Making dinner making you go to pot? Andrea Chesman serves up food for thought . . . in one dish!

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do . . .

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Photo and recipe from book, permission of Storey Publishing

Three Dog Night got it all wrong . . . at least when it comes to the kitchen. In 101 One-Dish Dinners: Hearty Recipes for the Dutch Oven, Skillet & Casserole Pan (Storey Publishing, $16.95), best-selling cookbook author Andrea Chesman has arrived to save those cooks who are ready go to pot. She comes to the rescue with no-fuss recipes that solve the dinner dilemma deliciously and nutritiously by using just one dish. One, as in a more appropriate lyric: One singular sensation . . . 4fdc6c68be46242ce3fa33a185d04941-600x0-c-default

In 101 One-Dish Dinners, Chesman shows off the versatility of Dutch ovens, skillets and casserole pans. Classic baked dishes like ham and potato gratin, chicken pot pie and vegetable lasagne go head-to-head with diverse stovetop suppers like jambalaya, seafood paella and pad Thai. For those looking for something a little lighter but still filling, there are plenty of meal-in-a-bowl salads and timeless soups. A recipe for success: The ability to serve up a nourishing meal with little fuss and fewer dishes!

Seconds anyone?

Olivia-Newton John teams with two friends to create a CD that helps healing the pain of loss. Brava!

As gifted author Anne Lamott has said: “You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Loss causes intense feeling of being lost. The pain seems endless. The darkness seems to shroud the heart. Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky have teamed  to lend vocal and songwriting talents to create Liv On, (UMe), a collaborative, newly recorded 11-song collection intended for those who wish to transcend loss while walking a journey toward new-found meaning and hope.  This powerful new album, now available through all digital partners, emerges on CD on October 14.71rscbpkf1l-_sl1200_

This inspiring new project grew out of the trio’s personal experiences with loss and illness, which they all survived to Liv On and celebrate each day with a depth of gratitude. This labor of love stemmed from the trio sharing their stories together and expressing their deepest feelings from the most difficult to the most celebratory. It’s the hope that this music can uplift hearts burdened by grief while at the same time bring comfort to the listener.

“As a group, it’s our intention with this album to create songs with a message of compassion and hope,” says Newton-John. “They are for anyone facing a time of challenge in their life, whether it is grieving a loss—or on the journey to health and recovery.”

Liv On–means “to thrive, to have hope and to remember.”  The message is clear in the lyrics of the album’s title song:

Live on, Live on
Brighter skies will come again
Cry the tears you cry
And then live on, live on
Love is all we leave when we are gone . . .
Live on

Loss and grief occur for many reasons—whether it’s losing a loved one, a relationship, one’s health, a pet or a job. It’s important to remember that each person’s grief is as individual as his or her DNA—and there truly is no timeline for healing from loss.

With the fast-paced society we live in, we are often forced to “get over things.” However, for every individual, grief has its own clock.  Olivia, Beth and Amy called upon their personal experiences in creating this collection of songs which will aid, uplift and comfort those working their way through the maze of grief and loss. While taking into consideration the many causes of grief, they hope to provide the unique ability for those in need of support to heal through this music.

With songs such as “Don’t Know What To Say,” “My Heart Goes Out to You,” “Immortality” and “Stone In My Pocket,” the lyrics express different phases of the delicate recovery process while validating the experience so the listener can heal once again and soar. In addition, each artist revisits songs that have brought love and light to many of their fans. The album includes new interpretations of “Grace and Gratitude” (Newton-John), “Sand and Water” (Nielsen Chapman) and “I Will Take Care of You” (Sky).

Why is this CD important? It’s estimated that approximately 76 million Americans and tens of millions more globally are set to enter into the end of life care continuum either as patients or caregivers.  At no time in our country’s history have we seen such an unprecedented need for bereavement care.

Liv On harnesses the unique talents of these three internationally-recognized artists – and showcases the transforming power of music—to heal and shed light on the fact that it’s OK to grieve—and that the process is different for everyone. The message of Liv On is clear and affirming: the reason we grieve is because we love, and therein lies the strength for healing.

“We are honored to partner with the artists and mission of this project by contributing funds for creating a unique grief outreach and educational initiative to coordinate with this inspiring music,” says Paul VerHoeve, President of the Gentiva Hospice Foundation.

Directing the outreach and educational initiative is Dianne Gray of Hospice and Healthcare Communications. Gray explains, “It’s how we grieve that asks so much of us.  We have choices to make as we venture forth. ‘Liv On,’ the music and the resources, will help people do just that—live on!”

 

A new TV special guaranteed to build the cult: “Building Star Trek”

When Star Trek debuted on September 8, 1966, the world was introduced to a number of alien concepts: Think hand-held communication devices, desktop computers, space shuttles, touch screens. Star Trek’s visionary creator Gene Roddenberry conceived of a world so unique that the series would go on to have a profound legacy in television history.screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-7-22-21-pm-580x460

Smithsonian Channel offers a behind-the-scenes look with Building Star Trek, an original special coming to DVD by PBS Distribution on November 1. The show follows the conservation team from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, led by Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, as they attempt to restore and conserve the original 11-foot, 250-pound model of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the original series. The program also tracks the progress of Brooks Peck, the charismatic curator of Seattle’s EMP Museum, as he attempts to rebuild a model of the original U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge by using authentic set pieces and props.

The program also profiles a new generation of engineers and scientists who are making Star Trek’s visionary technology real, pushing the boundaries of physics with inventions first conceived on the iconic series: Warp drives, medical tricorders, cloaking devices and tractor beams. Proving that one TV show has truly gone where no man has gone before, the program showcases clips from the original series that highlight each scientific innovation as well as recent technologies inspired by the series, such as flip phones and touch screens.

Hmmm, as Kirk once wondered: “Is there anyone on this ship, who even remotely, looks like Satan?”

Seventy years later, more proof why, still, “It’s a Wonderful Life”

James Stewart always thought it was a wonderful life. So did Donna Reed. And movie mavens worldwide. But the classic Yuletide film It’s a Wonderful Life almost didn’t make it onto the big screen and into our hearts.

The film is based on The Greatest Gift, a 1939 short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern.  He spent years trying to sell his story to publishers. No success, so in 1943, Stern self-published his work and sent it to 200 friends as a 21-page Christmas card. RKO Pictures wound up getting a hold of the “card” and bought the rights to the story. They had Cary Grant in mind to play suicidal do-gooder George Bailey.9511755_1

Time passed, and in 1945 Frank Capra was came on board and cast James Stewart as the star. Actresses such as Jean Arthur, Ann Dvorak , Olivia de Havilland and Ginger Rogers (who called the character “too bland” ) refused the co-starring role as George’s wife Mary. Donna Reed nabbed the role, and from here to eternity, is noted for her terrific performance.

When It’s a Wonderful Life opened in theaters in December 1946, the film received generally mixed reviews; it did, however, earn five Oscar nominations but won none. Gulp! it was somewhat of a box-office flop, failing to recoup its $3.7 million cost (it made $3.3 million during its initial run).its-a-wonderful-life-foto

No wonder George was suicidal! In the years following its release, It’s a Wonderful Life fell  into obscurity only to re-emerge during the ’70s and ’80s when it began appearing on television during the holiday season. In 1990, the nearly 45-year-old film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.

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Lionel Barrymore in a Sydney Greenstreet mode?

And who ever thought the baileys might think of a red Christ,as? In It’s a Wonderful Life received an official mark of disapproval from the FBI, which pegged the poignant film as Communist propaganda thanks to its populist themes and, more specifically, unflattering portrayal of big-city bankers.

Reads a section of a 1947 FBI memo titled “Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry”:

With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”

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Why do we present such background? On October 11, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the 70th anniversary of one of the most beloved films of all time on Blu-ray and DVD. This 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition includes a beautifully colorized version of the film and the original black-and-white movie, as well as The Making of It’s A Wonderful Life, a documentary featurette hosted by Tom Bosley and the original trailer.  Plus, both the Blu-ray and DVD set include collectible, limited-edition art cards featuring images of original ads and lobby cards.

A Thanksgiving treat: Stuff yourself on the new take of “Anne of Green Gables”

Too many TV stations air too many turkeys on Thanksgiving. Never PBS. After your day of thanks, give your local public television thanks for airing L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

This is the classic Lucy Maud Montgomery story that tells the tale of Anne Shirley, a precocious young girl taken from an orphanage and placed in the care of the uptight Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew. The conservative Marilla has a profound effect on the adventurous Anne and creates a journey of learning and personal engagement that has resonated with generations since L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908. The book remains an iconic work of Canadian literature and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 20 languages.

Directed by John Kent Harrison and based on the original script by Susan Coyne, this adaptation, filmed in Canada, stars critically acclaimed Martin Sheen, who portrays Matthew Cuthbert, one half of the brother-sister couple who care for Anne Shirley.

Some people Anne, and not Annie, is the most famous in the world. Whatever. Ella Ballentine stars as Anne in the two-hour, made-for-TV movie. “My mom read Anne of Green Gables to me when I was younger,” Ella recalls. “And every now and then the cartoon came on TV, so I saw little bits of that. Then I did an episode of Reign on the CW, and Megan Follows is on that. I didn’t have a scene with her, but my mom was telling me, ‘Oh, you know, she played Anne of Green Gables before.’ And I thought, ‘How cool is it to be Anne of Green Gables?’ So then when there was the audition for this, I got really excited.1297803878688_original

Is there anything specific in today’s world that she would miss if she could go back in time to the late 1800s, when Anne of Green Gables is set?

Without an eye on an iPhone: “Modern hospitals,” she says.

Maybe she knows that we will remind you the PBS film is just that the doctor ordered? Can’t wait? PBS Distribution offers it on DVD on November 8.

 

In a feline funk? AC the Cat is back and in a purr-fect picture book

Sometimes it pays to be in a funk. We let the cat out of the bag: While working at a local Milwaukee paper store, Kate Funk decided to make a birthday card for her friend featuring her sourpuss-face rescue cat, AC, wearing a tiny party hat next to a paper birthday cake and simple backdrop made of construction paper.  Remarkably, AC didn’t mind wearing his party hat; in fact, he seemed to enjoy it.51ebme3gtql

The birthday card turned into a series of cards, a calendar and Funk’s hilarious book of photos, The Best Cat Book Ever: Super Amazing, 100% Awesome.  Now, AC returns in The Best Cat Book Ever: Part II (St. Martin’s Griffin, $12.99) crammed with scores of more funny, costumed cat photos that feline fans everywhere will love. Think of the feline feat as a purr-fect rip-off of Wegman and his wondrous Weimaraners.8111khw6ll

Funk has come up with some even more hilarious, increasingly ridiculous costumes for him to model, from the “Yes We Can!” lady to Max from Where the Wild Things Are to Back to the Future’s Marty McFly.  Kate also goes much deeper into hipsterdom and dresses AC as a whole host of Wes Anderson characters, as well as all twelve zodiac symbols.  Each photograph in the book has been carefully constructed by Kate, including the backdrops, props and costumes.  Unlike most cats, AC loves posing for the camera, especially if treats are involved.

We end with a quote from AC: “Dogs drool, cats rule”!

 

Springsteen’s autobiography is a bestselling boss . . . it’s sent people racing in the streets

I’ve never been a Bruce Springsteen fan. It hasn’t to do with him, it has to do with my lack of interested in rock music. Give me show tunes, film soundtracks, easy listening, vintage pop and, of course, anything by the world’s greatest entertainer, the Boss Bassey.

Since Springsteen has written his autobiography,  he seems hotter than ever. His publisher, Simon & Schuster, didn’t even have to issue an official press release . . . when word got out, his fans simple pre-ordered or bought tickets to his selected appearances in which he appeared and attendees received a pre-signed book. (We hope this means he really did sign them. We’ve know Shore Fire, his PR firm, too long to think otherwise.)  Born to Run was released internationally on September 27.

We understand he draws large crowds, very much the way Dame Shirley or Babs draws them. Someone counted that fans (2,000) packing the Barnes & Noble near Highway 9 in Freehold, N.J., on the book’s release day. He greeted more than 1,000 fans at N.Y.’s Union Square Barnes & Noble. Tickets for Springsteen’s meet-and-greet at the Philadelphia Free Library sold out in nine minutes. In Los Angeles, fans began lining up outside The Grove shopping center three days early. Ticket demand for his appearance at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, crashed the store’s website. Such mass appeal is to end: Springsteen wraps his U.S. series of appearances with a stop at The Harvard Coop in Boston on Monday, October 10.

The book is so hot it saddles the top spot on various bestselling lists and various editions (hardcover, ebook and audio editions) have been unleashed in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and India; rights have already been sold to publishers in nine countries.  Our fave review is from the Irish Times, who coos that the book is “darkness on the edge of genius … Bruce Springsteen is one of the great short story writers. At his wildest he’s Damon Runyon. At his best he’s Raymond Carver.”

According to Bruce, he has been privately writing the autobiography over the past seven years. He began work in 2009, after performing with the E Street Band at the Super Bowl’s halftime show.

In Born To Run, Mr. Springsteen describes growing up in Freehold, New Jersey amid the “poetry, danger, and darkness” that fueled his imagination. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.btr_331_500_s

“Writing about yourself is a funny business,” Springsteen notes in his book. “But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.”

“This is the book we’ve been hoping for,” adds Jonathan Karp, publisher of Simon & Schuster, who paid BS oodles of six-figure cash. “Readers will see their own lives in Bruce Springsteen’s extraordinary story, just as we recognize ourselves in his songs.”

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor and originality found in his songs.

He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: Seeing Elvis’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

But the book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. Like many of his songs, Springsteen’s autobiography is written with the lyricism of a singular songwriter and the wisdom of a man who has thought deeply about his experiences.

We have one question: Why no mention of Dame Shirley?

Travis Gutiérrez Senger’s “Desert Cathedral” is so powerful you can feel the power of the film from beginning to end

Once in a while a film comes along that blows your head off. Witness Desert Cathedral. Ostensibly, the film concerns a dubiously successful realtor who, in searching for something better for his family, runs straight into the kind of midlife crisis that’s unimaginably painful.  And it is less of his financial failure and more of his tragic imagination and sense of responsibility that sends him spinning off to the climax.

Imagine Dostoyevsky’s Notes for the Underground updated to the ’90s. Peter Collins is backed to a wall from which he sees no escape.  He has a loving wife, Anna and a beautiful daughter, but has seemingly made a series of perfectly legal, but possibly financially ruinous, actions. Such is basically the action of the film, illustrated by Peter and Anna, and Duran Palouse, the private investigator she hires to find her husband who mysteriously disappears into the Southwest.desertcathedral_comingsoon2

As the film progresses, the audience learn more and more about each character and our sympathy grows for them.  The incredibly exciting aspect of this film is the narrative structure. Cheating only slightly here and there, the story is told through the found footage of the hero’s VHS camera, sort of a visual suicide note.  However, this footage is interspersed with home movies Peter and his family have taken throughout the years, so the audience is able to see the sort of life, the failure of an American Dream. that the hero is leaving for the romanticism of the West.

The impact is pretty extraordinary. Understanding and sympathy develops for Peter and Anna, while the remaining information is obtained by the observation of Duran, a bit sleazy at first, yet who grows in the audience’s appreciation as the film progresses.

This is the first major release of Travis Gutiérrez Senger, an author, director and artist to watch.  Handling original narrative in a film has got to be difficult, but Senger’s direction has a style and such a unique manner of handling the now near clichéd “found footage” technique is quite wonderful.  The three major performers, Lee Tergesen, Chaske Spencer and Petra Wright are all spot on in their performances, and you can feel the power of the film from beginning to end. Based on true events, Desert Cathedral won the Golden Bee, the festival’s top prize, at the Manchester International Film Festival; the festival awarded the film for its bold and unique storytelling. No surprise. Isn’t it great to have a film to which you have to bring your brain?

Ann Patchett returns after five years . . . and what a doozy “Commonwelath” is

It’s taken five years, but the wait was worth it. Commonwealth (Harper, $27.99), the first novel in 1825 days from New York Times bestselling author Ann Patchett, is a wallop of a book. It tells the emotionally intricate, enveloping story of two families torn apart by divorce and reassembled into one imperfect union by remarriage.

Unfolding through shifts in time and point-of-view, the masterful narrative bears the hallmarks that have graced the best work of this gifted storyteller, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and Orange Prize: brilliantly-drawn, flawed character we feel we know; a surprising plot that nonetheless resonates with the familiarity of our own lives; and an intrinsic feel for the humor that sustains us through the inevitable disappointments and heartbreak we encounter.

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Ann and a novel idea: Spend time in Nashville’s in Parnassus bookstore

It is chance that brings the Cousins and the Keatings together, and chance that will tear them apart. Looking for a way to spend a Sunday afternoon and escape the tedious demands of a household full of preschool-aged kids, deputy DA Bert Cousins crashes the christening party for the new baby daughter of Fix Keating, a cop he barely knows. Bert comes bearing a large bottle of gin, which lubricates the previously-dry party, and leads to the fateful moment where he kisses Keating’s beautiful wife, Beverly. That brief encounter sets the dissolution of both marriages in motion.

We promise (and our dear readers know we hold true to our promises) not disclose too much . . . just enough to snatch up a copy of the tome that the Chicago Sun-Times describes as “Patchett is a virtuoso storyteller,with an ability to create characters we can innately understand.”

Bert and Beverly, with her two daughters, Caroline and Franny, move to Virginia, while Bert’s four children—Cal, Holly, Jeanette and Albie—stay in California with their mother. But every summer, the four Cousins kids fly to the East Coast to become temporarily part of a blended family. The six siblings forge bonds, not so much out of any real affection, but for their shared antagonism toward their parents. An act of daring, performed without Bert and Beverly’s knowledge, seals the children’s connection. When one of them dies under tragic circumstances, the others unite in their sworn secrecy about what has really occurred.

Years later, with the now-grown children living disparate lives, another event closes the distance they have placed between themselves and the past. Franny has told her lover, a renowned novelist, about the family story, and he has used it as the basis for a runaway bestseller. The unintentional result of Franny’s revelation forces the Cousins and the Keatings to close long-abandoned ranks and come to terms with the full measure of their shared story.commonwealth

And, with adept scrutiny, but a light touch, Patchett brings every character in Commonwealth to luminous life. As they struggle to overcome their own mistakes, and all that has been imposed on them by the mistakes of others, each seeks a mooring in a world that offers little stability. This tour de force novel captures what family means as it explores the ways we survive being part of one.

Pittsburgh Frick kicks up its heels, readying for an underwear exhibition. It’s the naked truth!

Those who kicked their heels with joy after catching The Frick Pittsburgh summer exhibition, “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe”, had lots of soul. The exhibit, the first in a series of fashion-focused exhibitions planned by The Frick, was a kick-ass success: More than 24,000 people walked and/or leaped their way through the show’s 12-week run. Killer Heels was such a killer that it attracted more visitors than any other exhibition presented by the Frick in the past decade.

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Brands such as Agent Provocateur have changed the face (and bodies) of modern lingerie

The Frick leveraged the popularity of the exhibition to benefit women in need by partnering with the Pittsburgh chapter of Dress for Success, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. No heels were seen: More than 150 pairs of gently worn women’s shoes were donated by Frick visitors during a shoe drive held at The Frick Art Museum on August 13. The donated shoes will allow women to enter an interview, job training program or a new job with confidence.

The Frick is currently preparing for the next installment in its series of fashion exhibitions. “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear”, a traveling exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, will dress up the Frick from October 21, 2017 through January 14, 2018. The Frick is the exclusive North American venue for this show, which takes a serious look at an alluring subject- the fascinating world of underwear design from the 18th century to the present day. Undressed illustrates how undergarments reflect society’s changing ideas about the body, morality and sex, and the intimate relationship between underwear and fashion and its role in molding the body to an always changing fashionable ideal.

Coos Frick Director Robin Nicholson:  “Regarding the popularity of fashion-related museum programming, the Frick is pleased to have found its niche in the Pittsburgh museum community as a presenter of world-class fashion-focused exhibitions. Fashion’s dramatic rise in popularity and influence in recent years is undeniable-and the resounding success of our presentation of Killer Heels is encouraging evidence that regional audiences have a taste for this subject matter. We look forward to continuing our efforts to appeal to contemporary interests while educating audiences about the Frick’s own collection, which includes a significant body of fashionable textiles and accessories.”

Underwear promises to be quite the draw(er). In the spring of 2016, the museum was awarded a $1 million grant by the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support the presentation of a series of fashion-focused exhibitions over a three-year period. No word if BVDs were part of the deal.

Learn more about the Frick Pittsburgh by visiting TheFrickPittsburgh.org.

Petrucelli Picks the best in books, music and film . . . and then some