes is the perfect starting point to changing the course of history by preventing the assassination of JFK.

Jake is recruited for this mission and is willing to do what he can but other unexpected complications and emotional connections begin to block his way. This is quite an ambitious novel for King and one that even those who normally don't bother with him may want to explore for themselves(November):

With haunted houses coming back into style,Dean Koontz's upcoming thriller couldn't have come at a better time. 77 Shadow Street is the address of an apartment building converted from a former grand estate that already had it's fair share of skeletons in the closet before taking in a whole new set of trouble tenants.

The terrified occupants decide to band together to discover where the true horrors of their home are hidden. It's in their best interest to do so,since the malevolent spirits of the place are not even worried about the recently installed security cameras capturing their moves to reclaim the building for the dead.

Sounds like the chills in this story will give readers more shivers than a midwinter snowstorm,so wearing a good sweater is as essential as keeping the lights on while reading here(December):


Gregory Maguire wraps up his take on the wonderful world of L. Frank Baum with the fourth and final book in the Wicked Years series,Out of Oz.

Things are not going well in the Emerald City,as an invasion of Munchkinland is in the works,Glinda is under house arrest and the Cowardly Lion is an outlaw on the run. The situation promises to get more complicated,with the arrival of a former ally from Kansas and the rise of a young woman of destiny named Rain.

Maguire's vision of Oz and it's beloved characters have delighted fans of the original books and created new ones. With this last piece of the puzzle,Out of Oz should be able to be an out of this world read while completing the full fantasy picture for all of us(November):


Renowned mystery writer P.D. James decides to step into Jane Austen inspired waters with Death Comes to Pemberley,which is set about six years after the events of Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are happy at home,with a pair of boys and welcome visits from Jane and Bingley.

As usual,Lydia comes around to spoil some of this bliss by interrupting a ball at Pemberley to announce that her worthless husband Wickam has been murdered. What happens next,I do not know but my fingers are crossed for Lady Catherine to be put on the case(December):

A more offbeat approach to Jane Austen is taken with the release of Bad Austen: The Worst Stories Jane Never Wrote. This collection of entries for the online Bad Austen contest earlier this year is edited by Peter Archer and Jennifer Lawler,who wisely separated these mini tales into such categories as If Jane Could See Us Now and Superheroes,Vampires and Pemberley,Oh My!

Factoids about Jane Austen's life and times are featured in the book as well and if you turn to page 135,my share of the conversation can be seen in the brief teleplay,Bennet Bridezillas(and no,I don't receive any monies from this,as a runner-up my prize is two copies of the finished book and the glory of seeing my scribblings in print).

Bad Austen holds many awful delights of the season and is the perfect stocking stuffer for the less than stuffy Austen reader(November).

Speaking of stuffy,many are quick to overlook Mary Bennet,the prim and proper middle sister of the celebrated Lizzy and Jane in P&P,yet even she has a story to be told.

Patrice Sarath sets out to do just that in The Unexpected Miss Bennet,where Mrs. Bennet is satisfied enough with settling most of her other girls into suitable matches and is content to keep Mary at home with her.

Elizabeth and Jane think otherwise,giving Mary a chance to widen her social circle at Pemberley. She takes them up on the challenge and eventually strikes out on her own,with rather surprising results. It's nice to see a lesser known side character be granted her time to truly exhibit her talents and let's give Miss Mary a hand and a read to encourage her(December):

I hope that many of you will join me on Wednesday for the start of our LRG Agatha Christie giveaway and that some of these books will make their way to your holiday shopping cart soon.

One word of advice about gift giving for any holiday occasion;it is the thought that counts and making that special someone happy with their present is far more important than taking credit for it. If you insist on making your input known,a messy can of worms may open up that makes coal in your stocking seem much more palatable:

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'll take Scary Weddings for 500,Alex!

One of the major highlights of the upcoming new Twilight film adaptation,Breaking Dawn,is the long awaited wedding of Bella and Edward,our star crossed supernatural couple. While the ceremony looks divine and true love is the key motivation here,we shouldn't ignore those few dark clouds that happen to be hovering over this silver lining,folks.

For one thing,Bella must be made a vampire as soon as the honeymoon is over to avoid a visit from the vindictive Volturi,determined to keep their promise to destroy her if she stays human.

Also,there's a jealous werewolf ex-boyfriend to consider and the fact that the bride's parents are unaware of their new son-in-law's special dietary needs. Of course,the real fireworks begin after long after the vows are made but let's stick to the wedding for the moment here:

While weddings are generally depicted as happy occasions,they do tend to make tension as any episode of Bridezillas demonstrates all too well. Most of the time,pop culture depictions of wedding chaos use humor to make those frantic hours more bearable to watch but every now and then,the scary side of saying "I do" is given it's due.

Tim Burton's Beetlejuice is a decent example of this,even with the comedic overtones of the plot that has moody teen Lydia Deetz agree to marry the lead ghoul in order to save her ghostly friends.

From the terrified expressions on the elder Deetzes' faces as the entrapped witnesses to the desperate attempts by back from the dead bridal clad Barbara to stop the ceremony,the fear factor is neck in neck with the laughter inspired by this sequence:

Burton seems to have it in for weddings,as he revisited this theme wholeheartedly in the stop motion animation flick,The Corpse Bride.

By setting this story in the Victorian era,which gave gloom it's proper respects,he was able to combine the terror of arranged marriages with those tales of the undead that were popular during that time. To make things more lively for modern audiences,humor and song were mixed in but that didn't dilute the marital menace of the film.

It's one thing to be nervous about getting married to someone you hardly know,it's another to accidentally propose to an actual living dead girl who refuses to take no for an answer:

It's not just in horror related films that scary weddings can be seen. Fantasy and science fiction can boast about a few of their own frightening marital encounters.

One extremely reluctant bride was Dale Arden in the 1980 camp classic Flash Gordon. Hoping to save the earth from total destruction,she agreed to be Emperor Ming's "bride of the hour." However,upon hearing the wedding vows,Dale had a major change of heart due to her soon to be husband getting more leeway than expected:

In a first season episode of Legend of the Seeker,hero Richard Cypher had a spell placed on him that made him look and sound exactly like a new friend of his who was being pushed into marriage.

Unable to convince anyone of his real identity,Richard went through with the wedding only to discover that the vows were literally binding for both him and his unsuspecting bride. Things did resolve themselves eventually but that ceremony gave new meaning to the phrase "ball and chain" there:

In the end,I guess that fear is not such a bad thing to feel at a wedding. Making a serious commitment like that should make you a bit scared since you're taking a huge emotional risk. However,as long as love is at the forefront,fear shouldn't stand in your way down that aisle.

Granted,I don't have life experience in this area but from what I've seen in the real world and pop culture,marriage is supposed to be a thrill ride at times. However,what kind of a thrill is up to you.

Keep in mind that after the ring exchange,things can still get scary especially around anniversary time for the forgetful and those who foolishly underestimate the value of preserving those wedding day memories-facing a horde of demons would be a relief compared to the wrath of a spouse in that situation,believe you me:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Work of Art goes on the move,Top Chef JD moves closer to the finale and The Walking Dead starts season two with a zombie shuffle

When we last left the folks at Top Chef Just Desserts,Carlos had been eliminated and with only four chefs remaining,Judge Gail announced that they would be skipping the Quickfire Challenge in order to head straight for the Elimination round.

The chefs were asked to select an international cuisine to base their desserts on and for the twist element,they had to make their dish resemble a savory item from that country. A panel of well known fine dining chefs would be tasting the food,along with special guest judge Cat Cora(my favorite Iron Chef).

Chris chose France and decided to recreate a beef Wellington,which to my mind is more of an English than a French entree. Lucky for him,the origin of that main course extends to both nations.

He used chocolate mousse and raspberry jam to mimic the inner contents of the meat packed in puff pastry and despite using store brought pastry at the last minute,Chris did very well here and made it to the finale as expected.

The winner,however,was Sally for her tasty take on a Cuban sandwich. It was made from brioche bread with strawberry gel as the ham and cream cheese mousse. On the side,she whipped up a "potato salad"(which was actually fruit)and plantain chips.

The look of her food was voted most authentic and it put her in the top spot for the finale-Congrats,Sally!

In trouble was Matt,even though his manicotti did look impressive. It was made from creme fraiche cake with mascarpone ricotta mousse and tasted good,but a tad overwhelming in portion size.

Also,Matt played things safe by changing his mind late in the game about mixing tomatoes into his strawberry sauce. Fortune favors the brave,as they say!

However,Orlando was the one sent home. His paella was daring but some of the flavors didn't mix together as harmoniously as he planned. Judge Johnny praised his modest use of saffron but wasn't crazy about the beets added in to replace the chorizo.

Also,the coconut rice that he prepared for the dish turned out mushy. Sorry to see you go,Orlando. Granted,he was a bit of a know it all but the guy is talented. Next week is the finale and may the best person win!

On Work of Art,the contenders were taken for a brisk walk to a nearby park to watch a bunch of Parkour enthusiasts(it's basically guys jumping around and running on rooftops like they're in a Jason Bourne movie). Their challenge was to make a piece that represented motion.

The artists were split into two teams and while they had to create individual pieces,they all had to connect to the theme. During the early planning stages,Mentor Simon got real with both groups and flat out told them that their initial concepts(digestion,which sounded very science fair to me,and migration)needed to be scrapped.

With that mandate,one team got their act together and produced some interesting work. They went with a playground theme and called their show "Play With Me." My personal favorite was The Sucklord's "Flip the Rat" game,his version of a Coney Island boardwalk attraction.

His first suggestion for what the team could do was to make objects that would set off one motion onto another,similar to the board game Mousetrap. To his credit,he was willing to go along with the whole digestion deal(despite his doubts)but I'm pretty certain that the Sucklord won't be so restrained the next time a crazy notion is being pushed onto him here.

Michelle's "Dirty Playground" was not my cup of tea but the judges seemed to like it enough to consider it for the win.

Going dark in tone is fine but what does it say about motion when the big action here is yanking on the central wooden figure's "balls" to wave it's arms? Nothing that I want to think about,that's for sure.

Bayete won this round,for his video "Wheee!". It was double shots of him spinning around,which captured the childlike quality of motion that his group was aiming for. Since he was in the Bottom Three last time,earning this win was a nice little comeback for him.

The second group were reluctant to give up their muddled migration concept,so they went with "Loop",as in adding circles to their pieces. The results were poor to say the least and three of them were up for elimination.

The only one in that whole section that had any validity to me was Leon's "Hit." The swinging lamp which cast light upon a still scene of broken objects held a strong air of mystery(one judge compared it to Hitchcock)and there was an intriguing balance of order and chaos about that tableaux.

Leon wasn't up on the chopping block but I wish they had talked more about his contribution. Too bad he wasn't on the other team.

Lola ,on the other hand,simply made a mess with "Mend(We had a terrible time so I tried to forget it)". She grabbed a bunch of shredded medical papers,which gives me pause,and shoved most of them into a torn plastic bag.

It certainly looked too heavy to be considered motion and she even admitted that her work was done on the fly.

Sent home here was Kathryn,for her video "Splat". She recorded tossing slimy innards onto a plastic tarp and played it in a loop which barely tied into her team's agreed upon concept.

While I do have sympathy for the physical problems that influence her art,Kathyn's refusal to change lanes is not a good route to take for a competition like this. Hopefully,she's feeling better both in body and mind. Next week,we have a double elimination and the theme is pop art-I sense a major Sucklord moment coming!

Season two of The Walking Dead got things rolling with Rick and his remaining friends heading to Fort Benning to find some sort of answer.

They were forced to make a stop on a clogged highway in order to make repairs and during a zombie march,young Sophia was chased into the woods by a pair of flesh eaters.

Rick saved her but in doing so,the little girl got lost and a search party was mounted up. Personal tension arose along the way,with Shane wanting to head off on his own and Andrea thinking about doing the same. She suggested that they join forces,which may or may not lead to a romance there.

Judging by this clip from next Sunday's episode,more members of this group may be parting ways yet I would remind these folks that safety in numbers is your best option when it comes to fighting off zombies:


GRIMM: The second of two series this year with a fairy tale theme debuts next week and I still say it appears to be the one that lasts the longest. The show has some sense of humor about the fantastical proceedings the hero has to deal with and laughs do come in handy there: