Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top Ten A Different World Episodes

Greetings Pups,

You know, I had so much of a good time doing my top ten for The Cosby Show yesterday that I thought I'd just keep this going by moving on to its spin-off, A Different World. And, I must admit, I love this show as much I love the show from whence it came. Differently, but equally. Now, for those of you who may not the history, here is a quick (hopefully) synopsis.

In 1987, this spin-off was created to center around the Hillman College life of Denise Huxtable after Lisa Bonet left The Cosby Show. From what I've heard, there was a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on, mostly concerning Bill Cosby having some issues with the acting choices of Lisa Bonet. More adult acting choices, apparently. I understand her not wanting to stay a kid forever mentality, but it's hard for me to go against Mr. Cosby. So point goes to him. Not that any of this mattered, because, in 1988, Bonet announced that she and her then husband, Lenny Kravitz, were expecting a baby. Instead of having Denise be an unwed college mother, they just let her go. That might have been kind of a good thing.

Look, I'm not blaming Lisa Bonet for this, because I think she is a very good actress, but the first season was a bit . . . not as good as it would become. Don't get me wrong. It did have its moments. We even got to see a fresh faced Marisa Tomei, and yes, to this day, I still hear people say, "What! She was on the show. But she's . . . white!" Really, people? Get over it. Besides her though, we were also introduced to the characters that we would eventually come to love, like Dwayne and Whitley played wonderfully for years by Jasmine Guy and Kadeem Hardison. But after that first season, it improved greatly, and many people give that credit to the involvement of Debbie Allen. Agreed. With her as a producer, the show was saved and became the wonderful thing that it was. While being very funny, the show began to delve into some issues that were probably deemed too edgy for the family tone of The Cosby Show. Issues like AIDS, racism, domestic violence, even date rape. I would say that A Different World could be called a coming of age type show. Or a family show not centered around a family. Whatever you want to call it, make sure you call it great. Because it was.

And now, my Top Ten favorite episodes of A Different World.

#10. "Three Girls Three" (Season 2) - Much like The Cosby Show, A Different World managed to snag a boatload of special guest stars. In this case, it was Gladys Knight. Ms. Knight is planning a trip to Hillman and several students are auditioning to be some makeshift Pips. I know I would certainly try out for that. This brings together Whitley and Jaleesa, who don't really like each other but sing very well together. But their decision to bring in a third party is not the best. If this episode was intending to prove women are not catty, it did not do so very well. But it's funny, so it's okay.

#9. "Good Help is Hard to Fire" (Season 4) - At the start of season 4, a love triangle was formed. It consisted of Whitley, Dwayne and, Dwayne's new girlfriend, Kinu. Oh, it gave us so many laughs, especially with the constant mispronunciations of Kinu's name by Whitley, but the whole thing came to a head in this episode. I could talk about a lot of things here, but let's just admit that the best part was the little visit we got from one, Ms. Patti LaBelle. She popped in, prune cobbler in hand, to visit her son, Dwayne, her little Chipmunk. Or just Chippy, depending on her mood. And we thank you for your time, Patti.

#8. "Love Taps" (Season 5) - This is one of the more serious episodes. Gina is dating a guy named Dion, who fancies himself a rap star. They seem like a good couple, but their secret is that Dion has been beating her. One by one, Gina's friends find out and try to help her. She is resistant, at first, but soon comes to her senses. One of the best parts is definitely the talk that Whitley gives her. Sure, we rely on Whitley for the funny, but she's got a lot of wisdom and a good heart, too.

#7. "Faith, Hope and Charity" (Season 6) - I love Thanksgiving, so naturally, I love a good Thanksgiving episode. Newlyweds Dwayne and Whitley are having their mothers over for dinner, and that should be simple. Nope. Now if you've watched this show you know that those mothers don't necessarily get along, class issues and whatnot. But those fights were good for some laughs over the years. Again, I'm giving another major shout out to Patti LaBelle, but she is only one half of the awesomeness in this episode. The other goes to Ms. Diahann Carroll. What a legend. Watch these two together and you will wonder, much like I often did, why they did not get their own show.

#6. "Monet is the Root of All Evil" (Season 4) - I am an art enthusiast, of course, and this episode is centered around the art world. Whitley, who is organizing a gallery show, finds a brilliant painter. She desperately wants him to give her one of his pieces, but he is hesitant. Eventually, he gives in. It's a great painting, but the sponsor of the exhibit thinks it is offensive and obscene. I didn't really get that, but some people see what they want to see and others see what is there. It does make some excellent arguments against censorship, and, as an artist, I appreciate that.

#5. "A Rock, A River, A Lena (Season 6) - And the special guest stars keep coming. This time we get the late, great Lena Horne, and she is, as always, fabulous. Beautiful, of course, but also very, very funny. She comes to Hillman whilst Whitley is teaching her students about Miss Horne's illustrious career. We also get a touching story line with our beloved Mr. Gaines, as well as a great performance by Jenifer Lewis as the dean of students. Love that woman.

#4. "Ms. Understanding" (Season 4) - In this episode, we get out first appearance of Shazza Zulu, played by, Warrick Brown of CSI himself, Gary Dourdan. This character is a sixth year undergraduate student (that's a long time, right?) and he has written a book about how the Hillman man should treat the Hillman woman. Of course, all he does is manage to divide the sexes and cause chaos. That is something that he does throughout his time on the show, and a lot of the other characters had a problem with him being so preachy and kind of pretentious at times. But we still love Gary Dourdan!

#3. "Cats in the Cradle" (Season 5) - Okay, I'm giving you another serious episode. In this one, Dwayne and Ron go to a college football game and end up in a brawl with three white students from the opposing school. I say specifically that they are white because it plays a major part in the story line. All five of them are thrown in jail, where a lot of arguments concerning race go back and forth. It is actually very compelling and feels very realistic to how people would talk about these things. Everyone does a fantastic job, including the guests stars. One of them is Dean Cain in one of his first performances. We also have Ernie Sabella playing a campus security guard. I will never forget what his response was when Dwayne said he didn't expect a fair shake from him. He said, "That's right, I'm a white man. I could be a card carrying member of the Klan. Or I could have marched with Dr. King. You DON'T know. Maybe you should look at me as an individual and not as a color." I mean, come on. Genius words there.

#2. "The Power of the Pen" (Season 3) - I'm a writer, which I'm guessing you already knew, so I love things about writing and writing being very appreciated. Here, we have Dwayne, the math guy, sitting in a class where he is going to be forced to write a poem - GASP! Needless to say, poetry really isn't his thing, and he just can't figure out what the big deal is. After spending endless and fruitless hours in the library, he falls asleep and dreams about Shakespeare. Yes, a guy shows up playing Shakespeare. He tells Dwayne that all he has to do is find something about which he is passionate and write. Dwayne does it and succeeds. So, if you stop and think, there is much power in those pens.

#1. "Save the Best For Last" (Season 5) - So much was crammed into season 5, so many ups and downs, I actually thought it might be the last. It wasn't obviously, but, had it been, this would have been a great way to go out. It is time for the wedding of Whitley and . . . Byron? That's right. When the season started, Whitley and Dwayne were engaged to be married, but through a series of unfortunate events, they break up and Whitley gets involved with a politician named Byron Douglas. They eventually get engaged, despite the obvious feelings that still linger between Dwayne and Whitley. Spoiler alert! Dwayne interrupts the wedding, resulting in his marrying Whitley himself. Of course, that was the major event of this two part episode, but again, I must bring up the majesty of Diahann Carroll. Like I mentioned, she has not exactly been a fan of Dwayne's, so when she sees what he is trying to do, she waves her hands at him and utters three words which could be the greatest ever said on this show - "Die, just die!" Oh, the way she does it is gold. Pure gold. This episode was really the culmination of what we had been waiting for for years, and it was done brilliantly. We really didn't know what was going to happen until the very end, and, frankly, it was kind of a nail biter. It had everything, and that is why it is number one.

So there they are. I must say, I still watch these episodes to this day. The laughs have never gotten old and neither have the lessons. This show went from being simply a spin-off to having its own identity. It's been twenty years since it ended, but, really, it hasn't aged a day. It is just as good as it originally was and I doubt that will ever change.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Top Ten Episodes of The Cosby Show

Greetings Pups,

For those of you who didn't grow up in the eighties, as I did, but in a later time, I'd like to tell you about something about which you may have never heard. That thing would be called a "family show" Now these were shows on NETWORK television, if you can believe it, that kids and parents alike could watch together and enjoy, and none of the content made anyone uncomfortable. Well, aside from the occasional "very special episodes" about drugs or abuse, but they were usually done somewhat tastefully. Anyway, one of the greatest of these family shows was one that, no matter your age, you certainly know - The Cosby Show.

In the eighties, legendary comic Bill Cosby led a fantastic show about the adventures of the Huxtables, an affluent family living in Brooklyn. It consisted of the patriarch, Cliff and his wife, Clair, a doctor and a lawyer, respectively, and their five children, Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy. I think a lot of things for the show were taken from Cosby's own life, since he also had four girls and one boy. But that is what comedians do, isn't it? And don't even get me started on how excited I used to get on the night of every season premiere in anticipation of the the new opening theme song. Oh, yeah, that's another thing you kids might not know about. Every show used to have something called a theme song at the beginning. Good times. Anyway, the Huxtables were one of the best, most loving families I have ever seen on TV. I don't know how anyone can not like this show. In fact, I like it so much that I am going to tell you my Top Ten episodes. Some may surprise you; some may not. But everyone is entitled to have their favorite. These just happen to be mine. So here we go.

#10. "Claire's Liberation" (Season 7) - You know what can be really scary? A woman going through menopause. You know what's really funny? Claire Huxtable going through menopause and using it to torture her children. Yes, one day, Claire comes home from the doctor and tells the kids that she is starting menopause. After overhearing their crazy fears about what they think is coming, hot and cold flashes, massive mood swings and whatnot, she milks it for all it's worth. And it is hilarious. Oh, if only it was that funny in real life!

#9. "Happy Anniversary" (Season 2) - So this one was pretty good and funny, naturally, but there is one thing in particular that everyone remembers about this episode. So what happens? Well, we are celebrating the anniversary of Cliff's parents, Russell and Anna, who I absolutely love, by the way. Seriously, they were some of the best TV grandparents ever. Anyway, the family is going to send them on a cruise as a gift, but the BEST gift is their rendition of "Night Time is the Right Time", which is, in a word, epic.

#8. "The Last Barbecue" (Season 7) - As much as I love The Cosby Show as a whole, I have to admit that I did like some of the actors better than others. But in this episode, everyone, and I mean everyone, was on their A-game. Here, we have Theo planning the bachelor party that never was . . . gotten for Denise's husband, Martin. Theo wants to get a stripper, but Martin's response to that is "No! Heh, heh, heh!" Please remember that, because it is a running gag for the duration. Now this one turns into your basic men versus women episode, and the conflict spreads through the generations. That's fine with me, since it's that fact that gave us a great scene between the aforementioned Russell and Anna. And don't forget the secret barbecue sauce subplot. How could you, though.

#7. "A Shirt Story" (Season 1) - Even though the Huxtables were a very well to do family, they emphasized the fact that, while they did provide for their children , they did not spoil them. So when Theo comes home with a $95 designer shirt, his parents were like "No" This leads him to go to Denise for her seamstress skills, which would not exactly get her on Project Runway. . . maybe. What really makes this episode is the reaction of Theo when he tries on the "shirt", proving that kids can be great comic actors, too. When they learn from the best, anyway.

#6. "Slumber Party" (Season 1)/"The Birthday Party" (Season 6) - I had to have a tie here, since the plot of both of these episodes are very similar. It's basically a case of "Rudy used to be our cute little kid and now it's Olivia" But both of them were very funny in their own way. First, "Slumber Party" was about a slumber party (what!) for Rudy, and there were boys there for some reason, as well as a tiny Alicia Keys. No lie. Oh, and these two little girls, trying to sing a song but constantly being interrupted by Cliff. Adorable. Now "The Birthday Party" was about a birthday party (what - again!) for Olivia. We have more funny little kids, who are kind of all overshadowed by an absolutely hilarious little boy singing "Eye of the Tiger" That was the one of the best moments of my life. But I love these episodes because I love seeing Bill Cosby interact with children. He has such gift for it.

#5. "Where's Rudy?" (Season 4) - You know how I said Cliff and Clair did not spoil their kids? Well, that is true, and they are good disciplinarians. By that, I mean, sometimes, just sometimes, they like to bat their kids around like cat toys before doing the actual disciplining. Sweet! In this episode, Cliff and Clair are at the mall for her squash contest . . . seriously. Vanessa and Theo are charged with watching Rudy as they cruise said mall, but they act as older siblings do and she wanders off. Though she does find shelter in a sushi restaurant (trust me), they think they've lost her. And, oh, the fun mom and dad Huxtable have with them. Even though Rudy was the one who wandered off and should have been punished, too. But, you know, whatever!

#4. "I'm In with the In Crowd" (Season 6) - And here's another one where we refuse to skip straight to the punishment so that we can freak out the guilty party a little. This time it is only Vanessa who is the recipient of this creative parenting. While at a gathering with her friends, they become bored and decide to play The Alphabet Game, which involves drinking. Guess what happens? Good guess. And clearly Vanessa was still drunk during her, let's say, pre-punishment, because that is the only way she could take seriously what her parents were doing. Funny, though!

#3. "Shakespeare" (Season 4) - Two words: Christopher Plummer. Okay, I'll say more words, but, rest assured, those are the two that make me love this episode so much. Anyway, Theo and his friend, Cockroach, are having some trouble with Julius Caesar. But help comes when Grandpa Russell arrives (yay!) with his two friends, Jonathan Laurence, played by Plummer, and Dr. Fostor, played by Roscoe Lee Browne, another actor and character I came to love through this show. They begin to masterfully quote the work of Shakespeare, reminding us all of the beauty of those words, and impressing the people around them. They also do a great reading of a story that was written by Rudy. Somehow those guys with their mesmerizing voices made that story sound almost as good as the Shakespeare.

#2. "Off to See the Wretched" (Season 6) - We deal here with some disciplining again, but there no time for games on this one. Vanessa and her friends run off to Baltimore for a concert in a semi-stolen car, mind you, and, through a series of unfortunate events, they are caught. Okay, let me say this. Judging by one of my past picks on this list, I think I can safely say that Vanessa's friends are HORRIBLE people! Drinking, stealing cars, running away to other states! I know kids will be kids, but crap, man! Anyway, the best part of this episode, bar none, is Clair's reaction to the deception. It is absolutely priceless and Phylicia Rashad is at her very best. By the way, because of this, it is one of my life's goals to never make her mad. For real, I couldn't handle it.

#1. "Theo's Holiday" (Season 2) - Some parents will go to great lengths to teach their children a good life lesson, but none have gone so far as the Huxtables in this, my number one favorite episode. Theo seems to believe that he will be quite ready to move out of the house and support himself as soon as he turns eighteen, don't we all. Well, the next time he comes home, the family has reverted their house into an apartment building, The Real World Apartments, to be exact. Boy, did the idea of THAT change thanks to the nineties and MTV! Anyway, everyone plays their parts incredibly, especially Rudy/ Mrs. Griswald, and there is literally not an unfunny moment in this entire episode. I never get tired of watching this one, so it is my favorite.

And there you have it. My little tribute to one of the best shows of all time. It managed to be perfect for family viewing, but also unbelievably entertaining. Wow, look at that! It IS possible to do such a thing. I suppose it's easier when you've got a comic genius at the helm. Oh, and speaking of which, let me say a thing about Bill Cosby.

I love that man. There are very few people, especially in the entertainment industry, for whom I have a lot of respect. He is one of them. This is someone who has been through the highest highs and lowest lows, both professionally and very much so personally, and yet he never became someone who I had reason to not love. I love the way he has used his voice to spread laughter, but also the way he is unafraid to use it so he can tell the truth about what is going on in the world and his own community. As we all know, telling the truth can be controversial and cause some people to turn on you (believe me, I know), but that makes me respect him all the more. So I am quite grateful, along with many others, that he has chosen to bestow his gifts upon us all. God bless him!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Artist Anniversary

Greetings Pups,

Today is a very special day for me. And so I will use today to tell you all about something. I am going to speak of a particular book called Designing a Harvest Moon. Now this is not a review, because, due to certain circumstances, my reviewing this specific piece of work would be a bit awkward.

Anyway, this is a book of poetry that was published last year. It has ten chapters, each one containing poems centered around different themes. Those themes vary from love to anger to inspiration to forgiveness and whatever may come in between. It's got a lot of the complexities that fill the lives of any one of us.

Now, like I said, this is not a review, but I suppose I could call it a preview, since I will now share with you excerpts, one from each chapter, just to give you all a taste of what falls between the covers. So here it is, a sampling of the book Designing a Harvest Moon.

"Brownwood" (from the chapter "My Whole Wide World")

There was a plain without a soul in sight
Only sun and dust and dry
Until the journey made its start
In the place where they locked eyes
A new friend from another friend
Doing more than they thought he would
An end for her, an end for him
And now tied together for good
Right here in this place
A great occurrence came to be
Two souls locked in their own worlds
Suddenly became so free
To see that from so quiet a place
So much life can spring
They found a way spend the years
Filling them with days that would sing

"Pendant" (from the chapter "The Caged and Released Chronicles")

I wear truth like a pendant
Suspended on a chain, strong as steel
It lies above my heartbeat
And, all the vibrations, it can feel
I hold it as a reminder
Of the most valuable of treasures
It is given only to a precious few
While the rest choose empty pleasures
But I feel the hands reaching
Trying to grab it from my chest
Trying to strip me of my greatest gift
All that forces me to be the best
They put me before the masses
Trying to stain me with their own shame
But I lift myself above it all
When my hands are seen, I am free of blame

"Struck" (from the chapter "Supernova)

Winter had settled itself over that land
For the years since it was born
There, they hinder fires like ours from being lit
So I imagine how much you are torn
I had never been able to see your light
Until I stopped and looked closely at you
And found, so rare, this joyous gift
That of a man who can remain true
You shine with this light, so strange to them
As full moons brighten the midnight skies
The name that dares to cross your lips
Without fear, you refuse to live with their lies
And though the battles may be to the mountaintops
I know you will never fail to fight
You struck a match and lit the candle
So that I may find you in all of that night

"Flashes" (from the chapter "Blackout")

I saw you in the box one night
Though I never try to find you
I always turn away from your face
Believing you may corrupt what I do
But this time my eyes fell still
As a picture flashed through my head
Reminding me that some are followed by the living
And others are followed by the dead
I saw a gravestone in my mind
With storm clouds all around
And when the lightning gave me sight
A finely etched name is what I found
But not to worry your "pretty, little" self
No need to latch the doors
Because what I saw scraped in that stone
Was his doomed name, not yours

"Mourning Guitar" (from the chapter "Playback")

She used to walk the crowded streets
Even though she had a home
But wherever she went the air was cold
And someone was always in some way stoned
The wine in the crystal stole the taste from her mouth
The diamonds in the gold took the sparkle from her eyes
The smoke covered what she used to love to see
Yet all the music couldn't hide the lies
The parties were grand and the guests would shine
With the little girls sitting on the stairs, behind bars
They talked of deals, of parties in the past
They complimented her dress but didn't notice the scars
Then a man came by with his mourning guitar
He new more than they saw in all her lifetime
He missed the clothes and the label names
He saw her soul and said it would be fine

"Bury" (from the chapter "Still Caged")

I walk a straight line on the ground
The ground you picked up with your hands
It's your way to make me as low as you are
As you desecrate the sacred land
You began to throw the dirt at me
Every single time you could
You hate yourself for being evil
So you attack me for being good
Once my pure skin was soiled enough
You called me what you saw
You acted like I was part of the ground
Wanting to make sure the wounds stay raw
How good it was that you treated me like dirt
Perhaps, that is what I have become
Now I can use my body to cover yours
When I bury you, when you are done

"Guilty Blood" (from the chapter "EWC)

I love the taste of guilty blood
As it flows from the wounds to my lips
I watched as all the skin was torn
I relish at the sound of each rip
The children that he tormented
Dance with such gratitude at my feet
They spit upon his broken, worthless body
And wait for the punishment with which he will meet
Those who excused them watch in their own horror
Waiting for the time to pay their debt
For they kept their lips closed from all his crimes
And now what they deserve is what they will get
They look upon the road they have chosen
And, no doubt, wish the path to change course
But as they watch the blood fall like rain
They will know it is too late for remorse

"Someone Else's" (from the chapter "Dropping the Ball")

Because it was someone else's daughter
Dragged into the private room
Pushed down to the floor
Forced to face her worst doom
Because it was someone else's sister
With clothes all ripped and torn
Making that classic wish
That she had never been born
Because it was someone else's mother
Upon whom such pain was forced
And so few people pity her
While her attacker has no remorse
Because it was someone else's friend
Who had to feel the shame
The crimes can just be overlooked
So all can enjoy the game

"Never Another" (from the chapter "Memory Boxes")

I could remember you because I tried to warn you
Trying to tell you what things to avoid
How my words failed to meet your fractured heart
Trying to shout over all the noise
I could have memories of your body fading
Because I couldn't pump my blood into your veins
Watching your skin turn to melting snow
Hiding, like an iron gate, all of your pain
So I try so hard to remember what was good
Those things so few and between the cracks
You could have lived to be our legend
But you joined up with the other pack
Your legacy is turned into my remembrance
To overwhelm with power each moment I pray
You make me never want to lose another
And that price, never again, will I pay

"Under the Sun" (from the chapter "All Day, Every Day")

Put the water to my lips
Until it burns my mouth like wine
Lay your gifts beneath the moon
And let the night become mine
Fall far from the broken stones
Far enough to safely land
Mend the wounds that cut your heart
And the ones that tore your hands
Bring another dream to me
So this sleep won't turn mundane
Find the melodies in the night
No matter what the cost or pain
Do all of this and we will be
Two stars combined as one
For whatever we have thirsted
Will be given to us under the sun

So there are some examples of what you will find in the book. And all of this was written by me. Yes, I am finally sharing some poems with you. Of course, what I give here is just a taste. If any of these poems spark your interest and you want to read more, go to Amazon, which is the only place the book is currently available, and purchase Designing a Harvest Moon. It can be heart-warming and inspirational, but also a little harsh and difficult in some places. But, like I said, that is life, and believe me, I know about it all too well.

And so, on this day that is very, very special to me as a writer, I hope you enjoy and are even inspired by what I have chosen to share with you in honor of it.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just a Little Gratitude

Greeting Pups,

And so it is Thanksgiving. What better way to begin today than to send you all my hope that you'll have a happy one. Now I could do what a lot of people do and list all the things for which I am thankful, but I believe that would take far too long. If you've ever read my blog before, you'll know that if I think something is too long than it will probably be VERY long. Still, it just shows that I am thankful for many, many things. Everything, actually.

That's right. I am truly grateful for everything that comes into my life. The good, and the things that seem to be bad and ugly, even though, in the long run, I will know they were good also. No pain, no gain, if you will. Seriously, if I'm thankful for being a strong person, then how can I be ungrateful for the trials that made me that way.

But if I have to be specific, there is one thing for which I'd like to show my gratitude. I consider myself quite blessed to have all the people who read my work here. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, writing is my passion, so, to be able to share it with other people makes me very happy. It really does put a smile on my face to know that someone is enjoying the thing into which I put some much thought and work. I may not have a gigantic following like other bloggers, but I certainly do appreciate every reader I have.

So, like I do on every Thanksgiving Day and every regular day, I will be giving thanks for all that God has given me, especially my gift of writing and those who have enjoyed it.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unguarded / Amy Grant - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

Years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about music, what we liked, what we didn't, and everything in between. Since I was a part of this conversation, it's only natural that Amy Grant was eventually brought up. Yeah, I love her. Have since I was a little girl, and she was one of the first people to inspire me to become an artist. Deal with it. Anyway, when I asked my friend if she was also a fan of Amy Grant's, she replied by telling me that she sort of was because she liked Amy's first album, Heart in Motion. Yes, my friend thought that the 1991 album, Heart in Motion, featuring the mega hit, "Baby, Baby", was the first album that Amy Grant released. Oh, dear. Why is it whenever I have a conversation about music with anyone I know I feel like Jack Black in School of Rock as the kids are telling him that their favorite music comes to them via Christina Aguilera and Puff Daddy? Recall the frustration and pure rage on his face? Yeah, me, too. Mind you, this is the same friend who was distraught because, after an exhaustive search, she just could not find the song by The Who called "Teenage Wasteland". Spoiler: it doesn't exist. But she was my very good friend so I kindly informed her that Heart in Motion was not Amy's first album, but more like her ninth. And today, I will be going in depth on one of those first nine albums. Particularly, Unguarded, which I can safely say is my favorite of hers.

Unguarded was released in 1985, and it is the first album that I can recall really getting into. I knew all the songs by heart and sang them on a daily basis. Overall, it sounds like what a pop album of the eighties would be expected to sound like, complete with lots of synth work, but, lyrically, it is clearly from a Christian singer . . . for the most part. Yes, this is the album where Amy Grant began to break out a bit as a "crossover" artist, getting some success in the mainstream. This is thanks, mostly, to the somewhat ambiguous lyrics of a few of the songs. By that, I mean, she is generally talking about things from a Christian perspective, but doesn't always mention Jesus straight out. So people made up their own interpretations on some of the songs. Speaking of which, let's get to those songs.

The album starts off strongly with the track "Love of Another Kind", which, at first, may seem like one of those "it can go either way" songs, but she does eventually say Jesus. So the world had to keep its hands off that one. It is followed up by "Find a Way" and "Everywhere I Go". These two are easily the biggest hit singles and the ones that had the mainstream success, both getting radio airplay and the first of which getting its video played heavily on MTV and VH1. These are also the ones that caused the most controversy amongst Amy's alleged Christian fan base. Some of them felt as though, through these songs and their success, she had crossed over too far. Possessive and judgmental much? I was always happy to hear about her crossover success, since I'm pretty sure that means she was reaching more people out in the world. That's a good thing, right?

Another strong standout is "Wise Up", which also had some mainstream success, and yet I rarely heard about this one bothering anyone. Perhaps, because the lyrics were more blatantly Christian. Then, we have the song "Sharayah", because every artist has to do a song where the title is a person's name. Even if that name is one I've never heard of outside of this particular song. Yet somehow, I'm sure there is, at the very least, one girl out there who was named after this. There has to be. Anyway, this song is about someone going through a crisis of faith. Hmmm? I am quite surprised that this did not also cause some kind of uproar, since a boatload of "Christians", at least the ones I know, often like to give off the vibe that we never have any problems. I think it may be their recruiting technique, albeit, an incredibly misleading one.

But, hands down, my favorite song on this album is the closing track entitled "The Prodigal". It is a wonderfully gentle ballad, departing from the electronic sound of the majority of this album. Now, lyrically speaking, it seems to be inspired by the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, but I think it can become very personalized, since it mostly talks of waiting for someone you love to return, whoever that may be. It is truly a beautiful song and one of Amy's best of all time, which is saying a lot in the midst of a career that has spanned over thirty years.

Now I know that Amy Grant has had plenty of haters over the years, coming at her from all angles. The Christians think she's too secular; the seculars think she's too Christian. It has frustrated me for years, since, no matter how "mainstream" Amy went, she never backed away from her beliefs. Seriously, it is a good thing she has us truly loyal admirers who have stood by her through all of that, and she never fails to show her gratitude. For real, though, Unguarded is a great album. It definitely sounds like its time, but it still holds up today, certainly for me. I'm definitely sure I don't have to recommend this to any true Amy fans since they, no doubt, already own and love it. But if you are not that knowledgeable about her pre-full on pop career and have always been curious, this album is a fantastic place to start.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Ending of My Twilight Experience

Greetings Pups,

There will always be people in the world who do inexplicable things. Sometimes those people are, well, us. Seriously, we have all done things that we cannot explain, even to ourselves. My "what!" behavior has included . . . seeing every Twilight movie in the theater. And I did this for the final time yesterday.

Yes, Pups, I went to see Breaking Dawn: Part 2 on opening day. Now I did go for the early bird show, which is what I usually do when I go alone and in a professional capacity. Plus, I'm cheap and I don't like tons of people crowded around me. I did get in cheaply, that's for sure, but I had no luck in trying to avoid a crowd. I really thought all the local Twihards would have been at the previous night's midnight showing or at school since it was 11 AM. But, no. It would seem some parents thought it prudent to pull their kids from a day of school in order for them to see a movie that will be exactly the same at a viewing after 4 PM. And I did not expect to see so many little girls there, who looked about five years old. I may have assumed they were vampire children if these Twilight books and movies had not taught me that such a thing is illegal in the vampire world. So, what the heck? This was a film for young adults, not young children. Seriously, if your five year old can handle seeing decapitation and dismemberment than you have more problems on your plate than worries about a too soon crush on Robert Pattinson. And do not make me discuss the clapping and cheering at inappropriate times. If this experience proved anything, though, it was this. I am in complete agreement with something that Danielle Fishel said when she was hosting the fantastic and wrongfully cancelled show, The Dish. What did she say in the early stages of the Twilight phenomenon? Well, it was something like "I want to see this movie, but it's the audience I don't want to spend two hours with" But all things considered, I count my blessings that an annoying crowd was the worst thing with which I had to deal. Moving on.

Now I am not going to do a full on review of this movie. That seems more appropriate for one of my theme weeks. Maybe when this comes out on DVD or when we hear of the inevitable engagement or break up of Robsten. Yeah, I have no idea if they are together now or not, so I do not know what is coming next. But I figure I should give some not too spoilery thoughts about the film. Just because.

Okay, in general, it wasn't that bad. Not as good as the books, but the movie rarely is. That would probably make people think the movie was terrible since a lot of them think the books were bad. I'll discuss that in a minute. Back to the movie. It has its good parts and bad parts, as I expected. So let's dissect a little.

When it came to the good parts, I got to see my Twilight crush, who is, surprisingly, neither Edward nor Jacob. Nope, I love me some Charlie Swan a.k.a. Bella's dad. He is the best character, if not in the books, then certainly in the movies. That would explain why his part got smaller and smaller as they continued on. Because when Hollywood finds a lick of awesomeness they tend to take a huge dump on it. But rest assured, Billy Burke, I recognize your brilliance. Now thanks much to Mr. Burke's contribution, I can talk about the other good thing in this film. It actually had a lot of funny parts. A lot more than the other installments had. Considering how morbid this saga can be at times, I like a little comic relief. And as far as the acting abilities of the rest of the cast, don't expect a ton of surprises if you've seen the other movies. You already know which adult I consider the best, and, again, Taylor Lautner is the standout for the youngsters. Oh, but if you thought Michael Sheen had previously reached his limit of flamboyance, you are mistaken. That's not an insult, by the way. I enjoy his ability to be funny guy/bad dude. It takes a gift.

Okay, now on to the bad parts. It did have a lot of oopsies, but none more than the one near the end. I refuse to spoil it, but, good grief, what in all hecks was that? Look, I took the time to read the books. I should not be sitting in that theater more confused than people who did not. As soon as, let's call it, "the thing" started, I was very much not getting it. I mean, I thought I would have remembered events so pivotal taking place. Actually, I certainly would have since "the thing" in the movie was nonexistent in the book. And DO NOT get me started on how they explained it, or explained it away, more accurately, in the film. Look, I appreciate them trying to make this more cinematic, and I definitely understand that changes are necessary when it comes to adaptation. But NO, Movie! You cannot throw in a vicissitude THAT huge! I have a feeling that the super hardcore fans are either going to absolutely love it or absolutely hate it. I see no middle ground here. Still, nothing will stop them from seeing it. Probably multiple times. But once was plenty for me.

So what, if anything, have I gotten from my Twilight experience, both through movies and books? Well, I'm not a crazy, squealy fan, but I am also not a hater. I sort of like the movies, and I sort of like the books. No more, no less. I just don't take either of these things very seriously. For better or worse, there is some entertainment there. I know a lot of people have a problem with both for many reasons. I've heard Stephenie Meyer being criticized because her writing was "too juvenile". Um, HELLO! These books were written for the pre-teen to actual teen crowd. Just because a bunch of bored housewives got a hold of them does not mean they were meant for people who have been through college, marriage and motherhood. They are plenty good enough for their intended demographic, though, they are certainly not the best written books. And I will not fault her for promoting abstinence to the young crowds. How nice that so many teenagers fell in love with Edward Cullen because he wanted to wait to have sex until they were married. I NEVER thought I would see that happen. As far as the movies go, I consider them "Why the heck not?" films. You know, if someone asks me if I want to watch Twilight or one of its sequels, I'd probably say, "Why the heck not?" They can be enjoyable in places, and even I have to admit I cougared out on Rob Pattinson a little in the beginning. Subsequently, though, I realized that little fanciful fling was merely a source of inspiration for one of my short stories. And when I say, MY short story, I do NOT mean fan fiction. I have some integrity as an artist, believe it or not.

So, to the film makers and especially Ms. Meyer, I say hats off. You took a passion you had and created something with it. Most people don't care to take time to nurture their ideas and, therefore, let them die off. That was not done in this case. As a writer who loves to see anyone try to build on their gifts, I can't object to that ever.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Turning the Other Cheek

Greetings Pups,

When I read my Bible and, within those pages, God tells me to NOT do something, my answer is "Okay". And when I think of the things He doesn't want me to do, I can certainly see why. I can see the danger, both spiritual and physical, that they can bring into my life. However, it is some of the things God tells me I SHOULD do that have often caused confusion for me. Don't get me wrong. A lot of things He asks me to do are understandable and not confusing in the least. I understand why He wants me to pray and read my Bible and a lot of other tasks that aren't really tasks at all but a pleasure. No, it is what He wants me to do concerning my enemies that has always been difficult.

I doubt that I'm alone in this. I don't care how strong of a Christian you may be, there is no way you have never had a hard time praying for your enemies, or blessing your enemies, or, what I will speak of today, turning the other cheek.

Just in the last couple of days, I had occasion to be, in a way, if not literal, slapped by an enemy. And did I certainly want to slap back! But then I had to remember what Jesus said about how if someone "shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also". Yes, "shall", "smite", "thee". I do read the King James Version. Moving on.

Initially, this, much like the praying for and the blessing of our enemies, does not seem to make sense. But I like to think, and I like to think a lot about what God expects of us and why He does so. The way I see it is this. If we are struck, either literally or figuratively, our striking back will do nothing but continue the problem and usually cause more of them. But if we turn the other cheek and let our enemies have their moment of fun, then we are basically handing the situation over to God and letting him deal with those people in His time. I think that is the reason why He wants us to do this. He doesn't want us to continue a bad situation. He wants us to turn over our problems to Him. And, trust, there is nothing that any of us can do to hurt our enemies that is worse than what they are doing to themselves by defying God and trying to attack any of His children.

I realize that all the hard things God wants us to do, like everything I mentioned today, are for our benefit. Praying for our enemies is not for them, necessarily. I believe it is a test to see how humble and trusting we are of Him, and it is a way for us to earn some more blessings for ourselves. We have to trust that He will take care of our enemies. We really don't have to do much, though it seems like we do. And like I've said before, God won't fail to bless us for the obedience.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, November 12, 2012

Catfish 2 . 0 - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

Back in July, I did a week's worth of documentary reviews. One of them was on a movie called Catfish. Now that is a film you can only say so much about before you reveal the twist of the story, so I was kind enough to only say enough to be informative but not enough to ruin it for anyone. However, I've been meaning to do a follow up wherein I could discuss the "after twist" section. It certainly did spark some debate between critics and viewers alike, mostly concerning the validity of what may or may not have actually happened. Plus, there's much to be said about what the "characters" go through as the story progresses. And this seems like as good a time as any to do this.

You see, MTV will soon be premiering a series based on the film, and it will be about people going to meet other people with whom they've had internet relationships. And yes, I am way more interested in the incidents where they will catch the people who have been lying. Of course, a nice happy ending might not be so bad either.

Okay, before I begin, I must say something, and I can't stress it enough, so I will be using caps to emphasize. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE! Yeah, I had to yell, I'm sorry. Look, I do not want to ruin this film for anyone, because it's really good, and it should be seen. So, here's my advice. If you have not seen Catfish yet, check out my first review, then go see the movie, and finally, come back and read this. If you have seen it, keep reading and hopefully enjoy my synopsis of the second half. Okay, let's get started.

To recap what I went over in my first review, Catfish follows three guys from NYC. We've got 24 year-old Nev, a photographer, his brother, Rel, and their friend Henry. The two latter being filmmakers who are documenting Nev's interactions with an 8 year-old art prodigy named Abby, as well as her whole family. And her family includes mother, Angela, father, Vince, brother, Alex, and 19 year-old sister, Megan. Not to mention a load of family friends. Nev and Megan have developed a long distance romance, but he is beginning to discover that some things this family, including Megan, has been telling may not be completely true. So the boys head to Michigan to surprise them, and that is where I finished. Now it's time to get down and dirty.

I really did end my review when the boys decided to go to Michigan, but let me back up to the time they spent in Colorado, where they were attending a dance festival or something. It really was during this time that things started to unravel. So the boys are in their hotel room or whatever, "chatting" with Megan, asking her to sing songs for them. She sends them her version of "Tennessee Stud", which makes them reminisce about the other songs she has sent them. But while doing a search to find one of those songs, they discover a performance by someone else, and it is the exact one that Megan said she was singing herself. Yeah, so she kinda lied on that one. This begins to make the boys, especially Nev, a little curious and even uneasy. So they continue with their detective work.

Heading to the Google. they come to discover that a lot of what they've been told about little artist Abby was completely untrue. She hasn't been having shows at her own gallery in the building that they bought, because they never bought said building. And they also hit a dead end trying to find articles that would most likely be written about an 8 year-old artistic genius. So. though Nev is really wanting just to end this whole thing and go home, Rel and Henry convince him to go to Michigan to get the whole story.

First, they reach the farm that Megan said she bought for herself. Yes, she is 19 and said she bought her own farm. Hey, remember that episode of The Cosby Show where Theo bought a $90 shirt and Cliff said that the only time a 14 year-old boy should have $90 shirt is if he is onstage with his four brothers? Yeah, well, the only time a 19 year-old should own a huge farm is if she's been on a show called Hannah Montana. Maybe that should have been a clue that things weren't on the up and up, but Angela did claim that they were making quite a bit of money from Abby's paintings, so maybe that's where they said the farm money came from. Who knows? Needless to say, when they got there, in the middle of the night for some reason, Megan was nowhere to be found and neither were her horses.

After that fun night of trespassing, the boys headed to the home of Angela, Vince and Abby, along the way, passing the "gallery" of Abby's, which was clearly just an abandoned building. So when they reached the house, Nev and Rel approached the front door, leaving Henry in the getaway car. No, seriously, they were being very cautious about these people and prepared for, if needed, a quick escape. I can see why they felt this way, all things considered.

So they knock on the door and out comes . . . Angela? Yes, you can tell, even from a distance that THIS Angela is certainly not the Angela that they've been seeing in pictures and paintings over the past several months. Then, Vince walks up, and guess what? He's not Picture Vince either. Now you'd think, at this point, Angela would just give it up and say, "Okay, you caught me", but no. No, she tries to keep the charade going, even telling them that Megan is not there, but out at her farm. Apparently, she didn't know that they had been there and found bupkis. But the boys carefully play along, taking things one step at a time.

After we see the reality of the appearances of these people, we then are exposed to the reality of Angela's life, and it is far different from what she purported it to be. We find out that she has two stepsons from Vince's first marriage, who are severely handicapped. She also tells them that she has been diagnosed with cancer. And when we meet Abby, who surprisingly does exist, we discover that it is not she who paints but her mother, and that Abby never sees her sister, Megan. Doesn't even remember what she looks like, actually. Oh, it's just getting better and better, isn't it, boys?

So after spending some time with the family and making plans to meet them again for dinner, Nev, Rel and Henry, safe and alone, driving away in their car, begin to have their first deep discussion about just what in all heck is happening. The first words we hear spoken are Henry saying to Nev, "Angela's in love with you" to which Nev replies "Angela is in love with me" And as they peel away each layer of this internet onion, they come to fully realize the depths of the deception. It hits Nev that the person he's been having this online and over the phone relationship with was not the hot, model looking girl, Megan, but forty-something Angela. And when we recall the, let's say, intimate texts between Nev and Megan that he shared with us, we understand why big brother Rel was desperately trying to contain his laughter. Look, he has to make fun of his little brother. It's his job. Moving on. They begin to figure out that not only was Angela pretending to be Megan, but she was most likely behind every single person that the boys knew through her on Facebook. And there were more than a dozen people. Just think about that. She created all these Facebook accounts and kept them active just to keep this whole thing going. Why is this woman not a novelist? Clearly, she knows how to work with characters she has created. Anyway, they decide, very sympathetically, I might add, to confront Angela about the whole thing, in a way as to not embarrass her, making it clear that they didn't want to hurt the family. I actually found that quite endearing.

And so the next day, after getting messages from "Megan" explaining why she's not there, Nev tells Angela that they basically know everything and want to give her a chance to explain. It's then that pretty much everything comes out. Angela says that she does have a daughter named Megan, who has some issues of her own, but Nev has never spoken to her, and the girl in the pictures is just a friend of the family. Later, as Nev sits for Angela while she sketches his face, they begin to finally talk in depth about the whole ordeal. Nev even asks Angela to talk in the voice she did while pretending to be Megan. This scene caused a bit of controversy, but we'll get to that later. So they give Angela her time to explain herself and why she did what she did. I couldn't help but feel a bit of sympathy for her as well. After everything we find out about her real life, I could certainly see why she would be desperate for some kind of escape, not to mention that she really wanted someone to appreciate her art. And when Nev and the boys did so, she didn't want to lose that or the friendship she had developed with them, especially Nev.

As the movie ends, we follow the boys back to New York, where Nev has clearly been deeply affected by the whole situation. We also get some captioning that contains a bit of follow up info about Angela, including the fact that she doesn't have cancer and that one of her stepsons passed away. We also learn the identity of picture Megan, and that she is actually a 30 year-old photographer and model who is married and a mother of two named Aimee Gonzales. And Angela does not know her. Plus, we get some footage of Angela's husband, Vince, telling a story about how when they ship codfish from Alaska to China they put in a few catfish to keep the cod agile, so that they won't become basically useless on the way. And he says that there are people in life like that, who keep us alert and thinking and fresh. I actually thought that was a pretty clever metaphor and appropriate. It's also where the title of the movie came from. And that is pretty much where we end.

I may as well also mention some things concerning the people who were inadvertently included in the film. First of all, there is Amy Kuney, whose performance of a song called "All Downhill From Here" was one of the ones that "Megan" said was her own recording. It's actually a good song, and I've come to discover in the aftermath that Amy Kuney is a really great musician. Also, if you go to You Tube and search "Catfish: Meeting the Girl in the Picture", you can see some deleted scenes of Nev, Rel and Henry meeting Aimee Gonzales and her husband (that was a little awkward) and telling them this whole crazy story. Turns out, she was really sweet about the whole thing. A little weirded out, too, naturally, but both she and her husband were sympathetic to what Nev had gone through. In fact, in an interview I saw with the boys, they said that Aimee had actually apologized to Nev for breaking his heart, even though she had nothing to do with it. That is one very nice and classy lady.

Now as I mentioned in my first review, I believe that this movie is actually a true story. As true as a movie can be anyway. There are, however, a lot of people, critics included, that do not agree. In fact, some people go so far as to say that they were using Angela, even exploiting this woman who clearly has a lot of problems. I could agree with that if they were the ones who sought her out, but she was the one who started this whole thing. She was the one who contacted Nev in the first place and got this all off and running. That brings us to the scene I mentioned where Nev asked Angela to talk in the Megan voice. One critic said something to the effect of, "Look at the smile on his face. He's obviously excited to get this scene for the movie." My response to that would be, yes, look at the smile, then look at his eyes. To me, he is giving the type of smile one does in order to keep from crying. You can very easily see tears in his eyes that he is refusing to let fall, because he has been very hurt by this person. When asked in an interview why he wanted her to speak to him in that voice, he said he wanted her to understand how uncomfortable she had made him by her actions. For her to truly feel the effect of what she had done to him. I don't necessarily think there is anything all that wrong with his doing that, especially since he gave her chance after chance to come clean, and it wasn't until he full on confronted her that the truth came out.

One of the main reasons why people think this is fake is because they can't imagine that three guys in their twenties from New York City could fall for this and not be able to figure it out. First of all, they DID figure it out. That was kind of the point of the second half of the movie. Maybe they didn't figure it out all at once, but they followed the clues, if you will, and solved the puzzle. And remember, this woman was really determined to deceive them. And why does their age and especially their location factor into whether or not they could get fooled by someone. Assuming they are smart because they come from New York is like assuming someone is dumb because they come from the South. Frankly, I do think these guys are smart, for no other reason than that . . . they are. And on top of it all, people just can't believe that anyone could be so trusting, as Nev and his friends seemed to be. Look, unless you're on high alert at all times, expecting to be scammed, you're not going to be dissecting every little thing a person does or says. When Nev did have questions and expressed them to Angela/Megan, she always came up with some kind of explanation, and he chose to give her the benefit of the doubt. I think it was because he had been lonely and was happy to have this young woman in his life who potentially could have been "the one". He really didn't want to lose that. That's what makes the whole thing bittersweet to me.

But you know what? I can admit that I might be wrong. Maybe I, myself, have gotten "catfished"! But I don't think I have been. I certainly hope not.

Look, the bottom line is that this movie is good. Whether you believe it's legit or not, it is certainly a conversation starter, and that is something that art should be, but rarely is these days. And I'm sure this new series based on the film should be thought provoking as well. I'm definitely going to check it out and maybe eventually give my reaction once I see how they handle all the different situations they'll probably encounter.

Like I said before, I highly recommend this movie. I know I went way in depth as far as the story goes for this review, but that's probably because I prohibited myself so much with the first one. I just hope I can get you all thinking and talking, as this film did for me. That would be a joy.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, November 9, 2012

Top Ten Jeff Foxworthy "You Might Be a Redneck" Jokes

Greetings Pups,

I so enjoy it when something comes along to remind me of how much I love a certain person. For example, this year a show premiered called The American Bible Challenge on GSN. I really like it, and not just because I am kind of smart when it comes to Bible stuff, but because of the host, Jeff Foxworthy. That's right. I love Jeff Foxworthy. I have for years, and I will, no doubt, continue doing so for years to come.

If you don't know who Jeff Foxworthy is, first of all, sad for you, and second, he is a comedian who became famous making fun of rednecks. And it's okay that he does this because, as he once said, and I quote (hopefully), "You can make fun of rednecks if you are one. And I are one." Or something like that. He also made it okay for us to laugh at the things they do,too. Out loud and in public. Thanks, friend!

So, to pay tribute to what pays his bills, I will share with you all my personal top ten of his his infamous "You Might Be a Redneck If . . ." jokes. Now I certainly hope there is no copyright infringement by my telling you these jokes, but to be safe, let me just say, these are jokes that Jeff Foxworthy owns. Like, for real. He OWNS these jokes! Ever seen him perform? If you have, you'll probably agree with me. Anywho, here are my favorites. I do hope I worded them all correctly. And, of course, I must preface my top ten by saying this:

"You might be a redneck if . . ."

#10 - "You have a home that is mobile, and fourteen cars that aren't" - One day he will shock his audiences by changing the word "home" to "phone". It may just cause a riot.

#9 - "You've ever used an ironing board as a buffet table" - And those "sophisticated" people that Jeff speaks of would probably call me a redneck because I have a table you can pull apart and add extra leaves to for when I have a buffet.

#8 - "You've ever stared at a can of orange juice because it said 'concentrate'" - This is the first one I ever heard from him, so it holds a special place in my heart. Plus, I love orange juice, so there you go.

#7 - "The most common phrase in your house is 'Someone go jiggle the handle'"/ "Directions to your house include 'Turn off the paved roads'" - Okay, here's the thing. I had to have a tie with these two, because they are the ones that, at one time or another, have hit closest to home with me. You understand now why I rarely had friends over as a child.

#6 - "You've ever taken a fishing pole to Sea World" - With this one, I don't think I ever actually heard Jeff say it, but someone made a list online and said it was his, and since I believe everything on the internet . . . Oh, and if you think this joke might offend Sea World, I suggest you watch Jaws 3-D. Then you will know that, at some point, they appeared to have little concern for their own reputation. "Come to Sea World! We've got killer sharks, and the guy who played Manimal!"

#5 - "Someone hollers 'hoedown' and your girlfriend hits the floor" - To make a Kardashian joke or to not make a Kardashian joke. And by merely posing the query, it seems I have chosen in the affirmative.

#4 - "You have a complete set of salad bowls, and they all say Cool Whip on the side" - I haven't seen salad bowls with that particular logo, but I have certainly seen it on tupperware.

#3 - "You've ever made change in the offering plate" - That's pretty bad. And yet, not nearly as bad as making change in the hand of a homeless person. That would be seriously messed up. And why do I fear that some people have done it?

#2 - "An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger ever changed your life" - It is precisely this joke that makes me hope Josh Holloway was cast on Lost, a show that "changed his life", because of his appearance on Walker, Texas Ranger. See, that way Hurley would be totally justified in calling him "Redneck Man" that one time.

#1 - "Your family tree does not fork" - And, if it forks too much, you might be a character on a soap opera!

Genius! Him, not me.

Now I know that some people hate on Jeff Foxworthy, because, I don't know, he doesn't say the F-word or something, but I still love him. Kidding aside, I like the fact that he's pretty much a very clean comic, and yet he still manages to be hilarious. He's also a good family man, and, from what Larry the Cable Guy tells me on our monthly frog gigging trips, he's a great friend. So I can't think of a reason not to like him.

Oh, and P.S., I don't really go on frog gigging trips with Larry. A girl can dream, though.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The One Seasoner's Club - My So-Called Life

Greetings Pups,

As some of you may recall, I have lived in a few places in my life, all of which were coincidentally named "little town just outside of Pittsburgh". Now I have done some complaining about how living in this area as an artist is a bit difficult, since it's more focused on sports than the arts. But I do get a bit excited when this place gets attention. One of those times was when a new show came along that was set in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season, so, therefore, it is time for another installment of The One Seasoner's Club as we discuss My So-Called Life.

There have been many shows that have lasted a mere one season, but only some of them have inspired fans to fight for the show's survival. My So-Called Life was one of those shows. Fans got very upset when it was reported that it was getting cancelled, so they started a huge letter writing campaign, because in 1995, people still wrote letters. Despite their passionate efforts, the show did not survive. And yet, somehow, it managed to leave a lasting impression on pop culture. So let's talk about what made this show so enjoyable.

My So-Called Life was centered around the, I guess, life of a 15-year-old girl named Angela Chase, who was played by 15-year-old Claire Danes. What? WHAT! A teenager actually playing a teenager on a TV show. Relax, though. All of her high school character counterparts are played by people well above the drinking age. So, anyway, Angela is your typical teenage girl, who lives her life, while giving a voice-over narration of how she's feeling. Don't we all do that. Actually, that was a big part of the show, those voice-overs. Angela was the supplier of them in every episode, since every episode was from her point of view, save two, where other characters took over. I'll get to that in a minute. Anyway, let us first discuss Angela's home life.

Angela has one of those bizarre families with a mom and a dad who are married and who seem to kind of like each other. Weird, right? She has a good, but sometimes strained relationship with her mother Patty (Bess Armstrong). When it comes to her dad, Graham (Tom Irwin), Angela seems closer to him, though they do have their moments of distance. And then we have a little sister, Danielle (Lisa Wilhoit), who fronts that she isn't crazy about her big sister, but who secretly wants to be just like her and have the same "exciting" life. That's something we find out in the episode "Weekend", where Danielle becomes one of the two characters who takes the voice-over duties from Angela. Well, that's home. Time for school.

In the pilot, we see that Angela has begun to hang around with some new friends, while becoming distant from an old one. The new friends are Rayanne and Rickie. Rayanne (A.J. Langer)is a bit of a wild child, to say the least, who we eventually find out comes from a single parent home and has some substance abuse problems, but she still seems to have a good heart. Rickie (Wilson Cruz)is a boy who likes to wear eyeliner and hang out in the girls room, and Angela's mom referred to him a being "very confused". Seriously, though, the kid was gay, but I don't recall anyone ever actually using that word on him. Maybe I missed it or maybe no one wanted to state the obvious. Now, the old friend and current neighbor of Angela's was Sharon (Devon Odessa). These two girls had been total BFF's, but, as it often happens when people begin to grow up, they grew apart. It stayed that way with them for awhile, but eventually they were able to be close again. Speaking of people who fill the role of both schoolmate and neighbor, we next have Brian (Devon Gummersall), the token geek who has an "obvious to everyone but her" crush on Angela. Also, in the episode "Life of Brian", he becomes the other character who gets to have his P.O.V. be ours for awhile. And then we have Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), the crush of our protagonist. Just the protagonist. Not me. Not at all. Anywho, he's a good-looking, quiet loner who has a learning disability and can barely read. Say it with me, Pups - project! Of course, eventually, Angela got to have a "relationship" with Jordan, but it was a little... I guess 'awkward' would be the best word, in my opinion anyway. Maybe I was preoccupied with the fact that Claire Danes was 15 and Jared Leto was, like, 21 or 22 or something. Supposed felonies can be very distracting.

I should also give some shout-outs to people who were on the show more sporadically. We got Mary Kay Place as Sharon's mom, Camille, Patti D'Arbanville as Rayanne's mom, Amber, and Jeff Perry as Mr. Katimski, a teacher that showed up and helped Rickie out in the last few episodes. And there were several great guest stars, like Roger Rees, Laura Innes, Tracy Melchior, Paul Dooley and I think even Jared Leto's brother, Shannon, had a bit part a couple of times. Well, that's what IMBD told me, and they are never wrong. Like, ever.

Now sometimes, when shows like this last only one year, it can actually make the time almost stretch out. That one year, to me, seems like about three. Well, a lot did happen in this short time. We got good times, bad times, romances, betrayals, parties, even an overdose and a heart attack. That's a lot. But it was all done quite well. Actually, to this day, I have no idea why this show got cancelled. Obviously, it had a strong fan base, and it was critically acclaimed. I guess you just never know what the networks want. Apparently, they did not want this show. Sadly.

So what has happened to the cast of My So-Called Life since the mid-90's? I think we all know what has happened to Claire Danes. She's had a pretty good career, as has Jared Leto. Yeah, I love when those Tiger Beat-style, teen heart throbs can make their way to being legitimate and well-respected actors. It's rare, but it happens. I saw both Devon Gummersall and Tom Irwin on episodes of CSI, and I have heard some work from Lisa Wilhoit. I say "heard" because she has apparently done a voice on Family Guy for some time. All I know about A.J. Langer now is that she has become a Lady. Like she's an actual Lady, because she is married to a Lord, son of the Earl of Devon, to be precise. I am not making this up. As far as the rest of the cast goes, I really don't know what they're up to. I just hope they're doing well with whatever they're doing.

Besides location, there is another reason why I liked this show so much. I was 14 when it started, and it made me really anticipate turning 15. The show gave me the impression that a lot can happen in that particular year of someone's life. They weren't wrong, at least, not as far as I was concerned. The year I turned 15 was truly a milestone one for me, and I look back on it with much fondness, even reverence. It was a year that changed my life, in the best possible way. I did not, however, get to make out with Jared Leto. All in good time.

So did it deserve a second season? Of course, it did. I know some of the people on the show have gone on to other things, but the finale was so open ended, I would have liked to see what would have happened with the characters. And since the twentieth (wow!) anniversary of the show will be happening in 2014, I'm hoping for a reunion or even a movie based on it. I'm hoping very much actually. It's probably false hope, but I am a dreamer.

Now if you haven't seen this show and would like to, it is available on DVD for purchase or rental, by way of Netlix. They are so good to us, aren't they? There are only nineteen episodes, so it shouldn't take long to get through them. But you might enjoy them quite a bit. I know I still do.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Very Brady Christmas -TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

Okay, I know I did these TV movie reviews for Halloween week, but, like I said, I don't do Halloween. Know what else I'm not that into? Christmas. So put all that together and it seemed only natural to review what could possibly be the most infamous TV movie of all time. A little. Here it is, A Very Brady Christmas. Oh, yeah.

Okay, this TV movie aired in 1988, about seven years after we had gotten anything new from the Brady camp, that thing being The Brady Brides. I do not believe The Brady Brides was much of a hit . . . at all, so it might make you wonder why they could not have left well enough alone, letting us simply enjoy reruns of the original show. I always assumed it was because the upcoming year would mark the twentieth anniversary of the debut of The Brady Bunch, but who knows. What I do know is that this thing was REALLY big! Seriously, it was one of the most watched TV movies ever, and I give most credit to my assumption that people's curiosity just got the better of them. They just wanted to see what the current state of the Brady family was. They certainly got to see that. Yes, we get present-day Mr. and Mrs. Brady, present-day Alice and present-day Brady kids - all of them. I'm talking Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, Cin- hey, hold it the heck up! That is not Cindy Brady! Yeah, for reasons that I have yet to discover, the actress who played the original Cindy did not take part in this, so they got a replacement who was . . . look, I'm not going to say she was bad, but they could have at least gotten someone with a lisp so we could close our eyes and pretend. It's kind of ironic, since the whole point of this movie is that it's been years since all the kids came home for the holidays at the same time, and the goal is to make it happen. So, technically . . . plan fail! PLAN FAIL! Anyway, speaking of which, let's move on to the plot.

As you may recall, The Brady Bunch, when it came to storytelling, was fairly simple and straight forward. This time, they thought they'd amp it up a bit. For example, before we get to the main plot, we get this, sort of, mini-episode with a mini-hijink. First, Alice comes back to the Brady home after leaving Sam (Yes, she married the butcher!), then both Mr. and Mrs. Brady secretly and separately tell her that they each are planning a trip, one to Japan and one to Greece, using the money in their savings account. But they don't just tell Alice. They tell all six kids, too. Really? Look, I appreciate the loyalty to their parents, but come on! When the surprises are basically spoiling each other, SAY SOMETHING! Fear not, though. Both Papa and Mama Brady discover the surprise the other was planning, at the travel agency of all places, so the whole thing was like a reference to "The Gift of the Magi". And in case you couldn't have figured that out on your own, they literally point it out. So, thanks? Anyway, they decide to forego both trips and use the money to fly everyone home for Christmas.

Okay, this brings us to the main plot, which is that everyone is coming home for Christmas. It is also at this point when we begin to realize that the movie suffers from two conflicting problems. First, that main plot is a tad too basic and generic, but then we have to deal with the fact that EVERY Brady kid has a reason why they kind of don't want to go home. So we have six subplots to keep straight. And they range from marriages falling apart to people losing their jobs to "Hey, I wanna go skiing with my friends over Christmas because I'm in college and that's what college kids do, and I'm not the real Cindy Brady anyway, so why the heck do I have to be there?" Yeah, those kind of problems. Look, I refuse to go into full on detail of all these subplots, because it would just take too long. Plus, my poor little head couldn't handle it. And on top of all that, we actually do, in my opinion, get two ending climaxes.

First, we get the red herring one. Everyone sits around at the table for Christmas dinner, and the secrets come out, one by one. You'd think that, when the last one is revealed, it is the end of the movie. Well, no. The phone rings and we find out that one of the buildings Mr. Brady designed has collapsed, trapping some men inside, so he has to go and help get them out. Yeah, because when buildings collapse, the first person you run to is the guy who designed it to go in and rescue the people trapped inside. And if he happens to be in his sixties, isn't that just the cherry on the sundae! Well, the initial victims get out, but then the building collapses some more, leaving Mr. Brady stuck in there alone. You know, since he was the one who designed this death trap, maybe he's getting what's coming to him. But, alas, the family arrives and we get our obligatory Christmas miracle, not to mention a flashback of the infamous "Mrs. Brady Loses Her Voice at Christmas" episode. (P.S. If you hired a fake Cindy, do not show the real one at any time.) Remember how in that episode, she sang "O Come, All Ye Faithful"? Well, she sings it here, too, and the whole crowd of onlookers joins in. And it is that which gives Mr. Brady the fortitude to get himself out of the collapsed building. And may I say that had they sung any other song, we would not have had such a prominent deus in this this deus ex machina. Oh, and we can't forget the news reporter pointing out what street on which this miracle just happened to take place. If the number 34 is coming to your mind, you are heading in the right direction! Then, they all go home to finally have Christmas dinner, and it's over. No, hold on. Someone's at the door. Who could it be? It's Sam, dressed up as Santa, because they couldn't get the original actor for that part either but didn't want us to know. Anyway, he's back to ask Alice for forgiveness, which she gives, and they're back together. The End. For real, this time. Well . . .

No, really, that was the end of that movie, but the reverberations continued on for years. First, the success of this thing parlayed it into a series called The Bradys, which brought the original Cindy back, but we had to deal with a fake Marcia. Amazingly, it lasted for six whole episodes. I think the problem was that they tried to make this, not a comedy like the original Brady Bunch, but a drama, in the vein of Thirtysomething, dealing with heavier issues. No, for real, in those six short episodes we get Mr. Brady going into politics, Marcia turning into an alcoholic, Jan adopting, Cindy romancing an older man, Peter breaking up with his fiance, and Bobby, continuing his race car driver subplot from the Christmas movie, getting into a wreck that paralyzes him, then he marries Martha Quinn. Whew! That was A LOT with which to deal, especially from the Bradys.

But things began to look up in 1995 with the release of The Brady Bunch Movie, and in 1996, with A Very Brady Sequel. Both of them, I think, were really good movies. They really grabbed on to every single cliche attached to the original show and made the most of it, therefore, solidifying the legacy of the Bradys even more. So, thumbs up. And all of this spawned. I think, from the success of A Very Brady Christmas.

So, as far as my opinion of this classic TV movie, I'd say that it's not great, but it's not too bad. It's just kind of . . . there, and you can certainly have a little fun with it. I suggest you watch it at least once, just so you can say you did. Good luck trying to find it, though. It was released on VHS back in the day, but I don't think it's ever gotten a DVD release. I couldn't find it on You Tube, which kind of surprised me. Your best bet is to keep your eyes open around the holiday season, and you might just catch an airing. And you might just get a kick out of it.

Love and full moon,

Becky the Writer

Friday, November 2, 2012

Camp Cucamonga - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

When we are youngsters, there are many things that can prepare us for our adult lives. Even the people in the world of TV movies do their part to help out. Occasionally, we would get one of their movies aimed to a younger crowd, and, in September of 1990, we got Camp Cucamonga. Yeah, I don't know why they aired a movie about summer camp in September either, but let's just try and have fun with this one.

Camp Cucamonga was one of those star studded movies with all the television luminaries of the day that they could gather. And, boy, was this one just chock full. Buckle your seat belts, Pups. I'm going to go through the list, telling you who is here and who they played. We'll get to the story later. This upcoming paragraph may be a long one.

Okay, first, we have John Ratzenberger of Cheers playing Marvin Schector, Dorothy Lyman, fresh from the finale of Mama's Family playing his wife, Millie, and Jennifer Aniston playing their daughter, Ava, who, at the time, was on some sad series based on Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Then, there was a counselor named Roger who was played by Brian Robbins of Head of the Class, who went on to produce pretty much every show on Nickelodeon and the CW. Let's move on to the campers, who are all teenagers being played by actual teenagers. I can't believe this came out the same year 90210 debuted. First, there's Candace Cameron from Full House playing the un-DJ Tanner-like Amber, Chad Allen, before Dr. Quinn and during My Two Dads, as Frankie, who actually has a lot of girls fighting over him in this. Then, we have two - count 'em!- two stars from The Wonder Years, Josh Saviano as Max, the camp nerd (that must have been tough) and Danica McKellar as Lindsay, a sort of goth girl who wears no make up, but she's got the 'tude and the heavy metal posters to prove it. We also get, Urkel from Family Matters himself, Jaleel White, as Dennis, not really a super-nerd in this one, and I must mention an actress named Tasha Scott who plays Jennifer. I don't know who the actress is, but she's playing one of the kids in the core group, so I had to say something and she's pretty good. There are also some other campers, but they're kind of not all that important, so the only one I'll mention is a pre-Clueless Breckin Meyer as a skateboard guy. It's like looking in a crystal ball on that one. Then, there's Sherman Hemsley, who was on Amen at the time, playing Herbert Himmel, a repairman, and, finally, my personal favorite, we have the character of Howard Sloan as portrayed by G. Gordon Liddy. I am not kidding about that. For you kids who don't know who that is, ask your parents or Google "Watergate". And that's it for the cast. Let's get the story, which will promise to be much less complicated.

It's summertime, and a group of excited kids are returning to, or coming to for the first time, Camp Cucamonga. It is run by Marvin Schector and his wife, Millie. Their daughter, Ava, is one of the counselors, and it only takes about five minutes into the movie for her to meet Roger, another counselor who is kind of a gigolo. She can't stand him, and I'm sure she won't have a change of heart, forcing them to end up together. Yeah. Anyway, the Schectors are concerned that they won't get camp accreditation, so they hired a repairman to fix things up before an inspector comes. I cannot see a single hijink coming from that. Certainly not when the repairman comes dressed in a suit because he came straight from a family wedding, and the inspector comes all dirty and disheveled because he had to change a flat tire on the way. Nope. I cannot see one ounce of confusion being spawned from that scenario. But what really keeps Col. Marv, as the youngsters call him, and his family going are the great kids at the camp. I told you who plays them; now I'll tell you a little more about who they are.

Like I said, there are six main characters, as far as the campers go. The kids returning after having been at camp the previous summer are these: Frankie, your typical blonde, popular, athletic guy, who has been reunited with his summer girlfriend, Amber, your typical blonde, popular "mean girl". Then, there's Max, a tall, skinny, not good at sports guy, who we still need, because we always need one of those, and Jennifer, the nice girl who is, for some reason, very good friends with the mean girl. Then, we have the newcomers in the group: Dennis, who is kind of a tiny, little ladies' man that makes friends quite easily, and Lindsay, who sooooo does not want to be at camp but her mom is forcing her to be there. Hmmm? I wonder if she'll eventually soften up and be friends with everyone. I do wonder.

This whole thing is filled to the brim with summer camp shenanigans from the kids, including the obligatory getting lost in the woods at night and their misbehavior amplifying the camp's problems. But they really are good kids at heart and want to help Col. Marv. So what do we get from the kids when they try to save the camp by making it look good? Remember, it's the early nineties, so they produce the one thing that always works when you're trying to bring down the man - a rap video! And it is FAN-TASTIC! The only thing more fantastic is the climax of the plot. It is complete with humiliation, an attempted escape from one of the campers, and a race to see if the kids will make it back to play in the very important baseball game! Do they succeed? Right! Like I'm going to spoil it for you! But I will tell you that it ends with the one thing on which all teen movies, and life itself apparently, end - a dance! What else!

Look, obviously, this movie is a serious cheese-fest, but when I watch it, I get a little enjoyment out of it, nostalgic, though it may be. It kind of reminds me of my childhood, and it is always fun to revisit those things that seemed so totally cool at the time but now just make us laugh. Hey, whatever works, I say, and makes us feel something other than sad! Right?

Oh, and this fun bit of television cinematic awesomeness is available on DVD! Buy, buy, buy, Pups!

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Friends 'Til the End - TV Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I'm going to talk for a moment to those of you in my age bracket, who grew up in the days of the original Beverly Hills, 90210. Remember how, over the course of the first four years, people started to hate the character of Brenda Walsh, and then, in turn, they began to not be so fond of Shannen Doherty? Well, I can agree that Brenda Walsh got a little annoying, and maybe Shannen did a few crazy things when she was out and about, but I always liked Ms. Doherty. Maybe it's because she's one of the few celebrities brave enough to say she's a Republican, or maybe it's because, according to tabloids, she has thrown things at Paris Hilton in night clubs. That would make anyone a candidate to be my best friend. No, I think there is another reason. Despite the shenanigans that Shannen Doherty may or may not have been involved in, you can't deny that she is a really good actress. So I thought this week I would do a review of one of her TV movies, my favorite of hers actually, Friends 'Til the End.

Our movie begins backstage at a kiddie talent show. Don't worry. It only lasts for a few minutes. We see a dark haired girl with a very supportive, loving mother sitting next to a blonde girl with a mother who is, let's say, a bit critical. Despite the encouraging words of the brunette, blondie still goes on stage and chokes. Then, the other girl gets up and sings, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries", because that is what the cool kids sing. As the music fades, we transition into the future and see the dark haired girl all grown up, and she's Shannen Doherty. I was shocked at this reveal. Okay, no, I wasn't. Anyway, she is Heather Romely, a student in college, a popular sorority girl and the lead singer of a band which she is in with her boyfriend, Simon, played by Jason London, not to be confused with his twin brother, Jeremy, who was in Mallrats, also with Shannen. Heather also writes songs with the drummer named Nick played by a guy named John Livingston, who I've only seen in this movie. Keep that whole songwriting thing in mind, though, because it is important. Anyway, we first see Heather (grown up) at a sorority party, then at a gig with her band, all the while being watched by a blonde girl. I can already feel the wheels in your minds turning, but don't get ahead of me.

So then we see Heather in class, desperately looking for her paper that is due at that very moment. And who should come to her rescue but the blonde girl, handing her the assignment with the flimsy excuse of, "Hey, I think you dropped this is the club. Good thing I coincidentally picked it up, so now you owe me, and you better be my best friend." Or something like that. Turns out, the blond girl is Zanne Armstrong played by Jennifer Blanc, who I cannot believe is not an uber-famous actress. Now Zanne is wearing glasses so that means she's a shy, unpopular nerd. Right? Well, Heather takes her under her wing, getting her into the sorority, helping her to be pretty and even letting her join the band after hearing how well she can sing.

Things seem great at first, but then Zanne starts to "inadvertantly" sabotage Heather, but always in a way that makes it seem like she didn't really mean it. And everyone falls for it for some reason, except Heather, whose suspicions build and then culminate when she catches Zanne and Simon together. And when I say "together", I mean exactly what you think. Basically, it turns out that Zanne is, in a nutshell, trying to become Heather. She steals her friends, her band, her man and again, no one else but Heather seems to be smart enough to catch on. Well, there is Nick, the songwriting partner, who has always harbored feelings for her. He's on her side, but that's it.

As the plot begins to crescendo, Heather uncovers a lot about Zanne's very dark past, including her real name, Suzanne Boxer, and the connection the two young women have. So, quickly, Zanne's new life begins to crumble, one thing at a time. And all of this culminates in a - what! - battle of the bands. Oh, man. I thought Shannen was from 90210, not Saved By The Bell. And you'll never guess which girl comes out on top.

Let me take this opportunity to speak about the music in this TV movie. There are only a few songs, and frankly . . . they're kind of good. No lie. I actually liked them. And while I'm not sure about Jennifer Blanc, I am pretty sure that Shannen Doherty did her own singing. As for that, she's not Whitney or Mariah, but I thought she did a decent job. So, since music was an important part of this movie, I'm glad they actually took enough time to make it listenable.

Now this TV movie still airs from time to time, probably LIFEtime, to be exact, but, again, it can also currently be found on You Tube. So if you're looking for some good late nineties nostalgia, music, fashion and all, try to check this one out.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer