Queen returned this year with their first album of all-new material since the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. PopMatters found the results pretty satisfying, slapping a 7 on the new record. But those hard-core Queen fans who rushed out to buy The Cosmos Rocks are going to have to pony up again for this deluxe vinyl set as they’ll be able to score the LP of the record, along with the CD and a DVD of a recent live show. Even better though, are the included vinyl editions of Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Day at the Races and the best Queen album of them all, A Night at the Opera. An essential addition to any Queen fan’s collection as well as an ideal gift for any classic rock vinylphile.
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Sick of the same old overproduced pabulum generated by Hollywood hacks? Want some real independent artistry for your motion picture money? Then why not give this unique monthly service a try. Gleaned from the company’s vast collection of unusual and outsider cinema, subscribers receive 12 films and 12 shorts over the course of a single year (lesser commitments are also available). With selections ranging from the critically acclaimed and well known to ones flying completely under the mainstream radar, it’s the perfect cure for Tinsel Town’s trashy commercialism.
I can think of several people right off the bat who would delight in Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright’s chatty, earthy, diet-be-damned cooking show, and they’re all middle-aged or older, plump, and love to sit at my table and eat my food and drink my wine and talk, talk, talk—rather like Paterson and Wright themselves. Sadly for my guests, I won’t pluck dinner from the sand at the sea shore nor behead a wriggling eel nor putter about the environs in a motorcycle and sidecar and feed them with whatever I’ve found in markets and fishstalls, farmstands and butchers counters that day. But I wouldn’t turn down such an offer from Paterson and Wright to take over my kitchen, no matter what questionable fare was served up, no matter the mess left behind. These ambassadors of culinary Britain are witty, charming, and fearless in their travels, cuisines, and conversations. For those of us who cannot always live so well so literally, we can at least invite these ladies into our homes for a lesson or two in, among other things, cooking.
Well, this came out of nowhere. Imagine that Little Red Riding Hood grew up, hung out with Momo Taro (the “peach boy” of Japanese children’s stories), got some big guns, and made a habit of mowing down waves and waves of zombies with those big guns. If you can get your mind around that, and it somehow sounds appealing, then you’re halfway to loving Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ. The thing here is that even once you get past the “OMGWTFBBQ I can’t believe they went there” quality of the title, it remains engrossing and entertaining. It’s a top-down shooter a lot like old-school efforts like Commando and Ikari Warriors, but your movement is restricted to a range akin to a Game and Watch effort and your shooting is all done with the stylus. Still, it doesn’t feel like a restriction so much as it does a limitation, something that points out that you are the only one to blame when Little Red’s brain gets eaten by a zombie. Despite the heroine, it’s certainly not for kids, but teens looking for something off the beaten path will probably get more than just a kick out of it.
If you’re one of those diehard anti-consumerists who usually spends this time of year blaming Coca Cola for all things Christmas, it might come as a surprise to see a book titled The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.
Did Charles Dickens invent Christmas? Kathryn Harrison in the New York Times doesn’t think so, even if she enjoys author Les Standiford’s revelations about the origins of Scrooge et al. A Christmas Carol one of those books that have become so idiomatic that most people have never read it yet quote it subconsciously. As with most oft-cited, seldom-read books, the reality is somewhat different to the perception.
Dickens is one of the most sentimentalised authors. Film and television adaptations of A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and the like have defanged his social commentary. His heroes have become caricatures of the “noble” Cockney poor in the public mind—in much the same way than Jane Austen has been reconfigured as highbrow Mills and Boon. A Christmas Carol, while obviously a more fantastical book than Dickens’ regular work, was still grounded in the social issues and concerns of the day. “Scrooge” may be an all-too-easy insult today, but the original character was a charged metaphor for a cruel and indifferent society—as well as disturbingly similar to many actual bosses.
It makes you wonder whether Dickens invented Christmas, or whether Christmas reinvented Dickens. Even if A Christmas Carol is a shamelessly populist book (as was a lot of Dickens’ work), it was written at a time when Christmas as a holiday was starting to be reshaped. It might have been commercially appealing, but it wasn’t commercially-driven in the way that, say, Four Holidays or Now That’s What I Call Christmas! are. It certainly had a more complicated message than the usual “Christmas is a time to be nice to people”. But our expectations of Christmas stories have shifted with time and we start to view Dickens and others as more of the same schmaltz.
Just as it’s tricky to imagine how Christmas was before Bing Crosby and Miracle on 34th St, it’s hard to think of A Christmas Carol without all the attendant baggage of the century-and-a-half since. Perhaps the only answer is to forget everything you thought you knew about Marley and the other ghosts and read the story anew.