Thursday, February 28, 2013

Forgiving and Giving Thanks

Greetings Pups,

I know I have spoken on this a few times before, but sometimes things are worth repeating. I just want to give everyone some advice on how you can hopefully make your life a little better. Doing these two things has certainly made my life better.

First of all, I have learned to do something that can be very difficult - forgive. I speak so much about how so many people have tried to hurt me in the past and even in the present, and the effect that it had on me. I used to let all of these attacks dig so deep into me that the wounds had little chance of healing. I don't do that anymore. I just forgive them now. I refuse to let the corrupt actions of others put an extra burden on my own life. Forgiveness is freedom. The people who wronged you are most likely not thinking of or holding on to what they've done. Neither should you. I know it's hard sometimes. Believe me, I know. But, through my faith, I am able to do it. And the peace you can feel when you just forgive is so much stronger. So is the healing.

Second, I want to say something about giving thanks. It seems almost cliche at this point, but it is not. Doing this one thing that seems so simple can be so powerful. I certainly have been quite guilty of constantly asking God for things but sometimes forgetting to thank Him for what I already have. For me, it's because when I am hoping and praying for something better, my mind is always on that thing. I have to remember that, as I wait, I have to be grateful for what is sustaining me in the meantime. And why should God bless me with great things if I can't even say thanks for the things that I might think are "just okay"? He shouldn't. So I have learned to be thankful for everything, because it all comes into my life for a reason. I, of all people, should know that you can turn even the things that seem bad into a blessing. And doing that will help to bring more goodness to your life.

Well, that's all for today. Sorry if I sounded too "preachy", but I hope what I said can help at least one person.

God bless.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top Ten Eagles Songs

Greetings Pups,

I was driving home the other day and happened upon some Eagles music on my radio. I then thought to myself that one thing I have yet to do is make a list of my top ten favorite Eagles songs. So, I decided to do it, and you all are getting it today.

Let me just say that I have been a great admirer of the Eagles for quite some time. Most importantly, obviously, it is because they have created such wonderful music, but also love bands like this so much. By that, I mean, every person in the group is a great singer and they make songs wherein the harmonies are so perfected and intricate that anyone with any remote singing ability can find a way to sound good. Since I am a person with some remote singing ability, I am quite grateful for this gift.

Now this band was formed in 1971, and in all the years that they were in existence, there have been a total of seven members. Past members include Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, who were also two of the founding members, and also Don Felder. I am no way undermining the obvious talent that these men possessed, but, unfortunately, none of them come to my mind personally when I think of the Eagles. I suppose I could attribute this to my age, but when I think of the Eagles I think Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit and, of course, my favorite, Joe Walsh. Yeah, Joe, you are my favorite. You are a fantastic musician, you were hilarious on The Drew Carey Show and you gave the world your daughter, Lucy, a person and artist about whom I am crazy. Anyway, as I was saying, despite the fact that this is the lineup I go to, I would never take anything away from the other past members. Everyone who was ever a part of this band made their contributions and need the recognition. I'm sure that each of them have left fingerprints on this list of mine. Oh, yeah, my top ten list. Let's get to that.

#10. "Life in the Fast Lane" - When a lot of people think of the Eagles and some of their more famous compositions, it may come to their minds that this band, though considered rock, often portrayed a slightly mellower side. But with this song, they managed to show off the fact that they could be full on rockers. I'm guessing this had a lot to do with Joe being so involved. It may just be my imagination, but he always seemed like the least mellow of the guys. At least, when it came to the music. Sweet guitar playing, my friend.

#9. "Love Will Keep Us Alive" - This song kind of has an interesting history. During the late eighties/early nineties time, Timothy was planning to start up a new band with one of its writers. That never happened, so, when it came time for the 1994 Eagles reunion tour, they decided to sing it for those shows and put it on the new album. This is a very lovely song, but what I most love about it is that it lets Timothy shone as a singer, and he does have a beautiful voice.

#8. "Tequila Sunrise" - Well, I am a morning person, so, of course, this song will make the list. But, then again, I don't really drink much. Never even had any tequila. So it can't really rank any higher. Kidding aside, I do really like the lyrics in this song. Lyric snob that I am, that means a lot.

#7. "Desperado" - I like when songs stick on albums, despite never being released as a single. Such is the case with this one. No, seriously. Even though it was the title track on its album, it was not a single. That baffles me. But I guess sometimes people just don't always know their own greatness.

#6. "Hotel California" - Yeah, no kidding. Look, I can turn this entry on the list into my opportunity to explain what I think the song is about, but I just refuse. Those poor boys who wrote it, an their fans alike, have had plenty of that. I'll just say this. Great song, made the list, I'm done.

#5. "New Kid In Town" - You know, in this musical world, we have plenty of "I will love you forever" songs. Those are nice. But sometimes we just need a "I love you right now, but - Hey, did a new person just move in who is much hotter and better for me than you? Gotta go" kind of song. Okay, maybe they weren't that harsh, but it does remind us that not every single relationship will last forever, so enjoy each one while they do.

#4. "The Sad Cafe" - And, oh, don't we all have our own little sad cafe. I certainly do, and all of mine pretty much exist in my own head. Then again, I don't think the place in this song is exactly real either. I sense a metaphor here, in a big way. I think it may be talking about a place, or maybe a person, to which one always returns, even if it makes you depressed. But we artists definitely don't mind a little depression every now and then. Some of us welcome it.

#3. "Best of My Love" - Congratulations are in order on this song, since it was their first number one hit. It's no wonder considering that this is one that certainly can appeal to the masses. It's just a straight up beautiful love song. Sometimes that's all we need.

#2. "Hole in the World" - This is the newest song on the list having been released in 2003. It proved beyond any doubt that these guys still had it. Everything that always made the Eagles superb showed up in this song. The lyrics and harmonies were so emotional and moving that I wouldn't have a problem saying that it is near perfect.

#1. "Take It To the Limit" - You know what's really crazy about my having this song as my absolute favorite? It was originally sung by Randy Meisner. Yeah, one of those guys I mentioned before who was in the Eagles, but who I don't necessarily always think of? I guess when it comes to this band I just listen without thinking about who may be singing. Still, I love that I can give the top spot to the one song that this guy sang. Oh, and all that stuff I said about sounding good singing these songs because of the harmonies and what not? Well, that is no more evident than it is here, for me anyway. Out of any song by any artist, this is one of my best with which to harmonize. So, thank you, boys, for the fantastic song and for making it easier for me to convince myself that I am a good singer.

So there you have it, my top ten Eagles songs list. Sure, a lot of these choices may have been obvious and predictable, but I can't help that they were just that good. Look, you're not going to find many bands that are as amazing as this one, so may express my gratitude again for all this music. It has been a joy and will continue to be.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Newsies - Movie Musical Review

Greetings Pups,

Yes, we are going to go there today. We are going to talk about my all-time favorite Christian Bale movie, Newsies. Now some of you may know about how much I love Batman, and, therefore, you may be wondering why one of those films isn't my favorite. Well, I do love Batman, but I also love music. So if you put together music and the man who would eventually portray the Dark Knight, you get magic. In my world, you do, anyway. Seriously, though, I have always been one to come to the defense of this film. Initially, it was a major failure, both commercially and critically, but it has become very much appreciated in the years since its release. I think for a long time it was just basically forgotten, but then, once Christian Bale got a lot of success, people wanted to go back and see what else he had been in. It may have been then when they discovered Newsies and realized that it was not nearly as bad as so many have said. Is it perfect? Of course, not. But is it good? Well, let's find out, shall we?

Newsies is a 1992 Disney movie musical based loosely (VERY loosely) on the 1899 Newsboys Strike, wherein young newspaper sellers went up against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to get compensated appropriately for their child labor. That strike lasted about two weeks and was somewhat successful. But can "somewhat successful" lead us to the full on happy ending that we want? Probably not, so we better add some music.

So after a brief "history" lesson, our musical begins in a orphanage of sorts, where the young boys who live there sing of their upcoming day of newspaper selling in "Carrying the Banner". Here, we are introduced to some of the characters like Racetrack Higgins and Crutchy, who is called that because he has a crutch, so what else the heck are we going to call him? And, of course, we see, for the first time, Jack Kelly as portrayed by the aforementioned Christian Bale. He is something of a leader amongst the boys and has dreams of one day traveling to Santa Fe to be a cowboy. Sure, why not? And if he doesn't make this dream clear enough, he eventually does an entire musical number called "Santa Fe". He was fine at the acting part of this performance, naturally, but the singing? Yeah, let me just sum it up by saying this. I would wager that Christian got on quite well with Gerard Butler when they filmed Reign of Fire, since they obviously had some things in common. Point made. Let's move on.

Now the boys go out to buy their papers from Mr. Wiesel, or Weasel, as he is often called, played by Michael Lerner, a wonderful character actor who I think is one of the best things about this film. While there, Jack meets a new newsboy named David and his little brother, Les, who are working instead of going to school because their father is injured and can't work. Jack takes them under his wing, and by that I mean he wants to partner up with them because he thinks that cute little Les could help sell more papers. He's probably right. So David agrees to this and then, after the three of them are chased by a cop, they go to Irving Hall to see a performance by Medda "Swedish Meadowlark" Larkson. Whatever. She's played by Anne-Margaret because she was available. Honestly, I never got what the point of this character was. I suppose she may have been there to serve as something of a surrogate mother for all these orphaned Newsies, but, if that is what they were going for, I don't think it worked. Anyway, after the show, David and Les bring Jack home to meet the family, which includes a mom and a dad and a sister named Sarah who will, of course, not be a forced love interest for Jack, at all. Yeah.

All of that is the personalized aspects of the plot. Now we get to the historical, sort of, stuff. As I said, the newsboys had to buy the papers to sell, but when what they are charged goes up, they decide to strike. They lay out their plan in "The World Will Know" and solidify it in "Seize the Day". I guess I should take this opportunity to mention the actor playing our nemesis, Joseph Pulitzer. It is none other than Robert Duvall. Yep. Wonderful, honor worthy, "warm my heart with your greatness" Robert Duvall is in this movie. Obviously, I love this man, and in moments, his superb acting does shine through, but other times, not so much. Yeah, he made some odd choices in this role that I just don't understand. But, whatever, it's Robert Duvall. Can't stay mad at him for long. Moving on.

So, the Newsies continue on with the strike and even get some help from a reporter named Bryan Denton played by, the man, Bill Pullman. He gets the boys some headlines of their own, and that certainly gets them excited. So much so that they sing another song, of course, called "King of New York". They also enlist the help of newsboys from other parts of New York, even - GASP! - Brooklyn! I guess this was before Brooklyn was cool. Now there is a bit of a plot line where Jack turns his back on his friends, but it doesn't really last long enough to matter. It's called "padding", and every movie needs some.

But, in the end, we get exactly what we were expecting. They win. Just like they did in real life. Kind of. I suppose it's close enough to the truth, but not too close that we go into scary Gangs of New York territory. Can't go there. Gotta keep it nice and clean for the kids. Although, despite all of the glaring inaccuracies when it comes to the actual history of the Newsboys and New York itself at the time, I still really like this movie. And I have liked it for twenty years. I didn't just jump on some "Christian Bale is cool now, so that means Newsies is, too" bandwagon. I was faithful.

Seriously, though, like I said, this is film is far from perfect, but it is still quite entertaining to watch. The boys they hired to play the titular characters were actually pretty talented, especially with the singing and dancing. And, speaking of the music, I thought it was very well written. Again, not perfect, but still really good. And, yes, I do own the soundtrack to which I sing along often. In fact, should I ever meet the star of this film, it will probably take all of my self-control to not start singing one of these songs in his presence.

Look, however it came to be, I am just happy that Newsies is getting some recognition for being better than what people originally thought and said. It became so subsequently popular that it even got a Broadway show based on it. That's saying something. You know who else said something about Newsies? Mr. Christian Bale himself. He once said that "You say something bad about Newsies and you have an awful lot of people to answer to". You are correct, sir. Very correct.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Erbe, Eames, Excellence

Greetings Pups,

If you've ever read my blog before, you may have noticed that there are things I love, things that I love so much that they make many appearances in what I post. Two of those things are Vincent D'Onofrio and the magical television show on which he appeared, Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Now I can fully admit that he was the reason I really wanted to start watching that show, but is he the reason why I continued to watch it? Well, yeah, a little. A lot. However, he is certainly not the only reason why I did so. Sure, D'Onofrio is a great actor and his character, Robert Goren, was one of the best ever on television, but need I remind you all of who I have always considered his better half as far as this show is concerned? That's right. I am talking about the wonderfully gifted Kathryn Erbe and the compelling character she created, Alexandra Eames. Since her co-star has such an overwhelming presence, I feel as though she has always been, if not shoved aside, certainly overshadowed by him. So I have decided to give this great actress and her character a bit of a tribute today. It's been a long time coming, Ms. Erbe/Eames, but you deserve it.

Kathryn Erbe was born in the fine state of Massachusetts, which is, of course, most famous for having a Bee Gees song named after it. Right? She is the oldest of three children and the daughter of Elizabeth Magnarelli and Dr. Richard Erbe. Yeah, I do my research. When she was older, she attended New York University, and when she was an undergraduate student, she got cast in a television series with Lynn Redgrave called Chicken Soup. I may have heard of that, but my brain can't seem to find the file. Although, if I can locate some episodes, it may be a candidate for my "One Sesoner's Club". Moving on.

After the experience of that series, Kathryn got involved with some theater work. In fact, she became a member of the Steppenwolf Theater Company. You know the Steppenwolf, right? It's that place that produces future acting stars as easily as a rainbow produces colors. She was in several productions, including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Grapes of Wrath, and then eventually garnered a Tony nomination for her role as Mary in The Speed of Darkness. Good times. But, like a lot of theater actors, Kathryn decided to move on to other ventures.

Though her movie resume isn't what I would call ginormous, Kathryn did have a few roles that people may remember. She was in D2: The Mighty Ducks. Meh. (Sorry, not a fan of the "Ducks"!), and she was also in a great film which I have always felt was very underrated, Stir of Echoes. That is one that should be checked out. And, of course, she was in the film that contained the greatest performances by both Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, What About Bob? That movie is awesome, and hats off to Kathryn for being about twenty six years old, but still convincingly playing a girl who I am pretty sure was supposed to be a teenager. Hard to believe she never honed those talents on the set of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Kathryn also did some more television work before her time on L&O:CI. Apparently, she had a recurring role on Oz, a show that I tried to watch, but it proved to be too much for me. She also appeared on one of my other favorite shows, Homicide: Life on the Street, so, major points on that. And she was also in the excellent TV movie, George Wallace, alongside her Steppenwolf alum and my favorite actor, Gary Sinise. But whatever about all of that. Let's get to the meat of this post and talk about Kathryn Erbe's run as Detective Alexandra Eames on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

So Law and Order: Criminal Intent debuted in September of 2001. Like I said and like many other people, I was drawn to the show because of D'Onofrio, and as the years went on, he kind of overtook the show. But thankfully, some of us, who are not blind to superb acting talents, certainly noticed how amazing Kathryn Erbe was as Alex Eames. I was wise enough to notice that the character of Eames was just as complex and compelling as that of Goren, even if it was in a more subtle and quiet way. She had a great back story, and she had a lot of depth. Frankly, Eames was the absolute perfect partner for Goren. She was a bit more grounded and relatable, and she certainly had the gift of wrangling him when necessary, and it was necessary quite a bit. And whilst Goren didn't often care about what people thought of him or his methods, he did seem to care about what Eames thought of him. That means a lot. And yet, somehow, in amongst all that phenomenal presence, Alex Eames was often forced to play second fiddle in a lot of people's minds. Well, you know what? Not in mine.

There is one particular episode where Eames is upset with Goren, and she says something like, "Oh, I get it. You're the genius, and I just carry your water". Somehow, in those few words, she summed up my own personal annoyance about how unappreciated Alex Eames was as a character, as well as Kathryn Erbe as an actress. There was always this thing about Goren being Sherlock Holmes or something, which, I suppose, meant that Eames was the Watson, or the sidekick, or the person who hangs around while the brilliant dude figures everything out. Well, to that, I say, no! No, Alex, you were not that. You were never "less than". If people want to call Goren Sherlock Holmes, so be it. But let me take this opportunity to dub you, Alexandra Eames, the grown-up Nancy Drew! And if you know anything about me, that is highest honors. Congratulations!

And so there it is, my tribute to the amazing Kathryn Erbe and her alter ego, Alex Eames. I must say, few things make me angrier than actors and actresses who are underrated, and she is one of them. This woman should be named alongside the greatest of our female thespians. I see that, and I know all of her fans feel the same way. I pray that one day she will be thought of that highly by the masses. I also hope that she continues to produce more entertaining work for us to enjoy. And should Kathryn Erbe ever happen upon this blog post, I hope it only serves to remind her of just how much she is loved by myself and many, many others.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Top Ten Family Ties Episodes

Greetings Pups,

Sometimes when I make these Top Ten lists, they are easy. Other times, they are harder. Or much harder. Or, as in this case, much, MUCH harder. That's one of the only problems with a really good TV show. It's difficult to pick favorite episodes, because there are a ton of great ones. But I did my best and managed to come up with my top ten episodes of Family Ties.

I doubt that there is anyone who hasn't heard of Family Ties. It was one of the most successful shows of the 80's, and, unless my memory is messing with me, it made up my Thursday nights along with The Cosby Show. I just loved, and still love, watching the goings on of the Keaton family, what with the hippie, Liberal parents, Steven and Elyse, always at odds with their Conservative, Republican son, Alex P. Keaton, who never revealed for what the "P" stood. And let us not forget Mallory, the oft thought dumb but just differently gifted older daughter, and the little sister, Jennifer, who was an enjoyably feisty and precocious youngster. Then, there was Andy, the "Hey, the kids are getting older and the ratings might drop so let's get a baby in here" baby, who got hit with a dose of child character Miracle-Gro in the fifth season and magically became four years old. I just hope they remembered to return the bottle to the set of the soap opera from which they borrowed it.

Of course, outside the family we had some recurring characters. First, there was Erwin "Skippy" Handleman, the Keaton's next door neighbor. His niche was that he was in unrequited love with Mallory, and that he was a nerd, who was also kind of dumb. Okay, that's just not fair. Either make him smart and nerdy or dumb and hot, so he can be ahead of the game on something. And speaking of dumb and hot, let's talk about Mallory's longtime boyfriend, Nick Moore. I kid. He wasn't really dumb. Uneducated, maybe, but not every smart person has pieces of paper to prove it. No, Nick was much like Mallory in the way that he was not traditionally intelligent, but he did have talent, as an artist, who made sculptures . . . out of trash. Look, it was the 80's. Give the guy a break. Plus, as time went on, everyone realized that Nick was actually a very good guy.

Alright, enough with the character studies, let's get to the list. Here are my top ten favorite episodes of Family Ties.

#10. "Citizen Keaton" (Season 6) - When it came to politics on the show, those discussions tended to be saved for Alex and his parents, because there is nothing so entertaining as Republicans and Democrats fighting. This is why I am a Libertarian, so I can sit back and enjoy. But, in this episode, Mallory gets in on the action by running for school president of her college. Despite Alex's feelings about the low quality of her school, which, by the way, gave us some good jokes over the years, he decides to get involved with her campaign. By that, I mean, he made her make some insane promises which could not be kept, but, hey, it's politics. Although, I'm sure that when Skippy asked her to bring back the low-fat chocolate milk with twisty straws, that one may have been fulfilled. I'd say the best part of this episode was the heart to heart conversation between the two siblings who didn't always get along so well. It was a nice way to end.

#9. "Best Man" (Season 3) - So, Alex had this best friend named, Doug, played fantastically by one Mr. Timothy Busfield, who has always proved that, not only do gingers have souls, they can also be the epitome of awesomeness. He made an appearance in the first day of college for Alex episode and again here. In this one, Alex is very upset because Doug has a new girlfriend (the most adorable little thing I've ever seen, by the way), who is taking up all of his time. Things go from bad to worse when the young couple decides to marry. So, will Alex swallow his pride and attend the wedding of his best friend? It's a sitcom. What do you think? Oh, and, hey, what's up, Tate Donovan and Billy Campbell at the poker game! You gotta start somewhere.

#8. "Don't Go Changin'" (Season 4) - One of the best things about the fourth season is that it contained the relationship between Alex and Ellen, who was played by Fox's real-life lady, Tracy Pollan. These two characters were pretty different. Alex was all into politics and economics and money, and Ellen was more into the arts, like poetry and classic films and, in this episode, dance. So, in order to seem more in tune with her passions, Alex decides to join Ellen's ballet class. Need I say more.

#7. "Give Your Uncle Arthur a Kiss" (Season 1) - The 1980's was really the era of the "very special episode", wherein a normally comedic show would take a turn and speak on something a little more serious, like drugs or abuse or whatever. This is one of those. Here, the Keatons are being visited by an old family friend who the kids refer to as Uncle Arthur. Well, as it turns out, he's kind of a perv, and he gets a little inappropriate with Mallory. Of course, he blames it on his divorce and getting older. Please! Whilst I would rather have the funny, I understand that these things need to be addressed, and they did it in a very good and relatable way. I know I may sound sappy here, but this shows that, despite all their differences and conflicts,the members of this family know how to stand by one another.

#6. "Alex Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (Season 7) - So here we have the finale. It takes a lot for me to put any show's final episode on a top ten list, because, to be honest, a lot of them aren't very good. I think some shows just don't know how to properly wrap things up. Well, Family Ties did it very well. In this one, we have Alex preparing to move to New York where he will begin fulfilling his lifelong dream of being rich. I'm certainly not judging him since this is exactly want I want for my own life. Everyone starts saying their goodbyes, which leads to some heartwarming yet funny moments, but it is his mother, Elyse, who is having a very difficult time with his leaving. That is kind of the core plot of the episode, and I must say, the scenes near the end between her and Alex are some of the best I've ever seen on this show. And, yes, this one did make me cry.

#5. "Mr. Wrong" (Season 4) - And so we have the first appearance of who would become Mallory's boyfriend for the next four years, Nick. Though her parents were far from conservative, they certainly did not want Mallory to be dating this guy. I mean, seriously, he had - GASP! - an earring!!! I'm not kidding. That was actually a major factor as to why they didn't like him. Now I don't know if they originally intended for Nick to be a short-lived character on the show, but the audience really liked him, which led him to sticking around to the very end. Boy, am I glad he did!

#4. "The Harder They Fall" (Season 2) - I certainly love it when people who are so staunch in their beliefs completely abandon them for their own personal gain. Such was the case here with the pacifistic Steven and Elyse Keaton. It's Parent/Teacher Night at school and Elyse must go and see Alex's teacher, Mr. Tedesco. Turns out, he's kind of a rude, loudmouth jerk, so naturally, Elyse does what anyone who preaches non-violence would do. She punches him. Like for real. This upsets Alex because he is relying on this teacher for a college recommendation. So, Steven goes to see Mr. Tedesco to smooth things over. It's going well until he starts to insult Elyse, and then Steven also punches him. That kind of upsets Alex, too, so they invite Mr. Tedesco over for dinner, and, oh, the shenanigans. I will say this, though. The actor who played the teacher was a guy named Edward Edwards, and he has since done a lot of acting jobs here and there, but I do not know how he is not a mega star. He was amazing in this episode. I truly have never seen anyone take a fake punch as realistically as this guy. Good job, my friend.

#3. "Mrs. Wrong" (Season 5) - Yes, this does tie in to the episode at number five. As it was mentioned, the Keaton parents are not crazy about Mallory's choice of boyfriend, and in this episode, Mallory is not crazy about her living arrangements. So, because she is 18 and totally an adult, she decides to get engaged to Nick. No one seems to approve of this, so they make an attempt at eloping. Of course. Things go as you might expect throughout this episode, but there is such an overwhelming amount of funny here, I absolutely had to put this on the list. Oh, and awesome performances of those spirituals, Michael Gross. You are a treasure.

#2. "Say Uncle" (Season 2) - Hey, Tom Hanks, welcome back to the show. That's right, the Tom Hanks made some appearances on Family Ties, fresh off of his days on Bosom Buddies. This marks his second one as Elyse's little brother, Uncle Ned. The first time he showed up, he was on the run because he had stolen a ton of money from the company for which he worked. Apparently, Ned was a very intelligent and successful guy who was doing very well at this company, but when he found out there was going to be a merger that would put hundreds of people out of work, he stole the money so that wouldn't happen. Oh, so he's a good criminal. Gotcha! Anyway, he had to go to jail, but after his release, he returns to the Keaton house, hoping for help with a fresh start. Unfortunately, he had also discovered the booze. Yes, this episode is really about Uncle Ned being an alcoholic. Of course, we do get some funny here, but it's a lot about the dramatic. Now, some may say it was overly dramatic, but I think it was just the right amount. And, honestly, though it took Hollywood a lot longer to give Tom Hanks respect as dramatic actor, anyone else could see the spark of that in this episode. Good times, sir.

#1. "Birthday Boy" (Season 2) - Happy birthday, Alex! You're 18, and, much like what your little sister would come to believe, that means you can do whatever you want, right? Not according to your mother, especially if "whatever you want" includes going to a bar in West Virginia. Even though, at this point in time, one could go to a bar and drink at 18. Actually, if my research is correct, this episode aired literally like 6 months before the drinking age became 21. I don't want to say this episode affected that, but if I want to blame anyone for my not being able to get legally drunk on high school graduation night, I will probably blame Family Ties. I kid, and I digress. Naturally, because he is, in fact, 18 and allowed to do whatever he wants, Alex defies his mother and goes anyway. At this point, I must discuss the guest cast. So, Alex goes down there with his friends, Neil and Doug, and they meet up with these three girls, Roxanne, Christy and Buffy (for real), who are so dumb that they buy the idea that these guys are Air Force pilots. But they are hilariously dumb. I mean, Christy's reaction to hearing that Alex will be invading the enemy territory of Canada is priceless. Now his friend Neil is played by John Putch, who made an appearance on my blog in my review of Jaws 3-D. This is an upgrade for him. And then there's Doug played by the one and only Crispin Glover. Oh, he was good here. Very good. Hey, wait a minute. John Putch was in Jaws 3-D with Lea Thompson who was in Back to the Future with both Crispin Glover and, of course, Michael J. Fox. A-ha! It's all connected and now I'm dizzy. Anyway, Alex's mother finds out what he does and drives all the way to West Virginia to maybe embarrass him. I don't know. Now despite the inevitable fight, this episode does end on a tender note between mother and son, because, ultimately, the show is about family. Families do fight, but they do love each other. Good episode and my favorite.

Wow, this list was hard. You know, they don't make good family shows like this anymore. Oh, sure, they make ones that they try to pass off as such, but they really are not. I guess this is why I and many others treasure shows like Family Ties. It's a great thing that they can, in a way, last forever. So, major respect to all involved in the creation of this fine series, and thanks for bringing some much needed joy to my childhood.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Breaking the Perfect 10 by Tracy Lindsey Melchior - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

How is this possible? How is it that I have been doing this blog for nearly three years and I am only now doing my first book review? Well, I suppose I could use the excuse that, since I spend so much time writing my own books, I have little time to concern myself with the books of others. I do read, though, and when I come across a good book, I like to tell people about it. So my apologies for dragging my heels on this subject. But now that I have decided to finally review a book, I knew I had to pick one that I think is very, very good. And I have. Today, I will be discussing Breaking the Perfect 10 by Tracy Lindsey Melchior.

For those of you who don't know, Tracy Lindsey Melchior is an actress who has gained most of her success on soap operas. I know, I know. A lot of people criticize the acting on soaps, sometimes justifiably so, but remember, some actors and actresses, who eventually became quite acclaimed, had their starts there. And also Josh Duhamel. Well, relax. Tracy is one of the good ones. She was on One Life to Live, the unfortunately short-lived Sunset Beach and, most recently, The Bold and the Beautiful. Now, admittedly, One Life to Live was not a soap that I ever watched, but I did see her on Sunset Beach, and I've made it abundantly clear how much I love my B&B.

Now I don't usually gravitate toward books written by people in the entertainment industry for many reasons. I mean, I have read some of those, and I am rarely, rarely impressed. Whether it's the subject matter or the writing itself, I just don't have any need for most of those books. However, I was aware of some of Tracy's story and background, so I knew that, if anything, what she would write here would be very uplifting. And it was, about a hundredfold.

Breaking the Perfect 10 is Tracy's account of her tumultuous but, ultimately, blessed life. She tells us of her childhood, coming from a broken home and dealing with a load of abandonment issues. All of that leads to her teen years and early adulthood as she struggles to find worth within herself, while suffering through troubled relationships and still coming to terms with the wounds suffered during her youth and from her family. Mixed in with those stories are the ones of Tracy's quest to become an actress and all the problems and pitfalls that went along with it. And while she lived through all of this, she also, admittedly and, hence the title of the book, broke every single one of the ten commandments. Yes, even the sixth one, although,(spoiler alert!) certain people who tend to be in a certain political party would say that she did not. To them I say, if this brave woman has courage enough to speak up on the matter, knowing that she has been forgiven, then others could have the courtesy to shut up on the matter. Yes, I am passionate about the subject. Sorry. Anyway, even through all of these ups and downs, or perhaps, because of them, she did find success. Actually, she found success in every aspect of her life.

Now let me say, before continuing, that Tracy did have some help from a woman named Susan Wales with the writing of this book. Hey, we all need help sometimes. Still, what I love about it is that you can truly feel how much that this really is Tracy's story. It is her words, it is her thoughts, it is every feeling that she shared with the readers. You never once feel as though someone else wrote it for her. It just feels so genuine.

Okay, I know what some people reading this blog post may be thinking. That this book is just another story of a woman with a boo-hoo childhood who managed to get some fame. I can tell you with certainty that it is not that. Sure, a lot of people have similar problems in their lives, but everyone has their own saga. Everyone's trials come together in their own unique way to create the tapestry of a person's life. And Tracy certainly has a special story, one that needs to be heard and known, one from which everybody can learn.

I suppose the one thing that would set this book apart from most others written by people in the entertainment industry is that Tracy credits her survival, happiness and peace in life to her Christian faith. She knows that it was God and His love and grace that protected her even before she acknowledged His being there, and it was God that brought her every blessing, including her husband and, of course, her children. So I guess my saying that would be the start of a disclaimer, and here it is. If you have a problem accepting that it is the power of Almighty God that can truly rescue someone from despair and destruction to give them a new life, then this is the type of book that you would most likely avoid at all costs. However, if you are the kind of person I described in that previous sentence, then this is the type of book that you should definitely read. As for myself, I can honestly say that Breaking the Perfect 10 is one of the most inspirational and edifying things I have ever read. This book will, no doubt, become one of my "go to" things when I need to be pulled from the troubles of my own life so that I can be reminded that there is always a way to the light.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Thing Called Love - Music Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

This may just be in my imagination, but it seems that many of the final movies actors make right before they die are not always considered that great. Perhaps, even their worst. That's kind of sad, because no one wants to leave a legacy like that. Case in point, in some people's opinions, would be the last movie that River Phoenix shot, The Thing Called Love. I think there are a lot of folks that believe this movie wasn't so great, while others really enjoyed it. I happen to fall into the latter category, but I may be bias since I tend to gravitate toward films about writers, in general, and songwriters, specifically. And this movie has songwriting as one of its central themes. Of course, other stuff creeps in, as always, so let's get to the whole thing.

The Thing Called Love is a small film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Samantha Mathis, River Phoenix, as I mentioned, Sandra Bullock, in one of her earliest roles and Dermot Mulroney. The story is all about a girl named Miranda Presley (Mathis) who tends to remind people that she is "no relation", as in no relation to Elvis, and she is arriving in Nashville from New York City in hopes of becoming a country singer/songwriter. She is derailed on the way to her first stop in the city when she meets James Wright (Phoenix) who also happens to be a singer/songwriter. Yeah, look, it's Nashville. EVERYONE is a singer/songwriter. Anyway, James offers to take Miranda to where she needs to go. Where she needs to go is the Bluebird Cafe, which is a real place in Nashville. It's actually quite famous, being where a lot of artists got discovered. In case you don't know. In this movie, the cafe is run by Lucy, played by country singer K.T. Oslin, who was perfectly cast in this role. I really don't know why she didn't pursue acting any further than this and a few other small TV roles, because she is very good at it. Anyway, Lucy is kind of like Simon Cowell, but with mothering qualities. She will certainly tell these aspiring artists if they're not good enough, but she will also tell them if she sees potential in them and what they can do to improve themselves. So, when Miranda shows up late with James, Lucy tells her that she'd be happy to hear her week at the next audition.

So, Miranda is stuck in a sad hotel for a week, but she makes the most of it. She spends the time having lone, all night, coffee-fueled, writing sessions in a diner and also going to several music companies trying to get her music heard, and all of this is covered in a musical montage. Best to do it that way, in this case. But, alas, she finally makes it back to the Bluebird, on time, so she can audition for the showcase. While there, Miranda sees James again, who, as it turns out, is actually a very talented and somewhat successful, songwriter already. She meets Kyle Davidson (Mulroney), who performs a song that isn't exactly good, that is, until it gets into the right hands. Also, she meets Linda Lue Linden (Bullock), both a wannabe beauty queen and a wannabe country star, who also sings a little song she wrote which is hilariously bad. Actually, I think this is where we see how Sandra Bullock will become quite good at being funny and lovable at the same time. Anyway, Miranda also sings, and she sings a song called "Big Bar Hair". No, really. Needless to say, only James makes it to the showcase.

As time passes, Miranda continues to work on her songwriting, gets a job at the cafe as a waitress and develops relationships with Linda, Kyle and especially James. Yes, that last one was a bit obvious. I mean, she had to hook up with someone, right? Well, her relationship with James does move at a rapid pace and goes further than the audience may have anticipated, and it has plenty of ups and downs. No kidding. It is this relationship on which most of the film focuses, but the other characters develop quite nicely as well. Linda grows a bit and begins to learn to stop trying to be something she's not, and she also meets a guy named Billy, who is played by Anthony Clark, in a pretty funny role. And then there's Kyle, who manages to overcome his insecurities enough to get himself some success as well, but his quest for the love of a specific woman may be even harder to achieve. And that causes a few conflicts.

But, as I said, this movie is, at its core, about Miranda and her growth as both a woman and a songwriter. She learns from Lucy that she really needs to dig deep into what she feels and who she is in order to write a song that is, not only good, but meaningful. It takes this entire experience to get her to that point, and that is why a lot of writers learn to be grateful for all the things through which they have to go. This film manages to explore that in a very accurate way. Actually, what I like most about the story is that it is almost done in reverse of what a lot of other films do. Normally, you'd have a young woman leaving a small town and heading off to the big city, often New York, to become a star. Not to say that Nashville is a small town, but, compared to NYC, what place isn't thought of as that. Still, you wouldn't think that Miranda, coming from New York, would be intimidated by anything. She is, though, because her character is written so well and portrayed so brilliantly by Samantha Mathis. She conveys the way that Miranda does have some toughness to her, but she also has a lot of vulnerability. It makes for a great character and, in turn, a great film.

Now let me take a moment and speak on the music. The soundtrack here is pretty interesting. It has a lot of known country songs to serve as the soundtrack, but, of course, it has some songs that are there to be the ones the characters have written. Those songs were, in some cases, even written by the actors themselves. And they even mix this up a bit by having James perform the Patty Loveless song "Blame It On Your Heart" as one of the songs he penned himself. By the way, the performance of that song by River Phoenix and Samantha Mathis is really great. So, put all that together, and you end up with a good soundtrack that fits this movie and its premise quite well.

Needless to say, I am recommending The Thing Called Love, especially to songwriters or lovers of country music or both. As I said, some people aren't crazy about this one, but I think it's plenty good. And I did like that River Phoenix got to show off his real life talent as a singer/songwriter before he left us. Although, that does, in a way, make his death even sadder, since it makes us remember that he had more to give than we ever knew. I think this film is a fitting tribute to his work, as well as a wonderful addition to the resumes of everyone involved.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My ID Addiction

Greetings Pups,

Apparently, the best way to deal with an addiction is to, first, acknowledge it. So here goes. I am addicted to the Investigation Discovery Channel. I am. If you don't yet know about ID, as we call it, it is a fairly new channel, a spawn of the Discovery Channel, obviously, and it airs shows that deals with things like murder mysteries or legal mysteries or just mysteries in general. And those are the kind of shows I love. I love trying to figure out what is going on, who's the bad guy, whodunnit, even. As I've made it clear, I do love me some good crime drama shows, and seeing a crime drama that comes from reality is more poignant and, at times, even heart wrenching. Bottom line, these shows are just plain good. Let me tell you about a couple of them.

Okay, I must admit that some of the shows are a bit copies of some of the others, with only very small tweaks differing each one from the next. Still, I find a lot of them unique in their structure and theme. For example, we have a little show called Behind Mansion Walls, which is essentially a version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with some crime involved. It doesn't hurt in that venture that they hired a mini Robin Leach to host. In the same vein, there is The Will in which the wills of famous people and the conflicts that surround them are discussed. Then, we have Nightmare Next Door, a show to which I could have somewhat related at certain points in my life, and Scorned: Love Kills, a show to which I thankfully cannot relate. Also, they have a series entitled Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets, wherein the story is narrated by the dead victim. Okay, not the actual dead victim, but an actor narrating as though they are such. Yeah, I don't know about this one. I've watched it, and it certainly isn't bad, but it is a little creepy. I think even the people who make the show could understand why I and probably a few others may feel this way.

Now, in addition to these original series, we also get a taste of the past. This comes in the form of reruns of 48 Hours and Dateline episodes. What? No, 20/20? Well, forget you, ABC. Apparently, you're not good enough for this channel. Oh, wait. Reruns of 20/20 seemed to be owned by the WE Channel. My bad. I withdraw the objection. There is also a show called On the Case with Paula Zahn, which I THINK may be an original series, but, every time I watch it, I feel as though I've seen it before. Oh, well. Who cares? I like Paula Zahn, and I think the show is pretty good.

But, hands down, my favorite series on Investigation Discovery is Homicide Hunter. This show is all about the cases that were solved by one Lt. Joe Kenda, and he is fantastic. I love the way he seems so laid back as he tells his stories, but, at the same time, you can tell that he was passionate about his work. Anyway, the show is basically Lt. Kenda going through the events of one of his over 400 solved homicide cases, included in which are interviews with victims' friends and families and people who worked with him, as well as, of course, a dramatization of what was happening. On the surface, it may seem like just another show that you've seen before, but I think the fact that all these stories are coming from one person makes it more, well, personal. You see how much each case has affected him and what he learned from them. It's just a great show to watch. Oh, and the guy who portrays him in those dramatizations is kind of good looking. That certainly can't hurt.

And so there you have it, my admission of great love for the Investigation Discovery Channel. I suppose there are much worse things to which I could devote my time. I get entertained and somewhat informed. Yes, I feel as though I may be learning from what I watch here, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just so long as I am not learning too much from the criminals. That may cause some problems. Let us pray it does not happen.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Good Monday Mornings . . . I Got

Greetings Pups,

Last week I shared a post about the new show, Monday Mornings, giving a brief description as well as my predictions of what the show may hold for us. So if you're interested in checking all that out before reading this, go right ahead. I will say that I had some high hopes for this new series for a lot of reasons. Well, it aired last night, and some of my expectations were met. Not all, but nobody's perfect. And that is kind of the point of this show. Anyway, let's get down to business.

So, as I previously mentioned, the idea of Monday Mornings is that it is a medical drama where we get to see the meetings in which hospital personnel discuss and often scrutinized on what happened to the patients in their care. We get the first of those meetings at the start of the show, and it is pretty brutal. It is practically like they are on trial, and they kind of are. Alfred Molina plays the Chief of Staff, and he is extremely tough on a doctor who made a very bad call. Though he was not tough enough, in the opinion of Ving Rhames' character. He lets that be known, which leads to us getting quite a bit of tension in the room. But well acted, so it's all good. As is the meeting that takes place at the end of the show, which creates nice bookends, I think. I'd like to assume that this is how the procedure will always go.

In between those meetings, we get into your typical hospital goings on, particularly two cases involving brain issues, one of which concerns a young boy, the other a grown woman. No spoilers on what happens to them. We also get some interactions between the doctors, of course, which consists of a lot of in-fighting. But still, others are very supportive of each other. All of that leads us to some very subtle foreshadowing of what may happen between these characters and some very obvious info about things that have already happened. But we, as of yet, are not delving into the personal lives as much as some other so-called medical dramas. In fact, I'd say that roughly 95% of the show actually takes place within the confines of the hospital. This may change, but so far, this is something I liked about it.

I also enjoyed all the acting, Jennifer Finnegan was good as always, as was Bill Irwin, though I wish they would have used him more in this pilot. Then, we have the major reason why I watched this show, Jamie Bamber. As I mentioned in my previous post, he was once a cast member on Law and Order: UK. Therefore, I know him as a man with a British accent. He does not have that here. How dare they. Molina got to keep his accent, and Bamber's voice, sans accent, sounds about an octave higher. It just isn't for what I was hoping where he was concerned. Still, his acting was very superb here, not that I expected any less. Now there are other actors on this show, including Keong Sim, Sarayu Rao and Emily Swallow, about whom I have not personally heard, but, from what I'm seeing, they are fitting in alongside the actors of whom I have been aware for quite awhile very nicely.

Now I have read a few other reviews from critics about this show and some are not liking it. Some are saying it's over stylized or over dramatized. Whatever. I think it's pretty good. It certainly has potential, and I look forward to seeing how this first season plays out.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Top Eleven Nostalgia Critic Reviews

Greetings Pups,

Late last year, some of us who find entertainment in internet personalities suffered a great blow. The icon known as the Nostalgia Critic and his series came to an end. Teardrop. I was particularly sad, since I, in part, credit his creator Doug Walker, his site, That Guy With the Glasses, and the personalities therein for getting me fired up about my blog again. I very much enjoy a lot of the series on the site. They are quite entertaining, and my only real complaint is that they swear too much, for my own taste anyway. Yeah, that usually is my complaint for a lot of things, isn't it? Oh, well, they can do what they want. These are their shows after all, and all the other stuff they say is pretty darn funny. Yes, darn.

Anyway, once I heard of this departure, I immediately began working on a list of my favorite episodes by the Nostalgia Critic. I did finish it, and it has been residing in the notebook I use to work on these types of blog posts. I had been meaning to share it with you all for quite some time, but I never got around to it. I thought I should do it ASAP, since I recently got some good news. It appears the Nostalgia Critic is returning. Smiley face times ten. So I suppose we will have to refer to these as my favorites from the first wave.

Now the Nostalgia Critic mostly did movie reviews, as well as top eleven (yes, ELEVEN!) lists and tributes to certain people or TV shows. So I thought the best way for me to pay tribute would be to turn the tables a bit and do my own top eleven list of my favorite Nostalgia Critic movie reviews. Now I am only going to include his MOVIE reviews on this list, but that is not to say I wasn't incredibly entertained by his retrospective of nostalgic commercials or his trouncing of shows like Full House and Saved by the Bell. Yes, I can and have watched those episodes many times. But I needed some focus, and I decided to zero in on the movie reviews. I certainly hope he doesn't mind. And also, in honor of such, I am doing a Top Eleven. So here we go.

#11. Independence Day - There is something really special about a critic who isn't afraid to say that he hates a movie that everyone else seems to love. Such was the case with Independence Day. The Nostalgia Critic was not exactly crazy about this film, and, looking back now, that may be with good reason. I think the "new" wore off that movie fairly quickly. But he was very excited by the fact that "Boomer will live!"

#10. Doug's First Movie - As I mentioned, the Nostalgia Critic's real name is Doug, so when it came to the Doug cartoon, there would be no middle ground. It would either be loved or hated. And it was very much hated. Still, though it was painful for him, he managed to give us a great review of the feature film spawned from the show. What a brave man.

#9. Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier - So it seems there is a theory that the odd numbered Star Trek films are the not good ones. Whilst I do kind of enjoy the third, I'd otherwise have to agree with that. And so the Critic decided to focus on just those films, and the best review, in my opinion, was that of movie number five. Maybe it was the ridiculous "God" element or the disturbing Uhura dance. But really I think it was the "Row, Row Row Your Boat" singalong. What, Shatner? What!

#8. A Simple Wish - Yeah, everyone loves this review, and for one major reason - the fantastic appearance of Mara Wilson! You know Mara Wilson. She was IN A Simple Wish and Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. And she has grown up to be a severely awesome chick. Really, Hollywood? You give all your attention to people like Lindsay Lohan, a sub par actress at best, and totally forget about the talented former child stars like this young lady. Get your act together over there.

#7. The Cell - It's no secret that I have much love for Vincent D'Onofrio, so you'd think a bad review of one of his films would just anger me. Well, not so much in this case. When it comes to The Cell, I do think it has moments where the look of it is a bit interesting, but I can't really put it in the "so bad it's good" category. "So bad it's mesmerizing" maybe. And I am with the Nostalgia Critic when it comes to directors who put these bizarre images in their films for the sole purpose of wanting us to ask them what it means. No, I don't want to ask you what it means. I know what it means. And it's kind of lame.

#6. The Room - Now here's a movie that's so bad it's good. Or, at least, very entertaining. If you don't know about The Room, it is this very notorious bad movie that has developed quite a cult following. I think everyone who reviews bad movies has taken time out for this one, and the Nostalgia Critic is no different, even though this film is not within the time frame for things he counted as being nostalgic. But so many of his viewers asked for it, so he did it. Because he loves us. And it was hilarious.

#5. Casper - Hey, we get another special guest in this episode. Who? Well, it is Casper the Friendly Ghost himself, but he's kind of not so friendly here. It's okay, though, because it is that which makes this one beyond great. I do love this idea that they had and carried out very well, and it ended up being really funny. And this is probably the only time you will see a movie with Clint Eastwood being reviewed by the Critic. Yeah, Clint was in Casper. For only like two seconds, but it counts.

#4. Jaws: The Revenge - As someone who has also reviewed this film here on my blog, I do sympathize with the Nostalgia Critic on this. It's one thing to watch this devastating movie, but to have to sit there and dissect it and come up with things to say, I can confirm that it is painful. And I can be humble here and say that this review was better than mine. Of course, it was. And, in conclusion, may I remind everyone that sharks don't roar.

#3. Airborne - Never head of this movie? That's cool. I didn't think anyone, besides myself, had EVER heard of this. So imagine my surprise when it popped up on the Nostalgia Critic review list. Now if you read my little retrospective of a show called Swan's Crossing, you will know the reason why I actually saw this movie . . . IN THE THEATER! And seeing this review just reminded me that, yes, we are all young and foolish at some point. Not just me. I mean, Jack Black and Seth Green are in this thing. That's right, boys. Remember your roots and learn from them.

#2. Moulin Rouge - So I have always kind of dug Moulin Rouge. It is dizzying at times, but a lot of it I find entertaining, probably because I like artsy stuff. The Critic, on the other hand, hated this one. But whatever about the movie, this review episode is actually very well done. It's elaborate and entertaining and extremely impressive, really. It's clearly the one that had the most work put into it, and it pays off.

#1. Batman and Robin - Again, you all know I love Batman, and I am happy to rush to his defense. To a certain extent. That all most definitely stops with Batman and Robin. I cannot defend this film. No one can. But we can certainly mock it to its most deserved death. Now, though this movie is basically throwing us pitches we can hit where that is concerned, the Nostalgia Critic did a fantastic job of picking out the best worst moments of the film and amplifying them to a hilarious degree. And he is at his best when he takes one of those moments and turns it into one of the most beloved moments of his own legacy. That can be summed up by my simply uttering this phrase - "A BAT CREDIT CARD!?!?!??!" I don't think I have to say anything more here.

So, much thanks to the Nostalgia Critic and the man behind the man, Doug Walker, for all the great entertainment. And now that he is returning, I look forward to many more laughs. I know he won't disappoint.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer