Sunday, December 30, 2012

Once Upon a Time Back Next Week

Once Upon a Time comes back from winter break tomorrow on Sunday, January 6th and there is so much to discuss.

The last episode established Cora (Barbara Hershey) as the Queen of Hearts further confirming that Emma is Alice in Wonderland.

Things you simply must know:

- Sleeping Beauty's heart was taken and restored (that's gotta cause some wear and tear)

- No one can take Emma's heart or Cora's.
- Regina wanted Cora dead in fairytale land because she loved her and love is weakness. Cora liked it       and is coming to Storybrook to "help" her.
- Emma and Mary Margaret's returned to Storybrook (with Regina's help).
- Regina is trying to be a better mother and turn good.
- David/Charming's rescue from the fire caves.
- Hook and Cora setting sail for modern day Maine on his pirate ship. That's some pretty good magic.(There's a full episode recap on the ABC site and a full episode here.)

I don't think Cora's return is going to make it easy for Regina to be good, especially when she was rewarded for her goodness by being left out of the celebratory dinner at Granny's.

It was a great episode, but we have so much to look forward to:

Who is Rumplestiltskin's son Baelfire in Storybrook and when will he make an appearance?

Now that magic has come to Storybrook, if Baelfire is there he knows who he is. And everyone in town knows who Mr. Gold really is. So if Baelfire is in Storybrook, then he must not want to see his father just yet. Maybe he is Neal Cassady, Emma's boyfriend and Henry's father outside of Storybrook. He definitely has ties since he was the one who got the postcard from August/Pinocchio.

Emma & Hook - There is a bit of romantic tension there. If Neal turns out to be Baelfire that would mean Emma would be caught in a love triangle between Rumple's son and worst enemy. Could be kinda of interesting.

What else is happening? (SPOILERS & SPECULATION)

- Rose McGowan (Charmed) has been cast to play Cora as a young girl, as we see further how disfunction has been passed down the generations in this magical family.
- episode 215 is called, The Queen is Dead, according to a tweet from Adam Horowitz. Is this metaphorical? Which Queen is dead?
- We've heard much talk about Ariel being in an episode this season but she hasn't made an appearance yet.
- Neal Cassady is making another appearance this season.

And here's the extended promo for the second half of the season looks like both Cora and Hook will get the battles they seek:

If you haven't watched Once Upon A Time yet, you can get caught up by watching this primer from ABC:

Be sure to enter our current contest to win a Nancy Drew photo album by commenting on that post by January 10th

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fortune Friday: Nancy Drew Photo Album Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Congratulations to Kathleen who is our winner. I posted the directions on how to make one of your own here.

Win this photo album made from a recycled damaged Nancy Drew book (pages were damaged inside so it couldn't be read) from Mystery Playground.  Just comment below by January 10th and tell us what book you are looking forward to reading most in 2013. You should also make sure there is some way to contact you.

Good luck and thank you for reading Mystery Playground.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recycle Wednesday

Today is recycle Wednesday, where once a month we link to previous fun posts both here and elsewhere, because maximizing resources is important in every aspect of our lives. It's also nice to kick back every once in awhile.
Happy reading...

From FoodFixe:

Here's the recipe for Stilton Port Wine Cheesecake - It is so incredibly yummy and great for New Year's Eve parties.

Tried and True Fondue Recipes - Chocolate with Grand Marnier and classic cheese recipes. Also excellent for parties or special dinners.

From Criminal Element:

Crime Fiction's Top Ten Bromances - A bromance is a non-sexual relationship between two men the is unusually close and crime fiction is full of them. Be warned. One of the winners of the top ten is a dog.

Castle, Fritz or Booth: The Perfect Male Sidekick - they say that behind every strong woman you find a great guy, well at least in these three cases of detective greatness.

Everything You Could Possibly Want to Know About Homeland - This show is just great.

From Mystery Playground:

Before There Was Pooh Bear, There Was Murder - A fun take on mystery authors primarily known for something else.

A Tribute To Ray Bradbury - He's been one of my favorite authors since college.

Fun Book Inspired Handbags - I love books and I love handbags. Here's what happens when you mix the two together.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Gift of the Magi

When I was growing up, one of my mother's favorite short stories to read to us as kids at Christmas time was The Gift of the Magi, written by O. Henry.  So here it is, below.

Where ever you are, I hope you have a wonderful, joy-filled holiday. 

The Gift of the Magi

By O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dickens: The Key to Character

You find the most fun things walking around Manhattan. I was with my friend Terrie on our way to Bryant Park, when we stumbled upon a Charles Dickens exhibit at the New York Public Library. Always up for a little Dickens, especially at the holidays, we stopped on by.

Some of my favorite items:
- A portrait of his inspiration for the character of Tiny Tim, his little nephew Henry Barnett who had polio (polio still exists in some areas of the world)  
- A Zotrope showing Dickens as a magician in 1870
- A Great Expectations comic book
- An inkwell and pen that belonged to Dickens during his lifetime
- A Dickens action figure - who doesn't need one of those?

They also had two handout post cards featuring two Dickens characters - Mrs. Gamp, from Martin Chuzzlewit, and Silas Wegg, from Our Mutual Friends. I really do love the names Charles Dickens choose for his characters. The Mrs. Gamp post card showed how her umbrella helped define her character and the wooden leg did for Silas Wegg.

Here's the quote on the back of the Mrs. Gump card.

"A pair of bellows, a pair of pattens, a toasting-fork, a kettle, a papboat, a spoon for the administration of medicine to the refractory, and lastly, Mrs. Gamp's umbrella, which as something of great price and rarity, was displayed with particular ostentation, completed the decortions of the chimney-piece and adjacent wall. Towards these objects Mrs. Gamp raised her eyes in satisfaction when she had arranged the tea-board, and had concluded her arrangements for the reception of Betsey Prig, even unto the setting forth of two pounds of Newcastle salmon, intensely pickled."

from Martin Chuzzlewit, ch. 49
What a wonderful description, even if I had to look up both pattens (protective over-shoes worn in Europe from the middle ages to the 20th century) and papboats (a small bowl with a lip used to feed children or invalids "pap", which was a mixture of bread, flour and water. Pap sounds like the glue we used to make as children.) You get a beautiful picture of her character and the scene. I especially like that the two pounds of Newcastle salmon was intensely pickled.

This wonderful exhibit is open until January 27th at the NYPL.

If you want even more Dickens, you can read Terrie's take on his career as a crime writer over on Criminal Element.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fortune Friday: Fortunate to Have Creative Friends

A Henry Road notebook off the coast of South Africa.

This Fortune Friday is a little bit different. It's about being fortunate to have so many creative friends. Let me tell you about them.

Paula Smail runs Henry Road, a home goods shop with a physical store in Southern California and an online storefront. I love her vintage items and bold designs. I have her creative notebooks all over the house, Paula designed the Mystery Playground logo and helps out with graphics for this site. She also has a design blog that can be found here.

Siobhan Nash runs FoodFixe, a food blog with recipes that are not only fabulous, but her instructions are so meticulous, these recipes come out great every time. My favorite recipe on the site is the pumpkin chocolate chips muffins. She also has runs great recipies for holiday treats in December, you can see those here.

Beader extraordinaire, Kim Hammond, makes all kinds of jewelry creations and organizes a yearly pilgrimage to the Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee. (We also made a visit to spy inspired restaurant, called The Safe House.)

Terrie Moran has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, and she has a book out called, The Awareness and Other Deadly Tales. She blogs at Criminal Element and at Women of Mystery.

Tyler LePard runs digital media for a recently launched non-profit organization called Catapult. Catapult lets you pick from a variety of non-profit projects to support that help women and children and support gender equality.

Janet Kuchler takes many of the photographs for Mystery Playground and is always up for a speakeasy trek, even if it means walking in high heel shoes for a mile because we can't find a cab.

Terri Thayer has two mystery series out, a rubber stamping series and a quilting series. I've enjoyed reading both even thought I don't quilt or rubber stamp (good thing she does).

Laura K. Curtis just signed a two book deal with Penguin's first e-imprint, InterMix
(and you can help her give away her money here.) Congratulations Laura!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Boosting Creative Confidence

Unleashing creativity is hard for most people.

This is a great and short (only 12 minutes) TED talk by David Kelley of IDEO on how to boost creative confidence. He talks about how fragile we are when being creative as children, and how criticism can silence creativity.

Best of all, he shares how people can start to get over this fear and how it can change their lives.

It's definitely worth a look, and some thought.

Happy creating.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wreath of Mystery

Photo: Mystery Playground

What could be better than a wreath full of wonderful vintage mystery paperbacks...

Ok, I might be getting a wee bit crazy with the vintage novel holiday decorations, but I do love my mystery paperback collection.

Hope you are gearing up for a fun and mirth-filled holiday season. We will have posts through the next few weeks, but if you separate yourself from your computer for the holidays, be sure and come back for a fun contest the first week in January.

If you are sitting there thinking about which crime fighting couples made my top ten list, you might want to click here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Storytelling from a Pawn Star

Rick Harrison, one of the stars of History Channel’s Pawn Stars, gave a keynote speech recently at the Word of Mouth Marketing Conference (WOMMA) in Las Vegas. He talked about his journey from epilepsy to self-made, TV star. I took away three main points from his speech

1) Don't give up. When Rick and his father (known as the Old Man on the show) first decided to open a pawn shop, they couldn't get a license for one. Licenses in Vegas were expensive and hard to come by. Still they wanted to open a different type of pawn shop. The city would only issue another license when the population grew to a certain size. Rick called the city office in charge of this every week until the Las Vegas population grew to hit that number. Even after that they had to sue to get that license. But they won. And now pawn shop licenses in Las Vegas go for more than $3 million dollars.

Rick also said he had tried to get the TV going for years. When he brought a TV crew in the shop to film a sizzle reel to try to help sell the show to a network, his father yelled at him for being impractical. Rick filmed the reel anyway, and the rest is Pawn Stars history. 

2) Do what you do, better than everyone else.  This seems like an obvious concept, but it is hard to implement. There were plenty of pawn shops in Las Vegas before the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. Rick and his dad wanted to open a clean, well organized shop that was forthright with customers. If someone walked in with something valuable and they didn't know it, Rick told them. It struck me how similar this was to Walt Disney’s reason for building Disneyland – he wanted a clean, fun place to bring his daughters on Sunday. Yes, I know Disneyland is vastly different than a pawn shop, but the amusement parks in the 50s and 60s weren't so clean and there were a lot of rip offs in the carney games not to mention pick pockets. 

3) People don't buy "stuff", when they walk into his shop, they buy a story.  At the beginning of the Pawn Stars show you hear Rick Harrison say, "Everything in here has a story and a price." People want to have a connection to a story, which is why authenticated items sell for higher prices. Storytelling is important to the human existence and I certainly watch the show for the stories, but I hadn't thought about it in these terms before. 

I really enjoyed listening to Rick Harrison's story and I'll think about it every time I watch Pawn Stars. One thing he told us I thought was kind of sad. Because of the show's popularity, Rick can't even walk out onto his own shop floor during business hours. 

Speaking of stories, on the Pawn Stars website they have a great article about the history of pawn shops…the first pawn shop was in ancient China three-thousand years ago as “a method of granting short term credit to peasants.” It's definitely worth a read. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fortune Friday: Hobbit Hikes

The Washington Trails Association up in Washington State has put together a great compilation of Hobbit inspired hikes to celebrate the release of the movie, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

There's also a Lord of the Rings adventure if that is more your style. You can find these Hobbit hikes on the Washington Trails Association website. The photos are beautiful. 

Thank you to Loren for telling us about these wonderful hikes. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Friend's Favorites

There are so many books, so many TV shows and so many movies out there it's hard to spend time on anything you don't love. I think that the best way to find a new treasure is to get a recommendation from a friend, so I've asked some of my friends to tell us about their favorites of 2012. Here is our list:

Pat's Favorites

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
The author spent three years with the residents of a slum near Mumbai’s International Airport.  She has written an amazing book about the daily lives of these people who struggle to survive. It is so interesting to read about these lives on the edge, their hopes and dreams and present ugly reality.  The writing is engrossing – I had to keep reminding myself this was not a novel.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
A postapocalyptic novel set in a United States depopulated by disease. The main character is Hig, pilot of a Cessna who is in daily survival mode with his dog and a gun-toting neighbor.  Living with overwhelming loss and the memory of his wife, he risks everything to find love and an emotional connection with life. It has laughter, sorrow, and beauty all knotted together. 

Nancy's favorites
Favorite book/author (new one too)  Jo Nesbo and his Harry Hole series.  Great writing, great characters and a story line that grabs you on page one.

Robert Crais -- Taken.  Read in two days,and also liked John Lescroart's The Hunter vs. The Hunted.  (And learned a lot on some recent history...) Well researched.

TV shows
Revenge - Feels like Dallas for the new millenium, but with better acting and location...(even if it is shot in LA...)
Elementary - quirky, but interesting and Jonny Lee Miller is great.

Downton Abbey - (really, need I say more?) 

Karen's favorites

My favorite book of 2012 was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  It is the best, most twisted revenge story ever, such nasty people with nastier impulses, the mind boggles just thinking what else might be curled in Gillian Flynn's head.

Cindy's favorites
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford - great story, and great detail on the history in Seattle.

TV shows
Once Upon a Time - backstory on all the childhood fairy tails and a great bit of magic.
Grimm - see above and I like cop shows.

Loren's Favorites:
Angelmaker and Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway - Here's what I love most about Nick Harkaway: when he writes a novel (this year's Angelmaker or his first novel, The Gone Away World) he's not afraid to go big. Save the world big. Epic love story, adventure of a lifetime big. This novel has: a doomsday clock, a gangster's son with the keys to the London underground, a retired secret service agent with a blind pug in her purse, and (the true key to my heart) bees. 

Angelmaker is a big-hearted novel full of original writing, genre-bending plotting and phenomenal characters who make the whole thing work. Read it. And then go read The Gone Away World and try to decide which one is better.

My favorites:
My favorite book of the year was Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak. It's about two young women -- a maid and a princess who will become Catherine the Great -- and how their lives intertwine. It has politics, sex, murder and intrigue. 

It's hard for me to pick a favorite TV show this year. I love Once Upon a Time and Homeland, I don't think there could be two more vastly different shows on the air. I also love Castle, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. I'm still bemoaning the loss of The Closer, but I'm learning to love Major Crimes

Now it's time for you to share. What's your favorite from 2012?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Help Laura Give Away Her Money

Laura K. Curtis is giving away money to Donors Choose this week over on Women of Mystery and you can help her do it. All you have to do is go to the blog and comment. How easy is that?

This is to celebrate her new two book contract with InterMix, Penguin's first e-first imprint. Congratulations Laura!

I won one of the gift cards (there were ten). My nephews and I will select which project to support and report back to you. You can find your own project to support at You can also follow them on Twitter @DonorsChoose.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Five Reasons Why You Should Put Season One of Homeland on Your Netflix List

I love the Showtime series, Homeland, starring Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody and Mandy Patankin as Saul Barenson.  It's about a bipolar CIA agent who learns that a returning American POW has been turned against the United States by his terrorist captors, and what lengths she goes to find and try to stop him.  The show not only won the Emmy Award in 2012 for Outstanding Drama, but Danes won for best actress and Lewis took home the best actor prize. 

Here are five reasons, without spoilers, why you should start watching Homeland right now.

Number 5:
The characters are the most complex and believable on television.

Number 4:
You never know what is going to happen next. Really, I am good at predicting what will happen next on a lot of shows and I can’t tell on this one.

Number 3:
The acting is superb.

Number 2:
The writing is excellent.

Number 1:
This show is addicting. As soon as one episode ends, I want to watch the next one immediately.  And if I don't have another to watch, I can't stop thinking about it. 

You can read more about Homeland here over on Criminal Element

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fortune Friday: Storytellling Slot Machines

Miss Scarlett in the casino with a high heeled shoe.

I recently went to Las Vegas and was amazed by the number of themed slot machines based on TV shows and movies. It's seems that the slot machine making community recognized the power of story telling and the graviational pull of some of our favorite characters. The slots had pictures, soundbytes and little bits of theme songs from these shows - everything from Gone with the Wind to Ghostbusters and everything in between. I took a few photos of some of the best (not my best photos, the lighting in casinos is challenging, but you get the idea.)

Monster Mash. 

I talked to a casino employee who told me that the casino actually pays royalties for the use of this material, which makes sense. Do people actually prefer these machines because of the familiarity? My anecdotal survey said yes. There were always more people sitting at the themed machines than the rows of non-themed machines.

In this photo, Tom Cruise, who played the lead in Top Gun, is noticably absent. My guess is that he had enough strings in his contract that he could opt out of having his face on a slot machine.

It's Greased Lightening...really it's the car and some slot machines. They got really fancy here. The car doesn't look too fast. I think this version would have lost the race for pinks. 

What is your favorite themed slot machine?

I still don't think I am ready for Martin Freeman (BBC Watson) to play Bilbo Baggins. Are you?  It won't stop from seeing the movie though.