Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.
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.
9. McLintock! (1963)
The Duke’s version of The Taming of the Shrew (co-starring his sparring partner from The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara) is one of his broadest comedies, an easygoing romp that showed Wayne being more overtly political in the role of a cattle king with family troubles. As a joke on Hubert Humphrey, the governor of the state for whom McLintock has nothing but contempt is named “Cuthbert H. Humphrey.”
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.
I’m so sorry for your troubles this week. I hope this list can help. Here’s some streaming sunshine with potential to provoke more positive moods via a variety of genres.
20. New Girl
I was very shocked at just how effective, funny and likable this sitcom was. Starring Zooey Deschanel as a perky, klutzy young woman moving in with three guys, the show has a sense of lightness and Deschanel is immensely sympathetic and entertaining. I don’t really watch sitcoms these days, but New Girl is done so well and is so consistently funny episode-to-episode that it’s worth checking out.
Maybe you’ve never considered spending your hard-earned vacation time in Cleveland. It’s certainly understandable because many people only know the city as the “Mistake by the Lake” or the home of the burning Cuyahoga River. But things have changed on the North Coast, and you might be surprised at all the cultural attractions the city on the shores of Lake Erie has to offer — great food, museums, theater, and more. The RTA buses run between most Cleveland locations and Uber just announced that they’re starting service in Cleveland, which will make getting around even easier.
Here are the Top 10 Things to Do in Cleveland:
10. Little Italy
Historic Little Italy is on Cleveland’s East Side, located on “Murray Hill” not far from Case Western Reserve University. It features charming restaurants and bakeries, art galleries, and frequent festivals and art shows. Our favorite restaurant there is Trattoria on the Hill. If you go, try the Shrimp & Gnocchi Trattoria, which features their gnocchi served in Trattoria’s homemade cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions, and a hint of cayenne pepper. If you’re not in the mood for pasta, try the Spinach & Prosciutto Pizza with black olives, white garlic sauce, and feta cheese.
For dessert, stroll down Mayfield Road to Presti’s Bakery for a cannoli or a delicious gelato.
The Feast of the Assumption is the biggest event of the year in Little Italy. Held in August to commemorate Mary being taken to heaven, the festival is an unusual combination of Catholic religious ceremonies, carnival rides, fireworks, lots of incredible Italian food, and heavy, heavy drinking.
10. The Romulans
What exactly do the Romulans have that justifies their defining quality, their arrogance? They’re among the most boring species in all of Trek, the kind of evil twin to the Vulcans, known for their deceitful and warlike nature.
Their only redeeming feature seems to be how cool and genuinely intimidating their warbird ships are:
The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…
One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.
This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.
So I finished reading Cowboys and Indies and I still don’t understand how the recording industry works.
Some guy gets 50 percent of another guy’s 20 percent. At least three famous, powerful music biz “suits” were literally tone deaf. And don’t even get me started on all the different varieties of “rights.”
It was like reading a Swahili textbook on algebra.
What I did learn was that there’s no mystery as to why some talented performers wallow in obscurity while their inferiors succeed. Don’t believe people who tell you they’ve cracked the “hit record formula.”
The real reason? “Independent promoters,” a.k.a, payola, plays a big part.
So that’s depressing.
What follows are my picks for ten songs that should have been bigger than they were:
If you’d asked the director of any of these Top 10 Film Noir Classics just how he’d personally define “film noir” he’d most likely have responded “film wha?” But way before these films were noticed and dissected by “arty” types and given a French name (“Film Noir” French for “black film”), we the people loved them. These were dark and shadowy Saturday afternoon movies. Films filled with hard boiled cops, tough-talking private eyes, cruel and evil “bad guys” and dangerous women – oh yes, especially dangerous women. And that’s exactly what we loved about them.
Studios turned them out by the score – many pure dreck – largely just to fill theater seats on dreary afternoons. Back then they were called “melodramas,” “mysteries” or even just plain old “B movies.” But among the many there were more than a few that proved to be much more than “cheap thrillers,” films that have stood the test of time. Truly great films filled with memorable characters, scripts that bordered on brilliant, and dark, visually compelling, stories one can watch over and over again even after one knows how the underlying mystery has been solved.
So, call them whatever you wish. Here’s our list of the Top 10 Film Noir Classics…
10. The Big Sleep (1946)
How could one not include a film that has one of the most cynical private eyes ever to stand before a camera? We’re talking about Humphrey Bogart as Phillip Marlowe. Add to this a femme fatale so sultry (actress Lauren Bacall playing playgirl Vivian Rutledge) that during the film’s shooting she won over, not only that hardened detective’s heart, but actor Humphrey Bogart’s as well.
Thoroughly entertaining, witty, and with several dark mysteries waiting to be revealed, The Big Sleep has a place on any list of essential film noir.
After my post a few weeks ago debunking myths about the South, the idea came to me to look into different inventors from Dixie.
I found that, as with many regions of the country, most Southern inventors came up with products we don’t use anymore or don’t really think about. But some really fascinating inventions and innovations originated in the minds of Southern men and women.
From agricultural advances to technological breakthroughs to revolutionary beverages, the South can claim quite a few innovations. Here are fourteen of them…
17. The ArcLight movie theater at the Galleria.
Where: 15301 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA
Our theater attendance tended to drop the last few years as my wife’s graduate school workload increased, but when we really wanted to see something projected well and make a nice date of a movie this was our preferred indulgence.
10. Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s reflection on his years as a teen Rolling Stone correspondent has all the warmth, directness and immediacy of a candid first novel — but, critically, Crowe didn’t make it until many years later, giving the film an additional layer of bittersweet nostalgia and emotional depth. The film wriggles with youth and echoes with maturity at the same time.
11. Wonder Woman
Her fresh, All-American face premiered on comic book stands during World War II, making her the greatest enemy of the Axis powers. Daughters of original readers would go on to be inspired by Lynda Carter’s televisual portrayal of the superheroine in the 1970s. The Wonder Woman arsenal includes a dual-function tiara with bracelets to match and the awesome Lasso of Truth. Before there was Lara Croft or a chick named Buffy, Wonder Woman proved that strength could be sexy and gave Captain America a run for his patriotism with her flag-bearing style.
Freedom in the United States of America doesn’t just mean expressing your freedom of speech or your right to petition the government. Sometimes, it’s about the freedom to fail … and fail we do … especially, it seems, when beer and explosives are involved.
[Warning: Language advisory]
10) Brazilian Rocket Science
I don’t know any Portuguese curse words, but I’d venture a guess that this video from São Paulo contains some choice epithets. Never, ever, ever hold the fireworks in your hand. Just don’t.
13. Bess Myerson
Recognizing a woman who appears to have parlayed her Miss America recognition into a minor-league acting gig may not seem logical, until you realize that Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, paved an uphill path for diversity in the pageant circuit. She was told by one Miss America exec that she ought to change her name to something “more gentile” and refused. Pageant sponsors refused to hire her as a spokeswoman and certain sites with racial restrictions refused to have her visit as Miss America. This was of no consequence to Miss Myerson, who was the first Miss America to win an academic scholarship. The racism she confronted was motivation for a lifetime’s work with organizations like the ADL, NAACP, and Urban League. She would go on to co-found The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and make boundless contributions to the city’s art community. Along with becoming a television personality, Myerson received several presidential appointments in the 1960s and ’70s and would receive two honorary doctorates.
[WARNING: Graphic videos below!! Nature isn't always pretty.]
Public service announcement: If you’re considering an exotic pet, please do your research. There are millions of pets in rescues because of impulse purchases by owners who had no idea what they were getting into. If you’re still set on getting an exotic pet after you’ve done your research, consider adopting one from a rescue organization.
The miracle of birth — it’s awe-inspiring and at the same time terribly gruesome. Anyone who has ever witnessed a live birth must at some point wonder how any thinking creature can choose to go through such an ordeal. Fortunately, our animal friends, including our beloved pets, spend exactly no time contemplating whether childbearing is worth the time and effort. As much as we’d like to imagine a more cuddly, loving narrative, they procreate because they must, not because they desire to create a beautiful family. Those same powerful instincts allow them to (mostly) give birth without human intervention. However, as evidenced by most of these home videos of pets giving births, the humans can almost never resist the urge to lend a hand. Nevertheless, despite their midwifery duties, many individuals have managed to capture some excellent footage of their pets giving birth.
Here are the 10 Most Amazing Pet Home Birth Videos:
10. The Lion King (1994).
The importance of The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) in reviving Broadway musical-style animation shouldn’t be underestimated, and Pixar’s entry into filmmaking with Toy Story (1995) was revolutionary, but it’s the African saga based on Hamlet that gave animated storytelling a depth, seriousness and resonance it hadn’t had since Pinocchio. Now that we’re used to seeing one or two great animated films a year, it’s hard to remember how special it was for a movie to carry so much appeal to both adults and kids.
For the next month or so, Sirius-XM radio is featuring a “Billy Joel channel.” It’s 24-hours a day of the Piano Man. Although, to be fair, the channel only plays “Piano Man” once an hour or so. Oh, there it is now!
Anyway, Billy’s been recording music since the 1960s, so there’s plenty of great stuff to listen to. But there are, unquestionably, some stinkers mixed in with those show-stoppers.
Since it’s more fun to focus on the negative, let’s list the 10 worst Billy Joel songs:
10) “Ballad of Billy the Kid”
It’s bad history. Billy the Kid was born in New York city, not Wheeling, West Virginia. And it’s bad form for Billy Joel to compare himself to a notorious outlaw. And even if Joel really did ride out of Long Island carrying “a six-pack in his hand,” wasn’t he concerned about open container laws?
For over 90 years, the Disney Studios has created some of the most memorable and enduring animated films of all time. But even a fanboy like me can admit that not everything Disney has released has been perfect. As much as Disney markets and hypes every animated feature as a classic, many of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten.
My ground rules were pretty simple: I didn’t include Pixar’s output because they haven’t always been directly part of the Disney family. I also didn’t include the direct-to-video “cheapquels” that Michael Eisner made so famous, because they’re in a lower class all their own, and I left out the package features of the 1940s. Enjoy!
10. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Once in a while, Disney tries to throw a bone to boys to make up for the prominence of the princesses in animated films. While the idea is worthwhile and the efforts are valiant, once in a while the more male-oriented movies fall short. 2007’s Meet the Robinsons is one of the latter.
Meet the Robinsons had a lot of potential – a twisty, time travel story with a sweet adoption plot coupled with clever, stylized animation. Instead, Meet the Robinsons is dizzying, noisy, and just falls short. Part of the cartoon’s problem may stem from the fact that John Lasseter, newly taking over as head of animation after Disney acquired Pixar, suggested a retooling.
Whatever the reason, Meet the Robinsons just didn’t make the impact that it could have.
Are you a true child of the 1970s? See how many of these essential shoes you owned to find out!
10. Earth Shoes
Going from worst to first, I’m almost reluctant to name Earth Shoes to a list of “essential” anything because they were so completely unfortunate looking. The “negative heel technology” shoes represented one of those terrible moments when fashion tried to merge with health benefits. Anne Kalsø, a native of Denmark, invented the shoes in the 1950s. According to the Earth Shoes website:
Kalsø ‘s passion for yoga led her to study in Switzerland and eventually in Santos, Brazil. It was there, in 1957, that she observed the excellent posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. She observed that the footprints laid were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with the thoughtful Kalsø. It echoed a formative yoga pose she knew well – Tadasana (the ‘Mountain’ pose). posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.As she herself emulated the pose of the native Brazilians, she noticed how her own posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.
Ten years later, Earth Shoes were born in Copenhagen. The company claimed that many people reported that the shoes eased chronic foot and body problems. It wasn’t until April 1st, 1970 — coinciding with the first Earth Day — that the first ”Kalsø Earth Shoes” store opened in the United States. The shoes became wildly popular, even appearing on the Tonight Show and in TIME magazine. They’re still available, by the way, in case you’re feeling nostalgic or feel the need to have your breathing passages opened.
10. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
A roaring, timeless Kipling adventure directed by John Huston and starring the incomparable duo of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, the film is simultaneously a swashbuckling imperialist adventure and a cautionary tale about venturing into dimly understood lands to take advantage of easy pickings there. The scene in which the two old soldiers laugh their way out of doom — their voices cause an avalanche that seals an unpassable chasm — is a mini-tutorial on the payoff from looking at the bright side.
The movies have given us some of the most hateful, horrible paternal role models imaginable. Here are 10 films well worth watching—but not on Father’s Day.
The evil protagonist in a series of Sax Rohmer novels is perhaps fiction’s greatest bad dad that no one remembers. The East’s arch evildoer and his despicable daughter appeared in a number of film adaptations over the years. This 1931 film is easily one of the best, as the deadly pair races against British intelligence in the quest for the source of ultimate power: the mask and sword of Genghis Khan. Come on! What kind of respectable father teaches his daughter that conquering the world is cool? At the time, the film proved controversial. The Chinese government complained the film conveyed a hostile depiction of Asians. They had a point. During the film, Fu Manchu commands: “Kill the white man and take his women!”
This time of year, everybody comes out with their list of the best songs of summer, and it seems like most every list boasts the same songs every year. But there’s nothing like discovering new music, especially this time of year. So, here’s your alternative summer playlist.
A quick note: not all of the songs specifically mention summer or take place in summer, but they have a summertime sound or feel. Here we go…
10. Zac Brown Band, “Uncaged”
With songs like “Toes,” “Jump Right In,” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” in their repertoire, Zac Brown Band just about has the market cornered on summer songs. As latter-day disciples of Jimmy Buffett, they’re the perfect band to kick off our countdown.
The title cut from their most recent full-length record, “Uncaged” extols the virtue of just getting outside and experiencing what the great outdoors has to offer. Who doesn’t want to escape the cages of the daily grind and take part in the excitement of nature? After all, isn’t that what summer is really about?