Monday, September 30, 2013

fairy tales a go-go

I stopped watching the fantasy fairy tale mash-up Once Upon a Time pretty early into its second season last fall as I was simply bored. But the kid likes it, so we thought we'd give it a try and watch the first episode of the third season last night. As much as I like Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin, I have to say that once again, Once Upon a Time failed to thrill. Lots and lots of whining and haranguing, and very little action or magic. That's OK, it's not like I really need to watch another serial-story television show.

During one of the commercial breaks a promo for its spin-off, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, aired. Even more fractured fairytales seemed like way too much of a not-so-great thing when I first heard about the new show, but then I caught a glimpse of Lost's Naveen Andrews. Damn. And apparently Iggy Pop (at least in voice) is also involved. I guess I'm stuck with at least checking out a few of the episodes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

sea grape

These trees are really full of fruit, ready to go ...
"The reddish fruits of the sea grape may be eaten raw, cooked into jellies and jams, or fermented into sea grape wine. Sea grape wine may also be fermented into sea grape vinegar, which is also useful in cooking." Wikipedia

Hmmm ...




Saturday, September 28, 2013

it's almost halloween, right?

We may be pushing the season, but, so be it. It's fun.






Friday, September 27, 2013

favorite song friday

Following up yesterday's post about Carly Simon, I couldn't resist checking out this song. After all these years, it still holds up. As does its mystery man (or men). Never tell, Carly.

Of course I can't resist adding my guess. I think that the subject of the song is a composite, but that the spur for writing such a song was most likely Warren Beatty, who Carly briefly dated, and then was reportedly passed along from him to some of his Hollywood pals, including Jack Nicholson. We'll never know, and we shouldn't, because isn't the imaging and wondering part of the fun of the song? It also lets that mysterious man with the apricot scarf and curious taste in antiques dances (Gavotte!) remain a legend and not a reality.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

the (maybe not-so) true adventures of carly simon

I picked up More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon, by Stephen Davis, at the library and found it a quick, if not fabulous, read.

I grew up hearing many of Carly Simon's songs on the radio ("You're So Vain," "Anticipation," "Nobody Does It Better") without knowing too much about her. Then a few years ago I read how James Taylor, her husband of 11 years, had been a junkie throughout their marriage. How did she cope with that? How did these two seemingly mellow soft rockers live a druggie existence? I always liked Simon's rich, honeyed voice, but have to admit that I never cared too much for Taylor's music — I found it so laid back to be almost soporific.

Carly Simon and James Taylor

The best part of the book are the opening chapters, where Simon's parents early lives are outlined — they were quite interesting people — as well as Carly's first forays into music, with her older sister Lucy as part of the duo The Simon Sisters, and then her tentative but determined efforts to go out and perform on her own. Simon (as well as Taylor) was born into a privileged background. Her father Richard Simon was the Simon of Simon and Schuster. The family shared time in a large home in Riverdale and an even larger summer estate in Connecticut. Richard Simon was an accomplished classical pianist, and through him Carly Simon met such musical luminaries as George Gershwin, who would visit the Simons from time to time. Music was always a part of Simon family gatherings. The family communicated best through music, as both father and mother seemed rather distant from their children.

There is no bibliography or notes or references in More Room in a Broken Heart, but there are sporadic references throughout the text to old interviews or magazine articles about Carly Simon. It soon seems that one is reading a cut-and-paste job. For some reason author Davis feels compelled to list every song on every Carly Simon album, while glossing over, or just simply not trying to dig into the personal sides of Simon's and Taylor's lives. He has no problem listing old lovers (Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens) and breakdowns, but not much interest in probing the whys and wherefores. The complicated Simon surely would provide plenty of opportunity for more in-depth analysis and investigation. She stuttered as a child and suffered from extreme stage-fright, which caused many difficult situations throughout her career, always reluctant to go out and tour to perform her latest album.

For someone who prefers the relative safety of the recording studio, Carly Simon has not only been prolific, but has been honored many times for her music (Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004 for "You're So Vain"). Her song "Let the River Run," which initially appeared on the soundtrack of the film Working Girl, was the first song ever to win a Grammy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe Award for a song written and performed by a single artist.

Mid-'70s Carly Simon

More Room in a Broken Heart is an unauthorized biography, and after a little searching online it apparently is chock-full of factual errors. Some of the mistakes with dates are less glaring or annoying than some of the completely off-the-wall "interpretations" of Carly Simon's lyrics. One of the more amusing is Davis's summary of her 1980 hit "Jesse," which he describes as “a song about a woman’s ambivalent feelings for an incontinent lover who wets the bed and needs fresh sheets ... by the end of the lyrics, she decides to put fresh sheets on the bed.” Really? Here are Simon's lyrics:

Oh mother, say a prayer for me
Jesse's back in town, it won't be easy
Don't let him near me
Don't let him touch me
Don't let him please me

Jesse, I won't cut fresh flowers for you
Jesse, I won't make the wine cold for you
Jesse, I won't change the sheets for you
I won't put on cologne
I won't sit by the phone for you

If you hoped that this (or any) book would give an insight into the real story behind her top hit "You're So Vain" this is not the case. As many errors or missteps as this book may take, there are a few underlying suggestions, that if they are true, are quite interesting. That Carly's interest in working with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger led to a long-term friendship (and possible affair). That her success may have fueled jealousy with husband Taylor. That she enabled his relapses into drugs. The last few chapters of More Room in a Broken Heart gloss over most of her recent work as well as a (successful) bout with breast cancer. What was the rush?

There is another book on Carly Simon, "Girls Like Us," by Sheila Weller, which Davis may have "borrowed" heavily from. The book covers the careers and lives of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon and may have been a better read. It has recently been optioned to be made into a film, with Taylor Swift rumored portray Joni Mitchell. Oh boy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

i went for it

One of my brother's favorite phrases used to be "I got a good deal," and I have to admit that I'm happy to say that I did, recently, too. We have two iPhones — one replaced our landline at home and the other is my long-time cell-phone. The "home phone" is a 3GS, and in today's smart phone world, it is still a great, working phone, but it is no longer able to be updated with any new operating systems. The other, a 4S, I've had for two years, and September is my birthday month ...

Long story short, I was able to basically get one (a 5C, above right) for free when I traded in the 4S, and the 3GS I upgraded to a 5S (above, left). Two new phones. And I have also finally committed to living here in Florida — I changed both of my old phone numbers from their DC area codes to our local Florida codes. And thanks to  very helpful person at AT&T (yes, really!) I got some savings in the process — I was actually paying a DC tax for using the phones. I got grandfathered in with my old unlimited plans on both phones (whoo hoo!) So much has been going wrong lately that it is a really nice change to have something go my way. And the phones are damn cute, too. Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

hunger strike

My mom is being difficult at the nursing home, not eating and drinking like she should. According to the nurses, doctor and nurse's aides, she is only eating or drinking abut 25% — everything is measured in percentages in their world — at each meal. Maybe at lunch she brings it up to 50% Maybe.

She was difficult when she was in the hospital after her fall, too, and I had suspected at that time that that might be the new norm, basically the beginning of the end. And then she seemed to rally, even really like her new surroundings. Maybe she still does. But there is no denying that over the past week she has taken stubborn to new levels, refusing a lot of the food and even some of the liquids offered to her. you know that if she's not eating chocolate ice cream she's serious. It's the only aspect of her life that she is still in control of, I guess.

Saturday visit
She may not want to eat her soup, but she loves her doggie

So what to do? The doc has given her an appetite stimulant. That usually takes about a week to kick in. We all know that starvation is not a rapid affair. I hope that is not the road we are traveling. but I have to be prepared for whatever she wants and doesn't want to do. We have been bringing our dachshund to see her every week and that has made her happy, as they both have missed each other. I guess we can just keep taking things day by day and try to focus on the happy moments.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Twentieth Century Fox has recently started releasing some vintage classic films from its Fox Cinema Archives. Staircase, a little-seen film from 1969 starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as a pair of aging hairdressers, comes to DVD for the first time.

Based on Charles Dyer's Broadway play about a middle-aged gay couple living in London, Staircase was directed by Stanley Donen (On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, Funny Face, Charade, Bedazzled) and featured a musical score by Dudley Moore (10, Arthur). Staircase is a glimpse into the lives of long-term companions Charlie (Harrison) and Harry (Burton). The two work together as hairdressers in Harry's East End barbershop. The movie was actually filmed in Paris, so stars Harrison and Burton (and Burton's wife Elizabeth Taylor, who was nearby filming The Only Game in Town) could avoid British tax laws.

Charlie and Harry live upstairs above the barbershop, in a rather grim and grimy-looking flat which also houses Harry's aging and ailing mother (Cathleen Nesbitt). As the film progresses, the audience learns about the flamboyant Charlie's former forays into acting, his daughter from a brief, prveious marriage, and his fears about his upcoming trial, where he must answer charges of trying to proposition a police officer. Harry is the more staid and steady of the two. He feels both love and duty towards his mother, but also trapped, and tries to mother-hen both her and Charlie, sometimes with unhappy results. The set design provides little clues to each man's character, with paired bathrobes hanging on pegs side-by-side — one a flashy silk with an Asian design, the other with drab dull stripes. It's not too difficult to guess whose is whose.

The film wasn't well-received when it was released, as critics and audiences alike seemed to react poorly to Harrison's and Burton's performances. They may have been expecting a more sprightly, campy farce, along the lines of La Cage Aux Folles (or its American version, The Birdcage). Donen does open the film with a short drag number, performed by Michael Rogers and Royston Starr. Advertising for the film contained the taglines "Whoops!" and "Can this marriage last?" Staircase, although it has some funny moments, is a more heart-felt attempt to portray a long-term relationship - and explore loneliness and why some people may (or may not) stay together.

Harrison gives the more broad performance of the two, with campy mannerisms. His chararcter also has the habit of peppering his speech with British slang and funny phrases:

"Oh, blood, bowels, and bestiality."

"God save us all and Oscar Wilde."

"I beg yours, I beg yours, rub-a-dub." (Rub-a-dub is rhyming slang for a pub, public house).

Staircase is letterboxed, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and a running time of 98 minutes. Subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras are included on the disc.

Burton, who could seem hammy in many of his best-known films roles, is quite restrained here. Harry is full of emotion which is constantly simmering just below the surface. He is quite touching while he is caring for his mother, and both strong and ridiculous as the barber who wears a turban made of bandages over his head for most of the film to conceal his shame at his baldness. The two stars bicker and insult each other constantly during the course of the film, sometimes quite cruelly. The audience may not end up liking Charlie and Harry very much, but they also won't want to look away.

Originally published on Blogcritics: DVD Review: ‘Staircase’

Sunday, September 22, 2013

more gorgeous florida skies

Between showers we have been gifted with some gorgeous clouds and skies lately.



Friday, September 20, 2013

favorite song friday

I really like this song by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, "Royals," The 16 year-old has been writing songs since she was "12 or 13."

She may be young, but she seems to already have a pretty good idea of where she wants to be in the music world, as she recently turned down an offer to tour with Katy Perry. The daughter of a poet, Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor) also has a way with words:

My friends and I we've cracked the code
We count our dollars on the train to the party
And everyone who knows us knows
That we're fine with this, we didn't come from money


And we'll never be royals (royals)
It don't run in our blood
That kind of lux just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me queen bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule
Let me live that fantasy

Thursday, September 19, 2013

a botanical respite

Last Sunday the kid and I took a jaunt to our local botanical garden. It drizzled on and off, but that didn't stop us enjoying the gorgeous scenery.






Wednesday, September 18, 2013

another proud mama pop culture moment

The kid has become a huge fan (on her own) of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one of my favorite comedy shows. Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an improvisational show, with four comedians given suggestions from the audience or host to act out different scenarios. A wide variety of games are played on the show, including Party Quirks, Superheroes, World's Worst, Musical, Whose Line?, Questions Only, etc. It is from watching the original British version of  Whose Line Is It Anyway? (which ran from 1988-98) that I became acquainted with some wonderful actor comedians, including Stephen Fry, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, John Sessions, Mike McShane, Caroline Quentin, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, and Wayne Brady.

L-R: Colin Mochrie, Tony Slattery, Stephen Frost, and Ryan Stiles
L-R: Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Mochrie and Stiles
L-R: Mochrie, Aisha Tyler, Stiles, and Brady

She actually started watching the original U.K. version, hosted by Clive Anderson . There are only a few episodes available on Hulu. She fell in love with the show, and especially Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. Well, who wouldn't? It was fun for me to see Stephen Fry and Greg Proops again, and made me wonder why Hulu or Netflix hasn't loaded the American version (which ran from 1998-2007) that was hosted by Drew Carey and featured Stiles, Mochrie, and Wayne Brady as regulars.

Imagine how happy we both are to hear that the show has been brought back again, here in the U.S., with Stiles, Mochrie, and Brady back on board. The hosting duties are now done by actress Aisha Tyler. The show is apparently doing so well that after the the initial first twelve episodes, the CW has already renewed the show for a new 24-episode season. So now we get to watch the silly improv comedy together. I just hope Greg Proops and some other familiar faces pop by soon, too.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

don't hate him because he's beautiful

Dash wasn't thrilled to learn it was time for his yearly vet visit, but he was sure happy to be back home afterwards.


Monday, September 16, 2013

fun at blandings castle

Acorn Media has released the first season of Blandings, Series 1, based on the Blandings Castle stories by P. G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster). A brightly-lit farce, which takes nothing too seriously, Blandings is a breath of fresh air, a far cry from some of the usual British drawing room dramas that audiences have become used to over the years. The series features many scenes filmed outdoors (on location in Northern Ireland), with natural light — why don’t more American shows look like this?

The inhabitants of Blandings Castle are not only eccentric, but very funny. Lord Clarence Emsworth (Timothy Spall) cares only for his prize pig The Empress. Nothing would make him happier than to hang out day in and day out by her pig pen, feeding her bits of potato or pudding, but his oh-so-proper sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders) is constantly after him — to dress up or in some other way improve himself. Connie has for all intents and purposes written off her nephew, Lord Emsworth’s dotty son Freddie (Jack Farthing), who never saw a tree he couldn’t crash his car into, or a girl he didn’t want to propose to. Presiding over the whole wacky bunch is the butler Beach (Mark Williams), who wisely keeps himself in a constant state of inebriation.

The inhabitants of Blandings Castle, L-R: The Empress, Clarence (Timothy Spall), Freddie (Jack Farthing), Beach (Mark Williams), and Connie (Jennifer Saunders)
Although the cast sometimes takes the characterizations to cartoonish levels (especially in the case of Farthing), Blandings is all good fun. The colorful period costumes and late 1920s era setting adds another level of hyper-reality to the comedic goings-on, while the regular cast and a parade of guest stars (Robert Bathurst, James Norton, Natalie Burt, Jessica Hynes, and Brendan Patricks) keep the pace brisk and the quips flying. While Clarence may hope (in vain) for just a little peace and quiet, the viewer is more than happy to watch the mayhem unfold. In the first series the challenges to the Earl’s quiet country life include The Empress losing her appetite and possible entry in a local livestock competition, and Connie’s insistence on getting her brother organized and respectable — which includes everything from hiring a personal secretary, the horribly officious Baxter (David Walliams), who terrifies his new boss, to getting him to preside, in formal attire, over the local fete.

Blandings Series 1 includes six episodes on two discs, with a total running time of approximately 182 minutes. The six episodes include:

1 – “Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey”

2 – “The Go Getter”

3 – “Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend”

4 – “Company for Gertrude”

5 – “The Crimewave at Blandings”

6 – “Problems with Drink”

All of the episodes are directed by British actor-turned director Paul Seed (House of Cards, New Tricks, Northern Lights). The picture quality is high, sharp with bright colors and detailed sets. The screen’s aspect ratio is 1.77:1, widescreen, and looks great on a large-scale high-definition television screen. Scene selection and SDH subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras are included on the discs.

Jennifer Saunders may seem at first world’s away from the role that made her famous, Edina on Absolutely Fabulous, but Connie and Edina do share some similarities. Both are very sure that they are absolutely right about everything, and neither woman has much concern for her family members as long as she is getting her way. Harry Potter veterans Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail) as the harried Lord Emsworth, and Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) as the perpetually soused Beach, on the other hand, play very different characters from their film roles; but they both seem to be having a blast trying to avoid or circumvent Connie’s latest “improvements.” Rounding out the core cast, Jack Farthing’s mobile face (and hair) add a lot to his role as Lord Emsworth’s dim-witted but likable son Freddie.

Blandings may certainly be silly, but it is also highly enjoyable to watch, and viewers will be happy to learn that the series will be back with new episodes in early 2014. That's great news for fans of British comedy and prize-winning pigs.

Originally posted on Blogcritics: DVD Review: ‘Blandings, Series One’

Sunday, September 15, 2013

lazy sunday

After a late-night game of Monopoly ... a lazy Sunday was in order.


Sometimes it's best to follow the example of the resident expert.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

summertime sadness

I like this remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness," which the Miami radio station has in heavy rotation. The original version is pretty, but a little too heavy, as I am trying daily to lighten my mood. The David Lynch-ian video wallows a bit in the mood, but it seems a good song for heralding the winding down of summer.

Friday, September 13, 2013

happy it's friday

Elizabeth with Pinks

Thursday, September 12, 2013

what a year

Like a lot of folks, I think of the year's true start as being in September, as opposed to January. Partly because that is the beginning of a new school year and I am a perpetual student, but mostly because I am a September baby. It's my birthday month and that's when everything started in my world.

September, at least September 12, is still considered summer, so I am a summer baby. As was Henry Hudson, Barry White, Jesse Owens, Ian Holm, Maurice Chevalier, Francois Premier, Madame Curie, Ben Shahn, and Jennifer Hudson, to name a few. This past year, September to September, has been, well, eventful, to say the least. But here we are. I'm still standing, as the saying goes. And looking forward to next year.

It's been such a busy year that I haven't had the time to kick back and do as much reading as I'd like lately, but I have found some photographic evidence to show how books (and lots of them) have always been a part of my life.

dirty knees
So many books on the bookshelf — where to begin?

Elizabeth Anne Periale & dolly
Holding Bow Wow! Meow! A First Book of Sounds — one of my favorite Golden Books — which I was sure to read a lot to my little one many years later

ocean county library
At the Ocean County Library — one of my favorite teen haunts — not sure what I was researching — Greek mythology? Embroidery?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

chasing rainbows ...

The kid snapped some great photos of a double rainbow. Seemed like nice images for a day full of not-so-happy memories and associations. Florida really does have the best skies ...

Double rainbow
Double rainbow over palms

Double rainbow
End School Zone

Double rainbow
At Publix

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

thank heaven for little girls

The kid, although she's only 9, is a big One Direction fan, so Friday found us at their concert film/documentary, One Direction: This is Us. The movie took the #1 spot in the U.S. on its opening weekend, but has since dropped a few notches. No surprise,  it opened huge in England and was #1 at the British box office.

The boys, L-R: Louis, Liam, Harry, Niall, and Zayn
This is Us follows the boys — Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson — on their first big worldwide tour to promote their second album, Take Me Home. There are some short background scenes featuring the boys' beginnings as contestants on the British X Factor television talent competition in 2010. The five guys started out as solo contestants, and were all about to be eliminated when guest judge Nicole Scherzinger (of The Pussycat Dolls) suggested they might work well together as a band. After two weeks getting to know one another the boys became friends and One Direction (the name was suggested by Styles). One Direction eventually came in third, but with Cowell's backing (Cowell was their mentor on the show, and they quickly signed with his record label Syco Records), and viral social media support, the band was on their way.

Interviewed for This is Us, Simon Cowell seems as surprised as the boys at how quickly they became popular with the fans. What makes One Direction so appealing and This is Us more entertaining than a similar effort from Justin Bieber, is that sense of surprise and wide-eyed wonderment that still hovers over the group. The audience watches them travel to the U.S., Japan, and other foreign locales, the boys thrilled at their good luck and their first opportunity to see a world not just beyond where they grew up, but away from the endless publicity/recording loop they have been living for the past three years. Their families all confirm that home visits taken during a short break in the tour is the first time the boys have been back home since being on X Factor.

This is Us works best for the little girls who make up their biggest fan base, who will thrill at every bit of business from their favorite heartthrob, including scenes of the boys clowning together on and off stage. It's not exactly Help! or It's A Hard Day's Night, sadly. An opportunity missed by director Morgan Spurlock, who just basically points the camera at the boys and lets them sing or amuse each other and the audience. For parents who have been dragged along for the ride there are some interesting little sound-bytes — most of the boys realize that their ride at the top will be short-lived. They'd like to be remembered for some good songs, certainly, but mostly they hope that their friendships will endure and look forward to a normal future, with wives and kids. The boys seem tight, and to really enjoy each other's company. As much as they promote a "one for all, all for one" attitude, whether in the doling out of lines to sing in their songs, or when posing for the cameras, it is undeniable that Harry Styles does seem to stand out a bit from the crowd of five. He is the only one of the bunch who says that he wants to be doing what he's doing forever, until he's "old and wrinkled, like Keith Richards."

Harry clowns around, back at the bakery where he worked before he hit it big
It will be interesting to see if Styles can pull it off. At the moment, the only member of the band who plays an instrument is Horan (guitar). Most of their songs (like most recent pop music hits) seem to be written by committee. Take Me Home features songs penned by hit-makers like British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran ("Lego House"), Dr. Luke (“Party in the USA”), Shellback (“Moves Like Jagger”), and Toby Gad (“Big Girls Don’t Cry”) and the trio Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, and Savan Kotecha, who co-wrote One Direction's first huge hit “What Makes You Beautiful” and have co-written many songs, including the first hit off Take Me Home, “Live While We’re Young.”

Thanks to Apple TV and VEVO the kid can take the fun and energy of This is Us (they boys never seem to stop laughing or moving) and keep it going back home by watching One Direction videos. She can dance along with her favorites every night (or as many nights as her poor mother can stand) as the multiple videos stream by. She of course has a favorite, Louis. That's the genius of boy bands since their earliest days. The more cute faces in an act, the more fans can pick their favorites. Since girls first oohed and ahhed over John, Paul, George, and Ringo, little girls have wanted to say "He's my favorite," or "He's the [smart, sensitive, cute] one." Fill in the blank yourself, for whichever favorite dude fits the description. This stereotype of each band member bringing a specific "skill" to the table has caught such hold that even the boys in the band now are describing themselves that way, such as one little video interview snippet we saw on VEVO where Zayn (I think) described himself as "The quiet one."

The boys of One Direction seem nice enough. They're not exactly squeaky key clean, but they're not the Rolling Stones either. It's easy to make fun of their pop confection songs, but the bottom line is the songs are catchy, and the kid loves them. What's wrong with that? Not everybody has to be a Bruno Mars or John Lennon. The guys can't really dance a lick — they say as much themselves in This is Us, and try to give their dance instructor a hard time. Their lack of dance moves is one of the other refreshing things about the band. Unlike other boy bands or current pop acts there seems to be no interest or attempt on their part to learn the de rigeur choreographed cheerleader-type dancing which dominates pop music. There's no coordinated attire, either. They just look like cool guys in cool jeans and t-shirts. They may sing love songs, but their sensibility is more rock 'n' roll than hip hop or bubblegum.

The boys hang out together during filming, on a camping trip
Who knows who these guys will turn out to be. Hopefully, not another Justin Bieber, who was a favorite of the kid a few years back. She has since moved on, just like Justin has moved on from his squeaky clean image. Success puts a lot of pressure on these young kids. The industry isn't designed for youth or innocence. Except to capitalize on them.

I have to hand it to Simon Cowell, who certainly knows how to put together a successful musical act. I suppose my daughter and her generation will smile one day as they remember how they once swooned over these guys like my friends and I might have over Shaun Cassidy or Andy Gibb. Those were the days.
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Monday, September 09, 2013

wild things with dominic monaghan: deadliest critters

BBC Worldwide releases on September 17 the BBC America series Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan: Deadliest Critters. Monaghan, who is best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Lost is an ideal host. Not just a recent fan of interesting animals Monaghan has had a life-long involvement with nature, and has even helped discover a spider that has been named after him, Ctenus monaghani. In each episode of Deadliest Critters, each location, as familiar as the actor is with creepy and crawly creatures, he doesn't hesitate to consult local animal experts and scientists who help guide him on his journey to find the deadliest local of the animal world.

Monaghan has never met a critter he doesn't like
The DVD includes four episodes on one disc, with a running time of approximately 180 minutes. Subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras. Both the close-up images of small insects and the long-distance landscape photography look great on a large-scale high-definition television screen.

In the first episode Monaghan is in search of the beaded lizard in Guatamala. The elusive creature is very rare — according to the enthusiastic host there are only 200 currently existing in the world.

The second episode takes him to Namibia, Africa,  where he in search of the black thick-tailed scorpion. Monaghan is never single-mided about nature, however, always thrilled to run across any creature of the desert or jungle on his travels. Scorpions abound in Africa, and while he is searching for the black thick-tailed scorpion he chances to meet along the way a yellow burrowing scorpion (which he finds under a blacklight), and an adorable meerkat, who digs up his own scorpion for lunch. The meerkat quickly joins Monaghan on his quest as his hunting partner.

The third episode brings Monaghan to the rain forest in Ecuador, on the lookout for army ants. As he searches the forest he comes across an enormous black rhinoceros beetle, and lemon ants, which he affirms "taste kind of lemony.") The camera also captures a Brazilian wandering spider, one of the most venomous on earth. The spider shows the audience and a very scared cameraman that it can both jump and cover six feet of forest floor in a matter of seconds. But it is the army ants that truly impress, who in sheer numbers can bully scorpions and even wasp nests — just about anything that crosses their path.

In the fourth and final episode on the DVD the giant water bug brings Monaghan to Vietnam. The viewer gets to watch him get breakfast on the fly in a floating market on the Mekong River before he sets off on the water in search of his bug. On the river route he spies a giant python and looks for insects that lurk in rice paddies. He later takes a break at the market in Ho Chi Minh City, where he is offered some exotic delicacies, including black scorpions, but decides it might be bad karma to eat those.

With a rhinoceros beetle in Ecuador
All the episodes feature not only Monaghan's enthusiastic and informative narrative, but some great scenic photography. There are some unforgettable mages, including the army ants bivouac — an actual colony structure made of living ants. Occasionally the camerawork verges on blur-o-vision, as we rapidly follow Monaghan and his local guides through the bush or jungle in search of critters.

Also available on September 17 from the first season of Wild Things is a second DVD, of three episodes, Creepy Crawlers: Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. A truly unique nature show, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan has been renewed for a new season by BBC America, to the delight of Monaghan and nature lovers worldwide. There is no telling what exotic creatures or locales will next catch Monaghan's fancy, but it will definitely be worth checking out whatever he discovers.

First published on Blogcritics: DVD Review: ‘Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan: Deadliest Critters’

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