Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Artist is the latest conversation starter about silent films

A movie that's been getting a lot of serious buzz these days is The Artist,a French film about the glory days of Hollywood back in the late 1920s and the early 30s. Not only is the movie in black and white,it's also a silent picture which suits the A Star is Born storyline.

The leading man here is George Valentin(Jean Dujardin),a popular star who has trouble transferring his onscreen talents to the new format of talking pictures.

What makes this drastic shift in his life that much more painful is how his new girlfriend Poppy(Berenice Bejo)takes to this new style of movie making like a duck to water and becomes a major star in her own right. The reception from film festivals and critics has been incredibly positive and it'll be a shocker if The Artist doesn't scoop up a sweet number of nominations come award show time:

While that's great,it should be noted that this is not the first time that the legacy of the silent movie era has been featured in pop culture.

For example,back in 1976 Director Peter Bogdanovich made a humorous salute to that time with Nickelodeon, a romantic slapstick film starring Ryan O'Neal as a guileless lawyer/director trying to break into movies who is hopelessly in love with his main actress who only has eyes for her male lead(Burt Reynolds.

The plot is allegedly based on true tales about two legendary film directors of that era,Raoul Walsh and Allan Dwan,but I suspect that it's not necessary to know that in order to appreciate the film:

During that same year,Mel Brooks did an even broader take on that genre with his Silent Movie,which was actually silent for the most part. Burt Reynolds makes an appearance in that one as well,but it's just a brief cameo in more ways than one.

Brooks himself stars in the picture,as a director who is eager to make his comeback and has his two good buddies(Don Deluise and Marty Feldman) join him in recruiting cast and crew for his new production.

Other famous faces that show up here include Paul Newman,Bernadette Peters,future Brooks bride Anne Bancroft and renowned mime Marcel Marceau,who is put to good witty use for his big scene:

Of course,even the small screen has to have it's share of the silent movie conversation. While the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had it's ups and downs,all agree that the episode "Hush" was a major horror highpoint for the entire series.

A major section of the show had the whole cast resort to other means of communication as a band of demons called The Gentlemen stole all of the voices in town to make their gruesome organ harvesting hunt easier for them. Not only did the story reveal just much people rely on their speech to keep society going,it showcased the effectiveness of silence in this genre:

Granted,Rowan Atkinson's popular TV series Mr. Bean is not entirely speechless but the antics of his character are mainly expressed through body language. Many of his best scenes involved non verbal put downs and looks of sheer cluelessness on his face.

"Merry Christmas,Mr. Bean" offers a plethora of silly silence moments,particularly as Bean corners a pickpocket in the crowd around a charitable music band and then is allowed to conduct the musicians as a reward. The simple set-up between Bean's goofy movements and the pace of the music is a classic silent movie standard and just as funny now as it was then:

I suspect that some of this renewed interest in the silent movie days is due to actors once again in jeopardy of being shut out of their comfortable cinematic arena due to the rise of new technology. After all,with the advances in CGI and the clamor for more F/X eye candy,the possibility of them being replaced by computer images is no longer a fantastical notion.

However,I also suspect that flesh and blood actors have one advantage that their potential pixalated stand-ins don't have and maybe never will is talent and charisma. That combination is a rare quality that even the most advanced programming can't recreate and if any thing,true star power will win out in the end.

It's good to take a look at the past,so that you don't take it for granted yet you must remember to live in the present as well. The Artist is a good reminder of those bygone times and the stars that shined and faded out before their time. Hopefully, it will encourage more fans to keep in mind that the art of cinema is truly about the players rather than the setting or the stage:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What type of cinematic girl power will we be seeing in 2012?

With only a few weeks left of this year,looking ahead to 2012 and the pop culture delights it has to offer us is not too premature. There will be the usual number of rock'em,sock'em films,along with other big tent pole features that strive to appeal to both guys and gals,yet what I'm curious about is the sort of strong females that are waiting in the wings for the coming year.

One tough customer that many are looking forward to checking is Katniss Everdeen,the female focal point of The Hunger Games.

For those not familiar with the popular YA trio of novels by Suzanne Collins,this story is set in a hopefully distant future where young people are chosen to compete in a kill or be killed contest televised all over their oppressive country.

Katniss volunteers in order to save her inexperienced younger sister and winds up fighting battles both emotional and physical,not to mention hazardous as hell. The fan base for this series is as firm in their loyalties as the ones for Harry Potter and Twilight,so a lot is riding on this first film. That kind of pressure is child's play for this leading lady,compared to what awaits her in the games of death and love ready to played out here:

Katniss isn't the only girl who knows her way around with a bow and arrow on the silver screen horison, as an animated young lady takes to the stage in a time far and away,Scotland in the tenth century to be precise.

In Brave, a Scottish princess named Merida decides to defy the conventions of her day and seek her own destiny. That choice causes a great deal of upheaval,with the addition of a magic spell making things that much worse.

Brave will be the first Pixar movie to have a female centered story line and with any luck,it shouldn't be the last. It appears to be more of an action film rather than a typical Disney Princess story,which is a nice change of pace indeed:

Speaking of change of pace,the second Snow White based film coming out in March of 2012 is far more lighthearted than the Charlize Theron/Kristen Stewart project due to arrive in theaters by June.

Mirror,Mirror does share a few themes with Snow White and the Huntsman,such as the targeted princess joining a band of outlaws in the woods and the formidable ambitions of the Evil Queen(played by Julia Roberts).

However,the villianess of this piece is merely content to banish her young rival and seeks to strengthen her power and fortune by marrying Prince Charming. Personally,I prefer the vindictive dark magic that Theron's Queen has to offer than the cougar antics of Miss Julia. The battle between these two sides of the well known fairy tale will not only be fought at the box office but in the hearts and minds of the audience as well:

If you prefer something a bit more realistic in your girl power films,fear not for Meryl Streep is on the way with another amazing portrayal of a famous female game changer. The Iron Lady will have a late December limited release(mainly to qualify for the upcoming Oscar race)but you'll have a better chance of seeing it after the New Year.

Streep plays Margaret Thatcher,the controversial British Prime Minister who was the first woman to lead a political party in England and their only female Prime Minister to date. Despite what you may feel about her politics,Thatcher was a figure of determination and distinction,whose rise to power is well worth exploring:

All in all,it looks like an interesting year for women on film is ahead of us. Not that we haven't had any decent showcases for the ladies this year( The Best Actress category is going to be rather crowded at the upcoming Academy Awards)but one does hope for the next level to open up as things move on.

So,let's keep an eye for those feisty heroines who manage to dazzle our heroes and villains with their brains and brawn,as well as their beauty. The first two are more essential as time is far more generous to them than the third component. Of course,it never hurts to be eye catching in more ways than one:

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Very GaGa Thanksgiving,a true feast for the senses and the soul

On Thanksgiving Thursday,the first ever holiday special by Lady GaGa was broadcast that night and managed to shock people with the lack of shock value. GaGa simply dressed elegantly and sang a mix of her popular hits along with classic jazz numbers,some of which will be available on a new holiday album that was released two days prior to the special.

The show was filmed at one of her alma maters,the Covent of the Sacred Heart,and the architecture of the building was suitably grand for the occasion. GaGa's respect for the old school style was apparently from the get-go,as the special started off with a duet with Tony Bennett,singing a slightly updated version of "The Lady is a Tramp":

In between musical performances,GaGa indulged in several typical TV special segments such as an interview with Katie Couric,making some holiday themed crafts with a group of current students at the school and a cooking lesson from celebrated chef Art Smith.

Since GaGa's father is opening a new restaurant,with help from his daughter,and Art Smith is rumored to be the head chef there,the foodie connection made sense. Plus,the fried turkey and waffles did actually look tasty. GaGa handled these portions of the program in a very natural lady-of-the-manor manner that was both entertaining and engaging to see(as well as a touch surreal):

The strongest parts of the show were GaGa's piano renditions of certain songs that were interwoven with personal asides about what inspired her to write them. During "Edge of Glory", she spoke about the deep love between her grandparents and how the death of her grandfather made such a major impact on the family. You could see that GaGa was truly touched by the passion that her elders shared for so long.

One of the most moving numbers was "Hair",where she talked about being bullied by her peers as a kid and sending out the message to those young people still suffering today that someone out there really understands what they're going through. I have to admit that upon listening again to this song over the weekend,tears came to my eyes. The heartfelt honesty expressed here is something that many artists aspire to and only a few truly achieve:

A Very GaGa Thanksgiving did well in the ratings and many critics were pleasantly surprised at the whole event. Naturally,a few naysayers insisted that this was merely a promotional vehicle for her holiday record and that she's commercializing her offbeat persona for the masses.

In my opinion,this special was a success in that it appealed to both fans and non fans alike,showcasing her talents and giving the audience a true assessment of what she's capable of now and in the future. It also proves what many of us knew all along,that GaGa is a real lady in every best sense of the term.

I don't know if GaGa will do another holiday special next year,but if she does,it could be the beginning of a lovely new tradition. Granted,this wouldn't be the same as your usual family themed special but how many of our top entertainers out there can sample stuffing while singing and dancing,I ask you? Lady GaGa's wonders never seem to cease,folks and I hope that they never do:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Thanksgiving theme music,plus a couple of necessary announcements

Before I give you a tasty play list of tunes to set the perfect pop culture atmosphere for your Thanksgiving meal,there are two topics that we must mention first. Sadly,beloved science fiction author Anne McCaffrey has passed away at the age of 85. She died at her home in Ireland,not long after suffering a stroke.

My condolences to her loved ones,which will no doubt be echoed by her many fans throughout the world,along with the writers that she inspired with her vast collection of work. McCaffrey was the first woman to win the Hugo and the Nebula award(given to sci-fi/fantasy writers)and was declared a grand master of the genre in 2005.

Her best known novels were the Dragonriders of Pern series that featured friendly dragons who bonded psychically with their human riders.

That premise held a good deal of sway within the imagination of both readers and writers and paved the way for such future fare as Naomi Novik's Temerairie series,the Eragon novels of Christopher Paolini and even the fiery trio of dragons that escort Daenerys Targaryen in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga. While she will be missed,Anne McCafferty's literary legacy will last far and beyond our time.

Our other announcement is more of a friendly reminder to our Agatha Christie contest winner,Beth from Colorado.

Beth,please e-mail me at livingreadgirl@yahoo.com and let me know where I can ship your prize,an Agatha Christie "Queen of Mystery" tote bag, to.

Please title your e-mail "Christie Prize winner",so that it won't get trapped in my spam folder. Don't mean to nag but I do want to send it out to you as soon as possible and I hope you and your family have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Speaking of Turkey Day,I'll be taking the next two days off from this blog so I thought that leaving all of you with a menu of music somewhat suitable for the occasion would be best.

Since many folks like to start off their holiday dinner by saying grace, This "Thanksgiving Prayer" by the late great Johnny Cash feels just right. After all,what's good enough for Dr. Quinn,Medicine Woman should be good enough for anyone:

For a slice of something silly,here's Adam Sandler with "The Thanksgiving song" his tribute to the main dish of the day.

While many people prefer to offer other proteins such as ham,chicken or the well known but not always loved tofurkey,the mainstay on most holiday tables is that gorgeous gobbler. Like the song says,50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong!:

Pop music tends to highlight Christmas more than Thanksgiving as a rule,yet a few songs do seem to count as proper sentiment for that day as well.

Natalie Merchant's video for "Kind & Generous" does have an air of Water for Elephants about it(far ahead of it's time)yet the overall theme of celebrating the goodness of those around deserves some fanciful treatment:

To lift your feet along with your spirits,Mary J. Blige gives us her take on "Family Affair". Being with family is one of those anticipated/dreaded traditions of the holidays that everyone struggles to deal with as pleasantly or painlessly as possible.

What might do the trick is a rousing dance song and this toe tapping tune fills the bill to a T. Even the most cranky in-laws and annoying cousins can loosen up and push their regular drama to the side as they get their groove on in this dancery:

So,Happy Thanksgiving folks and I'll see you next Monday(if you're not cyber shopping,that is). I know that times are particularly tough right now but it's a good idea to assess the positive things in your life and cherish them all the more.

Also,I hope you enjoy a delicious dinner with your loved ones and get to share some laughs along with the stuffing:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making a date with Stephen King's 11/22/63

As part of my Girl's Night Out this past weekend,I treated myself to a hefty new hardbound book,one that's been receiving quite a bit of praise and scrutiny even before it hit the stores. Stephen King's 11/22/63 falls more into the sci-fi realm than his usual horror story stomping grounds as the name of the game is time travel.

As the title suggests,the core focus of our leading man Jake Epping's journey into America's past is to stop the assassination of JFK. It's a bit of a dying man's request,as his good friend Al(who discovers the doorway that brings you to the year 1958 in the storeroom of his diner)becomes too ill to complete his self appointed mission.

Jake does a trial run at first,attempting to thwart a tragedy closer to home,before making that choice to alter history. He's not without his doubts,of course,because there is no guarantee that preventing one major event like this from occurring will change the world for the better. Yet, being so close to doing so is quite the temptation that not even the most stoic of historians could easily refuse:

While the concept of time travel has been vastly explored in all sorts of fiction and non fiction as well,so has the impact of JFK's untimely demise,from books,film and TV series that debate the unknown factors still surrounding what happened on that fateful day and speculation as to how things might have been different.

No matter how you slice it,the Kennedy assassination is a pivotal moment in time and history that can stir up serious ripples in our pop culture world. It crosses more than one genre boundary,from the expected science fiction takes from the likes of Quantum Leap and Red Dwarf to and even more expected period drama depictions such as Mad Men and even a modern day mystery series like Bones has put their two cents into this already overcrowded hat:

Putting aside the Kennedy assassination for a moment,that whole era holds a strong fascination for many artists and for good reason. It was a time of serious upheavals in society,many of which were meant to improve the lives of those who weren't getting their rights respected.

Regardless of the progress being made in those quarters,the heavy hand of dirty dealings was still packing a powerful punch there,something that started to be acknowledged openly as time went on. One writer whose best literary achievements are based upon the real and the imaged hijinks of the sixties is James Ellroy,a man who can be seen as even scarier than Stephen King there.

His dark obsessions with that time period are as through as King's in some respects and the two of them would certainly have some interesting reminiscences about those days if they ever met up and fell into a conversation. One of the main differences between them,however,is that the monsters in King's books are for the most part imaginary while Ellroy's are all too real:

I'm only in the early half of the book but already,it's proving to be one of those hard to put down reads. As a pretty stalwart devotee of King's work,his balance of the sinister with the sweet is familiar country to me and his recreations of the fifties and sixties do make you feel right at home.

However,much like Jake Epping,this mode of Americana is foreign territory to me from a personal experience standpoint. Fiction allows you to be a tourist in many different times and places,with the advance of technology promising to give you a 3D upgrade,and that sense of realistic unreality is well captured here.

It's especially chilling when you consider the possibilities that fore knowledge brings to the mix. It's one thing to live through turbulent times and quite another to know what happens next before anyone else around you does. Talk about your blurring of the lines between story and the telling of the tale there-very shudder worthy material,if you ask me.

Part of the reason that I think this book is going to be classic is that King was smart enough to let enough time pass before taking this big boy on. He had this concept early on but knew that he wasn't ready to do it justice back then. That's a notion that would benefit many other artists in taking on such big themes as 9/11,for example.

Not saying that you have to make certain topics off limits indefinitely,but putting some distance between you and that particular event might help your creative vision and allow you to gain some real perspective on the matter. Some are able to handle these sticky wickets better than others and at a more rapid pace,granted,but standing back for awhile in order to really drink in the big picture is always a good idea.

How well 11/22/63 is going to do with readers overall(and movie goers,if the film adaptation can get off the ground before the end of this decade)is yet to be seen. The odds are good that this King opus will stand the test of time and bridge more than one gap between generations. I'm more than willing to just keep the pages turning and see what station this crazy train of dark wonders ultimately pulls into,which is a good enough ticket to ride for any reader of any time. Wish me a happy trip into the light fantastical here,folks:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twilight's Breaking Dawn gets the end game started off right

The next to last chapter of Stephanie Meyer's famed Twilight saga,Breaking Dawn:Part 1 got off to a rousing start at the box office,with a nice tidy take of over 139 million dollars.

However,that does not set the true value of the film for fans,many of whom I suspect will enjoy what was brought to the screen despite the various compressions of the plot made for cinematic purposes.

The story begins with preparations for Edward and Bella's wedding,an event that holds a mixture of joy and sorrow for more than one participant. While Bella is thrilled to at last truly be with Edward,some regrets do pop up such as not being able to tell her parents the complete deal about the Cullens and how her married life is going to be far from normal:

Things get even trickier during the honeymoon,as Edward fears that his supernatural strength is a threat to Bella in the bedroom. While their first romantic encounter manages to give their actual bed the worst of the bargain,Edward backs away from any more intimate moments,causing his new bride to long for that earlier enthusiasm:

That issue is quickly brushed aside as Bella is startled to discover that she's pregnant,something that should be impossible given that her husband's a vampire. That news frightens Edward as well and the two of them head for home to see what can be done about this situation.

Edward is determined that Bella's life is priority one over this strange new being growing inside her that may or may not be a threat to the world. Bella believes otherwise and wants to go through with this,regardless of the risks to her health.

Which ever way you look at it,this unexpected complication has an accelerated growth rate that makes any personal choices too late to consider:

All of this brings Jacob reluctantly back into the fold. While he's still frustrated over Bella choosing the vampire lifestyle over him,Jake is just as determined as Edward is to protect her at all costs.

When his wolf pack learns of Bella's impending baby,they vow to destroy all of the Cullens which forces Jake to declare his independence and form a new pack of his own. A major part of the Breaking Dawn novel allows Jake to have his own narrative and growing insight into this vast unexplored emotional territory for him and one of the compromises of the screenplay is that we are only shown such small an amount of that.

Yet,his character is given some room to grow,along with the wolfen brother and sister Seth and Leah who join him in the fight to save Bella and the Cullens. Not a comfortable arrangement there,but both the script and the character manage to make it work:

Even with some snips to the initial pace of the book's story line,Part One of Breaking Dawn does deliver the goods in setting up the bigger battle to come as the Volturi will make their presence(and demands)known in the second half.

Director Bill Condon skillfully adds some interesting visual touches to certain sequences,with a CSI inside-the-body viewpoint during some crucial moments for Bella and a special awakening point for Jacob that is lovely to behold. Ultimately,this is really a movie for the fans and they'll be the ones who appreciate it the most.

While we have another year to wait until the thrilling finale(Part Two is set to be released around this time in 2012),our time can be best filled by relishing and rereading the Twilight series and sharing it with others. Don't be afraid to laugh about it,either,since having a sense of humor about what you like only makes your fan love stronger:

Friday, November 18, 2011

What really bugs the boys about the Twilight series

Tonight,I'm going out with the girls to see the next to last Twilight movie,Breaking Dawn,Part 1(which I'll be reviewing on Monday)and while it's no secret that many horror fans are not into this very popular series,I have a bit of a theory about why guys in general vehemently dislike it.

Many women find Twilight objectionable also,citing Bella as a bad role model. While that debate can go back and forth for as long as a vampire's actual unlife span,what I think bothers the fellas so much is that Twilight is proof positive that men are no longer at the forefront of the genre.

From the beginning of mainstream vampire lore,men had charge of the narrative. From Lugosi's Dracula to Christopher Lee in the Hammer films and Frank Langella in the late seventies,vampires were the monster that good guys got to slay in order to keep their women safe. Even mid-eighties fear flicks like Fright Night and The Lost Boys held that bloody banner high:

That all started to change within the 1990s as the ascension of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a influential cult TV series began.

While the show attracted both male and female fans who appreciated seeing a physically strong yet emotionally vulnerable female battling bloodsuckers and personal demons,that set off a whole host of vampire related books and films that made the women the focal point and took the spotlight off of the men who wanted to lead the charge as Van Helsing type heroes.

Another aspect of the Buffy influence was the increased appeal of the vampire as leading man and viable love interest. Vampires did and still do hold a forbidden romantic lure but with Buffy falling in love with Angel(and later Spike),that opened the door for undead Romeos such as True Blood's Bill and Twilight's Edward to walk through and prove themselves worthy of being with the girl.

Making the monster a life mate is something that can irk both guys and gals,but with the gents,I suspect that the real monster that haunts them is the one with green eyes that are filled to the brim with jealousy:

Perhaps,I'm being too simplistic about this yet the old chestnut of "Why do the good girls always fall for the bad boys" still applies here,I think. There has been some resurgence of vampires as out and out monsters,with the likes of 30 Days of Night,the Will Smith remake of I Am Legend and even both the original and the Hollywood versions of Let Me In.

However,the latter film has had more sway with audiences due to the elements of the sympathetic vampire theme as the driving force for the main characters. While not all male horror fans feel this way,there are a good number of them who long for the time when being a vampire hunter was the sole province of male geeks:

I wouldn't want to deny the men their place as monster fighters but I refuse to do so at the expense of women. Women in vampire fiction and films have found real empowerment here,to the point where one of the supporting players on The Vampire Diaries has gone from perpetual victim to a force to be reckoned with.

Caroline Forbes has been granted real depth of character by becoming a vampire and even tries to help out others,including her werewolf boyfriend Tyler who is too quick to follow someone else's lead. That's quite a step forward and no way should we accept any moves to the back of the pack:

So,if I'm right about this,my advice to you guys is to accept that the new sheriff in town may be both a vampire and a woman at times. That doesn't mean you can't saddle up against a true vampiric enemy but don't be too fast on the draw to keep unlikely allies out of the game. Even if the lady in question isn't a warrior maiden,her strengths are just as valuable as yours. Even when it comes to vampires,all is fair in love and war:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top Chef TX gets rattled,Work of Art takes it to the street and TAR does the bunny hop

We finally got to the first Quickfire Challenge of Top Chef Texas,where Padma and special guest judge Johnny Hernandez revealed the secret main ingredient for the chefs to prepare.

Rattlesnake was on the menu and despite the scary looking boxes set before the contenders,the reptiles were already skinned and slaughtered.

The prize for this cook-off was immunity and five grand,which went to Dakota for her beer battered snake with zucchini and almond gazpacho. Since it's been a TC tradition that the person who wins the first QF is destined to become a front runner in the competition,great things will be expected of her.

After that,everyone divided into two teams for the Elimination Challenge,which was to make food for a young lady's quinceanera(a rite of passage/birthday party for fifteen year girls in Mexican culture).

Blanca,the girl whose celebration it was,asked the chefs to make mildly spicy dishes and wasn't too demanding in her food requests. She acted very ladylike at the party and gave some solid critical feedback about the food with the judges as well. She may have a future in this business,if that's something Blanca wants to pursue.

Team Green did the best work here,with tasty appetizers such as Paul's shrimp yuzu ceviche with salsa and yucca chips. Judge Tom declared it his favorite app,while Judge Hugh immensely enjoyed Ed's tomatillo gazpacho with jicama and watermelon.

It turns out that Heather has some pastry chef experience and she applied that to making the cake for dessert. Even though the tres leche cake had to have a few dowels set in to steady it,everyone liked it much better than the other team's overly frosted offering.

The star player on Team Green was Chuy,whose family background made him the to-go guy here. While the whole team won,his braised goat with red peanut salsa and home made quseo fresco was a stand out dish.

Judge Tom wasn't thrilled with the steamed cabbage added to the plate but otherwise,Chuy earned some strong distinction that will make him another one to watch.

Team Pink had a lot of misfires,starting with Ty-Lor's summer fritter with avocado mousse. Blanca felt that the avocado was pretty bland while Judge Hugh dismissed it as a hush puppy(and not a very good one at that).

Sarah and Lindsay worked together on several dishes and Lindsay in particular was planning on doing a shrimp ceviche. Unfortunately,she was not a member of the group that went to buy the meat and someone chose to pick up pre-cooked shrimp,which wouldn't work at all for the dish.

That forced Lindsay to switch gears and her food suffered for it. She and Sarah were in the Bottom Four,mainly for using store bought tortillas for the cochinita pibil.

Keith was asked to pack his knives and go,partly due to his soggy enchiladas. The flavors were good but he used a flour tortilla instead of corn,which made the whole thing a bit mushy.

He was also the guy who decided to buy the pre-cooked shrimp. Dude,why would you do that,especially since it wasn't for your dish and you work in a seafood restaurant,so you know how important it is to use fresh fish for certain dishes? We may not be seeing the last of him,since they're doing a Last Chance Kitchen online for eliminated contenders.

Next time, the gang goes to the rodeo and things heat up in more ways than one. Should be a real cowboy shindig indeed!

Street art was the subject of this week's Work of Art,as China Chow allowed the contenders(and mentor Simon)to pick which person to pair up with to make a piece that would cover a large space on outdoor walls by testing their spray paint on her dress.

Immunity is no longer available but the prize here was 30 grand,so everyone was motivated to win. That could explain some of the rude behavior that went on here but certainly not excuse it.

Dusty and Young wound up together and had trouble figuring out what to do at the beginning. Eventually,they did find common ground as their experiences in losing a parent and becoming a parent created a "Universal Conversation."

Thought bubbles were added for people to write on,which tied in nicely with the street art theme and that interaction seems to officially be Young's forte. They won the challenge and get to split the cash,which made them very happy for differing reasons. Dusty had been feeling a little jealous of Young from the last challenge but by collaborating with him,reached a new level of emotional maturity.

Kymia and Sara's "Reroot" was the runner-up for the win and I have to say that it was a truly striking piece. Just like the guys,both ladies had a shared experience that they combined to make a portrait of upheaval from their respected homelands and the feelings of displacement that those moves brought on.

I don't think the judges appreciated it as much as they did Young and Dusty's work and I know that Lola and Michelle certainly didn't,due to their efforts to sabotage the piece by putting the crappy stickers from their pathetic tableaux on it and encouraging observers to do the same.

Lola and Michelle's work(I won't even bother to write down the meandering Panic at the Disco song like title attached to it)was their version of peeking into stranger's windows and not only was the drawing poorly done,the whole thing resembled a juvenile attempt at shocking people with sex.

Putting aside this banal and derivative project for a moment,I was really offended by Lola and Michelle's attitude towards Kymia. The two of them went out of their way to upset her by not sharing the computer scanner(or even acknowledging the fact that she was speaking to them!)and making snide comments about her work.

Lola,especially,was clearly out to get Kymia and her claims of "I was just being devious,like you're supposed to in street art" is total bunk. While I may not always be a fan of Kymia's work,she is far and away a much more talented artist than Lola and a better person to boot.

There is no reason for Lola to be doing this other than her pathetic need to be the center of attention and Michelle is nothing more than a mean girl flunky. Listen up,you two-you ought to be ashamed of yourselves and if you're not,that shows just how small and petty you are. Kymia,I hope that you stand up for yourself and not let these inane twerps walk all over you. Stay strong,sweetheart!

For some even more sad news,The Sucklord was sent home for the "Sucklord and Sarah's Super Big Art Project." It's no surprise that Judge Jerry has been gunning for him to leave and even Judge Bill joined in to razz the Sucklord about the maze that he and Sarah set up.

While it wasn't all that it could have been,it was obvious that more thought and effort was put into this piece than the lame "tiger penis" playset by Lola and Michelle and even the guest judge acknowledged that Sarah's wooden attachments gave it some depth. The Sucklord also defended Sarah during the critique,not wanting her to take the fall for their piece,the mark of a real gentleman.

However,both Jerry and Bill insisted that the Sucklord wasn't using his toy art skills to enhance the work,something that both of them had complained about him doing in past challenges. Remember,Jerry,how you declared to get "medieval" on Sucklord if he chose to include Star Wars or anything like that again? Hello,mixed messages!

Anyway,The Sucklord came out of this competition with the style and honor befitting a true Jedi master and the world is better off knowing him that they are in knowing Jerry,that's for sure. Fare thee well,good sir:

The latest leg of The Amazing Race took everyone to Copenhagen,Denmark where another Double U-Turn was placed in their path.

Some teams were surprised at getting picked to double back but what surprised me was how many of them at the Detour chose to make butter by hand instead of the bunny race option.

Having rabbits run little obstacle courses is a favorite sport in Denmark and those critters were nimble and cute. I could understand being reluctant with larger animals or a big cluster of them but the bunnies were a no-brainer in my opinion. They were easier to deal than learning the three part dance at the Roadblock,which caused more than one team to lag behind. Laurence and Zac wound up going home but at least they got a chance to do the bunny hop:


A VERY GAGA THANKSGIVING: No,this is not a SNL skit,folks. Lady Gaga will be hosting a Turkey Day special next week and she'll be singing as well as deep frying a turkey. That last bit should amuse Sookie St. James quite nicely there:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A trio of tasty reads that feed the need for family and friends

During this time of year,gathering around the family dinner table is a key component to the holidays but it's not just an excuse for sharing your favorite foods. The main point of any annual celebration is to appreciate your loved ones and some great books highlight that notion very nicely.

One that I'm reading right now is Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector,which is loosely based on Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Two sisters with very different outlooks on the world,Emily and Jess,are struggling with life and love on their own terms while trying to convince the other that her way is best.

Despite it's modern day setting and differentiating circumstances,the story does seem to show that the either/or approach to things is not always the best. The book is artfully charming and well worth the wait for paperback release:

Speaking of paperback one of my favorite novels from last year,Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette, has undergone a title change. It's now in softcover as A Pinch of Love but the story is still the same.

This debut novel that pairs a young widow with a little girl searching for her mother and believing that the best way to find her is by entering a TV baking contest is a heartfelt story of emotional reconnection. Yes,it is sweet but not at all cloying.

I just hope that the name change doesn't confuse readers who were looking forward to finding it in paperback. Then again,there are plenty of copies available at local libraries with the original title,so checking it out should be as easy as pie:

A book that I'm hearing a lot of good word of mouth about is Friendship Bread by Darien Gee. The plot starts off when grieving mother Julia and her young daughter Grace discover a loaf of Amish Friendship bread on their doorstep,with an anonymous note and a starter set with encouragement to pass on the bread to others.

Julia is disinclined at first to even bother with bread making,but to please Grace,she gives it a try. Soon enough,the bread helps her to reach out and make new friends,who are also getting over personal tragedies.

This culinary chain letter turns out to be a warm and loving path towards bringing neighbors together. Friendship Bread is due out in paperback next May but it might make for a thoughtful gift for that certain someone on your list this season:

Books and food go well with each other and when you add family and friends into the mix,it's the making of a wonderful time indeed. Food might seem a trivial concern under certain circumstances but you'd be surprised at the effect that one dish can make on the family dynamic and how strong a plot point it can be: