The Perfect Dinner Party Soundtrack & James Kochalka Love

As my obsession with cooking deepens, so does my interest is cooking for other people to show off my newly acquired skills. My grand idea - a dinner party for some of my closest friends. Besides not having enough table space, chairs, etc., I can still spend hours daydreaming of seating arrangements, appetizers, cocktails and most importantly: the music selection. You want something entertaining but not overpowering, something subtle enough to both spark and complement the conversation. After a long thought process - I have come up with your Dinner Party Soundtrack, these bands are both great to just pop in by themselves, or make a special mix that you can hand out to your friends as favors! They work well both ways.

Away we go -
1 - CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH - (self titled) - They have a bit of ARCADE FIRE rock in them but maintain a slightly off but low-key vocal value that makes for some great background music. The newest album (Some Loud Thunder) is a bit louder then their self-titled debut, but could also work.

2 - AIR - Pocket Symphony - If CD's could fit in your pocket then this would be your "Pocket Symphony" no doubt. Both beautiful and eloquently ambient, some songs are instrumental while some of lulling vocals layered over their somber electronic sound. I can already say that this will be my soundtrack for the Fall, and its sure to soothe your dinner party guests almost unbeknownst to them.

3 -JUDY GODDARD - A Prayer and A Song - Don't be fooled by the title, this is not some gospel album. Judy's voice is beautiful and her songs are too. If you like that bluegrass "old-timey" sound then this is a extremely listenable CD from start to finish. I particularly enjoyed the Celtic(?) influences (pan flutes and Irish or Scottish melodies). While the entire CD may be a bit too "folky" for your frou-frou dinner party, mixed in with some of the previous artists is a great way to showcase Judy's serene vocals. You can purchase her album here: http://judygoddard.homestead.com/

4 - NOUVELLE VAGUE - (any and all) - This, to me, is the TANTAMOUNT Dinner Party Music. 80's covers done in a bossa nova style, with a sultry French girl on lead vocals. Watch your guests be entertained by the novelty whilst simultaneously singing along and sinking into a delightful relaxed state. My faves on the album have to be the 1st and last song respectively "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Friday Night Saturday Morning" (Note: this is not the last song on the reissue) - but don't discount the rest of the CD. From beginning to end, Nouvelle Vague is the ultimate music to make your dinner party "TEH AWESOME!"
JAMES KOCHALKA's American Elf Vol 2 - This was a 1 Year Anniversary present to my dearest boyfriend, but I kinda swiped it from him once he opened it up. He got mad, swiped it back, and I had to wait a whole 3 days to start reading it for myself. My first impression - such a smaller collection than the 1st one!!!! :cries: It is quite a few less years, only chronicling 2 years of Kochalka's life - for more info on his 1st volume please check out my previous story "The Beauty of American Elf" in this very blog! What's the difference besides that? The cartoons are now in color!!!! While my man Goddard felt that this might take away some of the story for him - I found myself even more entertained by the use of color portraying different people and feelings. This book is ripe with stories regarding James and Amy's new baby Eli - while Spandy (Kochalka's cat) may have been the foil of many strips in the 1st book - Eli is just a hilarious once he begins to speak. I must say I found the lack of Spandy a little sad. Kochalka's life is not something that I necessarily want or dream of having, but it is the little things that I find myself chuckling at and identifying with, whether it be tedium or the harshness of reality that solidifies him as my favorite cartoonist today. I am never disappointed with his work. Do yourself a favor and read American Elf then be sorrowful with me when you are out of strips to read. I should really just suck it up and subscribe to his site!!!
~Till Next Time Kittlings.



Comics...and More.

Issue #1 steeps the reader deep in the legend of the "Mice Templar" - a secret organization that protects the mice community from their common foes - and it's fall. The story takes place many moons after the disbandment of the Templar in the town of Cricket's Glen. The need for the Templar rises again and some brave mice are called to action to protect their town.

Michael Avon Oeming's style has changed so much yet stayed the same. Adopting the brushwork of watercolors as opposed to black inks, it is just about the best work of his career. Colorist Wil Quintana addition to the project is to portray some of the most interesting art of today's mainstream illustration. Then add an opening issue written by Glass that practically begs for a history so deep you can't see the bottom. And you have the makings of a damn good comic book.

I owe my favorite part to the color scheme's for the Rats' scenes; slightly dark blue dominates the beginning of the issue due to mice being nocturnal (but not their enemies?) but then with the rats comes fire and bloody brimstone! And excellent nuance that thrilled me.

This double-sized 1st issue was an excellent start to the series.

Johnny Repeat is both slick and convoluted as all hell. It's a tricky task to obtain both adjectives so easily, but that is the only way I can think to describe it. The 1st in an 8 issue arc, the inaugural issue is an introduction to the smartest little boy you'll ever meet (Mr. Repeat), and the major players in quite a few assassination rings. Quotes from the teachings of Mr. Repeat and from movies fly around at random - I'm not quite sure what it going on yet, but I know that I would like to know more.

The artwork lends itself to the confusion, as 6 artists help out in this prestige format comic book. Divided by chapter does make it easier to jump from artist to artist though. Paul Azaceta and Noel Tuazon are my personal favorites, but really there is no intolerable illustration in this book. James is able to give each artist enough script to work with.

I found this issue a tough undertaking for both writer and reader alike. The writer is looking to set up a huge storyline while the reader is looking to understand the beginnings of something that until now is unknown. The end result is a bit of controlled chaos. I know I want to read more, but I'm left scratching my head right now. I would use less movie quotes (even if they do end up getting self-referenced) and more direct storytelling for issue #2.

As Silent Devil slowly disassembles, or whatever it is doing right now, I look back at one of their original titles, THE LAST SIN OF MARK GRIMM. While I can't say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is brimming with potential from both McManus and Moreno, and it worth the read.

The story follows our hero Mark Grimm, through what can only be described as a noir-coated hell-town full of demons that even Cal McDonald (of Steve Niles' fame) would not wish to encounter as he searches for his best girl (Audrey) and her would-be captors. Borrowing initially from Greek mythology then spiralling more into the paranormal realm, Last Sin is a mystery that can be easily solved - if you look in the right places.

The mythology tends to be driven home a tad too much in the 1st issue, with things like license plates ("CHARON -1") and streets ("STYX AVE") that are then repeated as dialogue by the characters. I have always been a huge fan of Moreno's art, the talent he possesses should've garnered him a spot at one of the Big 2 for ages now, and I'm a proponent of his work on this comic as well. McManus does well with the internal dialogue and some of the slight moments of dark humor that sprinkle the book. The Final word - I WANT SOMETHING FUNNY from both of these blokes!!! I know they have it in them. Perhaps this is the time to team-up again for Lord Catula? =)

New TV shows!!!
While next week marks the finales for Rock of Love and Top Chef, 2 new shows have piqued my interest: Cycle 9 of America's Next Top Model and Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

Cycle 9 of ANTM began on a cruise ship which was a breath of fresh and salty sea air. A "bitch" has already been established with Ebony and stand-out story Heather who has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, which sometimes cause her to be awkward socially (and apparently a bit of a hunchback?). Let the back-stabbing and photos begin!

Ramsay's new show takes on kitchens around the country that are failing financially and uses his curse 'em out attitude to shape the restaurants up and back into the red. His 1st assignment was the Italian eatery "Peter's" in Balboa, NJ. While his freak-outs are a bit more restrained in other people's kitchens, the result is the same: dramatic and fun TV. To see the preview for next week's episode - a NYC restaurant with a roach problem - is an exercise in patience! Can't wait!

~Till Next Time Kittlings.



I was on vacation last week and it has been decided that my column will now move to once a week, EVERY THURSDAY.

My column will return NEXT Thursday, with a ton of comic book reviews, including Mice Templar, Johnny Repeat, The Last Sin of Mark Grimm AND TV and Movie blurbs like Rock of Love and Sweeney Todd.

Sorry for the delay and lack of columns lately kittlings, but rest assured I will be back next week, better than ever.

Till Next Time Kittlings~