Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A singalong salute to Davy Jones

For an old school gal like me,this recent news was shockingly sad to hear-Davy Jones has passed away. The British singer,best known as one of the main men from The Monkees,was 66 years old and said to have had a heart attack.

Like many people of my generation,I first knew Davy Jones through The Monkees' TV show(a band put together by corporate execs and included Micheal Nesmith,Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork)and wasn't familiar with his stage work and television appearances over in England(such as Coronation Street and the musical Oliver!).

I just knew that he was the cutest Englishman I had ever seen. Yes,folks,before Colin Firth,I had a major jones for Davy. Part of his appeal was the sincerity of his personality that lasted long beyond his heyday years and in that spirit,I would like to take a fond look back at Davy Jones through his music.

Davy didn't always sing the lead on every Monkees song but when he did,your ears felt like they were floating. His biggest front man number was "Daydream Believer",with others such as "Valerie" and "I Wanna be Free" in Jones' line-up.

He did of course contribute vocals and instrumentals to the likes of "Last Train to Clarksville","Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "I'm a Believer",yet this sweet little ditty still remains a pop culture classic:

Davy did have a career after The Monkees,making various guest spots on shows like Love,American Style,Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Spongebob Squarepants(in a live action cameo) as well as voice work for animated series such as Scooby-Doo and Hey,Arnold.

In addition,he participated in more than one Monkees reunion tour and specials,plus recorded a song for Sandra Boynton's board book,"Your Personal Penguin." He also released a couple of solo albums for grown-ups,with 1971's "Rainy Jane" becoming a strong stand out single:

Jones' most iconic pop culture crossover was his special guest role on an episode of The Brady Bunch,where Marcia overstepped her bounds as president of his fan club and promised to get him to perform at her local school dance.

That,of course,all worked out for the best yet you could feel some of Marcia's angst there,especially during the scene where she slipped into the recording studio and tried to plead her case before Davy's manager. Nowadays,it wouldn't be that easy to sneak into a session like that or get sent off without some strong arm security but those were the days,I guess:

Naturally,that Davy Jones at the dance bit was highlighted in the satirical Brady Bunch Movie and not only did the man himself show up,his rendition of "Girl" with a more modern edge to it really has quite a kick to it there. Guess good music can survive in any atmosphere.

So,it is with sorrow that we bid Davy Jones farewell and offer his loved ones our deepest condolences. However,I and many others would also like to thank him for making our lives that much brighter by his presence on the pop culture stage:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Browsing through a March madness and April shower of blossoming books

This rather odd winter,weather wise that is,will be over before we know it but a blizzard of new reads still awaits us.

While there are a lot of distractions on the horizon,such as sports,politics and wondering if Adam Sandler will show up at the Golden Raspberry Awards since his bad work is their theme this year,we must not let our book pursuits fall by the pop culture wayside.

It's especially important during hectic times to stop and sample the fictional flowers along the way and here are a few prose posies to choose from:


For folks searching for titles with a Downton Abbey flair,the name Maisie Dobbs may appear familiar to you. She's the leading lady of Jacqueline Winspear's series of mystery novels set during the time period between the World Wars who runs an investigative bureau in London but is still loyal to her working class roots.

In her latest book,Elegy for Eddie,Maisie is visited by five former friends of her father's,who ask her to look into the sudden death of a local horse whisperer type.

This man was a gentle soul,seemingly without an enemy in the world yet his fatal accident is just the starting point of some elaborate twists and turns that shed light on shady doings with far reaching consequences. The road that Maisie travels to find her answers also points the way towards future world changing events and people who are destined to play an integral part in them. Even if you haven't read the earlier books,meeting Maisie Dobbs at this point is a true literary worth while(March 27).

A most welcome sight is another Alexander McCall Smith story of Precious Ramotswe and her adventures at the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency and in this one,our heroine gets a chance to meet her crime solving mentor in person.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection finds her in midst of helping her friends and neighbors out of more than one tricky situation when Clovis Anderson,author of the guide to private detection that Precious has used throughout her career,arrives on the scene.

This unexpected collaboration could be a real benefit to all concerned or perhaps bring about a few unintended complications for the ride. Either way,the down to earth cleverness of Mma. Ramotswe will surely clear the cobwebs of confusion for all concerned,not to mention provide an excuse for a refreshing cup of bush tea(April):


In Christopher Hebert's debut novel,The Boiling Season,Alexandre,an impoverished young man is given the chance to fulfill his dreams of a better life by taking a job that isolates him from the rest of his turbulent nation.

He is sent to an old estate home,owned by a powerful senator,and put in charge of it's restoration. While that occupation gives Alexandre true personal joy,the price that he has to pay for that is severing all ties with his old friends and family.

That cost proves dear,as the country plunges into a deadly revolution and finding a safe haven is no longer a sure thing for anyone. This book may be set in a fictional land but it's sentiments are very real indeed(late February,early March):

Lionel Shriver's The New Republic begins with former lawyer and fledgling journalist Edgar Kellogg grabbing his first chance at a position that will take him out of the minor leagues that life has put him in.

Tasked with replacing a charismatic but missing reporter in a small forsaken section of Portugal,Edgar soon finds that his predecessor would be better off not found. In fact,his popularity and connection to a secretive group of rebels might be easily passed on to Edgar in exchange for turning a blind eye to certain truths.

Shriver wrote this novel during the 1990s but it was considered not to be in step with the times until now. It will be interesting to see how well this satirical take on political coverage will resonate in the midst of presidential primary season(March 27).


Mark Dunn,the witty wordplay author of Ella Minnow Pea,tackles another tale of literary whimsy with Under the Harrow(coming out in paperback). The residents of Dingley Dell live what they consider to be a peaceful and satisfying life,with their main source of knowledge being an encyclopedia and the complete works of Charles Dickens.

However,outside forces are hard at work to destroy their tranquil existence. In order to preserve their homeland,a band of amateur detectives, who disguise themselves as members of a poetry society,seek out answers before the end is all too near. To make your wanderings down this giddy garden path a bit clearer,you might want to peruse a pickwick paper or two(March):


Fans of Stephen King's The Dark Tower titles are no doubt eager to get their hands on his upcoming prequel that highlights the younger days of it's troubled leading man Roland the Gunslinger.

The Wind Through the Key Hole follows Roland on an early quest to hunt down a "skin man" on a murderous rampage.Accompanying him is Bill Skeeter,a young survivor of the shape shifter's wrath,and during their travels,Roland shares with Bill a story told to him by his newly departed mother that unfolds along side of their own journey.

King is not as renowned for his fantasy work as he is for his horror but that will hopefully be remedied as time goes on and tales like this steady his claim(April 24).

Naomi Novik's series of Temeraire novels appeared to be over as Captain Will Laurence and his faithful dragon friend retired from active duty in their last outing but as a certain movie godfather might say,just when they thought they were out,those two got pulled right back into the action.

Crucible of Gold sends the pair of war weary companions away from their new home in Australia to Brazil,where a new ally of Napoleon's France is gaining ground with an Inca empress and a peace must be negotiated before the tide of power is on the wrong side.

Novik's books are an engaging blend of Regency warfare and dragon adventure,with the only puzzlement being why haven't they turned this series into a movie or mini series yet? Perhaps,that query will be answered before the next book rolls around(March):


Adriana Trigiani creates a steadfast saga loosely based on her grandparents and their deep romantic connection in The Shoemaker's Wife. A young couple from a small village in the Italian Alps,Enza and Ciro,are first parted by circumstance and distance as they make their separate ways to America and new lives.

Their reunion in their new country is brief as war sends Ciro back into danger in his homeland and Enza's seamstress ambitions bring her closer to the world of Manhattan high society and famous singing star Enrico Caruso.

Despite these obstacles,will these two star crossed lovers ever find the right time and place to be together? Trigiani's flair for heart warming characters and authentic tone adds real depth to a tale that sings more like opera than soap(April):

Happy reading to all,and whatever you chose for your next page turner,enjoy it to the fullest and never mind what the critics say:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Picking at the Oscar party leftovers

Well,the Oscars have come and gone for another year,leaving us with some cinematic satisfaction and a handful of regrets about a few of the results.

To start with,I thought Billy Crystal did a nice job of reprising his host duties. True,not every joke hit the mark and the vibe may have been old school but Crystal still has plenty of sparkle on stage. He performed some of his time honored Oscar bits(including a musical tribute to the Best Picture nominees,which included all nine of them on his own)and generally set the tone for a traditional Academy Award show for all to enjoy:

While many of the expected winners were honored,there were a few surprises but fortunately one of those upsets didn't take place in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Octavia Spencer's performance as take-no-prisoners Minny in The Help was truly exceptional and even though she has received several awards already,her acceptance speech last night was just as heartfelt as her first(perhaps,a little more so).

Her win was the only one that The Help got the other night and it should have gotten at least another award(which I'll get to in a moment)that evening but the most important thing here is to rejoice in Octavia's good fortune and congratulate her on this wonderful career achievement:

That being said,it was downright disappointing to see Viola Davis not win Best Actress to Meryl Streep.

Nothing against Meryl,she's a great actress,but Viola out and out deserved to take an Oscar home for bringing one of the most compelling characters in The Help,the silent yet strong willed Aibileen,to vivid life on film.

*sigh*I was really hoping that some of that buzz about Meryl not winning an Oscar in such a long time was just idle chatter yet it turned out to the voice of a true sentiment amongst the Academy voters,apparently. Since Viola and Meryl are good friends,there won't be any hard feelings between them about this and in that spirit, it's best for us not to dwell on it for too long:

I am still irked about the lack of Best Song performances,however. Come on,guys,if you could make time for a big Cirque du Soleil number,you certainly could have had the Best Song nominees strut their stuff there.

On the other hand,thanks to the Oscars,I treated myself to a viewing of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,this year's winner of Best Animated Short. Co-created by children's book illustrator William Joyce,this sweet ode to bibliophiles is a real charmer that authentically enchants as well as showcases both the power of books and film:

With The Artist doing it's grand sweep of awards and other congrats going to all of the winners,it's time to put Oscar to bed. Let's sweep up the popcorn and put away the red carpet until next winter,folks. The show wasn't perfect but it was one of the better ones that we've seen in quite a while.

If you're still having movie award munches,however,The Razzies will be handed out on April 1 and it looks like a banner year for Adam Sandler on that front! Take my advice,Adam,and be a good sport about the whole thing. It didn't hurt Sandra Bullock,now did it?:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Predictions,get your Oscar predictions right here,folks!

With Academy Award weekend upon us,the time for placing some serious bets on who will win is now. Granted,I'm no gambler and I wouldn't use any actual money to wager on this year's Oscar winners but as someone who has been watching this show for most of my life,my track record is rather decent.

For the rest of us playing at home,I'll only be focusing on a handful of categories up for contention. After all,when there's just two nominees for one award in a certain instance*cough*Best Song BS*cough*,it's not too sporting to guess who'll win that.

Plus,some sections appear to be either locked in by shoo-ins(Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor) or completely up for grabs(mostly the technical categories). Therefore,without further ado,let's get this Oscar party started:


This category is pretty much a two woman race,as Rooney Mara is meant to be one of those "just happy to be nominated" types,while Glen Close's Albert Nobbs is a pet project with limited appeal and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe was good but not golden.

Meryl Streep has been nominated so many times in this category that she's practically the Susan Lucci of the Oscars(except that she has won twice). Some of the ads for her film The Iron Lady emphasized that length of time since her last win and she has garnered a few trophies already from the likes of the Golden Globes and BAFTA(the British equivalent of the Oscars).

However,Viola Davis has been slowly but surely building a sweet consensus amongst her fellow actors,with a SAG award for her leading lady performance in The Help,plus this is her second nomination(the first was for Best Supporting Actress in Doubt)and would be her first win,something that Oscar voters can find hard to resist.

So,my pick would be Viola Davis and she certainly has plenty of great moments from The Help to showcase her remarkable talents:


The main contenders for this award are George Clooney for The Descendants and Jean Dujardin for The Artist because,let's face it,no matter how polished Brad Pitt or Gary Oldman or Demian Bichar's performances were in their respective films,they are not considered the heavy hitters in this part of the game.

Now,Dujardin has won praise and honors from award shows and critics alike and could be rightly seen as the front runner. Yet,the Clooney fan club has been rather persistent with getting the word out about their guy. For example,in January of this year,commercials for The Descendants have been running during Jeopardy on ABC,not just once but twice within the half hour time period allotted for that game show.

Since I'm a regular Jeopardy watcher,this gave me pause. Why double up on the ads for this movie like that,in such a short time frame? Perhaps it was aimed more at Oscar voters than the usual fans of Jeopardy(who would be the proper target audience here). That,and the certainty that The Artist is destined to make a big sweep on Oscar night might be the tipping point for Clooney to claim another Academy Award for his mantelpiece:


At this point,it's pretty safe to say that Octavia Spencer will be taking home an Oscar on Sunday night. This has been her year to shine,much like Sandra Bullock with The Blind Side or Colin Firth for The King's Speech last time.

Even with another actress from the same movie(Jessica Chastain) sharing a spot with her in this category,that isn't a hindrance to Spencer's odds. Her only real competition here is Melissa McCarthy but honestly,I think that if the Academy voters want to throw Bridesmaids a bone here,it'll be for Best Original Screenplay. Sadly,I didn't get to see Octavia Spencer give her Golden Globes acceptance speech live but no way in hell am I missing her take her bow on Oscar night:


There's a lot of ground to cover with this one,so let's pair up a few of the nominees to rate their chances:

The Help/War Horse:sentimental films set in historical time frames which may have audience love but not so much from the critics. Most of War Horse's noms are in the technical categories while The Help didn't get critical placement in such categories as Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Director,that could have boosted it's chances for a major win.

Midnight In Paris/Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close/Tree of Life: a triple play of pretentiousness for the most part. Even those who love Tree of Life have trouble explaining the film to you,Woody Allen's ode to old school Paris doesn't travel that well and folks even openly hate the cute little kid that stars in EL&IC.

Moneyball:a baseball movie that(spoiler alert!) doesn't have an automatic happy ending,which doesn't bold too well for one in this section of the cinematic stadium.

The Descendants:in a less crowded field,this fractured family drama would stand heads and shoulders over the rest but it's basic theme of appreciating your loved ones before it's too late will be drowned out by other big noises,ironically enough from the film that is a tribute to the silent era.

Yep,it's The Artist for the win. While Hugo takes on similar territory,it will be seen as more of a children's movie despite the pedigree of Martin Scorsese in the director's chair(not to mention the 3D aspect of the film doesn't help to make it more palatable for grown up Academy members). This tribute to the glory days of Hollywood should be dancing all the way down the red carpet that night indeed:

Well,on Monday,we'll be looking over the good,the bad and the "What just happened?" of the 2012 Academy Awards and the one sure thing that everybody will agree on is how wonderful Billy Crystal is as host yet again.

With ten Best Picture nominations on deck this time,Billy might want to have some assistance on stage if he goes for his trademark opening melody(Hugh Jackman would be great,just a suggestion!):

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Top Chef TX plays with fire and ice,Downton Abbey's merry Maggie moments and TAR's first big send-off

The next to last leg of this season's Top Chef Texas gave the remaining chefs an opportunity to showcase their kitchen skills with some of the best in the field. Each one of them was paired up with a former Top Chef Master contender to make an Asian dish in a local restaurant.

The cooking was done in tag team style,with the elder chefs starting off and the younger ones responsible for the end result.

The winner here would get twenty grand for their trouble(they're really just giving out cash prizes by the handful this season seriously. Not that I mind a whole lot,for the competitors' sake,but this is getting to be a bit much at this point).

Sarah won the QF,for a crab soup that she made with Floyd Cardoz,who ironically enough,never managed to win that part of the challenge during his Top Chef Masters run.

For the Elimination Challenge,the Final Three had to make enough food for 160 people to be served at a fire and ice themed party. Each dish had to have elements of hot and cold,plus a cocktail to accompany it.

Paul made a "Pan Am" cocktail that had lime,rum and sugar,along side of a King crab plate with lemon snow. His food went over well for the most part but Judge Tom had a real issue with the arugula as a garnish. Paul thought it would be a nice little spicy kick to the dish but Judge Tom insisted that it seemed like more of an afterthought there.

Despite that quibble,Paul was proclaimed the winner of the challenge and will be competing in the finale for the top prize. Considering the enormous amount of money that he's already won so far on the show,some folks are bound not to want him to claim the ultimate victory. I,however,find Paul to be a nice guy and a good competitor so I hope that he wins next week.

He'll be going up against Sarah,whose spiced sformato mousse on her five green stuffed pasta was frozen so hard that it was tricky to eat. The judges weren't all that crazy about her Agrumi drink of gin,mango and kumquats either. Nonetheless,her dish had enough good points about it to take her to the Final Two.

I've been on and off in my feelings towards Sarah(with a lot of sympathy during that heat exhaustion incident during the BBQ episode)but her attitude towards Beverly truly killed my appetite.

Lindsay had to pack her knives and go,due to her last minute approach to the ice portion of her dish. The halibut with spicy celery root salad didn't seem to click with the tomato ice that was added on far late in the proceedings. Also,her "Ecendido" cocktail was pretty much a Bloody Mary rip-off.

This probably won't be the last we see of Lindsay,as the Finale is coming up and usually former competitors are on call to help out the Top Two. While I wish it was Grayson or Beverly facing off against Paul here,it will be nice to find out if their assistance is required for this last run.

Speaking of last runs,Downton Abbey finished up their second season with the much heralded Christmas episode. While leaving poor Mr. Bates in the lurch like that is one hell of a cliffhanger,it was good to see a few other loose ends tied up such as Lady Edith's new chance at romance(go for it,girl!)and Daisy finally listening to reason about the whole William thing.

The biggest knot to be bound was the Matthew and Mary situation. After some much needed disclosure,Mary had the good sense to break things off with Sir Richard(who has a gig on Game of Thrones to return to)and accepted Matthew's marriage proposal. That didn't come with out a nifty fistfight in the drawing room,of course,and a couple of great Countess Violet lines as the cherry on top of that kickass sundae:

What I will miss the most about Downton Abbey until next year(which is said to be the last season)are those marvelous Maggie Smith scenes.

You just know that she'll be having her share of the conversation at any given moment and no matter how abrupt her opinions are,she will always have something to say that is worth listening to,a rare trait in any character. Too bad there aren't any plans in the works for a Countess Violet spin-off:

The twentieth season of The Amazing Race went off without too much of a hitch as the eleven teams headed to Argentina for a sky diving Road Block and an empanada making challenge. It's early in the game but the team that I'm rooting for here is David and Cherie,a married couple who are professional clowns for Ringling Brothers circus.

Granted,there are teams that appear to have more advantages from the outset,like the pair of Federal agents or the two country mouse couplings,but my spider sense is telling me that there's more to this clown act than meets the eye:

The first team to be eliminated on the first leg made an error that even surprised host Phil,who has seen just about everything at this stage of the game.

Misa and Maiya's first mistake was leaving their backpacks behind while completing the empanada task,which meant they lost a good amount of time going back for them once they were done,and then,they walked right past Phil and company at the Pit Stop!

Phil,who saw them approaching,was stunned when those two gals went off in the complete opposite direction at precisely the wrong time. Hopefully,that will be the worst mistake anyone makes on TAR this season,but I wouldn't count on it:


SAVORING HARLEM: Friday night,Food Network will be airing a special about the rise of new eateries and the revival of classic ones in one of the most prominent sections of NYC. Hosted by renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson,this is a foodie delight that you won't want to pass up on:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I've got The Best Song blues

Things are getting worse for the Best Original Song category at the upcoming Oscars,folks;with only two tunes up for the award,there is now talk that live performances of the nominees will not take place that night.

This is too much to be borne,in my opinion! Bad enough that we're not given a respectable number of songs to compete for this award,the nominated artists won't even get a chance to sing as well? Talk about adding insult to injury here. Granted,the Best Song performances have, at times, become moments of unintentional comic relief or crimes against the art of music itself but cutting them out altogether seems unduly harsh.

Part of the fun of Oscar night is in seeing how the Best Song nominees will be showcased. Taking them out of the big show is a true letdown,plus how will they fill up that time? Everyone loves to complain about the overlong running time of the Oscars but snipping out these musical interludes is no guarantee of brevity.

Seeing who will be singing is another Oscar night treat. Sometimes you're lucky enough to get the original singer perform the song and other times,the person chosen to "interpret" that particular tune offers up a rather unique rendition that's hard to forget(I still recall Lou Rawls and Melba Moore singing "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun and probably will until my dying day):

However,not performing won't hurt either one of this year's nominees in terms of odds on winning. Eminem didn't even make an appearance or had anyone else sing "Lose Yourself" from his flick 8 Mile back in 2002 and it beat out the likes of U2,who did perform that evening. The stunned look on Barbra Streisand's face as she announced the winner was,as Kathy Griffin might say,a gift basket from heaven:

Sitting out the show is one thing when it's the artist's option,it is a very different deal altogether when the Academy Awards themselves choose to put this portion of the program out to pasture.

You would think that many of the singers-turned-actors who are members of the Academy would be raising a bit of a fuss about this. Perhaps they are doing so,behind the scenes,since a good number of them such as Streisand,Bette Midler and Jennifer Hudson have made some of their best career moments on the Oscar stage:

Nothing is set in stone at this point,yet I fear the worst for the Best Original Song section,both this year and beyond. Let us not sing a swan song for this category too soon,however. A last minute reprieve is rather over dramatic but hard for entertainers to resist. In the end,music will be part of the Academy Awards one way or another and hopefully it will be to celebrate victories instead of consoling the losers:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Giving a warm welcome to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander

Have you ever tried to read a book but couldn't get past the few couple of chapters and eventually wind up giving your copy away,only to have it find it's way back to you?

That's happened to me on occasion,with my most recent reunion being with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I remember snapping up it from a local drugstore paperback rack many years ago and giving it a shot,yet for some reason it wound being included in one of my thrift store donation bags(my tried and true method of making more room on my bookshelves)and was chalked as another failed fictional attempt.

During my last visit to New York Comic Con,I stopped by the publisher's booths and one of them happened to be handing complimentary copies of Outlander(probably to encourage Comic Con attendees to check out the tie-in graphic novel based on the original book).

I figured,"Hey,why not? Free book!",plus by this time it had several sequels and a strong fan following. Not that those elements alone are a guarantee of greatness but it did make me want to take on this saga yet again.

Also,my interest in fantasy lit has been growing in the past couple of years and since that is one of the key factors in this continuing plot line,the timing seemed to be all so right:

Well,so far I am knee-deep in the story and over this past weekend,I've ordered the next three books in the series(there are seven books in total,with an eighth scheduled to be released in early 2013,plus a set of companion works known as the Lord John Grey series).

It's one of those reading experiences where you wonder why this book didn't click with you sooner but wasting time pondering over that, when you could be engrossed in a truly engaging tale instead,is fiction lover's foolishness.

One of the things that attracted to Outlander both then and now is that the heroine,Claire Randall,is a former nurse,similar to my mother,only Claire gained most of her work experience on the battle field. The book starts off in 1945,where Claire and her husband Frank are having a long overdue second honeymoon in Scotland.

The two of them were separated during WWII and hoping to pick where they left off before the war. Part of their reason for being in Scotland is Frank's interest in the local history,as well as tracing his ancestral line,and while Claire is less than thrilled about having to compete with academics for his attention,she is more than willing to do what it takes to reconnect:

During their exploration of the Scottish countryside,Claire comes across a set of standing stones out in a field and at one point,steps into the center of them at precisely the right and wrong time. Suddenly,she is transported over two hundred years back in time,to the 18th century.

There,she encounters an English officer who is a predecessor of her husband Frank,although with a very different disposition from his descendant,and a number of Scot clansmen,including a young outlaw named Jamie who has had personal dealings with that unfortunate relation of her husband's.

Particularly all of them are convinced that Claire is a spy for someone but her knowledge of medicine earns her some trust amongst the Scots. That,and the Highland code of honor,offer Claire some protection.

Jamie is also more than willing to believe in her and even agrees to marry her in order to keep Claire out of the hands of the Englishman they both dread and fear. Jamie's determination to keep to his personal definition of honor is something that Claire admires and finds frustrating as well:

What makes this book a bit more enticing to me now,I think,is the blend of genres within this narrative. You've got a double dose of historical fiction with romance and fantasy along for the ride ,which even the author has stated has caused quite a bit of confusion amongst marketing people. Since my own writing has some of this mix and match elements to it,I can sort of relate.

However,a good story will find an audience no matter where it's placed on the shelves. All it takes are a few satisfied readers and reviewers to spread the good word and if Gabaldon can do it,so can others whose writing can't be boxed into just one corner of the literary marketplace.

Even though it took some time and distance for me to enter the Outlander realm,perhaps that path was the best one to take in my case. You can't hurry love,as they say,and that maxim holds especially true for books. One might feel guilty about diving into previously published books rather than seeking out the new reads on the block but sometimes,it's hard to feel wrong about something that reads so right:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Having a few Happy Birthday laughs with Lincoln

With this being a long holiday weekend,due to President's Day,I thought it might be fun to start things off with a salute to one of the men who made this extra day off possible,Abe Lincoln. Yes,Washington's birthday is also thrown into the mix officially but when it comes to the perfect go-to guy for presidential humor,Lincoln just seems to fit the bill so much better.

Perhaps,it's the stove pipe hat or the beard,plus his long lean look. Whatever his enduring allure is, Abraham Lincoln really possess a certain air of dignity that folks can't resist tweaking a little. While giggling is considered inappropriate in history class,these less than respectful depictions of Lincoln practically demand your mirth:

One of the comedy troupes that love to mock Lincoln is The Whitest Kids U Know and they truly do comic justice to that night in Ford's Theater. This first skit has Abe(Zach Cregger) and his wife Mary(Timmy Williams) fending off an intrusive stranger(Trevor Moore) who keeps hassling them during the play.

What amuses me greatly about this sketch is how much Timmy resembles Mary Todd Lincoln. Seriously,the guy is a dead ringer for that particular First Lady(no pun intended,I swear!)and gets off several good lines here as well:

The Whitest Kids' other Lincoln skit is one of their most popular routines and is a favorite during their live stage shows. I've had the pleasure of seeing this one in person a couple of times and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it. I also would love to see the play-within-the-play version of Hamlet,with the vampire army invasion included(a whole lot of cussing in this one,you have been warned!):

Long before The Whitest Kids,the gang at SNL took a swing at Lincoln lunacy with this short film that asked the question "What if Abe Lincoln had a time machine and knew how he was destined to die?"

Longtime SCTV regular Joe Flaherty plays Lincoln,who becomes the Terminator to John Wilkes Booth(played by Kids in the Hall cast member Dave Foley as an adult),who seems to have developed a rather strong motive over the years for ultimately eliminating his mysterious enemy.

The only SNL performer on deck here is Julia Sweeney,in a brief performance as Mary Lincoln(no offense,but Timmy still is better in this role):

Speaking of alternative history,Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln,Vampire Hunter is tops in this gruesomely entertaining field.

One might think that Lincoln would have been more suited to stomping out the likes of werewolves,this portrayal of Honest Abe as the Van Helsing of the Civil War is pretty convincing,to say the least.

While there may be more "factual" books on the shelves that focus on Lincoln,they won't be as fun and action packed as this tasty little tome is:

It's a shame that the Tim Burton produced adaptation of Abraham Lincoln,Vampire Hunter won't be at the multiplexes this weekend. We'll have to wait until June to see this hysterical history lesson come to life on screen but at least there's a trailer to tide over us until then.

So,Happy President's Day weekend,folks and do turn some of your thoughts to the legacy of Abe Lincoln during this time. It may not seem reverent to remember our sixteenth president in such a mocking way but at least he is being remembered. Not too many jokes are made about Franklin Pierce or James Polk,for example and it's better to be amusingly memorable than easily forgettable:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top Chef TX plays a few hunger games,Downton Abbey's Sybil suitor and a family affair on The Vampire Diaries

The Final Four on Top Chef Texas went to British Columbia(for the geographically challenged like me,it's in Canada)to partake in a trio of events to determine who would go on to the finals in Vancouver.

The winner of each event would receive ten grand and a guaranteed spot in the Final Three,which exempted the first two winners from competing in the next round. The first hurdle to conquer was making a dish while riding aboard a moving gondola.

During their trip,each contender had to make a pit stop and grab an extra ingredient to add to their plate. Lindsay found some quinoa and used it as the base for her seared salmon to rest upon.

While all of the chefs delivered quality food here,Lindsay was the winner of this event,much to her great relief.

That left Paul,Sarah and Beverly to face the next obstacle,which was to cook outside and get their ingredients out of blocks of frozen ice,I kid you not.

Paul was not only extremely helpful to his competitors in smashing the ice chunks to get the grub out,he also gave Sarah some of the crab meat he had for his dish.

She made a nice pea and spinach soup with almonds and Beverly whipped up some sweet seared scallops but Paul's brown butter poached King crab with chutney earned him the victory here. Seriously,this guy has amassed quite a small fortune before hitting the last legs of the competition-it's almost too good to be true.

Then it was down to Beverly and Sarah. They had a biathlon,which meant that they had to ski cross country(in a small loop)before making their way over to a target shooting range to select their pantry.

Sarah,despite her boasts,wasn't that great of a shot but she did wind up with getting the protein of her choice,rabbit. She braised the leg and served it with cherries,a sauerkraut puree and a slice of rabbit heart on top. Even though a couple of the judges felt that the meat was a little tough,Sarah won the third spot for the Final Three.

Beverly's arctic char was slow roasted,something that was a bit of a risk for her,but her entire plate was considered to be well executed for the most part. The fish was accompanied by a beet compote and celery root truffle puree,which Judge Tom praised rather highly.

However,the char was slightly overdone and it's flavor was diluted in the process. That sadly lead to Beverly having to pack her knives and go home,with no second chance awaiting her.*sigh* I was so rooting for her to beat out one of those gals but at least Beverly seemed to have earned the respect of her fellow chefs with this last round and that's something you can't truly put a price on.

Next week,the Final Three head for more challenges that will see one of them leave but not before being put through their culinary paces:

There were dramatic developments just about every other minute on Downton Abbey this week,what with Matthew being able to walk again,Lavinia dying from a rather convenient case of cholera and Mr. Bates going up on murder charges(you know that his soon-to-be ex-wife wouldn't just quietly shuffle off the mortal coil like that).

Amidst of all this turmoil,Sybil finally came to a decision about Branson and the two of them tried to make a run for Greta Green(P&P's Lydia would be so proud!). Mary and Edith headed them off at the pass(okay,a local inn)but that didn't stop Sybil from standing up for herself there.

I have to admit,this romance didn't seem to be very viable but the passion that both of them displayed in fighting for their right to be together was most impressive. Eventually,Lord Grantham gave in(partly out of guilt over his own near dalliance with a house maid,I suspect)and no doubt,the Dowager Duchess will lend them some support along the way. Odds are,however,that these two won't really need it but it's nice to see it being offered,anyway:

The finale this Sunday is a Christmas themed episode,with gifts and cliffhangers galore,not to mention an interesting token of affection being given to our dear Dowager Duchess Violet:

On The Vampire Diaries tonight,the roots of more than one family tree are bound to become even more twisted as Damon's brief bedroom encounter with evil Original sister Rebekah causes tension between the Salvatore brothers to rise up higher than ever.

Granted,there's never been a level playing field when it comes to sibling rivalry with these boys but since Klaus' mother is keen on a plan to eliminate their mutual enemy(which could keep their beloved Elena safe),it would be good for those two to settle down somewhat:


MASTERPIECE CLASSIC: The next big mini series on the line up is a two part version of Great Expectations,with Gillian Anderson playing the Gothic eternal bride in waiting,Miss Havisham. There will be more Dickensian dramas on deck but this one is a definite must-see: