31 October 2009

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Paranormal Activity

12. I see the potential for a great new genre. The average "RomCom" may be a lighthearted romp of a story, but "RomHor" has morality play potential.

11. There must be something about "shacking up" that unsettles the psyche. This movie never would have worked with leads who are married and either raising children or open to having them someday. No matter how committed two people in love are, if they describe themselves as "engaged to be engaged," then they're sublimating something.

10. Over the decades, Horror movies have got a lot of mileage from scary children of all ages, including the unborn. Paranormal Activity has no children: it may be set in a nice "family" home with several upstairs bedrooms and a big backyard, but these are just to make the absence of little ones all the more conspicuous. I nominate the term "Yuppie Gothic."

30 October 2009

+JMJ+

Hey, "Two or Three" Book Clubbers!

Yes, that's right: all two or three of you! (Or, judging by the number of votes on our poll, all four!)

First of all . . .

There are a little over twelve hours before our poll closes and A Room with a View and Treasure Island are still tied!!!

I see that it will take more than titles and cover art to swing the vote. How about some "random" quotes? Prose carries much weight, after all.

27 October 2009

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Drew vs. Joe

Just when you thought Tuesdays couldn't get tweenier . . .

Last week we heard Taylor's song of longing for Drew Hardwick. I thought that this week we could have some fun with a fellow in her past who is going to inspire a very different kind of song, if he ever manages to turn muse . . .

It's probably not a good sign that our first video is a gossip report--but then again, the first time I ever heard of Taylor was when Jayca told me about a certain girl in the music industry whom Joe Jonas tastelessly broke up with over a phone call. Again, it's not the best way for Taylor to pop onto someone's pop music radar; but I don't think it does much harm.

26 October 2009

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #11
UPDATE: You'd think editors would be more precise about assignments, wouldn't you? See below . . .

From my contact at Atlas TV Guide, my next assignment:

TEN BIG DOCUMENTARY SHOWS and/or CELEBRITIES who have made (and still are making) an impact on viewers, stirred controversy, or hogged the headlines in the world of television--plus updates.

I chose the TEN BIG CELEBRITIES.

My mother rolled her eyes when I told her that I was about to make the transition from Reliable Movie Reviewer to Wired-in Entertainment Writer, but I think I'm plugged into the post-1980s pop culture enough to manage a low-key article or two. In fact, I think my relative ignorance of this sphere will turn out to be a strength, since a contemporary celebrity would have to be really BIG for me to consider putting him on the list.

So far, these are the TV celebrities whom I believe merit inclusion . . . (Let's see how many you can name.)

24 October 2009

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 1

If you voted "Ugh!" to the proposed Book Club, don't worry. There's no need to dally here and I won't make you read it . . . even if you were in the minority.

If you voted "Yay!" to the proposed Book Club, you already want to "Keep Reading!", so I won't stop you . . .

23 October 2009

+JMJ+

Friday Night Movie: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure


0:11 One day I'm going to make a list of all the wonderful 80s movies we owe to Orion.
0:23 Listen! It's the bass of the future!
0:30 It sounds as if synths have come back! (Will come back?) Who would have guessed?
1:03 Long before he was Neo . . .
1:07 Shortly after he was Marko . . .
1:34 I had to look up Big Pig, a band I don't remember from the 80s at all. Is anyone else wondering why we don't have a Wyld Stallyns soundtrack?
2:30 "Even the dirt is clean!" Near the end of a decade full of dark dystopian imagery, we find ourselves with an optimistic movie.
2:41 "This is place is great! . . . But it almost wasn't." No matter how secure the future, the present is always uncertain and vulnerable. The best Time Travel movies know this.
2:55 First impressions do last.
3:00 "Don't worry. It'll all make sense. I'm a professional." He's right. Trust me. I'm a professional, too.
3:30 I don't know what those sounds are, but they are not chords.
4:30 On the other hand, the sounds they make with air guitar are . . . excellent.
4:49 "I'm waiting." An interesting first line for the History teacher--even though History teachers actually do more than wait for the past to record itself.
6:14 Who wants to bet that these two clowns are secretly his favourite students?
7:22 "Express to the class how an important historical feature from each of your time periods would view the world of San Dimas, 1988." I wouldn't mind preparing that oral presentation--and putting a decidedly Catholic twist on it. Who better than historical Catholic figures to pass judgment on a town named after the very first saint?
7:42 If I ever become somebody's step-mother, I'd want to be like Missy Preston--feathery 80s hair, convertible and all.
7:51 Well, I will draw the line at being only four years older than my step-children, though I've already played "second mother" to high school kids.
8:02 Hey! Her hair is different here!

22 October 2009

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 5

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There will be no more Peaches and Cream stories. Her mother informed me that she has decided to take over the after-school tutoring for both her daughters. It was an economic decision rather than a reflection of my tutoring, but it still hit me personally before it hit me economically. I'll miss Peaches and Cream. I'll also miss the income. Anyone who has been blindsided by the world economy knows that that isn't as mercenary as it sounds.

That is why I'm hoping that a certain other prospect will turn up gold . . .

21 October 2009

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "Party on, Dude!"

Yes, Friday Night Movie is back! (No need to thank me . . .)


20 October 2009

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Teardrops on My Guitar

I heard this song on the radio last week while taking a taxi to the tutorial centre. It's too emotionally drippy to be one of my favourites, but I like Taylor's sense of humour as she shares the backstory in this clip . . .


Best Quote: "It's crazy how having a Top 5 hit with a song won't get you over somebody."

Teenagers are so cute when they're being profound . . .

Oh, yeah . . . her guitar sounds amazing! Doesn't it make you want to indulge in a tutorial?

18 October 2009

+JMJ+

Strumming Patterns

I've been laying off the finger picking lately so I can work on my strumming.


It may be from the old Beginners Course, but it's still great.

The second pattern is what Andy Taylor used for Rio. Brilliant!

16 October 2009

+JMJ+

(Christine's) Seven Quick Takes
(Note: Be sure to enjoy all the rest of this week's Seven Quick Takes.)

I really like these "linky" posts that everyone does at once. They make me feel like a pre-loved paperback in a used bookstore: that is, in good company. (If Forrest Gump had only been more of a reader, then he would have compared life to a used bookstore . . .)

This is really the most social I ever get.

Now please tell me you remember who (or rather what) Christine is.

These Quick Takes (written from my point of view, not hers) were the easiest I've ever written.



7. I read somewhere that for 90 percent of guitarists, the hardest chord to master is B (224442). The other 10 percent get their callouses handed to them by F (133211). Well, I fall into the majority.

I can play B now--thank goodness--but that's a story for another post.

15 October 2009

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #10

Reviews are my favourite articles to write. Oh, the felicity of being opinionated on paper and being paid for it!

Of course, an honest review requires that the writer have read the book, watched the movie, eaten at the restaurant, used the mobile phone, tried the beauty product, etc. One of my biggest challenges is working with an editor who uses the word "review" as a blanket term for any feature article about media. Thank goodness for technology! I was able to download a torrent of the first movie she asked me to write about, and watch the second in its entirety on YouTube.com.

Then came her latest assignment: a "review" of a movie which hasn't even come out on the big screen yet!!!

14 October 2009

+JMJ+

Sweet Valley, California: Been There, Read That
(Note: This is a Book Review Party entry.)

When I started teaching, one of my students asked me how many books I had read in my life. After I tried to explain that asking such a question is like asking a guitarist how many songs he has ever played, she pressed: "Why don't you start counting from today, and give us a number at the end of the school year?" Students! Sheesh . . .

If I had to start counting, I'd at least have an easy start. I read all of my mother's (and the school library's) Nancy Drew books, all of a friend's Fear Street books, and all of an aunt's Sweet Valley High books, before I started my own humble book collection with Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Kids, Unicorn Club, Goosebumps, and a little bit of The Baby-Sitters Club, for good pop culture measure.

When I was in Business school, I ended up tossing all those series books into a huge box and donating them to a rural public school which was trying to start up a lending library. It was probably not the best move. Since then, a certain non-profit organisation which creates starter libraries for Filipino elementary schools has made it clear that they do NOT accept these sort of books as donations--the kind of books that make a young non-American reader unhappy to be a young non-American reader. Even as I arch an eyebrow at that policy, I concede the point.

A part of me has had other reason to regret my impulsive generosity. As you know, I'm feeling very retro these days, and wouldn't mind reading some of those old books again. Here are a few titles this not-so-young, still-non-American reader wouldn't mind revisiting:

My Top 5 Sweet Valley Books

1. Sweet Valley High #62: Who's Who?

This is such a classic plot! The main reason it's not more popular among SVH fans is that it's not as amorally, delightfully trashy as the earlier titles, which were much closer to Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl series than to what the rest of the Sweet Valley franchise has become since the 80s.

I think this title is a great representative of the series because it has Jessica getting herself into trouble, Elizabeth gamely bailing her out, an unlikely only-in-Sweet-Valley scheme triggering the conflict, the twins' identical beach blond looks serving as a plot device, and two couples pairing off at the end of the story. SVH makes high school dating seem so easy.

The book begins with Jessica saying she is tired of dating the same type of boy over and over again. She thinks it would be a great idea to make up a whole new personality for herself and to submit the fake profile to a dating service. Well, make that two whole new personalities: as a twin, she has been thinking in twos since birth. She names her snooty, super-cultured persona Daniella Fromage, and her rock chick party girl persona Magenta Galaxy. What follows is a true Comedy of Errors, Sweet Valley style!

13 October 2009

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Featuring Def Leppard

This week we have a live performance that gives new meaning to the phrase, "Pour some sugar on me" . . .


Until now, I hadn't realised how much I've missed Def Leppard. Joe Elliot is a pro! So far, this is also the only live performance of Taylor's that I've really liked--and certainly much better than last week's attempt to rock something out.

09 October 2009

+JMJ+

Recipe: Red Velvet Cake

Miss Marva steered the three of us into the kitchen and gave us plates heaped with red velvet cake. Between mouthfuls of cake Hardy told me Miss Marva was the best cook in Welcome. According to Hardy, her cakes and pies won the tricoloured ribbon at the county fair every year until the officials had begged her not to enter so someone else could have a chance.

Miss Marva's red velvet cake was the best I had ever tasted, made with buttermilk and cocoa, and enough red food colouring to make it glow like a stoplight, the whole of it covered with an inch-thick layer of cream cheese frosting.

We ate like ravenous wolves, nearly scraping layers off the yellow Fiesta ware with our aggressive forks, until every bright crumb had vanished . . .

What I remember most about Sugar Daddy--Lisa Kleypas' first foray into Contemporary Romance--is the food. From the remarkable Miss Marva, the heroine learns "the basics of Texas cooking," expanding her repertoire to include chicken-fried steak topped with white cream gravy . . . okra dusted with cornmeal and skillet fried in hot grease . . . pinto beans boiled with a hambone . . . turnip greens with pepper sauce . . . chicken and dumplings . . . and that glorious red velvet cake.

(In another chapter, she strolls through the food court of the Redneck Roundup fair and muses, "It does not occur to Texans that some things just aren't meant to be put on a stick and deep fried." It's really too bad I can't go into that aspect of the story now.)

Back to the red velvet cake. Miss Marva's recipe is so amazing that she warns the heroine never to bake it for a man unless she wants him to propose to her. What an interesting bit of baking it must have been, aye?

Sugar Daddy may have pushed red velvet cake into my radar when I read it a year ago, but I wasn't inspired to do any real baking until just this week, when my mother surprised me by demanding it.

08 October 2009

+JMJ+

Let's Try This Again . . .

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If I had wanted any proof that Shredded Cheddar's readers (both those I know of and those who lurk) are mostly male--not that there's anything wrong with that--then I got it when the proposed "Girly Girl Weekend" was shot down.

What this means, I guess, is that instead of having one weekend a month in which the cooties run free and wild (and which the fellows have been forewarned to avoid), each month will be a minefield of scattered cooties. (You know, that might actually be more fun!)

In the meantime, there is a new poll . . .

07 October 2009

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales: Volume 4

Last week was slow at the tutorial centre, thanks to the untoward weather, but we've since regained our momentum--with not a moment to lose, it turns out.

It has also been a slow year for the centre, thanks to the global recession and the glorified regular flu scare, but things are about to get hectic very soon. The first exams of the school year are around the proverbial corner. Anyone who has ever been a tutor knows what that means:

06 October 2009

+JMJ+

Team Taylor Tuesday: Should've Said No



0:16 Don't you just love a girl with a guitar?
0:20 Strumming patterns are harder to figure out than they look.
0:28 Is that a chop . . . or just the way her guitar sounds?

05 October 2009

+JMJ+

There and Back Again

Now, I'm a huge fan of comebacks; but I also think they should be done right. After all, you want people to think you're in it for the love of music and the joy of performng, and not for something so crass as the money. (Right?)

Let's start with a really good example: Take That.

Their greatest hit, a Christmas #1 and the single which finally cracked the US charts, was Back for Good:



(Now that the Noughties are almost over, I can see how utterly 90s the above video is. Slightly embarrassing, but never mind that now . . .)

Interestingly, when Take That's four non-Robbie members decided to reform ten years later, their former boy band status actually worked in their favour. Nobody expected them to have the same sort of appeal they once had; and despite their chart-topping successes, they weren't exactly known for making timeless music, so it would have been pretty easy to make a better record the second time around. If you have a decent ear for Pop, you'll know what I mean when I say that Patience didn't put them to shame:



Just look at the audience in that stadium. Now that is the way to do a comeback.

* * * * *

03 October 2009

+JMJ+

"The Saturday Evening Blog Post"


What a good idea! A monthly carnival of random bloggy goodness!

I thought quite a bit about which September 09 Sancta Sanctis post to feature. While I had a soft spot for my anti-WWJD Catholic Q and A, I couldn't deny the huge success of Mantillas on My Mind.

Remember when Kate Winslet said, with the shrewdest condescension, that if one really wanted an Oscar, then one should make a movie about the Holocaust? (She went on to win an Oscar for a lead role in a movie about the Holocaust.) It reminds me of a similar unwritten rule of the Catholic blogosphere: if you want a lot of comments, then publish a post about veils. Not that I wrote said post merely for the comments; it was a topic I had been thinking about for weeks.

(You may notice that it's far more polished than the Catholic Q and A post, which turned out to be my first rough ideas rather than the final cut. That was another factor.)

If I had nominated a Shredded Cheddar post, it would have been Tutor Tales: Volume 3. With all due modesty, that one was so comic that it even had me laughing as I wrote it.

02 October 2009

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice
UPDATE: I have entered this review in Cym Lowell's weekly Book Review Party.

Cooper nodded thoughtfully. "I guess Simpson's a bit like that. No one has done anything up in a long time. Shops have been closing for ten years and no one's investing in the place. Town's not going to last long if someone doesn't do something. Places need attention, just like people."

Places need attention, Julia thought with a sudden pang. Cooper's words echoed in her head. She was guilty of neglect, herself. She had lived for a whole month now in her little house and she hadn't done anything to make it nicer or more comfortable. It was unheard of for a Devaux. She was in Simpson under duress, it was true. Yet her mom had been in Riyadh under duress. And their house there had been her mother's decorating triumph.


I haven't done anything at all to make my new life into something better
, she thought. Her mother would have been ashamed of her.

If I'm going to do this, I might as well do it defensively. So let me start by saying that I usually keep my distance from EroRom (Erotic Romance). The little I knew of the subgenre truly turned me off, but I wasn't about to make a survey in order to justify that impression.

Let me also say in advance that since I finished this novel, I've done more browsing through the subgenre, hoping to find other authors like Lisa Marie Rice. Yet it looks as if she's the best there is. Everyone else is happy to fill their books with sluts and man-whores. I can't believe that that shit gets marketed as "Romance" . . . but that's not a rant for this post.

Not that any of the above explains why I have an EroRom novel on my Reading Diary. In brief, Rice came on my radar when I heard rumours that she might actually be a man. You see, I like the idea of men writing genre Romance--especially if they have to do it secretly. (There's something almost Chestertonian about such subterfuge.) Indeed, there's a male Romance author whose books I read as a matter of course--not because he's particularly good, but because he does deliver the proverbial je ne sais quoi. Besides, his sympathies lie with the Confederacy. I used to stay the heck away from American-set Historical Romance because of the anti-South bias, but I can relax when I read his books. (I may feature him in a future Reading Diary . . .)