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Chris Queen

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered church communications director, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.
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10 Reasons Why a Disney Christmas Is the Best Kind of Holiday

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

If your family is anything like mine, you have plenty of holiday traditions that you cherish. Many of ours revolve around Disney (go ahead and try to act like you’re not surprised). From Disney cartoon shorts, to theme park experiences, to decorations and recipes, we love making Disney a big part of our Christmas celebration.

Here are ten reasons why a Disney Christmas is the best kind of holiday. Enjoy!

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10. Prep & Landing (2009)

After several years with very little new Christmas content (save for holiday episodes of Disney Channel and Disney Junior series), Disney released the computer animated TV movie Prep & Landing in 2009. This winning comedy tells the tale of the elves who work in Santa’s elite Prep & Landing division on Christmas Eve.

An elf named Wayne is bitter at being passed over for a promotion, so he decides to leave most of the work to his new trainee, Lanny. When a snowstorm makes landing at one boy’s house seem impossible, it’s up to Wayne and Lanny to make it happen one way or another.

Prep & Landing spawned two sequels. It’s a cute, funny movie that everyone in the family can enjoy.

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34 Holiday Gifts for the Southern Culture Lover on Your List

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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This holiday season, I know you’ve been wondering: what can I give the Southern culture lover on my gift list? Well, worry no more, because I, your intrepid Southern culture expert, have decided to swoop in like a Christmas miracle and save the day!

Here’s a list of 34 awesome gift choices that cover just about every area of the culture below the Mason-Dixon line. The best part: nearly everything on this list is eligible for Amazon Prime, for all you procrastinators. Enjoy!

5. Explore The Literary South

One of the greatest traditions in the South is storytelling, and a classic Southern story makes a wonderful gift for the bookworm on your list. Here are just a few recommendations.

William Faulkner is one of the best known and most respected authors in the South or anywhere. I’ve always had a difficult time keeping my concentration reading his novels, but I love his short stories. I highly recommend The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (also available for Kindle) as a sort of greatest hits collection and The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner for deeper cuts (get it here for Kindle).

Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor also made a name for herself in literary circles, and her short stories are some of the best in American literature as a whole. Check out The Complete Stories (also on Kindle) to experience her true genius in all its glory, but I also recommend the slim volume A Prayer Journal (also on Kindle) for some of the most beautiful, lyrical Christian prayers I’ve ever read.

Of course, there are plenty of great Southern novels to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God delves into the lives of black people in rural Florida with a lyrical flair. In Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, a precocious orphan tells her own story. James Dickey’s Deliverance is the same harrowing story as the movie, but with greater depth. And Family Linen by Lee Smith is my all-time favorite novel — a twisty, darkly comic family tale.

You can’t go wrong with any of these choices for literature lovers.

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10 Great Southern Destinations for the Christmas Season

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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A region as varied and storied as the South has plenty of wonderful holiday traditions. From the biggest of cities to the tiniest towns, Southerners — and Yankee tourists — have plenty of special ways to spend the Christmas season.

Honestly, I had a tough time picking ten destinations, but I think the ones I chose demonstrate the variety of Southern experiences. Enjoy!

10. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

Ok, so I took some heat for putting Asheville in my list of the 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South, but I stand by my choice. However, one of Asheville’s most iconic locations makes the list of the ultimate holiday destinations.

The Biltmore Estate is grand and gorgeous year round, but, like so many other places, Christmas decorations add even more beauty. George Vanderbilt’s palatial home hosts a display of holiday cheer that’s hard to top.

During the day, Biltmore offers wine tastings, visits with Santa, and tips for exquisite décor. At night, the estate features candlelight tours and impressive lighting displays. It’s enough to consider fending off those Asheville hipsters!

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A Radical Ranking of Disney’s 8 Best Animated Features

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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You may remember my experience last week where I received the strange basket of apples with a cryptic note from Valerie. I ate one of the apples and fell into a deep sleep, after which I received the strangest ideas for how to improve Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and my editor posted them here.

Well, I decided to try a second apple from the basket. One bite of this next apple, and I passed out again. I woke up with the inspiration to rank some of Disney’s best cartoons. Get ready, because I guarantee you that you’ve never seen Disney’s films in this light…

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8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Just picture it: a large, virile character roams the world, and though people see him as a bad guy, he’s really good inside, and in the end, he saves the day!

Am I talking about Wreck-It Ralph? Of course I am, but in reality I’m talking about the man whose life I’m convinced the movie is a metaphor for: our wonderful ally Vladimir Putin. Just think about it.

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The South’s Church Culture and Its Dangerous Problems

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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One of my favorite things about being on staff at a church is that I get to engage in discussions about faith and spiritual life with other men and women who are passionate not just about their relationship with God but also about helping others to deepen their relationship with Him.

Last week, I was brainstorming with our creative arts director and the student pastor at one of our campuses about improving one particular element of our services, when the student pastor remarked about how he knew people who thought of our church as light on doctrine and substance, largely because we don’t engage in activities like “altar calls.” Near the end of that part of the conversation, I remarked that Christianity in the South is more of a culture than a relationship with God.

In a now-famous quote, Flannery O’Connor once said, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” She may have been more right that she realized, because the dominant Southern Christian culture concerns itself largely with seeing and being seen, with church attendance as an end to the spiritual journey rather than a beginning, and with safely sheltering families from an increasingly messy world.

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7 Ways to Radically Improve Walt Disney World

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The basket of apples appeared on my door step. At first I wasn’t sure where they came from until I saw the note card that read VJ’s Organic Co-Op, Washington, DC. The note inside the envelope read:

Dear Chris,

Try these apples. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them.

Love, Valerie

Valerie? I wasn’t sure who this Valerie was, but I figured organic apples couldn’t be all that bad. I made sure to wash one of them thoroughly, and I took a bite.

Whoever Valerie was, she was right. It didn’t taste like any apple I’d ever eaten, and soon after the first bite, I fell asleep, right there on the kitchen floor!

When I woke, I had all these ideas in my head on how to improve my favorite place on the planet — Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and here they are:

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7. An Updated CircleVision 360 Film For China At Epcot

Epcot’s China pavilion does a wonderful job celebrating the rich history of its home country, but there’s very little mention of the successes of the last sixty or so years. Wonderful triumphs like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and defeating those pesky students in Tiananmen Square don’t get the mention they deserve at Epcot.

To remedy that problem, I propose that Disney replace the current Reflections of China film with an informative and interesting documentary I’ll call Forward: China from Mao to Now. The film will look back at the great history of the People’s Republic of China from the earliest days of the revolution to China’s bright future.

Of course, such a short film would not have time to delve too deeply into certain aspects of the nation, so concepts like human rights and economic freedom would probably have to go by the wayside. But I think a CircleVision 360 movie dispelling the myths about the People’s Republic would be worth seeing, don’t you?

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The 10 Greatest Moments from the Disney Renaissance

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Chris’s series exploring Disney history: “10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression,” “10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking,” “10 Examples Of How Disney’s Productions Reflected The Changing America Of The 1950s,” “Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth,” “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 1: How The Studio Reflected The Chaos Of The 1970s” and “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s.”

A few years after Walt Disney’s death, the studio he founded entered a creative drought of nearly 15 years. The projects Walt had his hands on had dried up, and the most creative minds in the company were working directly on the theme parks. Ron Miller, Walt’s son-in-law, oversaw the company during most of this era, and, though the studio managed to produce some underrated cartoons and live-action films during this time period, nothing matched the artistry and innovation of the years when Walt was still alive.

When Roy E. Disney and Sid Bass brought Michael Eisner over from Paramount to head Disney — along with Frank Wells — the company experienced an almost immediate injection of creativity. In the realm of animation, most everyone dubs the period beginning with 1989′s The Little Mermaid the Disney Renaissance. (Some people end the Renaissance with the execrable Tarzan from 1999, but for me, this period ends with 1995′s Pocahontas.)

A lot of exciting things took place at Disney during the first few years of the Eisner-Wells tenure, and here are the ten best of them.

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10. Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas marked the end of the Disney Animation Renaissance of the late-’80s and early-’90s, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nowhere near as good as the films that preceded it, largely due to its over-earnestness, Judy Kuhn’s vocal melisma, and the screenplay’s loose play with history.

However, Pocahontas deserves mention because of its firsts. It was the first Disney animated feature based on a historical person, and it also brought the Disney Princess banner to an American character (something the studio did much better in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog). Disney also deserves some credit for turning the dramatic “Colors of the Wind” into a smooth pop hit.

Even though Pocahontas isn’t the greatest of the Disney classics, it does belong among the highlights of the early Eisner-Wells era.

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Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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For the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the company Walt Disney built and how it has survived over the decades. We talked about how the studio reflected the can-do spirit that beat the Great Depression in the 1930s, as well as how World War II affected Disney. We’ve also discussed the changing world of the 1950s and how Disney reflected it, and we looked at Walt’s seven most radical ideas from the 60s.

Last week, we delved into what I call Disney’s wilderness years – the period after Walt’s death when the company had exhausted all of its founder’s projects and its output suffered creatively. We looked at the 1970s and how Disney reflected the both the general malaise and the leadership crisis the country faced.

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Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 1: How the Studio Reflected the Chaos of the 1970s

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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We’ve been looking at the output of the Disney organization by decade, from the 1930s to the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, and this week, we’re looking at the 1970s. Everyone who experienced that decade has an opinion about its culture, or lack thereof. From polyester leisure suits to Pet Rocks, the ’70s were the decade of disposable culture (in spite of some true classics like The Godfather films and Star Wars). I consider myself more of a child of the ’80s, since that’s when I came of age, but I remember my younger childhood in the ’70s — especially a lot of the music — fondly.

Much of the culture of the decade reflects a certain escapism. From the disco kids partying their troubles away, to the punk rockers flipping a middle finger at pretty much everything, to the banal pop of the mainstream, much of the music of the era plays on a desire to get away from the troubles of reality. Movies and television share a similar escapism — witness the endless disaster films and idiotic sitcoms of the day.

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Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
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Walt on the set of The EPCOT Film in October 1966

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how Disney and its productions reflected, and sometimes influenced, the times. We’ve seen how Disney mirrored the can-do spirit of the ’30s, how the studio overcame the challenges of World War II in the ’40s, and how Disney changed with the times in the ’50s.

By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.

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7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)

After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.

Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.

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10 Examples Of How Disney’s Productions Reflected The Changing America Of The 1950s

Monday, September 29th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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In my last two posts, we’ve looked at how Disney reflected the 1930s and the 1940s. As the studio emerged from World War II and into a new decade, it faced a changing nation. In their insightful book A Patriot’s History Of The Modern World, Volume II, Larry Schweikart and Dave Dougherty write:

Long-held and oft-repeated notions that the 1950s were a decade of sameness and conformity in the United States miss the revolutionary changes occurring in the decade – radical shifts that, fundamentally, may have altered America and the world far more than the superficial changes of the 1960s.

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Far from reflecting a widespread sameness among Americans, life in the 1950s witnessed a burst of new businesses, consumer products, artistic expression, and social cross-pollination.

Disney ‘s productions from the 1950s reflect this rapidly changing America, and here are ten examples.

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10. Matterhorn Bobsleds (1959)

Walt had two needs to fill: one was a way to promote the upcoming film Third Man On The Mountain, while the other was an attraction to fill space on a hill between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. He remembered the majesty of the Matterhorn when he visited the set of Third Man On The Mountain, and the Imagineers designed a roller coaster based on the mountain.

The resulting attraction became the first steel-tube roller coaster, providing a smoother – yet still thrilling – ride than the traditional wooden coaster. Disney changed the way we think of thrill rides and opened the door for endless possibilities. The Matterhorn Bobsleds still bring excitement to this day. Check it out:

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10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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This is Part II in an ongoing series exploring cultural changes by decade. See last week’s first installment here: 10 Disney Cartoons From the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit that Survived the Great Depression.

Walt Disney’s phone rang on the afternoon of December 7, 1941. His studio manager was on the other end to let him know that the Army was taking over the sprawling campus of the studio. The nation was already in shock at the bombing of Pearl Harbor just hours earlier, and Disney would cohabit with the United States military for the duration of the war.

The federal government commissioned hundreds of projects big and small for Disney, ranging from insignia design to training films to propaganda pieces. World War II changed the way the Disney Studios made films — from their efforts to support the Allies to anthology cartoons made for quick turnaround to new techniques to get their own products into the market, Disney emerged from the war a different studio than when the Army marched in on December 7, 1941. Here are ten examples.

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10. “The Thrifty Pig” (1941)

Even before the United States became involved in World War II in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Hollywood was willing to engage in helping “the war effort.” Our northern cousins in Canada commissioned a propaganda piece from Disney to sell war bonds.

“The Thrifty Pig” relied on the familiar footage from “Three Little Pigs” from nearly a decade before, with some noticeable changes: the Big Bad Wolf is now a Nazi, and the third pig constructs his house out of Canadian War Savings Certificates.

The aim of the cartoon, of course, was to encourage Canadians to “invest in victory” by buying the certificates. It was an early test of the effectiveness of Disney toward the efforts to defeat Germany and Japan – and it was a success.

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10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend and editor David Swindle published an open letter to me dividing the history of Disney animation into ten eras and encouraging me to explore the history of Disney through the same frame of mind. Here is the first in a series looking at the eras of Disney history.

As the United States slid into the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s, Disney’s output grew tremendously in quality and quantity. Walt and his team of animators and writers released plenty of entertaining product, but they also experimented, honing existing techniques and developing new ones. A struggling nation loved what it saw and couldn’t get enough.

Disney’s output during this time period reflects a uniquely American can-do spirit, one that helped this country survive the Great Depression in both determination and innovation. Here are ten great examples.

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10. “The Golden Touch” (1935)

The 1935 cartoon “The Golden Touch” carries a special significance not because of any achievement but because of its failure – and because Walt himself directed it. The short, which tells the story of King Midas, has more of the feel of an episode of the Twilight Zone than a charming Disney animated cartoon.

Walt took control of “The Golden Touch” after a period in which he had criticized his directors repeatedly. He had not directed a cartoon in five years. The short, with only two characters, ran long on time and budget. The characters lack the appeal and much of the humor of typical Disney characters, and the story takes a dark turn with little of the typical Disney optimism at the end.

As a direct result of the failure of “The Golden Touch,” Walt learned to trust his talented directors, and he allowed them to continue to create, which of course allowed him to oversee the company that would change entertainment forever.

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10 Relatively Healthier (Yet Still Tasty) Recipes for Southern Classics

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

A few days ago, I shared with you a list of ten decadent Southern classic recipes. The problem with so much Southern cuisine is that many dishes are so heavy and fattening. Sure, our ancestors ate such unhealthy meals and lived to pass them on, but our desk-job, technology-dependent lifestyles can’t offer us the same guarantees as did a lifetime of toiling on the farm or at the mill.

So this week, I’m sharing a list of lighter recipes for Southern classics. I’m following the same format as my earlier list, roughly mimicking the courses of a meal. Some of these recipes are healthier alternatives to the ones featured in the first list, while others are new ideas for good-for-you Southern fare. Enjoy!

10. Corn Maque Choux Chicken Pasta

A good cook can take classic delicacies and make them work, but a great cook can elevate them and create something new and special.

Elizabeth Cauvel, one of my favorite competitors on this season of MasterChef (and, like me, a University of Georgia alum), recently took the New Orleans classic Corn Maque Choux – a corn- and pepper-based dish — and added chicken and pasta to create a flavorful, yet still light (even with the heavy cream in the recipe, it’s lighter than just about anything deep fried), fusion of Cajun and Italian styles. This dish can be a substitute for a salad, or a great starter or side.

Ingredients for the poached chicken
3 cups water
1 lemon
salt
2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts

Ingredients for the pasta
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 and ½ red bell peppers, diced small
3 ears of fresh corn, boiled then kernels cut off
1 jalapeno, diced small, with or without seeds to your taste (seeds make it spicier)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. paprika
½ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup reserved chicken poaching liquid
leaves of fresh thyme picked from 10-12 sprigs
pinch dried oregano
½ pint of heavy cream
salt and pepper
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
¾ lb. rigatoni

Directions
Poach the chicken: bring water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice in the water then just drop the lemon halves in. Bring down to medium heat, add chicken, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid (reserving the liquid) and cool until you can touch it, then pull the meat from the bones. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 6-8 minutes, until getting soft.

Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, paprika, oregano, and thyme. Stir it around and cook it all together for 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine and reserved poaching liquid and turn the heat up to high. Cook until the liquid reduces by half and you can no longer taste raw wine (the alcohol taste must be gone).

Add the heavy cream to the corn mixture. It will be quite liquidy at this point but you just keep the heat on high and reduce it until it’s thickened. Taste it and adjust seasoning.

Boil the rigatoni in salted water. When they’re about 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce (it’s ok if the pasta is dripping; you want some cooking liquid). Stir the pasta into the sauce and add a ladleful of pasta cooking water. The sauce should still be on high. Stir the pasta around, letting it finish cooking in the sauce. The pasta water will cook out and you may need to add more until the pasta is perfectly al dente.

Stir in chicken. Serve in shallow bowls with fresh cilantro on top. Enjoy!

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10 Decadent Classic Southern Dishes

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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If there’s one thing we Southerners have mastered, it’s food. Some of the best cuisine in the world is from Dixie, and I think it’s time we celebrate it. Here’s a list of ten of the most decadent classic Southern dishes. My hope is that you’ll read these recipes and be inspired to cook — and if you’re not familiar with Southern cuisine, maybe you’ll try something new.

Instead of a typical countdown list format, I’ve structured this list much in the way a meal may arrive at a restaurant table — starters, sides, main courses, and desserts. Enjoy!

10. Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a staple in Southern refrigerators — a simple, versatile recipe. Creamy and smooth,  yet with an appealing sharpness, pimento cheese is perfect on a sandwich (with or without bacon) or with crackers. The famed Varsity restaurant in Atlanta and Athens serves it on a chili dog, and Lisa De Pasquale and I recently discovered how good it is on a hamburger.

Maybe I’m biased, but my mom, Marcia Queen, makes the best pimento cheese I’ve ever tasted. You won’t find her name in any cookbooks that I know of, so here’s an exclusive recipe.

Ingredients
2 cups softened sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 oz can diced pimentos, drained
1/2 cup mayo
1 block softened cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Mix and enjoy.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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These days we don’t really talk much about idols, at least not in the literal sense. We talk about American Idol and teen idols and that sort of thing, but the idols that represent serious sin go unmentioned.

Throughout the Bible, we see the evidence of the damage that idol worship does. After the Exodus, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the impatient Israelites made a golden calf to worship. For the people of Israel, it was just downhill from there, as idol worship and the unfaithfulness toward God that such worship represented led to a world of trouble for them, including the exile to Babylon.

In the New Testament book of Acts, Jesus’ apostles encountered idol worshipers when they went about spreading the Good News of the Messiah. These worshipers of other gods — and even some of the craftsmen who made the physical idols — stirred up all sorts of strife for the followers of the one true God.

So what relevance does idol worship have for us today? These days, the idols that Jews and Christians follow aren’t graven images per se, but followers of God do allow certain ideas, preferences, and opinions to become idols that get in the way of their relationship with Him. Many of these idols come with the best of intentions, yet they impede the ability to truly follow God.

In the following pages, through an inter-faith dialogue with one of my favorite colleagues here at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg, we’re going to look at five idols that God’s followers allow to get in the way of their relationship with Him. Hopefully naming these idols will get some Christians and Jews to think about how they may affect their own relationship with God.

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10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen from its first season. There are certain elements of the show that viewers can see coming from the start – and perhaps those elements lend a comforting familiarity year in and year out — but the mix of personalities keeps the show fresh and fun.

This season, the show’s twelfth, was the best and most interesting yet. The producers must have chosen to focus less on outsized characters and more on genuine talent, because we saw less of the tabloid drama to which we’ve grown accustomed over the last few seasons.

Here are ten observations I’ve made about this season, and each of them play a role in why I love Hell’s Kitchen so much. Check them out…

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10. The Chefs Struggled With Even The Simplest Dishes.

I’d love to see the bill for how much food goes to waste on Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay has such exacting standards that he has no compunction about throwing food away if it doesn’t meet those ideals.

This season was no exception, as it seemed like the chefs struggled with even the simplest of dishes. Overcooked scallops, raw halibut, ruined Beef Wellingtons, unseasoned risottos – one by one, these disgusting dishes went into the trash bins. As the season went on, the condition of the food barely got better.

One would think that, after a dozen seasons, the chefs would bone up on Hell’s Kitchen staples before going on the show. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and we witness the same mistakes year in and year out.

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Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.

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10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.

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The 10 Most Underrated Live-Action Disney Films

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my picks for the ten most overrated films in Disney’s live-action canon. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side and explore the most underrated live-action Disney movies.

Believe it or not, some Disney productions just don’t get the respect that they deserve. That fact could be for a number of reasons: the movie didn’t make enough of a dent at the box office, the picture was overshadowed by another film, or the release just hasn’t had time for fans to consider it a classic. Whatever the reason, these ten films have gone underrated for too long. Enjoy!

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10. Pete’s Dragon (1977)

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Pete’s Dragon.  (I had to have seen Star Wars earlier in the year, because I remember the excitement of a Star Wars watch I received for Christmas, but I just don’t remember it.) Disney first optioned the story of an orphan boy and the dragon he befriends back in the ‘50s, but sat on the property for two decades.

The film contains the hallmarks of a classic – great songs, an Oscar-nominated score, plenty of talent in the cast. Unfortunately, it came near the tail end of the Ron Miller area, which was a low point in quality for the studio. I can’t help but believe that had it debuted at another time in company history, people might remember it more fondly today. Still, it’s worth checking out.

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The 10 Most Overrated Live-Action Disney Films

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Not long ago, I compiled my ranking of the ten most overrated and underrated animated films in the Disney canon. Now it’s time to look at Disney’s live-action output. Over the years, the studio has released an astonishing array of live action movies covering just about every topic and genre. While many of them are indisputable classics, a few of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten. Enjoy!

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10. The Rocketeer (1991)

I had such high hopes for The Rocketeer when it debuted right after I graduated high school. The previews looked amazing, and Disney hyped the film as an exciting period superhero film. I didn’t get a chance to see it until it came out on video, and it disappointed me.

The Rocketeer just isn’t an engaging film. I’ve only been able to make it through one viewing, and the times I’ve tried since, I can’t make it through the whole thing. (The presence of Jennifer Connelly, who I’m convinced is the most boring actress of all time, doesn’t help.)

The Rocketeer showed such promise, but it never delivered on that promise. That’s a shame, because, had it been a better movie, The Rocketeer could have been a classic.

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The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my picks for the most overrated destinations in the South, and this week I’m presenting the flip side of that list. Here are ten destinations that don’t always make the list of great places to visit down here in Dixie. Hopefully some of you will consider these places when you book your next vacation. Enjoy!

10. St. Petersburg, FL

On the north side of Tampa Bay, on a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, sits St. Petersburg. Like its sister city, Tampa, St. Pete boasts beautiful beaches, vibrant attractions, and nightlife. But deep down, St. Petersburg is a funky arts and architecture town masquerading as a mid-sized city.

The architecture of this city encapsulates much of the 20th century’s notable styles, yet nearly all the buildings look like they belong in a city by the water – quintessentially Floridian. The arts scene in St. Pete is strong – museums and bohemian arts communities are nestled all over the city, and one museum in particular holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in North America.

With an exciting city core and a beach rated number one in America, St. Petersburg has a lot to offer its visitors.

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The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Much of Cherokee, NC consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

Much of Cherokee, NC, consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

As a lifelong Southerner, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s plenty to love about this varied region I adore. But I’ll also admit that certain areas of the South are simply overrated. Here’s my list of the ten most overrated destinations in the South.

10. Cherokee, NC

Let me start this entry by admitting that I love Cherokee. Growing up, we went there a lot for camping trips and vacations, and my mom’s family did too a generation before me. There’s a lot to enjoy about Cherokee: the history – especially the Trail of Tears play Unto These Hills – and the breathtaking scenery. But beyond that, most of what Cherokee has to offer is kitschy tourism which has changed little since the mid-20th century.

What has created the hype that has made Cherokee overrated? Harrah’s, of course. Harrah’s promotes Cherokee as some sort of amazing resort destination, but that’s not what Cherokee is. If you’re looking for history, natural beauty, and tacky retro-tourism, Cherokee’s your place. If you want to gamble and party, go to the casino and nothing more, because you’ll come away disappointed.

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The 10 Funniest Episodes of Seinfeld

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Twenty-five years ago, a sitcom pilot titled The Seinfeld Chronicles debuted on NBC. A year later, the network gave the show, retitled Seinfeld, a try. Unlike what usually happens today, NBC nurtured the series and let it build a following. Today many critics and fans see Seinfeld as a high-water mark in television comedy, and in honor of its 25th anniversary, here are the ten funniest episodes.

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10. “The Puffy Shirt”

By its fifth season, Seinfeld was at a bit of a crossroad. The fourth season had raised the bar creatively (one of the show’s writers referred to it as “our Sgt. Pepper year”), and the show was more popular than ever. Could they top themselves? After an uneven debut, the season’s second outing, “The Puffy Shirt,” showed that the team had plenty of creativity left in them.

In this episode, Jerry politely agrees with Kramer’s “low-talking” fashion designer girlfriend, not hearing what she said. Next thing he knows, he’s stuck wearing one of her creations on the Today show – a ridiculous pirate-inspired puffy shirt.

Naturally, Jerry embarrasses himself on national television, and the design goes nowhere. But in between are some memorable moments – Jerry whining, “But I don’t want to be a pirate”; Bryant Gumbel’s incredulous reaction to Jerry’s shirt; and two homeless men in the final scene wearing the shirts that have been donated to charity. “The Puffy Shirt” proved that the series still had plenty of life in it.

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