Monday, November 29, 2010

Charitable options this Christmas

A facebook post from a friend directed me to this blog about Christie, who truly feels called to help others, specifically a village in Africa. She has suggestions about how you can help, too, so check it out. I'll be keeping Christie and her ministry in my heart and mind this Christmas. Won't you as well?

More interested in helping a secular group? Check out One, which doesn't actually require a donation (although they'll take that too!), just making your voice heard in unison with people across the country and around the world. Another option is Matt Damon's project,, which is dedicated to finding ways to provide safe drinking water to everyone. Kiva is an interesting option; you provide microloans to small start-up businesses in developing nations which can improve the lives of whole families.

My favorite, though, is Heifer Project International. It's similar to Kiva in that it provides a family with a way to start a sustainable business, but Heifer provides families with a way to change the life of not just a family, but an entire community. Heifer gives families in developing nations livestock that can provide continuing food and income sources. For instance, if a family is given a flock of chickens, they can use some of the eggs for food but sell the rest. Then when their flock has grown in size, they pay it forward by helping other families in the community by giving them a small flock of chickens. How cool is that?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Father Knows Best

In the very early 1990s, The Black Crowes exploded onto the music scene with hits like "Hard to Handle" and "She talks to Angels." At the time, I tried to convince my dad that their "Hard to Handle" was superior to Tony Joe White's or Otis Redding's or any of the other earlier artists to cover this song. Needless to say, he laughed at me. I'll let you judge for yourself:

Here's a version performed by Otis Redding:

Here's The Black Crowes:

Here's a link to listen to Tony Joe's version.

What do you think? Which version did you like better? Are remakes (music or other) ever as good as the original?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I got to fix a beauty pageant!

During my year-and-a-half in nursing home hell, I had to plan, promote, publicize and pull-off a beauty pageant for my residents so we could take the winner to the regional pageant. Never having been to a pageant, much less in one, I was kind of at a loss. Thankfully, one of the girls in the office, Kacey, had a lot of pageant experience and was actually excited about helping out.

We got businesses to donate prizes, contacted families to see if they wanted their resident to participate, ordered flowers for the winner, found guest judges and an emcee, ordered crowns, decorated sashes, the list goes on. You get the idea. And of course, since family members and the public were present, we had a party afterwards, which I also had to coordinate and have set up. (At least the kitchen staff took care of the food prep.) Fortunately, it was around Valentine's Day, so we had a decorating theme that was relatively easy to execute for both the pageant and the party.

Thirty residents wound up participating, 23 women and 7 men. Can I tell you how hard it was to make sure that everyone got a prize that was unique to them? That everyone got a question that they would be able to answer? That the aides made sure that the right people were washed and dressed up their Sunday best if they didn't have family to help? Logistical NIGHTMARE. I'm not usually one for lists, but during this job I became one. I had lists of lists of lists.

Are you ready for the funny part? After having gone to all the trouble of arranging guest judges, I was asked to fix the results so that the Mr. and Mrs. Nursing Home we took to the regional pageant were the best combination of appearance and well-spoken, thus having the best chance to win. And no fixing was necessary - the winners would've won anyway, thank goodness.

We wound up taking Jack and Annie. They were so excited - they even got to take multiple trips to Alexandria to be fitted for a tux and formal (at the nursing home's expense, of course), a trip to the salon, and then finally for the event itself. Neither one of them one, but Jack and Annie didn't care. They really were excited just to participate.

I'll tell you what - that whole experience gave me an appreciation for event planners that I didn't have before. The amount of unseen effort that goes into such an event is enormous.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Five shows gone too soon

Earlier this week, I blogged about actors and actresses that I'd like to see back on t.v. This post is a list of five shows from the first decade of the 21st Century that I wish had been on longer. These shows aired for one season or less, thus leaving some of my favorites like Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, Everwood or Life off the list.

Jack & Bobby - This show about two brothers, one of whom grows up to be President, and their single mother, whom is sometimes a help and at others a hindrance, has a lot of heart and and a surprising depth for a CW show. It a had a fantastic group of character actors in recurring roles - I think their entire budget may have been spent on guest stars. Available streaming on Netflix.

Keen Eddie - Mark Valley was terrific as a fish out of water New York cop who somehow winds up attached to the London Police (or maybe Scotland Yard? I was never really clear about that.). It was sly, funny and completely unlike anything else on t.v. at the time. To top it off, Valley had terrific chemistry with co-star Sienna Miller. Fox canceled it after airing a handful of episodes, Bravo aired the rest. It remains a treasured part of my dvd collection.

Kings - This retelling of the story of David & Goliath wasn't perfect, but Ian McShane was mesmerizing as King Silas, as was Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose. The machinations of these two made me glad that I'm not involved in politics at any level. Ratings-wise, it was a disaster for NBC in spite of heavy promotion. Available for viewing on Hulu.

The Middleman - ABCFamily let this delightful gem go after airing only 12 episodes. On the one hand, I'm terribly disappointed. On the other, I'm glad. About how many shows can you say honestly that you enjoyed every single episode. This is one of those shows - even the vampire puppet episode. That's right, I said it. Vampire puppets. And, especially in the finale, Matt Keeslar gives us a memorable performance.

Wonderfalls - Quirky, sarcastic, charming, there aren't enough adjectives for me to use to describe what was right about this show. It also had a terrific cast with Caroline Dhavernas, Tracie Thom, Lee Pace, William Sadler, Diana Scarwid and Neil Grayston.

What are your favorite shows that aired for less than a season in the past decade?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five actresses I miss on t.v.

On Tuesday afternoon, I posted a blog entry discussing the five actors I most miss seeing regularly on t.v. Now it's the ladies' turn.

1. Kristen Bell - Okay, you could argue that she's still on t.v. as the voice of Gossip Girl's narrator, but I don't think that really counts. Kristen, sweetie, I love you, but please stop doing crap romantic comedy movies and come home to television. Have you done anything since Veronica Mars that was nearly as good or satisfying? Nope, didn't think so. Get together with Rob Thomas and y'all come up with something, okay? Maybe you could even talk the CW or a cable network into letting y'all do a VM sequel about her time in the FBI. That short bit on the season 4 dvds was so genius.

2. Caroline Dhavernas - Who you ask? Granted, most of this Canadian actress's work has been in film, but her work as Jaye in Wonderfalls was fantastic. Fox only aired a handful of episodes before cancelling this great show. If you haven't seen it, add it to your Netflix list right away. Caroline's performance is quirky, snarky, heart-filled and completely original. (oh, and did I mention it also has Lee Pace?)

3. Liz Mikel - Fans of Friday Night Lights often talk about what realistic marriage Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton portray as Coach and Mrs. Coach Taylor - and it's true, they do. Liz Mikel appeared in seasons 1-3 of FNL and is often over looked in spite of her very fine performance as Corrina "Mama Smash" Williams, a single mom struggling to raise three kids by herself. Some of her scenes with her son, Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles), were so powerful that I could believe he was really her son. What Liz can do with a lip and chin quiver and a little righteous indignation is truly amazing.

4. Emma Caulfield - Why, you ask, am I picking this Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum over Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar? Emma's portrayal of the very literal ex-demon Anya was hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. SMG hasn't really done that much either, but her role as Buffy is so iconic, I'm not sure people would be able to see her as anything else. Emma, on the other hand, did a great job but isn't as well known, so people would almost definitely have an easier time buying into a new role for her. [update: I hadn't heard this but evidently Emma has been on Life Unexpected. Should have done my homework!]

5. Dichen Lachman - Her turn as Sierra on Dollhouse would have been a break out performance if more people had seen it. I don't think I would be out of line to say that she was deserving of Emmy recognition (even though it would never have happened), especially for the episode where we learned how Sierra came to be in the Dollhouse. Her scenes with Victor (Enver Gjokaj) throughout the two season run were equally fantastic.

Honorable mentions: The very charming Anna Friel from Pushing Daisies, Rachel Bilson from The O.C., Mary McDonnell and Trisha Helfer for BSG - both ladies were so good, I couldn't choose, and I was also going to mention Sarah Shahi from Life, but it turns out she has new show coming out on USA in January.

Who would you add to the list and why?

Five actors I miss on T.V.

It's no secret I've been somewhat disappointed by the Fall 2010 television season, so I've decided to list five actors that used to be on t.v. but aren't right now. Somebody in Hollywood, write shows for these people already!

1. Adam Brody - I really miss Seth Cohen's Cohen-y Cohenisms on The O.C. He was hilarious, and his sly, sarcastic pop-culture references cracked me up every time. Since he evidently came up with a lot of his own material, I'd love to see him in his own show. Come on Josh Schwartz, you've got several shows on right now. Can't you find room on one? I just know he'd fit right in on the geeky goodness that is Chuck.

2. Jason Dohring - As Logan Echolls on the late, great Veronica Mars he took a character that was a one-dimensional, completely unsympathetic bully and turned him into a fully realized, conflicted character who was completely able to hold his own with Kristen Bell's Veronica. (BTW, if you haven't seen Veronica Mars, get thee to Netflix now and stream at least the first season. Definitely worth your time.) I even watched the mediocre-at-best Moonlight because this guy was in it - and he was definitely the best thing about that show, even if he was a secondary character.

3. Lee Pace - The Pie Maker! My t.v. has been in mourning since the quirky, romantic and charming Pushing Daisies went off the air. He was also funny as Jaye's brother in the little seen but fabulous Wonderfalls. Lee even does dramatic well - he turned in a heartbreaking performance as a transgendered individual in Showtime's made for t.v. movie Soldier's Girl. Marmaduke? Really? Someone with as much talent and range as Lee deserves a well-written show of his own.

4. This guy was so amazing as Victor on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse that he literally stole the show from Eliza Dushku's Echo. In addition to Victor, he was required to play a wide variety of characters and delivered every time. I think my favorite was probably Kiki the dancing college girl. Check it out!

5. Jamie Bamber - An alum of Syfy's Battlestar Galactica remake, he's currently on Law & Order UK. Since I don't have BBC America, I'm not counting it. His nuanced performance of Capt. Lee Adama on BSG made me want to simultaneously kick him in the butt for being hateful to his dad or Starbuck and give him a hug because he'd had so much hurt in the past.

Honorable mentions to Farscape's Ben Browder and Tahmoh Penikett from Dollhouse and BSG.

What do you think of my choices? Who would you like to see on t.v. that isn't currently working regularly? Tomorrow I'll post five actresses that need to be on t.v.