Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mad Men gives us a song and dance,TAR teams fight for the Fast Foward and new stakes for The Vampire Diaries

The fifth season of Mad Men started off with a blast,as civil rights protests and their impact become part of the scene at Sterling Cooper Draper Price and other social changes are in the wind.

The other main event of this two-parter was Don's surprise birthday party,orchestrated by new wife Megan right down to putting on a special performance of "Zou Bisou Bisou" as her gift to him. It was a charming number and everyone was entertained(and a few were slightly jealous). However,the aftereffect of that musical interlude caused a few unwelcome ripples at the office:

Speaking of the office,Joan stopped by for a visit with her new baby and a chat with Lane about her coming back to work. Turns out that she didn't need to worry about taking back her place of honor,since their finances are close to dire straits and could use some of her grounded guidance.

Along with Pete's power struggles with Roger(who is becoming increasingly worthless to the business,in my opinion)and other tensions simmering under the surface,this new season of Mad Men is showing signs of renewed vitality and is as watchable as ever:

Another Fast Forward came up on The Amazing Race this week and two teams decided to go for it.The challenge was to stack 150 bales of hay from a truck into a precisely measured pile on the ground.

Team Jersey(Joey "Fitness" and Danny)went up against Team Pilot(Rachel and Dave,a combat pilot and his army wife)and at first,Team Jersey seemed to have the edge. Team Pilot was a bit overwhelmed at the beginning and they nearly started to argue too much again(like they did in a previous leg).

Yet,as time went on,it was clear that Team Pilot was much more organized and in the end,they completed the task. They came in first and won a pair of cars as their special prize(nice!). Unfortunately for Team Jersey,the time that they lost in going for the FF lead to them being eliminated from the Race. Sorry,guys,but at least you gave it your best shot:

On The Vampire Diaries,the gang is now able to focus more on the clear and present danger that is Klaus and his Original siblings due to Ric's Jekyll and Hyde dilemma being wrapped up for the moment.

Damon's discovery of the white oak that can kill them being part of the framework of the restored Wickery Bridge appeared to be a lost hope as his former mentor Sage burned it up to protect her old flame Finn.

As is the way of these things,however,the Salvatore boys did manage to recover a nice chunk of that special wood to whittle into stakes for all of their friends to deploy as they will. Klaus and kin's goose looks cooked but don't be too sure about their demise,folks. They do have to string out some more plot line rope to last until May,after all(not that I'm complaining!):


CHOPPED ALL-STARS: A second round of this special competition for charity begins next week and the list of contenders includes Cat Cora,former Food Network Challenge host and current judge Keegan Gerhard,Marcus Samuelsson and Iron Chef Michael Symon. This sounds like a savory showdown where you won't want to miss one moment or a bite:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Who is the real Bully in this MPAA battle?

The Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board has never been known for not making arbitrary decisions about why one film gets a PG-13 and another receives an R for similar content,however their latest ratings dispute is doing more than potentially hurting someone's box office receipts.

An upcoming documentary called Bully,which chronicles the current growth of severe bullying that has lead to an increased level of suicides amongst young people,was given an R simply due to usage of the dreaded F word. The Weinstein Company(the distributors of the film)have made an appeal to the MPAA board for a PG-13 but have subsequently been denied.

Therefore,the studio has chosen to release the movie unrated,which limits where it can be shown. One theater chain,AMC,has agreed to show Bully at their locations but the odds of other moviehouse franchises doing so are rather slim. Of course,the MPAA claims that this is all about helping the parents yet the main concern of this particular film is the kids and they're the ones who need to see it the most:

Most of the MPAA's objections to changing the rating here are purely based on keeping their power base intact,pure and simple. They like things the way they are and not even a well meaning film that could offer encouragement and emotional support to both kids and parents going through such a tough time is enough to sway them.

Another part to this bias is that Bully is an indie film,which makes it that more vulnerable to being pushed around by their so-called standards. It's no secret that smaller movies are treated differently by the ratings board than films backed by major studios. Of course,even with that larger amount of clout,film makers have often had to waste time and money by adding over the top moments to possibly objectionable scenes in order to toss a bone to the MPPA's cut and slash crew:

Fortunately,a lot of folks have been speaking out about this issue,including a few famous faces as well. A young woman named Katy Butler started an online petition to get the rating for Bully changed and some of her supporters include NFL quarterback Drew Brees,teen star Demi Lovato and talk show hostess Ellen Degeneres.

Even members of Congress have signed the petition(granted,this is an election year)and while Bully may not get the PG-13 it deserves,at least the conversation about the unfair tactics of the film industry's rating system is reaching a wider audience:

Yes,parents do need a guide to help them find the age appropriate films for their children but let's be real about this. Most kids over the age of ten go to the movies on their own and if it's something that Mom and Dad think is bad,they want to see it all the more. However, in this case, a documentary is not usually a teen's first choice at the multiplex.Bully is the kind of film that should be shown in schools and without a PG-13 rating,that won't be possible.

I know that some people believe the recent attention paid to bullying in the media is just an overreaction and once upon a time,I did,too. Thinking over my past childhood and teen experiences,however,I do see that there is quite a difference between then and now. For one thing,text messaging and Facebook pages didn't exist when I was a kid,so while bullies could hound me at school and harass me on my way home,they weren't able to send me messages telling me to kill myself or create an internet site devoted to personally demeaning me.

There weren't a lot of pop culture outlets that dealt with the issue in my day,other than a few family sitcom plots,Judy Blume's YA novel Blubber and Stephen King's horror novel and film adaptation of Carrie. I was lucky enough to have a supportive family structure that helped me through those rough times but plenty of my peers didn't and perhaps it would have been better for us all if an open discussion had been engaged instead of the usual "kids will be kids" screed handed out by adults. I haven't seen Bully for myself but I wouldn't be surprised to see something of myself in those troubled kids.

Dealing with this issue in a positive manner is important and this film could be a golden opportunity for encouraging both parents and kids to talk about it candidly and shed some more light on how this affects them in their day-to-day lives. By denying Bully the chance to be seen by as many people as possible,the MPAA does not live up to it's agenda of providing families with the best information about the contents of a movie.

It would be nice to leave a legacy of understanding and empathy for future generations as the solution to bullying instead of just sweeping the whole mess under the rug for someone else to deal with later. Not to mention an alternative to indulging in revenge fantasies,which can be a harmless outlet for some but if no other viable option is presented,the more vulnerable among us could misinterpret as their battle cry. Do the right thing,MPAA,and give Bully the theatrical freedom that it deserves. Otherwise,you may wind up with more than metaphorical blood on your hands:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rock out as you read

There seems to be a small yet steady trend of homemade music videos with book lover themes that's growing with leaps and bounds.They appear to cover just about every corner of concern for bibliophiles and their musically inclined counterparts,which is a real marriage of the minds in the pop culture realm and browse worthy to boot.

The latest Lit Rock clip hitting the internet is "B*tches in Bookstores",which is a parody of a Jay-Z/Kayne West tune. While I'm not familiar with the original song,these pumped-up pageturning ladies seem to be doing it justice and then some:

Another ode to hardcore reading came out around this time last year,courtesy of Julian Smith. His tough guy stance on being interrupted while reading,"I'm Reading a Book",isn't a parody of anything in particular,which makes this toe tapping laugh fest all the more enjoyable:

A lesser known but still just as compelling video,"Library Girl" is a charming love song about a librarian looking for love beyond the reference section. There's a nice little indie vibe about this piece,far more authentic than any of the antics Zooey Dechannel gets up to in "New Girl"(no,I don't watch that show but the tweeness of it rankles me nonetheless).

Anyway,this humble ballad of a bookish gal seeking her perfect bookend of a mate deserves to be heard and featured on playlists,perhaps even made into a theme song for a romance amongst readers TV series-hey,stranger things have happened!:

Frustrated writers even have an anthem of their own in this category,as this Kei$sha inspired parody takes on the perils of "Writer's Blok." The composer of this tribute to stalling for time is Jackson Pearce,whose has several YA fantasy titles out and clearly has a good sense of humor regarding her labors of love.

Distractions are an author's worst enemy and occasional best friend yet so hard to resist,especially when set to a danceable groove like this:

So,it appears that books and music can and do make a perfect pop culture pairing,much like a Reese peanut butter cup or a martini with a new episode of Mad Men. Not only is this a great way to spread the good word about books and reading,this merging of formats is also an excellent vehicle for advocating the need to keep our struggling literary outlets afloat,which is very rock n' roll indeed:

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's your own comic book,Charlie Brown!

Today,I have a very special guest post,a review of KaBoom Comics' new line of Peanuts comic books,based upon the classic strip by Charles Schulz.

My sister Stephanie O'Donnell,a graphic artist whose work can be seen in Greg Carter's Perfect Agent action adventure series(as well as the cover art for my first ebook,The Hench Woman's Handbook),considers Peanuts to be one of her major influences and her take on this latest adaptation is aimed at fans and newcomers alike:

"Peanuts" is back in comic book form once again, thanks to Boom! Studios' subsidiary for kiddie titles, KaBoom!. It stays true to the earlier days' humor in a longer format. Lucy is just as much of a fussbudget as she was 50+ years ago. Charlie Brown is still a lovable loser, and Linus holds on literally and figuratively to his blanket fixation.

The best part of it for me was to kind of relive my childhood through this recent incarnation. I'm an avid collector of Peanuts memorabilia, especially the old trade paperbacks. This makes for a nice addition to my collection. The artwork is crisp and faithful to the originals. There's even a "How To Draw" section with Lucy instructing the reader on how to recreate Charlie Brown, all the while mocking him in her usual fashion:

The formatting is not all that different from the maximum four panel fare, just presented in a larger funnybook style. They're almost like short stories; very short stories, often times channeling the old Sundays.

Readers will be delighted to see a lot of old favorites returning. Charlie Brown's pining for the little red haired girl, Snoopy's vast imaginary world and relationship with Woodstock, and of course, the football shtick are back in full effect.

It just wouldn't be Peanuts without those realiable tropes. Linus' blanket is also often a focal point, as there are plans for a comic version of "Happiness Is A Warm Blanket". The sneak previews are promising:

There's still a few fairly new concepts (at least to me) that work just as well alongside the standards; A storyline in which Lucy can't seem to avoid a very popular song from being stuck in her head is quite refreshing, if not highly amusing and relatable. It's got a fresh vibe overall while keeping the tropes that made it so notorious. It's not at all dated.

I'm definitely looking forward to more from this series. It's good for beginners and/or avid fans and collectors such as myself. The Peanuts comic series is a sweet nostalgic treat.- Stephanie O'Donnell

Thank you,Stephanie,for sharing your thoughts and insights on this fresh incarnation of Charlie Brown and friends. If this had been a book report for school,I think Miss Othmar would have given you an A plus:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Take a mental vacation with a Spring Break Book

With winter now officially over and done with for another year,many young folk are eagerly embracing that special rite of passage that is Spring Break. Granted,times are tough and money is scarce but that never stopped anyone who truly wanted to take a little time off from their daily routine to get their party on.

However,you don't have to necessarily hit the beach or the road to enjoy this always trendy tradition and age is irrelevant when you choose to check into a mental motel with a brain candy of a read by your bedside.

I'm doing that right now,and my choice of Spring Break Book is an old school romp through Hollywood with Olivia Goldsmith's Flavor of the Month.

The delightfully overwrought plot brings together three women from different walks of life-Mary Jane Moran,whose dramatic plastic surgery has turned her from a plus size character actress into a fresh looking ingenue,Sharleen Smith,a sweetly naive girl on the run from a deadly secret and Lila Kyle,a diva in the making, determined to outdo her formerly famous mother in any way she can.

These ladies are cast in a ground breaking TV show called Three for the Road and while their best dreams seem to be coming true all too fast,a few of their personal nightmares are close to rising to the surface.

Granted,some of the pop culture references are a little dated(the book came out in 1993)but it's still quite a page turner,as Goldsmith sprinkled plenty of salty satire into the soap opera antics of the story. In some ways,Flavor of the Month proves that the more things can change,the more they can stay the same:

If I'm still feeling restless after that,my next candidate for Spring Break reading is Savages by Shirley Conran. It's another blast from the past(1987,to be exact),as five corporate wives find themselves stranded on a jungle island in the South Seas after their spouses are slaughtered by the locals.

Taking a few survival tips from the captain of their fishing boat,the ladies find themselves battling not only the elements and those out to finish them off but at times,each other. Think of it as a combo between any of those Real Housewives series on Bravo and The Hunger Games,with a touch of Revenge thrown into the mix:

Now,if either of these sexy sagas intrigue you,the library would be your best bet for finding a copy since they're pretty much out of print. I just happen to be lucky enough to have them still on my shelves(okay,Savages I did buy used a couple of years ago).

However,for those who want to splurge a bit and are in the mood for some Downton Abbey flair,I have a wonderful suggestion for you. No Angel is the first book in a trilogy by Penny Vincenzi and it tells the tale of a publishing empire run by Celia Lytton,the aristocratic wife of the owner who gains even more control of the business as her husband goes off to fight during WWI.

As much as Celia loves him and publishing,her heart truly belongs to Sebastian Brooke,a charismatic children's author. Torn between duty and love,she and all those connected to Celia suffer and benefit from her ultimate decision. There are loads of supporting players here, with just as compelling story lines and yes,there even is a version of the Dowager Duchess Violet on deck as well. No Angel is available in paperback,along with it's follow-ups,Something Dangerous and Into Temptation,and all three are a real royal treat:

Whatever you chose for your Spring Break Book,the key thing to keep in mind is that leisure time of the mind is just as great as actual relaxation time for the body is. As long as you don't overdo it,spring break or any other vacation is really just a state of mind so it can be taken wherever you are. Appreciate the goodness on hand and use your imagination to enhance the rest(portable saunas not included but a nice bonus if you can get them):

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TAR tackles beards and witches,Elena's Vampire Diaries angst and Mad Men back in town

The teams on The Amazing Race went to Bavaria(not "Bolivia"as a certain Big Brother gal thought)and were faced with a pair of Detours that really gave new meaning to the term "local color."

Challenge one was to style the beard of a traditional dressed gentlemen into designs that would be daunting even to an experienced barber. Most of the teams opted for this Detour,relying on their partner to work wonders with hair gel and spray:

The other option had teams follow a path towards a house with a witch in the yard and use the pieces of wrapped gingerbread picked up along the way to finish making a gingerbread house. That was the one I would've gone with,just to see the old school witch crackling as she stirred her cauldron.

Mark and Bopper took this challenge,after their Speed Bump(a yodeling lesson which they took to pretty well),along with Kerri and Stacy and Team Big Brother. The latter chose this task,by the way,because Rachel claimed that she didn't know what a beard was and I am so not kidding about that. I don't mean to pick on them but that girl is beyond annoying,with her constant complaining and carrying on.

It's too bad that Kerri and Stacy wound up being eliminated this round,since I would rather see more of them that Miss Tammy Whine-ette here:

Elena's troubles never seem to end on The Vampire Diaries,as tonight's episode will have her worrying that her guardian Alaric is unknowingly behind a spree of mysterious murders in town,due to long term use of the magical protection ring that he's been wearing.

It's not like this girl doesn't have enough on her plate,with the on-again,off-again love triangle she has with the Salvatore brothers,plus a pack of Original vampires literally out for her blood.

Oh,and let's not forget her best friend Bonnie the witch whose newly found mom is now becoming a vampire and gal pal Caroline who is in between romances while mourning her dad's untimely death due to the current kill spree possibly caused by might-be-going crazy Alaric. Whew,a lot of ground to cover there but I think I managed it.

Anyway,at some point,Elena is going to be concerned about her brother Jeremy(conveniently sent out of state)since he also has one of these protection rings and if this whole overexposure theory is correct,that boy is doomed to be a killer. Hopefully,Stefan will get over his latest bout of moodiness to be of some comfort to Elena(if he doesn't,Damon surely will):

The two hour premiere of the fifth season of Mad Men is set for this Sunday and advance word on the show so far is that it's been worth the wait. The cast and crew have been cagey about giving away too many details but it's clear that Don's mood about life is much more positive,due to his hook-up with Megan.

One of the highlights of this series is how the changing times are reflected through the characters and their reactions to the brave new world unfolding before them. With the civil rights movement,feminism and the Vietnam war making more strides in the mid to late sixties,we should really see some meaty plot lines based on these major developments,I'm guessing. At any rate,it's good to see the old gang back in action:


GAME OF THRONES: Yes,we all know the show is coming and part of the campaign for Season Two asks the fans to "pledge their allegiance" to a warring house. As much as I admire the Starks,my loyalty lies with Danearys Targaryen,the mother of dragons:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kitchen Divas and the Case of the Ghostly Written Cookbooks

There's a bit of a kerfuffle amongst food writers a-brewing,as an article written by Julia Moskin for The New York Times Dining section that chronicles her experiences as a professional ghost writer of cookbooks,some of which are credited in full to celebrity chefs.

In addition to talking about the ups and downs of culinary/literary collaboration,Moskin also mentioned that other cookbook authors had assistance in putting their books together,such as Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow. That riled up Paltrow quite a bit,who tweeted her denials as fast as she could:

Rachael Ray also joined Paltrow in insisting via Twitter that she and she alone wrote all of her cookbooks and that the guy quoted in the article as her ghostwriter is just her food stylist and friend,nothing more.

Moskin,in reply,has defined what she considers to be the standard for cookbook ghostwriting,aka "ghost-cooking" in a follow-up article:

"Ghost-cooking is rarer than the routine work of wrestling hot, messy, complicated recipes onto the page in comprehensible English. That work can include transcribing scribbled notes into logical sentences. Measuring out ingredients and putting them in order. Producing the routine bits of the book like the glossary and the guide to ingredients.

That is cookbook ghostwriting, as I and many others have experienced it. The food itself, and the story that surrounds it, usually comes from the chef in varying stages of page-readiness."

In other words,ladies,no one is saying that you can't cook or didn't write a single word or recipe. Clearly,you had some help there,in one insistence this being your first cookbook and other that you already have a lot of stuff on your plate to begin with.

There is no shame in admitting that you had some of the grunt work done by someone else,a person who worked along aside and with you to get your culinary vision on paper. What is shameful is thinking that you're too good to say so in public.

It's understandable that you would want to be respected as an author in your field of expertise(or in Paltrow's case,a favorite family pastime)and yes,there is a romance to the notion of bringing all of your best recipes together to share with the world and have others be inspired by your tasty talents:

However,do keep in mind that even the great Julia Child collaborated with two other people to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking and that all of their names were put on the cover.

Giving credit where credit is due is simply the right thing to do and it speaks volumes more about your kitchen skills and credibility than any of your Twitter complaints.

Mario Batali and Jaime Oliver,don't think that I'm overlooking you two. You've been on this denial wagon,too and all I have to say is this: if Bobby Flay can fess up about doing this,so can you. I have more respect for Flay,due to his honesty on the issue.

Rachael,I'm still a fan and wish you well. However,it would be nice if you weren't doing the whole "the lady doth protest too much" routine. Gwyneth,I think you need to find a recipe for humble pie and try a slice,it'll do wonders for your ego there:

Writing is an art form that occasionally requires more than one hand on the tiller and in many cases,a writer's best work comes from getting a much needed boost from a partner. Whether it's a play,TV sitcom or a cookbook,collaboration can be a beautiful thing and can be a real strength instead of a weakness. Don't be afraid,ladies, to say that you couldn't do it alone. Your fans will admire you all the more for it:

Monday, March 19, 2012

The pop culture playing pieces that make up The Hunger Games

The first big tent pole movie of the year will be opening at the end of this week,The Hunger Games,based on the first book in YA author Suzanne Collins' trilogy about a futuristic society where the oppressed citizens are forced to offer up their children to a literal blood sport that's televised and commercialized to the hilt.

In other words,it's the ultimate reality show. The heroine of the story is Katniss,(Jennifer Laurence)who volunteers to take the place of her little sister and winds up developing romantic feelings for Peeta,the boy from her district chosen to compete with her.

The trouble with that is not only is there another boy back home interested in her,the object of the game is to be the last person standing and that means Kat and Peeta will have to choose which one of them dies in order to win. Given that each of them has a particular physical talent which gives both an edge in the competition,their chances of surviving are strong yet incredibly sad at the same time:

While The Hunger Games are a new phenomenon,this series does have it's pop culture predecessors,particularly in the cinematic realm,and as we wait to see how well THG presents itself onscreen,checking a few of these films out should be a great way to make the time pass quickly.

Speaking of quick time,1976's Logan's Run showcases a world dedicated to the pleasures of youth as the inhabitants of a domed society in the 23rd century are only allowed to reach the age of 30. Upon that fated birthday,he or she must submit to "Carousel" for the alleged good of all.

Our hero is Logan 5(Michael York),whose job it was to capture "runners" who resisted Carousel but now he finds himself on the lam with a lady love beside him. Even though Logan is not involved in an official death game,the race for his life is just as risky and full of treacherous obstacles:

A more brutal example of youth gone wild comes from Japan,with Battle Royale in 2000. This cult film has a group of teenagers are taken to a remote island and forced to fight to the death by government order. If they don't comply,an electronic collar placed around their necks will explode which is a pretty solid incentive to participate there.

In between the slayings,old friendships and new romances are put on the line as tensions rise along with the body count. One of the slaughtering students in the cast happens to be Chiaki Kuriyama,who later became better known to Western audiences as Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill,Part One. You can see where she got those killer instincts from in this fearsome flick:

For more of a grown-up look at the dark side of competition,1975's Rollerball starred James Caan as Jonathan,the most prominent member of his team who is starting to be a liability for the corporation that sponsors his sport.

Rollerball games are used by the elite in this advanced world to give the lower classes an outlet for violence as well as stamp out any notions of individuality and Jonathan's popularity threatens that status quo.

The pressure is on for him to retire but Jonathan decides that now is the time for him to take a stand. A remake of this film was released in 2002 but I suspect that it couldn't match up to it's earlier incarnation in more ways than one:

Another variation on the blood sport theme arrived in 1987 with The Running Man, rather loosely based on one of Stephen King's Richard Bachman novels.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was the main man on deck here,as a police officer framed for a massacre and sentenced to be a contestant on a gruesome game show that lets audience members win prizes if their favorite "stalker" makes the latest kill.

The movie gets very cartoony at times,with over the top bad guys for our hero to take down and scenes clearly written in order to slip in a dandy one liner for Arnie. Despite the subtle as a sledgehammer theatrics,you do have to give the film makers credit for casting real life cheesy Family Feud emcee Richard Dawson as the sleazy love to hate him Running Man host Killian:

Fortunately,The Hunger Games promises to be a little more sophisticated than the likes of The Running Man yet it is one of the stepping stones that made this path to Panem possible. Knowledge is power and knowing the source of possible inspiration for a sci-fi saga helps to enhance your enjoyment of it.

One might feel a little guilty about enjoying such fictional fights to the death and that is a good thing but part of the reason we love pop culture is that our best and worst fantasies are played out in a safety zone of imagination. Granted,some people don't know where to draw the line between real and make believe but why let them spoil our game?:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Belly up to the bar with these sudsy songs

Let's face it,folks;between March Madness and St. Patrick's Day this weekend,there are going to be a lot of celebrations taking place at your local bars and pubs. Not making a judgment call here,just stating a fact.

As a pop culture follower,bars are rather iconic touchstones such as Rick's Cafe Americain from Casablanca, Roseanne's Lobo Lounge and Merlotte's in True Blood

What's also iconic are songs about or featuring bars. Most of them tend to be chatty(much like the patrons)and loudly over the top,yet that's the fun of listening to them. Whether your drink is hard or weak,some of the tunes assembled here should made that experience come alive for you.

A good one to start with is the Chumbawamba one hit wonder,"Tub Thumping". You may not know what the title means(neither do I)but after a few lyrics,the general theme becomes clear pretty quickly there:

A rousing follow-up number would be "Jump Around" by House of Pain. This rowdy tune is a real crowd pleaser at sporting events,being featured at both college and professional games of football,basketball and baseball.

It's also been on countless film soundtracks ranging from Mrs. Doubtfire to Daredevil,plus TV shows such as My Name is Earl and Lopez Tonight. This song was the band's biggest hit and it really has a life of it's own. The lyrics are not bar specific but it's not hard to imagine this punch drunk ditty playing in the background of your nearest watering hole:

For something a bit more mellow,we turn to the Billy Joel classic,"Piano Man". This ballad about a struggling musician observing the regulars in his nightly audience of bar patrons and staff is the standard by which all other songs in this genre are judged and rightly so.

It's one of those tunes that have you saying,"Man,they don't make them like this anymore." Granted,Joel himself is not entirely happy with this song in retrospect but it has stood the test of time rather well:

Of course,you can't put together a list like this without including "Where Everybody Knows Your Name",the theme from Cheers,co-written and sung by Gary Portnoy. It's one of the better known TV tunes of the 20th century and even received an Emmy nomination in 1983.

One of the amusing things about this song is that it's not as cheerful as it seems. If you've only heard the brief snippet from the opening credits,the full length version might be a bit of a surprise as the tone of the lyrics is sharply tongue in cheek with the notion of if it weren't for bad luck,the singer would have no luck at all:

Whatever you do for enjoyment this weekend,I hope you all have a good time and party safely. For those of you taking your entertainment to a bar or restaurant,please remember to tip your waitress and be considerate of closing time:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One TAR Team gets a double dose of luck,The Vampire Diaries date back to 1912 and a look at Tabatha Takes Over

The teams on The Amazing Race this week were sent to Turin,Italy but lagging behind were Mark and Bopper,aka Team Kentucky.

The guys headed for the airport without stopping at a travel agency first as instructed,which meant that they had to double back and wound up taking a later flight than the others,which put them at the back of the pack.

Despite that bad start,the fellas kept a good attitude going throughout(a lesson that Team Big Brother should learn there)and plowed ahead to reach the Pit Stop.

Team Kentucky arrived last,and as they were waiting to be told of their fate by Phil,the guys from Team Border Patrol(Art and JJ)had a surprise for them. Bopper has a very sick daughter and part of his motivation for being in TAR is to pay for her healthcare. Since the Border Patrol boys won five grand apiece for being the first to arrive this leg,they offered half of those winnings to Bopper.

He was so grateful for their kindness but the surprise portion of this leg wasn't over yet. Phil told him and Mark that this was a non-elimination round,so Team Kentucky gets to stay in the game for a bit longer. I was glad to see such a nice moment amongst a lot of pointless bickering that some of the teams indulged in:

After another brief hiatus(the better to stretch out the season,my dear),The Vampire Diaries returns tonight with a subplot that highlights a blast from the Salvatore boys' past.

As they're trying to solve the strange staking murders occurring in modern day Mystic Falls,Damon is reminded of a similar spree back in 1912,where a beautiful vampire named Sage showed him the ropes towards leading a carefree immortal life.

Something tells me that Sage is going to re-enter Damon's world and perhaps not for the better this time out. Those Salvatores,they always have girl and family troubles but they do look stunning in period clothes:

The Bravo series Tabatha's Salon Takeover has grown so much in popularity that in their fourth season,the makeover mission has expanded beyond beauty parlors.

While Tabatha Coffey still gives help to struggling hair stylists,Tabatha Takes Over now also tackles other businesses in need of a firm yet considerate hand. So far,her advice has been offered to a legendary beach bar that needed an update,a yogurt shop with bad tasting product and most recently,a dog grooming salon with an overbearing owner.

Tabatha's expertise is in hair styling,of course,but her practical approach to management and strong yet supportive manner in dealing with staff does seem to apply to more than one setting.

Not every place improves after spending time with Tabatha(due to not keeping up with her advice and standards),however she appears to have the same success rate with the newer businesses that she does with her regular round of salons in jeopardy.

This new twist on the show might have unsettled some of the fans but in the long run,giving Tabatha more space to strut her stuff and kick ass where needed is a good thing indeed:


SWEET GENIUS: A new season of sugary strangeness returns tonight and if you haven't sample it yet,this might be the right time,particularly if you're not interested in watching March Madness:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Make your vote count for this year's Razzies!

Just when you thought movie award season was over,voting for the 32nd Annual Golden Raspberry Awards is now under way. For most of the categories,you have to be a member of the Razzies to vote but the Worst Screen Ensemble will take input from the public,courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

The big story on the Worst Movie front this year is Adam Sandler's record breaking number of nominations,particularly due to his big holiday film,Jack and Jill.

The twisted twin comedy earned him Worst Actor and Worst Actress,plus a Worst Supporting Actress spot for both Katie Holmes and David Spade. Sandler did get some credit for his horrible work in Just Go With It but clearly Jack and Jill was the cinematic straw that broke the moviegoer's back:

Sandler,however,is not the only belle of this bad movie ball. Nicholas Cage,no stranger to big screen stinkers,has a Worst Actor nod for all three of his 2011 films(Drive,Season of the Witch and Trespass)and a special place in Worst Screen Couple. In that category,it's basically him and anyone acting with him in any of those movies. Talk about ouch!

Cage doesn't seem to get too put out by these things;already he's setting up for next year's Razzies with his performance in Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance ,which came and went out of theaters this past winter:

There are other awful films pushing their way forward in this crowd to be noticed,such as the star packed rom-com New Year's Eve.

That murky attempt at mirth is up for the likes of Worst Actress(Sarah Jessica Parker,who is sharing that spot with her big flop,I Don't Know How She Does It),Worst Screenplay,Worst Director,Worst Screen Ensemble and naturally,Worst Film of the Year.

I'm sort of surprised that NYE didn't land a nomination in the Worst Prequel,Remake,Rip-Off or Sequel section,since this is the second holiday themed film that Worst Director nominee Gary Marshall has brought to theaters and he's promising to make another one all too soon. The mere thought of that is even scarier than a new Halloween reboot:

A movie that did make it to the Worst Prequel,Remake,etc. section was Twilight: Breaking Dawn,Part I. The next to last chapter in the beloved vampire saga also made it's mark in other Razzie areas,including Worst Screenplay,Worst Screen Couple and Worst Director.

As a fan of the series,I advise my fellow Twi-hards to relax and let those who don't understand our devotion to Bella and Edward laugh as much as they want to. After all,we're the ones these movies were meant for and taking such mockery in stride is what makes a pop culture devotee stronger:

In that spirit,I sincerely hope that Adam Sandler will make an appearance at the Razzie awards ceremony on April 1. You'd certainly be in good company(some Oscar winning company at that)and why avoid the one Hollywood celebration where you are without a doubt the guest of honor? Come on,dude,you're a comedian and the timing couldn't be better here,especially to give your career a desperately needed boost:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Make a mental note to indulge in some frosting sweet fiction

The cupcake trend is making more of an impact in pop culture circles,with not only TV shows(reality and otherwise) but in book stores as well.

Currently,there are several new novels with cupcakes and their specialty bakeries as the theme and setting for female friendly reads. Let's sample a few of these sweet treats and see if they make our mental mouths water.

First up is How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue,which has two former friends teaming up to start their own cupcake business. Things have changed for both women,as silver spoon princess Julia St. Clair is no longer the super confident mean girl she was back in high school,while Annie Quintana has come a long way from just being the daughter of the St. Clair family's nanny.

With Julia offering to assist Annie in getting her cupcake shop going,these ladies have to find a way to not only work together but overcome their past differences and present emotional dilemmas. Even though Julia and Annie are from opposite sides of the street,so to speak,they have more in common than they think and can use their unique approaches to life to get what they truly want out of it:

Next on the shelf is Donna Kauffman's Sugar Rush,where Leilani Trusdale decides that she's had enough of running a pastry shop in New York for arrogant Baxter Dunne,who is more interested in hosting his cooking show.

Leilani heads back to Sugarberry Island, her hometown in Georgia, to begin her own bakery and make a new life for herself. Her cupcakery becomes so successful,however,that Baxter and his camera crew show up to feature it on his show.

That unexpected reunion causes sparks to fly between the two of them and Lani has to use both her head and heart to determine if he is really the secret ingredient for a real recipe of romance. This book is meant to be the beginning of a series set in Sugarberry and I think that small town sweetness is a key element in creating literary comfort food:

Speaking of comfort food,the cozy mystery genre tends to favor foodie themes and the newest deadly dessert on that menu is the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries series by Jenn McKinlay.

The pastry sleuths of these stories are Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura,who have made their mutual dream come true by opening Fairy Tale Cupcakes. Yet,despite their sweet success,they kept finding themselves stumbling over corpses along with serving up their cupcake creations.

Their latest adventure is Death by the Dozen,where Mel and Angie are determined to win a food competition show called Challenge to the Chef,which could get their little business a nice slice of publicity(not to mention the added bonus of beating out a local rival).

Despite one of the judges being a former mentor of Mel's,the ladies are confident in their chances to earn an honest victory. That consideration becomes null and void as said mentor is literally put on ice and the gals have to hunt down the killer before the bite is put on them. For fans of shows like Cupcake Wars,this sounds like the perfect snack attack read:

All of these titles are in paperback,which should make them even more appetizing to your book buying budget. Even if you find one of them at your local library or borrow it from a reading buddy,they should hit the right spot for your spring time reading pleasure.

Enjoy them as much as you would a cupcake from a loved one but don't get too competitive about which one of them is better than the other. Such things eventually turn out to be a matter of taste and why argue with that?:

Monday, March 12, 2012

The wearing of the pop culture green

With St. Patrick's Day not too far away, I thought it might be fun to merge my Irish ancestry with my love of pop culture riffs. Therefore,here are a handful of green tinged legends of lore that may not be fully Erin go bragh but should be suitable for anyone wishing to tap into the spirit of the day(in non-alcoholic form,that is).

Out of the many superheroes who don emerald shades,the best known and respected would have to be Green Lantern. He doesn't always get top billing in the DC line-up and even when he does,such as the recent ill-conceived Ryan Reynolds summer box office bomb,it's not necessarily the best light to showcase him in.

However,Cartoon Network has debuted a new animated Green Lantern series that airs on Saturday mornings that may turn the tide for Hal Jordan and friends. While I'm not a major fan of computerized art,the look is solid and the storyline has a nice narrative vibe that should please some of the old school fans as well as initiate a few of the new blood to the GL corps:

In the super villain's corner,we have Marvel's The Green Goblin who is to Spiderman what the Joker is to Batman in terms of major league nemesis.

No matter how many incarnations there are of Spidey,Gobby has made his presence known whether it's TV,film or video game. Even the Spiderman musical Turn Off the Dark has the gruesome galoot front and center.

However,the upcoming reboot of the Spiderman movie series doesn't seem to have any plans to feature him,which may not go over too well with some people. Then again,GG might be in good company,since it doesn't look like Lex Luthor isn't going to be a part of the Superman reboot either:

Leaving the comic book realm for the moment,one of the most memorable plot points of the movie Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon was who had possession of the Green Destiny sword.

This powerful sword was under the protection of leading man Mu Bai(Chow Yun-Fat)until the mysterious warrior maiden Jen(Zhang Ziyi)won it off him in battle. While she was strong enough to wield the blade,Jen wasn't mature enough to resist showing off her skills out in public and trashing a bar in the process,which sort of fits in with St. Pat's day there.

I know,stereotyping is bad but it's hard to ignore the somewhat appropriate yet politically incorrect comparison (did I mention I was Irish?):

Steering into literary waters,we have the classic tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,straight from the 14th century and King Arthur's Round Table. This lengthy poem tells how young Gawain took up the challenge of the mysterious forest hued warrior to chop off his head and then take a similar blow himself within a year's time.

There have been many attempts to bring this epic to life on stage and screen,with one of the better known versions being 1984's Sword of the Valiant,starring Sean Connery as the Green Knight and cinematic beefcake Miles O'Keefe as Gawain. Not the most accurate retelling but if you're in a cult movie mood,this should fit the bill:

On that note,Happy St. Patrick's Day and if you're in a party mood that evening,I hope the most unexpected guest to your celebration is The Green Man from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That guy knows how to rock the beat and then some: