Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, November 30, 2015

The Road of Rereading takes big steps with Little Women

On this last leg of my Road of Rereading journey, it was only fitting that my choice for the fall be Louisa May Alcott's Little Women as those title heroines use a guidebook with special meaning for them to help them along their journey towards adulthood.

While they went with Pilgrim's Progress, my literary mainstay has this tale of the four March sisters ever since I received an illustrated hardbound copy of the book as a Christmas gift from an aunt.

 I still have that worn out edition, along with a Library of America volume that includes the follow-up books, Little Men and Jo's Boys(which I tried to read but didn't make it past half of LM)and a nice Modern Library paperback that I took up for this reread. There are so many wonderful new editions that come out just about every other year that it's hard to resist getting a new copy but there is the issue of shelf space, after all.

Alcott herself never thought this book would be such a big deal. Her style of preferred writing was either "sensational stories" or novel such as Work in 1873 that was based on real life experiences. Little Women was simply meant to be a one and done, something to earn enough money to help her and her family out but it stuck a cord with readers, who identified strongly with the echoes of authentic family life that was and is still the heart's blood of the story:

Considering that Jo March, the tomboyish sister with dreams of becoming a writer, is somewhat based on Alcott, it's kind of a shame that later in the book, Jo is subject to a bit of genre shaming from the man she admires most, Professor Bhaer.

Mind you, Jo's family did encourage her writing but kept their critiques to a minimum when it came to her getting those "blood and thunder" stories published.  When she is able to stay in New York as a tutor in a boarding house owned by a family friend, Jo gets her shot at making real money from her thrillers and even saves up enough to treat her sickly sister Beth to a vacation that could improve her health. Sounds like a win-win,right?

 However, Bhaer manages to express his disdain for these stories published in weekly newspapers without confronting Jo directly(although her response to his remarks clearly gives that secret away) and while he is a well intentioned fellow, it is a bit annoying to see this future suitor of Jo's be so harsh upon her taste in literature.

 Perhaps it was simply a plot point meant to set the right moral tone for the character(at times, the girls do get various lectures on behavior,some of which they even outright ask for) but I can't help wondering if Alcott was expressing her own opinions about her early work or just giving what she thought her intended audience wanted to hear.

It does put me in mind of Northanger Abbey's Catherine becoming ashamed of overindulging her imagination from all of the gothic thrillers she had been reading. Yet, Austen doesn't express any out and out condemnation for the authors of those books, rather she impresses upon readers to be allow more variety in their choice of books and not get carried away with any genre. It's too bad that Jo March wasn't given that sort of latitude but then again, female writers were and still are held to standard that their male counterparts never had to worry much about:

I know that I'm talking a lot about Jo but she does become a strong centerpiece of the novel, with Meg and Amy pursuing some what traditional paths to marriage and poor Beth leaving us far too soon.

Speaking of Amy, we have to address the big question of "Why does Jo refuse to marry Laurie?", something that peeves many fans of Little Women to this day. In my opinion, Laurie and Amy were always meant to be, as much as Harry Potter was meant to end up with Ginny Weaseley. 

 That may sound far fetched but do hear me out. Just as many people believe that Harry and Hermione should have been a couple as do the score of LW devotees insist that Jo should have married Laurie.

Yet, both Jo and Hermione were only friends to their respective male  protagonists and while Harry never really entertained the thought of hooking up with Hermione, Jo's reasons for saying no to her "Teddy" were seriously thought out. Jo and Laurie were too much alike in temperament to truly find a happy medium as husband and wife,whereas Amy held a small crush for him that blossomed into a more mature relationship. 

Laurie did come to her emotional rescue during Amy's younger days(as well as an actual one when she fell though the ice) and as he was grieving over his lost romance with Jo, it was only fitting that Amy would save him from complete despair. Even Jo said herself that they would make a better couple that her and Laurie,well before they fell in love, a prophecy well fulfilled there.

In comparison, Ginny developed a crush on Harry after he saved her from the Chamber of Secrets and over the years, became one of his best allies in the fight against Voldemort. Regardless of what came their way, Ginny stuck by him and Harry soon grew to appreciate her loyalty and love. One thing that both Laurie and Harry do share in common was the desire to be part of a large, loving family and the best way they could do that was to marry into the one they loved the best:

 Quite a bit of genre hopping here but that's the power of Little Women, it's influence is that potent even today and no doubt into the next several generations to come.

Later this week, I'll have a review of the 1994 film adaptation of LW starring Winona Ryder as well as a look at the Pemberley Digital web series, The March Family Letters , which will complete my path on this literary quest of renewal. I hope that everyone who has kept up with this personal challenge has enjoyed hearing my thoughts and perhaps inspired to look over a few old favorites of their own on the shelf.

One last word about genre reading and Little Women; despite the classic notion that people can only engage in one type of reading, that has been proven to be untrue time and time again. As Rachel and Joey found out on Friends, you can enjoy both The Shining and Little Women with equal pleasure and both of them can be safely tucked away in the freezer when things get too tense(freezing books is not too bad of an idea, provided you do it just right):

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The true pop culture spirit of Thanksgiving is on sale at the supermarket

I know that I've already done a Thanksgiving themed post this month but since the holiday is nearly upon us(and I will be taking a small blog break), I felt the need to celebrate the real spirit of the day in true pop culture fashion by honoring an important yet rather overlooked element,shopping.

By shopping, I don't mean the insanity of Black Thursday/Friday or it's other weekend consumer cousins. Grocery shopping is the most essential ingredient for getting those crucial edible items(with any luck, on sale and fresh) to make up your feasting day feast.

Whether you call it a grocery store,supermarket or convenience store, that seemingly mundane retail experience is something that has set the scene for many a movie moment or small screen laugh. So, grab your cart and check those coupons as we stroll down the pop culture aisle to savor my salute to supermarket scenes:


Not all of these scenes will be Thanksgiving related but I decided to start with one of my favorites from You've Got Mail. It's the one where Kathleen Kelly is so busy dodging her business rival Joe Fox as she's zipping through the grocery store to get those last minute items that she finds herself in a cash-only checkout line with one dollar and a credit card that is not acceptable.

Joe swoops in with an armful of charm to save the situation, even using a corny knock-knock joke to mellow out Rose, the stressed out cashier. I've been in that cashier's place during the holidays and while I back her position, seeing Rose smile as she gives in to Joe's compliments is a bit of  a heart warmer there:


One of the early sequences in the 1983 domestic comedy Mr. Mom has new stay at home husband Jack making his first supermarket shopping trip with the kids, getting into various messes("clean-up on aisle_" quickly becomes a theme) and doing his best to figure out the complexities of ordering sandwich meat at the deli counter.

His biggest problem turns out to be keeping track of his kids, who fortunately are not misplaced for long. This is a comedy, after all, and even after all of these years, some of the laughs have not gone stale:

COUPON WARS: A season one episode of 2 Broke Girls had Caroline discover the joys of grocery shopping with coupons, becoming an instant devotee to the wonders of extreme couponing.

That joy turned to turmoil as she and Max ran into the local coupon queen and began a battle over cake batter that was at a too good to be true bargain price. Yep, it's not all smiles at the in-store specials section there:


When Rory received her first kiss from Dean at Doosie's Market(in the ant spray aisle, a good aisle indeed) and doesn't tell her mom about it, Lorelai decides to do a little supermarket snooping of her own to learn more about her daughter's potential beau.

Luckily, Luke shows up to prevent Lorelai from making a move that would upset the balance of double coupon day. A nice bonus is that this episode does take place around Thanksgiving and the Stars Hollow town decor is seasonally awesome:

 So, Happy Thanksgiving, folks and when you do head out to the supermarket for that can of cranberry sauce or those rolls you forgot to buy earlier, try not to get into a foodie fight. The grocery store can be hectic at times yet it's also an iconic symbol of abundance, one of the things that we give thanks for on this special day:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sharing some sisterly mocking movie time with 50 Shades of Grey

One of the traditions of modern day Thanksgiving is to watch bad movies(a prime example being MST3K's Turkey Day Marathon) but due to HBO premiering 50 Shades of Grey this past Saturday night, my sister and I got a bit of a head start on that, or as she put it "make it a Blockbuster night."

Neither of us have read the book(or plan to) by E.L. James, which launched the lewdly popular trio of novels about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, stand-ins for the leads in the Twilight series(more about that later), yet we knew the basic story. Girl Meets Boy during interview, Boy creepily flirts with Girl, Girl negotiates kinky contract with Boy.

 Seriously, there's a major scene where Anastasia goes to his office and they sit in a dimly lit boardroom that reminded my sister of a Dario Argento film, to go over the contract details.

"What are butt plugs?" is a line that Dakota Johnson actually has to say with a straight face. I did feel sorry for her as even her mom Melanie Griffith had more dignity when starring in Milk Money.

Speaking of dignity, there is little to be had, as Jamie Dornan spends most of the film either in sleazy smirk mode or moody control freak setting. The alleged passion between them is as electric as the shavings from the pencil that Christian gives Ana during their first meeting that she later plays with, right near her mouth(wow, points for subtlety there,movie!):

 One of the things that my sis and I used to play an impromptu drinking game(with only one of us having alcohol) was how many ways Christian Grey came across as a serial killer.

 From the opening credits where you see him in his elaborate dressing room that was complete with a drawer full of ties in separate compartments, my sister immediately called the first of many Patrick Bateman from American Psycho vibes that he gave off. My first Bateman call was when he gave Ana his neatly designed business card which certainly would've earned Christian a lesson on how to appreciate Huey Lewis and the News there.

Hell, even Ana tries to make a joke about Christian's Criminal Minds Unsub like personality during that hardware store scene. I'm sorry but when a guy is only buying items in a place like that that are meant to be restraints, that really should be a loud and clear warning bell to anyone with sense not to date or even be alone in private with him:

We kind of had to wing it in the drinking game department, as there were just too many FSoG themed ones to choose from. Considering the running time of the film(which is slightly over the two hour mark), we managed just fine.

In contrast, finding a Jane Austen drinking game is far less complicated and way less disturbing to play, although Pride and Prejudice might be quite the Janeite juggernaut in this category:

Apart from the scary movie aspect of the story(when Christian introduced Ana to his "playroom", my sister was shouting "GET OUT!" in true Amityville Horror style at her), the throwbacks to Twilight were incredibly obvious.

It's no secret that 50 Shades was originally written as Twilight fan fiction and since I'm more versed in that series than my sister, it was up to me to explain certain things such as Christian taking Ana for surprise helicopter and plane rides(in place of Edward carrying Bella across the treetops) and the moody piano playing that Christian indulged in.

However, neither me or my sis could figure out if 50 Shades had a Jacob equivalent in the cast. There were a few contenders but no definite rival for the dubious affections of Ana. Maybe he'll show up in the sequels(wonder if the final chapter will be broken up into two films, like Twilight was?):

All in all, we had a good time with this godawful film that makes Battlefield Earth look like Academy Award winning material. At least, BFE has a Rifftrax to help you get through that particular shade of cinematic crazy.

I highly doubt that we'll catch the sequels(unless there's nothing better on that night) yet I will confess to having a slightly perverse curiosity to read the first 50 Shades book,just to see how bad it really is. Sort of the literary version of rubbernecking, no matter how descriptive a recap that anyone gives you, you do want to see for yourself there.

That urge will surely pass, as there are plenty of good entertaining books out there to choose from and I prefer my romance to not be any shade of grey, rather just steamy enough to fog up a mirror or warm a soothing cup of tea. The merits of 50 Shades as literature worth keeping is something for more scholarly folks than I to determine as time goes on:

Friday, November 20, 2015

The live action debut of Livewire on Supergirl sparks off a look at original comic book inspired gals

Due to an understandable change in schedule, the Thanksgiving episode of Supergirl aired this week and that allowed us to savor the deadly delights of villainess Livewire in her live action debut all the more sooner.

Livewire is a character created in the Superman: The Animated Series universe named Leslie Willis, a shock jock turned into an energy devouring lifeform after a freak accident involving a lightning bolt and Superman, one of her favorite targets of derision.

Livewire's origin story transplants well into Supergirl, with the only other main difference being that her boss Cat Grant is chosen as her focal point of revenge. Actress Brit Morgan(best known as Debbie Pelt on True Blood) has a lot of fierce fun with this role and I look forward to both her and Livewire making a return visit to National City:

While Livewire made a very brief appearance in the later seasons of Smallville, this is her first full fledged appearance beyond the animated shows and films, as well as the comic books where she was revamped as part of the "new 52".

She has also been put into several video games and voiced by three different actresses, starting with Lori Petty in SM:TAS, then Maria Canals Barrera for the animated Justice League series and Kari Wahlgren in the Justice League movie Gods and Monsters. I've only heard the Lori Petty version and that incarnation(who also teamed up with a couple of other DC bad girls in a crossover episode) and that certainly made a memorable impression on me and many other fans:

 Of course, Livewire isn't the first created for the animated DC  universe character to cross over into live action. Ever since her initial appearance in the episode, "Joker's Favor", Harley Quinn has gone beyond simply being the Clown Prince of Crime's sweetly sinister sidekick to be an iconic figure in her own right.

In both the cartoon shows and the comic books, Harley's character has been developed into a woman struggling between her good and evil impulses and at times turned into an antihero yet always goes back to her bad girl ways.

Part of her strength as a character is being able to function without the Joker, with her most famous team-up being with Poison Ivy.  Harley and Ivy as a dangerous diva duo has become popular enough for DC to have given them a stand alone comic book series as well as one that had Catwoman join up with them(Gotham City Sirens). That last arrangement didn't work out too well as Harley and Ivy do their best  much better as a two woman act:

Harley herself has quite a fanbase, which is why folks were thrilled to see her first cinematic incarnation revealed in the trailer for 2016's Suicide Squad movie.

 Apart from Mia Sara playing an older version of the character in the short lived series Birds of Prey and a very brief appearance on Arrow, Margot Robbie's performance is the live action one that all others will be judged in possible future films or TV shows.

From what little I've seen, Robbie does appear to be a good fit into the twisted yet cheerful persona that is Harley and while I wish she had a better Joker to play off of, I am anxious to see how her big screen debut turns out:

It's not just villainesses who cross over the fictional borderlines at DC, however, as Chloe Sullivan proved in abundance.

First created for Smallville as a girl reporter type who evolved into a major ally of Clark's, she became so popular a character that the powers that be at DC brought her into the comic book universe. Granted, it took awhile(2010, to be exact) but she did become part of that world nonetheless.So far, Chloe has not been an animated character although she has had a webseries, YA novels and couple of other comic book appearances apart from the Smallville adaptations.

It would be nice to see her in cartoon form and maybe even blended into the cinematic version of Superman at some point in time. One thing that Chloe did achieve was being more than just a stand-in for Lois Lane as her smartly shaped skill set made her more than a match for many of the enemies she and Clark encountered over the ten seasons of that superpowered series:

 While it's great fun to see comic book heroes and villains that we know so well come to life either in animated or live action form, having specially created ones leap from one side to the other is a nice pop culture bonus.

What would be even better is having some leading ladies made especially for big and small adaptations, not just supporting players. You have to give Marvel credit for taking what could have easily been a girl sidekick character for the Captain America movies and giving her a truly fleshed out presence both on film and in her own TV series. The second season of Agent Carter is due to begin in January of 2016 and that sounds like a great way to start the new year indeed:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The LRG list of Best Books of 2015

I know that it's not even Thanksgiving yet but with the National Book Awards ceremony coming up this week, this feels like a good enough time to announce my picks for Best Books of the year.

2015 has been a hectic year,especially on a personal front due to family illness, yet one thing that has kept me steady over both the good, the bad and the what the hell?, has been reading. Books offer so much solace in troubled times that they should be officially considered as a national resource, in my opinion.

If you've read any of these books(one at least I do believe has been widely read by many this summer), then you know just how great it was to turn these pages and if you haven't, I hope that this list encourages you to give one or two a chance in the coming new year:


When word came forth that a new Harper Lee novel was set to be published this summer, cries of joy could be heard throughout the land. Some of those cries did turn into laments as Go Set a Watchman turned out to be a rough draft of what Ms. Lee originally intended to have as her first book but instead became the wellspring from which her classic To Kill a Mockingbird was born.

Seeing the original version of Scout and her father(who was not the heroic figure that most fans took him for) as well as what might have made for a true sequel was fascinating reading and whether you loved or hated it, there's no denying that GSaWM was truly one of the most thought provoking books of the year:


 Carrie Snyder's Girl Runner not only offers you a look at what it was like for the first female runners that participated in the 1928 Olympics, the story of Aganetha Smart also showcases a long life that sees more than it's fair share of sorrow yet finds a bit of unexpected joy towards the end.

The novel is mostly told in flashbacks, as Aganetha is taken from the nursing home where she resides alone by a young couple making a movie who have a certain personal goal in mind. Like the heroine herself, Girl Runner keeps a strong and steady pace that allows you to fully explore the inner landscape of her memory and makes those last strides over the finish line feel well earned indeed.

Author Amy Stewart is best known for her nonfiction but Girl Waits With Gun clearly demonstrates that she has a fine knack for novel writing. Set in the early 1900s, this based on a true story of how the Kopp sisters, mainly straight to the point Constance, dealt with the threat of local rich boy thug Henry Kaufman is a stylish smart read that flows as smoothly as gin into a cocktail glass.

While Constance Kopp is far from a social butterfly, her determination to protect her family, along with discover the truth behind another of her adversary's crimes, does put me in mind of a certain Miss Fisher, whose lively wit and whimsical detective ways would match up with Constance's own methods quite nicely:


The subtitle of Molly Wizenberg's memoir Delancey is "A Man, A Woman,A Restaurant, A Marriage" and that is exactly what this book is about in a nutshell.  She tells the story of how her husband Brandon first set about creating his Seattle pizza restaurant(named for a favorite section of New York) and the small victories and major setbacks that came with it.

 To her credit, Molly does not shy away from her own struggles with the situation, something that she first thought would be a casual project but soon enough turned into a serious business that did strained the couple's personal relationship.

However, there is also a strong shared love of food that helped to heal many a breech and the mutual affection that both Molly and Brandon have for each other made this labor of love a heartwarming journey worth taking:


While there are always a huge number of new hardcovers to check out during the year, some of the best literary discoveries are made for a reader via paperback and there is a pair of historical fiction titles that truly made my reading year complete.

The first was Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, which was an Oprah 2.0 Book Club selection, that had it's two leading ladies deal with the racial and social policies of their day both together and apart.

While Hetty, called "Handful", struggled to find more than one kind of freedom from slavery, her childhood companion Sarah Grimke fought to be more than just another obedient daughter to made ready for the bonds of marriage that would tie her spirit down for good. Both stories are sad ones yet each their shared determination to create a better world is and was sincerely inspiring to experience.

The other was Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown, which had a mix of foodie lore and pirate adventure. Chef Owen Wedgewood winds up being the captive personal chef of pirate queen Mad Hannah Mabbot, who insists on having a specially prepared Sunday supper or he will truly walk the plank.

As Owen does his best to make a weekly dinner that will allow him more time to live(and perhaps be rescued), his set in stone notions about the world are steadily being chipped away, to the point where he decides to make his own choices about not only his fate but that of his newly made friends, as much as he can in the moment.

I have to thank vlogger Rincey of Rincey Reads(she also does video features for Book Riot) for her delightful review of this book that made me go and look for it in the first place. Taking a chance on the unknown is always easier when a good recommendation is at hand:

No doubt that there are a few more great books coming out before New Year's Eve(I happen to be reading two of which at the moment, City on Fire and A Brief History of Seven Killings) but I feel that this lineup is a good one to sum up my reading of 2015 on.

Hopefully next year, we will have even more wonderful books to enjoy and maybe a better sense of peace and harmony, particularly in Paris where I and so many others send our sympathies and good thoughts out to(along with other countries who have seen their unfair share of similar sorrow).

We do have some great things to look forward to in 2016, such as the film version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which expands upon the Harry Potter universe with the approval and aid of J.K. Rowling. It would be nice if all we had to worry about next year was dealing with the Dark Lord Funk coming to Hogwarts and who knows, we might!:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Reliving the glory days of Cannon Films with a bolt of Electric Boogaloo

For B-movie fans, one of the best times in the modern era was the 1980s and riding high in that arena were the double trouble duo of Menaheim Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus who turned Cannon Films into a major movie making factory of epic exploitation proportions.

Their saga is now being told in a recently released to DVD documentary entitled Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, which I watched over this past weekend and it certainly is as over the top as one of their movies.

Various folks involved with Cannon, such as actors Dolph Lundgren and Sybil Danning and director Tobe Hooper, share their anecdotes about working with Golan and Globus as well as explain their rise and fall in Hollywood. Both men were filmmakers in Israeli, with Golan being a director and Globus a producer, and their moderate success lead them to the U.S., where they bought the ailing Cannon Film company and turned it into a viable low budget contender on the movie market.

Golan and Globus aimed right for the cheap seats, as they started off by making sexy period dramas such as Lady Chatterley's Lover(starring Sylvia Kristel), action adventure flicks like King Solomon's Mines and Hercules, plus teen sex comedies, one of which was a remake of a movie they did overseas called Pink Lemonade(The Last American Virgin).

Golan was considered the more creative partner, who sometimes got hands on with some of the films and even put out a musical that he wrote and directed himself in 1980. The Apple was not a big hit, for many good reasons yet it has become a cult movie classic :

Cannon had a bit of a hit or miss approach to picking projects, with some causing a stir such as turning Charles Bronson's Death Wish into a franchise and others barely managing to make enough of a profit to merit a sequel.

However, they found themselves with a surprise hit in 1984 with Breakin', a movie that tapped right into the growing mainstream interest in breakdancing. While the movie did great business at the box office, which lead to it's infamous sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, it was hard for them to recapture that particular brand of pop culture magic.

 Many years later, Golan and Globus(who were now split as business partners) each put out competing lambada movies in order to repeat that trick but there are just some things that you just can't force into existence and a dance craze is one of them:

While Cannon did manage to make a big splash by having distribution deals with major studios like MGM and eventually launch their own stars such as Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, their business savvy was limited at best.

Most of their financial woes were due to raising money for films that didn't turn a large enough profit to pay back investors and continue to pay for future projects by quickly promoting underdeveloped ones.  Other bad choices included paying Sylvester Stallone a then record setting fee of 12 million dollars to star in an arm wrestling movie called Over The Top. 

That investment certainly didn't pay off well and while Cannon may have believed that arm wrestling was  going to be the next big thing, the box office returns showed that they were truly off the mark with that one:

You have to give Golan and Globus credit for not going down without a fight. As their finances were heading on a downward slope towards disaster, they took on bigger and bolder projects, making the phrase "go big or go home" have real meaning.

From their goofy adaptation of Hasbro's Masters of the Universe to buying the rights to Marvel's Spiderman(a film that never got out of the planning stages) and Captain America(which they did make) and making the supersized box office bomb that was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace( I remember seeing that in theaters and yeah, it's as bad as they say, trust me on that!), Cannon Films was not shy about making their mark on cinematic history, even if that legacy is far from an illustrious one :

Electric Boogaloo does celebrate the crazy cinematic times of the Golan and Globus heyday at Cannon, with even those who had hassles with the company finding something good to recall about their experiences.

However, the guys in question refused to take part of this film and wound up making their own documentary(The Go-Go Boys) which glosses over their failings. I'm sure that version is interesting on it's own merits but Electric Boogaloo seems to tell the more honest story that gives it's look back at that time much more engaging authenticity and resonance.

 Perhaps, I'll check out the Go-Go Boys but just seeing Electric Boogaloo makes me want to search Netflix (where I found this gem)to see how many of those weird and wild movies are still around to enjoy. Electric Boogaloo does make the wild,untold story of Cannon Films a legend that puts Golan and Globus right up there with Ed Wood and William Castle as masters of the B-movie cinematic circus that inspires filmmakers and fans alike to this day and beyond:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Serving up some Thanksgiving pop culture potluck dinner

With all of the debates about a certain red holiday coffee cup going on these days(personally, I don't see what the problem is other than folks not liking minimalist design), once again Thanksgiving is being overlooked on the media circuit.

To try and revive the spirit of Turkey Day, I thought it would be nice to offer up a few pop culture reminders of just how fun and funny this festival of eating can be. Granted, these are oldies but they are quite the goodies to gobble up:


It's hard to pick just one of the many moments from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to savor but a choice tasty scene is definitely when Snoopy leads the culinary charge in the kitchen.

While's the food being prepared is far from the traditional holiday menu, you can't deny the flair that Snoopy brings to the stove top (with the aid of his trusty sous chef Woodstock) and his napkin folding skills would certainly please even the pickiest of etiquette followers:


Giving thanks is an important part of the holiday but most essential is the meal, something that mother-in-law Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond is proud to preside over.

One of the few times that her loved ones were reluctant to gather around her table was the Thanksgiving that she decided to make a "healthy" dinner that had tofu turkey as the centerpiece of the feast.

Being nutrition conscious for this time of year is a good idea but flavor goes a long way towards making that happen and let's face it, people; Thanksgiving is a meat lover's holiday, like it or not. As good a cook as Marie is, there are just some things that you can't make taste good and tofu is one of them:

   AFTER DINNER CONFESSION MINTS: I know everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving episode of Friends, complete with favorite scenes and lines, but I keep going back for seconds on the chain of confessionals started by feuding siblings Ross and Monica.

The timing of those truth tellings(and for Rachel, a moment of culinary clarity) is dead on perfect, with the reactions of the elder Gellers putting the comedic cherry on top of that silly sweet sundae,which would taste a whole lot better than Rachel's beef and jam trifle:


When it comes to major league eating, it's hard to top the Gilmore Girls for their incredible persistence and excellent taste but even that one year of attending four Thanksgiving dinners was a challenge even for them.

Luckily, Rory and Lorelai were able to stop at Luke's, where in addition to a delicious meal, they also had helpings of updates about Kirk's cat troubles( a very uncool cat, I do agree with Maury on that one) and reviews of Rory and Jess's attempt at PDA.  Have to admit, that smooch did need a pinch of passion there:

So, in the face of other holiday themed controversies, let us try to keep the Thanksgiving horse before the Christmas cart and take all of this in the proper stride. That doesn't mean you can't enjoy a giggle or two with your gravy, especially if it's served up with a smile,plus a side of wink and nod:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Feeling better when I'm dancing with The Peanuts Movie

There's been some hectic times on my personal home front lately, due to family illness, so as a much needed breather my sister and I went to see The Peanuts Movie the other day. Yes, technically we're too old for this but then again, I really don't think that you can ever be too grown-up for the simple sweet joys of Charlie Brown and friends.

The movie itself is charming, with a blend of new technology and nods to the classic animated style many of us grew up with when watching Peanuts specials(those winks come in the form of thought balloons, another nice touch to the comic strips origins of the characters).

While the story does tip it's hat to classic Charlie Brown moments such as the ice skating opener from the Christmas show to Lucy's football shenanigans, the plot is well structured and holds up under it's own merits.

 The main story line has Charlie Brown doing his best to impress the new kid in town, a certain little red haired girl as well as a fun subplot about Snoopy's literary adventures facing off against the Red Baron(and finding a little amour with a French poodle along the way).

There are a few original touches, such as Pigpen having an admirer of his own who doesn't mind his grimy state, Lucy freaking out over the possibility of being wrong about Charlie Brown's social status and Sally using some newfound fame given to her big brother to make some merchandising money. It's all in theme with the characters and plays out rather nicely, something that I think the adults seeing the movie will appreciate a bit more than the kids but it's a good enhancement nonetheless.

A big section of the movie has Charlie Brown learning some dance moves to impress the object of his affections, which inspired me to pull together a few other dance related Peanuts clips from TV specials past.

The most iconic dancing sequence in Peanuts history is the Christmas play rehearsal number, where Schroeder's piano playing sets a lively tune for the others to show off their particular set of moves(why Shermy likes that Frankenstein arm stance, I'll never know yet it's good weird fun to watch):

Another winter holiday special has Peppermint Patty leading the gang in a round of musical chairs, with her and "Chuck" being the last ones standing,so to speak.

I'm not quite sure this counts as a a dance but since this scene does have music motivated motion, that ought to be good enough. The song that Peppermint Patty sings here is mildly memorable at best yet it's her dance-off with Charlie Brown that makes the scene worth watching:

The best dancer in the Peanuts gang is Snoopy, whose classic free-form style has countless imitators and admirers the world over. His sheer joy combined with confident moves is a delight to behold.

We go back to the Christmas special to check out an early demonstration of  this bouncy beagle's slow tempo that picks up the beat at just the right moments, with his talents sadly being wasted on Lucy and Schroeder.

I don't know if anyone has ever dared to do the Snoopy dance on either Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance, but that would be a sign of true potential if one contender was brave enough to try it out:

Alas, Snoopy was not immune to trends and during the eighties, we did get Flashbeagle, in which our favorite cartoon dog donned a headband and leg warmers to strut his stuff at the local disco.

It's not the best Peanuts special out there(and not the worst by far) however, it is best known as the first one to have full bodied adults present and Snoopy gets a special theme song to suit his new party persona:

Speaking of party persona, Meghan Trainor's contribution to the Peanuts soundtrack "Feel Better When I'm Dancin'" is a great toe tapping tune that blends right into the background of Charlie Brown's dance lesson story line.

The song really feels well suited to the Peanuts world and who knows, maybe we'll hear it at the Oscars next year. For now, we have the choice of two music videos for the song and I prefer the lyric version(which you'll see below) that showcases the Peanuts Movie clips in perfect step.

So, if you want to recapture some of that good ol' Charlie Brown energy, don't feel embarrassed to watch The Peanuts Movie without having a kid along for the ride. Sometimes, the best way to revive your spirits is to indulge in some childhood nostalgia, especially when it's as well done as this film is. Like the song says, you can feel better when you're dancing:

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Some fabulous reading prizes coming my way

It's been a hectic week on my homestead,including putting the finishing touches on a manuscript to be submitted to Harper Voyager Impulse's open call for Military Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy(my book fell into the latter category).

We'll see how that goes but in the meanwhile, one of the bright spots during the frenzy has been looking forward to receiving some books that I recently won in a pair of contests.

Thanks to Suzanne Beecher at First Look, a copy of City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg is due to arrive on my doorstep soon. This debut novel has been the talk of the town, as it's story of New York City during 1977(that culminates in the big blackout that hit in July) is said to be an amazing epic novel of our times. There are several narratives, including a cop hunting down the unknown attacker of a gal pal on the punk rock scene, a brother and sister who have gone down very different paths in life and a wanna be Capote reporter seeking answers to questions that maybe he shouldn't ask.

City On Fire happens to be a great big book in terms of length, as the page count clocks in at over 900 there. I've been wanting to check this out ever since the early buzz began for it and with any luck, it will do more than live up to the hype:

 My other reading prize is a trio that I was able to select from Better World Books, due to my participation in Seasons of Reading's FrightFall readathon run by the lovely Michelle Miller.

One of the books I chose was James Michener's The Novel, which chronicles the journey of newly published work of fiction in four parts, from Author to Editor to Critic and then Reader.

Since Michener was quite the prolific writer by the time this book was released in 1991( he had more than 40 books, most of them fiction in his lifetime), his inside look into that corner of the literary world is certainly worth 
taking a gander at there.

Michener is one of the best known old school saga writers and whose huge books I have tried many times to read but wind up not making it to the last page. He does know how to make a massive story line work yet he can get a bit bogged down in details which slows the pace for me.

However, since this book is a tad shorter and is set in publishing, I might be able to finish it and finally break though that particular barrier. Who knows, I might even be inspired to tackle Youngblood Hawke again, Herman Wouk's fictional take on literary fame and fortune, which should along well with Michener's version, I think:

Kate Morton is another highly praised author who I've attempted to read and yet only got so far in her books. The House at Riverton was her debut novel, a category that I'm a sucker for so I made that one my second choice.

Grace Bradley looks back upon her youthful days as a house maid for the Hartford family at Riverton Manor during the 1920s, reliving a secret long kept. A young poet was said to have killed himself during a Christmas party there but the only one left who can tell the true story is Grace.

A young director making a documentary about that tragedy seeks her out at the nursing home where Grace is living out her last days and opens up that flood of memories which tells more than one truth about that time. The story is said to have a Downton Abbey feel to it and with the final season of that series about to arrive in America by early next year, The House at Riverton sounds like a good companion to have by my side during that sad farewell:

For my final selection, I went the nonfiction route with John Sutherland's How To Read a Novel: A User's Guide. I'm familiar with Sutherland from his prior looks at classical literary work in such collections as Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? and Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? and he's an engaging person to consult on such matters.

In this book, he goes over the history of novel reading as well as the standards for what it meant to be "well read" back in the day, along with tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of hype in choosing the right novel for you. Sutherland talks about both classics and current fiction, which ought to be interesting , plus I haven't read a good book about books for awhile now and this promises to fulfill that need for me very nicely indeed:

My thanks to both Suzanne and Michelle for awarding  me such great books, which I will eagerly awaiting for(and hopefully not be too impatient with the postal services about). One of the best presents for any reader to get is a book and the only problem that ought to go along with that is making sure you have a proper bookmark handy in order to take those little breaks from your reading that reality requires: