Monday, July 29, 2013

The Pretender Lives!

Greetings Pups,

Patience is a virtue. And it is one that I rarely have. However, I have learned that patience is often rewarded with great things. For example, let's say that one of your most favorite shows gets cancelled rather abruptly, and, aside from your collection of DVDs, it is gone from your life. But, then, over a decade later you hear news that it will be returning. Hosanna! Well, this is happening to me right now, alongside many, many other loyal fans of a little show called The Pretender.

Any of you who read my tribute, blog post entitled "The Great Pretender" knows that I absolutely loved this show back in the day, and I have continued to love it throughout the passing years. I won't go into too much detail about the show (you can read the aforementioned post for that), but The Pretender was a show that had a lot of detail to it. There was a lot of story there, the characters, Jarod, Miss Parker, Sydney, etc., were very complex and there was so much going on all the time. Now I did say, previously, that I wasn't exactly disappointed in the ending we got. I wasn't necessarily happy since it was ending, but the creators gave us the best they could under the circumstances. However, a lot of fans, myself included, always hoped for more. There was always a feeling that many more stories could be told concerning the series, and there are. That leads me to the joyous and triumphant return of The Pretender.

There has always been talk or hope of The Pretender being brought back, one way or another. With all the different types of media we have, it was always a lingering idea. Recently, talk of this has been becoming more prominent amongst the fan base as well as the creators. What with clues being dropped, hints being given, and whatnot, all of us knew that something was coming. Well, we just got some great news from two of the creators of The Pretender, Steven Long Mitchel and Craig W. Van Sickle, confirming that all the buzz is true.

In some new interviews, they told us about the ways they would be bringing back this great show for all the fans so that they can continue the story and go even more in depth on it. Apparently, they will be starting with novels, the first of which I heard will be released this fall, then moving on to graphic novels, then, perhaps a movie, or mini-series, and, hopefully, a full-on return of the series, itself. A mention was made of doing that last bit Netflix style, as Arrested Development has recently done. Sounds like a great idea to me. No kidding!

I know that I and so many other fans are extremely excited about this. We are happy to get back this amazing show any way we can. Whilst, at the moment, and since we are beginning with novels, I have no idea how or even if the original actors will be involved. They were a huge part of why the show was successful and why it developed such a following. I know it has been a while, and we've even lost some core cast members, but I'll take it any way I can get. Hopefully, they will be involved in some way. Hey, maybe they can even do an animated series and let the original actors do the voices. Yeah, I may have loved Jarod's face, but his voice was a close second.

So that's about all the info I have right now. As I said, the return of The Pretender really is because so many fans have wanted it for so long, but if you never watched it, don't feel left out. The creators are working hard to make it possible for new fans to join in. But, if you get the chance, rent or buy or whatever the original series. It is absolutely worth your time, but it will probably get you as excited about all this as I am. You have been warned.

And, in closing, may I just say - THE PRETENDER LIVES!!! And I'm going to throw in a big, loud, Kermit the Frog sized - YAAAAY!!!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hidden Secrets - Movie Review

Greetings Pups,

I can admit to you all that I have occasionally been guilty of judging a book by its cover, as it were. Aren't we all, though? There have been things I have avoided simply because they fall into a certain, let's say, category. However, I've learned to give everything a chance, since you never know what you might be missing. I bring this up, because today I will be talking about a film that lies in a genre that some people avoid, a lot, and that genre is what is known as "faith-based" films. Or just Christian films. Call them whatever. I can pretty much guarantee that many people would never so much as get near this film after knowing it has Christian themes to it. That is sad, for two specific reasons. First, the ones who don't want to see it are most likely the ones that need to see it. Second, by passing on a faith-based film ... just because, they will miss out on a pretty good flick called Hidden Secrets.

Now, I have heard some people refer to this movie as a Christian version of The Big Chill. I haven't seen that one, so I'll have to take their word for it. But, apparently, that one is about a group of friends getting together for a funeral, and, in that way, I suppose Hidden Secrets is similar. It is about a group of old friends coming together after several years for the funeral of another friend named Chris, and in the following days, many things that they have been hiding from each other come out into the open. Now let me talk about the characters and the great actors that take us through the story.

We start with Chris's sister, Sherry, played by the wonderful Tracy Lindsey Melchior, who some you may remember from my review of her book Breaking the Perfect 10. Sherry is the last surviving member of her family, her parents having died recently as well. She is conflicted at the return of her ex-boyfriend, Jeremy, played by David A.R. White. He was once a youth pastor, but strayed a bit during his college days. Now he's back for the funeral of his best friend with his new fiance-ish in tow. Her name is Rachel and she is played by Staci Keanan, of My Two Dads and Step by Step fame. I say "fiance-ish" because Jeremy is having some trouble making a full-on commitment. That's mostly because he got his heart broken by Sherry, and they never really resolved their issues. Now this little triangle is pretty much the main plot of the movie, but there are a few sub-plots and interesting characters to go along with them.

We have Michael played by Corin Nemec, who is known for his titular role on Parker Lewis Can't Lose and also an appearance in The Stand with my beloved Gary Sinise. Anyway, Michael is a character who has been and is still struggling with accepting God's forgiveness when it comes to his past. Then, we have Gregg Binkley and Autumn Paul playing, husband and wife, Harold and Rhonda. Harold is an author, and Rhonda is a overwhelmingly judgmental. Yeah, she has a problem remembering that a spoonful of understanding helps the scriptures go down. We also have Rhonda's brother Anthony played by Sean Sedgewick, and his girlfriend, Sally, played by Christian singer Rachel Lampa. Finally, in the group of friends, there's Gary, the token agnostic, played by the always awesome John Schneider. Seriously, does he ever disappoint? Oh, and there is also Pastor Wexler played by Reginald VelJohnson. That's right. Sir Carl Winslow is in this, too. I mean, does anyone even need a reason to not watch this thing after I told you that?

Now everyone is good in this, but, whilst we are on the subject of the actors, I have to mention a few standouts. First, as I said, Schneider = awesome, so there you go. Yeah, this part did a good job of showing his range, especially since most of us are so used to him as nice, kind Jonathan Kent. Not so much of that here. Also, David A.R. White has become someone I really like as an actor. I've seen him in a few of these films, and he always does a good job. However, and I'm not just saying this because I have raved about her before, Tracy Lindsey Melchior was just exceptional in this film. Now I have always enjoyed her as an actress, but something about this character she is playing seemed to truly connect with her deeply. When she has emotional scenes, talking about her past, you can see how much she is giving of herself to express those feelings. Just amazing.

So, I can't go into a ton of detail about exactly what happens, because it would give far too many spoilers. But, as the title tells us, secrets that the characters have been hiding begin to be told, and all of this is done to help move the story forward and get us to the ultimate resolution. However, whilst that is the main theme here, there is much that happens which leads me to call this film a type of character study. Yes, there is a good, main plot, but a lot of this is about everyone within the plot and how they develop as people. One of the things I really like about this story is that there is no clear dividing line between the "good" people and the "bad" people. They show how a woman can be a strong Christian but also very disparaging, therefore, practically driving people away from God. And they show an agnostic man, who is very intelligent and asks legitimate questions about Christianity, and never goes so far as to cruelly mock his friends for their beliefs. There is also much discussion about topics that some faith-based films generally don't touch on. Really heavy topics. It shows that, yes, Christians don't just do the right thing before God all the time and then move on. We struggle, sometimes on a daily basis, with the things we've done in our pasts, which brings me to the other big theme of the film - forgiveness.

I've talked about forgiveness a lot in what I write, and this movie beautifully shows how powerful it is. Whether it is us forgiving each other, us forgiving ourselves, or the ultimate forgiveness, that of our Heavenly Father, we can see here the kind of incredible healing it can bring. And, frankly, that is enough reason to watch it.

So, yeah, big recommendations for Hidden Secrets. And I am saying that to everyone. If you're a Christian, you'll like it because it, too, is Christian-based, but it is also very good. If you're not a Christian, it's still good, and plus, I don't think you'll feel like you're getting too hit over the head with religion or anything. Like I said, I would call this a character study movie, more than anything, which is something into which I've always been. So, if any of this sounds interesting to you, check it out.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Never Throw Away a Blessing

Greetings Pups,

Today, I want to talk to you all about blessings. In my life, it has been made very clear that a blessing is something that should not be wasted. They come to us everyday. They fill our day, actually, even though they have often become things we take for granted. But so many times God sends us blessings that we, ourselves, see as huge. Those seem to be the ones we embrace the most, and for which we give the most thanks. Believe it or not, though, there are some people who can't even see when these blessings are given to them abundantly every day.

Now, not to be arrogant or anything, but I believe that one of my purposes in this world is to be a blessing to others. I am quite happy to do that. I love the fact that I am often put in a place for no other reason than to make things better for people. Here's the sad and yet still kind of funny thing. Apparently, some folks are so incredibly out of touch that they have chosen to, not thank God for putting me in their lives so that I may be a blessing to them, but rather throw me away. That is what happened to me today. I have been tossed out like trash. And it is the absolute best thing that could have happened to me. See, because now I can truly step out in faith and, therefore, go and get my reward. As the brilliant philosopher, Rocky Balboa, once said, "If you know what you're worth, then go get what you're worth!" Well, I do know, and I am on my way, sir!

Unfortunately, for the aforementioned "thrower-outers", this is not a good thing. Not a good thing at all. See, the entire time I was in their presence, I have been sitting there like a gold mine. Seriously, the Bible is filled with stories about people having the opportunity to help the children of the Most High God, and when they grasp it, they are blessed beyond measure. I have seen it happen! Why would anyone not go for that? God basically gave them a winning lottery ticket and all they had to do was cash it, but I guess they thought, 'No, we'll just toss it'. WHY?! I know why. It's because they don't get how God works. And speaking of which, He also makes mention of what happens to those who harm His children. Yeah, not good. This is why when I pray for these enemies of mine, as I have been instructed to do, I pray for God to have mercy on them. Because, really, at this point, I think that may be the best they are going to get. Sad, isn't it? Especially when they could have had a Heavenly Powerball!

So let me just end on this note. Do not ever throw away any blessing from God. They are so valuable. Take each one, the ones you think are huge and the ones you think are small, use them, multiply them, make things the best for yourself and those around you. I know we all find ourselves in situations where we think God has abandoned us, but He never does. If you have been faithful and you find yourself in a tough situation, I believe that is because God thinks you are strong enough to get out of it, and He will reward you. He will be right there with you as you do all of this, because that is what He does. His love for us is the most powerful thing we will ever know. Take everything He gives you, because it will lead you to greatness.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Top Ten TV Game Shows

Greetings Pups,

Before reality television became a genre all its own, we had another form of such known as the television game show. Sure, we still have a few of them, here and there, but when I was growing up it was an all day thing. Literally, daytime television was soap operas and game shows, until about four when the talk shows started. Of course, the youngsters can check some of them out on GSN, but for a lot of us, it's pure nostalgia doing that. We hearken back to those days of yelling at the TV screen because some guy doesn't know when Lincoln's birthday is or the name of the somehow disappeared dog on The Brady Bunch. So, in honor of these sweet additions to the world of television, I thought I'd do a top ten list of my personal favorite game shows.

Before I start, let me just say that I limited myself here to only the straight up, good, old-fashioned game shows. So, no reality/competition shows, no dating shows, no panel shows. Just the ones where random people got chosen to play a game against one other contestant or got called up from the audience, the ones where you better have some fascinating story about how you have three dogs and they're all named after presidents... or else. Yeah,news flash game show contestants, no one cares. Just play. And yes, I am bitter because I never got to play. Moving on. Let's just get to the list.

#10. Jeopardy - Okay, I know I alluded to the fact that game shows can often make us, the viewers, feel very smart, due to people's lapses in intelligence, but things were different with Jeopardy. This show could sometimes make us feel very dumb, probably more so than any other quiz show ever. But when you did know the answer to one of those valuable questions, it did make you feel really special. And, hopefully, you were surrounded by family and friends as you did so. Oh, and I think there is one thing we all can agree on when it comes to this show. And tell me if this sounds familiar. "Yeah, Alex, easy to smug about knowing the answer when it's been right in front of you the whole time!"

#9. Wheel of Fortune - Let's just get this out of the way - it's Hangman! Alright, done. There are a few things I really like about Wheel of Fortune, or The Wheel, as we call it. First, I love Pat Sajak as the host, and I certainly love Vanna White. She amazes me, that lady does. Never has a woman been paid so much money to do so little work and still be adored by millions of people. It's unbelievable. The other thing I love about this one is the utter greed and possibly arrogance of some of the contestants. We've all seen this scenario. Okay, we've been working a puzzle and here's what we see - MICH_EL KE_TON IN B_TM_N. Okay, we all know what the answer is, the contestant knows, and do they solve? No, they spin to get more money, and they get a BANKRUPT! It has happened. Sure, the show's a gamble, but let's have some sense here, people.

#8. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? / The American Bible Challenge - Yeah, gotta have a tie here, mostly because they are both hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. Good times. If you don't know, the first one was a game where adults had to answer grade school level questions up to, obviously, 5th grade, alongside actual 5th graders. It didn't pan out all that well for a lot of those adults, by the way. I think the show was intending to expose how much we have forgotten about our education, but it kind of ended up making people think that all that schooling was totally pointless. Whatever. Next up, a fairly new addition to game show country, The American Bible Challenge. It's exactly what you think it is, a Bible quiz show, and I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS MADE IT TO AIR!!! Seriously, all things considered, I can't believe that there weren't protests and whatnot to keep it from being on TV, for fear of offending someone. But it prevailed, and it's actually a really entertaining show.

#7. The Price Is Right - Be it with Bob Barker or Drew Carey, this is one of the classics. Now this is one that makes me feel smart, mostly because I know that they make it in California, and I remember that when doing the price guessing. Yeah, that jar of pickles is going to be about twice as much as it is in my neck of the woods. And is there anything better than watching that sad person who bids a dollar under when the trick is to bid a dollar over? Oh, honey. But the real fun is the games. I would tell you my favorite game, but what would be left for my top ten list of those?

#6. Supermarket Sweep - This may have placed higher, but I have just spent far too much time in supermarkets. FAR too much time. I don't know what it was about this game that made me like it so much. Again, it may have been a slew of contestants who just did not get it. Get the pricey stuff, guys. Get the pricey stuff!! I guess this game would be much easier to play these days.

#5. Win, Lose or Draw - Again, let's just get this out of the way - it's Pictionary! But it's Pictionary with celebrities so ... whoo! And, as per usual, we use the term 'celebrity' fairly loosely. Now I think it was predetermined for every person who appeared on this show that they could not be able to draw ... at all. And yet, so many of them pulled that thing where they thought what they drew was so perfect that they just went over it with the marker again and again, hoping against all hope that their team member would get it. Dude, they can't tell that it's an apple. Just draw something else.

#4. Press Your Luck - Whammies. Just ... Whammies. Is there anything better? And stop giving them a hard time for taking peoples' money. It's their job. They're Whammies. It's what they do. And they are the most memorable thing about the show. Second most memorable would be the chanting of "Big Bucks!" by the contestants, which sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. And of course, we remember the scandal. I won't get into that right now. Too complicated. Google it, if you're interested. And, in closing, may I just say, Whammies!

#3. Cash Cab - You've gotta love people who take one of the worst experiences that can happen in someone's life and turn it into the best. Like getting into a NYC cab and having it become a chance to win money! That's what Cash Cab did. Host Ben Bailey went around New York in a cab and the passengers became contestants, answering trivia questions and hopefully make it to their destination. I like innovative ideas, and, as far as game shows go, I'd say this is one of the most original ideas I've ever come across. It was just plain fun, and worst case scenario, you get a free cab ride. Or part of one.

#2. Hollywood Squares - Remember that thing I said about the term 'celebrity' being used loosely? Yeah, well, times nine, my Pups, times nine. Oh, wait, I forgot. Let's just get this out of the way - it's Tic Tac Toe, but with 'celebrities'. In all fairness, though, this was actually one of the funniest shows on TV, and not just in the game show genre. I don't know who the writers were (yes, writers. Most of those celebrities are not that quick witted) but they were great. It must have been good to someone. It did have several incarnations. And I'd watch a new one.

#1. Win Ben Stein's Money - Oh, Ben Stein. You are a treasure. If you've never heard of this one, what the heck? It was fantastic! The premise was that contestants competed to - wait for it! - win Ben Stein's money, which was ... sort of true. Look, wherever the money actually did or did not come from, who cares? That wasn't what made the show so entertaining. So first, contestants competed against each other, ans eventually one would compete with Ben Stein himself, who is a very, very smart man, by the way. Now what was really entertaining was the banter, especially between Ben and his co-host, Jimmy Kimmel. Yes, that Jimmy Kimmel. They did have two other co-hosts, but he was the one we all remember. But, of course, there was one extremely memorable thing about this stellar game show. God forbid, anyone answer in the form of a question! Heaven help that poor soul, because, if you did, the dunce cap was brought out and they had to wear it for the duration of the show. However, Ben, being the nice guy that he is, usually let them take it off earlier. Yeah, this show was great, and I really wish they would bring it back.

So there you have it, my personal best of the game show genre. Like I said, we still have a few, one way or another, but I'm hoping for a big resurgence one of these days. Frankly, I could use the money.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Decision to HitRecord

Greetings Pups,

Last year, I reviewed a documentary called 1000 Journals. It was the story of the 1000 Journals Project started by Someguy (his self-appointed nomenclature, BTW), where he sent out a boatload of journals into the world so that people could find them, create in them, share in them, and hopefully return them. It was a pretty brilliant idea, in my opinion, but one of which I never got the opportunity to be a part. It's okay, though, because I have discovered something that I think is a bit similar.

A while back, an online, collaborative, production company called HitRecord was founded by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You guys know him, right? He's the actor famous for his roles in 3rd Rock From the Sun, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and for looking perpetually fourteen years old. What! He'll appreciate that when he's sixty-five. Anyway, he started the site in 2005 with his brother, Dan, and what it is, basically, is a place where artists from around the world can contribute writing, music, videos, all sorts of things. When you upload some of your own work, it is then open for comment, recommendation and collaboration, which means that you are allowing other artists to take what you have done and use it with what they have done. And some of the collaborations, or "remixes", have been used in books, short films, DVDs and whatnot. Oh, and before you ask, you do get paid if they use your stuff. So, yay on artists making money.

Now I was a bit hesitant to do this, for a couple of reasons. First off, whilst I have mentioned in recent posts that I am hoping for some good collaboration, I never thought of it like this. My idea of collaborating is two or more people sitting in a room, bouncing ideas off of each other, and hopefully, coming up with something great. That's obviously not what this is. Also, it can be difficult to give up control of what you've done, and that really is what you do here. By giving things to this site, you are essentially giving strangers permission to use your work any way they like. That can, if we're being honest here, lead to good things but also not so good things. It is kind of a gamble, where you hope that people understand the spirit of your work, so much so that, whatever they do will enhance it, making it even better. And I eventually thought it might be interesting to see what someone else would do to my stuff, if anyone chose to do anything, that is.

Oh, and you know that whole thing that websites have about "terms of service" or whatever, and you have to accept or agree, and most of us just do it without actually reading anything? Well, they made a whole video about how you really have to read it before signing up, which I did, and then I had to lie down. Yeah, I am not certain that I understood one word of it, but that's okay. Not once did anyone say I had to understand it; I just had to read it. Here's hoping I'm not breaking any rules. I did get it that I can't put anything on the site that's not my original work, but I wasn't planning on doing that anyway. So good for me.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. And I have some hardcore issues with trust. To be perfectly blunt, I don't really trust people. What I do as an artist is very personal to me, and I'm very cautious about it. So I wondered to myself, 'Can I even trust this whole operation?' Well, I prayed, and I thought, and I came to the conclusion of 'Why not?' I think if it had been some random person who started this site, who would be more likely to be running a scam, I would have even more issues, but since it was a familiar name and face, I decided to take a chance. Now, that's not to say that famous people should be trusted more than us regular folks, on the contrary. However, though I don't know him, I do not think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the type of person who would ever hinder an artist, but rather he would do anything to help them. And since he does seem like a true artist himself, falling into the category of people who are less movie star, more actor, I do feel comfortable getting involved with this.

Now it has been scarcely a week since I first uploaded something to the site. Almost immediately, I received some recommendations and positive comments, which is good. I did prepare myself for no recommendations and scathing comments, not to say the latter of those won't come later. And that's fine, too, so long as it constructive criticism. Please.

So, speaking of recommendations, would I recommend this to a fellow artist? Again, I say, why not? At some point, you realize that, if you want a shot at success, you will probably have to take some chances. I doubt anyone has ever regretted taking part in this, but you might regret not doing it, with a lingering 'What if...' in the back of your mind. And no one likes that. So, I hope that what I offered will lead to good things for me and others. It kind of already has.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, July 12, 2013

Confessions of An Insecure Songwriter

Greetings Pups,

As hard as it is sometimes to be an artist, there is one thing that can make it even worse - insecurities. Sure, we all feel like we're not good enough every now and then, but giving too much power, time and attention to those feelings can have some not so good results. I know, because I, too, have this problem.

I would like to think that, when it comes to my writing and all the kinds of it I do, I have managed to find that good place of talent awareness that leans toward confidence rather than arrogance. And it is good to be able to tell yourself that you're doing alright, especially when it comes to something about which you are passionate. I do allow myself to be impressed by, well, myself, and there is nothing wrong with that. Be happy when you create something good. So where is it, you may ask, that I find my most deeply rooted insecurities when it comes to my art? Easy. It's my songwriting.

Okay, back story on my life as an artist. I've been a very creative person pretty much from the start, but, at fifteen, I realized that being a writer was my calling. That's when I got serious about it, especially when it came to my poetry. A few years after that, I began to take more seriously my writing of narrative stories, which led to the writing of my first novel and all those which followed. The songwriting didn't really kick in until about seven years ago. Not to say I didn't try to do it before, but it wasn't until then that I decided to give some real attention to it. Now, as we all know, the way to turn s poem into s lyric is to set it to a melody. Can I do the poetry thing? Hecks yeah, I can. Can I do the melody thing? Well ...

Like I said, whilst I am confident about my work, I refuse to be arrogant. I can fully admit that, when it comes to finding and creating melodies, I do not succeed as well. Can I come up with a decent melody on occasion? I think so, but it's just not the part that is my strength. I am a wordsmith, if you will, therefore, the words come to me much more easily. I actually said to someone once that, when it comes to my songs, writing the lyrics is as natural as breathing, but trying to come up with the melodies can make me feel like I have asthma. That is the truth. Oh, and there is one other problem.

One thing I do not believe is correct is the act of stealing. Now it would be hard for me to steal lyrics from a previously written song, because, with words, it is much more obvious to spot them when they are being repeated. For me, anyway. It is much harder for me to notice if I inadvertently come up with a melody that has already been ... come up with. I mean, I do listen to a ton of music, and all those tunes can sink into one's mind fairly deeply. So, when I do write a song wherein the music is something I deem to be well done, my insecurities as a melody maker cause me to think that I must have stolen it from someone. Yeah, I am that diffident where this is concerned.

But there are reasons as to why I don't beat myself up about these feelings too much, twofold, actually. Number one, I am not the first person who may or may not have thought I wrote a great song, only to find out that someone beat me to it. In fact, I seem to recall a fun story from the Beatles Anthology documentary which tells us that, on several occasions when Ringo would bring in a new song he had written, John, Paul and George were tasked with informing him that, no, he did not. Apparently, he re-wrote a few old classics in his time. It's cool, though, buddy! You still have "Octopus's Garden" to be proud of. And number two, at least, I'm so concerned about maybe subconsciously stealing from others, because I don't want to be doing it. True, I am nothing like certain too-praised pop stars of the day who blatantly rip off other artists but refuse to own up to it. Yeah, it's really groundbreaking to steal music from Madonna and beats from Ace of Base. Maybe it's because too any people are referring to themselves as artists whilst managing to have zero respect for the work of others. I certainly do not want to be that.

Over the years, I have, thankfully, managed to move beyond the self loathing that was very much brought on by outside sources, and now look at myself as someone worthy of some acclaim. Still, I know that I may never be a master melodist (Is that a word? It is now) and I'm okay with that. We can't all be good at everything and should embrace the gifts that we do have. You know, this could be why I long so much for a good collaborator. May God hear and answer my prayers by either sending me the music or sending someone who wants to share their own musical brilliance with me enough to let it mingle with my words. And if that 'someone' has to be a handsome, single man, so be it.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top Ten Worst Cover Songs

Greetings Pups,

Forgive me for not being more aware of my own work, but I'm pretty sure that this is the first time I've ever done a "worst of" list. Odd. When it comes to the work of other reviewers, I've always liked discussions of worst more than best. Come on! We all know those are more fun. Now I don't know what prompted me to choose this as my first, but I must say, it was difficult.

When it comes to songs being covered, we have gotten some phenomenal results, like Johnny Cash with "Hurt", Grace Potter and the Nocturnal tackling "White Rabbit", The Bird and the Bee doing, well, pretty much everything by Hall and Oates, and even A-Ha with "Crying In the Rain". Unfortunately, I think the bad far outweigh the good, which gave me tons from which to choose. That was one thing that made this difficult. To try and make it easier, I put some limitations on myself. That did not help very much. Still, here are a few of my criteria. First of all, of course, I had to have heard them, because I am nothing if not fair. Then, I factored in how much I like/dislike the new artist and the old artist and the original song itself. Seriously, why would I care if someone does a bad cover of a song that I didn't think was all that good to begin with? Also, no performances from reality shows. And certainly no interpretations by the cast of Glee. Yeah, there are so many bad ones from that series that I may have to create a list just about them. And finally, we're sticking with straight forward covers here, so no new songs that just happen to have samples of old songs. Oh, wait, one more thing - none of Shatner's covers, because everything he does is gold. Okay. So, if you think anything is missing that should be here, these are probably the reasons why. Alright, let's get to it. Worst cover songs, top ten. Or bottom ten. Oh, crap!

#10. "Lady Marmalade" (Cover by Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink, Lil' Kim and technically, Missy Elliot; original by LaBelle) - As you may recall, I recently made it very clear that I adore Miss Patti LaBelle and everything about her. She has one of the most powerful and distinct female voices of all time, which means that the chances of improving upon something that she has already sung is about impossible. So why did they have to assign this to a boatload of overrated singers? Beats me. Now there are some people that just hate everything that has to do with the movie Moulin Rouge (I'm looking at you, Nostalgia Critic!), and, therefore, probably hate this song as well. I don't mind the movie that much. In fact, if we're staying in context, I'd say one of the best things about it is that it doesn't include this particular version of the song. Good grief, I would have preferred to hear Jim Broadbent sing it. Oh, wait, he kind of did. My bad.

#9. "We Are the World" (Cover by Artists For Haiti; original by USA For Africa) - Okay, to be honest, I have always hated this song. Like with any charity single, the people who make them seem to rely less on producing a good product and more on guilting people into buying it. I really never thought they could make it worse, but they certainly did. For one thing, the original was full of legit, big stars of the moment, a lot of them, and the producers made everyone sound on their A-game. The cover, or remake if you will, had a couple of relevant singers, but not nearly as many, and they pretty much all sounded not good. Look, I don't want to knock them for trying to raise money for the tragedy, but this was just not the way.

#8. "Sweet Child O' Mine" (Cover by Sheryl Crow; original by Guns 'N' Roses) - I am not what you could call a fan of Guns 'N' Roses, but I can admit that they had a few songs I liked, such as, this one. It's just a really good rock song. How can you make a good rock song bad? A watered down cover by someone who is not a rock singer. Now even back in the day when I was still a fan of Sheryl Crow's, I never put her in the category of rock. She was a singer-songwriter, which, while a vague description, has become a genre all its own. I think others thought that as well, considering the consensus of "What?" when her album, The Globe Sessions, won the Best Rock Album Grammy over Hole's Celebrity Skin. Yeah, no. I know it may seem like I'm getting off point, but this is the point. Some people should just stay in their genre.

#7. "American Pie" (Cover by Madonna; original by Don McLean) - I think this is a song that tends to go either way with a lot of people. Personally, I've always enjoyed it, found the lyrics pretty creative. Then, Madonna got a hold of it, I'm assuming at a karaoke bar, and just ... no. And on top of that, it does nothing but remind us of that awful The Next Best Thing movie to which it was attached. Even worse. Well, at least, she didn't cover the WHOLE song.

#6. "Angels" (Cover by Jessica Simpson; original by Robbie Williams ... sort of) - When you think of a bad Jessica Simpson cover, most people would immediately think of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", from the equally vomit inducing The Dukes of Hazzard movie. And, trust, I know that was terrible. (Why, Willie Nelson, why? Oh, yeah, pot.) But I have chosen the song "Angels", which is a beautiful song from Robbie Williams debut album, and then over sung, as per usual, by Jessica Simpson on her In This Skin "Hey, this album used to suck, but then she got really popular by being a total airhead on a reality show, so now it's good" album. Mm-hmm. Looks, it's a lovely, sweet song, meant to be sung, not shouted ... flatly.

#5. "Edge of Seventeen" (Cover by Lindsay Lohan; original by Stevie Nicks) - Yes, this does exist, much to my chagrin. It's bad enough that Lindsay Lohan ever had the nerve to call herself a singer, but to take one of Stevie Nicks best and most beloved songs and do . . . THAT to it, is pretty much a crime. I suppose that's just something else some 'barely a judge' judge will give her a slap on the wrist for. No wonder Stevie will never let this chick play her in a movie.

#4. "Behind Blue Eyes" (Cover by Limp Bizkit; original by The Who) - Goodnight, do I have to even say anything other than Limp Bizkit to justify this one? Alright, fine, just give me a minute. Deep breath. Okay. Yeah, this thing is horrible. The original "Behind Blue Eyes" is an amazing song, one of my favorites by The Who, and Fred Durst just drags it into an alley, beats it within an inch of its life and steals its wallet. Then, to give it some kind of tie-in to that ridiculous Gothika movie, not to mention its tainted star, makes it even worse. And what the heck with the Speak and Spell as a guest vocalist?! Should have gotten Dane Cook to do that bit. Listen, if you want a good cover version of this song, check out the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer entitled "Where the Wild Things Are" and say a prayer of thanks to the Lord above for Rupert Giles.

#3. "Working Class Hero" (Cover by Green Day; original by John Lennon) - There are some songs that should never be covered, like ever, no matter how good the artist is, and this is one of them. Oh, don't get me wrong. I do not think Green Day is good. On the contrary, they have to be one of the most overrated bands of my generation, easily. And this song, to me, always seemed very personal to John Lennon, so I really don't want to hear anyone else singing it for any reason. So, what did they do with it? They stuck it on a charity album, the only thing worse than a charity single. Yeah, this was on an album of nothing but John Lennon covers, which was made to help with the crisis in Darfur. Again, I appreciate trying to help the people, but, also again, this is not the way! I mean, I have heard this thing, and the word 'unworthy' is what comes to mind. So, I say we all just do what we always do in situations like this - blame Yoko!

#2. "Landslide" (Cover by The Dixie Chicks; original by Stevie Nicks) - Oh, no! Again, Stevie. Okay, so there are problems with this, two fold. First, it's the Dixie Chicks, yet another severely overrated act. Second, I am about 98% sure that Stevie gave her blessing on this one. It's no secret that I love Miss Stevie, but I also can admit that she has done a couple of things that have annoyed me. Like the whole Twilight thing in the context of In Your Dreams (go back and read my reviews, and you'll know what I mean), and, sweet mercy, the "Bootylicious" fiasco. Yeah, if I was letting samples on this list, THAT mess probably would have been number one. Look, I may have been a Dixie Chick fan at one time, but no more, which, believe it or not has less to do with their political whatnots and more to do with the quality of their music going into free fall. So, yeah, this one is clearly labeled "Not Good".

#1. "Hallelujah" (Cover by Bono; original by Leonard Cohen) - Oh, Bono. Oh, you poor dear. What are we going to do with you? Alright, as I said, songs getting covered can be a good thing. The same song getting covered multiple times has the possibilty of being fine, as well. But what has happened with "Hallelujah" has just gotten out of hand? Ironically, the person I blame for this is also the only person who should have done a cover. That is, of course, Jeff Buckley. His cover of this song was pure magic, and it was all we would ever need, aside from the original. Of course, most people can't leave well enough alone, so we have countless and just plain sad versions of this crazy amazing song. And THIS is the worst. I never even knew it existed until very, very recently. I wish I still didn't know it existed. Okay, so here's what it is. Bono took the music and made it something that's like half slow jazz, half slow house music beats or something. I honestly can't even figure out what genre it's supposed to be, if any, but it just sounds wrong. Then, he doesn't even sing the lyrics; he talks them. You know, like he did with that song in the beginning of In The Name of the Father, right? But when we get to the chorus, he goes into that high-pitched thing that he did on "Lemon", and it is so bad. Seriously, listening to this for the first time, I felt like there was an itch on the inside of my brain, really far in, and I could not, for the life of me, get to it. Look, if you're brave or one of those crazy adventure-y, risk takers, go ahead and find it and listen to it, but do not say I didn't warn you. I'm all for doing creative and innovative things with music, but some lines should not be crossed. Certainly not like they were here.

And now you know you know why I stay away from karaoke nights. Wow, this is one of the harshest things I've ever done. I don't know if I can handle doing these "Worst Of"s. Anyway, I think we can all certainly agree that paying tribute to great artists and the songs they give us can be wonderful, but, remember, know your limits. And DO NOT RUIN!

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tonight and the Rest of My Life / Nina Gordon - Album Review

Greetings Pups,

About a year ago, I did a review of a fantastic album called Bleeding Heart Graffiti by singer/songwriter, former Veruca Salt member, Nina Gordon. Yes, I was very positive about it, and I also gave a mention to that album's predecessor, Tonight and the Rest of My Life. I knew eventually I would get around to talking about that one. Well, today is the day. Now I gave some back story on Nina Gordon and her career in the first review, so if your interested in that aspect, you can go back and read that one. But now I just want to dive straight into this great music. Oops! I called it 'great' before I started. Well, spoiler alert!

I suppose I may as well get out of the way the song from this album which many people have heard and that is the title track. This album was released back in 2000, and the song "Tonight and the Rest of My Life" got a decent amount of airplay, both on radio and for the gorgeous video. It was also played in commercials for the movies Chocolat and The Notebook. As I mentioned in the previous Nina Gordon post, attach anything to Ryan Gosling and it magically becomes something you want. Anyway, admittedly, this was the song that got me, and I'm sure others, to buy the entire album. I thought if the rest of the songs were as good as that one, I was in for a treat. As per usual, I was right. And forgive my arrogance.

In all seriousness, that first single was actually a very good introduction to what we would get with the rest of the music. From the start, we can hear the clever way that Nina would be using lyrics. On the opening track, "Now I Can Die", she takes that thing people say about being able to die happy and attaches it to having a relationship so great that, yep, now she can die. The witty lyrics don't stop there, but go on in tunes like "New Year's Eve" and "Number One Camera", which are almost like story songs of sorts, and some of the best songs I've ever seen. Yes, seen. That's how potently visual the lyrics are.

Like many albums, this one is comprised mostly of love songs, and love from every angle, so to speak. We have a couple of break up songs, one in which she is to blame ("Fade to Black") and one in which he is to blame ("Got Me Down"), but both expressing the wanting to get passed the whole situation. There is "Too Slow to Ride", which I would say is my second favorite song here (we'll get to number one later), and it seems to be about a relationship that was doomed from the start, due to those pesky insecurities. Then, we have "Hate Your Way", which is a song about being attracted to someone who you really do not want to be attracted to because they're just not good. Yeah, for some reason this one makes me think of Dr. House and my one-time infatuation with him, despite his being a total curmudgeon. And then, we have just a straight up, sweet and tender love song in "Hold On To Me", easily the most romantic of all in this collection, I believe.

Now even I can admit that there were a couple of spots on the album that I, personally, might consider weak. There is a song called "Badway", which I just never clicked with as much as the others. To me, it just felt like it didn't fit with them so well. And the second track is called "2003". I don't actually think this is a bad song, but, when you take the title and its subject matter, it kind of dates itself. Still, good, though, just a bit limited. And finally, the closing track is a cover of "The End of the World", which Nina sings beautifully. My only complaint here is simply this. Why would someone who clearly has so much wonderful material that she wrote herself bother to give space to a cover song? Also, I've never been a fan of that song anyway, which might be affecting me. Well, according to my info, this track was put on in place of one called "Black and Blonde". I've heard it; I like it. But Nina decided to not release it on the album, thought it was too mean or something, and put the cover in its place. Well, it is her project, after all, so okay.

So, as promised, let me get to my absolute favorite song here, "Horses in the City". This one is amazing. The music is great, and the lyrics really hit me deep in my heart. I interpret it as being about trying to find where you belong when you really have no idea where that it is. Sure, that theme may have been used several times before, but she does what every great writer does and expresses it in a unique and interesting way. Hence, the horses in the city thing.

Alright, I guess it goes without saying that I am telling you all to go out and buy the album Tonight and the Rest of My Life. If you give it a chance, you will probably kick yourself for not getting it sooner. Honestly, this is just something else to prove what I always say about what's popular having nothing to do with what's good. And Nina Gordon is yet another artist who does not get anywhere near the respect or acclaim that she deserves. This is why I do my part to bring attention to people like her. I pray that it works.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer

Friday, July 5, 2013

Should I Get Cracked?

Greetings Pups,

Short and sweet today. I am posing a question to all my readers out there, and it's sort of the title of this post. What I mean by "Should I get cracked?" is should I send in some writing to If you don't know what is, it's a humorous website that, for the most part, has a lot of lists, top (insert # here) lists and whatnot. And, as you all know, I think I know a thing or two about making those. The subjects of their lists vary from celebrities to science to sports to just plain weird stuff. I certainly know I could handle writing about entertainment industry things, but this could actually give me the opportunity to expand my mind a bit further than I have been doing. And, on top of the list aspect, I think they also accept articles about . . . whatever, so long as they can be somewhat amusing. I think I can do that. Right?

The reason I'm thinking of doing this is pretty much just so I can get my work out there as many ways as I can. In fact, I have taken the steps to join an artists community of sorts that is run by a famous dude in order to let people see my work. I've been meaning to tell you all about that, and I will go more in depth on it soon. But, for now, the question remains. Should I see if I can get some work put on this very "seen" website? I know my style and other things may not be exactly what they are looking for or what they find amusing, but I can't see how it can hurt to try. At this stage in my life, I'm living off of a steady diet of "Why not?" and it has been sustaining so far. So, if anyone has any thoughts, one way or the other, by all means, let me know.

Love and full moons,

Becky the Writer