If you’ve ever had trouble programming your VCR, then this gadget’s for you. With VCR Plus + you can program your VCR to record by simply entering a short code number into a little device that looks like a push-button phone. Beginning Nov. 25 you can find the special code numbers next to each television listing in the Dallas Times Herald. VCR Plus + is available at Sears and Montgomery Ward. For more Info, call 1-800-4321-VCR.


LISTENING When a writer whose last journalistic beat was Manhattan’s Times Square starts raving about his three years living in Dallas, what’s to think? Is Josh Alan going to write a Tales of Dallas to match his 1986 book Tales of Times Square? Can the co-author (with his brother Drew) of Warts and All be the same guy politely sitting on a stool at Club Dada playing guitar and singing “Strike A Match”? That guy who just sang “My Funny Valentine”-is that “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” he’s going into now? Is Josh Alan the name of a conglomerate? No, but his forthcoming solo debut album, Famous & Poor, spotlights Alan (nee Josh Alan Friedman) putting down the pen and picking up the pick-guitar, that is. “The greatest thing in the world is to pixy guitar,” he says. “I never get tired of it.”

-Michael Pellecchia

Josh Alan’s solo debut album, Famous & Poor, will be in record stores in time for Christmas.

New Cookbook Collectibles

GIFTS Cooking is Christmas, and high on the list of giftable new how-tos for area cookbook collectors are two as different as big bucks from beans-but alike in their celebration of cooking as an adventure. The beauty of both is that home cooks can compare their versions any time to those served in the restaurants that created them.

Dean Fearing’s Southwest Cuisine (shown here) is the exuberant Mansion chefs second cookbook-it’s also more user-friendly than his first, which was more lookable than cookable. This time out, he defines the three influences-Old Southern, Mexican, and Asian-that shape his cooking style, and brings them together in a concise, easy-to-follow form. $29.95 in bookstores.

In The Parigi Cookbook, chef/owner Andree Falls describes her Oak Lawn restaurant, Parigi, as “small and uncomplicated.” The same applies to her cookbook, which starts with a confession of her lifelong fascination with food, and continues with some 80-odd pages of Provencal-rooted recipes. Falls’s writing is unpretentious, her instructions step-by-step simple. $14 (available at Parigi or by mail order; call 522-3390). -Betty Cook

Tree Toppers

HOME No, there’s nothing wrong with the standard angel or star, but there are alternative ways to top the tree for Christmas. To best illustrate this point, we let our imaginations run wild with a little help from a Godzilla head borrowed from Modern Toys. If Godzilla is too scary for your household, consider other playful options like a jack-in-the-box or a gaggle of Slinkies spilling over the top. After all, Christmas is for kids, and toys can be appreciated as much on the tree as under it.

One of the most logical toppers is a hat. Of any variety. A cowboy hat or a Mexican sombrero will do. But then so will a beret or a bowler, a top hat, or a wide-brimmed chapeaux-just add a few holiday baubles and a velvet ribbon, and you’ve set the mood for the whole tree. With the sombrero, use a Mexican blanket for a tree skirt and swag the limbs with strings of dried peppers. Or start with a totally frivolous Princess-Di-at-the-races hat and stuff the tree with dried baby’s breath and potpourri-thenskirt it with yards and yards of nettingfor a Victorian change of pace. Theneighbors may talk, but hey, this is the Nineties. -Anne Warren


LENNON: 12/8/80

Looking back ten years in Imagine: John Lennon (1988), we find no conventional nice guy or cuddly moptop. Len-non could be cold to fans and rude to flunkies, and he didn’t instantly recognize his genius. The problem is, he was a genius of pop music and must be dealt with as such, hard edges and all.

Imagine is full of There’s tittle attempt scores with his critics, who were legion. A nasty argument with the acerbic cartoonist Al Capp is one of the film’s highlights, and Capp gets in his licks with a vengeance, even pitying Lennon for having to live with Yoko. (True Yoko-phobes may never forgive Ono, but she was an equal partner with Lennon in making their marriage “a commercial for peace.”)

Surprisingly, Imagine is not heavy with concert footage; for that, check out The Compleat Beatles, (1984), which also gives proper weight to the other Beatles and to their superb producer, George Martin. But Imagine does offer a great clip of the young Len-non and McCartney knocking out “Come on Now” in a Hamburg dive, and Len-non, in the studio, does a gritty rendition of the classic “Stand by Me.”

A word of caution: Imagine: John Lennon is not to be confused with Imagine: The Movie, a 1986 home-movie mishmash that opens with Lennon on the toilet and camera tricks reminiscent of Rich-ard Lester’s work in Help! Terrible stuff.

-Chris Tucker



Books make great gifts, but there’s nothing worse than giving (or getting) an inappropriate book. Book shopping for someone else is not an easy thing to do. You have to know something about the recipient, which can get a little tricky. Sometime* the only thing you’re sure of is that they can read. This list of “safa books,” however, should work for just about anyone.

Christmas in Texas, by Elizabeth Silver-thorne. The requisite theme book for the holidays, focusing on our state’s rich ethnic legacy. Silverthorne mingles history with a wonderfully textured cultural romp across Texas. Great recipes, too. $19.95.

The American Heart Association’s Low-Fat, Low-Salt, Low-Cholestarol Cookbook. Even non-cooks will appreciate this cookbook. It’s filled with Invaluable Information, and each recipe comes with a calorie count and nutritional break-down. $19.95.

The Jim Chee Mysteries. Containing three stories by Tony Hillerman, this is a book for hardened mystery lovers, and for folks who don’t know who Jessica Fletcher is. Nice little reads, all. $15.95.

Watt Mat-thews of Lambshead, by Laura Wilson. What would Christmas be without a coffeetable book? One of the tographer Will-son’s. which documents one of the few remaining family-held ranches in Texas and its 90-year-old patriarch. $39.95. -Anna Warren

Pet Birds of a Feather

TRENDS Weary at day’s end, you return home, open the front door, and instead of being body-blocked by man’s best friend, you hear the dulcet squawk and whistle of your bird-a big bird: a bird who will sit bright-eyed on your wrist and cock his head and say, “Hello.”

Such visions of domesticated bird bliss and daydreams of passing January days beside the fire with no dog to walk through the wintry blast are making a strong case for birds as the pet of the Nineties. No less various in size, color, and temperament than their four-legged counterparts, a pet bird can cost as little as fifty dollars or as much as $12,000.

But those of us who grew up with mammals for pets, and who don’t know a cockatoo from a cockatiel or that parakeets can be as big as ravens, have much to learn before we buy. Where you live, how you live, and how much money you have to spend are all considerations in choosing the right bird.

Veterinarians and pet store owners are unanimous on one point: the best pet birds are domestic hand-raised, hand-fed, and never bought at road sides or flea markets, where bird smugglers peddle hot parrots.

Veterinarian Hugh Hays advises rookie bird buyers to ask lots of questions before buying, for some of the most beautiful and intelligent species are also the noisiest and most possessive. And, once you have found the bird of your dreams, take it for a physical exam.

-Jane Albritton

Consuming Literature

READING There’s Twister, there’s chess, and then there’s reading-and-eating. It’s my Favorite indoor sport. One reason we read is the pleasure of leaving where we are for someplace else-and nothing, I have found, enhances the escape better than food. And not just any food-anyone can munch Cheetos and read a murder mystery-but edibles in the theme of the work at hand, for a total experience like Sensurround in an earthquake movie. When you’re reading-and-eating the murdervictim’s favorite snack, that’s verisimilitude. Literary nibbles should be easy to make, manageable with one hand without looking, and not drippy. Soup, For example, is a bad idea, although a friend of mine likes chili white reading Texas novelist Elmer Kelton.

Nora Ephron’s novel, Heartburn, the hilarious, sweet-and-sour account of a food writer’s marital misfortunes, is peppered with actual recipes for dishes you’ll long to taste, such as bacon hash and baked beans with pears. A perfect afternoon consists of Ephron’s book and the toasted almonds found on page 40.

But what I’m really interested in is literary and gustatory delight. For me, the old-time baseball park food in W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe is ideal: flavor and nostalgia in equal parts. The ballpark hot dogs may be a little messy, but popcorn is perfect, especially when glorified with melted butter, garlic salt, ground black pepper, and grated Parmesan.

And of course there’s no way to read Lawrence Sanders’s thriller The Fourth Deadly Sin without stopping for a deli break mid-sentence in order to replicate his hero’s monster sandwiches: “cold roast beef, sweet pickle relish, sliced onions, and pink horseradish…”

Mincemeat tarts with Dickens. Papadum with A Passage to India. Pita bread with Salman Rushdie. This is a pastime of infinite possibility.

-Julie Ryan


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