Happy New Year's Eve,everyone and I hope you all celebrate with joy and splendor(plus,safety!). As we tend to do here at LRG, on this occasion we like to leave you with a few songs for your holiday party soundtrack and dancing numbers are in rotation on this jukebox.
For a bit of pop culture perspective, I thought it would be good to pair up hit dance singles from this year with ones from the past as a fun and funky way to mix things up. My choices may sound odd at first but the rhythm will eventually get you,so let's head out to the dance floor,shall we?:
First up is Daft Punk with "Lose Yourself to Dance",fronted by Pharrell Williams who also lent his vocals for the true song of the summer "Get Lucky". Pharrell contributed to Robin Thicke's sleazy"Blurred Lines" as well,but, hey, nobody's perfect,right?
Anyway,this is an excellent example of bringing forth 70s era disco into the modern age with crisp,clear sounds and a simple riff that keeps your feet moving:
Right along side that,we have Earth,Wind & Fire with their classic "Boogie Wonderland". This song is rather epic in scope in comparison yet this one sets off the feel good on the dance floor energy that Daft Punk & friends have tapped into so many years later.
There have been various cover versions of Boogie Wonderland since it's debut in 1979, including an American Idol group performance in 2003,video games and animated films. However,the original still stands the test of time and makes you move seriously to the groove:
Next up is the first single off of Lady Gaga's new album Artpop,"Applause". Now I know that this collection hasn't gotten the love that her previous releases have and frankly, I'm not surprised.
Don't get me wrong, I actually like Artpop for the most part and particularly the snappy flavor of this song. It's just that the high wave of popularity that she was riding on was bound to hit a low at some point and that time is nigh.
At least this isn't some horrible disaster of an album and Gaga can certainly bounce back from this in the future yet to come. Hey,if Ben Affleck can survive Gigli to win Best Picture for Argo and Meryl Streep managed to do Oscar worthy work after She-Devil with Roseanne, Lady Gaga is not yet done for:
I decided to team her up with ABBA and my initial pick was "Dancing Queen" but on reconsideration, I think "Waterloo" works best with Applause.
Perhaps it's the clapping sounds in the background or the cheerful get-up-and-go spirit of the song that makes it feel like Goldilocks' porridge for Applause, I don't know. I have heard that ABBA might do a reunion tour and granted, that notion has been bandied about more than once but imagine if Gaga and ABBA joined forces, what an audio alliance that would be!:
For our final pop culture pairing, we have in one corner Selena Gomez with "Slow Down", a hit off of her debut album Stars Dance.
Personally, I know her mainly from Wizards of Waverly Place, a somewhat guilty pleasure of mine, and while I enjoy her sultry stylings here, I also appreciate her relatively smooth transition from Disney teen idol to mature entertainer(dating Justin Bieber not withstanding).
It may be too soon to tell but it seems as if Selena has her feet firmly on the ground and heading towards a bright future without resorting to any embarrassing twerks and jerks along the way:
I swear that I'm not trying to jinx Selena by putting this one hit wonder next to her song but Pretty Poison's "Catch Me(I'm Falling)" happens to sound like the other glass slipper Cinderella had in her pocket in time for the fitting(Disney version,trust me).
This tune is best remembered as a key player on the soundtrack for the 1987 Jon Cryer movie "Hiding Out",where he plays a witness to a crime who pretends to be a high schooler in order to avoid the murderous thugs after him. Not a John Hughes level of eighties teen flicks there but it and the song still have plenty of fun to offer:
Have a great time tonight,folks and I will see you all back here later this week for the first TV Thursday of 2014 and maybe my first installment of The Year of Freddy Fear. In the meantime,check out this selection from my sister Stephanie of one of her favorite musical artists iamamiwhoiami with "goods"(she's Swedish and made her first US performance this year,to which my sis was thrilled beyond belief to attend) or dip into Donna Summer with "Last Dance", or both, viewer's choice!:
With the eve of a new year almost upon us, the time for making plans and resolutions for the next batch of months is at hand.
While most of those vows tend to fall by the wayside before the end of January, some are kept and in order to keep myself on the straight and narrow,here are the pop culture related resolutions I'm making for 2014. Some are simply reading choices while others will be part of the post roster for this blog,so I hope that a couple of them are interesting to my audience as well:
TAKING UP TOMALIN:
One of the late in the game movie releases this season is The Invisible Woman,starring Ralph Finnes as Charles Dickens and Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan,his actress mistress.
Their secret romance is considered to be an influence on his later works such as Great Expectations' Estella and many still debate on how far it actually went. The film is based on literary biographer Clare Tomalin's book,which I have on hand and am determined to read to the end before the year is out.
I also have a copy of her full fledged biography of the man(a very lovely Christmas gift from a good friend) and will take that one up in my regular reading as well. Since the film is already in limited release, going right to the source seems the best bet there.
Tomalin is an excellent writer in this field and her bio of Jane Austen,which is in my personal JA library, is one of the top books that any Janeite would recommend.
The film version of The Invisible Woman has gotten mixed reviews but folks into Dickens are it's target audience to begin with and while it might not garner a strong number of Oscar noms, all of us will benefit from renewed interest in this talented yet flawed artist of his time who still speaks to readers today:
GABALDONING ABOUT: Most of us diehard readers have a book that travels with us for those long trips or long waits for various appointments. I called mine my "purse book" (because that's where it stays until I have a small journey to make) and since I prefer paperbacks for that particular function,the current literary honoree is Diana Gabaldon's Outlander.
Since it has a lively pace and quick flowing action,it's a perfect choice for those times you have to sit and wait. However, I have more of a need to finish this novel regardless of destination due to the cable channel Starz turning this series into a miniseries for the summer of 2014.
Fans are naturally excited and I do have at least four other books in this time travel saga set in the Scottish highlands of the 17th century(there's seven books total,plus a spin-off series and several short stories),so catching up in time is essential. Maybe by the time the series airs, I'll be able to pronounce "Sassenach" properly:
FANNY PRICE PRIDE: For Jane Austen admirers,2014 is a year of celebration as it happens to be the 200th anniversary of the publication of her third novel,Mansfield Park.
While MP does not get the love that Pride and Prejudice or Emma does, I am in no doubt that many engaging discussions about this highly debated book will be held in many a Janeite circle. Adding to that talk will be some promotion for my upcoming ebook entitled Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampires.
For those unfamiliar with MP, Fanny is the meek and mild heroine of the story who is overshadowed quite a bit by Mary Crawford,the sleek and stylish rival for the heart of Edmund Bertram(and yes, he is Fanny's cousin but that was considered the norm in those days). I intend to remedy some of the ill will towards Fanny with my tale of terror that has a fang in cheek approach to the story.
My take on MP is told in epistolary manner,as a modern day descendant of the Bertram family in America discovers a secret stash of letters that Fanny wrote to her Naval brother William but never sent or seen until now.
The growing pile of correspondence chronicles Fanny's discovery that their new neighbors Henry and Mary Crawford have a thirst that no wine can quench and can be even more of a daily terror than a visit from her cranky Aunt Norris.
Armed with a special keepsake from a long deceased relative and a very useful book, Fanny must fight to protect her loved ones from giving into the blood lust inspired by the set of sinister siblings in their midst.
I plan to release Fanny Price,Slayer of Vampires in February of 2014 and will have a pre-order party here at LRG,plus a giveaway item that should be fun for both Austen fans and vampire enthusiasts alike. If you're interested in updates, they will be available at my Facebook page called The Austenite Adventures, where I also highlight my ebook short story,The Austen Avenger. Even if you're not into Mansfield and it's ways, I think that the bad romance aspects of the plot might intrigue you and staking a few vamps in Regency style does have it's charms:
A YEAR OF FREDDY FEAR: Another entertaining anniversary that genre fans will enjoy is the one for the release of Nightmare On Elm Street,which debuted 30 years ago into movie theaters and made it's dream demon villain Freddy Krueger(played by the awesome Robert Englund) a household name in horror.
As a big NOES fan myself who received an eight pack of the franchise that Wes Craven beget(and left and then returned to for one last time) under her Christmas tree, I have decided to do a year long salute to these films with what I'm calling "A Year of Freddy Fear."
All of the NOES films that star Robert Englund will be featured in a once a month post(including Freddy Vs. Jason),starting with the first one in January and since my focus is all about Freddy, four other Englund fright flicks will be showcased-Phantom of the Opera(this one is not Broadway bound,that's for sure!), The Mangler, 2001 Maniacs and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.
And no, I am not including the 2010 remake into this since I sat through that unholy mess once and that was more than enough. Nothing against Jackie Earle Haley for his turn in the Freddy finger blade glove but it was truly an unnecessary movie to make. I will be doing Bad Movie Month in August as usual but the Year of Freddy Fear won't interfere(pun sort of intended) with that. Let's all try to stay awake here,kids!:
Whether or not you make any resolutions for 2014, I wish all of you a healthy and happy new year in pop culture delight. Tune in tomorrow for some New Year's party tunes and in the meanwhile, try not to pick on your friends for making the same old promises to change for the better this year. Who knows, they might succeed with a little support and less scorn:
Happy mid-holiday time,folks, and I hope your celebrations are going well. No doubt many of you received a few book shaped bundles under your tree or candle display and feel as if your literary needs are quite well met at the moment.
However,we are only a few short days away from a whole new year of pop culture delights and that includes a slew of fresh new books to devour. So,if you have a gift card or two burning a hole in your pocket(or even if you don't),keep an eye out for some of these tempting titles awaiting you in early 2014:
Completing her trilogy of novels featuring American Civil War heroines,Jennifer Chiaverini introduces us to Mrs. Lincoln's Rival who also goes by the name of Kate Chase.
Kate,as the daughter of a widowed ambitious lawyer,was a prominent figure in the Washington realm of society ladies. Her sweet social skills made her a beloved hostess at many a gathering but such attention also brought her some enemies,namely Mary Todd Lincoln who resented any comparisons made between them.
When Kate married William Sprague,the governor of Rhode Island, her social star rises even higher and yet,the First Lady can not overcome her desire to banish this potential contender for her White House throne. Chiaverini's knack for bringing these not as well known yet deserving of the spotlight real life ladies,such as Elizabeth Keckley and Lizzie Van Lew,to fictional life makes this upcoming book more engaging than any diva battle has before(January):
In Philip Margolin's historical thriller,Worthy Brown's Daughter, lawyer Matthew Perry hopes to recover from the tragic death of his wife and begin again in 1860 as a new member of a law practice in the rough territory of Portland, Oregon.
When a client,a freed slave named Worthy Brown, comes to him for help in releasing his daughter Roxanne from his former master,Matthew finds that the case is more complex than he imagined. Before they can even get to court,Brown is up on murder charges and despite knowing the truth of the matter, Matthew's chances of getting him a fair trial are slim to none.
In addition,Matthew is in the midst of a legal intrigue with Heather Gillette,the daughter of a powerful business man and Sharon Hill, a sexy schemer with her own agenda at hand. With such dizzying distractions,can Matthew truly find the justice that his client deserves? Margolin is best known for his courtroom dramas and this mix of history into his usual formula should be an interesting upgrade(February).
FEMALE FORCES TO BE RECKONED WITH
The leading lady of Isabel Allende's Ripper is Amanda Jackson, who is a bit of a teen sleuth as she and her friends speculate online about the identity of a serial killer currently stalking their local San Francisco area.
Amanda's interest in the case becomes personal as her flighty mother Indiana vanishes without a trace. Is she the latest victim of the killer or is her disappearance due to the one of the new boyfriends in her life; rich man Alan or battle fatigued Ryan?
With her police chief father reluctantly overseeing,Amanda launches her own investigation into both the serial killer hunt and searching for Indiana. Where these two dark paths converge can lead to serious deadly trouble for her,not to mention opening a few doors best left closed. This is Allende's debut into the crime genre and if her heroine is as smart and sassy as a certain Ms. Mars, we could be in for quite a ride(Feb):
Following up her look at comic book heroes in After the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn takes the next step with Dreams of the Golden Age, starring the teen daughter of that book's heroine Celia West.
Unlike her mom, Anna was born with a superhuman ability(which she most likely inherited from her superhero father Dr. Mentis) and is using her power of psychic location as part of a new gang of upcoming heroes. Leading a double life is hard enough without having to hide your true self from your family as well.
Carrie Vaughn's savvy and sophisticated take on this genre,along with her engaging characters, proves that comic books are far from kid stuff(Jan):
MIDDLEMARCH MIRROR LIFE
Author Rebecca Mead talks about her personal relationship with a major classic of English literature in My Life in Middlemarch,a book she first read when she was seventeen. Upon that initial reading,Mead strongly identified with Dorothea Brooke,whose yearning for a more scholarly existence matched her own.
Over the years,Mead dove into the novel and found new meanings beyond the pages as her life and relationships with others took new twists and turns. Many diehard readers have a very special book that they feel speaks just to them and Mead's open book approach to that particular aspect of a bibliophile's life is warmly appreciated(Jan).
LEARNING TO FLY
Writer Sue Monk Kidd goes back in time with her soon to be released novel,The Invention of Wings, that focuses on the friendship between Sarah Grimke,an abolitionist in the pre-Civil War era and Hetty, aka Handful,the girl given to her as a servant in childhood.
Their bond forms from the secret education that Sarah provides for Hetty,which causes their separation when it is discovered. As the two women mature and travel different roads in life, the connection they share with one another still holds strong. Even when tested for what may be the last time, Hetty and Sarah do their best to honor each other.
Already chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick, this novel is destined to fly up the charts and onto to the shelves of readers who will enjoy this tale of timeless friendship in a time of intolerance(Jan):
Once again, I get to start the new year off with a lovely Library Thing Early Reviewers prize and The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch looks like a prize indeed.
Spunky southerner Sugar Wallace decides to take herself and her hive of specially cared for bees to the Upper West side of Manhattan,partly due to the direction that the queen bee of the bunch wishes to go.
As soon as Sugar settles down into her new home, she casts a web of helpfulness towards her new neighbors,some of whom resist any form of change from any corner. However, with a bit of patience and some unexpected romance of her own, Sugar's true sweetness is proven to be deeper than a glaze on a honey cake.
This sounds like a sweet relief(yes,pun intended) from the dreary days of winter to come and should warm up any chilly heart at any time of the year(Jan):
GETTING IN GERE
The Good Luck of Right Now has it's leading man Bartholomew Neil try to sort out his life by writing to another leading man, Richard Gere. Bart finds a letter from Gere in his mother's things upon her death and since he's lived with her all of his life, penning his thoughts to the actor seems like the right thing to do.
Wendy,his grief counselor, wants him to find his own way in the world but Bart is unsure of how to proceed in that direction. Between his one sided correspondence and a set of unlikely friendships, he begins to get an idea about which way to go. Yet, will Bart be alone on his emotional journey or have some hoped for company to walk by his side?
With the successful adaptation of his previous adult novel,The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick's new book will have a high bar set for it with many audiences. However, I think that those who loved his last work will be rather pleased with this recent love letter to experiencing all the joys and quirks that life has to offer(Feb):
Have a Happy New Year of reading,folks and tune in next week for some LRG resolutions of a bookish nature in 2014. In the mean time, use this down time to catch up on your To Be Read piles and don't be afraid to carry as many books as possible with you on your holiday travels:
Merry Christmas Eve,folks and as always at LRG,we round up a selection of holiday tunes to make your spirits bright until our next post(which should be this Friday).
Since I was feeling a tad nostalgic, the Christmas compilation for 2013 is all about the 1980s. There are some old favorites and a couple of newer choices on hand that I hope you all enjoy.
Believe it or not, there was a lot to choose from and some from very unlikely artists(never knew Bananarama had a Christmas song,for one) but we narrowed it down to a set of seasonably suitable songs.
The first two holiday tunes presented here are from A Very Special Christmas,one of the better charity albums that came out during that decade.
The best known track off of AVSC is Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis", a real rapper's delight that celebrates the down to earth joys of the holiday. The song was also featured in the original Die Hard movie and lately,was part of a car ad that had a pack of suburban moms grooving to it's rhymes regarding Santa,Christmas Day dinner and chilling like a snowman instead of a villain:
Another awesome song from that album was The Pointer Sisters' rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". The singing sibling team had a great run in the eighties, with several hit singles and a couple of Grammy awards to show for it. Just hearing them is a treat for any time of the year:
This next number is the equivalent of that fruitcake that everyone seems to get for Christmas and for some reason,can't ever really get rid of.
Yes,we have Wham! with "Last Christmas", which I am including as part of my holiday gift to my sister who finds much amusement in their oddly hokey musical contributions to the music scene of that time period.
I suppose it's tolerable enough,but if you wish to skip this one, I wouldn't blame you:
As a much needed palate cleanser,we have Hall and Oates with "Jingle Bell Rock". The video is a bit goofy but in a nice old school way:
To round things off, we include the song used as the theme of Bill Murray's take on A Christmas Carol,Scrooged. I actually saw this movie twice when it first came out in 1988 and while it's a mixed bag of goodies there, it does have a certain charm to it that makes it watchable at least once a year.
So,happy holidays and season's greetings to one and all, with hopes that you are able to relax with your loved ones during these days off from regular life. Whether or not you celebrate this end of the year time with or without Santa, the most important thing is that you get to look over the good that has come to you and put a little love in your heart for next year:
Amidst the many big movies coming out between now and New Year's Eve(most of which are in serious Oscar contention mode), the most seemingly commercial one of them all is actually about an artistic struggle.
Saving Mr. Banks stars Emma Thompson as British author P.L. Travers,the creator of Mary Poppins who reluctantly sells the adaptation rights for her popular series of children's books to Walt Disney(Tom Hanks).
Travers came along for the ride and offered her input,most of which was critical of the changes Disney and company wanted such as the songs, the casting choices(Dick Van Dyke was not who she had in mind there) and the inevitable animated dancing penguin sequence. This clash of creative forces does sound like a great story and who can resist Emma Thompson when she's in full snark attack?:
From what I gather,Travers and Disney did fight tooth and nail over the film from the beginning as she retained script approval yet he had the last word on the final cut. Even at the premiere of Mary Poppins,Travers(who had to ask for permission to attend) confronted Walt over the animated scene right then and there,which he brushed off as a "what's done is done".
Although Travers wrote four Mary Poppins novels(two of them were blended together for the Disney film), she refused to allow any sequels to be made and when she was approached about a stage version back in the 1990s, her main stipulation was that no one from the Disney film production would be involved with it and that also meant the Sherman brothers who wrote the songs for the 1964 movie. Talk about your hard feelings there!
Despite not having seen this film yet, I can't help but not be surprised at the sugar coating of the story line since Disney(along with the BBC) made this film. It's rather difficult to imagine a movie company willing to make a film that could put their founder in a non twinkly light there and perhaps if another studio had taken the reins, we might have gotten a more intriguing result:
I did read all of the Mary Poppins titles when I was a kid and the tone is very different from the movie,more Roald Dahl with a twist of magic than the sun shiney musical would lead you to believe. I don't hate the film version but it's not on my list of favorite children's book adaptation either.
I think what really bothers me about Saving Mr. Banks is the standard trope about the uptight author being too particular about their work to allow others to make it more accessible. Granted, I know that in real life many writers are not always cheerful charmers and that in bringing a story off the page and onto the silver screen, changes can and are necessary.
Yet, part of me feels strongly for Ms. Travers in this dispute. Yes, she could have walked away from the money but she was in true need of it and maybe she really thought this could have worked out in a way that would please all involved. I suspect that being a woman author in those days made it easier for the folks at Disney to override many of her objections as they did there.
Jane Austen once referred to one of her books as her "darling child"(it was Pride and Prejudice) and is it really so hard to suppose that P.L. Travers felt the same way about her fictional nanny? In that light,shouldn't it be easy to understand the motherly instinct to protect one's own creation?
Fortunately, times have changed for the better in this regard,as J.K. Rowling's hands-on role as adviser for the film versions of her Harry Potter series have proven in abundance:
So far, Saving Mr. Banks has earned a few critical honors and Emma Thompson is up for a Golden Globe as Best Actress and might even be nominated for an Oscar before all is said and done. I wish this film well but must sigh and wonder about the behind the scenes story this might have been. In P.L. Travers' mind, this Hollywood fairytale was much more of a nightmare and a touch of fear certainly would slice the sweetness factor sharper than Freddy Kruger's finger blades:
On this just before the holidays episode,Top Chef had quite a special guest judge this week for the Quickfire Challenge.
Questlove,who happens to be a restaurant owner as well as an award winning musician, tasked the chefs to do something creative with drumsticks in thirty minutes. There was more than chicken legs up for grabs,as the culinary contenders had their choice of goose,squab,quail and turkey to grab up.
Despite Brian being creative enough to use his legs for a soup,Carrie won the challenge and immunity for her offering of squab with juniper and thyme. Good thing that she earned immunity here as she really fell down in the Elimination challenge there.
For the Elim,the chefs had to cook a lunch item to serve to the freshman class of Louisiana State University. They had to make enough food to feed 500 and to use what was available in the school dining hall for ingredients and service.
Before the judges showed up with the students,there was a bit of back of the house drama as Carlos managed to manipulate Shirley into giving up the stove top she had wanted to use(she did claim it first).
Then,during service,Nicholas was using his oven not only to cook but to keep his plates warm and Carlos insisted that he needed that particular one-dude,you already swiped one station! Nicholas stood his ground and later on, Carlos whined to the judges how Nicholas "stole" his oven. Not cool,Carlos!
Carlos did wind up in the Top Three,due to his tilapia with Mexican cole slaw turning out great. If he had just stayed focused on his food,which took long to serve due to poor planning, he would have been fine.
Instead,he lost points with the judges over his bad timing and blaming Nicholas for his problems. He did backtrack his statements but now he has someone who could turn into a real enemy for his as the competition goes on. So not smart!
Meanwhile,Brian was up for the win as well,thanks to his very popular shrimp cake. The freshman loved it,there was a long line in the dining hall that came close to reaching Terre Haute(couldn't resist making A Christmas Story ref,guys!).
The judges felt that the spinach salad served on top of the cake was a nice choice,as it accented the flavors plus offered an off-set for spicy chipotle aoli on the plate. I really thought he was going to win for this one but was pleasantly surprised by a victory from another corner.
Shirley's win was extra sweet,since she had had to change her meal plan due to Carlos' station hogging ways. Instead of the fried rice that she wanted to make, Shirley served up some roast beef with potato puree and a fire roasted tomato relish that everyone adored.
The relish was prepared in the wood burning pizza oven that Shirley got stuck with after Carlos yanked her station out from under her. Talk about turning a minus into a plus! She also received a car as a prize,which she plans to give to her mom. Sometimes,nice people do finish first!
In the Bottom was Stephanie,who had a good concept for a college kid's lunch with a grilled cheese and tomato soup. However,she combined a number of odd cheese choices that didn't all meld well together(pimento with cottage cheese?).
Also,while Stephanie meant well by serving the sandwich right inside the bowl of soup,the density of the grilled cheese was enhanced by the hot liquid.
Next to her was Nina,whose corn puree for the fried chicken she served came out late and a mess.
Her big problem was that the only blender on hand in the kitchen was a dinky one that made the whole puree a chunky glop on the plate.
Judge Tom hated it so much that he insisted that his portion had "49 shades of grey-one more and it would've been a novel!" Nina is one of the better chefs here,so I was hoping that this misfire wouldn't send her home.
Justin was sent off to pack his knives instead. He had thought that his marinated shrimp with garlic puree might have been too upscale for the students but it was the bland favors that really did him in.
I have to give a dishonorable mention to Carrie who,if not for her immunity,should have gone right to Last Chance Kitchen.
Making a veggie option was a good idea but Carrie's broccoli salad with yogurt and pita bread was more phoned in than a life line on the old school version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
I don't think anyone other than the judges ate any of her food and she had the nerve to snark that "it's not my fault if these kids are dumb and won't eat their vegetables." Well,with a poorly prepared portion like this, can you blame them? I think not!
With all of my other shows now officially on break until after New Year's(Top Chef will return on January 1st),this will be my last TV Thursday round up for the year. I hope that all of you who do check this feature out have enjoyed it and look forward to it's arrival in 2014.
To round out this post,we have a Christmas compilation of Big Bang Theory clips,featuring the wacky holiday antics of Sheldon Cooper.
Sheldon's take on the Christmas season is just as oddly offbeat as most of his notions about the world are and a good place to start off is when Penny first mentioned having gifts for him and Leonard. Sheldon's dismay at being obligated to return the favor sets the stage for humor nicely here:
After preparing for whatever Penny had for him with a plethora of gift baskets, Sheldon was beyond prepared for what was actually in the gift box-a rare Star Trek surprise. The sheer bliss of getting such a present made for some very awesome amusement:
Sheldon's grinchy attitude towards Christmas never truly died out,however, and the reasons why showed up one season during a holiday themed bout of Dungeons and Dragons. His take down of Santa(based upon a wish that was not possible to be fulfilled) is both heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time:
In the end,Santa did get the last say. Granted,it was in Sheldon's dream but still...:
This year's episode had Sheldon go home to Texas for the holidays(and the birth of his nephew) but even as the gang rejoiced at his absence, he was all they could talk about. Sheldon did make an online appearance and expressed his appreciation for them having a party without him,which is about the only happy moment he seemed to be having:
There will be a few other posts between now and New Year's here at LRG,so please stay tuned and I wish you all a very happy holiday in front of your television for the rest of the season:
With today being the 238th birthday of Jane Austen,one of the most brilliant authors that ever took pen to paper, I thought this an occasion worth breaking into song for.
Music is an integral part of Austen's life and work,as she was so fond of playing the pianoforte that she had enough of the popular pieces of the day copied out to fill up her own songbook(which is on display at her Chawton house) and nearly every one of her finished novels has someone being called upon to play and sing for company.
Indeed,many characters are defined by their musical ability such as Jane Fairfax,whose steady nature is easily perceived in her excellence at the pianoforte along with Georgiana Darcy,another shy miss and the much bolder Marianne Dashwood,whose passionate feelings are just as prominent on the keys as in her words and actions.
A good way to begin this Regency recital is with a scene from the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility,as Col. Brandon sees Marianne for the first time and is enchanted by her rendition of "Weep you no more sad fountains":
Next up is Emma,who often envies Jane Fairfax for her skill at the piano as it takes the spotlight off of her time and again.
In the 1996 version,our Miss Woodhouse gets a chance to shine a bit more brightly as Frank Churchill joins in to offer his voice in song. His words have more than one meaning and one target but Emma is blissfully unaware of that,of course:
Speaking of Emma, the newest installment of the web series Emma Approved has Harriet Smith singing a little ditty for her Mr. Elton,written by her mentor and accompanied on the ukulele.
Not the typical instrument selected for an Austen romance but it's as sweet and naturally charming as Harriet herself.
In another meta-Austen performance, Amanda Price is called upon to sing for her supper in Lost In Austen(a scene shamefully not included in the US version) and chooses a very modern tune that manages to fit in well enough with the assembly before her:
When it comes to post-modern music for Jane Austen fare,no list would be complete without Bride and Prejudice. The Bollywood take on P&P has an overwhelming abundance of great songs that reflect the highs and lows of the characters,not to mention some sweet dance moves as well.
For this particular party, a blend of both Hollywood and Bollywood styles is complete in "Take Me to Love",where Lalita and her Darcy celebrate their growing feelings toward one another:
For the final number,let us call upon Mary Bennet. Granted, her voice may not always be in tune but she is most determined to exhibit what musical talents she has and amongst such a bevy of sisters, can you truly blame her?
Even Miss Austen herself would be happy to give Mary her time at the piano so let us all sit back and resist being Mr. Bennet by not pulling her off stage. I hope all of my Austen friends have a wonderful day in celebrating the delights of our favorite authoress and will sing a happy song in her honor:
Top Chef had a very caffeinated start-off this week,as Humbert Keller stopped by to introduce the Quickfire concept. He also stuck around for the Elimination challenge,which we'll get to in a moment.
Meanwhile, everyone had to make a dish that incorporated coffee,Dunkin Donuts brand to be precise, and ten grand was also on the line along with immunity for the next round.
Shirley earned that victory with a coffee glazed tenderloin served with garlic puree. Then,actor Anthony Mackie arrived to announce the main challenge which was making a dish that reminded you of home(aka,just like Mom used to make).
Mackie,Keller and the other judges were to join legendary NOLA chef Leah Chase(who made an appearance earlier this season) and several of her family members for the meal at her restaurant Dooky Chase.
This was a hard challenge to judge,since most of the food was excellent with little cause for complaint.
Stephanie made the Top Three with her mussels that had spicy pickled peppers and tomatoes,a taste combo new to Judge Tom who really liked it.
Stephanie's fondness for mussels comes from hunting for them with her boyfriend and certainly all the diners that night fell in love with her food.
Carlos also wowed the crowd with his conchinita pibil, pork shank with black beans and a corn tortilla. It really seemed to hit the spot for the judges and the special guests.
However,the dish of the night belonged to Nicholas. He was rather choked up as his plate of ricotta gnudi was presented,since it's a favorite of his daughter's and he has been missing his family very much so during the competition.
Not only did he win, Anthony Mackie claimed the dish was so good that he wished he was Nicholas' daughter! Nice win and compliment there!
The Bottom Three contenders really had minor details off with their food,with Brian's steak not having a strong enough sear for flavor and Justin not adding enough gravy to his rice.
Travis did have a bit of a real problem with his biscuits and gravy. While the maple sage sausage gravy and the sour plum jam on the side turned out nicely and went well together, the biscuits were raw in the middle.
That got him shipped off to Last Chance Kitchen and while he did have his ups and downs here, I've seen worse TC contenders overcome less. So,good luck Travis and we're actually getting a new episode next week of Top Chef as so many other shows are taking their holiday break.
One of those shows going on a break is Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who set the stage for a major shake-up as Coulson wound up being the one traded to the bad guys instead of super powered Mike(why can't J. August Richards stay on this series,why?).
Seems the villains are interested in finding out how Coulson came back from the beyond,which is something he'd like to find out as well. With Melinda May and Ward giving off tentative relationship vibes,plus Skye moving closer to discovering the truth about her parents, a number of good plot points are beginning to link up here.
However, it's going to take some major league movement to rev up the momentum by the time that the series picks up again in January. I just hope that it's not too late for these heroes to have their audience save the day(or ratings,in this case) in the nick of time. Even with intriguingly quirky bad guys making their presence known, these agents might need a real hero on board :
Sleepy Hollow will have their first season finale in January and season two(which has a 13 episode run) will air later in 2014.
This last episode had a bit of a Christmas theme(love that Abby gave Crane a stocking to hang up) but more importantly, brought back Sin Eater Henry Parrish as an ally in reaching Katrina.
Crane's sorrow in slowly learning the fate of his son was heartbreaking to see and having Parrish along for the ride was a good choice. He offered a sensible level of gravitas and regret that paired well with the emotional comfort and resolve that Abby had on hand there.
This series looked like it was destined to be a big joke at first but it certainly has come a long way,baby. I'm glad that those in charge kept to their guns about having a short run and am very happy that I gave this show a chance. Hopefully,at some point, Crane will get an opportunity for a good time as well, he certainly has earned it!:
CUTTHROAT KITCHEN: Another season of this competitive cooking series is set to air and with the pickings for fresh shows getting slim by New Year's, this is one you may want to try. Plenty of sharp and snarky twists and turns await you and the chefs who dare to enter this culinary arena and yes, this ain't your daddy's Iron Chef!: